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Me: Frank Lynch

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These are my mundane daily ramblings.
For something less spontaneous, I maintain The Samuel Johnson Sound Bite Page (over 1,700 Johnson quotes), with a weekly essay springing from one of Johnson's quotations.

Bio:
Born 1957, raised in Florida, moved to New York area in 1982; now live in Brooklyn.
Married, with one kid unit.
Former marketing research professional. Now drawing no salary, but working on a book.

Email:
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January 30, 2004:

Did he have to use the word "imminent"? While trying to find something to write about, I ran across a column from Christopher Hitchens from early December. In it, he complained about complaints from liberals that Iraqi popular reaction to the regime change hasn't followed exactly as foretold:

The truly annoying thing that I find when I am arguing with opponents of the regime-change policy in Iraq is their dogged literal-mindedness. "Your side said that coalition troops would be greeted with 'sweets and flowers!' " Well, I have seen them with my own eyes being ecstatically welcomed in several places. "But were there actual sweets and flowers?"

Hitchens then proceeds to say that a similar problem manifests itself in expectations that actual WMDs would be found, that the Administration was being taken too literally.

Now, aside from this putting an end to the entire Hawk defense that Bush never described the threat as imminent, have you ever read anything so ridiculous? Perhaps Hitchens feels that America would have supported the war whether or not it had the bejesus scared out of it? If so, why the heck didn't the Bush administration sell the war on humanitarian reasons, instead of falling back on those reasons after the fact?

I'd like Hitchens' job.
Link 4:57 PM

A disappointment in the bedroom renovation... You may have read in other posts that we just had our bedroom renovated; for two weeks my wife and I were sleeping on a mattress in the living room while the bedroom was pretty completely re-plastered and painted. My wife had chosen out some nice colors, too, which complement the furniture and the carpet. We also picked out a ceiling fan that goes great, a fan which Hunter makes exclusively for Home Depot, the 1912 Mission Style. Picture of the ceiling fanUnfortunately, a lot of the light from the two 60 watt bulbs gets absorbed by the shade, and the resulting lumens aren't enough for the room. So we have to run side lamps when there's no natural light at night. Also, the colors which Ab picked out aren't really as visible as we'd like them. But having paid $100 to get the fixture installed, who'd go through the expense and hassle of returning it and getting another? (And how come effective lumens aren't provided to buyers?)
Link 10:38 AM

Henry V is kaput in politics, for sure. Read this hilarious bit on his St. Crispin's Day speech, from the folks at Ishbadiddle. (I sent this link to many in an email last night when I saw it — it's really quite good.)
Link 10:18 AM

It really wasn't easy, writing like Instapundit yesterday — boiling practically everything down to "he said she said" in a hyperlink. Today we go back to normal.
Link 10:12 AM

January 29, 2004:

Posting like Instapundit today.

Blame it all on an intelligence failure.

A chronology of how the Bush Administration repeatedly and deliberately refused to listen to intelligence agencies that said its case for war was weak.

So, who's missing intelligence?

Heh.
Link 3:56 PM

The Q train has a mascot.
Link 3:24 PM

Found the remote. Seems to be a pretty common problem. We used to tease our Dutch au pair that she was throwing them out the window, but they always turned up.
Link 12:50 PM

I think we wimped out, says Carol Peligian. I agree.
Link 9:03 AM

Taxes are taxes, but they don't make modern Americans worse off than 19th century slaves. How could anybody be so myopic as to make such a comparison?
Link 8:06 AM

January 28, 2004:

You can't be a fly on EVERY wall, but some walls are more interesting than others. An article in the Washington Post describes a discussion regarding what went wrong with Iraqi weapons estimates:

In a private meeting between Bush and congressional leaders, Senate Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) told Bush it is important to determine what went wrong to produce the flawed prewar weapons charges. Democratic sources said that prompted a testy exchange between Bush and Daschle.

How I wish...
Link 10:44 PM

Senator Carl Levin really put it to the Administration in a blistering statement during a Senate Intelligence Committee [Mistake: it was the Senate Armed Services Committee] hearing today. The purpose of the meeting was to hear open testimony from David Kay, newly-resigned head of the Iraq Survey Group, responsible for finding WMDs and concluding what their status is and was. Levin's full statement can be found at his web site; briefly, he reminded us of the certainty with which the Administration spoke about Iraq's possession (present tense) of WMDs (weapons, not programs or intentions) in the months prior to the invasion. He quoted numerous statements from President Bush and VP Cheney, as well as Secretaries Rumsfeld and Powell. There was no ambiguity in their statements about the nature of the threat. Naturally, he contrasted that with where we are now, with Kay having said he doubted the weapons were there. And, in anticipation of any rationalizations that WMDs were not why we invaded Iraq, Levin referred to a statement from then-spokesperson Ari Fleischer:

Just in case there was ever any doubt about the reason given for why we went to war, the President's Press Secretary restated the point this way on April 10th, 2003: "make no mistake ... we have high confidence that they have weapons of mass destruction. That is what this war was about and it is about. And we have high confidence it will be found."

(Fleischer's statement can be found on the White House web site, in a transcript of his April 10 press briefing.)

This was not the only target of Levin's ire: he also complained about the limited scope of the committee's efforts. Focused entirely on intelligence agency performance, it was not allowed to look at how the White House used the intelligence it received.

Surely we should find out what is the basis for Vice President Cheney's recent statement as well as the basis for the unqualified statements made before the war I have just quoted.

Unfortunately, as of now, the leadership of the Senate will not allow an inquiry into how the Administration characterized the intelligence about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. The Intelligence Committee's inquiry is limited to the question of the production of the intelligence. That Committee is not looking into how that intelligence was used and characterized by policy makers. We will continue to press for an inquiry looking to get the whole story, the full picture. If the only way to obtain that is to have an outside, independent and nonpartisan commission to conduct a comprehensive and objective review of this entire matter so be it.

Perhaps it's merely party loyalty during an election year which limits the scope of the investigation [perhaps? - Editor], but it is sad that no Republicans on the committee are sufficiently non-partisan to allow that to go forward. I think there's room to question patriotism here.
Link 1:30 PM

January 27, 2004:

Peals of joy throughout the block. In light of the snow coming through tonight, NYC has decided to close schools for tomorrow. The Kid Unit is ecstatic, of course. I'm glad they were able to make the decision in advance, thereby eliminating questions early, and allowing kids to stay up late tonight should they choose. (We are supposed to get 4-8 inches here, by the way).
Link 8:15 PM

The causes of the deficit, Paul Krugman said (see this post below) have been traced by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities as being mostly due to the change in the amount of taxes collected, not spending (reported here). Their analysis looks at the dollars as a percentage of GDP (gross domestic product), and shows that in 2000 we had a surplus which was 2.4% as large as GDP, but we've shifted to a deficit that is 4.2% the size of GDP. The net effect, going from a surplus of 2.4% to a deficit of 4.2% represents a shift of 6.6%; and that of this 6.6%, 75% comes from a reduction in taxes.

Federal expenditures (as a percentage of GDP) have increased, but not as much as taxes have decreased. So, Krugman is reporting their data correctly. I don't know how the analysis works out if you put it all in terms of dollars, rather than a percentage of GDP.
Link 2:47 PM

There isn't enough political division, so some pundits try to be even more divisive, demonizing those they don't agree with. Today, Andrew Sullivan wrote about a Paul Krugman column as follows:

KRUGMAN BLAMES TAX CUTS: That's the entire reason for the deficit. Yeah, right. ...

And what did Krugman really write?

According to cleverly misleading reports from the Heritage Foundation and other like-minded sources, the deficit is growing because Mr. Bush isn't sufficiently conservative: he's allowing runaway growth in domestic spending. This myth is intended to divert attention from the real culprit: sharply reduced tax collections, mainly from corporations and the wealthy.

So Krugman identifies tax reductions as "the real culprit," but certainly not "the entire reason," for he goes on to mention...

A recent study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities does the math. While overall government spending has risen rapidly since 2001, the great bulk of that increase can be attributed either to outlays on defense and homeland security, or to types of government spending, like unemployment insurance, that automatically rise when the economy is depressed.

Again, taxes are clearly not "the entire reason" in Krugman's view, although he feels they are the "real culprit." Sullivan, in twisting Krugman's words, makes Krugman seem more of an extremist. But doing so is unconscionable, and since I've pointed this mistake out to Sullivan (and he's replied to my email, defending himself on other grounds but not addressing this twisting), he's opened himself up to being labeled as mendacious. Why would he want to do that?
Update, Jan 28: Sullivan issued a correction early this morning (about twelve hours after I pointed out his error to him). To me, his "correction" sounds disingenuous, as he labels it hyperbole (scroll down to "correction"). In labeling it hyperbole (which the dictionary defines as "A figure of speech in which exaggeration is used for emphasis or effect," Sullivan is saying his exaggeration was deliberate. This, of course, is exactly the kind of demonization I referred to at the start of the post. And yet, Sullivan called it "an error of hyperbole." So, was it deliberate or not? And when will he check his blood pressure before writing?
Link 1:34 PM

January 25, 2004:

How to tell Bush isn't serious about the war on terror. A number of ways, actually: read a great post by Calpundit.
Link 11:43 PM

Today is Robert Burns' birthday, and if you haven't read this post, by all means do. No haggis here, though, just too tough to get it together on a weekend when we've been putting the house back into shape after the exit of renovators. We will, however, be having steamed mussels and braised leeks, along with shortbread and berries for dessert. (I was happy to get the mussels in China Town: a friend had warned the fish markets might be closed due to their New Year's parade. But they were open.)
Link 3:54 PM

In a nice acknowledgment to neighborhood history, the new restaurant which opened up at the corner of Flatbush Avenue and Prospect Place (Brooklyn) — in the old space formerly occupied by City Lighting Fixtures — is retaining the name City Lighting as well as the old plastic letters on the facade. I don't even know what you call these kinds of letters: they're plastic, three dimensional, and like the front half of tubes (but each letter is a single piece); they're white, about a foot and a half tall, against a terra cotta background. The building has been a landmark for many years, and it's where we always went for electrical hardware (we've been in the neighborhood 13 years now). It's just nice to see it carry over. (The Daily News had a little write up recently about growth in the area. I'm sure the new proprietors couldn't be more pleased about the prospect of the Nets moving in about six blocks away.)
Link 3:44 PM

January 24, 2004:

Is THAT all it was? Today I finally saw a clip of Howard Dean's speech following the Iowa caucuses — not a long clip, mind you, one just long enough to see the famous growl. I have to say, it doesn't live up to its billing. For all the times which it's been played, for all the attention it's received (a defining moment, and so on), I really expected something like the lion's roar at the beginning of an MGM movie, or Roger Daltrey's "Yeaaaaaaaahhhhhh" in the Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again." And from the questions which Diane Sawyer asked of Dean the other night, I might have thought the yell sounded like it was something threatening. But it wasn't at all: it sounded like something someone might let out after rolling two strikes in a row while bowling with friends, or a variant on a college cheer. Certainly nothing to give all this attention to. Doesn't America have anything better to pay attention to, like the candidates' sweaters?
Link 10:55 PM

Cheney's job sure isn't easy. Read this:

WASHINGTON - Vice President Dick Cheney said Wednesday that the administration has not given up on the so far fruitless search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The "jury is still out," he said.

"It's going to take some additional, considerable period of time in order to look in all the cubby holes and the ammo dumps and all the places in Iraq where you might expect to find something like that," Cheney said in an interview at the White House with National Public Radio. "It doesn't take a large storage space to store deadly toxins, or even just the capacity to produce it."

I guess this is another case of the pumped up pre-war language from the Administration turning out as puffery. It represents considerable back-pedaling from this statement from Rumsfeld:

We know where they are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat.

Can't anyone in this administration tell it straight?
Link 11:50 AM

Continual denial. The New York Times reports:

David Kay, who led the American effort to find banned weapons in Iraq, said Friday after stepping down from his post that he has concluded that Iraq had no stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons at the start of the war last year.

In an interview with Reuters, Dr. Kay said he now thought that Iraq had illicit weapons at the end of the 1991 Persian Gulf war, but that the subsequent combination of United Nations inspections and Iraq's own decisions "got rid of them."

Asked directly if he was saying that Iraq did not have any large stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons in the country, Dr. Kay replied, according to a transcript of the taped interview made public by Reuters, "That is correct."

The Bush administration comment?

Scott McClellan, the White House spokesman, said the administration stood by its previous assessments that Mr. Hussein had both weapons programs and stores of banned weapons.

"Yes, we believe he had them, and yes we believe they will be found," Mr. McClellan said. "We believe the truth will come out."

What do they take us for?
Update (11:35 AM): Calpundit has more, including Kay's statement that he didn't think large scale WMD's existed after the first Gulf War.
Link 8:25 AM

January 23, 2004:

The workman is finally gone from our bedroom, and Ab and I will be able to move back into it this weekend. The master bedroom was never properly taken care of when we moved in here 13 years ago (I still remember us painting while the shortwave radio was cranking out news that we were bombing Baghdad), and while we did some spackling and painting, it really needed more than that. And over the years, stains in a corner of the ceiling from a leak (we finally learned it was the radiator upstairs) slowly expanded. In general, plaster (or our spackling?) was starting to fall, and the whole room needed to be addressed. It took a guy nine days to do the room. Obviously, it looks a whole lot better, and if we had any intention of selling the place, it would certainly help the price. Ab also picked out some great colors. The room looks alive! (I just can't wait for us to finish the clean up and get everything back in: we've been sleeping on a mattress in the living room for nearly two weeks.)
Link 6:37 PM

Some of the most interesting news comes out late on Fridays. Why? I've heard it has to do with the news cycles. For one thing, fewer people read Saturday's papers, and it's easier to bury intrigue. Secondly, I've heard that late on Friday reporters have greater difficulty tracking down their usual contacts in order to get adequate background for a better story. With that in mind, there's now a story on the New York Times site indicating that the replacement for David Kay (head of the US team looking for WMDs in Iraq) is a former UN weapons inspector (that team's number two person) who has already expressed skepticism that any weapons will be found. George Tenet (head of the CIA) says he's the right man for the job, and we all have to remember how the White House ran trick plays around the CIA in order to get the intelligence interpretations it wanted.
Link 6:22 PM

January 22, 2004:

I -DO- hope you know what Sunday is... cartoon bagpipe player, from
Pogo, 1951 It's January 25, the anniversary of Robert Burns' birthday! Robert Burns, of course, is the national poet of Scotland, and if on New Year's Eve you sang "Auld Lang Syne," you were singing Robert Burns. On his birthday, people of Scottish heritage (and their -philes) get together for "Burns Nights," and have a wee dram, or haggis if they're lucky. The BBC has a page with most of the necessary info — although they don't provide a recipe for haggis beyond preparing one that has already been stuffed for you; for a complete recipe, here's another page from their site.

If you're put off by the idea of lamb parts, try and overcome your repulsion, because it really is a delicious dish. When we visited Scotland in 2002, even the Kid Unit tried it, and we all agreed it was very good, ultimately eating it three times on the visit. (One restaurant served it in pastry pockets, with some kind of raspberry vinaigrette, perhaps for those who wanted to say they had haggis but didn't really want to try it.)

And if you still can't bring yourself to eat it (or can't get one), there's other ways to celebrate. I wouldn't count watching "Shrek" as one of them, though, even though Mike Myers does put on a nice Scot accent. You might try listening to some Silly Wizard (a Scot folk group) or reading some Sir Walter Scott. Don't forget a visit to Utilikilts.com. Or: here's a novel idea: read some Robert Burns!

(The cartoon of Porky the Porcupine playing the bagpipes is by Walt Kelly, and it comes from the May 22 1951 "Pogo." Copyright Selby Kelly. Available through Fantagraphics Books, in Pogo Volume 6. I think it's wonderful that Porky didn't limit playing his pipes to Jan 25: a true Scot.)

I obviously am not the only person who knows about the approaching date: lots of visitors to my Johnson site are visiting the page with his quotations about Scotland.
Link 2:51 PM

The impact of 'forcing' Google results. The NY Times has a write-up on the whole "miserable failure" thing.
Link 12:57 PM

Having a lovely time. Verizon's email is out — a planned maintenance was supposed to have been completed five hours ago. At least I don't have spam.
Link 12:03 PM

January 21, 2004:

Bush can't morph into you-know-who, but WMDs can do their own morphing. In the State of the Union address, Bush mentioned that...

But let us be candid about the consequences of leaving Saddam Hussein in power. We're seeking all the facts. Already, the Kay Report identified dozens of weapons of mass destruction-related program activities and significant amounts of equipment that Iraq concealed from the United Nations.

Not weapons of mass destruction; not weapons of mass destruction programs; but "weapons of mass destruction-related program activities." Put that phrase in the 2002 Cincinnati speech, and see if you care so much about invading Iraq. Back then, he said things like:

  • "We are resolved today, to confront every threat, from any source, that could bring sudden terror and suffering to America."
  • "Some ask how urgent this danger is to America and the world. The danger is already significant, and it only grows worse with time. If we know Saddam Hussein has dangerous weapons today -- and we do — does it make any sense for the world to wait to confront him as he grows even stronger and develops even more dangerous weapons?"
  • "And that is the source of our urgent concern about Saddam Hussein's links to international terrorist groups."
  • "Iraq could decide on any given day to provide a biological or chemical weapon to a terrorist group or individual terrorists."
  • " And he cannot be trusted. The risk is simply too great that he will use them, or provide them to a terror network."
  • "Many people have asked how close Saddam Hussein is to developing a nuclear weapon. Well, we don't know exactly, and that's the problem."
  • "The evidence indicates that Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program."
  • "America must not ignore the threat gathering against us. Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof — the smoking gun — that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud."
  • "Saddam Hussein still has chemical and biological weapons and is increasing his capabilities to make more. And he is moving ever closer to developing a nuclear weapon."
  • "We could wait and hope that Saddam does not give weapons to terrorists, or develop a nuclear weapon to blackmail the world. But I'm convinced that is a hope against all evidence."

If you put last night's soft expression in those terms, you come away with much less justification for invasion, don't you? Now, I'm not saying Bush lied, but some serious mistakes must have been made with the way the intelligence was handled. And it might not even have been the CIA: it might well have been that special Pentagon office run by Doug Fieth, designed to take a "fresh perspective" at the raw data. Someone has to lose their job.
Link 5:10 PM

I try not to watch the State of the Union address because I always find it intolerably full of puffery. Watching it also takes much longer than reading a transcript, thanks largely to the many pauses for applause — frequently the applause makes no sense (does this make me want to watch, in order to understand if different groups are applauding?). Take this example:

Key provisions of the Patriot Act are set to expire next year. (Applause.) The terrorist threat will not expire on that schedule. (Applause.) Our law enforcement needs this vital legislation to protect our citizens. You need to renew the Patriot Act. (Applause.)

Perhaps it was Democrats applauding over the idea of expiration and Republicans applauding the latter times? Whatever, the applause to speech ratio in that paragraph makes for a long night!

Others are providing better analyses (the newspapers and media get paid to, by the way, and can devote more time) but I also want to point out another instance of a false dilemma. This is a rhetorical trick I wrote about last week, and it involves framing an argument in terms of two alternatives, one obviously superior, when there are really more options. Last night, the President said,

Had we failed to act, the dictatator's weapons of mass destruction programs would continue to this day. Had we failed to act, Security Council resolutions on Iraq would have been revealed as empty threats.

The missing option, of course, would have been giving the inspectors more time to work. Not 'forever,' as some hawks preferred to characterize it as, but the time that they said they needed, a mere two or three months.

Bush continued with another point that is worth addressing:

Iraq's torture chambers would still be filled with victims, terrified and innocent. The killing fields of Iraq -- where hundreds of thousands of men and women and children vanished into the sands -- would still be known only to the killers. For all who love freedom and peace, the world without Saddam Hussein's regime is a better and safer place.

Now, I think the US did do the world a favor by toppling Saddam Hussein. But I also feel that it's disingenuous to use that as justification after the fact. Anyone who looks at the language of the Administration prior to the invasion would know that concerns for humanity represented only about 20% of what was being said (if that). It was always the WMDs which were being pushed to the American people, and while WMDs were discussed in the Town Square, humanity concerns were not. I really feel as if the American people were authorizing war against a different enemy, one who was characterized as being a threat to the US, not one who was doing horrible things to his country.
Link 10:05 AM

Free money is widely available, or, at least a lot of people are over-paid. In a column about Howard Dean, William Safire repeats a charge that General Wesley Clark is a stalking-horse for the Clintons. And of course, he provides no evidence for the claim, just repeats it as a throw-away line, as if it's so widely accepted that it needs no support. If it were a news article, perhaps he couldn't get away with it; but like many newspapers, the Times has lower standards for truth when it comes to columnists.
Link 9:24 AM

January 20, 2004:

Proof positive that not everything can be found on the Internet.
Link 10:30 AM

January 19, 2004:

I've already heard from plenty of people out there who cannot tie their shoes without reading a blog — asking me what my take is on the Iowa caucuses. Since it would be a shame to let these people go out facing a new day completely without guidance from me (God forbid some office crisis would require that they operate the fire extinguisher near their cubicle), I'd better put my ha'penny in before the fire rages too high.

Is anyone really surprised about Gephardt? I mean, this is a guy who, when he announced, pointed to his record as a leader in the House of Representatives. Just take a quick look at all that excitement, and get back to me after your 13-hour nap.

And Dean? Well, you know, the Governor and I were playing "Pig" this afternoon with our families (as you well know, it works better with a much larger group — it's really fun to put your finger on your nose and watch around the table while others do or don't notice), and he was talking about the branding issue. He's had difficulty in what to call himself. First, have we ever had a President named "Howard"? Can't remember one? (Neither could he, but I assured him I could have if I hadn't had so much to drink.)

So he was always in this big quandary about whether he should call himself "Governor" Dean or "Doctor" Dean. He'd naturally turned to me, because I am familiar with Samuel Johnson's branding opportunities (some would have called them 'problems,' but everyone in marketing knows that 'problems' are 'unrealized opportunities'). See, Johnson's consultants told him that he could create better word-of-mouth if he had one claque calling him "Dr. Johnson," another claque calling him "Dictionary Johnson," a third claque calling him "the Rambler," and a fourth which was so confused that it thought it was a clique instead of a claque. Unfortunately, I told him, all that disarray led to unsolidified public opinion: nobody knew who he was, and although he was the smartest man of his age (read my book when it comes out), awareness dissipated when they no longer had his writings in front of him. How that related to Dean was this: the rap he was getting from the press was that he was "too angry." Rather than working with that, he ran from that. Howzabout a candidate who says "You'd better believe I'm angry. Here's why..." That was like Dukakis avoiding the liberal tag. Why avoid it, I said? But by that time of the conversation, Dean already had a P, an I, and was too busy trying to avoid a G.

So it went to John Kerry, who's every bit as "angry" as Dean, only, because he wears pleated slacks, you don't notice the anger. Democrats will be no worse served by Kerry than by Dean, and so there you are.
Link 11:25 PM

There is a cancer on the co-op. I sit on the board, along with my wife, of a ten unit co-op. Last month we spent about $3,000 in oil for heat and hot water, and are struggling to understand how to deliver what the law requires to everyone, while not roasting some residents. According to everything I've read, upper floors are supposed to be colder, but even I wear shorts in winter, and I'm only on the second floor. The cost of the oil works out to about $350 for us: we're one-eighth of the building, with 1300 square feet. So, in the board's interest of grappling with the costs, I distributed thermometers to various residents, as well as making sure windows kept closed (the thermostat is in the stairway, and some residents felt that if stairway windows were shut, the heat would never go on — but leaving them open means the heat never goes off, and upper floor residents are getting temps in the 80's, and resort to opening their windows for comfort).

In addition to passing out thermometers, I posted signs saying not to open stairway windows, assuring residents I would adjust the thermostat if their temps were below the law's requirements. But nooooo: not only are some neighbors opening the stairway windows, someone has been futzing with the thermostat, using a key to get into it: rather than being set for 68, someone moved it up to over 80. Like I said, there is a cancer on the co-op, and I am not pleased.
Link 9:52 PM

Oy vey? Fuhgeddaboudit!
Link 3:55 PM

From Martin Luther King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail":

I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.

MLK's birthday was actually the 15th, but we're observing it today by reading his Letter from Birmingham Jail. President Bush seems to prefer observing it differently. Last year, he came out against affirmative action in the admission policies of the University of Michigan. This year, he took advantage of a congressional recess to appoint a judge to the federal bench who many have seen as racist. Don't imagine for a second that he's not conscious of the timing: it's a call out to the most racist elements among his supporters.
Link 11:26 AM

The State of the Union Address is tomorrow night, and one wonders (but not seriously) whether the President will lead with corrections on last year's speech... You know, reliances on British intelligence, yellowcake, and all the weapons of mass destruction. Or, for that matter, whether there will be any discussion of how little has actually been spent on AIDS, contrary to last year's big promise. Well, rather than wondering, you could just participate in the State of the Union Address Drinking Game.
Link 9:38 AM

Ever wanted to own your own record label? Grand Royal, the label of the Beastie Boys, is on the auction block, for perhaps as little as $100,000.
Link 9:02 AM

January 18, 2004:

You know you're reading too much Samuel Johnson when, instead of typing the "blockquote" tag for html (the one that offsets a quote, like in the post below) you find yourself typing a non-existent "blockhead" tag. Just happened, really.
Link 9:35 AM

Howard Dean sings Melissa Manchester. Back on her first album (1973's Home to Myself), Melissa Manchester had this song called "One More Mountain to Climb." Howard Dean is singing a similar tune in this morning's New York Times:

"Time was rolling by early on, but now, it just stands still," he said in an interview Friday night, near the close of yet another 15-hour day in a week that could well be considered the most difficult of his campaign.

"It's like climbing Mount Everest," he said. "You go to this pitch, you think you've done a lot of work, and then you look up and there's another pitch. And you do more work, and then you look up, and 29,000 feet. It's an enormous learning curve."

The problem for Governor Dean, of course, that it's so early in the campaign. He better start thinking in terms of mountain ranges.
Link 9:31 AM

January 17, 2004:

A change in the Atkins regimen? The New York Times reports that Atkins Nutritionals (the company started by the late Dr. Robert Atkins, founder of the Atkins Diet) is trying to get its legion of adherents to eat fewer saturated fats (meat, cheese, butter, eggs, and so on). No more than 20% of your calories, they now stress, should come from saturated fats. It's not so much a change, they say, as a change in emphasis:

Atkins representatives say that Dr. Atkins, who died last year, always maintained that people should eat other food besides red meat, but had difficulty getting that message out. There has been a revision in expressing how the diet should be followed, not in the diet itself, they say.

Still, I wonder about the reasoning behind the change in emphasis. Perhaps it's a credibility issue, perhaps it's marketing. The article also says:

The change comes as Atkins faces competition from other popular low-carbohydrate diets that call for less saturated fat. A book on one such plan, the South Beach Diet, came out in April 2003 and has sold more than five million copies. Atkins representatives made the revision, Ms. Heimowitz said, because "we want physicians to feel comfortable with this diet, and we want people who are going to their physicians with this diet to feel comfortable."

All I can say is that my cholesterol and weight have both gone down without attending to the quantity of saturated fats. In 6 months, I've dropped 25 pounds; and my cholesterol has dropped far more under a combination of medicine and Atkins than it did under medicine alone. Science should not generalize from a single case like mine, but still... I guess I don't really mind switching to margarine, egg beaters, and getting even more fish.
Link 3:07 PM

A too-common rhetorical trick is to limit the alternatives to two polar opposites. For instance, the inspections of Iraq, prior to the invasion: hawks acted as if a request for more time meant an infinite extension, and that the choice was between invasion and letting Hussein go on forever. Liberals (whom the right frequently accuses as always wanting to nuance simple issues to the death) were never asking for "forever," only for more time to let the inspections work. (Now, I guess, we know that they would never have worked to the satisfaction of the US government, because WMDs still haven't been found, and the US won't say the obvious implication of this result.)

Another example is over the positioning of the US intelligence on WMDs. The right (which liberals often accuse of trying to oversimplify complex issues) positions it as an argument that Bush didn't lie about their existence because a lie implies prior knowledge of the truth, and that the Bush administration was following in the same footsteps as the Clinton administration. For example, this column from Jonah Goldberg points to the many other governments which also thought there were WMDs, and says:

You can't have it both ways. You can't say Bush lied while others who said the same thing were being honest. The White House was operating with fundamentally identical information to that of Clinton, Pollack and Einhorn. What was different was that this White House needed to deal with the post-9/11 world.

"Both ways" — in essence, Goldberg has narrowed it down to two choices. But what if the other governments were getting their intelligence from the US? It's not unheard of: Bush cited British intelligence in his 2003 State of the Union address, and Colin Powell did the same when he presented to the UN.

And does it have to be an outright lie to be bad faith? Last June, John Judis and Spencer Ackerman wrote a stunning expose of the exaggerations and biases which the Administration built into the discussion. Apparently it was willful, if you read the article. So, no, maybe it wasn't a lie, but they sure seemed to ignore "off message" evidence all the time. And Goldberg's effort to split the question into only two alternatives is disingenuous.
Link 11:13 AM

January 16, 2004:

Marketing New Zealand as Middle Earth. Tom Tomorrow's sometimes sub Bob Harris has an interesting item about his trip to New Zealand post-LOTR. (I confess that LOTR made me want to visit — the scenery is really beautiful — but the people who live there look really ugly.)
Link 9:05 AM

Trust 9th graders. The Washington Post has a nice story on Marsha Albert, who, in the 9th grade back in 1963, spurred her local radio station to be the first to play the Beatles, which led to Capitol putting more behind their US promotion. Via The Morning News.
Link 8:26 AM

January 15, 2004:

Ache. "Ache" seems unique in English. So far as I know it's the only word in English (aside from those that contain it, like 'headache') that ends in those letters and that sound. All the others that end with the same spelling don't have the same sound (like panache and moustache), and seem to come from the French language. Are there others spelled like 'ache' that have the same sound? (These are the thoughts one has when the world is covered in snow.)
Link 11:31 AM

January 14, 2004:

What exactly WAS the Clinton policy about regime change which Paul O'Neill's critics claim Bush was merely continuing in those early months of the Bush Administration? Over at Whiskey Bar, Billmon says that the oft-cited 1998 law passed by Congress explicitly forbade the involvement of US troops to accomplish the regime change.

"Nothing in this Act shall be construed to authorize or otherwise speak to the use of United States Armed Forces (except as provided in section 4(a)(2)) in carrying out this Act."
Section 4(a)(2) is the section of the act that authorized military aid to the Iraqi opposition -- said aid to consist of:
"the drawndown of defense articles from the stocks of the Department of Defense, defense services of the Department of Defense, and military education and training for such organizations."

This should be a withering retort to those who say that Bush didn't step it up. Read Billmon's full post. Update: Sloppy reading on my part. Billmon doesn't say US troops were forbidden, and neither does the law. The law expressly does not authorize, and remains silent on the issue.
Link 11:09 AM

Moveon.org's winning anti-Bush ad has been chosen, and it's here. Called "Child's Pay," it focuses on the financial burden our children will bear due to the incredible deficits which Bush has whipped up. It's nicely done, but at least one writer says it's too slick, not harsh enough, and has a muddled message. My favorite, again, was "What Are We Teaching Our Children?"
Link 10:47 AM

Anderson Cooper was a complete bumblehead last night while subbing for Aaron Brown on CNN's 10 o'clock show "Newsnight." Not once, but at least three times he was so intent on "providing balance" (oddly conservative in each case) that he came across as an idiot each time. The three occasions involved:

  • An Army War College report by a visiting professor, critical of the war against Iraq
  • Paul O'Neill (ex-Treasury Secretary who is involved in a book which was published yesterday)
  • Actors Rob Reiner and Martin Sheen, who are in Iowa in support of Howard Dean.

Here's what happened...

Regarding the Army War College report, here are the opening lines of the videotaped report from Defense Department correspondent Jamie McIntyre:

MCINTYRE (voice-over): The U.S. invasion of Iraq was an unnecessary preventive war of choice that was not integral to the war on terrorism, but rather a detour from it. That's the conclusion of Jeffrey Record, a visiting professor at the Army War College, and a former aide to Democratic senators Sam Nunn and Lloyd Bentsen.

Now, everyone who has followed politics knows that Nunn and Bentsen were Democratic senators. Nunn was always a fairly conservative one, hailing from Georgia (by no means a Ted Kennedy), and Bentsen, while more liberal, was no Ted Kennedy either. Yet Cooper felt the need to point out to viewers at the end of McIntyre's segment that the visiting professor had worked for Democratic senators, because McIntyre didn't use the word Democratic. (McIntyre was sensitive to Cooper's efforts to discount the report, using continual references to the report being written by a visiting professor, and countered Cooper by pointing out that the visiting professor, "One is, he's a visiting professor, but he's normally a professor at the Air War College in Maxwell Air Force Base." So his credentials are solid, in spite of the best efforts of Anderson Cooper to discount them.

Update: What was I thinking? McIntyre clearly referred to Nunn and Bentsen as Democratic senators. No need for Cooper to have reinforced the point.

Regarding Paul O'Neill, Cooper interviewed a former Clinton cabinet member who had also written a book about White House experiences, Robert Reich. First, Cooper was so intent on asking spurting out a quick question after greeting Reich that he didn't listen for Reich to reply to the greeting, so much so that he was oblivious to the fact that Reich's audio wasn't coming through. Cooper didn't notice until he stopped to listen for an answer to his first question. Later, once the audio connection was restored, he kept peppering Reich with questions to the point that it was unheard of for a cabinet member to write a book which is critical of the president. Reich largely supported Cooper, but said,

I think a Cabinet officer certainly has a loyalty to a president, but has a greater loyalty to the country. And if that Cabinet officer finds something that is factually amiss, such as Secretary O'Neill did, in terms of the administration aiming to get Saddam Hussein even before 9/11, I think there is a responsibility to tell that to the country.

The odd thing, I thought, was that Cooper (and Reich, I guess) seemed to have forgotten Donald Regan's memoirs from his years in the Reagan White House — it was in Regan's memoirs that we learned of Nancy Reagan's micromanagement and her reliance on astrology. Regan's book came out after the Reagan administration had left, but it was every bit as much "kiss and tell" as Cooper was trying to position the O'Neill book.

Lastly, actors Rob Reiner and Martin Sheen. They were the last segment, and I don't know if they had been watching Cooper through the show, but Sheen was laughing as they came on. After some initial questions on their effectiveness, there was this exchange between Cooper and Reiner:

[COOPER] But, seriously, how do you find people respond to you? Do you come across any level of resentment, people saying -- there are those out there who say, look, it's like you're like shiny objects dangled in front of people to kind of distract them.

REINER: How do you feel, Anderson? How do you feel about that?

(LAUGHTER)

REINER: Are you getting excited right now?

That is to say, of course, that Reiner knew Cooper was being a buffoon and underestimating the American people...
Link 8:09 AM

January 13, 2004:

Just so you know, Baghdad is not just as safe as New York City. (Link via This Modern World.)
Link 1:25 PM

For what it's worth, my take on the movie The Return of the King (part three of The Lord of the Rings) is that the series as a whole needed to be made in order to demonstrate what can be done in movies, to expand our understanding of what movies are capable of. The series truly represents a feat, and I don't mean to slight that in any way (and it's even clearer now that I'm going through the documentary materials in the Extended Versions of the first two DVDs — it's a tremendous combination of scenery, models, costumes, props, puppets, computer generated animation, digital colorization, and so on).

But while it's a very exciting story, the acting is pretty simple: very good actors are doing a very good job with what in the end has to be considered a lot of quick scenes with little character development. How many facial expressions does Frodo have? If the number is too small, I don't think it's Elijah Wood's fault so much as Tolkien's. Frodo basically has one job. And Ian McKellan doesn't go through a very wide range of emotions, either, and it's because of the limitations of the character in the book.

Contrast this with Jim Sheridan's In America, about the New York immigrant family. Those characters go through a wide range of experiences, and you can see more acting in that movie, I think. And because 90% of what's in the movie is something Sheridan really went through, this is also a movie that had to be made. The only thing is, it had to be made for a completely different reason. I guess I prefer a movie that has to be made for the sake of human emotion over one that had to be made to show that it could be made.
Link 12:55 PM

Only the Republicans are allowed to use 9/11 as a political issue. Don't get me wrong, I don't think anyone should use 9/11 as a political issue. I'm all in favor of learning from the mistakes that were made, and rooting out incompetence, but I've never been in favor of the Republican convention's location and timing (taking place in NYC, as close to the anniversary of 9/11 as possible). According to the New York Times, this decision was made by the President:

The president personally made the decision to hold the Republican National Convention in New York City, one adviser said. He talks daily to Karl Rove, his chief political aide, about the ups and downs of his Democratic competitors. He keeps a close eye on his fund-raising totals, which now amount to more than $130 million.

The White House apparently sees, however, that as it whips the country up with National Security feelings, it could become vulnerable. And doesn't want us to know the truth. The Administration has made the job of the US Commission investigating 9/11 very difficult: stonewalling too long on key documents, and then providing them only in secure locations where nothing can leave (no originals, no copies, no notes, no tape recorders...) The idea, presumably, is to minimize the amount of work which can be completed before the commission's charter expires in May. But Newsweek reports consideration was given to giving an extension if the report were delayed until after the election.

But the prospect of unleashing the report in the middle of the election season is creating anxiety inside the White House. Some aides fear that the document will contain fresh ammo for Democrats eager to prove Bush was inattentive to terrorism warnings prior to 9/11. As a result, Bush officials recently floated a surprise strategic switch: they might OK a delay, but only if the report were put off until December, thereby "taking it out of the election," said a commission source. Late last week, though, the White House told the commission it was sticking with its longstanding position of no give on the May deadline.

Repeat after me: government by the people, for the people...
Link 12:31 PM

January 12, 2004:

Perhaps focusing on Iraq early in the Bush Administration wasn't really reprehensible, as has been pointed out. It was standing US policy, carried over from the Clinton Administration, to change the Iraqi regime. But did they also train their eyes on Al Qaeda at the same time, or not? That doesn't seem to be getting any discussion, and I'm sorry I missed the segment on CBS "60 Minutes." Well, as for whether or not Al Qaeda was given adequate attention, the US 9/11 Fact-finding Commission, headed by Thomas Kean, apparently wants to talk to Presidents Clinton and G W Bush. Maybe some day we'll know. Maybe even before November?

Unfortunately, the reactions from the White House to O'Neill's comments have not addressed the substance: Scott McClellan is quoted as saying "It appears that the world according to Mr. O'Neill is more about trying to justify his own opinions than looking at the reality of the results we are achieving on behalf of the American people."
Link 2:13 PM

January 11, 2004:

I think I have it straight now... So the departing Clinton administration felt that Al Qaeda was a big threat, and briefed the incoming Bush administration to that effect. But the new administration was otherwise engaged, and was after Iraq from the start, according to Paul O'Neill (who sat on the National Security Council). Then, some eight months later, these passenger planes crashed into the World Trade Center, right? And Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense, took notes that afternoon asking to have everything conceivable dug up that would implicate Iraq. OK? And we knew so well that Iraq was behind 9/11, that key resources in Afghanistan were pulled from finding Osama Bin Laden to go to Iraq, and find all those WMDs we all knew were there. And also the stuff connecting Iraq to 9/11, of course. Only, according to Colin Powell, the link is tenuous at best ("no smoking gun") and we all know the drill about how many WMDs have been found. Got it.
Link 10:31 PM

January 9, 2004:

Poffertjes! Tonight we ventured into the land of small Dutch pancakes. This was our first effort at making them, and truth be told, most were overcooked. Picture of poffertjes, small Dutch
pancakesBut we were very encouraged by the results, and plan to try again. It's basically a pancake batter, but instead of using baking powder you use yeast, and you have to give it time to rise. We allowed too much time due to the dinner's schedule, and so the texture of the batter wasn't what we expected, nor the consistency of the cooked cakes. We also had too much heat under the pan... The ones in the picture look fine, but most were far darker. You top them with powdered sugar or a bit of syrup. And we loved 'em, and will do it again.
Link 11:42 PM

Maybe Toobin won't be wrong. Jeffrey Toobin's exact exchange on CNN (see the post just below this one) went like this:

HEMMER: The point you made is that you don't think some of the bigger names, Skilling and Ken Lay, would face indictments, prosecution.

TOOBIN: So are you asking me whether I'm eating crow today?

HEMMER: I don't -- does your mind change about it? Not, because you're not necessarily wrong at this point.

TOOBIN: No, I mean I'm not wrong yet, but I think it is -- this is a huge victory for prosecutors. This makes a big difference. Let's put it this way, I don't know if Skilling and Lay will be prosecuted, but the only way they could be prosecuted is if they make a deal with Andy Fastow and it looks like they are making a deal with Andy Fastow. And he is the crucial witness against them. It's a tremendous victory for prosecutors.

"Not yet" was the operative phrase, and turns out to be relevant. Fastow's wife let the deadline for the plea agreement pass, the judge has now ordered the trial to proceed per plan, and it's now going to be more difficult to work out a plea agreement with Fastow.
Link 2:58 PM

The refreshing sound of honesty. This morning on CNN, their legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin admitted that it looked like his earlier prediction — that Enron executives Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling would not face jail time — might well turn out wrong, now that a plea deal is in the works for the wife of executive Andy Fastow (being used as leverage to get Fastow to testify). Toobin was amicable about it, too, speaking of "eating crow." Why can't the US government be more honest about the WMD hunt in Iraq? Josh Marshall has more.
Link 8:51 AM

January 8, 2004:

Far far too true. The New York Times reports on a Bush visit to two states which are crucial to his re-election:

Mr. Bush visited an inner-city school in Knoxville and became the center of attention in the kind of visit he seems to enjoy: visiting with schoolchildren and their teachers.

It rankles me because it reminds me of how Bush reacted to the news about the onset of September 11. Sitting in a classroom in Florida, and having been told of the second plane crashing into the WTC, Our Man in the White House decided to hang out with the kids for a little while longer instead of moving into action. Here's a video of his staying in the classroom a full five minutes after Andy Card tells him. (Odd that: his whereabouts had been well-publicized, and the school was at risk. More "bring 'em on," I guess.)
Link 4:36 PM

January 7, 2004:

What will the ultimate reality show be? If you've been watching the offerings, many of the successful ones work out winnowing competitors down, be they survivors, suitors, or interns. TLC's approach focuses on lifestyle revision, and you can see it through programs like Trading Spaces, Date Patrol, and What Not to Wear. They've also got wedding shows, and so on. But why no funeral planning show? Supposedly Carson and the others from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy (on Bravo) will be looking for work... Why not a show called "You're Not Really Gonna Get Buried in THAT!" ?
Link 10:52 PM

Tonight's dinner was a wonderful treat, pork tenderloins with fennel and cream sauce. The recipe is here, via Epicurious. Made for a lot of dishes, though, and I'm glad I'm doing something as simple as burgers tomorrow night. (If you're reading this in the Netherlands, and you know who you are, pass it on to hubby.)
Link 10:42 PM

Is Jewish defensiveness replacing patriotism as the last refuge of a scoundrel? Many who read US op-ed columns frequently are up in arms about a column written yesterday by New York Times' opinionator David Brooks. (Read it, if you haven't: Brooks claims that criticisms of the war in Iraq are unjustified for a number or reasons... Among the reasons: what he sees as anti-Semitism on the part of the critics, and an over-estimation of the importance of a few players who are Jewish.) Here's a passage which has worked like flash paper (he's being ironic, expressing the views he thinks others hold for neoconservatives):

... neocons (con is short for "conservative" and neo is short for "Jewish")

This is not the first time I've seen the argument that liberals' distaste for the war is suspect because there is anti-Semitism among some on the left. But I usually see it in fringe web sites like Horsefeathers, not an intelligent paper like the Times, one with editors... Brooks' column basically pursues a straw man argument in highlighting the views of extremists and using that to discount the honest disagreement that could exist about the war in Iraq. The implication is almost that if you're against the war you're an anti-Semite.

One of his other threads is that the people who promoted the war, while Jews, are of too little influence for any reasonable person to even point to them as having had any effect. About Richard Perle, he writes:

There have been hundreds of references, for example, to Richard Perle's insidious power over administration policy, but I've been told by senior administration officials that he has had no significant meetings with Bush or Cheney since they assumed office. If he's shaping their decisions, he must be microwaving his ideas into their fillings.

Surprisingly, Brooks has forgotten that Perle is capable of writing memos, that Perle sits on a Department of Defense committee for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld (used to chair it, by gum, until a scandal forced him to give up the chair [but not membership]), and that Defense Secretary Rumsfeld has had meetings with Bush — and probably conveyed Perle's opinions.

A third tactic Brooks used to discount criticisms has to do with a 90's think tank:

The full-mooners fixated on a think tank called the Project for the New American Century, which has a staff of five and issues memos on foreign policy. To hear these people describe it, PNAC is sort of a Yiddish Trilateral Commission, the nexus of the sprawling neocon tentacles.

Brooks has conveniently forgotten that those involved were more than a staff of five... A 1997 statement of principles on their web site was signed by 25 politicos... Take a look at the signers: among them are Rumsfeld, current Vice President Dick Cheney, and the President's brother Jeb. Naaaah, this group probably had no influence whatsoever.

I'm a day late to comment on this, but the above were my immediate reactions when I read the column yesterday. Fortunately, other writers with far greater readership criticized it immediately. I recommend Josh Marshall and the Daily Howler. Also, for what it's worth, Brooks took a similar line last February on a prior gig.
Link 4:02 PM

Moveon.org's 15 finalists for the 30- second commercial can be found here. My personal favorite was "What Are We Teaching Our Children?"
Link 9:41 AM

An autograph, please, while you're dying? The Staten Island doctor who treated George Harrison in his hospital bed is being sued by Harrison's estate: privacy abuse and so on. He is alleged to have brought his family in to visit Harrison, had his son play and sing for Harrison, and coerced Harrison to sign the son's guitar. Eccch.
Link 8:26 AM

If politicians can't help being stupid, can't they hire people who will save them from themselves? Hillary Clinton has apologized for her lame joke about Gandhi. It was offensive, and should never have happened.
Link 8:15 AM

January 6, 2004:

Amazing! This is what I call a severance package: it includes Barbie dolls!
Link 11:30 AM

Happy Little Christmas to you. We three kings of orient are strumming an acoustic guitar. We're also taking down decorations today.

A little more, belatedly, about the efforts to move the New Jersey Nets to Brooklyn can be found here. Fortunately, the developer understands the role of the entertainment concept well enough to know that it wouldn't be appropriate to use Liberty Bonds to fund the site. And this item mentions that the eminent domain will supposedly move 1,000 families out.
Link 11:09 AM

January 5, 2004:

What do you call... a 59-year old man in an unfamiliar city who tries to chase down a much younger purse snatcher? A snatcher who might, shall we say, be armed, and shoot you? A fool, I think. A lucky fool. Thank the Lord he's alright, Ray Davies is one of my favorite songwriters.
Link 10:26 PM

The idyllic weather we've had of late is ending, and a cold front is moving in. Like many cold fronts, it's being preceded by rain, and I was surprised to see that some ground is already so saturated that the dirt around a neighboring tree was covered in water. A great time to listen to Bessie Smith's "Standing in the Rain Blues":

Standing in the rain and ain't a drop fell on me
Standing in the rain and ain't a drop fell on me
My clothes is all wet but my flesh is as dry as can be.

It can rain all day, I ain't got no place to go
It can rain all day, I ain't got no place to go
Because it's cold outside in that ice and snow.

If it rains five days, that won't give me no blues
If it rains five days, that won't give me no blues
I've got my raincoat and hat, umbrella, boots and shoes.

Rain, rain rain don't rain on me all day
Rain, rain rain don't rain on me all day
'Cos if I get too wet I've got to go into the house and stay.

Even Bessie doesn't seem to be too badly off, though she wails with a melancholy nonetheless. And yeah, I'm grateful for my boots, too.
Link 10:23 AM

Mark Steyn bristles at the constant use of "alleged" when dealing with accused war criminals such as Milosevic. Why does Steyn hate the ideals of justice so much that he draws conclusions before the defense has even begun? Does he hate the principles under which America was founded?
Link 9:48 AM

It's too, too common. Andrew Sullivan goes a' Times bashing (see "Okrent Punts") and again misses an opportunity to identify a newspaper which is consistently better than the New York Times. I guess that would take both too much work and a committed point of view, or something, but Sullivan, like many others, would rather merely harp. I'm sure he can't do without the New York Times since he reads it so regularly, but you would never know that from the rare praise.
Link 8:44 AM

January 3, 2003 2004:

You can't even trust "The Onion." This week's Onion ran an article about a restaurant worker in Gainesville FL who was pleased to get a new mop head. The article said he works at "Hamilton's Bar & Grill." Being an alum of the University of Florida, I was naturally intrigued... But you know something? The place doesn't exist. That's right: they made it up. They lied to us.
Link 7:21 PM

January 2, 2003 2004:

Belated Christmas round-up. It shouldn't have surprised anyone that there were no posts here between Christmas and New Year's — I'm not a blogger who feels a responsibility to post daily, and well, there were other things to do. But here's a belated rundown on our Christmas...

As usual, we didn't attend any church services, but we did go through the nativity passage in Luke. The Kid Unit was pleased with many of the gifts, most notably a contraption called AstroJax, three spheres on a cord which can be spun around in a satellite fashion. There was also considerable pleasure over two new Asterix comics, but unfortunately less pleasure over an Asterix DVD we picked up from a Canadian merchant. We knew it was all in French and wouldn't have any English subtitles, but expected it would have the same French subtitles (for the hearing impaired) we'd seen on a copy in Belgium last summer; but it had no subtitles at all. So, our intentions of using the DVD to improve French language skills will be more difficult to fulfill. Other hits included a camera that tints the picture with colored filters and one of those electric lightning globes.

My wife was pleased with a couple Shakespearean DVDs, a new robe, and a painting from our child. My loot included sundry cooking items, the Two Towers extended DVD, and a pair of walkie talkies.

Beyond the loot, we served a brunch to several family members: Ab's two siblings, her Mom, and a visiting brother of mine. I think there were a half dozen different items served, none of which was overly complex. But to make it special for the Kid Unit, we included apple fritters on the menu, and while they are not difficult, they do make a mess. (Serving brunch rather than a dinner made it easier to fly out to Jacksonville the next morning.)
Link 12:13 PM

January 1, 2003 2004:

There goes WHAT neighborhood?!? A local developer is trying to woo the New Jersey Nets into moving to Prospect Heights (Brooklyn), which would mean condemning and demolishing buildings in order to allow for a new arena to be built. I'm usually against municipalities bending over backwards to attract sports franchises, but some people may be overly upset about the demolition. Here's a post from another blogger showing the area which is likely to be affected; if correct, this is not a big deal. Some of these buildings are so poorly maintained, their sides have obsolete ads for a rotisserie chicken place which closed about ten years ago...
Link 8:08 PM

I don't want you think I'm flippant about the idea of self-improvement through New Year's resolutions, an understandable interpretation of the post below. I just happen to disagree with the idea of paying greater attention to the process on December 31 than at other points in the year (why wait to confront a problem?), and even if I did make deep, valuable New Year's resolutions, I don't think I would broadcast them in this space. Sorry.
Link 5:47 PM

I'm a little late in developing the New Year's resolutions, but I think I have a reasonable excuse. From Dec 26 to Dec 30 we were in Jacksonville, visiting relatives, and I didn't have enough opportunity to think about how I am in my normal environment to come up with relevant resolutions. Sure, I could have resolved to be come better at wiring my father-in-law's home theater, but since that was a one-shot behavior, what would be the use? But today, on our normal turf, I came up with three biggies. One, work harder on the united front thing with my wife when dealing with the Kid Unit; two, use the library more often instead of buying new books (which we don't have room for anyway); and three, when the Gators are being blown out, just turn the television off. (The weight thing, by the way, continues to go okay. I've lost about 25 pounds on Atkins in five months, and though I lost little during December, December is a tough month.)
Link 5:36 PM

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