Friday, January 30, 2004

More Growth That's Less

So in Q4 the economy only grew by 4%, instead of 4.8%. I suppose someone is going to get upset over this. Can't wait.

Quote for The Day

There is nothing absurd or impractical in the idea of a league or alliance among independent nations, for certain defined purposes precisely stated in a treaty; regulating all the details of time, place, circumstance, and quantity; leaving nothing to future discretion; and depending for its execution on the good faith of the parties. Compacts of this kind exist among all civilized nations subject to the usual vicissitudes of peace and war, of observance and non-observance, as the interests or passions of the contracting powers dictate. In the early part of the present century, there was an epidemical rage in Europe for this species of compacts; from which the politicians of the times fondly hoped for benefits which were never realised. With a view to establishing the equilibrium of power and the peace of that part of the world, all the resources of negotiation were exhausted, and triple and quadruple alliances were formed; but they were scarcely formed before they were broken, giving and instructive but afflicting lesson to manking how little dependence is to be placed on treaties which have no other sanction than the obligations of good faith; and which oppose general considerations of peace and justice to the impulse of any immediate interest and passion.

-Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist Papers, in a description of international diplomacy all too familiar.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Another "Duh" Addition to the Linksheet


No Blood for Oil?

The accusation that Saddam was bribing French officials (link via Instapundit) doesn't surprise me, at any rate. That's the only intelligent reason for the French to have opposed the war (unless you're willing to grant their opposition to our "hyperpower" as intelligent, which I don't). The real thing to notice is the name at the bottom of the list: the Palestinian Liberation Organization. That's the Bush Doctrine, in the flesh.

Monday, January 26, 2004


When I spoke of the irony of John Kerry being the Establishment Liberal candidate, this is what I was talking about. Also this.


Changed the link to Loop Studio, and added National Review Online to the linksheet. Both changes doubtless long overdue.

Snow Day!

It is said that some people get into teaching because they never wanted to leave high school in the first place. I am, to the best of my knowledge, NOT one of these people. Nevertheless, when I scan the news in the morning, waiting for the list of school closings, I feel a powerful thrill similair to when I was in school. Also, I hate school buses even more now that I must navigate around them and their thrice-damned on-board STOP signs (oh, aren't we precious?) than I ever did when I was trapped inside them.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Let Sullivan be Sullivan

After the SOTU, Andrew Sullivan's been getting the usual abuse from Bush-supporters: the accusation that he's gone wobbly. I joined in the chorus last time, but not this time. I disagree with him on his overall take on the speech, but agree on certain points. I am underwhelmed, for example, by the president's attention on steroids, and other points I believe to be beyond the federal government's appropriate purview. Nevertheless, I don't think that this signals the kind of hubris or malaise that Sullivan and others might think. I think Bush is ready and waiting for campaign season to start, and that he wants this re-election, wants it so bad that he will campaign the living hell out of anybody that the Dems push up against him. Bush the Elder, alas, thought the re-election was his by right. I do not think the son is so deluded.

At any rate, Sullivan is right to point out (as he's been pointing out for a year or more) that there is much to worry a true fiscal conservative with regard to the Bush presidency. Alas, I don't take Democratic rhetoric on fiscal responsibility seriously. So I swallow the pill of fiscal stupidity so that I can get continued leadership towards undermining terrorism. So, I think in the end, will Sully. So leave him be. The old boy's not even a Republican.

UPDATE: Just scanned the SOTU reviews over at National Review Online, and many of them bring up the same substantive critiques. Even John Derbyshire (insert "bedfellows" joke here). So qwitcherbitchin'.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Tony Blair, War Criminal

And people wonder why we didn't sign on to the International Criminal Court.

More Postrel

Here's Virginia wondering in September 1997 about conservatives. Excerpt:

Indeed, the pessimism of this weekend's international congress reflects the fear that Hayek attributed to conservatives. So does Messrs. Kristol and Brooks's proposed governing doctrine, which is best understood as William James's "moral equivalent of war"—a desire to engineer a purpose for Americans who seem too dangerously decadent to be left to their own devices.

But it's one thing to pursue genuine national interests through foreign policy, quite another to cook up schemes just to give government something to do and the American people something to rally around. Harking back to the progressivism of Theodore Roosevelt and New Republic co-founder Herbert Croly, Messrs. Kristol and Brooks seek the promise of American life in collective pursuits directed from Washington according to their own cultural prejudices.

See also: compassionate conservatism. Like I said, I jibe with the President on a lot of those cultural prejudices. But I don't like Big Government Conservatism any more than I like Big Government Liberalism, because they have the same prefix. I will reiterate: the federal government of the United States is designed to guard the coasts, ensure an honest money supply, and prevent the states from breaking apart. Anything else runs the risk of either Ted Kennedy or Tom DeLay (pick your poison) telling you what you want done with your life.

Quote for the Day

War is stupid and wasteful and cruel and necessary.

-Virginia Postrel, in Reason Magazine, in an article about Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She's goin' on the linksheet.

Political Thoughts

I missed the SOTU, but I like that Dub touted his administrations successes. I just hope that the old boy's got some fight in him when the Demmies finally pick their man. What I would love to see is George turned to his opponent and say "So you're worried about the deficit, Howard/John/Wes? Well, here's a list of programs that our government currently funds. Which ones do you want to see gone? Military spending? How origonal. Oh, you want to raise taxes? Greaaaaaaaat. That'll do wonders for the recovery. Tell you what, podner, why don't we do something about the beast that's gonna start bankrupting our government in seven years? You know, SOCIAL SECURITY?" Bet it won't happen....

And George, I like religious charities and abstinence education as much as you do. I don't want the federal government funding them, for two reasons: 1) Let's say that come this time next year or 2009, there's a Democrat in your office. Watch this Democrat attach secularist, liberal strings to that money, or yank it altogether. 2) STOP FURTHERING THE DELUSION THAT ALL SOCIAL PROGRESS COMES FROM WASHINGTON. IF I WANTED A PRESIDENT WHO BELIEVED THAT, I WOULD HAVE VOTED FOR GORE. Thank you.

In other news, Dick Gephardt has officially gone down in flames, and with him, I suspect, the last of the Old-School Democrats. I dunno if they're going to be able to summon up a guy who enjoys that kind of automatic union support and is a foreign-policy hawk as a matter of course. In FDR and Truman's days, that kind of combination was expected. In the future, it will be exceeding rare among Democrats. They'll get their union support from the same old machines that have always provided them (with a greater emphasis, methinks, on public-sector unions), and draft diplomat-generals to avoid the "wuss" slur.

Predictions? Dean's not done yet. He's still got money, and clearly still has the will to fight. But if he embarasses himself in New Hampshire, it might hasten the entropy his campaign has taken on. Kerry's looking strong, for reasons that are utterly unsurprising: he is the Establishment Liberal candidate (the irony of which, given his past, is reason enough to more accurately call him the Frankenstien's Establishment Liberal candidate). All he has to do is stand up and say "I'm John Kerry. I'm very concerned about things. Did you hear I was in Vietnam?" In the wake of Iowa, Lieberman doesn't look like quite so much of a long shot, but I don't think he's got the charisma for the top job. It will be interesting to see where his supporters go. Wes Clark is starting to get the "loonier than Dean" tag (witness the way his calling attention to the differences between his and Kerry's military record becomes "belittling" Kerry's service). He might pull ahead in New Hampshire, but Democrats are starting to turn a "yucky" face at him. Al Sharpton might cost him victory in South Carolina.

As to John Edwards, he turns out to be the poster boy for tort reform. That makes him officially the candidate I least want to be President.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

New Link

New on the linksheet is the Center for Consumer Freedom, the site that annoys the granola left, and people who think that stuffing your face with McDonald's every day entitles you to money when doing so makes you fat. Never believe them when they say "Scientists have concluded...." Science doesn't work that way.

When Peroxide Ruled the World

God knows why, but during the commercial breaks for the Star Trek Movie Marathon on Spike (which conspicuously lacked Wrath of Khan...what's that all about?) yesterday, I switched to VH1 and caught little glimpses of their special "When Metal Ruled the World" (I was indeed desperate to avoid another commercial for the John Benson Project. Is it just me, or is he begging for an on-camera atomic wedgie?). They of course refer to Hair Metal, not actual Heavy metal of the Black Sabbath/Motorhead/Metallica tradition, but the Music Historian in me watched anyway. I saw all the bad hair and all the grotesque lipstick, and some images of girls, too.

I sat through all of this for the purpose of enjoying the hair-god's inevitable fall: how the kids dropped Poison like so much radioactive debris when they heard "Smells Like Teen Spirit." But the show ruined it by making the unforgivable mistake of allowing Vince Neil to whine about it. He didn't like grunge then, and doesn't like it now, and can't understand why anyone would want to listen to something depressing and heavy when they could jam to the high-octane escapist fun that was Motely Crue.

Poor Vince. All those platinum records, and he never scraped together the wherewithal to buy himself a piece of self-awareness. Did no one bother to mention to him that every crappy pop act justifies themselves as "just being good fun?" That's how every teenage girl explained her loyalty to N'Sync or Britney or Andy Gibb. Hell, ABBA is a fun escape from the day-to-day grind if you've had enough champagne at a wedding.

You wanna know why Nirvana's downward spiral struck such a chord? It's simple. A lot of kids felt about music and pop culture the same way they did in the summer of '91. A lot of kids were tired of having to pretend to admire as rock heroes a bunch of useless drug chimps prancing in spandex making a bad imitation of the New York Dolls. A lot of kids identified more with songs about post-modern confusion and irony than songs about racing down the Sunset Strip in a red Lamborghini with five grand of blow in your schnozz. You can argue about whether Kurt Cobain was any more admirable, given that he and Nikki Six had similar tastes in narcotics. But Cobain was at least trying to say something, even if that something was negative and derivative.

I'm hoping that one of these days these hacks grasp that, that their time on the horse (bad pun! BAD!) lasts only so long as there's nothing better around. Nirvana was a potent blend of garage, punk, and blues. Hair Metal was an exercise in faux-musical sybaritism. So Vince, I'm sure Dave Grohl is really sorry that he burst your happy bubble. I'm sure if you got in touch with him, he'd apologize. Good luck with that.

Friday, January 16, 2004

Lame, Bragging Quizzilla Result

Good. You know your music. You should be able to
work at Championship Vinyl with Rob, Dick and

Do You Know Your Music (Sorry MTV Generation I Doubt You Can Handle This One)
brought to you by Quizilla


Yesterday, the President of the United States laid a wreath at the grave of a man so admired that his birthday is a national holiday.

Naturally, howls of indignant protest ensued.

"When I heard Bush was coming here I couldn't believe it. I was outraged and disgusted, and I just think it's a photo op. It's so transparent," said one person with too much time on their hands. Outraged. And disgusted. I am fascinated.

Would anyone care to consider ifhe consequences of Bush...oh....NOT going to MLK's grave? Of not speaking about King's legacy? The NAACP's conniptions would be front-page news. But if the head of state leaves his palace and humbly begs time of his widow, that too is a horrific event.

Because he can't possibly be sincere. He's a Republican, you know.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

More Space Talk

A chap from suggests that getting to the moon again, setting up a base there, and proceeding to Mars need not carry tremendous cost with it (link via Instapundit). All we'd have to do is ditch the shuttle program and the International Space Station. After Columbia, the former won't be to hard a sell. The shuttle program has always had a certain feckless quality to it. But the ISS is, well, international, and that makes it a political footbal for them as would want to accuse the president of "space unilateralism" (I can just see Maureen Dowd's column on the subject. Prepare for "phallic rocket" flippancies).

He even brings up the value of collecting solar energy on the Moon and "beaming" it too earth. I blogged this back in November, when the idea was first broached by Dr. David Criswell. I thought it was an idea worth exploring. Mayhaps Dubya does, too.

Oh, and the Russians think it's a swell idea.

Fiat Homo

In keeping with my recent tradition of minuscule posts, here is a considered essay on the perils of modern masculinity and the decline of manliness. Some will doubtless find it antideluvian in its language and prescriptions. But Andrew Sullivan wrote something in a similar vein not too long ago. Regardless, it is a cultural trend I have noted. My only caveat would be to wonder exactly how shall we create the "truly revolutionary and cutting-edge effort to recover authentic manliness." Perhaps this indicates that I am part of the problem.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Strangers in a Strange Land

Here's an eye-opening account of the dangers posed to the human body by sending it to Mars. I don't think I'll ever be going into space. But how cool would it be if we could pull this one off?

Vanity, All is Vanity...

A word to the wise: if you listen to three Bob Marley CD's in a row, you won't be able to tell one track from another. You also will feel a bizarre, sub-hypnotic compulsion to keep listening. This mystery may not be pierced by the human mind.

Friday, January 09, 2004

Death to the Redskins...

NFL fans have doubtless heard: Joe Gibbs is back. It's a big deal to anyone who lives anywhere near D.C., and I for one am not overjoyed. You see, I hate the Redskins, always have, and always will. I have hated them since I was a little boy, and have thoroughly enjoyed their misery these past several years. David Hickey nicely sums up the reason that many people who live around D.C. hate the Deadskins in today's National Review: the annoying fans, the annoying coverage, etc. But he's a Dallas Cowboys fan, and the Cowboys are the only team I hate worse than the Redskins (I couldn't tell you why. It's a visceral reaction. Their claim to be "America's Team" might have something to do with it). More to the point, he left out the most important reason to detest the Rudeskins: their rage-inducingly irritating "fight song." I've never heard it without wanting to commit serial homicide. Even the potential of hearing it blaring over the TV during a playoff game makes me want to call some college pals up and finally start that exodus to Tonga we used to dream about during finals.

To Aries!

President Bush, who is obviously and completely NOT campaigning for re-election, is planning on sending men to Mars and establishing a permanent moon-base. How can you not love this guy? Talk about skillfully manipulating the news cycle. The man's at 61 percent approval, the Dow is back to where it was when he took office, and does he sit back and let the Dems chew into him? Of course not. He waves the Space card in front of everybody's eyes, and let's the populace go "Oooooooh shiny...." Meanwhile, Kerry says Dean is a trucklehead, and Dean says Clark kicks puppies. Beautiful.

I'd be annoyed if I thought that Bush was using space only as a campaign ploy. But I don't think he is. I think after the Columbia went boom over Texas that some serious consideration went down at NASA, and now politics and science are converging. Granted, Bush the Elder proposed this back in 1989, and it went nowhere, but that had a lot to do with the timing of the election cycle and the lack of a "space race" with the Russians, who weren't capable of racing anything back in 1989. Success will depend on how much money we decide to spend, but it sounds like fun to me.

Naturally, questions abound: the article states that "Observatories also could be built on the moon, and mining camps could be set up to gather helium-3 for conversion into fuel for use back on Earth." How would that work? How would it be sent back to earth? How is it affected by the 1979 Moon Treaty? Is the moonbase going to bypass or make use of the International Space Station? Still it's one of the few useful things government does, and it's good politics for the President.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Sieg fur Links, Heil!

Did you know that George Bush is a Nazi? Bet you didn't. I'll bet you thought he was the President of the United States, required by Law and custom to consult the legislature elected by the people in their districts, almost half of which are his factional opponents, and engaged in a foreign-policy response to the 9/11 attacks, which killed thousands and destroyed one of the largest commercial centers in the country.

What, are you stupid, or something?

He's a Nazi. It's so obvious! He "had a catastrophe" (9/11) that allowed him to "remove many rights," just like Hitler did after the Reichstag fire. You've doubtless noticed how since the Patriot Act was passed we've all been forced to wear ethnic badges (green shamrocks, yellow stars of David, gold studded bling-blings, etc.) and are no longer allowed to criticize the administration. What do you mean, you haven't? See, this is exactly the kind of jingoistic pap I'm talking about, when you can't even see the evil in front of your eyes!

The Iraq War? Just like Poland. Hitler said he had reasons for invading Poland, too! And it's just like our war, because now we're like, ruling their country, just like the Nazis did! Don't you get it? The guy with the weaselly black moustache who liked to try and annex his neighbors, who gassed people that were of the wrong ethnic group, who delighted in the deaths of Jews, he wasn't the Nazi. If he was, then the rest of the world would have agreed with us. The rest of the world didn't agree with Hitler; the French and Russians never let him have anything. That's why he had to fight. C'mon, don't you get nuance?

Oh, so you're insisting that the historical circumstances are dissimilar, and that the "War on Terror" is not motivated by conqueror's ambition? What proof do you have for that naive statment? The fact that a return to Iraqi sovreignity is planned of the summer? Well, that's just not soon enough. If the UN was in charge, they'd have been out of there in a fortnight, because everyone would have agreed to everything, because all Arabs all love the UN because the UN makes no trouble about Arabs wanting to re-absorb their rightful inheritance to Palestine. Don't you see that they don't care about stuff like "democracy"? The rule of law becomes an incomprehensible and frightening bogey when you cross the Dardanelles. Self-interest becomes meaningless. The Iraqis just want a bunch of people they don't know to have Palestine back! It's their culture!

Your persistence in not understanding the Truth About Bush annoys me. Perhaps you have some unenlightened psychological need to trust in father figures. It's apparent that you think Bush is such a father figure, because why else would you trust what he says? There isn't any reason I can think of, so it must be a failing on your part.

Oh, I'm willing to put credence in some of the factual arguments you make, but don't you see how petty and narrow-minded that is? I'm talking spiritually here, that sense of Truth that just appears to you! When I hear Bush talking about how those states who are standing in the way of our effort are against us, I get this wierd feeling like the fascists are just about to take over! Like, right here, in the pit of my gut! How can you not feel the same way? Surely you'll grant that Bush is a little like Hitler, in the overall sense? It must be the best analogy available, because what others are there in the thousands of years of human history? You won't grant it? You republicans are so MEAN!


One of the problems I've had with reading punk-history books such as Please Kill Me or England's Dreaming is that, except for postludes describing the eventual fates of their main characters, the books stop their narratives in around 1979. I found this frustrating, because anyone can see that dead as the cognoscentic declared punk to be, it never went belly up. Where's the history of the 80's or 90's? "We were great then, and we're [expletive] now?"

For Christmas, my girlfriend's mother bought me Dance of Days, which would seem to be the answer to my prayers, as it covers the rise of hardcore, post-hardcore, and what we now call emo, all of which appeared in the underground in the 80's while everyone was listening to Pat Benetar and Poison. The book has more than a little lefty posturing (anyone remember when "ignorant" meant "does not know about something," and not "possessing views which are insufficiently progressive"?), and leaves plenty out, but it's an interesting read for all that. It describes how hardcore punk -- Bad Brains/Minor Threat-style fasterlouder sheets of feedback and rumble -- hit the aesthetic wall, and hard. The scene was taken over by thugs and drugs, and the founding bands discovered that loud noise did not relieve them of the hassles of relating to one another as human beings, with the same set of human problems as people who got down on Kajagoogoo. Some of them, such as Ian MacKaye, used the opportunity to learn and grow, and some didn't. A tale as bracing in it's familiarity as it is intriquing for it's proximity to me (I live in Southern Maryland, not too far from the Washington D.C. that is the setting for the story).

Round about the same time, I got my very first new (in the sense of being firsthand) piece of vinyl, Black Flag's Damaged. I'd bought the band's compilation The First Four Years, and was taken aback by the purity of their skronk, so I decided to dig in a little further. Damaged has a few of the same songs, but they're re-recorded with Henry Rollins' vocals, so have a slightly different taste. I'm still absorbing, but there is a freedom of noisemaking here that I rather dig. Outside of the guitar sludge, the songs are almost skittish in their unwillingness to set into a gentle, easy pattern. The lyrics aren't terrible, either. In fact, my favorite track is probably "TV Party," which justly and sarcastically sums up the tedium that is devotion to television watching and joyless drinking. One could probably suggest that the self-nausea described by Rollins in his lyrics is probably caused by too much focus on the self, but he's hardly the worst offender in his industry on that score. I'm hardly one to point fingers myself, truth be told.

This month I'm gonna keep trawling the SST site (take that, RIAA!) for my music. The plan is to go on a live album bender, picking Black Flag's Live '84 and a similiar platter from Bad Brains. Whenever I go to concerts, I always find a wierd distance between me and the music, like I'm not fooled that anything really special is going on. I want to see how the spontanaiety of a live gig affects hardcore. Are the tunes set in symphonic order or do they start to spin into their own tiny little unverses? We shall see.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Blog Lag

I had a nice post going today, but it got eaten because my edit page takes forever to load, and hardly ever loads properly, on my work server. I usually have to refresh several million time before I can get the post button to work. Oy. Right now I'm just annoyed. Be back tommorrow.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

Good Morning, Class

Welcoming one and all back to 2004. I have a sneaking suspicion that it's going to be a good year, and not because it's one of the few years I've started with someone special in my life. I also suspect the following:

1) The economy will improve, and by year's end the market will be slugging along.

2) The war in Iraq will wind slowly down, Iraq will have sovreignity returned, Saddam will be tried and executed.

3) Iran will become the chief focus of our anti-terror campaign. Bad things will start to happen to the mullahcracy.

4) Bush will be re-elected. Despite the furious contempt with which many Democrats hold him, he's not presiding over a disaster in the minds of a majority of voters. I don't expect a popular landslide, but I do expect the electoral college to swing heavily in the president's favor. It won't be 1972 or 1984, but it will lead to James Carville wearing things on his head again. And that's good enough for me.

More to follow...