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31 May 2002

Ratings Disaster Averted

NBC must be very pleased that the Lakers pulled out a tough one against Sacramento, to take the Western Conference Finals to Game 7. With New Jersey beating the Celtics, NBC had to be cringing at the thought of a Sacramento/New Jersey Final. It may still happen, and it would probably be some good basketball, but who would watch?

Lakers-Celtics would have been fun for the sake of nostalgia, but I'll take Lakers/Nets.

We'll see.

[Posted at 22:44 CST on 05/31/02] [Link]

Sully Keeps It Going

The Coogs won the first game of their college baseball regional today, with Brad Sullivan turning in yet another strong performance.

Danny Zell should pitch tomorrow, and if the Coogs can win that game, they'll be in pretty nice shape to come out of the regional. Zell's really emerged as a solid #2. Early on this season, that was their most pressing need, and it took a fair amount of the season to figure it out. But he finally did solidify the starting pitching, and the team seems to be peaking about the right time.

I didn't expect UH to be so strong coming into the season, and figured they would probably peak next season. Apparently, Rayner Noble has been a little surprised as well. Maybe they can surprise people all the way to Omaha.

(06-01-2002 Update) Since his only real rough patch this season, Brad Sullivan has given up one earned run in 29 innings of work. Nice.

[Posted at 21:33 CST on 05/31/02] [Link]

Natural Right And History

Political theorist Frances Fukuyama receives a lot of criticism from libertarian bloggers, some of it justified, some of it fairly ignorant. I certainly have some problems with his neo-Hegelian End of History and the Last Man, but those problems aside, it's still a fine work of political philosophy that illustrates Fukuyama's strong grasp of the discipline, not to mention some issues of interest to Straussians.

For Straussians, the question of nature -- and by extension, natural right -- is one of the most important questions of political philosophy. It was a dominant theme of Fukuyama's End of History and the Last Man, and from the reviews I've read, it's a dominant theme in his most recent work.

The question of natural right and history is also a dominant theme of American political thought, and one of the most prolific scholars of Straussian natural right in the American context is Harry Jaffa (and the West Coast Straussians he has turned out over the years, who turn up at places like the Claremont Institute and Ashbrook and the University of Dallas, among others). Jaffa's major intellectual opponent remains John C. Calhoun, who might properly be described as an historicist who rejected natural right (at least as a mature thinker -- there's some evidence he accepted it early on), along with the progeny of Calhoun (many southern agrarian and contemporary southern conservative thinkers).

I'm not going to try to explicate Jaffa's position here (check out this site, which is an oversimplication, and this book), but suffice it to say that Jaffa believes that the Declaration's appeal to "the laws of nature and of nature's god" and the overall political theory of the document suggest that humans, by their very nature, are equally human, and by virtue of that nature, certain rights follow.

If Fukuyama seems preoccupied with the idea of human nature, that's because he is! Because if Fukuyama buys into the Straussian conception of natural right -- and we know he is intimately familiar with the idea even if his earlier work suggests a certain historicism -- then the question of human nature has very important political-philosophical implications.

Reynolds approvingly cites a passage critical of Fukuyama from blogger Brendan O'Neill, but unfortunately neither blogger seems familiar with the political-philosophical tradition they are writing about. O'Neill's is a particularly muddled formulation, because Fukuyama is stressing that human nature is the foundation of natural right -- and hence, political right. To those who have studied the discipline of political philosophy seriously, Fukuyama's position isn't extraordinary or puzzling, yet O'Neill seems critical of it, and intimates that, instead, right is is wholly a human creation. That's an historicist view (not far from Calhoun's view, really, as distinguished from Lincoln's view), and certainly a legitimate view. But THAT is the crux of a long-running and important debate in the discipline -- natural right versus history (or, more properly, historical right). O'Neill is actually stating the opposing positions of the debate, without (apparently) realizing it.

Reynolds concludes,

There are enormous differences now in people's intellectual and physical gifts. That doesn't prevent a polity from giving people equal respect.
No doubt! But that's really kind of beside the point. Neither Fukuyama nor Jaffa would take exception with that statement, I don't think, nor would a theorist inclined to the historicist view. But what is the source of political right? If it's not nature -- but simply convention (whether it's called history or common values or what have you) -- then there are certain implications for politics. That is why this old debate still matters (even if some are just discovering it).

[Posted at 20:53 CST on 05/31/02] [Link]

Enchiladas

I think Houston is probably the best city in the United States to enjoy authentic, artery-clogging, decadent cheese and onion enchiladas. In fact, that may well explain why the city is also the nation's fattest.

My favorite place for enchiladas is Spanish Village, although it's lost some of its appeal since my favorite waiter passed away a while back. SV also has the best margaritas in town, although people who like margaritas that are sugary sweet and weak will disagree.

A close second to SV on enchiladas is old Felix, which is another Houston institution and another funky place. But while I love their enchiladas, I don't much like their chili gravy used to cover the gooey concoction, so I don't get to Felix all that often.

Now, Robb Walsh has convinced me that I need to roadtrip out of America's Greatest Enchilada City to Beyond the Burbs -- Richmond, TX -- for enchiladas that sound top notch. Of course, with the pedigree that Walsh describes for Larry's (instruction from both Felix and Mama Ninfa on enchilada preparation), the place should have excellent enchiladas. They look pretty impressive in the photo accompanying Walsh's review, and he has never led me astray.

So tomorrow, I think a roadtrip to Richmond is in order. And in the meantime, perhaps a trip (or two) to the gym.

[Posted at 20:10 CST on 05/31/02] [Link]

I Win

Like Chris Wenham, I gave up the battle against spam some time ago. Sure, I use filters to an extent, and I block known spammers and known spam ip addresses via my host service's ensim control panel, but all that really does is cut down on the junk.

But earlier this week, I scored a minor victory.

Ya know how most people advise NEVER to respond to spammers? Well, lately I have been responding to spammers. But not with the usual "Stop sending me this sh!t" that most people use. No, instead I've been sending along a one-sentence response: "Send me the money." It doesn't matter what product or pitch the spammer sends me, I take a bit of time to figure out the proper reply email (if there is one), and always send that message. And if they respond, I continue to send that message.

So I've had this ongoing dialogue with one of the Nigeria scam spammers for a couple of weeks now. I will send my one-sentence reply, and the spammer will send a little bit of information. I even got a cool jpg of a box of money out of the deal. And every single response got "Send me the money." After about five repetitions of this, the spammer finally sent the following reply: "Ask your [expletive deleted] mother for money idiot."

I laughed at my victory. And then I replied "Why would I want my mother to send me an idiot? Send me the money."

And for the past couple of days, I've sent my spamming friend a new line: "I'm waiting on the money." But he's probably blocked my email, as I've gotten no further response from him.

I just think it's great that I spammed a spammer to the extent it pissed him off, and with very little effort on my part. I win!

[Posted at 19:55 CST on 05/31/02] [Link]

Kiwi

Yesterday, I was working from home and heard Kiwi making noise. I looked over, and she was asleep, but having a dream. She must have been running in the dream, because her paws were moving and her nails were scratching the hardwoods (which got my attention). It was very funny, because at some point she apparently got where she was going. Her paws stopped moving, and she started wagging her tail ferociously -- still asleep, mind you.

I'd love to know what she was dreaming.

And yes, my sweet dog DOES have me wrapped around her little.... paw? Something like that, anyway.

[Posted at 18:58 CST on 05/31/02] [Link]

30 May 2002

Memories Of The Kwanzaa Crash

How do you get so drunk you take out a brick wall?!
Missing: Brick Privacy Wall

There's something about the Montrose area that brings out weirdness....

At the old place, there was the Kwanzaa Crash.

Tonight, there was another minor crash. There's this drunk who lives across the street (beside the place with the naughty puppy), and we've never seen the guy sober. He is always stumbling along having conversations with himself.

So I heard this thud earlier and looked out, but didn't see anything. Turns out the tree was blocking my view of the house across the street, and the BRICK WALL THAT THE DRUNK HAD RUN INTO WITH HIS CAR AND KNOCKED INTO PIECES. Some time later, we went over and visited with the neighbors and their landlord, who were waiting for the police to arrive. Turns out the Drunk Dude doesn't even live there, but occasionally crashes at his friend or girlfriend's place (this person was conveniently absent tonight). Anyway, we probably won't be seeing much of Drunk Dude in the future. I hope not.

But at least it wasn't Cro-Magnon.

[Posted at 22:01 CST on 05/30/02] [Link]

The Local Alt-Weekly

I read the paper version of this week's Houston Press earlier.

It's one of the best issues they've put out in a while.

If only the local daily could put out stuff half as good twice as frequently, it would be a decent paper.

[Posted at 20:18 CST on 05/30/02] [Link]

29 May 2002

Dale Needs A Valium

I'm sorry, but Dale Robertson seems overly dramatic when writing about the Astros lately, given that it's fiftysomething games into the season and the Astros are trying to adjust to a new manager, a new third baseman (have they even HAD a third baseman this year?), a new left fielder, a new middle-relief corps, and an injured Jeff Bagwell.

I know, I know -- I've been critical here of the Astros thus far, and they are definitely underperforming. But this is also a weblog, where the dramatic sometimes (often?) takes precedence over the sensible.

A sports columnist at a major daily (well, the Chron anyway) ought to be somewhat more reasonable than an opinionated weblog.

Then again, it says something about the quality of sportswriters in this town. I'm afraid we don't have any great ones, or even good ones.

[Posted at 22:49 CST on 05/29/02] [Link]

College Baseball Regionals

College baseball regional playoff lineups were announced on Monday, and I'm still a little miffed. Houston got a well-deserved #1 seed, but the NCAA committee is forcing them to travel to Arizona State for the regional, where ASU will be the #2 seed.

In any other year, Houston would be hosting a regional: they have a top 8 rpi, are a consensus top 10 team in the polls, and have an excellent history of hosting. But this year, the committee decided it wanted to try to cut down travel in light of terrorist threats (surely they haven't been paying attention to Tom Ridge!), and for that reason they declined to put two regionals in Houston (three total in Texas). Since Rice is ranked higher than Houston and has a better head-to-head record, they got the "Houston" regional, and UT gets a regional for much the same reasoning.

It's kind of a raw deal that UH earns a #1 seed and, in a year that the NCAA is trying to cut travel, UH has to travel to friggin' Tempe AZ to play, without any fans.

Overall, though, the selection committee was good to C-USA, which got five teams in the tourney (the same number as an overrated Big 12 conference).

As I expected, Oklahoma State got left out of the 64-team field, and the committee basically said its 22 games against non-conference teams with an RPI ranking lower than 100 worked against them. So Tom Holliday can stop his whining and schedule some real teams next year if he wants to get OSU back on track. That is, if Tom Holliday is still the coach there next year.

[Posted at 22:38 CST on 05/29/02] [Link]

American Girls

Dave emails that he's finally heard "American Girls" by the Counting Crows, and that he likes. I'm so glad that the new album is not far away, and that some of the new stuff is beginning to get some play. They put on a great series of shows last year trying out the stuff, and I caught five of them (two in Texas, three in Reno/Tahoe). I like "American Girls" a lot, but "Richard Manuel Is Dead" just blows me away, along with a few other new ones.

[Posted at 22:30 CST on 05/29/02] [Link]

The ITPs

Okay, I guess I'm going to have to stop making fun of the ITPs at work. Lately, they've been very helpful configuring a personal laptop so that I can access some of my work materials on the fly -- which, in all honesty, they didn't have to do. But then, I've never really had a beef with the ITPs directly I don't suppose. Their manager is a different story. But that's only one of many reasons to have good relations with the IT guys who actually do the work. It cuts the interaction with the head ITP significantly.

[Posted at 22:27 CST on 05/29/02] [Link]

28 May 2002

Float Trip Wrapup

The annual float trip this year was the best yet, and MAN am I still tired.

There are a few photos posted here, but nothing too incriminating.

The whole thing was nearly perfect. Aside from some early morning sprinkles and clouds, the weather was wonderful, and didn't affect the floating at all. The river was slightly above normal, making for excellent floating. All of our people were happy and in a float trip frame of mind. And our food keeps improving, especially compared to the first effort five years ago (when only three of us were there -- this year, we had enough for two rafts).

I really didn't want to come back so soon. And even though I've been scrambling to catch up on the news, I really didn't miss that either (or the net or blogging or savaging or takedowns). Sometimes it's really nice to get away!

But not for too long. :)

More normal posting should resume shortly.

[Posted at 21:29 CST on 05/28/02] [Link]

27 May 2002

Wiped

I've returned from the float trip (not all that far from the bridge/barge accident in Oklahoma, which was thankfully NOT along my route). It was one of the best yet, but I'm much too wiped tonight to write much about it. Must crash soon.

[Posted at 20:50 CST on 05/27/02] [Link]

22 May 2002

Float Trip

My annual float trip is over the holiday weekend, and I'm heading out Thursday to secure a campsite. Orrin Judd will be minding Reductio while I'm away, which is very cool.

I should have fun stories and photos here shortly after I return.

Enjoy the weekend everyone!

[Posted at 22:39 CST on 05/22/02] [Link]

Provisioning

Texas-style camp lounger

I made a trip to the Academy store in the neighborhood to pick up a few items for the camping/canoeing this weekend (I leave tomorrow), and couldn't resist the camp lounger pictured above. It amused me.

[Posted at 16:42 CST on 05/22/02] [Link]

21 May 2002

Claremont Review

It's excellent that the Claremont guys have decided to post major portions of the Claremont Review of Books online. I tend to identify with the Claremonster conception of the American founding, and am pleased to see the recent redesign includes better promotion of CRB. It will no doubt provide fodder for Reductio as well. :)

[Posted at 23:44 CST on 05/21/02] [Link]

24 and Miscellany

I just got back from a 24 watch party with friends.

It was quite a conclusion. I think when the entire series comes out on DVD, I will finally be forced to purchase a DVD player. :) I'd like to watch the thing more carefully -- and I missed the first 3-4 episodes.

Posting will be limited over the next day or so, and then I will be out of pocket for a few days over the long weekend. But I've actually lined up a guest blogger for Reductio this time, which should be fun. I think it's pretty cool, anyway.

And what is a post here lately without the obligatory sports reference? I can't help it -- I'm pleased that Jerry Jones put an exclamation point on what was really a fine offseason makeover of the Dallas Cowboys by releasing Ryan Leaf. He was worth evaluating last season, when cap problems ensured the Cowboys wouldn't be competitive anyway, but he was not impressive, and they have enough raw talent at the position now. I'm ready for some (Texans and Cowboys) football!

[Posted at 22:36 CST on 05/21/02] [Link]

ArcExplorer

ArcExplorer is a free, fun little GIS explorer.

Whenever I play around with ESRI arcview stuff, the student of geopolitics in me just gets all geeked up.

Unfortunately, little things like JOB and other matters took up most of my playtime today (err, I guess technically I should say yesterday). Blar.

[Posted at 00:32 CST on 05/21/02] [Link]

20 May 2002

Rockets

Yao Ming
Soon to be the newest Rocket?

Most sports analysts seem to think it's a good thing the Rockets won the NBA lottery. I'm not so sure.

Rudy Tomjanovich and Carroll Dawson have made about three good personnel moves in the last five years or so: Eddie Griffin, Steve Francis, and Cuttino Mobley. And then there are the moves that haven't panned out: big contracts for Kelvin Cato, Mo Taylor, Glen Rice, Matt Maloney, and high draft picks for players like Serge Zwikker (eh?) and Jacob Collier (wtf?).

There's already talk that they will draft Yao Ming, the Chinese equivalent of Shawn Bradley, and there's even been talk of how this will draw Houston's Asian community to games. That seems like a strange thing to worry about.

Rudy T and CD better get this one right and make it to the playoffs next season, or they will probably both have to be replaced. Their recent track record doesn't inspire much confidence. Personally, I hope they trade the pick for an established player.

[Posted at 23:53 CST on 05/20/02] [Link]

Adam

The Dreaded One
Counting Crows frontman Adam Duritz

Adam Duritz has been bitten by the online journal bug.

It's kind of refreshing, actually, to read someone on the net who doesn't take himself WAY too seriously (or suffer from fascination with wrestling maneuvers, multiple personality disorder, or other afflictions) and has something different and entertaining to say.

I'm ready for the Crows' new cd. Fortunately, our Tahoe trip last year has kept us supplied with bootlegs of the new songs.

[Posted at 23:44 CST on 05/20/02] [Link]

Old

How appropriate that I celebrated my 32nd year by coming home and taking a nap! And I'm going to follow that up with a nice salad. Definitely a sign of advancing age!

[Posted at 18:32 CST on 05/20/02] [Link]

19 May 2002

Mayor Pothole

The Chron continues to be uncharacteristically critical of the mayor it helped to re-elect. I guess they are not convinced by the Mayor's lackey on City Council, Gordon Quan, who offered this nonsense about Mayor Pothole's latest budget:

It's nickel and dime, it's not meat and potatoes," Quan said. "We hate to cut anything, but we're trying to make it as painless as possible."

Quan said that, given public opposition to a major tax increase, increases in city fees are the only way to bring in needed money.

Thanks Gordon. I'm glad you don't think that fee increases are the equivalent of taxation.

Interestingly, the Chron has even run an op-ed today that questions the Greater Houston Partnership. What's gotten into that wacky paper?! You'd think they had turned into an objective news organization or something. But past experience tells us that's probably too much to hope for.

[Posted at 10:54 CST on 05/19/02] [Link]

Galloway And The S Word

Randy Galloway, the best sportswriter in Texas, has some thoughts on Major League Baseball and the S word that was uttered in the past week.

[Posted at 09:09 CST on 05/19/02] [Link]

Decline of OSU Baseball

In the old Big 8 conference, Oklahoma State used to dominate in college baseball every year under Gary Ward. They were a perennial top-25 team that regularly produced major league hitters (Pete Incaviglia and Robin Ventura come to mind) and threatened to go to the College World Series almost every season. They never really rebuilt, they just reloaded. And Gary Ward ran a program that most people respected.

Under Tom Holliday's leadership, the program continues to decline, and this year OSU won only half of its conference schedule. Part of that is no doubt because of the infusion of talented Texas baseball teams in the new Big 12, a far stronger baseball conference than the old Big 8. But Holliday no longer seems to produce those major league mashers that Gary Ward regularly turned out, and their pitching has never been strong. So under Holliday in recent years, OSU has been forced to schedule weak non-conference foes in the hope that a good record and past success will wow the NCAA tourney committee more than RPI.

Their luck in that regard may run out this year. They have the weakest RPI of any Big 12 team that can be said to be in tourney contention, and just lost 2 of 3 to an Oklahoma team that isn't terribly strong. If they don't win the Big 12 Tourney -- and I can't see them beating Texas or Nebraska -- then it's a tossup whether they get in the NCAA tourney. And then Tom Holliday's going to have to answer questions about the program's free fall under his direction.

And frankly, it couldn't happen to more of an a-hole. Holliday is a whiner. A few weeks ago when he made a clerical error and left a star player off his weekend roster, he whined that it was the Nebraska coach's fault (it wasn't). He regularly whines about not understanding why his team's RPI is so low when he loads his non-conference shedule with creampuffs. And he regularly singles out individual players (on his team and otherwise) and whines about them, which really has no business in college sports (in my opinion). And yesterday, after Oklahoma's pitcher shut down his team yet again, he had this to say:

Still, Holliday showed little respect for Greusel (gre-ZEL, not GREW-sel).

“I wasn’t overly impressed at all,” said Holliday, who wasn’t happy with the umpiring. “I’ve seen him throw for three years.

“He just lived on the border. He got a lot of help from behind the plate.”

What an a-hole. The kid didn't beat his team fair and square. Oh no, it would take too much class for Holliday to say that. Instead, the umpire conspired against him.

What a whiny ass. OSU needs a new baseball coach. Holliday is a loser, and he has no class. Whenever I read about the guy, it makes me appreciate what class acts Rayner Noble (UH) and Wayne Graham (Rice) are, and what a nice job they do with Houston's two college baseball powers.

[Posted at 08:59 CST on 05/19/02] [Link]

18 May 2002

C-USA Champs

UH finished off C-USA contender TCU today, sweeping the series to take the C-USA title (their third in four seasons).

In game one, they fell behind only to score the winning runs courtesy of a big home run by Chris Snyder, who's probably the team MVP this season.

Oh, and Jesse Crain pitched the final inning, and maintained his 0.00 ERA for the season. Yep, you read that right -- 0.00 ERA. Not bad for a guy who plays stellar shortshop when he's not pitching and is among the team leaders in hitting.

They cruised to victory in the second game, making it look easy as Rayner Noble rotated pitchers in an effort to save arms.

In all, it couldn't have been a better season finale. And sweeping a solid TCU team can't hurt their RPI headed into the C-USA tournament next week. Indeed, I would think they are now a lock to host a Regional regardless of how the tourney goes. But if they win the tourney, I would think they would be a good bet for a Super Regional also.

[Posted at 20:58 CST on 05/18/02] [Link]

Baseball

I'm off for a UH-TCU baseball doubleheader that should (with Louisville's loss last night) determine the C-USA champion. It's chilly baseball weather (low 70s for a high today), but at least rain isn't in the forecast. I hope everyone's having a good Saturday!

[Posted at 12:04 CST on 05/18/02] [Link]

Claremont Update

I'm informed that when I commented on the recent redesign of the Claremont Institute website, I was actually viewing a pre-production version taken live early for the purpose of a meeting of Claremont bigwigs (isn't that just like bigwigs?! *smile*) -- and most of my stylistic quibbles have been addressed in the current version.

Overall, I like what they've done, especially the prominence of the Declaration (SO appropriate for the institute). And the old archives should all return at some point, which is cool.

So everyone please disregard that earlier post (isn't the web grand -- nearly instant retraction and clarification!).

[Posted at 12:00 CST on 05/18/02] [Link]

Molesto

From the home of Gary Condit comes this little news tidbit.

Sports talkster Jim Rome refers to Modesto as Molesto, in reference to numerous bizarre happenings in such a relatively small place. I think Romey is on to something.

[Posted at 11:19 CST on 05/18/02] [Link]

17 May 2002

Sports Authority

A very impressive graphic (to an illiterate person)

The Harris Country Sports Authority certainly has an impressive website (the best our tax dollars can buy! Because damnit, we're Houston and we're a major league city!).

What is most impressive to me is the graphic on the front page (as above). I just find the misspelling of "infrastructure" wholly appropriate! And I won't even get started on the prioritization of sports "infrustructure" versus other infrastructure (water, sewer, roads, rail) projects in the city.

[Posted at 23:59 CST on 05/17/02] [Link]

Tales Of The Bizarre

This is just strange.

[Posted at 23:49 CST on 05/17/02] [Link]

FT Redesign

Most Americans are not familiar with the Financial Times, which is truly one of the world's great newspapers (and not narrowly a business broadsheet, despite the title). That's too bad, as I've been a devoted reader for about five years now in print and on the web and couldn't do without it. So I was a little nervous when they announced a pending redesign of their website (long needed), and a shift to some subscriber content (ack!).

I'm pleased to see that most of the content is still free (including almost all of the excellent Weekend FT section), and the site is MUCH easier to navigate now. Unfortunately, it seems even slower to load than before, and it's always been a site that creeps along.

[Posted at 23:03 CST on 05/17/02] [Link]

Creamy Jalapeno

I imagine Rod Dreher was just joking about Chuy's (conservatives really aren't very humorous, sadly), but let's hope he was serious, and that he asked for Creamy Jalapeno sauce.

You see, Texas doesn't really consider itself part of red or blue America. Rather, it's the Lone Star State, something separate and distinct that the bicoastal snobs just really don't quite get. Home of Shiner Bock, Creamy Jalapeno, Ice Houses, Joe Ely, and many other wondrous things.

And yeah, Jenna Bush. But you can't blame that idiot on Texas.

[Posted at 22:34 CST on 05/17/02] [Link]

Bitter Mary

Jay Nordlinger has this to say about our old favorite, Mary McGrory:

One more Cuban item: Mary McGrory, longtime columnist for the Washington Post, ended her recent column this way: “George Bush would rather keep Cubans hungry than take any chances for himself and his brother with the folks who thought Elian Gonzalez would be better off dead than red.”

Cubans are hungry because of Fidel Castro’s political-economic system, not because of the American embargo. (It was nice, by the way, that a famous American liberal acknowledged that Cubans are hungry — often the Left doesn’t like to do that.) And it’s not like there’s a world embargo against Cuba. In fact, no other nation besides the United States has an embargo on. Cuba “trades” — but only in quotation marks, because the regime controls everything, not private citizens — with well over 100 countries. But still the people starve — and that’s because of “socialism.”

I’ve said it before, and it’s stupid to say it again, but: It’s positively mind-boggling that a woman such as Mary McGrory could be given a political column in one of the most important newspapers in the world. Yes, that’s our George Bush: going to bed, stuffed with tacos, determined to “keep Cubans hungry.” Absolutely mind-boggling. And they say the web — as represented by NRO, for example — is unpoliced, irresponsible, and outrageous?

Like Nordlinger's, our mind has been similarly boggled about Bitter Mary's regular column for a while now.

Incidentally, Nordlinger's comments in the same column on the peanut farmer are compelling as well.

[Posted at 22:11 CST on 05/17/02] [Link]

Strait Country

With UH baseball cancelled because of the heavy rain today, I'm sitting at home catching up on the news I missed over the last few days for various reasons and listening to *gasp* non-streaming, old-fashioned FM radio. I just discovered one of the local country stations is doing its annual celebration of George Strait's birthday by playing his music all weekend. That's kinda cool, if you're a country music fan.

It's really amazing that the man's still cranking out such good stuff. I remember a time when everyone thought that Garth would totally eclipse the master. For a few years, it might have even been true. But thankfully, the Garth bandwagon derailed at some point.

I don't listen to much traditional country these days -- the best new stuff is in the americana/alt-country/roots-rock movement -- but when I do, George Strait is still Mr. Reliable.

[Posted at 21:27 CST on 05/17/02] [Link]

16 May 2002

C-USA Finale

The Conference USA baseball race is going right down to the wire. Heading into this weekend, four teams have a shot at the title, and those four teams are playing each other. It's hard to ask for a better regular season finale.

Tonight, I watched one of college baseball's most dominant pitchers this season, UH's Brad Sullivan, totally dominate a ranked TCU team (one of the four teams in the race). He pitched a one-hitter effortlessly, striking out nine, and being backed up with some excellent defense (he faced 28 batters despite 1 hit and 3 walks, thanks to double plays) and just enough hitting. It was the most impressive college baseball pitching performance I've seen at Cougar Field. It was good to see him bounce back, after his only rough outing of the season.

The Coogs are basically in control in the C-USA race. If they sweep this weekend, they win the conference. If they win two of three, they win the conference unless Louisville sweeps their series (Louisville beat East Carolina tonight, to remain one-half game behind UH, but I would not expect Louisville to sweep a solid EC team at EC). With one game down, I like their chances to win the conference and head into the tournament as the top seed.

In any case, tonight's game was a real treat: beautiful weather, both teams played well, Sullivan gave us our money's worth and more, and the game took just under two hours (unheard of in college ball).

The rest of the weekend should be fun.

[Posted at 22:04 CST on 05/16/02] [Link]

Key To Astros Success

My friend and MAJOR baseball fan Cathy just returned from a trip to the UK that lasted about two weeks. During that time, the Astros totally went into the tank -- couldn't do anything right.

Now that she's back, they've been playing much better baseball -- solid defense, timely hitting, good relief from Dotel, and Biggio even got on base a bunch in tonight's victory.

So, the key to the Astros being successful is for Cathy NOT to head off for weeks at a time to the UK, right? :)

[Posted at 01:26 CST on 05/16/02] [Link]

Executive Order 12333

Earlier, Den Beste wrote that President Bush had rescinded the infamous Executive Order banning assasination of foreign leaders and heads of state. That would be a provision of Executive Order 12333, put in effect by President Reagan in 1981. I couldn't recall that order being rescinded, which would have been a significant change in American foreign policy (and missing it would have meant I was falling down on my job), and emailed Den Beste earlier, who insisted it was rescinded prior to our entering Afghanistan.

After searching through the National Archives records online (which is really a pretty fine collection), I can find no record of that order being rescinded in President Bush's
Executive Orders
(which would be the mechanism the President would have to use to rescind a prior Executive Order on his own authority).

The Administration has gotten around the order, in the case of Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda associates, simply by treating them as terrorist combatants -- not as heads of state or equivalent (who would be subject to the protection of the anti-assassination provision). And that's all well and good in that case, but will the U.S. similarly restrict itself in the case of Saddam Hussein? That's the question raised by Rich Lowry in this NRO piece, where he also indicates, unfortunately, that the Executive Order in question is still in effect -- and that it should be rescinded. Claremonster Angelo Codevilla, a strategist (not to mention translator of one of the better editions of Machiavelli's Prince) has argued the same, well before 11 September.

In any case, my reaction is mixed. I'm glad I didn't totally miss what would have been an important change in American foreign policy. But then again, I'm disappointed that the Executive Order continues to constrain the conduct of American foreign policy.

[Posted at 01:07 CST on 05/16/02] [Link]

15 May 2002

Olajuwon

I've been so into college baseball and the preseason football machinations that I haven't paid much attention to the NBA playoffs (and of course, the Rockets were much too terrible this year to make the party). But I did note that Toronto was recently knocked out of the first round of the playoffs, and that former Houson Rocket and Houston Cougar Hakeem Olajuwon contributed next to nothing, riding the bench during the fourth quarter.

A fair number of fans here in town blasted the Rockets after they allowed him to go to Toronto last year (although I was not among those). In reality, Dream's best years are well behind him, and he couldn't even get off the bench during crunch time by the end of the season. The Rockets were wise not to overspend on him (although it's a different story with Mo Taylor, Glen Rice, and a whole host of other acquisitions made by Tomjanovich and Dawson, whose jobs will certainly be on the line next season). And Toronto gambled and lost.

[Posted at 19:36 CST on 05/15/02] [Link]

Jimmy

Tyranny is funny!
Laughing It Up With The Murderous Tyrant

Julia Gorin is just saying no to malaise.

I highly recommend the practice. :)

[Posted at 13:54 CST on 05/15/02] [Link]

14 May 2002

Hmm

Tal G. finds one of his ideas was a month (or so) before its time...

An app as he describes shouldn't be all that hard to put together -- it's almost a combination of alexa and blogdex. The question is, would anyone use it?

Hard to say. I wouldn't, but then again, I rarely consult the "A-List" political bloggers for their opinions anyway (their links, of course, are a different story).

In a way, it all reminds me of the literary criticism industry. Literary criticism DWARFS actual literary PRODUCTION these days, and has for some time -- critics writing about critics writing about critics writing (occasionally) about literature. Is the web slowly turning into warbloggers writing about warbloggers writing about warbloggers writing (occasionally) about war (and politics)?

Maybe.

Maybe that also explains why I've been enjoying tinkering with webby things of late, reading a lot, and writing very little on these pages.

[Posted at 20:56 CST on 05/14/02] [Link]

New Host

So, PubliusTX.net is now on our awesome new host.

It's entirely possible that some of the links and such are misbehaving, as this is a large (>25 megabytes, and hundreds of files) personal site that has been maintained in some fashion since 1997. If you find something odd, please drop me an email. I'll try to get any problems fixed ASAP.

Thanks for visiting!

[Posted at 16:26 CST on 05/14/02] [Link]

13 May 2002

Move Along Now

Houston is not Austin.

Not that the proposed ordinance will do much good, since police officers are much too busy directing traffic around Lee Brown's downtown destruction nightmare to enforce criminal or other statutes.

[Posted at 23:24 CST on 05/13/02] [Link]

Webby Rambling

Sorry for those of you who saw an old greymatter screen momentarily a bit earlier.

I was tinkering around with some old GreyMatter files (which used to maintain this journal), and inadvertently hit rebuild, which I intended to do at some point (i.e. AFTER I had changed the name of the index file so it wouldn't overwrite the current journal). Not a big deal, just made things look kind of goofy for a bit.

I did log in to the server shell, and issued a unix top command while the rebuild was taking place -- and MAN, is greymatter a resources hog! At one point, my gm.cgi process was using the MOST cpu power of ANY process. Oops. I can see why some hosts would ban the program. Thankfully, Movable Type is much more efficient.

In any case, all of this is in preparation for the move of this site to the new host, which is much more of a pain in the arse than moving Reductio, since the backbone of this site has been around in some form since 1997 -- enough time for me to go through several redesigns and just make a mess of everything in terms of file structure.

I see now why people just chunk their old content into a new directory and start over when they redesign. I may throw everything old into a subdomain when I redesign this summer and start fresh, because things are REALLY a mess!

So how many of you made it through all of that webby rambling without eyes glazing over?

[Posted at 22:15 CST on 05/13/02] [Link]

12 May 2002

Claremont

Hmm... I just discovered that the Claremont guys have redesigned their site.

I like some of what they've done stylistically (and some of it is terrible), but they've wiped much of the old content. THAT isn't good, even if it's only temporary (put the redesign up when EVERYTHING is ready). What were they thinking?!

[Posted at 22:50 CST on 05/12/02] [Link]

Transfer

Reductio has been moved without incident, and the dns changes have finally filtered through to me. It
should be up for most everyone tomorrow, I would think. The new host is SO much faster -- a real pleasure so far.

Next task: get this site moved, which will be much more effort.

[Posted at 22:47 CST on 05/12/02] [Link]

11 May 2002

The Chron On A Roll

This is an odd piece in the Chron.

First, it's an op-ed by the paper's Austin bureau chief (maybe the awful paper could do more reporting and less editorializing?). And second, it just has some tortured logic as well as missed opportunities.

For the most part, I agree with the thesis (to the extent it has one), which seems to be that Republican PR efforts to woo blacks are a bit silly. But the editorial might have explored the reasons why blacks continue to vote as a bloc for Democrats, actual issues that might break the Dem stronghold (i.e. school choice, and empowerment more broadly), and the potential realignment that would result (sorry blogkids, but the black vote and Hispanic vote probably represent the best chance for a Burnham-style realignment in the near term, not the libertarian fringe).

But no, none of that. Just this kind of tortured prose:

Instead of presenting an edited version of history, Republicans need to look more to the future, when minorities will make up a majority of Texans. Some Republicans are looking ahead, but the party's dominant anti-tax, pro-business, social conservative agenda hasn't caught on with most minority voters, who have historically been boosted by expanded educational opportunities, improved health care and affirmative action opportunities.
But at least nobody was savaged by a takedown or rope-a-dope strategy. In some ways, even bad newspaper writers still occasionally exercise better judgment than other writers.

[Posted at 23:57 CST on 05/11/02] [Link]

Only The Aggies

This sentence from the Chron sort of sums up Texas A&M:

Some of the issues with which the next president of the 44,000-student campus in College Station will grapple are whether to resume the Bonfire tradition that killed 12 people in 1999, how to increase minority enrollment at the 81 percent Anglo school and how to move forward on the stated goal of making A&M one of the nation's top 10 public institutions by 2020.
Ah yes. The institution's next president will have to deal with the pressing issue of burning a bunch of logs (Whoop!).

Oh, and he just may get around to the goal of making it a top 10 institution.

With the mentality that places Aggie Bonfire at the top of the priority list?!

Whatever.

And don't even get me started on the important debate over whether "Real Aggies" can be created online. I'm of the opinion that even a really talented writer of fiction couldn't create a "Real Aggie" from scratch! Who would believe it?!

[Posted at 23:48 CST on 05/11/02] [Link]

East Montrose

East Montrose
My old neighborhood

Just under a year ago, I lived on West Gray between Taft and Montrose in the area described by this article in the Chron, right across the street from Cecil's Pub and just down from Biba's greek pizza.

It's not bad coverage of the neighborhood and issues (I never realized there was a neighborhood email network), and it's nice to see the Chron engaged in some local reporting as it prepares for new leadership.

A couple of aspects of the story are just silly, though. For one, the neighborhood's rejecting a halfway house for sex offenders is HARDLY evidence that the area has lost its tolerance of diversity, as the article implies. That's just silly moral equivalence that I expect from unthinking journalists. And it's too bad the story pushes the tired old central planning/zoning mantra that has been rejected by Houstonians. It's great that lots of people like the open, Bohemian nature of Montrose, but if someone wants a closed-off townhouse that makes her impervious to such problems as the Kwanzaa Crash, that's fine with me also.

Still, it's kind of an interesting read -- though the Houston Press typically does a much better job with these sorts of stories.

[Posted at 23:24 CST on 05/11/02] [Link]

Whiny Bs

This wisdom from the other Whiny B, Jeff Bagwell:

"This is probably a nice lineup to pitch to right now," Jeff Bagwell said of the Astros, who have scored four runs in three games. "That will change, and we'll be fine. It's not like we're playing terrible. We're not hitting right now and we have a five-game losing streak because of it."
Umm... no, Jeff. Actually, it's not just the hitting and your team IS playing terribly. Two errors tonight are about par for the course this season, the middle relief has been like batting practice, Brad Ausmus (Gold Glove last year) can't throw out a runner, and yes -- too many players aren't hitting their weight. In other words, TERRIBLE.

What was it I was saying about the lack of passion from the Whiny Bs?

[Posted at 23:10 CST on 05/11/02] [Link]

Texans and Cowboys at UH

The Cowboys and Texans have finalized their plans for a scrimmage in Houston, and it will take place at UH.

How cool is THAT? Very cool for this Cowboys/Texans/Coogs fan.

Sorry about the (mindless) sports postings lately. I'm working on transferring Reductio over to the new web host this weekend, and there's a bit of a learning curve involved in both the new host and transferring an existing Movable Type site. I may not get this site moved over the weekend because it's been around much longer in different variants, and there are more messes to fix. :) Anyway, my brain's on other things right now, but more regular postings will be resuming soon...

[Posted at 10:28 CST on 05/11/02] [Link]

10 May 2002

More Angstros

More angst from the [L]astros:

"We've all got to be accountable," Astros second baseman Craig Biggio said. "We're not doing the job pretty well right now. We all need to look in the mirror and just forget about what happened the last four days and just start playing better. It's as simple as that.

"We're a better team than we have been showing. That's for sure. That's kind of been the frustrating thing about it. I feel bad for Jimy. He's doing everything he can. We're just not playing good baseball right now."

Umm... thanks, Craig. Now why not trying hitting your weight and getting a little mobility in the field, hmm?

Oh, and stop getting managers fired (Collins, Dierker).

[Posted at 23:12 CST on 05/10/02] [Link]

09 May 2002

Photo

I never did post this item from the Centers for Disease Control.

One of their editors ran across my Tropical Storm Allison photos, and liked one of them enough to use it (with my permission, of course).

That's very cool.

Light posting here and at Reductio today, as I am: 1) really dragging this week, 2) in possession of a new laptop that I'm trying to get completely configured, 3) needing to get some actual WORK done, which may actually require some weekend effort (yeah, I know, blar), and 4) working on configuring the NEW hosting account(s) so I can move everything off the current host, which has become utterly useless during the day. The new host ROCKS, but it's a bit of a pain to move a large site that is MT powered, let alone two of them....

[Posted at 23:37 CST on 05/09/02] [Link]

08 May 2002

The Angstros

Lance Berkman, who has supplanted Jeff Bagwell as the Astros' MVP, just got tossed out of tonight's game after a terrible called third strike.

For way too long, the Astros have been defined by the whiny passive angst of Bagwell and Biggio. Even Berkman is a pretty quiet leader, but it's nice to see a little bit of fire every once in a while from the team. For the most part this season, there's not been much fire at all -- just a team that looks happy to be underachieving.

They're still behind by a run against a terrible Phillies team, though, and showing no signs that they're going to score.

Meanwhile, the Texans' season opens in about 100 days or so, and this city will forget the underachieving baseball team at that point.

(Update) The Angstros tied the game, and had a chance to push the go-ahead run to third with a successful bunt. Unfortunately, the batter couldn't get a good bunt down, and the lead runner was thrown out on the attempt. It is amazing to me that major league hitters cannot bunt successfully.

[Posted at 20:51 CST on 05/08/02] [Link]

Kim Bauer

So, come on you 24 fans, admit it -- you were happy last night when the terrorists slapped that duct tape over Kim Bauer's mouth!

That's the best thing the writers have done in WEEKS! :)

[Posted at 20:40 CST on 05/08/02] [Link]

Server Probs

In an earlier post, I noted the problems at our web host and asked people to email recommendations for web hosts. Please ignore that request. I've signed on to a host I like (a lot! reminds me of the current service before the owner/adminstrator died), and will begin to start migrating things from Reductio and this site over to the new host soon. I probably won't have time to finish everything until next week, though, as there will be a few installations to do (MT, and Ikonboard if I decide to keep a message board), not to mention propagation time for the DNS changes (when I make them).

I had really hoped to switch hosts in conjunction with a new design for PubliusTX, but I just don't have time for that right now. That will have to be a summer project.

But at least improvement is on the way in terms of speed and accessibility.

[Posted at 16:48 CST on 05/08/02] [Link]

07 May 2002

Internet Taxes

The Euros just can't help themselves.

Their welfare states are expensive, you see, and they're going to grab whatever taxes they can.

Along the same lines -- How long before American governors (and probably national Democrats, who can't win any effort to repeal the Bush tax cut, but need revenue for social programs) begin another push for taxation of internet sales?

Not long at all, I would guess.

[Posted at 22:25 CST on 05/07/02] [Link]

Double Whammy

The cable internet pipe seems to be having intermittent problems tonight. Blar.

Worse than that, my hosting service has totally gone to crap with servers that are almost useless during American business hours. I apologize if you're getting slow loads here or at Reductio. Trust me, I'm just as annoyed.

I'm starting to shop around a bit for a new webhost. If anyone has any recommendations, please drop me an email. I would prefer a relatively inexpensive host that will let me point to multiple domains -- say three -- so that I can consolidate my various sites, and I want adequate storage and bandwidth.

[Posted at 21:55 CST on 05/07/02] [Link]

No Silly Bloggery Terms

It's nice to see that, even though those crazy kids at NRO have succumbed to blogging, they have not yet succumbed to takedowns and savaging and other silly favorites of bloggery.

No no, Andrew Stuttaford notes an article, and that Andrew Sullivan "takes it apart."

That's not so hard! And so much easier to read. Atlee is no doubt pleased.

[Posted at 21:48 CST on 05/07/02] [Link]

06 May 2002

HISD

Brilliant.

[Posted at 23:59 CST on 05/06/02] [Link]

Headlines

BBC News Headline:

Chirac Names Moderate As PM

NY Times Headline:

Chirac, Re-Elected, Names Conservative Prime Minister

Bias? Nah....

Incidentally, earlier in the day the headline read "Re-Elected Chirac Names Conservative Prime Minister" (I'm looking at the hardcopy I printed). It's good they corrected the headline to get rid of the problems, eh? Or not.

[Posted at 23:26 CST on 05/06/02] [Link]

Minnesota?

What is it about Minnesota?!

Cheryl (of the two Final Four appearances in Women's Hoops) is about to land there.

And Mary is playing with a band in gopher country.

Don't they know Minnesota is the land of Friggin' Mondale?!

(Update) Cheryl withdrew her candidacy (no doubt based upon the opinions expressed here! *laugh*)

[Posted at 23:20 CST on 05/06/02] [Link]

Blar!

Blar!
Check Out The Blar Cam

The proprietor of Blar is BACK to her journal, with a fresh design.

That's anything BUT blar!

[Posted at 20:36 CST on 05/06/02] [Link]

05 May 2002

E-bay

I've been messing around on e-bay today in the computers section, and it's been kind of interesting. I think most people just assume they're going to get incredible deals on e-bay, but for the most part, I've noticed that isn't really the case any more. I was poking around in the notebooks section, and saw quite a few machines go either above the price available if one searches on the net for reputable mail-order houses, or just under that price. Since most of the machines were used, that was a little surprising.

The only e-bay purchase I've ever made was a much different example. I was hunting for the venerable Pentax K-1000 manual SLR, and turned to e-bay because several years ago Pentax stopped manufacturing the classic. I got a good deal from a reputable hobbyist on a camera he had completely refurbished.

E-bay IS fun to poke around on, though. Especially this weekend, when I was lazy and didn't feel like more "intellectual" endeavors. Sometimes it happens.

[Posted at 23:21 CST on 05/05/02] [Link]

Salvaging A Bad Series

It figures -- the one game of this weekend's college baseball series I skip, UH finally figures out how to play baseball again, avoiding a sweep as the hands of an average South Florida team. This comes after the worst game I've seen UH play in the 6 years I've been following them. It was also good to see Michael Bourn with four stolen bases -- nobody's been able to throw him out all year, but for some reason he wasn't running much this weekend despite getting on base quite a bit.

Texas and Rice are starting to look like locks for an NCAA regional. It's not out of the question that UH, ranked 9 in one poll going into the weekend but sure to drop a few slots now, can still get a third regional for Texas. But they didn't help their RPI (#4 as of last Monday) with these losses, and that will figure into regional awards.

[Posted at 16:42 CST on 05/05/02] [Link]

04 May 2002

Venus

It's just not fair that she kicks my ass all the time *pout*
Pouting Hingis, After Another Venus Stomping

There was a time early in the pro career of Venus Williams when Martina Hingis pretty much had her way in their matches.

No longer.

Venus beat the Pouty One for the sixth time in eight meetings, and it seems to keep getting easier for her.

And for the many of you who inexplicably get sent here via google searches on "Venus Williams nude" -- there still is no content like that here. Sorry.

[Posted at 16:38 CST on 05/04/02] [Link]

03 May 2002

Night At The Ballpark

UH's Brad Sullivan has been one of the most dominating pitchers in college baseball this year, and going into the evening had yet to have less than a stellar outing.

Tonight, he didn't have good stuff at all and got rocked in the first inning.

It's always a little devastating for a good team when their ace gets pounded that way. The Cougars got way behind over the first 3 innings, and didn't manage to rally until the 7th inning, when they got it back to a one-run game. But they couldn't score any more, and a South Florida team that burned through over a half dozen pitchers and only hit the ball really hard a couple of times stole one on the road.

And the umpiring crew was the worst I have seen in a couple of years. They didn't cost either team the game, but they consistently blew calls and were just awful. All of the games I've been to previously this season were well officiated, but not this one.

But now the bad one's out of the way, so the #9 Coogs can just go out and take care of business the rest of the weekend.

* * * *

Meanwhile, the Astros continue to look like a BAD college team.

If this continues, this city is going to turn on Drayton McLane (who declined to spend the money to keep the pitcher that kicked his team's ass tonight) in a big way. And with the debut of the Houston Texans just a few months away, this town isn't really in the mood for the underachieving Astros.

[Posted at 23:19 CST on 05/03/02] [Link]

02 May 2002

Smoke Averse

So much for the Brady Harris show at Rudz tonight. I just went over, and the place was PACKED -- unusually busy for a Thursday night. I'm in no mood for smoke and crowds in small, confined spaces tonight, so no live music tonight.

Blar.

[Posted at 22:02 CST on 05/02/02] [Link]

The Daily Sports Roundup

My friend Dave occasionally forwards me comments from the "Call The Sports Editor" feature of the Tulsa World. Usually, they are silly. Sometimes they go well beyond silly:

ORU also needs change
If people are calling for a change in baseball coaches at OSU, how about ORU? The Golden Eagles will never return to national prominence with Sunny Golloway as head coach. ORU has so-called winning streaks against the bottom feeders of Division I baseball and long losing streaks against decent D-I teams. These are the issues ORU should be addressing.

More and more
We not only need coaching changes in OSU baseball, we need a coaching change in OSU wrestling. John Smith isn't a wrestling coach.

Cowboys going nowhere
I agree 100 percent with the caller who said OSU needs to get a new baseball coach. OSU has struggled for the past several years. The program has continued to be stagnant and Tom Holliday has basically run out of excuses. I don't know how much longer Terry Don Phillips is going to let it last over there, but they need to make a change and try to get that thing turned around because it is going nowhere.

Hmm... Sunny Golloway is well respected among those who know college baseball as running a great baseball program despite being at a school that is not in a competitive conference and competes with two perennial major conference baseball contenders in its own small state! ORU should consider itself very lucky that a major West Coast or Southern program hasn't snatched up Golloway. Several years ago, he brought an ORU team down to Cougar Field to face a UH team ranked in the Top 20, and I was really impressed with how well coached they were.

As OSU wrestling goes.... wow. I've not heard anyone say that about John Smith before. Kind of shocking, if you know much about college wrestling. I don't, and it's still kind of shocking.

As for Tom Holliday.... well, I don't like the guy at a personal level, and I don't like the way he whines around NCAA tourney time about RPIs and such when he loads his schedule with weak opponents. Clearly, the program has not been as successful under him, while it was a powerhouse under Gary Ward. But Gary Ward also competed in the Big Eight, where the only real challenger in college baseball was Oklahoma, and they weren't much of a challenger. The Big 12 is a much tougher baseball conference, with teams that are perennial powerhouses and are better situated geographically than OSU (Texas, Texas A&M, and more recently even Baylor and Texas Tech) for baseball. Throw in the financial commitment made by Nebraska to baseball in recent years, and it's not an easy conference these days. So it may not be fair to blame Holliday for the program's troubles -- it may just be that the competition has gotten much better. Of course, if Holliday scheduled tougher opponents prior to the start of conference play, he might better prepare his team for those tough Texas opponents. I don't like the man personally, but that's my only real critique of his approach to the baseball program, especially since I've never seen one of his teams personally.

[Posted at 21:26 CST on 05/02/02] [Link]

Fukuyama

Francis Fukuyama, one of the more celebrated political theorists of the "Straussian" persuasion, has written a curious essay for the WSJ today. I find it curious not out of agreement or disagreement (frankly, I've not entirely made my mind up on the raging biotech debates), but because it's really a surprising bit of writing from a Straussian.

Straussians, after all, advocate close textual analysis, literally coming to understand an author as the author understood himself (to paraphrase Strauss ). By extension, Straussians presumably would want to understand a given subject as that subject understands itself.

What, then, to make of Fukuyama's (mis)representation of libertarianism? Eugene Volokh and Virginia Postrel separately object to Fukuyama's understanding of libertarianism, and I think their objections are well founded. I've not seen anyone address this line from Fukuyama, however, which is rather odd (and located, interestingly, in the middle of his essay):

Libertarians argue that the freedom to design one's own children genetically--not just to clone them, but to give them more intelligence or better looks--should be seen as no more than a technological extension of the personal autonomy we already enjoy.
Notice that Fukuyama uses the term "personal autonomy" rather than liberty. That's certainly not the phrase that libertarians themselves would use. So why would a Straussian put forth that phrase as the libertarian formulation? Hard to say, but it's highly unusual.

In any case, his attack on libertarianism is not well grounded, and it seems almost intentionally clumsy. But oddly, I don't even think that's the central part of his essay. I'm not sure why he's included it (but I have a guess, and I would say it's a Straussian thing). The more interesting part of his essay has nothing to do with the critique of libertarians (which was answered forcefully, as one might have expected it to be). Rather, it's in the final two paragraphs:

The liberalism of the Founding Fathers was built on natural rights. Political rights were seen as a means of protecting those rights which inhered in us as members of a human species that sought certain common natural ends. Thomas Jefferson, toward the end of his life, observed that political rights should be enjoyed equally because nature had not contrived to have some men born with saddles on their backs and others born "booted and spurred" to ride them.

We are at the beginning of a new phase of history where technology will give us power to create people born booted and spurred, and where animals that are today born with saddles on their backs could be given human characteristics. To say, with the libertarians, that individual freedom should encompass the freedom to redesign those natures on which our very system of rights is based, is not to appeal to anything in the American political tradition. So it is perhaps appropriate that the liberal revolution of the 1980s and '90s, having morphed from classical liberalism to libertarianism, should today have crested and now be on the defensive.

Now, we know that Fukuyama buys into a neo-Hegelian version of the end of history that some contend is a rejection of natural right. But in these final two paragraphs, Fukuyama returns to natural right (sort of), from which emerges political right: because by nature all men are equally men, then it derives that no man should by right rule over another except by his consent (that's not Fukuyama's own formulation, btw -- I've substituted the West Coast Straussian formulation becuase Fukuyama's formulation is not as clear). Some might contend (Fukuyama among them) that bioengineering potentially threatens to change the very nature of man -- and, by extension, the very nature of morality (i.e. natural right). THAT is the argument that concludes this essay. Why Fukuyama didn't carry that argument throughout is a puzzle to me, because it's an interesting and important one. Furthermore, it should raise questions for political theorists about Fukuyama's own interpretations of natural right and history -- especially since the effort to remake human nature has been a project of Moderns at least since Rousseau! But perhaps he saves it for his latest book, Our Posthuman Future.

In any case, this is a far more interesting essay for those more esoteric points than for its exoteric flaws, which many libertarian bloggers rightly jumped all over. That's not to say it's a great essay, because I don't think that. But Fukuyama is not deserving of this overreaction from Reynolds:

Fukuyama is not a serious person. But I suppose that's no reason to ignore him. After all, bloggers do pay attention to Cornel West and Noam Chomsky -- whom Fukuyama, with his intellectual sloppiness and rash pronouncements, is coming to resemble.
Even Fukuyama's weaker efforts don't begin to approach West and Chomsky. Fukuyama remains an interesting and formidable political theorist, even if (as I think) his neo-Hegelianism is misguided. But Fukuyama's books do require a great deal of effort, and are probably of most interest to political theorists (rather than the lay blogger) because of their complexity and assumed knowledge of the discipline.

(Update) Upon further reflection, I wonder if Fukuyama's essay might not have been more interesting if he had made explicit the connection I think is in his mind between pro-biotechnology libertarians and the broader Modern project to remake (or reject) human nature altogether. Another political theorist by training, Peter Lawler, touched on the topic to a degree in this piece from earlier in the week.

(05/03/02 Update) I should have known that Orrin Judd would weigh in sensibly on this one.

[Posted at 21:06 CST on 05/02/02] [Link]

Brady Harris at Rudz

Sean gives me a heads up on Brady Harris at Rudyard's Pub tonight.

For you Houstonians who are fans of alt-country stuff, give it some thought. Rudz is a nice, intimate venue to see up-and-comers, and it looks to be a good show.

[Posted at 06:27 CST on 05/02/02] [Link]

01 May 2002

Mayor Pothole

Yes, Mayor Pothole really IS this big an idiot
Mayor Pothole, Looking Good

My goodness, Chron columnist Rachel Graves is critical of Mayor Pothole:

Four months into Mayor Lee Brown's final term, optimism among his supporters that his bruising near-defeat last year would spur him into being a better mayor has wilted.

Instead, disappointed supporters and jaded critics say Brown, already known for lackluster political and communication skills, has even less sway now than in his first four years as mayor.

The term-limited mayor has largely turned his attention to a heavy schedule of official travel and, some critics say, exacting revenge on those who have crossed him.

"He's out the door," said Bob Stein, a political science professor at Rice University and husband of Marty Stein, Brown's agenda director. After the hard work of the campaign, Stein added, "he's now looking to rest."

When Brown squeaked back into office in December after a nasty runoff against former City Councilman Orlando Sanchez, political observers said the mayor could hardly miss the message from voters. It was clear to many that Houstonians were fed up with streets-turned-construction zones, budget snafus and a mayor who ceded too much authority to his department heads.

"It was a very direct personal statement on his tenure in office," City Councilwoman Annise Parker, an ally of the mayor's, said recently of the election results.

To save his legacy, supporters said, Brown would have to roll up his sleeves and tackle city problems, especially in the beleaguered Public Works and Engineering Department.

Brown, who beat Sanchez with 52 percent of the vote, saw the election as something else entirely -- an attempt by the Republican Party to install a Hispanic conservative as mayor of Houston. He said in an interview last week that there was no backlash against the way he had governed the city for four years.

"My style has been my style forever, and I've had a pretty decent career," Brown said. "My style got me elected three times. I'll keep my style."

The election behind him, Brown is visibly more relaxed as mayor, smiling and cracking frequent jokes.

But more than half a dozen council members, political consultants and other City Hall observers said Brown is increasingly isolated, turning his attention to the parts of being mayor he enjoys, such as international trade missions and speaking to children, instead of taking on tough issues.

"The mayor believes he's done a great job and that 57 percent of the people voted wrong" during the Nov. 6 general election that forced him into a runoff, said one political adviser to the mayor, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "A lot of the mayor's strong supporters hoped that he would loosen up and reach out more after the election. But that doesn't appear to be the case."

No, it does not appear to be the case. It hasn't been the case for four-and-a-half years (Mayor Pothole's tenure).

Chron columnist Thom Marshall is not impressed with the sorry state of public works described in a Tuesday Chron column that we noted here:

Last week some of us got together here and complained about a number of school-zone lights that needed repair. Some had been on the fritz for quite some time, and we wondered why city workers hadn't noticed.

Public Works spokesman Wes Johnson said 47 reports from volunteer school-zone light inspectors were investigated. Of those, 24 needed repairs, a couple were not within the city limits and the remainder were not broken.

"I think it interesting that almost half of those reported were working per the school officials' instructions but not to the general public's expectations," said Johnson.

That is interesting. It also is completely understandable since, as many volunteers pointed out, there are no signs noting the times the 20 mph zone speed limit is in effect.

"When in doubt, please call 311," Johnson said.

Signs would be better.

I think the most interesting thing about the situation is that two dozen school-zone lights would be out of order just a few months after one of Mayor Brown's opponents in the last campaign made an issue of this very problem.

Of course, the mayor is term-limited, so what's he care about busted school-zone lights? He's away on trips much of the time anyway. Out-of-Town Brown.

That 311 number for people to call with complaints could be a good thing to fall back on when a problem gets overlooked, but it should not be the only force driving our municipal maintenance machine. What a plan: Fix problems after citizens call and raise Cain about them.

Such negative commentary from the Chron about the mayor they helped elect!

After all, the Chron endorsed the idiot in the last election.

So maybe the Chron should criticize themselves a bit?

Yeah, right.

[Posted at 21:01 CST on 05/01/02] [Link]

McCraw's Bizarre Accusations

I was more than a little surprised to read these ugly accusations against Astros GM Gerry Hunsicker on the Chron sports page today. Tom McCraw, the former Astros hitting coach has accused the GM of spreading negative stories about him:

"They put some pretty nasty words out about me," he said. "I think Hunsicker blackballed me. The rap was that I had trouble with the bottle, slept in the dugout and was lazy."
The reason this surprised me is that Hunsicker is generally regarded as one of the straight shooters in baseball, an honorable guy who does a really good job with the limitations imposed by a cheap owner. And the more I thought about it, the more I seemed to recall a similar incident a few years ago. So I went poking around the web a bit, and sure enough found this item (note: if the link doesn't work, hit reload a couple of times; it's really finicky for some reason):
Count McCraw among the alienated. He was the hitting coach for the Mets under Dallas Green, the manager Valentine replaced in New York on August 26, 1996. When that season ended, McCraw was fired, whether by Valentine or by then-GM Joe McIlvaine is not clear. But McCraw's problem with Valentine is not that he was fired. It is the word he heard later -- word that Valentine had accused him of drinking during a game.

According to McCraw, some of the Mets' coaches and players had been swapping drinking stories in an off-field bull session. McCraw, who lives in rural Virginia, mentioned that he hooks up with some moonshiners during his offseason there. At the urging of some Mets, he brought some of the moonshine into the clubhouse after a game near the end of the season and poured samples into tiny cups for those wanting a taste. There was never any drinking during a game, McCraw says.

"But he tried to get a writer to write that story," he says. "The writer wouldn't do it. Now, if you say I'm a horse— hitting instructor, that's fine. I respect that, because that's your opinion. But when you say I'm drinking on the job, now you're messing with my livelihood. When you do things like that, I just don't have any respect for you. It's deceitful. And to this day, I don't know why he did it. . . . I just know it's a horse— way to go about life."

The writer to whom McCraw referred asks to remain anonymous, but he confirms that Valentine told him during an off-the-record lunch that McCraw had been drinking on the job. The writer, no longer on the Mets beat, mentioned it to McCraw the following year, after McCraw had been hired by the Astros. He never wrote the story.

"While Valentine didn't tell me to write it, you know how some guys just dump stories in your lap," the writer says. "They wouldn't mind if they were out. You know what I mean? I just mentioned it to Mac the next time I saw him because I cared about him."

Valentine, aware that The Sporting News had spoken with McCraw, would not address the issue further, standing on his current ground rules. But the next afternoon in the Mets' dugout, he says, "Did McCraw tell you that he staged a scene in my office with the writer right outside the door?"

Well, how interesting! This is not the first time McCraw has gone off half-cocked and accused people of spreading rumors that he has a drinking problem in the dugout! And it leads me to believe that he probably does have a drinking problem in the dugout, not to mention some psychological problems. But I'm convinced that Gerry Hunsicker isn't spreading rumors about it; hell, as poorly as the Astros are playing, Hunsicker has much more to worry about.

It might have been nice, of course, if the Chron sportswriter had done his research, and had written about McCraw's past accusations in this regard. But certainly I don't expect such (minor) effort from Houston's Leading (mis)Information Source.

[Posted at 20:32 CST on 05/01/02] [Link]

Take Her Comma Key Away

I've mentioned the IT Manager at work before (the Chief ITP). She sent out a wonderful email a couple of days ago. Here it is in its entirety, unaltered:

I get complaints about the speed of the network and the speed of the internet connections. We looked at this and it seem like people are listening to streaming audio(the radio) on the internet.

Now, we can listen to streaming audio(the radio), or we can use the bandwidth to do our business applications. Lotus Notes mail, move files between offices and general internet access for research.

Now, the first time I read this email, I had the same reaction as my friend Dave (with whom I shared the idiocy): Wow, at one point, bandwidth was a problem, but NOW the ITPs have gone to work, upped the bandwidth, and we can all be resource hogs and do our work WHILE listening to "streaming audio(the radio)."

But then, like Dave, I figured out that she was chiding us.

Personally I, want, to enroll the, woman, in a Remedial Comma Usage, class.

I couldn't make this crap up.

[Posted at 20:00 CST on 05/01/02] [Link]

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