December 30, 2004

Linking Fool Friday (Year-End Edition)

If I was a better blogger, I'd go back through the year and highlight the best posts, mine and others'. But, no. I'll direct you to SKB's year in review instead.

Nice article on Pedro Martinez's efforts to improve his hometown. At least he's helping others with all that cash. A lot of highly-paid athletes may well do stuff like this, but we rarely hear about it. (Via CT.)

Still in the Holiday, um, Christmas spirit? Enjoy the Cavalcade of Bad Nativities. My favorite: the geese on page 1. Also, I'm not entirely sure what the point of this China Miéville short story is, but it's entertaining nonetheless. The latter forwarded by Tor, who also passed along Pulp Xmas.

I've been posting crap here in one form another since before blogging was cool, but Saturday marks the one-year anniversary of the rebirth of FoolBlog on the MT platform. I will probably always wish for more readers and more comments; this will never be a top-tier blog that comments on every issue of the day. But I quite enjoy bringing you my addled thoughts when I am moved to do so, and I hope you enjoy reading them. All six of you. Happy New Year, evry'buddy.

Posted by Carl at 01:11 PM | Comments (0)

and we'll name her twin sister "Nicole"

At Utne some of us were playing around with the SSA's baby name-o-matic, which shows the ranked popularity of names, and the number of American kids given that name in 2003. Through this tool, we can see that the girl's name "Paris" has jumped to #275, after hanging around in the 400-500 range for the previous 12 years.

Nothing wrong with "Paris" per se. But what's sad is that there are 500-odd little girls out there who are, essentially, named after Paris Hilton.

Posted by Carl at 11:15 AM | Comments (0)

December 29, 2004

I been standin' here all night gonna head out through the door

Jeff, one-time manager of my collegiate band The Incoherents (previously discussed here), in a fit of extreme boredom or something, has transferred a bunch of our old music to CD. The sound quality isn't perfect, coming from analog tape and all, but it works. I had convinced myself over the past couple years that we were, in fact, a really crappy band, but I am pleasantly surprised to find listening to these not as horrifying as I originally thought. Outsiders may still think it's crappy, and maybe they'd be right, but I have a lot of good memories wrapped up with this music, so what the hell.

And where there's a CD, there's soon MP3s. I know that at least a third of my six readers go back to the Incoherents days, so here's a little holiday present for those people, and a time-waster for everyone else. I suppose I should offer up "Shallow," which most folks agreed was our finest moment. This is, however, the studio version; there are live versions that are much better. After we put out the demo with this track (titled Socrates Johnson), a drummer from another South Central PA band told me he listened to "Shallow" three or four times in a row every day after he got off work. That is one of the greatest compliments I have ever been paid.

If that's too draggy and full of early-20s angst for you, try "Rant," a delightful bit of idiocy. One day in practice Ken (aka Guitarist #2) played this dopey riff, and everyone else fell in line with a rockabilly/bluesy feel. I mostly sang nonsense, attempting to sound like a snarling hick. We finished and I said "Hey that was pretty cool. Play it again." And we did. The third time we ever played this song was in front of people at a show. This recording is probably the fourth or fifth time we ever played it.

Please download 'em rather than streaming.

Shallow, 5.5 MB

Rant, 3.0 MB

(Songs by Berg or Williamson/Williams/Young/Orr, copyright 1993-ish Wet My Bed Music. Distribute freely, but if you attempt to make money from these songs in any way without permission, not only will you fail, but I'll be really mad.)

Posted by Carl at 01:05 PM | Comments (1)

Xmas Loot

I got a cast-iron frying pan, after being without one for too long. I believe I've cooked in it every day since receiving it. Fantastic. It conducts heat so well, I have to turn the stove down (i.e. if the recipe says "medium-high heat" I put it on medium). Please note, should you ever come to my house for dinner, then help clean up, do not put soap in my frying pan. I will pummel you if you do.

I also received a good Indian cookbook, somewhat by accident. I had left the Food section of the newspaper out on the table one morning, attempting to point out a blurb about a new Italian market that had opened. My wife saw the review of this cookbook on the same page, and thought I was asking for it. Not an unreasonable assumption, as I have been on a bit of an Indian kick lately. I made butter chicken and a cucumber raita Monday night and they turned out quite well.

Posted by Carl at 10:50 AM | Comments (0)

Getting the bad news out of the way

The horrible news keeps coming from South Asia. Some links where you can make donations are in this Kos post.

Bush pledges $15M to disaster relief. The budget for the inauguration is twice that. I think the pledged US figure has since gone up, but still. The classiest thing Bush could do would be to cancel the inauguration hoopla, just have a low-key swearing in, and send the money to the Pacific. The Slacktivist also notes the proposed aid relative to the cost of fighting the Iraq war.

Ezra at Pandagon notes how an event such as this can influence one's thoughts about religion. Sadly, I've been waiting for Falwell or someone of his ilk to announce that the quake and its associated mayhem are God's revenge on the non-Christians of the region. Hasn't happened yet, though I'm sure if I checked some of the more disgusting wingnut message boards I could find it.

Posted by Carl at 10:06 AM | Comments (1)

December 23, 2004

Linking Fool Friday (Holiday Edition)

Last week I was all "Two-week extra-long LFF!" But it wasn't really that long. This week is a short week, and I have an amazing stack of links piled up. I must be in a festive holiday mood.

In the spirit of the season, let me attack Christmas by saying Happy Holidays. All I know is every time I turn on the TV or the radio, I am bombarded with Christmas songs and ads for Christmas sales. I gladly accept the pagan Christmas tree and Santa Claus-type holiday, so I don't mind. But if there is a culture war, it's one of the right's own invention.

Big surprise: The highly religious, and those who watch too much TV news, are the most scared. More scared of terrorist attacks and more willing to stomp on others' civil liberties. Well, duh. What a bunch of chickens.

At this time of year, you'd like to think people would have some compassion for the less fortunate. Sadly, too many among us smugly call themselves Christians but have no problems kicking the downtrodden.

I think I really like India. Must be a shock to every right-winger who thinks America is some sort of shining city on a hill.

Making some things clear: The Sideshow on who really hates America, and Digby's statement on what it really means to be pro-choice. Speaking of pro-choice, dig this brilliant idea to annoy anti-abortion protestors.

Enough serious crap. Everyone knows I love Philadelphia and I love cheesesteaks, but Tony Luke's should be embarassed to have possibly the worst Flash game in history on their web site. Thanks to Tor for sending that one, and also for pointing out these high-quality meat-scented air fresheners.

I miss hockey. I don't support either the players or the owners in their dispute; I think they all suck right about now. They should read this.

Finally, what's better than a chicken gun? OCTOPUS CANNON! (Via IWSJLH.) Happy Festivus, everybody!

Posted by Carl at 02:09 PM | Comments (0)

December 22, 2004

This Is Really It! Seriously!

I thought about posting something yesterday afternoon after the city council's vote was official, but I decided to wait until MLB gave their blessing. After all, they could still have a change of heart. But lo, Commisioner Bud hath spoken, the team is resuming DC operations, and we're back on track.

I will remain a bit wary until Opening Day, players running onto the field, yadda yadda yadda. But, w00t! Eight- or ten-game plans go on sale in January. Makes a great gift! Hey, guess whose birthday is in January?

Posted by Carl at 09:21 AM | Comments (1)

December 21, 2004

Gimmee one o' them Monkey grants

December's Monkey: What would you do with a year off to dedicate yourself to something? Assume money is no object.

I'm also taking the assumption "all to yourself" and running with it; as long as we're living in fantasy land I may as well assume child-rearing isn't part of the equation.

Before I even got into Blork's answer, I thought "Spend the year living in a German-speaking country to really nail down my German." One thing I might do differently if I had a shot at college over again would be to spend a semester abroad. I didn't do it then because I felt I had too many irons in the fire on campus, and I didn't want to screw those things up by being gone for half a year. But I do think it would have been a valuable experience, and I may have accomplished German fluency by being immersed. As it is my German is pretty good, but I'm well short of being fluent. Thus, a year in Munich, Berlin, Leipzig, or Vienna, with frequent side trips, für Deutsch wie ein verrückte Bastard zu sprechen, find ich gut. (Blork's answer was "Really learn conversational French," so great minds think alike and all that. His idea of using the year to whip oneself into shape is a good one too.)

Posted by Carl at 03:08 PM | Comments (0)

whooo! I got quoted

Jackpot Jay's latest column is a mailbag, following up on his series on online poker. Note the second "Rational explanations" item from some dude in Centreville.

I'd like to think UB and its ilk are on the up and up, but after reading all these paranoid ravings one can't help but wonder. Good thing I don't actually play for money online.

Posted by Carl at 02:42 PM | Comments (0)

No, This Is IT! Until at least this afternoon!

Cheers to Linda Cropp, who stared down MLB and made them flinch at least a little. MLB will let DC pursue some private financing (though the 50% private requirement will be dropped), and take half of the cost-overrun liability from the city. It's back on, at least until the city council meeting at 10 AM.

I was pessimistic earlier, and I'm still wary. But baseball did seem to back itself into a corner as soon as the first "Baseball in DC" announcement was made. Fact is, they didn't have a whole lot of options for 2005. Go through a similar fight with Portland and/or Las Vegas? Play in a triple-A stadium in Norfolk? Go back to Montreal? None of those options was particularly inviting.

Another good item in the Post is Steven Pearlstein's column on the nuances of the financing. It's a knee-jerk reaciton to shout "Public money spent on stadium BAD!", but he makes the case that most if not all of the money to build this ballpark wouldn't come to the city at all without baseball. The tax on tickets, concessions and merchandise obviously wouldn't exist otherwise. And if the city could implement a new tax on large businesses to prop up schools, wouldn't it have already done so? Sad but true, a great many CEOs will readily agree to a new tax to support baseball, when they would reject the same tax for schools or public works.

Big losers in the deal: the gay nightclubs in Southeast that are likely to be eminent-domained and demolished to build the ballpark. Even in blue-state DC, they'll have a tough time finding a new location.

Posted by Carl at 10:01 AM | Comments (0)

December 20, 2004

Maybe This Is It After All. Who the hell knows?

Baseball is back on the agenda at tomorrow's city council meeting. There had been some concern that it wouldn't even be addressed.

What's this?! A concession from MLB?

Baseball officials have said they are open to private financing but they would like a guarantee that the city would revert to the original deal agreed to by Williams, which relies largely on public funding, if no private money is found.

Hmmm... a sucker's deal? After all, if a would-be owner knew this public guarantee is available, why put up one's own money? But the article goes on to say several funding proposals have already been submitted.

Posted by Carl at 03:34 PM | Comments (0)

Mascot vs. Kicker

Apparently during warm-ups of last week's Cowboys-Saints game, the Cowboys' mascot (a big dumb floppy cowboy guy) decided to mess with the Saints' kicker as he was warming up, and they had a bit of an altercation.

Figures the Cowboys' mascot would pull something so classless and stupid. There are certain types of people you don't mess with--MPs, Marines, and hockey players, for example. I'd put football players right up there too; even if it was the kicker, he's probably got big-ass lineman friends.

Posted by Carl at 09:38 AM | Comments (1)

December 17, 2004

Linking Fool Friday

Missed out last week as I was AFC all day. Then I was going to do a Monday Edition, but I kind of didn't. So you get twice as much crap today!

News Youse Can Use: At CT, a great method for coming off more spiritual than church-goers. The Poor Man on how the press is letting the right make a mockery of science. Kevin Drum on why the Social Security crisis is total crap.

Bill Moyers gave a good speech on end-timers, who seriously creep me out, and their willingness to abuse the environment.

Ursula Le Guin is unhappy with the Wizard of Earthsea miniseries. I haven't seen the latter, and it sounds like I should be glad. I read the books when I was something like 12 years old, and to be honest the racial aspects flew right over my head. I think these are books I should read again... in all my spare time.

Finally, get yourself a Special Edition iPod.

Posted by Carl at 03:05 PM | Comments (0)

December 16, 2004

Gnats round-up

Everybody's got something to say about the apparent implosion of DC baseball. Jim Henley, Max, Fred, ODub, King Kaufman, August, and of course BallWonk is weeping and rending his garments. The majority opinion, though, seems to be "Good for the Council for standing up to MLB, those greedy bastards."

I do not share Max's optimism that things will get worked out at the 11th hour. I don't see MLB backing down on this, no matter how much the court of public opinion (in the DC area and elsewhere) holds them in contempt. Even if Abe Pollin or Uncle Ted Leonsis comes bounding forward with a group of investors to put up the private part of the funding, it takes that much money of MLB's bottom line for the sale of the team. The owners have always been willing to put their financial interests in front of common sense and the public good; why stop now?

Cropp says she's gotten a lot of phone calls expressing outrage, but most of those are from outside the District proper; her actual constituents have been more supportive. Hardly surprising. "How dare you not commit someone else's money so I can go to a baseball game!"

One thing that is getting on my nerves: the insistence by Selig, Williams, Boswell, and others, that "A deal's a deal," and the plan Williams and MLB brokered should be honored. But if Williams doesn't have the authority to commit the District to the plan, it's not a deal. It's a TENTATIVE deal, until the body with the proper authortiy approves it. Williams is mayor, not some kind of Supreme Potentate. If he announced he had brokered a deal for Maryland and Virginia to dump their trash in Farragut Square for a fee of two cents a ton, should the council approve it because a deal's a deal? It's called "checks and balances," people.

This Fox Sports article linked by Jim (and written before the Cropp amendment) is one of few major sports-page pieces not absolutely pro-publicly-funded stadium. (The DC sports media is, of course, absolutely beside itself). Perry makes a major goof here, though:

Additionally, Mayor Williams touts the fact that additional stadium funds will be generated by a 10-percent surcharge on tickets sold. This, he says, is a targeted tax that will affect only those who choose to pay it. Sounds nice, but Mayor Williams' contention runs wildly afoul of basic economics. First, there's the matter of opportunity cost. Tax revenue streams are finite; you can't just create them out of thin air. If these monies are taxed to buy the team owners a half-billion dollar stadium, then those monies that can't be taxed for some other, more essential purpose. Like, say, buttressing homeland security for the city that's probably terrorist target number two. And it's not as though D.C., which is not exactly the paragon of urban efficiency, didn't have fiscal needs before 9/11.

But see, given the District's weird relationship with Maryland and Virginia, the ticket and merchandise surcharge really is creating revenue out of thin air, for the most part anyway. Many baseball fans would be spending money at a Nats game that they would not have otherwise spent in the District (personally, my choice is like to be Gnats game vs. dinner in Fairfax, not Gnats game vs. dinner in Dupont or Adams-Morgan).

Said before but bears repeating: I'll believe it when I'm in my seat on Opening Day and the players are running onto the field.

Posted by Carl at 01:36 PM | Comments (0)

Worst. Freebie. Ever.

I'm on a couple of Freecycle mailing lists. If you're not familiar with Freecycle, people post stuff they want to get rid of, and others e-mail them to come get it. Pretty simple. You could probably furnish your whole house through it if you're not picky.

Sent last night, though was this gem:

Just got it with my newspaper this morning. If nobody wants it I'm throwing it away on Thursday.
1099 hours free, 10 games free, etc.

I can't think of anything sufficiently snarky to say.

Posted by Carl at 10:10 AM | Comments (0)

Further proof online poker players are insane

Jackpot Jay's latest column bemoans the apparent lunacy among on-line poker players. He catalogs some of his spectacular bad beats and wonders if someone's actually cheating. That's mostly the product of selective memory; he doesn't remember the people who called him with stupid cards and lost. But I e-mailed him to say, "You give online players too much credit when you think they're evaluating hands with the same thoroughness as a professional, even at higher-stakes games. The guy who caught a queen on the river to make a set and beat your two pair wasn't thinking about pot odds, how many outs he had, or even about what you might have. He was thinking, 'I got two queens! That's pretty good! Maybe I'll get another one!' And he got lucky."

(I always imagine players saying "I got two queens!" like Tardy the Turtle.)

I went on to suggest he try some free ring games, where no one ever folds, or free tournaments, where some goofball always goes all-in on the first hand. I hadn't played for a couple weeks, but this morning I got to play in my usual weekday-morning freeroll (1300-odd players today), and we had two examples of free-tournament online crazy crap.

First hand, I'm on the small blind and get pocket aces. "Good," I think, "some goofball will go all-in." Sure enough, I had a sucker before the bet got to me, and two more callers after. The three callers had JJ, 6-2 suited, and 9-3 off-suit (the latter being the first to go all-in). My aces held up and I had a pretty good start.

Now, JJ I can live with, but what were the other two thinking? Probably "I don't really want to play this tournament," or possibly "If I get lucky here and get off to a big start, great, otherwise screw it." But I wouldn't put it past my fellow players to be thinking "Watch me bluff here!", "I could get a flush!", or even "If the flop comes 9-9-3, I got a full house! These are great cards!"

Example #2: I cruised along for a while and was doing pretty well. On the big blind, I get A-Q suited. Five or so players limp in, and I raise (in hindsight, this raise wasn't big enough). Three players call me. The flop comes A-2-3. I make a bet, two players fold, and the third raises. I think about it for a minute and put him on A-x. The thought of 4-5 briefly flashes through my mind, but I dismiss it. A good time to fire back, so I put him all-in (about two-thirds of my stack). He calls, and whoomp there it is, 4-5.

So let's review: he called the blind, then called a pre-flop raise, with 4-5 off-suit. In a meatspace game I probably would have been all "Dude, what the HELL?" But in online play, I've come to expect this kind of crap. Mortally wounded, I held on for a little while but went out 89th in a tournament that cashed 50 places. That's the most frustrating, in my opinion: to play for a couple hours, make myself late for work, and come up short.

Posted by Carl at 09:56 AM | Comments (0)

December 15, 2004

Maybe This Isn't It

The DC City Council approved an amended version of the stadium plan, one requiring half the funding to come from private sources.

As a citizen of the greater DC area, I say good for Ms. Cropp. It's preposterous for MLB to continually insist on such a free ride. And about $250M in public financing is still a pretty sweet deal.

As a baseball fan, I'm disappointed, because it will probably cost us the team--MLB will continue to insist on the free ride. Maybe in the short term they'll play in RFK, but I can't imagine MLB backing down now.

Posted by Carl at 09:12 AM | Comments (1)

December 14, 2004

Why do conservatives think our troops are stupid?

By now you've heard the story of a soldier giving Rumsfeld an earful about the lack of proper equipment. The spinning from the right is just ridiculous, and the most popular line is that some darn liberal reporter is to blame.

The most galling thing about this line of attack is that it gives very little credit to Spec. Wilson, the soldier who asked the question. The guy is dealing with a living hell, and is obviously of strong character. Would he allow a reporter to goad him into asking a question he really didn't want to ask, or that wasn't based in fact? Why do they assume Spec. Wilson is some sort of gullible nitwit? "Support the Troops" is such a mantra to these people, but when push comes to shove it's an empty slogan for a lot of war supporters. Yay soldiers, we love you, until you do or say something that doesn't support our position.

It's not unlike the canard "You shouldn't publicly protest the war, because it's bad for our troops' morale." This pre-supposes that our troops are unable to understand that protesting the policies that lead us to war have nothing to do with feelings towards our men and women in uniform. I'd expect stop-loss orders, the calling up of long-retired soldiers, being asked to go on stupidly dangerous missions, and seeing your buddies get shot to all be much worse for morale than some war protestors, anyway.

Posted by Carl at 10:04 AM | Comments (0)

December 13, 2004

Late night football takes its toll

There was an article somewhere lately (Football Outsiders? can't find it now) on how tough it is to actually watch Sunday and Monday night football games, especially as one gets older. Yeah, if you think that's tough, try going to those games, especially at a traffic-snarled mess like FedEx Field. I left my house at 5:45 PM and didn't get home until something like 1:45 AM. Sheesh.

But with the Iggles in town and a relative's season tickets easily available, I wasn't going to pass it up. If I'd have been watching it at home, I'd have said it was a boring game; lots of 3-and-outs and very few memorable plays. But watching the game in person is almost always exciting. The game was a lot closer than it probably should have been, but the Redskins' defense is in fact very good. The offense: totally inept. The only question of the late interception that really sealed the deal was which of the two Eagles defenders would pick off the pass.

I haven't been to many NFL stadiums--the Big Jack and RFK before it, plus purple This Year's Sponsor Stadium in Baltimore. We talked about it on the way up, and nobody could name a really memorable football stadium, at least not in the same way people talk about ballparks. They have their function, but by and large I think modern NFL stadiums lack character.

Lots of Eagles fans in the house. I wore my battered Eagles baseball cap and cheered mildly. As a former Caps season ticket holder, I know how annoyed I get when people come cheer for the other team. Actually, that doesn't bother me so much by itself; it's people who cheer for the other team and act like jerks about it. There were a couple of guys in Eagles gear two rows in front of us who stood up when no one else was standing, and refused to sit down when people yelled at them, apparently just as a power struggle. They also turned around and made various gestures when the Eagles had a good play. That crap got on my nerves.

12-1, already have a first-round bye, two more wins to secure home field, and the rest of the NFC is questionable at best. If the Eagles don't make the Super Bowl this year, I may well give up football permanently.

Posted by Carl at 10:43 AM | Comments (0)

December 08, 2004

Mmmmm... striped beets

I have a big pile of Wired issues; for a while there I didn't take the time to read them. Now I'm getting caught up. So forgive me if I post about something that's actually six months worth of old news.

One of few issues where I substantially disagree with the typical liberal position is that of genetically modified foods. I think the hysteria about possible but largely unsubstantiated dangers has drowned out the immense good they can do. (Similar feelings about nuclear power, but that's another post.) So it was encouraging to read an article on smart breeding: using the map of the genome to find the traits you want, then using good ol' cross-breeding to get those traits into the plant. Not patentable by Monsanto, and much more palatable to the environmentally excitable. Let's get those shelf-stable tomatoes that actually taste good to market, please.

Posted by Carl at 03:50 PM | Comments (2)

Aren't We All "Anti-Abortion"?

Thanks to Alas, A Blog, for pointing to an article by Frances Kissling on valuing fetal life. Although I am generally wary of sci-fi thought experiments, her's at least allows interested parties to stand on a level rhetorical playing field when it comes to this one particular issue: the life of the fetus. One can either agree with the argument (via The Agonist) that the abortion rate decreased under Clinton, but increased under Bush, or reject it. Insofar as pro-lifers and pro-choicers all have an interest in the minimization of abortions, however, it seems that the pro-choice side has a good reason to soften their rhetorical stance on "rights", and embrace a harder line on the value of prevention. By asserting that the opposing sides are not arguing over what to do, but merely how to do it, the pro-choice crowd can co-opt the affirming message of "valuing life", while making a strong case that criminalizing abortion ultimately does nothing to end its practice. It is all well and good to demonstrate that the attempt to overturn Roe is for the pro-life crowd an empty, feel-good move which does little to bring about a meaningful drop in the number of abortions. But one can only do this if there is at the same time a willingness to adopt (or adapt) the language of "valuing the fetus" already employed to such great rhetorical effect by the pro-life right.

Cross-posted over at Kermit's place...

Posted by The Beehimawth at 11:23 AM | Comments (0)

December 06, 2004

Hello Cleveland

So, we're supposed to be getting some baseball team 'round these parts, and they're going to build them a shiny new stadium. Not surprisingly, Michael Wilbon wrote a piece in the Post about how great new ballparks are, and pointed to Jacobs Field and its benefits to Cleveland as an example. However, a reporter who actually went to downtown Cleveland tells a different story, one of fans leaving the area immediately after the game (not unlike in Philadelphia, except there it's not downtown), and sports bars sitting empty.

I've been to the Jake exactly once, for a playoff game in 1995. (It was the night after the Red Sox had Albert Belle's bat confiscated, and he pointed to his bicep and said "I got your f---in' cork right here!" Eddie Murray hit a home run and the Tribe won 4-0 to go up 2-0 in the series. Only playoff game I've ever been to.) My friends and I went to dinner before the game, and there seemed to be a lively bar scene. Now, granted, it was a playoff game, and the stadium was BRAND spankin' new (I think it opened in '94). But still, anybody in Cleveland know... wha happened?

Posted by Carl at 01:29 PM | Comments (0)

On War, Terror, and the Destructiveness of Phrases

Matt Y. brings up the importance of challenging terminology. As has been said before, but is worth repeating, talking about the "War on Terror" after 9/11 is somewhat akin to talking about the "War on Carrier-based Aircraft" after Pearl Harbor. Terror is merely a tactic. It is a means to an end. On the one hand we need to engage in tactics which limit our own losses in the fight. But on the other hand we need to embrace a strategy which will bring a satisfactory end to the fight itself. Military operations in Afghanistan and the improvement of defensive measures in the U.S. are certainly part of the former. My sense is that the Bush administration firmly believes that the invasion of Iraq was part of the latter. Whether they are correct in identifying and implementing that strategy is yet to be determined. One of the burdens of the anti-war folks has always been to articulate an overall-strategy against what really is a clear and present danger. But as a first step one really ought to come up with a more useful way to describe what it is the U.S. is doing. Whatever that eventually happens to be, we need to ditch both "War" and "Terror."

The constant use of the term "War on Terror" makes it all the more difficult to distinguish between tactics and strategy on both sides of the conflict. Yet making this distinction, and seeking to understand the ultimate political and societal goals of our adversaries, would seem to be first steps towards articulating an effective long-term strategy. As it is, the "War on Terror" has simply become a dangerous solvent by which the administration can justify any action at home and abroad. As citizens we are asked to surrender civil-liberties in order to help stop the "evil-doers", while our support for an ill-defined extension into Iraq is demanded because we are at war. The last three years have collapsed into a series of rhetorical tautologies. It doesn't seem that truth was the first casualty of this "war", but just as Thucydides asserted long ago, it has been language itself.

Cross-posted over at Kermit's place...

Posted by The Beehimawth at 12:10 PM | Comments (1)

December 03, 2004

Poker problem resolved

Thanks to everyone who responded to my poker question... both of you. As you may have guessed, I called. I had pegged my opponent as having the other 2, and I figured if he had an ace or king he'd have bet larger sooner. I was expecting us to both play 222AK and split the pot, and he was just trying to run me off. For some reason, the idea that he had 9-2 and thus caught the boat on the river never crossed my mind, but that's exactly what happened.

The commenters agreed that I was right to call at the end, but they took me to task for not re-raising on the turn, which indeed would have been a better play. Holla to Iggy, whose Guinness and Poker blog is an entertaining if rambling read, and to ol' Fred, who I never knew to be a poker player. Perhaps we should organize the Greater Washington Area B-List Political and Sports Blogger No-Limit Hold 'Em Invitational.

Posted by Carl at 04:59 PM | Comments (3)

Linking Fool Friday

Leave it to Rob to show up out of nowhere and post something all intelligent. Makin' me look bad. Seriously, though, good to have ABQ Rob back in the house, and sooner or later I'll get around to blogrolling his new group blog endeavor, Kermit the Blog.

Not a whole lot to roll out this week. Just the joyous topics of torture and depleted uranium. Call me crazy, but I'd prefer my country not do Evil Things.

Too depressing? Play Blix.

Posted by Carl at 04:50 PM | Comments (0)

Suffragator Ergo Particeps Sum

I took some time out of my own research this morning in order to attend a conference on political polarization in the U.S. One datum, and the discussion which flowed from and around it, struck me as especially salient. It seems to be commonly accepted that voting equals participation. Given that we live in a weak, or representative democracy, as opposed to a strong, or direct democracy, this might be a useful, albeit crude, tool for defining political engagement. Taking this measurement on its face, one of the arguments advanced was that increased polarization leads to increased partisanship and motivation, higher voting turnout, and thus a more robust participation in democracy. The payout being that polarization is a good thing for a representative democracy since it will spur participation in the electoral process and thus serve to better articulate the desires and positions of the electoral body as a whole. As an exceedingly crude measure of participation perhaps it is possible to grant this argument some legitimacy. It seems to me, however, that the panelists and the other participants failed to push hard enough on the fundamental assumption that democratic participation is best measured by voting. It seems that a more effective tool for measuring the vitality of a democracy, representative or direct, is the ability for citizens to persuade and be persuaded by each other. To the extent that our ideologies are so ossified as to make this impossible or unlikely, we fail as small-d democrats. We are not participating in the system but merely pulling levers for parties which are able to represent a mere fraction of our individual commitments. Instead of wringing our hands over the decline in voting percentage, perhaps we ought be more wary of the increase in strong party-identification and political self-segregation. Voting without a prior attempt to gather information from widely differing sources, and without actively deliberating among citizens both sharing and opposing one's assumptions and root ideological leanings, is an empty exercise in mistaking habit for power.

Cross-posted over at Kermit's place...

Posted by Rob at 12:39 PM | Comments (1)

December 01, 2004

Poker problem

I've never had much indication that any of my six or so readers care about poker. Nonetheless, I'm going to post the following scenario and see if I get any feedback. In this morning's free tournament, I made a particular play, and I can't decide if I did the right thing and was just unlucky, or if I goofed big-time.

Situation: about half the field gone, I am doing well but not spectacularly so. First hand after being moved to a new table, so I have no idea of the other players' habits. I am on the big blind and get 7-2 off-suit, a hand I wouldn't otherwise play, but no one raises so I am able to check and stay in.

The flop comes A-2-2 and I have a set. I make a bet and everyone folds but one player, who calls me. The turn card is a K. I make a small bet, he raises me, I call. The river is a 9 (no flush draw on the board). I make a small bet, then he raises me 5000. I have about 10K at this point, so calling won't put me all-in, but it would definitely hurt if I were to call it and lose. I've put a good 3000+ in this pot already.

So, I have 7-2, board is A-K-9-2-2. Should I call? I will let this linger for a day or two and see if anyone has an opinion, then I'll post what happened.

Posted by Carl at 09:26 PM | Comments (2)

The answer to "Pat's or Geno's?" is not "McDonald's"

There's a McDonald's commercial right now in which a young employee of "Eddie's Famous Cheesesteaks" sneaks into the back alley to have a McDonald's cheesesteak, to the annoyance of his manager.

If there were any justice in this world, the cheesesteak vendors of Philadelphia would band together and sue McD's for false advertising.

When in Philly, go here for the best cheesesteak I've ever eaten. And I've eaten quite a few.

Posted by Carl at 10:52 AM | Comments (0)

No, THIS Is Really It. (probably)

The DC City Council preliminarily approved the stadium plan yesterday. There's still time for the naysayers to screw things up, but for now the Gnats are on. I will still remain healthily skeptical until I'm sitting in my seat on Opening Day and the players are taking the field. Mediocre Fred has a good breakdown of the city council members and their motives (scroll past discussion of crazy soda flavors and VH1).

Posted by Carl at 10:38 AM | Comments (0)

Letting gay people come to church "too controversial"

Via TPM: the United Church of Christ, the Protestant denomination I grew up in, has produced a TV spot highlighting its inclusiveness and welcoming all people, including homosexuals. No mention whatsoever of gay marriage; an ostensibly gaycouple is turned away from another, unspecified church, and in the follow-on shots showing UCC parishoners, there's an apparent lesbian couple.

Too much for CBS and NBC, who are refusing to air the spot.

Yay Moral Values. While I don't actively attend UCC services these days, I still respect my hometown church and the denomination at large as full of real Christians--not the hate-filled nutballs represented by Falwell and his ilk. But the SCLM won't even let them say "gay people are fine with us" in a paid spot. Sickening.

Posted by Carl at 10:32 AM | Comments (0)