Archives for February, 2005

Little Things Mean a Lot

At a certain point it becomes tedious and perverse to continue cataloguing all the many ways the Bush administration makes a joke out of modern conservatism’s posturing about limited government. But what the hell. There are the big things–like dramatically expanding the liabilities of a program whose long-term fiscal problems are roughly six times worse than Social Security’s. But then there are the little things, like federal “Parent Empowerment” programs and free eight-week parenting classes conducted by the Justice Department. The programs are associated with DOJ’s Project Safe Neighborhoods and Project Sentry, which I wrote about here. In addition to performing such core federal functions as teaching people how to raise their kids, Project Sentry focuses on combatting juvenile gun crime.

One of the laws the Bush people have made a priority under Project Sentry is the Gun Free School Zones Act, which makes it a federal crime “for any individual knowingly to possess a firearm at a place that the individual knows, or has reasonable cause to believe, is a school zone.” That’s not the original Gun Free School Zones Act. The original GFSZA was struck down in 1995 in U.S. v. Lopez, because, you see, the federal government has no general police power, and the power to regulate interstate commerce isn’t broad enough to encompass activities that are neither commerce nor interstate. But the “revolutionary” GOP Congress, in a matter of months passed a new version of the GFSZA with changes that were essentially cosmetic (the interstate commerce hook is now that the gun has to have traveled across state lines at sometime in its existence, like just about everything other than trees and rocks does at some point). Not content with publicly repudiating the Rehnquist Court’s limited, halting attempts to move away from a theory of plenary federal power, now we’ve got an administration that devotes a federal program to enforcing this unconstitutional, silly law. And promoting good parenting.

Posted on Feb 28, 2005 in Uncategorized | 6 Comments


Clint has been dead to me since Bridges of Madison County. With that back, Hillary Swank looks like she could power-clean two bills. And they should have given Best Supporting Actress to Virginia Madsen for acting like she was interested in the rodentish Paul Giamatti.

That is all.

Posted on Feb 28, 2005 in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Worst Acronym Ever

Do you know what you call one of those shoulder-fired missiles that can take down a plane? It’s a MANPADS, for Man Portable Air Defense System. Not only does that sound like hygiene-products’ answer to the “Bro”, it’s not even a real acronym. “MAN,” cleverly, stands for “man,” as in “Man-Portable.” Portable by what else, you ask, or why not just “portable”? I don’t know. And what does “portable air defense system” do for you that “shoulder-fired missile” doesn’t? Why do need an acronym anyway? It’s not like Pentagon reports are models of linguistic economy otherwise. And you can shout “look out for the shoulder-fired missile” in about the same time as you can say “look out for the MANPADS!” and in the former case, people will actually know what you mean. Anyway, I know I ought to be worried about some Qaedist getting his hands on one of these and downing a civilian aircraft, but the acronym’s not helping induce solemnity. I can’t read a sentence that starts “The history of MANPADS usage by guerrillas and terrorists,” without smirking.

Posted on Feb 21, 2005 in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

The Ultimate Fighter, Cont.

Last night’s episode of the greatest reality TV series ever, had as far as I’m concerned, a little too much weeping and hugging for a show about beating people up. However, it did set up the conditions for a terrific grudge match. All reality shows are, in one way or another, about climbing the chimp hierarchy. The beautiful thing about “the Ultimate Fighter” is how little artifice and finery the producers bother to wrap around a nasty evolutionary struggle. Their idea of a clever plot twist is, “hey, let’s get them all drunk and see if they fight.” Next week, they should just bring in the Ring Girls.

In next week’s match, I’ll be rooting for the ugly redheaded kid, both because the other kid deserves to get punished, and because I root for strikers over grapplers–even though the smart money’s usually on the grappler.

Spike TV. Isn’t it about time there was “a network for men”?

Posted on Feb 15, 2005 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

This Rules

Every single cover of Mad Magazine ever on one page. Via Boingboing.

Posted on Feb 14, 2005 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Death of a Salesman

Contra Nick, I never read Death of a Salesman as an anti-capitalist tract, though certainly Arthur Miller’s political views would suggest he might have intended it as one. Willy Loman’s failing is that he embraces, and teaches his sons, a phony approach to success. You need to be “well-liked.” According to Willy, prosperity is the result of superficial qualities–if you’re a backslapping, gladhanding schmuck, you’ll go far in a free enterprise system. Contrast that to neighbor Charley, from whom Willy has to sponge off of to pay his bills. Charley’s an honest small businessman “who works hard and plays by the rules” as Bill Clinton used to put it. His son Bernard–“liked, but not well liked” in Willy’s estimation–studies hard while Biff plays football. Biff steals himself out of every job he’s ever had. Towards the end of the play, Bernard’s getting ready to argue a case before the Supreme Court. Lesson? Smart guys who work hard get ahead. Clowns who care more about how popular they are, don’t. Whatever Miller’s intentions, this doesn’t play well as an indictment of capitalism. Biff should have run for office.

Posted on Feb 11, 2005 in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Ban the Ban

Ward One city councilmember Jim Graham has a poll up on his website on whether to ban smoking in bars and restaurants in D.C. Currently running 70 to 30 in favor of the ban. Graham was a fence-sitter last time around, and the new composition of the city council–with the addition of such health-conscious members as Marion Barry–makes a smoking ban more likely. Strike a blow against the pinch-souled enemies of fun and chime in online with a “no” vote.

Posted on Feb 11, 2005 in Uncategorized | 6 Comments


There’s a lot of interesting stuff in the Max Schmeling obits over the weekend, but the detail that really stood out for me was that in the rematch, Louis landed a punch that fractured two of Schmeling’s vertebrae.

Posted on Feb 7, 2005 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Ultimate Fighter

No one is watching the world’s greatest reality show, Spike TV’s “The Ultimate Fighter.” You can tell by the odd times it airs. But it’s hard to understand why you don’t hear more about it. Here’s the setup: sixteen guys vying for two spots in the UFC Octagon. Two teams, led by UFC light heavyweights Randy Couture and Chuck Lidell, respectively. All the competitors live in the same house. Each week, the guy who loses the “challenge” event has to pick someone on the other team to fight, and beat, in order to keep his place on the team. Imagine “the Apprentice” if instead of facing Donald Trump and his bitchy sidekick at the end of each episode, the losers had to engage in bloody gladitorial combat. It tends to raise the tension level.

It’s not that the personalities involved are that fascinating. Lidell and Couture are virtually humorless–both are all-business tough guys with the cold stare of a Doberman. And the contestants aren’t nearly as interesting as you might think folks seeking this odd prize–the opportunity to get into a no-holds-barred fight with some of the toughest people on earth–would be. But who needs the weepy drama and Oprah-style confessionalism of the typical Gen Y’er on the Real World? The circumstances of this show supply all the drama you need. You may have hated “Puck”–but the chances that anyone would break his jaw were pretty slim. But this show’s “Puck”–a trash-talker named “Chris L.”–may yet get his comeuppance.

Posted on Feb 1, 2005 in Uncategorized | 26 Comments