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July 31, 2004


Glad to hear that our Cynical Nation founder has relocated to Hoboken, NJ, which just also happens to be the home of my alma mater:


Well, there goes the neighborhood!

(Just kidding, Barry. All the best with your new home.)

Oh, and by the way...

Forget that reverse-polish nonsense, my calculator back in the day could do BASIC and assembler:


A Few Good Marines

John Kerry walks into a Wendy's and sees a few US Marines eating their lunch. I'm sure he was thinking this was the perfect photo op, but then this happened:

The Marines two in uniform and two off-duty were polite but curt while chatting with Kerry, answering most of his questions with a "yes, sir" or "no, sir."

But they turned downright nasty after the Massachusetts senator thanked them "for their service" and left.

"He imposed on us and I disagree with him coming over here shaking our hands," one Marine said, adding, "I'm 100 percent against [him]."

A sergeant with 10 years of service under his belt said, "I speak for all of us. We think that we are doing the right thing in Iraq," before saying he is to be deployed there in a few weeks and is "eager" to go and serve.


Gotta love our Marines. Respectful, patient, and 100% honest. Semper Fi.

July 30, 2004

Pope to feminists:

"Get your bitch ass in the kitchen and make me some pie!"

Farewell, New York

I know I'm a little out of the loop lately, but you know what? You can find a thousand other bloggers to provide running commentary of the DNC, but where else can you find hot topics like what I'm about to relate in this post?

First off, I didn't even see Kerry's speech last night. As I mentioned earlier, my wife and I have been knee-deep in the whole "moving" process, and I haven't had time to even hook up the TV yet, much less have the cable guy out.

At first I was disappointed to have to miss the "climax" of the convention, so to speak, but then I learned it was going to weigh in at 55 minutes long. And those are 55 Kerry minutes, mind you. That's, what, 8 or 9 hours in real time? That sounds like a torture greater than what we just endured on move night.

One of the constant themes of this blog over its lifetime has been to chronicle the thoughts and reactions of a Southern libertarian living in New York City. On Wednesday, however, my wife and I moved to Hoboken, New Jersey, so I guess that changes things.

Alternatively, I could take the same approach as my wife, a Manhattanite from way back. She is still going to insist, when asked, that she lives in New York. She maintains that Hoboken is a de facto part of Manhattan, a sort of "West Soho", or at the very least another borough. She has a point. We are closer to many of our favorite New York City destinations than we were when we actually lived in the city, and we have breathtaking views of the Manhattan skyline right across the Hudson here. So I may well follow her lead and consider myself an honorary New Yorker. Just as long as the New York Department of Revenue doesn't consider me one!

We were moved on Wednesday, by Chris Rock's uncle (seriously). He and his crew were great, but we hit a few snags. The first was a typical one. It was that sickening moment when you realize that you actually own about twelve times as much shit as you thought you did, and you go through the following stages of acceptance:

  1. What the hell is all this shit?
  2. Where the hell did it come from?
  3. Hell, I guess I'll just have to move it and sort it out later!

This, accompanied by another trip to vacate our Manhattan storage unit, necessitated two trips from the West Side to Hoboken, through the Lincoln Tunnel, and one of them during rush hour.

The trip was further complicated by obnoxious, power-tripping Hoboken cops. I think the cops in Hoboken are kind of like the Maytag repairman (wasn't that Gordon Jump, by the way?). They don't have much to do, and if they see a car double parked for two seconds, they get all excited because it's a rare chance to act like a cop and bust some heads.

This is very different from across the Hudson in New York, where double parking is a birthright. My street in Hoboken is admittedly narrow, but even so, with the moving van double-parked in front of our new place, there was still enough room for even oversized vehicles to squeeze around.

The cops would hear none of it, however, and they threw on lights and sirens and harassed poor Uncle Rock out of the street and down the block, from where we had to carry our tons of shit to our new house by hand truck, sometimes in the rain. This process took until after 2 AM. I am not lying.

But it's over, thank God, although I'm still tired and achy, and the house is stacked floor-to-ceiling with boxes that probably won't be fully unpacked for another month, and we're still in the process of setting up basic services. Nevertheless, we're pretty excited about our new place.

And to show you what a complete geek I am, here's something else I'm excited about. For those who don't know, I was a nuclear physicist in a former life. For the past 20 years, my all-time favorite calculator has been the HP 15C scientific calculator:

I use it all the time, and it still works like a champ, and I swear it seems like I've only changed the batteries at most 3 times during the past two decades. As much as I love it, however, I've always been terrified that one day it will finally give up the ghost, and it will be impossible to replace, since HP no longer produced Reverse Polish Notation calculators.

But that was then! This is now! HP now has the 33s RPN scientific calculator, and I just bought one:

So far, I like it, although I still prefer the "sideways" 15C. The new model is much lighter, and I recognize that should be considered "progress", but I kind of miss the "heft", if you know what I mean. It's just not as satisfying to hold. The keys are good, because they're nice and clicky (more so than they appeared in the catalog picture). I need to get used to the new display, however. I found the older one to be crisper and cleaner, oddly enough.

Ah well! That's about all that's happening in my life right now. So, to all the ships at sea, and all the ho's in Hoboken, I'll talk with you again soon, and things will return slowly to normal as I begin to emerge.

July 28, 2004

I'm moving!

Excuse the light blogging. I'm moving all today. What a trauma! I'll have more details soon....

July 27, 2004

The Democrats' first night

I was heartened to see the prominence with which 9/11 was handled during last night's coverage (even though, as my wife pointed out, it was a bit "over the top"). It was encouraging to see them recognize it as a pivotal event in American history, during which we collectively became aware that we were embroiled in a grave struggle for the very survival of our way of life, and that it is a fight that we must win, and win decisively. Of course, all of this should be a no-brainer, if you ask me, but up until recently all I've heard them do is whine about health care.

And encouraging as it may be, one has to wonder two things. First, how much of it is window dressing? This is the party that routed Joe Lieberman, their only legitimate hawk, in the primaries, after all. Secondly, if the Republicans had handled 9/11 in precisely the same fashion, how long would it have taken for the recriminations of "exploiting a tragedy for political gain" to start flying? My guess it would be well under way already.

July 20, 2004

Light blogging alert

As some of you have no doubt noticed, blogging has been a bit sparse here lately. Much of my recent time has been sucked up by getting ready to move (and we all know what a trauma that is). Then after today, the wife and I are going to spend a few days in Vermont to help a cousin get married. Things should return (almost) to normal in another week or so (just in time for the Democratic convention, unless I miss my guess!).

Did Wilson "misspeak"?

That's the rather polite euphemism the Senate Intelligence Committee used to describe Joe Wilson's claim to a reporter that certain Niger/uranium related documents were forgeries. CNN's Wolf Blitzer gave Wilson a chance to clarify this issue:

BLITZER: So when the committee says that you told them you had misspoken, what did you misspeak?

WILSON: Well, actually, what I misspoke was, when I misspoke to the committee, when I spoke to the staff -- this interview took place 15 months after The Washington Post article appeared. I did not have a chance to review the article. They did not show me the article.

They threw it out there, and the question I took as being a rather generic question: Could you have misspoken? Yes, I am male, I'm over 50. By definition, I can misspeak.

That clears it up, right? Positively Clintonian.

July 16, 2004

Stuck in the 60's

"Psst. Senator. We don't really do that anymore. Haven't for decades, actually."

Hillary speaks

It appears Hillary Clinton will speak at the Democratic convention after all, even if it's only to introduce her long-winded husband. This latest Kerry flip-flop will presumably help quell the outrage amongst Democratic activists, but John Kerry and the DNC are certainly not thrilled.

The omission of Senator Clinton from the roster was no mere oversight; it was a calculated decision by convention planners, and we all know why they made it. Now, however, Team Kerry has to contend with the fallout of attempting to muzzle Hillary, while Hillary gets a speaking role anyway, accompanied by increased publicity. It's the worst of both worlds for the Dems.

July 15, 2004

This week in the bargain bin...

Liberal lies

With the credibility of Richard Clarke and Joe Wilson now in tatters, has anyone else noticed the marked decrease in sanctimonious cries of "DAMNABLE LIES!" coming from the left?

Perhaps they are learning that their side is not above uttering falsehoods for political gain. An unpleasant lesson, no doubt, but they will be better served for having learned it.

July 14, 2004

Apologies are due

Tony Blair always stuck to his guns regarding the Iraq/Niger uranium connection, and now it seems he has been vindicated. The reference to British intelligence concerning Iraq and uranium and an unnamed African nation was widely portrayed as erroneous, a "lie" that crept into Bush's SOTU speech. The truth was obscured by the emergence of forgeries by an ambitious Italian diplomat.

Now, it seems, that the British intelligence was accurate, and predated the forgeries. Many people owe Mr. Blair and Mr. Bush apologies, but instead they seem simply to want to change the subject by minimizing the significance of the claim: "It doesn't matter because there's no evidence Saddam was close to having a working bomb", or "it doesn't matter because an advanced nuclear program was not found."

Leave. The goddamn. Goalposts. Alone!

Blair was right on this one. You were wrong. Have the cajones to admit that, at least. It doesn't mean you have to support the war, and it doesn't mean that Bush and Blair were right about everything.

But they were right about this, and the left's steadfast refusal to acknowledge this single, admittedly minor, fact speaks volumes as to how poisoned our current political environment has become.

July 13, 2004

Postponing elections

Having stolen one election, will they postpone the next?

Exactly 140 years after Lincoln insisted that postponing a federal election was a bigger threat to democracy than a Civil War that had already claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, Homeland Security czar Tom Ridge asked the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel to review Soaries' scheme to, well, put democracy under house arrest.
But a few wacky lawyers and Bush appointees won't let a dry piece of parchment like the Constitution scuttle their Machiavellian ambitions. Instead of encouraging the American people to be defiant in the face of threats to our system, the Bush administration wants to suspend the democratic process until the terrorist threat has passed: "If you vote, the terrorists win," they insist.

Blast! You have stumbled across our sinister plan!

Ah well, no matter! I may as well explain it to you, since you are powerless to prevent its completion. And you can forget about being rescued by Michael Moore, or Randi Rhodes, or any other alliteratively named superheroes out there! This lair is guarded by the most sophisticated security measures that Halliburton can design!

Our plan has succeeded splendidly up until this point. America's representative form of government hangs by a thread. A few more weeks of a compliant news media is all we shall need to sever that thread and install George W. Bush as dictator for life! MWUAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAA!!!!!!!

Gimme a break with the tin foil hat crap, Tony.

Earth's magnetic field decays

According to the New York Times, the collapse of earth's magnetic field is already beginning to cause problems.

I'm certain Bush is to blame. I'm just not sure why yet.

Bush leads North Carolina by 15 points

I've said it before, and as a transplanted Tarheel I'll say it again: North Carolina is not a swing state. It will remain safely in the Bush column.

This is further evidence that the Edwards pick was a strategic miscalculation. Kerry would have been much better served to write off the South and focus on battleground states elsewhere.

Anyway, the new poll numbers from USA Today show a 15-point Bush lead among likely voters in North Carolina.

July 12, 2004

What liberal media?

It's fascinating to see how the conclusions of the 9-11 Commission are being reported. Last month, casual headline readers could be forgiven for concluding there was "no link" between Iraq and al Qaeda, even though readers of the entire story found that the truth was considerably more nuanced (by the way, I thought it was conservatives who eschewed nuance in favor of simplistic, binary thinking. Oh well.)

And now there's this:

"The Committee did not find any evidence that Administration officials attempted to coerce, influence or pressure analysts to change their judgments related to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction capabilities."

So reads Conclusion 83 of the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on prewar intelligence on Iraq. The Committee likewise found no evidence of pressure to link Iraq to al Qaeda.

Now I know that a 50-point headline reading "Bush vindicated!" would perhaps be expecting a little too much, but this is a significant piece of information that belies the pervasive "Bush lied!" meme. Who wants to join me in holding my breath until the apologies start rolling in? Any takers? Anyone? Beuller?

More Moore hypocrisy

All right, I realize that I'm in full jihad mode at this point, so please accept my apologies in advance.

When I wrote my last piece on liberal reaction to Fahrenheit 911, I was angry and mildly intoxicated, so I had every expectation that my position would soften over time, and I would probably come to regret what I had written.

Well, that hasn't happened. If anything, my position has hardened. I'm sorry to say it, but liberals in this country have gone freakin' nuts on this subject. The post generated more e-mail than any other in recent memory, and the vast majority of the mails reinforced my comments. Here is a fairly typical example from someone named "Diane S" here in New York:

You want me to say Michael Moore lies? Fine, he lies! But you know what? I don't care. This administration which you defend has lied a thousand times worse than Michael Moore. If it takes lies to get the truth noticed then so be it. If we have to fight fire with fire then so be it. God knows no one is interested in the truth these days. You don't understand what it's like. Anyone who tries to criticize this president in calm and even tones gets suppressed, so if it takes a bomb thrower like Michael Moore to wake this country up then more power to him.

Actually, Diane, I do understand. I understand that you're willing to accept lies and distortions so long as they're coming from someone who agrees with you. I also understand that you have plenty of company amongst American liberals these days, and that's regrettable. Demagogues like Moore, whatever their immediate impact, inevitably do damage to their own cause in the long run. I'm sorry you can't see that.

Less typical, but more to the point, was this anonymous fan letter:


Thank you for writing, Professor Krugman. Please feel free to sign your name next time.

All right, I'm really going to try to stop with the Michael Moore posts after this. I promised my wife. Besides, it appears as if its box office success is rapidly fading. For a bit of perspective, Fahrenheit 911 earned less than Dodgeball in its first three weeks.

July 11, 2004


I don't feel sorry for Jayson Alexander, even though he got unceremoniously dumped by Britney Spears after "great" wedding night sex. Fortune smiled upon him and dropped a once-in-a-lifetime fortune right in his lap, and he was too fricken stupid to take advantage of it.

No, not because he got to bang Britney. Because he could have negotiated. Her lawyers probably pounced on him within 24 hours, and intimidated him into signing an annulment. He was probably too stupid and starstruck and in love to do any different, but who knows what kind of financial deal he could have wrung out of them if hadn't been such a blubbering, pathetic wuss. Hell, he probably even signed away his right to pen a best-seller: My 55-Hour Marriage to Britney.


July 10, 2004

Cost of sex

You'd never pay for sex, right? Right?

July 09, 2004

More on Moore

Okay, I know this is getting old, but we all have our white whales (ha ha, that analogy's pretty apt). Since the latest installment in my anti-Moore lamentations, I've gotten lots of e-mail, from left, right and center. For the first time, I'm beginning to notice a shift.

Call me crazy, but I am beginning to believe that Fahrenheit 911 might actually break for George Bush as a factor in November. Moore's lack of integrity is becoming more broadly acknowledged now, and not just on the right. If Democratic politicians do not take steps to distance their party from Moore's 122-minute temper tantrum, they could pay a price, now that the inevitable backlash has begun (I still predict John Kerry will have a "Sister Souljah" moment sometime this fall, in which he'll prominently denounce Moore's methodology).

This election's going to be close. In a tight race, a movie like Moore's can have an impact. It's no longer clear, however, that his side will benefit. It wouldn't be the first time that Moore's helped to elect President Bush. In 2000, he campaigned vigorously for Ralph Nader, without whom Bush could not have won. If Moore helps elect Bush a second time, the least the White House could do is send him a thank you card.

July 08, 2004

Edwards bounce?

Democrats are still orgasming over the Edwards pick, as if it were some kind of bold, ingenious move, as opposed to months-old conventional wisdom. While they're picking out what they're going to wear to the inaugural ball already, early polling suggests the "bounce" Kerry received from Edwards is fairly small by historical standards. Perhaps this is not surprising, since many people fully expected Edwards to be the nominee.

Edwards polls well, but it's the popularity of the flavor-of-the-day, unlikely to last. Kerry's decision to me seems shortsighted and poll-driven, style over substance. In the long run, Kerry would have been better served to write off the South, and go into the battleground of the Midwest with an experienced, native Midwesterner at this side.

Oh well.

Five shitty movies...

...that everyone loves. Actually, I could think of some more. Check 'em out.

I'm pissed off!

My wife is an anti-Bush liberal, and even she's sick of hearing about Michael Moore. I know how she feels, and I probably shouldn't even post this, but my patience has snapped. My problem is not so much with Fahrenheit 911, which failed to enrage me, but rather with the liberal reaction to it.

I had always believed, as an article of faith, that there are intelligent, fair-minded and intellectually honest critical thinkers on both sides of the ideological spectrum, distributed fairly equally. The aftermath of this one idiotic documentary threatens to single-handedly change all that.

Nearly all the liberals I know and love have astonished me with their opinions of Fahrenheit 911. It's often simply a single-word review: "Great!" If they make any mention at all of Michael Moore's shotgun conspiracy theories, unsubstantiated innuendos, and factual distortions, it's either to minimize them or deny them outright. I'm not talking about mindless, knee-jerk partisans either, but thoughtful, intelligent liberals.

I do not fricken get this! Let's try to imagine, for a moment, that (God forbid!) Ann Coulter decided to make a documentary. Content aside, let's say her film was widely acknowledged for its cinematic merits, at least (I know it's a stretch, but stay with me here).

In this scenario, I honestly do not know one single conservative who would either

  1. go see it at all, much less stand in line for hours to see it,
  2. hail it as "great" cinema,
  3. breezily dismiss the film's obvious bias with a comment like, "Sure it's 'biased', but what isn't?",
  4. or, while admitting to certain distortions, argue that this election is "simply too important" to quibble over minor details like facts.

Maybe it's just me. Maybe my conservative friends here in New York are different. Maybe by living in such an ideologically hostile environment, they've grown in understanding and open-mindedness by being perpetually challenged.

Whatever the reason, I can never imagine them behaving like their liberal counterparts. I find that dismaying.

I'm sick of Michael Moore and his nonsense. I'm also disappointed by his apologists on the left.

Fear and loathing in the Hamptons
Why I lean Republican

My wife and I spent Independence Day weekend in the Hamptons. I used to think that Manhattan's Upper West Side was the most liberal place I'd ever seen, but let me tell you, the Hamptons makes the UWS look like friggen Orange County.* The sense of fear and loathing of our commander-in-chief was universal and palpable. In all the political conversations I had with the locals, I would inevitably make it known that, while I have some problems with Mr. Bush, I do not despise him with an all-consuming fury. When they found out I was a Republican, their reaction was akin to learning that I had just raped and murdered a 97-year-old nun.

I would usually try to calm their growing sense of revulsion by pointing out that, while I strongly support certain aspects of Bush's presidency, I am unhappy with many others.

In turn, I would ask them why they found Bush so loathsome. The responses here were fascinating. I had expected to hear endlessly about Iraq, but it was more often than not about abortion, stem cells, John Ashcroft or the religious right. At this point, I would come out of the closet as a social liberal, and we would find much to agree about.

But how, they would ask, could I support Bush if I were pro-choice? It's a valid question. If I'm a small-l libertarian who agrees with the Democrats on social issues and the Republicans on economic issues, why does one trump the other? What causes me to self-identify as a Republican, as opposed to an independent, or a Democrat?

I had to think about it a bit, but I think I've got it figured out. To simplify, let's reduce my two competing political vectors (social policy and other, non-defense domestic issues) to "abortion" versus "taxes." Yes, it's a gross oversimplification, but it makes these things easier to talk about. Why are taxes more important to me than abortion?

Well they're not, in general. They only become so in the context of our current political climate. I find the present state of abortion rights to be, by and large, agreeable. I find the status quo of tax policy, by contrast, entirely unacceptable. According to the Americans for Tax Reform, yesterday, July 7, was the day that the average American stopped working for the federal government and began working for himself. That is an outrage. It is the fiscal equivalent of pre-Roe v. Wade abortion policy.

Despite their obvious wealth,** every Hamptonian I spoke with seemed far more terrified of not being able to get an abortion than paying too much in taxes. I don't deny that the threat to abortion rights exists, but it is far less urgent and immediate than that to our wallets. For decades, liberals have warned that a vote for a Republican is to "turn back the clock" on "reproductive freedom." They scare us with tales of right-wing bogeymen and back-alley wire hanger abortions, while they systematically pick our pockets.

Well guess what? Republican power has been in its ascendancy for a quarter century now. Republicans dominate nearly all levels of government, and lo and behold, abortion is still legal.

To be sure, a Republican president is no guarantee of tax relief (witness Bush 41), but a Democratic president virtually guarantees a tax increase. We have to vote Republican just to hold our ground! It's regrettable that those of us who care about social and economic liberty have to make such choices, but at the same time, the choice, for me at least, is clear.

This may well change, of course. One can imagine a time when taxes are (relatively) low, with no prospects of immediate increases on the horizon, but abortion rights are genuinely and imminently threatened. When that day comes, I will no doubt throw my sympathies and support behind the Democratic Party. But given current realities, I will continue to lean Republican.

* As a bit of anecdotal evidence to support this outrageous claim, I'll say a word about the two bookstores I visited whilst there. Have you ever heard one of those paranoid, moronic callers to Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity complaining of a "conspiracy" of booksellers to "hide" conservative volumes somewhere way in the back of the store? I always listened to such claims and thought to myself, "bullshit!" My beliefs were reinforced every time I'd visit a Barnes and Noble here on the Upper West Side and find the latest puerile offerings from Ann Coulter or Bill O'Reilly prominently on display. But in the Hamptons? It's true! Both bookstores I walked into presented a dizzying array of Bush-bashing volumes (BTW, can we please now dispense with this fiction that dissenting voices are "not allowed" under this administration?), but finding any right-of-center offering, current or otherwise, proved a genuine challenge. It was astonishing, really, and I guess I owe some talk radio callers an apology. I still don't attribute the placement of books to a left-wing conspiracy, but I think it does reflect the tastes and buying habits of the local populace. I should also point out that both these stores were independent booksellers, and product placement is probably much more at the discretion of the store manager than it is at a large retail chain. But anyway, this whole long footnote has been a pointless digression.

** To say there's money in the Hamptons is, of course, an understatement. Even a casual look around reveals this. There are attractive rich guys, unattractive rich guys, attractive rich girls, and even more attractive non-rich girls who are there to have sex with the rich guys, attractive or not. Add in a few wannabes and celebrities, and summer students from Ireland, and that's pretty much the Hamptons scene. Maybe it's also time to dispense with this fiction that Republicans are the party of the ultra-rich.

July 06, 2004

Reaction to the pick

Kerry's choice of Dan Quayle John Edwards as running mate seems to have left many Democrats very happy. I know Edwards polls well, but I can't help but believe it's because most people still think he's that dude who talks to dead people.

UPDATE: Mr. Sun has pictures of the newly-minted Kerry-Edwards team.

It's Edwards!

John Kerry, who served in Vietnam, has violated Barry's 27th Rule of Politics by sticking with the conventional wisdom and choosing John Edwards as his running mate.

At first glance, this makes sense, as Edwards is considerably more popular than any of his rivals for the slot (not counting John McCain, of course). Still, I believe his is the popularity of the unknown fresh face. These days, the more we know of a politician, the less we like them. In my home state of North Carolina, familiarity has certainly bred contempt as far as Edwards is concerned.

This move also shows that Kerry is taking seriously the views of Zogby and other pollsters that North Carolina is now seriously in play. Granted, Edwards is deeply unpopular in his own state as a senator, but having a locally-grown homeboy on a national ticket is a much more attractive prospect, and I do think Edwards will help the ticket in the South. Enough to make significant inroads? Probably not. I've said it before and I'll say it again: John Kerry couldn't carry North Carolina if Dean Smith were his running mate, polls be damned.

July 05, 2004

Kerry's picked a veep...

...or so they'd have us believe. I guess I'm standing behind my prediction of Gephardt, but if he picks his running mate like he picks his wives, Edwards is the man -- he's got the most money.

More Kerry photo op pics

They just get better and better...

The McDonaldization of Conservatism
(and country music)

Even though he hasn't been involved in the day-to-day running of National Review for years, the recent news that William F. Buckley was relinquishing nominal control of the magazine triggered a wave of nostalgia in me.

Like many right-wingers my age and older, I became a conservative/libertarian because of Bill Buckley. Even during my college years, conservatism had yet to become fully mainstream. It wasn't easy to come across an issue of National Review, and there were precious few alternatives to sustain and nourish the young conservative mind. To find intelligent conservative thought, one had to seek it out. But when you did, it was invariably of a higher quality than the ubiquitous dreck which clutters the bestseller lists these days. It is a tribute to Buckley's success in mainstreaming conservatism that NR is all but lost these days in an ocean of (typically inferior) conservative content. Alternative conservative media today is nothing if not plentiful.

The term "McDonaldization of conservatism" was coined by my friend Godzilla, who is himself not a conservative, but I believe his description is spot-on. The ascendancy of conservatism has caused the movement to be popularized and (dare I say it?) dumbed-down. The conservative standard bearers are no longer the Bill Buckleys of the world, but rather the Rush Limbaughs, the Sean Hannitys, and the Ann Coulters.

The popularizers may be instrumental in reaching an ever-widening audience, but as keepers of the tablets, they leave something to be desired. They reduce complex issues to simplistic good-versus-evil morality plays, and inconvenient facts are either tortured to fit their worldview or ignored altogether. It's unfortunate, but that's what sells. As far as I know, National Review has never had a profitable year. The latest offerings from Hannity, Coulter, or O'Reilly, however, are big business. Neither is this phenomenon particular to conservatism. I am reasonably certain that Michael Moore earns a bigger paycheck than, say, Katrina vanden Heuvel.

Another passion of mine which has succumbed to McDonaldization during the same time frame is country music (I know, from the sublime to the ridiculous, right?). I find the soulless, mass marketed pablum that passes for country music these days nearly unlistenable. That being said, I still adore my country music heroes from decades past, such as Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, and George Jones (I also like much of the current "alt country" scene -- Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams, Gillian Welch, etc.). Still, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw are big business in a way that Loretta Lynn never was.

It's the same phenomenon. Country music was destroyed by its own success. As its audience grew, the music became less and less country, and more and more "soft rock feminist crap", to borrow the words of Robbie Fulks. Ah well, I suppose that's the normal evolution of such things.

The deterioration of conservatism and country music into mediocrity share another connection besides their simultaneity -- Sean Hannity. Hannity pisses me off frequently, but seldom more so than when he waxes eloquent about how much he loves "country music," and how great "country music" is, and then follows it up by playing some swill by Toby Keith. Arrggghh!! I never wanted to reach through the radio and strangle him more than recently, when he was berating a caller for not listening to "country music." He recommended as a starting point the "great Garth Brooks song" "Callin' Baton Rouge." ARRRGGGHHH!!! It is not a Garth Brooks song! It is a New Grass Revival song that I once admired, before it was defiled by a pudgy poseur in an ill-fitting cowboy hat with more handlers, packagers, and marketers than talent.

All right, enough bitchin' for now. Happy belated 4th to everybody. Sorry the blogging was light these past few days, but I spent the weekend in the Hamptons, which will be the subject of a future post.

Photo op

"Hey! Mr. Secret Service Guy! Get over here and put that apple on your head!"

July 02, 2004

Andy and Esther

On a normal day, Andrew Sullivan is my favorite pundit ever. Then there are those rare times when my regard for him plummets:

OFF TO MADONNA: Blogging will be light tonight and tomorrow - I'm off to a Madonna concert in Worcester, Mass.

Saddam arraigned

The formal charges brought against Saddam Hussein include:

  1. Gassing the Kurds in 1998.
  2. Suppressing the Shiite uprising in 1991.
  3. His whining, "gimme" attitude.

Fascinating times we live in. These images of Saddam in the dock will be with us for a long time.

July 01, 2004

Saddam captioning

Here, here, and here.

Microsoft sucks

Microsoft is launching some new, "innovative" search technology. You can try it out here. Does anyone else agree with me that it basically sucks? The guys over at Google must be laughing. It seems like even the most innocuous searches take about ten minutes before returning either without results or with an error message.

Place your bets

If we're going to make a pool for Kerry's VP pick, we'd better get started. How would you guys make the books? What are the odds?

At first blush, it would seem Edwards is almost a no-brainer. Still, I have a few reasons for questioning the conventional wisdom:

  1. Barry's Political Rule #27: The VP nomination is always a surprise.
  2. I don't think Kerry likes Edwards very much. This by itself is no deal-breaker, however. There is ample precedent for a president to hate his VP.
  3. Edwards is widely regarded as being unready for the VP slot (but, as above, this is hardly without precedent).
  4. The electoral map. The barrage of polling data we face every day encourages most of us to think in terms of the popular vote. That's not the way the candidates think, however. It's all about the states. I believe Kerry has written off the South. The Midwest, by contrast, is a genuine battleground area. Look for the successful candidate to emerge from there.

So if not Edwards, who? Put me down for Gephardt, I guess, just to be contrarian.

A sure sign...

...that Iraq is improving:

BAGHDAD Iraqis used to dance to his tune, but in Baghdad toy shops, a chubby, gun-toting Saddam Hussein doll now wiggles his hips to the song "Hippy Hippy Shake."

Toy stores around Baghdad are doing a brisk trade in dancing Saddam dolls -- foot-high, battery-powered dolls of the former president, dressed in full insurgent regalia, who swing their hips to cheesy pop music at the flick of a switch.

Saddam on trial

Does anyone besides me wonder why the Europeans haven't been screaming for Saddam to stand trial before the International Criminal Court? Perhaps its docket is simply too crowded with war crimes charges against Bush and Sharon.