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  • Archive for February, 2004

    Photo

    Posted by Jonathan on 29th February 2004 (All posts by )

    easier than real painting

    Posted in Photos | 9 Comments »

    Daniel J. Boorstin, 1914-2004

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 29th February 2004 (All posts by )

    A Chicago Boy has passed. Author of The Americans (The Colonial Experience; The National Experience; The Democratic Experience), The Discoverers, The Creators, and The Seekers, among others; Professor in History, 1944-64, and Preston and Sterling Morton Distinguished Service Professor, 1964-69; and Librarian of Congress from 1975-1987. WaPo obit here; USAToday obit here. Requiescat in pace.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

    Talk about bleeding edge

    Posted by In-Cog-Nito on 27th February 2004 (All posts by )

    Mrs. Nito and I will be having our first baby soon. In anticipation, I’m in the market for a camcorder and a DVD recorder to record everything.

    I found this little wonder via Gotapex.com: Tivo and DVD recorder mixed into one. If I’m not mistaken, this pretty much makes you the coolest kid on the block. Anyone with opinions one way or other on DVD recorders and/or PVR-DVDR combos?

    Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

    Phenomenal

    Posted by In-Cog-Nito on 26th February 2004 (All posts by )

    Funny article about Lou Dobb’s “Exporting America” companies. If you had invested in all the companies listed, you would have returned 72% for the past year.

    (Thanks to Don Luskin for the link)

    Posted in Uncategorized | 20 Comments »

    Political Benchmarks

    Posted by Jonathan on 26th February 2004 (All posts by )

    One problem with political campaigns is a lot like a problem with mutual-fund performance measurement: it’s common practice only to compare candidates against the competition rather than versus absolute standards. So a mutual fund that loses money for customers may be called good if it loses less money than other funds do, or less than do market indices like the S&P 500.

    Similarly, journalists often seem more interested in the competitive aspects of campaigns than they do in substantial questions about candidates’ characters and ideas.

    I can understand this selective performance-framing when it’s done by fund companies, because they want to show their products in the best light possible. I can even understand why some financial journalists follow the same line to avoid discussing funds’ absolute rates of return or alternative investments. The publications these journos work for usually accept fund advertising, after all.

    But why do political journalists who are unaffiliated with the campaigns they cover do it? Why do they so often ask Candidate X only about how his positions compare to those of Candidate Y, and not about the intellectual and moral justifications for those positions? A good example of this was the treatment that journos, even some politically conservative op-ed writers, gave to Senator Lieberman. They tended to treat him as an honorable conservative because he supports the war and has reasonable (as they see it) positions on a number of issues.

    But Lieberman is also the guy who, as Al Gore’s VP candidate in 2000, repudiated his earlier conservative positions (on school choice, racial preferences, etc.) and began parroting the Demo Left’s party line. His doing so clearly had nothing to do with principle and everything to do with opportunism.

    And now that the national mood, particularly on defense, has shifted in a more conservative direction, Lieberman (before he dropped out of the race) was again sounding like one of the most conservative Democrats. Yet journalists by and large ignored his troubling inconsistency — that’s the nicest term for it — and concentrated instead on his standing in the horse race.

    I don’t mean to single out Lieberman; most of the other presidential candidates are worse (I rate Bush higher because of his competent war leadership — an empirical fact, IMO — as well as his relative consistency and more libertarian orientation). My question is why we should take seriously evaluations of presidential candidates that are typically framed exclusively in terms of other candidates. To be blunt about it, by any normal standard most of these guys are liars and phonies. But it’s one thing to say that X is less bad than A, B and C (which is how most voters probably think about it), and quite another to pretend, as the press so often does, that candidates like Sharpton and Dean, much less Lieberman, can be taken seriously on their personal and intellectual merits.

    (Robert Samuelson’s discussion of press complicity in dishonest political arguments is worth reading in this regard.)

    Posted in Politics | 4 Comments »

    Quick reads

    Posted by In-Cog-Nito on 26th February 2004 (All posts by )

    Good articles by Pat Buchanan and Ann Coulter

    Good counter point by Larry Kudlow

    Posted in Economics & Finance | 9 Comments »

    Be Careful Selecting An Email Address

    Posted by Jonathan on 25th February 2004 (All posts by )

    This post by Dan Gillmor contains a remark about spammers using non-existent return addresses that reminded me of something I learned from experience. Big-ISP email addresses that consist of short letter combinations are subject to use as phony return addresses on spam messages. (They are also subject to receiving spam generated by bots that spam all addresses from “aaa@xxx.com” to “zzz@xxx.com”.) One of my email addresses is “xxx@bigISP.com”, where “xxx” is a meaningless three-letter combination that I invented for reasons that don’t matter here. I rarely send mail from this address, yet it receive lots of spam. And from time to time I receive waves of bounced messages in which my address appears in the “reply to” field — IOW, a spammer forged my email address in his messages, and now, out of the thousands of unsolicited messages that he sent, the ones to bad addresses or full mailboxes get bounced to me. I’m sure that many of us have had similar experiences. Maybe the way to minimize this sort of thing is to use one’s own domain for one’s main email address. There may also be some value in making sure that the part of one’s email address that’s on the left of the “@” sign isn’t too short.

    Posted in Tech | 6 Comments »

    The Unknown War

    Posted by Lexington Green on 24th February 2004 (All posts by )

    Jonathan sent me this post from Jim Miller’s blog. Miller discusses a very good NYTimes article entitled “A Job for Rewrite: Stalin’s War.” Miller, and the NYTimes note the incredible fact that the military disaster known as Operation Mars is barely known in the West. The NYTimes gives particular credit to Col. David M. Glantz for bringing the murky history of the Soviet Side of World War II to light. I have read several of Col. Glantz’s books. (e.g. this one and this one and this one.) He is the master in English of the Soviet war effort. Mars was a colossal disaster — the Red Army lost more men in a few weeks than the USA lost in the entire war. The fact that the Mars defeat could be totally erased from history shows what type of regime Communist Russia really was: monolithic, Orwellian, a pyramid of corpses and lies.

    Glantz’s main lesson is that the Red Army was not a blunt instrument — it got better and better as the war went on. It didn’t just bleed all over the Germans, it learned its lessons from them, then turned around and treated the Wehrmacht to fiercer blitzkriegs than it had ever dished out itself. My adolescent belief that “Patton could have pushed them back to Moscow” has been amply demonstrated in the ensuing years to be utter fancy. Glantz’s books prove the immense skill and quality attained by the Red Army by the end of the war. Again, I will ride my hobby horse and praise Franklin Roosevelt, our third greatest president. FDR was, as usual, right in how he handled the end of World War II: grab as much as you can, cut the best deal you can, bullshit the Russians, and lie low. Compared to the Red Army of 1945, what the Americans and British Commonwealth had on the ground was totally inadequate. FDR seemed to be better aware of that than some of his own generals. The idea of even the up-gunned Sherman and a handful of the new Pershings, with their 90mm guns, could have gone up against armadas of T-34-85s and Stalin IIs with their 122mm gun does not bear thinking about. And by the time the Allies and the Red Army had come into contact, the Soviets were just introducing the Stalin III, which to this day looks futuristic. Our people would have been eaten alive. The Red Army would have been on the English Channel. We got out of World War II very well indeed, with the best half of Europe in our hands, and virtually all of the fighting and dying having been done by the Russians. Anyway, that is all make believe stuff. The Japanese were still not beaten, they were fighting like tigers, no one knew if the atom bomb would work, and no rational person on the American side was seriously contemplating taking on the Russians.

    Molotov thought FDR was a clever bastard who played his cards very well. He ought to know.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 15 Comments »

    I’m Telling You, It’s Going to be Close

    Posted by Lexington Green on 24th February 2004 (All posts by )

    Dick Morris cites to a recent Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll which shows Dubya in seriously deep doo-doo. Bush’s job approval is at an all-time low of 45%. More importantly, as Morris points out, the public now ranks security concerns fourth in terms of priority, and Dubya is rated way lower than the Democrat on all non-national security issues. In other words, Jane Public trusts the Donks to spend the money on health care, education, etc. Voters are ambivalent about tax cuts. Morris suggests that Bush must talk up the dangers of terrorism, etc. But, that will backfire. Bush has to proclaim that his policies have succeeded, and by doing so, he makes himself less relevant and less desirable as a candidate.

    A victorious war is instantly forgotten by the voting public. The American voter is a tough boss. She only wants to know, “what have you done for me lately.” Past good service counts for nothing. The good news is that Jane Voter has concluded that Iraq was a good idea and that we won. She has also concluded that the Democrats, whatever they say, will carry on following much the same course that Bush has followed. So, for Republicans, the bad news is she now considers the war on terrorism, Iraq, etc. to be essentially resolved as political issues. And with the war effectively over, or at least under control, peacetime issues will dominate. This leaves only bread and butter issues, and the voting public appears to be in a mood where it wants new middle-class entitlements that only the Democrats will provide — like subsidized day care so Mom can work all day. Ambivalence about tax cuts is no surprise. American middle class voters do not like anything which they perceive as benefiting the rich or the poor at their expense. George Stigler had an article about this years ago entitled ” Director’s Law of Public Income Redistribution”, (Journal of Law & Economics, 1970, vol. 13, issue 1, pp. 1-10; not available online) named after U of C economist Aaron Director. Director and Stigler demonstrated that American government policy consistently benefited the middle class at the expense of the rich and the poor. This is contrary to most political rhetoric, but there it is. This is also consistent with Walter Russell Mead’s finding that Jacksonian values have come to permeate the American suburban middle class — and that Jacksonians are “opposed to federal taxes but obstinately fond of federal programs seen as primarily helping the middle class (Social Security and Medicare, mortgage interest subsidies).” And suburban voters trust the Democrats on these issues more than the Republicans. Also, Jacksonians do not much like foreigners, and the immigration and outsourcing issues are going to hurt Bush. I even think calling the invasion of Iraq “Operation Iraqi Liberation” was a mistake. Social work for foreigners does not get you much popularity with the American voting public.

    Dubya seems to be tracking his father, despite his attempts not to. Bush, Sr. won a war and thought that would matter to people months later. It didn’t. It was ancient history by election day ’92. So while it is a long way to election day ’04, I am not yet willing to bet that Dubya won’t get a one way ticket back to Crawford on the same basis — thanks for the war, there’s the door. I’ll only bet on this: Whatever happens, it is going to be close.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 47 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Lexington Green on 23rd February 2004 (All posts by )

    Here is one of the great paradoxes of modernity. The more the world changes, the more important history becomes. A few scholars like to say that the past is a foreign country, but they could not be more mistaken. The past is our country. Our own kin lived there. The memory of what they did is becoming ever more important as part of our lives.

    — David Hackett Fischer (From Washington’s Crossing)

    Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

    Our Future Arsenal

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 23rd February 2004 (All posts by )

    Browsing Chicago BoyzU.S. Air Force Plans for Future War in Space, we find:
    The U.S. Air Force’s proposed Long Range Strike Aircraft (LRSA) will use technologies enabling a rapid global delivery of force from bases located in the continental United States.
    and of course
    Hypervelocity Rod Bundles: Provides the capability to strike ground targets anywhere in the world from space.
    A related item, Small Rockets Hold Big Potential, says:
    Hopes are growing for smaller rockets, which could lift satellites or bombs with a few minutes’ notice, instead of in days or weeks.
    The Air Force is studying how it might use such rockets, which could be ready and, on demand, deliver bombs halfway around the world …
    In other news, genomics is about to get incredibly cheap. Our army of hypervelocity rod bundle-wielding, B-3 bomber-flying (“a transatmospheric vehicle operating at up to Mach 14″) Genghis Khan clones will CONQUER THE WORLD! BuwahahaHAHAHAHAHAHA!

    Note to Jonathan: Please add “World Conquest” to the Primary Category list.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments »

    Photo

    Posted by Jonathan on 23rd February 2004 (All posts by )

    Posted in Photos | 4 Comments »

    The Times Literary Supplement, the European “Mood”

    Posted by Lexington Green on 23rd February 2004 (All posts by )

    Sometimes it is frustrating for an American to look at Europe, or “Europe,” or the EU-as-Europe, and listen to European politicians. When the Yugoslavian civil war started in 1991 Jacques Poos, the Prime Minister of Luxembourg famously said “the hour of Europe has come.” Why did he say this, when everybody knew that there was no “Europe” which could respond to the crisis, there were just a bunch of doddering socialist countries, which had militaries which could not do the work of imposing peace, populated by people who could not tolerate the thought of sending their own sons to impose order at bayonet-point. Yet, he said it. This is how European politicians typically talk. Much of the talk by Villepin and Chirac, Schroeder and Fischer, in the last two years has been of a similar airy-fairy character. They want to speak of abstractions, where the Americans want to know how many tons of cargo and how many armed men they can deliver to a fighting front by air.

    I will switch topics for a moment, but fear not, I’ll orbit back to what is wrong with the Europeans soon enough. I have friend whom I met through my brother in law. He is an older gentleman, retired, extremely well-read, with a large collection of books, and he shares my interest in economic and business history — though he is far more learned than I in the latter area. It is his practice to hand off to my brother in law a few times a year a stack of the weekly TLSs which have piled up in his apartment. This stack eventually makes its way to me. The TLS, for those not familiar with it, is a weekly, tabloid-format publication, which has high quality reviews, often by true experts, on current academic books. There is always something good in any issues of the TLS.

    The other night I was engaged in the pleasant task of reading through this stack. I noticed that John Keegan had a review of a book by one Wolfgang Schivelbusch entitled The Culture of Defeat: On National Trauma, Mourning and Recovery. In the course of a faintly negative review, Keegan notes that “It is not surprising that a book on the moral and social consequences of defeat should be the work of a German.” Keegan then notes that, counting Napoleon’s conquest of Prussia in 1806, “Germany suffered shattering defeat three times in 150 years.” He then gives a very brief sketch of the military and political responses to these defeats, noting that “in 1945 Germany renounced militarism for a consensual and legalistic internationalism” though perhaps “without abandoning its national aim of dominating Europe, if by non-military means.” Keegan then observes of his own historical summary:

    This is a highly pragmatic, English retrospective of modern German history. Wolfgang Schivelbush, being a German intellectual, is not pragmatic. Where the English would look for material reactions to defeat — constitutional change, military reorganization, economic adaptation — he seeks to discern the influence of ideas, movements, myth. To him collective mood is a more significant indicator of the state of a nation than collective activity, shared perception more meaningful than shared programme.

    This German intellectual “anti-pragmatism” has a first cousin in the French approach to public affairs, which will famously reject observable facts as being not possible in theory. This presents a problem for Americans. We are, like Keegan’s prototypical “Englishman,” are interested in concrete, measurable things. The EU is somehow, to the European elite, much more than its observable features, its bureaucratic rules and procedures. It is an idea which is somehow better and more important than anything which it actually is or does.

    Timothy Garton Ash put it very well, in an older (1996) but still valuable speech entitled “Is Europe Becoming Europe?”:

    I refer of course to “Europe” as an idea and an ideal, a dream, a vision, a grand design. To those idealistic and teleological visions of Europe as project, process, progress towards some finalité européen: visions and ideas which at once inform and legitimate, and are themselves informed and legitimated by, the political development of something now called the European Union. And of course, the very name “European Union” is itself a product of this approach. A Union is what it’s meant to be, not what it is.

    This idea of Europe is part of a “shared mood” which Keegan refers to. Recent American conduct is offensive to that mood. The substantively meaningless Kyoto Accord is similar. It was not capable of being enacted into law, let alone put into operation or enforced. It was part of a certain mood of feigned seriousness about “climate change.” Bush’s unapologetic rejection of the thing has driven many people to distraction. He broke the mood. They want to play make believe, while Bush and his team think there are more urgent matters at stake. That is unfortunate, but it is not going to change any time soon, if Bush is reelected.

    (I see also in the TLS that a new translation has appeared of Ernst Junger’s Storm of Steel (trans. Michael Hoffman). This astonishing book must be read if one is to make any sense of what happened in the 20th Century. Perhaps I’ll elaborate on this at some point.)

    Posted in Uncategorized | 15 Comments »

    Nader Won’t Make A Decisive Difference

    Posted by Jonathan on 22nd February 2004 (All posts by )

    Ralph Nader announced his latest run for the presidency, amid press hoopla. I doubt that he’ll have a decisive effect this time. The reason? Everybody knows, in retrospect, that Nader’s participation in 2000 killed Gore’s chances. Given the intensity of anti-Bush feeling among the Democratic Left, Democratic voters are unlikely to chance a repeat of the 2000 experience (just as many Republicans and independents who had voted for Perot in 1992 were unreceptive to conservative and libertarian third-party candidates in 2000).

    Not everyone learns from his mistakes, but most people do if the consequences are important enough. There’s no reason to expect Democratic voters to ignore history and plunge off the same cliff twice.

    UPDATE: Jim Miller makes a different and more sophisticated argument that reaches the same conclusion about Nader as I did. However, Miller goes further and argues that Nader may not even have been decisive in 2000.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 12 Comments »

    What’s With Drudge?

    Posted by Jonathan on 22nd February 2004 (All posts by )

    This morning he’s got a headline about the death of the president’s dog but nothing about a Jerusalem terror bombing that killed and wounded many people. Is Drudge taking the day off or are terror attacks in Israel so common as no longer to be news?

    Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Lexington Green on 21st February 2004 (All posts by )

    “The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past.”

    — William Faulkner

    Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

    E-Mail Tirade About Bush, etc.

    Posted by Lexington Green on 21st February 2004 (All posts by )

    I got an email a few days ago from my friend Dave. He’s a Lefty who lives in England, but he supported the war, as he supported the Bosnian intervention, since he thinks it is the liberal thing to do to depose horrible dictators. An old-fashioned view on the Left these days, but one which provides some common ground for us. He is nonetheless, pretty anti-Bush. He sent me this anti-Bush screed, which makes fairly tired arguments and incorrect statements, including this one: “This doctrine originally declared that the United States has the right to attack a hostile power that possesses weapons of mass destruction.”

    My response was about as follows:

    No. Wrong. “We must be prepared to stop rogue states and their terrorist clients before they are able to threaten or use weapons of mass destruction against the United States and our allies and friends.” See National Security Strategy of the United States of America.

    Note: “before”. How much before? As much as we deem necessary for our security. Other than this inexcusable and easily checked error, I thought the article was trivial. Bottom line, Saddam had way less shit than we thought. This is big news. This is actually a good thing, and we could only find it out by conquering him. He was so stupid he lied about it and fucked around until we conquered him. If he’d have fessed up he’d be at his desk now, and his sons would be raping somebody. He apparently either didn’t know better himself or figured his power rested on people thinking he had the stuff. Maybe he’ll write his memoirs and we’ll find out. Does it mean Bush lied? I don’t think so. Does this mean going into Iraq was wrong? I don’t think so. Does this all mean Kerry gets elected? Maybe. This issue will help him with some moderate voters. We’ll see what Jane Voter thinks in November. If Iraq is more or less quiet and the economy has not tanked, Bush will almost certainly win, on historical trends. But, anything can happen. A Kerry/Clinton ticket is likely. This would lead to lots of excitement and a large turnout of women voters who might put the Donk ticket over the top. This is an interesting year. Carl Rove has said from day one the next election will be very close, as close as the last one, and I think he is right. I did not watch the Bush interview. I read the transcript. It was weak. If he keeps on like that, he can lose. We’ll see how he does. His biggest danger may be alienated righties who are mad about the spending binge and his attempted immigration reform. There is real anger out there. But, Nixon irritated the same type of people in 1972 with his pre-election spending tsunami, and he won in a landslide. And running against your core, assuming there is no third party challenge, to reach into the center, is usually effective.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

    What’s our next job?

    Posted by ken on 20th February 2004 (All posts by )

    As programming jobs get progressively simplified, and more people learn how to do them, will all of our skilled high-tech labor end up working at Wal-Mart?

    Well, no. First of all, our skilled high-tech labor won’t really be through with programming until Wal-Mart’s run themselves – checkout would be done by detecting RF tags as they leave the store, and charging it to a credit card you swipe on your shopping cart, which has a bag dispenser so you put your items into the bags as you take them down from the shelves, while the shelves get stocked by automated wheeled gizmos that read that same tag and know where everything goes. The Indian programmers will be helping with that, too, of course; us programmers aren’t the only ones their programmers will be competing against.

    And don’t think plumbers and other tradesmen are safe either, nor anyone that thinks they add value by being on-site. Given enough bandwidth and the right software, you can remote-control a humanoid robot to do everything from the other side of the planet from fixing someone’s toilet to waving your hands and drawing on a whiteboard at a meeting.

    Second, there’s plenty more work to be done by people that can use their brains and solve problems. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the sky. Air traffic is depressingly thin; most of our traffic crawls along the ground on little narrow strips and keeps getting caught in innumerable bottlenecks. The Solar System is completely deserted, as is everything beyond. The aging process is still just as lethal as it’s ever been. Portable computers are still kind of clunky, since you have to either have a big, bulky keyboard or input letters one at a time through an awkward phonepad-style interface; gizmos to read brainwaves are still in the prototype stages. While we’re on the subject of brainwaves, a reliable lie detector would be most helpful.

    Oh, and those monster particle accelerators? How about little tiny ones instead? I’m sure we could find all sorts of profitable uses for those.

    And that’s just the beginning. Down the road, we’ll be looking into things like breaking Einstein’s speed limit and seeing if there’s something interesting we can do with dark matter. We’ll work on gravity generators; couple those with brainwave interfaces, and everyone will be able to move things and build things just by thinking about it.

    The point is, there’s thousands of years worth of work for all of us to do at the very least. Maybe millions of years. Maybe there isn’t a limit at all. If there is, we can’t even see it from here. It’s extremely short-sighted to say that we’re all going to be working at Wal-Mart because foreigners have learned how to program – if programming is the ultimate in human achievement, then the human race isn’t what I thought it was.

    Whether foreigners learn to program or not, there’s so much other work to do that the most important questions we should be asking ourselves is:

    1. What barriers can we remove to make it easier to turn a profit chipping away at that multi-millenia backlog of advancement that stands between our pathetic Earthbound civilization and our future as a truly advanced species? The computer industry offers a clue; it’s the closest to pure laissez-faire that we’ve seen in quite some time, and it’s had unparalleled success in pushing performance and quality up and prices down in its offerings.

    2. How do we best streamline the process of retraining for the new tasks as the old ones become commoditized? Universities are not especially efficient at this task; we need something better, for everyone from the high-end talent on down.

    3. How do we ensure that we continue enticing the world’s best talent to our shores? Lots of economic and personal liberty would be my suggestion.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments »

    What An Honor

    Posted by Jonathan on 20th February 2004 (All posts by )

    Classical Values blog reports that Chicagoboyz is one of many blogs that are blocked by the content-filtering system that is marketed to libraries and big companies and the like by a company called SonicWALL.

    I guess some of us (cough) use bad words, or perhaps we link to evil pro-gun sites (“violent content”), or maybe it’s just that we are opinionated and argue a lot. Or maybe someone misinterpreted the name of the blog. Whatever. God forbid an innocent child or sensitive person should read our posts and be corrupted, made to feel uncomfortable or subjected to a hostile environment.

    These filtering systems are inherently flawed because somebody has to decide which topics to censor and which algorithms to use to detect them. Even if the people who run the filters mean well, their incentive will always be to forbid more rather than less. Sometimes that’s because 1) it’s easier (no need to spend time assessing evidence and drawing distinctions), and 2) censorware customers are probably less likely to complain — or sue — if the blocking algorithm is too restrictive than if it is too liberal. And sometimes it’s because the people who design the filters are politically correct control-freaks.

    This kind of software is an expensive cure relative to the costs of the problems it is supposed to address.

    (via InstaPundit and The Gweilo Diaries)

    Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments »

    Mardi Gras Nuttiness

    Posted by Lexington Green on 19th February 2004 (All posts by )

    OK, now for something light, even silly. My friend Dave is a lawyer who lives in New Orleans, right in the French Quarter. I have known him since 1981. He was the pledge master at my Phi Delt chapter. He is a total maniac. After he moved to New Orleans, there was a brouhaha involving the Krew of Comus, one of the very old social clubs which put a float in the Mardi Gras parade every year. The city barred any organization from participating which did not racially integrate. So, after over a century, Comus was off the street. Dave, a traditionalist of an extreme sort, was upset. So, he spent a fortune having a spectacular Comus costume made for himself, and he returned Comus to the party all by himself. He founded the Mistick Social Drinking Club of Comus as the vehicle for an annual party, which commences at 9:00 a.m. on Fat Tuesday at his pad, which then spills out into the street. I have yet to be able to go. But I at least write an elaborate regrets letter, this year’s went thus:

    Thrice hail, O Great Comus!

    I am in receipt of your missive anent those delightful annual revelries, which will raise many raucous shouts and much jolly laughter, amidst copious bibulation, in daylong merriment, both within your own temple precincts and bursting forth as it were onto the ancient flagstones of the French Quarter of the Crescent City. Yet again you so kindly deign to solicit my participation in these fabled events. Yet again, O thrice great Comus, I tremblingly approach you, and humbly prostrate before your Olympian eminence, I express my renewed and tearful regret that I must once more decline your proffered invitation. Train not upon me thy baleful eye! Visit not upon me thy more-than-human wrath! Would that I could join you, and those others similarly blessed by your many kindnesses, garbed in motley (or other suitably festive raiment) in full-throated imbibement and convivial companionship — before embarking on the usual course of severe and arduous Lenten austerities commencing the next day. I pray that you will forgive my absence, knowing as you do that duty alone keeps me from your company. I trust that you will convey my greetings to the assembled throng of your votaries. I hope too that you will quaff at least one flagon of savory and ardent spirits in my name, O most splendiferous and aureate Comus! Farewell.

    Maybe some year I’ll make it down there.

    Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

    New Baghdad Journal

    Posted by Lexington Green on 19th February 2004 (All posts by )

    Kaedrin has a good post with links to all seven of Steve Mumford’s Baghdad Journal columns. Good coverage of Iraq, good art. Worth a visit.

    Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

    Photo

    Posted by Jonathan on 18th February 2004 (All posts by )

    Posted in Photos | 1 Comment »

    I’m not so sure this is a joke.

    Posted by Jonathan on 18th February 2004 (All posts by )

    The Onion gives us the inside scoop on the Kerry campaign.

    (via Chicago boy DG)

    Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

    Demography may be destiny, but…

    Posted by ken on 18th February 2004 (All posts by )

    Twenty-five to fifty year projections of relative economic strength based on demographics have one key assumption that (I hope!) isn’t really safe to make:

    Older people will always lack health and vigor relative to younger people.

    This assumes in turn long-term stagnation in the advancement of medical technology.

    If we’re the least bit optimistic about our future, we’ll tend to regard such pronouncement as being about as reliable as 25 or 50 year projections made in 1900 about the quantity of horse droppings littering the streets of our cities.

    If the projections are valid, and anti-aging treatments don’t get developed over the next fifty years, then most people reading this are pretty much screwed. Even a continuing absence of such treatments over 25 years would be a very disturbing sign that long-term stagnation is the order of the day.

    But let’s assume that National Health Care never comes to pass, and a working anti-aging treatment successfully runs the FDA gauntlet (or gets developed overseas by researchers that have more latitude in playing with stem cells). What then do current demographic trends portend?

    Predictions based on the age distribution in a population get turned on their heads. Having lots of older people becomes an advantage: they’ve got their youthful vigor back, plus lots of experience. Age demographics will tend to favor Europe, Japan, China, et al, rather than the United States, especially if they get the treatment first.

    Of course, it won’t be a complete reversal. As it stands, older people are a positive burden on the younger people, while with anti-aging treatment, younger people will be productive, only less so than older people, so extra younger people in places like the United States won’t be a drag on the economy the way extra older people in places like Europe and Japan are projected to be in the absence of anti-aging treatments. Proportions won’t be as important as sheer numbers, where we’ll still be in good shape, or economic freedom and attraction of talent, where we’ll probably be relatively better for the foreseeable future.

    But, either the aging of our trading partners and competitors will at some point end up working to their relative advantage, rather than ours, or you and I have significantly less than a century to live, and will not get a stay of execution.

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    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Lexington Green on 17th February 2004 (All posts by )

    “Political Campaigns are the graveyard of real ideas and the birthplace of empty promises.”

    – Maria Teresa Thierstein Simoes-Ferreira Heinz Kerry

    (Quoted by Mark Steyn in the current NRODT)

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