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Monthly Archives: July 2005

Breaking

July 31st, 2005 - 11:56 pm

Saudi Arabia’s King Fahd has died.

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Just What We Needed

July 31st, 2005 - 11:51 pm

Oh, joy. There’s a new reactionary party in Germany:

BERLIN, July 27 – You could almost say that a specter is haunting Germany, and while it is not the specter of communism, as Marx and Engels had it in their famous Manifesto, it is the specter of former Communists – along with a scattering of idealistic socialist reformers and a larger number of defectors from the governing Social Democratic Party of Chancellor Gerhard Schr

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Required Reading

July 31st, 2005 - 11:42 pm

I have dreams of Tim Robbins on fire.”

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Shame

July 31st, 2005 - 10:33 pm

Jimmy Carter knows all about disgrace:

“I think what’s going on in Guantanamo Bay and other places is a disgrace to the U.S.A.,” he told a news conference at the Baptist World Alliance’s centenary conference in Birmingham, England. “I wouldn’t say it’s the cause of terrorism, but it has given impetus and excuses to potential terrorists to lash out at our country and justify their despicable acts.”

You know what else is disgraceful?

When a former US President gives him stamp of approval to a fraudulent election:

“After an arduous negotiation, the Electoral Council allowed the OAS [Organization of American States] and the Carter Center to observe all aspects of the [Venezuelan] election process except for the central computer hub, a place where they also prohibited the presence of any witnesses from the opposition. At the time, this appeared to be an insignificant detail. Now it looks much more meaningful.”

Carter has “given impetus and excuses” to potential dictators around the world. How’s that for disgrace?

Oh, you want more?

Then how about a former US President who refuses to give his stamp of approval to two free and fair elections in the world’s oldest continuously-functioning democracy:

It was obvious that in 2000 these basic standards were not met in Florida, and there are disturbing signs that once again, as we prepare for a presidential election, some of the state’s leading officials hold strong political biases that prevent necessary reforms.

Carter there gave “impetus and excuses” to those who would claim this country is no better than the brutal dictatorships it opposes.

You want even more?

Then let’s hear it for a former US President who tried to conduct his own, private foreign policy while his nation prepared to oppose a conquering madman:

During the buildup to the Gulf War in 1990 and 1991, Carter unsuccessfully worked to undermine the foreign policy of America’s democratically elected president, George Bush. Carter behaved as the Imperial Ex-President, conducting a guerrilla foreign policy operation that competed with the actual president’s. What’s disturbing about this behavior is not that Carter opposed war with Iraq. Many Democrats opposed going to war, and they worked within the American system to try to prevent a war that many predicted would be bloody (which it was, for Iraq). But Carter went further than merely lobbying Congress to oppose military action or speaking out in an effort to tilt popular opinion against the coming war. He used his status as a former president to engage in foreign policy, a deliberate effort to subvert the democratic process.

That time, Carter gave “impetus and excuses” to none other than Saddam Hussein.

“But wait,” as Ron Popeil says, “there’s more!”

How about a former US President who has been linked with Oil-for-Food scandal figure Samir Vincent:

In 2000, Vincent led Iraqi religious leaders on a tour of the United States to push for an end to sanctions against Saddam. Among the people who the group met with was former President Jimmy Carter.

Did Carter give “impetus and excuses” to the people profiting from starving Iraqi children? You make the call!

Of course, Carter also had a softer side. So soft, he had nothing but praise for Yassar Arafat:

He was the father of the modern Palestinian nationalist movement. A powerful human symbol and forceful advocate, Palestinians united behind him in their pursuit of a homeland. While he provided indispensable leadership to a revolutionary movement and was instrumental in forging a peace agreement with Israel in 1993, he was excluded from the negotiating role in more recent years.

That’s right: Carter gave “impetus and excuses” to the followers of the man who almost single handedly invented modern terrorism.

You want even more? Look. I’ve got a computer. I have an internet connection. I know how to use Google

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Notice

July 31st, 2005 - 12:43 pm

Painkillers just don’t agree with me. Spent a week taking the minimum dosage, and that only at night. But I’d still wake up each morning with a hangover the likes of which I hadn’t felt since college. Grumpiness doesn’t make for good blogging.

Whether I can sleep or not

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Notice

July 26th, 2005 - 11:45 am

Don’t think I’ll do any blogging tonight. My best friend’s sister was in a horrible accident, and things looked grim. Grim Reaper grim. We just now found out that she’s not going to die, and that she didn’t suffer any brain damage. Broken bones, scrapes, whatever – all that she can recover from. Important thing is, she’s going to live, and as a full human being.

It’s hard to gripe about the news, after hearing news like that.

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Thank God for Editors

July 25th, 2005 - 11:29 pm

Via Drudge:

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) – Sony Pictures is negotiating to acquire film rights to the first novel from Richard Clarke, the counterterrorism expert who accused the Bush administration of ignoring the terrorist threat before the Sept. 11 attacks.

His novel, “The Scorpion Gate,” will be published in October by Putnam Adult. The studio hopes the film adaptation will be the first in a series of John Clancy-style political thrillers. The project will be produced by former studio chief John Calley.

John Clancy?

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Movie Talk/Vicodin Talk

July 25th, 2005 - 10:38 pm

Growing up on old movies, I wanted to grow up to be Cary Grant. Needless to say, in that sense puberty was a big disappointment. Not tall enough. Too skinny. Good chin, but uncleft. And try as I might, I still sound too Jewish to be as WASPy as Cary. So I set my sites comfortably lower, and aimed for William Powell.

Was Powell suave? Sure – but still a little goofy. That, I could handle. Even better, I got to marry a very 21st Century version of Powell’s frequent costar, Myrna Loy.

But we were talking about Cary Grant, weren’t we?

Want to know exactly why, all these years later, Grant is still the coolest cat who ever was? Start here, and scroll up until you’re done.

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Notice

July 25th, 2005 - 10:09 pm

I’ll be speaking Saturday, August 27 at The DaVinci Insitute’s Blogger Boot Camp.

Melissa will be home that day, so don’t even think about taking my TV while I’m gone.

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Required Reading Redux

July 25th, 2005 - 10:06 pm

Jeff Goldstein has his own thoughts (nothing new there) on last Friday’s Required Reading. But in a new twist, the comments are the best part of Jeff’s post.

Good stuff.

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Movie Talk/Late Night Ramble

July 25th, 2005 - 9:32 am

NOTICE: This Ramble will be ramble-y-er than usual. Bruised a bunch of ribs camping the weekend before last in an A.R.I.* Endured the pain for a week, then finally visited a doctor today. I’ve got just enough Vicodin to let me sleep the next ten nights. You’ve been warned.

A couple times each week, I visit Apple’s movie trailer site – and I watch all the news ones. I watch the trailers for movies I’ve already seen, for movies I’ve never heard of, and even the trailers for movies I know I wouldn’t watch for free on network television. I just like movie trailers.

The trailer for “Deuce Bigalow: European Gigalo” had been up for a couple days, but I just couldn’t bring myself to click on the link. Rob Schneider is not now nor has he ever been funny. It’s not that I don’t enjoy lowbrow stuff – far from it. Give me a couple beers and some Three Stooges, and I’m a happy man.

But Farrelly Brothers-style comedy just isn’t funny. There’s enough humor in the human condition as is, that I find it impossible to laugh with (or even at) characters who don’t behave like real human beings, responding to impossible situations.

Case in point: “There’s Something About Mary.” The hair gel scene is empircally not funny. Semen doesn’t just hang there, and women don’t grab random blobs of “is that hair gel?” off of people’s ears, then apply to their own hair without so much as a mirror. You want funny? Watch Bill Murray’s flower-golfing scene in “Caddyshack.”

But back to Deuce Bigalow’s European Vacation or Whatever.

Finally, I succumbed to my Watch All the Trailers Rule, and loaded it up. There wasn’t so much as a grin to be had. Halfway into the trailer, for reasons I don’t understand, a fat American woman in a bad dress is shown speaking practically to the camera. She says “Give thanks to America for bringing freedom to Iraq” or words to that effect.

And then a brick flies in from off camera and hits her in the face.

I know Hollywood doesn’t approve of the Iraq campaign. I don’t expect serious debate in a Rob Schneider movie – and if there was some, I’d hold it in contempt. But just what the hell is going on here? Making a political statement with a thrown brick? That’s supposed to be funny? That’s supposed to have a point?

That’s in a Rob Schneider movie?

What the hell?

I know the audience for these films – young folks without enough real-world experience to appreciate just how funny real-world behavior can be. I know, because I used to be one of them. We all were once: It’s called “youth.”

So it’s come to this: Hollywood now feels the need to propagandize – with a brick! – in a summer teen flick. Or maybe “need” is giving too much credit. Maybe “audacity” is a better word for it. Whatever the case, at least we know where they stand.

Me, I’m not standing anywhere. I’m sitting in front of the laptop computer – having earlier tonight attacked my desktop monitor with a brick.

*A.R.I. = Alcohol Related Incident.

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“Sweet, sweet justice”

July 24th, 2005 - 9:50 pm

True story.

Summer of ’76, I’m seven years old and spending my days at Camp Pegnita. My Uncle Bill Macon is 17, and working his first political campaign. Nothing glamorous

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We Have Met the Enemy…

July 23rd, 2005 - 10:40 pm

Clear, unbiased reporting from The New York Times on the London Police killing of Jean Charles de Menezes:

When Mr. Menezes began to enter the station, witnesses said, he was surrounded by plainclothes officers who shouted at him to stop.

According to the police accounts, the officers identified themselves and were suspicious partly because he was wearing a bulky jacket in the summer weather, suggesting that he was concealing something.

Mr. Menezes ran. He jumped over the turnstile, ran down an escalator and stumbled into a train, where he fell face down. Witnesses said the police then shot him five times in the head and neck, killing him.

Of course, you had to read down to the eighth graf to get to the part I quoted. Before that, you get lines like:

…Friday morning, Jean Charles de Menezes became another innocent casualty of London’s terrorist wars…

…the incident brought fresh horror to Londoners who look at Mr. Menezes and see their sons, their brothers or themselves.

“We are not safe here.”

Mr. Pereira described his cousin as friendly, open, fluent in English, hopeful about life in London and busy with work.

“He would never have done anything to anyone.”

And how does the story end? Like so:

“I feel it’s unfair if a person is nervous and feels unsafe and sees so many police with guns and stuff,” she said. “Something can happen just because you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Well, no. “Something can happen” if you run from the police, just days after a terror bombing, right towards the terrorist’s favorite target.

Nowhere does reporter Sarah Lyall talk to the police, not even to tell us if they refused to comment. Instead, they’re painted as faceless killers, silent except to institutionally “express regret” for the “tragedy.”

Indeed, this is a tragic story. But Lyall chose to tell only one side of it – and that as virtual hagiography. Lyall sandwiched a dry version of what “police accounts” say happened, in between lurid quotes from the victim’s friends and family.

Of course, Lyall got help from two other reporters (one in London, one in Rio de Janeiro) and an untold number of editors. Best guess? At least five people were involved in putting together one seriously flawed story. Maybe it’s time for the NYT to fire a few editors, and put a single blogger on the payroll.

There’s a larger point here, and it’s this: the press takes stories like this one, and reports them like this, and then wonders why we don’t think they’re on board with this war. They wonder why we’re watching Fox News. Say what you will about Fox’s many faults, but at least FNC acts like an American company during wartime. Meanwhile, the NYT is doing its damnedest to paint Tony Blair’s Britain as a fascist police state.

Thanks for the help, fellas.

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Required Reading

July 21st, 2005 - 10:21 pm

Reuel Marc Gerecht has an article on Europe’s homegrown Islamists for the Weekly Standard. A sample:

What was once unquestionably an import has gone native, mutated, and grown. Some of what the Europeans are now confronting–and for the United States this is very bad news–is probably a locally generated Islamic militancy that is as retrograde and virulent as anything encountered in the Middle East. “European Islam” appears to be an increasingly radicalizing force intellectually and in practice. The much-anticipated Muslim moderates of Europe–the folks French

scholar Gilles Kepel believes will produce “extraordinary progress in civilization,” a new “Andalusia” (the classical Arabic word for Moorish Spain) that will save us from Osama bin Laden’s jihad–have so far not developed with the same gusto as the Muslim activists who have dominated too many mosques in “Londonistan” and elsewhere in Europe. Moderates surely represent the overwhelming majority of Muslims in Europe, but like their post-Christian European counterparts, they usually express their moderation in detachment from religious affairs.

Though Europeans often fail to see it, the secularization of the Muslims living in their midst has been, by and large, a great success. It explains why Muslim activists gain so much attention, be they arch-conservatives, like the devotees of the Tabligh movement in Britain and on the continent who espouse segregation in Europe, or “progressives,” like the Switzerland-based intellectual Tariq Ramadan, who refuses forthrightly to declare the Muslim Holy Law null and void as a political testament for Muslims in a European democracy. The moderates have abandoned the field. They have become European. The militants, who perhaps should be seen as deviants from a largely successful process of secularization, are the only ones left ardently praying.

We’re still a long way off from Eurabia, and that day may never come. If enough of Europe musters the will to fight the radicals, and to keep turning the majority of Muslims into Europeans.

Anyway, read the whole thing and all that.

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Friday Recipe

July 21st, 2005 - 9:26 pm

The summer heatwave finally hit Colorado Springs. While the A/C struggled to keep the upstairs below 80, I sat in my cool, cool basement, looking for something light & tasty and very Italian for dinner. Found something nice at Epicurious, then changed it up a bit.

Heat Wave Penne

You’ll need:

Four Roma tomatoes, chopped and seeded
About a half cup of fresh basil, chopped
8oz fresh mozzarella (the round kind you get in the water-filled container), sliced into 1/2″ strips
4oz Prosciutto, sliced the same way
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Enough penne for 2-4 people
Salt & pepper

Got everything chopped and sliced according to the directions? Then the hard work is done. Take everything but the pasta and mix it together in a bowl. Season to taste with salt & pepper. Let it sit out on the counter for an hour while you enjoy a gin & tonic.

Boil the penne for 13 minutes, strain, then pour back into the pot. Throw the tomato/basil/cheese/Prociutto mixture in with it, and gently toss.

If you’re feeling really ambitious, you could make a salad, too. One head of butter lettuce, cleaned, torn, and chilled. Make the dressing by beating together a tablespoon or two of olive oil, 2 teaspoons or so of balsamic vinegar, 1 crushed clove of garlic, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, a pinch of salt and three turns of the pepper mill. If there’s any basil left over from the pasta, throw it in the dressing. You can put the salad together while the pasta is boiling.

Enjoy with a slightly chilled Chianti, and try to ignore the heat.

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Help

July 21st, 2005 - 3:48 pm

Finally found a mic I’m happy with and at a price I can live with.

So now I need a little advice on podcasting software…

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The Conservative a Liberal Can Love

July 20th, 2005 - 11:29 pm

The New Republic’s Jeffrey Rosen finds John Roberts an agreeable Supreme Court pick. Writing for The New York Times, Rosen says that

based on his record throughout his career, he does not appear to be a rigid Constitutional “originalist” in the tradition of Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. These men believe that the Constitution should be strictly interpreted in light of its original understanding; they are willing (to different degrees) to overturn years of Supreme Court precedents in the name of constitutional fidelity.

Having spent decades arguing before courts rather than sitting on them, John Roberts has never embraced one grand legal theory to the exclusion of all others. On the contrary, he has been trained to cast a wide net in order to reach a convincing result.

Read the whole thing.

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Without a Dowd

July 20th, 2005 - 9:43 pm

Richard Cohen has, I guess, taken the Maureen Dowd Method Seminar. In it, columnists learn from The Mistress Herself how to take two icky things at random, and paste a column together around them. Read and learn how it’s done:

Another hanging chad has dropped. His name is John G. Roberts Jr., and he undoubtedly will turn out to be opposed to abortion rights, affirmative action, an expansive view of federal powers and a reading of the Constitution that takes a properly suspicious view of the state’s embrace of religion. In these and other matters — the death penalty, for instance — he is expected to substantially reflect the views of George W. Bush, the man who nominated him to the Supreme Court, because that was what the election of 2000 and its sequel were all about. You hang enough chads, and you get to change the Supreme Court.

I’m not going to fisk Cohen, but one little bitty teensy tiny little detail does need pointing out. The results of the 2000 election became moot on November 7, 2004. In the four year prior, Bush – hanging chads or not – didn’t appoint a single Supreme Court justice. The Democrats had a chance to unseat Bush in 2004, but failed – and without a single dangling chad.

However, Cohen is using the Dowd Method. Hanging chads were icky. John Roberts (or Robert Johns or whatever) is icky. Therefore, hanging chads and Robert Johns (or John Roberts) must be somehow related.

Wouldn’t Cohen have been smarter to blame it all on Ohio, which decided the most recent election?

Smarter? Sure. But far less Dowdy.

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Required Reading

July 20th, 2005 - 9:42 pm

Anne Applebaum rips new ones for Microsoft, Yahoo! and Cisco.

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John Roberts: International Man of Mystery

July 19th, 2005 - 10:39 pm

A day of blogging is like an evening of strong cocktails and loud conversation. Somebody says something that moves you; you say something back. There’s a lot of good give and take, and there’s some acrimony, sure

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Notice

July 19th, 2005 - 10:18 pm

Yeah, I’ll have something on John Roberts here before long.

In the meantime, here’s the short version: Who?

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I Find Your Lack Of Bass Disturbing

July 19th, 2005 - 5:55 pm

This is the funniest eBay ad I’ve seen since the guy who was selling his ex-wife’s wedding dress for beer money. Better yet, it’s for a pretty neat item, a home-made subwoofer shaped like the Death Star (that’s no moon–it’s a subwoofer!). Be sure to check out the Q&A at the bottom of the ad.

Blogosphere triumphalism moment: a bit on this got posted to Slashdot this afternoon, resulting in over 170,000 additional hits to the ad–and the bid price has doubled.

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Perspective

July 19th, 2005 - 12:20 am

Ten years later, Richard Holbrooke asks if Bosnia was worth a war:

This was Clinton’s most important action in regard to Europe — an action opposed, incidentally, by most of his political advisers. It was a classic commander-in-chief decision, made alone, without congressional support and with only reluctant backing from the Pentagon. But it worked: Without those 20,000 troops, Bosnia would not have survived, 2 million refugees would still be wandering the face of Western Europe, a criminal state would be in power in Bosnia itself — and we would probably have had to pursue Operation Enduring Freedom not only in Afghanistan but also in the deep ravines and dangerous hills of central Bosnia, where a shadowy organization we now know as al Qaeda was putting down roots that were removed by NATO after Dayton.

Eight years from now, someone may write something very similar about Iraq.

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Required Reading

July 18th, 2005 - 11:29 pm

A little history, some sharp analysis, some even sharper invective… that adds up to Required Reading:

Behind the scenes, the single most important reason for the Valerie Plame/Joe Wilson farce is that CIA Director Porter Goss has finally started to clean house at Langley. Goss’s long-overdue shake-up is clearly backed by the White House, the top levels of the Pentagon and State Department, and the new National Director of Intelligence, John Negroponte.

Judging by Director Goss’s remarks at his Senate confirmation hearings, those whose jobs are most in danger include the CIA “experts” in WMD proliferation

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Anyone?

July 18th, 2005 - 9:26 pm

When Paul Krugman isn’t being a partisan hack, he still knows how to ask some good questions:

Those with a downbeat view of the jobs picture argue that the low reported unemployment rate is a statistical illusion, that there are millions of Americans who would be looking for jobs if more jobs were available. Those with an upbeat view argue that labor force participation has fallen for reasons that have nothing to do with job availability – for example, young adults, recognizing the importance of education, may have chosen to stay in school longer.

That’s where Dr. Bradbury’s study comes in. She shows that the upbeat view doesn’t hold up in the face of a careful examination of the numbers. In fact, because older Americans, especially older women, are more likely to work than in the past, labor force participation should have risen, not fallen, over the past four years. As a result, she suggests that there may be “considerable slack in the U.S. labor market”: there are at least 1.6 million and possibly as many as 5.1 million people who aren’t counted as unemployed but would take jobs if they were available.

There’s both good news and bad news in that assessment. The good news is that the economy probably has plenty of room to expand before inflation becomes a problem (which implies that the Fed’s decision to start raising interest rates was premature).

I haven’t read Dr Bradbury’s study, so I don’t know if she’s factored for the self-employed. More and more folks are working from home, and don’t always show up as part of the Department of Labor’s employment statistics. Surely, they account for some of the “slack.” If Bradbury’s lower figure is correct, then I’d guess that some large fraction of her slack figure is employed, just not in a way measured by the DoL. If Bradbury’s bigger number is closer to the truth, then it’s difficult not to conclude that our economy is not yet robust enough to employ everyone who wants to work.

And that brings us to Krugman’s conclusion:

The bad news is that it’s hard to see where further expansion will come from. We’ve already had four years of extremely loose fiscal and monetary policy. Tax cuts have pushed the federal budget deep into the red. Low interest rates have helped generate a housing bubble that has lifted real estate prices to ludicrous heights in major parts of the country.

If all that wasn’t enough to give us a full economic recovery, what will?

Let’s not nitpick here. Yes, it’s true that tax cuts aren’t the only thing to blame for all of Washington’s red ink, as Krugman insinuates. There’s also our spendthrift Republican Congress, and a President who has never once taken a good, hard look at his veto pen. Yet the fact remains that Washington has run up an awful lot of debt. And that all that Federal spending ought to be pushing up aggregate demand enough to stimulate job growth.

The problem, of course, is that it’s almost impossible to measure the true size of the labor force. The DoL’s methods are antiquated, but Bradbury’s work gives us only a snapshot of a fast-moving picture.

So what’s really going on? Has the Fed moved too quickly? Should Washington provide even more stimulus, and drive us even deeper into debt? Are the self-employed really taking up enough of the slack?

See – I can ask good questions, too. Problem is, nobody knows the answer. What should impress you, however, is that even Paul Krugman implicitly admitted that he doesn’t know, either.

And after spending three-plus years picking on Krugman, it’s my duty to let you know when he gets one right.

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Mea Culpa

July 18th, 2005 - 9:21 pm

Now that all the “Rove leaked it! ” furor has passed, it’s looking more and more like I’ve been Rove-a-doped.

My bad. Sorry.

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So

July 18th, 2005 - 1:08 pm

Not being entirely dense, I took some advice from Lileks and picked up a bottle of Fr

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Moving Closer

July 17th, 2005 - 10:09 pm

How do you spell “Anglosphere?” N, S, S, P:

India and the United States on Monday formally announced the completion of discussions on the Next Stage of Strategic Partnership (NSSP) with both President George W Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh committing themselves to promoting a broad-based strategic partnership.

Addressing a joint press conference at the White House after a one-on-one in camera meeting, President Bush said that both countries were the world’s two great democracies, and had the onerous responsibility of being committed to work together for a better and safer world.

“The Governments of India and United States are working together to safeguard our interests. We are introducing new steps in our defence relationship, recently signed framework. That will help our two nations to achieve our common security objectives. We are working together on terrorism, which will help us protect our people and make the world a safer place. We are also committed to increasing the prosperity of people of India and America alike. We have completed (the process of) Next Steps in Strategic Partnership. Completing this partnership will help us further enhance our cooperation in areas of civil nuclear, civil space, and hi-technology commerce,” Bush said.

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Garrison Keillor, Crybaby

July 17th, 2005 - 4:26 pm

Very few articles in the local rag have given me as much sincere happiness as this one. It’s an account of a spate of whining from NPR blowhard Garrison Keillor, who put on a “Prarie Home Companion” performance at Atlanta’s Chastain Park Amitheatre last week:

When Neil Young and Michael Stipe openly chastised noisy Chastain Park Amphitheatre audiences from the stage several years ago, the chardonnay-sipping conversationalists flicked away the criticism like a fly circling too close to the potato salad.

After all, Young has a well-honed reputation for crotchetiness and Stipe is a bit eccentric.

But when you receive a public spanking from “A Prairie Home Companion” host Garrison Keillor, a guy many suspect has green tea pumping through his veins — that’s something to talk about.

So when the coolers and candelabras are hauled into the venue Saturday for the India Arie concert, music fans can expect that talking will be a topic of conversation.

Chatty Chastain-goers are nothing new — the venue’s long-standing notoriety for noise has frustrated patrons and performers alike for years. For many, the quirky 7,500-seat, 61-year-old amphitheater can be either one of country’s most enjoyable — or confounding — places for a concert.

The issue came roaring to the forefront after Keillor posted critical remarks about the audience following the public radio host’s June 24 performance.

“The show was troubled by a large number of loud drunks sitting in the expensive corporate seats down close to the stage,” Keillor said on the show’s Web site. Calling the Classic Chastain performance “a joyless affair,” he added: “If Chastain Park were par for the course, I would’ve quit years ago.”

I laughed on and off for a good half-hour after reading that.

Chastain is one of the best things about living in Atlanta. The result of a 1930′s make-work project, it’s an outdoor venue that’s as unique in its own way as Colorado’s Red Rocks or Seattle’s old Pier 62/63 (which is now apparently and unfortunately closed to music events). Chastain is nearly unique in my experience, a concert site where patrons are (usually) allowed and even encouraged to bring in their own food and drink. The floor and several rows of the ampitheatre are filled with six-seat tables, and over the years people have gotten more and more elaborate with their concert spreads, bringing in tablecloths and candelabras and all manner of consumables to go with them. You have to see it yourself to really appreciate the charm and laid-back joy of the place.

As the article notes, Keillor is hardly the first performer to be taken aback by a Chastain audience. Most first-time players at Chastain are visible taken aback at not being the center of attention, and more than a few of them make nasty wisecracks about interrupting dinner with a concert–but those who can get over themselves and soak up the atmosphere of the place keep coming back, year after year.

Harry Connick, Jr. was completely stunned the first time he played Chastain, and griped about people chatting during his ballads, but since then he’s become as comfortable with the “Chastain scene” as any Atlantan, and he never plays fewer than two dates there on summer tours. We’ve got tickets to see Lyle Lovett at Chastain in a couple of weeks, and Lovett always makes a point to talk about how much fun he has playing a genuinely different venue after endless weeks of bland civic centers and generic outdoor sheds.

Now, I can already hear the complaining out there–”the audience should show respect to the performers.” Balderdash. The audience is playing the performer’s grocery bills, and the payees ought to appreciate that first, last and always. And at any rate, respect-to-the-performer would be a legitimate point if we were talking about Itzhak Perlman, or even Lovett and Connick–legitimate, accomplished artists. Garrison Keillor is a glorified novelty act by comparison.

Given Keillor’s reputation for being, well, a jerk, I’m not at all surprised that he couldn’t handle an audience that wasn’t composed entirely of fawning “public” radio fans. I particularly got a kick out of his whining about “expensive corporate seats” (ah, Garrison, they’re the same price as anybody else’s tickets in the forward section–and you’re the one who set those prices in the first place). I guaran-damn-tee you he didn’t make any connection to the taxpayer funding for NPR and CPB that came, in part, courtesy of the people who also paid for those tickets, whether they liked it or not.

Ah, what fun. Every year, some pompous performer gets his knickers in a knot because a Chastain audience won’t pay complete attention to him. How much more delightful, then, when this year’s Chastain laughingstock is a pure-blue jackass offstage as well.

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The Not-So-Dismal Science

July 15th, 2005 - 9:49 am

Anastasia of The Liberty Belles explains the Freakonomics of Love.

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