Peter Archives

June 11, 2003


Peter here. David invited me to be an occasional contributor to his blog, and who am I to turn down such an invitation? I suppose this is where I'm supposed to tell you a little about myself. But really, if you want to know about me, stick with the site and read my posts; you'll figure me out eventually.


At our college reunion weekend, Orin Kerr of the Volokh Conspiracy took to asking fellow alumni the following questions:

  • How does your life today compare with what you thought your life would be like at your 10th Reunion as of the day you graduated from college?
  • If you could go back to the beginning of your freshman year of college and give yourself advice about how to go about college, what advice would you give yourself?

My answers were "it's about as I expected" and "work harder and play harder". (Hey, it's the best I could come up with after a weekend of drinking.) The latter answer seemed to be about what most people came up with as well. Take college by the horns. Live life to its fullest. Good advice, always.

Well, a little while later, Orin links to party-pooper Dan Simon, who notes that basically, none of us would follow our own advice. (He links to a Nathaniel Hawthorne short story that illustrates the point). And he's probably right. But I already knew he was right about me. I'd hear the advice from my future self, and then probably go right ahead and be the lazy-ass I was doomed to be. Which is fine with me, because I enjoyed college, and I'm generally happy with my life.

But if I only had the presence of mind to ask my future self for some hot stock tips...

Don't Tread On Me?

By now, you've no doubt heard that the Army has been using "culturally offensive music", such as Drowning Pool, Metallica, and Barney (yes, the purple dinosaur) to break the spirit of Iraqi prisoners. Turns out that Metallica is none too pleased. But they know their limitations:

"What am I supposed to do about it," [drummer Lars Ulrich] asked, "get George Bush on the phone and tell him to get his generals to play some Venom?"

Actually, that sounds like a pretty funny idea to me...

June 12, 2003

I Want It That Way

Tired of being subjected to unwanted Metallica and Barney, Iraqis are fighting back by forming boy bands:

Cinemas, breweries and alcohol stores have been threatened and attacked by militant groups, and in many areas women have been told not to walk outdoors without a veil. But Unknown To No One say they won't let extremists get in their way.

"We lived under dictatorship for 35 years. I'm not prepared to go through that again, and I don't think anybody is," said lead singer Nadeem Hamed, a 20-year-old biology student. "If people attack us for being in a band, that's terrorism."

Seriously, this is great news. May thousands of Iraqi boy bands bloom. As a bonus, it's a perfect way to piss off anti-American-culture fundamentalist Muslims and anti-American-culture fundamentalist leftists at the same time. Someone get George Bush on the phone and ask him to play Unknown to No One at his next press conference...

June 13, 2003

Next year's record ski season credited to global warming

According to the National Weather Service, as reported in the New York Times:

the average temperature in New York for May, a customarily balmy month, has been an inhospitable 58.7 — several degrees below normal. More telling, however, is that for the first time in 20 years there was not a day in May when the thermometer hit 80.

Calling 58.7 degrees "inhospitable" is an allowable exaggeration, considering it's supposed to be spring. And along with the cold, it's been rainy and dreary here for a month straight. So how do they lead off that very same article?

On a chilly and sodden afternoon last week, Christina Vrachnos braced herself against the wind on Madison Avenue, and cast her eyes toward the skies. "Is it global warming?" she wailed. "What is it? What have we done to deserve this wretched weather?"

Talk about a political axe to grind. Global warming is somehow to blame for one of the coldest Mays on record? Perhaps without global warming it would only have been in the 40s. Perhaps we deserve this weather because Christina Vrachnos is an idiot. Or at best very gullible.

And if that doesn't work, baptize 'em

Good news from Saudi Arabia: they're now telling al-Qaida members directly that they're bad Muslims:

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia - Saudi investigators are using an unusual tactic in their interrogations of al-Qaida suspects arrested after last month's suicide bombings here: They're bringing in clerics to lecture the militants on the nature of Islam.

The clerics are telling the prisoners that they have strayed from their religion and that they must atone by confessing to everything they know about plans for future terrorist attacks, according to a Western diplomat and a Saudi official.

The article goes on (as articles are wont to do) to say that this tactic may or may not work:

Some analysts question whether the presence of clerics during interrogations would have any impact on militants who are convinced that their radical brand of Islam is the only true form, and that other Muslims who disagree with them are infidels who should be killed.

"I am not sure that religious debate would work with some of these people," said Khalil al-Khalil, a professor of education at the Imam Mohammed bin Saud Islamic University in Riyadh. "They have been brainwashed to a point of no return."

But hey, it's worth a shot. Let's hope it's a sign that Saudis are finally and truly becoming less and less willing to make excuses for the terrorists in their midst.

June 14, 2003

Yes, but America is the real police state!

The protests in Iran have taken a turn for the worse:

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Automatic gunfire echoed in the Iranian capital early Saturday as hundreds of hard-line Islamic militants, some armed with Kalashnikov rifles, attacked groups of people demonstrating against clerical rule.

In the most serious violence since the U.S.-applauded pro-democracy protests began four days ago, witnesses also reported seeing hard-line vigilantes pulling young women out of cars and beating them with sticks.

Police stood by as hundreds of militiamen, who wear no uniforms and are fiercely loyal to Iran's conservative clerical leaders, manned checkpoints and roared around on motorbikes brandishing batons and chains. By 3:30 a.m. (7 p.m. EDT on Friday) there were no signs of protesters on the streets of the capital and hard-line vigilantes had complete control of streets around the Tehran University dormitory which has been the focal point of the demonstrations.

Let's hope it's only a temporary setback. And just for fun, contrast these courageous Iranian students with the (U.N.-applauded?) anti-democracy protestors in the U.S. and Europe from a few months back. (Apologies if the comparison makes you ill.)

June 17, 2003

I hear Poland is nice this time of year

I can't speak for the entire U.S. population, but last winter my wife and I were planning on taking a vacation in France this summer. Not anymore. My parents are planning on taking us on vacation as a Christmas present this year. We haven't decided where we're going, but my mom was clear that France is not an option. And I assure you it's not an exchange-rate issue.

(But even if we weren't angry with the French, who'd want to go there now? It sounds like the whole country is a big mess.)

It would be interesting to see how the drop in tourism to France compares to any changes in tourism to other European countries.

Government gets fatter and fatter

New Yorkers will soon be paying extra tax (on top of the 8.75% we already pay) on junk food. Oh, not now, maybe not even next year, but I'd say probably by the end of the decade. A state assemblyman has floated just such a proposal, and fortunately it looks like it will go nowhere in this session:

ALBANY, N.Y. - A proposal to tax junk food, video games and television commercials to pay for an obesity prevention program faces stiff opposition from lawmakers and business groups.

Chances of the proposal passing before lawmakers go home for the summer on June 19 looked slim after a spokesman for Republican Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno said he would not support the tax.

The 1 percent tax hike proposed by Assemblyman Felix Ortiz would apply to junk food, video games and television commercials, which Ortiz blames on New York's growing obesity problem. Ortiz, a Democrat, did not rule out proposing tax increases on other things that he believes contribute to obesity.

Ortiz said the proposed tax would raise at least $1 million to jump-start the obesity prevention program aimed at developing health promotion campaigns, establishing nutrition and physical activity programs in schools and others.

Business groups oppose the proposal, arguing New Yorkers already face high taxes. The Legislature recently increased the state sales tax and income tax to help the state's fiscal crisis.

If there were any illustration as to why I generally prefer "business groups" to government, this is it. I'm sure the reporter looks at it differently - you know, Assemblyman Ortiz trying to save the children while evil "business groups" stymie him at every turn.

Unfortunately, given that the proposal purports to be "for the children" (and just incidentally means more power to lawmakers who feel it is their duty to tax things they don't like), the chances of it being signed into law after a few more tries are about as good as J. K. Rowling doing well on the New York Times Best Seller list in the next few weeks.

Newsday's Sheryl McCarthy goes from being skeptical to being a nearly-enthusiastic supporter in a single column. Oh, she opines that the tax won't really stop people from eating junk food. She notes that deciding which food should be labeled "junk" won't be easy. She implies that any money raised by the tax will probably be wasted on pork projects. And she admits the tax will fall heaviest (pun mine) on the poor. Yet she still thinks it's a good idea:

Is Ortiz's fat tax sounding better? Instead of trying to figure out if a candy bar that contains protein is a junk food or a health food, we could start by putting a 1-percent tax on soft drinks. Everyone agrees that they ruin your teeth, pack on the weight and have no nutritional value whatsoever.

Yes, but not everyone agrees that this is a valid reason to tax something! Note that she practically hopes that a tax on soda is just the beginning. What next? Apple juice? Coffee? Tea?

June 20, 2003

Who needs to go to the movies for nudity? That's what the internet is for.

Are you not seeing enough naked chicks at the local multiplex lately? Blame global warming. No, I mean blame John Ashcroft:

Hollywood's diminishing appetite for sex is partly attributed to the influence of a more socially conservative government under George Bush, the president, and his attorney general, John Ashcroft, a member of the Pentecostal church noted for his moral certitude.

Paul Verhoeven, the director whose film Basic Instinct drew more attention for Sharon Stone's risque leg-crossing scene than it did for the quality of its plot and acting, told Premiere magazine: "There's a drip-down effect of this government's position in the film industry, so you will see much more other things than nude scenes on your screen." He added: "What do you expect with Ashcroft who is an ultra-Christian puritan?"

I don't know. What would he have expected if Tipper Gore were living in the White House?

And what do you expect when Hollywood types open their mouths? Verhoeven hasn't had a movie out since George Bush took office. His troubles really have nothing to do whether the U.S. Attorney General is an "ultra-Christian puritan" or a flaming homosexual libertine. But I can understand that he'd sooner blame his lack of work on a lurking-under-the-bed Ashcroft rather than accept that it might have more to do with his not having a real hit since before the elder George Bush left office. (That would be the aforementioned "Basic Instinct", which came out in 1992. Incredible that a Republican president would allow that movie to be relased, isn't it?)

As for the rest of Hollywood, where anti-Ashcroft feeling borders on psychosis, you'd think that they'd be cramming movies full of more sex and violence just to tick Ashcroft off. But the fact is there aren't as many R-rated movies these days simply because studios tend to make more money with movies rated PG-13, PG, and G. Note that on a list of the highest-grossing movies of all time, the top R-rated movies are "The Matrix Reloaded", currently at #22, and 1984's (!) "Beverly Hills Cop" at #30. If only that dirty Ashcroft hadn't been secretly pushing Star Wars, Harry Potter, and The Lord of the Rings (all movies a supposed "ultra-Christian" would love, don't you think?) on an unsuspecting American public...

June 25, 2003

Shock and Awe

Michelangelo Signorile of the New York Press doesn't get it:

It was a week of raised eyebrows and dropped jaws on the sexual diversity front. Sit down for this one, but George W. Bush actually seemed to get it recently while meeting a transgendered woman in, of all places, the White House. In a report sent my way over a week after it was published–and apparently unnoticed elsewhere–San Francisco Chronicle columnist Leah Garchik noted that at W.’s recent Yale reunion at the White House, Yale alum Louise Casselman saw a female classmate approach Bush.

"You might remember me as Peter," the woman stated, referring to her years with Bush at Yale, which was an all-male school at the time. Bush apparently didn’t bat an eyelid, grabbed her hand, and replied, "Now you’ve come back as yourself." (No word yet on what Christian Right leaders thought of that–perhaps because no other media organization seems to have picked up on it–nor if Karl Rove will have Bush backing away from the comment).

"Sit down for this one"? Only if you're a leftist like Signorlie are you going to be shocked and amazed that the President can be a decent guy!

June 30, 2003


Katharine Hepburn is dead at 96. I'm not much of a cinephile; I have seen at most maybe one or two of her movies. Like W.C. Fields and Mae West, much of what I think I know about her comes from caricatures in 1930's Warner Brothers cartoons. But I always felt a little glimmer of amazement to know that, unlike all the others being lampooned, she was still alive. Sadly, no more.

July 2, 2003

Shallow people go off the deep end

I learned to swim at the town pool when I was about 5. I remember paddling around with the kickboards and also getting water in my ears, but my most vivid memory of the lessons is being forced to jump off the diving board into the deep end of the pool. The instructors stood at the side of a pool ready to extend a long pole I could grab on to if I panicked and started to drown. My fear of the deep end was largely psychological; I couldn't touch bottom in the shallow end, either. But fear is fear, and it was usually the pole for me.

When I got a little older, even after that traumatic formative experience, I grew to appreciate the deep end. So now, when I read a line such as this:

The old-style "drowning pools" won't be missed, said aquatics expert Tom Griffiths.

I immediately look for a cup of coffee so I can take a sip and spew it all over my monitor in shocked surprise. "Drowning pools"? "Won't be missed"? "Aquatics expert?" Halle Berry full of grace, what in the heck is wrong with people today?

In case you haven't yet read the article I am mocking, here's a summary: People were getting hurt jumping off diving boards in municipal pools, so the boards were removed. So fewer people used the deep end of the pools. So now the deep ends are being filled in:

Philadelphia has been filling in its deep ends over the past several years, said Terri Kerwawich, the city's aquatics coordinator. After filling in two more this spring, the city has only 10 deep ends left at its 86 pools. All but one or two will eventually be filled in.

The article quotes various aquatics experts and coordinators (who the heck knew such people existed?), along with a soccer, I mean swimming, mom who all praise the new shallow designs. They're "safer" and more "family-friendly" and yes, even "interactive" (you know, as opposed to the old pool designs that allowed no interaction whatsoever).

Well, screw friendly interactive family safety if it's come to this. Let aquatics busybodies build themselves a safe little padded cell on a safe little island away from the people in the world who want to live. Give me my childhood of deep ends and merry-go-rounds and Big Macs and pointy chess pieces and un-car-seated car trips to Florida.

(But I'll take today's adolescence. That sounds fun.)

Paul Verhoeven is still a dope

Here's an article that explains the triumph of the PG and PG-13 ratings without blaming John Ashcroft:

Of the top 20 biggest box office hits of last year, all but one were rated PG or PG-13. The Santa Clause 2 was the sole G-rated film to make the list, while 8 Mile, the R-rated Eminem (news - web sites) movie, just missed at No. 21.

The PG rating appeals to movie-savvy teens who find a G rating too juvenile. PG-13 is even better, implying the movie goes about as far as it can without kids having to be taken by parents if they want to see it.

Even so, more movies are still given R ratings than any other rating:

R-rated movies have hardly died. This summer, The Matrix Reloaded became the highest-grossing R movie ever, with $268.9 million and counting. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines opens today, and Bad Boys II on July 18. R is the most common rating, but only because so many are low-budget foreign-language films that aren't widely released, or steamy made-for-video movies.

July 3, 2003


I never fail to be awed by Victor Davis Hanson. I am not worthy to share the same internet.

Happy Independence Day.

July 8, 2003

The people united can never be mass murdered!

The International Herald Tribune reports that high school seniors in Italy are being taught that communism is bad. Actually, it reports that people are complaining that high school seniors in Italy are being taught that communism is bad.

The evils of communism appear front and center in one of the themes that hundreds of thousands of Italian high school seniors could choose to write about in graduation exams given this month. That topic invited students to ponder "terror and the political repression in the totalitarian systems" of the 20th century and gives brief descriptions of fascism in Italy, Nazism in Germany and communism in the former Soviet Union and other countries.

Communism is blamed for the executions of about 100 million people, five times greater than the killings attributed in the exam to Nazism.

In the wording of the topic, it takes one sentence to denigrate fascism. It takes four to vilify communism.

Some historians and teachers have complained that the balance of the question is out of whack. "I teach my students that of course communism must be seen in a negative light, but the goal of Nazism was to kill people, and the goal of communism was to unite them," said Giuseppe Costantino, 61, who teaches history in a high school in Naples.

Yes, what's a hundred or so million dead anyway? Their hearts were in the right place. Still, a history teacher should know that Nazism also shared the goal of uniting people. You know, "Ein Volk" and such. So where, I ask you, are the calls for a balanced discussion on Nazism?

Coincidentally, Saddam Hussein is another chap who means well:

"Unify your ranks and act as one hand," the voice said on the Al Hayat-LBC broadcast. "Boycott the occupying soldiers ... Act and do not let the occupying forces settle down in your land."

"He who favors division over unity, and acts to divide ranks instead of unifying them, is not only a servant of the foreign occupier but he is also the enemy of God and the people," the voice said on the Al-Jazeera broadcast.

Jeebus, with uniters like these, give me good ol' fashioned divisiveness any day.

July 17, 2003

Park-Workers, Nun-Beaters, and Candy-Stealers Local 1208

I have long thought that government workers should not be allowed to form labor unions. This article does nothing to change my mind:

Budget cuts meant there was no money to plant flowers this summer in Saskatchewan's Duck Mountain Provincial Park, so a group of cottagers raised $50 and spent an afternoon planting marigolds.

Less than a day later, a dozen park workers arrived to uproot the plants, saying the volunteer action had threatened their jobs.

These are precisely the jerks whose jobs *should* be threatened. Fire them all.

Mass Destruction

According to an article in Newdsay:

Since the end of the war, dozens of mass graves [in Iraq] have been discovered -- many of them containing hundreds of bodies. The United Nations is investigating the killing or disappearance of at least 300,000 Iraqis believed murdered by Saddam's regime.

Does anybody out there still believe that we shouldn't have overthrown Saddam?

July 20, 2003

Having a ball

I know that there are people out there who hate President Bush with every molecule of every fiber of their being. (Thousands of people drove that point home this past winter by taking to the streets denouncing him and supporting one of the most murderous dictators of the past fifty years.) I've learned to find their shrill rants amusing, despite their dead seriousness. And for a fine example of shill ranting, check out this lead paragraph by Matt Taibbi of the New York Press:

George Bush should be hung up by his balls. No kidding. He should be grabbed from behind, restrained, forcibly stripped below the waist, and a big hook should be pushed through his scrotum. Then the rope attached to the hook should be dragged through a pulley at the top of a flagpole, and the president should be hoisted up and left to swing in the breeze, 60 painful feet above the ground.
Ye gods. So what did the president do to earn Taibbi's wrath? He went to Africa and made a speech condemning slavery. (Gasp!) And he also changed the way Head Start and Section 8 programs are funded. (The nerve!) Mind you, funding levels haven't been reduced, they're just now being given out as block grants to the states. Taibbi describes this as "whipping out the rusty garden tools and cutting the very balls out of the black community." (Note the casual racism in implying that all blacks, and no whites, are on welfare. Apparently, he doesn't much care about the poor white men in testicular danger. And never mind the women.)

So as I said, it's amusing. What other reaction can you have? People like Taibbi aren't going to listen to reason, for their Bush-hatred is like a religion. And you can't argue with religious fanatics. But if you try (and you're a man), remember to wear a protective cup.

Just imagine the dry cleaning bill

So you thought your wedding was expensive? Try this wedding dress on for size:

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A Syrian-Jewish bride from Brooklyn will this summer wear what could be America's most expensive wedding gown, a white dress adorned with 1,100 glittering diamonds and worth $300,000, an assistant to the designer said on Thursday.


Mindy Woon, buyer and assistant manager of the bridal salon at the upscale department store Bergdorf Goodman, said the most expensive gown it sells is for about $40,000.

"I've never heard of a gown that high," Woon said. "That's probably three times what most people spend on their entire wedding."

Probably three times? How many $100,000 weddings have you been to? I'd like to meet some of Mindy Woon's pals.

July 22, 2003

To the rescue

Don't fret, we're going to Liberia. I know you've always been eager for war, Partha. It just takes time:

U.S. officials announced that 4,500 more American sailors and Marines have been ordered to position themselves closer to Liberia, if needed for an evacuation of Americans, peacekeeping or some other mission.

So where's the concern about threatening and invading a sovereign nation that is neither an immediate nor a long-term threat to us and which has no ties to terrorism? Where's the concern about the projection of American power and hegemony? Darn it, you anti-war folks, I demand consistency! Get organized! I expect thousands at a "hands off Liberia" rally this weekend on Fifth Avenue!


We won! How outrageous!

Of course, Clinton actually lied about his affair. At most, Bush was wrong about the Niger connection (although note that the British are sticking to their story). An actual lie is the suggestion that uranium purchases were the only reason for going to war, and that proving that claim wrong would wreck the entire war rationale. Sorry, but that would still leave Saddam as a very immediate threat to his people and his neighbors, an avowed threat to the United States, a flouter of multiple U.N. resoutions, and a thorn in the world's side for decades. Good enough reasons to get rid of him for me, and for most of the country, yellowcake or no yellowcake.

A related lie is that Democrats can gain by running against a war we won. Note that they were smart enough not to try that in 1992. As James Taranto puts it:

Democrats seem to be just as out of touch today. Rather than celebrate the overthrow of a tyrant and enemy of America, they are trying to discredit it by retrospectively niggling over the nuances of the argument for war. It's as if they were defense lawyers arguing an appeal on behalf of Saddam, trying to get him off on a technicality.

The Washington Times quotes Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld as explaining to a Senate committee yesterday: "The coalition did not act in Iraq because we had discovered dramatic new evidence of Iraq's pursuit of weapons of mass murder. We acted because we saw the existing evidence in a new light, through the prism of our experience on September 11."

Rumsfeld is exactly right, and the Democrats will self-destruct unless they grasp the political ramifications of the national epiphany that was Sept. 11. The response that "Iraq had nothing to do with Sept. 11," though possibly accurate, is beside the point--the equivalent of arguing in 1942 that Germany had nothing to do with Pearl Harbor. FDR and Truman knew who America's enemies were, but many of their heirs seem not to.

Let's hope this is confirmed soon


BAGHDAD, July 22 — Widespread and sporadic gunfire crackled across Baghdad after dark on Tuesday as word spread that Saddam Hussein's feared and hated sons may have been killed in a gunbattle with U.S. troops.

It really would have been more gratifying if they were captured alive, but why quibble?

July 23, 2003

What happened to the WMDs? We don't know.

It's possible Saddam was disarmed five years ago, but we didn't know that then. And we didn't know that in March. And President Clinton has just admitted he still doesn't know:

"When I left office, there was a substantial amount of biological and chemical material unaccounted for," Clinton said on CNN's "Larry King Live."

Clinton said he never found out whether a U.S.-British bombing campaign he ordered in 1998 ended Saddam's capability of producing chemical and biological weapons. "We might have gotten it all, we might have gotten half of it, we might have gotten none of it," he said.

This is not to bash Clinton - nobody else seemed to or seems to know. Pro-war and anti-war folk alike thought that there were WMDs left - remember that a main point in opposition to the war was the fear that Saddam would use such weapons against us. Perhaps the only way to find out for sure was to send in the Army. And if they come back and say "well, golly, the WMD's *were* destroyed five years ago", I can live with that. I'll leave it to war opponents who might be cheered by that news to explain why they feel bombing was justified then in the first place.

Anyway, here's another excerpt from that very same article:

Clinton confined his remarks to biological and chemical weapons, and did not say whether he would consider credible any report that Saddam had wanted to build a nuclear weapons program.

Nonetheless, he suggested that Bush's mistake was par for the course -- and that it was time to move on now that Bush had acknowledged the error.

"You know, everybody makes mistakes when they are president," he said. "I mean, you can't make as many calls as you have to without messing up once in a while. The thing we ought to be focused on is what is the right thing to do now."

If Clinton can move on, can Clinton democrats?

July 25, 2003

Uday's Bodyguard

I found this interview with one of Uday Hussein's bodyguards fascinating. Sorry, no excerpts. Read the whole thing, as they say.

July 31, 2003

Not Solly

It's on right after the Simpsons and it's unlike anything else on TV. It's Banzai! And it's ticking people off:

Animal rights activists were appalled. The National Council on Problem Gambling would like to see viewers urged to bet responsibly. And the Media Action Network for Asian-Americans has complained that the series showcases "the most offensive, negative Asian stereotypes." [...]

"I didn't think that was particularly funny," said Aki Aleong, a spokesman for the Media Action Network for Asian-Americans.

His group mounted an unsuccessful effort to block the show from airing in cities with big Asian populations.

Notice the contempt the professional complainers at the Media Action Network for Asian-Americans show their fellow Asians in attempting to dictate to them what television programs they may not watch. That's what *I* find offensive. Hooray for the series creator Gary Monaghan (as well as the Fox Network) for showing some sense and not backing down:

[Monaghan] pronounces himself shocked that some Asian-Americans are offended. The show has aired for two years in Britain and he hasn't heard any complaints, he said.

The show uses virtually all Asian actors who use their own accents, not exaggerated ones, he said.

"I can understand that Asian-Americans want a realistic portrayal of Asian-Americans on TV," Monaghan said. "But this isn't set in America. It's not realistic. It's fantasy. I don't quite understand it."

August 8, 2003

Panda Republicanism

Anne Applebaum of the Washington Post is moving to New York City:

Whatever else can be said about Rudy Giuliani, he gave New York City a different profile in the 1990s, and now people who would never even have dared to visit Manhattan flock there to live. But this is the point: In fact, what makes me nervous about Manhattan nowadays is not the criminals, who have faded back into the Bronx, but the people who replaced them: clever people, accomplished people, well-educated people -- and people who agree about almost everything.

She's right, and I find it just about the most infuriating thing about living in the city. Thanks to Dr. Manhattan for pointing the article out. I agree completely with his comments:

I think just about every conservative in the greater NYC area can relate to what I used to call the "Giant Panda" reaction: when a group of people, having just become aware of the exotic species in their midst, react with the strange mixture of curiosity and condescension: "I've heard such species exist, but I never expected to actually meet one!" Then there's the "Misplaced Compliment" variation, where the reaction is a stammering "But..but you're nice and smart ... you don't seem like a fascist!"

Indeed. One other reaction I get when they do find out my party affiliation is "well, you're just a *fiscal* conservative, right?" I've been asked that multiple times. It's a rough enough description of my beliefs that I usually just agree. Friends (as well as people I've just met) are somewhat comforted to know that while I may be all for lowering taxes, I'm not in favor of hunting gay people for sport.

August 19, 2003

Only the true Messiah would deny his divinity... or something like that...

American religion is becoming more "mystical" and less "mainline" says New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof. The Roman Catholic holiday of the Feast of the Assumption this past week is his Exhibit A. Fine. Let him believe or not. What I was most struck by in the column was this passage:

Yet despite the lack of scientific or historical evidence, and despite the doubts of Biblical scholars, America is so pious that not only do 91 percent of Christians say they believe in the Virgin Birth, but so do an astonishing 47 percent of U.S. non-Christians.

First off, the Virgin Birth isn't meant to be a matter of scientific or historical evidence. For that matter, it's not clear whether such an event *could* be proved by any such evidence. Secondly, one can probably find Biblical scholars who doubt the existence of God. If all Biblical scholars agreed on everything, all Christians would still be Catholic (well, not exactly - you'd still have Biblical non-scholars around - but you get my point).

But it's the claim that 47 percent of non-Christians believe in the Virgin Birth that is most striking. How was this poll taken? Who are these people? You can certainly believe that Jesus was born, was crucified, and had lots of followers without being a Christian. But the Virgin Birth is an event that presumably marks Jesus as, well, somehow special. Perhaps 47 percent of non-Christians didn't fully understand the question? I'd be interested to know how many of them believe in the Immaculate Conception and Transubstantiation as well.

August 27, 2003

Elections are a serious threat to democracy!

On the November ballot in New York City will be a proposal to eliminate partisan primaries. If the proposal passes, all candidates in a district will run in a single primary election, which will be open to all voters. The top two vote-getters for each office in the primary will face off in the general election. Such a system is used in many other large cities, and it sounds like a reasonable idea to me. But not to everyone:

City Democrats have vowed to fight the plan and Brian McLaughlin, head of the 1.5 million-member city Central Labor Council, said he will convene 90 union leaders tomorrow to "spearhead an effort to challenge this serious threat to democracy." McLaughlin said he has enlisted the support of some of the city's biggest unions, including District Council 37 and Local 1199, to come out in force to reject the initiative in November.

I fail to see how the proposal is a "serious threat to democracy," and I doubt McLaughlin was asked to elaborate. How anyone can get so riled up to fight the proposal is beyond me. Well, almost beyond me - obviously, anyone with an entrenched interest in the current system is going to scream. So far, that would be political party hacks and labor union leaders. Which suggests to me that the proposal would be the best thing to happen to the city since unlimited ride MetroCards were introduced.

But what is the chance it will actually succeed at the polls? I predict slim to nil. Gotta hand it to the party hacks and union leaders - when they scream, people listen.

August 28, 2003

My kids are hot! Please raise my taxes!

James Lileks writes a column about a column he didn't write:

The premise concerned the closing of the wading pools in the middle of August. That's right - budget cuts, you see. They couldn't find $13K in a $60 million budget for wading pools, so they shut them on the hottest day of the year. I think, but cannot prove, that this is their way of making us scream to our legislators, to show up outside their offices carrying our limp tots, begging for tax hikes so the wee bairns can be moistened with chlorinated, pee-infused H20 through Labor Day. God forbid they'd ever let some staffers go - no, every Park Department employee is vital and crucial, right down to the guy whose job consists of visiting all the wading pools and putting up CLOSED signs.

If I didn't like Lileks so much, I'd say screw the kids - let parents go to his beloved Target and spend a few bucks on wading pools of their own. But I won't. Instead, I'll point out that he's right on the money about politicians' motivations. A friend of mine who worked for a U.S. Senator confirms that this is *exactly* how budgeting works: fully fund the invisible, unpopular, and/or silly programs, so there is less money left than there should be for the visible, popular, and/or necessary programs; then make grand pronouncements about how this latter group of programs will need to be cut unless something is done.

Politicians don't close public swimming pools in August because they hate children. Politicians close public swimming pools in August so constituents won't complain as much when their taxes go up by a few hundred dollars in January.

September 4, 2003

You might not be a NASCAR Dad if...

In a promo for the Brian Lehrer Show yesterday morning on New York City's National Public Radio affiliate WNYC, Mr. Lehrer tells us that the topic of the day is "NASCAR Dads" (a term that is fast replacing "Soccer Moms" as the political demographic cliche of choice) and asks anyone who considers themself a NASCAR Dad to call in to his show later that morning.

Of course, there is an inherent contradiction in his request, for a sure sign that you are *not* a NASCAR Dad is if you listen to NPR call-in shows!!

January 29, 2004


I'm off to Hawaii for ten days. I want to hear no bad news from back in the real world while I'm gone, OK? I'll have enough to worry about over there, what with the revolution brewing...

June 25, 2004

Where's My Happy Dragon?

Joanne Jacobs writes of a school in Massachusetts which banned cupcakes and other sweets from birthday celebrations:

Instead, the birthday boy or girl will get a cover for the back of the student's chair, a sash, a special pencil and a sticker with the school's mascot, the Happy Dragon. Preschool and kindergarten students will get to wear a birthday crown.

This was posted yesterday (June 24), which just happens to be my birthday. Only I didn't even get a sash or a crown or a pat on the back. Such is life in the adult world of work. Even in school, I often had a final exam that day rather than cake. So kids, quitcher whining and wear your sash like a man.

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