February 18, 2005

Linking Fool Friday

Been one of those weeks where I haven't had much to say. Here's other people who do.

Teh serious: The Poor Man on The Left, aka conservatives' all-purpose boogeyman. Via that same Poor Man, the extremely disturbing news that modern Republicans would rather re-elect Dubya than George Washington if he came back from the dead. MyDD with more of that famous Republican civility we talked about the other day. Body & Soul asks if Bush will walk the freedom talk for Burma. Pandagon points out that No Child Left Behind is still arbitrary and capricious, and penalizes schools that any sane person would call great.

Teh fun: This person sums up his/her feelings on the state of things quite nicely. I should blogroll DCist, an entertaining rundown of all things Beltway-esque. And if you want some dope tracks for free, start downloading from the Outlaws.

Posted by Carl at 09:15 AM | Comments (0)

February 16, 2005

The hockey season is dead. So it goes.

It's official. Cancelled. No season, no playoffs, no Stanley Cup.

As a hockey fan, I can't help but be disappointed. As an MBA, these chumps, players and owners alike (more so the owners) deserve their fate. Bring back the WHA!

Posted by Carl at 01:32 PM | Comments (2)

Where's that famous civility?

The Powerline blog, full of its own importance, comes on out and calls Jimmy Carter a traitor.

Jesus. Pardon my french (and sorry Mom, if you're reading), but Powerline, fuck you. You really think that a former President, who was a genuine, devout Christian, wants hardline Islamists to defeat his own country? Them's fightin' words, and I'd love it if Carter tracked you down and bitch-slapped you, all Bob Barker whaling on Happy Gilmore. What's wrong with "Carter was wrong about the elections in Iraq?" Why must everyone who disagrees with you be branded a traitor?

Posted by Carl at 11:35 AM | Comments (2)

February 14, 2005

Cannoons no more

Attempting to hype up their new relationship to the parent club, the Potomac Cannons have renamed themselves... the Potomac Nationals.

Meh. I suppose I could call them the "Nashoonals," but it doesn't really work.

Posted by Carl at 09:24 AM | Comments (0)

February 11, 2005

Linking Fool Friday

Jumpin' Jesus on a pogo stick, is it almost quittin' time already? I better post some links then. Just three this time, though.

Everyone knows about Juan Cole's smackdown of Jonah Goldberg, don't they? Just about the finest blog-based bitch-slapping I have ever laid eyes on. Good stuff.

Everyone reads Hullabaloo, right? Day in, day out, Digby writes incredibly thoughtful posts with apparent ease. Here's another one, on what all this approval of torture says about us as a nation.

Finally: Baby Hippo and Cranky-Ass Old Turtle Are Friends. Awwwwwwwwwww. (Picture on Snopes not workin' right now; try here.) Have a good weekend, evry'buddy.

Posted by Carl at 04:09 PM | Comments (0)

February 10, 2005

People will come, Ray

With all the talk about Nationals tickets, and a Wrigley Field trip brewing, I've got baseball on the brain today. Tony Kornheiser tries to be funny today, pointing out his inability to name any Nationals players and bemoaning the apparent nondescript nature of the team. Kind of weak for a guy who's a sportswriter for the Washington Post. If you read your own sports section every day, you'd know quite a bit about the team. But apparently Kornheiser is upset that Tony Tavares hasn't come in and given him a personalized PowerPoint briefing. Good rebuttals at Capitol Punishment and the Wonk.

Punishment also has an item on potential broadcasters. Rob Dibble? Oh, BARF. You know how much I like him.

High time I added a baseball section to the blogroll. In addition to the Punishment, we'll add Capitol Dugout, which has been doing a nice series of player profiles. Also Nat Fanatics, a fan club site (presided over by Fred) with a bloggy kind of thing and a message board (where yours truly goes by CarlosdelVaca).

Posted by Carl at 02:35 PM | Comments (0)

Jeff Gannon's secret identity

Holy crap, it's Wetter!

Posted by Carl at 09:14 AM | Comments (0)

February 09, 2005

Baseball, Ray

Nationals 41- and 20-game plans go on sale tomorrow for people who previously registered for ticket info (I should be one of those), Monday for everyone else. Anyone want to split a 20-gamer? Or three people want to split a 41-gamer? E-mail me please.

Posted by Carl at 11:12 AM | Comments (0)

a stupid post about a TV show

You all know by now how much I love Las Vegas. Unfortunately, I haven't been out there in a while, and have no trips on the horizon. So I watch TV shows about Vegas. I've been watching "Caesars 24/7" with regularity, and "American Casino" when I happen to catch it. "Caesars" had the saddest thing ever this week: a couple take $1,000 (supposedly their life savings) and decide to risk it on one bet. The idiots go to the roulette table, and the guy puts his $1K chip down on 6 black, cuz 6 is his lucky number. At the last moment he shifts it to red, a much more reasonable prop (near 50/50) for this type of bet. Guess what comes up? Yeah, 6 black. Guh!

I'm also somewhat embarassed to admit that I've been watching NBC's "Las Vegas." It's not really so much about Vegas, it's about James Caan and a bunch of hot young people and the crazy crap that happens to them, which happens to be set in Vegas. I am well aware that demanding realism of such a show is a complete waste of time, though I do give them props for shooting at the Mandalay Bay so it at least looks like a real casino (compare it to the Vegas episodes of "Friends," done on a set put together by someone who had seen a picture of the inside of a casino once). However, you'd think they'd at least try. This week's episode involves a couple who are cheating at roulette by use of "infrared triangulating lasers" that tell them approximately where the ball is going to land. The technology is laughable, and I'm fine with them making up some impossible crap to drive the plot. But here's what bothered me:

  • First of all, this couple is betting four numbers per spin and hitting seemingly every time. All the casino employees say "Wow, what a lucky streak," except the handsome young head of security who knows they're cheating and just has to figure out how (which of course he does right at the end of the episode). Sorry, any casino employee worth their salary would be suspicious. Betting like that, someone should win once in every 8 or 9 spins. Sure, you could have a lucky streak and hit 3 or 4 or 5 in a row. Dozens of times, racking up over a million dollars in winnings? Just doesn't happen. That would set off huge alarm bells.

  • Most glaring: In one shot, a hand is slapping chips down on the table, puts some on 17, and about half a second later the croupier puts the glass thingy down on 17 and calls it a winner. Rrrrright, except that in real life the croupier says "No more bets" while the ball is still spinning, well before it starts to settle. If the casino staff were real casino staff instead of characters on NBC, and thought the players were being tipped off to the numbers while the spin was in progress, they'd have made people put their bets down before the ball was ever put in motion.

I know, I know, silly of me. I might as well try to have a rational argument with that Jonah Goldberg fellow. But I have no other post-worthy thoughts today.

Posted by Carl at 11:05 AM | Comments (1)

February 08, 2005

Ahhhh... But what if we give him a Blowpop?

Crunchy candy on the outside, bubble-gum on the inside. Blessed with an object of such synergy, who could possibly choose the delights of doe-eyed virgins in its stead?

But in all seriousness, I fear that Vostok has misunderstood my argument, or (more likely) that I had failed to distinguish its variations in my previous post. Like him, I agree with Andrew Fields, that a robust law-enforcement response is probably best. As I previously made clear, "...this is not to say that there are no bad actors. There are people determined to inflict harm upon the U.S. who cannot be dealt with by soft measures." Potential Moh scores aside, I myself would group lollypops in the "soft measures" camp. Plainly, then, I don't think foreign aid, detente, or any other such lefty, teddy-bear notions to be sufficient at combating current, committed individuals.

While I largely agree with Andrew Field's latest contribution towards a Taxonomy Terroristorum, I sense (though perhaps wrongly) that he, like Vostok, tends to view these categories synchronically. Let me be very clear on this. There is no rhetorical advantage to be gained when it comes to dealing with individuals already fully vested in the ideology of groups such as Al Qaeda. Let us imagine that the U.S. had withdrawn all troops from Saudi Arabia, and at the same time brokered a generous and equable peace between Palestine and Israel in, say, June of 2001. Would we still have been struck on 9/11? My guess is yes. The point of this thought experiment is to assert that individuals such as the 19 involved were, by that point, lost to persuasion of any sort. When it comes to dealing with such men I am by no means "skittish" about the use of applied violence. It is, unfortunately, the only method left to us.

When I say, however, that we ought not to dignify such adversaries by recognizing their claims to be soldiers of a future caliphate, what I am arguing is that we must continually insist publicly on categorizing them as criminals, not soldiers. Not because we don't wish to take account of their motivations, as Vostok seem to misunderstand, but because applying such a label is chiefly a rhetorical move on our part aimed at as wide an audience as possible. The general refusal by primary powers to officially recognize claims of legitimacy by insurgencies, rebellions, guerillas, etc. is a technique probably older than the hills or the wheel. This is simply an opening move in what ought to be seen primarily as a war of ideas. Privately, of course, we need to take into careful consideration exactly how our adversaries conceive of themselves and their actions in order to defeat them. This, to my mind, includes stretching ourselves to understand the motivations of suicide bombers and such adversaries, as Kalkan's post and link to Eagleton made clear.

So, to reiterate, what I have argued thusfar is that we need to prepare ourselves to use force against those currently in operations against us, and at the same time to advertise our actions in a way that makes clear to all that we are dealing with criminals of the worst sort. The larger point of such rhetoric is not only to delegitimize bad actors in the immediacy of the present, but to hobble the support or creation such individuals in the future. These two moves, however, must be combined with a third approach, the one upon which Vostok has heaped a generous helping of scorn. But it is here that I fear that Vostok has made the weakest of assumptions about what he envisions as a "leftist" approach to international terrorism.

Soft measures (such as extension of foreign aid, detente, and massive airlifts of lollypops, to pick three of Vostok's bugbears) are not attempts to placate terrorists. They will do absolutely nothing to address the current crop of ideologically committed individuals. They are primarily attempts to make the ground out of which they spring less fertile. Here also I think it is useful to adopt Mr. Field's further taxonomy, distinguishing between socio-economic factors and political/ideological factors. Perhaps it is unfortunate that I chose the Marshall Plan as an example, since what springs to mind (perhaps) is a one-way bombardment of aid. While this can be useful, my own idea is that more reciprocal and micro-level actions are what is needed. There is no space here, nor do I have time, but to give some ideas: first, the U.S. could act often through U.S.-based and -staffed Islamic charities and foundations. Funneling funds through U.S.-friendly groups with existing ties to areas of interest seems more useful than gestures of goodwill solely reliant upon governmental action. They would advertise their connections to the U.S., but would operate under their own aegis. Furthermore, we need to encourage as much interaction as possible between the Middle East and the U.S. (and perhaps Europe as well). A few billion dollars would pay for a steady stream of young visitors, hosted by American Muslims, or by others, staying for at least a month and perhaps as long as a year. Israel has undertaken a similar program with amazing effect; giving Jewish students of all ages the chance to spend a summer on a kibbutz, with a family, or traveling around the country. It is no wonder so many American Jews feel show such strong support for Israel in later life. To the extent that we can encourage and support reciprocal visits by American students, all the better. Finally, the U.S. needs to pay attention to the lessons Europe has learned about the perils of ghettoization, and work to ensure that Islamic communities here are well-integrated and well-supported.

This is only a rough and very incomplete sketch, but the ultimate aim of policies such as these is to enable a positive picture of the U.S. to grow over time out of the speech and actions of the actual citizens of Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Syria, Iraq, etc. This is why I would stress the creation of categories that take into account the diachronic nature of the conflict. This is a fight that will span a couple generations, and to my mind the sort of actions we took (less so in Afghanistan, but more so in Iraq) have truly undermined the long-term war of ideas and attitudes which ought to be seen as the chief part of this conflict. Certain hard measures are needed for the present situation, but need to be undertaken in ways that do not disable the long-term soft measures which, if you believe soft-headed leftists like myself, will eventually prove to be the necessary foundations for a winning strategy. So, again, I have to ask Vostok (and those who might agree with him, if they are reading), why exactly does he "like the War on Terror", and when will he recognize what seems to be a clear connection between a failing strategy and wrong decision-making on the part of the Bush administration?

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

Posted by The Beehimawth at 12:04 PM | Comments (0)

February 04, 2005

Linking Fool Friday

Some things for you to read, while I try to figure out why the trackback spams keep rolling in, despite my having turned off trackbacks for all posts older than a month.

David at Orcinus wrote the definitive explanation of hate-crime laws. Seriously, every liberal should print this out and keep it on hand, to whip out when some blowhard starts in with "Aren't all crimes hate crimes?"

Via Digby, we read a fantastic post at Kidding on the Square titled simply Honor. A catchphrase of the FoolBlog is "These people have no honor," and I'm generally referring to the willingness of some on the right to lie, stretch the truth, "have no recollection" of things, play dumb, and otherwise be intellectually dishonest in order to advance their arguments. This post talks about George Washington, who had more honor in his little finger than the entire Bush administration has in their collective bodies. Stuff you might not have heard in history class, and an interesting comparison of what a great leader was over 200 years ago, to what passes for leaders now.

SKB says what I think about health care. Fine, call it socialist, but it'll just work better under a single-payer system.

Sports items: BallWonk on Sammy Sosa--seriously, the late 90's seem like halcyon days right about now. A good piece at Football Outsiders on Philly sports fans. I haven't taught my daughter to say "Eables," but she does go "Touchdown!" and put her arms up in the air.

Finally, even though I've read Fast Food Nation and know it's wrong, I do like a McDonald's double cheeseburger now and then. But I don't like it, you know, that way. First McDonald's insists on having white people rap in its ads all the time, now this.

Posted by Carl at 01:28 PM | Comments (0)

Little George's Texas Hold 'em

Is there some connection between the incredible surge in the popularity of poker (online, on TV, on campus...) and Bush's articulation of how he intends to fix Social Security? Is it true that Chris Moneymaker is actually Karl Rove's second cousin? Hmmmm... Okay, okay, I'll take the tin-foil hat off now... But seriously, why don't advocates of privatization put increased weight on the fact that their plan will give Americans more opportunities to gamble with their retirement funds? The citizens of this country like to take risks, so why not accentuate that aspect?

Instead, the media focus on things like future insolvency and a manufactured "crisis", without a thorough discussion of how Bush's approach cuts against the very philosophical foundations of the program itself. Bush and his supporters may have a very good argument, but like so many presentations of his ideas and programs, the public will never get a chance to judge it on its merits. Instead, the spectre of a mushroom cloud the system's bankruptcy is thrust front and center in order to sell an action which will do absolutely nothing to address any long-term problems the program might actually face. (For a quick rundown on this, see the always inimitable Shrill One.)

It is called Social Security for a reason. It was established in order to provide a guarantee; a risk-free pension, so that American workers could look-forward to an old-age secure in the knowledge that their productivity and contributions to society were to be rewarded by at least a modicum of financial solvency during their non-earning years. It is a program dedicated to removing as much risk as possible from the financial precariousness of senescence. Economists' hand-wringing about moral hazard aside, minimizing financial risk does not discourage private initiative, but, for those living on lower incomes, it actually gives it life.

All of this nice talk about building an ownership society doesn't seem to recognize that being poor, or lower-middle class, means you live in an America unrecognizable to many of your fellow citizens. When people like my father receive their yearly Social Security benefits statement, informing them of what they can expect to receive upon turning 65, they don't see part of their expected retirement, they are looking at all of it. In the world in which I grew up, and in which most of my family still live, IRAs, 401ks, and other such accoutrements of the middle- and upper-middle class do not exist. A "portfolio" is something the guys who spray-paint your house number on the curb for five bucks carry around. For the most part there is no such thing as "investment opportunity". It is a struggle simply to make the monthly house payment, deal with the utilities, and then buy food. Any "excess" is put in a low-interest savings account for emergencies like car repairs, or medical expenses. I think this is true for a large portion of working-class Americans. Yet, because people in this situation understand that a basic income during their retirement years rests upon a firm, if not extravagant, basis, they are more willing and able to stretch themselves into other sorts of investments like home ownership; maybe saving a bit for a child's education; or simply helping friends and family in need. All of these commitments are risky enough as it is. Must we also be forced to ante into Bush's gambling ownership society?

I would wager that most people like my immediate family are risk-averse for a very good reason. When their cards don't come up, they don't lose an opportunity for a time-share in Ruidoso, or a larger boat. They lose the ability to pay for life's necessities, like food, clothing, and shelter. Ask those of today's retirees who are truly dependent upon their social security checks if they would now be willing to gamble one-third of their monthly earnings for the possibility of a bigger payment in the future. I'd give good odds that there would be few takers.

And yet, when it boils down to it, "private accounts" mean increasing "private risk". The ability to carefully invest a segment of one's liquid savings is a great opportunity, and is generally a bet worth taking. But it only makes sense if you can really afford to gamble with that money. Not all people are in such a position, and those who can are already engaging in private speculation. Cutting holes in the safety net will only cause more stress, and teach a large segment of society to be less willing to take good gambles during their working years for fear of having too little in the bank upon retirement. The free-market ideologues who are trumpeting the possible rewards of privatizing part of the system owe the public a fuller accounting of its possible perils. If they can make an honest argument, and convince people to lend support to their ideas, more power to them. Unfortunately, as we have seen with past marketing ploys, we probably shouldn't expect such honesty from this administration. In this case, unfortunately, I happen to think that the cynical view is the right one. Bush's purpose in "reforming" the system is to destroy one of the pillars of progressive policy, and one which is justifiably the most popular program of the Democratic Party of old. This is ideological opportunism and hard, cold, Rovian politics wrapped up into one neat package. Brilliant, ruthless, and utterly immoral. Let's hope congressional Democrats and Republicans alike can remain united against it, and at the same time offer some progressive alternatives to address the very real, long-term, problems involved in maintaining one of the New Deal's greatest legacies.

Addendum: An interesting read on a related topic, the general precariousness of labor and income, is a three-part Los Angeles Times special called The New Deal. May take a quick subscription to access, but well worth it.

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

Posted by The Beehimawth at 10:23 AM | Comments (0)

February 02, 2005

College radio: yup, still sucks

I drove the wife's car to work this morning, and since it doesn't have a CD player I was stuck listening to the radio. Fresh off their station's final triumph over WHFS, the morning show at Clear Channel alterna-rock powerhouse DC101 was going on at length about a WGMU DJ who had apparently sent in a demo tape and was looking for a job. They played snippets of him breaking down sets, and he was pretty bad--talking too much, pausing to think of what to say next, just not at all smooth. In other words, a pretty typical college radio DJ. Elliot chuckled about this endlessly, and took calls from his listeners so they could make fun of the guy too.

It all got on my nerves, in no small part because I was that guy about 15 years ago. Like the GMU DJ, I wasn't nearly as cool as I thought I was, but I didn't do the show to be a super-cool DJ. I did it because I loved music and wanted to bring good music to other people. Two points:

  • Making fun of college DJs is too easy. Sure, there's a joke to be made there, but make it and go on. Elliot's spending an entire segment on this indicates either a lack of more original material, or a pathological mean streak (probably both, and yes I'm aware being mean is a big part of Elliot's shtick).

  • And even if he does suck, so what? A free-form college radio show is a totally different animal than a large-market drive-time show. I'd rather listen to a doofus like Welvin who plays interesting music, rather than a jackass like Elliot who talks for hours, laughs at his own jokes, and when he does play a song it's by the Angry White Guys With Guitars and Goatees, straight from the Clear Channel-approved playlist.

Interestingly enough, Elliot's colleagues did sneak in a tape of Elliot giving a traffic report early in his career. "Turn that crap off!" he protested. Diane, serving as the show's conscience, pointed out that Elliot was crappy back in those days too. Elliot protested that he was so cool, and went back to ragging on Welvin.

I've been remiss in listening to GMU's radio station, in large part because they have no broadcast signal--strictly carrier current and online (which, uh, doesn't work right now). Perhaps I should give my graduate alma mater's station a try, just as soon as they get that stream back up.

Posted by Carl at 09:02 AM | Comments (1)

February 01, 2005

January search terms

Haven't done one of these in a while. If I was so inclined, I could go through the entire log and come up with, like, a hundred of these, but I get sick of searching it. Nonetheless, it takes little effort to find search terms that are funny on their own, and those that are only funny because of the disappointment the searcher surely experienced upon visiting bigfool.com.

how big does a panthers cage need to be
lipton onion soup mix
Emeril's super bowl party
kids songs about geese
grape stomping fall woman news broken rib
urban myth salami disco
"cat food" and "procedure" and "ingredients" and "being made" and "factory"
any pictures of twins in the 2004 summer olympics that were gymnastics
Dark Magician Girl's breasts
lemme holla atcha holla holla holla
fossil fool is not good because
HOMOSEXUAL waterfowl
swedish curse words

Posted by Carl at 10:42 AM | Comments (2)