Tuesday, August 31, 2004

A Busy Day's Brief Observations

Though I'd vowed to myself I wouldn't, I turned on the convention last night. I couldn't help myself. Some quick thoughts:

  • Now I'm no fan of Rudy Giuliani. His personal life is abhorrent (and yes, it does matter), and his positions on most social issues stink. But his speech last night was one of the three or four best political speeches I've ever seen. Funny. Poignant. Humble but firm. Simply outstanding.
  • Evidently, the soon-to-be-dismantled Air America radio network is now available in South Florida. While out excercising after the convention, I (against my better judgement) tuned in on my Walkman to see what they were saying. The host (whoever it was) was ranting about how "the working man is being conned into voting directly against his best interests." A few minutes later, during talk about the largely peaceful protests outside, the same guy spat "Well, I certainly don't want to give the cops any credit for that. I'll credit the demonstrators."

    Like cops aren't working men? But isn't this typical liberalism? They love the "teeming masses" of workers, but any actual, real workers they find utterly distasteful. Like Michael Moore, the "champion of the working man" who ridicules and disdains actual working people in his films.
  • I'd love to know what the Democrat Party has to say about the Air America host's hatred for the NYPD, whom the rest of the world has hailed as heroes for the last three years.
  • The Kerry campaign is in deep, deep trouble. The Republicans are energized, they are for something (rather than just against something), and their candidate is the most personable, likeable guy. When was the last time in presidential politics that a stiff beat someone with presence and charisma? Even Nixon had more charisma than his Democrat opponents.
  • The protesters are walking a dangerous line here. If they're peaceful, they won't get much coverage. But the more they get carried away, the more it will play in the Republicans' favor. The average union guy who votes Democrat (or the Great Undecided Soccer Mom) don't want anything to do with cross-dressing loonies who set fires.
  • Most of America doesn't like Michael Moore. Yes, his movie made $110 million. But at $8 per ticket, that's about 13 million people in a nation of nearly 300 million. He appeals to a vocal fringe, but normal people find him disgusting--the visceral reaction to Moore inside the hall last night is just the tip of the iceberg. If I were the Republicans, I'd mention him again, and I'd say "At our convention, Michael Moore had to get in on a media pass. At their convention, he sat in the presidential box." Anything they can do to connect Moore to the heart of the Democrat party will benefit Bush hugely.

Monday, August 30, 2004


The always-funny conservative writer Rob Long has a piece in the liberal Slate magazine about how weak the Republicans' "celebrity" convention guests are. I couldn't agree more. What's worse: no celebrity endorsers, or an endorsement from Bo Derek?

But aside from all that, Long makes a barely-related point about contemporary Christian music that sums up everything I've ever thought about the genre:
Even for me, an ultra-loyal Republican, the two creepiest words in the English language are "Christian rock."

I've listened to my fair share of it, too—long drive across the country; busted iPod—and there's something so weird about it. It sounds like regular bad music when you first tune in. The lyrics always seem like regular bad music lyrics, too—"I feel your body next to mine/ And that makes my whole life shine"—but after a second or two you realize that they're singing about, not some girl named Mandy, and the whole thing just seems, well, creepy. Because rock music—and most other forms of entertainment, when you really think about it—is fundamentally about carnal desire. And Jesus, when you really think about it, is fundamentally not.
I never, ever purposely listen to contemporary Christian music. Some of my Christian friends think this is odd. But I don't avoid it for spiritual reasons; I avoid it because I avoid all schlocky, adult-contemporary, Celine Dion-esque junk.

Give me The Boss any day--stupid, pedantic, ill-informed politics and all.

I Guess I'm Just a Stickler for Consistency

The Kerry people can't have it both ways.

For the past 18 months, when anything--anything--good happens to Bush or bad happens to the Democrats, the Dems and their cohorts in the mainstream media carp about the "suspicious timing" of the event.

Remember the Sandy Berger classified-documents-stuffed-in-his pants fiasco? (You could be forgiven for not remembering--the media dropped it as quickly as they could.) To refresh your memory: just before the Democrat convention, a Democrat National Security Advisor was revealed to have been caught stealing classified documents pertaining to the 9/11 investigation (!), and the whole story was played as an incident of "suspicious timing."

Remember the capture of Saddam Hussein? Democrats implied that Saddam had been in custody for months and was only unveiled at a critical time to boost Bush's sagging popularity.

Now the Swiftboat Controversy is taking place, and many (including Donna Brazile, Al Gore's former campaign chairman, and also a guy from TIME magazine I saw on Tim Russert over the weekend) are actually expressing relief that it's happening in August rather than in October.

Brazile says:
After having a high-energy and well-defined convention where Kerry was introduced as a decorated war hero he was forced to play defense by a group of former Vietnam veterans vehemently opposed to his candidacy. As the challenger, Kerry had to personally respond to these scurrilous attacks on his character with the hopes of setting the record straight before November. Thankfully for Kerry, this back-and-forth occurred in the slow news month of August and not in October, which would have made it omnipresent in the minds of voters.
So which is it, folks? Is Bush not the master, Machiavellian manipulator of "suspicious timing" that you're always portraying him as, or does he have no connection with the Swifties?

Friday, August 27, 2004


Josh Elliott from SI nails the landing. I give him a 9.9.

(Thanks to Anne for the tip.)

No Respect

Rodney Dangerfield had a great line the other day as he was preparing to undergo surgery to replace a heart valve.

When asked how long he'd be hospitalized, Rodney said, "If things go right, I'll be there about a week, and if things don't go right, I'll be there about an hour and a half."

You're Getting Warmer....

Russian officials have now found traces of explosives in the wreckage of one of the two airliners that crashed within four minutes of each other on Tuesday.

Sources say the officials are beginning to get suspicious that the two crashes may not be a one-in-100 trillion coincidence after all.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Score Another One For The Bush Campaign

John Kerry today issued a ridiculous challenge to President Bush to debate him once a week, every week, up until the election starting now.

The Bush campaign's answer?
"There will be a time for debates after the convention, and during the next few weeks, John Kerry should take the time to finish the debates with himself," responded Bush-Cheney spokesman Steve Schmidt.

Would It Help If We Drew You a Picture?

Let me see if I understand this correctly: Two Russian airliners taking off from the same terminal crashed within four minutes of each other 450 miles apart, a hijack alarm was activated by one of the planes, and it all happened days before the contentious Chechen elections. But Russian officials are still scratching their heads over what might have caused the twin tragedies.

According to the New York Times:
The breadth of [the Russian authorities' possible-cause] list underscored that no clear causes had emerged, leaving open the possibility that the crashes had been an awful coincidence - a case of two jetliners leaving the same terminal at Domodedovo International Airport and having catastrophic accidents minutes apart.
I can see how that would be plausible, since there are something like 430 million annual commercial airline flights worldwide, and a couple of dozen of them crash every year. When one in ten million flights crash, its inevitable that you'd get a couple of them clustered together at the same location within the same four minutes of each other.

According the the AP:
But despite the timing and circumstances of the crashes, officials say no firm evidence of terrorism has yet been found in the planes’ charred wreckage and they’re looking into the possibilities of poor fuel and human error.
"Firm evidence" being a box of business cards from Terrorists R Us, evidently.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

You Don't Have to Pay the Piper

As I've mentioned before, I can't recommend the writings of John Piper highly enough.

The folks at Crossway books have done everyone a major service by offering absolutely free, full, online editions of his new book A God Entranced Vision of All Things: The Legacy of Jonathan Edwards, and his not-yet-released: When I Don't Desire God: How to Fight for Joy.

Piper has also made available full, free, online editions of his books A Hunger for God, Counted Righteous In Christ, Don't Waste Your Life, Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist, God's Passion for His Glory, The Passion of Jesus Christ, and Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood at his own website.

It's deep, challenging, soul-satisfying food, and it's all free. This stuff is a goldmine. I envy the person digging into it for the first time. You should download all of them to your computer and start reading them now. I'd start with either Desiring God, or the first four chapters of God's Passion for His Glory, which lays the whole foundation.


I haven't had much to say about the whole Swift Boat thing because there just hasn't been much to add.

But I will say this: the rank hypocrisy of the Kerry campaign is astounding. Today, Kerry is sending Vietnam vets Max Cleland and Jim Rassman to Bush's ranch in Texas to beg Bush to denounce the ads.

If I were Bush, I'd say, "Sure, I'll condemn them. As soon as that jackass condemns 'Fahrenheit 9/11.' I'll condemn the Swift Boat ads that a Republican kicked in $100,000 for as soon as Kerry condemns the attack ads for which Democrat George Soros has kicked in tens of millions of dollars, and which have been running for months. Until then, get off my property or I'll have the Secret Service blow your remaining limb off."

At least that's what I'd say if I were him....

James Taranto had the best summation of the whole sordid affair that I've seen:
Has anyone stopped to ponder just how pathetic this is? For years we've been hearing from the Democrats that President Bush is a dummy, an illegitimate president, a liar, a military deserter, a "moral coward" and another Hitler--but now Kerry is begging Bush to use his moral authority to get him out of a fix that he himself created by running a campaign based almost entirely on "war hero" braggadocio.
Of course, all of this boils down to the issue of 527 organizations. The 527s are now a cause celebre because of the Swift Boat ads that have run in relatively few markets. Interestingly, you didn't hear much about 527s up until this month. But that's not because they weren't spending any money; in fact, they've been quite active--and almost exclusively on one side. As an analysis piece from last month in the Boston Phoenix points out:
...in addition to Kerry's own ads, more than $15 million of political advertising has run in the past three months, most of it bashing Bush, most of it in key battleground states--without costing the Kerry campaign a dime. The ads have been created and paid for by organizations known as "527s," named for the tax-code section that defines them...

...The best-known of these 527s is probably the MoveOn.org Voter Fund, formed last September by the progressive California-based MoveOn.org; its most recent television ad, running in Ohio, blames George W. Bush for losing American jobs to outsourcing. The most ambitious group, however, is an interrelated trio planning to spend more than $100 million on this election: Americans Coming Together (ACT), the Media Fund, and Joint Victory Campaign 2004, all operating out of Washington, DC. Its TV and radio ads include "No Oil Company Left Behind" and "Bush and Halliburton."

Another Washington group, New Democrat Network, is taking in and spending about a million dollars a month. Among its projects is an effort to recruit Hispanic voters into the Democratic Party. For the young and hip, there's Music for America and PunkVoter. Several well-known political-action committees, or "PACs," have started separate 527s (such as EMILY's List Non-Federal Fund, and Sierra Club Voter Education Fund). And there are issue-specific 527s, including one focused on labor (Voices for Working Families), one devoted to decriminalizing marijuana (Marijuana Policy Project Political Fund), and several committed to environmental issues (League of Conservation Voters, Environment 2004, State Conservation Voters Fund). In all, more than a hundred 527s filed a quarterly report with the IRS by the July 15 deadline.

The people funding these 527s, with millions of their own dollars, are arguably the Democrats' 2004 MVPs. Yet with the exception of financier George Soros, who has contributed a total of $12,481,250 in the past 18 months and who has been called to task in no uncertain terms by the GOP, they remain surprisingly unknown to the public and uncovered by the media.

The Phoenix has compiled a list of 12 donors (see below) who chipped in more than $1 million each during the first 18 months of the current campaign cycle--the start of 2003 through the end of June--to Democratic-leaning 527s. Collectively, this dozen has donated just over $50 million.

They include a range of people, from the business elite (George Soros, Lewis Cullman) to the glitterati (Stephen Bing, Susie Tompkins Buell), from the well-born (Anne Getty Earhart, Alida Rockefeller Messinger, Linda Pritzker) to the self-made (Andrew Rappaport, Marcy Carsey, Agnes Varis). There's even a drug-reformer billionaire (Peter Lewis)-and an environmentalist (John A. Harris).

Thanks largely to their largesse, 527s are, and will continue to be, major players in the 2004 campaign.

"The 527s are independent. I'm not familiar with what their plans are," says Democratic heavy-hitter Alan D. Solomont, of Boston, a major fundraiser for the Kerry campaign. "What they're doing, I think is terrific."
Of course, that was last month. Now that a couple of hundred grand has been spent on the other side, the Dems don't seem to be so enamored of 527s anymore. As soon as the Kerry campaign issues it's $100 million or so worth of 527 denunciations (plus another $100 million or so in 'Fahrenheit 9/11' denunciations), Bush should go ahead and issue his.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

The Price is Right

Jeff Jacoby offers his own beautiful defense of "price-gouging". Mine was first, but his is better.

The Lords of the Rings

It occured to me that I might be suspected of harboring undue cynicism towards the Olympics. But I don't. Not undue cynicism, anyway.

I've covered the Olympics. When I was with the now-defunct (though I'm sure that has nothing to do with my participation...right?) SportsFan Radio Network, I spent a week at the '96 Games in Atlanta hanging out with Gary Hall Jr., Amy Van Dyken and Janet Evans (who were America's Sweethearts that week, or at least America's sweethearts-in-waiting, right after Kerry Strug), and the rest of the U.S. Olympic swimming team. I was in Centennial Olympic Park the stirring morning it reopened. I questioned Jon Drummond about his infamous sit-down in the 100 meters. I watched the elder statesman of the '96 Games, Carl Lewis, cap off his legendary career. I sat down with Karch Kiraly, who was hailed like a rock star, after he won the first-ever gold medal in beach volleyball.

In other words, I'm not completely impervious to the supposed spirit of the Olympics. But there's just too much evidence on the other side to overcome my cynicism, despite my overwhelmingly positive experiences with these Olympians.

The fact is, the corruption and graft in the International Olympic Committe makes the United Nations look like a bridge club.

  • For years, there has been an officially sanctioned system of bribery in place for determining the host cities for the Olympics. In 1991, IOC officials demanded cash, jewelry, and other gifts from Toronto officials in return for hosting consideration for 1996. When it came out, the IOC looked the other way.
  • In 1999, one of the organizers of the Sydney Olympics admitted that he gave two different IOC officials $35,000 the night before they awarded Sydney the Olympics.
  • A member of the IOC since 1963 admitted that bribes of over a million dollars had been demanded from some potential host cities.
  • A Japanese newspaper discovered that the city of Nagano had spent over $6 million "entertaining" IOC officials in an effort to lure the Winter Olympics there.
  • Everyone remembers the Salt Lake City fiasco of 2002, when the city was discovered to have bribed IOC officials and their families, resulting in the resignation of the president of the Salt Lake Olympic committee, among others.
  • Juan Antonio Samaranch, the longtime, imperious head of the International Olympic Committee before his retirement in 2001, was previously a henchman to fascist Spanish dictator Generalissimo Francisco Franco, who thankfully is still dead.
  • And, there's already evidence that under new "Mr. Clean" IOC president Jacques Rogge, the 2012 Games are already accepting bribes from potential hosts.
"But John," you might say, "none of this has anything to do with the actual competition!" Trust me, there's plenty of corruption there, too.

  • And, as always, there's manifold suspect judging in all the subjective events.
In short, the Olympics are what they are. If you find them entertaining, great. There are events I enjoy too. But don't give me any idealistic nonsense about the "Olympic movement" or the purity of the "Olympic ideal." Next to the corruption of the Olympics, the Teamsters look like the Salvation Army.

Monday, August 23, 2004

The Great International Cook-Off

Well, it's the Olympic season again, which means it's time for the predictable, inevitable judging controversy.

Why does this always seem to happen? Because the Olympics is mostly comprised of silly activities that aren't sports. The bigger question is: why is anyone suprised?

The beauty of sports is that they are objective. There's a scoreboard, and you know how you did the second you sit down . In girlish Olympic activities, you have to wait seconds, minutes, hours, or sometimes days to find out how you actually did. You have no idea until some judge tells you.

There's one reason--and one reason only--that these ridiculous activities are televised: girls like them. I'm fine with that; to each her own. But let's not call them "sports," and let's not waste pages in the sports section talking about them. Put them where they belong: in the Arts & Style section of the paper.

Medals are given in these activities based on how they strike the internal fancy of some effete, probably-corrupt judge. Giving medals for ballroom dancing, synchronized swimming, rhythmic gymnastics or, yes, the uneven bars, has as much to do with "sports" as awarding ribbons at a wine-tasting. We may as well settle that longstanding "Tastes great/Less filling!" dispute by making it an Olympic "sport."

If your activity is so subjective that it hinges on some poofter in a blazer deciding whether he feels like you had enough "amplitude" or not, fine. Have at it. But don't come crying to me when the whole thing gets screwed up because Jean-Philippe got a grain of pommel-rosin in his eye.

Friday, August 20, 2004

A Cautious Defense of Price Gouging

As you can imagine, the topic of "price gouging" is rather huge over in Southwest Florida right now. Tensions are high, which means this probably isn't the best time to make a case in support of it. But here goes anyway.

So-called "price gouging" is an easy issue for politicians, which is why Florida's attorney general, Charlie Crist, was on the radio yesterday nearly apoplectic because someone had been charged $75 for a hotel room that was supposed to cost $44. He gets to make a speech that everyone (except the hotel operator) agrees with, and everyone's a winner. Right?

Not neccessarily.

Now I'm not foolish enough to go on record favoring $10,000 chainsaws in disaster areas. The entire concept of the free market rests on voluntary exchange, and a case can be made that some extreme forms of gouging are essentially coercion. If your shirt is on fire and someone offers to sell you a bottle of water for $1000, that's hardly a voluntary exchange. Still, I believe a case can be made that price hikes in general, even in difficult situations, can serve a valuable purpose.

It's simply a matter of understanding what prices are about. The common mindset (especially in, but not limited to, the Democratic Party) sees "price" as the way the producer of a good or service exploits the consumer. When my kids were little, they felt that "ice cream should be free"--the price of ice cream was merely an arbitrary impediment placed between them and the thing they wanted.

But in reality, the function of prices is to allocate resources. Higher prices during a shortage mean more general availability of resources. When prices are not allowed to reflect the high demand and low supply of a resource, artificial shortages result.

For example, after a hurricane, hammers are suddenly at a premium. The hammer that was valued at, say, $8 in normal times is suddenly in much higher demand. If the price is allowed to rise to reflect that demand, people will have to make certain decisions about how to spend their money. Do we buy two $20 hammers, or do we buy only one and use the other $20 for something else we need, like shovels and water?

But if the price is forced to remain the same despite the much higher demand (which is currently state law in Florida), such decisions don't have to be made. Suddenly an $8 hammer seems like a tremendous bargain. Instead of being able to buy two hammers for $40, I can buy five of them for that much. So I do. And so does the guy after me. And very quickly, all the hammers are gone.

Once the hammers are gone, some unscrupulous people with extras begin selling them out on the street where the price gouging laws aren't so enforceable. The same hammer that by law couldn't be sold for $20 now goes for $50 or $100 out on the black market.

Or, for example, if I have a family of four, we might seek shelter after the hurricane by all crowding into one $75 per night hotel room. But if the rooms are still only $44, that's suddenly quite a bargain. Maybe we'll get two rooms and spread out a little bit. Then when grandma shows up for shelter all the rooms are gone because they were renting at such a bargain price, and she sleeps in her car.

Allowing the market to determine the prices generally allows for a much more even distribution of limited resources. Three or four neighbors chip in to buy a chainsaw or a generator together rather than each buying his own. That leaves three more chainsaws or generators for the general public to buy. The guy who needs plywood more than he needs glass is forced to choose one or the other because of the higher prices, and the glass is left for the guy who needs glass more than he needs plywood. The extra supply resulting from such choosing keeps the prices lower than they would be on the black market.

It's an argument that will never win because it's too easy for people to be outraged at doubly-priced plywood and roofing paper and it's too easy for politicians to score easy points railing against it. But if the market were allowed more freedom, there'd generally be a lot more plywood and roofing paper available for those who really need them than there is under the current disaster price-fixing system.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Charlotte County Devastation

I'm back from Punta Gorda, and as you've seen on the news, the area is devastated.

There's not a building in the area left unaffected. The fortunate ones merely had some trees uprooted and some guttering ripped of their homes, but those folks are few and far between. The vast majority of residents there suffered serious damage, from roofs being ripped off to structural collapses in parts of their homes.

It's the sort of destruction one sees with a tornado, only it's spread over hundreds of square miles. The group I was with was able to temporarily fix some roofs so that hopefully a few families can at least remain dry until the contractors can do the permanent repair work, but thousands of people are still functionally homeless.

I already mentioned some of the groups that are helping, but while there I found another group doing excellent work: Samaritan's Purse. In addition to opening mobile food, shower, and bathroom facilities (since there's still no running water in Punta Gorda or Port Charlotte), they're also coordinating and equipping volunteer aid workers. The coordination is essential to fanning out resources to where they can do the most good. If you're looking to donate financially to the relief efforts, Samaritan's Purse would be an excellent place to do it.

The North American Mission Board (NAMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention has also had a major presence on the scene, particularly in the area of food distribution. The local radio media has particularly noted the SBC's participation.

Though it's still early, I found the mood of the people I talked to in Punta Gorda to be optimistic. Most were thankful to have made it through with what they had, and were extremely grateful to those who are helping physically and financially. Residents and volunteers continually patrol neighborhoods to offer relief workers water, Gatorade, and ice. That's no small thing since the heat index in Southwest Florida has been hovering well over the 100 degree mark since the storm hit.

It's going to be months before there's any sense of normalcy in Punta Gorde, Port Charlotte, and the surrounding area. And it will be longer than that before everything's fixed or replaced.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

See You Thursday

Heading over to Punta Gorda later this morning to pitch in. Should be back on Thursday if all goes well.

If you haven't done so already, now would be an excellent time to send a few bucks to the Salvation Army or the American Red Cross. These Floridians are going to need a lot of help. Nearly 800,000 people are still without power.

The number for the Salvation Army is (800) SAL-ARMY, and the Red Cross is at (800) HELP-NOW.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Wake Me When It's Over

Hey, did you realize the Olympics began on Friday? Me neither.

I haven't cared this little about something since the musical career of Joey Lawrence.

Hats off to the U.S. Olympic basketball team, though. Keep your heads up, guys. That Puerto Rican team is a beast, and who can reasonably be expected to play after that many bong hits anyway?

Thursday, August 12, 2004

The Religion of Stem Cell Research

William Saletan of the liberal online magazine Slate provides some much needed clarity in the stem cell fog being generated by the Democrats these days.

Among the points that Saletan makes in his piece, titled "Revelation of the Nerds: The Religion of Stem Cell Research":
"Three years ago, the president enacted a far-reaching ban on stem-cell research," Kerry asserted in his radio address. Repeating a pledge made by Hillary Clinton at the Democratic convention, Kerry promised twice that he would "lift the ban on stem-cell research." But no such ban exists. Embryonic stem-cell research is unrestricted in the private sector. State and local governments can fund it as they wish. The federal government spent nearly $200 million on adult stem-cell research last year and nearly $25 million on research involving the roughly 20 approved embryonic lines. As today's Washington Post observes, what Bush actually did was "to allow, for the first time, the use of federal funds" for embryonic stem-cell research.

Why does Kerry call it a "ban on stem-cell research" instead of a ban on federal funding of embryonic stem-cell lines derived after Aug. 9, 2001? Because the shorter phrase, while scientifically inaccurate in four egregious ways, is more politically effective.
Kerry, Ron Reagan, and much of the media are just downright dishonest when they claim the Bush Administration "opposes stem cell research." As I pointed out the other day, they don't. Nobody does. The issue is embryonic stem cell research--a line of research that has yet to yield a single successful human treatment.

As evidence that stem cells have become a Democrat religion, Saletan shows that they're attempting to impose it at the expense of other, more promising treatments:
To protect the symbolism, facts must be shaded. Kerry's pollsters must phrase the destruction of embryos in the past tense to dissociate this unpleasant necessity from the benefits of stem-cell research. The research must be insulated from comparative cost-benefit analysis by asking voters, through ballot measures, to designate billions of dollars exclusively for stem-cell work instead of other medical studies.
Amy Ridenour, on whose blog I found the link to the Slate story, makes one of the best arguments demonstrating that Democrat fervor for embryonic stem cells far outpaces the real potential of the research:
I would be more impressed by the claims of scientists regarding embryonic stem cell research if any of them took the time to satisfactorily explain how it is that research on embryonic cells can simultaneously be immensely promising and yet also unable to attract private funding.
I guess those greedy drug companies suddenly stopped wanting to make money.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Banana Republic

Would it be going too far to say that I think Americans ought to actually consider taking up arms to oppose the "international monitors" who are slated to observe our elections in November?

And the idiots in the Bush Administration actually invited them.

It's A Culture About Nothing

I started reading Kenneth A. Myers' All God's Children and Blue Suede Shoes last night, and nearly devoured the whole thing in one sitting. It's simply outstanding.

Among his most salient points: evangelicals are greatly concerned about the content of pop culture, but we don't seem to understand that the form of it carries just as much meaning.

Is rap music good if it has Christianized lyrics? The fact that most in our culture (including most evangelicals) would blanche at even the mere suggestion that some forms of music are intrinsically better than others is an indication that we've swalled the cultural camel while straining out a few of its gnats.

Either there are true asthetic standards ultimately rooted in the eternal, or there's no objective basis whatsoever for claiming that Beethoven's Fifth Symphony is better than "Ice Ice Baby," or that War and Peace is better than Valley of the Dolls. Even Christians (especially Christians?) find themselves embracing such relativism; wintess the many "Christian" products that simply put a Christian gloss on already-existing pop culture phenomena.

Excellent, excellent book.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

So Maybe It's a Bit Politically Incorrect

I was watching one of those Bill Kurtis documentaries last night on A&E about a serial killer who lived in Indiana. The killer was a family man, seemingly happily married, who may have killed as many as 50 young men, some of whom he buried within 15 feet of the back door of his home.

My wife came in and sat down and said "This isn't really too uplifting...why are you watching this?"

"Because I'm waiting for the part where they tell us he had a homosexual secret life," I said. I had never heard of the guy (Herb Baumeister) before, but I was confident it was coming. Sure enough, Bill Kurtis eventually informed us that yes, Baumeister was in the habit of picking up homosexual prostitutes for sex, many of whom he then killed.

Never having heard of Baumeister, how did I know there would be evidence of a homosexual life? Because homosexuality is almost always involved in the lives of serial killers.

Think about it--list the names of famous serial killers. Jeffrey Dahmer. John Wayne Gacy. Donald Harvey. Andrew Cunanan. Aileen Wuornos. What do they all have in common? If you don't believe me, try the "wait-for-it" test I used above. Flip on a true-crime program about a random serial killer and see if they just happen to mention homosexual behavior on the part of the perpetrator.

Of course, this link is never pointed out because it's more than a little politically incorrect. Does homosexuality cause serial killings? I have no idea. But it's interesting that homosexuals, who make up 2-3% of the American population by any reasonable estimate (the commonly cited 10% figure being a completely made-up number with no empirical support), comprise such a disproportionately large segment of the serial killer community.

Is it at least worth asking the question? If a significant portion of serial killers professed to be evangelical Christians, do you think the media would examine that link?

Monday, August 09, 2004

What's Wrong With This Picture?

Yesterday I was driving down the Ronald Reagan Turnpike (how the state pushed that one through on the crazed liberals of Palm Beach/Broward/Miami-Dade, I'll never know) here in South Florida yesterday afternoon when I saw a minivan in front of me with "Choose Life" Florida tags and two "Kerry-Edwards '04" bumper stickers in the window.

Friday, August 06, 2004


It looks as if Alan Keyes is going to accept the GOP's nomination for the U.S. Senate in Illinois.

Longtime visitors here know that I'm an unabashed Keyes fan; I think he's one of the most impressive and brilliant people in politics today.

But Keyes will face some criticism from both sides for running, since he evidently criticized Hillary Clinton as a "carpetbagger" when she ran for the Senate in New York. This opens Keyes to charges of hypocrisy, since he now has a bit of a problem in this area: I've been in his home, and it's in Maryland.

Still, I think there are some major differences between the candidacies of Clinton and Keyes which mitigate (to some degree) the inevitable charges of carpetbagging and hypocrisy against him.

Whereas Hillary set her sites on the open New York Senate seat and exerted all of her condsiderable influence bring her party into line behind her, Keyes is being essentially drafted by his party in a crisis. Hillary moved heaven and earth for her Senate seat, shoving other worthy Democrats out of the way; Keyes is being prevailed upon by his party to run in an emergency situation where they can't seem to find another candidate.

Until Keyes was drafted, there was a very real possibility that Barack Obama was going to run unopposed. The Illinois GOP was in a disasterous situation, and my guess is that Keyes will argue that providing a viable opponent in the Illinois race is so important to the democratic proccess that it outweighs the negative of "carpetbagging."

Though I'd love to see him win, there's little doubt that Keyes is going to lose. He's a smart guy, and he knows this. But if Obama were to sweep into the Senate unopposed after the media orgasms over his convention speech last week, he'd be a monster. By running a real race, the GOP can at least put a few chinks in his armor before Obama heads to Washington.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

On my way into work this morning, I heard an official from a fireman's union being interviewed on the local news radio station. He was going on and on decrying the Bush administration, saying that Bush has "failed to fund" local fire departments for new equipment.

The interviewer (whom I normally like; he never displays any overt bias) never thought to ask him the two questions I thought were rather pertinent: "What makes this a federal issue? Aren't budgets for fire departments set by local officials?"

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

I've come to a conclusion that is difficult and painful for me to even articulate. Those of you who've known me many years will be shocked by this revelation, as it seems to run counter to all I've ever professed.

The thought has been percolating in my mind for several years now, and I've beaten it back every time it threatened to rear its ugly head. But it finally broke through last night.

I was watching the film "Continental Divide" on AMC when I could no longer restrain my burgeoning realization: John Belushi was overrated.

I say that as a fan who's seen all of his films (even the aforementioned and universally-hated "Divide," in which Belushi is wildly miscast) many times over. The news of Belushi's death in 1982 was a formative moment in my adolescence. I still love "The Blues Brothers," and "Animal House"'s Bluto was a great character.

But Belushi was a so-so actor (when he wasn't doing an eyebrow trick), and he wasn't gut-bustingly funny either. Don't get me wrong--he wasn't terrible or anything. Just overrated.

He had an undeniable presence and energy, and he was excellent on "Saturday Night Live," but kinetic activity can only carry you so far. I think his wild popularity sprang more from his edginess than his talent. He seemed like a guy who could explode at any minute, which is compelling.

But had he survived, I doubt he'd still be a marquee star. Instead, he'd be one of the uncles in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" and probably on a sitcom with his brother.

Granted, "Continental Divide" was his weakest professional moment. But this feeling has been growing through recent viewings of all his work. Even when I watch the old SNL's, I realize that while the eye is instantly drawn toward Belushi, Dan Aykroyd was actually funnier.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

This is an absolutely fascinating profile of Michael Moore that ran in the New Yorker earlier this year. I only saw it for the first time today.

The writer is clearly sympathetic to and admiring of Moore. And yet Moore's hypocricy and chronic dishonesty (not to mention the utter intellectual bankrupcy of his leftism) show up here perhaps more clearly than in anything else that has been written about him.

An incident at Cambridge in England is particularly telling:
A male student stood up in the back of the room to ask a question. “You talk about the culture of fear in ‘Bowling for Columbine,’” he said, “so why do you have so much security?”

“Who said that I have so much security?” Moore said, sounding tense.

“Well, you have actually quite a lot,” the student said.

An older man sitting in the front row pointed to three men in the room. The men, who were standing in identical at-ease positions with their hands clasped and their legs apart, were dressed in uniforms consisting of khakis, white shirts, and navy blazers. Each had a small company badge on his lapel and a curly wire coming out of his ear. “They assume that all these men are your bodyguards,” the older man said.

“Why are they assuming that?” Moore asked. “Because they’re black?”

There was a chorus of low oohs in the room, as though to indicate that this was a dirty blow; but then students started clapping, as though to congratulate Moore for scoring a point.
A few paragraphs later, the writer adds:
It is because Moore makes such a forceful argument about the perniciousness of fear that the sight of him surrounded by security in a room full of students was so jarring. For the three uniformed men travelling with Moore were, of course, security guards—as Moore did not deny when asked later on (though they also functioned as assistants). They had been hired by Moore’s publisher to protect him on the tour...
But of course Moore is merely doing what any charlatan does. It's his brain-dead followers (like the dopes who applauded Moore's obvious disingenuousness) who ought to have brains enough to see through it. They're so interested in Moore's feverish conspiracy theories that they can't see the big, fat, unpleasant truth right in front of them.
Here's a stupid (but typical) recent story:
MIAMI — A couple returning home from a Costa Rican vacation was ejected from an American Airlines flight because the man was wearing a T-shirt depicting a bare breast.

Oscar Arela and his girlfriend, Tala Tow, were removed from Flight 952 on Saturday after he refused to change the shirt or turn it inside out at Miami International Airport. The flight left 90 minutes late without them.

The couple, making a connecting flight from Costa Rica, said nobody on the earlier flight objected to the shirt and claimed the airline violated their constitutional right to free speech.
Obviously this guy is no brain surgeon to begin with, but it's still worthwhile to ask the question: Exactly how is the United States government involved in all this?

The answer, of course, is: "It's not." Which means the First Amendment has no application here whatsoever. Yet I find it's not unusual that people somehow believe that the First Amendment means they can say whatever they want, whenever they want.

It doesn't.

If you or I walk into our boss's office and call him a "stupid mongoloid" this afternoon, we will be fired. The First Amendment does not guarantee us the right to such displays. It guarantees that the freedom of speech cannot be abridged by the government.

I've always been amazed by how many people are impervious to this simple fact.

When I was doing sports radio, I'd inevitably wind up with a caller here and there who would accuse me of violating his constitutional rights by cutting him off. Over and over I'd explain to such people that there's nothing in the Constitution guaranteeing them the right to spout off on my radio program, just as there is nothing in the Constitution that guaranteed me the radio show to begin with. I could get fired at any minute with no damage to my constitutional rights whatsoever. "But," I'd tell them, "today I still have the job and the hang-up button, so have a nice life."

The First Amendment is designed to protect your speech from the federal government. It does not protect you from the natural consequences of being a jackass.