Folks, I hate to admit it, but this thing's dead. The network security folks have at work effectively ended it, because it really was nothing more than a diversion from work and I have no desire to either get fired or to come home and wait to make dumbass comments about old news.
Besides, if you couldn't tell, I'm not that good at punditry anyway - there are plenty of people who do it more quickly than me, or more knowledgably than me, or just plain better than me in general. Go read their blogs - all of the links on the right are good places to start.
As far as I am concerned - never fear - I'm still blogging. Craig and I have started a new blog about our mutual favorite pastime... poker. Feel free to check it out - it won't be updated everyday and it won't really touch on many topics besides cards, but if you're really on the edge of my seat to see words from me, posted on the internet, that's the new place to find them.
THE DIXIE CHICKS, you may have heard, have decided that they are no longer a country music band. Member Martie Maguire told the German magazine Der Spiegel, "We don't feel part of the country scene any longer, it can't be our home any more.. . . . So we now consider ourselves part of the big Rock 'n' Roll family."
Forget for a moment that this is like Ian McKellen announcing he's no longer a classically trained actor and that he now considers himself part of the Hollywood action-hero fraternity.
...WHY HAS the country music audience reacted so viscerally to the Dixie Chicks? Part of it may be simple team politics. As Clear Channel's Alan Sledge said, "The people who like the Dixie Chicks are also people who most likely voted for President Bush in the last election."
But on a deeper level, it may have to do with the juvenility of their protests. When Dixie Chicks attack, it's off-handed and completely oblivious to context. When Maines popped off about Bush back in March--as the nation was on the brink of war--she didn't have any real criticism, just a blanket declaration of being "ashamed" that the president was a fellow Texan.
Once the firestorm began, the band didn't elaborate on why, exactly, they were ashamed. They didn't discuss how the United States should be dealing with Saddam or why they thought that a stable regional dictator was preferable to a risky attempt at democratization. Similarly, while touring Europe earlier this month, the group's Emily Robison attacked Arnold Schwarzenegger's gubernatorial run, explaining, "I find his idea to run for governor absolutely insane. . . . America should be governed by people who have a clue. I hope he doesn't win." These are clearly women who think smart people are supposed to have opinions on everything--that not having an opinion is what makes you a dunce.
President or Prime Minister. These titles, customary and seemingly harmless, we unthinkingly accept from anyone who occupies the top slot of government in a sovereign nation. It's also standard newspaper style. But while in free nations such titles connote democratic leadership, in unfree nations they denote nothing of the kind. It would be a useful check on our more deferential instincts were we to use titles tied less to custom than to accuracy. For example: Taiwan has a president, England has a prime minister. Egypt has a dictator, Libya has a tyrant. Greeting some of the world's worst thugs as Mr. Dictator, or Honorable Despot, might sound peculiar, but it might also help keep the realities in view.
Then there is the issue of the facts--a scarce commodity in the oceans of oratory now spilling forth about our threatened Bill of Rights, and about agents spying on Americans' reading habits. In none of the descriptions of the out-of-control attorney general, and accompanying suggestions of incipient fascism on the march, is there to be found any mention of the truth that the attorney general did not, of course, arrogate to himself the power to extend security measures: He went to the courts for permission. They were put in place only after scrutiny by judges.
Likewise, current hair-tearing about secret investigations and library spies notwithstanding, it remains a fact that for decades now, in its pursuit of crimes like money-laundering, the government has been free to prohibit banks from informing clients they were under investigation--and has done so without any outcry from the ACLU about civil rights violations. The Patriot Act could be said to be imperfect in some areas, a dissident member of the ACLU recently informed me--but so dishonest was his organization's portrayal of it as a threat to our basic freedoms, he could hardly bring himself to join any argument against it...
For such times John Ashcroft was a target made to order. Devoutly religious, appointee of George Bush, he could scarcely have been a better fit for the bogeyman figure advanced as the greatest threat to our civil liberties--the perfect model to fire up the crowds at marches, and breast-beating festivals. Not for nothing do the Democratic presidential candidates out-do themselves denouncing the attorney general: they know, the candidates do, what has filtered down to their base, their main audience, after all. They all know, as John Kerry does, that he can say whatever he wants about John Ashcroft--that he views, as a nightmare, members of other races creeds and religions, or anything else the Democratic candidate finds convenient--and it will all be understood, a mark of political virtue.
TAE: How would Americans respond to Senator Clinton as a Presidential candidate?
MILLER: Forty percent of voters would probably support her. I’d like to think there’s 60 percent who wouldn’t. Most people know that the Clintons are just career politicians, but it’s amazing to me that some people really believe in them. Bill and Hillary’s marriage couldn’t have been any more about convenience than if they’d installed a Slim Jim rack and Slurpee machine at the base of their bed.
TAE: Do you dislike Senator Clinton’s political ideology, too?
MILLER: I have an across-the-board disapproval of her. In 1998, when Bill was first accused of having an affair with Monica Lewinsky, Hillary went on NBC’s “Today” show and attributed the allegations to a “vast right-wing conspiracy.” That seemed extremely stupid to me. Name the people. She can spend 30 years of her life apologizing for her husband’s indiscretions if she wants to, but at the same time she shouldn’t champion herself as the ideal woman. In 1992, Hillary told the press, “I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas.” That statement really bugged me. She’s in essence as “cookie” as one can get because of the kind of treatment she’s accepted from her husband. I think most women would have said, “Quit screwing around on me or I’m out of here.” ...
TAE: In April, actor Tim Robbins spoke to the National Press Club and described the various ways he feels he’s been punished for speaking out against the war. He went on to say, “If you oppose this administration, there can and will be ramifications.” Robbins and other prominent actors criticized for their anti-war views have even raised the specter of a new Hollywood “blacklist.”
MILLER: That’s folly. I don’t see how that’s manifested itself in Tim’s life. He might have something to show us in five years if an actor of his great ability doesn’t get work, but I don’t believe that’s going to happen. You can say whatever you want in this country, but Tim is in a business where one’s grasp on the public’s acceptance is so tenuous that any of us can be whacked in a moment. If I do poorly on two “Tonight Shows” in a row, I’m out the door. There are people who don’t have careers because audiences don’t like the way they look—so of course the public might not like you for what you stand for. It doesn’t take much for somebody to click off and say, “I’m not going to spend the eight bucks tonight.” To go to a movie, a person has to get up, put his clothes on, get in the car, drive to a crappy mall, and wait in line—he’s looking for reasons not to go! All the average person needs is, “I don’t like what that movie star believes.” That guy is going to start watching movies at home instead of getting up and going to yours. My guess is that Tim Robbins will continue to work.
TAE: In spring of this year, Dixie Chicks lead singer Natalie Maines told a London audience, “We’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.” This comment sparked a furor—people publicly destroyed their CDs and sales of the group’s album dropped. In response to the backlash, the Dixie Chicks turned it into a free speech issue, appearing in the nude on the cover of Entertainment Weekly with words such as “Proud American,” “Saddam’s Angels,” and “Free Speech” painted on their bodies. Do you think the public’s response to them is unfair?
MILLER: The Dixie Chicks got exactly what they deserved. In a time of war, to go on foreign soil and decry your President should probably cause a hue and cry. When it first happened, I thought, “I’m never going to buy another one of their albums.” And then I thought, “You know what, I’ve never bought one of their albums—I don’t like their music.”...
TAE: When filmmaker Michael Moore won the Oscar for Best Feature Documentary for Bowling for Columbine, he took all of the other nominees on stage with him, and proceeded to make a statement about a “fictitious” Presidency and a “fictitious” war. Given your support of the President, this must have outraged you.
MILLER: The Oscars are pretty much the quint-essential American hood ornament, so if you’re a real iconoclast, you don’t show up at the ceremony. Eminem at least had the balls not to show at the Oscars because he disagreed with it. Michael Moore just seemed like a big sloppy angry guy to me. He thinks he’s more of a patriot than we are because he “questions” our government. That’s boring. My yawn gets so big that they almost want to assign it a hurricane name. For Moore to go so far around the Cape of Good Hope that he finds that America is the problem is tedious. We’re not perfect, but we’re not the problem. At the same time, I think we should fight to preserve a country where people such as Michael Moore get to miss the point as badly as he misses it.
Arafat, Israel May Have Foundation for Peace
(2003-09-18) -- PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat yesterday hinted at "a foundation for peace" in the middle east, just as the so-called 'roadmap for peace' seemed doomed to collapse.
Reuters news agency reports that Mr. Arafat asked, "Is there anyone in Palestine who does not dream of martyrdom?"
An unnamed source on the Israeli cabinet welcomed Mr. Arafat's statement.
"If he is personally serious about that, it presents the greatest opportunity for peace in a generation," the spokesman said.
When I first started the blog, I talked bad about William Saletan. I have since grown to admire him much the same way I admire Greg Easterbrook - because he's fairly balanced and rational about his opinions and not rabidly partisan for the sake of being partisan. For instance, he'll criticize President Bush on Friday and then write this on Monday, about Democrats hysterical over Republican "dirty tricks":
In Texas, Republicans seeking to redraw congressional districts in the third year of the decade are violating custom but not law. On Friday, a panel of federal judges dismissed a lawsuit by Democrats claiming that the GOP's redistricting tactics violated the Voting Rights Act. As for the 11 Democratic state senators who fled to New Mexico to prevent the majority from gathering a quorum, I can only imagine the cries of outrage I'd be hearing from my liberal friends if those were Republicans thwarting a Democratic legislature.
Many Democrats have questioned Bush's legitimacy because he lost the nationwide popular vote. It doesn't seem to bother them that this principle—the right of the majority to get like-minded representation, regardless of which party wins jurisdiction by jurisdiction—is exactly the principle they deny in Texas. Gore lost the Electoral College while winning a 48 percent plurality of the vote nationwide. Texas Republicans lost a majority of the state's congressional seats in 2002 while winning 56 percent of the vote statewide.
...before you complain about Republicans using sneaky tactics to oust an honestly elected governor, let's hear your defense of the $7 million Davis spent in last year's Republican gubernatorial primary to deprive general-election voters of a moderate Republican alternative.
...And it was Clinton, not a Republican former president, who asserted at the Iowa steak fry that the other party "tried to put more arsenic in the water."
A day after Clinton leveled that charge, ABC's This Week aired a delicious exchange between George Stephanopoulos and Howard Dean aboard a Dean campaign van. Stephanopoulos asked Dean whether it was true, as rival candidate Dick Gephardt alleged, that Dean had supported $270 billion in Medicare cuts advocated by Newt Gingrich in 1995. Dean said it was "very unlikely." Then Stephanopoulos showed Dean newspaper clips backing up the allegation. "It's pretty clear that you said you would accept a 7 to 10 percent cut in the rate of growth of Medicare," said Stephanopoulos. "Oh!" Dean interjected, raising his eyebrows. "Cutting the rate of growth! That's much different."
Another item that was recently in the news that I missed because of the new "company policy" was the proposed changes to New Source Review. Now, I work in the power industry and I hold a job dealing with a major aspect of environmental compliance. I have an opinion on this subject and I want everyone reading the blog to understand this, because the prevailing national media either doesn't understand or doesn't care to do more than parrot radical envrionmental groups: The changes being proposed by the Bush Administration do not equal higher levels of pollution.
What is New Source Review? In theory, it's easy to explain. It's the result of a 1977 Amendment to the Clean Air Act that stipulates that maintenance and modifications to power plants are to be evaluated ("reviewed") by the EPA and, if in the opinion of the EPA, the output of the plant is sufficiently increased by the work, the plant must be reclassified from an "existing source" into "new source" and accordingly would be required to meet the emissions reduction requirements for a new power plant instead of the more lenient "existing source" requirements that it previously had to meet.
In theory, this is a good thing - the rule is meant to prevent power plant operators from essentially rebuilding and expanding old power plants into essentially new power plants and calling that transformation "routine maintenance". NSR was meant to be a safety net against (literal) dirty tricks.
In practice it was a bureaucrat's wet dream. Why? Because no standards were included with the rule. The EPA was directed to use its "discretion" in making evaluations and applying the rules and thus has been incredibly capricious and inconsistent in the decisions it's made in the past 25 years. Not that a little judgment is a bad thing, but the agency was very hard to pen down in advance, which is exactly what corporate finance types usually need to make decisions. Emissions controls are expensive and take time to install and companies were having a hard time making major financial decisions because they could not be sure just exactly what impact practically any modification to a power plant would have on the plant's emissions regulations and thus the true cost of the project. As a result, a lot of plants went for a long time without necessary maintenance and upgrades and the entire industries suffered from the inefficiencies that such inadequacies inevitably bring about.
So what's the big deal in the news? The Bush Administration has announced it's going to come up with a formal set of guidelines that will help quantify what does and does not qualify as new source type modifications. The rules will be complicated and they will be long and tedious, as laws tend to be, but they will be predictable and accordingly companies will be able to make informed decisions and the industry will be able to function. (Remember kids, information is the most important factor in a capitalist economy.) Permitted emissions limits stay the same - they aren't going to be changed because of this, and existing cap and trade programs, with their progressive yearly reductions in emissions, are still in effect.
Now, I love Greg Easterbrook, because even though he writes for the New Republic and his politics are a bit left of mine, he's not a whacky Bush hater and he's not overly sensitive to stupid PC mindsets soley out of instinct. Instead, he's a rational progressive mind that has done more to make me thoughtfully consider some liberal positions and sensitivity than just about anyone else in the major media. How do I know this? Because he writes a weekly pro football column that, besides being the best football column in existence today, includes a regular "Cheerbabe of the Week" feature. George W Bush is a "compassionate conservative"? Well, Greg Easterbrook is a healthy male liberal. That's a good thing.
Dick Grasso resigned today. A buddy of mine who used to work at my company used to always comment on how Dick would slip in a quick hug after shaking the hand of whoever had the honor on any particular day of ringing the opening or closing bell at the NYSE. My buddy would always be looking at the television above our desk, always tuned to CNBC, and say, "Here he goes! Here he goes! Dick's going to give him a hug... ah ah.... YESSSS! THE HUG!"
So here is my question, did Dick get a hug on his way out the door this afternoon?
The Road Map is dead. So should be Arafat, and soon. The "Palestinians" don't like it? Fine, let's have a war and settle the whole thing. I've been saying this for the past three years now and I'm still saying it.
There are no Palestinian leaders who want peace. There never were. Oslo was a sucker's game from the start, a tactic in what Israeli scholar Joel Fishman calls a Viet Cong style "People's War," and the Palestinian Authority is what it has always been: A terrorist organization at war with Israel and the West, willing to settle for nothing less than total victory, starting with Israel's total destruction. Thus, it's not just Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, and al Qaeda that must be destroyed for Israel to survive and for America to win the broader war on terror: It's the PA itself, and with it, the ultimate Israeli & American Left-lemmings fantasy, the idea that a Palestinian state would ever be anything other than a terror state.
I was kind of busy at the start of August and only recently got into the whole Episcopal Church debate with the gay bishop. Thing is, I think it's shameful and utterly unchristian and inconsistent with the whole foundation of Judeo-Christianity.
Mind you, I'm not saying that homosexuals don't deserve God's love or that they are going to Hell or that gays aren't welcom in church. Far from it - we are all sinners and all are worthy of salvation, provided we acknowledge our sin and accept forgiveness.
The bible is very specific though, that acts of homosexuality are unchristian, and as such, a practicing homosexual is, by his own admission, an unrepetent sinner. How can a religious denomination - how can a church - elect this person to a leadership position? It's decidedly inconsistent with the whole idea of a Christian religion. This smacks of trendy PC secularism and it's sad to see.
I'm not an Episcopal, however, so maybe I don't have a say. I feel sorry for people who are Episcopals and are being alienated by those people in charge of their church's national body. I can only imagine how passionate or opinionated I would be if the United Methodists someday started making the same sorts of pronouncements.
Then again, I'm not a religious scholar or a theologian, nor a very eloquent writer, so I'm probably not making my case well. This piece at the Wall Street Journal is well stated, as is George Will's piece on the subject from a few weeks ago.
Even though I haven't been blogging, I still have a ton of stories and news to link to. I will dump it all onto the blog Sunday afternoon. In the meantime, I'm going bird hunting in Scurry County and I'll see you all when I get back.