Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Lazy Gratuitous Film Review

Unlike my fellow LB, I never got to my first cuppa this morning so, after running (sometimes literally) all over the Smithsonian's Natural History Museum with Fiends A and B, I am pretty low on energy. (Sidebar - the new mammals exhibit there is pretty cool.)

So I'll just note that I cracked the DVD copy of "Time Bandits" last night. I've always liked this movie, largely because of the cast. The dwarves, including Kenny "R2D2" Baker, have a great ensemble chemistry. There are several heavyweights, including Sean Connory and Ian Holm, as well as several Python alum. Plus, this must have been just about the last film appearance Ralph Richardson ever made. And I discovered a new Six Degrees of Separation trivia bit last night: the actor who plays the gameshow MC is the same guy who plays Renee Zelweiger's father in "Bridget Jones' Diary." So if you want to link Hugh Grant and Mark Hamill in three, be my guest.

And, as I think I've said before, I like Terry Gilliam's movies because of their style and imagination, particularly their visual richness. Perhaps all those years of doing cartoons of naked women for Python actually made a difference.

If Gilliam has a weakness, and he does, it is that he gets too hamfisted with his messages. Here, it is: Materialism - BAD!
Unfortunately, I was curious to sample the commentary track on the DVD. Big mistake. Gilliam is originally from Minnesota, but has tried very hard to remold himself as an Oxbridge sophisticate by way of Manhattan and Woodstock. The result is an admixture of the worst characteristics of such people. He comes across as pompous, pretentious, smarmy, smug, superior and uber-hip. His commentary clarified the message of the movie: Materialism - BAD, BAD, BAD!

Terry, love the flicks, but shut up.

Rhymes with Skunk

I've been meaning to do a longer analysis of this piece from Sunday's WaPo by Robert Kaiser, entitled "Iraq Isn't Vietnam, But They Rhyme." It's filled with the usual boomer-protester-nostalgia {Dare we say they are Ho-nuts? Nah.} and selective fact application {look--Vietnam vets protesting against VietNam! And, the same guys protesting against Iraq! They must be the same conflict!} common to much of what passes for foreign affairs reporting in certain journals in 2003.

One nugget:

But it's easy to find the rhymes:

"Our military is confronting terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan and in other places so our people will not have to confront terrorist violence in New York or St. Louis or Los Angeles."

-- George W. Bush, Aug. 26, 2003

"If we don't stop the Reds in South Vietnam, tomorrow they will be in Hawaii, and next week they will be in San Francisco."

-- Lyndon B. Johnson, 1966

Two beleaguered presidents, each hyping his unpopular war, suggest how these two episodes can turn out to be similar in their effects.

Although the "Reds" were able to get a toehold just east of San Francisco, maybe Mr. Kaiser has issues that the first quote does not use the critical word "again."

Fortunately, there are a number of good reporters who are moving away from the "Best & the Brightest II: Dumb and Dumberer" motif, such as this article in the Christian Science Monitor, and this one in the NYT.

More later--our eldest turns seven today, and we are about to be deluged with her friends and assorted, er, Barbies...

Professor Reynolds, Litigator Barbie is on line two...

Even though Barbie's lawyers lost yesterday in the Ninth Circuit, I'm worried that Glenn Reynolds might still be next in their crosshairs for this marketing idea:

BIZARRO WORLD: As I muzzily nursed my first cup of coffee this morning, a Barbie doll dropped down from the balcony, a noose around its neck. Ah, I thought, the newest item: "Frontier Justice Barbie!"

But no. I asked the girls what they were playing. "Bungee jumping!" they replied. I guess, like a lot of things, it's a question of viewpoint.

Litigator Barbie may have lost this round, but she should take it in stride: after repeated viewings by the little Llamas around Rancho Non-Sequitur of Barbie's Nutcracker and Barbie's Swan Lake, I should think Barbie should be glad Tchaikovsky can't sue her for defamation...


I dunno what's going on with my computer, but when I went round front, as it were, just now to see how the webpage looked, I got a whole lot of nuthin.

Pray God I didn't flush the whole thing.....

Update: Well, seems to be back.

Paging Merrett Butrick*

intermittent blogging at best today.

Plans I had formed yesterday re a nice one-on-one with my oldest were ruptured by a pulse from the Genesis Device embedded in our family, shaping events to its own matrix. In this case, my middle girl, who turns four in a week or two, got seriously, seriously upset when she heard that her older sister was going with Daddy and she was not. Well, I couldn't think of any legitimate reason not to, so I'm taking the pair of them on the big D.C. field trip.

'Course, it changes the whole dynamic. While my oldest can absorb genuine knowledge from going to the Smithsonian, the second one is really still at the state where the benefit is simple exposure to the place. Also to this end, I think we'll hit the Natural History museum. The dinosaurs are always a big hit.


*Dr. David Marcus, Kirk's son, of course. Whatever happened to him?

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Eat your heart out, A-Rod

The final book on Steve Spurrier and the 'Skins: $10 million salary for two years, 12-20 record.

That's almost a million a win!

Books for the New Year

Randy Barnett has a good review of VDH's newest book, Ripples of Battle. It's apparently a follow-up to Carnage and Culture, which is going to be one of my books of the year, as soon as I get the entry written.

YIP YIP YIP from Robbo. I'd just like to point out to my little circle out there a) that I don't have Ripples yet, but am very much looking forward to it and b) that my birthday is in a few weeks. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no MORE!

The Law of War and the War on Terror

Phil Carter--former Army officer and currently a law prof at UCLA--has an excellent piece critiquing an article in Foreign Affairs on the issue of civil liberties issues during war. As they say, read it all.

Cats and Dogs Living Together.....

The 9th Circuit gets one right.

I'm mildly surprised Mattel felt compelled to push the case as far as it did. I'd be even more surprised if they went for an en banc rehearing. (Then again, I've always understood that they are hypersensitive about what one might call Barbie Bad Press.) Still, satire is very heavily protected under the 1st Amendment and you really can't expect to be able to use trademark and copyright regs to duck that protection.

Heh. My three little girls have about ten Barbies between them, plus a single Ken. For reasons only they comprehend, the girls prefer the dolls to be necked. All of them are kept in a single big box. I have often seen the grin on Ken's face as he lies there amidst all the lay-days and thought to myself, "You lucky little bastard......"

Our Friends, the Moonbats

Actually, I think Conyers make stick it out. After all, he did sue Bush and Rumsfeld over the Iraqi war.

BTW, check out the list of plaintiffs: Conyers, "Baghdad Jim" McDermott, Jesse Jr., Sheila Jackson Lee, Dennis "Who Wants to Date a Fruitbat?" Kucinich, Jose "No, I wasn't that voodoo ballplayer in Major League" Serrano.... It's the Legion of Doom of the Fever Swamp Left.

YIP YIP YIP from Steve: I actually like Jose Serrano's guest bits as a judge on Law & Order. I can't find the link, but I'm sure Kucinich had a spot on WKRP as Les Nessman's nephew...

Profiles in Courage

"I am proud to state and stand with the man that's ahead of everybody else, that is raising money from the little guys to the shock of everybody who thought it should always be the big fat cats," Conyers said at a Detroit rally Monday afternoon.

Support like that you can count on, baby! {at least until your not ahead of everybody else}

New Year's Eve and The Day After

As a public service to the participants in the LLama Butchers' Baby Swapping Bash, I'm going to put them on to this sage advice.

Hat tip to Stephen Green, who ought to know a thing or two about this kinda stuff.


Do you suppose Louis Farrakhan likes to


After sailing out of court in New Orleans a few weeks ago, That Bonaparte gets his in Venice.

American Unilateralism Watch

Japan gets it, too.

Further Glass-Jawed Porcupine Update

Holy Joe gets it.

YIP YIP YIP from Steve: Joe's much tougher than people think: he ran a hell of a good campaign in 1988 to beat Lowell Weicker to win his seat; unfortunately, the Senate being the Senate, that's the last tough race he's had. One of the reasons why Senators have such a tough time running for the big one is that they don't have as much experience in tough, close elections as do governors. For instance, other than a tight race with Bill Weld, what's been John Kerry's closest race? And that race with Weld distinguished itself for both of them agreeing to play by Marquis of Queensbury rules.

MORE YIPS: Gephardt gets in the act too:

Rep. Richard A. Gephardt (Mo.), the target of that ad, yesterday echoed Lieberman, as did Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.). "Howard Dean has spent the last year criticizing me and other candidates at every opportunity," Gephardt said. "Now, as he makes a series of embarrassing gaffes that underscore the fact he is not well equipped to challenge George Bush, he suddenly wants to change the rules of the game."

Over the past few weeks, Dean's rivals have grown more pointed in their attacks, and Dean has been forced to explain or clarify several controversial remarks.

Viva Llamabutchers! Reeva Reeva Reeva! {cue gunfire in air, yipping noise, hooves dancing}

Lieberman said he believes the attacks are prompting many Democrats to rethink their support of Dean.

"I've got some news for Howard Dean," Lieberman added. "The primary campaign is a warm-up compared to what George Bush and Karl Rove have waiting for him. . . . He's going to melt in a minute once the Republicans start going after him."

Maybe they should just give him a toy choo-choo. Worked for the Winter Warlock.

Jay Carson, spokesman for Dean, said the Vermont Democrat is running a positive campaign that can generate the money and momentum to beat Bush. He said it is Dean's rivals who are doing the attacking -- out of desperation. "The politics of attack . . . is exactly the kind of politics that turns off voters and suppresses turnout," Carson said. "It's bad for the party."

Keep digging, smart guy....

Glass-jawed Porcupine Update

It's Tuesday, and the former governor of Vermont continues to dig his way out of the media hole he dropped himself in last Friday's ill-considered and intemperate interview with the Concord Monitor. If he followed some LLamaButcher advice on Friday, he would have known that the first rule of holes is to stop digging. But nooo--remember, he's smarter than the rest of us.

Dean spoke with McAuliffe yesterday morning to clear the air. They chatted for about five minutes, according to Dean aide Kate O'Connor, who called the conversation "very, very friendly," but refused to elaborate.

Kind of like the way your bookie's mook has a "very, very friendly" conversation with you if you get behind on your payments, I bet.

DNC spokeswoman Debra DeShong also declined to describe the content of what she said was a private conversation. She offered no indication McAuliffe was prepared to intervene in the escalating fight between Dean and his rivals. "The chairman understands and the message is that politics is a combat sport, and ultimately it's going to be up to the voters to decide what they like and don't like," DeShong said.

Welcome to the bigs, son.

Dean and McAuliffe talk often, as do their top aides, but several Democrats described the relationship between the front-runner and the DNC chairman as civil though sometimes awkward.

In diplo-speak, that means they hate each other's guts.

McAuliffe is a close friend of former president Bill Clinton, whose former top aides are playing leading roles for some of Dean's rivals. As party chairman, McAuliffe has remained neutral in the race and turned to Dean for fundraising help on a few occasions. If Dean wins the nomination, he could shake up the DNC leadership.

And if we topple Lil'Kim, that might lead to a shakeup in leadership of the DPRK.

Dean's rivals have no plans to back off.

As well they shouldn't. Dean's now thoroughly demonstrated two very real, very vulnerable weaknesses: a big mouth, and a thin skin to criticism. Hence, our nickname for the good Doctor "the glass-jawed porcupine." He can punch, and he can sucker punch, but man, he can't take it. That's a very dangerous combination in politics.

The next three weeks are going to be fun.

First Ruby Ridge, then Waco, then Elian

then this.

But I guess it gives new meaning to posse comitas...

New Year's Eve - Party With The Llama Butchers!

We get together with the same little group of friends every year and just hang out, catching up on what's going on. Pretty mellow, relaxed, gossipy.

This year it so happens that the vast majority of our invitees have small babies (ranging from just over a year to about 3 months). And they all plan to bring them. So I am going to see if I can do a little twist on old-fashioned bored suburbanite decadence and make it a Baby Swapping party. Everyone will toss their baby's binky into a bowl when they come in. At the end of the evening, there will be a blind drawing. Whichever binky they pull, that is the baby they take home.

Ain't I a riot?

Spurrier's gone.

I have a theory that Danny-Boy goes through coaches like bags of Cheetoes for purely ego-related reasons. (Ed. - Ya think? Get this man a Pulitzer!)

YIP YIP YIP from Steve: Maybe he can become a partner in that private investigation firm with Howard Dean and Keyshawn Johnson I suggested yesterday.


I got quoted! Right here! First time!

Big 'Ol LB "Yip! Yip! Yip!" to Michael! Dude, you really made my day! Steve, sign this guy up for the blogroll!

YIP YIP YIP from Steve: Dude! Just don't go pulling a cellphone from underneath the goal post on me....


HT to K-Lo.

Fooling around with the colors--not done yet, but have to pick up the kids from a b-day party. Blog rolling underway.

Say What You Want About the Ol' School, It'll Never Top Reality

Go here and scroll down to "Open House." (Hat Tip to my brother, the doc, who went to Darth Vader U.)

Say what you want about the Mighty Cardinals

Little three stalwart Trostky State is somewhat of a football factory, as its coaching staff has produced an odd combination of Hall of Famers.

Telecom Geek Post
Interesting little interview with Michael Powell, Chairman of the FCC, in the San Jose Mercury News. (HT to Jeff Jarvis, and BTW go see his response to Dr. Heckle/Mr. Snide's latest flailings.)

Aaaanyway, this is the stuff I do, so I thought I'd bring it up. Powell's basic point, which he has argued consistently, is that innovation in communications technology has left the old regulatory framework obsolete. This goes not just for old-fashioned telephony, but for broadcast, cable and wireless as well. And I think he is absolutely right to talk about the split between application (what we watch, what computer programs we use, what we say and hear) and infrastructure (how we get those applications from Point A to Point B). We are headed towards an eventual point of complete interchangeability, so that any application can whirl through any platform.

This is great news for the average consumer, although it is bound to cause a lot of industry upheaval as it pans out. The trouble till now has always been what is known in the trade as the "last mile," the last line linking the infrastructure to each individual home. Your house had, typically, one or two telephone lines, maybe an analog cable line, maybe a satellite dish. And the various voice, data and mass media applications were limited to their specific kind of infrastructure. (E.g., telephone service came through the phone line. From the phone company. Period. Video programming came from the local broadcasters or cable company. Period.)

But just within the past few years, all of that has started to change. Phone lines upgraded to DSL can now carry broadband traffic. The introduction of cable and satellite modem means competition to that DSL service. The introduction of digital broadcasting means data can be sent via a broadcast signal. You can now get phone service via the Internet or over the cable box. And new technologies like microwave and power-line data services are offering potential new ports into the home.

Powell believes that it is the government's responsibility to get the hell out of the way of this dynamic. But it is a difficult business to change 70-odd years' worth of regulatory instinct based on obsolete monopolistic models. And this is not to say that there should not be some government oversight - spectrum management still requires a traffic cop. But entrenched interests can no longer be permitted to use FCC rules to strangle start-up competitors in the crib.


I have friends whose passions for and (mostly) against the structure and seeding of the BCS rival any religious fervor seen in 17th Century Europe. Personally, I don't care very much about it. When your school teams play in this conference and in this one, you have a very different outlook on things. Division III football (which rules!) means sitting on a freezing portable aluminum bleacher with a couple hundred other people, often in the rain, cheering guys you'll see the following Monday in real, genuine college classes and knowing that the fullback who just got buried in a 7 inch deep mud puddle knows more about particle physics than 99.9% of the world's population. Far cry from the big time Football Factories.

BUT. I do care about the professional post-season and am outraged that my team can go 10-6 and still not make the playoffs! I agree with TMQ that there need to be some serious revisions to post-season NFL seedings.


Today's Assignment.

VDH. Go. Read.

Update: And don't mess with Lileks.

Further Update: Special bonus Lileks day. Heh me.

Then There Is Syria.....

The L.A. Times is reporting this morning on recently uncovered documentation establishing Syria as the chief pipeline of weapons smuggled into Iraq between 2000 and 2003. I haven't read the full story because the Times has a very obnoxious registration process that requires waaay more personal information than I feel like giving, so I'll have to wait for the details to surface elsewhere.

But if the report says what I think it says, this is very bad news for Mr. Assad, who has basically been playing possum recently in the hopes that the big ol' U.S. bear would not notice him.

Syria used to be a pretty solid Soviet client state and JV member of the Axis, maybe not a starter, but good off the bench. It's specialty, aside from annexing Lebanon, was funnelling money and weapons to various groups dedicated to wiping Israel (and occassional U.S. Marine expeditionary forces) off the face of the earth. But now look at it: Chief source of funding (the Sovs) gone. Chief regional ally (fellow Baathist Saddam) gone. Now surrounded by hostile states (Iraq, Israel, Turkey), one neutral (Jordan) and a mini-Vietnam (Lebanon). And - can we say it? (Ed. - yeah, go ahead.) - now apparent smoking gun documentation of aiding and abetting Saddam in his stand-off with the U.N. and us.

That ain't a good hand to play. What will ol' Bashar Assad do? First thing is, he knows by now without a shadow of doubt that Dubya isn't going to forget him. There have been folks in the Administration and the military arguing from Day 1 that we ought to suffer a case of massive, spontaneous amnesia regarding the whereabouts of the Syria/Iraq border and send in the cavalry. I don't think we'd launch a full-scale invasion, but there's more than one way to skin a tinpot dictator.

So Bashar, what's it going to be? Do a Quaddafi? Or find a spider hole?

Holidays In D.C.

Another ghost-town day in Your Nation's Capitol. With Christmas and New Year's right smack in the middle of the week this year, most of the city seems to have said "bag it" and taken two week vacations. If Al Queda were to attack now, the sum total of casualties would be three street bums and a family from Topeka.

I'm planning to bring my oldest daughter in tomorrow. It's become something of a New Year's Eve tradition (well, we did it last year) - see "Daddy's work" in the morning, slip downstairs for a bagel w/cream cheese, then hop a cab over to the Smithsonian. The girls go there a fair bit in the summer with the Butcher's Wife, but this is a special treat - one on one with Daddy. (Nonetheless, last year, my daughter ratted me out to the wife for not wearing a seatbelt in the cab. Ingrate.)

Last time, we hit the Air & Space. I hadn't been there in some time and in my absence they had installed a room full of very elaborate combat jet fighter simulators. You sit inside a pod - strapped down - with a giant video screen in front of you, plus joystick, throttle and a couple readouts. The pod is mounted on a hydraulic arm and can raise and lower its nose, bank and even roll, in addition to shaking and shuddering. With the video and sound going, it is very, very realistic.

Now, I happen to be one of the world's white-knuckle flyers. Hate it. But I thought I'd be okay in this thing. My daughter and I had arranged (it's a two-man pod) that I would be the pilot and she would be the gunner. As we sat on the simulated flight-deck ready to go, I thought I'd try a little bravado. So I firewalled the throttle and, a few seconds later, pulled back hard on the stick.


Suffice to say, all the old symptoms came flooding back. Sweaty palms - check. Dry mouth - check. Heart rate - right up there. Little voice in the back of the head saying this is only a simulator? Shut up! What if it really isn't???? Meanwhile, my little girl, then not yet five years old, is laughing like a loon and shooting at everything and nothing at the same time.

I eventually got a little more used to it, although if I had banked that timidly in a real fighter, I'd have been blown out of the sky by Snoopy on his WWI flying doghouse. Rather than going after other jets, I found we could strafe ground targets quite satisfactorily. Anyway, they were easier for my daughter to hit.

This year, thinking it was time to do a little mind-broadening, I suggested we try one of the galleries.

"Oh," said my daughter, "What's that?"

"Well, it's a place with lots of paintings."

"Oh. Can we do some paintings there?"

"Well, no, we go there to see paintings other people have done."


We'll see how it goes. Just in case, I'll have a pocket full of quarters and my parachute.

Ask The Llama

Someone recently asked me, "Dave, how do you blog?"

Well, Daniel Drezner has a pretty good answer. Money quote: "DAMN YOU, BLOGGER! DAMN YOU TO HELL!"

Monday, December 29, 2003

Bet THIS Will Increase NASA Enlistment

Check out the latest Russian foray into space-based capitalism. If Ben and J-Lo were to go up, could we leave them there?

I especially like the description of secret NASA underwater testing. How do you get a job like that?

"Captain, we need you to have sex with a woman underwater in twenty different positions so we can study the effects of weightlessness."

"Sir, yes SIR!"

"Oh, you're going to need this large elastic belt and inflatible tunnel. And someone is going to have to hold one of you still."


Of course, NASA denies it ever happened. But as Nick Gillespie points out, such denial by a government agency is virtually conclusive proof that it DID happen.

Read Me, Dammit!

We Butchers have gotta get ourselves one of these here Instalanches. Let's steal Glenn Reynolds' RX-8 and not give it back til he plugs us!

More Signs of Bush's Economic Failure

NASDAQ cracks 2000. Dow closing in on 10,500.

Oh, the pain.....the pain.......

Quagmire Alert

U.S. Out of D.C.!!

Rob, I hope you're sitting down for this one

Yet another reason to love Australia: home of the legitimate and true King of England!

Singing like a canary

Squeal, Saddam.

Glad Tidings

The Independent Women's Forum has started a MoDo Watch. To borrow a familiar expression once again, "Heh." (After all, I got the link from Glenn too. Fair is fair.)

Also, Taranto is back from break.

UPDATE: So is Peggy! Mmmmmm.....Peggy

New Year's Resolution

To get my goddam CLE requirements out of the way by June at the latest.

After law school at Reagan U, I passed the Virginia Bar. I have kept that bar membership ever since. Virginia requires all active bar members to complete 12 hours of continuing legal education annually. The deadline is October 31, after which you get whanged with a $50 late fee. If you don't finish before the end of the calendar year, you can be subject to more serious sanctions. This has been one hell of a fall for me and only recently did I finally finish the bloody things.

The punch line is that I am also a member of the D.C. bar and my practice is before a federal agency in Your Nation's Capitol (to borrow Rich Galen's signature phrase), so I don't even need to maintain an active Virginia bar membership. (D.C. has no CLE requirements.)

BUT, if I went inactive in Virginia, I would be admitting, finally, that I am a D.C. lawyer, something I have resisted all this time. By maintaining active status, I can still say that I am a Virginia lawyer practicing in D.C.

When I explained all this to the Butcher's Wife, she informed me that I was nuts.


Money for nothing, and the chicks for free

Eat your heart out, Roger Clinton.

Where's The Beef?

Some of the Dems are trying to tag Dubya over the recent Mad Cow Disease discovery. At least it's a step up from blaming Bush for the Iranian earthquake.

Now this is the kind of thing one would expect from candidates challenging the incumbent and there is really nothing wrong with Dean, Kerry or any of the others saying, in effect, "I can do a better job than Bush protecting the herd."

That being said, however, it strikes me that this is a political reflex left over from another age. Remember the big flap in the spring of '01 about Bush and arsenic in the drinking water? At the time, you'd have thought that Dubya was sneaking out at night with a big drum of the stuff and personally poisoning the reservoirs, for all the shrieking in the press about it. But at the time, the United States was still drowsing in a false peace. Now, after 9/11, the anthrax attacks, the D.C. sniper, Afghanistan and Iraq, it all seems......well, marginal.

This isn't to say that keeping the disease from spreading throughout the U.S. is not a valid public health concern. Of course it is. (In fact, behind the rhetoric, the Dems are, for the most part, simply picking at the minutiae of the Administration's agricultural regulations, while at the same time competing over who can promise to give beef ranchers the most federal money.) But given the Dems miserable platforms on the War and Terrorism, I really don't think something like this will make much difference.

(I have a funny vision of Mayor Quimby saying, "I pledge to you...if elected....a GPS transmitter on every cow!")

STEVE PILES ON: Remember the Glass-Jawed Porcupine's Motto: soft on trying terrorists, hard on satelite tracking of cows!

Oh?.... Never Mind......

Daniel Drezner, subbing for Andrew Sullivan, has a nifty little post linking a New York Times article in which the Grey Lady is forced to concede that Halliburton is not engaged in war profiteering over those much-ballyhooed Iraqi energy contracts. (I'd post the link to the article myself, but I refuse to register with the Times on line just on principle.)

Why do I think that the Halliburton war-profiteering meme will live on in the rich environs of the hard left fever swamp anyway? Oh, just a hunch.

Zoot alors! They were right!

Teaching at a small liberal arts college has been mildly frustrating since 9/11, to say the least. Let's just say the drivel level from the 60s retreads and neophyte wannabes has been, well, flowing over the top of the...dam.

For the sport of it, I was the sole "pro" voice on numerous panels over the past year and a half concerning foreign affairs, and to amuse myself I took notes to keep track of comments and predictions my colleagues would make. Needless to say, they were quite disturbed when I would quote from these predictions at later panels--actions like that were just "out-of-bounds," of course. Not good cricket, I guess. Particularly when you prepare a handout.

But, I will say, I stand corrected on the consistent charge of how the media has been toeing the government's line and presenting a slanted and neatly cropped ideological perspective on the news of the Iraq War.

Er, except I think they were talking about our media...

Why I love America, Volume 263

This story just fills my heart with joy. They should commission a statue for the entrance way with TJ, James Monroe, and Andrew Jackson standing there, slack-jawed, eyes a-google.

Look for this theme to develop: Look South Young Man

Gen. Clark is focusing down South, where the second round of primaries take place at the beginning of February. Let's say Dean wins in Iowa [big] and New Hampshire [big]; Gephardt and Kerry are effectively out, as they lost in their backyards. You can lose either or both of these states in post-modern American politics [Reagan lost Iowa in 1980, as did Bush Sr., and the "Comeback Kid" "won" New Hampshire by finishing second to Paul Tsongas by 9%]. Yet, Kerry and Gephardt were establishment "name" candidates who were presumed to do well from the beginning--and losing in these states will effectively dash them on their petards. As Al Gore showed in 2000, you can't win the big dance if you can't carry your backyard with you.

Yet, New Hampshire is Dr. Dean's backyard too, and he's the "front-runner" precisely because in the first three quarters of 2003 he wildly exceeded expectations by generating money from a broad base and then bringing in major endorsements. However, the stakes have been raised in a way that I don't think have sunk in on him or his followers--it's no longer enough to just be fiestier than Dennis Kucinich, or a better fund-raiser than Joe Lieberman. The standard now is can he beat the incumbent? As the insurgent, all you have to do is appear that you can beat the front runner. It's a different set of expectations to be measure by.

What's going to start emerging as a theme will be the "sure, but New Hampshire is his backyard and Iowa is, well, as white, rural, and BoBo-ized as Vermont." And so the question will be raised, can he win in a state with a different demographic?

Now's a great time to own the Hampton Inn Franchise for Columbia, SC.


See? They're already looking for a new darling. What was that Eagle's song?

Every Good Campaign Needs a Mascot

How about a glass-jawed porcupine?

Complaining about the torrent of attacks raining down on him from his rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination, Howard Dean on Sunday criticized his party's national chairman, Terry McAuliffe, for not intervening to tone down the debate.

Hmmm, maybe it's because you called him a prostitute just days ago in the soon to be famous Concord Monitor interview?

"If we had strong leadership in the Democratic Party, they would be calling those other candidates and saying, `Hey look, somebody's going to have to win here,' " Dr. Dean, the former governor of Vermont, told reporters trailing him as he campaigned through central Iowa. Referring to one of Mr. McAuliffe's predecessors, he added, "If Ron Brown were the chairman, this wouldn't be happening."

If there was strong leadership in the Democratic Party, Dr. Dean would be writing scrips for amoxicillin back in Burlington right now. Seriously, this guy's the front-runner? Does he realize the amount of scrutiny that's about to open up now that the regular season is starting? I remember fall last, when Steve Spurrier was starting out as coach of the Redskins, and he ran up the score against Steve Mariucci and the 49ers in a meaningless pre-season game in Tokyo. Afterwards, he was cocky and self-sure, talking about bringing the razzle-dazzle of the fun-n'-gun to the NFL. Spurrier did great that preseason, with the 'Skins winning all their preseason games except the last one by wide margins. Then the regular season began....

If he doesn't like the heat, maybe Dr. Dean should give Dan Quayle a call--perhaps they could open up a private detective agency or something.

Dr. Dean also implied that many of his supporters, particularly young people, might stay home in November if another Democrat's name ends up on the ballot.

"I don't know where they're going to go, but they're certainly not going to vote for a conventional Washington politician," he said.

Though Dr. Dean has repeatedly said he would back whichever Democrat wins the nomination, he said Sunday that support was "not transferable anymore" and that endorsements, including his own, "don't guarantee anything."

"Right now those guys think we're the front-runner, so they're saying all this stuff, `He can't win'," Dr. Dean said. "How are they going to win?

So strong party discipline is good when it benefits him, but screw everyone else?

"What I'm saying is I think we're the best and most capable candidate of beating George Bush because we're the only one that is exciting the party," he said.

The Royal We. I think I was wrong: maybe he should give this guy a call--he's not busy.

In Ames, Dr. Dean repeated his promise to support whichever Democrat wins. "Any of them are better than what we've got right now," he said. But, he added, "you can't beat George Bush if you behave like the Democrats are behaving."

That's right. Bush is very beatable in a number of ways, however not in any way the current Democrats running are going. But the answer is NOT in the way that Dr. Jeckle and Mr. Snide would have: if they want to win, they are going to start hitting much harder. MUCH harder. But the point that emerges from this piece is telling: once the real political season starts and the gloves [quite legitimately] come off, there's a good chance he's going to crumble under the scrutiny. The question is, does he [and his supporters] go and sulk like Achilles in his tent?

Free pass time is over. Cute insurgent time is over. Look for lots of stories now that have "questions linger...," "doubts are raised...," and "concerns mount over..." in the first paragraph of stories, not in NR [either National Review or New Republic] but in the Washington Post, and the NY and LA Times. If he starts to lose their political reporters, look forward to some hilariously bitter speeches for the Burlington area Kiwanis Club in about twelve months.

D'Oh! Mo'

I can top that: January 27, 1990. First date. Rented this!

(Sidebar: Only redeeming line in the movie: "What does God want with a starship?")

I, too, often wonder about that second date.....

Headline Boggle

Frankly, I would have gone with the noun rather than the adjective form, but hey, that's just me.

What's hilarious is trying to paint growing up on Park Avenue as being just like Baltic Avenue


As was reminded to me [with 3M yellow stickie attached to the back of a frying pan], I actually took my darling wife to this on our first date, July 4, 1990.

For some reason, I actually got a second date.

Inside Pool: I had to completely demur on Armeggedon on simple anti-psi mo grounds.

Being Howard Dean

Stephen Green has some thoughts on yet another tremor along the Dean/Clinton fault line in the Democratic Party. This time, the Good Doctor is going after Terry McAuliffe for, as far as I can make out, not preventing the other candidates from campaigning against him. Green especially notes a not so subtle threat that, if he does not get the nomination, Dean may not do anything to prevent his faithful from sitting on their hands in November. Meanwhile, George Will takes this idea a step further and speculates about whether Dean might even try a third party run if not chosen by the Dems.

Would Dean do it? I don't know. The man is, if nothing else, a raging egomaniac. And he has tapped into a potent current of emotion raging through a substantial section of the party base. The co-dependency building between Dean and his supporters could very well be too much for the Clinton wing to deal with in the event someone else (and I think Lieberman and Gephart are probably the only realistic alternatives) gets the nomination. Last year, the rallying cry was "Anybody But Bush!" It could very well become "Dean Or Nobody!"

'Course, this is probably a moot point.

A Nation of Laws

Section 41(f) of the Rules and Regulations of Being a Guy states that all guys are required to watch Bruce Willis action movies when they run on television. Who are we to argue? And just to make sure that all the bases were covered last night, while my fellow LLama Butcher went for the original Die Hard, I opted for this.

Just for the record, my favorite DH is this one.

Sunday, December 28, 2003

Blogging Die Hard

So I'm watching the original Die Hard movie on Fox, and some things are standing out about how the movie is, well, kinda quaint:

First, no cell phones.

Second, Japan as an economic powerhouse.

Third, Eurotrash terrorists--remember them? How cute.

Last, of course: Bruce Willis with realistic hair.

WaPo: Satan Triumphs in Washington

Sinister sounding stories that are, er, not.

Saturday, December 27, 2003

24/7 in Saddam's cell, hopefully

Acoustic Bon Jovi just might violate the Geneva Convention.

Nous sommes tous Américains maintenant

More perfidy from our "allies" the French. Message: if you are going to attack America, just do it from somewhere else. Bon chance!

This is in line with actions such as French officers leaking war plans to the Serbs during the Bosnian War.

These are the people that we need to grant legitimacy to Iraq?

Yes, but did she carry Jefferson's love child?

New reports from down under that there's something fishy in the Joan of Arc story.

See what I mean?

Last night's post about Dean's big mouth and how it will reek havoc with his candidacy is demonstrated here:

Dean: Death To Osama

Uh, yeah. So far, not so bad.

(AP) Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean said he wants Osama bin Laden to get the death penalty, seeking to minimize fallout from a New Hampshire newspaper story in which he was quoted as saying the terror leader's guilt should not be prejudged.

Uh, what did he say? Would Osama's fatwah urging death to Americans be inadmissable as inflamatory? Find out as he has to clarify his remarks over the next week!

Here's the problem in a nutshell: Dean gives a phone interview to a reporter for the Concord Monitor. You can almost see him sitting there, shirt sleeves rolled up, putting up his feet, popping open a Diet Coke, and deciding its time to let it rip. What the hell, it's only the Concord Monitor, no?

Except, it becomes the story of the news cycle, and he has to spend the next two days defusing the message of the earlier interview not with some minor state paper but with CBS News, which has the effect of pissing off the true believers who thought he was right the first time:

The former Vermont governor, who solidly leads the field of Democratic presidential candidates in both polls and money, said he was simply trying to state in The Concord Monitor interview published Friday that the process of trying bin Laden needs to be fair and credible.

You can almost imagine this interview, a little less cavalier than the last one: the danger for Dean is in developing an antagonistic relationship with the press. However, as journalists are starting to discover he is good copy, this game of provoking and sniping is going to escalate. Is it because the press is mean, biased, or evil? No, it's because news is a business that needs fresh copy. Hourly. And he's starting to become the Woody Jackson cow caught in an Amazonian stream.

In that interview, Dean was quoted as saying, "I still have this old-fashioned notion that even with people like Osama, who is very likely to be found guilty, we should do our best not to, in positions of executive power, not to prejudge jury trials."

First rule of holes: if you find yourself in one, stop digging! But no, if you're really smart, that basic rule of politics doesn't apply...

Dean told the AP in a phone interview that sentiment doesn't mean he sympathizes in any way with the al Qaeda leader. "I'm just like every other American, I think the guy is outrageous," he said.

"I'm just like all of you, except when I'm with them." Unfortunately, this ties directly into the other theme from yesterday about trying to present himself differently in the South than in the Northeast, which is going to backfire.

"As a president, I would have to defend the process of the rule of law. But as an American, I want to make sure he gets the death penalty he deserves," Dean told the AP.

At least he didn't cite Jed Bartlett's willingness to use the death penalty as an example.

The net effect of this, combined with his remarks on not caring where Saddam was tried, is to create a climate where he is emerging as the front runner at exactly the time his credibility to be commander in chief is being called into question.

Most wise candidates would call it a day at that. But not our intrepid governor:

Dean also weighed in for the first time on the news earlier this week that a cow in Washington state has tested positive for mad cow disease, the first such case in the United States.

The former governor, whose state has a large dairy cow population, said the Bush administration failed to aggressively set up a tracking system that would allow the government to quickly track the origins of the sick cow, quarantine other animals it came in contact with and assure the marketplace the rest of the meat supply is safe.

"What we need in this country is instant traceability," he said.

That's the way to build a national constituency: soft on trying terrorists, hard on satelite tracking of cows!

Dean said such a system should have been set up quickly after the mad cow scare that devastated the British beef industry in the mid- to late-1990s. The Bush administration was still devising its plan when the sick cow was slaughtered Dec. 9, and on Friday the government still hadn't determine the infected animal's origins.

"This just shows the complete lack of foresight by the Bush administration once again," Dean said. "This is something that easily could be predicted and was predicted."

Gee, I don't know, I think there was something else higher on the agenda....


Wisdom and smarts are not the same thing, in politics as well as life. Someone can test off the charts on the SAT or their MCAT, but still be dumb as a post. A sign of wisdom rather than smarts in politics is knowing when to stop, or even better, when to never speak in the first place. As Mark Twain [apparently never] said, "Better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt." One question for the Dean campaign is whether their candidate can begin to exhibit some message discipline. If not, it will be an awfully cold summer in Vermont.

Geez Louise

I was going to start a contest last night to see how long it would take someone to blame the Iranian earthquake on the U.S....

but of course our hearty patriots at the Democratic Underground beat me to the punch!

Comment #2 is priceless, by the way.

A Tim Blair nightcap...

Spleenville's Tim Blair's quotes of the year list is starting up [he's through February]. The best so far:

• "I have an uneasy feeling that many on the intellectual left are fearful that America will lose its next war amid massive casualties – but are even more fearful that America may win with minimal casualties." -- Robert Fisk, on his readers

• "I am unimpressed by the grandstanding of certain European leaders." -- Jose Ramos Horta, East Timor's minister of foreign affairs and cooperation

• "He smoked cigars, drank beer and ate greasy food. He was an amazing man." -- Lisa Saxton, granddaughter of Florida’s John McMorran, who died at 113

• "I wouldn't say I was part of an anti-war campaign." -- Robert Fisk

Who ARE the Llamabutchers?

Well, here's who we think we are;

here's who we actually are;

and here's what happened when worlds collide.

Friday, December 26, 2003

Are YOU a LLamabutcher?

Our reader[s] ask, "Steve, what the heck IS a Llamabutcher?"

All you need to do is take one simple test.

When confronted by the whole story of Rush Limbaugh, Oxycontin, and the Florida police, do you:

A.) Laugh, and then rail against the injustices of America's war on drugs

B.) Cringe, and then rail about the left-wing media establishment and their bias against conservatives, or

C.) Call your broker and say, "holy crap! what do you mean this company isn't publicly traded?"

See, this is what I'm talking about

Why pick on the front-runner? Because that's what the front-runner is there for! The classic story in the January before the New Hampshire primary is "The Frontrunner Stumbles." It injects freshness and fun into a story line that those in the media have been covering for a year and a half now. It's like turning into the Super Bowl and [Yahweh forbid] the Eagles are playing, McNabb is having a great game, and the commentators are making Rush Limbaugh jokes. The-only-watch-the-Super-Bowl crowd will be slightly confused, but the folks watching and following since the preseason will laugh heartily. That's the nature of the beast.

Anyhoo, here's the latest grist to run through the news cycle for the next 72 hours. Just as potential 2004 voters are making the first steps to awakening from their political slumber, here is the type of thing that will be their introduction to Dr. Dean:

"I still have this old-fashioned notion that even with people like Osama, who is very likely to be found guilty, we should do our best not to, in positions of executive power, not to prejudge jury trials."

All I can say to that is, that will be on hell of a voir dire.

In an interview with the New Hampshire newspaper for Friday editions, Dean added: "I'm sure that is the correct sentiment of most Americans, but I do think if you're running for president, or if you are president, it's best to say that the full range of penalties should be available. But it's not so great to prejudge the judicial system."

Now I'm going to try an experiment: tomorrow, I'll put on my khakis and drive my Volvo to the local Whole Foods, and while standing in line with my hand basket of fancy cheese and lactose free goat milk, I'm going to repeat word for word Dean's statement. I'm sure I'll get 100% agreement with the wisdom of the statement. But until the day that the average checkout line at the Whole Foods can get you the majority popular vote in states that add up to 270+ electoral votes, statements like this are political suicide. Again, it's evidence of the types of things that have propelled Dean to prominence among an active and wealthy elite slice of the Democratic party, but will spell trouble once he has to start speaking on a national stage.

The article went on to say:

Asked how he would persuade people who were not opposed to the war to vote for him instead of President Bush, Dean responded, "By going after him on terrorism, where he's really weak."

Dean questioned whether the Bush administration's use of force against Iraq had anything to do with Libya's announcement that it will scrap its programs for weapons of mass destruction.

The point here isn't to Fisk the individual statements: in a special way they almost Fisk themselves. Rather, it's to look at strategy and media, and the difficulties of being the front-runner.

Open mouth, check, insert foot, check...

One of the features we want to bring our devoted reader[s] as the primary season unfolds is closely following the local newspapers in the primary states. Today's item is from the Concord Monitor in Concord, New Hampshire, and is an interview with front-runner Dr. Howard Dean.

The article, entitled "Left of Center is Right for Dean" shows clearly why he has done so well up to this point, but is going to start running into increased trouble.

First is why Bill Clinton's centrist strategy, which carried the Democrats to victory at the top of the ticket in 1992 and 1996 [but with steady Democratic lower-ticket losses in 1994 and 1998], is not the strategy to follow:

Dean's Rovian strategy for the left looks something like this: "Really get people excited about being Democrats again. Reach out to the people who quit voting because they don't think there's a difference (between the two parties). Bring third-party people back to the Democratic Party. And crank up the base turnout."

This is fascinating, in a niave to national politics sort of way. The first part of the sentence, about getting people excited, is item #1: what hasn't seemed to dawn on the inner circle is that this works both ways--that the very same things that will get Democrats excited again will have the corollary effect of enraging Republicans. This is Newton's third law of mechanics, and it works just as powerfully in politics as it does in physics. In politics one can't or shouldn't avoid controversy: yet, it makes no sense to in effect have your ads serve as fund-raising ads for your opponents.

Let's move on to insulting the South again. After last month's appeal to Metrosexual Rednecks, the good doctor has decided to revisit the issue of Southern intelligence:

"In the South . . . (Republicans) will say 'race,' we're going to say 'jobs,' " he said. "They're going to say 'guns,' we're going to say 'education.' They're going to say 'gay marriage,' we're going to say 'health care for everybody.' The Republicans will try to run on as divisive issues as possible; that's what they've been doing since Nixon's Southern strategy. We're going to have to be really disciplined about running on the issues that we all have in common."

Maybe it's just me, but this seems to come pretty close to Ross Perot's famous "you people" remark to the NAACP convention in 1992--it's important when running for President not to seem to be talking down to whole sectors of the country, let alone your own party. But it is also niave, in that "they" are going to be talking about national security, in the region of the country that has the greatest proportional military service [active duty and retired], and "we" are going to be talking about.....

Then there was this beaut:

"The president said, 'I want $1.2 trillion worth of tax cuts' when he first got there," Dean said. "The Democratic leaders' reaction to it was, 'Oh, no, it should only be $900 billion.' You know, you cede the debate to them. Now . . . it's like Winston Churchill: 'We've already established what you are, madam, now we're just talking about the price.' It's ridiculous."

Political scientists point to the rough time Carter had in his presidency because of the way he alienated the Democrats in Congress before being inaugurated. Calling the Democrats in Congress whores [the punchline that he alludes to above] is a heck of a way to reach out to the 802 superdelegates [i.e. all Democratic members of Congress, governors, and other party officials] that will represent a significant bloc at the Democratic Convention this summer.

South Carolina beckons....

Look what Dr. Dean has found. Expect further discoveries of his interests in NASCAR, and the Gamecocks. But expect a flip-flop on whether he likes his barbeque wet or dry...

World's Leading WMD Maker Caught, But Not Before Release of Latest Bomb in American Multiplexes

Celebratory gunfire erupted this evening in Brentwood as Army Special Forces of the 4th I.D. raided a secluded Malibu farm and arrested Ben Affleck, pulling him from a spider-hole behind the Jacuzzi.

Mr. Affleck was a POI in the War on Terrorism, and until his capture was one of the world's most notorious producers of bombs at work today.

"Americans of all stripes can rest easier tonight, knowing that Mr. Affleck will not be able to wreak havoc on innocent children, who accidentally wander into the room and catch part of Changing Lanes," the President declared in a hastily convened press conference at Camp David, his secluded mountain hide out. "The world can rest easier now that the brave men and women of our Armed Forces have insured that we will not be attacked by Gigli II."

Mr. Affleck's arrest is a coup for the Department of Homeland Security, who had raised the nation's terror alert rating to "Orange" premised on a fear that terrorists would strike American malls during the busy holiday period. "We got him," a jubilant Paul Bremer announced this evening, which was greeted by the rabid cheers of the long-oppressed entertainment media, who chanted "death to Sum of All Fears X 2!"

However, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge did not return any calls, on reports that Mr. Affleck's latest bomb went off in multiplexes around the country. Ridge's spokesman noted that the government was going to clamp down on charities and third party businesses that facilitated the distribution of these bombs. Nobody from Miramax or Regal Cinemas would comment for this article.

At Turtle Bay, reaction was muted. "It is good that the world will not be visited by Reindeer Games II," noted a subdued Secretary General Kofi Anan. "But is there not a better way to facilitate the intermediration of such actions?" Calls for a United Nations organization to take over the American film industry were voiced by some with a distinct Belgian accent. French President Jacques Chirac was more upbeat: "I spit on you, Ameerican peeg-dog. Do you see us arresting Gerard Depardieu? It is better to appease them through subsidies." Former President Jimmy Carter, spending the holidays trying to bring peace to warring clans of Antarctic penguins, noted that he had spent time with Mr. Affleck and thought him to be a kind, artistic soul, and "J-Lo has one sweeeet ass!"

Army officials had no comment of whether Mr. Affleck's statements earlier in the week, that he would rather state his allegiance to Satan than root for the Yankees had any role in the efforts to capture the elusive fugitive. Calls to Mr. Satan's office went unreturned; however, this reporter did receive an anonymous late night voice message: "You only get to sell your soul once, Benny."

Democratic front-runner Howard Dean was defiant at the news: "This is a f---ing sham that hasn't made America one f---ing ounce safer! We should be working to aid guys like this, bring him and Matt Damon back into the community of nations."

Retired General Wesley Clark was equally strident: "This would have not happened if I were President: I would not have wavered from our pursuit of Cuba Gooding, Jr. Until Mr. Gooding is caught, Americans will continue to be attacked by such 'uplifting' crap like Radio, and what the heck was the name of that sled dog movie we saw on the plane?"

The answer is

The answer is yes, you can blog and win at Battleship.

Of course, I'm going to sleep on the couch tonight....

Little House on the Cul de Sac. Chapter One

My oldest daughter is a fan of the Little House on the Prarie books, and we've spent many an evening over the past year and a half listening to the adventures in daily life of Laura, Mary, baby Carie, faithful bulldog Jack, Ma, and, of course, Pa. She has a large wall map of the US next to her bed, and she's put thumbtacks to mark where they lived in Wisconsin in the first books, connecting with some yarn to where they moved to the banks of Plum Creek. They are a wonderful introduction to "chapter books," and I've caught her at times telling her brother when something difficult is afoot [losing power during the Hurricaine, sitting through an earthquake, time to clean up after a big play] that "Laura and Mary had to do much more difficult chores." All good, no?


I have to confess why I cringe reading the books: I have "Pa Envy."

Let's face facts: Pa in those stories is a stud. Time to move? Pack up the family and head on out to the frontier. Need shelter? Get out your axe and build a house! Need furniture? Get out your saw, mallet and plane and build it! Need water? Dig a well. All this while playing the fiddle and being a gentle presence in the lives of the women of the house. I've thought of Pa often, sitting in traffic, taking the Volvo wagon out to Lowe's, spending 45 minutes finding the right type of nails to hang a heavy picture on dry wall, getting caulk for the tub so it doesn't leak through the ceiling into the family room, and finding a new filter for heat pump. Garbage disposal backed up from the tofu casserole gone bad in the fridge? Call a plumber, wait a few days, and fork over some cash. Heat not getting into the littlest's bedroom? Call the HVAC guys to come in and fish out crushed plastic pepsi bottles that the builder had swept into the floor vent, along with sawdust, wood scraps and nails to "clean up" six years ago. I've often thought, in defense of myself, that sure, Pa could do all these things, but could he teach an undergraduate seminar on the development of Wisconsin as a case study in legal history? No? Take that, frontier boy!

But I've always known the sad truth: I can teach and write about it, but Pa and his ilk were the ones who did it.

Which takes me to this morning.

I was waking up from an odd dream, where I, the hero, was righting unjust wrongs and defending my turf against the fascist aggressor, only to be thwarted by a little girl throwing a shoe at my head, when I was roughly awoken by my crying 4 1/2 year old, saying "daddee daddee--Blitzen's dead!"


"Blitzen's dead, daddee, and he's in the back yard!!"

I drag myself to the back window, and sure enough: there's a big ol' dead deer in the backyard, by the neighbor's fence, and our neighbor had conveniently just come over to point that out, I assume because he thought I might just leave it there to rot. [Nothing says Yule Tide spirits like a picked over carcass]

After gathering myself together, and thinking to myself this was a bad week to give up robitussen shots, I stared at the carcass for a good ten minutes. Remembering the hilarious scene in Tommy Boy when they pick up what they think is a dead deer and put it in their car, only for the deer to wake up and completely trash their car, I poked it good with a big old stick. Yes, definitely dead.

Now in most religious traditions at certain stages of economic and social development, this would be seen as a sign from God--a good one, fresh food placing itself on your doorstep at the coldest, darkest time of the year. The Mormons had built a whole mythology out of the seagulls, and Moses with the bread and all. But to suburban man living on the little house of the cul de sac, you don't have a blessing but a problem.

Next I checked for what I assumed to be the inevitable cause of death: gunshot wound. Finally, all those hours religiously watching CSI classic [don't give me none of your CSI:Miami backtalk, punk!] would pay off! Doing my best Nick Stokes impersonation, I used the same big stick and rolled the deer over. No gory gutshot, but as the head didn't roll with the body, it was clear that the cause of death was a broken neck and that given that he was lying right next to a fence, it seemed that the cause of death was from dashing under the influence. I'm no Bambi lover, they are not particularly smart animals, and having grown up in the home of Lyme disease, I'm not too keen on having them around.

Now what? I stared at the carcass for about ten minutes and was coming up with lousy answers and options. I was just a white guy in khakis and a bean jacket, standing in the backyard of his 4 bedroom colonial that used to be part of a farm, tired from drinking to much chardonny and fancy cheese the night before. But then, I had an epiphany, and I began to think like Pa. What I was faced with was not "how to dispose of this big old carcass?" but with "who wants some fresh venison." And I thought, who do I know who can convert Blitzen here into sausage? One quick call to the volunteer fire department, and five minutes later, problem was solved.

Now of course, Pa would've known how to do it. But that was good enough for today.

Battleship Blogging

I'm not sure if VDH would approve, but I'm about to find out if man can successfully blog and play battleship at the same time....


For what it's worth, a couple more political thoughts.

First, although the liberal media monopoly has been cracked, it is not yet broken. Yes, there are now conservative voices at Fox, on talk radio and on the web as never before, but they still constitute more of a fringe than anything else. Jonah Goldberg recently remarked that he'd gladly trade the blogworld, Fox, the Wall Street Journal and talk radio for all the assets the Libs still hold. I seriously think the balance will become more even in the future, but for now all we have is a toe-hold on the beachhead. We have not yet established command of the interior lines.

Second, it strikes me as premature to make any kind of call as to what the hell is going on these days, politically speaking. Just as with seismology, you can't say California is about to slide off into the Pacific based on just one 6.5 magnitude earthquake. It takes a far larger pattern of activity to make that kind of prediction. Further, as Seve's snarks regarding Dead-in-Office Double-O Presidents and Loser Football Conferences illustrates, trying to find a pattern is often a mug's game. For the moment, I think there is an unusual level of polarization re the party faithful on left and right. The middle-ground voters have been drifting left the past couple elections, but I think 9/11 and the war have reignited a latent patriotism in these folks. So far, the Republicans recognize this and the Dems don't. So while it begins to appear as if Dubya is going to pound whatever sacrifice the Dems send up this time, I am not yet prepared to say whether this represents a tectonic shift in the body politic.

Oh, I know whether it does, I'm just not prepared to say. Heh.


Note to Self

Don't blog when it's late and you're full of the Spirit of the Season. Makes you look like a moron. (Ed. - Well, this won't exactly put you over the top. BTW, no one actually reads this stuff anyway. - What are we paying you? Gidouddahere!)

Oh, as long as the fail-safe protocols have been breached, wanted to follow up on my earlier Church report with a couple of Episcopalian jokes (or starkly truthful comments, depending on how you feel).

The first I can't attribute although I know I read it somewhere: The Episcopal Church used to embody guilt-free Catholicism. When they changed the prayerbook in the 70's, it became guilt-free Christianity. Now, with the most recent revisions, it's just guilt-free.

The second I first heard on the Prarie Home Companion: The Episcopal Church is so liberal that we have six Commandments and four Suggestions.

The third I heard recently: So-and-So came from a town so small, all the Episcopalians were straight.

Okay, so Andrew is never going to kudo this site. We'll still read him, of course.

Again, Merry Christmans to all and a very happy New Year!!!

Thursday, December 25, 2003

See What Happens When You Backchat a Geek?

Seve! I wasn't suggesting that the Reagan Democrats of 20 years ago are literally the same folks worth watching today....Rather, I was making the point that a parallel dynamic seems to be taking place, namely that the Party (i.e., the Dem Establishment) is skewing off to the left margin of a big chunk of the electorate that has fairly liberal sensibilities re domestic social programs, but is fiercely patriotic regarding foreign policy. It's one thing for the Dems to moo about social security and the horrors of medicare reform. It is something else for them to spit on the flag and say we are the Bad Guys in Iraq. Also, there are two dynamics in play now that we did not see in the 80's. First, Dubya is playing to these people with his "compassionate conservative" agenda, which seems to translate into a whoooole lot of domestic spending. Second, there is a dynamic re privatization and competion in things like education and medical insurance that was unheard of 20 years ago, but is proving very popular among this voting block now.

All I'm saying is that the Libs have a tendancy sometimes to outflank themselves to the left, alienating a crucial center-left constituency. I think they did that in the 80's and I think they may be doing so again now.

Merry Christmans, Indeed! - The Sequel

The storm has now passed officially and is headed offshore. On the whole, the southeastern quadrant of the hurricane was not so bad. No major fits, and a fascinating dinner conversation (followed up with selected bedtime readings) about King Arthur and Excalibur. All of the gels were nearly comatose by the time we got them jammied and ready for bed. Works for me.

Couple things I left out of the previous post. First, to round out the Christmas Cheer in the LB's Household, one of the cats caught a mouse this morning. (Mice are a perpetual seasonal problem around here.) In general, I hate cats. And I don't have much love for this lot in particular. However, in the past few years, they have proved themselves at least moderately utilitarian by setting in on the local mouse population. The LB's Wife adheres to what one might call the Bambi School of anthropomorphology in re small furry animals, so she does not appreciate my cries of "Tear him and worry him, old fellows!" when the gattos make a kill. But hey - since I can't chivvy the fox, and since it's silly to use a 12 gauge on a mouse, I'll take what I can get!

T'other thing was in re the Captain Feathersword toy. As a parent, I really like The Wiggles. (If you're a parent of young kids, you know exactly what I'm talking about. If not, just scroll down.) All they do is sing and dance, their music is fresh and engaging, their vignettes silly and good-natured, and there are absolutely no dictats from the Soviet of the Nice. Makes a swell change from a certain purple Nancy Boy who haunts the collective conscience of so many kiddies these days.

Ran off my new DVD of The Adventures of Baron Munchausen tonight. One of my all-time favorite movies. The film is a kind of counterrevolution to the sort of hyper-rationalism that sometimes possesses the West. Not that I believe we should revert to a medieval mysticism, or let Druids or the Pope dictate the way we live. However, the film reminds us that it is folly to reject thousands of years of empirical experience out of hand merely for the sake of cold logic. The invocation of such ancient gods, goddesses and heroes as Vulcan, Venus and Ariadne is quite charming. At the same time, the desparate stand of the fictional European Republic against the onslaught of the Turk is very, very moving. I suppose I enjoy the film because it danced along the fault line between faith and reason. I live in that same fissure.

Merry Christmas, Indeed!

Ah, here we are at the eye of the storm. The first surge - candy-crazed kids tearing through yards of wrapping paper - has passed. The other side of the storm wall - Christmas Dinner - is on its way in. But for now, the roast is in the oven. The good china and silver are set out. The evening wardrobe is at standby. The kids and the Butcher's Wife are comatose. And Yours Truly, with his first glass of Christmas Cheer, is settled down to enjoy a few precious moments of bloggy peace. (BTW, it turns out that Bowmore's isn't as good as Laphroaig. Not bad. Just not as good.)

As usual, the kids cleaned up this morning. The most popular present turned out to be a Captain Feathersword talking/laughing sword. The intensity with which the kiddies laid rival claim to it was on a par with those pretenders to Uther's Throne seeking The Sword in the Stone.

But there were some other strong contenders as well. I don't know who these Melissa & Doug people are. I've strong suspicions that they are what Cartman would call a "bunch of long-haired hippie freaks." What I do know is that they are financing their house in Aruba in large part from the friends and family of the Butcher's Kids.

It was kinda strange. This is the first year that we have not had one set or another of grandparents here for Christmas itself. So the Wife and I are the senior folks present. Changes the whole dynamic of the day. WE are THE grownups.

Oh, one really cool thing: The 'Rents totally surprised me with several framed photographs that they had contrived to reproduce from much smaller and aging originals. One was of my great, great grandfather. He was a farmer from Ohio and served as a Union artillery officer during the Civil War, taking part in the Atlanta Campaign. When Sherman headed for the coast, his unit got posted for garrison duty in Central Georgia and therefore missed out possibly coming up against a forebearer of my fellow Llama Butcher here, where the Rebs employed the famous "Run Awaaaaaaaay!!!!!!" defense.
A second photo was of my great grandfather, also from Ohio. He was a Presbyterian Minister, which explains the strain of thrifty Calvinism that lurks deep inside. Very cool stuff. The third photo is of my Old Man, taken when he wasn't too much older than I am now. That gets weird. My oldest is of an age now where she will remember things pretty much permanently. I remember the time when Dad had the picture taken. The circle may not yet be complete, but boy is it getting there.

These days, we usually do our church duty on Christmas Eve, specifically at the early service. The place is always loaded to the gun'ls with C&E-types (Christmas and Easter Only) and is wall to wall children. I always feal vaguely annoyed by this - that the highest services of the year are the ones that bring the most milling, confusion and distraction. If things are too bad, I sometimes go back for the midnight service. This year, tho, it wasn't that awful.

Our Rector is a strange guy. He is a pretty typical Manhattan Liberal, but has an odd streak of populism running through him. Big time believer in jamming the pews, encouraging kids to wander loose during the service and singing "catchy" hymns. He made us do "Go Tell It On The Mountain," and tried to get people to clap and stamp too. Yeesh. (Well, at least it wasn't this crap.) He got a few of the front pews to start swinging, but most of us simply smiled icily.

Well. the Hive is stirring again... More later. Seriously, have a very Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Merry Christmas

Adeste fidelis
Laeti triumphantes
Venite, venite in Bethlehem
Natum videte regem angelorum
Venite adoremus
Venite adoremus
Venite adoremus Dominum.

Clemmet Moore, call your lawyer

A Christmas Poem

By Dave Barry

(First published in the Miami Herald in 1995)

'Twas the night before Christmas

Or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or whatever religious holiday your particular family unit celebrates at this time of year via mass retail purchases

And all through the house

Not a creature was stirring

Except Dad, who was stirring his third martini in a losing effort to remain in a holiday mood as he attempted to assemble a toy for his 9-year-old son, Bobby

It was a highly complex toy

A toy that Dad did not even begin to grasp the purpose of

A toy that cost more than Dad's first car

A toy that was advertised relentlessly on TV with a little statement in the corner of the TV screen that said ``SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED''

Which was like saying that the Titanic sustained ``some water damage''

Because this toy had more parts than the Space Shuttle

And speaking of space, Dad was now convinced that extraterrestrial life did indeed exist

Because the assembly instructions were clearly written by beings from another galaxy

And these beings insisted on Phillips screwdrivers

And Dad could not find his Phillips screwdriver

In fact, he was wondering who ``Phillips'' was

And why he needed a different kind of screwdriver from everybody else

That was the festive holiday thought that Dad was thinking as he took a slug from his martini and attempted to attach Part 3047-b to Part 3047-c Using a steak knife

But other than that, not a creature was stirring in the house

Although Mom was definitely stirring OUT of the house

Mom was at the Toys ``R'' Us store

In fact, this was the fifth Toys ``R'' Us store that Mom had been to that night

In her desperate quest to find the one thing that their 5-year-old daughter, Suzy, wanted this holiday season

It was, of course, a Barbie doll

But not just ANY Barbie doll

It had to be the new model Abdominals Barbie

The one who came with her own little pink stomach-muscle-exercise device

It was the hottest Barbie doll of all this holiday season

Every girl age 3 through 12 in the entire United States HAD to have it

Or her holiday season would be RUINED

And so of course the Mattel Corporation

Which is run by evil trolls from hell

Had manufactured exactly eight units of this doll

And the very last one in the world was in this particular Toys ``R'' Us

Which means that the odds were against Mom Because on this same festive night thousands of other frantic parents had converged on this same store

Kind of like the flesh-eating zombies in the movie Night of the Living Dead

Only less ethical

The store was a war zone

Mom had to fight her way into the doll aisle

Where, wielding a Tonka Truck like a club She claimed her prize

And then, trailed by a screaming mob of rival parents

She raced from the store, leaped into her car and roared out of the parking lot

Barely missing the Salvation Army person

She raced back to the house, burst through the front door and staggered into the family room

Where she found Dad

Actually she found Dad's feet

The rest of Dad was under the sofa

A strange gurgling sound was coming from down there

Dad, now on his fifth martini

Was trying to strangle the dog

Which, Dad was convinced, had eaten Part 8675-y

And just at that very moment

Out on the lawn there arose such a clatter

That Dad let go of the dog

And he and Mom went to the window to see what was the matter

And what to their wondering eyes should appear

But Santa Claus, yelling the names of reindeer

"Now Dasher! Now, Dancer! Now, Vixen! Now . . . Umm . . . Now . . . Dancer!''

"He already said Dancer,'' observed Dad

"He can't remember them all,'' said Mom

"I think one of them is Pluto,'' said Dad

"Wasn't Pluto the guy who was always fighting with Popeye?'' said Mom

"You're thinking of Bluto,'' said Dad

"Now . . . Umm . . . Now Flicka!'' said Santa

"Flicka was a horse, that I DO know,'' said Mom

"Do you think the reindeer are wrecking the lawn?'' said Dad

"They're going up on the roof,'' said Mom

"Like hell they are,'' said Dad, who had recently spent $875 on shingle repair

But before he could yell at St. Nicholas to stop Down the chimney the jolly elf came with a plop

He had a broad face and a round little belly

That shook when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly

Which was pretty gross

"What's so funny?'' asked Dad

"You two,'' said St. Nick. "Why are you getting all upset about toys? The holiday season isn't about material possessions!''

"Do you have kids?'' asked Mom

"Well, no,'' said Santa

"Hah,'' said Mom

"But I am beloved by children the world over,'' said Santa

"Well,'' said Dad, "you won't be beloved by our son if I can't assemble this toy''

”What seems to be the problem?'' said Santa, coming over to have a look

"I'm stuck on Step 824,'' said Dad

"Who wrote these instructions?'' asked Santa. "Martians?''

"Apparently,'' said Dad

"I used to be pretty good with tools,'' said Santa. "Hand me that steak knife''

"Sure,'' said Dad. "Care for a martini?''

"Heck yes,'' said Santa

And so he went to work

And after a while Mom and Dad, exhausted, went to bed

Leaving old St. Nick in the family room

He said some pretty unsaintly words

But he eventually got Bobby's toy assembled

And although he spent so much time that he was unable to visit the rest of the little boys and girls in North America

Not to mention South America, Europe, Asia and Africa

This particular household had a very happy Christmas morning indeed

When Suzy came downstairs and saw Abdominals Barbie

And Bobby came downstairs and saw his incredibly complex toy

Which he broke in under four minutes

A new holiday record

But it was still a festive day

Especially when Mom and Dad told the fantastic story of their late-night visitor

Which, at first, the kids did not believe

In fact, even Mom and Dad were not 100 percent sure it had happened

Until Dad got out the ladder

And one by one they climbed up to the roof And there they saw it . . .

As real as life . . .

A Holiday Miracle . . .

Reindeer poop.

(And $1,097.36 worth of shingle damage.)

Environmentalist of the Day, or, Rudyard Kipling, call your agent

This from Down Under:

A THAI man was squeezed and bitten until he was unconscious by a captured 4-meter python that he had volunteered to release in a forest, officials said Wednesday.

Samruay Polpruk, 43, was found Tuesday by the roadside in the town of Prachin Buri, about 90km north of Bangkok, with the python wrapped around his neck. He was rushed to the hospital after police and onlookers pulled the snake from him.

Officials at Chao Prayapoobeth hospital said he was being treated in the intensive care unit and was in critical condition, with a serious injury on his left arm and broken bones.

Police Lt Jumpol Baujum said the snake was caught Wednesday by residents when it wandered into the town.

Samruay volunteered to return the giant snake to the jungle, and a friend agreed to drive him there on his motorcycle. The pair had not even left city limits when the friend noticed that Samruay was being strangled. He abandoned the motorcycle at a busy intersection and ran for help.

Remember when "rain forests" were known as "jungles?" Back in the days when "wetlands" were swamps......


The Reagan Democrats have moved on to a different demographic, because that was a constituency slice from twenty three years ago [and twenty one: the Reagan Democrats were a key constituency in the 1980 presidential and the 1982 midterms; by 1984 they were less crucial for a whole variety of reasons (e.g. Morning in America campaign) and by 1986 they were in effect gone.

At some point soon I want to start developing a series on the question of political realignments, as a means to understanding the distinctive flux we are in now. The best way to visualize political realignments is thinking about geology, and the concepts of continental drift as well as geologic ages. It is very clear that distinctive change occurs, if you allow yourself a thousand or ten thousand year time horizon. It's finding the exact dividing line that is tricky [i.e. the old joke about the Paleolithic starting on a Thursday morning in June].

In American political history, the corollary to continental drift and geologic ages are the concepts of realigning elections and Great Awakenings. "Great Awakenings" were religious revivals that had profound social and political significance, and religious scholars are in a [very] rough agreement that there have been two: one occurring during the generation before the Revolution, and the other taking place during the generation before the Civil War. Much change in religious organization and doctrine emerged from these two periods--the Second Great Awakening can claim the birth of the Adventists, the Jehovah's Witnesses, the Latter Day Saints, and the Amish, four religious movements from the time that still prosper today. It also had a clear role in forming both the Abolitionist and Women's rights movements. The First Great Awakening's leading figure was Jonathan Mayhew, whose Discourse Concerning Unlimited Submission became a critical part of the argument against Hanoverian tyranny in the 1760s. But scholars disagree over the timing: when did it start, and when did it end? And some argue that they didn't actually happen as described, but rather are scholarly frames imposed long after so to neatly divide complex historical developments.

There is similar disagreement over the concept of electoral realignments. I'm currently finishing [among a number of books] David Mayhew's Electoral Realignments: A Critique of an American Genre, which analyzes the theory originally set out by V.O Key in 1995 that in American politics there are "critical elections" approximately every 30-40 years, observed by the election of a strong president, and which lead to the ascension of a dominant party and with it a distinctive and defining new ideology reconceptualizing the relationships between individuals, groups, markets, and governments. The standard litanies of "critical elections" are five: 1800 with Jefferson, 1828 with Andrew Jackson, 1860 with Lincoln, 1896 with McKinley (and TR), and 1932 with FDR. These five elections also all took place after economic depressions. The greatest distance between these elections were 36 years, the least 28. So starting with the election of 1960, political scientists like the Magi waited for the new star to arise signaling the coming of a new realignment.

But it never happened.

Now this could be a fluke, along the lines of the "presidents elected in even years die in office" canard, or even better the old NFC teams winning the Super Bowl means growth for the Dow-Jones. In other words, is this an example of creating order in chaos that isn't actually there? Or are there really "cycles" or "waves" in American history?

Mayhew's analysis is very interesting, and I'll blog more about it after Christmas, but it does lead to the interesting question if we are not currently undergoing a realignment, then perhaps we are undergoing a dealignment: the Republican party has not become the majority party electorally or ideologically. Yet, the Democratic Party is no longer the majority party both electorally [measured by its consistent and steeped erosion in seats in Congress and state legislatures] as well as ideologically. This loss ideologically is behind much of the current angst of many Democrats, with charges of the "undoing" of the New Deal and Great Society. Yet the New Deal was as long ago to us as the Civil War was to the New Dealers. Combine this with the loss of the establishment media monopoly to the more pluralistic media [i.e. the universe of blogs, online media, talk radio, and cable] that had been dominated ideologically by the Left, and it leads to the very interesting times we live in politically.

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