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February 28, 2007

Control freaks in government

Talk about your "grim milestones." Although I'm sure it's happened somewhere, someplace before, this is the first time in my awareness that a government body is attemptting ban a word. Do we really want to go down this road? The term is offensive, no doubt, but nowhere near as offensive as official government efforts to police our language.

Ah well, hopefully it's not part of a national trend. This is the New York City Council, after all, so we probably shouldn't be too surprised. I'm convinced they spend their entire morning commutes thinking of new stuff to ban -- probably whatever just happened to piss them during their evening commute the day before.

Here's a partial list of stuff the council banned or attempted to ban in 2006.

  • Trans-fats.

  • Aluminum baseball bats.

  • The purchase of tobacco by 18- to 20-year-olds.

  • Foie gras.

  • Pedicabs in parks.

  • New fast-food restaurants (but only in poor neighborhoods).

  • Lobbyists from the floor of council chambers.

  • Lobbying city agencies after working at the same agency.

  • Vehicles in Central and Prospect parks.

  • Cell phones in upscale restaurants.

  • The sale of pork products made in a processing plant in Tar Heel, N.C., because of a unionization dispute.

  • Mail-order pharmaceutical plans.

  • Candy-flavored cigarettes.

  • Gas-station operators adjusting prices more than once daily.

  • Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

  • Wal-Mart.

Honestly, why do so many people have the compulsion to control others' behavior? And why do so many of them end up in government? Actually, I guess the answer to that second question is fairly obvious.

Thank God he's off the streets

I feel pretty safe in New York knowing the cops are not too busy to arrest a guy for selling a Barney costume.

February 27, 2007

Headline of the day

Dang, I should've saved a screenshot of it, but there was a headline on Yahoo Finance while ago that said something like:

Dow Plunges 500 points on fear of correction


Sacrifice for thee, not for me

Initially I wasn't going to post about the inconvenient truth of Al Gore's power bill, but after reading his rather pathetic response, I can't help myself. It begins thusly.

Gore’s family has taken numerous steps to reduce the carbon footprint of their private residence.

How about living in normal-sized house? Was that option ever on the table? Planetary survival is important to Gore, but maintaining his sprawling, 10,000 square foot mansion clearly takes a higher priority. And amongst former Tennessee senators, why is it Bill Frist who's installed a geothermal heating system in his residence?

It may seem unfair to pick on Gore when the country has plenty of people who consume way more energy than they should, but the difference is that they are not constantly lecturing everyone else and demanding sacrifices from others that they're not willing to make for themselves. I'm sure John Edwards, for example, has some pretty hefty energy bills in his Rhode Island-sized North Carolina estate, but unlike Gore, Edwards has not set himself up as the de facto public spokesman for energy conservation. I've been observing for some time now that Al Gore more and more closely resembles the leader of a secular religion, and now that image is even more complete, as we're seeing the equivalent of an evangelical Christian TV preacher getting busted with a nickel bag and an teenage hooker.

And he's not happy about it, either. Check out the peevish tone of the second part of his "defense."

Gore has had a consistent position of purchasing carbon offsets to offset the family’s carbon footprint -- a concept the right-wing fails to understand.

Oh, I understand. I understand perfectly. Why stoop to the dirty, unglamorous business of "sacrifice" when you can just pay someone else to do it for you? To extend the religion analogy, I think Captain Ed is right on the money when he characterized carbon offsets as the modern equivalent of buying indulgences.

There's plenty of reason to be skeptical about the efficacy of this carbon offsetting scheme (although it does seem to be reasonably effective at assuaging the guilt of rich, liberal energy gluttons) but even if the offset market works exactly as advertised, Al Gore still isn't off the hook.

As the Gores of the world have tirelessly reminded us, Americans comprise a mere 5% of the global population, yet consume 26% of the world's energy. But if all Americans consumed like Al Gore, this country would consume 624% of the world's energy. That's a mathematical impossibility, of course, and that's precisely the problem with Al Gore buying some credits and then pretending that he's a great steward of the earth's finite resources and that all is well. All is not well, because, as Wizbang notes:

This is a zero-sum game, folks. The more of the 29 megawatts he uses the less there is for others to use, so he still looks really gluttonous. Additionally, based upon the law of supply and demand, he drives up the price of this green energy, preventing others from using it because it becomes too cost prohibitive.

It just looks bad all the way around, and there's no way to tart it up so that he doesn't look like a complete hypocrite. The vast majority of his followers, of course, will neverthelesss continue to defend and make excuses for him. Why? Because it's a religion, and its followers are not going to acknowledge the fact of their prophet's rank hypocrisy any more than devout Christians are going to toss their rosary beads in the unlikely even that James Cameron really has found Jesus's bones in a box. Religions are like that.

February 26, 2007

Say what you will about Al Gore

...but he's repeatedly demonstrated a willingness to indulge in a little good-natured humor at his own expense, which is more than can be said for many of his followers who are beginning to regard him in increasing numbers as some kind of messiah.

Ex-presidents in the news, then and now

Bill Clinton, God bless him, seems to be doing quite well on the ol' lecture circuit.

Former president Bill Clinton, who came to the White House with modest means and left deeply in debt, has collected nearly $40 million in speaking fees over the past six years, according to interviews and financial disclosure statements filed by his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.).

My friend Mal, like me, is old enough to remember that the news media wasn't always so blasé in its coverage of ex-presidents on profitable speaking tours. He reminded me what the New York Times had to say when a different ex-president, Ronald Wilson Reagan, pocketed $2 million in speaking fees in Japan.

Former Presidents haven’t always comported themselves with dignity after leaving the Oval Office. But none have plunged so blatantly into pure commercialism.

That Reagan. Always plumbing new lows in ex-presidential decorum.

Granted, the New York Times has so far been silent on the matter of Bill Clinton's haul, but let's not jump to any conclusions about media bias just yet. After all, since Bill Clinton is a Democrat, he can be trusted to spend the honoraria responsibly -- on social causes, purchasing offsetting carbon emissions credits, and so forth. It's only bad when a Republican gets that kind of scratch because you know he'll just use it to put arsenic in the drinking water and steal old people's dentures.

No, I didn't watch the Oscars

I'm too "cool" for that.

(But can someone please explain to me why the Borat film earned a nomination for "Best Adapted Screenplay?" What was it "adapted" from? Seriously?)

The Dixie Chicks and stuff

Okay, I like the Dixie Chicks. I don't love them, but I like them. I own all of their CDs and I'll continue to buy them as long as they make decent music. But this notion that they're somehow "victims" of anything other than their own intemperance is obnoxious.

Actually, this post isn't even really aboutthe Dixie Chicks. It's about something that's been on my mind for a while now, and the Dixie Chicks' Grammy win just reminded me of it, as did Charlize Theron's recent inane comparison of the U.S. and Cuba.

(For those of you who missed it, Theron was nattering on about political oppression in Cuba, and then seemed to make the point that the U.S. was no freer. When challenged by the interviewer to defend this claim, she muttered about how she "seemed to recall... some time ago some reporters being fired from their jobs for speaking up on television about how they felt about the war."

Ah well, who needs specifics when you're making a political point against the United States? The point is that some reporter could have been fired for editorializing, even if Theron can't remember it, and that's sufficient to equate the United States with a Caribbean dictatorship's half-century unbroken track record of political oppression and wholesale abrogation of human rights, right?)

Anyway, I digress. Theron is just another air-brained Hollywood idiot. So what? The point is that I'm sick of people like the Dixie Chicks and Charlize Theron's imaginary friend claiming that their "freedoms" have been violated because they learn that their words have consequences.

The First Amendment gives you the right to speak your mind, but it does not guarantee that you can say whatever the hell you want and be immune from criticism of consequence. Reducing the concept of "free speech" to "license without responsibility" is a thoroughly infantile interpretation. Not surprisingly, however, it's one that resonates with a lot of liberals in the entertainment industry.

I'm a libertarian with a pretty expansive view of free speech, and I typically believe in wide latitude for people to do and say as they damn well please. But if you're going to say something deliberately provocative, you can't seriously expect your words to have no consequence. I could storm into my boss's office right now or call my wife on the phone and say anything I damn well wanted, but I have to be prepared to accept the fallout from so doing. Perhaps I won't go to jail, but I could sure as hell negatively impact my life with a few ill-chosen words.

It's ludicrous that this "we're not allowed to criticize the government" meme is still alive. It was without merit even as far back in 2002, but is just complete and utter horse crap in 2007. Go into your nearest Barnes and Noble and take a quick gander at the "New in Non-Fiction" table and tell me what you see. Or pick up the editorial page of the "New York Times," for that matter, or read high-traffic blogs like Kos or Atrios. And none of these are new developments. They've all obtained practically since the beginning of the Bush administration.

This is hardly censorship, by any stretch of the imagination, and to say otherwise is both stupid and offensive. Comparisons to Cuba are completely beyond the pale, but also self-negating. The very fact that Charlize Theron was free to spew her puerile nonsense invalidates her entire stupid premise.

Yeah, the Dixie Chicks haven't been selling as many tickets as they'd like, and they don't get a lot of airplay on country radio, but that hardly makes America a gulag. And you know what else? This is a complete aside, and the subject of a whole other rant, but the fact is that they don't play anyone good on country radio these days. Geniuses like George Jones and Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson are not only still alive, but still doing terrific music, but unless you have a satellite radio (which should be the subject of yet a third rant) you won't hear any of them. Ditto the younger heroes of the alt-country circuit, like Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle, and the like, whose music is insufficiently bland for commercial country. Join the club, Natalie. The company is stellar.

And Natalie, I'm not one of these "shut up and sing types" either. You may sing if you like, or not, it's up to you. I will buy your records if you do. You may also shut up or not -- it's your call. But please understand that you have no special immunity from criticism should you decide to hold forth from the stage on controversial issues.

And you know what? That's what really bothers the media and entertainment elite. They're nostalgic for the good old days, before the rise of the new media, in which they could savage Dan Quayle 24/7 and no one would ever hit back. Well sorry, but those days are gone. The other side has a voice too now, and if you don't want to be hit back, then don't throw the first punch. I understand that you're not exactly fond of these new realities, but don't call them "censorship." That just makes you look like a whiny, spoiled idiot.

February 23, 2007

Oh great job, Al

You've scared the kids.

February 16, 2007

Madonna wants to be like Gandhi

All right, well why don't we begin by practicing self-imposed poverty, chastity, silence, and radical, self-effacing life simplification. When you've mastered that, Mrs. Ritchie, you'll be ready for lesson two.

Ridin' the ol' pre-Copernican "Chisum" Trail

DBK reads Kos so I don't have to, and comes back with the tale of Texas House Appropriations Committee Chairman Warren Chisum, who seems to be grounded in a decidedly Ptolemaic worldview.

Still, it's enough to set the world a-spinning that the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, the most powerful committee in the House, distributed to legislators a memo pitching crazed wingers who believe the earth stands still -- doesn't spin on its axis or revolve around the Sun -- that Copernicus was part of a Jewish conspiracy to undermine the Old Testament.

Heh, heh, "Chisum."

And "Jewish conspiracy to undermine the Old Testament" is probably the funniest line I've read all day.

Of course upon careful reading, you'll find that Chisum doesn't directly espouse the Ptolemaic viewpoint himself, but merely forwards along a memo -- which also doesn't disavow heliocentrism, but if you follow some of the web links referenced in the document and then do some more clicking, you'll eventually get to the Ptolemaic stuff.

Regardless, it seems Chisum (heh) doesn't have too many degrees of separation between himself and Loonville. Ah well, "Keep Austin Weird," as they say.

Oh well...

All right, I'll admit it. As soon as I saw the first previews for Ghost Rider I knew it was probably going to suck. Still, the fond nostalgia of childhood comic book memories kept urging me to go anyway. Besides, any movie in which Nicolas Cage rides a badass motorcycle with a flaming skeleton head can't be all bad, right?

Well, now I'm leaning toward staying home.

You know it’s bad when the first scene after the prologue is a tender moment between two teenage lovers that might be more at home in third rate Dawson’s Creek ripoff. For those who may have forgotten, this is a movie about a guy with a flaming skull for a head who wears a spiked leather jacket, zooms around town on a gigantic flaming motorcycle made of bones, and is literally the Devil’s bounty hunter. Clearly the filmmakers aren’t aware of one of the most important rules in Hollywood: Movies about vigilante bikers with flaming skulls for heads do not need tender moments.

Not that the flaming skull parts are any better. You’d think a biker/Devil’s bounty hunter with a flaming skull would be able to do some pretty cool stuff, but his main power is -- get this -- he stares at people. And makes them sorry they did bad stuff. Presumably the first thing they think of is agreeing to appear in this movie.


The first Spider-Man movie finally convinced me that yes, Hollywood finally can do justice to my comic book heroes by giving them a decent big-screen treatment. Everything since, except for the excellent Batman Begins, has shown me they usually don't.

For those of you too young, old, or culturally deprived to remember, here is the legacy they are befouling.

(All right, he was a bizarre, third-string superhero even back in the 70s, but still.)

Breaking news...

It looks like Congress is on the verge of passing an empty, meaningless gesture. Let's hope it's the start of a trend. How cool would it be if we could make all acts of Congress "non-binding?"

Why is this so hard to understand?

It seems butt-obvious to me:

There is no future in which bits will get harder to copy.

Before I quote the rest of it, I think it's worth contemplating that simple, declarative sentence and letting it sink in. It seems self-evidently true, and yet the entertainment industries still spend kajillions trying vainly to prevent said bit copying and in Quixotic lawsuits against legions of bit copiers.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. That was a quote from Cory Doctorow, and he can say the rest of it much better than I can.

Instead of spending billions on technologies that attack paying customers, the studios should be confronting that reality and figuring out how to make a living in a world where copying will get easier and easier. They're like blacksmiths meeting to figure out how to protect the horseshoe racket by sabotaging railroads.

The railroad is coming. The tracks have been laid right through the studio gates.

Powerful stuff, and hard to argue with, in my opinion. This came to me third-hand from Jackie Danicki, who's quite correct in calling it the "quote of the day," except that I'd go quite a bit farther.

More fearless and ridiculously premature prognostication

With my satellite radio temporarily on the fritz, I heard a few minutes of Sean Hannity during drive time yesterday. He was talking with Dick Morris about the Republican field of presidential hopefuls. Morris has already written off McCain and Romney, and predicts the field will winnow down to Rudy and one of the conservative dark horses (who at the moment are very dark indeed.)

But this is Dick Morris, of course, who's nearly always wrong, so I doubt the McCain camp in panicking yet.

Today's introspection

My wife tells me I sometimes vote for political candidates for the wrong reason -- i.e., to piss off liberals. She's probably right.

February 14, 2007

There's no need to fear!

God help me, but I really want to see this movie. I just wish I could take Zora with me.

(Hat tip: The Corner)

Come on, help her out

Amanda Marcotte is now officially looking for work. Specifically...


Seeking challenging, fast-paced thought leadership position in major Western industrial phallocracy. I have experience in a number of positions, including chapters 1-6 of the Kama Sutra, and an established record of speaking angry truth to theocratic power through edgy PostModern Riot Grrrrl punk feminism, which I am happy to disavow at your request.

So, you know, if you know anyone....

A public service from CN

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!

This morning I noted with some amusement that a number of people had found my site by searching on "Emergency Valentine's Day card," or some variant thereof. These searches turned up a helpful post I made a year ago today to help bail out guys who had procrastinated until the last minute. Since people are obviously looking for it, I'll provide a link to my ever-helpful Valentine's Day advice, as a public service.

You're welcome.

Taking blogs too seriously

Since I'm a blogger I can say it: The blogging community is full of self-absorbed, self-important navel-gazers. With all the Sturm und Drang in the blogosphere surrounding John Edwards' aborted experiment with campaign bloggers, you'd think the very edifice of Western civilization were on the verge of crumbling.

For frak's sake, people, it's just blogs we're talking about here! We're a small, insulated community, with an exaggerated sense of our own importance. No one but people like us even knows about this micro-scandal, much less cares.

To try to help put things in perspective, I'm going to enlist the aid of Ms. Megan Hott. (No seriously, that's her name.)

Megan, you see, made the local papers by winning a high school Voice of Democracy contest in Keyser, West Virginia. Congratulations to her and fellow winner Caitlin Dorsey.

Now let's zoom in on Megan's t-shirt, shall we?

Indeed, Megan. Thank you for the reminder.

(Hat tip to my friend Andy)

Shakes, exit stage left

For the sake of completeness, I'll post what you already know -- that Melissa McEwan of Shakespeare's Sister fame has followed Amanda Marcotte's lead by "resigning" from the Edwards campaign.

Shakes is a good person, and I hate it for her. She was ill-served not only by her enemies, which one would expect, but by people who were supposed to be on her side as well. I think we can safely say the whole concept of a "campaign blogger" was a failed experiment -- stillborn, in fact. As the whole fiasco draws to a close, I will content myself with watching Melissa's hit count go up and up, as thousands of people who were introduced to her writing for the first time become hooked like I did.

Shakes, it was a hoot to read about you in the New York Times and the Drudge Report, even under the circumstances. Sorry the new gig didn't work out, but now you can go back to saying exactly what you want to say in exactly the way you want to say it, and with a bigger audience than ever before. I'm confident that good opportunities are in store for you after this, ones that will allow you to be yourself. Keep up the good work.

February 13, 2007

The North Korea deal

Looks like a nuclear disarmament deal has been reached with North Korea, and liberals and multilateralists everywhere are having to walk a fine line. On the one hand, they're eager to proclaim the primacy of "diplomacy" in resolving international crises, but at the same time they have to studiously avoid giving any credit to the Bush administration whatsoever. (My friend DBK has resolved this conundrum by giving all the credit to the Chinese.)

I regard this development as in improvement in the situation, but forgive me if my enthusiasm is tempered. Let me just ask a few questions here.

  • Does anyone believe North Korea won't cheat?
  • Does anyone believe there will be immediate and specific consequences when they do cheat?
  • When is the DPRK is required to dismantle their existing nuclear weapons? (Hint: They're not. Great deal, huh?)
  • Does anyone believe this deal will be more successful than the 1994 Clinton/Carter bribery? (I won't tart it up by pretending it was anything else.)

I hope I'm proved wrong, but it seems pretty clear to me that North Korea has established a pattern through which they can periodically shake us down for free reactors and hundreds of millions of dollars in energy and cash. We give in to this extortion and it's hailed as a victory for "negotiation."

UPDATE: DBK weighs in and says I mischaracterized his remarks on China (see comments below.) I think he's right.

That was brief

Amanda Marcotte "resigned" as blogger for the Edwards campaign before the ink had even dried on her W-4. She's alleging persecution at the hands of the vast, right-wing conspiracy, of course, and in particular a guy named Bill Donohue, who committed the terrible and heinous crime of pointing out Marcotte's own words, which she herself knowingly and willingly published for the world to see. (What can I say? The VRWC ain't what it used to be.)

And why not? Marcotte is understandably reluctant to assign the blame where it belongs -- the Edwards campaign. I've never been a fan of her writing, but as far as I know, she's never tried to present herself as anything she wasn't. All it takes is reading Pandagon casually for 5 minutes to know exactly what kind of blogger Marcotte is. Why didn't Edwards? And if he did know, why was he so daft that he couldn't see what was coming?

His misstep has cost Marcotte her job, but it's going to cost his campaign as well. Even with Marcotte gone, he's already taken whatever hit he's going to take from hiring her in the first place. That's probably survivable, but sacking Marcotte now is almost guaranteed to alienate the nutroots, without which Edwards doesn't have a prayer (he doesn't have much of one even with them on board, but nevermind.) They're the closest thing to a base that Edwards has, and my guess is he'll try to placate them by keeping Melissa McEwan on board.

Melissa will probably stand to benefit from this move, although I'm sure she's not happy about it. Perhaps now she won't be compared to and lumped together with Marcotte every time one or the other in mentioned. To my mind at least, there is a qualitative difference between the two. Meanwhile? It'll be interesting to monitor Edwards' standing in the Kos tracking poll.

24 blogging

Am I the only one who thinks CTU is overreacting to Jack's interrogation of Graeme? I can see how such a thing would be a big deal in the real world, but it seems like pretty weak tea for "Jack F*ckin' Bauer." Doesn't anyone remember the third season where he stormed into the interrogation room, shot the suspect in the chest, and then cut his head off and stuffed it in a bowling bag? And that was without a nuclear bomb having detonated in the city.

February 12, 2007

More on Rudy

Roger L. Simon has more on Rudy:

Hannity & Colmes ran one of those snap polls last night, asking their viewers to choose between Giuliani, Romney and McCain for the Republican presidential nomination via text messaging. Rudy won in a walk (54%) with McCain coming in a disastrous third (14%), faring only slightly better than he is in the Pajamas Media poll. Nina Easton popped up to defend McCain, but I suspect his popularity stems from mainstream media folks like Nina and that his candidacy will implode.

What was more interesting was the panic on Alan Colmes' face at the obvious strength of Giuliani's candidacy. How come those Republicans weren't upset with the mayor's suspect social values, etc.? Colmes knew the truth that Dick Morris, sitting next to him, spoke out loud - the candidate the Democrats fear most is Giuliani. Indeed, in my view, he might clean their clock.

People are finally beginning to wake up to the reality that the conventional wisdom about Rudy and the Right is all wrong. Conservatives can support this man. Many of them (myself included) already do.

I know my friend DBK thinks defeating Rudy will be a cakewalk. I think he's wrong. With the election nearly two years away, this is a completely theoretical debate, of course. But increasingly I find myself hoping that the GOP will give us the chance to see who's right by giving Rudy the nomination. No matter which side you're on, you've got to admit, it would be fun. It would also give us the chance to enjoy the high entertainment of the Democratic whisper campaign against Rudy in the red states: "Psst! You know he used to live with two gay guys, don't you?"

I can't wait. Pass the popcorn.

Rudy's biggest flaw

I've been very supportive of Rudy Giuliani's candidacy ever since people first began talking about it. But nobody's perfect, of course, and this, in my opinion, is Rudy's biggest flaw.

Rudy Giuliani addressed a potentially troublesome issue with conservative voters, saying his policies as mayor to get handguns off the street helped reduce crime in New York.

"I used gun control as mayor," he said at a news conference Saturday during a swing through California. But "I understand the Second Amendment. I understand the right to bear arms."

No, Mr. Mayor, you don't. If you did, you wouldn't have followed those comments with this:

He said what he did as mayor would have no effect on hunting.

God, deliver us from Northeasterners who seem to believe that pheasant hunting was so important to the founders that they enshrined it in the Constitution. I hate that!

Anyway, I still find Rudy to be an attractive package overall -- socially liberal, fiscally conservative, and hawkish on defense. A successful Giuliani candidacy would convincingly destroy the stranglehold the religious right currently holds on the GOP. Reasonable Democrats and Republicans alike should welcome that.

Also from what I've heard, Rudy played very well in California, precisely because he's not Bill Frist or Sam Brownback. Think about it -- a popular Republican candidate who could turn both New York and California into battlegrounds. Mind you, he doesn't even have to win either state, but if he forces the Democrats to spend time, energy and money in two huge, vote-rich states that they're accustomed to taking for granted, it would be disastrous for their chances of winning the White House.


I can't believe I waited two frakkin' weeks for that episode!

(BSG spoilers follow, so stop here if you care.)

I typically enjoy these "self-contained" episodes that exist largely outside the story arc, but I found last night's to be sub-par for several reasons. First, I thought the writing just sucked. Second, I found the whole episode to be a bit too "Star Trek-y," in that some doctor we've never heard of spontaneously appears out of the vacuum, and you just know that he's going to be disposed of by the end of the episode.

I was also bugged at how "Helo-centric" last night's episode was. (Get it? That was a pun. You know, like "heliocentric?" Get it? Anyway....) I know there's a big segment of BSG fans out there for whom Helo is their favorite character, but I'm damned if I know why. To me he comes across as a tiresome, self-righteous, insubordinate prig. He's so humorless I'm convinced you could squeeze him to death in a wine press and not an ounce of fun would ooze out. If there are any Helo fans out there who can explain the guy's appeal, I'd love to hear it. (BTW, I'm not talking about the Helo who posts here. He's pretty cool.)

Meanwhile, at least I've got two hours of 24 tonight to make up for last night's abortion.

Creative euphemism

Normally I think that to euphemize a phrase is to do damage to it, but I have to say, this kind of has a nice ring to it.

A charity production of The Vagina Monologues in Florida has changed its name after a woman complained it was offensive.

Atlantic Theatres in Atlantic Beach changed the title of the play to The Hoohaa Monologues, reports Metro.

It came after a complaint from a woman who had driven past the theatre with her niece who had asked her what a vagina was.

I'm not sure how it really helps this woman's dilemma with her niece, but I kinda like it better that way. Less clinical.

Meanwhile, here's a shoutout to my favorite bartender, Michelle, who's doing The Hoohaa Monologues here in Hoboken on Valentine's Day. Break a leg, Michelle.

February 09, 2007

John Edwards' funny blog

With all the recent controversy of late, I just had to go check out Johnny's blog yesterday. My favorite part was this piece on "The Inadequacy of the Current Minimum Wage." It's pretty much what you'd expect, except for the poll at the bottom of the page. It asks "What do you think the minimum wage ought to be?" You get 8 different choices, from "$15 or more per hour" to "There shouldn't be a minimum wage." The results made me lol.

February 08, 2007


All right, now that they've kept their jobs it's okay to laugh about it. Head over to Iowahawk and read the e-mail trail from Amanda Marcotte to John Edwards.

To: Senator John Edwards
From: Amanda Marcotte
Re: Job Offer

Dear Senator Edwards:

I am fucking delighted to accept your offer of the position of Official Blogger for the Edwards 2008 presidential campaign. Please find attached my fucking W-2 form.

I would like to express my heartfelt thanks for this totally fucking awesome opportunity to help you take America back from fucking BushCo and the other fucktard bible-humping extremists that have turned this once great nation into a goddamn rape factory for their snakehandling Jesus Camp hatebots.

In closing, I am so fucking proud to be a part of this campaign, and fucking gratified to know that I'll be working for someone who fucking understands the importance of reaching out to progressive bloggers like myself. I look forward to contributing in any way I fucking can. You won't be fucking sorry!

Fucking Sincerely,
Amanda Marcotte, "Pandagon"

There's much more.

Edwards and the bloggers

John Edwards' base looks much like Howard Dean's -- reasonably affluent, highly educated urban white liberals. These are people for whom the blogosphere is a powerful, important and dynamic force. John Edwards knows that, and his campaign takes the blogosphere very seriously.

That's why I wasn't surprised to learn that the campaign had hired Melissa McEwan (aka Shakespeare's Sister) and Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon fame into prominent positions.

I've never been a fan or Marcotte's writing, but I've long had a soft spot for Shakes. I don't suppose I'm betraying any confidences by saying that Melissa and I have corresponded cordially for some time now, and I find her to be warm, witty, frighteningly intelligent and intellectually honest. She's patiently tolerant of my insipid comments on her blog, and she has a curiosity and a genuine desire to understand the "other side" that's all too rare among partisan bloggers these days. For all these reasons, she's consistently remained one of my favorite bloggers for quite some time, although I often disagree with her.

As you might expect, I think Shakes is getting a raw deal in the firestorm of controversy that erupted almost immediately after these bloggers were hired. Rumor is that the two have been unceremoniously sacked, almost as quickly as they were brought on board.

You'll probably hear that the two bloggers' fortunes turned against them because they like to say "fuck" a lot, or use terms like "Christofascist wingnut" on their sites. Don't buy it. It may be true, but it's not the reason. As I said, the Edwards campaign takes blogs very seriously, and it's clear that they spend a lot of time canvassing the blogosphere (see, for example, my update to this post.) I'm sure the campaign didn't hire McEwan or Marcotte without a thorough perusal of their sites, and you can't read either one of them for more than two seconds without realizing that vulgarity is their stock in trade. Edwards clearly knew that going into this, and clearly didn't care. That style of rhetoric is more the rule than the exception in the progressive blogosphere, and everyone knows it. That's not reason enough to turbo these nascent careers.

I think the whole scandal started when Marcotte's preposterous defense of Mike Nifong came to light, long after the rest of the sane universe realized that he was an amok, out of control DA, bizarrely obsessed with prosecuting a rape that never happened. Remember, the Edwards campaign is based in North Carolina, where Nifong is currently about as popular as William Tecumseh Sherman.

This was followed by Marcotte's inept airbrushing of said comments from her site, which only made matters worse. She could erase embarrassing posts from her blog, but not from the Google cache. When busted on this score, Marcotte seemed to allege persecution at the hands of the many-tentacled and ubiquitous VRWC. I think at this point, the campaign realized its mistake.

So where's Shakes in all this? An bystander caught in the crossfire, if you ask me. She suffered from having been introduced to the meatspace political world as part of a "package deal" with Marcotte. They're both "irreverent." They're both "provocative". They're both "progressive." See, they're exactly the same! Hired together, fired together.

I don't know how this is going to shake out. Perhaps the lesson is never to trust a slick, blow-dried trial lawyer. Or perhaps it's simply that politics is a dirty, ugly business. Still sucks for Melissa, though. And it's hard not to agree with this guy:

When Edwards hired Marcotte he signed up to a hard hitting unapologetic movement, a movement whose rhetoric is, shall we say, not always appreciated in the mainstream. If he backs off the ethos now, he can kiss their support away forever.


UPDATE: Looks like that last bit won't happen. Edwards spanked the bloggers for their rhetorical excesses but is sticking with them

February 07, 2007

A victory for choice

It was the narrowest of margins, but Utah just approved the country's first universal school voucher program. It's about time.

And I'm cautiously optimistic that my former home state of South Carolina may be next. Mark Sanford, who is not only America's most libertarian governor but perhaps my favorite living politician as well, is going to try to make that happen.

[Sanford] wants to create more choice within the public system by consolidating school districts so students who can't afford to live in a certain zip code aren't forced into the worst public schools -- a system that now consigns thousands of African-American students to failing schools. In his State of the State Address last month, Mr. Sanford branded the current districts a "throwback to the era of segregation." The comment drew hardly a flutter in the legislature, he told us, because "everyone knows it's true."

Indeed. And true to the pattern, South Carolina has proven once again that merely throwing money at the public school system is not the answer.

Despite a 137% increase in education spending over the past two decades and annual per pupil spending that exceeds $10,000, South Carolina schools trail the nation in performance. The state ranks 50th in SAT scores, only half of its students graduate from high school in four years and only 25% of eighth graders read at grade level. The Governor's budget puts it this way: "The more we expose students to public education, the worse they do."
Good luck, Governor. I know some of the people who'll be actively helping you in this fight, and they're damn good folks to have on your side. I'll be watching with keen interest.

With a little luck and hard work, I think we can win this fight the way we won a huge gun rights victory with the "concealed carry" revolution. The first few states were tough wins, but after they'd been shown to be successes, concealed carry quickly and quietly became the law of the land throughout most of the country. Let's do the same with school choice.

Maybe Steve Jobs doesn't suck

I'd always viewed Steve Jobs as a smug, annoying prick, and, well, I guess he is.

Still, I've got to give him props for this.

...Steve Jobs offers straight talk about DRM and why the labels insisted on it, then lays out three possible ways forward: a continuation of today's incompatible DRM situation; Apple licensing Fairplay to other online music stores; and the total "abolition" of digital rights management.

After thoughtfully weighing the pros and cons of each, Jobs concludes that the best course of action is to abandon DRM completely. He then asks for help in convincing record labels to allow Apple to sell music without it, writing, "Perhaps those unhappy with the current situation should redirect their energies towards persuading the music companies to sell their music DRM-free." The essay offers a fair assessment of the situation, in my opinion, although I would be happy to hear what other people think about this in the comments section.

All right, I'm not naive enough to believe that there isn't a competitive angle to his position here, but it's damned refreshing to hear anyone this close to the business side of the music industry to say such a thing. Hell, I might have to buy an Apple after this. (iPhones are still gay though.)

February 05, 2007

"Routine as fingerprinting"

This seems like big news.

The Justice Department is completing rules to allow the collection of DNA from most people arrested or detained by federal authorities, a vast expansion of DNA gathering that will include hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants, by far the largest group affected.
The goal, justice officials said, is to make the practice of DNA sampling as routine as fingerprinting for anyone detained by federal agents, including illegal immigrants. Until now, federal authorities have taken DNA samples only from convicted felons.

Yep, it looks like any routine federal arrest may now include DNA sampling, via collection of a small amount of blood or saliva.

Damn that PATRIOT Act, right?

Guess again. It was passed as part of the Violence Against Women Act (I kid you not), which was passed by unanimous consent to the applause of lefties everywhere, and with the co-sponsorship of almost every Democrat in the Senate. But hell, now that I think about it, every Democrat but Russ Feingold voted for the PATRIOT Act as well. I guess there's no appetite for limiting law enforcement powers anywhere in Washington these days.

Political activism, CN style

This is Fiorello's Roman Cafe, at 1900 Broadway in the city, across from Lincoln Center. Try the tuna fillet; it's spectacular. The pizza is also extraordinary. In fact, feel free to try any (or all!) of the restaurants in the The Fireman Group. You can't go wrong.

I lived for years on Manhattan's west side, and these eateries were fixtures on our "eating out" roster. They were always a safe bet for good, reliable food in a hassle-free environment, where the atmosphere is nice, but you don't have to be Henry Kravitz to get a reservation. We became regulars at more than one restaurant in the group.

Sadly, these establishments are collectively under siege by a malicious shakedown campaign of intimidation and extortion.

It's causing chaos for the city's upper-end eateries -- without apparent benefit to anyone except the folks wreaking the havoc. They say their goal is social justice, but some would say it looks more like a shakedown.

The group's name is ROC, the Restaurant Opportunities Center, and it has targeted top restaurants (Redeye Grill, Daniel, Cité and more) for payments -- allegedly in the name of restaurant workers.

With considerable success -- for ROC and its chieftains, that is. Workers, it seems, haven't benefited much.

How does it work? Ask Shelly Fireman, the patriarch of the Fireman Hospitality Group, which owns Redeye Grill, Shelly's and other eateries. He's been a ROC target for 15 months.

"In November '05, ROC stormed our restaurant, Redeye Grill, in the middle of dinner service, armed with loudspeakers, noisemakers and cameras," Fireman wrote in Restaurant News.

They handed him a letter accusing him of "subjecting our employees to wage and hour violations, sexual abuse, verbal abuse and racial discrimination... The letter demanded we send them $3 million and threatened that if we refused to pay, ROC would launch pickets, media attacks and lawsuits against us."

Fireman contacted ROC immediately -- but the group's chief, Saru Jayaraman, said she had no specific claims. Yet she still demanded to bargain collectively on behalf of all Redeye employees.

He declined -- federal labor law prohibits employers from bargaining with any "representative" who hasn't actually been chosen by his workers.

So ROC launched weekly protests at his restaurants. Then, after the National Labor Relations Board ruled in 2005 that ROC's protests are not legal job actions, Jayaraman agreed to cease and desist -- but instead ramped up the protests.

Regular readers know I'm not much into political activism. I much prefer to bitch and moan about the way things are without actually doing anything about it (it's more fun that way.) But sometimes, every now and then, "doing the right thing" can mean going out to a nice dinner with friends and ordering many, many drinks. This is one of those times. Let's help Shelly Fireman fight these street thugs. I hereby urge all of my readers to go patronize Fiorello's or one its sister restaurants. Go early and go often! I'll be there. Find my table, and I'll buy you a drink! Offer good while supplies last.

Edwards on taxes

It seems that most of my liberal friends are gravitating towards John Edwards these days, for whatever reason. These are reasonable people whom I respect, even when we disagree, so I agreed to give Edwards a fresh look, since I'd been rather hard on him in the past.

It looks like I've seen all I need to see, however. My chances of supported my former senator for president have now dropped from "slim" to precisely zero. Sorry.

Democratic U.S. presidential candidate John Edwards on Sunday said that he would raise taxes, chiefly on the wealthy, to pay for expanded healthcare coverage under a plan costing $90 billion to $120 billion a year to be unveiled on Monday.

Thank you, Johnny! Don't call us, we'll call you. Next!

UPDATE: Heh, my friend Blue recently came to a similar conclusion about Edwards, albeit for a different reason. Check out who paid him a visit in the comments section.

February 01, 2007

Wave of hatred

From the UK:

Attacks on Britain's Jews have risen to the highest level since records began.

A study published today shows the number of reported anti-Semitic incidents has almost tripled in 10 years, with more than half the attacks last year taking place in London.

The findings prompted the report's authors to warn of a "wave of hatred" against Jews.

The number of incidents increased to 594 last year, up by 31 per cent on the previous year.

Violent assaults soared to 112, up by more than a third on 2005.

Gee, I sure am glad that Sacha Baron Cohen left his native UK to come to America disguised as a boorish Kazakh journalist so that he expose the virulent, dangerous anti-Semitism in places like Tucson.