I am always surprised by the number of credit card offers I receive, but yours takes the cake. I’m preapproved for a Home Depot store card with a $5000 limit? True, I’ve been considering stripping and refinishing some woodwork in my apartment, but if I spent $50 on that, that would bring my lifetime spending at your store up to about $100. My last purchase from you was last October, when I bought a $4 piece of pegboard and two $1 bags of screws. That means that the cost of mailing me this ridiculous offer erased the net profit you had made on me for the last 12 months.
In short, targeting me with your application is about as effective as targing me with Tampax coupons. Please, save a tree and do not send me another.
Apollo posted this at 6:12 PM CDT on Sunday, April 30th, 2006 as Uncategorized
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What do you all make of this?
conor friedersdorf posted this at 12:50 AM CDT on Friday, April 28th, 2006 as Politics
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Some of us predicted that gay marriage might have this impact on gay culture:
The headline of the lead story in last week’s Bay Area Reporter, San Francisco’s gay newspaper of record, said it all: “Gay families join Easter Egg Roll.”
We’ve come a long way from the Stonewall riot, the sexual liberationism of the 1970s, and “We’re Here, We’re Queer, Get Used to It.” There are unmistakable signs that the emphasis on relationships and families in gay life, politics, and media is having traditionalizing effects on gay culture.
This is evident in the causes and trends that have dominated the gay movement for the past 15 years or so: serving in the military, joining the Boy Scouts, attending services at large gay-friendly churches, and above all, gay marriage.
This development can even be seen in America’s capital of gay sexual liberation, San Francisco. Recent stories in the B.A.R . and the Los Angeles Times document the beginnings of a change in attitudes toward open and explicit displays of sexuality in the Castro. The change is being spurred especially by gay families with children, who want a more family-friendly environment and are chafing at a culture they see as saturated with sex.
Conservatives have long argued that marriage and family help individuals to be virtuous. How odd that if this trend in gay culture continues conservatives will be among the most surprised.
conor friedersdorf posted this at 12:41 AM CDT on Friday, April 28th, 2006 as Uncategorized
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Just went on a short drive and I flipped the radio over the Air America. Not sure what show I was listening two, but I heard two callers. A report:
1.) Heard a Katrina conspiracy theory I hadn’t hearrd before. Why did The Man blow up the levy to kill all those people in New Orleans? So He could build condos for rich people. For years I’ve heard the super wealthy say, “Screw Beverly Hills, New Orleans is the place to be, but even with all my millions I can’t talk anyone out of their land,” but I hadn’t connected that to Katrina. It all makes sense now.
2.) Apropos my Price of Freedom post, there was a gentleman calling in from Los Angeles advocating nationalizing the oil industry. He explained the he commuted 180 miles per day, and thus he had been hit particularly hard by increased price of gas. An extra $35 a week, he explained. It is evidently so awful that he’s had to give up going to the movies! I had two thoughts on this, the first being, if he drives 90 miles, works for 8 hours, and drives 90 miles back–in Los Angeles traffic!– how on Earth could he have time to watch movies? The second is that he sounded remarkably bitter for someone who has the freedom–not just the abstract right, but also the economic and infrastructural wherewithal–to, by choice, live 90 miles from his place of employment. If he’s just now realizing that this lifestyle choice of his has costs (not the least of which is putting him at the mercy of oil market fluctuations), well, I’m not sure he’s the foresighted individual from whom we should take policy advice. Perhaps an easier solution than nationalizing the oil industry is to find a job less than 90 miles from his house?
Apollo posted this at 5:06 PM CDT on Thursday, April 27th, 2006 as Lord, What Fools These Mortals Be!
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There are several interesting things about the present gas prices. As much as we might all complain about it, everybody seems to be going about their lives. From this chart, gas consumption was higher in 2005 than it was in 2004, despite the fact that gas was significantly more expensive. There seems to have been a consumption drop from 2003 to 2004, but once people got beyond the shock of paying $1.80 a gallon for gas, we quickly discovered that it was going to be alright. Some of us no doubt converted to more fuel efficient cars, but others–like your humble correspondent–still like to crunch bunnies and smoke cigars in our SUVs.
Owning a car is an expensive proposition. I make a monthly payment of $300, pay about $110 a month in insurance, paid $450 this year to Virginia in sales taxes, will probably pay $250 or $300 in property taxes, and right now am averaging maybe $220 a month in gas. That’s about $7500 a year, plus whatever maintence and repairs cost ($500 this year so far). My wife and I are not, by American standards, wealthy; we’re middle class yuppies.
Still, I consider my car a bargain. In America, a car is freedom incarnate; I am obligated to no one else for my own mobility, perhaps the most important freedom. I want to go to Target, I’m there. I want to enroll in a class 15 miles away, I’m there. My wife and I can live and work where we want, without having to arrange our living circumstances or our place of work around public transportation. I can leave this city as I see fit and go wherever I want, at the time and pace of my choosing. A bargain at most any price.
I’ve spoken to people who do not see a car as such, but they all grew up in cities. I grew up a in rural part of the country, so flat that, except for houses and trees, you could see a straight horizon in all directions. My experiences there make me exceptionally hostile to gas taxes, because I see them as taxes that disproportionally affect the rural; I knew people who drove 50 miles to work each way, and it was commonplace for people to have jobs in neighboring towns and drive 25 miles each way. To me, living in Arlington, a large gas tax would serve the purpose of driving me toward public transportation; in rural America, there’s no such option. Either you’d uproot yourself from your home and move, or else you’d shell out an extra $5 or $10 a day to make urban liberals feel good about themselves.
This is a big country, and that bigness–the wide open spaces of the midwest and the west, especially–is an integral part of our national identity. Four years ago this month my wife and I–she was then my girlfriend–went on our first road trip together. We drove from southern California to the Grand Canyon, then to the National Parks of southern Utah. We’ve now travelled to 30 states together, and will probably visit another 6 or 8 before this year is out. We do hokey road trip stuff–like seeing “The Thing” in southern Arizona, Wall Drug in South Dakota, and taking pictures with large animal statues from coast to coast–and we see the more important sights, but mostly we just experience America. It’s a big, big country, and no two places are the same. One of the things that always amazes us is how different states feel different, even those you woulnd’t think about. Anyone who’s been there knows that the part of Arizona that borders New Mexico is much different from the part of New Mexico that borders Arizona. The first time I crossed from Colorado into Utah, I didn’t see any signs but could easily tell the difference. The rolling prairies of western Nebraska look different from the rolling praries of eastern Wyoming. And Texas. Well it’s like a whole other country.
I like cheap gas not because it’s good for the economy (though it might be), or because it saves the poor money (it might do that as well), but because cheap gas makes it easier for more people to get to know America in the way that I’ve been blessed to. If gas had been $3 a gallon, I probably wouldn’t have taken my car the 2000 miles to college. And I certainly wouldn’t have sought the out-of-the-way routes–who knew that the road from southern Missouri to southern California passed by Crater Lake and a 12 foot tall concrete prairie dog in South Dakota?–that let me see more of the country than I’d thought possible. I’ve seen London and I’ve seen France, but those experiences couldn’t substitute for taking the Skyline Drive at Shenandoah, climbing to the Emerald Pools at Zion, or looking back on the Golden Gate from Point Bonita.
This is a remarkable country, and the more people who see it, the better. We’re a people unaccustomed to taking “No” for an answer, so I’ve no doubt that we’ll drill, conserve, and innovate our way out of the present situation, but while gas is $3 a gallon, freedom is more expensive.
Apollo posted this at 2:01 PM CDT on Thursday, April 27th, 2006 as Amer-I-Can!, Ourselves
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The Post today has an op-ed concerning civilian-military relations that is, surprisingly enough, historically literate. I have a few disagreements, but it should be taken seriously. The last paragraph, in particular, deserves a response.
If commanders are denied the power to manage campaigns as they think right, it is unjust to allow them to accept blame when these go awry. In the new world, the generals’ revolt seems a legitimate response to political mismanagement of operations. If a civilian such as Donald Rumsfeld seeks to exercise from Washington functions that were traditionally those of soldiers, he should take the customary consequences. The most conspicuous historical example of a politician presiding over a military fiasco was that of Winston Churchill as First Lord of the Admiralty. He sponsored the 1915 Dardanelles campaign — and was forced to quit.
The comparison between the Iraq invasion and Gallipoli (although I’m sure Rumsfeld would be flattered by the Churchill comparison, even if it is to one of the great man’s failures) is not a good one. Gallipoli was but a theater in a larger war, a possible way around the Western Front stalemete, that Churchill conceived and brought about by himself. The Iraq invasion–while connected to the larger War on Terror–is really a war by itself. Rumsfeld might have favored it, but the idea was not his alone. He was tasked with implementing the president’s policy, and just like the generals below him, he had to work inside constraints–namely, the available manpower. More importantly, Gallipoli was objectively an Allied failure; Iraq, despite the foot-tapping impatience of some, is not. During the 8 months of the Gallipoli campaign, the Allies suffered about a quarter-million dead (roughly 100 times the number of Americans killed in three years in Iraq) and perhaps a half million total casualties (more than three times the size of the entire American force in Iraq). Even if I were to make the very big leap of granting that Iraq is a defeat, the human scale of the two is not at all comparable.
But let’s look at exactly what Churchill was sacked for. By early 1915, when the Gallipoli campaign started, it was already apparent that the trench war on the Western front was going nowhere, and was killing an unbelievable number of men in fruitless combat. Russia had suffered enormous setbacks, and it was now apparent that Germany was going to be able to man the trenches in the West and still go on the offensive in the East. British and French commanders, though, were willing to settle into trench warfare, continuing to waste men in order to maintain the offensive spirit of the army. Churchill’s idea to attack through Turkey, though risky, provided a chance for open, mobile warfare on the enemy’s soil, where the Allies might have a chance at victory rather than losing millions of men in the trenches to maintain the status quo. It failed, but it would have been negligent for the Allies not to try something like Gallipoli. Australia and New Zealand regard the campaign as national tragedies, but would it make them feel better if their had soldiers died in equally fruitless combat in France? Of course, after Churchill’s departure, the allies settled into the relentless bloodbath of the Western front, without serious plans to change the status quo.
At the very least, what have we accomplished in Iraq? We’ve killed thousands of terrorists, no doubt diverting many of them from other targets. We’ve given an Arab Muslim country a chance for a true, functional democracy. We’ve removed a regional thug who destabilized a region and presented an ongoing problem to American foreign policy. At a loss of lives that is, by any historical measure, very low. If the Iraqis succeed in governing themselves, it will provide a model to the rest of the region, proving that Arab Islam and democracy can coexist, and it will provide us with a spirited, competent, Arab ally in our fight against terrorists. The neoconservative idea of expanding democracy to reduce terrorism so far is best the reasonable idea that could end the War on Terror within my lifetime; the alternative, of simply putting out small fires as they come up, is less risky, but for decades leaves us living in a world as dangerous as that of September 10, 2001, without proactively seeking larger change.
Apollo posted this at 11:47 AM CDT on Wednesday, April 26th, 2006 as Iraq, Politics
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…that keeps Republicans from being Republicans?
RICHMOND, April 25 — Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) rejected an increase in gas taxes to pay for transportation improvements, prompting a leading Republican ally in the Senate to accuse the governor Tuesday of pandering to national anxiety about rising fuel prices.
Senate Transportation Chairman Martin E. Williams (R-Newport News) said he was “sickened” by Kaine’s comments. They were “a wimp-out,” he said, which would undermine the Senate’s support for a tax of 6 cents a gallon on terminal operators and would give comfort to Republicans in the House of Delegates, who have refused to accept tax increases to pay for transportation improvements.
Sickened? Did you get that? It’s like every goddammed Republican “Senator” thinks he has to be Arlen-Frickin-Specter. Thank God the Virginia House of Delegates seems to have grown something resembling a backbone since it caved to the ridiculous tax hike of a couple years ago. And, strangely, I feel more certain that Democrat Kaine will stand firmer against this tax hike than would the dreadful Republican he thankfully defeated last November. I need a 6-cent a gallon tax hike like this Senator Williams guy needs my foot up his ass, but, this being a world full of injustice, I’m more likely to get the former than he is the latter.
But honestly, how many Republicans do I have to vote for before they start getting the point that I’d like for them to behave like Republicans. Virginia should be a comfortably Republican state, but it keeps electing Democrats to the governor’s mansion because, well, if we’re to get a tax hike from a Republican or a tax hike from a Democrat, at least we have something to complain about if it’s the latter. Slack-jawed disbelief is not as fun.
Apollo posted this at 8:47 AM CDT on Wednesday, April 26th, 2006 as An Insult to Drunken Sailors, Politics
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Duncan Currie gives a detailed synopsis of the censored South Park episodes, and concludes:
The Cartoon Jihad may be over. But when even South Park is stifled by “recent world events,” it becomes clearer than ever who won.
The Muslim world—or, rather, its most significant minority, the Islamofascists—gets it. When will the lesson be learned in America at large?
Hubbard posted this at 8:27 AM CDT on Wednesday, April 26th, 2006 as Global War on Terror, Lord, What Fools These Mortals Be!
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President Bush made an excellent decision yesterday: he hired Tony Snow as his new press secretaty.
WASHINGTON (CNN) — Fox News’ Tony Snow is set to move from the anchor chair to the hot seat, agreeing to take on the role of White House press secretary amid slumping poll ratings for President Bush.
The appointment of Snow, who has formally accepted the job, will be announced Wednesday morning, according to three Republican sources familiar with Snow’s discussions with the White House…
The three Republican sources told CNN that before agreeing to take on the post, Snow had sought and received assurances from Bolten and other senior White House officials that he would be an active participant in major policy debates and would have a significant say in hiring in the press and communications operations.
For someone like me who’s been driven mad lately by this Administration’s abject disinterest in explanaining its policy, its cliquishness and assent-obsession I’m really, really encouraged by this; Snow will be able to communicate whitehouse policy effectively, and — fingers crossed — might even be able to influence it for the better. If you thought Andrew Sullivan, The One True Conservative™, would have something postive to say about this, you’d be wrong.
Tom posted this at 1:23 AM CDT on Wednesday, April 26th, 2006 as George Bush Rules!, Uncategorized
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1) Gregg Easterbrook is back writing Tuesday Morning Quarterback at ESPN.com.
2) After attending a weekend open house for admitted students at the Columbia School of Journalism ($38,000 = 1 year’s tuition), I’ve decided to attend NYU instead this fall. An interesting sidenote: during a lecture on blogging to roughly 150 alumni and admitted students the professor, asking how many people had heard of Instapundit, seemed as surprised as I was that only 3 or 4 hands went up.
3) Mickey Kaus and Jonah Goldberg are my favorite Bloggingheads.tv diavloguers yet. Will diavlogues one day replace programs like Crossfire?
conor friedersdorf posted this at 4:06 PM CDT on Tuesday, April 25th, 2006 as Uncategorized
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In Israel today, armed forces go on high alert. For one minute, everything stops as people remember the Holocaust, the Shoah. Then life goes on as before.
When my co-blogger Tom visited a few weeks back, we visited the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. The picture that most haunts me is one of a group of Jewish boys getting ready for a race, all of them excited and laughing despite the stars of David on their shoulders. In a few years, most of them would be murdered. Will we live up to “never again”?
Hubbard posted this at 8:50 AM CDT on Tuesday, April 25th, 2006 as The Past Is Never Dead--It Isn't Even Past
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Debra Saunders has a chilling column up today—
Last week, The San Francisco Chronicle ran a story by reporter Vanessa Hua about a San Mateo, Calif., man who flew to Shanghai and paid $110,000 for a liver — with nary a thought about human-rights activists’ contention that China has executed prisoners in order to harvest their organs. Not only was Eric De Leon’s name in the paper, he even has a blog about his Shanghai transplant. The man clearly is not ashamed.
Last year, the Chinese deputy health minister admitted, as he promised reform, that the organs of executed prisoners were sold to foreigners. This month, the South China Morning Post reported that a leading Chinese transplant surgeon estimated that more than 99 percent of transplanted organs in China came from executed prisoners.
The Chronicle story is here. The De Leon’s blog is here. Saunders asks:
Did De Leon, 51, try to find out who the 20-year-old liver donor was, or if the donor was an executed prisoner? “Not really,” he said when I called him Monday. He claimed he wasn’t aware of the controversy until he arrived in China.
De Leon argues that the 20-year-old was a car accident victim. It’s possible. It’s what the Chinese government claims, so of course it must be true. Possibly more truthful than their claims that nothing happened at Harbin. It’s also possible that he was a student who posted the wrong thing on his blog and was found thanks to collaborators Google and Yahoo. We simply don’t know.
Hubbard posted this at 7:09 AM CDT on Tuesday, April 25th, 2006 as Brave New Worlds, Commie Recrudescence
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Anybody can sing “If I were a Rich Man,” but only a few have the presence to be Tevye. Tonight’s singer at Mimi’s can pull it off. Crazy Mandy and I are catching up, swapping stories, getting ready for another week. Read the rest of this entry »
Hubbard posted this at 11:24 PM CDT on Monday, April 24th, 2006 as Vignettes
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Conor linked a fascinating article over at the Missing Link today by Jay Rosen about the departure of Scott McClellan.
In short, while I think Rosen is guilty of mild hyperbole and thinly-veiled invective, his underlying point is sound: the Bush Administration views the Press as an enemy, and is not really interested in communicating its policy.
First, McClellan was a necessary figure in what I have called Rollback— the attempt to downgrade the press as a player within the executive branch, to make it less important in running the White House and governing the country. It had once been accepted wisdom that by carefully “feeding the beast” an Administration would be rewarded with better coverage in the long run. Rollback, the policy for which McClellan signed on, means not feeding but starving the beast, while reducing its effectiveness as an interlocutor with the President and demonstrating to all that the fourth estate is a joke.
I don’t share Apollo’s categorical hatred for American journalism (or perhaps American journalists). That being said, I do think our Legacy Media is suffering from a general malaise. I put most of the blame on declining consumer standards. If Americans — and yes, Europe is just as bad in it’s way — regularly engaged cognitive function when reading the news, I’m inclined to think that the press would oblige us and write better material. I also blame the journalists; having power-players like Helen Thomas, Dan Rather, and David Gregory has made the Administration’s joke an extremely easy one to tell.
I would also, for the reasons described by Mr. Rosen, put a good deal of blame on the Administration itself. The great problem with the President Bush hasn’t been his inability to communicate his policy, but his abject disinterest in trying. How many times have his supporters – which still sometimes includes me — read an article by the likes of Charles Krauthammer, Victor Davis Hansen, or Steven Hayes that brought clarity to a subject that the Administration muddled and asked ourselves “Jesus, why doesn’t Bush fire his speech writers and hire this guy?” Considering how delighted I assume such people would be to take the job, I can only assume that the Administration simply isn’t interested enough to ask.
Tom posted this at 8:44 PM CDT on Monday, April 24th, 2006 as George Bush Sucks!, Journalism
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I am a big fan of using history for rhetorical points. I believe it provides useful context, a reminder that sometimes we are but singing different verses to the same tune. It is rarely exactly the same, though, and history hardly ever provides a precise blueprint for action. Obviously we can look back and see that the West should have taken out Hitler early, but that does not itself contsitute an argument for taking out any given foreign leader today. And we must remember that nothing ever looks the same once it changes. Had there been a Prime Minister Churchill to lead an English-French-Czech alliance against Germany in 1938, we might very well regard the great man as the same warmonger his contemporaries saw. Had someone then tried to explain the full extent of the calmity that a 1938 war prevented–the Holocaust, 20 million dead Russians, every major German city gutted by fire–few would have believed.
At the same time, we cannot ignore the Cuban Missile crisis, when Kennedy opted for non-military actions and the whole thing was brought to a satisfactory conclusion. Had he started a hot engagment in Cuba–presuming the nuclear exchange was local and non-apocolyptic, marking the second such use of nuclear weapons in a mere 17 years–Kennedy still might have been regarded as a hero, starting a war just when the Soviet Union was beginning to eclipse America and preventing, albeit with casualties, the Ruskies basing larger missiles near our coast and bringing the whole of Latin America within their sphere of influence. He might have been seen as laying down a firm marker that stopped the Communists cold, since, ultimately, they were unwilling to risk the nuclear engagement that we obviously were willing to start. Had someone then tried to explain that war could have been avoided, and the U.S. still come out on top of the Cold War, there may have been a few believers, but the vast majority would be incredulous. It’s hard, as Robert Kennedy put it in a different context, to see things that never were and ask “Why not?”
So when arguing for prentative war, it takes a very wise man indeed to know whether he is marching on Berlin ca. 1938, or sailing for Cuba ca. 1962. In the Post, today, Arthur Schlesinger presents the issue as an open and shut case. Lincoln opposed the Mexican War, and Kennedy solved the Cuban missile crisis peacefully, THEREFORE we should not attack Iran.
But our Cold War presidents kept to the Kennan formula of containment plus deterrence, and we won the Cold War without escalating it into a nuclear war. Enter George W. Bush as the great exponent of preventive war. In 2003, owing to the collapse of the Democratic opposition, Bush shifted the base of American foreign policy from containment-deterrence to presidential preventive war: Be silent; I see it, if you don’t. Observers describe Bush as “messianic” in his conviction that he is fulfilling the divine purpose. But, as Lincoln observed in his second inaugural address, “The Almighty has His own purposes.”
In a particularly head-in-the-sand moment, Schlesinger repeatedly refers to the Kennan doctrine of containment. Kennan’s containment, though, revolved around the certainty that the Soviets would eventually collapse due to the inferiority of their own system. Containment was not an endless policy of dealing with Communists for centuries to come; it had an end game, and it provided for American victory.
Neither Schlesinger nor anyone else opposed to attacking Iran has advocated a policy that plausibly sees us peacefully triumphing over a nuclear Iran, or at least a way to have some measure of assurance that Iran will not, once armed, engage in nuclear terrorism or an out-and-out nuclear strike on Israel. The anti-war position seems, instead, to revolve around, waiting since not-war is preferable to war, and something better might happen. Well, that was true in 1962, but it wasn’t true in 1938. Somebody needs to tell me why Iranian mullahs, who sponsor international terrorism, who raised armies of 13, 14, and 15 year olds to run armed through minefields to detonate the mines, who have repeatedly and in pointed terms announced that Israel should and will be destroyed, who belong to a religion whose leading strains advocate suicidal war, who are most of the way to obtaining nuclear weapons, whose president believes it is his reponsibility to bring about an apocolypse so he can end a 1200 year-old game of hide and seek, and who have enough oil money to do as they please, are reasonable and to be treated as rational actors.
Schlesinger is flat out wrong on one point: Bush sees it, but so do an awful lot of others.
Apollo posted this at 11:02 AM CDT on Monday, April 24th, 2006 as George Bush Rules!, Global War on Terror
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