Thursday, September 30, 2004

Why I Read Non-Fiction

The Hatcher does not do fiction as a general rule because of one embarrassing attempt to leverage literary knowledge to impress. For me, it is strictly non-fiction as a result. It's not that I don't like fiction, I just don't get the high brow stuff, as one incident shows clearly. The incident relates to a conversation with an aspiring English Ph.D. at the wedding of a friend. Now, I was already engaged at the time, so there was no ulterior motive to this conversation other than to impress upon the English Ph.D. aspirant my intellectual versatility.

Which I thought was easy to do once she had mentioned that her thesis dealt with Thomas Hardy. Aha! I had read Hardy's Jude the Obscure not long before falling into this conversation, so she was playing right into my hands. I recall from the foreword that the book was very controversial at the time of its publication, and was banned in many locales. But that didn't deter me, free thinker that I am! My mistake was to relay to her that I didn't see what was so controversial about the book - I read it - seemed pretty straightforward to me.

But like all great works of non-fiction, when I said I read it I meant that I had read about two-thirds of it. Not the first the two-thirds, mind you, but the first two of every three pages. You know how it goes - you are reading along, bored to tears, and your mind starts to wander after about 3 or 4 minutes, and by the third page your eyes are reading the words (and my lips are moving as well), but the mind ... Yes the mind is onto bigger things - "should I have Taco Bell for dinner tonight, or would that be wrong given that I had it for lunch?" Before resolving the answer to such important questions, it dawns on you that despite reading every word on that third page, you have no idea what it said. So you go back, but tragically so, because you still have not resolved the Taco Bell dilemma - you re-read, but now your mind is telling you that millions of Mexicans eat Mexican for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, so what the hell? Again, you finish the page without any shred of comprehension - but no page of fiction is worth reading a third time, so on you go to the next page, or to Taco Bell.

Hey, what can skipping one page cost you? With 500 or so in your typical work of high falutin fiction, the probability that you will have missed anything important is pretty low. So you role the dice. But that thinking represents what economists refer to as a fallacy of composition - assuming that what holds true for the part is true for the whole. Skipping any one page is probably harmless, but missing the point of every third page adds up. You want to know what it adds up to? Here was the incredulous response of my literate conversationalist - "What do you mean you don't see what was so controversial about the book, the lead character killed his whole family?"

How do you respond to that? You have two choices - give up any pretense to having an IQ above 90, or stay firm in your opinion that such actions are not controversial and come across as a sociopath. A tough choice, indeed - I chose to drink quickly from my beer, wait for a distraction, and run away. I left her guessing whether I was a moron or a socio-path, although that was probably a mistake, as the two are not mutually exclusive traits.

Looking back, I have to marvel at the dumb luck - not only did the murder of his wife and kids fall on a page where visions of hard-shelled beef tacos were whirring in my head, but every subsequent reference to that event happened to fall three pages later. So go ahead - pick up the book and skip every third page, and I'm sure you'll agree - there is nothing controversial.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Bush Volunteered to Go to Vietnam

Not that it really matters, but here is something you probably didn't know, from Instapundit:

"Shockingly, this was even reported in Newsweek:

The standard rap against Bush is that he was ducking combat by joining the Guard. Actually, the Texas Air Guard had a program called Palace Alert that allowed pilots to volunteer for flight time in Vietnam. Three of Bush's fellow pilots—Udell, Woodfin and Fred Bradley—recalled to NEWSWEEK that Bush inquired with the base commander about signing up for Palace Alert. He was told no; he had too few flying hours at the time and his plane, the F-102, was by then deemed obsolete for air combat.

Funny that this hasn't gotten more attention. Does anyone read Newsweek?"


Let's play a little game - who said the following?:

"We know we can't count on the French. We know we can't count on the Russians. We know that Iraq is a danger to the United States, and we reserve the right to take pre-emptive action whenever we feel it's in our national interest."

John Kerry said it, back in 1997. But lest you come to the mistaken conclusion that this is inconsistent, remember you are dealing with a nuanced Harvard mind. His idea of "national interest" coincides perfectly with his own personal interests, which were not necessarily served by our going to Iraq.

Population Control

Oh yeah, nobody is truly for abortion, that is why the moniker pro-choice is more apt than pro-abortion. Which makes this story a little hard to explain: The American Thinker

How Many Deaths Before We Admit Failure?

With 148 police fatalities in 2003, and no sign of any forthcoming reduction in the number of deaths suffered by US police officers, isn't it about time that we concluded the efforts to fight crime have failed? Maybe we are fighting the wrong crimes at the wrong place at the wrong time. How come this isn't an election issue? Clearly fighting crime is more costly than we ever imagined.

National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial: Press Release- LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER FATALITIES REACH 148 FOR 2003

ACE's - the Aspirational Cognitive Elite

I have never linked to James Bowman before, but he is one of my favorites. After I see a movie, I make sure I read his review before I decide what to think, and you should too. But this essay is no movie review:

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Bias at the New York Times? Can't Be!

I just finished reading a book about bias at the New York Times - it would be hard to imagine an easier thesis to prove out, but one must appreciate the effort of one author to slog through a couple years of the malfeasance of the Times. And by "bias", the author had in mind the actual news page, rather than the editorial page, which he considers forthright in its bias. The news page is another matter - a motto of "just the facts" for the NYT news page would draw a lible suit from Joe Friday for sullying the meaning of his trademark phrase. Did that make any sense?

My favorite form of bias spelled out in many examples is the insertion of the "why" in the lead part of the lead sentence of a story. An example of the type: "In an effort to court Hispanic voters, President Bush today enacted an amnesty deal for Mexican immigrants ..." Nowhere in the story is there a quote from the President saying that he thought such legislation was an important purchase of votes in the 2004 election, but NYT reporters have the unique capacity to read the nefarious underlying thoughts and motivations of Republicans. And surprise, surprise, such motivations are always sinister. Pure editorializing dressed up as news. Is anyone stupid enough to actually fall for it?

And therein lies the one big flaw of the book: it overestimates the influence of the NYT by underestimating the skepticism and intelligence of the public in taking reported news at face value. And that skepticism seems to be growing by the day. In any event, here comes Lileks to skewer the NYT in a toss-off blog that is reminiscent of Tom Wolfe, in that it does with style and flair in one page what an entire department of academic sociologists could not achieve through a lifetime of ardent research. Does what, you ask? It captures the picture of the NYT reader to a tee - print it out and put in a time capsule, so our children's children can know that nothing in all those years will have changed:

"But I did want to say something about that silly NYT piece about blogging. All I needed to know I learned from the cover. Doing a story on blogging and putting Wonkette on the cover is like using Janine Garafalo to illustrate a story about the power of talk radio. Sure, Limbaugh has better numbers, but what’s more compelling? A story about someone who attracts 20 million uninteresting people, or someone who attracts 100,000 people who are Just Like Us?

This paragraph was amusing:

Earlier this month, a platoon of right-wing bloggers launched a coordinated assault against CBS News and its memos claiming that President Bush got special treatment in the National Guard; within 24 hours, the bloggers' obsessive study of typefaces in the 1970's migrated onto Drudge, then onto Fox News and then onto the networks and the front pages of the country's leading newspapers.

“Coordinated” is a rather lazy choice of words, if the author means “some people sent emails to other people, and they all worked loosely together.” If that’s coordination, then your average freeway, full of people driving alongside and occasionally signaling their turns, is a massive conspiracy. But he didn’t mean that, I don’t think – it was a coordinated assault! Designed to turn our eyes away from the truth the memos implied and make us stare, like Alex in the chair in Clockwork Orange, at the fonts and superscripts and other misleading minutae.

It’s amusing to learn that the author interviewed Charles for 45 minutes, and declined to sully his article with any quotes from the fellow who helped disprove the memo. It’s like writing a story about the Enigma decrypts and spending most of your time on a fashion critic who wrote bitchy assessments of the clothing worn by the women who typed in the intel.

The article contented itself with lauding the contributions of lefty bloggers; should Kerry lose, this will provide the MSM with the rationale for concluding that blogging is passé and ineffectual, or that lefty bloggers cannot match the Coordinated Forces of the Dark Side, the million monkeys clattering out the dictates of Lord Rove in the hopes they can hit POST before he uses his dreaded Choking Gesture to teach the slackers a lesson.

Anyway: I didn’t really care what the author said, because I don’t have the reverential attitude towards the Sunday Mag I used to have. Truth be told, I can live without it. I no longer regard it as a weekly dispatch to Inner Party members. It’s just a bunch of guys who write stuff. Difference between them and some other bloggers I read? The medium's glossier. Better ads.

The Sunday Times is the weekly sermon: let us reinforce your world view, your sense of belonging to the Thinking Class, the Special Ones. Let the Red Staters spend Sunday morning in itchy church clothes at Perkins, dumping syrup all over their pancakes and yelling at little Lurleen not to pour salt down her baby brother’s jumper; you’re in your elegant spare little apartment with a cup of coffee (frothed on top; sprinkle of nutmeg) and a pastry from that wonderful place around the corner (okay, it’s an Au Bon Pain – hell, they’re all Bon Pain now) and there’s some light jazz on the radio. Morning jazz, if you had to give the genre a name.

Anyway, it’s a sunny fall morning – well, noonish. Now comes the capstone moment when you lay the slab of the Times in your lap and begin the autoposy of the week. Scan the A section headlines - yes, yes, yes, appalling. Scan the metro: your eyes glaze. The arts section – later. Travel – Greece again? Good for Greece. Six pounds of classifieds: discard. No comics . . . there was always comics on Sunday back home. But that was IOWA, for heaven’s sake, what else would you expect but Blondie and Ziggy and the rest . . . ah.

The Magazine.Let’s begin! A little humorous piece – not funny haha funny, but, you know, arch, which is very urbane. Then there’s an essay on words, which is wonderful because you love words, and then a big serious piece about that horrible situation the administration isn’t doing anything about. You’ll read it later – skim the pull quotes for now. Best of all are the ads, because you really wouldn’t want to wear any of that stuff but it’s fun to look at.

Remember back home in Iowa? Nothing like this on Sunday. The paper was thicker than usual, but that was mostly ads for toilet paper and underwear and lawn tractors, and there was that awful Parade magazine. Walter Scott’s Personality Parade. You remember that why, exactly? Because you read it every week, and you wondered who Walter Scott was. Something like Ed Sullivan or Walter Winchell. Fedora, heavy black phone, manual typewriter, friend to the stars but not above flicking a speck of dirt towards someone who’d truly earned it. Then there was a cartoon about a big dog – Howard Huge.

Do they still print Parade? Probably. Probably find ten copies on the counter at Perkins after the Sunday lunch shift ends. Dad used to let you order anything on Sunday morning at Perkins. Perkins always dusted the French Toast with powdered sugar. Remember?

Hey, cheer up! You should try that. You should make French Toast next Sunday. Have your friends over! That’ll be great. I mean, that’s why you came here – this is where smart hip people sit around the table on a Sunday morning, discussing the New York Times in New York. Note: buy Smuckers maple syrup. Or real Vermont maple? Vermont would be better. Especially in those bottles shaped like a maple leaf, very authentic.

But if you announced that you were having a Red State Breakfast it would have high irony value to serve Smucker’s. Let’s photoshop Bush with a bottle of Smucker’s and Wonder bread and print it out and invite everyone who’s originally from somewhere else, even if they always pretend they’ve been here since before whenever. It’ll be fabulous!(three minutes of stillness underscored by Morning Jazz and street noise)

Why are we all like 34 and unmarried? Christ, is it that hard? Maybe you should move to Washington and be a blogger. You can get a house in Alexandria and it’s not like you’re in the suburbs, but you have a house, oh, a house, a real place with a real backyard (even if it’s just ten yards square) and there’s a river and lots of trees and it’s still the East Coast and it’s still important and you get the Times AND the Washington Post, which honestly doesn’t seem like such a f*#$%%in’ DUTY to read every Sunday, I mean, SORRY ABOUT DARFUR, BUT I HAVE MY OWN PROBLEMS.

(The New York Times Sunday Magazine is placed on the top of the toilet tank)

(The New York Times Sunday Magazine slides off the toilet tank, reminding you why you don’t put it there)

(The New York Times Sunday Magazine is strategically placed on the coffee table to alert anyone who comes into your flat that you read the New York Times Sunday Magazine)

(One week later, unread and unobserved, it is replaced by another edition. Cover story: global climate change and tourism threatens biodiversity in Antarctica. But you suspected as much. The whole world is going to hell. Except for New York. New York is fabulous. It just has to be.)

(Two weeks later: none of your friends are bloggers and none of your friends read blogs. So nevermind.) "

Monday, September 27, 2004

The Hatemonger's Quarterly Goes After Alec Baldwin

If you don't link to this on Monday, you may have to scroll down to get to the Baldwin part. Short and funny (kind of like Professor Vic): The Hatemonger's Quarterly

Nixon and the End of Civility

At 4:00 am on the morning of May 9, 1970, Richard Nixon decided to take a visit to the Lincoln Memorial, which would be the primary site of an anti-war protest the next day. Nixon had just told his valet, Manolo Sanchez, that he considered the Lincoln Memorial, lit up in the evening, the most beautiful sight in Washington (it is). Sanchez had never seen it, and Nixon set out to change that. At the foot of the statue, Nixon read to Sanchez his favorite phrases from the inscriptions.

As he did, eight to nine homeless people - er, I mean war protestors - gathered around in disbelief as the President continued. Before leaving after over an hour of conversation with the protestors, he posed for a final photo with a red-bearded student from Detroit, and said "I know you came a long way for this event. I know you are terribly frustrated and angry about our policy and opposed to it. But I just hope your opposition doesn't turn into a blind hatred of the country." It didn't.

Having dispensed with the warm and fuzzy story that humanizes Nixon, here is a list of his lesser known crimes while in office, provided in Paul Johnsons A History of the American People:

1) He "created his own intelligence unit, responsible only to himself, with a staff of 11 and financed by State Department "Special Emergency" money";
2) He "used J. Edgar Hoover's FBI, the IRS, and the Justice Department to harrass his enemies, especially the press and business, and to tap their phones, the mineworkers' leader John L. Lewis being one victim."
3) He used the IRS to "get names on his enemies list" and had made "persistent efforts to penalize the Chicago Tribune, which he hated, in the courts, and to get the New York Times indicted for tax fraud."
4) He "had been privy to CIA assassination plots and had been a party to the coup which led to the killing of his ally Diem";
5) He had his brother have agents of the Justice Department "carry out dawn raids on the homes of US Steel Executives who had opposed his policies";
6) He exploited the Federal contract system and used executive orders in housing finance to get his way, plotted against right-wing radio and TV stations, used the IRS to harrass yet more enemies, increased phone tapping markedly, and taped and played back to newspaper editors the large-scale womanizing of Martin Luther King.

Oh, wait a minute, my mistake - items 1 through 3 were actually FDR's shenanigans, and 4-6 are attributable to JFK. Don't even get me started on LBJ. It all makes you wonder why we don't refer to Nixon as RMN.

The mark of a paranoid personality is the feeling that "they" are out to get you, and Nixon certainly had that feeling, but not without justification. The press had been out to get him from the time he made his mark in Congress as a lead investigator in the charges or espionage brought against Alger Hiss, a Harvard-educated establishment golden boy. Hiss was a high ranking member of the State Department who had been to the Yalta conference with FDR. He was also a Communist doing his best to serve the dictates of Stalin in, if not bringing the worker's revolution to the US, at least giving the Soviets a leg up.

The problem was that all the other Harvard-educated pansies couldn't imagine their refined boy Hiss being guilty, especially of charges brought against him by the slovenly Whitaker Chambers. One was either civilized, and sided with Hiss, or a drueling McCarthyite on a witch hunt. Nixon fell into the latter category, and as such generated a quick list of the civilized who would always regard him as beyond the pale.

Nixon had his flaws, no doubt, and ultimately the blame for his failure in office lies with him, but his presidency also marked the culmination of the rise of the New Left in the sixties. Ultimately his exhortation that opposition to US policy not turn into blind hatred of the country fell on deaf ears, and many in America and in the press actively rooted for American defeat in Vietnam. Ultimately that was achieved through Nixon's impending impeachment and pre-emptive resignation; Nixon had negotiated a Peace Treay with the North Vietnamese that the US Congress had no stomach for enforcing after Nixon resigned. His presidency marked the end of civility in American politics, but it wasn't his lack of civility that made it so.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Re-writing the Script

On June 12, 1987, Ronald Reagan, at the foot of the Brandenburg Gate on the West German side of the Berlin Wall, utters the simple and memorable sentence: "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" Not good enough for Edmund Morris, the author of Dutch: "What a rhetorical opportunity missed. He could have read Robert Frost's poem on the subject, "Something there is that doesn't love a wall," to simple and shattering effect. Or even Edna St. Vincent Millay's lines, which he surely holds in memory, floating over that chain of paper ribbons, woven by him and Bud Cole onstage, fifty-six years ago: Only now for the first time I see This wall is actually a wall, a thing Come up between us, shutting me away From you ... I do not know you anymore."

It mattered not to the Edmund Morris that the wall soon did come down and arguably more through the efforts of Ronald Reagan than anyone. What mattered was his lack of intellectual style. Instead of referencing poems that would please the likes of Edmund Morris and the small set of extremely literate people who would get the references, Reagan spoke directly and without ornamentation, in a sentence that no doubt easily translated to the target audience, not to mention those in attendance. Imagine translating Frost's (a very American poet) line, which is the beginning of a poem that actually celebrates walls, into German. It would have rivaled in comedy another famous line to the Germans: Kennedy's "Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is "Ich bin ein Berliner." "Ich bin ein Berliner," literally translated to Germans outside of Berlin, is "Today, I am a jelly doughnut." In Berlin, however, Berliner indeed means a resident of Berlin. Nevertheless, JFK’s younger brother Ted, seeking to be worthy of the proudest boast in the world of freedom, set out on a lifetime diet that appears to consist exclusively of jelly donuts.

To understand the Reagan presidency, it is almost necessary, in my mind, to understand the difference between old and new Hollywood. As an actor, Reagan came of age at (or perhaps even prior to) the timing of the Hayes Code, which regulated the content of Hollywood movies. An example of such regulation included the rule that no character could ultimately be seen to profit from a crime. Of course, early television and movies are often now criticized as now showing life as it truly was – instead, we are told viewers were forced to consume a fiction, and that real life was not Ozzie and Harriet.

Be that as it may, it appears to me that Reagan, ever the actor seeking a role in the fictional Hollywood fantasy, scripted in his own mind the qualities of a good president, and merely followed the script. In doing so, he truly was the embodiment of the American dream – that in this country, we can choose who we want to be. And so many biographers, foremost among them Morris, are constantly looking for that clue – that event in the formative stages of his personality or in his family history that explains some psychological vector that makes his life fall into place as the quite logical consequence of a fixed personality. The theory that underlies that attempt is that people cannot change, cannot rethink the “role” they want to play as if they are simply re-writing a movie script. And so they inevitably do not “get” Reagan – he is an utter anomaly to them.

And Reagan did something similar for American foreign policy. He re-wrote the script that so many thought we were destined to follow – apologetic for our past and ill-willing to try to combat Soviet expansion. Carter got a reputation for being the Human Rights president by beating up on the minor abuses of regimes that the Soviets had no interest in protecting, while the Soviets themselves made great headway in bringing new nations in Africa and South and Central America into their totalitarian sphere. Reagan did not ignore the blatant expansionist intentions of the Soviets, which were casually dismissed by those on the Left as civil wars (which is how they viewed Vietnam as well).

The intellectual’s confusion in trying to understand Reagan’s success is compounded by the intellectual’s self-serving over-estimate of the role that intellect plays in leadership. Of course, there are many who always considered him a dunce, though this view is really difficult to sustain if you were to read many of his early speeches (many which he wrote himself and delivered as a spokesman for GE) but no matter one’s opinion of Reagan’s intellect, I would admit that it had little to do with his success.

Reagan knew as a matter of moral principle that economic freedom embodied in capitalism was superior to communism. And such a view ran counter to opinions at the time held by such prominent economists as Galbraith and Paul Samuelson, that the Soviet economy was as robust as the US economy. To Reagan, no matter what the “data” said, only someone entirely bereft of knowledge of human nature could believe such a thing, and many economists fit that description. They might mock his intellect, and no one could say it was on par with Samuelson’s, but I’ll take Reagan’s leadership any day over Samuelson’s. One believed that society is best ordered when people are given ample freedom to choose their course in life, for the other such a notion had to be proved.

And while there are some who seek to truly follow, most want leadership over their own lives, and they will always value the leader who recognizes that fundamental need as the highest. This was what Reagan sought to provide to the American people through his domestic policies, and to the people suffering under the boot of Communist thugs through his foreign policy. Reagan re-wrote his own script, but the reason I think he is to be revered is that he made it possible for so many others to do the same.

Monday, September 20, 2004

The Undecided Voter

The dreaded undecided voter, upon which all election outcomes these days depend! It could be worse, rather than having the leadership of the free world hanging in the balance on their decisions, we could instead be dining out with them and waiting for them to make a choice from the menu:

“Uhh, waiter, I am trying to decide between the roast duck and the filet mignon. Can you tell me which of the cooks in the back would be preparing the roast duck, and give me a brief understanding of his service to the country during Vietnam? And likewise for the filet mignon.”

“Sure. Chef Jean Queri, who will be preparing the roast duck, was a mess haul chef in the jungles of Vietnam, right there with the troops on the front line. Only problem was that he apparently inadvertently served diseased chicken before a major battle, which lead him to witness all sorts of gastro-intestinal war crimes perpetrated by the US troops. He later testified to what he witnessed in his protests against the war, leaving his own sordid role out of the testimony. If you go to the restaurant across the street, you can buy the book Unfit to Cook Chicken, written by the Vietnam Vets With Persistent Gastro-Intestinal Pain for Truth. The only reason he is a chef here is that he married the owner of the restaurant.”

“And the filet mignon will be prepared by the Halliburton Corporation.”

“No need to go on, waiter. I’ll have the filet mignon.”

At last something the Hatcher and his few highly involuntary liberal subscribers can agree upon – how can anyone possibly be undecided? Clearly, like me and Professor Vic or PBryon, they must regard one of the two likely election outcomes as Armageddon! Or do they know something we don’t, such as that our country has survived crappy presidents throughout our 230 year history? We survived Jimmy Carter, who proved that whatever doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. If a Reagan only follows after a Carter, it makes it hard to know who to root for.

I, for one, like the undecided voter, if only for how idiotic campaigns become in trying to influence him, constantly guessing at what miniscule little issue will get said voter off of the couch and to the voting booth. Republicans and Democrats have very different strategies here, both before and at election day. Campaigns are clearly dictated by a form of Gresham’s Law, with the undecided (“bad”) voters driving out decided (“good”) voters in how priorities are set, though I hesitate to call those who are decided for Kerry as “good” voters.

Especially interesting is the election day strategies of the two parties. Democrats play offense, and head into select Indian reservations and city ghettoes with $10 bills at the ready, a 10 gallon jug of binoca blast, and a van for transport to the polls, under the absolutely correct theory that what the undecided voter truly wants is enough money to buy 3 liters of Mad Dog 20/20, and fresh breath. Republicans play defense – primarily by trying to confuse elderly voters outside of the polls and otherwise by putting up road blocks in minority communities.

But we have a new strategy this year made known to me by the reporting of an Air America radio host, who expressed her faith in the rumor that Republicans will be seeding clouds south of Florida to create another hurricane just in time for the election. It bums me out – because I already signed up to confuse the elderly, though I’d much rather seed the cloud – I can see myself now, like Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove, having to plummet to my death in the service of my country due to a faulty trap door. But then I think – wait, what would involuntary subscribers do without the blog?

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Same Old Dan Rather

The latest is nothing new from Dan Rather; apparently he did a documentary that probably featured some of the same reliable sources used by Kerry in his Senate testimony regarding the Vitenam War: Anne Morse on Rathergate & Vietnam on National Review Online

Wo Fat vs. McGarrett / Little League Dad

We have all encountered them - the little league dad (LLD). I remember as a kid the LLD - constantly harrassing his kid, the umpires, the coaches, the parents of other kids, looking to get his kid more playing time, etc. etc. And I remember, even at that early age, thinking to myself - someday I'll grow up and be a dad like that!

Each kid you have, as I see it, is another chance to relive and achieve your own shattered dreams. The more dreams you had, the more kids you need. It would be irresponsible of me to foist all of them on one kid - too much pressure. So I am spreading them out across the whole lot. What I have failed to do I can ammend by assuring the success of a kid that shares half of my genes, which will thereby prove that my own results in life are just as likely to be the result of the system being hopelessly biased against me, rather than being attributable to any deficiencies on my part.

My dad was no LLD. Extremely happy, no broken dreams to foist on me. No pressure, just unyielding support. Look where that gets ya!


It seems readers drew the proper lesson from Wednesday's post, and that is this: if you haven't seen the episode of McGarrett in the sensory deprivation tank, you are missing out. I posted a comment to that post that gives you a link to purchase the episode. Here is another link to the entire rivalrous relationship between Steve and Wo Fat, the ChiCom espionage agent who put McGarrett in the tank. Wo Fat appears in 11 episodes over the years, and as that link points out, the nature of his dastardly deeds changed after Nixon went to China. McGarrett, by the way, was hypnotized to provide false information to Wo Fat while in the tank, and was caught by Wo Fat as part of the master plan.

Wo Fat was last seen at a DNC fundraiser for Bill Clinton in 1996. No doubt somewhere on the internet there is a picture of him giving an envelope stuffed with bills to Clinton himself, as McGarrett, like all true dead Americans, rolled over in his grave.

Kid Talk

“You better get rid of your dogs” , says Billy earnestly to a neighbor from down the street who is strolling her two large Siberian Huskies by our house, “we have a kid that’s allergic to dem.” How Billy came to share parenting duties at a level where he can claim Joey is one of his kids is still a mystery, although he often speaks to his brothers as if he has parental authority over them, and strangely that often works. If only he could channel his bossiness into saying things like “clean up your room”, rather than issuing commands that his brothers drop their current toys and play superheroes with him immediately. Billy has two very different responses to Joey’s allergies: one is to make sure Joey steers clear of contact with them, and the other is to rub in the fact that he can eat things Joey cannot eat.

One recent night close to bedtime, Billy called to Joey from another room:

“Joey, come here.”

No response from Joey, and he stays put.

“Joey, I’m warnin ya!”, with the last two words drawn out for emphasis.

“Bill, why you say dat, why you say I’m warnin ya?” asks Joey, playing the perfect straight guy in their two-man comedy routine, as he walks toward Billy.

“Cause, when I call, and people don’t listen, I say ‘I’m warnin ya’”.

End of conversation. No idea what “warnin you” means, but he has the context down cold.

“Mom, you know what? Sometimes when I am up in my room I think about batgirl”, says Joey from the back row of the van, as Mom and the boys are headed for school.

“What do you think about her, Joe?”

“I don’t know.”

“Does she fight crime with the rest of the superheroes?”

“No,” says Billy, “girls don’t fight crime, dey stay at home and cook.”

There will probably come a day in some town filled with liberal lunatics where this innocent observation of the division of labor within his parent’s household will find a four year old boy like Billy forced to go through some type of gender sensitivity training. Fortunately that day is not today, and that town is not Arlington.

“Michael’s House,” says Jake, apropos of nothing. Michael is his first true friend, the younger brother of Peter, who takes gymnastics with the twins. Jake and Michael would cavort about while their mom’s watched and waited for gymnastics to end.

Several weeks prior to the end of the gymnastics schedule, Jake had learned Michael’s name and would constantly say it to show everyone he had a friend. Once Mom and Dad picked up on his affinity for Michael, we started pumping him up on Tuesday mornings, telling him that he would get to play with Michael at gymnastics today. An enthusiastic “Yeah” followed with a big grin. For three Tuesdays in a row we did this, only to have him disappointed by Michael being a no-show for various reasons.

But since those disappointing days in December, Jake has gone over to Michael’s house several times. Dad has instructed Mom to not be overzealous in scheduling play dates with Michael, lest we appear too desperate and scare Michael and his Mom away. You think such concerns vanish when you settle down and marry and you are no longer dating (which hopefully follows from settling down and marrying), but then you find yourself trying to play it cool for the sake of your kids.

“Jake, please stop saying Michael’s house,” Joey complains, “That’s all you ever say.” I took Joey to get his allergy shots one day, the first time he went without Jake, and he was very pleased to tell the receptionist that she didn’t need to play the movie Nemo in the waiting room because Jake wasn’t with us. Jake is a one tune singer – Michael as his only friend, Nemo as the only acceptable movie. Never gets sick of either. I think he would be in pure heaven if he ever got to watch Nemo with Michael.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

The Emotional Depravation Tank

"Remember fellas, its all just a movie," Harry O would remind us. Harry O was a middle-aged swimming coach who spent his summers down in Stone Harbor as a Luetenent on the beach patrol. He was overweight, wore a Marlboro-man stache, donned the classic RayBan aviator glasses, and walked with his feet pitted in a 90 degree angle from each other, always slowly. The 'O had an intimidating voice and manner. Harry O wasn't his real name, of course, and there seemed to be no connection between the nickname and real name, but in the way that nicknames often do, Harry O fit better than Mike Orstein. The origins of the nickname were a mystery, but if he took his motto of life as a movie seriously, he may very well have given himself the name.

As a saying to get yourself through the day, trying to tell yourself life is just a movie is not a recipe for good things, as Harry O's own life bore out. Movies are never about the everyday life of normal people, because the everyday life of normal people is deathly boring. Movies are about criminals and drug abusers and powerful politicians, and even when it is about interesting people, it is a snapshot that leaves out 99 percent of the scenes that are utterly mundane - you don't see people shopping for food, or separating their whites from the colors.

So while you are shopping for food, or separating your laundry, and you are trying to tell yourself life is just a movie, you come to the inevitable conclusion - that your movie sucks. And so you have an affair with a co-ed, and ruin your marriage and damage your relationship with your kids, or at least that was what Harry O did. He was right, of course - domesticated family guy didn't comport well with the character Harry O, and so his movie lacked interested viewers; nothing a rewrite couldn't change, and most certainly did. Now you have some drama - if that is what you are looking for in your movie, you generally find it in the worst way.

There is an old episode of Hawaii Five-O (I guess they are all old by now) where McGarrett is captured by some criminals, and they put him in a sensory depravation tank. A sensory depravation tank removes all external stimuli from your brain - you can't see, hear, smell, or touch anything. The problem is that the brain requires such input to function properly, and after some time without any stimuli, it starts to create its own, and the subject begins to hallucinate and create his own wholly imaginery stimuli. (Of course McGarrett took an unusually long time to break - and utlimately got to say in reference to his captors - "Book 'em, Danno.")

My theory is that some people, particular actors, don't find enough emotional stimuli from everyday life. It is as if the day to day routine has placed them in an emotional depravation tank; they want to feel grief, anger, joy, guilt - the whole gamut of emotions experienced over a lifetime in a compressed period of time. In some cases, this leads them to actions that create the context for their emotions. Actors are particularly prone to this for the obvious reason that they compare their own life constantly to the characters they portray, who - if not naturally more interesting than the actor herself - at least have interesting things happen to them.

I recall that when Joe DiMaggio died, and the family wanted to have a very private funeral, they had to rebuff Kevin Costner and Jack Nicholson's requests to attend. One can imagine each of the two practicing his funeral face in front of the mirror, trying to strike the right pose for mimicing grief. Or the two actors imagining the funeral as a first scene in a Field of Dreams like movie, where DiMaggio is a proxy for them reliving the grief of the earlier death of their father, a grief that was stunted due to a strained relationship that Costner is just now coming to terms with through a plotline that somehow must involve an attractive actress - otherwise we won't pay to see it.

My proposed solution to the emotional depravation tank we call everyday life is to overreact to everything, but never to force your events. (Harry O forced his events. Actors, whose personal lives are often in shambles, force their events.) Alas, the chances are not good that someone from a rival karate academy will kill someone in your family, but the chances are real good that someone will cut you off today on the road. Method act the scene - when you are cut off, imagine that you've just been cutoff by the rival sensei, and react with the amount of road rage commensurate with him having slain your ailing mother. On the opposite end of the spectrum, when your kids happily greet you in the evening as you return from work, imagine that they have just overcome some horrible disease due to your unrelenting efforts to find a cure that the medical establishment was uninterested in finding. Oh, the joy you'll feel, reader - knowing what you've gone through to save your kids, how could you possibly choose the character trajectory of Harry O?

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Bush Bribes with $3 bills

Sorry to keep linking to these things, but they are just too funny: George Conway on Rathergate on National Review Online

Batman protester held after Buckingham Palace intrusion

Check out the name of the batman protestor. And you thought I was the black sheep of the family! I'm the normal one. Note also that Robin got arrested before being able to equal Batman's stunt - boy wonder my ass! - Batman should have cut him loose long ago. I do have to say in the abstract I support the guy's cause, mostly because I suspect that the UK is similar to the US in giving fathers a raw deal with respect to custody and visitation rights with their kids: MSNBC - ?Batman? protester held after Buckingham Palace intrusion

The Burden of Belief

Hey, if you could believe Bill Clinton, it's not so much of a stretch to believe the CBS documents are authentic:
The Burden of Belief

CBS Decides to Join and Preach to the Choir

This article echoes something I've been thinking about lately - which is that the mainstream media, having lost many viewers and readers to radio and the internet, has just decided to go with telling who is left what they want to hear, hoping that there are a few open-minded people who still tune in and don't know not to trust them:
Stanley Kurtz on CBS and Media Bias on National Review Online

CBS falls for Kerry campaign's fake memo

More? Don't I have any sympathy for my two readers? Well, look, no story is complete until you've read Mark Steyn's view of it: CBS falls for Kerry campaign's fake memo

Monday, September 13, 2004

Gun Control Activists Want to Kill Puppies

Sure, you hear about all of the people who use guns to commit heinous crimes, but you never hear about all of the puppies that use their guns successfully in self-defense.

And speaking of the media, have you seen the flap over the forged documents that comprised the recent 60 Minutes story concerning Bush's performance in the National Guard? It took the blogosphere about a nanosecond to recognize that the documents were typed in a font that didn't exist at the time the documents are dated. 60 Minutes is still trying to figure it out, which is odd, because everyone who works there had about 50 years of experience on the old style typewriters by 1972.

The American Spectator even reports that some in the media think that Karl Rove might have planted the forgeries in the expectation that the mainstream media, which ignored the Swift Boat vets completely until Kerry himself started talking about it, would rush it to press. I can just see Karl Rove, with a fake mustache and a black winter cap, dropping the documents off at Kerry HQ - memo to Democrats, the vast right wing conspiracy would be hopeless without your stupidity. The Spectator also reports that the documents were initially provided to theKerry camp, which was very skeptical about their authenticity, but passed them along to 60 Minutes to let them do the heavy lifting.

Good thing Walter Cronkite warned the world about the lack of fact checking on the internet. It is true that there are, ahem, many cranks with websites that do no fact checking, but if one really wants to know the full story behind what some prick at 60 Minutes decides you should know, it is very easy to get both sides of the story with a simple Google search.

Score one for Karl Rove! His powers are so ubiquitous that they even scare me; sure, I am a Bush supporter, but what if one day I turn against the guy. I'll tell you my fear, but first some background.

Prospective members of the Iraqi Republican Guard, Saddam's elite services, were subject to a unique test of loyalty (when they weren't flying kites in Farenheit 911). Other members of the Guard would break into the home of a prospect in the wee small hours of the morning, put a gun to his head and announce that they were involved in a coup attempt to overthrow Saddam. If you are in, they say you will live; if you refuse to join the coup, they shoot you dead on the spot. Only problem was that the truth was the opposite - if the little wannabe fascist said he'd join the coup, they put a cap in his ass (as we say in the hood). Sometimes I wake in a cold sweat after a nightmare in which Rove has offered me a similar bait and switch deal - to renounce Bush in print or die.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Rotten Egg Races

They say that the truly great athletes are motivated more by a deep hatred of losing than by the accolades that go with winning. Most everyone is motivated to some extent by the fame and good feelings we attach to winning, but those who work the hardest to be winners often simply dread losing more than their competition. My hypothesis is that this dread goes back to very early childhood, when losing not only meant not winning, but also carried with it the permanent stigma of, not just receiving, but actually being the rotten egg.

The rotten egg races have come to the Hatcher's household. Sunday morning, after finishing his breakfast, and while standing in prime position at the door to the deck, Billy announces a slight twist on the rotten egg race. He starts to say the last one to the trampoline is a rotten egg, but stops himself when he sees Joey is in a position inferior to Jake's. Not wanting his twin to be the rotten egg, he changes in mid-sentence and says “second one to the trampoline is a rotten egg,” and takes off running. Joey sits still, and Jake runs a close second to Billy and wins rotten egg status outright.

The boys love to race, especially Jake, who challenges me each morning to loops around the basement at breakneck speed. Usually one of the twins will join us and run circles around both of us, cutting dangerously sharp turns in barefeet on the carpet, while I let Jake beat me. As Joey passes him, Jake invariably claims that he is the fastest, against all evidence to the contrary.

Occasionally we get a good race going in an open field, and Billy and Joey even went head to head on the track one day. It would be slightly inaccurate to say that Bill is a faster starter than Joey, and more close to the truth to simply say he is a serial false starter, especially when he acts as the official starter. “Ready, set” and two to three steps into his full gait “go”, and Joe plays catch-up from the start.

Billy will have to be a distance runner, as the rule that requires sprinters to stay in their respective lanes takes away his main strategy, which consists of trying to cut Joe off as Joe closes the gap. Watching this is very comical, and makes me think that they should allow sprinters to do this in the Olympics, adding a little strategy to the mix and giving us as much excitement as short track skating provides (which is the coolest Olympic sport ever).

When the twins were Jake’s age, wrestling was their sport of choice. I would no sooner come in the back door of our Minneapolis home after work, when Billy would stammer out his request: “wanna wrathle?” Sure, I’ll wrathle, and up the three of us would go to the master bedroom. An ottoman served as the equivalent to the turnbuckle for Superfly Billy Snuka and Joey the Animal Steel. Not content to wrestle a mere dad, Billy would insist: “you be lion.” I would respond by saying that I am a bear, or any animal other than the lion, and no wrestling could proceed until Bill set me straight, insisting upon lion status.

Bill would run straight at me in a bull rush, from 20 feet away and outside the room, laying his body and head on the line to take out the lion. Joe was the champion of the foreign object; out of nowhere he would wield a toilet paper holder or some blunt object to heighten his advantage over me.

We still wrestle these days. I am fond of getting Bill in a position that he cannot possibly get out of, and telling him to say “uncle.” He knew what this meant immediately from the context the first time I said it, and always vehemently refuses to say it. When I have Joe in a similar position, he cannot say uncle fast enough. For Bill, after a few defiant refusals to say uncle, I will change my tone completely and ask him who the father of one of his cousins is, and he’ll respond Uncle … I immediately claim victory and let him up, saying I can’t believe you gave up and said uncle. Works everytime!

The Good Baldwin

Maybe there is a logic to having four kids - for every one that might turn out like Alec Baldwin, you might get a Steven: The Good Baldwin

Worried about the military-industrial complex? Didn't think so; but you probably should worry about the academic-media complex, as the American Thinker spells it out:
The American Thinker

Krugmanitis, the condition of being prone to paranoid delusions concerning vast right wing conspiracies, is spreading at the NYT:
The American Thinker


I came across this article detailing the latest work in progress by the playwrite Tony Kushner, who gives new meaning to moral obtuseness. More proof, as if any were needed, of the idiocy of the extreme left. From the archives, here is what I had to say about one of Kushner's past bouts of stupidity and hatred:

Tony Kushner, a gay playwright, recently had this to say about the Pope in the pages of the Nation: “Pope John Paul II endorses murder …. The Pope and his cardinals and bishops and priests maintain their cynical, political silence. Rigorously denouncing the abuse and murder of homosexuals would be a big sin against spin, denouncing the murder of homosexuals in such a way that it received even one-thousandth of the coverage his and his Church’s attack on homosexuals routinely receive would be an act of decency the Pope can’t afford, for the Pope knows: behind this one murdered kid stands legions of kids whose lives are scarred by the bigotry this Pope defends as sanctioned by God… A lot of people worry these days about the death of civil discourse and would say that I ought not to call the Pope a homicidal liar…” And so on. I’m sure you get the picture.

Ah, where to start? The one murdered kid referred to in the article was the young man in Montana killed last year, presumably (if every liberal writer in the world can strain to us the word “alleged” in referring to all Clinton crimes – present, past, and future, then I can freely use “presumably” here) because he was a homosexual. I suppose the murder was no surprise in light of the Church’s routine “attacks on homosexuals” alluded to by Mr. Kushner, who seems to think such attacks get very wide coverage. And yet, I’ve never seen a major news outlet expose the Church and the Pope for their vicious attacks. Is the power the papacy so vast that it can prevent Tom Brokaw, in his nightly performance, from quickly dropping his smile, lowering his brow, and turning on the voice of concern, to tell us once again that the Pope has said to Catholics that it is OK to go out and kill homosexuals. If given half an opportunity, the liberal press would gleefully turn its contempt of that most patriarchal of institutions, the Church, into a media blitzkrieg of denunciation.

The Church’s position is that homosexual activity is sinful, though the orientation is not. As far as I know, this is all the attention the matter receives in the Church. The activity joins the list of everything else the Church would characterize as sin, which can be defined loosely as a turning away from God. The primary teaching of the Church holds that all men are sinful, though each may differ in the particular sins he is prone to, and that through the sacrifice made by Christ on the cross, we can be redeemed from our sins. In twelve years of Catholic education, I never once heard the caveat applied that all of this is true accept for homosexuals, who can never be redeemed. Nor have I heard the addendum to the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” that states it is OK to do so as long as the victim is a homosexual.

Is murder and assault of homosexuals a problem among Catholic parisheners? I don’t recall any connection being made between the Montana murderers and the Catholic Church. I attend mass and, to my knowledge, have never shaken hands during the sign of peace with any known homosexual murderers. I doubt that there is any preacher, Catholic or otherwise, that has ever condoned murder of any type. But Mr. Kushner demands that the Pope specifically single out one particular type of murder that requires a papal condemnation, thousands of years after Moses came down from the mountain with God’s definitive statement on the issue. Is the Pope to improve upon that? And if he doesn’t, is he an accomplice to the crime worthy of being tagged a “homicidal liar”? Do those who murder homosexuals adhere to any Christian religion at all? Even if they do, if they are not Catholics, what are the chances that they listen to anything the Pope has to say? Most evangelicals consider him the devil.

Any statement by the Pope on this matter would be a grand empty gesture. It would say nothing to Catholics that is not entirely implied by every other teaching of the Church. So why does the Pope, and the Church in general, become the object of so much hatred? If Mr. Kushner disagrees with the Church’s characterization of homosexual activity as being sinful, but the Church never singles this activity out as being more sinful than, say, premarital sex, why worry? The Church does not wield the power to make sin enforcably illegal, so it certainly cannot restrain Mr. Kushner from behaving as he pleases.

In fact, perhaps Mr. Kushner should be grateful that an institution like the Church has for thousands of years paid all of its attention to figuring out the do’s and don’ts of living as God would have us live. Maybe they are wrong in some areas, and right in others, as any human institution is apt to be. So, as non-Catholics, take from the Church what ever helpful advice you think it offers, and leave behind the counsel you think misguided.

If Mr. Kushner is not a practicing Catholic, why do the teachings of the Church bother him at all? The simple answer is that he wants his own ethic to be shared by the Pope: do as you please to make yourself happy, and be tolerant of the ways in which others seek the same. Would it comfort Mr. Kushner to be told by a “homicidal liar” that there is nothing wrong with what he does? Why does the opinion of a man who Kushner holds in such contempt mean so much to him?

The simple answer is that it doesn’t. But hatred of the Catholic Church is part and parcel of the politics of at least the more political extreme of the gay community. Which beckons the question: is the Pope not entitled to live out his lifestyle choice in peace? (Some would even argue that his lifestyle is no real choice. Would anyone actually choose to remain celibate and dedicate hours on end each day to prayer? He must have been biologically predisposed to live that way.)

It is time to recognize Mr. Kushner and the supportive readers of the Nation for what they are – Popephobes. And if hate crime legislation ever passes, lets pray that Popephobes will be held as accountable as other individuals motivated by irrational hatred and intolerance whenever a Catholic should fall victim to a crime.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Hey, order me the shirt in the middle: Casual Conservative - Pro American Apparel

Labor Day Blues

For me, Labor Day has always signaled the slipping away of another year. There is something about Summer - maybe it is the long days - that makes you think time is standing still. Even though you get a little sick of the mosquitos and the heat and humidity, and you are ready for some football or the beginning of school, to me there is a sadness that marks the end of summer that isn't there for the other seasons.

Fall blends into winter so gradually and so late on the calendar, that December 20th is more or less bureacratic excess - you already knew you were in Winter, and nobody needed to tell you so. Winter always lingers too long, and even if passage into another Spring means another wrinkle around the eyes, you gladly pay the price. And Spring, as good as it is, has as its main attribute the glimpses it provides you of the next season. As much as I love fall, I always enter it looking over my shoulder and thinking I'll never have that summer back; I'll have others, but not that one.

I remember two consecutive Labor Days in particular, one in the Summer following graduation from college, and the next the summer prior to starting graduate school. Having graduated from college, I had no job awaiting me in the fall. Late in the Spring of my senior year, I applied to some graduate economics programs, and subsequently took the GREs. I found out mid-Summer I had gotten into Johns Hopkins and Carnegie Mellon, the former of which offered me tuition, but because I had applied so late no other funding was available. I visited Hopkins, met with what faculty were hanging around on a random summer day, and decided to wait a year and re-apply to Hopkins as well as a broader range of schools.

What I didn't realize is this left my first Tuesday in September devoid of anything to do. For all the years within memory, I was off to school on that Tuesday; there was no need to think of something to do.

And there I was lifeguarding in Stone Harbor on Labor Day weekend, the last fling of summer. The summer rentals were packed with people, the island was as crowded as at any other time, and the bars were hopping from about 4 pm on each day. And then comes the actual Labor Day; all prior years as a lifeguard I had already returned to school, so this was the first that I had witnessed on the beach. Driving to the shack, where we met for roll prior to hitting the stands on the beach, there isn't a parking space to be found on any street on the island. The beaches were initially jammed, but the crowd waned over the day as I sat fixed to the stand. By the time quitting time rolled around, the island was practically deserted. O Death in life the days that are no more!

That fall I found a job through a headhunter with the Joseph Oat Corporation, a private company on the Camden side of the Delaware River, for $19K per year. I was in the sales department, cold-calling power and chemical plants to see if they were in the market for $200 thousand heat exchangers - not an easy job. There were three other guys in sales, headed by a guy named Ed Marinock.

At the first rather informal meeting of the sales team in Ed's office, he pulled open a drawer, grabbed a bottle of Pepto Bismol, took a shot, and then in all seriousness offered each of us the same. Quitting time was 5:00 pm, and was literally marked by a whistle that ended the shift at the adjoining plant, and I would be out that door faster than it took Fred Flintstone to slide down his brontasorous and out of the quarry. I lasted thirty working days, the minimum required for me not to have to pay the headhunter fee. And the maximum I could stand without taking a hit of the Pepto.

Most of my Fridays there were spent shaking off a South Street hangover that was made more severe by a cheese steak at Jim's that lay undigested in my gut through the night ; Dusty Eggs was the drinking partner, and I particularly remember going out on Halloween night in South Philly with him dressed as BuckWheat in full black face - and of course the brothers loved him.

The next year, I spent part of the Summer living in Seattle, and came back to Stone Harbor to lifeguard for the month of August. It was the summer prior to starting graduate school, so I felt some trepidation about a new beginning, and for that one month life seemed perfect. Relaxed days on the beach followed by miniature golf skins games played for beers and shots, free happy hour meals at Touche munching on shrimp cocktail and sipping 25 cent grapefruit and vodkas. Play, stop, rewind, play, stop, rewind. That is what I wanted to do - just keep replaying that month for the rest of my life - probably the first and last time I ever felt that way. But just like every other August, it led only to another Labor Day, and it was on with life.

I often find Sinatra's Summer Wind playing repeatedly in my head as summer unofficially ends. It captures the melancholy of summer taking its leave.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

What did Wall Street G call liberalism - a barbell market - or was it a dumbbell market? In any event, apparently he caught the ear of the Wall Street J:
OpinionJournal - Featured Article

Monday, September 06, 2004

Do You Like Pina Coladas?

Whoa, sometime Friday after one of the NY protestors stumbled out of the roundhouse, they found their way to an internet cafe and hacked into Ideas Hatched to leave a comment that displays the fine logic that characterizes such protestors.

"it is always a question of semantics; liberator or occupier; pro choice or anti choice or pro abortions as if anyone is actually for abortion as opposed to the right to chose."

Uhh - come again? I heard that, I am just having some trouble comprehending it. So the distinction between liberator or occupier is merely a semantic one? Well then sign me up as an occupier, I guess. As a country, we seem to have a great record of occupying countries where the leaders like to kill a lot of their own people, so my guess is that, with the exception of those leaders, people don't really mind when we occupy them - at least initially, although they do learn to resent the fact that we were needed to bail them out (see, for example, France). My guess is that most of Eastern Europe would take exception, however, if you were to say that each was liberated in the aftermath of World War II by Russia. Good thing Reagan eventually decided to occupy them!

"Pro-abortion" as a euphemism? Well, that is a new one; in Church on Sundays when I am declaring my great faith in Jesus and imploring others in the congregation to support the killing of innocent civilians the world over, we generally agree that pro or anti-choice is the euphemism. If no one is for abortion, then why does anyone have to be for the right to choose one? You don't see a pro-choice movement in Boston regarding a right to choose to cheer for the Yankees for the obvious reason that nobody does.

"I have discovered after many years of republican witch hunting who they truly are, they are people who travel to resort areas in third world countries and proclaim the success of americanization although they never make it past their pina coladas and the resort doors to see utter poverty that lies with in well hidden areas."

Just a few questions: Out of curiosity, have you found any Republican witches yet? What techniques do you use to hunt them? How many years have you been doing it? Do you weigh them on a scale opposite a duck before you condemn them to be burned at the stake? Based upon what you've come to know about us, have you ever hunted one of us in one of those all-inclusive resorts in Jamaica? If not, I recommend it highly - a week full of eating lobster and drinking pina coladas is good for the soul, and there are plenty of us there for the hunting.

Actually, margaritas were my drink of choice while there, as I found it masked the stank poverty-ridden odor of the islanders working the resort better than a pina colada ever could hope to. (That is not to say that I don't like pina coladas, or getting caught in the rain, and I am not into health food, I am in to champagne). As for the utter poverty that lies in well hidden areas - would that it were so! In my twenty minute trip from the airport to the resort, I saw field after field of emaciated cows tied to posts; they were each apparently owned by different locals who had no land of their own, and who I guess would come by to milk every so often. Like I need to see this on my vacation? I can tell you that it didn't take long for me to complain to the manager of the resort!

You are absolutely correct, of course, it's America's fault, and I shouldn't blame the resort manager. For all of those years that Jamaica was an imperial colony of the United States, we simply raped the land of all its resources - otherwise how can anyone explain why we are so wealthy and they so poor?

"My favorite item about the republicans is their utter and total faith in Jesus and are more than willing to send others to liberate, I say to their death and to kill innocent civilians, like I said all semantics."

You like the word utter, don't you? I might turn that around and say that liberals have an utter and total tolerance for those with utter and total faith in Allah, who are more than willing to send others to their deaths and to kill innocent civilians. There is plenty of evidence for that. I'll let the readers decide whether your comparison or mine is more apt.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Wall Street G's Theory of Value; Professor Vic Learns to Breathe

W! You gotta admit, no matter your political persuasion, a George Bush speech is far more interesting as a spectator sport than a Kerry speech. It's kind of like watching a gymnastics routine - if you are for him, you are praying he doesn't fall off of the balance beam onto his head, and in the event that he does, you are hoping he gets back up and completes the rest of the routine. If you are against, you are rooting for the exact opposite. With Kerry, you feel like you are Charlie Brown staring up at the parent who is never seen - "Wa wa waa wa waa wa." Unintelligibly boring, but a great elixir for insomnia.

I thought he did a fine job. I liked his jab taken at his own rhetorical skills - that he knew his English was bad when he started getting corrected by Arnie. It was Reaganesque in a way. His occasional mistakes are jumped upon by all of his humorless critics (does he have any other kind?) as if they show a lack of character, when in fact the cheap shots they take show their lack of character. Reagan used to take such jabs for Bedtime with Bonzo; like Bush last night, he turned the joke back on himself (I don't remember the exact way he did this) and in the process revealed the shallowness of those who tried to use the chimp as a stick to beat him with.


Before I get started, let me bring your attention to two articles in the American Spectator online - hilarious no matter what your political persuasion: the first involves the reporter being sent to the hooch with some of the protestors in NY; the second involves the Axis of Eve drumming up a little anti-Bush press by showing a little skin ... well, I think that is a protest even some conservatives can get behind.


Anyway, onto my man on the street - Wall Street G's (aka T-Rex, because rap stars, when they become really famous, need an aka in addition to the primary nickname) theory of value. Not content to keep up with the changing value of the dollar, he has come up with a commodity good whose utility never seems to change, even as its dollar price surely does. Rather than think of the dollar cost of various items, he thinks of the opportunity costs in beers or nights out:

"As I've gotten older, and arguably more mature, I've initiated different ways to measure "value". Particularly being a new home owner, I've had to come up with ways to evaluate the relative merits of one project or good versus an alternative. In your world (the world of the economist, that is), I believe it is called the Production Possibliities Curve.

Either way, I've been able to reduce the number of variables in my own decision-making process by holding one constant. Basically, I think of lower budgetary decisions in terms of how much beer one can purchase. (Usually, it is in terms of beer purchased at a bar at regular prices.) So, to put it in graphical terms, one of the axes is alwasy beer. For example: If one assumes the average pint of beer in the NYC Metropolitan area costs $4 to $5 per pint at a bar (not a night club or anyplace that employes a velvet rope to control its patrons, I am talking a moderately nice NYC pub with food and a reasonable crowd), then the recently hired cleaning lady is basically a decent Friday night out. (Figure 4-6 pints on the average Thurs or Friday at $5 per pint. Plus tips and some random purchases for friends at the bar.) If, like me, you could consume a few more than 4-6 pints, then the math gets easy. By rounding the average night out to about 12 pints (for you, friends, tips, etc.) now all decisions are evaluated against a very simple yard stick, the $60 to $70 night out."

Sounds like a good evaluative technique, but for one problem. Wall Street G is Irish, so this particular calculus of decision making for him probably results in many drunken nights and a house that is slowly falling apart. Most of the involuntary subscribers to Ideas Hatched no doubt used a similar calculus, without being able to explain it as well as Wall Street G, in each of the seven years of their college careers. Those who graduated in four probably never stumbled onto Wall Street G's decision-making apparatus. Interestingly enough, the social critic and economist Thorsten Veblen, teaching a conservative religious student in the early portion of the 20th century, scandalously asked her to value her religious beliefs in terms of kegs of beer.

I have come up with a similar non-dollar denominated metric of opportunity cost - retirement days. When my wife says, "Gee, I'd really like to get that leather couch", my mind starts racing to determine how many more days that will require me to work in my life. Each day retirement is delayed, mind you, is a missed opportunity to fashion and perfect an effective but turtous looking golf swing that manages to not aggravate the aches and pains of aging. A fourth kid? Added a lot of days, brother. But, of course, with each kid you factor in the probability, remote as it is, that he or she will be a golf prodigy, and will hasten you to a quicker and more comfortable retirement. That turned out to be the deciding factor for kid #4, although I had to inflate the probability. He or she owes me one!

Two very funny e-mails to share with you this morning. One from Professor Vic, just days away from becoming a first time father, after I suggested he take a few days off from commenting on the blog for the good of his health:

"I'll probably be reading the blog while Jolie is in labor, you'll say something objectionable, and Jolie will have to say, "Ok, Victor, breathe...""

Short and funny ... kinda like Professor Vic.

And then there is this, from a Monty Python fan:

"I didn't understand that last bit nor did I understand any of the bits before that however I do suspect that they may be offensive in some manner. Why doesn't he write about something nice, like a bear in a zoo who just got something yummy to eat? Sincerely Yours, Mrs. Higabonds Clarke, III, Age 92."

Convention Thoughts

Zell! This time I did watch it, and man was Zell Miller fun. Stepanopholus dismissed the speech as red meat for the Red states, unlikely to sway any undecided voters, and he may have been right but for the obvious hook - that Miller is a lifelong Democrat. That matters to people - when they see a guy cross the aisle. When it happens the other way, be it the latest attempt of John McCain to out-liberal the liberals on domestic policy, or a nominally northeastern Republican Senator switching over to the Democrats, we are bombarded by stories of their courage from the national press. The carrot is out there for all Republicans - join the Dark Side, and we'll make a hero of you. But apparently the equation doesn't work the other way for Zell Miller.

I liked two things about his speech especially - the story of Wendell Wilkie, the 1940 Republican candidate for President against Roosevelt, who in bipartisan fashion voted for a war-related issue along with Roosevelt's desires, and in the process hurt his chances for election. It was a great contrast to the political opportunism of Kerry, who voted for the Iraq war, and then against the subsequent funding in order to prove to all those peace-loving Democrats who beat up NY cops at the Republican convention that he is as crazy as Howard Dean.

In line with that story, I love how he made a distinction between the patriotism of Democrats and their judgment. It is a distinction that Democrats have been trying to blur this entire campaign - you question Kerry's record in the Senate, and he comes out saying how dare you question his patriotism. Uhh, nobody did, John, but good luck trying to score points claiming we are.

I also liked the distinction between the US as a liberator versus an occupier. Michael Moore, for example, has referred to the terrorists in Iraq as freedom fighters trying to liberate their country from US occupation. And lots of people paid money to see his movie, including Terry McAuliffe and Tom Daschle, among other very prominent and powerful Democrats. Michael Moore is not alone in that view, but I suspect most undecided voters don't share it.

Zell Miller did a great job in my mind of associating the Democrats with the Michael Moore crowd. And my guess is that the undecideds vote based upon which extreme they fear most - the left or the right.

"Don't pay any attention to what those little shits on the campuses do. The great beast is the reactionary elements in the country. Those are the people that we have to fear." So said Jyndon Johnson to George Ball, explaining how he expected the challenge to his Vietnam policy to come from the political Right. He was wrong, of course, but notice how the anti-war movement, which quickly morphed into an anti-American movement, led to easy victories for Richard Nizon. I'll put my Swift Boat Vets for Truth as our extreme element up against the idiots who have populated NY to protest the convention any day.

My dad was a marine who served in Korea, two years Miller's senior. I wonder if they ever crossed paths. My dad is the oldest of seven; his brother Jim was in Korea as an Army private, Jack won the Silver Star in Vietnam as an Air Force man, and the youngest, Jerry, served in the Air National Guard as a pilot during Vietnam. All of them eventually became Republicans, a fact that would have made their Grandmother roll over in her grave. But my dad's three sisters ... all Democrats. They say things like "if only all the money that we spend on the military could go to the schools." Hopeless!


More evidence that Paul Krugman is going insane. Maybe he is just doing his John Nash imitation to try to get the Nobel prize in Economics. Nash, of Beautiful Mind fame, was schizophrenic, and espoused many Jewish conspiracy theories in his sickest days. Krugman, being a Jew himself, must look for something other than 7 Jewish bankers in Zurich who rule the world in surruptitious fashion to become his particular delusion. He's found it - the Republican Party, who conspiratorally have taken power. Over the timeline he considers the conspiracy to have spread, Government has only grown, which in my eyes makes it a much less than successful conspiracy, but you cannot expect a crazy man understand that.


The first time I ever heard of Ron Silver, it was inauguration day, 1993. He was quoted as saying something to the effect that when he saw the military jets in formation, he cursed their presence at the celebration of the swearing in of the new President (Clinton), but then he remembered that, with a Democrat now in power, "those were our planes now." As if the military had just switched sides in a civil war between Republicans and Democrats. Disgusting. So imagine my surprise when I am channel surfing on Tuesday night, and I come across Wolf Blitzer talking to somebody, with the convention in the backgroud. The conventioneers are cheering uproarously, and Blitzer explains that they are reacting to the remarks being made by Ron Silver up on stage. Beautiful - Ron Silver endorsing George Bush and hoping those same planes that flew over the capital in 1993 now stay in the hands of the adults.


Of course Ideas Hatched has sent its own press envoy to the convention, who guys by the name Wall Street G. Actually he doesn't go by that name at all, but why should rap stars be the only ones who get to go by really cool nicknames even in their adulthood. From the sounds of his first report, he did not meet this woman while trying to go to work. If you read that link, send me your guess as to how long it will take for that young woman to become a conservative. Anyway, Wall Street G:

Yesterday, I was walking to the Path station at the WTC site. (I work across the street from the former WFC. And yes, I was there on 9/11...and exactly a year later, my daughter was born on 9/11. So, I tend to relate 9/11 with the happier of the two memories. But I digress...) Either way, I was walking to the Path station. I encountered one of the many groups of protestors in front of the station. Secretly, I wanted someone to start with me now that I've been working out with a boxing trainer for four months. You know, almost middle aged guy getting harrassed by a liberal punk who has all the answers. I'd deal with it the way any almost middle aged guy would...pop the kid in the mouth. But I digress again. Either way, seeing these kids made me ask a few questions:
1. Why are most of the protestors white, seemingly middle-class kids who likely went to reputable institutions of higher learning? (Probably self-exlpanatory situation.) As an aside, I've always contended liberalism is a "barbell trade" (to use jargon from Wall St.). In other words, poor people who feel they have no other means seek government bail out, or wealthy people who have the luxury to not care what happens with their property and livelyhood are the two ends of the "barbell".
2. Don't these people have jobs? Thousands of commuters were walking to and fro getting to work or home. We, the commuters, are the real population. We're the people who keep the country running.
3. Maybe I have this all wrong, but inherent in liberalism is the idea that other peoples opinions matter. That there is some base respect for others, despite percieved differenences. Well then, why is a conservative view immediately discounted. I could elaborate this idea more clearly, but I am lazy.
4. Anarchists...I love them. On Sunday, the CBS program "Sunday Morning" was on, a self-described anarchist was spouting off about a society without instutionalized government. Come on, without goverment, more guys like the one who beat up a NYC cop yesterday on TV, would come and bonk the anarchist on the head and take his lunch. And refer back to item 1., this kid likely grew up in Evanston, IL or Princeton, NJ or some other up-scale community...he was clearly educated, well fed, clothed...where does the money and support come from?

Long story short...I think conventions, republican or democrat, have lost all relevance as have the politicians who participate in them. Protestors, don't like 'em, they mess up my commute and annoy me because they aren't old enough to really have figured anything out. Liberalism, when I am wealthy enough to just hand stuff out, without regard for my family or their well being, maybe I join Ted Kennedy or Theresa Heinz. Untill then, I worked hard for what I have, I'd like to keep as much as possible for my family.

There you have it folks, the inside scoop from Wall Street G. As far as the protest crowd being upper middle class whities, twas always thus, going right back to the Bolshevik revolution of 1917. They'll tell you that the lumpen proletariat is too oppressed to carry the banner of revolution, so the task falls to them. In the old days, of course, the proletariat was too busy working for a living. Now they are busy auditioning for Jerry Springer, so they still need upper middle class whities to save them. Eventually these people will go on for their PhDs in post-feminist Women's Studies, or some such absurd topic, get tenure in three years, and start training the next group of upper middle class whities on how to break stuff in large groups.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Infinite Plus One

Jenelle is pregnant with our fourth child, and the boys are excited, but as with most things that boys get excited about it, it is a source of many fights. Billy and Joey are in Mom and Dad’s camp, wanting the baby to be a girl; Jake wants a baby brother. So of course Jake will fight with the twins over the gender of the baby.

“It’s a girl.”


“Girl”, and so on, with Jake’s voice rising on each repetition. Most conversations these guys have follow a similar logic and progression – A, not A – until Mom or Dad intervene. But sometimes the twins will try to out-scale each other. Speaking about something that requires a metric, each will try to top the other with a larger number. But the only problem is that beyond twenty they don’t really know which numbers are bigger.

“Thirty hundred thousand” might start Joey’s bidding, but he will give up, imagining no number larger than Billy’s “fifteen fifty”, which clearly falls far below Joey’s. And sometimes they’ll even add in a unit of measurement for dramatic effect. Billy, just yesterday, came in with “98 degrees,” and followed by saying that that must be “the end of numbers.” What a concept! I chose not to tell him about infinite – too early for that mind-blowing concept, and that only adds complexity to the argument (infinite, infinite plus one, infinite plus infinite, and so on). For now I’ll let him believe he can still pull out the number that ends all arguments over comparative magnitude.

The “98 degrees” comment came while driving home from a pool in North Arlington, where we had just spent the last two hours. Billy and Joey have been getting private swim lessons the last two weeks, and they’ve made enough progress to be able to go off the diving board and swim to the ladder. After about 10 trips each off the low dive, the lifeguards opened the high dive. I ask if either is game, and at first they decline, but after a couple more jumps off of the low, Joe says he wants in. Of course, Jenelle brought the video camera for their last swim lesson, and captured the low-dive action, so we didn’t feel the need to bring it today. Don’t kids understand that their progress should be timed to coincide with us remembering the video camera?

The high dive has a flight of stairs leading to it, obviously superimposed over the original ladder. This is one of those added costs of about one thousand personal injury cases from people falling off of high-dive ladders all over the country, but I am glad – the high dive looks much safer and less bare. Joey scuttles up the stairs with a nervous smile and his little nervous laugh. He gets up there, starts to walk out to the end of the plank, looks down at me and gives me the thumbs up. Gets to the end of the board, pauses, looks back at me and says he’s nervous. I assure him he’ll be fine, just make sure to stay upright.

But in my mind there is great fear – what if he trips, falls off the board into a tuck position, and ends up doing a 1 and 1/2? If that happens, next thing you know he’ll be insisting upon buying a bird suit that is so tight it cuts off the circulation to his legs. Wouldn’t any parent be scared? He jumped without incident. Not even five years old, and he’s jumping off of the high dive! Billy, after four aborted attempts, where he got to the very end of the board and then came back, finally jumped. He jumped one more time after that, but wanted no more of it. Joey went at least another fifteen times. Now if we could only get either one of them to go upstairs by themselves during the day, a task for which both are deathly afraid.

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