Archives for October, 2004

Thank You Sir, May I Have Another?

I’ll be out of town and offline for a few days, so I suppose I should get in my last post about the election. I’ll be voting Badnarik, the perfect candidate from my perspective, in that it’s a joke vote and a protest vote all wrapped up in one.

I can understand why some of you will be voting for Kerry. If I lived in a swing state, I’d half-consider pulling the lever for him myself. I can’t stomach the man, but he has not yet demonstrated himself totally incompetent.

But what I can’t understand is why any small-government type, libertarian or conservative, would cross the street to cast a ballot for George W. Bush. The man knowingly and wilfully violated his oath of office by signing McCain-Feingold, a bill he acknowledged to be unconstitutional. And not just unconstitutional in the jaywalking sense, like a routine overstretch of the commerce power–unconstitutional in the sense that it strikes at core political speech: as Justice Scalia put it, the right of the people to criticize the government. The man saddled young American workers with the largest expansion of the Great Society since its inception, in the form of the prescription drug giveaway. His administration suppressed evidence about the bill’s true costs. Worse, they weren’t even competent enough to get political credit for selling us out; polls show that the ungrateful codgers are pissed off about how confusing the discount card is.

But finally, for me it all boils down to this: You don’t get to B.S. your way into a war that kills over 1,000 American soldiers, over 10,000 Iraqi civilians, and counting, a war that, if anything, has weakened American security. You don’t get to do that without firing anyone or admitting the slightest error in judgment–and get rewarded. For God’s sake, is there no point at which you say, “that’s enough”?

Thus endeth the rant.

Posted on Oct 27, 2004 in Uncategorized | 10 Comments

Who Says Comment Spam Is All Bad?

I just got comment spam that includes an ad for lipitor embedded in the following, excellent quote:

When choosing between two evils, I always like to take the one I’ve never tried before.

Mae West, “Klondike Annie”

Posted on Oct 26, 2004 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Election 2004

I’ve decided exactly what I want to happen in this election. I want it to be deadlocked again. Except I want the situation reversed from the last battle of the chads: in order to win this time, the Republicans have to call for selective recounts in heavily GOP counties in, say, the Florida panhandle. And I want to watch them do it. Because you know they will. I want Democratic protestors outside the Veep mansion screaming “Get out of John-boy’s House!” I want every single right-winger who went on Greta Van Sustern last time around to protest the threat to the rule of law back on the show to scream about making every vote count this time. I want everybody to switch sides without the slightest embarassment or even a hint of an apology–because seizing power demands it. Nothing could be funnier, or more fitting.

Posted on Oct 25, 2004 in Uncategorized | 12 Comments

Baseball Boondoggle

“I don’t think it’s right for me as a businessman to be forced to support another man’s business.”

That’s Christopher Landis, president of Landis Construction Corp. in D.C., quoted in a WaPo article about the business tax Mayor Williams wants to impose to pay for the sweetheart deal he gave the Expos and MLB. Later in the week, Cato will be releasing a paper outlining the abundant evidence that taxpayer-funded stadiums are an economic loser for cities.

Of course, I want baseball here. It’s my favorite spectator sport. You sit in the stands drinking beer and talking and you don’t have to pay much attention to what’s going on on the field, though what’s going on seems generally pleasant.

Posted on Oct 25, 2004 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Calm Down, Get a Hold of Yourself

Terrific article in the new Regulation magazine, putting the risks of terrorism in perspective. John Mueller collects the known knowns and the known unknowns about how much sleep we ought to be losing about dying in a terrorist attack. Mueller’s answer: not much. And we ought to spend more time worrying about the risks of overreaction.

Here’s Mueller:

Until 2001, far fewer Americans were killed in any grouping of years by all forms of international terrorism than were killed by lightning, and almost none of those terrorist deaths occurred within the United States itself. Even with the September 11 attacks included in the count, the number of Americans killed by international terrorism since the late 1960s (which is when the State Department began counting) is about the same as the number of Americans killed over the same period by lightning, accident-causing deer, or severe allergic reaction to peanuts.

Does 9/11 portend a sea change in the prevalence of that risk? Mueller sees no good reason to think so:

Although there have been many deadly terrorist incidents in the world since 2001, all (thus far, at least) have relied on conventional methods and have not remotely challenged September 11 quantitatively. If, as some purported experts repeatedly claim, chemical and biological attacks are so easy and attractive to terrorists, it is impressive that none have so far been used in Israel (where four times as many people die from automobile accidents as from terrorism).


Accordingly, it would seem to be reasonable for those in charge of our safety to inform the public about how many airliners would have to crash before flying becomes as dangerous as driving the same distance in an automobile. It turns out that someone has made that calculation: University of Michigan transportation researchers Michael Sivak and Michael Flannagan, in an article last year in American Scientist, wrote that they determined there would have to be one set of September 11 crashes a month for the risks to balance out. More generally, they calculate that an American’s chance of being killed in one nonstop airline flight is about one in 13 million (even taking the September 11 crashes into account). To reach that same level of risk when driving on America’s safest roads–rural interstate highways–one would have to travel a mere 11.2 miles.

In that regard, John McCain has it right (the first and last time you’ll ever read that sentence on my site): “Fly on the damn plane! Calculate the odds of being harmed by a terrorist! It’s still about as likely as being swept out to sea by a tidal wave. Suck it up, for crying out loud!”

All of us, post-9/11 have at one time or another, suffered from shameful bouts of Security Mom hysteria. But worst among us are the conservatives. I caught a snippet of Hannity (or was it Glen Beck?) on the way home the other day saying something like, whatever your position is on social issues, you have to vote for Bush, because without security, we won’t be around to debate things like gay marriage. He may not be smart enough to know better, but the rest of us ought to be.

Posted on Oct 20, 2004 in Uncategorized | 14 Comments

Acquired Situational Narcissism

Long-distance, pop psychoanalysis is the mark of a hack. It’s also tons of fun. So I’m surprised nobody’s mentioned “Acquired Situational Narcissism” in the light of Bush’s peevish and immature performance in the debates. ASN first made it into the mainstream in a brief piece in the NYT magazine three years ago. In an age where everything has to have its own syndrome, ASN is psychiatry’s answer to the question, “why the hell do celebrities behave like that?”

Because the onset occurs well after childhood, celebrity narcissism isn’t covered by the textbook definition of the condition. ”Psychoanalytic literature is filled with jargon about how narcissism happens really early,” says Millman, ”but I realized that given the right situation, it could happen much later.” That’s the Acquisition.

The Situation is fame, money and, even more, the pheromone-like power of fame and money. ”When a billionaire or a celebrity walks into a room,” says Millman, ”everyone looks at him. He’s a prince. He has the power to change your life, and everyone is very conscious of that. So they’re drawn to this person. What happens is that he gets so used to everyone looking at him that he stops looking back at them.”

…the tension in the early-developing narcissist is more self-contained. In the acquired situational narcissist, it is also fed by people who surround him. Even worse, the view of the world the acquired situational narcissist is getting is, when you think about it, quite reasonable. ”They are different,” says Millman. ”They’re not normal. And why would they feel normal when every person in the world who deals with them treats them as if they’re not?”

I’m only half-joking here. I don’t think much of psychiatry in general, but even a pseudo-science can illuminate certain truths. And I think it’s true that living in a social bubble where everyone treats you like a deity is bound to change your personality for the worse.

Most of us don’t need anyone whispering in our ear, “you are mortal,” to be reminded of our own unimportance. From the deli counter to the office, we’re all confronted on a daily basis with people who don’t consider us anything special and don’t particularly care what we think.

The environment the superfamous live in is radically different. And it’s very difficult to encounter anyone who’s willing to tell you you’re wrong or you’re being a jackass or that maybe you ought to study up on that issue before you go telling people what you think about it, because you don’t know what you’re talking about.

Ron Suskind isn’t the first reporter to notice that President Bush has deliberately isolated himself from dissenting opinions and voices. “Free-speech zones” keep protest signs out of his line of sight. And the President’s refusal to read a newspaper means he doesn’t regularly get a perspective on the news that wasn’t prepared for him by his staff.

All of that may help explain why GWB seems visibly furious when called upon to explain himself in a neutral forum.

While this problem seems particularly pronounced in George W. Bush, it has to be a problem with every president. How to deal with it? We’ve invested an office with more power than any one man should ever be trusted to hold. And the environment that surrounds the man who holds that office virtually ensures that he’ll become psychologically unhealthy.

Posted on Oct 19, 2004 in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Team America: World Police

Despite the fact that Google shows no evidence of it, I remember hearing years ago of a Howard Stern “funniest home video” contest in which one of the finalists ate a big bag of corn, took a powerful laxative, and expressed himself forcefully all over a cardboard record-store-display cutout of Jon Bon Jovi. I don’t mean to denigrate it when I say that “Team America: World Police” is funny in precisely that way. It is a hell of a pass though, when some of the most on-point social commentary in America has to be delivered by a couple of guys who act like 13-year-old boys who just discovered the word “cock.” But I can’t help but like a movie that ends with (SPOILER ALERT!) a dozen politically active celebrities blown to bloody shreds as they defend “peacemaker” Kim Jong-Il from Team America’s patriot commandos. And the soundtrack is month’s-worth-of-the-Onion funny. I’ve had “America, Fuck Yeah” in my head all day. If, as a friend of mine once put it, “the 80s were much too kind to Kenny Loggins,” he’s now had his comeuppance.

Posted on Oct 18, 2004 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments


This is so good it almost has to be made up. I’m printing T-Shirts. I’m changing the blog banner. “Proud member, Reality Based Community. Seeking answers through ‘judicious study of discernable reality’ since 2002.”

God help us all.

UPDATE: That was fast. Reader “Poppy McCool” points out that RBC shirts and handbags are available here.

More shirts here from reader “Salvage,” who says “Profits will go to the continued pillaging of my liver and braincells.”

Posted on Oct 17, 2004 in Uncategorized | 12 Comments


For the first half an hour of the debate, I couldn’t pay any attention to what Kerry was saying, I was so mesmerized by his exaggerated hand gestures, which made it look like he was directing airport traffic, or trying to throw off the French stereotype for an Italian one. But what Kerry was saying was too wonkish even for me. It reminded me of Bob Dole, who when called on to speak about policy, sounded like an angry cartoon duck reading a bill’s legislative history.

I’d say that despite his giddy demeanor and utter lack of gravitas, Bush took it. He was reasonably articulate, for him, and brief. For once, I share the view that the “Bushism” patrol is stretching it. Will Saletan actually makes fun of him for saying “buggy and horse days” rather than vice-versa.

I’ve decided I absolutely don’t care who wins this farce. First, I have no idea who’d be worse. I’m pretty sure God isn’t going to tell John Kerry to bomb anyone, but Kerry might end up being even more hawkish than Bush anyway, having more to prove. And if Kerry loses and Iraq continues to go badly, I won’t have to hear four years of “Kerry’s ‘sensitive’ war on terror is why we lost Iraq” from the sort of people who gave us this mess in the first place.

Posted on Oct 14, 2004 in Uncategorized | 12 Comments

Veep Debate: Bloggable Thoughts

I didn’t see the Friday debate. But I did watch the Veep Debate last week, and briefly posted something that I was told was too vicious to leave up (and this from someone who’s contemplating going to a Halloween party dressed as Lynddie England). I’ve cleaned it up, so here are my only two bloggable thoughts about Tuesday’s debate:

1. Say what you will about Dick Cheney: I think he’s one of the worst aspects of this administration. On top of which, he looks like a Republican from Central Casting–more evil than Shelly Runyon. But at least he doesn’t giggle.

2. John Edwards’ final remarks condescending to his own father and exploiting him for political gain were repulsive. That, in the end, is what’s so unforgivable about the Democrats: They make you sympathetic to the Republicans.

Posted on Oct 11, 2004 in Uncategorized | 3 Comments


Given Bush’s performance in the debate, this is the dumbest internet conspiracy theory ever. Supply your own joke as to who was on the other end of the line whispering in his ear.

Posted on Oct 8, 2004 in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Debate the War

On October 22nd, the Cato Institute will be hosting an important event:

Lessons from the Iraq War: Reconciling Liberty and Security

At this conference libertarians (and Objectivists and free-market conservatives) will debate the principles that should guide foreign policy, the lessons of the Iraq war, and how freedom and foreign policy are related. Speakers will include Nick Gillespie, Deroy Murdock, James Robbins, John Mueller, Brink Lindsey, Robert Higgs, Ron Bailey, Shibley Telhami, Ed Hudgins, Chuck Pena, and Chris Preble. In this case, folks, when we say “debate,” we mean it. Expect sharp clashes on every panel.

It will be webcast for you out-of-towners, but really, who wants to sit in front of a computer screen for 8 hours? Get on a plane already.

Details here.

Posted on Oct 5, 2004 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Go Back and Find Out How Much You Drank

Debate Spotter is a tool that allows you to search for the number of times each candidate used a given phrase in the debates. (via Metafilter).

Posted on Oct 2, 2004 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Debate

Al Gore wrote in the NYT the other day that this election shouldn’t be about which candidate you’d like to have a beer with. Which is good, because I’d rather regrout my bathtub than tipple with either. George Jean Nathan said “I drink to make other people interesting.” But drinking enough to make the candidates interesting could get you hospitalized.

But I watched the debate. And Kerry not only won on points, he won the personality contest. Bush started out shockingly coherent. But as Kerry began to score in the later rounds, the president grew increasingly indignant and petulant, and it showed in his body language: slumping over the podium, and grimacing at his opponent in a West-Texas version of Al Gore’s eyerolling. When called upon to defend his record and his war, he looked as resentful as a guy getting written up for a parking ticket, and deciding whether it was worth the risk to get into it with the cop.

Posted on Oct 1, 2004 in Uncategorized | 5 Comments