Monday, December 06, 2004

The Only Fat Man in Pyongyang

Will hiking trips of well-fed South Koreans plant seeds of doubt in the wisdom of the Dear Leader?


Saturday, November 20, 2004

DreamWorks is Turning Your Kids Queer

The story of an animated vegetarian shark could be the first step towards something unnatural going on in the mind of your child, warns the American Family Association. Ironically, in the world of Shark Tale, being gay means not having an appetite for man meat.

Cruel link of the day.


Thursday, November 11, 2004

Liberal Arrogance, Revised

My ignorance amazes even me. I finally learned the source of the "How could he have won? I don't know a single person who voted for him!" quote from a couple posts ago. It's not a joke - it was supposedly uttered by film critic Pauline Kael about Nixon's defeat of McGovern in 1972. I lament my poor fact-checking, but am delighted by the fact that it was actually uttered by a real clueless Manhattan lefty. I'd rather it have actually been about Reagan than a neo-liberal megalomaniac like Richard Nixon, but it's still funny. Of course there are slightly different versions of the quote floating around. One website has the emphasis reversed: "Take a lesson from Pauline Kael, Paul. In 1973, she said she couldn't believe McGovern lost. She said, 'Everybody I know voted for him.' (He lost 49 states.)"

Enlightenment courtesy of a great piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education on the phenomenon of 'liberal groupthink' on university campuses.


Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Jews on Stage

Mike Reiss, writer and producer for The Simpsons recently made it to Northwestern University for a lecture to the local Hillel kids, and he gave the crowd what they wanted. A Simpsons movie? Yes. How do the people on the show feel about critical, obsessive fans? "Go fuck yourself." Well, we knew that already.


Friday, November 05, 2004

Welcome to the Wilderness

I sent this (in more or less the same format) earlier today to my uncle, who wore a Veterans for Kerry button over the course of the campaign. It won't be easy, but it's something the those who feel defeated need to read:

The real happiness for me coming out of the election is the shocked expression on the faces of all of the pretentious, sanctimonious celebrities and activists who were so sure Kerry would save the day. The kind of people who think that all Republicans are greedy idiots. This kind of studied disdain for Red State people turned out more indignant Bush voters than the elite media types will ever know. Every time Michael Moore was interviewed about how Bush - and by extension, his supporters - are "criminally stupid" he bought the Bush/Cheney ticket another 50,000 votes. I'm shocked at how few people seem to realize that. But it reminds me also that this Democratic intellectual snobbery isn't new. A favorite joke among Republicans in DC goes like this: it's the week after the 1980 election and a group of upwardly mobile Manhattanites are at a cocktail party commiserating over how badly Carter had just gotten beat. One woman, clearly still shocked at the loss, says to her friends "I can't understand how Reagan won...not a single person I know voted for him!" [note: I got the details wrong on that one. See "Liberal Arrogance, Revised," above] I've heard people at Republican gatherings tell that one dozens of times, and it always gets a laugh. I also remember telling it to a particularly liberal friend of mine and got nothing but a blank stare. Nationally the Democrats keep repeating that they're the "party of the people," as opposed to Republicans who are supposedly the lackeys of corporate interests. How they could be so out of touch with reality that they still seem to actually believe that is breathtaking. They lost almost everything that really counted - across the board. They kept Pete Coors from joining the Senate. That's it. They were massacred on every level and they still think they represent the "real" America that's been hijacked by a handful of Republican bad guys. That's not optimism - that's living in fantasy land. And if the DNC doesn't fire Terry McAuliffe and hire someone who can cock-slap the party back into reality they're going to simply keep losing...and losing...and losing. Which, as it turns out, I'm perfectly fine with.

But hey, Kerry voters, don't feel too bad about the election. My DC insider connections tell me that Halliburton and ExxonMobil will be dictating much more centrist White House policy from now on in an attempt to bring the nation together. Let the healing begin!


Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Hail the Conquering Hero

Yes, Bush has won four more years, and in a decisive way. Do I like the man? No - of course not. For me he's been a wild, heartbreaking disappointment. But I am floating on cloud nine regardless. Why? Because of all the people who are crying in their N/A beers and tearing their hair out right now. If Michael Moore, George Soros and every sanctimonious asshole from hates the world right now, then I am loving life.


Wednesday, October 06, 2004

People Who Sell Glass Houses...

A southeast Michigan woman faces up to 10 years in prison for the simple act of street commerce. Yuolanda Taylor of St. Joseph found herself in the middle a police riot in June - amid rioters lacking in suitable projectiles for hurling at the cops - and decided to make a figurative killing by selling rocks to members of the melee for as much as $5 each. She decided to retire from the scene with a profit of $70 after being hit by one of her products herself, but that was doubtless just bad luck. She's charged with inciting a riot, despite the fact that she was merely servicing the needs of individuals who themselves happened to be rioting. One bright point though; with her history of combining the felonious conduct of others with a capitalist impulse she's sure to dominate the trade on black market prison cigarettes.


Saturday, October 02, 2004

Flagging Down Economic Liberty

Recent business news out of Florida has taught us a valuable lesson: don't try giving your customers a price break, especially if you operate a car service in Hillsborough County. Daniel Steiner of DSL Transport Service was giving customers limousine rides for less than the mandated minimum price of $40 a ride. He figured he could still make enough on his short trips charging less. Unfortunately, as the County's Public Transportation Commission informed him, this was not a decision the law permitted him to make. One counterargument posed by taxi operators has it that limo services should have to stick to the regulations just like they do - if the limo drivers can set their own prices and terms of service, it'll hurt the taxi drivers who still have so many rules to follow. The idea that they should be deregulated as well hasn't seemed to occur to anyone involved - with the possible exception of Mr. Steiner's lawyers from the Pacific Legal Foundation (make your tax-deductible contribution now!).


Wednesday, September 22, 2004

The Incas of Boise Couldn't Make It

The Smithsonian's new Museum of the American Indian opened this week, and Washington welcomed representatives of native tribes from around the U.S. Tribes represented included the Lenape of Connecticut, the Chickahominy of Virginia and, rather unexpectedly, the Aztecs - of San Francisco. From the Associated Press: "A group of five White Mountain Apache Indians from White River, Ariz., added to the drumbeat with shaking metal balls around their shoes. ... Nearby, Aztec Indians from San Francisco danced with feathers stretching six feet above their heads." The Aztecs sure have come a long way since I first learned about them in grade school. I thought they had been conquered and later culturally subsumed by centuries of Spanish colonial rule. It seems they just moved to the Bay Area, waiting for their museum to open. I wonder how you say "You go girl!" in Nahuatl.


Monday, August 30, 2004

Public High School Administrators and Their Ilk

Most people who have survived the usual bureaucratic idiocy of an American public high school won't be surprised, but let yourself be appaled anyway. Student Terrell Jones was pulled out of class recently for wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the name of his former home town, Hempstead, New York. The wary principal of his current school assumed it was a reference to that everyone's favorite recreational botanical, and was on the verge of applying his own brand of aversion therapy when young Jones pointed out that Hempstead was, in fact, a real town which had nothing to do with either Phish fans or glaucoma sufferers. Amazingly enough, an apology was allegedly forthcoming. Speaking of which, why is it that school disciplinarians exhibit zero tolerance for drug references yet happily ignore the idiotic innuendo of Big Johnson and Coed Naked style t-shirts? My high school was rife with them, each one dragging the practice of the heavy-handed double entendre to a new low - no mean feat considering the audience.


Friday, August 27, 2004

Photos from the Summit


Jim Lucier consults with Sonia Arrison outside the lounge of the Sky Hotel in Aspen. Declan McCullagh looks on.

A glum-looking James Taranto contemplates questioners after the Summit's final session, "The Future: How Politicians, Policy Wonks, and Ordinary People Use the Web." Randy May of PFF and Dan Gillmor of the San Jose Mercury-News converse to the right.

David Post and Sonia Arrison share a moment Tuesday night at dinner in Aspen.

The Future of the Internet at 7,900 Feet

A l33t time was had by all at the Progress & Freedom Foundation's Aspen Technology Summit X. The presenters were informative, the surroundings refined and the cocktail receptions generous. Speaker highlights include FCC Chairman Michael Powell at lunch on Monday and ICANN co-founder Esther Dyson and FTC Commissioner Orson Swindle at that evening's informal working dinner on Internet governance.

Telecom executives mixed with university professors and policy wonks to the general edification of all. I especially liked the comments Dan Gillmor of the San Jose Mercury-News gave on Tuesday about blogs and the future of media, many no doubt taken from his new book, We the Media: Grassroots Journalism by the People, for the People.


Sunday, August 22, 2004

From the 'No Good Deed...' File

Scenario: McDonald's Australian division decides to donate large amounts of money to sponsor a children's sport league. That's good, right? Many of their menu items may be high in calories, but at least they're out there trying to get kids to be active and healthy. A few years ago, that might have been the case. These days it gets the corporate benefactor in question compared to a tobacco company.

The ubiquitous public health advocates of this day and age point out that the resulting positive publicity may improve the company's image and make some people more likely to eat there. Which, of course, is always bad. So the only way McDonald's, or any similar company, could possibly gain any praise from such quarters is if they were to run an advertising campaign telling people not to buy or eat any of their food. And people laughed when we told them the trial lawyers were gunning for the food industry next.

Wireless Service Ate My Brain

New York City is finally poised to get complete wireless phone coverage, ending a long city-wide nightmare of dropped calls and inexplicably coverageless black holes. A great move forward for a great city, right? Well, almost. Some professional agonizers are afraid that all the extra transmitters are going to dissolve their brains, or perhaps slowly cook them to medium-well. They're a little vague, actually. "What happens if in 20 years, there's even a minor adverse reaction to human beings?" asks John Campos of Queens. Good question, John. A better question, however, is "What will it be like if the city of New York falls two decades behind in telecommunications technology on the strength of your baseless speculation?" That may sound a little cavalier given the dire radiation-induced fever dreams the activists are trying to warn us about, but let's remember one could prepare similar scare scenarios against virtually any other technology when armed with a scary theoretical risk yet no evidence of actual harm. Imagine if these people had been around when our ancestors were switching over from tallow candles to whale oil lamps or from coal-burning stoves to natural gas heat, much less from the crapulent horse-drawn carriage to the Model T. We'd all still be striking flint against the side of a cave.

One would imagine that the legendarily tough residents of the fabled metropolis wouldn't be such easily rattled crybabies. If you can't stand the microwaves, Mr. Campos, get out of the city.

Wang v. Cox

According to the BBC News website, the same day that Michael Phelps won his sixth gold medal for the US, "Great Britain enjoyed a magnificent day winning five golds, including a thrilling rowing triumph for Matthew Pinsent in the men's coxless fours." Unfortunately, given a recent change in government policy, I don't think anyone in the People's Republic of China will ever find this out (see below).


Friday, August 20, 2004

Beware of Wang Online

My good friend Thomas Pearson has hit up just the story I was going to write about myself, that being the announcement that the People's Republic of China is going to attempt to ban all access to online pornography. While trying to keep 1.2 billion people from engaging the wonderful world of electronic filth stikes me as likely to succeed as Canute's strategy for Atlantic tide diversion, one has to give the communists credit for being willing to take on massive projects with complete confidence, no matter how clearly they are doomed to failure. Whether its collectivizing agriculture, rooting out counterrevolutionary tendencies or imprisoning those who take a virtual ride on the Bang Bus, they know how to break some eggs.

And of course, note well the name of the official in charge of this ambitious undertaking.

Operation Offended Pride

The Kerry campaign is finally moving to publicly counter allegations made by fellow Vietnam swift boat crew members that the candidate's war record is exaggerated and promising that this week was to be "the start of the mother of all backlashes." I had thought the phrase "the mother of all..." had been made permanently ridiculous after Saddam Hussein promised The Mother of All Battles in the days before Gulf War I, but I don't suppose that would stop the campaign from using it. In any case, the response so far seems to be a combination of outraged indignation and irrelevant counter-attacks. Take the supposedly dire charge that the men behind the book Unfit for Command ( sales rank: 1) are coordinating with the Bush campaign. They've denied it repeatedly and vehemently, but even if they were, so what? What does that have to do with whether or not the accusations are valid? The authors were there, they saw what they saw, and they're either telling the truth or they aren't. Of course the opposing campaign is going to want this to gain wider attention. Whether they're working with authors directly or not has nothing to do with what really happened in Vietnam thirty-some years ago.


Tuesday, August 17, 2004

What the Avant Garde Offers Us Today

Or, What Brown Can Do For You

It's easy to criticize some of the contemporary art world's more flamboyant and provocative trends, and that's because for the most part, they're crap. The intentionally obscure and insular world of modern visual arts has made a fetish of alienating all but a select few initiates, reveling at the incomprehension of otherwise enthusiastic gallery and museum goers. Naturally, self-indulgent crap art has reached its literal reduction to absurdity with Belgian artist Wim Delvoye's installation "Cloaca." It's actually been around for a year or two, so it's doubtless been upstaged by something even more simultaneously banal and grotesque, but it serves as a fine example of type. For a detailed description you can read Belgian critic Els Fiers' fawning review, but it will suffice to explain that it is a mechanical shitting machine. Attendants insert food into one end and something very like the human final result emerges on the other side after a reasonable interval. According to Fiers' keen critical eye, the product is "something close to genuine, human shit."

He could fairly expand his assessment to include much of contemporary artisitic endeavor, at least insofar as it's celebrated in "elite" environments. Unfortunately the average person is too intellectually intimidated to say so. The lesson here is that just because you're not scandalized by Chris Ofili's combination of Marist iconography and animal dung doesn't mean that "Sensations" was an artisitic triumph. The next time you look at a preserved slice of farm animal suspended in a preservation tank with a confused grimace and someone from the black-turtleneck mafia stifles a condescending snicker, smack them with your program and keep walking until you see something worth looking at. Don't let the postmodernist toffs define what's worth being called art.


Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Going Local: Pedophiles, Gang Slashings, and Occasional Religious Intolerance

I’ve never been much for the Metro sections of the big daily newspapers, much less exclusively local print outlets. Over the last few months, however, I’ve come to appreciate the innocent charms of my local morning tabloid, the Northern Virginia Journal. This morning’s front page headlines included the arrest of a 62-year old sex offender caught sneaking into a private club’s swim meet, the confession to malicious wounding of a 17-year old "machete-toting" gang member, and news that a local school for the children of Saudi Arabian diplomats were being taught that all religions other than Islam are "false religions."

The global-clash-of-civilizations implications of the last item is very much an exception to an otherwise precise focus on the close to home. Oddly enough though, because most of its readers are suburbanites who commute to jobs in the District of Columbia, even the short bits of national and international news often seem like hometown stories. News of the increased terror alerts in D.C., New York, and Newark? As it turns out, the paper box from which I picked up my copy of today’s Journal was being looked over by a submachine gun wielding police officer just this morning. The aftermath of Abu Ghraib and its influence on the future of Pentagon policy? Half the people reading the story this morning probably passed through the Pentagon subway (Metro) stop on their way to work.

Even with the scanty, 300-word national and international wire stories, though, the Journal never disappoints in giving heart-warmingly tedious, violently alarming, and inexplicably detailed block by block reportage. For example, 78 local bus drivers were recently honored for having each driven more than 1 million miles while maintaining safe driving records; there’s no mention of a reception with cake and fruit punch, but the image doesn’t take much imagnation. Next is the story of Alejandro Coroy, 36, charged with forcibly entering his sister-in-law’s home, standing over her bed, and stabbing her repeatedly as she slept next to her husband. The motive is described as "family-related." And don’t forget to honor the fifteen years Sharon E. Pandak spent as Prince Willaim County attorney. She’s a member of the Virginia, District of Columbia, and U.S. Supreme Court bars, and no doubt spent many a long day over the past decade and a half observing the court progress of the parade of unfit mothers, attempted rapists, and gang members that the Journal reports on daily.

One last note on the local crime scene from today’s paper. Everyone love tales of stupid crooks and their boneheaded capers, and as always, the Journal does not falter. Page three carries the story of two sixteen-year old boys, arrested after throwing (or, in staff writer Andrea Pricer’s much hipper word,"hucking") rocks at not one but two police cars on succeeding nights. These kids stayed up all night to hurl rocks at easily identifiable police cruisers. May the long, sultry nights of summer vacation in Northern Virginia never end.


Thursday, April 15, 2004

Unpriced Legal Theory

Intellectual property radicals and p2p observers have fine champion in Lawrence Lessig and his new book, Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity. The book's content is available online in many different formats and "remixes" - several hosted/formatted by free culture activists themselves.


Sunday, January 18, 2004

Where There’s Smoke, There’s Corporate Rent Seeking

Alarmed at the success of small tobacco companies in recent years, Big Tobacco is trying to persuade their good friends, the state attorneys general, to smack down their underpriced competitors. These smaller firms weren’t part of the industry’s multi-state cartel agreement which gave them immunity from legal health claims and gave state legislators billions of dollars revenue, therefor many are able to significantly undercut the major national brands in price. Philip Morris and friends want the little guys to abide by the terms of the agreement – even though they never agreed to it. Their logic makes sense, however, when you realize that it was never meant to be a voluntary legal agreement. It was a new form of industry-wide national regulation dressed up as something else. Now the AGs and Big Tobacco are crying when their hypocrisy gets exposed.


Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Hear Ye, Hear Ye: Bad Stuff is Wrong

In a move that will doubtless cause the oppressed citizens of the Western Hemisphere to breath a pleased sigh of relief, the White House today issued a proclamation denouncing corruption of government officials. Bush and the other 33 nations represented at this week's summit of the Americas have agreed that corruption is bad, and leads to bad consequences. It's a big step, but I think we, as a hemisphere, are ready for it. No word yet on when the rampant corruption in Latin America will actually stop. But we have a proclamation.


Sunday, January 11, 2004

The Shi'ite Hits the Fan

Iran’s theocrats may have finally created the spark for the democratic revolution that many in the West have been waiting for. In preperation for parliamentary elections, The Islamic Republic’s Guardian Council disqualified hundreds of pro-reform candidates from running for election – including many current MPs. This has led to protests by members in parliament, including both a walkout and a sit-in. The nation’s regional governors have also threatened to resign en masse.

This high-handed rigging of national elections seems destined to create a dangerous split in Iran’s political establishment, given the historic inflexibility of clerics regarding their public pronouncements. Especially alarming is the knowledge that the Guardian Council is composed of “six clerics and six Islamic lawyers.” Could there be a more fearsome enemy of democracy that a cadre of fundamentalist Islamic lawyers?