Monday, December 18, 2006

Rethinking Public Education

A clearinghouse post. Some recent critiques of public education from disparate sources:

Of course we need separation of school and state. But might we benefit from a complete overhaul of how we think about education? What if the old model of inculcation, testing, and grading faded away?

What do we have to lose?

Monday, December 11, 2006

"It's not totally free enterprise in the United States."

No shit, huh? You're going to love this story:

In the summer of 2003, shoppers in Southern California began getting a break on the price of milk.

A maverick dairyman named Hein Hettinga started bottling his own milk and selling it for as much as 20 cents a gallon less than the competition, exercising his right to work outside the rigid system that has controlled U.S. milk production for almost 70 years. Soon the effects were rippling through the state, helping to hold down retail prices at supermarkets and warehouse stores.

That was when a coalition of giant milk companies and dairies, along with their congressional allies, decided to crush Hettinga's initiative. For three years, the milk lobby spent millions of dollars on lobbying and campaign contributions and made deals with lawmakers, including incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.).

Last March, Congress passed a law reshaping the Western milk market and essentially ending Hettinga's experiment -- all without a single congressional hearing.

This story epitomizes all that is wrong with the "democracy" racket:

  • Byzantine laws (from the Depression era!) regulating trade in the 21st century global economy? Check!
  • Lobbyists exercising power and influence to protect inefficient cartels from competition? Check!
  • Consumers forced to pay higher prices thanks to unethical machinations in DC? Check!
  • Free market innovations crushed by politics? Check!
I know, big deal, right? It's just one guy and it's only milk. But this is the inevitable result of corporatism - the partnership between the state and big business. These powers profit artificially at everyone else's expense.

Real harm has been inflicted on Hein Hettinga, whose hard work and service to consumers has been punished by the state. Real harm has been done to everyone forced by this parasitic partnership to pay more for milk than what a truly free market would produce.

These state interventions in the marketplace punish resourcefulness, reward greed and corruption, and impoverish society. That's pretty fucking evil, don't you think?

[Link courtesy of reddit]

• 15-farm empire bucks industry [Arizona Daily Star]
• Hein Hettinga/Sarah Farms Official Site []

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Attention Prohibitionists

I touched on this in my previous post but, over the last few days, I've been thinking a lot about the defeat of the marijuana legalization initiatives in Tuesday's elections. I asked prohibitionists what horrors they would expect to ensue should marijuana become legal. But I can't let it go at that. The more I think about these votes, the angrier I get.

There are many issues that pass the "both sides" test with me -- meaning, I can genuinely see and appreciate both sides of the issue. Though I may not agree with the other side's opinion, I can at least respect it. Issues such as abortion and the death penalty are colored in enough shades of gray to at least make the debate worthwhile. But the issue of drug prohibition and all the misery wrought by the War on Drugs? Sorry, don't get it.

Prohibition is a failure in every way imaginable: nonviolent, harmless people imprisoned, individual rights trampled, militarization of law enforcement, resources wasted, and no discernible benefits: hundreds of billions shoveled at the "problem," and yet interdiction efforts have failed to curtail the drug supply. Nor has demand for drugs been curbed despite the rather clever device of portraying Rachel Leigh Cook bashing the holy shit out of a kitchen.

And so I'd really like to know what went through the minds of the 1,313,617 people in Colorado, Nevada, and South Dakota who voted to keep marijuana prohibition alive. I have some serious questions for the prohibitionists:

1. Why do you expect drug prohibition to work out any differently from this nation's failed experiment in alcohol prohibition? What do you see as the material differences?

2. What benefits are realized by continuing to imprison nonviolent drug offenders?

3. What sea change in enforcement strategy do you anticipate that will lead to "success" where previous efforts have failed?

4. What evidence of prohibition's "effectiveness" leads you to believe the policy ought to be continued?

5. If legalization of marijuana ought not be pursued now, then when? How much longer must the War on Drugs go on before victory or defeat can be acknowledged?

6. How many more people must be imprisoned to make prohibition a "success"? How many more billions of dollars poured into enforcement of drug laws?

7. Given that nearly 80 million Americans admit to having tried marijuana, and that society continues to function despite this, why continue the policy? What's the point?

I could probably think of a million more questions since I'll be angry about this for a long time. What a golden opportunity wasted! Voters had the power to change the course of this nation's despicable drug policy, but no. What a disgrace.

Anyway, I'm interested to hear some answers to my questions. I promise to be civil to anyone willing to discuss his/her vote (or contrary position on the issue).

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Yeah, But Democracy Still Sucks

On the one hand, I share some of Lew Rockwell's glee over the voters' stern rebuke of the dictator Bush and his wars. But let's not pretend the election results represent the dawning of a new age of enlightened anti-statism. Have you seen the results of the ballot measures? Economic idiocy prevailed with the overwhelming approval of all six state referendums on raising the minimum wage. Each of the three measures designed to liberalize marijuana prohibition was soundly defeated. Five of the six measures to ban same-sex marriage were passed, as if this issue is a political matter to be decided by a majority of voters, rather than something to be worked out and compromised upon by free people away from state interference. And so on.

So here we have the natural consequences of democracy: when issues are put to a vote of the people, nothing matters but the will of the mob majority -- not economic law, not individual rights, not even common sense. And so marijuana prohibition will continue unabated, despite the horrific results and abject failure of the government's War on Drugs.

[A serious question for the prohibitionists: if drugs were legalized tomorrow, what horrors do you think would ensue that would make prohibition (despite the obvious failure and blowback) seem preferable by comparison? I'm asking in all seriousness.]

So yeah, if the 2006 mid-term elections can be viewed as a referendum on the merits of Republican dominion, I'm pleased that the people seem to have humbled the imperious Bush. But let's not get all mushy about the wonders of democracy or the "wisdom of the people" or some other civics class bullshit. The mob may have tossed out the last group of bums, but rest assured that the assholes who take their place will be no kinder to the prospects for liberty. With elections, the only certainty is that no matter which party prevails, it is the state that wins.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

"Creating the system is the abuse"

Election season always makes me uneasy. It's when the state really gets all up in your business; it's damn near impossible to avoid all the yard signs, obnoxious campaign commercials, and activists/yentas of all stripes reminding us of the importance of voting! It's all a bit of insanity. Think of Election Day as the Super Bowl for statists, only it's Brit Hume on TV yelling at you instead of Chris Berman.

Anyway, the toughest part for me is having to explain that I don't vote for reasons of principle. Most people just don't get it. "If you don't vote you can't complain!" they say. Please. Those of us who abstain from voting are among the few who have every right to protest. For reasons why, see this eloquent and impassioned defense of non-voting in today's must read column from LRC's Butler Shaffer:

We need to remind ourselves of Albert Einstein’s admonition: “we can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Trying to reform the political process makes no more sense than trying to reform the carnivorous appetites of jungle beasts. If it is your desire to put an end to the violent, destructive, corrupt, and dysfunctional nature of government, stop wasting your time by focusing on the current management of the system. Rather than dutifully going to the polls to select from a narrow list of options provided you by political interests that you neither know nor control, you might want to inquire into who is providing the cast of characters – and writing the script – for a performance you are expected not only to attend, but to cheer.

To create a system which, by definition, enjoys a legal monopoly on the use of force, and then allow that system to become the judge of its own authority, is an error of such enormity that one can only wonder why grown men and women would be surprised to discover such powers being “abused.” Creating the system is the abuse. Directing our criticism to members of the present cast while overlooking the backers of the play – who have substitute performers waiting in the wings – exceeds the bounds of innocence. It is like placing a bowlful of candy in front of a number of small children, and expecting the candy not to be touched in your absence.

For further reference, visit the Non-Voting Archive at LRC. And don't forget to not vote on November 7th!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

"What the FUNGUS?!?"

Um, wow. I just...I can't...words don't really do this justice, but this clip is:

a) The most unintentionally hilarious sports-related YouTube clip since the "boom goes the dynamite" guy.

b) Approximately 89% funnier because of the inexplicable "Watch the NFL Network, BITCH!" outburst toward the end, and

c) Funniest when I imagine that this is what Michael Medved does with his weekends.

G-d bless the em-effing internet.

[h/t to Deadspin]

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

"Naked hair brushing, good; naked crouching, bad"

You might recognize that line from the famous Seinfeld episode "The Apology," which introduced the world to the concept of "good" naked and "bad" naked. Unfortunately, there are some wacky people in Texas who still can't grasp the distinction:

Teacher: reprisals began after field trip

FRISCO – A veteran Frisco art teacher says school administrators have retaliated against her because a student reportedly saw a nude sculpture during a field trip to the Dallas Museum of Art.

District officials say they are supporting a principal who reprimanded Sydney McGee over the field trip and other performance issues.

Oh boy. The anti-porn types and morality crusaders have largely succeeded in smearing over the line that existed between "nudity" and "pornography;" in the public's mind, there is little or no difference. The naked human body, far from representing our simplest biological form, has been co-opted and converted exclusively into a sex object. Viewed from this perspective, it makes sense that some idiots get hysterical over something as natural and innocuous as a nude sculpture.

This weird phenomenon is not new. In 2002, John Ashcroft famously covered up the bare breasted sculpture "Spirit of Justice" in the Great Hall of the Department of Justice -- no small irony there. And before that, there was Oklahoma Republican Tom Coburn making an ass of himself by protesting NBC's uncensored broadcast of "Schindler's List," in part because of the full frontal nudity -- a move so asinine that it elicited a rare moment of clarity and reason from Alfonse D'Amato, of all people.

Forget for a moment that we're not even talking about an actual nude human. The kid saw a nude sculpture -- a representation of a nude human. It is disturbing that this would bother anyone, yes, but the greater issue here is the primitive and unhealthy ways in which elements of this culture view nudity.

Roger Ebert famously says that a film should not be judged by its subject matter, but by how it deals with it. Applied here, this sensible view means that the nude human form (as sculpture or otherwise) is not intrinsically sexual -- unless that's the projection and association imposed upon it by the viewer.

Sexuality may imply nudity but the converse is not necessarily true. Context is everything. A naked woman posing suggestively on a bed has sexual connotations; a naked woman straining to open a jar of pickles...not so much. Showing fifth graders the Kama Sutra is inappropriate; showing them Michelangelo's David is not. See the differences?

It should be obvious and yet the distinction is lost on many people. It wouldn't matter so much except that a woman has apparently lost her job because of this shortsightedness. The Philistines are still among us and they are still making headlines.

[thanks to reddit for the link]

Monday, September 18, 2006

Democrats: Yup, Still Pretty Much Rife With Milquetoast-ery

The Democrats don't respect your intelligence and their party "leaders" have no idea how to attract the so-called middle. Don't believe me? Witness this missive from Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) on The Huffington Blog. Same old Democratic bromides and bogeymen. Same dull rhetoric that blunts the senses and smothers the ardor of even the most strident Bush opponents. How can anyone take this guy seriously?

[Forgive me for once again ripping off the FIRE JOE MORGAN motif, but those guys do an amazing job dismantling neanderthal sportswriting, and I don't see anyone doing the same thing in politics. So, into the vacuum come my own mediocre efforts. Sorry. Sometimes that's just what you get.]

The Congress of the United States has reconvened in Washington, D.C., but don't expect Congress to legislate on behalf of the American people.

Since society can pretty much manage itself without you people, that's OK. As an American myself, I believe I speak for all Americans when I say: thanks, but no need to legislate on our behalf. No, seriously, we're good.

The Republican Party will spend the next 30 days trying to make you afraid. It is the Republican midterm election strategy.

Yes, and one that your party did a rather poor job of countervailing in both 2002 and 2004, if you don't mind my saying so.

For the rest of September, until the moment Republican leaders gavel the Congress into adjournment, Republican speakers will rise and implore the American people to be afraid.

Republicans will call it security, and every time they do, just remember they are speaking in code. Republicans really mean insecurity.

During September, Republicans will wield the gavel, but they will not make America safer.

We will not consider, much less pass, legislation to better protect our ports.

Jimmy. Bubelah. Legislation does not make us safer. Since freedom is the natural state of things, legislation is nearly always designed to empower the state. Legislation prescribes the boundaries of licit behavior and the punishments for when those boundaries are transgressed, but it cannot make us safer. Really, most of the time legislation just turns peaceful, consensual activities into crimes. Given the staggering number of people the U.S. incarcerates, it can scarcely be argued that legislation functions as any kind of deterrent.

We know what needs to be done, but Republicans are hard on rhetoric and soft on action.

Republicans are going to use their insecure code word so often that I hope Lou Dobbs, Jon Stewart, and others keep track, and remind people daily of how often Republicans are willing to talk, and how little they are willing to act.

Considering that when Republicans act, people tend to get bombed, spied upon, or tortured, this is all to the good. Seriously, I prefer politicians who are unwilling to act, unless they're repealing something.

After America was attacked on 9/11, the finest military on earth--- the United States Armed Forces---

"We support the troops! We support the troops!"

was sent to Afghanistan to hunt down bin Laden and stop the Taliban. They did a magnificent job until U.S. soldiers were ordered to leave before the job was done. We don't have bin Laden and Afghanistan is looking more like Iraq every hour.

A Republican Administration is responsible for diverting our military, draining our treasury, destroying our credibility, and making America less safe.

This is undoubtedly true, but these words ring hollow since the Democratic playbook offers little in response besides tax increases and "social" spending instead of warfare. Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.

The American people know that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, but the Administration denies the intelligence. Instead, the President mechanically recites his stay the course PR line.

That's because the president is a douchenozzle. We all know this. Look, if you Democrats want to be a viable opposition party, then oppose, G-d dammit. How many prominent Democrats (at least, those that have something to lose) have been steadfast about calling for an immediate end to this pointless war?

The American people know we are off course and adrift in a sea of violence.

Must be the sharks with the frickin' laser beams.

U.S. soldiers are not fighting a war on terror in Iraq. They are targets in a civil war among Iraqis.

When Republicans parade to the rostrum to outdo each other in using their insecurity code word, think of how insecure our soldiers are.

"Does this body armor make me look fat?"

Republicans keep saying things are getting better. That is disproved by their own Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, who ordered another 13,000 U.S. soldiers into Iraq recently. There are now 140,000 U.S. soldiers surrounded by civil war.

After 2,653 American lives lost, and 19,600 wounded Americans, the country deserves Democratic leadership that knows the Republican plan to stay the course is the most insecure plan for our soldiers, this nation, and the Iraqi people.

Yeah, good luck with that. Odds are you'll find bin Laden before this "Democratic leadership" you speak of.

Republicans will spend the next 30 days trying to stay in power, nothing more.

"Our cause is noble! We Democrats won't rest until we've seized power!"

They will say their insecurity code word over and over, but they won't pass the recommendations of the bi-partisan 9/11 commission.

"Bi-partisan," great. Things are seldom worse than when the Stupid Party and the Evil Party agree on something.

Republicans won't bring up immigration legislation intended to make our borders safer.

Legislation does not make us safer. See explanation, supra.

Republicans won't address reforms to make Social Security safer.

How exactly does one make a Ponzi scheme safer, Jim?

Republicans won't bring up legislation to end taxpayer subsidies for Big Oil, or launch a national campaign to end our addiction to oil.

Instead, Republicans will tell you to be afraid unless you pay through the nose at the pump, and Big Oil drills in every pristine environment left on the planet.

Republicans will tell you to be afraid for Social Security unless they give your benefits to Wall Street, so you might have holdings like Enron.

Clever, invoking the Enron bogeyman. No doubt those guys were awful, but care to take some responsibility for the government's role in creating the Enron monster? No?

Republicans will tell you to be afraid unless they can mortgage America's 22nd century, so that today's super rich can just have more.

Delightful. The "super rich" -- another boring, predictable Democratic whipping boy. This sentence tells you all you need to know about modern Democrats and their unwillingness to be dragged into the 21st century. OK, listen: there are a lot of people who made boatloads of money yet still maintained their liberal bona fides. Look at all of fucking Hollywood. Enough bashing of the "super rich." Fomenting class warfare is so very Marxist chic, and so very fucking passe. It does not resonate with anyone; it only reinforces the perception that you people are disconnected from reality. Get over it already.

Republicans had their chance and squandered it, leaving the American people with monstrous debt.

I love this: "WE collected your taxes, WE squandered it on warfare and pork, WE can't be trusted with power...but shit, the debt? That's YOURS." You know how you know this is bullshit? Expect Republicans to use the exact same rhetoric after the Democrats control the purse strings for two years. The parties just recycle and trade the same epithets every election year but nothing changes.

Republicans had their chance and used it to divert America away from the real war on terror.

Terrorism is a tactic. You can't wage war against an abstraction or strategy like "terror." There is no real war on terror, and even if there was, it couldn't be won. Please stop trying to talk tough by appropriating Republican language. Geez, if McDermott is representative of some new Democratic vanguard, these guys are in heaps of trouble.

Republicans are calling this Security September.

Not quite as much fun as "March Madness" or "Black History Month," but maybe it'll grow on us.

Just remember to be afraid....afraid of what else Republicans will do if they remain in power after the November election.

I am. Unfortunately, the Democrats terrify me just as much. There is really only one cause for hope and it has nothing to do with politicians.

[h/t to reddit]

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Another Example of How the State Ruins Everything

Are Some Video Games Gambling?

Although thousands of gamers enjoy an online simulation called Entropia Universe, questions are being raised as to whether the game constitutes "illegal" gambling (especially by "minors"), and if real in-game earnings constitute income for the taxman to steal.

Is there any sphere of human activity left that the state won't tax, regulate, or otherwise throttle?

[h/t to]

Thursday, September 07, 2006

State Servant Lectures, Punishes Teens For Insufficient State Worship

Oh, the judges these days:

Flag burners sentenced - Teens have to apologize, serve two days at VA hospital

It must be pointed out here that these teens are being singled out and punished for choosing American flags to burn, and not for the actual crime of taking and vandalizing property they didn't own. One wonders how these teens would have been treated for burning less political symbols such as mailboxes or trash bins.

In essence, these kids are being punished for their thoughts as much as their deeds, which is pretty fucking ironic given that the judge sought to impart some life-changing civics lesson about American freedom.

Just listen to this idiot:

“It was so disrespectful to all of the men and women who have served our country,” she said. “You should have known. I have no doubt your parents taught you better than this. It shouldn’t have taken this to make you appreciative.”

No, what's disrespectful, if not downright perverse, is teaching teens that freedom is about flags and veterans -- symbols and servants of the state. True freedom means freedom from the state, not because of it.


[h/t to]

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Film Review: "Broken Flowers"

There is a lot going on in Jim Jarmusch's "Broken Flowers": it is, to varying degrees, a mystery story, a character study, a road picture, a comedy, and a drama. The film stars Bill Murray as Don Johnston, a guy who made a fortune in computers and who now seems content to idle away in front of his widescreen TV.

On the same day that Johnston's live-in girlfriend leaves him, a mysterious letter arrives in a pink envelope, unsigned, without a return address or legible postmark. The letter is purportedly from an old flame, who informs him that twenty years back she had had his son and the boy might be looking for his father. Though Don seems surprised by the news, he resolves to do nothing about it. After much sleuthing, planning, and cajoling from his neighbor, Winston, Don is persuaded to try tracking down the boy and his mother first. One wonders whether Don is moved by a desire to find his long-lost son or if he simply has nothing better to do.

And so, after narrowing the list of maternal possibilities down to five women (which is whittled to four after Winston learns one is dead), Don embarks on his journey as "a stalker in a Taurus," as he puts it. The odyssey is like an inside-out version of "Flirting With Disaster," minus the madcap hijinks. Though the scenes with Don's former lovers are sprinkled with hints and clues about the letter writer's identity, the film leaves open several possibilities that I won't ruin here.

It is important to note that no one but Bill Murray could have pulled off the role of Don; as Roger Ebert has noted, Murray is perhaps the only actor who can convey emotional depths with little more than a look in his eye or an almost imperceptible change of expression. Indeed, Jarmusch wrote the part of Johnston with Murray in mind.

Stylistically and thematically, the film is vintage Jarmusch. He doesn't beat the viewer about the face with his style but moves the plot forward with a minimalist approach; quiet fades between scenes and minimal dialogue work just fine here. The characters interact so well with nonverbal cues and awkward silences that the absence of clever dialogue never seems stark or contrived.

Visually, Jarmusch's choices are wise. The film is set in early autumn, which parallels Don's own inevitable slide toward twilight (but not without hope of rebirth thanks to a son). Feminine symbols such as flowers and the color pink are featured prominently and recur throughout the film. Many shots are used to illustrate the banalities of travel; airplanes taking off, Don in the car on a dull stretch of road, Don consulting his map, Don settling in for another night in a seedy and depressing motel, etc. I loved these scenes, not because they were particularly interesting, but because they helped maintain a rhythm and they suggested that the journey was as important as the destination.

Murray and Jarmusch have created an intriguing, enigmatic character in Don Johnston. By most objective measures, he is a success: he cashed out of a thriving business and is popular with women and children, and yet, he seems oddly unfulfilled and melancholy. By the end we are left wondering whether the journey was worthwhile; is Don better or worse off after his encounters? Ah, but perhaps that's looking at things the wrong way: that Don seemed to give a damn is reason enough to be hopeful for him.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Thick As A "Brick"

I want you to check out this list of the "50 Greatest Conservative Rock Songs" from John J. Miller, not for its quality, but as an illustration of how a person's perception gets warped from viewing the world through the purely political prism. My beef here is with the inclusion of #23: Ben Folds’s “Brick.” Miller’s description reads:

Written from the perspective of a man who takes his young girlfriend to an abortion clinic, this song describes the emotional scars of “reproductive freedom” [the snarky quotation marks are duly noted, jerk -- JB]: “Now she’s feeling more alone / Than she ever has before. . . . As weeks went by / It showed that she was not fine.”

Yes, the song exudes a plaintive, regretful vibe. Certainly it is no “I’m Every Woman”-style celebration of abortion. But only a fool would argue that the narrator's (or songwriter's) expression of anguish equals a political statement against abortion. It’s an open question as to whether the couple would be better off being forced instead to have the child, isn’t it? And wouldn't it be wise to make the distinction between struggling with a decision in its aftermath and wishing away the legal right to make it?

Calling “Brick” a conservative anthem against abortion is like suggesting that Jimi Hendrix’s “Hey Joe” is some liberal plea for gun control. Please, just cut that shit out. Each song tells a tale of personal woe and despair, and perhaps they are cautionary in nature, but the subtexts are scarcely political. Which you'd realize if you actually listened to them with appreciation instead of torturously seeking affirmation of your dreary philosophy.

And I doubt most composers would appreciate your co-opting their work and reducing their artistry to cheap slogans and simplistic interpretations.

So my advice to you, John J. Miller, is: listen to the music. And quit politicizing…EVERYTHING.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Bustin' Out of L7

My friend and former cow-orker Wayne recently jumpstarted his new blog. Check it out:

Bustin' Out of L7

Look for a potpourri of pop culture insights and fearless social commentary served up with Wayne's trademark wit and urbanity. Some cool posts are up already so take a look.

Welcome to the blogosphere, Wayne...

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Yeah, But Have These 'Activists' Ever Actually Watched 'Dark Meat Sandwich?'

Moralizing nutjobs seek the state's help to keep you from looking at porn in hotel rooms. And of course, they're getting at least a little love from the feds:

Activists Try to Curtail Hotels' In-Room Porn

NEW YORK -- Pornographic movies now seem nearly as pervasive in America's hotel rooms as tiny shampoo bottles, and the lodging industry shows little concern as conservative activists rev up a protest campaign aimed at triggering a federal crackdown.

"A federal crackdown"? On personal choice? Sounds like the perfect job for the state.

A coalition of 13 conservative groups -- including the Family Research Council and Concerned Women for America -- took out full-page ads in some editions of USA Today earlier this month urging the Justice Department and FBI to investigate whether some of the pay-per-view movies widely available in hotels violate federal and state obscenity laws.

Can't wait to see how the review process works.

The coalition also is trying to draw attention to, a directory of hotels and motels nationwide that pledge to exclude adult offerings from their in-room entertainment service.

Though porn is now cheaply and readily accessible on the Internet, and through many other outlets, the activists chose to target the hotel industry in part because of the well-known brands of corporations that cater to family vacationers as well as business travelers.

"These are places that you take your family -- these are respectable institutions,'' said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. "Anything that brings porn into the mainstream is a concern. It just desensitizes people.''

Too...many...jokes. Must contain...sophomoric...URGES...

Precise statistics on in-room adult entertainment are hard to come by.

[giggling like Beavis]

By some estimates, adult movies are available in roughly 40 percent of the nation's hotels, representing more than 1.5 million rooms. Industry analysts suggest that these adult offerings generate 60 to 80 percent of total in-room entertainment revenue -- several hundred million dollars a year.

The recent newspaper ad mentioned no hotel companies by name because of legal concerns, but it did target the two major suppliers of in-room adult movies _ South Dakota-based LodgeNet and Denver-based OnCommand, a subsidiary of Liberty Media Corp. The ad accused both companies of distributing hardcore pornography to their hotel clients, and it provided a link to a list of X-rated movie titles.

Seriously, if you do nothing else today, please, PLEASE check out the aforementioned list. The irony of religious and moral zealots listing porn titles is funny, but the irony was overwhelmed by the sheer hilarity of the titles themselves: "Dark Meat Sandwich"; "TEN XTREME -- Interracial Facials"; "Quick n' Nasty -- Petite Poundings". Oh, and lest you think I'm making this up: feast your eyes on this list, Caligula.

[By the way, did that list remind anyone else of Randal's infamous "porn tape ordering" scene from the movie "Clerks"? (language NSFW)]

Spokesmen for OnCommand and Liberty Media declined to comment on the ad, and LodgeNet's spokeswoman did not return calls seeking comment. However, top spokespeople for two of the biggest hotel chains, Hilton and Marriott, defended the policies that make adult movies widely available at their affiliated hotels.

Both Kathy Shepard of Hilton and Roger Conner of Marriott said the bulk of their hotels are operated by franchise-holders who make their own decisions about in-room programming. They made clear, however, that their companies consider adult movies to be an acceptable option because they can be ignored or blocked out by guests not wishing to view them.

"Really ultraconservative groups try to target the hotels in their zest to eliminate porn,'' Shepard said. "In their zest to have their personal morals prevail, they're eliminating choice for others.''

Conner said none of the programing offered by Marriott is illegal, and he depicted adult movies as a standard part of today's hotel business.

"In-room movies are a revenue stream,'' he said. "This is a business matter.''

The leader of the campaign against in-room porn is Phil Burress, a self-described former porn addict who heads the Cincinnati-based Citizens for Community Values.

Hey, Phil -- "communities" don't have values, individuals do. And some of those individuals would appreciate your not making value choices for them. Thanks.

[By the way, how does one become a "former porn addict?" Um, don't answer that.]

Burress and his allies have had some success regionally, pressuring about 15 Ohio and Kentucky hotels to stop offering adult movies. But he says a nationwide pressure campaign would be difficult because nearly all the big hotel chains have similar policies -- porn is available at some but not all of their affiliates.

Though unable to cite specific cases, Burress contended that the availability of in-room porn is making hotels more dangerous.

Only if you forget to hang the "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door (ba-dum-bum!)

"As more and more of these (hardcore) titles become available, we're going to have sexual abuse cases coming out of the hotels,'' he said. "Hotels are just as dangerous as environments around strip joints and porn stores.''

Burress said he was "cautiously optimistic'' that Justice Department officials -- whom he and other anti-porn leaders confer with periodically -- would seriously consider investigating hotel-based pornography.

Justice Department spokesman Bryan Sierra said federal authorities are committed to toughening enforcement of obscenity laws, but he declined to comment on specific targets for investigations.

Because that's just what we need...government-approved pornography.

LodgeNet and OnCommand together provide in-room entertainment to more than 1.8 million hotel room in North America -- with customers that include Sheraton, Hilton, Holiday Inn, Ritz-Carlton, Hyatt, Marriott and Ramada.

The standard in-room packages offered by LodgeNet and OnCommand include adult movies, but they have tried to accommodate hotels preferring a no-porn alternative, according to Shannon Sedgwick Davis, executive director of an association of hotels which don't offer adult movies to guests.

One problem, she said, is that the big hotel chains often have negotiated bulk contracts with the video suppliers that include the adult movies and can be expensive to cancel.

Look, people. Boycotts, press releases, ad campaigns, do whatever the fuck you have to do as long as you respect personal choice. I don't care. But if you want to enlist the aid of the federal government to enforce your view of morality, then you need a refresher course on the meaning of personal freedom.

And if that article wasn't chilling enough, check out the group's press release:

Adult hardcore pornography can tragically lead to sex crimes against women and children. Yet prosecutable sex videos are available within a few clicks in millions of U.S. hotel rooms. We are calling on the Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation to immediately investigate the companies that distribute it to determine whether "adult" videos being sold in hotels by OnCommand and LodgeNet violate long-established Federal and State laws regarding distribution of obscene material.

OnCommand, a wholly owned subsidiary of Liberty Media Corp., and LodgeNet distribute the “worst of the worst” in graphic, hardcore pornographic videos. CEOs John Malone of Liberty Media and Scott Petersen of LodgeNet are chief among the nation’s “white collar pornographers.”

A list of the “adult” selections offered by OnCommand and LodgeNet's are available by clicking on the TV at the right. BE FOREWARNED, THE TITLES ARE GRAPHIC.

And hilarious!

“The lists speak for themselves,” CCV President Phil Burress says. “This is not mere nudity. We’re talking about every conceivable form of degrading, distorted sex."

Did this guy just remind anyone else of this scene from "The 40 Year Old Virgin"?

Mooj: Life is about people. It's about connections.
Andy Stitzer: It's all about connections.
Mooj: It's not about cocks, and ass, and tits.
Andy Stitzer: Yeah.
Mooj: And butthole pleasures.
Andy Stitzer: It's not about butthole pleasures at all.
Mooj: It's not about these rusty trombones, and these Dirty Sanchez--
Andy Stitzer: Please stop.
Mooj: And these Cincinnati bowties, and these pussy juice cocktail, and these shit stained balls--
Andy Stitzer: Mooj, just please stop.

"We’re talking about the types of material, which are addictive in nature, which men are lured into viewing in the privacy of their hotel rooms, and which have been responsible for sexual crimes and for the breakdown of countless marriages, families and careers. And we’re talking about a company and its leader who care more about the dollar than about those men, women, children and families."


It is a known fact that registered sex offenders use adult hardcore pornography as a high-octane fuel to direct dangerous sexual behavior toward others, including children. The often-addictive nature of pornography – which many view as a private act – continues to have drastic public consequences.

It is also a known fact that literally millions of normal, healthy people use adult hardcore pornography in ways that have nothing to do with dangerous sexual behavior, especially toward children. What's your point?

For more than 23 years Roger Young investigated obscenity cases as an FBI agent and trained prosecutors in the enforcement of federal obscenity laws. He states that, "in the majority of cases where sexual predators were arrested, pornography was associated with the commission of the crime and/or found to be in the possession of the offender."

Great. Hey, Einstein, let's try a thought experiment by substituting a few words: "in the majority of cases where bank robbers were arrested, getaway vehicles were associated with the commission of the crime and/or found to be in the possession of the offender." See what I'm getting at, or do I have to spell it out for you geniuses?

Reams of additional evidence link the use of adult hardcore pornography to the commission of sex crimes by sexual predators. So why is such a toxic ‘drug’ so readily available in virtually any hotel room in this country? Three words: Money. Money. Money.

You know what else is readily available in hotel rooms? Bibles. You know what they have in common with porn? You have the choice to ignore or peruse each as you see fit.

More importantly, this is really an issue about property rights. You want a porn-free hotel? Buy or build one to compete with the others. Otherwise, STFU. Neither the feds nor some group of yentas have any right to demand a "crackdown" on the choices of free people.

The Campaign for Corporate Responsibility is appealing to law enforcement to investigate these known pornographers.

Hey, before you do that, maybe you should check out this study -- which basically refutes all that bullshit you just said.

[h/t, as usual, to]

Friday, August 25, 2006

A New Pledge

Lately I've been bursting with ideas and half-baked inspiration for blog posts but, alas, I have little more than hastily scrawled notes and befuddling hieroglyphics as evidence. I just feel as though I need to be writing and kvetching every day even though my self-discipline has never been monkish.

But starting tomorrow, Dear Reader, I'm striving to update this thing at least once a day, every day. Bold, you say? Vainglorious foolishness? Boundless hilarity? Perhaps. And if this pledge seems like a promise of quantity over quality, well, that's probably accurate. Let's just see how this foray into chutzpah turns out.

See you tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Hey, Look! More Market Intervention Shenanigans!

Gas station owner says state won't let him lower prices

MONROE, Wis. -- An ethanol-pump owner says he wants to lower his prices but the state won't let him.

Badger Ethanol in Monroe charges around $2.22 for a gallon of E-85, an alcohol-fuel mixture that is 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline, by volume.

Badger's owners wanted to cut the price to $2 but said they had to artificially hike prices after some competitors complained Badger wasn't meeting the state's minimum markup laws.

The markup law is "antiquated" and the governor and Legislature should eliminate it, said Gary Kramer, head of Badger State Ethanol.

Wisconsin Consumer Protection investigators launched a probe into Badger's fuel prices and found E-85 selling for just over $2 a gallon.

What's interesting is that "Wisconsin Consumer Protection" investigators launched the probe based on complaints not from consumers but from Badger's competitors. Only the state could "protect" consumers by forcing them to pay more for a product than what the market would otherwise charge.

Based on a complicated formula, the investigators said the price should have been $1 more. On Tuesday, Gov. Jim Doyle ordered state investigators to do nothing to stop the pricing.

"A complicated formula"? Sweet Lincoln's mullet, who do these guys think they are? We already have a law that governs prices fairly: it's called supply and demand. And it works just fine without the meddling of politicians.

The move came hours after Doyle's Republican opponents ripped the investigation into Badger Ethanol.

Let's review the lessons of this little episode:

The law helps:
*The state, whose power and influence is enhanced by the regulations
*Badger's wasteful and inefficient competitors, who are protected from competition by the state

The law harms:
*Badger, which is barred from profiting on its innovations and competitive advantage
*Consumers, who are legally compelled to pay higher prices for fuel

Keep in mind that this is all done under the auspices of protecting consumers. Consider also that, in a ruefully ironic twist, if Badger were to charge more for its fuel than the state deemed acceptable, it would face charges of gouging.

Don't you feel better knowing that our omniscient and compassionate overlords know precisely how much fuel should cost?

[h/t to]

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Ignorance, Politics Prevail Over Economic Logic in Chicago

Council defies Daley, OKs 'living wage'

Defying Mayor Daley and challenging Wal-Mart and Target to follow through on their threats, a bitterly divided City Council voted Wednesday to require Chicago's big-box retailers to pay employees a "living wage" of at least $10 an hour and $3 in benefits by 2010.

Oh, fuck. Not again. Look, we've been over this already.

No matter how damning or conclusive the evidence against these economic fallacies, moronic decrees such as this one continue to zoom through ignorant legislatures and city councils like shit through a goose. Um, guys? The laws of economics can be neither repealed nor replaced by political will. Please, just stop.

As usual, Lew Rockwell sounds the proper note on this issue:

The debate over minimum wage laws goes to the very core of how we view the relationship between economics and politics. Politicians who enact these laws imagine themselves as central planners magically bringing compassion and high living standards into being with the stroke of a pen. People who support the laws have a flawed view of the market process that sees exploitation behind all exchange relationships. Unions that back them are selfishly using the political process to enrich themselves at others' expense.

Only economic libertarians understand the actual reality: the minimum wage is a violent imposition on the freedom of association that harms all of society in the long run.

Please read the whole thing. I promise it's worth the time.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Another Turd From Gene Wojciechowski

Like with most things, ESPN the Plucky Upstart was way more appealing than ESPN, Corporate Juggernaut. People forget this now but the network used to be something of a maverick; for those of us old enough to have been weaned on four minutes of sports coverage at the end of the 11 PM local news, "SportsCenter" was a revelation: irreverent, spontaneous, fun. Now, the network consists of little more than irritating "talent", lame sentimentality, and "original entertainment."

For the most part, is an outpost for the network's lame corporate mentality: better to traffic in safe, bland, and predictable opinions than to shake up the status quo. Outside of the Sports Guy, few of's columnists challenge conventional wisdom or rock the boat in any way.

Besides the execrable (wretched? insufferable? I struggled to settle on just the right adjective) Skip Bayless, perhaps no writer better personifies this depressing trend than Gene Wojciechowski. If there's a prevailing wisdom on an issue, you can bet ol' Gene has his hands wrapped tightly around the bandwagon reins. Anyway, his latest ode to ennui can be found here. I'm not feeling charitable:

Next year's ESPYS should include a new category: Best Performance By An Outraged Lawyer On Courthouse Steps. I nominate Jeff Borris, a lawyer for Barry Bonds who simply can't understand why federal prosecutors keep picking on his poor little client.

While we're creating new ESPY categories (and nice ESPYs plug, you sly devil), how about Most Nauseating and Unwarranted Moralizing by a Sportswriter. Lots of nominees as usual but I'm pulling for ya, Gene.

"We should be paying tax dollars trying to locate bin Laden," said Borris to the minicams last week. "Isn't he Public Enemy No. 1?" (Memo to Bonds: I don't know what you're paying this guy, but if it's more than a dab of Atomic Balm, a wad of chaw and a handful of sunflower seeds, it's too much).

I could make the same observation about what ESPN is paying you, Gene, but that would And it would seem Borris has a point, since you made no effort to refute the man.

Borris, Bonds and the rest of his legal team are nuts if they think the feds are going away. The Feds are Belushi in "Animal House": "Over? Did you say, 'over?' Nothing is over until WE decide it is!"

Oh my G-d, the feds are so not Belushi in "Animal House." When was the last time you heard a member of the federal government (besides Clinton) say, "My advice to to start drinking heavily"?

Borris can yammer on until his habeas needs a new corpus.


Michael Rains, another Bonds attorney with a penchant for courthouse-step sound bites, can accuse the government all he wants of conducting an investigation that has morphed, he says, into "a persecution." The feds don't care. They're used to hearing indignant defense lawyers talk tough, although the thing about finding bin Laden was probably good for a few laughs.

They found it fucking hilarious, no doubt.

Until Greg Anderson, Bonds' boyhood friend and former personal trainer, agrees to testify before a grand jury, the feds will keep reaching into their legal toolbox for more screws. Martha Stewart, who served time for, among other things, lying to federal investigators, can explain how that works.

I'm not sure which is worse here, Gene: your shaky interpretation of the Martha Stewart case or your contemptible cheerleading for the feds. Dick.

Meanwhile, defense attorneys defend, prosecutors forge ahead, legal experts opine. That's fine. But if you take sandpaper to all the verbal posturing and lawyerese in this case, you're left with a simple question: Why won't Anderson talk?

And unless you're Greg Anderson, Barry Bonds, or one of their attorneys, you're left with a simple answer: we have no fucking idea. We're not privy to the facts. You can speculate that he's covering up for Bonds. I'll speculate that he's been friends with Bonds for most of his life and that his loyalty eclipses whatever threats the feds are making. Maybe he objects to the bullying and demands for answers to questions that the feds have no right asking.

Think about it. Bonds and his attorneys say the San Francisco Giants outfielder has done nothing wrong. Didn't lie to the grand jury. Didn't lie on his taxes. Didn't take performance-enhancing drugs -- at least, not "knowingly."

OK, let's pretend they're telling the truth. Let's pretend Bonds is the victim of a government and media conspiracy, that his head size and home run numbers grew exponentially because he drank gallons of milk and ate lots of Wheaties. Let's pretend he reported all of that memorabilia show cash. Gee, Barry is a swell guy.

Let's pretend you can think critically, Gene. As a sportswriter with a national audience, you could seize the opportunity to open a dialogue about the proper role of government. Ask some probing questions. Be a skeptic of power for once in your life. Here are some sample questions: Shouldn't the concept of self-ownership prevent the state from regulating what people put in their bodies? Baseball can choose to ban PEDs as a condition of employment but why should the use of PEDs/HGH be criminal? And shouldn't Americans be angry about how much we're taxed? Is there no area of commerce, including "show cash," that is beyond the greedy hands of the taxman? You know, stuff like that.

So tell me, then, why won't Anderson talk? If Bonds has done no wrong, what is there for Anderson to protect?

Ah, resorting to the Bush Administration's favored "You have nothing to fear if you've done nothing wrong!" argument for illegal wiretapping. Well played, sir. [claps wearily]

Instead, Anderson, who was convicted in 2005 of laundering money and distributing steroids, won't say a peep. He already has done one two-week stint in prison for refusing to appear in front of a grand jury. And it appears he'll do more time -- much more time -- if he does a Sammy Sosa and forgets how to speak English when a new grand jury convenes.

"They can subpoena him every day for the rest of the year and it doesn't matter," Mark Geragos, Anderson's lawyer, told reporters. "He's not going to talk."

Defiance doesn't go over real big with the U.S. Attorney's office, especially when the feds are convinced Anderson knows who took what performance-enhancing drugs and when they took them. In short, they think the man whose personal training business was named, "Get Big Productions," can explain exactly how Bonds, and others, got so huge.

He probably can but, once again, you fail to ask the critical question here: why is steroid use among ballplayers any of the feds' fucking business? Let's say that the use of Ecstasy among sportswriters was suspected to be rampant -- and given the quality and integrity demonstrated by the profession these days, that's a crazy fucking idea, I know -- but how would you feel about your best friend being subpoenaed and imprisoned for refusing to testify about your suspected use?

There are only so many reasons Anderson keeps pressing the mute button: (A) His grand jury testimony would implicate Bonds and, damn it, he's no snitch; (B) his testimony would be leaked to the media and, damn it, he doesn't want anybody to know he's a snitch; (C) he doesn't want to burn his boyhood friend; or (D) he's holding out for a deal.

I pick D, for Deal.

I pick E, for Refusing to Dignify This Publicity Whoring By Giving These Arrogant Pricks in the Federal Government What They Want.

All deals are the product of leverage. The feds have jail. Anderson has silence. My guess is that at some point the U.S. Attorney's office will offer something in exchange for Anderson's testimony. My other guess is that Anderson will take it. Otherwise, he will spend months … a year … perhaps more than a year, in prison. And for what? To protect Bonds, whose attorney Rains began to distance his client ever so slightly from Anderson a few days ago?

Interesting, since with most state endeavors, jail is all the feds have. The state produces nothing, provides nothing, invents nothing. But it does give us wars, prohibition, taxation, and jail. Good times.

Bonds initially said he thought substances given to him by Anderson in 2003 were flaxseed oil and anti-arthritic balm. But now Rains said Bonds was "suspicious" about whether they were performance enhancers. Expect more revisionist history in the coming months.

The feds can be ruthless, and I don't mean that in a good way, necessarily.

Whew, thank goodness you qualified that with "necessarily." For a second there I was afraid you might take a principled stand.

They don't care whether Anderson does more prison time. They don't care that Bonds has 722 career home runs and is beloved in the Bay Area. This isn't about manners. This is about separating fact from fiction.

This is about reminding people who's boss.

Bonds faces a federal trifecta: perjury, the use of illegal performance-enhancing drugs and tax evasion. If convicted, that means fines, jail time or both. So catching Hank Aaron or reaching the Hall of Fame is the least of his worries. Or should be. Even for the smug Bonds, it would be galactically stupid to underestimate the ferocity of the feds.

"Galactically stupid," good one. And you thought you could sneak that reference from "A Few Good Men" by us, you cheeky monkey.

What's next? For now, we hear the blustery sounds of indignant defense lawyers on courthouse steps. What we don't hear is Anderson. That silence, more than anything, speaks loudest.

Ugh. We also read the blustery prose of indignant sportswriters who lack both intellectual curiosity and a reporter's good old-fashioned nose for bullshit. Bravo, Gene. Bra-vo.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Someone please explain this one to me...

Reds swap Kearns to Nats for Clayton, pitchers

Is Reds GM Wayne Krivsky serious? Doing whippits? Here's the trade:

Reds trade:

Austin Kearns (Age 26, 14.9 VORP in '06)
Felipe Lopez (Age 26, 16.7 VORP in '06)
Ryan Wagner (Age 23, struggling in AAA this year)

Nats trade:

Gary Majewski (Age 26, 13.4 VORP)
Bill Bray (Age 23, 4.4 VORP; 45 Ks/9 BB in 31.2 AAA innings)
Royce Clayton (Age 36, 3.1 VORP)
Brendan Harris (Age 26, 32 major league ABs in 2006)
Daryl Thompson (pitching prospect: 4 GS, 6.2 innings in short season New York-Penn league)

So let's break this down:

The Nats get two everyday players entering their primes and a young reliever with potential.

The Reds get:

1. An utterly fungible middle reliever (Majewski) -- a guy whose component skills barely rise to set-up level, let alone closer in grooming
2. The rotting husk that used to be Royce Clayton
3. An infield prospect (Harris) whose career path is shaping up to be "Tony Graffanino utility" at best
4. A pitching prospect (Thompson) who might never throw a pitch above A-ball level
5. And a former college closer (Bray)

To be fair, Bray's minor league numbers are very good, and he does have a chance to contribute. But this deal is an unmitigated disaster for Cincinnati. You can make all the "Wayne Krivsky couldn't win my fantasy league" jokes you want, but seriously, how dumb do you have to be in order to get swindled by...Jim Bowden?

Somewhere, Cam Bonifay and Allard Baird look at Wayne Krivsky's Reds and nod approvingly...

Reason #1,765 Why I Love this comment thread.

The submitter's headline was: "World's five billionth baby turns nineteen, plans to celebrate with Cuervo Gold, fine Columbian."

Fark's headlines typically contain obscure references, bad puns, and goofy in-jokes, but when these intersect with Steely Dan -- my favoritest recording artists EVAR -- well, it just about made my head explode. Nice to see that so many in the Fark community are funny AND erudite.

/not officially a Farker, only a lurker
//"Szechuan dumplings after the deal has been done"
///Nobody will get this post at all

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

One Year of Madness!

Hardly seems possible but it was one year ago today -- July 5, 2005 -- that I launched this li'l old foray into online obscurity. After (or despite?) 130 posts, 2,137 hits, a template redesign, and more than a few name changes, my love for this goofy hobby endures.

To celebrate, I'm busting out some old favorites from the past year:

Robinson & Schilling: Erase Stats After Failed Drug Tests (8/25/05)

Perdue Works to Stem Price Gouging (9/1/05)

In Defense of the A.J. Burnett Signing (sort of) (12/7/05)

In Defense of "Goldbuggery" (12/15/05)

John Schuerholz Still Doesn't Get "Moneyball" (4/16/06)

[You know it's a lazy summer when even blogs carry reruns.]

Sunday, July 02, 2006

The Unfree Country Chronicles III: "The united states of total paranoia"

As we spend this weekend reflecting on our nation's independence (through the time-honored traditions of cheeseburgers and pyrotechnics), consider the view from the outside:

The united states of total paranoia

I know Britain is full of incompetent water board officials and stabbed Glaswegians but even so I fell on my knees this morning and kissed the ground, because I’ve just spent three weeks trying to work in America.

It’s known as the land of the free and I’m sure it is if you get up in the morning, go to work in a petrol station, eat nothing but double-egg burgers — with cheese — and take your children to little league. But if you step outside the loop, if you try to do something a bit zany, you will find that you’re in a police state.

We begin at Los Angeles airport in front of an immigration official who, like all his colleagues, was selected for having no grace, no manners, no humour, no humanity and the sort of IQ normally found in farmyard animals. He scanned my form and noted there was no street number for the hotel at which I was staying.

“I’m going to need a number,” he said. “Ooh, I’m sorry,” I said, “I’m afraid I don’t have one.”

This didn’t seem to have any effect. “I’m going to need a number,” he said again, and then again, and then again. Each time I shrugged and stammered, terrified that I might be sent to the back of the queue or worse, into the little room with the men in Marigolds. But I simply didn’t have an answer.

“I’m going to need a number,” he said again, giving the distinct impression that he was an autobank, and that this was a conversation he was prepared to endure until one of us died. So with a great deal of bravery I decided to give him one. And the number I chose was 2,649,347.

This, it turned out, was fine. He’d been told by his superiors to get a number. I’d given him a number. His job was done and so, just an hour or so later, I was on the streets of Los Angeles doing a piece to camera.

(h/t to Fark)

Monday, June 12, 2006

When Liberals Attack!

At some point Sunday I slipped into the Twilight Zone. I learned why it's often said that politics and religion should never be discussed in polite company. To wit...

While at my friends Adam’s and Christie's yesterday (for their daughter’s 2nd birthday celebration, no less), I was introduced to their neighbor, “Glenn.” Glenn, a hardcore liberal Democrat, purportedly enjoyed a good political discussion so Adam thought it might be interesting to get us together and let hilarity ensue. You know, toss a couple of cats in a bag and let the fur fly, that sort of thing.

Now, for the most part, I’ve retired from political discussions at parties. For one thing, it’s not really appropriate. For another, I grew weary of being that guy at parties who won’t shut the hell up about Really Important Issues. That’s what this blog is for. So while I will politely discuss any issue at all, especially when prodded by friends who understand my perspectives, I attend parties to hang out and enjoy the company instead of engaging in wild-eyed, spittle-flecked fits of apoplexy. Anyway...

Our discussion started out amiably enough. I joked how Sunday should be a day of rest from the vitriol and Glenn agreed. The topic of Real Time With Bill Maher came up, and I proffered my complaints about the program, the greatest being that I wanted more perspectives represented. Instead of elevating the discourse about issues and ideas, the show often unravels into partisan bickering that’s only slightly funnier than the same crap that’s dished out on Fox News or CNN. My take was that both sides (left and right) were wrong and I wanted to hear somebody, anybody, challenge them. At this Glenn grimaced, gritted his teeth, and asked about my beliefs. Naturally, I described my aversion to the state and its coercion, depredations, and initiations of violence, and how I instead favored the voluntarist, market-based solutions of anarcho-capitalism.

Well, this guy nearly shit his pants.

What I hoped would be a polite and respectful exchange of ideas quickly escalated into a full-scale browbeating. Generously, let’s characterize his reactions to my beliefs as “paroxysms of incredulity.” Bulging eyes, furrowed brow, little vein at the temples twitching. Glenn pretty much wigged his shit: his behavior was boorish, disrespectful, and condescending. And he kept cutting me off! More than once I had to politely say, “Please let me finish.”

It quickly became apparent that a fruitful conversation would prove impossible, partly due to his attitude, but mostly because we had no basis for discussion. There is little sense in arguing normative or philosophical differences. I've arrived at my beliefs through a careful process of introspection and exploration. I even explained to the guy that I’d been where he was: throughout my ideological odyssey I'd flirted with left liberalism, right-wing conservatism, and big-L Libertarianism. Finally I realized that Rothbardian anarcho-capitalism rang most consistently true with my morals and principles. If you think taxation is perfectly legitimate while I feel it's institutionalized theft, well, what's the point in continuing the conversation? We can't even agree on the moral basics here and frankly I'd rather not waste my time. I'm no evangelist. I'm not trying to change anyone's mind.

[Besides, Glenn's beliefs are the ones that have been deemed mainstream and "acceptable" while mine have been marginalized as "crackpot" or "extremist" (even though Glenn's ideas put into practice harm me a hell of a lot more than mine would do to him). Why bother getting worked up over a fringe ideology?]

Anyway, at one point he seemed to calm down and our conversation became temporarily civil. But the cease-fire was fleeting and, despite my efforts to defuse the situation, it wasn't long before Glenn was red-lining again. He challenged me to “name one anarchic society that’s worked,” while I countered by defying him to name one state that would gladly put itself out of business; it’s not like the state likes competition! At this he abruptly stood up, shook my hand with a “nice talking to you,” and stormed out.

Honestly, I don’t get this behavior, AT ALL. Liberals and anarcho-capitalists aren’t natural enemies in the wild. We both hold especially sneering contempt for the neoconservatives whose rumps so prominently occupy the seats of power, so his reluctance to seek common ground was somewhat baffling. And to act like a petulant child instead of engaging me in an honest, open exchange of ideas…well, what’s the point? Never in my life have I felt threatened by someone else’s convictions. Rather, it’s important to be challenged in order to examine your beliefs critically so that you are able to defend (or reassess) them. I’m honestly curious about what other people believe – why they believe the things they do. Isn't learning something the big reason for having a dialogue?

[Don't get me wrong: I do not extrapolate from this experience that most liberals are like this. Most of my friends lean to the left and they are all very bright, fun, and rational people. But that guy's behavior? Rife with douchebaggery.]

So that was the capper to an otherwise phenomenal weekend. If you ever want to debate me about political issues, please confine it to this forum, because after yesterday I am D-U-N done with that bullshit...

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Wild Pitches: 5/24/06

Random baseball stuff I'm pondering...

  • Jeremy Brown to scouts and skeptics: suck it. The "fat catcher" from Oakland's Moneyball draft of 2002, who polarized scouts and statheads and thus became the symbol of their discontent, is tearing up AAA to the tune of .314/.384/.570 in 24 games. I can't wait for this guy to get called up...

  • Jeff Francoeur: swing hard in case you hit it. Much has been made of Francoeur's recent surge but let's not get carried away. With 2 walks on the season, he now boasts a lusty .273 OBP. Do you have any idea how hard it is to bat as often as Francoeur (193 ABs) and draw only 2 walks? Mark Mulder, a starting pitcher who used to toil in the American League, has already walked three times in 21 ABs this season. Hey Jeff, here's an idea: take a fucking pitch once in awhile.

  • Josh Willingham: Ken Phelps All-Star, McKeon's Folly. Finally given the opportunity to prove his worth, rookie Josh Willingham is having a terrific season, posting numbers of .269/.364/.487 in 43 games so far. Yet another example of the predictive power of minor league statistics and component skills analysis.

  • Question of the Day: Is Curt Schilling a Hall of Famer? He's on the cusp of 200 wins, owns two World Championships, and has been a dominant (if not quite elite level) pitcher throughout his career. On the downside, he's never won a Cy Young award or an ERA title, and his lifetime totals are (for now) modest compared to those already enshrined. Still, on the strengths of his peak value, positive showing on most HOF evaluation methods, and the mythology of the bloody sock, I think he gets in.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Happy Birthday, Sweetheart!

Today -- May 9 -- is my lovely wife's birthday! So if you get a chance, please feel free to send thoughts, well wishes, or virtual toasts to: tracy5973 *at* yahoo *dot* com.

Honey, if you're reading: I'm thinking of you and hope you're having a wonderful day. I adore you and wish you a very happy birthday!

Monday, May 01, 2006

Donald Fagen's "Morph the Cat"

For the past month or so I've been listening nonstop to Donald Fagen's new CD, "Morph the Cat." In short, it's amazing.

Written in the wake of 9/11, Fagen's third solo effort completes a trilogy of sorts. And in Fagen's typically sardonic style, the album's mellifluous vibe and comforting melodies mask some seriously dark undercurrents.

Though the album lacks some of the initial hooks of Steely Dan's 2003 "Everything Must Go," or even Fagen's previous solo projects (1982's "The Nightfly" and 1993's "Kamakiriad") it is undeniably Fagen: vaguely humorous allusions and inscrutable lyrics set ironically against a backbeat of jazz, lush harmonies, tight grooves, and unparalleled craftmanship. The themes and arrangements unfold and develop in natural, deliberate rhythms. Donald describes it beautifully:

Musically, Morph The Cat blends jazz, soul and other musical influences - not unlike Brother Ray [Charles] once did - with extended grooves and ever changing textures and a sort of musical ambition rarely heard anymore - think Aja set in current day Manhattan. “I like it when songs develop in some way and four minutes isn’t usually enough time for something to develop musically usually,” says Fagen. “I’m still kind of plugged into the Duke Ellington model - something akin to classical music - where you start with something, you develop it a little bit and stick with it. And when you get a groove going, time flies.”

Personal highlights for me include the title track, "Morph the Cat," along with "H Gang," "Security Joan," and "Mary Shut the Garden Door." Donald displays an uncharacteristically political side in "Mary" as described by the liner notes: "Paranoia blooms when a thuggish cult gains control of the government" (Fagen confesses this song was written right after the Republican convention came to Manhattan). The song features a haunting melodica solo by Fagen and a vivid tableau of jackbooted terror set in the opening verses:

They came in under the radar
When our backs were turned around
In a fleet of Lincoln Town Cars
They rolled into our town
Confounded all six senses
Like an opiate in the brain
Mary shut the garden door
Looks a lot like rain

Mary shut the garden door
Mary shut the garden door

We pounded Rachel's radio
For reports about the bridge
There was nothing on but static
Nothing in the fridge
We lay there listening to the wind
Whistling through the pines
When we heard the engines idling
Saw the headlights through the blinds

This is a beautiful and intensely personal album. Do yourself a favor and check it out.