Begging to Differ ...about politics, culture and law.

September 30, 2003

THE MOST INSIDIOUS OF TRAITORS

Posted by Ramar

I am afraid that I must disagree with some of the more defensive assessments of the Valerie Plame scandal. While caution is always commendable, a fair amount of material has already surfaced that suggests that Plame was in fact a covert operative.

Soon after the story first appeared, intelligence sources confirmed to Newsday that Plame was working undercover on weapons proliferation issues. On Monday, Mike Allen has able to go into greater detail in the Washington Post.

She is a case officer in the CIA's clandestine service and works as an analyst on weapons of mass destruction. Novak published her maiden name, Plame, which she had used overseas and has not been using publicly. Intelligence sources said top officials at the agency were very concerned about the disclosure because it could allow foreign intelligence services to track down some of her former contacts and lead to the exposure of agents.

The CIA has consistently taken the stance that Plame was a covert agent working undercover, as evinced by their communications with the Justice Department.

Instead, Justice Department lawyers sent their CIA counterparts a letter asking 11 questions to help assess the seriousness of the matter. The CIA lawyers responded this month by affirming that the woman’s identity was classified, that whoever released it was not authorized to do so and that the news media would not have been able to guess her identity without the leak, the senior officials said.

The CIA’s response to the questions, which is itself classified, said there were grounds for a criminal investigation, the senior officials said.

Given the deference usually shown on national security issues, I doubt that the agency's assessment would be seriously challenged by the courts.

President Bush also seems to have made up his mind.

President Bush's chief spokesman said yesterday that the allegation that administration officials leaked the name of a CIA operative is "a very serious matter" and vowed that Bush would fire anybody responsible for such actions.

Kevin Drum has more, but then, he often does.

In a reply to another post at Calpundit, my colleague Steve suggested that Plame's outing fell "somewhere between felonious and innocuous." At this point, it appears far more likely that it falls somewhere between malfeasance and treason.


03:17 PM | Category: Law | Link


THE SMOKIN' JURIST

Posted by Greg

Here's a story that should give the card-carrying libertarians something to gnaw on:

Michigan District Court Judge suspended after being seen smoking pot at a Rolling Stones concert

Though I may have some libertarian sympathies here and there--hey, I like liberty as much as the next person--I don't really have the street cred. I'm soft on drug legalization, sex crime decriminalization, some privacy issues, and other pet libertarian issues. So I'll stay on the sidelines of this one. But I'd be interested in hearing what folks have to say. Is a twice-a-year pot habit sufficient grounds for suspending a judge? Is the illegality of the behavior enough?

One curious note: it's not just the pot smoking that makes me question this judge's judgment. According to reports, "Gilbert apologized in a written statement and blamed alcoholism for his drug use." Doesn't sound like a very smart defense to me.

UPDATE: If it's facts you're looking for, the Traverse City Record-Eagle has more here, here and here.


12:05 PM | Category: Law | Link


PLAME UNDERCOVER?

Posted by Steve

Here's the text of an email sent to White House staff from counsel Alberto R. Gonzales:

PLEASE READ: Important Message From Counsel's Office

We were informed last evening by the Department of Justice that it has opened an investigation into possible unauthorized disclosures concerning the identity of an undercover CIA employee. The department advised us that it will be sending a letter today instructing us to preserve all materials that might be relevant to its investigation. Its letter will provide more specific instructions on the materials in which it is interested, and we will communicate those instructions directly to you. In the meantime, you must preserve all materials that might in any way be related to the department's investigation. Any questions concerning this request should be directed to Associate Counsels Ted Ullyot or Raul Yanes in the counsel to the president's office. The president has directed full cooperation with this investigation.

As I see it, the most significant line describes an investigation of "disclosures concerning the identity of an undercover CIA employee." If Plame was a covert agent, and as-yet-unnamed "senior administration officials" blew her cover in an effort to discredit her husband, there could be criminal prosecutions.

It is in everyone's interest for the facts to become known. Until we know what really happened, this story is not going away.


10:59 AM | Category: Law | Link


DIVIDED DOWN THE MIDDLE

Posted by Steve

I've received a lot of feedback - most of it negative - on this post. The offending snippet, it seems, is this:

continue reading "DIVIDED DOWN THE MIDDLE" »



12:01 AM | Category: Politics | Link


September 29, 2003

NOBODY TALKS, EVERYBODY WALKS

Posted by Ramar

Like many, I have spent much of the last few days closely following the developments in the no longer dormant Valerie Plame scandal. I won't try to replicate the comprehensive, insightful, and forceful commentary that can be found at other weblogs, but I am a bit confused by this post by Josh Marshall.

Josh has done yeoman's work in covering the angles of this story, but I am not sure that I follow him here.

According to this morning's Washington Post, the president's "aides said Bush has no plans to ask his staff members whether they played a role in revealing the name of an undercover officer who is married to former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV."

Today Scott McClellan said Karl Rove "wasn't involved. The president knows he wasn't involved."

That sounds like the president has asked one of his staff members, i.e., Karl Rove.

Perhaps. But it is worth noting that Rove is the only administration official that has been publicly accused of being the leaker, even obliquely. If he were innocent, it would make sense for him to profess his innocence, even if Bush chose not to inquire about the guilt of the other suspects.

Of course, that lack of curiousity is telling. I am not sure that we can say that a lot is already known in the White House, but it is certainly clear that they are afraid to know what happened - or having to admit that they know.


06:44 PM | Category: Politics | Link


PLAME ID A FELONY?

Posted by Steve

In much of the commentary on the Valerie Plame affair, there is an underlying assumption that someone, somewhere, committed a crime.

Via Instapundit comes a citation to the statute that is alleged to have been violated by the "outing" of Plame as a CIA employee. It provides in part:

Whoever, having or having had authorized access to classified information that identifies a covert agent, intentionally discloses any information identifying such covert agent to any individual not authorized to receive classified information, knowing that the information disclosed so identifies such covert agent and that the United States is taking affirmative measures to conceal such covert agent's intelligence relationship to the United States, shall be fined under title 18 or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.

Slight variations of the theme are contained in the statute. For example, it makes a difference how the leaker acquired the knowledge that was disclosed. The bottom line, however, is that it is against the law to knowingly disclose the identity of a "covert agent."

But was Valerie Plame a covert agent?

"Covert agent" is defined here as follows:

The term ''covert agent'' means -

(A) a present or retired officer or employee of an intelligence agency or a present or retired member of the Armed Forces assigned to duty with an intelligence agency -

(i) whose identity as such an officer, employee, or member is classified information, and

(ii) who is serving outside the United States or has within the last five years served outside the United States; or

(B) a United States citizen whose intelligence relationship to the United States is classified information, and -

(i) who resides and acts outside the United States as an agent of, or informant or source of operational assistance to, an intelligence agency, or

(ii) who is at the time of the disclosure acting as an agent of, or informant to, the foreign counterintelligence or foreign counterterrorism components of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; or

(C) an individual, other than a United States citizen, whose past or present intelligence relationship to the United States is classified information and who is a present or former agent of, or a present or former informant or source of operational assistance to, an intelligence agency.

I do not know if Plame was a covert agent under this definition, but according to Drudge, Robert Novak (whose original article touched off this firestorm) says, "According to a confidential source at the CIA, Mrs. Wilson was an analyst, not a spy, not a covert operator, and not in charge of undercover operatives..."

Whether or not Plame was a "covert agent" seems like one of the first questions one should ask in determining not only whether the leaker of her identity committed a crime, but also whether it threatened national security, or was likely to intimidate her, or if her job was a secret at all - as myriad commentators have apparently already concluded.


06:25 PM | Category: Law | Link


NEW DIGS

Posted by Steve

Crescat Sententia has moved to a snappy Movable Type site, so go look at it.

Go!


12:33 PM | Category: Miscellaneous | Link


SPEAKING OF SADNESS

Posted by Mike

One of the true heroes of sport has died. If you're under 40, you've probably never heard of her. But you should have.


09:13 AM | Category: Miscellaneous | Link


TOO SAD TO BLOG

Posted by Steve

I'm despondent at the moment because Peyton Manning has thrown six touchdown passes so far against the Saints, thus sinking my Fantasy Football team in what I thought was an easy win. So instead of blogging, I'm just tossing out a few links and going to bed.

Check out the Dead Parrot Society on the Wilson/Plame affair.

Don't miss Crescat Sententia's continuing links and thoughts inspired by my "philosphical scrotum" post below. Just as soon as I have time (probably Tuesday) I'll explain why I'm still right, but all my detractors are right, too.

They're happy for the Cubs over at Spoons.

Calpundit is pleased that Time Magazine says the mission is not accomplished in Iraq.

Through The Looking Glass has realistic expectations of the Red Sox.

Duck Season links to Georgy Russell on Sharon Davis.

Black Glenn goes into great detail about his car trouble (complete with photos!)

Jihva's not so hot on "socialites."

Wizbang is taking submissions for the Bonfire of the Vanities.

Damn you Peyton Manning! Damn you!


12:01 AM | Category: Miscellaneous | Link


September 28, 2003

SUNDAY COMICS

Posted by BTD

Thanks as always to the artists who are letting us put this up: Chris Onstad (Achewood), Michael Bowen (Cobb), Chris Muir (Day by Day), Dave Johnson (Dead Air), Ryan Sohmer and Chad Wm. Porter (Least I Could Do), Matt Gidney (Mitch in Wonderland), Krishna M. Sadasivam (PC Weenies), Kenny Keil (Squaresville).

Be sure to visit their websites to see more. Also, if you know of another comic you'd like to see in the Sunday Comics, or if you'd like to submit one of your own as a guest comic, email us and let us know.

To visit today's BTD Sunday Comics, click on the banner below:

BTD Sunday Comics


12:05 AM | Category: Culture | Link


September 27, 2003

SATURDAY PHOTO

Posted by Steve


Lamps.jpg


09:08 PM | Category: Photography | Link


SURVIVOR - GRIZZLY MELTDOWN

Posted by Steve

Terribly sorry about the late Survivor entry. I just got around to watching Thursday's episode. Many thanks to all who wrote in - I'll try not to let you down again!

Mostly I thought that skirt-wearing grizzly bear should just chill the hell out...

continue reading "SURVIVOR - GRIZZLY MELTDOWN" »



08:42 PM | Category: Culture | Link


SHE WAS A SIGHT TO BEHOLD

Posted by Greg

Via third- (or fourth-) hand email comes this dramatic picture of Isabel, purportedly taken just off Virginia Beach by a Coast Guard employee.

She was terrifyingly beautiful, wasn't she?

isabel.jpg

UPDATE: Donald Sensing praises the photograph, but doubts its authenticity. He's probably right. From satellite photos, Isabel looked way too large to be photographed in profile. Mike Hollihan, commenting at One Hand Clapping, suggests that it's a Pacific cyclone, possibly Juan.

UPDATE: Snopes confirms that it's not Isabel, and suggests that the photo depicts the wall clouds of a severe thunderstorm or tornado.


12:08 AM | Category: Miscellaneous | Link


September 26, 2003

MORE JUDICIAL ACTIVISM

Posted by Mike

Well, just as soon as Congress got around to blasting Judge West's invalidation of the do-not-call registry, Judge Edward Nottingham of the District of Colorado has again held it invalid, this time citing Constitutional free-speech concerns. Further Congressional action cannot affect a ruling on these grounds, of course, so the future of the do-not-call registry now rests with the Tenth Circuit and, perhaps, the Supreme Court.

I principally disagree with Judge Nottingham's judgment that the government, by simply setting up the do-not-call registry, is impermissibly tangled in the process of restricting speech; individual telephone subscribers either choose to sign up, or they don't. That the choice is between receiving all commercial telemarketing calls or none does not strike me as a material difference from addressees' Constitutional right to tell the postmaster to notify particular senders not to send them further mail, upheld in Rowan v. United States Post Office Dep't, 397 U.S. 728 (1970); Slip Op. at 16-17. Indeed, certain language from Rowan is particularly relevant:

In today's complex society we are inescapably captive audiences for many purposes, but a sufficient measure of individual autonomy must survive to permit every householder to exercise control over unwanted mail. To make the householder the exclusive and final judge of what will cross his threshold undoubtedly has the effect of impeding the flow of ideas, information, and arguments that, ideally, he should receive and consider. Today's merchandising methods, the plethora of mass mailings subsidized by low postal rates, and the growth of the sale of large mailing lists as an industry in itself have changed the mailman from a carrier of primarily private communications, as he was in a more leisurely day, and have made him an adjunct of the mass mailer who sends unsolicited and often unwanted mail into every home. It places no strain on the doctrine of judicial notice to observe that whether measured by pieces or pounds, Everyman's mail today is made up overwhelmingly of material he did not seek from persons he does not know.

continue reading "MORE JUDICIAL ACTIVISM" »



04:14 PM | Category: Law | Link


WHY YOU SHOULD READ BEGGING TO DIFFER

Posted by Greg

Not that I'm biased, or anything. But read this statement obliquely referring to blogs by Vlae Kershner, the news director of the San Franscisco Chronical's website, in Editor and Publisher:

We've undoubtedly lost some of our audience to Web sites that specialize in politically tinted news. Not that it hurts us that much, but it makes political polarization even worse if people only read the opinions they already know they're going to agree with.

Here at BTD, we've got competing viewpoints. Our readers will surely be able to find something with which to disagree.

(link via Instapundit)


11:56 AM | Category: Miscellaneous | Link


IRRATIONAL BUSH HATRED REVISITED

Posted by Greg

I was intrigued, though somewhat baffled, to read my fellow Beggar's take on Bush hatred a few days ago. Ramar made the interesting claim that "A great many of the Clinton haters thought that Clinton was a poor president because he was a bad person. By contrast, many of the Bush haters tend to think that Bush is a bad person because they think he is a poor president." Of course, Ramar didn't say "all," or even "most," just many. Still, I'm not sure how one begins to quantify the degree of hatred that originates with a response to the person versus a response to the policies. Certainly, there are "many" people who hate both the person and the policies.

Ramar quotes a piece from the most recent edition of the New Republic by Jonathan Chait arguing that "hatred of Bush is a logical response to the events of the last few years." Baffling is the word to best describe my reaction to this "we never hated him until we got to know his policies" version of recent Presidential political history. That's not the way I remember it at all. In fact, I remember Bush hatred that began well before the 2000 elections. I remember the term "shrub" being tossed around a lot. I remember fabricated stories about presidential I.Q.s that were passed around with glee. I remember vague and apparently unsubstantiated accusations about Bush, the deserter. I even remember innuendo that Laura murdered an ex-lover. What I don' t remember were any of these things being logically related to Bush's policies as our nation's chief executive.

But the interesting question, really, is whether the hatred of the person, or the policy, or both can be described as "irrational." Ramar strongly recommended us all to read Chait's New Republic piece. This morning, on NPR's Morning Edition, I discovered that Chait's article wasn't meant to be a stand-alone exposé, but was part of a point-counterpoint exercise with Ramesh Ponuru. Even without registering for the articles, one can get a flavor of the debate by hopping over to the TNR website and reading through Chait and Ponuru's online debate.

Here's a sampling of Ponuru's take on Bush hatred:

Thanks for sharing. Not everyone would be brave enough to recount their harrowing descent into madness so vividly. You have to go pretty far into irrational Bush hatred to suggest, as you do in your article, that the Crawford ranch is phony, part of Bush's positioning as a rough-hewn Texan. He certainly seems to enjoy going there. But what do I know? Maybe he's only pretending to like his dog Barney, and kicks him when the door is closed.

...

Bush hatred may not have reached the level that Clinton hatred did just yet. But give it time. York's prediction was that some of the most virulent material would seep into the mainstream. Since his article was published, Vanity Fair has done a separated-at-birth picture spread of Richard Perle and Joseph Goebbels; Andrew Greeley has accused the administration of big lies in the style of Goebbels; Janeane Garofalo has said on Crossfire that Bush is running the "43rd Reich"; and The New York Times has reported seriously on academics who think that the word "fascism" belongs in discussions of the Bush administration's policies.

It's an entertaining and enlightening debate. Chait gets in some good points himself. More than anything, it underscores the way intelligent people with different viewpoints can have rational, but opposed opinions about Bush hatred. (Hopefully, the same might charitably be said about Ramar and me.)

A final point noted in the NPR piece and not in the online debate: The commentator (whose name I don't recall and whose statements I'm paraphrasing) made the point that the quality of Bush hatred--irrational vitriol or calculated motivation--could come down, respectively to a Dean versus Clark moment of truth for Democrats. Those who wish to vent their spleen will favor Dean, while those who simply want Bush removed will side with Clark. Because I'm not a Democrat myself, I'll refrain from handing out unsolicited advice. But it's an interesting point, and one worth watching.


10:17 AM | Category: Politics | Link


September 25, 2003

WHY NOW? WHY NOT FIVE YEARS AGO?

Posted by Ramar

Trying to explain why President Bush's approval ratings have been falling sharply in recent months, Josh Marshall suggests that Bush's popularity may be declining because he has exhausted the capacity of the public to trust him.

For quite some time this White House has functioned like a heavily leveraged business, an overextended investor that suddenly gets a margin call. To extend the business metaphor, the White House has been surviving not on profits but expectations of future profits or, in other words, credibility. The White House has been able to get the public to sit tight with a lot of objectively poor news (a poor economy, big deficits, bad news from abroad) on the basis of trust.

But a combination of the manifest incompetence of the planning for post-war Iraq and the dishonesty of the build-up for the war have become increasingly difficult to defend or deny. And that's struck a grave blow against the president's credibility.

If this is the case, then the biggest single reason for Bush's decline would be the failure to date of the search for weapons of mass destruction. The economy has been sluggish for many months, and reasonable people can disagree about the state of affairs in Iraq, but it is hard to argue that the weapons hunt has thus far been a bust.

Which makes this story all the more interesting.

The weapons inspector, David Kay, is expected to present his report to Congress late next week -- an event that senior U.S. officials had just weeks ago pointed to as providing a possible vindication for the administration's prewar claims that Iraq had stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons and had restarted its efforts to build a nuclear bomb.

But officials yesterday sought to play down expectations that Kay's report will contain any major revelations. Kay, who is in Washington this week finishing the document, is "still gathering information from the field," the CIA's chief spokesman, Bill Harlow, said yesterday. "Don't expect any firm conclusions. He will not rule in or rule out anything."

While an inconclusive report does not much support for anything, it does suggest that little to no conclusive evidence has been discovered to date. More telling is the fact that part of the Survey Group tasked with searching for the missing weapons may be reassigned to protecting U.S. troops for guerrilla attacks. This former causus belli seems to be declining in importance.

While the administration can try to downplay the lack of results, this seems unlikely to satisfy the public. If the weapons search continues to produce results that are "inconclusive," it could prove to be a long year for the president.


08:45 PM | Category: Politics | Link


CLARK, IN HIS OWN WORDS

Posted by Steve

Drudge is abuzz with Wesley Clark's flowery praise for the Bush administration, and Ronald Reagan, in a speech on May 11, 2001. The following quotes, among others, are attributed to Clark:

And I'm very glad we've got the great team in office, men like Colin Powell, Don Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Paul O'Neill - people I know very well - our president George W. Bush. We need them there...

That's the kind of President Ronald Reagan was. He helped our country win the Cold War. He put it behind us in a way no one ever believed would be possible. He was truly a great American leader. And those of us in the Armed Forces loved him, respected him, and tremendously admired him for his great leadership...

President George Bush had the courage and the vision... and we will always be grateful to President George Bush for that tremendous leadership and statesmanship...

Do you ever ask why it is that these people in these other countries can't solve their own problems without the United States sending its troops over there? And do you ever ask why it is the Europeans, the people that make the Mercedes and the BMW's that got so much money can't put some of that money in their own defense programs and they need us to do their defense for them?

Contrary to rumor, I am not on an anti-Clark bandwagon. I know far too little about the man, or his agenda, to have an opinion one way or the other. I am fascinated with the phenomenon of Wesley Clark - the man went from being a political unknown to the Democratic frontrunner virtually overnight. All we know now is how little we know.


05:49 PM | Category: Politics | Link


JUDICIAL ACTIVISM RUN AMOK

Posted by Mike

I've gotten around to reading Tuesday's order blocking implementation of the FTC's do-not-call by U.S. District Judge Lee R. West (W. Dist. Okla.), and it's hard not to conclude that Judge West picked his outcome and then tried to make the facts fit, albeit unsuccessfully. The low point is Judge West's sidestepping of the well established legal principle that, even if Congress hasn't given a regulatory agency sufficient authority to adopt a particular regulation, Congress may nevertheless ratify the regulation after the fact. Such ratification can occur through an appropriation act, so long as the appropriation "plainly show[s] a purpose to bestow the precise authority which is claimed." Ex Parte Mitsuye Endo, 323 U.S. 283, 303 n.24 (1944) (citations omitted).

Whether or not Congress granted the FTC authority to adopt a do-not-call registry prior to the FTC's announcement of its do-not-call list--and at first glance I think that is a close question--there is no doubt that, following the FTC's announcement, Congress passed the Do Not Call Implementation Act, which explicitly authorized the FTC to collect fees and otherwise implement and enforce the do-not-call registry. A month later, the Omnibus Appropriations Act became law, authorizing the FTC to "implement and enforce the do-not-call provisions of the Telemarketing Sales Rule."

Judge West rejected the ratification argument by stating that this legislation "does not unequivocally grant the FTC the authority ... to promulgate a do-not-call registry. It merely recognizes that the FTC has done so." Slip Op. at 14. In two sentences, the good judge misstated the applicable standard--Mitsuye Endo does not require an "unequivocal grant" of authority (which sounds like magic words are required), it requires only that Congress "plainly show a purpose" to ratify the action--and completely dismissed, without discussion or citation, the bulk of the FTC's argument.

The House just voted 412 to 8 to tell Judge West that he was quite mistaken, and the Senate will most likely report a similar vote later this afternoon. Meanwhile, if you haven't yet, you can sign up for the do-not-call registry here. No doubt it will take effect as scheduled on October 1.


02:05 PM | Category: Law | Link


CALIFORNIA RECALL DEBATE ROUNDUP

Posted by Greg

Here's a sampling of what some of California's blogs have to say about last night's debates. Follow the links and read the whole thing:

Mickey Kaus - "CW will say it was a success. I'm not so sure."

Daniel Weintraub (now edited for your protection) - "I don't think anyone won this debate. Schwarzenegger seemed a little too trigger-happy with his quips and retorts, most if not all of which sounded rehearsed. Bustamante was calm and collected but also rude in a passive-aggressive kind of way. McClintock demonstrated his encyclopedic knowledge of state government, steady and stable as usual, but didn't do anything to wow you. Huffington was shrill and cock-sure while Camejo sounded like a Berkeley economic professor, confident in the justice inherent in his world view but not very realistic."

Roger Simon - "McClintock: Did well, but we will see if he extended his base. Was the most lucky not to have to answer questions on social issues.

Bustamante: as dull as ever. Sometimes you forget he's even there."

Prestopundit - McClintock proved he would make a great governor -- of Arizona. I wish he'd make a great governor of California, but I'm convinced California is too big, too left, too media driven and too far lost for that. [Great selection of links as well. Just keep scrolling. - Ed.]

Priorities & Frivolities - "[D]id Arnold win the recall election with his one-and-only debate performance?

Well, not quite. He did enough to surge past Cruz Bustamante and apply a stiff grip on the lead, but not enough to guarantee victory."


Matt Welch - "Bustamente, who I still don't like, should give half that Indian gaming money to Arianna, for standing up and throwing down against Arnold, while the Lt. Gov just sort of rolled his eyes & breathed little murmurs of dismissive baritone condescension. It was a good two-pronged attack, and with McClintock's specificity on the relevant budget stuff, and Camejo's sympathetic (if socialistic) earnestness, made me forget for whole stretches that I'm supposed to be moved by this Austrian."

Howard Owens - Arnold Schwarzenegger may have done better than expected on demonstrating a knowledge of policy issues, but next to Tom McClintock and Pete Camejo, he still appeared fumbling and unsure of himself at times. McClintock especially, but also Camejo, showed they understand policy issues well. Arianna Huffington was a loud-mouthed whiner who is better at complaining than offering solutions. Cruz Bustamante was exactly what expected -- a polished career politician.

Omphalos - "Dean really should give Arianna a call - she's the only person in American politics with the potential to make him look almost sane, and she needs a mate so bad a running one will do."


09:19 AM | Category: Politics | Link


"SACRIFICE IS ONLY FOR RESERVISTS AND SOLDIERS"

Posted by Mike

Tom Friedman has a blistering new column up attacking the Bush administration's insistence at the recently concluded Cancún trade talks on maintaining our exorbitant farm subsidies, free-trade and anti-terrorism principles be damned:

I would bet any amount of money ... that when it came to deciding the Bush team's position at Cancún, no thought was given to its impact on the war on terrorism. Wouldn't it have been wise for the U.S. to take the initiative at Cancún, and offer to reduce our farm subsidies and textile tariffs, so some of the poorest countries, like Pakistan and Egypt, could raise their standards of living and sense of dignity, and also become better customers for U.S. goods? Yes, but that would be bad politics. It would mean asking U.S. farmers to sacrifice the ridiculous subsidies they get from our federal government ($3 billion a year for 25,000 cotton farmers) that make it impossible for foreign farmers to sell here.

* * *

"If the sons of American janitors can go die in Iraq to keep us safe," says Robert Wright, author of "Nonzero," a book on global interdependence, "then American cotton farmers, whose average net worth is nearly $1 million, can give up their subsidies to keep us safe. Opening our markets to farm products and textiles would be critical to drawing many nations — including Muslim ones — more deeply into the interdependent web of global capitalism and ultimately democracy.

I have to agree with Friedman's conclusion that the President's actions show a far greater concern for political expediency than for eliminating the causes of Islamist terrorism.


09:07 AM | Category: Politics | Link


THE CALIFORNIA RECALL SHOW

Posted by Greg

Starring (in alphabetical order):

Cruz Bustamante - Bustamante came across as smooth and conciliatory. He didn't snipe or badger, and found something he could agree about with every other candidate. He also distanced himself from Governor Davis. His performance was perhaps a little too comfortable. When asked about California's budget problems, his response ("We spent too much") didn't seem to make him squirm as much as one would have wanted. It seemed a bit hollow. Bustamante looked confident when he should have looked a bit more inspiring.

Peter Camejo - He played the part of the leftist very convincingly: Tax the rich! Punish corporate criminals! A five-year audit and a twenty-year plan! Support the indigenous peoples of America against the European invaders! Don't call them illegals! Free healthcare for everyone! Stop Bush's illegal war! (Not sure how he sneaked that last one in there.) Camejo sounded like a true believer without a prayer. From the FoxNews graphics I learned that he was first generation Venezuelan-American, ran for U.S. President as a socialist in 1976, marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma Alabama, and was an anti-war activist during Vietnam. Although I disagree with his politics more than any candidate, I didn't have any ill feelings toward him. And why should I? He's sincere, studious (he apparently "studied" math and history at UC Berkeley and MIT, but never graduated from either--his website implies that his political activism was to blame for his failure to graduate) and he's going to lose.

Arianna Huffington - Ms. Huffington came off like a shrill attention-seeker with no serious intentions of governing. She spent a good deal of her time lashing out at Arnold Schwarzenegger--one suspects because she wanted to elbow into his spotlight. When she wasn't snarking at Arnold, she was throwing barbs at Bush (who, last time I checked isn't a political figure in California). Taking advantage of what moderator Stan Statham described as a format designed to encourage "verbal combat," she did manage to land a couple of punches. But she flubbed her "big, fat Greek" line and seemed pretty inconsequential beneath all the rancor. While Camejo sounded sincere when he spoke of squeezing money from the rich, Huffington seemed not a tiny bit like a big ole hypocrite. The most interesting revelation about Arianna: she pronounces "California" the same way Arnold does.

Tom McClintock - The FoxNews analysts (Fred Barnes, Michael Barone and Mara Liasson - two conservatives and a liberal) unaimously thought McClintock performed the best. I'd agree. His message was focused, he was credible on his issues, and evinced an understanding of what California's problems are and what he would do to fix them. McClintock was at his best when speaking about his core conservative values (illegal immigration, racial preferences, tax reform, workers' compensation reform). McClintock staked out his position as a conservative very solidly and convincingly. Of course, the question remains whether there are enough conservatives in the State of California to vote him into office. I'm not so sure, and Republicans will have to ask themselves that question when the decide whether McClintock or Schwarzenneger should get their vote.

Arnold Schwarzenegger - Nothing new here, which probably make Schwarzenegger supporters happy. Arnold continued to campaign as a populist with bumper sticker slogans and vague policy goals. He supports business, children, health care for the poor. He's against driver's licences for undocumented persons for security issues. His bland brand of fiscal conservatism, social liberalism can be summed up by reference to his favorite pet issue: He likes after school programs for kids, but doesn't want to fund them until the state has money to do it. Barnes thought Schwarzenegger let himself be drawn offsides by Huffington's bickering. Maybe, but I don't think Schwarzenegger's fans will care too much. They want to see someone who sticks to his guns and fights through it. Schwarzenegger's low point came when he began a response with the sentence "I don't understand the whole thing." Yes, Arnold, that's what we're afraid of. It was an Admiral Stockdale moment that would make a pretty good soundbite for an opposing candidate's campaign add.

Supporting cast:

California - The Golden State came out looking kind of silly, which is no different from the recall election, so that's appropriate.

Stan Statham (as the moderator) - Where did they get this guy? In a state known for entertainment, he definitely did not look ready for prime time.

Not appearing:

Gray Davis - The governor took hits throughout. Obviously, everyone there was running against him, and he was an easy target. Even Bustamante made no excuses for Davis. In a wry moment, Bustamante declared the recall to be "a terrible thing," but hoped that "good could come of it." (Read: "That doofus Davis could step aside and I could finally run the circus myself." Come to think of it, Bustamante does have a certain ringmaster charisma.)

In the end, it's all about Arnold's star power, McClintock's conservativism, and Bustamante's Democratic appeal. At this point, I'd say it's too close to call, but because of that Bustamante gets the edge for being the only candidate appealing to the half (or more) of California's voters who lean left.


12:38 AM | Category: Politics | Link


September 24, 2003

COLLEGE FOOTBALL REPORT

Posted by Mike

Exciting developments in college football! No, I'm not talking about the actual games; the results that my teams have been putting up are too pathetic to contemplate. No, I'm talking about the Great Conference Rescrambling that began with the SWC's demise in 1994, or maybe with Arkansas' defection to the SEC in 1990, or maybe the Pac-8's raid of the WAC in the 1970s, or ... well, you get the idea. The big news today is that the NCAA has denied the ACC's request to put on a title game with fewer than 12 teams, so the ACC will be back in the market for a twelfth team, hoping for Notre Dame but probably settling for Boston College or Syracuse. The Big East, meanwhile, is almost ready to eviscerate CUSA (less than half a year after suing the ACC for eviscerating the Big East, mind you), and folks in Florida and Texas are getting excited about possible CUSA invites. And in the long run, I continue to hope that the Tulane-led revolt against the Bowl Championship Series bears fruit.


03:39 PM | Category: Culture | Link


GENERAL ON THE GENERAL

Posted by Steve

Here's what Retired General H. Hugh Shelton recently had to say when asked if he would support Wesley Clark's bid for the presidency:

I've known Wes for a long time. I will tell you the reason he came out of Europe early had to do with integrity and character issues, things that are very near and dear to my heart. I'm not going to say whether I'm a Republican or a Democrat. I'll just say Wes won't get my vote.

At some point, probably soon, details of Clark's firing as NATO commander in Kosovo will begin to emerge. It has been speculated that Clark got crosswise with Gen. Shelton by end-running around him in the chain of command. Whether this is what Shelton meant by "integrity and character issues" is unclear, but we are sure to hear more about this story as it develops.

UPDATE: I just posted the following comment over at Calpundit and I think it's appropriate to post it here as an update...

I think Shelton should either explain exactly what he means, or keep his mouth shut.

I've received a lot of email about my post, much of it accusing me of jumping on a "trash Clark" bandwagon, the rest of it questioning my judgment in linking Enter Stage Right (like the commenter above). In my own defense:

1) I'm not anti-Clark - I considered Shelton's comment provocative and I think it's important to find out exactly where he's coming from.

2) The Enter Stage Right link was unfortunate - the post is admittedly inflammatory. I linked it because it provided some speculation about what Shelton might have meant (essentially that Shelton disliked Clark because Clark bypassed the chain of command and talked directly to President Clinton). I wanted to provide that context - the same speculation was available from other sources, though, and I suppose I should have used one of those.

Thanks as always to our responsive BTD readers. We need you to help keep us honest, and we are grateful for the time you spend reading our site, and begging to differ with us.


12:56 PM | Category: Politics | Link


CLARETT'S CASE ON THE MERITS

Posted by Greg

Much is being said about former Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett's attempt to gain early entry into the NFL draft through litigation. Certainly, that's a topic close to the hearts and minds of college and pro football fans.

But what of Clarett's legal case on the merits? Clarett's case is based on anti-trust law. I can exhaust my knowledge of the subject in five words: "The Sherman Act" "treble damages." Okay, I'm done. Now I'll defer to Duke Law Professor Paul Haagen:

Duke law professor Paul Haagen, whose principal academic interests are contracts, legal history and sports law, says Clarett has a strong antitrust case against the NFL. "In the United States, any attempt by competitors to restrain competition in the labor market is regarded by the courts with great suspicion. Unless the restraint falls under a limited number of narrow exceptions, it will be treated as a violation of the antitrust laws."

For the NFL to succeed in this case, "it will need to demonstrate either that its rule falls within the Rule of Reason, and in fact enhances competition, or that it is incorporated by reference in the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the league and the Players' Association and thus is protected by the non-statutory labor exemption to the antitrust laws," says Haagen, a faculty member in Duke Law School's Center for Sports Law & Policy. "It will be a difficult argument for the league to sustain."

(Gratuitous but obligatory name-dropping: I knew Professor Haagen in school, but never had him as a teacher.)

The anti-Clarett sports fan might think, "Aha! The Rule of Reason shouldn't be that tough. After all, it stands to reason that older, more physically mature players will be better able to compete in the NFL."

Not so fast. I don't think that's the kind of "competition" that's at stake here. Rather, it's competition for labor, services, and product that's at issue. So long as there are underage players who could play in the NFL (and most people think there are plenty of teams willing to draft Clarett), it's hard to see how the NFL can make the argument that it's rule promotes competition.

One last nit: I've heard media types try to characterize this case as age discrimination. That mistake involves a common misconception about employment law. The phrase "age discrimination" refers only to discrimination against the elderly, not against young people. For example, the protections of the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act are "limited to individuals who are at least 40 years of age." Obviously, that's not the case here.


11:47 AM | Category: Law | Link


DENIAL: NOT JUST A RIVER IN EGYPT

Posted by Steve

I think the terms "liberal" and "conservative" have outlived their usefulness in American political discourse. When "liberals" advocate the continuation of Great Society social experiments, and "conservatives" argue we should revamp 40 years of foreign policy... well... cats might as well be dogs.

I am frequently confronted with a person who claims to be neither liberal nor conservative. While I understand the reluctance to take on a label that does not fit, I think the American political class divides itself into two large factions loosely representing "left" and "right." Regardless of the labels you prefer, when push comes to shove, most of us take a side. This is as it should be. As Mason said to Dixon, "You gotta draw the line somewhere." You can't just hang there in the middle like a philosophical scrotum.

I have a handy test for determining whether you're a "liberal" or a "conservative." It's easy. Just answer these questions: between liberals and conservatives, which group annoys you more? Which group do you find it most satisfying to ridicule?

On this measure, I am clearly a conservative. I love my liberal friends and I can appreciate a well-constructed liberal argument. But at the end of the day, nothing gives the same thrill as poking holes in liberal lunacy. Oh, and these are salad days for conservative pundits. We are in a golden age of liberal ridiculousness.

Consider, for example, this...

continue reading "DENIAL: NOT JUST A RIVER IN EGYPT" »



12:37 AM | Category: Politics | Link


September 23, 2003

WHEN THE GRASS ACTUALLY IS GREENER

Posted by Ramar

While weblogging may be one of the few hobbies in which logorrhea is a virtue, I feel that I can safely say that the less said about Duke's soulcrushing defeat by Northwestern, the better. So aside from pausing to note that Saturday's game may have featured the worst play in the history of organized football, I am going to ignore the game and talk about the slightly less depressing question of why the field at Historic Wallace Wade Stadium looks worse on a cloudless day than Virginia Tech's field during a tropical storm.

The answer, naturally, is technology. Virginia Tech's Lane Stadium enjoys a "state-of-the-art GreenTech ITM natural grass sports field system," which uses a vacuum system to draw water down from its 4600 modular turf trays. I have no idea what that means, but it certainly sounds impressive, and more effective than Duke's instant mud system.

Amusingly, modular turf was first employed at Giants Stadium several years back, but was replaced by artificial turf earlier this year - just in time to cost the Giants a victory in spectacular fashion. The infamous squib kick would surely have stayed inbounds on a rougher field, which only proves the bad karma that comes from playing on fake grass.


06:31 PM | Category: Culture | Link


PLUS, HE'S RIGHT ABOUT THE ELBOWS

Posted by Ramar

Over at the New Republic, Jonathan Chait has offered a well-reasoned, dispassionate and accurate assessment of George W. Bush, and his relationship with a large segment of the American public.

But, although Bush hatred can result in irrationality, it's not the product of irrationality. Indeed, for those not ideologically or personally committed to Bush's success, hatred for Bush is a logical response to the events of the last few years. It is not the slightest bit mystifying that liberals despise Bush. It would be mystifying if we did not.

It's nice to see someone knock a few holes in the far too popular thesis that "haters of Bush are irrational and mean." Chait correctly notes that the liberal antipathy towards the president is driven more by policy than by personality.

Indeed, this is the key distinction between us, I mean, the Bush bashers and the anti-Clinton zealots. A great many of the Clinton haters thought that Clinton was a poor president because he was a bad person. By contrast, many of the Bush haters tend to think that Bush is a bad person because they think he is a poor president.

(Registration is required, but the piece is worth the free trial subscription. And if you don't want to register, send me an e-mail, and I will call you up and read you the article over the phone. That's how good I think it is.)


06:23 PM | Category: Politics | Link


THE NINTH CIRCUIT FLIPS ITSELF

Posted by Greg

Via The Angry Clam, I found and skimmed the Ninth Circuit's twelve page decision (.pdf) reversing itself and allowing the recall vote to proceed on October 7, as originally scheduled. The Ninth Circuit en banc (with a panel of eleven judges) and per curiam (authored by no single judge) ruled unanimously that the panel of three judges erred and that the district court's decision not to enjoin the election should have been affirmed. Key paragraphs:

In this case, hardship falls not only upon the putative defendant, the California Secretary of State, but on all the citizens of California, because this case concerns a statewide election. The public interest is significantly affected. For this reason, our law recognizes that election cases are different from ordinary injunction cases. Interference with impending elections is extraordinary, and interference with an election after voting has begun is unprecedented.

If the recall election scheduled for October 7, 2003, is enjoined, it is certain that the state of California and its citizens will suffer material hardship by virtue of the enormous resources already invested in reliance on the election's proceeding on the announced date. Time and money have been spent to prepare voter information pamphlets and sample ballots, mail absentee ballots, and hire and train poll workers. Public officials have been forced to divert their attention from their official duties in order to campaign. Candidates have crafted their message to the political and social environment of the time. They have raised funds under current campaign contribution laws and expended them in reliance on the election's taking place on October 7. Potential voters have given their attention to the candidates' message and prepared themselves to vote. Hundreds of thousands of absentee voters have already cast their votes in similar reliance upon the election going forward on the timetable announced by the state. These investments of time, money, and the exercise of citizenship rights cannot be returned. If the election is postponed, citizens who have already cast a vote will effectively be told that the vote does not count and that they must vote again. In short, the status quo that existed at the time the election was set cannot be restored because this election has already begun.

(citations omitted)

After the initial Ninth Circuit ruling, there was a meme floating about the leftward regions of the blogosphere that the decision was karmic retribution for the Supreme Court's ruling in Bush v. Gore. The court's en banc decision does a good job of undercutting that unfortunate meme. California 2003 is different from Florida 2000 in that the Supreme Court didn't stop an election, or postpone an election that had already begun. There's a qualitative difference between a recount and an election, and the Ninth Circuit, in an uncharacteristically prudent showing of judicial restraint, recognized that difference.

To update my earlier thoughts on the ruling's practical effects, let me just note that Arnold Schwarzenegger should benefit most from this decision. In turn, though, the Democrats may also benefit, as it may prevent the Republicans from settling on a single candidate.

UPDATE: Rick Hasen's Election Law blog (whose blogspot permalinks, unlike most everyone else's, seem to be working) has an ACLU press release stating that no appeal from the Ninth Circuit's decision will be sought. (Via The Volokh Conspiracy)


03:53 PM | Category: Law | Link


WHOOPS

Posted by Mike

Colin Powell made a gaffe on the Charlie Rose Show yesterday that will be treated as minor and forgettable in America and as major and unforgettable by the enemies of America in the Middle East. It reminds me of the days when the President was blithely using the word crusade, not knowing that such rhetoric plays right into the hands of those who want to portray 9/11 and its aftermath as an Islamic Jihad vs. a Christian Crusade.


11:43 AM | Category: Politics | Link


I GUESS I'M OLD SKOOL

Posted by Greg

Because I don't use an mp3 player to listen to Grandaddy, I still use a CD player.

I'm glad to see that my cohort Steve has caught on to the greatness of Sumday, but I beg to differ with his points of reference. Pavement and Radiohead? I don't think so. Tom Petty? Definitely not. (Okay, Lytle's vocals do bear a passing resemblance to Petty in mellow mode, but that's where the similarities end.) Try these for a more accurate reference: Flaming Lips (Soft Bulletin era), Death Cab For Cutie, Wilco, Beulah.

But hey, if both Steve and I agree that Grandaddy's latest is good, it can't be that bad. Wanna hear for yourself? You can stream the album at Grandaddy's website here. Give it a listen.

continue reading "I GUESS I'M OLD SKOOL" »



12:50 AM | Category: Culture | Link


IN THE MP3 PLAYER

Posted by Steve

Grandaddy's latest release, Sumday.

Reviewers frequently compare Grandaddy to Radiohead and Pavement. Amanda Petruish went as far in her Sumday review to say, "While it might feel oddly recognizable to some (please insert requisite Radiohead/Pavement/Sparklehorse reference here)..." There is a reason the same comparisons keep cropping up.

Grandaddy sounds a lot like Radiohead and Pavement.

OK, I guess I can't just leave it at that and call myself a culture blogger. So here's my big contribution to the Grandaddy discourse - I think they sound a lot like Tom Petty, too. Wildflowers Petty, that is. The simple pleasure of well-crafted pop songs without pretense, neither sugar nor raw.

Like Radiohead, Grandaddy approaches technology with cautious trepidation. The song "I'm On Standby" is sung from the point of view of a machine approaching obsolescence, "I'm on standby, out of order or sort of unaligned, powered down for redesign." The band incorporates electronic sound effects throughout the record, with notable success in the first track "Now It's On" and the infectious "The Go In Go-For-It." At all times, the electronic elements flow seamlessly with the instrumentation, coming from within the song rather than draped along the top like gaudy ornamentation. It is an integration of digital and organic worthy of a band singing about thinking machines.

Vocalist Jason Lytle sings within himself, reservedly, almost frail, with none of the operatic grandiosity of Thom Yorke. Comparisons to Pavement frontman Stephen Malkmus abound, as both artists employ a natural near-speaking voice in delivering quirkily accessible melodies. Grandaddy offers the advantage of playing and singing in tune (at least until the last song "The Final Push To The Sum," in which Lytle attains alt-cred by reaching for some high notes with questionable result).

The album exists in two parts, almost like two sides of a 33 LP. The first seven tracks are similar in tempo and structure, prompting some critics to complain that all the songs sound the same. "[I]t plays like a Weezer record - a collection of solid pop songs that are utterly predictable. You could put the needle anywhere on this record and it would sound the same."

I have to disagree with that statement. Sumday takes a dramatic turn at track 8, "Saddest Vacant Lot In All The World" after which point the remaining tunes exist as independent compositions, unique and odd enough to satisfy old time fans who prefer the band's earlier work. In all, Sumday rides a precarious line between traditional and experimental, resulting in a musical experience both challenging and digestable. As this reviewer put it, in reference to the band's west coast roots, "We are talking about 70s FM radio hungover prog-rock that could only come out of northern California, where even the bearded straight guys like to touch your arm as they speak to you."

UPDATE: Aw, crap. I just reviewed an album that Greg reviewed 10 weeks ago. And he's letting me know about it (see immediately above). This is only going to feed Greg's hipper-than-thou self image and encourage him in bashing my jam-band passion with derisive comments such as, "Extended jam sessions bore me to tears."

Crap.

In order to cover my embarassment, I shall lash out at Greg by defending my comparisons of Grandaddy to Radiohead and Pavement. (I'll let the Tom Petty comparison lie, for now, until Greg confirms or denies that he owns and/or is familiar with the Wildflowers album).

Reviewers who have made explicit comparisons of Grandaddy to Radiohead and Pavement in the same article: Amanda Petrusich (quoted above), Adrien Begrand, Tony Bonyata, Andy Downing, Delusions of Adequacy, Lisa Butterworth, Onion A.V. Club, Crud Magazine... I could go on, but you get the idea.

The other names that frequently come up are Pink Floyd, Neil Young, and The Flaming Lips (hat tip to Greg on that one). Anyway, Sumday is a good record, even if Greg did hear of it first.


12:01 AM | Category: Culture | Link


September 22, 2003

ROAD KING

Posted by Mike

So long as we're posting pictures of our vehicles, here's the bike that I mentioned previously:

Bike Edit.JPG

This picture is from Skyline Drive in the Blue Ridge, with the Shenandoah Valley in the near background and, further back, part of the route that Stonewall Jackson took on his way from Sharpsburg back toward Fredericksburg in late 1862.


10:39 AM | Category: Miscellaneous | Link


DRAGON

Posted by Mike

Here's the gator that I mentioned previously:

Dragon Edit.JPG


10:30 AM | Category: Miscellaneous | Link


HURRICANE MUSINGS

Posted by Mike

Isabel has finally come and gone from DC, and it was an interesting experience. I was fortunate, unlike many neighbors a few blocks away, not to lose either power or water service, and in fact the storm wasn't nearly as strong as expected in the vicinity of Washington. I attribute all of these facts to the principle that, by preparing for unpleasant possibilities, you can ensure that they don't occur, and vice versa. Thus, by pouring potable water into every conceivable container, including the bathtub, I ensured that Arlington County would not lose water. By thawing all five pounds of flash-frozen jumbo Louisiana shrimp and making shrimp creole for six neighbors just before Isabel arrived, I ensured that the power would not go out and cause said shrimp to go bad. And by staying up all night moving both my and my boyfriend's motorcycles into a much sturdier garage than the 80-year-old garage in which they usually reside, I ensured that the storm wouldn't be too strong, at least in the immediate vicinity of said 80-year-old garage.

Finally, a couple of memos to my fellow denizens of the National Capital Area. First, POWERLESS TRAFFIC SIGNALS = ALL-WAY STOP SIGNS. It does not matter that you are on the larger street. It does not matter that you are in a hurry. It does not matter that it is taking the power companies--especially Baltimore Gas & Electric and Pepco--far too long to restore power. It's still an all-way stop sign.

Second, what's up with buying all the milk? It's a well known fact that the merest forecast of snow will cause Washingtonians to rush to the stores and hoard all of the bread, milk, and toilet paper that they can. (As the Post's Marc Fisher notes, Washingtonians have long associated bad weather "with a powerful increase in bathroom needs.") What I don't get is why people prepared for Isabel as if they were preparing for a snowstorm, particularly with regard to clearing the shelves of milk. It's one thing to buy milk in preparation for an event, such as a snowstorm, that might leave one housebound but with power. But a hurricane, once it passes after a few hours, will leave you able to get around, but very possibly without power. I am more convinced than ever that D.C. is a town of mindless automatons.


09:51 AM | Category: Miscellaneous | Link


MORE ON POLITICS AND RACIAL IDENTITY

Posted by Greg

The discussion about politics and racial identity that began at Cobb and made a brief visit here is winding it's way through the blogosphere.

Prometheus 6 is tracking the debate (just keep scrolling, or look here, here and here). Meanwhile, Feministe and Aldahlia have taken Cobb up on his suggestion of writing an essay about what it means to be white. Mac Diva critiques my comments and finds them lacking. She also has some provocative things to say about the way bloggers on both sides ideological spectrum treat racial issues.

The ideas and opinions in the articles linked above are worth a good, thoughtful read to anyone with a passing interest in politics and race. I'd think that would be almost anyone.


12:58 AM | Category: Culture | Link


THE NEXT SMALL THING

Posted by Steve

The New York Times Magazine tells the story of Dylan Oliver, a skateboarding phenom who just scored an endorsement deal with Nice Skateboards. In many ways, Oliver is typical of an aspiring young athlete. He practices diligently at the local skate park. He watches videos of his hero, Tony Hawk. He considers eyewear endorsement opportunities and dreams one day of turning pro. It might be a while, though not because he lacks talent.

Dylan Oliver is four years old.

Dylan is 38 inches tall and weighs 35 pounds. When he walks or runs, his arms swing in forceful little arcs at his sides. When adults are talking about skateboarding, he stands right underneath them and tips one ear up toward them with a grave look on his face. He carries his deck, which is to say his skateboard, everywhere he goes, and he likes to wear his helmet in the car, which makes his mother, Julie, wonder whether other drivers will think she is either a very bad driver or a neurotically protective mother.

As young as he is, Dylan is a grizzled veteran compared to Reebok spokeskid Mark Walker, who is three. Walker is a basketball player who credits his uncanny shooting ability to "God given talent" and says his favorite food is "macaroni." Video clips on Reebok's site depict young Mark looking directly into the camera and uttering in toddler-speak, "I am the future of basketball. I am Reebok."

Still not impressed?

How about a twelve year old medical student? A three year old cigarette smoker? What about a precocious Scrabble champion (12), rabbi (2), XiangQi master (15), springboard diver (12), or radio DJ (12)?

Wouldn't you know it - there's quite a competition for the title of World's Youngest Blogger. Alex thinks he might be the one, but he's ten - not even close. Brendan Alexander is in the running - he just blogged about learning to crawl. Robbie Cripps and Fiona have both been blogging since birth.

Oh, to be three again... If only I knew then what I know now, I'd have worked much harder on my jump shot.

UPDATE: I knew this would happen. Via Crescat Sententia comes the inevitable link to Maximus, the fetus blogger.


12:01 AM | Category: Culture | Link


September 21, 2003

SUNDAY COMICS

Posted by BTD

We here at Begging to Differ are pleased to announce that last week's inaugural Sunday Comics is now a weekly event. A hearty "Welcome!" to everyone returning. Enjoy.

A big thanks once again to the artists for letting us continue to publish their works on our site. We've also added a new comic to our page, Least I Can Do.

Naturally, the strips featured on BTD Sunday Comics represent just a peek at the artists' work. Follow the links below to read more. The comics are even better when read in context.

This week's comics:

To visit the BTD Sunday Comics, click on the banner below:

BTD Sunday Comics

If you're interested in adding a BTD Sunday Comics banner or button to your blog or website, click here.

And finally, for anyone interested, feel free to submit a comic of your own creation. (Thanks to Ryan at The Dead Parrot Society for the idea). Ryan recommends using this or this as comic building resources, but we'll accept anything that arrives as a graphic--.jpg or .gif--via email and that conforms to our blatantly subjective minimum standards of good taste. If we get multiple submissions, we'll pick one and feature it as a winning "guest comic" in next week's edition. (If you have a blog, of course, we'll also provide a link.)


12:38 AM | Category: Culture | Link


September 20, 2003

OUR CARS, PART 2

Posted by Steve

Our fair readers may decide for themselves whether the 1996 Chevrolet Impala SS is cool, but at least it has one undeniably cool feature - it looks like a police car, especially at night. So, as I cruise along the highway flexing the 350 V-8 LT1 engine, the other cars invariably pull over to the right lane and let me slide right by.

bbbtn.jpg


01:39 PM | Category: Miscellaneous | Link


THE CARS WE DRIVE

Posted by Greg

Everyone knows Glenn drives an RX8 and can draw their own conclusions. But what about the rest of us?

John Scalzi laments, then embraces his recent capitulation to uncoolness: he bought a minivan.

With the purchase of a minivan, of course, comes the admission that our Days of Coolness are now officially behind us. We face this fact with nary a complaint; indeed, we have applied for the personalized plate "NOTCOOL" for our new mode of family transportation. Because, really, why fight it. Get Shorty notwithstanding, there is nothing cool about minivans, nor will there ever be. Minivans are relentlessly practical vehicles, and practical is the bitter enemy of cool. I suppose one could gamely try to advance the theory that practical is the new cool, but that is as likely to be successful as suggesting receding hairlines are the new cool, or that adult obesity is the new cool. You can't change the goalposts of cool just because you've been shoved off the field.

He follows it up with an admitted history of uncoolness, and a hilarious dissection of the same. But when it comes to vehicular uncoolness, no one can outdo a newspaper editor from Ohio. Paul Miller writes:

Well, anyone who reads my stuff knows my “cool” days ended sometime between second and third grade - but what does my driveway say about me? Let’s see ... ‘94 Ford Aerostar (but it’s a Jimmy Bauer edition!) ... ‘87 Dodge Dakota (only partly rusted out, and just 220,000 miles!) ... and, of course, the ‘84 Subaru wagon, decked out in that beautiful pale-yellow you usually see only in flooded early-spring cornfields or at the bottom of an unflushed toilet.

Good Lord, I’m a hillbilly!

All of this cartalk, plus the fact that I recently made a new car purchase, understandably causes me to engage in a bit of introspection.

continue reading "THE CARS WE DRIVE" »



11:48 AM | Category: Miscellaneous | Link


September 19, 2003

SUING FOR ABRAHAM

Posted by Greg

A colleague recently alerted me to this decision (.pdf) from the D.C. District Court from last spring. Here's the set-up:

Plaintiff "Great Prince Michael" (a.k.a. Michael Craig Clark) brings this action along with a group referred to as the "Inhabitants of the Land" against the United States, President George W. Bush, "Americans currently in the land," Great Britain, and "British citizens currently in the land," seeking injunctive relief from American and British occupation of certain lands located in the Middle East. Specifically, the plaintiffs allege that the defendants are trespassing over lands located west of the Euphrates River and Persian Gulf and east of the Mediterranean Sea and Nile River, thereby violating the plaintiffs' rights under the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments of the United States Constitution. The plaintiffs allege that these lands are entrusted to the care of the plaintiff Great Prince Michael, who claims to be the sole representative of the descendants of Abraham and who allegedly has the responsibility to enforce the biblical covenant given to Abraham to protect lands in question.

(footnotes and parentheticals omitted)

Depending on your take, this litigation represents either a novel approach to protesting the war or the latest attempted Middle East land grab in a tradition that goes back thousands of years.

The Court deftly dismissed this case by finding that the plaintiffs haven't suffered any real injury, and therefore no real "case or controversy" exists (the kind of judicial controversy alluded to by Ramar in a recent post), and that the military action is a "political question" not appropriate for judicial review. (Yes, the courts often do try to avoid deciding political questions, despite popular views to the contrary.)

A great result, to be sure, but I've got a nagging question on the merits. Didn't the Lord command Abraham to leave Ur and go to Canaan? And didn't Abraham take his family and his nephew's family and depart? Seems to me that Abraham (and any successor hoping to base their claim on Abraham's title) abandoned his claim to Iraq. Am I missing something? Anyone want to make a case for Great Prince Michael?


10:49 AM | Category: Law | Link


LILEKS UNLEASHED

Posted by Steve

To many of my left-leaning friends, the ill-advisedness of the Iraq war is accepted as an article of faith upon which further conclusions are drawn. The war was a bad idea, therefore the USA should be more deferential to the U.N. The war was a bad idea, therefore Saddam could not possibly have had ties to al Quaeda. The war was a bad idea, therefore Iraq's WMD never threatened us (if they ever existed at all). The war was a bad idea, therefore 9/11 did not fundamentally alter the trajectory of world history.

These ideas have become a sort of leftist dogma, passionately defended against the intrusion of facts and the taint of hypocrisy. They are bandied about as if they are based on actual real-live principles, not just partisan opportunism. Never mind the Clinton administration's rhetoric on Iraq. Never mind that the existence of an extensive Iraqi WMD program went unquestioned by anyone until six months ago. Never mind that Saddam actually did have ties to al Quaeda. Never mind that a new kind of war, etched upon the skyline of New York, might rightfully prompt us to re-evaluate decades-old foreign policy.

In yesterday's Bleat, James Lileks cut to the heart of the American schism on Iraq.

I’ve read enough editorials from various papers from this period to reinforce something I’ve long suspected: the reason many editorialists hate this war is because they don’t feel it’s theirs.

If Clinton had risen to the occasion, wiped out al-Qaeda, sent Marines to kick down the statues and put bullets in those filthy sons’ brainpans, this would be the most noble effort of our time. We would hear clear echoes of JFK’s call to bear any burden. FDR, Truman, Marshall Plan, forbearance, patience - the editorial pages of the land would absolutely brim with encouragement and optimism every damn day, because the good fight was being waged, and the right people were waging it.

There's much more, so read the whole thing. Another great line: "The same people who accuse America of coddling dictators are sputtering with bilious fury because we actually deposed one."

Of course it is the role of the opposition party to oppose, and I suspect Republicans would have hyperventilated over an Iraq invasion led by President Gore. I'm all for bi-partisan restraint and introspection - let's just remember all the assumptions of disaster growing out of Iraq are only assumptions. There is also a potential for world-changing civilizational advance in a region we ignored far too long. That's the goal, anyway, and to deny it without reflection is demeaning to us all.

UPDATE: A reader responds: "Either you have incredibly odd, stupid friends who can't separate causal variables from dependent variables or you're making up fake friends to drive home a disingenuous, partisan smear."

This is a valid point. I didn't actually make up fake friends, but I did misrepresent their arguments. Rather than presenting what they're saying, I presented how what they're saying seems to me. I admit it was a cheap shot, though, and I don't mind being called out by our vigilant BTD readers.


12:12 AM | Category: Politics | Link


SURVIVOR: PEARL ISLANDS

Posted by Steve

I've already admitted that I watched American Juniors, so it is with relative pride that I claim Survivor fan status. Each week I will share my thoughts - my comments will assume that you watched the show, and since they might not be of any interest to non-viewers, I'll post them as extended entries. So, if you want to continue reading Surivior: Pearl Islands, you'll have to...

continue reading "SURVIVOR: PEARL ISLANDS" »



12:01 AM | Category: Culture | Link


September 18, 2003

HUNTING THE SNARK

Posted by Greg

Venomous Kate has collected some snarky goodness from all around the blogosphere and image mapped it all. Feeling snarky? Just point and click.


11:08 PM | Category: Miscellaneous | Link


A CLUB OF THEIR OWN

Posted by Steve

As we are talking about race and identity, along comes a timely article from the Contra Costa Times.

Lisa McClelland insists that she is not a racist.

The 15-year-old freshman at Freedom High School says her campaign to start a Caucasian Club on campus is an effort to bolster diversity, not promote bigotry.

Hmmm... racial clubs promoting diversity... I wonder where she got that idea?

Lisa says she and many of her friends feel slighted by other school clubs that cater to specific cultures and races, such as the Black Student Union and the Asian Club.

Although many adults in the community are predictably uncomfortable with the idea of a Caucasian Club, at least a few of Lisa's fellow students see it as a logical addition to the community. We teach our children every day to self-segregate by race.

Freedom freshman Tyleisha Crooks, 14, who is African-American, signed the petition.

"It'd be tight because they can learn more about their history," Tyleisha said.

Lisa's neighbor Elliott Perez, a 14-year-old Freedom sophomore who is Latino and white, signed as well.

"I think it's fair for white people to have their own club because every other race has their own club," Elliott said.

Is it only a matter of time until someone tries to organize a white-only college graduation ceremony? And if so, upon what principle will campus advocates of "diversity" dare oppose it?

(Hat tip to How Appealing for the link).


04:58 PM | Category: Culture | Link


IDENTITY AND DEMOCRACY

Posted by Greg

Over at Cobb, there's a fascinating discussion going on involving some of the blogosphere's heavy hitters, including Dean Esmay, Steven DenBeste, Prometheus6 and Begging to Differ's own Steve Dunn. (Yes, Steve does pay me to say things like that.) In addition to the sort of useful metadiscussion that's generally only interesting to bloggers (e.g., blogrolling, "link whoring," self-promotion), there's a thoughtful dialogue about identity and democracy.

Michael "Cobb" Bowen makes the following interesting observation and argument:

If I don't know whether a blogger is black or not that rather defeats the purpose of looking for a black perspective doesn't it? If it's not worth it to you to say you're liberal, for example, then I can't assign you a credible liberal opinion. So if I disagree with you as an individual what significance does it have? None.

If the blogosphere is representative of American politics, people should show their partisan colors. Otherwise it's just a bunch of blowhards blowing hard. That blows.

Interesting. To a large extent, I find myself agreeing. I'm somewhat perplexed, though sympathetic, with the way bloggers tend to want to hide their political affiliations. The vast majority, though they can be roughly divided along the political spectrum, seem to want to be thought of as "independent." Certainly, none of us wants to be pigeon-holed and would prefer to think of themselves as free thinking individuals who approach each issue rationally. Fine.

But our system of democracy depends upon partisanship and defining the boundaries of left and right. To an extent, the same can be said about race. (And here, I'm straying into an area where I don't have a lot of depth.) Certainly, we are each defined by our racial (and ethnic, religious, etc.) backgrounds, though the effects are differing and complex. Colorblindness, like the presumption of innocence, is a useful legal fiction and a laudable ideal, but it's not really a way of life.

I believe that recognizing distinctions, both political and racial, ought to be a constructive part of political and social dialogue. Instead "race" and "partisanship" are often presented as derogatory concepts that ought to be shunned. And I think that's a shame.

There's a lot more to the discussion, and most of it is more coherent than my not-so-articulate ramblings, so I urge you to stop over and have a look.


02:18 PM | Category: Politics | Link


THE POLITICS OF BLOGGING CATS AND DOGS

Posted by Greg

Recently, I've been working on a general theory that liberals blog about their cats and conservatives blog about their dogs.

But a recent post by John Cole either refutes this theory, or provides the exception that proves the rule. If it's the latter, then Cole also provides a useful corollary: when conservatives blog about their cats, they use it as an opportunity to say something snarky about the French.


11:12 AM | Category: Miscellaneous | Link


CARNIVAL CELEBRATES FIRST BIRTHDAY

Posted by Greg

Bigwig, the founder of the Carnival of the Vanities, is celebrating the Carnival's one year anniversary by hosting it where it all began, at Silflay Hraka. If you haven't followed one of the many, many links yet, do go check it out. It's a juggernaut buffet of boisterous blogging. A panoply of punditry. An omnibus of opinions. A smorgasbord of ... well, you get the idea.

Begging to Differ hosts the Carnival in December. Looking at this latest effort, it seems we'd better start working now.


01:34 AM | Category: Miscellaneous | Link


CASINO REPARATIONS

Posted by Steve

Some day historians will look back at the early 21st century and laugh, laugh, laugh. And not just because of flash mobs.

They will laugh because for the past several years the American public, as if blinded by millenial hysteria, has indulged in a collective illogic going something like this... Casino gambling is bad, so it should be illegal... at least for the most part... but on the other hand we enjoy it... and it sure makes a lot of money... but it's bad... and dangerous... so let's only permit Native Americans to run casinos on Indian reservations!!

David DeVoss explores the California fallout in the Weekly Standard:

Dozens of the state's Indian tribes are using profits from their desert casinos to buy new "homelands" closer to population centers. There are plans to build casinos in the Sonoma wine country, along the Ventura coast, and just outside Oakland. Three tribes have asked the Bureau of Indian Affairs to grant them federal tribal recognition so they can establish reservations inside Los Angeles. Indeed, Indian heritage has become such a bonanza that hundreds of urbanized Native Americans have suddenly discovered their roots and are petitioning the BIA to certify 54 new California tribes.

Who can blame them? Big money is at stake. Consider the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians discussed in DeVoss' article.

Consisting of 194 souls, only 80 of them adult, the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians prospers only because of gambling. Its smoke-filled casino and bingo hall provides each tribal member a $91,000-a-month income.

With all that money coming as a result of a government-granted monopoly, you would think the Mission Indians would be major political players. You would be right.

Deron Marquez's phone rings a lot these days. The chairman of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians' number is on the speed dial of a lot of people's telephones.

"Especially politicians," Marquez said. "Not a week goes by this time of year without at least one call coming in looking for contributions for a campaign."

The tribe's political activity is not limited to individual donations. Along with other California tribes, the San Manuel Band campaigned succesfully for passage of Proposition 5, a hotly contested ballot initiative expanding the tribes' control over casino operations. The first sentence of Proposition 5 makes clear that Indian gaming is a form of reparations.

The people of the State of California find that, historically, Indian tribes within the state have long suffered from high rates of unemployment and inadequate educational, housing, elderly care, and health care opportunities, while typically being located on lands that are not conducive to economic development in order to meet those needs.

In response to criticism of the tribes' lavish political spending, one advocate made the reparations argument even more explicit.

"The cost of this campaign is significantly less than the lives and land that Indians have paid in the past," said Daniel Tucker, chairman of Californians for Indian Self-Reliance. "They pale in relation to the consequence of returning Indian tribes to a life of poverty, illiteracy and welfare handouts."

While I am skeptical that video poker is capable of repaying the debt incurred by the Trail Of Tears, I think if we're going to do this, we might as well go all the way. Perhaps next we should honor the heritage of the Native American people by turning them into drug dealers and pimps.


12:58 AM | Category: Politics | Link


September 17, 2003

DISPATCHES FROM THE MAGNOLIA LEAGUE

Posted by Ramar

Times are good in Durham, N.C. (well, relatively speaking) as Duke football enjoys its first winning streak since 1998 after its Saturday night victory over the Rice Owls.

Duke fans are also cautiously hopeful about the team's next matchup against 1-2 Northwestern at Historic Wallace Wade Stadium, where the track has never been so red, nor the rocks more blue. A win over the Wildcats towards having bragging rights on the cellar dwellar circuit.

Speaking of which, a fair amount of verbiage has been spent on Vanderbilt's decision to abolish its athletic department and place its sports teams directly under the oversight of university administrators. (Such a move would be unnecessary at Duke, where our athletic director reports directly to the men's basketball coach, who, when he is so inclined, reports directly to God.)

While opinion has mostly been divided between considering the move to be a welcome step towards radical reform or a largely cosmetic change, or worse, one of the keener observations on the decision came from
an unlikely source.

"I don't like it,'' Bowden said Wednesday. "You've got to trust your athletic department. You've got to hire good people and you've got to trust them.

While I am reluctant to cite Bobby Bowden as an expert on institutional control, I have to admit that he may have a point here. The most serious problem facing major college sports
is not intercollegiate athletes are being treated like other other students, it's that they are barely being treated as students at all.

While athletic administrators have a significant incentive to cheat, last spring's fiasco at St. Bonaventure showed us that university presidents can also be tempted by the allure of a winning team - or even a mediocre one.

Schools that follow Vanderbilt's lead will be forced to monitor at least a dozen coaches and hundreds of athletes. I suspect that it would be easier for them to find one trustworthy administrator and delegate that responsibility to them.


08:14 PM | Category: Culture | Link


CROCODILE TEARS

Posted by Mike

The Post has an interesting article on the extreme disconnect between sky-high retail prices for products made from crocodile and alligator hides and the rock-bottom money that the folks who risk limb and sometimes life trapping the animals receive.

In related news, my boyfriend's nephew brought in a gator a couple of days ago that measured 12'9", the longest that some folks in the Atchafalaya basin in south Louisiana had seen. Unfortunately, the .jpeg file that I've got is too large to post so I'm going to have to see if I can cut it down.


04:22 PM | Category: Miscellaneous | Link


THE HUNTER IN THE YARD

Posted by Steve

We have an arrangement. I walk around her web to get the paper - she eats the flying bugs in my yard. Everyone wins (except the flying bugs).

Spider.jpg


12:02 AM | Category: Photography | Link


HOMECOURT DISADVANTAGE

Posted by Steve

After the 2000 presidential election, conservative pundits delighted in observing that Al Gore would have won if he had carried his home state of Tennessee. This was not just partisan sniping.

The last president who failed to carry his home state was Woodrow Wilson, who came in second in New Jersey in 1916 (though he'd carried the state, where he had been Governor, in 1912). Yes, this means Ronald Reagan won California in 1980 and 1984. Home is where the votes are - and it matters.

Supporters of John Edwards' bid for the presidency, therefore, may be interested to know the boyish personal injury lawyer from Robbins, NC, failed to win his home county in his 1998 Senate election. Does this prove Edwards can buck the trend?

Don't count on it. The best news the Edwards campaign can offer is that he's polling at 10% in South Carolina. And anyway, how can he compete with flash mobs for Howard Dean?


12:01 AM | Category: Politics | Link


September 16, 2003

ALL Y'ALL'S BASES ARE BELONG TO US

Posted by Steve

The inimitable PG of Half The Sins Of Mankind has a post up about the triumph of form and function that is the word y'all. Y'all go check it out now, you hear?


10:21 PM | Category: Culture | Link


TIN EAR AWARD

Posted by Mike

Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) is in the news again, this time for his argument against funding for child care for mothers attempting to get off welfare and into the workforce:

[S]ometimes pushing the edge a little bit is not necessarily a bad thing. Making people struggle a little bit is not the worst thing.

E.J. Dionne rightly rips Santorum's statement, and also has some good advice for our representatives as they decide whether to authorize the astronomical amounts that President Bush has finally admitted will be necessary to rebuild Iraq: Not until the Administration gives some ground on its tax cuts.


03:17 PM | Category: Politics | Link


COURT'S RULING SCHWARZENEGGER'S BAD OMEN?

Posted by Greg

Leaving aside my blogging colleague's central argument that the Ninth Circuit's decision represents nothing more than the mechanical workings of the judiciary--I'm still chewing on that one at the moment--Ramar makes what I think is an accurate observation about the effects of the recall delay. The candidate who will be most harmed by the delay is the one least likely to bring his campaign into focus: Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Conversely, Schwarzenneger would benefit the most from a speedy August to October run. As a candidate, Arnold is famously weak on positions, but strong on star power. A two month election cycle would greatly increased the likelihood that he could coast into the governor's mansion on name recognition and momentum. If the Ninth Circuit's decision stands, however, more people are likely to view Schwarzenegger for what he is: a wishy-washy celebrity whose positions appeal to neither liberals nor conservatives.

With additional time for the disillusionment of conservatives to set in, expect Tom McClintock's campaign to gather steam. As Robert Tagorda noted back in August:

It's tough to tell, but it seems to me that Arnold didn't count on the "sans-primary" recall to exhibit some primary-like characteristics. At the moment, while Cruz Bustamante picks up the pieces from Gray Davis's crumbling, Arnold has to fight off Tom McClintock, Bill Simon, and Peter Ueberroth before taking on the Democrats. In this respect, he has to "win his party's nomination" before seeking the crown.

Subtract Bill Simon and Peter Ueberroth, then add in five additional months, and Schwarzenegger's looking at a much more primary-like election that he had originally bargained for.

(As an aside, despite the unseemly celebrations coming out of Gov. Davis's camp following the court's ruling, I doubt the delay will help the Democrats much. They've still got to deal with the bad blood feud between the governor and his lieutenant. And it seems likely that Davis will suffer from the same sort of sentiment that made Al Gore an unpopular figure following the Florida shenanigans in 2000. As Daniel Wiener puts it: "Liberals may come to rue this court decision as the final nails in Davis' and Bustamante's coffins.")

Of all the candidates, Schwarzenneger stands the most to lose, and very little to gain, by the Ninth Circuit's ruling. Of course, he'd also be the one most to benefit if, as Glenn Reynolds is predicting, the Supreme Court quickly reverses. All in all, I'd say the Ninth Circuit's ruling portends a dimming of Schwarzenegger's star power.


11:19 AM | Category: Politics | Link


PRETENTIOUS CELEBRITY ALERT

Posted by Greg

I'm a big fan of children's literature. Our kids' bookshelves are full to overflowing with a variety of very good youth fiction.

But I don't think I'll be rushing out to get these books:

The singer, who is 45, has said she conceived "The English Roses" as the first of five children's books inspired by the Kabbalah, the system of Jewish mystical thought which she has been studying for seven years.

Her daughter Lourdes, who is seven, was the inspiration for Binah, she told The Times Magazine in an interview.

In Lourdes' London school "often children can be quite mean and ostracise her because I'm her mother," she said. "Everyone thinks, 'She's got everything so we won't pay attention to her'."

The story is about a gang of girls who ostracise the heroine from the group because they are jealous.

Hmm...let's see now, what are the ingredients of great children's literature: Madonna, fame, wealth, superstardom? Jealousy and ostracism based on aforementioned fame, wealth and superstardom? A celebrity's take on esoteric religion? Nah, maybe not.

I think I'll just stick with Frances.


12:05 AM | Category: Culture | Link


September 15, 2003

NOT THAT KIND OF CONTROVERSY

Posted by Ramar

The big news of the day was the decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to postpone the California gubernatorial recall until the next state election. The ruling came in response to a suit claiming that outdated voting systems would disenfranchise those voters slated to use them.

Of course, any politically-charged judicial decision will unleash a wave of cynicism - enter Porphyrogenitus, stage right.

Regular readers know I'm against the Recall on general principles. Still, three judges have decided that the voting machines which were good enough to elect and re-elect Grey Davis are too error prone to recall him.

No partisan agenda there, I'm sure.

Unfortunately, that ain't the way it works. Federal courts can't act until and unless someone brings a suit asking them for relief.

As it turns out, such a suit was brought in 2001. After then-Secretary of State Bill Jones opted to decertify punch-card voting machines in July 2005, the two sides agreed on a target date of March 2004, rendering the lawsuit moot. Next March, not coincidentally, is when the postponed recall would take place.

As for myself, I am inclined to think that there are greater injustices than forcing the recall aspirants to actually spend several months campaigning for the office, especially since at least one of the leading contenders seems perfectly content to run out the clock.


08:38 PM | Category: Politics | Link


September 14, 2003

EASY PHILANTHROPY

Posted by Greg

Want to help out somehow, but still maintain your slacker mystique? You barely have to lift a finger to help kids at Camp Sunshine, a retreat for kids with critical illnesses. For every person who visits and clicks on the New Balance Click-a-Thon logo, the camp gets $1, up to $25,000.

My sister worked at a similar camp on the West Coast. These types of places do a lot of good. And it's not like it takes much effort on your part, so go click already. Then come back the next day and click again.

(Link via Duck Season.)


11:30 PM | Category: Miscellaneous | Link


BTD SUNDAY COMICS

Posted by BTD

We are very pleased to bring you our first ever BTD Sunday Comics.

Out sincere thanks to the artists who agreed to let us publish their comic strips.

We are also featuring an editorial cartoon by Cox and Forkum.

Each of the strips was selected by the artist. Together, they represent a wide-ranging group of some of the best comics on the web. We hope you enjoy them. And if you do, please be sure to visit the artists' websites and browse through their archives.

To visit the BTD Sunday Comics, click on the banner below:

BTD Sunday Comics


01:46 AM | Category: Culture | Link


September 12, 2003

JOHNNY CASH, RIP

Posted by Steve

Cash.jpg

The Man In Black
Johnny Cash - 1971

Well, you wonder why I always dress in black,
Why you never see bright colors on my back,
And why does my appearance seem to have a somber tone.
Well, there's a reason for the things that I have on.

I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down,
Livin' in the hopeless, hungry side of town,
I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime,
But is there because he's a victim of the times.

I wear the black for those who never read,
Or listened to the words that Jesus said,
About the road to happiness through love and charity,
Why, you'd think He's talking straight to you and me.

Well, we're doin' mighty fine, I do suppose,
In our streak of lightnin' cars and fancy clothes,
But just so we're reminded of the ones who are held back,
Up front there ought 'a be a Man In Black.

I wear it for the sick and lonely old,
For the reckless ones whose bad trip left them cold,
I wear the black in mournin' for the lives that could have been,
Each week we lose a hundred fine young men.

And, I wear it for the thousands who have died,
Believen' that the Lord was on their side,
I wear it for another hundred thousand who have died,
Believen' that we all were on their side.

Well, there's things that never will be right I know,
And things need changin' everywhere you go,
But 'til we start to make a move to make a few things right,
You'll never see me wear a suit of white.

Ah, I'd love to wear a rainbow every day,
And tell the world that everything's OK,
But I'll try to carry off a little darkness on my back,
'Till things are brighter, I'm the Man In Black


10:42 AM | Category: Culture | Link


LAND OF THE FREE, HOME OF THE RICH

Posted by Steve

Remember how Bush's economic policy was supposedly stacked in favor of the "richest one percent"? Turns out that includes more Americans than you think, that is, if you count the rest of the world.

The Global Rich List has the goods. Input your annual income, and the site tells you how rich you really are.

From this article in Wired News:

[I]ndividuals in the United States who make less than $9,300 are officially poor, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's definition of poverty. But compared with the rest of the world, their income is in the top 12 percent.

An annual household income of $42,000 -- the U.S. median in 2001 -- is enough to land someone in the world's richest 1 percent, according to the site.


12:01 AM | Category: Culture | Link


September 11, 2003

AND THEY WONDER WHY WE STOPPED VACATIONING IN PARIS

Posted by Greg

Why is it that a serious debate can be had in this country over the relative harmfulness of the phrase "freedom fries," yet the bastions of Old Europe apparently have no qualms about printing this sort of thing in a national publication?

From Le Monde, September 12, 2003:

While political correctness flourishes in this country, and we teach one another to avoid offensiveness at all costs, the continentals abroad know no shame.

This makes me ill.

UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan noticed this same cartoon much earlier today, and commented on its timing. Meanwhile, The Guardian displayed it's anti-Americanism in a much more subtle way by choosing commemorating "The Other 9/11."


11:00 PM | Category: Politics | Link


WILL 9/11 BECOME BANAL?

Posted by Mike

That appears to be the President's goal. Why else would he cite 9/11 incessantly, in response to questions on topics that include "campaign fundraising, tax cuts, unemployment, the deficit, airport security, Afghanistan and the length, cost and death toll of the Iraq occupation."

Campaign fundraising?


04:36 PM | Category: Politics | Link


I HAD NOT PLANNED ON DOING SO

Posted by Ramar

I want to pause to note my agreement with Jim Henley's perspective on, well, perspective.

Soon the columns, weblogs and airwaves will be full of people instructing us that we must “never forget” what happened in New York City, Washington DC and the sky above western Pennsylvania two years ago. As if any of us could or would forget the despicable acts that took place that day, the heroism, the damage, the wasted lives. What they really mean is not “remember,” but dwell. Obsess. Lingeringly finger the scab. And most of all, fall in line when assured that some grand policy, however wise or unwise, is put forth in the name of that day and the atrocities that marked it.

Don’t listen to these people. You and I do not need their instruction in how to remember or honor our dead. Nor need we go veiled, cowed or enraged to the end of our days to prove our memories or honor. In the time of my grandparents it was the custom to mark a year of mourning for the loss of a loved one. Women wore subdued colors; men, armbands. By these signs they notified the world that they had suffered loss. It was incumbent on the notified to recognize that those in mourning were not yet “right,” that they needed time and space to come to terms.

We as a nation have had that time and that space.

In no way am I criticizing honest expressions of emotion and sincere mourning for those lost two years ago. But too often, calls to "never forget" are used to imply that others have forgotten, and are therefore wrong - a claim of superiority, not a call for solidarity. Not bloody likely.

We all recall the fear and the anguish, the pain and the dread. Do not insult us by pretending that we need to be reminded.


03:11 PM | Category: Culture | Link


TURNABOUT IS FAIR PLAY

Posted by Mike

Dave Barry is involved in a hilarious standoff with the American Teleservices Association, the telemarketing trade association. It seems the ATA was upset by this column, in which Barry printed the ATA's toll-free number and invited readers to call the ATA "and tell them what you think." The best comment on the matter is from this Miami Herald article, which quotes Barry thusly:

"I feel just terrible, especially if they were eating or anything," the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and author said Wednesday. "They have phones like the rest of us have phones. Their attitude seems to be if you have a phone, people are allowed to call you."


11:54 AM | Category: Culture | Link


SEPTEMBER 11

Posted by Mike

I don't have much to say about the second anniversary. Like Andrew Sullivan, I both find it hard to remember the feelings of that morning, and useful to try to do so. My story is closer to that day's actual events than many: I heard of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center a little after 9 a.m, sitting in traffic on Washington Boulevard a few yards from where American Airlines Flight 77 would hit the Pentagon; I vividly recall knowing that United Flight 93 was hijacked, still in the air, and headed for Washington, and wondering if it was headed for the Capitol (one block from my boyfriend's office, whom I could not reach on the overloaded phone system) or the White House (six blocks from my office). And yet I was ultimately so remote from the attacks that to say my story pales in comparison to so many others is beyond an understatement.

Looking back, I miss the solidarity that Americans felt in the aftermath. I also wonder where we're headed, because despite the many civil-rights violations and many billions of dollars spent both at home and abroad, are we really safer, even from the most horrific possibility of, say, a nuclear bomb being smuggled into this country? No.


11:44 AM | Category: Miscellaneous | Link


WHY PRIVATE SCHOOLS STRUGGLE

Posted by Mike

This article has some insights into the difficulties that the few private schools still involved in top-level football face. They really do have to thread the needle to compete and win.

One pet peeve, though: the article refers to Duke's 1989 conference championship as the school's "only ACC title," apparently reflecting the common belief that Duke football is, was, and always has been pathetic. But it's just not true.


09:33 AM | Category: Culture | Link


THE WAY I THINK ABOUT TALL BUILDINGS

Posted by Greg

For large law firms in most major cities, it's pretty much standard -- posh offices in the tallest buildings downtown. I'd never given it much thought, really. My office in Dallas has a nice view. The building sits on the edge of downtown, the most prominent building from that angle, and from my window I can see out over Deep Ellum and Fair Park. It's also not unusual for me to look out and see airplanes flying close by, either on their way to Dallas Love Field, or perhaps a little higher up heading for DFW. Of course, all that meant something else two years ago.

The first plane hit the World Trade Center as I was driving to work. I remember flipping through AM and FM talk radio stations, and hearing something about an accident involving a small commuter plane. It was unclear how many were hurt. It sounded like a tragic, but relatively minor, accident. Strangely, I didn't hear anything else about it until I arrived downtown.

It was a little while later, after I got to work and had a chance to read the news websites, that the realizations sunk in. No longer was my office just a nice view. Now I was forced to think of it as a target.

I left and went to a friend and coworker's urban apartment nearby. My wife drove in from the suburbs with the kids and we all ate at a pancake house nearby. It was good to have them close. Dallas without airplanes overhead is terribly eerie and unsettling.

I spent the rest of the day like most everyone else in the country. I sat in front of the television in shock and horror. I called loved ones just to confirm they were alright. I called a good friend in New Jersey whose husband worked in downtown Manhattan. He heard the explosion, felt the earth shake when the first tower fell, then left the island on foot. But he was fine.

And like almost everyone else, I waited for the next attack. I remember waking up early every morning and turning on the TV to see if anything had happened. For a long time (months?), it was the first thing I thought of when I woke up in the morning and the last thing I thought of at night. I remember wondering how long it would take before I went an entire day without thinking about it.

Of course, I still do think about it. I now realize that I live in a world where people would kill me as I sit behind my desk working, just because I'm an American. Naturally, it's changed the way I think about tall buildings. And a whole lot of other things as well.


09:30 AM | Category: Miscellaneous | Link


LIFE AND HOW IT GOES ON

Posted by Steve

I was arguing my first case in the North Carolina Court of Appeals. I was nervous about it, so I caught up on all my work and set aside the entire day before to work on my oral argument.

The day I set aside was September 11, 2001.

You know the part about the planes. You recall how when the Pentagon was hit it dawned on you this was bigger than we thought, that there was no telling where it would end. You remember the rumors... 12 more planes unaccounted for... a car bomb at the State Department... an attack on Camp David. You felt the shock and the anger and the fear. You remember the wave of dread when the first tower collapsed... unimaginable horror compounding and becoming numb. They... actually... took... the... towers.... down...

I called the Court of Appeals to see if the arguments were still on. They were. So I worked, because I had work to do. And when my work was done I went home and I watched the towers fall a thousand times more.

September 12. Among all the lawyers and judges and courtroom personnel, it looked as if no one had slept. We absently shook hands and took our places. The panel of judges briefly acknowledged our difficult circumstance, and the arguments began.

My case was fourth on the docket, so we sat and watched for a while. A death penalty appeal. A property case. The lawyers, who had been living with these cases for months or years already, were eminently prepared and articulate. The judges had studied the briefs and asked incisive questions. I looked around the room, at the trappings and symbols of the law, the eagles and the flags and the bench and the robes. I listened as the lawyers and judges grappled with arcane principles and rules.

It was, in a most unexpected way, a stirring display of professionalism and duty. Although each individual case was trivial in comparison to the world historical events unfolding around us, of paramount importance was our being there, doing what we do, carrying on. This was our government - these were our laws - here was the very thing the terrorists had hoped to destroy, the judicial machinery, grinding inexorably forward. It was a scene replicated in courtrooms all around America on September 12, 2001. We did not stop - not for one day.

When the arguments were over, we got in our cars and drove home and went back to being frightened human beings. Watching the planes crash over and over, seeing fires in our dreams.

The American spirit is not boastful. It is not proud. It is not the stuff of banners or battle hymns. It seeks not glory or adulation. The American spirit is that which knows its job and presses on relentlessly, ceaselessly, until its work is done. Let the skies open and the mountains fall - we shall not be cowed. We shall not be moved.


12:01 AM | Category: Miscellaneous | Link


September 10, 2003

CYBER TRIPPING

Posted by Greg

Who needs natural hallucinogenics, when we've got this (via John Scalzi) and this (via Michele)?

I'm the most sober person you've never met, but my head is swimming right now.


06:57 PM | Category: Miscellaneous | Link


THE KIDS WILL NOT LISTEN

Posted by Steve

Eugene Volokh has a great post setting up and knocking down one of the most common criticisms of the RIAA. The "business model" argument goes a little something like this...

If the record industry would create a product people want on a medium of their choice and sell it at a price people are willing to pay, all of this debate would be irrelevant. Until the whole industry takes a good hard look at its archaic business model and adapts to the present it will continue to have to sue punters, contrive software that hackers cannot resist and other meaninless short-term stop gap measures that will work neither broadly nor effectively while alienating their core consumers - young people. . . .

Volokh responds along the lines that the price people are willing to pay is bound to decease over time, and by then the RIAA might have waived its ability to protect its intellectual property rights. He also makes a bunch of other good points - here's the link again so you can go read it for yourself.

Me? I'm done arguing about the legalities. I've reluctantly concluded the RIAA is on solid legal ground. Having said that, I still think the RIAA's business model is a dinosaur. I think copyright law is a dinosaur. I think Madonna is a dinosaur. The sooner the world is rid of all three, the better off we all will be.

Anyway, forget the law - the market will solve this problem first.

The only artists who profit from the quaint business of selling CDs are established stars with ready-made audiences they developed back in the 20th century. In those days, you bought the record or you didn't hear the music. If it was good, you bought it. There was no other option.

The stars who flourished in the previous millenium are rapidly aging, and eventually they will die. They will be replaced, like all the rest of us, with young people. The kids will make their own kind of music. Much of it will sound like noise to our nostalgic ears, but some of it will be good. Some of it will be great, and some of them will be stars.

I submit there is not a single high school garage band anywhere in America that has a problem with people exchanging music over the internet. Quite the contrary, undiscovered artists love the internet because it provides instant exposure all over the world. The kids will put their music online just as soon as they are able, and they will be grateful for every download. It will not even cross their minds to sell CDs. It will not occur to them to get a record deal. "Pop artists" will mean artists who are popular on the internet.

The RIAA will disintegrate not by fiat, but by attrition. With all its thunder and bluster and stamping around, the kids have already stopped paying attention. Kids will invent the music of tomorrow, and set it free.


05:43 PM | Category: Law | Link


COMING THIS WEEKEND: BTD SUNDAY COMICS

Posted by Steve

We are pleased to announce that this Sunday, September 14, Begging to Differ will present our first-ever Sunday Comics feature. Several of the funniest and most provocative online comics will be presented in this space.

Take a break from the news this Sunday and come by BTD for a laugh. Links will be provided so you can learn more about your favorites. Help us support these talented artists!


01:19 PM | Category: Culture | Link


THE BEST NEWS BESTED?

Posted by Greg

I can't decide if Mike is right or if this is actually the best news of the year:

The Pixies are coming back.


01:33 AM | Category: Culture | Link


WARREN ZEVON IS GONE

Posted by Steve

Brian Linse of Ain't No Bad Dude shares a personal remembrance.


12:02 AM | Category: Culture | Link


YETI ASCENDANT

Posted by Steve

Most of us have long felt that the full potential of the internet would not be realized until the Houston based angst-ridden punk band Dead Yeti started a blog. The day has come. Jim Dedman has the goods.


12:01 AM | Category: Culture | Link


September 09, 2003

GO AHEAD AND SUE

Posted by Steve

A federal judge has ruled that lawsuits arising out of 9/11 may proceed. And why not? Without knowing all the details, it seems that a negligence case based on the premise that 19 guys with box cutters should not have been able to kill 3000 people and destroy several large buildings is perfectly reasonable. Much more reasonable, I think, than many of the lawsuits regularly chronicled here.


09:06 PM | Category: Law | Link


BEST NEWS OF THE YEAR

Posted by Mike

Opus is coming back.


10:25 AM | Category: Culture | Link


FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF SIGNIFICANT COINCIDENCES

Posted by Greg

This Monday the following independent, but not unrelated, events occurred:

  1. The RIAA filed lawsuits against 261 individuals.

  2. Apple sold its ten millionth song through its iTunes Music Store.

I'm confident our readers can make the connection and fully appreciate the irony. So why can't the RIAA?

Speaking of the RIAA, Serona at Cyber::Ecology offers an excellent critique of the RIAA's shockingly lame "amnesty program."

Let me see if I've got this right. Right now I am not a RIAA target, nor am I engaged in any allegedly infringing activity (really, I promise). So, if I am not one of the 1600 or so innocent (until proven guilty) people targeted already in RIAA's witch-hunt AND if I delete unauthorized music files from my computer (what is "unauthorized" I wonder?), AND destroy any CD's I've burned with "unauthorized" mp3's AND promise not to upload that kind of stuff in the future, RIAA will promise not to sue me in their current orgy of litigation. Oh yeah, I have to provide them with a photo ID (Hmmmmm, are they tracking my race too? Racial information is on most state or government issued ID's.) and a notarized "amnesty form". Who knows what else is there in the fine print.

Serona also makes an interesting observation about the RIAA's too-clever-by-half claim that it's not subject to Fourth Amendment privacy concerns on the one hand (because it isn't aligned with law enforcement) while at the same time aggressively pursuing punitive litigation (and, no doubt, threatening criminal punishments as well).

In the end, it's awfully tempting to take Serona's advice:

I think that anyone interested in "amnesty" from RIAA lawsuits should send RIAA a notarized form promising to not stop buying CD's from their companies if they promise to stop the litigation frenzy. But, for the love of your privacy, don't give it up to them if you don't know what they're going to do with it, if you don't know how they're going to maintain it, and if you don't know who has access to it.

The RIAA doesn't appear ready to shake it's image as a bunch of humorless dolts, bent on pressing their cases beyond any sense of proportion. Yes, unauthorized copying of music is illegal. Yes, file sharing is equivalent to stealing, legally--perhaps even morally--wrong. But rather than offer an attractive solution or incentive to consumers in order to mitigate the problem, the RIAA just digs in its heels and cranks up the litigation. Hard to believe these people are trying to run a business dependent on the patronage and goodwill of the general public.

UPDATE: Thanks to helpful citechecking by The Curmudgeonly Clerk, a reference to the Second Amendment was corrected to refer to the Fourth Amendment. Oh the hazards of late-night blogging.


01:21 AM | Category: Law | Link


September 08, 2003

ONE TO LIE, AND ONE TO LISTEN

Posted by Ramar

Well, this is certainly a dismaying turn of affairs.

Sixty-nine percent of Americans said they thought it at least likely that Hussein was involved in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, according to the latest Washington Post poll. That impression, which exists despite the fact that the hijackers were mostly Saudi nationals acting for al Qaeda, is broadly shared by Democrats, Republicans and independents.

The main reason for the endurance of the apparently groundless belief, experts in public opinion say, is a deep and enduring distrust of Hussein that makes him a likely suspect in anything related to Middle East violence. "It's very easy to picture Saddam as a demon," said John Mueller, a political scientist at Ohio State University and an expert on public opinion and war. "You get a general fuzz going around: People know they don't like al Qaeda, they are horrified by September 11th, they know this guy is a bad guy, and it's not hard to put those things together."

I give the American people a bit more credit than Professor Mueller does. I certainly don't think that they are in the habit of making an important judgment on something so thin as a "general fuzz."

Personally, I suspect that they had more than a little help.

Two years ago, I told the Congress and the country that the war on terror would be a lengthy war, a different kind of war fought on many fronts in many places. Iraq is now the central front.

I suppose that bald declarations from the President of the United States that Iraq is another battle in the same war might have played a role in the public's muddled state.

On a side note, if Bush is really interested in locating the heart of international terror, he should probably start looking in his Rolodex.


09:11 PM | Category: Politics | Link


THE FUTURE IS NOW

Posted by Greg

In response to one of Will Baude's 20 questions, Tyler Cowen answers the question posed by Glenn Reynolds back in April: "Group-blogging is the wave of the future."

I certainly can't argue with that. I strongly suspect that none of us here at Begging to Differ would be blogging today if not for the economies and synergies (and other assorted B-school buzzwords) that the group blog format creates. Though group blogs now seem to be outnumbered by the individual vanity blogs, I agree with Prof. Cowen that it's only a matter of time. The group blogs are here, and they're only going to become more common. The blogging format is so well suited to group blogs, that I'd be surprised if the group blog doesn't outnumber the solo blog in two years (at least for the political blogs--the inappropriately labeled "warblogs").


03:10 PM | Category: Prediction Watch | Link


ROLE REVERSAL

Posted by Mike

Sorry, Steve, but I think that you're being way too easy on the apparent hypocrisy of Michael Kinsley regarding the sexual behavior of Bill Clinton and Arnold Schwarzenegger (as a caveat, I note that Kinsley's 1998 column on Clinton appears to be analyzing Clinton's behavior with Monica, Paula, Gennifer, etc., and apparently not the radioactive but possibly untrue story of Juanita Broaddrick).

Anyway, Steve, you hit the nail on the head by noting that Kinsley gives Clinton the benefit of the "life is complicated" doubt while avoiding all shades of gray in labeling Schwarzenegger's behavior flat-out "disgusting." But why does this "fall short of full-blown hypocrisy"? Clinton has a well-documented history of sexually harassing subordinate employees, cheating on his wife, and, as Andrew Sullivan quite rightly points out, "signing the preposterous 'Defense of Marriage Act[]' while getting sucked off under the table in the Oval Office by an intern." Surely a private, non-adulterous, non-harassing, apparently consensual encounter--however much it might offend Mike Kinsley's sensibilities--is not worthy of more contempt than Clinton's behavior.


10:39 AM | Category: Politics | Link


THERE'S ALWAYS NEXT YEAR

Posted by Mike

Well, I'm finally back from the Shrimp & Petroleum Festival, which was excellent as always, despite the disturbing lack of crawfish etouffe, which forced me to rely more heavily than I'd like on the fried-shrimp-on-a-stick culinary option.

Less excellent are the first-game results of my college-football teams:

Texas Tech 58, SMU 10
Virginia 27, Duke 0
Western Michigan 56, William & Mary 24

Oh, sure, Lubbock's one of the toughest places to play in the country, Virginia's a Top 20 team (well, they were before they lost to South Carolina this past weekend), William & Mary's a I-AA team that played well in spots at I-A Western Michigan, and Duke bounced back with a 29-3 pasting of I-AA Western Carolina. But I still have a feeling that bright spots are going to be few and far between this fall.


10:13 AM | Category: Culture | Link


BUSH'S SPEECH

Posted by Steve

What with all the partisan nit picks and pots shots being tossed around, it would be easy to forget we are engaged in a battle for the survival of Western civilization. Fortunately, the president understands.

For a generation leading up to 11 September 2001, terrorists and their radical allies attacked innocent people in the Middle East and beyond, without facing a sustained and serious response. The terrorists became convinced that free nations were decadent and weak. And they grew bolder, believing that history was on their side.

Since America put out the fires of 11 September and mourned our dead, and went to war, history has taken a different turn. We have carried the fight to the enemy. We are rolling back the terrorist threat to civilization, not on the fringes of its influence, but at the heart of its power.


10:05 AM | Category: Politics | Link


WHO KNEW?

Posted by Steve

This isn't quite a Darth Vader / Luke Skywalker "I am your father" moment, but surprising nonetheless. Former New York Times editor Howell Raines' son, Jeff Raines, is the guitar player for the New Orleans funk band, Galactic. Raines writes about their relationship in the September 15 issue of Details.

I guess the last names should have been a clue, but these guys aren't related. . . are they?

bc42.gif 0196001.jpg


09:47 AM | Category: Culture | Link


¡VIVA LA MEChOB!

Posted by Greg

Doing what he does best, Xlrq has a wonderfully snarky post announcing the arrival a snarky organization named "MEChOB."

Of course, this shouldn't be confused with another similar-sounding organization which may or may not be racist, and which a certain Left Coast lieutenant governor has refused to renounce. Or maybe it should. You be the judge.


01:45 AM | Category: Politics | Link


AMERICA: A TRIBUTE

Posted by Steve

baldilocks has a permanent pointer to this article by Dinesh D'Souza headlined "10 Things To Celebrate: Why I'm Anti Anti American." Here's the author speaking to friend in his home city of Bombay:

I asked him, "Why are you so eager to come to America?" He replied, "I really want to live in a country where the poor people are fat."

Yeah, and they've got color TVs, too! USA! USA! Read the whole thing.


12:01 AM | Category: Culture | Link


September 07, 2003

SUNDAY PHOTO 2

Posted by Steve

NamFlower.jpg


11:16 PM | Category: Photography | Link


SUNDAY PHOTO

Posted by Greg

I find strip mall churches fascinating, but I don't know why. Maybe it's just the idea of worshiping in the retail space between a donut shop and a tanning salon. This particular strip mall church is located in a not-so-upscale section of Garland, Texas. Though I don't know anything about this church, I have to wonder whether the name includes a typo or whether this church's eschatology includes a meteorological emphasis.

rainchurch.jpg


10:00 PM | Category: Photography | Link


September 05, 2003

A WELL REGULATED MILITIA, BEING NECESSARY

Posted by Greg

Though I disagree with many of Ramar's opinons about Iraq, I do agree that international cooperation is essential for the success of the occupation. But perhaps even more important is cooperation from inside Iraq. So I find this report encouraging:

Most shops were closed Friday, the Muslim holy day and the day Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld flew to Tikrit to meet American troops and be briefed by commanders. For the visit, the Iraqi militiamen redirected traffic from the main highway as a security precaution.

But more importantly, the Iraqi militia - known as the Tikrit Patrol - made its presence known to residents.

"People are happy to see us," said Joseph Musaad, 24, one of the militiamen. "We speak Arabic to them. We greet them with salaam aleikum (peace be upon you)."

Mussad, a former electrician, said he was aware of the dangers of cooperating with U.S. forces: Several Iraqi interpreters for U.S. troops as well as policemen have been killed in attacks in and around Tikrit.

"There are good people and there are bad people," Mussad said, walking under a bridge near the 4th ID's headquarters, formerly Saddam's palace complex. "Some people like us already, but others do not. This is our job. We have to do it."

Mussad, dressed in a khaki uniform, new boots, a bulletproof vest and helmet, said he volunteered for the force because he believed "Iraqis need security," and because he likes the military and needs a job to feed his wife and their 18-day-old daughter.

"We call them the Tikrit Patrol," said Sgt. 1st Class Robert Soden, 36, of Tuscon, Ariz., with 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment. "At first, we were a little bit skeptical, but now, we see they can do exactly the same as we're doing."

As I've argued before, we've got to find a way to let the Iraqi people take care of their own affairs. I believe working toward the eventual withdrawal of the U.S. military in Iraq should be at the forefront of our policy. The emergence of an Iraqi militia seems to be a positive step in the right direction.


02:38 PM | Category: Politics | Link


KINSLEY ON POLITICS AND SEX

Posted by Steve

Michael Kinsley is offended by Arnold Scharzenegger's famous 1975 sexual exploit in Gold's Gym:

[I]f it did happen, exactly as Arnold described it in 1977, it's pretty disgusting. It's disgusting even if it was consensual all around. It's disgusting even though Arnold wasn't married at the time. It's disgusting even if this amounts to applying the standards of the 21st century to events of the mid-1970s. Schwarzenegger isn't running for governor of California in 1975.

The significance of all this, according to Kinsley, is that by bragging about his exploits in a public interview, Arnold displayed "an attitude toward women that is not acceptable in a politician."

Andrew Sullivan accuses Kinsley of getting "all huffy," and also of hypocrisy, asking, "Is this the same Mike Kinsley who defended Bill Clinton?"

Is Kinsley a hypocrite on this issue? Let's check the tape...

On September 23, 1998, Kinsley argued that politicians' private lives are fair game for the media, and said the following about Clinton:

[I]n terms of what a style of sexual activity says about a person's attitude toward women and people in general, Clinton looks very bad. It's tempting to say that his exploitative sexual habits expose his famous human empathy as a complete fraud. But I think that's too hard: Don't forget, life is complicated. Still, for an admirer, it's dismaying.

Kinsley is clearly more willing to extend the benefit of the doubt to Clinton than Schwarzenegger - no hand-wringing about how "life is complicated" in the Schwarzenegger piece, for example. Still, his position seems to fall short of full-blown hypocrisy.


12:15 PM | Category: Politics | Link


NOTES ON THE DEBATE

Posted by Steve

1) Let me begin by saying the Spanish thing was really, really annoying. I understand the Democrats' desire to pander to Hispanics, but was it really necessary to ask so many questions in Spanish? No one answered in Spanish (clumsy Kucinich blundering and Edwards' "Hasta la vista" laugh line notwithstanding), and the questions were all repeated in English anyway. Maria Elena Salina rattled off her Spanish way too fast, like the Chipmunks doing Enrique Eglesias. It was jarring, even more jarring than John Kerry's hair.

2) Speaking of John Kerry, it occurred to me tonight that he bears a striking resemblance to Skeletor.

John Kerryskeletor.jpg
Junior Senator
from Massachusetts
Evil Nemesis
of Grayskull

3) Several candidates echoed the same foreign policy themes. Democrats want more international troops in Iraq. They want to keep jobs in America, not outsource them overseas. They want our trade partners to adopt American standards for labor and the environment. Thus, to paraphrase the Democratic message to the rest of the world, "World, we intend to increase your cost of doing business, take away your jobs, and send your kids your kids to Iraq to die - because that would be better for us." All this was juxtaposed with calls for renewed humility in international relations, with no apparent sense of irony.

4) Candidates wearing dark suits with red ties: Gephardt, Kucinich, Kerry, Lieberman, Graham, Edwards.
Candidates not wearing dark suits with red ties:
Moseley Braun, Dean.

5) Quoth Dick Gephardt: "We're all immigrants, unless we're Native Americans." Actually, Dick, that is incorrect. Some of us are immigrants, but most of us are descendants of immigrants. Those of us who are Native Americans are descendants of immigrants who arrived on foot a long, long time ago. You need to fire your fact checker.


12:01 AM | Category: Politics | Link


September 04, 2003

OUGHTIES NOSTALGIA

Posted by Ramar

Good to see that Osama's been keeping himself busy.

At the same meeting bin Laden said he was working on “serious projects,” another ranking Taliban source tells NEWSWEEK. “His priority is to use biological weapons,” says the source, who claims that Al Qaeda already has such weapons. The question is only how to transport and launch them, he asserts. The source insists he doesn’t know any further details but brags: “Osama’s next step will be unbelievable.” The plan was reportedly delayed and revised after the March capture of Al Qaeda’s operations chief, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. U.S. intelligence officials say no one disputes bin Laden’s interest in germ warfare. Nevertheless, they argue, his main priority is to kill Americans by any means readily at hand—and most bioweapons are harder to get and use than many of the alternatives.

It sure is a shame that we put the search for bin Laden on the back burner so that we could invade Iraq and conduct a comically haphazard search for weapons of mass destruction.


07:46 PM | Category: Politics | Link


UNC LAWSUIT TO CONTINUE

Posted by Steve

Financial Aid Office reports that Mark Edmonson is pressing on with his lawsuit against the University of North Carolina. You may recall Edmonson as the kid with the 1600 SAT who had his college admission revoked after getting terrible grades senior year. Check the "pressing on" link above for today's development.


11:14 AM | Category: Law | Link


September 03, 2003

MIND THE BULLOCKS

Posted by Greg

Those of you who have never experienced the enticing and addictive cuisine that is Carolina BBQ (or, to be more geographically precise, Eastern North Carolina Barbeque) may not understand.

table.jpgCarolina 'que means pulled pork, usually finely chopped, in a vinegar-and-red-pepper-based sauce. It also means cole slaw (also finely chopped) and hush puppies. It may or may not be served with any number of sides, including Brunswick stew, a mishmash of pork, corn, beans, and potatoes in a tomato-based stock that doesn't look very impressive, but tastes like the very definition of comfort food.

sign.jpgYesterday, I returned to Durham, North Carolina for the first time since graduating from law school. That evening, I made a beeline for my favorite source of barbeque source, Bullocks. Unfortunately, I made a wrong turn off of the Durham Highway and missed the crucial 15-501 interchange to Hillsborough Road and made it just a few minutes later than the 8:00 closing time. (Bullock's draws an older crowd. The dinner rush hits sometime around 5:00.) No 'cue for me.

bbqfront.jpgOf course, I didn't just give up there. When my work schedule opened up today to allow an extended lunch, I headed back. This time I made it. It was worth the trip.

I'm not sure if it was the nostalgia or the fact that I've been pining for Bullocks barbeque since the summer of '99, but it sure did taste good. Over at the Duke Basketball Report offtopic board, the experts (and I submit they know their barbeque as well as they know ACC basketball) tell me that there's somewhere better than Bullock's--Allen and Sons. Maybe if I can persuade my colleagues to indulge my barbeque jones one more time, I'll head there tomorrow for lunch. But the important thing now is that I've finally been able to satiate my desire for some fine Carolina barbeque. After I return to Texas, the home of sliced beef brisket, I'll start to get that longing again. But for now, I'm happy.


11:41 PM | Category: Miscellaneous | Link


COLD EQUATIONS

Posted by Ramar

Reality wins a rare victory in its long struggle against the Bush administration.

In an effort to win broader international support for U.S. policies in Iraq, President Bush decided yesterday to seek U.N. Security Council approval of a resolution granting the world body greater control over multinational peacekeeping forces and a role in forming a new Iraqi government, administration officials said.

The decision marks a major shift for Bush after months in which the administration had strongly resisted granting any significant military or political authority to the United Nations. It reflects a recognition within the administration that a stronger U.N. mandate is essential to winning greater foreign military and economic help in stabilizing Iraq.

Or, to put it more baldly:

"We need the forces," a senior administration official said.

Of course, this surrender to reason may have been abetted by developments like this.

In a report that underscores the stress being placed on the military by the occupation of Iraq, the CBO said the Army's goals of keeping the same number of troops in Iraq and limiting tours of duty there to a year while maintaining its current presence elsewhere in the world were impossible to sustain without activating more National Guard or Reserve units.

"The Army does not have enough active-duty component forces to simultaneously maintain the occupation at its current size, limit deployments to one year, and sustain all of its other commitments," the CBO said in the first detailed analysis of the likely future cost of the Iraqi occupation.

Reservations about the effectiveness of the UN as a peacekeeping institution may be well-founded, but they are also largely beside the point. The choice now is not between success with or without assistance from the UN; it is between possible success with the UN or certain failure without.


02:15 PM | Category: Politics | Link


OJ, OK

Posted by Steve

O.J. Simpson has apparently now confirmed that the real killers of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman are not hiding in tony golf courses, so he's carried the search to hip-hop clubs.

O.J. and his staff said Sunday's scene has played out in 14 other cities where he has promoted his "throwback jersey," a replica of ones he wore for the Buffalo Bills, San Francisco 49ers and USC Trojans...

O.J. promotes the jerseys, a business started by his 15-year-old son, Justin, mostly at hip-hop clubs.

It's hard to decide which is most offensive - that O.J. shows his face in public, that adoring fans gather around him, or the way his fans justify their support for The Juice.

To me, the murder and trial cast O.J. in another role -- the black man accused of killing the white woman. He represents black men who were lynched for even looking at a white woman. He represents Emmett Till and Rodney King, black men who have been wronged by the criminal justice system. So, like many other African Americans, I cheered when he was found not guilty. For once, I thought, one of us had enough money to compete in the criminal justice system.

Perhaps one day when I have more time and I'm not quivering with rage, I'll calmly explain that the criminal justice system is not a competition sorting out winners from losers, but a filter sorting the guilty from the not-guilty. And depending on my mood, I might even suggest that black people and white people and Hispanics and Latinos and Asians and Native Americans and cats and dogs and everyone else should be able to agree that butchering innocent human beings is the worst possible way to advance the cause of racial equity.

But that's the subject of another post. This post is about a simple but common legal error.

A jury said O.J. didn't kill his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson or her friend Ron Goldman, but that doesn't stop many people from proclaiming his guilt.

In fact, the jury did not say O.J. "didn't kill" Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman. The not-guilty verdict means that the prosecution failed to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. Big difference. The jury may have been overwhelmingly convinced that O.J. did the deed - as was everyone with a functioning cerebrum who became familiar with the evidence. It did not proclaim his innocence.


09:18 AM | Category: Law | Link


September 02, 2003

COMMENTS ON COMMENTS ON COMMENTS

Posted by Steve

The Curmudgeony Clerk offers additional commentary on comments, with links to various other blogs discussing the subject. To me it seems that the best argument for and against comments is exactly the same: comments create a community.

Online communities can be great, but not everybody wants to run one. I fail to understand why anyone considers blogs with comments inherently superior to those without. Aren't they just different things? It is a common error, among bloggers and everyone else, to mistake subjective preferences for normative values. Maybe I like coffee and you like tea - must you be anti-coffee? Surely the internet is big enough to encompass us all.

I am particularly surprised by Jihva's suggestion that commentless bloggers are narcissists. I thought everyone knew that all bloggers are narcissists - why else would we assume anyone cares what we think? For this reason, the narcissism critique can be applied with equal force in the opposite direction. You say I'm a narcissist because I eschew the interactive give and take of a comment forum? I say you're a narcissist because you administer an online fiefdom. I'm making an offering - you're tossing out bait.

At the end of the day, we all vote with our metaphorical feet. If the absence of comments on Begging To Differ causes you pain, eventually you may decide to join the billions of people who do not read it. We hope you'll keep visiting, though. You're always free to email us directly, or better yet, get your own blog and post your comments there. Just remember to throw a link our way, and always spell out the name B-E-G-G-I-N-G . . .


01:18 AM | Category: Miscellaneous | Link


NATURAL HIGH

Posted by Steve

One little-considered by-product of the War on Drugs is a tendency among curious teenagers to experiment broadly with the bounty of nature in hopes of catching a buzz. If they're not smoking banana peels or eating large quantities of nutmeg, well, they might just poison themselves by confusing moonflower with jimson weed.

Dr. Robert Goetz of the Cincinnati Drug and Poison Information Center said that some of the youths ate the seeds while others drank a tea brewed with them.

The teenagers consumed parts of moonflowers known scientifically as Datura inoxia, Dr. Goetz said. The plant, a relative of the tomato, with white flowers that bloom at night, is "pretty desirable" for gardeners, but few people know they are poisonous, Dr. Goetz said.

I have always wondered how our ancestors reacted to the serendipitous discovery of marijuana. I envision pelt-clad Cro-Magnons methodically smoking every leaf and flower in the forest. What Neanderthal pharmacologist came up with the idea of eating psychedelic mushrooms? Didn't he see where they were growing?

More than a dozen species of mushrooms are toxic if eaten. Those toxic species can be found in pastures, along with the hallucinogenic varieties, especially near the pasture edge and at the base of trees. Hallucinogenic mushrooms are found in pastures on manure piles, predominantly cow manure piles...

Undeterred in our quest for a cheap high, mankind continues to experiment, only now we can catalog the results on the internet. Ever wonder what would happen if you brewed catnip tea? Hey brother, can I get a hit of that Xenon? Don't be a square - eat unripe mulberries!

Call me old fashioned, but until jimson weed comes in a 12-ounce can for a buck fifty at the club, I'm sticking with PBR.


12:18 AM | Category: Culture | Link


September 01, 2003

RESEARCH MAY SUPPORT UNSURPRISING CONCLUSION, STUDY SAYS

Posted by Greg

Couldn't pass up the chance to say something snarky about this New York Times headline: "Power of Positive Thinking May Have a Health Benefit, Study Says."

The article itself--about how brain functions associated with negative thoughts and depression can influence the immune system--is actually pretty interesting. But that headline just doesn't say much, does it.


11:41 PM | Category: Miscellaneous | Link