Saturday, March 12, 2005

Unbearable Manliness of Being 

Arts & Letters showcases Harvey Mansfield's essay, which is titled "The manliness of Theodore Roosevelt". In it, Mansfield (a Harvard Professor of Government) states:

Thus, according to TR, manliness is in the main a construction, an individual construction of one's own will-power. To make the construction, a man should engage in "the manly art of self-defense" against other men, but he should also seek encounters with nature in the form of dangerous animals. He must hunt. "Teddy" got his nickname from all the bears he shot, all the cubs he made orphans.

Not so fast my friend! TR despised the nickname "Teddie", which actually became associated with a bear he refused to shoot, not from the ones he had killed. The famous "Teddy Bear" story occurred on a Presidential hunting trip. In Rising Tide, John Barry graphically depicts the scene, which occurred near the (disputed) river border of Mississippi and Louisiana. Many powerful men were on the trip. John Parker, a rich New Orleans businessman and future governor, was one of them. He had organized the affair for Roosevelt. A former slave named Holt Collier functioned as the guide:

The hunt itself was brutal and intimate. The dogs cornered the first bear in a lagoon surrounded by tall cane; there the bear stood at bay. Collier and Parker found it there and wanted Roosevelt to have the first kill. So Collier roped the bear to prevent its escape. Then Roosevelt arrived. He refused to shoot it. Parker also disdained a distant kill, instead circling behind the bear as dogs leaped at its front, then ramming his hunting knife under the bear's ribs and into its heart. It was November and crisp. Parker stood there, his chest heaving, his hands dripping blood, his boots covered with mud, as the bear died. (Rising Tide footnote: A Washinton Post cartoonist portrayed the president refusing to shoot a cute bear cub. It became "Teddy's bear.")

Earlier, I wanted to tackle all the enormous topics in Mansfield's essay, using his historical misstep as a (forgive me) "synecdoche" for his larger philosophical oversimplifications. But, in a most unmanly fashion, I didn't wish to expend the time or energy on such a project. I'm not in grad school anymore, and after enjoying the St. Patrick's parade this afternoon I'm now too full of green beer and soda bread to engage my diminished critical faculties.

So, I'll just serve up some humorous middle-brow sarcasm and leave it at that. Deal?

1.) Mansfield apparently disagrees with my belief that furnishing a room with the Hemingway Collection can instill manliness. Mansfield contends that "physical activity" and "effort" must be involved. Well, that's crazy talk. Obviously he hasn't slept in the Kiliminjaro Bed, which is almost like climbing the mountain itself-- only without the risk of smelly gangrene.

2.) While I applaud authentic cowboys who leave the ranch to sing or govern, they still do not rate a ten on the manly scale of absolute gender like General J.C. Christian.

3.) Thank goodness America had a leader like Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War, and the Allies had a genius like Alan Turing during World War II. Dare we consider how world-history might have unfolded if Lincoln and Turing had been afflicted with unmanly "lavender streaks"?


Update: In an article on Bush's transparent attempt to seem more intellectual, NYT has a quick run-down on Mansfield, saying "Mr. Mansfield - a professor of government at Harvard and a translator of Machiavelli - is a well-known conservative who has shaped the thinking of a conservative generation, including William Kristol, the editor of The Weekly Standard, and former Vice President Dan Quayle." The article also asserts that Bush quoted Camus while he was overseas. I'm going to have to find that one.
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Friday, March 11, 2005

Today we do it Billmon stylie! 

"We distinguish ourselves from our enemies by our treatment of our enemies." (John McCain, WSJ 6/1/04)

A boy no older than 11 was among the children held by the Army at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, the former U.S. commander of the facility told a general investigating abuses at the prison.
[A] soldier said in January 2004 that troops poured water and smeared mud on the detained 17-year-old son of an Iraqi general and "broke" the general by letting him watch his son shiver in the cold. (AP 3/11/05)

"We have met the enemy and he is us."

(Quote is from Walt Kelly's classic comic character Pogo. The original context is Pogo's concern for his trashed swamp-home near the Mississippi River bayous. Pogo realizes that the very ones living in the bayous were also destroying them. The famous phrase is a play on U.S. Admiral Oliver Perry's famous report during the War of 1812: "We have met the enemy and he is ours.")
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Gimme Shelter! 

Hearty applause and congratulations to Shannon who just completed post-production on a horror feature called "Rise of the Undead". (Original title was Shelter: A Monster Movie). Go to Shannon's site and tell him "nice job". Also, you may want to give him pointers on how to properly "gloat". He doesn't do it very well.

April 26th is the release date. Visit the always interesting Blacksundae for more information and links.
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"Worst house fire in state's history" 

Just horrible. From the front page story of today's Times-Picayune, accompanied with pictures of the kids:

A candle lighted by a family spending its first night in a Marrero townhouse ignited a fire early Thursday that killed 11 people, including eight children, in what authorities believe is one of the deadliest residential fires in Louisiana history.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to all the friends and relatives of the Wilson family.

Update: Here's a few more tragic details from the article.

Shortly before 5 a.m., chaos erupted inside and outside the three-bedroom Marrero townhouse, according to survivors, neighbors and officials.

Ireone Wilson said she awoke to see her uncle, George Wilson, pushing a burning mattress down the hallway. She said she followed him to the front staircase, then helped tip the flaming, smoking mattress toward the first-story landing.

But the mattress became wedged in the narrow staircase and became a blockade for fleeing family members, Lee said.

A witness said he ran to the scene and saw Sabrina Wilson, who was inside the townhouse, pleading with her children to jump from the upstairs window.

The child "said he was too scared and didn't want to," recalled Corey Spears, 12, who lives on a nearby street. "All we saw was smoke coming out of the house."

It's difficult to imagine how awful that scene must've been.
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Cultivate the Gift-giving virtue 

My gift to New Orleans and Louisiana has been revealed over at New Orleans Metblog. All area entrepreneurs should go have a look at my money-making idea, offered free of charge. Also, if you have a good idea that you're not pursuing but would like to share, I encourage you to go over to N.O. Metblog and describe it in the comments. (Now, I would hope your contribution would be more-or-less "animal friendly", but I'm flexible-- especially when it comes to food).

And don't be afraid to think big, either. Who knows, your idea might become the hottest thing since P-Diddy gathered some young sluts singers together to form the supergroup Dream.

Speaking of big-time talent, dozens of people came out last night to see Paul Westerberg perform at the House of Blues. Lovely and I had a fun time, and Paul performed two excellent encores. True fans like Arvin could better assess the rest of the show, which didn't overwhelm me.

(h/t to TBogg for "save toby")
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Thursday, March 10, 2005

I feel like Spicoli: "Awesome! Totally Awesome!!! Alright Holbo!" 

John Holbo has written a sparkling, beautiful post chock-full of splendiferous insights and quotes. Go to Crooked Timber immediately and read his post "When Whigs Attack!" in its entirety. Then read the links, and then read the whole thing over again, savoring each delicious word and phrase. If it's not the best use of your blog-surfing time, I don't know what is.

Seriously: Post of the year, easy-peasy. It's that effing good. Obviously I've quickly become a huge fan of John Holbo. Many thanks to Eric for showing me the way. What a great discovery. Below are some selections from Holbo's "Whig" post which I know I'll return to in the weeks and months ahead. [Do not consider this a substitute for reading the whole thing!] Plus below that I'll add some other (related) worthwhile stuff.

Holbo, quoting Louis Hartz:

"In politics men who make speeches do not go out of their way to explain how differently they would speak if the enemies they had were larger in size or different in character. On the contrary whatever enemies they fight they paint in satanic terms, so that a problem sufficiently difficult to begin with in a liberal society becomes complicated further by the inevitable perspectives of political battle."

This implies double cluelessness, through narcissism of small differences. When you get angry at your enemies - and you will - you need some sufficiently pungent philosophical vocabulary to function as vent and vehicle for your excess of affect. Unfortunately, your enemy shares your major Lockean premises. So you hallucinate it is otherwise. (To use Hartz' terms) whiggish liberals accuse democratic liberals of being socialists (or, latterly, communists; more lately, Islamofascists and traitors); democratic liberals accuse whiggish liberals of being aristocrats (or fascists.)
Of course - being a democrat, not a whig - I am most offended by the right's recent indulgence in kneejerk pee wee hermeneutics of suspicion... Blah blah. It's a form of motivated irrationality - a tactical deployment of stupidity, shutting down inconvenient conversations; it has its psychic satisfactions, I'm sure. But just as the best laid plans that start with 'first I'll get falling down drunk' oft go astray, so tactical stupidity tends to turn strategic. Stupidity, like hope, is not a plan. (Like beer goggles: smear goggles. When you wear them, you can't tell the difference between Matthew Yglesias and a shoe bomber.)

"Pee Wee hermeneutics of suspicion"... "smear goggles"... Holbo was dealing the locutions that day! Crackin' good shots, mate.

Now, you must not neglect to read the Timothy Burke link at the end of Holbo's post. The finale is... strong.

If there is anyone who ought to be deeply, gravely concerned about unwarranted shootings at checkpoints, accidental deaths of civilians, torture in US prisons, killings of surrendered prisoners, it's the advocates of the war, at least the ones who believe in the Wolfowitz vision as it is represented by Brooks, Hitchens and others. They ought to be concerned for very functional reasons, because failures of these kinds are effectively losses on the battlefield as grave and serious as Bull Run or Gazala. They ought to be concerned also for philosophical reasons, the same way I would be concerned if the police started busting down the doors in my own neighborhood for what seemed flimsy reasons and then hauling away some of my neighbors without any real due process.

Wolfowitz and his defenders want to convince us that humanity is united by its universal thirst for liberal democratic freedoms, well then, how can they possibly fail to react to injustice or error in Iraq with anything less than the grave and persistent concern they might exhibit in a domestic US context? Where's the genuine regret, the mourning, the persistent and authentic sympathy?
The Wolfowitzian defenders of the war want to skip Go and collect $200.00 on this one, go straight to the day two centuries hence when the innocent dead recede safely into the bloody haze of anonymous tragedy. Sorry, but this is not on offer, least of all for them. If they can't find the time, emotion and intellectual rigor to be as consumed by the case of a blameless mother and father turned into gore and sprayed on their children as they are by what Sean Penn had to say about the war last week, then their entire argument about the war is nothing more than the high-minded veneer of a more bestial and reasonless fury.

Ouch. Like hot coffee in the face.

In regards to all checkpoint/Sgrena debates, everyone involved should begin by reading this highly informative CSM article titled "What Iraq's checkpoints are like".

The essential problem with checkpoints is that the Americans don't know if the Iraqis are "friendlies" or not, and the Iraqis don't know what the Americans want them to do.

Why don't Iraqis (and others) know what to do? Read the article. Then you may carry on.
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I would never mention Lindsey Lohan's big cans to get attention 

Jeezm Petes! Murph flags a new N.O. blog that dishes on Lindsey Lohan, and in short order Defamer picks it up and now the "Dapper Danger" blog has more hits in a day than I ever got at YRHT (not that I care about such trivial issues)....

But speaking of Lindsey's breasts, I mean, like she said, they just came in a year and a half ago-- of course they look great! Can we get over them already?

"Not yet", you say? Alright, well, let me know.

Actually Dapper Danger is entertaining and deserves some fame. A recent post of his lists some of the networking groups at Tulane. One calls itself "People Against Excessive Napoleon Dynamite Quotes". I should join that one, since my wife Lovely has gone way overboard in doing Napoleon impressions at every opportunity. And then, like a retard "friggin' idiot", I blindly introduced her to the movie soundboard where she could practice and broaden her skill set. Now she's "pretty good with a bowstaff", if ya catch my drift.

Impressions done to excess are not so fun; especially for a captive audience. Clearly, though, a single well-placed reference (like in a classic post title) is very cool and "with it". Clearly.

There's also a Tulane group meeting under the name "Get Rich Schemes Don't Work Because They're Grammatically Incorrect". Screw that. I'm hosting an online event tomorrow for all those entrepreneurial spirits in New Orleans who refuse to let things like grammar get in the way of the big big big money. Please join me tomorrow morning at Metroblog New Orleans for a possibly life-altering exchange of ideas.

So the wife and I will be out HOBnobbin tonight with some guy named Paul Westerberg whom Lovely adores. Whatever. I'm just thrilled to be outta the house. You could replace Westerberg with Testaverde and I'd be just as happy. Perhaps more so, after reading the music-review homework Jeffrey assigned me.

By the way, Jeffrey (from the excellent Library Chronicles) might be in jail right now. Last fall, he allegedly ran a stop sign and then yesterday he carelessly defied the New Orleans courts. Yikes. He could very well be in serious trouble as we speak. Could someone volunteer to paint "Save Ferris Jeffrey" on the nearest water tower, should the need arise?

It's extremely stupid to ignore stop signs, even if you're rushing to a party. Horrible tragedies could occur. Boyfriends could die. Just ask the First Lady.
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Wednesday, March 09, 2005

"He who will not economize will have to agonize." 

Here's Dean Baker's commentary on a Washington Post article titled "China's Quiet Rise Casts Wide Shadow" (my incredulous emphases):

This article discusses the growing influence of China across East Asia. The article hugely understates China's GDP. It reports that China's GDP is $1.4 trillion, which is describes as much smaller than the size of Japan's economy. This figure is a currency conversion measure of GDP. Most economists would use a purchasing power measure of GDP to assess the size of a country's economy. By this measure, China's GDP is over $6 trillion, making it by far the second largest economy in the world [!]. According to World Bank growth projections, China will pass the United States as the largest economy in the world in a decade[!!].

China will pass us in a motherscratchin' DECADE?!? I mean Chreezus! What the hell is going on?! A decade ain't that far off, pilgrims-- shouldn't that be a tad bit worrisome to all those apologists for American "exceptionalism"?

What a sad f*cking day indeed if/when American troops return home from some costly, godforsaken overseas misadventure to find their homeland is no longer the #1 economy in the world.

Before it's too late: someone tell the Veep to go Cheney himself with the Laffer curve. Someone else toss a Keynesian hairdryer into Grover Norquist's supply-side bathtub. A third person can instruct Stephen Moore on how to pronounce "Xie Xie" [thank you], and a fourth can break the news to John Snow that he's a talentless shill who is only good for dutifully shovelling coal into the Bush administration's ideological steam engine. (If you insist on one-track minds, who better than a railroad man?).

Should we even try to convince Chimpy that he might be wrong? Who could possibly do it (besides Rove)? Perhaps the ghost of Ronald Reagan. Yes, that might work.

RR: I've said that "As government expands, liberty contracts." But your administration is spending nearly 40% more than Clinton did in 2000. Your prescription drug entitlement was the largest expansion of the welfare state since Lyndon Johnson. And you even threatened to veto a spending decrease.

Dub: I did what now?

RR: You've spent like a drunken Guardsmen while recklessly cutting taxes and going to war. Now there's red ink as far as the eye can see. What are you going to tell the public when the bond market snaps like a matchstick, and interest rates pop the credit bubble?

Dub: Uhm... that freedom isn't free?

RR: No, remember: by my formula your expansion of government has diminished liberty more than any Democratic measure since LBJ... So can that silly freedom rhetoric.

Actually, though, I think you're doing a great job!

Dub: Huh?

RR: Sure. Keep spending and ignore the rest! That's what real conservatives do! Dump all the problems on to your brother like I did to your dad. Let them catch all the blame.

(smiling pause)

Well, I better get going. Just in time, it looks like. Those Chinamen are on the march!

Dub: But...

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Tuesday, March 08, 2005

What's your catch phrase? 

Alright, I'm compelled to report an alarming increase in TBogg's use of the phrase "carry on". TBogg plainly got that from the coolest gray-haired gay dude on TV (no, not him)-- I'm talking about Tim Gunn from Project Runway. Two of Gunn's signature catch phrases are "carry on" and "make it work". And we will note that when he says them in his signature manner, they become addictively cool. So fess up, TBogg, and give Gunn credit. [My personal catch phrase is "peace it", which means "quiet" or "shut up" and is accompanied by a hand gesture. I also say "Ni-ice" in kind of a sing-song fashion that my friends love to hate but can't help adopting despite themselves... tee hee.]

Oh, also, a couple months ago I wrote a post on the Great Flood of 1927 despite not having read Rising Tide by New Orleanian John Barry (which I promised to do ASAP). Well, I read his book on the flu first and am now reading Tide. Just in time, too, because New Orleans is having the mother-of-all book events. The Gambit has a special section with a schedule of book related events that extends over a month. There's everything from lectures to signings to historical re-enactments to panel discussions on Flood Preparation and Coastal Erosion. So pick up a copy of Rising Tide and then visit the official website for more news:
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Monday, March 07, 2005

The Oracle predicts a "Sharecropper's Society" 

From the Financial Times:

Mr [Warren] Buffett stepped up his warning about the US trade deficit and the need to finance it with foreign investment, devoting more than two full pages of the annual report to the topic.

"This force-feeding of American wealth to the rest of the world is now proceeding at the rate of $1.8bn daily, an increase of 20 per cent since I wrote you last year," he said. "Consequently, other countries and their citizens now own a net of about $3,000bn of the US"

In particular, he warned that this meant a sizeable portion of what US citizens earned in future would have to be paid to foreign landlords.

"A country that is now aspiring to an 'Ownership Society' will not find happiness in -- and I'll use hyperbole here for emphasis-- a 'Sharecropper's Society,'" added Mr Buffett. 'But that's precisely where our trade policies, supported by Republicans and Democrats alike, are taking us."
"My hope was to make several multi-billion dollar acquisitions that would add new and significant streams of earnings to the many we already have. But I struck out," he said "Additionally, I found very few attractive securities to buy. Berkshire therefore ended the year with $43 billion of cash equivalents, not a happy position."

Do you think "sharecropper" is too hyperbolic? Well ok, perhaps. How about "perpetual servant class", then, courtesy of Congress' BK killers? Republican Jesus approves.

I'm sorry, you say "servant class" is still too shrill? ... Have you considered that it might depend on who is doing the serving? Remember Santorum's bill next time you go out to eat in New Orleans.
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Keep your French Taxes away from my Freedom Fries! 

No matter what John Breaux and the rest of the President's Advisory Panel on Federal Tax Reform end up recommending, I'm calling it the "French Tax".

Consumption tax, sales tax, Value Added Tax... whatever, doesn't matter. They use it in France, so we'll designate it the French Tax.

"What do you think of this national [30%] sales tax idea?"

"Like the French have? Naw, I prefer we keep things the same if that's the alternative."

You may find it a bit distasteful, but it's a winner. Make Republicans defend the French Tax.
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I'd like a large Supreme pizza, hold the proselytizing. 

In his typically excellent way, local columnist James Gill asks what would Jesus say about the Tangipahoa Parish School Board's appeal against U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan's ruling that it cannot open its public meetings with a prayer. Gill takes the radical step of actually citing scripture to these devout holy warriors:

So WWJD? It is not necessary to conjecture what his views might be on the separation of church and state, because he thought that praying in public was for "hypocrites."

He instructed, "When thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou has shut the door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly."

Good show, sir! Jolly well done. And we could've all called it a day after that had we not noticed this puzzling little aside at the end of his column:

Public prayer is by no means the worst offense committed by the Tangipahoa School Board, which a few years ago wanted to paste a leaf in textbooks warning students that evolution lessons were "not intended to influence or dissuade the biblical version of Creation." The board went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in futile defense of that illiterate sentence.

Another feature of education in Tangipahoa, since abandoned, was the pizza minister. He was allowed to visit schools, dispensing pepperoni and religion, until the ACLU filed suit and the board backed off.

Pizza... minister? Visiting public schools?!? Huh?

Apparently, yes. "The [ACLU] suit arose out of the regular appearance of Steve Farmer, a youth minister with Face It Ministries, at lunch time meetings where he supplied free pizza and preached to the students."

Norbizness shows us why Austin is still weird, even weirder than Tangipahoa parish.
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