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Archive for March, 2005

The Detail After That

[ 0 ] March 31, 2005 |

Hmm. I’m skeptical of sequels of 32 year old films, and I can’t say I’ve been racking my brain wondering what Bad Ass Buddusky did with the rest of his life. In all likelihood, we’re watching a disaster in the making. Nonetheless, I’m mildly intrigued.

I’m in the know of an exciting new project coming our way. First up is the book, LAST FLAG FLYING, which is the sequel to THE LAST DETAIL, both written by Darryl Ponicsan. The Last Detail was turned into a film in 1973 by director Hal Ashby with a screenplay by Robert Towne and starring Jack Nicholson, Otis Young and Randy Quaid. Of course I’m sure you know this.

Now, thirty-five years later, Darryl has written a sequel to his best selling book. Jack Nicholson is excited about reprising his role for the film. Otis Young passed away in 2001 so Morgan Freeman is being tapped to take over the role. No word on Randy Quaid but I’m sure he would be on board. I’ve read the new book and it’s much better than the first which gives a literary bitch slap to the current world we live in from cell phones to the war in Iraq.

Via Aint It Cool.


The Post on Wolfowitz

[ 0 ] March 31, 2005 |

I’ve been trying to break my lifelong habit of reading far too much of the New York Times, which causes me all kinds of psychic consternation. (There’s half a dozen names–Gerth, Nagourney, Wilgoren, etc., who have me muttering under my breath before I’ve read a word of the article). I’ve been using the Washington Post as a sort of methodone, and what everyone was telling me is correct–it really is a better paper. But DeLong is right–this editorial is breathtakingly bad and deeply insulting. Here’s the crux:

Mr. Wolfowitz’s critics, domestic as well as international, should now get beyond their dislike of his role in the Iraq war and give him a chance to succeed at one of the world’s hardest jobs.

Let me be clear. I’m a critic of the Wolfowitz appointment to run the World Bank, I’ve got long list of reasons for this position. I won’t bore you with the list, but the top reason is that Wolfowitz isn’t an economist and there’s scant evidence he knows anything about or even really cares about international development. His dismal performance on the Iraq war and poor judgement in that matter count against him, but they’re way down on my list. In an alternate universe wherein Wolfowitz had spend 30 years doing good work in development banking, then been mysteriously hired to run a disastrous and unnecessary war, and then was appointed to the World Bank presidency, I’d be fine with the appointment. But that is one of the many universes we don’t live in.


[ 0 ] March 31, 2005 |

The Seattle Mariners begin their 29th campaign this Monday at Safeco Field against the Minnesota Twins. Last year, the Mariners went a healthy 63-99, their worst record since the heady days of 1992, when Alex Rodriguez was still playing high school ball and Sweet Lou Piniella still managing the Reds. Actually, the 1992 team won 64 games; the Mariners haven’t been quite this bad since 1983. In the offseason, the Mariners added Adrian Beltre (yippee!!!), and Richie Sexson (yay, as long as I don’t have to pay for it), along with Pokey Reese and a couple others unworthy of mention. Also, rookie Jeremy Reed takes over center field. The Ms should be a lot better than last year at first and third, and significant improvement at 2nd and catcher isn’t out of the question. My predictions for 2005:

Record: 78-84, 4th in AL West
Adrian Beltre Home Runs: 34
Ichiro Batting Average: .343
Felix Hernandez Call Up: July 14
Felix Hernandez wins: 4
Jamie Moyer ERA: 4.21
Jamie Moyer wins: 12
Gil Meche starts: 16

So shall it be.

A Supply-Side Guide To American History

[ 0 ] March 31, 2005 |

Chapter 12

1993 was one of the most remarkable in the history of the American Republic, as the increase in the top marginal tax rate sent shockwaves through American society. In a sign of things to come, 1992 National League MVP Barry Bonds retired from baseball, walking away from his new contract with the San Francisco Giants. “You know,” he said at the press conference, “that $8.1 million I was going to make in 1995 looked pretty sweet when I was going to keep 67% of most of it. But when I found out it was going to be 60%–well, I just don’t think that’s any reason to play 162 games a year. Sure, I might have the chance to be the greatest player since Babe Ruth, but frankly, who cares? If it’s not maximizing my revenues, it doesn’t interest me.” Just a week later, George Steinbrenner announced he was selling the New York Yankees. “Everybody knows I’m in this for one reason: to make money. I could give a rat’s ass about winning,” said Steinbrenner. “So when the government decided to start taking a little more of my profits, I just don’t see the point.” The new owner of the team, John Galt, immediately announced plans to move the team to Dothan, Alabama. “In 10 years, New York will be a ghost town. Everybody will be flocking to the wealthy states of the Deep South, where we’re governed according to sound Republican principles.”

This was merely the beginning of the events that would devastate the American economy. Later that year, Bill Gates announced that Microsoft would be closing its doors. “I was really excited about the next billion I’d be making,” said Gates. “At least $670 million to do with as I see fit. But now that it may be $600 million–Christ, I could just find that under the sofa cushions at home.” He added, “If Washington ever becomes a state that requires deposits for soda bottles, nobody will be willing to serve as a software executive here. I mean, fishing bottles out of garbage cans for a living really lowers your tax burden.”

The boom of 2002 seemed light years away. Only Stephen Moore and the Hair Club For Growth could save the country now.

Useless List Department: Twenty-Five Great Simpsons Episodes

[ 1 ] March 30, 2005 |

Here is my long awaited list of great Simpson’s episodes. I was a bit surprised at how Lisa-centric many of them are. I wasn’t terribly surprised that no episodes from season 9 and beyond made the list, although there are five honorable mentions. In any case, have at it. . .

1. Last Exit to Springfield (4)- “Dental plan! Lisa needs braces. Dental plan!”
2. Bart the Murderer (3)- “Well, suppose you got a large starving family. Is it wrong to steal a truckload of bread to feed them?”
3. The Summer of 4’2″ (7)- “Hi… ummm… let me have some of those porno magazines… large box of condoms… a couple of those panty shields [quickly] and some illegal fireworks [back to normal] and one of those disposable enemas. Ehhh… make it two.”
4. A Fish Called Selma (7)- “I hate every ape I see, from chimpan A through chimpanzee”
5. Bart of Darkness (6)- “Can we have a pool Dad? Can we have a pool Dad? Can we have a pool Dad?”
6. The Day the Violence Died (7) “I’m an amendment to be, yes an amendment to be”
7. Sideshow Bob Roberts (6) “That was a _big_ mistake, Bart. No children have ever meddled with the Republican Party and lived to tell about it.”
8. Itchy and Scratchy The Movie (4) “Can’t he be both, like the late Earl Warren? Earl
Warren wasn’ta stripper! Now, who’s being naïve?”
9. You Only Move Twice (8) “Oh, my God, the 59th Street bridge! Maybe it just collapsed on its own. We can’t take that chance.”
10. Bart the Daredevil (2) “I will death-defy both nature and gravity by leaping over this tank of water, filled with man-eating great white sharks, deadly electric eels, ravenous piranha, bone-crushing alligators, and perhaps most frightening of all, the king of the jungle, one ferocious lion!”
11. Homer vs the 18th Amendment (8)- “I’m not going to lie to you Marge……Well, goodbye”
12. 22 Short Films About Springfield (7)- “Quarter Pounder with cheese? Well, I can picture the cheese, but, uh, do they have Krusty partially gelatinated non-dairy gum-based beverages?”
13. The Front (4)- “Didn’t you wonder why you were getting checks for doing nothing? I figured, ‘cuz the Democrats were in power again.”
14. El Viaje Misterioso De Nuestro Homer (8)- “I’m a well-wisher, in that I don’t wish you any specific harm.”
15. Homer at the Bat (3)- “And I say, England’s greatest Prime Minister was Lord Palmerston!”
16. Lisa the Iconoclast (7)- “That’s preposterous. Get out! You’re banned from this historical society! You, and your children, and your children’s children — for three months.”
17. Cape Feare (5)- “No one who speaks German could be an evil man”
18. Marge vs the Monorail (4) “True or false? You can get mono from riding the monorail.”
19. Hurricane Neddy (8)- “Homer, you are the worst human being I have ever met.”
20. War of the Simpsons (2)- “Well, one fella came close. Went by the name of Homer. Seven feet tall he was, with arms like tree trunks. His eyes were like steel, cold, hard. Had a shock of hair, red like the fires of Hell.”
21. Kamp Krusty (4)- “I got a rapid heartbeat from his Krusty brand vitamins, my Krusty Kalculator didn’t have a seven or an eight, and Krusty’s autobiography was self-serving with many glaring omissions. But this time, he’s gone too far!”
22. A Streetcar Named Marge (4)- “ I just don’t see why Blanche should shove a broken bottle in Stanley’s face. Couldn’t she just take his abuse with gentle good humor?”
23. The Boy Who Knew Too Much (5)- “Well, only one in two million people has what we call the “evil gene”. Hitler had it, Walt Disney had it, and Freddy Quimby has it.
24. Burns Verkaufen Der Kraftwerk (3)- “We regret to announce the following lay-offs, which I will read in alphabetical order: Simpson, Homer. That is all.”
25. Rosebud (5)- “Have the Rolling Stones killed.

Honorable Mention: 2- Simpson and Delilah, Treehouse of Horror, The Way We Was, Brush with Greatness; 3- Lisa’s Pony, Bart the Lover, The Otto Show; 4- Homer the Heretic, Treehouse of Horror III, Marge gets a Job, Selma’s Choice, Brother from the Same Planet, I Love Lisa; 5- Homer’s Barbershop Quartet, Homer Goes to College, $pringfield, Homer and Apu, Homer Loves Flanders, Sweet Seymour Skinners Badasss Song; 6- Bart’s Comet, Bart vs. Australia, A Star is Burns, Lisa’s Wedding; 7- Treehouse of Horror VI; 8- The Homer They Fall; 9- Lisa the Simpson, Trash of the Titans; 11- Brother’s Little Helper, Behind the Laughter; 14- I’m Spelling as Fast as I Can

Best Treehouse: Treehouse of Horror I

Best Arc: Season 4, episodes 12-17: (Marge vs. the Monorail, Selma’s Choice, Brother from the Same Planet, I Love Lisa, Duffless, Last Exit to Springfield)

Best Season: Season 4

The Collapse: Season 9

Defeating the Argument From Economic Growth

[ 1 ] March 30, 2005 |

Jonathan Chait has noted that the last two decades of the American economy could have been a demonstration designed to humiliate supply-siders. (The conservative critiques of the 1993 budget plan have not, ah, aged well.) Via Crooked Timber, the weak-at-best correlation between relatively laissez-faire policies and economic growth can be observed in comparative data as well.

I think this is something that progressives need to pay more attention to. Mark Smith, a UW political scientist, has spent a lot of time looking at back copies of the National Review to study conservative rhetoric on tax policy. In the wake of Goldwater, conservative arguments in favor of tax cuts tended to be libertarian ones, linking tax cuts with increased freedom. Particularly starting with Reagan, the libertarian arguments became much less prevalent, and were largely replaced by arguments linking tax cuts to economic growth. The latter strategy had significantly more public appeal. It’s important, therefore, for progressives not to concede the premise that tax cuts produce economic growth; the evidence for this is, to put it mildly, weak.

The empirical case against the link between economic growth and tax cuts does not, of course, end the policy debate. The fact that the American economy prospered when the top marginal rates were essentially confiscatory does not, in itself, justify confiscatory tax rates (which I generally oppose as well.) But if conservatives are forced to defend tax cuts in libertarian terms, they will lose most of the time. The fact that the Bush tax cuts didn’t come anywhere close to producing the job growth their advocates claim, for example, is something that progressives can’t emphasize enough.


[ 0 ] March 30, 2005 |

If Blogger had been showing any signs of working yesterday, I was planning to write about an even more self-paradoic than usual Steven Landsburg column and the terminal stages of Nat Hentoff’s descent into wingnuttery (come back Christopher Hitchens, all is forgiven.) Fortunately, Mark Kleiman has already said what need to be said on both counts.

I must say, however, that while I maintain that Nader’s most recent expressions of reactionary nonsense are a dog-bites-man story, even I was surprised about his links to creationist wankery. With Ralph, no matter how much contempt you have, you’re always too generous…

The Zero-Sum Universe

[ 0 ] March 30, 2005 |

The David Brooks column that Matt discusses forces me to confront a more profound problem. I am, you see, a hardcore Expos fan, but between the fact that my love for the team was bound up in its presence in Canada, where the great, star-crossed teams of the Dick Williams era created a buzz even in western Canada (and then Montreal, the first major league city I lived in–the first month in a half I spent in Montreal I went to 15 games, taking advantage of the C$1 bleachers) and the appalling decent into syndicate ownership, my allegiances don’t automatically transfer to Washington. The Mariners will remain my favorite AL team, but I yearn for an NL team to root for. Which brings us to a frightening series of facts. The first and last games in Expos history (the latter of which I attended) were against the Mets. The Mets have the Expos’ former GM. They play in my borough, and their run-down stadium (nostalgia for the Stade Olympique!) will be the destination of the vast majority of my live baseball watching. They signed one of my three all-time favorite players in the offseason (and, certainly, one of the best games I’ve ever attended was the classic when Pedro had a perfect game with 2 outs in the seventh, hit Reggie Sanders with an 0-2 pitch, and Sanders charged the mound.) Could I possibly pull a reverse Brooks and become…a….(gulp)…Mets fa…, I don’t want to think about that right now. (Although if a huge concrete block falls of the side of the stadium, my fate will be sealed.)

I suppose this would be a good a place as any to commemorate the retirement of The Big Cat, the best first baseman in Expos history. He ended his career with 399 homers and a .499 slugging percentage–now that’s an appropriate symbol for the franchise.

Wingnut wonkery

[ 0 ] March 30, 2005 |

It’s not uncommon for those on our side of the aisle to engage in what we call wonkery–playing around with ideas for tweaking and improving policy, regardless of the political feasibility of such schemes. It’s a reasonable way to pass the time, and it keeps us off the streets.

So recent events on this blog let me to pay a visit to the award-winning website of one Kim du Toit. In a discussion thread, a number of commenters were engaging in what can only be called wingnut wonkery. The “policy problem” they were trying to crack? How to prevent evils socialist Californians from fleeing their horrible socialist cesspool of a state, and (for some unspecified and frankly baffling reason) attempting to institute socialism again in the good red states they choose to inflict themselves on. So the problem is, how do these good red state denizens prevent this impending disaster? One Du Toit fan, who was kind enough to pay us a visit in the thread below, offered up the following bit of wingnut wonkery, which I offer without further comment, because really, what is there to say?

There aren’t enough folks in the red states to stem this tide…the best they can do is pass laws to encourge these idiots to not move in…Privatizing education completely would work…as well as creative ideas like sales tax surcharges on customers that aren’t practicing Open Carry.

Lovecraft Lives

[ 0 ] March 30, 2005 |

Following hard upon the greatest thing ever comes this, which is clearly proof that H.P. Lovecraft did not die in 1937, but is with us still, and apparently writing in Hollywood.

NBC once again offers viewers a peek behind the entertainment curtain as it re-visits the 1970s classic comedy “Mork & Mindy” in this new movie, based on the comedy series that launched the career of the Award-winning actor and beloved comedian Robin Williams. The movie exposes the tumultuous four years of creative infighting, personal problems, network interference as well as depicts Williams’ painful struggle to cope with his newfound fame and overnight success.

Cope India Redux

[ 0 ] March 30, 2005 |

Quite a while ago, I wrote a post on the Cope India exercise. This was a cooperative exercise between the USAF and the Indian Air Force. The surprising outcome of the exercise was Indian victory, to the tune of roughly a 90% kill ratio. At the time, I suggested that the USAF and the IAF had cooked the exercise; the IAF wanted to demonstrate its strength to Pakistan and India, while the USAF wanted to demonstrate its weakness to Congress, thereby “proving” the necessity of large numbers of F-22s.

Bill Rice at By Dawn’s Early Light has a more substantial discussion of the exercise. It’s clear that the game was cooked to guarantee an Indian victory. Bill acknowledges the IAF incentive and the idea that producing a rationale for buying the F-22 was part of the incentive for the USAF. However, he argues that the USAF had an ulterior motive; it wanted to get a good look at the Su-30, an advanced aircraft that the Indians have and that the Chinese have been buying in some numbers.

I don’t really see the connection. The premise seems to be that the IAF would only use the Su-30 if it was guaranteed to win. I think the IAF would have an incentive to use the Su-30 in the exercise regardless of outcome, if only to determine the effectiveness of the fighter against the best possible opponents. But, this is a relatively small quibble with a very informative post. If you like fighters, give it a read.

No Plan "B"

[ 0 ] March 29, 2005 |

The European Union has a plan “B” in the case of a non-ratification vote from the United Kingdom. Although any ratification failure formally scuttles the EU constitution, the Commission and the governments of several of the more important members of the EU have, reportedly, committed to proceeding with many of the reforms described in the constitution.

However, there is no plan “B” in case of a French vote against constitutional ratification. In short, the EU constitution, and the reforms it carries with it, cannot move forward without France. Now, it appears that French ratification is in serious doubt. The latest polls have “no” leading 54-46.

I have never been able to appreciate the arguments of those opposed to constitutional ratification. The EU, as it exists today, is a bureaucratic monster. It is governed by an amalgam of treaties stretching back to the 1950s. The European Parliament seats are determined by arcane political decisions rather than by any understandable formula. Qualified majority voting is growing increasingly unwieldy. The Commission itself is expanding beyond reasonable capacity; twenty-five commissioners now do work that was designed for twelve.

The constitution doesn’t solve all of these problems, but it certainly helps. I get the sense that the constitution is taking the blame for the very faults it is designed to remedy. The constitution will result in more political transparency, a sensible leadership scheme, increased democratic representation, and a smaller transnational bureaucracy.

It really seems like a no-brainer to me. I think that France will vote yes, regardless of what the polls now say; when it comes down to it, I expect that the French will appreciate what they have to gain. But, I really don’t know.

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