JOURNAL: Current | Archives

28 February 2002

Leon Hale

I love Romenesko's site. It's one of my favorites. But when I found the discussion of Chron columnist Leon Hale's "big controversy" I groaned. At the risk of offending all the old folks in Houston, I'll just say that why this guy is given the prime space in the metro section of a major daily (okay, not major -- but the Chron has pretensions, you see) is one of Houston's many mysteries (much like Mattress Mac, not to mention his now defunct Bowl). Has anyone bothered to READ the guy lately? He is NOT Mike Royko, and the home-spun meanderings are just a bit much for me. But I try to refrain from commenting on him, because every time I bitch about the column space wasted on his nonsense, Callie always tells me "Quit being mean to Leon. The old folks like him." *sigh*

And that's the Chron's base, I guess -- people too feeble to cancel their subscription (I scam my copy off the web -- as much as I complain, they do cover local news).

[Posted at 23:55 CST on 02/28/02] [Link]

Woody Paige

A couple of weeks ago, I read about the whole Woody Paige incident via Romenesko's site. Paige was probably a little over the top, but he didn't write anything about Salt Lake City that the majority of NBA players wouldn't back up in a heartbeat (every team having to endure at least one roadtrip to play the Jazz each year).

Hell, I emailed the guy and told him if, gawd forbid, Houston somehow manages to win the 2012 summer games and he comes here to cover them, I want to buy him a Shiner Bock. To get him up to speed on the Greater Houston Partnership, potholes, and other charming aspects of the city. He thanked me for my comment. :)

[Posted at 23:41 CST on 02/28/02] [Link]

Irrelevant Chatter

blah blah blah

[Posted at 23:33 CST on 02/28/02] [Link]


So, [bloa]Ted Kennedy keeps a journal. I wonder what it says about that chick he took swimming so many years ago?

[Posted at 23:30 CST on 02/28/02] [Link]

Bye Bye Dan

BoSox fans should be delighted that the new ownership has canned Dan Duquette. He should have been canned a LONG time ago -- as in, before he could fire Jimy Williams. But it worked out well for the Astros.

Now if we could just buy Jimy another consonant.

[Posted at 23:26 CST on 02/28/02] [Link]

27 February 2002

The Connoisseur

More people should be reading Chris Wenham.


[Posted at 21:16 CST on 02/27/02] [Link]

Trudy's Bitching Hats

Proof that our friend Rune is one of the good guys.

It's good to see the band in action again.

[Posted at 21:13 CST on 02/27/02] [Link]

Letters: Richardson Thoughts

David Hamby, NCAA hoops expert, journalist, and one-time Pawhuskan, emails these thoughts in response to my Nolan Richardson entry:

Read with interest your comments on Nolan's recent tirade. I've got mixed emotions about the whole situation, but I'm leaning toward the side that Nolan may be close to slipping a mental gasket. Where in the world did those comments about his "great-great-great grandfather coming over on the ship" come from? I'm sure no reporter asked him about that...

He's always been thorny (and rightfully so in most cases) about the issue of race. However, he's is so far off base when he talks about criticism of his program being race related. It's all performance based. His teams since the national championship in '94 and runner-up in '93 have been lackluster at best, especially during the last three or four years. The Arkansas media (specially those in northwest Arkansas near Fayetteville) fawn all over the Razorback athletic programs, and rarely take off the kid gloves when dealing with them.

I guess he's taken some flack for recruiting a majority of black players. (Which is a stupid thing to give him flack for.) But, his comments about only having white people covering his press conference is off-base. He needs to face reality that talented minority newspaper staffers are quickly snatched up by larger markets. And, from experience, I can tell you that newsrooms in Arkansas are lily white.

I respect the level of excellence Nolan brought to the programs at TU and Arkansas, but I think he may be nearing the end of his shelf life there. It sounds like he needs a break, and I think that sitting at home after an early NIT exit might be the tonic for him. That might also light the fire under him for improvements next year.

[Posted at 21:12 CST on 02/27/02] [Link]

Bloggyverse Navelgazing

I don't know why I haven't linked to Oliver Willis before now, or added him to the portal (lazy?), because I've been reading him for a while. His comments on "Bloggyverse Navelgazing" are well worth reading. And "warblogger myopia" is a great term!

Elsewhere on the site, he writes:

More on warblogger myopia: If you find a link via someone's site - link to the originating site. Not just for the courtesy (which it is) but linking to sources of knowledge helps to expand the ad-hoc network. eg. I visit a site, see a worthy link. The site has given attribution to another site. Chances are I check it out. You've just networked three sources. It's a smart thing to do.
You betcha! It's not hard to do at all, and even though it's not necessary, it's NICE!

So, Willis is way to my left politically. And I can still say he has a great blog, because that's part of "the coolness of blogging" (as some might say). :)

Just nobody tell Peikoff I've "sanctioned" Willis or ARI might take away my Objectivist Secret Decoder Ring.

[Posted at 20:38 CST on 02/27/02] [Link]

Enron And Benevolence

I'm a variant of objectivist (whether that means post or paleo objectivist is open to debate). I'm a capitalist. I believe in free enterprise. I don't believe that need creates moral obligation.

All of that being said, I think this article that has been cited by any number of prominent e-journalists (pro and semi-pro journalists who have blogs get this title from me now) is needlessly mean-spirited. In it, Michael Lewis basically tells Enron employees -- hey, you were a part of fraud, most of you even helped it, so you deserve your lot; shup up and go away!

I agree with Lewis that talk of a government bailout for Enron employees is silly, but that has more to do with my idea of the function (and constitutional duty) of government than the employees of Enron. And, as critics have pointed out well before Lewis, former Enron employees who "lost everything" because they didn't diversify gambled and lost, which is unfortunate but is also what can happen in market trading. No objections to any of that.

But the Enron employees that I've known, aside from being a bit arrogant, were hard-working people just trying to make a living like the rest of us. And many of them honestly believed they were paving a new way, as did much of Houston. I've pitched a product to their now-defunct international E&P group, and those guys seemed a lot sharper than quite a few people in more "established" international E&P firms that I've seen -- at least I thought so at the time, but I guess that was just part of a great fraud also, if Lewis is to be believed?

I'm sorry, but Lewis is off base in suggesting the vast majority of Enron employees should somehow be shamed by society and treated as accomplices in fraud. Most of them are out of jobs, in a tough market, with the stain of Enron on their resumes. That would seem to be enough "punishment" -- especially for those (most, I would argue) who were just trying to make a living and get ahead at one of Houston's hottest firms. Why kick them (as Lewis does) when they're down? Those who committed actual criminal offenses, of course, will get their well-deserved "punishment" in due time.

[Posted at 20:28 CST on 02/27/02] [Link]

26 February 2002

Poor Biggio

We'll never know the roles Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio played in Larry Dierker's departure, but I suspect it was somewhat more than the impression one gets here. I'm not losing much sleep over the fact that Millionaire Biggio's feelings are hurt over the "insinuation." My feelings are hurt that Bagwell and Biggio, great players that they are, can't hit their weights in the playoffs.

[Posted at 23:59 CST on 02/26/02] [Link]

Not Much?

Jonah Goldberg has a great post on NRO's Corner about a black leader on the Civil War's net impact on blacks.

[Posted at 22:33 CST on 02/26/02] [Link]

Chandra Levy Abducted By Aliens?

The American Spectator got pretty speculative and weird at the end of its run as a political mag. It looks like some of that may carry over to the American Prowler e-zine, if this article is any indication.

That's not to say that it's necessarily wrong (I have no way of knowing), but it's certainly way out there.

[Posted at 22:24 CST on 02/26/02] [Link]

Politics, Coalitions, and Rhetoric

Chris Mooney has discovered that sometimes real politics involves unlikely coalitions, and that sometimes, politicians even borrow unlikely rhetoric in their efforts to "win" at politics.

Of course, Quentin Skinner and JGA Pocock beat him to that insight, in a theoretical context, some time ago.

[Posted at 22:16 CST on 02/26/02] [Link]

Imperfect Blogs

I think it's unfortunate when bloggers use precious time and bandwidth to ridicule the grammar/typos (link via Reynolds) of other bloggers. To me, the arguments of pro websites and blogs are fair game, as is the grammar of pro websites (the Chron anyone?). But I see no reason to use this forum to criticize the creative efforts of other bloggers on the basis of grammar and usage -- I would much rather celebrate the best blogs than dwell on the negative, because I tend to value even imperfect acts of creation. And those that don't appeal to me? Nobody makes my browser return to them.

Those of us who post to the web, sans copy editors, are bound to have some mistakes in copy, and some more than others. It's not the end of the world. To me, anyway. If other bloggers disagree, great! Even with typos. :)

[Posted at 22:05 CST on 02/26/02] [Link]


I think "warblogging" has about reached Phase Five.

(link via PhotoDude)

[Posted at 21:46 CST on 02/26/02] [Link]

Preaching To The Converted

The Libertarian Party has unveiled its latest ad campaign. I'm sure the Libertarian Party faithful are very pleased with their cleverness. I'm sympathetic to some of the arguments in the ad, but I wonder just how much appeal it has to people who do not already agree. Too many people who might be open to a defense of liberty and capitalism view Libertarians as a lunatic fringe who are preoccupied with legalizing drugs. That's not an altogether fair view, but it's a common perception -- and this ad reinforces it. That's not exactly the way to pave the way for a "realignment."

(02-28-02 Update): Bill St. Clair disagrees.

[Posted at 21:37 CST on 02/26/02] [Link]

National Hitter Of The Week

I had a really productive week last week personally and professionally -- but not as productive as Jesse Crain's. Nice job.

I didn't really intend these posts to be so sports heavy, but it happens from time to time. But now the sports addiction must give way to my other current addiction: 24.

[Posted at 19:57 CST on 02/26/02] [Link]

Nolan Richardson

Nolan Richardson has been under a lot of fire at the University of Arkansas for a season that is subpar by the standards he has set over his career. Apparently, the media haven't given him a very fair shake -- at least Richardson doesn't think so, and he's usually a straight shooter (not to mention one of about a dozen active coaches who can boast they've won a national championship in NCCA hoops). Yesterday, his frustrations got the best of him and he ranted at the media. He also prominently injected race into the discussion. That's always a dangerous thing to do, but I'm not sure that he was out of line to do so. Arkansas IS a pretty racist state, still, and I've always respected Nolan Richardson for leaving a great situation at Tulsa to go rebuild Arkansas basketball, given the racial difficulties he had to know he would face there. Fayetteville can't have been the easiest place for him.

Richardson is right that his success and conduct as head coach at Arkansas have earned him a subpar season (or several, actually). Indeed, they've earned him the right to a few outbursts like this as well. He's a class act who deserves some respect for the good things he's done.

[Posted at 19:51 CST on 02/26/02] [Link]


Steve Spurrier is a GREAT college football coach. And Danny Wuerffel was an outstanding college quarterback for Spurrier. But in a league that is woefully short of quality quarterbacks, Wuerffel has been a journeyman his entire pro career. His main deficiency is lack of arm strength, a killer in the NFL. But reports say Spurrier is about to make a trade with the hometown Texans for his former college football star. Wuerffel was a good pick for the Texans, because he was a cheap salary-cap addition who is a good "team" guy and could serve as a mentor of sorts to probable first-round pick David Carr (who does have NFL caliber arm strength). But surely Spurrier doesn't have delusions that his former college quarterback is actually going to lead the Redskins anywhere. Why he would trade talent or draft picks for him is hard to figure.

[Posted at 19:33 CST on 02/26/02] [Link]


Count me among those critics who thought Michael Jordan should have left his legend intact, and not come back this season. I can admit I was wrong about that -- Jordan is not the same physically dominant player he was when he left the league, but mentally he still makes everyone on the court better, including that bunch of kindergarteners known as the Washington Wizards.

Unfortunately, his body may have betrayed him. I hope he's not out for long, because he had the Wizards playing well enough to make some noise in the playoffs.

[Posted at 19:21 CST on 02/26/02] [Link]

25 February 2002

UH Breaks Into Rankings

UH has broken into the college baseball rankings with a strong week (3-1) against other Top 25 teams.

Tomorrow, the Coogs get to host another top 5 team, crosstown rival Rice. And a cold blast is set to come through tonight, which will produce game-time temps tomorrow night in the 30s-40s. Not ideal baseball weather.

[Posted at 20:48 CST on 02/25/02] [Link]

Where's The Post's Outrage?

The Washington Post got a "huh" from me a couple of weeks ago for a harsh editorial that criticized President Bush because he had yet to exercise his pardon power. I read the Post daily and I've even searched the archives, but I've yet to see any comment on its editorial page on Jane Swift's refusal to commute the sentence of Gerald Amirault, despite a recommendation from the state's parole board.

Clearly, Swift is playing politics with this one. So where is the Washington Post's outrage over this abdication?

[Posted at 20:06 CST on 02/25/02] [Link]

Podhoretz, Brooks, and Grove

I can't help but contrast the treatments of a recent Norman Podhoretz speech by Lloyd Grove and David Brooks. People who were unable to see Podhoretz -- most of us -- and who might rely upon the Washington Post as a primary source of news got an entirely different impression of that speech than someone who either read the speech online or read the Brooks treatment of it (Brooks disagrees with Podhoretz, but thoughtfully, and unlike Grove, actually deals with Podhoretz's argument). Pre-internet, one would have had to wait perhaps for AEI to send out something on the speech in the mail, or wait for the print version of the Weekly Standard and read Brooks to get a fair analysis of the speech. Now, when writers like Grove write such drivel, they are exposed as the minor minds they are, almost instantly. That's powerful.

[Posted at 19:52 CST on 02/25/02] [Link]

Senator Plagiarist

Was Senator Biden (a definite "borrower" although some would dispute whether it was plagiarism) trying to be funny with this paragraph, which opens his LA Times op-ed today:

To borrow a phrase, a mind is a terrible thing to steal. But that is precisely what criminals do when they pirate the products of American innovators and artists. When they reproduce the work of musicians, actors, writers and directors, they not only steal thousands of U.S. jobs and billions of dollars in profits, they steal the product of American imagination and creativity.

[Posted at 19:40 CST on 02/25/02] [Link]

The Power Of Blog (IV)

Richard Bennett has some interesting thoughts on weblogs and journalism (interesting at least to those of us who have been playing around in this medium for a while). One of those thoughts is that what is remarkable about the web is not that some journalists and others who write regularly (or semi-regularly) for the public prints find it to be useful and have even parlayed it into more regular writings gigs (a la FoxNews), but that for every one of those journalists, a hundred or more "experts" on any topic are writing about it on their blogs. I might put that number even higher -- there really don't seem to be that many journalists with blogs, which is why so many print journalists are writing articles expressing fascination with the phenomenon. It's great that a handful of people have secured regular gigs on FoxNews, but it's even better that I can turn to Den Beste for all sorts of fascinating thoughts on society and technology, or Hofer on finance and economics (and liberty), or Johnson on Arab-Israeli affairs (an area of interest for me also, but not so much so that I can't learn from others!), etc. And yes, to any number of people who will engage in fact checking of mainstream journalists. I just have to find the blogs. Granted, there's no check on quality in the form of editors or publishers -- ultimately, that comes from the integrity and reputation of the bloggers themselves. That it's very much a marketplace of ideas -- and that reputation is one selling point of various producers -- is one beauty of this medium.

The power of blog.

[Posted at 19:29 CST on 02/25/02] [Link]


Reynolds links to Rich Lowry's piece today and writes:

RICH LOWRY savages John Ashcroft for his hypocrisy on campaign-finance reform.
Not quite. Lowry is blasting the Administration for not vetoing legislation that it believes to be unconstitutional, thereby putting Ashcroft (who opposed it as unconstitutional as a Senator) in the uncomfortable position of defending the legislation as the law of the land if it passes.

Lowry is savaging the Administration for its hypocrisy, not Ashcroft. Indeed, Ashcroft was confirmed by the Senate with the understanding that he would, on occasion, defend and enforce laws that he personally opposes. Bush ultimately decides what legislation to veto, and if he backtracks on his campaign rhetoric and declines to veto this legislation, he'll be the hypocrite.

[Posted at 12:21 CST on 02/25/02] [Link]

24 February 2002

Slama (But No Phi Or Jama)

How many coaches in NCAA hoops would have suspended four of his top players (one for the rest of the season) after they engaged in (possibly) criminal thuggery and definite violation of team rules?

Not many. The episode is a black eye for UH, but Ray McCallum handled the situation well. The suspensions will probably keep surging UH (long removed from its Phi Slama Jama years) from winning any more games and possibly gaining its first postseason birth in a LONG time. That's why McCallum's decision is even more commendable.

[Posted at 22:58 CST on 02/24/02] [Link]


The UH-LSU game today was the most exciting baseball game I've been to in quite some time. I won't say it was the best played necessarily, because UH made a couple of (uncharacteristic) errors, and LSU was terrible on defense. But it was exciting because UH got behind early, then staked a large lead, gave up 8 runs in one inning to fall behind, and kept chipping away until they won the game dramatically, with two outs in the ninth. And all of this against the #3 team in the country, and without much of a home field advantage because the LSU fans probably outnumbered the good guys (and were more vocal).

Taking two of three from a top five team ought to be good enough to boost UH into the top 30 at least, given the number of top 20 teams they've already played. If this team gels by the time conference play starts, I think they could do some damage. They're certainly better than last year's team, which had great defense, very good pitching, and mediocre hitting, and they have a higher ceiling than that team. It will be interesting to see how much they improve.

I got much needed sun today as well -- so much so that I'm nice and Cougar red in spots.

[Posted at 21:42 CST on 02/24/02] [Link]

Time For Baseball

My reward for working so diligently yesterday (despite it being gorgeous in Houston) is going to be brunch followed up by the rubber game in a college baseball series between UH and #3 LSU. It would give UH a big boost to take two of three from LSU, which always has one of the top teams in the country. It's certainly a beautiful day to be out watching baseball with friends, regardless.

[Posted at 10:32 CST on 02/24/02] [Link]

The Power of Blog (III)

More Than Zero is a great general-purpose site -- very strong on economics and finance, but capable of debunking silliness across a wide range of fields. Today, MTZ dissects political theorist Mark Lilla's critique of the Bush "axis of evil speech." I might just add that Lilla's critique is perhaps the unfortunate result of an (east coast?) style Straussian attempting to study political discourse in the real world (as opposed to ancient tomes), and is why I much prefer the Claremont/West Coast Straussian approach to American political thought.

The power of blog.

[Posted at 10:25 CST on 02/24/02] [Link]

The Power of Blog (II)

A couple of days ago, I noted that, over time, some bloggers become so trusted on certain issues that one can literally work off of mental notes to check their blog after reading certain articles (and following up on the original topic of that post, Charles is still waiting for that Saudi peace plan). I've learned to count on the Midwest Conservative Journal to keep track of the anti-American Right. So whenever I happen to run across a column by Joe Sobran, I know it won't be long before MCJ has posted a critique.

The power of blog.

[Posted at 10:16 CST on 02/24/02] [Link]

Small Desert Animal Psychology

Sometimes, Mr. Breese tosses all sorts of big thoughts into one (relatively) small post. His latest (Natural Rhythms: Small Desert Animal Psychology) is one such example.

[Posted at 09:51 CST on 02/24/02] [Link]

Grammar Lessons From The ... Chron?!

Granted, it's just AP wire copy, but the Chron criticizing the grammar of any publication or person is kind of a laugher really.

This is the paper that gives us such side-splitters as Fnu Lnu, not to mention this fine sentence:

Thirty minutes later, the idea went, withdrawn by its originator under questioning from reporters.
Pot calls kettle what?

[Posted at 01:23 CST on 02/24/02] [Link]

23 February 2002


Okay, I admitted to being a Jonah Goldberg fan earlier, and then in catching up on some of his columns I missed this week, I ran across this little gem:

A brilliant writer, Buchanan's book is so full of arguments � good, bad and ugly � that it's hard to know where to start. Rather than write a review, let's do something different. Let's talk about Valentine's Day.
I thought maybe it was a mistaken editing job, but the same paragraph appears here and here.

It's really surprising to me that Buchanan's book is a writer. And a brilliant one at that!

Not that we don't make mistakes here, of course. But we also aren't a big-time syndicated columnist, with editors to check these matters for us. Ah well.

[Posted at 23:46 CST on 02/23/02] [Link]

The Dissertation March

Just before midnight, and I've completed the first-pass of footnote and reference style cleanup and "pretty" bibliography building for the dissertation (i.e. I always have a working bibliography for every writing project, and at the end go through and construct the final bibliography both from cites and from notes, in order to doublecheck everything. Michael Bellesiles, Doris Kearns Goodwin, and Stephen Ambrose might try it sometimes! But it's easier to steal, I guess). That only took about 10 hours, all told, and there was even time for a workout.

Of course, I still need to proof the damn beast, and write a conclusion, but that's not as onerous as style and cite checking. GAWD.

I guess I should post some material to Reductio now, huh? Lots of goodies stored in the PDA -- way too much to post. And I once wondered if I would have enough "quality" material to post if I abandoned the less selective one-line weblog format. Ha! Funny. *smacks himself on the head* What was I thinking?!

No time for anything more elaborate tonight, but here's a term for Jim Bennett: Popular Sovereignty.

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


As I take a break from dissertation work (on a beautiful day when I really ought to be out watching college baseball with friends -- am I dedicated to finishing or what?), it seems appropriate to mention Jonah Golberg's latest column. Regular readers of this space know that I'm a Goldberg fan. I think he's about the best political humorist going, although he's a serious guy who knows more about politics and philosophy than most of his critics give him credit for. His latest is a case in point. Raise your hands, boys and girls, if you've ever read E .E. Schattschneider's Semi-Sovereign People. No? Ever heard of him? Come on, be honest!

If you have, then you qualify as a real politics/social science geek. Don't get me wrong -- he's an important political thinker, in spite of the fact that unless you've studied for comprehensive exams in a graduate program in political science, you may never have heard of him and are quite likely living happily. But Goldberg has, and actually describes why someone might care. Sure, Goldberg's (mostly Libertarian) critics have fun dismissing him as a lightweight, but as I've said before, there's more "there" there than one might think.

Now, back to work for me.

[Posted at 15:48 CST on 02/23/02] [Link]

22 February 2002

Mary McGrory

Jay Nordlinger's Impromptus column isn't exactly a blog (neither is what John Derbyshire does on NRO), but it does have some bloglike qualities. One of those qualities is that from time to time, he tends to debunk, with only a few sentences, various silly writing. To wit, this bit on Mary McGrory:

Dumb of me, I know, to get irritated by Mary McGrory, the veteran liberal columnist in the Washington Post. But she had a column yesterday that I couldn�t help gagging on. It was a typical column, one that praised Colin Powell as an adult among children, as the only sober, cautious presence in an administration of hotheads. (By the way, who�s the one who chose that secretary of state? Oh, yeah: George W. Bush. But he never gets credit, from the Powell-lovers, for having done so.)

Writing of Iraq, she spoke of the country that �so many of the hawks in Washington want to invade if they don�t have to go themselves.� That is one of the great, nauseating, confused lines of this kind of Left; Mark Shields talks that way all the time too. �You want to go into Iraq [for example], but you�re not willing to go yourself. How dare you! Shut your mouth unless you�re prepared to strap on a gun.� Yes, maybe the president should send Laura Bush, or perhaps the twins, if he doesn�t have time to fight, hand to hand, himself.

That grown-up people who are given columns in the Washington Post are capable of thinking that way � that it�s basically illegitimate to advocate a military action unless you�re going to don fatigues yourself � is amazing.

Equally amazing is the �Thank God for Powell� theme. That anyone could hold people as learned, experienced, and patriotic as Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and Condoleezza Rice to be hicks with itchy trigger fingers . . . again, amazing. Those three � just to stick to those examples � are as civilized and humane as anyone Mary McGrory or Mark Shields will ever meet.

I have the same reaction to McGrory, a bitter, shriveled liberal whose writing is predictably pathetic, and the column Nordlinger refers to was particularly bad. Every once in a while, it's probably worth pointing these things out.

[Posted at 21:43 CST on 02/22/02] [Link]

NY Times Bird Tales

On the topic of the NY Times, isn't the following oddly speculative for the grey lady?

A team that spent 30 days in a swampy Louisiana forest looking for a woodpecker long thought to be extinct reported yesterday that members may have heard the bird, but they did not see it.
Basically, the team looking for this woodpecker heard a rapping noise associated with it, and found some evidence consistent with its presence -- although they admit another bird might have made the sound and produced the evidence. They never found any conclusive evidence of the bird's presence. This is news?

[Posted at 21:17 CST on 02/22/02] [Link]

Power of Blog

Since the technology has existed, I've been writing and debating politics via computers. I cut my teeth on various old bbs's, and even ran a simple one (on GT Power, for those who remember the "good old days") from my dorm room on the campus network (doesn't sound like much now, but this was back in the late 80s and 1990, when getting such a thing to work was no small deal). I remember in those days that those of us who were regular posters on politics felt compelled to answer damn near every post, almost obsessively.

The internet is great because I no longer have that compulsion. At some point, I know that some blogger is going to blow up bad "mainstream" writing in his area of expertise. The trick is simply knowing those areas of expertise. So when I read these two pieces in the NY Times earlier this week, my initial "bbs" reaction was to start thinking about a critique. Except I was at work, and they don't pay me to write critiques of the NY Times on their time. So I stuck the links in the PDA for later, fairly confident that Charles Johnson would weigh in with some wisdom, and in a timely manner.

And of course Charles didn't disappoint.

The power of blog.

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

Just Say No To Malaise

I was already fairly satisfied with Bush's "Axis of Evil" rhetoric. Now, more than ever, I'm convinced that not only was it appropriate, but also that it may one day be viewed as Reagan's "evil empire" characterization of the Soviet Union is now seen by reasonable people.

Jimmy Carter probably doesn't like that one either. Fortunately, Americans picked the right guy by a LARGE margin in the Reagan-Carter referendum.

Just say no to malaise. I think that may be my new response (along with a link to this entry) when silly things fly out of Jimmy Carter's pie hole.

[Posted at 00:26 CST on 02/22/02] [Link]

21 February 2002

Selling NPR? Good Luck

What if the LeftWingNuts had to peddle their nonsense to real people (i.e. markets)?

If this is any indication (middle story), they wouldn't fare that well.

[Posted at 22:08 CST on 02/21/02] [Link]

UH Shuttle Driver

In my time at UH, I never experienced a shuttle driver like this one. And what a masterful job of storytelling. Great stuff.

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

Houston's Taj Mahal

Ginger is not exaggerating when she describes the administration building of Houston's schools as the Taj Mahal. It is a bloated, grotesque architectural monstrosity, which sort of reflects the administrative apparatus contained within it. I drive by the silly thing on my way to and from the office each day. I should snap a photo of it one of these days.

[Posted at 22:03 CST on 02/21/02] [Link]

Damning Public Works Audit

Staying with the topic of Mayor Pothole, isn't it interesting that reports like this conveniently come out after the mayor has been safely re-elected, running against two candidates (Chris Bell and Orlando Sanchez) who blasted him on his mismanagement of public works?

The first two paragraphs are my favorites:

The city's Department of Public Works and Engineering has purchased $26 million worth of asphalt since 1995, but cannot say for sure whether it got what it paid for, according to a city controller's audit.

The auditor's draft report said Public Works employees did not verify the amount and quality of the asphalt delivered for at least a two-year period that ended July 1, 2001.

I'm really not exaggerating when I write about Mayor Pothole's mismanagement of this city.

[Posted at 21:58 CST on 02/21/02] [Link]

Mayor Pothole's Disastrous Budgeting

Mayor Pothole and City Council have raided a surplus in the water and sewer fund in order to make up shortfalls in other areas of the city budget, rather than making cuts and spending water and sewer money on *gasp* water and sewer. Now, Mayor Pothole has commissioned a $170,000 (no sense of irony there!) study to determine if water and sewer rates will need to be increased. Rather than raising questions about the need for a rate increase when there is surplus money in the fund to be reallocated for other purposes, the Chron instead has this bit of usual brilliance:

The city has been staving off a water and sewer rate increase for months, but may need to approve one this year.
Wouldn't it be nice, just once if Houston's (mis)Leading Information Source (tm) could bring itself to ask the obvious question: if the fund is in surplus, why is a rate increase necessary?

That's just too much to expect from the Chron, of course.

[Posted at 21:52 CST on 02/21/02] [Link]

Shiflett: Don't Take Brooks Seriously

I'm one of those people who read David Brooks's Atlantic piece on red and blue America and thought it interesting enough to post to Reductio Ad Absurdum (and later, criticism of the piece as well). And I've also (reluctantly) commented on the piece. So I guess I'm one of those ignorant readers that Dave Shiflett feels compelled to lecture in a recent article on NRO. Apparently, we just don't understand Shiflett's old friend, Mr. Brooks, who was just writing entertaining journalism not to be taken seriously.

I have to say that I HATE cynical pieces like Shiflett's, pieces that attempt to dismiss serious argument by way of haughty humor. Brooks obviously thought he was up to something more significant than writing entertainment journalism, and I'm sure his editor, the rather serious Michael Kelly, thought so also. And Blake Hurst thought it serious enough to write a passionate, if flawed, critique. Why such a casual dismissal from Shiflett? What purpose did it serve even posting that piece?

While I'm bitching -- I cannot stand the phrase "Haven't they got" (paragraph two). Isn't "Don't they have" much nicer? And the split infinitive in paragraph four made me cringe also, even though I do understand the practice is considered acceptable now (but in the enterprise Buckley founded? Say it ain't so).

[Posted at 21:39 CST on 02/21/02] [Link]

Paging Mr. Lnu

Readers probably think I obsess on the local paper's inadequacies, but it's really just astounding to me how BAD a paper it is considering that it's the only one in the nation's fourth largest city. Besides, I try NOT to read the thing -- I'm a casual reader at best, so I can only imagine how much I might post if I obsessively read it cover to cover (but that five minutes is best spent on more important matters daily). Anyway, Connelly found something funny, which I'm going to reproduce:

RIP, Mr. Lnu

The February 4 Chronicle contained a brief item on a traffic accident that killed three people the previous day.

"Natalie Gilmore, Jermaine Talley and Wyndall Lnu died in the accident�The three passengers in [Dominique] Conrad's car -- Gilmore, Talley and Lnu -- were declared dead at the scene," the story read.

The deaths are sad, of course, and the victims' relatives deserve sympathy. None of those relatives, however, is named Lnu. As cop reporters and (most) copy editors know, "LNU" is an acronym on police reports for "last name unknown."

"When I started out�I was seeing all these names of 'Fnu Lnu,' and I thought it was some Chinese gangster," says Harris County sheriff's Lieutenant John Denholm. He's head of the traffic enforcement division, which listed the victim as "Lnu" until his real last name, Walker, was determined.

No, I don't obsess over the Chron. It really IS that bad.

[Posted at 00:10 CST on 02/21/02] [Link]

John Derbyshire, (non) Blogger

I like Sean's comments on the NY Times and also the comments that follow on John Derbyshire's non-blog.

On that last: I'm (obviously) a fan of blogs, but have they become SO COOL that journalists feel the need to call anything they do online a blog? If so, I may have to be contrarian and start calling these postings a magazine, or column, or... something.

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

20 February 2002

Reductio Stuff

Charles Johnson has been kind enough to make Reductio Ad Absurdum his "Blogga The Week." Thanks! Callie has long read LGF, and I became a regular at some point after 11 September. The outlook on affairs Israeli and Arab tracks closely with my own, and Charles always digs some interesting (read disturbing) stuff out of the Arab press.

I've also created a very simple button for Reductio and posted it there (bottom of page), at the request of a number of people. A big thank you to those of you who have been supportive of the site. It's gratifying.

[Posted at 23:52 CST on 02/20/02] [Link]

19 February 2002

Rehabilitating Ken Lay

I tend to agree with Richard Cohen's piece today on the Congressional grandstanding during Ken Lay's appearance, which I commented on several days ago.

The Congressional Jackasses certainly did not comport themselves very well, but that doesn't change my feelings for Ken Lay. At the least, he peddled influence to cut deals (political and financial) helpful to his company. If he didn't know what else was going on at his own company (which is his latest claim), he certainly should have. And if he did, he's despicable. Neither possibility is favorable to him. But hey, that shouldn't stop the Chron from attempting to rehabilitate the (former) Greater Houston Partnership BigWig, should it? Poor Ken, a competent and generous man whose fault was letting his employees run with their dreams. Yeah, whatever.

[Posted at 23:32 CST on 02/19/02] [Link]

The State Of Bloggery

The blog "community" is morphing into something a little surreal.

Apparently a fair number of bloggers spend much of their time sending Reynolds link after link, and are growing belligerent that he doesn't always credit them in the manner they feel appropriate. Well, guess what? It's dude's blog, and he can do what he wants! You don't like how he treats your "gifts?" Don't send 'em! But, of course, then there's no possibility you might get that coveted link back so the world can "discover" your brilliance, right? Another hint: if it's that brilliant, the world will discover it. If traffic levels aren't what you hope, should you really be bitching at Reynolds? Or looking inward?

Meanwhile, the FoxNews website has started running a regular "bloggers" feature. I can't help but wonder: is it truly a "technological reformation" if bloggers are simply incorporated into mainstream media? One argument has been that bloggers help act as a check on the mainstream media by providing an alternative. So what happens when alternative media becomes mainstream media? Is that the end of the reformation? The beginning? Or its downfall? Or was the reformation overblown to begin with?

People are also bandying about the idea of payments for personal email responses, the load of responding to emails generated by their blogs becoming simply too much to handle for some bloggers. And of course, Wil Wheaton thought it would be nice for his readers to pay for a nice dinner with his wife, which didn't go over too well with some.

In any case, Jaffo is still serving up good stuff, and it's a shame HE is not making FoxNews more lively, or writing about Red America for the Atlantic, or collecting a little online coin, or something. His latest thoughts on polyamory and the "arrow in the head" are hilarious -- hilarious because Jaffo knows how to blend elements of truth and humor into a satisfying mix.

[Posted at 21:57 CST on 02/19/02] [Link]

Congressional Jackasses

Wasn't it noble, even heroic, of the Congressional Jackasses to "volunteer" to participate in a trial run for the proposed Trusted-Traveler ID Cards that will allow certain pre-screened frequent travellers to bypass the security that ties everyone else up for hours?

Mowbray is, of course, rightly bothered that these Trusted-Traveler ID Cards constitute a security risk in their own right. But I'm much more bothered by the notion that, once again, Congress has managed to exempt itself from the havoc it wreaks upon ordinary people.

[Posted at 21:14 CST on 02/19/02] [Link]


"Enlightened" Europeans and Brits are fond of ripping on Americans (and Texans in particular) for our "barbaric" death penalty.

Fine. But count me as one Texan who thinks that any society that punishes these vile acts (warning: not for the squeamish) with a prison sentence of only 18 months has its own problems of barbarism.

I'll take Texas.

(Link via Brian Carnell's site)

[Posted at 21:08 CST on 02/19/02] [Link]


Jack Bauer is MacGuyver on steroids.

24 is one intense show. Geez.

[Posted at 21:01 CST on 02/19/02] [Link]

Houston's Latest Scandal

I can't blame Houston's latest scandal on Mayor Pothole -- it was set in motion prior to his inept administration -- but this is really pretty disturbing.

[Posted at 20:43 CST on 02/19/02] [Link]

John McCain, "Important" Republican

The NY Times editorial page is really just a parody of itself these days.

Whether it's agitating for the Incumbent Protection Act or against drilling in ANWR, the paper is just so laughably predictable. But this one is even more fun than usual. The pining for Jimmy Carter's energy conservation days (personally, I don't miss his sweaters) is pretty good, but my favorite line is this one:

Important members of Mr. Bush's own party, like Senator John McCain, are pushing increases in fuel economy.
Isn't it interesting how Republicans who behave like liberals are "important" (and sometimes even "responsible") in the view of the NY Times?

[Posted at 20:35 CST on 02/19/02] [Link]

The White Power Structure

I really enjoyed this bit from Jay Nordlinger's most recent Impromptus column:

In his MTV interview � which had several sterling moments � Secretary of State Colin Powell spoke of �the white power structure.� I have heard about the white power structure all my life. Have you ever been invited into it? Did someone teach you a secret handshake or something?

�White power structure� is a lazy, loaded locution that serious people should avoid.


[Posted at 20:18 CST on 02/19/02] [Link]

18 February 2002

Houston Texans

I'm a pro football fan, I'm delighted that the NFL is coming back to Houston this year, and I think McNair, Casserly, and Capers have done a hell of a job with the Texans so far, right down to the name and logo. I can't wait for the season to get started.

All of that being said, I'm sitting at home (off work today) watching the NFL Expansion Draft, and what a goofy, hokey affair. Give us the list of players, and do away with all the nonsense! The list of players, BTW, is impressive so far. This team has a chance to be less terrible than most expansion teams.

[Posted at 14:47 CST on 02/18/02] [Link]

Polyamory Sells!

Mr. Breese's blog is constantly a source of links to cutting-edge thoughts on society and culture, much of it so cutting-edge that it draws few comments from readers.

But raise the topic of polyamory, and everyone has an opinion. More comments than I've seen there since... maybe the great NLP debates?

Not that that's a "bad thing" (*smile*).

[Posted at 12:48 CST on 02/18/02] [Link]

17 February 2002

Commentary Page

Christopher Wavrin emails and posts to the message boards that he's resolved the pop-up/pop-under problems at CommentaryPage, and that does seem to be the case. It looks like a pretty cool site.

I'll add that as a Cowboys fan (yeah yeah, another disease), I'm concerned about Marvin Lewis AND Steve Spurrier moving to the skins, though not for the same reasons as Mike Sarzo. We'll see.

[Posted at 15:30 CST on 02/17/02] [Link]

Mayor Pothole's Corrupt America

The Chron is so lame.

Most Houstonians have some idea that the Greater Houston Partnership is involved in much of the business that goes on at City Hall. Way too many city contracts are awarded based on a good-old-boy system that some might call corrupt. And that appears to be the case with a recent contract awarded to Harlon's BBQ by the city to cater events at Miller Theater, many of them put on by nonprofits (who will still be required to fork over cash to Harlon's). This arrangement just reeks of Mayor Pothole's cronyism (which reminds us of this comment from the mayor).

But does the Chron criticize Mayor Pothole for apparent cronyism, or using his office for ends contrary to the public good? Oh no! Actually, his transparent cronyism is good, because it is transparent, making it easier for the Chron to correct the mayor:

Mayor Brown has been criticized recently for his lack of subtlety in directing city patronage to friends and supporters. Instead, he deserves credit. Brown's transparent catering to private interests allows the citizenry to recognize it and raise an objection when warranted. And now is such a case.
Unbelievable. But that's our Chron!

[Posted at 14:43 CST on 02/17/02] [Link]

Hot Air From The Post

Having achieved success with the Shays-Meehan Incumbent Protection Act, the Washington Post has moved on to another pet issue.

What is it Thomas Sowell just wrote about political shibboleths?

[Posted at 14:35 CST on 02/17/02] [Link]


Is Thomas Friedman serious?

I've read this piece several times now, and am perplexed. Friedman seems to believe the Saudi Crown Prince, who tells Friedman that he is contemplating proposing a comprehensive peace plan for the Middle East largely along the lines of UN Security Council Resolution 242. Friedman reports this as an "intriguing signal" and seems just giddy about the possibilities.

Is he being played for a fool? I ask only because Friedman admits, in the very same column, that he is part of a group of journalists invited to Saudi Arabia as part of the kingdom's efforts to rebuild its reputation in the West. And what better way than to say exactly what the journalists want to hear (or, in Friedman's case, what he has proposed himself, in his columns)? Is that an overly cynical view on my part? It's certainly cynical, but in studying the Middle East, I have learned that actions mean much more than rhetoric, and it's Saudi actions of late that have been troubling. So we can wait and see -- but I'm guessing Friedman has been duped.

And while we're on that topic -- isn't it ironic that Friedman can go and be wined and dined by the Saudis as part of their PR effort (which they admit) and NOT have his reporting be corrupted, but that the NY Times editorial page is one of the leading cheerleaders to reduce the influence of such "special interests" in the United States, via "campaign finance reform?"

[Posted at 14:31 CST on 02/17/02] [Link]

Easy, Brent

Brent Bozell is proof that some conservatives need to lighten up. You would think someone was forcing him to watch the young lovelies on Buffy, or something.

[Posted at 14:22 CST on 02/17/02] [Link]

The NY Times Covers The Philippines

Most of the bleeding hearts quit saying silly things for a while after 11 September. But surely nobody actually thought they had gone away? Here's some evidence that they have not.

[Posted at 14:18 CST on 02/17/02] [Link]

Bias Or Sloppy Journalism?

So is this article an example of bias or sloppy journalism?

I think one could fairly make the case for either one. The article repeatedly refers to anonymous, off-the-record critics of Bush's use of inclusion of Iran in the "axis of evil" and conveys the impression that all such "experts" are opposed. For example, such anonymous "experts" or "analysts" or "observers" or "diplomat[s]" are used to convey criticism in paragraphs 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 (though these "analysts" think Iran may actually be doing what Bush suggested), 12, and 13 at the very least. One of the few named sources is the editor of a paper identified as a "reform" newspaper. The interview seems to be heavy on quotes from anonymous diplomats (who, may have their own agenda) and short on quotes defending the President's criticism.

I think one could make an argument that the journalist failed to convey the complexities of this debate, producing somewhat of a one-sided piece. Was it on purpose, or did he not know any better?

[Posted at 14:13 CST on 02/17/02] [Link]

Incumbent Protection Act

Might the eventual result of the Incumbent Protection Act be a resurgence in term-limits legislation? Daniel Henninger has some thoughts on the subject.

On the topic of the Incumbent Protection Act itself, Mike has written one of the better critiques in blogland.

[Posted at 14:01 CST on 02/17/02] [Link]

Perils Of Political Risk Forecasts

Last week, I posted a roundup of the better articles on Venezuela's meltdown on Reductio Ad Absurdum ("Meltdown In Venezuela"). Reynolds also posted a piece that turned out to be on the fantastic side.

But that's the problem of trying to predict international politics. In my professional opinion, conditions are ripe for a significant meltdown in Venezuela, as Chavez has mucked up every aspect of his nation, from botching the new petroleum law to hanging out with all the wrong people (Castro and Saddam), to alienating key military leaders, to screwing up the currency. Up to now, he has remained relatively popular, but when that support begins to waver -- as it has lately -- that's a sign of trouble.

All that said, it doesn't mean that Chavez is likely to be thrown out of power anytime soon, either by military or popular revolt. The conditions are ripe for it, yes. But that doesn't mean the revolution is hours away. And one major obstacle could very well be the military: it's not clear that the military wants the headache of fixing the messes Chavez has created. It may well be that Chavez will have to be defeated at the ballot box (and will have to step down if it does happen -- neither proposition being a certainty) for that nation to improve.

That's one of the problems of political risk forecasting. It's not all that hard for trained analysts to assess the possibility of certain scenarios -- a risk capacity, if you will. But nailing the likelihood, or probability, is much tougher. Of course, given their affinity for "decision-tree analysis" that's what energy firms tend to want. And who can blame them? It's just not easily done. :)

[Posted at 13:55 CST on 02/17/02] [Link]

Lindh The Victim

It's not just American liberalism that has become a cult of victimology. Our friends across the pond have their own version, as evidenced by this piece in the Guardian that describes the Spann family's presence at the trial of the traitor as a "stunt."

Lindh is not a victim. He is a traitor. And it says everything about contemporary liberalism that saying so is a "stunt."

[Posted at 13:39 CST on 02/17/02] [Link]

What Den Beste Says

I concur.

I have European friends and have no problems with the vast majority of Europeans, so when I use the term "Euroweenies" I'm referring to the same people as Den Beste in his essay. I'm too lazy to explain myself in as much detail, though. "EuroWeenies" suffices for me. :)

[Posted at 13:33 CST on 02/17/02] [Link]


The Chron has discovered an old favorite of mine, Marfreless.

The old Citysearch description is still up, and it's not bad.

Marfreless is a cool place, right down to the flyer describing why the place is named as it is (my contention has long been that the flyer is a joke on the overly pretentious). What about you readers in different cities? Any similarly weird little bars you go to?

[Posted at 13:31 CST on 02/17/02] [Link]

Weekly BLAHgspot Blues

BLAHgspot is down again.

This happened last Sunday about this time.

I agree with Charles Johnson. 60 bucks per year will pay for a real web host with plenty of features for the average blogger. It's worth the investment.

[Posted at 12:44 CST on 02/17/02] [Link]

Jaywalking: Mayor Pothole's Latest Priority

I seem to recall Orlando Sanchez questioning Mayor Pothole's ability to prioritize in the recent mayoral campaign. And on a daily basis, I see evidence that Sanchez nailed the mayor, who has apparently made jaywalking the latest priority of his inept administration (along with repealing term limits and securing a mayoral mansion).

Of course, he might employ Metro (and other) police to tackle the city's resurgent graffiti problem, which (as recent studies show) almost always is a signal of a coming increase in crime.

But fighting crime isn't one of Mayor Pothole's priorities.

[Posted at 10:59 CST on 02/17/02] [Link]

Reviving Star Trek?

When I was a kid, I was a big Star Trek fan, and like most fans, I was happy then the first movie came out. Sure, it was a dreadful movie, but to those of us addicted to the television series and craving the return of our heroes, it was passable.

But I have my doubts that the changes made for the Directors Edition on DVD can make the movie any less dreadful.

In all honesty, this was a TERRIBLE movie. Thankfully, matters improved with ST II.

[Posted at 10:50 CST on 02/17/02] [Link]

Today's "Hypermedia" Culture

Romenesko linked to this article a few days ago. The tone of the article suggests a lament for the fact that news on the internet travels quickly, and even gets picked up by more mainstream news outlets. I agree that this raises questions about reliability -- although a good journalist ought to do his best to verify before running with such stories -- but I was somewhat bothered by this part:

Media critic Jon Katz says the story -- which created a frenzy in the Olympic press corps Wednesday -- exemplifies today's ''hypermedia'' culture.

In this world, Katz says, stories appear on various electronic outlets and are then picked up by other outlets with such speed and ferocity that ''they become beyond anyone's ability to control.''

Those two paragraphs are extremely revealing. It's almost a sad reflection that journalists are no longer the gatekeepers of information and, hence, the molders of public opinion. In my view, that's an excellent development. And yes, technology has helped to spur the development. Much moreso than the development of blogs, it's THAT instantaneous spread of information that illustrates Jim Bennett's "technological reformation" in action. It's clear that some people don't view this as a good thing, but they are the ones who have largely been bypassed.

[Posted at 10:45 CST on 02/17/02] [Link]

Dowdy Maureen

I think Maureen Dowd may be an example of the Peter Principle at work. By most accounts, Dowd was once a fine reporter who has since written some good op-eds, along with a lot of junk (rising to her level of incompetence, Lawrence Peter might say).

I've commented on Dowd before, and I still think she rather badly drags down the editorial page of a once-great newspaper that is still great in places.

Seriously, wouldn't columns like this be better situated on an "arts and leisure" or "lifestyle" or some other page? I guess someone finds this sort of thing compelling as a serious op-ed, but why?

[Posted at 10:36 CST on 02/17/02] [Link]

16 February 2002

Tired Brain

My brain is too tired to post any analysis of substance here tonight, but I've just put up lots of thought-provoking stuff at Reductio. Enjoy!

[Posted at 23:44 CST on 02/16/02] [Link]


I'm enthusiastic that the Astros have a real manager. Finally.

Jimy Williams is going to do a great job.

[Posted at 09:23 CST on 02/16/02] [Link]


The Houston crew, after several beers (wine, in my case), is conspiring to invade Chicago in July, for a trip to Wrigley, and the Field Museum, and gawd knows what else.

Since my first visit, not all that long ago, it's been My Kind Of Town....

[Posted at 01:20 CST on 02/16/02] [Link]

15 February 2002


Jonah Goldberg mentions a new opinion site at the bottom of his latest NRO column ( Upon first glance, it looks fairly interesting. I'd like to explore it further, but after two clicks, the site had opened six pop-up/pop-under ads on my machine. Unacceptable.

I could use WebWasher, of course, to remove the ads, but given the amount of primary sources I read daily, not to mention the high quality of the ad-free (!) weblogs I read, why bother?

[Posted at 16:37 CST on 02/15/02] [Link]


Layne has some more thoughts about Waylon Jennings, and also a cool story about seeing Shaver play.

I envy Layne. I never got to see Eddy play with his dad in that band, and now I never will. We're losing all the good ones.

We may have to make Layne an honorary Texan (but would he consider it an honor? hmm) since he likes all the right music!

[Posted at 09:35 CST on 02/15/02] [Link]

14 February 2002

Elaine Chao's Quiet Investigation

It's nice to see that while the Congressional Jackasses are making fools of themselves over Enron, at least one branch of government is trying to figure out what went wrong. Labor Secretary Elaine Chao is quietly running what Don Lambro calls the most important investigation of Enron, and seems to be doing some fine work.

[Posted at 23:50 CST on 02/14/02] [Link]

The Sad Case of Paul Craig Roberts

A few days ago, I wrote that Paul Craig Roberts is pretty good in his area of expertise (economics). He was one of the young stars of the Reagan days, and has done some good work since then. But after reading his column today, I'd like to withdraw that endorsement of Roberts. He sounds more like Pat Buchanan than Ronald Reagan on economics these days, and that is not a change for the better.

[Posted at 23:46 CST on 02/14/02] [Link]

The Sad Case of Shimon Peres

Shimon Peres, Irrelevant Peacenik

Shimon Peres is a sad, tired figure in Israeli politics who should have retired long ago, well before the numerous beatings he's taken at the polls. But he manages to hang on, because the Israelis are decent people who continually delude themselves into thinking they really can make peace with people who have no interest in making peace with them, and Shimon Peres is a decent person (a hero, of sorts) who has over the years simply become consumed by the peace "process." Even most dovish Israelis have relucantly come to the conclusion that the Palestinians are not interested in peace at this time, and have begun considering Israel's options more realistically. But Shimon Peres presses on with one peace plan after another, oblivious to the fact that he's become the subject of ridicule. Indeed, he calls the nonexistent peace "process" his "reason for being in the government."

This "unity" government serves no purpose. It undermines Sharon, and it gives Peres too prominent an office to make a fool of himself. It would be better for Israel if he left the government and forced elections. And it would certainly be better for him.

[Posted at 23:38 CST on 02/14/02] [Link]

No Bush Veto

The Shays-Meehan bill has passed the House, and it's likely the Incumbent Protection Act is on the way to the President.

Rich Lowry and NRO are hopeful the President will veto the noxious legislation, as are Paul Gigot and the WSJ editorial board. The bill's restrictions on issue advocacy are noxious, as are numerous loopholes intended to confer the greatest possible advantage on incumbents (making one wonder if the result won't be another surge in term-limits legislation). Various restrictions will be overturned by federal courts on First Amendment grounds in short order if the legislation is not vetoed. And, as Gigot, et al., note, the bill will weaken political parties, further dampening any possibility of the model of responsible party government (which was revived momentarily in the form of the Contract with America, only to crash when Gingrich proved less responsible than one might have hoped).

I hope to be surprised, but I don't think Bush will veto the bill. For one thing, his pattern in Texas suggests otherwise. As governor, Bush would often stake out positions on issues he knew were popular, frequently co-opting Democrats on those issues, and then move as much as necessary to ensure that he would get credit for engineering bipartisan reform and breaking gridlock. It's fair enough to say that Texas Democrats are fairly conservative, and that Bush didn't have to move that far on principle, but he's shown the same tendency in D.C. in the form of Ted Kennedy's education package, which is short on conservative reform and heavy on liberal spending.

Now, it may very well be that Bush thinks he needs to co-opt some Democratic issues (McCain hasn't been a Republican in a while, in my view) and claim success, taking a page from the Clinton playbook, in order to build goodwill and public support for the war on terror. That may be true. But I recall his father thinking that he needed to go along with Democrats on a tax increase in order to build support for his effort against Iraq. That didn't work out so well for elder Bush. As much as I would like to see Bush veto this bill, I think he's going to claim victory on this one and let the courts eliminate the most noxious provisions.

[Posted at 23:27 CST on 02/14/02] [Link]

Happy Halloween

I hope everyone has enjoyed a Happy Halloween!

Yeah yeah, I know most people call it Valentine's Day, but my friend Laura deemed this day Halloween some time ago, and so it remains.

[Posted at 22:01 CST on 02/14/02] [Link]


Ken Layne posts a great eulogy for Waylon Jennings. If you're a music fan, it's well worth your time.

[Posted at 06:59 CST on 02/14/02] [Link]

Emotionally Fragile French F*ckers

The French have offered basically what is an admission that they screwed the Canadian figure skating team. The admission comes in typically weenie-ass French fashion. They admit the judge was pressured to "act in a certain way" and that she is an "honest and upright, but emotionally fragile" BITCH [okay, that last is my assessment]. Well, that's very nice. Everyone feels better now.


I've never had any interest in the Olympics, and still don't. I hope the stupid summer games don't come to Houston for 2012, and I hope the thing doesn't return to the United States for a long time. The whole thing is a bad joke.

[Posted at 00:17 CST on 02/14/02] [Link]

13 February 2002

Greg Barker, One Clever Vegan

Robb Walsh, the restaurant critic at the Houston Press, is one of my favorite writers, local or otherwise. The guy knows food, but he also knows how to tell a story, something many food critics can't do because they're too busy making pretentious asses of themselves. Even when I don't agree with Walsh's assessment of a local eatery, I always enjoy his writing because it's that good.

For some, however, it's impossible to separate opinion from one's lifestyle. Hence Greg Barker, a highly opinionated if barely literate vegan, writes to the Press regarding Walsh:

Maybe you guys are just catering to the popular culture by allowing your sneering food critic to bash vegetarian food ad nauseam ["Fat City," by Robb Walsh, January 17], or maybe you just don't read his columns (I don't blame you). Whatever, his shit about how worthless vegetarian food is is tired and dumb-assed.

Don't you guys realize that vegetarianism is more popular among your core readership than it is for the average population of this Darwinist smog patch? Figure it out! Get someone that maybe is vegetarian to do the vegetarian restaurant reviews, eh? Also, why don't you send a vegan to a steak house to get his honest (truthful) opinions of what he sees? Robb Walsh's thoughts on my food are for shit. I understand he feels the same way about mine. I could give a damn.

Greg Barker

I'm sure Greg was very pleased with himself after that piece of work. I mean, how can a good writer like Walsh compare to the obvious brilliance of "his shit is ... dumb-assed" and "Darwinist smog patch?" I'm guessing this was the worst letter sent in on Walsh's column, and the guys at the Press ran it as a semi-serious joke on Mr. Barker.

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

The Tampa Mess

Are the Glazers not the most inept, incompetent owners in recent sports memory?

I mean, these guys make Jerry Jones and Dan Snyder look wonderful by comparison. Hell, they make Jerry Krause, the man who declined to try and keep together Michael and Zen Master for one more year, look good.

Tony Dungy deserved better -- and got it with the Indy job. The Glazers deserve exactly the mess they've created. Nice job.

[Posted at 21:56 CST on 02/13/02] [Link]

Slate Needs An Editor

Reynolds suggests Mickey Kaus as a replacement for Michael Kinsley as editor of Slate, and Welch and Layne concur. I have no objections to that proposal (although Andrew Sullivan jumps out as a suitable candidate, given his experience actually editing a comparable publication). But this Reynolds line in particular got my attention:

But perhaps bloggers should descend en masse on Slate and demand that one of our own be put in charge.
My initial reaction to that line (not the Kaus suggestion) was "Good gawd, Slate needs an editor's mentality, not a blogger's!" On second thought, I think Reynolds only meant to suggest with his "one of our own" comment that an online publication ought to be edited by someone familiar with web technology, including blogging, and I think that's only right.

But to elaborate on the editor versus blogger thought: The web has plenty of bloggers who serve a useful enough purpose (I guess -- we entertain ourselves, at the very least). But it needs more good editors, to bring some focus to the mess that is the web and some organization. I don't care if the next editor of Slate leans left or right, but I hope he brings a unique focus to that publication, along the lines of what Michael Kelly has done since taking over as editor of the Atlantic. I hope Slate does NOT become the disconnected hodge-podge of links and commentary that is the typical blog (this one included), a problem that Chris Wenham discussed at some length a while ago. That's why their choice of editor matters.

Ironically enough, I have always thought that Michael Kinsley was a far better editor (both at Slate and TNR) than writer. I like him in both roles, but there are plenty of good writers. A good editor is far rarer.

[Posted at 21:51 CST on 02/13/02] [Link]

Recurring Problems Of American Foreign Policy

This article by David Sands in the Washington Times illustrates the recurring nature of many problems of international security. The United States has bargained with a number of nations of Central Asia -- notably Uzbekistan -- in order to use their territory to conduct operations in Afghanistan. Uzbekistan was a natural strategic ally, since it has been dealing with its own Islamic militant movement with ties to Al Qaeda and has long tried to use the West as a counterweight to Russian interference in its affairs. But Uzbekistan is not a natural ally ideologically, as it is led by a dictator whose brutality and mismanagement of the economy have, in part, made possible the rise of the Islamic movement that threatens his rule.

Longer term, the United States is faced with the problem that by allying itself with such dictators, it will come to be as hated by Islamic militants as the dictators themselves. This is hardly a new problem. Jeanne Kirkpatrick identified it in her 1979 essay "Dictatorships and Double Standards" (more here), a critique of Carter foreign policy that argued in favor of American alliances with ideologically unlikely right-wing authoritarian regimes because those regimes had, over time, drifted towards democracy (whereas their alternatives had not). The State Department officials quoted in the Sands piece have, oddly enough, unwittingly embraced the Kirkpatrick formulation, when they argue that the U.S. can influence the dictators they are now allied with for strategic reasons in the direction of human rights and democracy. That remains to be seen, of course, but it's not a new problem.

[Posted at 21:13 CST on 02/13/02] [Link]

A Government For Afghanistan

There's a discussion going on at Fredrik Norman's place that is interesting in spots. Several of the respondents are considering what might be the best government for Afghanistan, with a proposal for federalism, a proposal for American-style government broadly, and a rejection of the same.

Aristotle gave some simple, but sage advice, to those who would design constitutional systems in suggesting that a constitution must fit its people. From a "new institutionalist" perspective, imposing an exact replica of American institutions on a people wholly ignorant of the American tradition could be disastrous. But how to tailor a constitution for Afghanistan?

I'm certainly no expert on Afghanistan, but it would seem obvious that bringing the various ethnic groups into the political system is imperative. That need not be done via federalism, which is a useful mechanism when there are already well-established parochial or regional governments, or when certain political-geographical conditions prevail (i.e. a handful of ethnic groups each scattered about distinct geographic areas). Indeed, a simple parliamentary system with proportional representation might be a better fit for Afghanistan, since such a system would force cooperation and the formation of coalitions, building trust in the process. A unicameral system might work best, or there might be geographical concerns that one would want to represent in a second chamber, perhaps elected by territory. It might be wise to have a nationally elected President, so that there is at least one official elected by the nation as a whole. And so forth.

Fortunately, a number of scholars have done some good work in constitutional design, and this is one area in which they can provide some useful insight. It will be interesting to see what they come up with.

[Posted at 20:53 CST on 02/13/02] [Link]

The Prowler On Broder

I've written in the past (halfway down the page) that David Broder is everyone's favorite inoffensive liberal columnist, a bland windbag who reflects liberal conventional wisdom without really appearing to do so. I'm glad the guys from the American Spectator are writing together again, because they've noticed Broder's latest (which link has been riding around in the pda for a week now! Where does the time go?). Wlady Pleszczynski does a pretty nice job with it indeed, and this description is far more colorful than anything I've come up with:

That's from David Broder, the respected dean of D.C.'s big feet, doing his belated best to keep up with Dan Rather, though in the name of something considerably less macho.

Before the American Spectator became devoted to toppling Bill Clinton (a focus that eventually led to its demise), I thought it was one of the better mags out there, with some great writing. I'm glad some of the old crew are writing together again at the American Prowler.

[Posted at 19:45 CST on 02/13/02] [Link]

Reader's Digest

I haven't looked at Reader's Digest in ages, but had always assumed the magazine, which enjoyed great success by appealing to readers in the American heartland (many of whom have never once picked up a Harper's or a New Yorker and somehow have survived), would never mess with that formula. So I was surprised to find this piece in the Washington Post dismissing (caricaturing, really) a John Miller NRO piece that I had somehow missed. Miller argues that because of new editors, the magazine has moved from its old, conservative, heartland view of the world to a celebrity-worshipping, fluffy, more tolerantly liberal one. I was all set to critique the Post piece, which seemed to miss the point that Miller was making, but it's even better that Miller beat me to it in NRO's blog:

The really weird thing about the Washington Post's Peter Carlson attacking my recent NR story on Reader's Digest is that he basically concedes all my main points: The magazine once focused on ordinary Americans but is now obsessed with celebrities, it used to feature innovative political reporting that now has all but vanished, and it used to be run by outright conservatives but now its editors are no different from run-of-the-mill liberals like, well, like Peter Carlson. He even quotes the new editor as refusing to say the magazine is conservative--something that perhaps no other top editor in the Digest's eight-decade history would have done until a couple of years ago. Carlson's article merely shows that the man who writes a column for the Post called "The Magazine Reader" hasn't been reading America's most popular magazine. Maybe he should get a job at the Digest, too.

[Posted at 19:34 CST on 02/13/02] [Link]

Lou Dobbs

I found this article via Romenesko's fine site. It's a critique of Lou Dobbs that tries to be a bit of a mystery thriller as well. It seems that Lou Dobbs has had the audacity to ask some tough questions of reporters who appear live on his show -- questions that would suggest the reporters presented their stories in a manner typically slanted in favor of liberal orthodoxy, and Dobbs *gasp* actually sought to balance their views. The suggestions from Dobbs that perhaps Enron is a financial, not a political scandal, and that it is being used opportunistically by Democrats left one reporter "dumbfounded." Why?! Had the reporter not considered those possibilities? If not, why not? Bias? Sloppy journalism? Or what? What would explain the reporter being dumbfounded?

It sounds like Dobbs was justifiably frustrated with CNN's reporters in the two instances cited, and with the cuts at the network (necessary to pay for Paula Zahn and other pretties, no doubt!), it's hardly surprising that journalistic quality has declined. But why that's "embarrassing" for Dobbs and not for the reporters is something I don't get. I think Dobbs was right. Maybe he'll bolt for Fox at some point (doubtful, since he just rejoined CNN), but I actually prefer Cavuto.

As for the missing transcripts, I really doubt Dobbs is trying to hide anything. But I guess anything is possible.

[Posted at 19:08 CST on 02/13/02] [Link]

Tort Reform

While the jackasses in Congress are chipping away at the First Amendment with their latest Incumbency Protection Legislation (I believe some of them call it "Campaign Finance Reform"), an area that very much needs reform, torts, is getting very little attention. But Ryan Sager notes that tort reform legislation is quietly making its way through the House. I'm much more pessimistic than Sager about the prospects of meaningful tort reform, for the simple reason that it's one type of reform the Dems do NOT want, and can easily block in the Senate. And this bill is not far-reaching, in any case.

That's unfortunate. But it's not nearly as sexy as efforts to restrict political speech, I suppose.

[Posted at 18:53 CST on 02/13/02] [Link]

Citizens For Michelle Malkin Control

Ginger Stampley points out the latest hilarity over at Soundbitten. This week, the wonderfully wholesome and ever bombastic Michelle Malkin comes under scrutiny. Funny stuff.

Soundbitten is the same site that ran a great parody of a couple of prominent bloggers in January that went largely unnoticed and unlinked (though I was lucky enough to find it by way of Matt Welch). It was actually a more clever piece than the Weekly Standard blog parody that virtually EVERY political blogger has linked to. I wonder what Irving Janis would think of that?

[Posted at 18:41 CST on 02/13/02] [Link]

Waylon Jennings, RIP

Country music legend Waylon Jennings is dead at 64.

To the very end, he did it his way. Today's bland hat acts just somehow don't compare.

[Posted at 18:23 CST on 02/13/02] [Link]

12 February 2002

Ken Lay's Appearance

I must agree with Reynolds on today's Congressional grandstanding.

I'm sure that members of Congress think they are coming across as great populists pursuing justice. Some people in the country may even view them that way. But to more thoughtful people, they just look like a bunch of opportunistic jackasses concerned with getting camera time. Senator Hollings' reference to "Kenny Boy" is a case in point, a comment that seems a little too colloquial even for the collection of jackasses known as Congress these days.

And no, I'm not a Ken Lay fan or an Enron fan. But I am a student (and fan) of American constitutionalism and American institutions. They were not served well by today's spectacle.

[Posted at 23:58 CST on 02/12/02] [Link]

Useless French

We know the French are, for the most part, useless. And because we know that, this story, incredible as it seems, certainly is within the realm of possibility.

Now, any sport that depends solely on the objectivity of judges is prone to this sort of controversy. In most sports, the rulings of officials -- even in sports with television replay -- can sometimes have an effect on the outcome. The recent NFL game between Oakland and New England comes to mind. But rarely does an official's mistake decide the outcome of an NFL (or NBA, of MLB) game, and even though it happens occasionally (St. Louis - Kansas City world series when I was a kid is a possible example), it's extremely rare.

Any sport (or war, for that matter) that puts the French in such a position is almost asking for trouble!

[Posted at 23:55 CST on 02/12/02] [Link]


Okay, I admit it.

I'm hooked on the Fox show 24. I missed the first couple of episodes, but since then I find myself glued to the television. I'm addicted. Tuesdays are officially 24 nights now. The show is just intense -- like a Clancy novel, ratcheted up an order of magnitude (or so).

So, posting is light here as a result, although I just put up some good stuff on Reductio. Enjoy!

[Posted at 21:51 CST on 02/12/02] [Link]

11 February 2002

Marvin Kisses Up To Ken

Marvin Zindler

This one won't make much sense to non-Houstonians, but then again, neither does much of my rambling about Mayor Pothole and the Chron, but for some reason you people keep reading the site and encouraging me. So Connelly has this to say at the end of this week's column:

Add Channel 13's legendary Marvin Zindler to the list of vocal Ken Lay defenders. Twice in the past week he has offered commentaries on the departed executive. "My instinct tells me he has done nothing wrong," he said January 30. The next night he took time to heap praise on Lay's character by noting how twice (in the last ten years) Lay had let Zindler use Enron's corporate jet to transport sick kids to treatment.

Is it just us, or do Dave Ward and Shara Fryer look more and more alarmed whenever the camera cuts to them after one of Zindler's unhinged speeches?

No, Rich, it's not just you! I think Marvin scares the hell out of all of them. Well, Shara may not actually be scared. She's so giggly and excited lately that she reminds me of a relative of mine who used to take Prozac for the sheer joy of it all. And Dave -- well, who knows if he hasn't sneaked away to brother's dive bar in between the 6 and 10 reports on any given night?

Marvin, of course, was the character portrayed by Dom DeLuise in The Best Little WhoreHouse In Texas. And as outrageous as Dom was in that movie, the real Marvin Zindler is even more of a freak. To give but one example, the nutcase actually has a regular feature on restaurants that have gotten in trouble with the health department, entitled "Slime In The Ice Machine." The regular feature even has theme music (sadly, the wav seems not to be working tonight). And graphics. I wish I were making this up.

[Posted at 23:58 CST on 02/11/02] [Link]

The Bob And Skippy Show

For many years, the Pac 10 has enjoyed (suffered, really) a reputation as a pass-happy, non-physical, all-finesse football conference. For those of us who are fans of the Big 12, it's very much a different style of football, and even though Oklahoma and Texas Tech run finesse passing attacks, they still are extremely physical football teams all told. That's why I laughed out loud at this article on ESPN's website today. Turns out UCLA coach Bob Toledo is whining because Washington coach Rick (Skippy) Neuheisel is whining because someone whined to somebody's recruit that the other coaches are whiny. Or something like that. Pretty soon, I think Toledo and Neuheisel might really get mad. And say something mean about the other's mother. 'Cos that'll show 'em who's the real man!

Get real, guys!

As much as I dislike Mack Brown, at least he doesn't engage in such whining. Nor does Bob Stoops. Or R.C. Slocum. Or anyone else I can think of in the Big 12. Thank goodness.

[Posted at 23:49 CST on 02/11/02] [Link]

Tyson As Victim (III)

Since it's a frequently recurring theme, perhaps I should start a weekly "Tyson the Victim" section of the website, and give an award at the end of the year or something for the most creative approach to the topic? Say a Texas Longhorn cowpaddy (not to be confused with Mack Brown)? Yeah, that might be fitting.

Anyway, here's the latest entry. I don't disagree with Alen J. Salerian, who contends that Tyson is pyschologically ill (yes!). But then he completely loses credibility (with me, anyway) with this paragraph:

Maybe Tyson's race and educational background have influenced why he hasn't been given help. How long would it take us to commit Andre Agassi if he jumped across the net and bit the ear or thigh of competitors like Pete Sampras or Lleyton Hewitt? Probably faster than a three-minute round in the ring.
Huh?! Perhaps if Agassi did what Salerian suggests, once, yes, "we'd" send him to a shrink. But probably if he raped women (allegedly), bragged about having sex with men in prison (allegedly), told fellow tennis players he was going to make them "his bitch" (allegedly), engaged in brawls (allegedly), and various other thuggish behavior, "we" (since Salerian includes me in his little rhetorical party) likely would begin to think of him as a criminal thug, and might even consider sending him back to the big house. For a LONG time. With no consideration of his race or socioeconomic background!

I doubt this part of "we" would think of him as a victim.

[Posted at 23:38 CST on 02/11/02] [Link]


Jay Nordlinger recalls another example of just what a jackass [bloa]Ted has been in his sorry life in today's Impromptus column, but since I can't link directly to that part, I'll reproduce it below:

How �bout that Mitt Romney? Smooth fellow, isn�t he? It looked like he just might beat Ted Kennedy in Massachusetts in �94, when Romney was the Republican senatorial nominee. That was about the worst year the Democrats ever had, and Romney was an able candidate. Teddy was genuinely vulnerable. But then, at the last second, Kennedy and the Democrats played the Mormon card � they reminded the state that Romney was a Mormon, and Kennedy said that the Mormons were just beastly about blacks and women and other important people. It was a slimy, rotten thing to do � and, of course, no one called him on it, except for a few of us -wingers, because the media are protective of Kennedy and Mormons are one minority group they have no interest in standing up for.

So Kennedy got away with it, and it was, again, lousy � a rotten thing from a rotten man, I don�t care what George W. says. Or the people in his Crawford coffee shop.

Oh well. At least he didn't take anyone swimming.

[Posted at 23:21 CST on 02/11/02] [Link]

Chronically Bad

The dreadful Chron may not cover local stories on their own worth a damn, but I'll give them some credit for keeping tabs on what the Houston Press and other publications are doing in their coverage of Houston. They recently ripped off the Press on both coverage of the flood's aftermath (and the regional watershed management program, or lack thereof, depending on which publication you read; the Chron link is dead now) and the Press coverage of the Justice Department's interest in the art car museum as a source of terror (the Chron link is dead now). So it's hardly surprising to find the Chron expand slightly on the Sheila Jackson Lee piece that appeared in the Weekly Standard, of course sprucing it up a bit with a few pieces of local flavor. That's some tough journalism! Of course, that issue is a week old, and John Williams might have looked at the most recent issue, which had this followup. But that would be some cutting-edge research for the Chron!

[Posted at 23:13 CST on 02/11/02] [Link]

Houston's (mis)Leading Information Source

The local Houston Chronicle is finally getting some national recognition! No no, it's not that long desired Pulitzer; their status as the nation's largest daily never to have won that prize is still intact. Rather, Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz has noticed just how BAD the paper is. Oh sure, he tempers his piece, but make no mistake -- the paper is even worse than he describes. But still, I LOVED the first few paragraphs:

When Kenneth Lay resigned as chairman of Enron amid charges of financial chicanery, the Houston Chronicle ran this story:

"Ken Lay was an icon in Houston, a political and philanthropic force mentioned for years as a potential mayoral candidate."

And this story: "From humble roots in rural Missouri, he earned a Ph.D. in economics. . . . He is often described as a folksy man of the people who never lost sight of his origins -- or his drive to succeed."

And this story: "Overdue. Appropriate. Best for the company. Those were the thoughts of some former Enron employees on Ken Lay's resignation. . . . Respected. Upstanding. Personable."

Of course, we noted the Chron's fawning coverage the day before the headlines appeared with our own brand of sarcasm. Being a smalltime blogger instead of a bigtime media critic gives us a little more freedom over such matters, you see.

The Chron is so bad that Richard Connelly, who is quoted in the piece (and who is one of the better writers employed by any publication in this city), is able to write a regular column (The News Hostage) for the local alt-weekly devoted, in large part, to the Chron's sad style of journalism. The Houston Press, incidentally, has done some of the best reporting of any Texas publications on Enron, along with the Dallas Morning News, which made this comment somewhat surprising:

The 552,000-circulation paper has broken some Enron stories, and not all Texans are critical of it. "Of all the papers in Texas, the Chronicle has been the most aggressive on Enron," says Texas Monthly Editor Evan Smith. "Their coverage has been really good on how the city is affected."
Actually, the two best pieces I've seen on the local impact of Enron's collapse ran in the Dallas Morning News (I posted it on Reductio but the link has expired) and in the Washington Post. The Chron's coverage of the local impact has been just as depressingly poor as the rest of its coverage. I cannot imagine why Evan Smith told Kurtz that (although Texas Monthly isn't exactly the cutting edge publication IT once was these days).

In any case, it doesn't appear that elusive Pulitzer will be coming to the Chron anytime soon.

[Posted at 20:06 CST on 02/11/02] [Link]

10 February 2002


I'm glad I didn't do the backpacking thing this weekend. The miserable cold weather has returned, after a couple of beautiful days Friday and Saturday to tease us. Brrr...

[Posted at 15:59 CST on 02/10/02] [Link]


It would be great to finish off my Sunday morning reading by taking a peek at the various blogspot-hosted blogs listed in my portal, but sadly, blogspot is down right now.

Sure, it's five times more expensive than 12 bucks/year, but I can't help but brag about the quality of service I've experienced in hosting three accounts with Your-Site. For those considering stepping up to real hosting for personal blogs, I highly recommend them.

Time for brunch at Chuy's.

[Posted at 10:52 CST on 02/10/02] [Link]

Ayn Applied

Although I consider myself heavily influenced by Objectivism, one reason I don't keep up with the goings on as much these days is that I honestly got tired of reading about which heretic had been purged from ARI in the latest move, or what Peikoff had said about the evils of Kelley, etc.

That said, it's always refreshing to find people who are applying Ayn Rand's insights to everday life, as Mark Wickens does here.

[Posted at 10:39 CST on 02/10/02] [Link]

Rayner's Pissed

Think Rayner Noble is pissed that his bullpen couldn't do anything right in UH's loss to rival Texas in college baseball?

"I needed to see where a couple of guys were and I found out real quick where they're at," Noble said. "The thing we've got to do is get some experienced guys healthy, but we've got some freshmen waiting in the wings that have something on the ball.

"This game tonight was just information for me to find out if guys were ready or not."

Oh yeah, I think Rayner is more than a little displeased. But I'm sure he'll get it straightened out. He's sort of the anti-Dierker in terms of intensity and competive fire. And it shows in what he's done with UH's baseball program, which was mediocre at best before he arrived, despite a prime baseball climate and solid recruiting base.

[Posted at 00:19 CST on 02/10/02] [Link]

09 February 2002

Equal Time

I spend plenty of time making fun of liberals here. But I'll be the first to concede that liberals have no monopoly on idiocy. As proof that I'm an equal-opportunity anti-idiotarian, here's a moronic line from a piece by conservative Paul Craig Roberts:

Most of the original rights on which our country was founded are long gone. Their place has been taken by the right to murder both the unborn and those being born, the right of the majority to make tax slaves out of the productive minority and force them to serve a redistributionist state, and the right of "victim groups" to exercise legal privileges based on group status � a medieval privilege.
MOST of our original rights ARE LONG GONE?! I'm a vocal critic of the welfare state, and I've been known to argue that the American constitutional tradition has been derailed (to borrow a line from Willmoore Kendall and George Carey), but Roberts goes too far. It's a shame, because he's pretty solid in his area of expertise (economics). It's also a shame because he makes some good points in his piece before his rhetorical excess at the end totally obscures them.

[Posted at 23:06 CST on 02/09/02] [Link]

Eric Alterman

In the interest of his health, we'd like to encourage Eric Alterman to take a tranquilizer, or have a stiff drink, or something. Because he's so worked up here, we fear for his health.

Deep breaths, Eric. It will be okay.

[Posted at 22:59 CST on 02/09/02] [Link]

Blue Button

Our good friends at the Blue Button are not terribly impressed with Michael Moore.

And since the T-word is officially among our pet peeves, this is as good a time as any to make official our own distaste for split infinitives.

The Blue Button also points to Ron Paul's fine essay on money and politics. Ron Paul is a throwback to the days when members of Congress actually read, understood, and tried to uphold the Constitution. The editors of the Washington Post and NY Times, among others, would benefit from reading and trying to comprehend the Congressman's essay.

[Posted at 22:53 CST on 02/09/02] [Link]

Once The World's Largest Chutzpah Company

Tim Fleck and Brian Wallstin have done a pretty interesting piece for the Houston Press on Enron, with reporting and analysis that is far superior to anything the Chron has run so far.

I couldn't help but laugh at this line, because it's indicative of the self-important smugness of way too many Enron employees that I've run across on occasion:

Executive Jeff Skilling showed the brash style with personalized license plates -- WLEC -- for "world's largest energy company."
I guess Mr. Skilling had never heard of a small firm with a fairly significant office just two blocks from Enron (and another one about 14 miles north), ExxonMobil, a firm that actually produces something tangible. But hey, if the Enronites spoke enough -- even false claims like being the world's largest energy firm -- they came to believe their BS. As recently as November, I was hearing comments like Skilling's from Enron employees IN MY GYM (I've not heard such comments lately, interestingly enough).

It also is a disappointing piece for those who want to portray Ken Lay as a friend only of Republicans, as it documents his lavish support of LeftWingNuts Ken Bentsen and Sheila Jackson Lee (and yes, Tom DeLay and Phil Gramm, although ideologically they are deregulators whether or not there's political money pushing 'em that way. That said, Wendy Gramm's role looks a little suspicious). Ken Lay was an opportunist, a master of the game of pull-peddling, and that's why liberals who are hopeful Enron will take down the Bush White House might want to be careful with this one.

Oh, and I realize the Dallas Observer is a sister publication to the Press, and both are owned by New Times media, but I'm a little amused that they repackaged the story by giving the promo more of a Phil Gramm slant although the article is otherwise the same.

(Update: Callie just asked why the Chron never runs articles like this. After laughing heartily, I answered that I just didn't think Leon Hale was up to the task. Yet the Chron seems to love his crap, and crap in general)

[Posted at 22:31 CST on 02/09/02] [Link]

Queen Sheila

I posted the Weekly Standard's earlier piece on Sheila Jackson Lee to the Texana section of Reductio Ad Absurdum last week. The latest Weekly Standard reports further on Queen Sheila's asinine behavior. I'm glad the rest of the nation is getting to see the real Sheila Jackson Lee, the one that those of us somewhat closer to her Congressional district are acquainted with.

Of course, it really doesn't matter. She's in a safe district, and even moreso than Mayor Pothole, can mobilize her base well enough that it's hard to imagine she'll ever have to leave the Congressional public dole for the rest of her life.

That's a pity.

[Posted at 21:43 CST on 02/09/02] [Link]


I love the Washington Post sometimes. On some matters (say, Vice-President Cheney's argument of executive prerogative regarding energy policy meetings) the paper can hardly stand that the Administration is exercising powers reserved to the executive branch. But the paper is up in arms over the fact that President Bush has not used the power of clemency once during his Presidency! In fact, not using the power "is an abdication" the editors argue.

They surmise that President Bush has declined to use the power because of the scandalous behavior of President Clinton in his final days, and they just can't refrain from getting in a dig at former President Bush's pardon of Caspar Weinberger, which many people agreed was a good idea at the time. In any case, it was a principled pardon, in contrast to many of Mr. Clinton's last minute pardons.

But worse, there's no evidence that President Bush has declined to use the power for that reason! As the editors admit, President Clinton didn't use the power his first year in office either. So I wonder if the Post called THAT an "abdication" at the time? Anyone with Lexis-Nexis care to check that out?

This just looks like a poorly reasoned cheap shot at the President, especially with the headline "The Unforgiving Mr. Bush." Given my belief that rhetoric usually has some purpose or end, I wonder what they were trying to accomplish with this piece?

[Posted at 21:36 CST on 02/09/02] [Link]

Problems Of Analyzing International Politics

One of the most important sources of data for successful political risk analysts are the utterances of public officials, whether they are in a government, the political opposition, or even (in some cases) rebels. But it's sometimes the case that analyzing those public utterances can drive one crazy, because of translation problems or bad reporting or numerous other reason. To illustrate the occasional difficulty, here are a couple of reports on Ariel Sharon's recent trip to the United States. The NY Times reports the following:

American and Israeli officials said that even though Mr. Sharon had told the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot last week that he planned to ask Mr. Bush to cut ties with Mr. Arafat, he did not follow through on the plan.
But the Washington Post reports the meeting slightly differently, with the headline "Bush Balks At Isolating Arafat" giving the impression that Sharon had asked, and been refused, on the matter (which apparently did not take place during this meeting, as the author of the piece seems to concede indirectly).

The contradictory coverage of this meeting from this nation's two newspapers of record illustrates one of the problems of using public sources for political risk analysis, although the problems are amplified many times when one must also take into account different languages and the openness of regimes (i.e. in some regimes, the papers are organs of either the government or other groups).

[Posted at 21:18 CST on 02/09/02] [Link]

08 February 2002

Rising Crime In Mayor Pothole's America

Crime is on the rise is Lee Brown's America.

Along with the city's collapsing infrastructure, the crime problem should be more than enough to occupy Mayor Pothole's attention, and should be of much higher priority than his quest to overturn term limits. Perhaps someone in the Greater Houston Partnership will pass along that message to him?

[Posted at 23:36 CST on 02/08/02] [Link]


This is the first weekend that I don't have enormous amounts of original dissertation research looming over me (though there is much editing to be done), and the weather is supposed to be beautiful. But I just couldn't muster the energy tonight to pull together a short (20 mile) weekend backpacking trip to Davy Crockett National Forest tomorrow. I need to spend the time editing anyway, but I'm hearing the call of the woods.... a trip to the Ouachitas will have to be made in short order.

[Posted at 23:24 CST on 02/08/02] [Link]

Stevie Franchise

Rockets guard Steve Francis is an amazing young talent, with ability to accelerate and change direction that makes Michael Jordan (in his prime, not the current version) look a step slow. Like Jordan in his early years, Steve Francis is integral to the success of his team, but hasn't yet learned how to make his teammates better. But he's good enough that he's earned the nickname Stevie Franchise. Earlier this week, CNN-SI posted their latest NBA power rankings, and they note that the Rockets (who have a 16-33 overall record) are only 1-19 when Stevie is out of the lineup. That's certainly a testament of his value to the team, although they need to surround him with more talent obviously.

[Posted at 00:20 CST on 02/08/02] [Link]

07 February 2002

Wil Wheaton

Hmm... and I was thinking that I should put up a paypal button so kind readers could donate cash for me and Callie to go to dinner... but Robyn has convinced me perhaps that's not such a good idea.

(Update: She's also posted about Typing With Peggy Pumphrey -- see the comments. Scary)

[Posted at 23:58 CST on 02/07/02] [Link]

Mindles Hedonist Dreck

Damn! I want to be a purveyor of Mindles Hedonist Dreck. Maybe Andreas will sell me a franchise? :)

[Posted at 23:47 CST on 02/07/02] [Link]

London, Cheap

I've been on a boycott of the airlines because flying has become damned inconvenient, but Continental is trying to entice me with the cheap London fares they're offering -- $330 roundtrip from Houston. That's a steal. Are you ready for visitors, Graham? :)

[Posted at 18:42 CST on 02/07/02] [Link]

The T-Word

I was thinking last night that I hadn't seen the infamous t-word used in quite a while. Kinda funny -- almost as quickly as words become trendy among the incestuous blog community, they go out of style. Well, almost. I just saw the t-word used in a blog today. But that's the first time in a LONG time, and it doesn't seem to have set off the domino effect that existed for a few weeks there.

[Posted at 18:37 CST on 02/07/02] [Link]

06 February 2002

What About Those Online Blogs?

Heh heh heh... fellow Sooner fan Robyn finds this piece on "The Online Blog Phenomenon."

Blogs and online journals have been around how long, and they're just now generating a buzz among mainstream media?! I started this one as an outgrowth of a static personal site nearly two years ago, and I was well behind the curve even then. Hmm....

[Posted at 21:47 CST on 02/06/02] [Link]

Ken Layne On Americana Music

I count myself among Ken Layne's estimated 2% of readers who stuck around for his discussion of the sad state of Nashville and the continuing rise of Americana (or roots-rock of whatever you want to call it) music and found it fascinating.

Surely the 2% estimate was WAY low.

[Posted at 21:43 CST on 02/06/02] [Link]

Campaign Finance "Reform"

Does everything have to be an opportunity for the Washington Post to campaign for restrictions on political speech (err, "campaign finance reform")?

Apparently so. I'm sure the New York Times will follow up on the "issue" tomorrow.

[Posted at 20:57 CST on 02/06/02] [Link]

Intellectual Property

Reynolds has posted a piece on the twisted state of intellectual properly law that touches on areas of both law and political philosophy. I'm not really qualified to comment on the legal side of matters since that's not an area of personal expertise, but the case Reynolds fashions for the notion of intellectual properly law run amok is compelling. It's hard to see how an image of a routine item in a movie, for example, constitutes unique intellectual property! And the concluding sentence succinctly states the problem:

If unchecked, the expansion of intellectual property protections into new and bogus areas is likely to undermine the legitimacy of intellectual property law itself.

But deciding how to "check" intellectual property law is a political matter, and it's in the area of political philosophy that the Reynolds piece raises some interesting questions about the purposes and premises of intellectual property law. For Reynolds, the premise driving intellectual property law seems not to be any notion of an (abstract) natural right to control the use of one's intellectual property, but rather a utilitarian concern for fostering creativity: if intellectual property is protected, creativity is encouraged and society benefits. In three separate instances, Reynolds conveys this notion: In paragraph 9, he writes of the "societal interest in rewarding creativity"; in paragraph 10, he writes that "intellectual property laws are supposed to foster creativity"; and in paragraph 13, he argues that "something has to be done, not only to foster creativity, but also to save intellectual property law itself."

Purely in terms of political philosophy, I wonder about the focus on the benefits of society, versus, say, the right of individuals to control their intellectual property. Reynolds is certainly correct to criticize the expansion of intellectual property law to everyday items that are difficult to conceive of as intellectual property. But the idea of compulsory licensing discussed in paragraph 12 makes me (as one of those abstract "rights" guys) a little nervous. It would seem to legitimize the expanded view of "rights" that is properly singled out for criticism in the piece, while at the same time curtailing individual rights. In some instances, I'm all for individuals exercising a "veto power" over society where their rights are concerned! I don't know that society has a legitimate claim to Rearden Metal, for example, just because it wants the product of Hank Rearden's mind, (Okay, you knew an Ayn Rand reference was coming) and surely there are legitimate examples of contemporary intellectual property where that would hold.

So the concepts of political philosophy underlying intellectual property law matter a great deal. Is the goal only to foster innovation that benefits society? To protect natural rights? Some combination?

Interesting questions raised by an interesting piece.

(02-07-02 Update) Den Beste defends the utilitarian approach to intellectual property. Additionally, I ran across this piece that talks about four distinct philosophical justifications for intellectual property, including utilitarianism, a Lockean-Nozickean (and by extension, Randian) approach, and two others. Whatever one's preferred approach, I think we both (Den Beste and myself) concur on the main point Reynolds makes: that the classification of some seemingly ordinary items as intellectual property is overly restrictive, in some cases stifling. I would also add that I write only as a political philosophy generalist on the topic of IP, and have no expertise whatever in IP law, so my $0.02 is worth ... about that much. :)

[Posted at 20:40 CST on 02/06/02] [Link]

Mack Brown's Annual Championship

Mr. Football: We're #1 (but only in February)!
Mr. Football: We're #1 (but only in February)!

Mack Brown has captured another "recruiting" national championship in college football, according to various sources. Since Mack Brown has been at Texas, February is a regular time for celebration. And then his teams underachieve and manage to lose games to less talented rivals in the fall. This fall, it may be even worse for Brown, with Big 12 road games at Nebraska and Kansas State. Not to mention Chris Simms's date with Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl.

Here's a fun little line from the Chron

Despite three previous highly-rated recruiting classes, Brown has yet to win a Big 12 title, let alone a national championship. Some critics have dubbed him "Coach February."

Of course, the Chron doesn't quite get it right. His nickname is Mr. Football or Mr. February, not "Coach February." But this is the line I liked most in the Chron:

"At Texas, you've got to win," Brown said. "I do think we get too much credit for recruiting and not enough credit for coaching."

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. He's joking, right?

Bob Stoops and the Oklahoma staff secured a consensus Top 10 recruiting class. A review of the Oklahoma additions may be found here.

Now that recruiting is done with, I'm looking forward to college baseball, as is Den Beste. UH had a very young team last year that squeaked into the NCAA tourney on the backs of some green but talented pitchers. Those guys are a year older now, and Rayner Noble has added some pop to the lineup. Rayner's teams are always top notch defensively, so if everything gels the Coogs could be a pretty good team by the end of the season. I think their preseason Baseball America ranking (#27) is a little low, but that's why they play the games. I'm hoping for some good weather this weekend for their opener, a round-robin style tourney against various old Southwest Conference teams at Enron Field.

[Posted at 18:47 CST on 02/06/02] [Link]


On Ronald Reagan's 91st birthday, Paul Kengor reminds us of the former President's virtues.

[Posted at 09:15 CST on 02/06/02] [Link]

The International Olympic Committee Can Go To Hell

Given this and this, can anyone explain why exactly the American taxpayer is being asked to support Salt Lake City's Olympics?

(Update: The IOC has "relented" and will allow a flag procession after all. Maybe this is the only way European bureaucrats can make themselves feel important?)

[Posted at 06:53 CST on 02/06/02] [Link]

05 February 2002

How Quickly They Forget

In general, I agree with Terence Jeffrey's argument that conservatives should be fighting for limited government. But keeping in mind the current political context, I can't help but think the nation is better served in that regard by the current president than it would have been by Al Gore. Or potential Democratic nominees like Daschle or Gephardt.

Interestingly, the latest Bush budget does cut spending in some programs, even though it is a record amount of spending. And as the war effort fades and 2004 elections approach, cutting the EPA budget while also cutting taxes is likely to give the Dems a "wedge" issue that Gephardt is already using. It's not effective now, but it may be then. Somehow, I don't think Terence Jeffrey would like the fiscal policies of President Gephardt.

(Update: NRO on the budget, in context)

[Posted at 21:42 CST on 02/05/02] [Link]

CSM Discovers Metafilter (A Little Late)

Isn't it ironic that by the time mainstream media get around to praising "new" forms of media, those in the vanguard of new media find the same object of praise tired?

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


I've been out at a client site much of the day, and haven't had the opportunity to check out this Movable-Type powered blog from Argentina, sent along by Orrin Judd to various bloggers. So far it looks pretty good.

On the topic of Judd, the good folks over at The Texas Mercury have posted his review (more an intellectual critique) of James Jeffords's Declaration. Good reading. Judd, not Jeffords, that is.

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


The NewsMax guys are sort of the Weekly World News of conservative media. They do run some good stuff, but it's hard to regard them as a legitimate outlet of news and analysis because they turn around and run stuff like this -- the sort of uncorroborated "he said, she said" innuendo that serves no useful purpose, other than to smear people (although Teddy, to be fair, has done a good job of smearing himself over the years, which makes me think there ought to be special legislation for any vehicle Teddy is driving in which a life preserver, rather than passenger-side airbag, is mandatory).

Conservative, liberal, libertarian, fascist -- I don't like to see people smeared this way, even if "gut" instinct suggests it could possibly be true.

[Posted at 16:45 CST on 02/05/02] [Link]

04 February 2002

Aggie Bonfire Postponed Another Year

In Texas, the postponement of Aggie Bonfire is enough to push Ken Lay down the front page. Well, at least at the Dreadful Chron.

However, I just cannot bring myself to post the news to the Texana section of Reductio. But then, there surely aren't any Aggies reading Reductio. That would require reading.

Okay, that was harsh. And I actually LIKE Aggies. I just couldn't resist.

[Posted at 23:42 CST on 02/04/02] [Link]

Alan Keyes

I've caught parts of the new Alan Keyes show a couple of times now, but I can never seem to find the time to watch the entire thing. Or remember for that matter. Anyway, I don't know that what he does makes for good television, but it may grow on me. I must say that there were times in grad school, however, when a seminar literally cried out for the direction that Keyes provides on his show. I don't think a Keyes seminar would ever be hijacked by a bloviating, off-topic grad student!

Hell, maybe Keyes should moderate the next Presidential debates. THAT would be interesting television! :)

[Posted at 23:17 CST on 02/04/02] [Link]


I'm not the biggest Robert Novak fan. Sometimes his columns resonate with me, sometimes they don't. But he's certainly the most plugged-in conservative in D.C., and thus always privy to good gossip.

Novak's latest notwithstanding, I suspect that, ultimately, only the players themselves will know exactly who said and did what in this whole Ralph Reed affair. And who knows -- Bush may be running a corrupt political machine that is no different than that of previous "war-room" Presidency. I doubt this, but if it's the case, it will emerge. But I'm fascinated with just how quickly liberals jumped all over it, almost with glee.

That's the sad state of politics today. It was not good for the country when Richard Nixon tarnished the Presidency. It was not good for the country when Bill Clinton tarnished it (yeah, some Republicans went overboard, but can anybody really defend Clinton's behavior, regardless of the whole impeachment issue?). And it won't be good for the country if somehow there is a lurking Bush scandal somewhere in the Enron mess.

I don't understand why some people seem to look forward to the possibility with such glee.

[Posted at 21:55 CST on 02/04/02] [Link]

03 February 2002


I guess it's only fitting that a bunch of underdogs with the nickname Patriots would win this season's Super Bowl, huh?

[Posted at 21:37 CST on 02/03/02] [Link]

John Dean Grows

It's interesting to see that John Dean has "grown." Unsurprisingly, on Salon.

Like James Taranto, though, I find it hard to take anyone seriously who writes:

I would not be surprised to discover that Enron's political largess was somehow involved in the Florida vote-counting debacle.

That's just bizarre. He might at least have saved his speculation for the end of his piece, so that he wouldn't compromise his credibility with critical readers (until the very end). Ah well. That's Salon. I'm sure what's left of their readership loved it.

[Posted at 21:34 CST on 02/03/02] [Link]

Culture Of Victims

In a culture that regards a traitor and a thug as victims, why am I not at all surprised by this?

[Posted at 21:20 CST on 02/03/02] [Link]

Libertarian Retreat?

I've been wondering when hardcore Libertarians would begin to return to their more usual pacifist and isolationist positions.

If this Cato press release is any indication, it looks like it's starting to happen.

[Posted at 21:17 CST on 02/03/02] [Link]


I couldn't help but smile at the headline for this piece.

[Posted at 21:12 CST on 02/03/02] [Link]

College Football Recruiting

College football recruiting is a curious affair. For college football fans, it generates plenty of excitement during the offseason, and numerous websites and publications are devoted to covering the matter. NCAA football is big business, after all!

Mack Brown, UT's football coach, has arguably been the most successful recruiter since 1999, with his classes being "ranked" first or near the top in virtually every publication devoted to topic. This year looks like no exception. But despite "outrecruiting" every program in the country since he's been at Texas, Brown's record is only 38-13. That's an excellent record that would please most college football programs, but given that most authorities agree Brown has recruited the best talent in the country, the record indicates he's lost a lot of games he should have won. I would guess if someone went back and looked at the losses, at least half would be games his team was favored to win -- but I'm too lazy to do that right now.

Mack Brown is beginning to acquire an image of a coach who just can't quite take it to the next level. His highly-talented teams at the end of his time at North Carolina never could quite get there, although he did have the drawback of running a football program at a basketball school. Of course, Steve Spurrier (whose record at Florida was 122-27) had that problem at Duke also, but still managed to beat Brown's North Carolina team, which is partly responsible for Spurrier's "Mr. Football" references to Brown. The point is, it's probably fair to question why Mack Brown's Texas teams haven't fared as well as the talent level suggests they should.

But it's possible that the various recruiting analysts aren't perfect at judging talent. I recall that in the mid/late 1990s, Kansas State rarely had a highly regarded (top-20) recruiting class, yet saw phenomenal success on the field, and had athletes who obviously could make plays in a tough football conference. Bill Snyder is a great coach, but he wasn't winning with a bunch of untalented walk-ons he pulled out of the band. Likewise, Oklahoma's 1999 recruiting class was ranked 36th, yet a fair number of members of that class led Oklahoma to its (unlikely) National Championship to cap off the 2000 season. I certainly wouldn't trade Bob Stoops (31-7 after taking over an OU program in disarray) for ten Mack Browns (or one), but are he and Snyder that much better coaches than Brown, that they can turn average talent into legitimate contenders for national championships?

The truth is probably that recruiting "rankings" do reflect a bias in favor of teams that are current powerhouses. When several highly ranked schools pursue a recruit, it puts him on the radar of recruiting services, who may then inch him up to "blue chip" status. But when K-State visits an unknown athlete in the Oklahoma panhandle, figures he fits their offensive or defensive schemes nicely, and keeps quiet about it, that recruit may rank as a "one-star" recruit, which does nothing for the school's overall "ranking" but may turn out to be an important contribution to their team.

Of course, none of that really explains why Mack Brown's Texas teams seem to underperform. But that's a problem for UT fans.

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

02 February 2002

Original Research Is Done

I'm pleased to report that after my little burst of enthusiasm about American political thought earlier (I really do love this field, just in case it doesn't show *smile* but I cannot begin to express how sick to death I am of this dissertation), I sat down as I had planned, and banged out the rest of the dissertation introduction, which marks the last of the original research for the dissertation (I hope -- there's the likelihood that my chair will have a number of suggestions, but I don't anticipate those requiring significant new research). I had saved the introduction/lit review for last, because I honestly was not entirely sure of some of the findings for each chapter, and I wanted to be able to introduce those properly in the introduction (makes sense, eh?) rather than having to go back and do a significant rewrite. That's not to say I didn't have a working introduction, but it was really rough, more of a bullet outline of key points and question -- useful for writing the final version, but hardly a substitute.

I still have not put together a conclusion, but that won't involve original research -- just a rehashing of my findings, some speculation, and what will actually be a pretty interesting discussion as to why the Progressive era is still so misunderstood. However, I'm holding off on a conclusion until my chair goes through and gives me further instruction. No use writing a conclusion that could be blown to hell by requests for changes from my chair. I don't expect that, but then again, I'm not willing to gamble on it.

And of course, there's massive massive editing. And then arranging everything according to the College of Social Sciences style guide. Pain in the backside... but progress is progress.

I think a trip to the gym is in order (nervous energy to shed), and perhaps a glass of wine later to celebrate.

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

American Political Thought

There's an ongoing discussion between Den Beste and Murray on an issue near and dear to my heart, the American Founding, and both make some very good points while also making some errors.

Murray disagrees with Den Beste's post on American exceptionalism:

They [the American Founders] created a nation based entirely on philosophies that had been conceived and nurtured in the UK.

To some extent that's true, probably to a larger extent than Den Beste admits. The development and implementation of the theory of popular sovereignty was a significant American contribution to political theory and statesmanship, of course, as was the extensive written nature of American constitutionalism and proto-constitutionalism (more on this below), and neither of those should be minimized. But in support of Murray's point, Jefferson's 1825 letter to Henry Lee on the Declaration is telling, since Jefferson acknowledges a wide variety of sources ("Aristotle, Cicero, Locke, Sidney, etc") in composing that "expression of the American mind." The document announcing a revolution, ironically, was not that revolutionary intellectually, but an assimilation of American political thought that drew on a number of traditions, including American experience. That fact makes the assimilation no less profound, however, as Den Beste points out (and more profoundly, it suggests a difficulty in beginning one's consideration at that point in time -- more on that below).

Unfortunately, Den Beste goes far off track in asserting the degree of influence of Iroquois political philosophy on the Founding. Contrary to his claim, it is not acknowledged in the field of American political thought that the Iroquois were "very influential." Several revisionist historians with no training in American political thought have made that claim, which gained some currency in certain crowds during the heyday of multicultural excess in the late 1980s/early 1990s, but it never resonated within the literature of American political thought, and the claim has largely been dismissed by serious scholars of American political thought. Likewise, James Loewen's assertion on Iroquois influences on key Moderns was seized upon by some for the obvious purposes, but it's never been backed up by any serious work in political philosophy demonstrating the transmission mechanism of the incorporation, which should be relatively obvious if Loewen is right. About the only work that has been done is to show some similar concepts in More's Utopia and Iroquois political theory (which is interesting enough in its own right, for reasons I will get into later), but that does not support Loewen's further-reaching assertion. Even if it did, More's influence on the Founders was virtually nil, Rousseau's was barely more than that, Algernon Sidney was at least as influential as Locke, and then there's the Scottish Enlightenment crowd, not to mention Blackstone, the Ancient Greeks, and the Bible (surely the Iroquois cannot be said to have influenced those last two!). I'm not entirely sure why Loewen, whose training is sociology (and specialty is race relations), should be regarded as an authority on either American political thought or modern political philosophy; certainly his unsupported assertions in both areas suggest otherwise.

The better case to be made for American exceptionalism is that the American constitutional tradition had already begun, as early as 1620 (prior to any significant interaction with Iroquois political theory and prior to John Locke's birth!), in the form of proto-constitutional covenants and compacts such as The Mayflower Compact (and its fascinating addendum, The Plymouth Oath of Allegiance and Fidelity), the Plantation Covenant at Quinnipiack, and The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut to name but a handful. And even though it IS fair to say that at some point leaders like Franklin became familiar with the Iroquois confederation in their later deliberations on union (Don Lutz, for example, makes the point in his Origins of American Constitutionalism) it is just as important to keep in mind that one of the earliest confederations in America predates that by over a century: The New England Confederation of 1643. From these (and many many other) proto-constitutions came more advanced charters, bodies of liberties, and eventually state constitutions. By the time of the "Founding" proper (roughly the time of the Declaration), Americans already had experience with constitutionalism to draw upon as they put together a nation, and of course the political class also turned to the writings of the masters to inform their effort (I borrow here from Gordon Wood's identification of a "political class" broader than the handful of elites usually thought of as the "Founders" because expanding the sample is quite useful in understanding the political theory of the time). And we have some idea of the writers to which they turned and the transmission mechanisms because of collections like American Political Writing During the Founding Era, and Political Sermons of the Founding Era, not to mention insightful works like Trevor Colbourn's Lamp of Experience (out of print until recently) and more recent works that act somewhat as guides to sifting through the growing literature.

As with hard sciences like chemistry or physics, American political theory can be studied systematically and rigorously. Sometimes, the research may be less conclusive than that of the hard sciences. Sometimes we may quibble over methodology. Often we will debate our conclusions. But many scholars do take the subject seriously, and have elevated it above the mere exchange of opinion. That's why I cringe when I see efforts like Loewen's -- methodologically suspect and perhaps ideologically motivated -- popularized. It does no favors to the serious study of American political thought, nor does it really do any favors to the study of Iroquois political thought in particular.

On that last, I would like to add one final thought. Scholars motivated to "discover" a major Iroquois role in American constitutionalism, whatever the source of the motivation, are missing the real importance of Iroquois political theory. What Iroquois political theory represents is the development of a method of effective political organization entirely independent of European and ancient Greek influence, a significant matter in its own right. Furthermore, the political success of the Iroquois relative to other tribes, I suspect, can be almost directly attributed to their superior political organization -- their constitutionalism, if you will. That's an understudied element of Iroquois political theory that literally just begs to be explored rigorously by political theorists and historians.

[Posted at 16:03 CST on 02/02/02] [Link]

More Borrowing?

Regular readers here know my feelings about blatant "borrowing" of text and ideas such as the recently exposed acts of plagiarism by Stephen Ambrose and Doris Kearns Goodwin.

What's much tougher is the borrowing of ideas without proper attribution, since it's often impossible to know if an author intentionally "borrowed" from someone else and deliberately chose to slight her, or if an author just "assumed" certain information to be in the public domain and reworked it slightly.

I've just run across one of those cases in an article dated 1 February in the NY Times on the proposed HP-Compaq merger. Parts of it are strikingly similar to this article from the Economist dated 24 January, which I posted to Reductio Ad Absurdum a few days ago. In particular, paragraphs 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6 of the Economist piece track very closely to paragraphs 1, 2, 10, 11, and 13 of the NY Times piece. As in, some of the sentences seem only to be slightly reworded, and in some instances, in a more clumsy manner almost as to avoid copying the cleaner construction of the Economist article.

Is this plagiarism? Impossible to say. It's not blatant enough for me to make that accusation, although it certainly raises suspicions. Ultimately, only the author knows for sure. And it's these instances -- not the crystal-clear examples of Stephen Ambrose and Doris Kearn Goodwin -- that are the most difficult.

What is strange is that, in some ways, the NY Times piece is the stronger piece. It's weakened by the elliptical writing that, perhaps, represents an effort to avoid simply copying from the Economist piece, but otherwise it's more tightly focused on its topic (What is driving Hewlett) than the Economist piece on its topic (the strategic business issues dividing the camps in the merger debate). If any "borrowing" took place, one can only wonder why, since the author obviously can string together an effective article.

(02-02-02 Update: This FT article touches on all the same issues, without the same feel of "borrowed" text/ideas)

[Posted at 00:11 CST on 02/02/02] [Link]

01 February 2002

Another Blast From The (Recent) Past

Madeleine Not-At-Albright reminded me of another figure who should probably have used the opportunity of his retirement to STAY RETIRED.

That would be Anthony Lewis, who penned an editorial about a week ago that I never got around to linking (it's been riding about in my PDA, which is the holder of all items to be promiscuously linked).

Not that it's noteworthy really. I mean, how noteworthy is this tired variation of a theme: If we treat the brutal murdering terrorists as the brutal murdering terrorists, then the brutal murdering terrorists will have won.

Hell, at this rate, we'll soon be revisiting the "root causes" of Islamic fundamentalist terror. Oops, we already are.

[Posted at 20:28 CST on 02/01/02] [Link]

Madeleine Not-At-Albright

Madeleine Not-At-Albright is such an absurd figure -- easily the worst Secretary of State in my lifetime (Warren Christopher doesn't count because it's not nice to make fun of nearly dead people, even if they hold an important office) -- and at some point, I began to look forward to her public appearances, which always led to public utterances that were just too easy for a laugh, in the same manner of, say, Gerald Ford falling down stairs and off stages, or Jimmy Carter being attacked by a rabbit, or Joycelyn Elders expressing delight at her condom tree. But my heart just isn't in it now. I could only get about halfway through the coverage of her latest idiocy, and my eyes glazed over. When she started talking about North Korea, I could only think of her Y2K fashion standoff with North Korea's dictator.

Kathryn Lopez has a slightly more analytical reaction.

[Posted at 20:19 CST on 02/01/02] [Link]

In Tyson's Corner (Jail Cell?)

For anyone thought I unfairly caricatured a segment of the Left by noting the tendency to treat everyone -- even a traitor and a thug -- as victims, check out this editorial in The Guardian. At least the headline concedes Tyson is aggressor AND victim.

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

The Bowl will no longer exist. Houston's Most Annoying Man, "Mattress Mac" (he calls himself that) announced today that he will no longer be sponsoring the ho-hum bowl game. No doubt, the bowl game will have its work cut out for it finding a sponsor like Mac's Gallery Furniture, truly as ridiculous as the game itself.

But Houstonians relieved that Mac, ever the LOUD one, will perhaps have one fewer advertising vehicle should not be. Rumors continue to swirl that he's thinking of stepping up and taking over Enron's sponsorship of the Astros' ballpark. Won't that be great?! Mattress Mac for 4-5 hours at a time, at LEAST 81 games per year, and, if history holds, at least one game of a first round playoff debacle. Maximum Exposure!

I love Houston. I really do. It's a great city DESPITE its drawbacks. But when its public faces are the nation's largest newspaper never to have won a Pulitzer (they call themselves "Houston's Leading Information Source"), Ken Lay, Mattress Mac, and Mayor Pothole -- well, it's gonna be hard to convince cynics of the city's virtues. No matter how hard some of us try.

[Posted at 19:51 CST on 02/01/02] [Link]

Matt Green's Latest

So, now Matt Green tries to throw us off a bit with this decidedly NON-Texana/Americana recording. Either that, or he's getting tired of both the alt-country AND writing grind.... Hmmm. It IS a nice song, though.

[Posted at 16:45 CST on 02/01/02] [Link]

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