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On Subways

[ 0 ] August 9, 2007 |

Eric Martin makes a good point here. Given the poor level of funding, mass transit in the United States involves tradeoffs, and given these tradeoffs New York’s is plainly better than the alternatives. D.C.’s subway is cleaner, but its coverage is more limited and is shuts down early. New York’s wider coverage and (more importantly) 24/7 operation makes it very much preferable. Having to pay for cabs if you stay out much after midnight is a pain in the ass. (The El in Chicago is 24/7 too, right?) Having said that, Paris — which combines NYC coverage and times of operation with D.C. cleanliness — is on a whole other level.

Although, of course, it would be nice if large parts of New York’s system didn’t shut down for nearly a day because of a rainstorm. (And, to be parochial, can someone explain why the G train has been effectively eliminated as a useful alternative at precisely the same time that western Queens and Brooklyn are producing an ever-expanding variety of economical alternatives for conviviality? Does the V train accomplish anything you couldn’t do about as well by restoring the fully restoring G train service and having the F stop at Queens Plaza? I don’t get it.)

Ooooh! Hewitt Quiz!

[ 0 ] August 8, 2007 |

Pasty McChaste, in re Saving Private Romney:

A question for lefties in love with [the chickenhawk] meme: Have you denounced The New Republic‘s and Private Beauchamp’s slanders? Have you talked up the virtues of serving in uniform in time of war? Or do you dispute that we are in a war, and find it convenient to focus on alleged war crimes and other misdeeds of the military? Do you accuse the Administration of fighting for oil, or of misleading us into war? Are you tearing down the military and yet condemning people for not serving in it?

That’s, um, five questions? But I’m bored, and the Red Sox seem intent on ruining another evening for me, so I’ll bite.

(1) No. But I’m one of those nutters who’s disinclined to believe the Weekly Standard when it claims without verification that something — say, an author’s “signed recantation,” or a stockpile of WMD — exists. So if by “slander” you mean “impossibly ambiguous, conflicting claims about several stories of minimal overall consequence,” the answer is still . . . no.

(2) No. As far as I’m concerned, there’s no abstract virtue that automatically inheres to military service (or to teaching, or to brokering stocks, or to tending animals at a zoo). And in the context of a specific military adventure promoted and designed and administered by people who seem lacking in either shame or virtue, I’d advise anyone — as Al Swearengen might put it — to stay far fucking afield of a war like this.

(3) Huh? Hold on a sec — oh, crap! Can’t the Sox hold a lead this month? Jesus. Where was I? Oh, right. Stupid quiz.

(4) A little from column A, a little from column B, but mostly from the column labeled “A Pig’s Breakfast of Incoherent and Contradictory Reasons, None of Which Have Been Validated by Actual Events But All of Which Knocked Iraq Into a Cocked Hat.”

(5) Not as far as I can tell. I mean, I’ve tried “tearing down the military” — really, who hasn’t? — but I discovered it was almost as difficult as “smashing the state.” Then I realized that if I actually wanted to “tear down the military,” I’d probably start by committing it to an open-ended, poorly-conceived adventure in a country that had nothing to with the attacks in 2001. Seriously, Hugh — have you forgotten about 9/11?

The New Aesthetic Stalinism

[ 0 ] August 8, 2007 |

A good summary from Reed and Edroso. (The “liberal” Fletch versus the “conservative” Animal House remains my favorite.)

I see that Fox, knowing where to find Republicans with no taste but not when to stop throwing good money after bad, has started to advertise the 1/2 Hour News Hour on Al-Yankeezera. The thing is, even the ads (which presumably try to cherry pick the best material) aren’t nearly as funny as the endlessly repeated ad where some company tries to sell some kind of hair paint because, hey, why would Gary Busey’s hairstylist try to sell you a shitty product? (“I’m Giuseppe Franco!”) 1/2 Hour is so bad it’s not even capable of being unintentionally funny.

The Lighter Side of the Law

[ 0 ] August 8, 2007 |

(image courtesy of gimmecorn)

My (and others’) legal posts are often about such serious topics: abortion, the death penalty, the war on (some classes of people who use some kinds of) drugs. But today it’s time for something completely different: Raw milk. I did say that I would blog about food sometimes after all.

Raw milk – which has not been pasteurized (heated) to kill bacteria - cannot be sold through interstate commerce (at least not for human consumption – see Q 14); as a result, the states have approached the question of raw milk in differing ways. It’s legal to sell the stuff in supermarkets in California, while in New York, people who want raw milk must buy shares of a cow (cow co-ops, or cowshares).

So what’s the big deal? Well, some people think raw milk just plum tastes better [full disclosure: the Jewish-mysticism studying raw milk fan in the linked article is a close friend of mine]. While others who are lactose intolerant can handle raw milk better than its pasteurized cousin.

While there are legit reasons to warn people about the potential dangers of raw milk, the raw products that come from regulated and inspected farms don’t seem to me to pose the great public health danger of our day (though the commercial dairy lobby might argue otherwise) So why not remove the interstate ban, let raw milk be sold in supermarkets, and let people decide whether they want to run the risk.

I’m generally a pretty risk-averse person. But having tasted raw milk and butter that’s made from it, I can say that it’s a risk I for one am willing to take.


[ 0 ] August 8, 2007 |

Six years of lazy techno-triumphalism, Republican hackery, and being on-his-ass wrong about what will likely shake out as one of the greatest follies in American history.

Is is any surprise that Instapundit shares a birthday with Scott Stapp?

Cap’n Crunch, meanwhile, offers the Perfesser an extra special rusty trombone for his anniversary:

His success inspired many of us to follow. Early in my blogging career, I struggled to find my own style, and someone suggested that I emulate Glenn. (If you go back to my first month of blogging, you’ll see this pretty clearly.) In a very short period, I learned the error of that approach, and it reminds me of a scene from one of my favorite movies, Rudy. Robert Prosky, playing Father Cavanaugh, says, “Son, in 35 years of religious study, I have only come up with two hard incontrovertible facts: there is a God, and I’m not Him.”



"If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary."

[ 0 ] August 8, 2007 |

Benjamin Wittes urges Alberto Gonzales to resign “to make possible a serious discussion of the future of FISA.” I think — at least in a fantasy world in which Congressional Democrats didn’t live in a permanent fetal-position defensive crouch on foreign policy and civil liberties issue — something like the opposite is true. As awful as his ongoing presence in office is in every other respect, Gonzales is serving a salutary purpose: a reminder that arbitrary executive power cannot be limited to wise, virtuous, and self-abnegating leaders but will sometimes be in the hands of people like Alberto Gonzales and George Bush. If you don’t want to give Gonzales de facto unlimited powers to engage in warrantless surveillance of any communication allegedly involving one individual outside the United States, then you shouldn’t give it to anybody. To respond that grants of arbitrary power would work more effectively with better people in office is no response at all unless a way of inserting a “only when there’s an administration we like” proviso, and certainly the United States Constitution is not based on the premise that the executive does its best work when exempted from any scrutiny from other institutions. Indeed, this of course goes beyond Gonzales — I wouldn’t want a Clinton or Obama administration to have these powers earlier.

Having said that, it’s not clear exactly what harm Gonzales is doing to Wittes’s objectives, given that (as he concedes) the Dems gave Bush everything they wanted anyway. You would have to be extraordinarily optimistic to think that the legislation will improve (from an anti-arbitrary power perspective) after it sunsets during a presidential election year.

Dahlia Lithwick has more.

Let’s Find Some Editors Here, People

[ 0 ] August 8, 2007 |


U.S. Says Bomb Suppled by Iran Kills Troops in Iraq

Subtle effort on the part of the Times editors to undermine the story, or does “suppled” have a meaning I’m unfamiliar with?

Worst American Birthdays, vol. 24

[ 0 ] August 8, 2007 |

A straight line of misfortune connects the lives of the early 20th century agrarian revolutionary Emiliano Zapata, hero to the peasants of Southern Mexico; Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg, author of the majority opinion in Griswold v. Connecticut Escobedo v. Illinois and advocate for the abolition of the death penalty; Puerto Rican baseball great Jose Cruz; and American actors Dustin Hoffman, Keith Carradine, and Don (“Donnie”) Most.

All, I regret to report, share their August 8 birthdays with Anthony Scott Flippen, known to most of the world as “Scott Stapp” (pictured here in his latest mug shot, taken in May after he threw a bottle of Orangina at his wife). As the alpha wanker of post-millennial modern rock, Scott Stapp — vocalist and proprietor of the ill-fated “grease mullet” — helped propel his band, Creed, to implausible heights of rock superstardom. Produced with the same spark of insight that spawned Chicken Soup for the Soul and its innumerable spinoffs, each Creed album was an opera of bathos and pretension, each music video a chance for Stapp to imagine himself nailed to a cross. By sheer coincidence, Stapp’s many non-admirers also wished to see him impaled on a slab of wood — a rare moment of congruity, perhaps, but one worth noting.

Although Stapp self-consciously molded his public image as a contemplative and earnest soul, he rarely distinguished himself from the mediocre conduct of the average short-term male rock celebrity. In August 2002, two years before Creed dissolved into a pious mist, USA Today Weekend ran a fawning profile of Scott Stapp in which he shared, among other things, his enlightened sensitivities on matters of gender, celebrity and power. As Stapp explained in a moment of Christ-like humility,

I meet a lot of women, and let’s just say I have numerous friends. But I’ve heard some crazy stories about what certain artists have done with fans. You’ve got to have a little compassion for their hearts. I mean, one night there was a 15-, 16-year-old girl in the audience. She gave me [a lewd come-on] sign. She’s just a little girl, and she thinks that’s what rock ‘n’ rollers want. I went to her and said, ‘Honey, that’s not what men want.’ I don’t know what compels me to do that.

In 2006, an improbable sex tape surfaced involving Scott Stapp, Kid Rock and four young Florida women, one of whom later sued Stapp for defamation of character and invasion of privacy. In the trailer to the film (whose release has been stalled by a most fortunate court injunction), Stapp was heard to remark, “Hey, it’s good to be The King,” quoting none other than Mel Brooks as the plaintiff attended to his rock star compulsions.

Scott Stapp turns 34 today.

A little rain…

[ 0 ] August 8, 2007 |

…and the whole NYC subway system collapses. This for the greatest city in the world? Just pathetic.

756, Hold the Asterisk

[ 0 ] August 8, 2007 |

Yglesias proclaims all-time HR leader Barry Bonds “the greatest offensive player in the history of baseball.” I don’t actually think that this is true. Ruth and Williams, as you can see, have decisively higher EQAs, and I think any good offensive metric will show the same thing. You can still make a case for Bonds — because of Ruth’s first career as a pitcher and Williams’s military service, Bonds has a longer career, and his 02-04 peak is almost certainly the highest level of offensive performance ever reached. But overall, I still have to rank Bonds slightly below Ruth and Williams as a hitter. (Bonds was certainly a better all-around player than Williams, and clearly remains behind Ruth, given that the latter was at least comparable offersively and also a great pitcher.)

Of course, the other case for Bonds is that because it’s harder to dominate modern baseball than baseball in the 20s or 40s he should be moved ahead. I can’t argue with that; at some level, these discussions rest on unfalsifiable assumptions about the quality of play. But in terms of dominance of their era, I would still rank Bonds slightly behind Ruth and Williams.

Only 100?

[ 0 ] August 7, 2007 |

Otherwise, this is clearly the greatest list in the noble history of list-making. [Via Ze Editors.]

A Black Day for American Journalism

[ 0 ] August 7, 2007 |

Not only has an important firewall collapsed — exposing the world once again to the three-headed beast of the apocalypse — but The Weekly World News is toast.

As the saying goes, I question the timing.

UPDATE by Rob: Captain Ed deserves props for this post title: The Firewall Of Sanity Crumbles In Face Of Irrelevancy

UPDATE by d: Mr. Trend is also bummed about the demise of the Weekly Standard Weekly World News.

When waiting for the 87-year old in front of me to count the exact change, find out he or she was 3 cents short, and proceed to write a check, the Weekly World News would keep me sane and happy. Now, it will just be the regular dreck of Britney and her ilk on the covers of the Enquirer, Star, and others, which were always as depressing as the WWN was great.

He speaks the truth.

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