Thursday, November 30, 2006

But Will They Be Allowed To Eat Muffin Stumps?

hIn Fairfax Co, VA, life is imitating art in a sad, sad way that's far beyond even the abilities of Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld to conceive. Legislators there have decided that it would be better for homeless people not to eat than to risk eating something from an 'uncertified' kitchen and potentially getting food poisoning (not that that's actually ever happened). It's decisions like this that even make Matt Yglesias sympathetic to the libertarian perspective.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Stick a Pitchfork in Them

Generally speaking, I'm not that interested in a stranger's reviews of music, which I find tend to reveal much more about the writer than the music they are reviewing. Namely, that they're usually full of self-indulgent blubbering and attempts to sound incredibly intellectual and insightful about something that more than anything is a personal, emotional experience. And the impression I have is that Pitchfork is the worst (yet by far the most influential) of the bunch. They have that anti-populism bias that's even more self-concious and superficial than the typical bandwagon-jumping teenager (not to mention being elitist). I'm all for challenging the status quo, but challenging the status quo of cultural taste merely on principle is taking things a bit far.

Slate's take is here.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

A Timeless Cry: "Damn those lazy, no-good _________, who are ruining the country!" (fill in name of unpopular ethnic group)

This post at H&R nicely sums up Tom Tancredo's (R-CO) dispicable, racist, and hypocritical stance on immigration. In short, after calling Miami (aka Little Havana) a "third-world country" and getting some predictable blowback from politicians representing South Florida, Tancredo responds with this:

''Moreover, the sheer size and number of ethnic enclaves devoid of any English and dominated by foreign cultures is widespread. Frankly, many of these areas could have been located in another country. And until America gets serious about demanding assimilation, this problem will continue to spread.''

What makes for some choice irony is that Tancredo himself is the gradson of Italian immigrants (you know, the ones who started all those "Little Italy" enclaves found in many major cities). What did an immigrant-basher in 1891 have to say about the trend at that time? Well, here's Rep. Henry Cabot Lodge (who I think was Veronica's father in The Archies) discussing immigration in the late 19th century:

"that immigration to this country is increasing making its greatest relative increase from races most alien to the body of the American people and from the lowest and most illiterate classes among those races." He was speaking principally of the Italians, but also the Russians, Poles and Hungarians. He observed that these immigrants, "half of whom have no occupation and most of whom represent the rudest form of labor," are "people whom it is very difficult to assimilate and do not promise well for the standard of civilization in the United States."

And as Radley Balko wittily points out, Lodge seems to have missed the mark on the Italians:

In fact, the grandson of two of them grew up to be a modern-day Henry Cabot Lodge. Perhaps next century, a grandson or granddaughter of today's Mexican immigrants will grow up to become a leading voice against the next wave of immigrants, too -- the next Tom Tancredo. It's the American Dream!

I'm Sure Glad I Ignored My Teachers

Well, about lots of things - but especially when they told me to "sit up straight" (and what's weird is that it already sounds very quaint and hopelessly out-of-date that a teacher would even care if you were slouching. I certainly don't). Because new research has shown that sitting up straight is bad for your back - leaning back at an angle of about 135 degrees is actually puts much less strain on your spine. Which means that as I work here laying out on the couch I'm actually in the pretty much ideal position! Sweet.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Shrouded in a Mushroom Cloud of Death

Did you know that the awesome 80's hit "99 Luftballoons" ("99 Red Balloons"), while being a really peppy-sounding song (musically), is about a nuclear holocaust? I didn't. A definite landmark in the fun music coupled with depressing lyrics rock and roll catalogue. (title ref here, although the music from this song is more sweet than fun - the lyrical twist is certainly shocking, though)

In other pop culture news, it's almost December, which means Garry should be coming out with his Top 5 Albums of 2006 sometime soon (to go with his now-revised Top 5 movies of '06) . I've already got my top 3 ready for you, Garry. As for movies, the two at the top of my almost-year-end list are "Thank You for Smoking", and "Inside Man". I'll have to think more on the others.

No Causing Offense, Please, We're British

Another sign that the Brits are going insane in their "public order law" efforts to completely outlaw any behavior that anybody doesn't like: the UK cops are worried that people's feelings are being hurt by the various slogans thrown around at political protests. As they say, "The police want powers to tackle a "grey area" in the array of public order laws. At present, causing offence by itself is not a criminal offence." What if I'm offended by your terrible taste in clothes/music/cologne? Can we criminalize that, too? As much praise as we give the Europeans for their (generally more) progressive attitudes towards sex and drugs, they've gone completely overboard with their anti-free-speech "hate speech" laws. As I've said before: If we don't have freedom of speech, how will we know who the assholes are?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Reflexive Anti-Americanism: The Defining Characteristic of the Canadian Identity

Coming back to the 'nationalism' discussion, the Globe and Mail's discussion commentaries on their articles are absolutely fucking awful. I think it's great that they give people the opportunity to say something about the issues, but half the time these threads descend into America-bashing within two or three posts, no matter what the story is about. Grow up, Canada, you're embarrassing me.

Where Have You Gone, John Lennon?

Economically-challenged xenophobe Lou Dobbs had this to say in his defense of populism: "I blame us for forgetting that the United States is first a nation, and secondly a marketplace or an economy". I couldn't disagree more, and what would be even better, of course, is if we thought of countries as just collections of people, and didn't set up barriers that kept free people from engaging in trade with whoever they see fit.

Chuck Klosterman asks a good question in his awesome new book, Klosterman IV - if you have to make the choice, will you betray a friend or betray your country? Like Klosterman, I sure hope I would choose to betray my country.

RIP, Milton Friedman

One of the most important economists of all time and one of the leading thinkers of the 20th century, Milton Friedman, died today at the age of 94. In the words of the NY Times, he as "a prime force in the movement of nations toward lesser government and greater reliance on free markets and individual responsibility." The world is a better place because of his ideas.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Thank This Inanimate Carbon Rod Tax!

Surprising as it may be, it sounds like the Republicans may be considering proposing a carbon tax, with former Bush speechwriter David Frum echoing former head of the President's Economic Advisors Greg Mankiw by suggesting that the time may have come to establish a tax on carbon dioxide emissions. I'm not a fan of new taxes, but I for one welcome our new eco-overlords. Especially if this can be used to reduce income taxes (but that's probably a wish coming from cloud cuckoo land).

Title reference here. I score bonus points for TWO Simpsons references from the same episode.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Worst. Labor. Negotiations. Ever.

We all know that labor unions can behave pretty offensively, but when a union representing millionaire athletes threatens to sue the league because of unfair labor practices (because the refs are calling too many technical fouls), it's beyond satire and ripe for ridicule. These NBA players - it's not enough that they're mistakenly invading your house on a police raid, now they've proposing what is probably the 2nd-most ridiculous lawsuit ever (it still doesn't top those people who sued McDonald's for making them fat, of course).

Battle of the Bands of My Youth

I will definitely admit that U2 wrote and recorded some of the greatest songs in the history of rock music ("One", "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For", "Sunday Bloody Sunday"), but growing up they didn't really mean that much to me as a band. And to their credit, they've managed to keep it up, with some great stuff recorded this century, too. But I've never LOVED them as a band. R.E.M., on the other hand, was a band I felt comfortable with, probably due to their (perceived, at least) distaste for fame (the anti-Bono, in other words). I like that you can't really understand what their songs are about (and that they are willing to admit that they don't know, either), and everything they did felt so organic and warm. Automatic for the People was one of my first albums on my permanent Top-5 list, and one of my most enduring memories from high school is being 16, having just gotten a car, and driving around listening to "It's the End of the World As We Know It" (on cassette) over and over and over again.

Inspiration here.

For a gorgeous version of a beautiful song featuring Michael Stipe and Bill Berry from R.E.M. and Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen from U2, check this out.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Gridlock: A Noble Goal

Will a divided government result in the dreaded (by politicians and those who support them) gridlock? Those of use who champion limited government can hope so. A government with their hands tied is a government that can't fuck anything up. At the very least, this might get President Bush to take out his veto pen, and maybe we'll see some investigations into the corruption in Congress.

In other election news, having a look at various ballot measures is always pretty interesting, and tells you a lot more about people's opinions than the lesser-of-two-evils horse race in the elections. The common themes, nost of them discouraging: Americans are still not willing to legalize marijuana (Nevada, Colorado), let people marry who they want to (Virginia, Idaho, Colorado, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Wisconsin), or let workers and employers be free to form a contract that they see fit (Ohio, Nevada, Missouri, Montana). Some apparent bright spots: Missouri passes a bill to allow embyonic stem-cell research (this was the one supported by the add starring Michael J. Fox that got so much attention), Arizona may not ban same-sex marraige (51% against with votes still being counted), and South Dakota rejected a total ban on abortions.

And BREAKING NEWS: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is stepping down! Interesting timing... The liberal bloggers will be having a field day with this one. "It's intended to distract attention from the shift in the balance of power!", "It's to avoid investigations into his mismanagement of the war!", or (probably) "it's because he snorted coke off a 16-year old male Congressional page's stomach!".

UPDATE: I missed an important and encouraging trend in the discussion of ballot measures - property-rights protections via limits on eminent domain passed in 9 states, only failing in 3.

Election Blah-gging

Dems take control of the House. Senate still up in the air, and likely will be while lawyers battle out Virgina's recounts (the only race I really care about, due to Allen's dispicable campaign tactics) . Either way, what do we likely end up with? A lame-duck president trying to create a legacy, being (cough) reined in by fiscally-liberal houses of Congress? In other words: SPEND, SPEND, SPEND!!!

As Nick Gillespie predicted: "The important thing to remember is that no matter what happens the American people are going to lose." Pretty much par for the course when we confuse "leadership" with "who can bribe the most voters with their pet projects?", and all the while ignoring any constitutional limits on power.

I wonder how this will affect K-Fed's career?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Always The Scene-Stealer

Thankfully, we have something much, much more interesting in the news tonight besides the tedious election: Britney Spears Divorcing.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Get In the Game, Kids!

Some of the finest (and funniest) sportswriting in the nation can be found at ESPN's Page 2. You don't have to like professional sports to think that Jim Baker's hilarious satire of suggestions to his 6-year-old's soccer coach is well worth reading. A finer analysis of "magnet ball" has never been penned.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Robert Byrd Is So Un-Funny I Can't Even Laugh

Check out this video of Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) bragging (and receiving applause, of course) about bringing $36 million of federal taxpayer money to Marshall University. Multiply this by 100 senators and you can see why we've got a government spending problem in Washington.

And what's with the guy behind him in the green tie? He's either faking it, or he hasn't heard a joke that's actually funny since 1977. And given the reaction of the audience, neither have they.

Kerry Get Out Your Cane

If John Kerry isn't the stupidest politician in America, he certainly is the least politically-savvy. Um, making a joke about the intelligence or career prospects of people in the military probably isn't the best thing for a Democrat to say 6 days before an election. Like 2004, Kerry is doing his best to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Title reference here.