Monday, March 29, 2004

Last night I made myself buffalo steak for dinner. It's tasty. I recommend it to everyone.

I suppose one should also support it because it's environmentally friendly, but in this case really it was all about a good steak.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Needless to say, I find this story pretty cool:

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Some people know that I'm virulently opposed to the White House's National Missile Defense plan. I didn't see the following story get much play (perhaps because of the Richard Clarke story) but I thought it was interesting:

I think national missile defense is a mistake. It becomes a gigantic mistake because it's so ridiculously expensive. We're spending lots and lots of money (how much did we spend on Reagen's Star Wars program?). It's certainly a nice idea--it would be great if we had such a system. But that doesn't make it good policy.

The basic problem is that it won't work. Why not? It's too hard. There's a reason we've walked on the moon but not on Mars. It's too hard. It won't work. Maybe it'll work in thirty years, but not now. The tests that've been done pretty much show that it's too hard (the "successes" happen in wildly unrealistic situations that do not in any way resemble the real world). Really, no other part of the debate matters. Because it's too hard, it doesn't matter whether we tick off the Ruskies, or what North Korea will do, or anything else.

But there are other reasons to not like it. Among them, there's no reason for it. Not to make an obvious point, but Mohammed Atta didn't attack Americans with missiles. There's talk of a "rogue nation" attacking us. Well, it's obviously North Korea, because if Russia wants to nuke us they could. North Korea may or may not be able to hit the west coast of America with a missile. (Obviously, it's a bit tough for them to test such a thing, so even if it's built, it's first run would be the attacking one.) But if they did, we'd invade immediately and crush them. It'd be a slaughter. There's no way they'd risk that. (Which is not to say that they couldn't hit Tokyo, but our system doesn't protect Tokyo.)

Next, if someone wanted to nuke San Francisco, why go to the trouble of sending a missile? It'd be far easier to stick a bomb in a shipping container, ship it here, and explode it in the middle of San Francisco Harbor. True, we're taking some action on tracking shipping containers, but not much. I don't know what the budget is, but we're not spending anywhere near the money we are on building a fancy exciting system (that won't work). Alternatively, they could drive it in from Mexico. These are real, legitimate problems. They present far more dangerous possibilities than Kim Jong Il signing his own death warrant. I fully support spending lots and lots of money to figure out how to track every single shipping container that ever enters the US. Period. But we're not devoting anywhere near the resources to these problems that we are to the impossible problem of shooting down missiles.

Finally, it's absurdly expensive. We're spending tons of money on a system that wouldn't do any good, that's unnecessary, and again WOULD NEVER WORK ANYWAY! IT WON'T WORK!!!!! If someone sticks a bomb in a minivan and nukes downtown New York City, it'll be small comfort to me that 49 retired generals and admirals agreed with me.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

A friend of mine sent me a long passionate post about why I should care about this golf club (it's called "Augusta" apparently). On the one hand, I'm elated (someone somewhere is reading!). On the other, I have to make the effort to defend why I don't care, which is difficult because it doesn't matter to me anyway.

So I'll go into more detail about why I don't care about it:

(a) I don't care about pro golf. At all. Zero. Sorry.

(b) Augusta is a bunch of really rich guys who decide to have their own golf club. So what? If they invite Carly Fiorina (for instance), then it becomes a bunch of really rich people who have their golf club.

(c) The Masters has no interest to me. (See (a) above) It may have a bunch of big sponsors or whatever. I've never watched it, never read about it, and honestly I can't give a damn.

(d) There may be valid legal arguments on both sides, but I can't make myself care enough to read them. The successful result of a lawsuit would be to make a bunch of rich guys include a woman. It doesn't affect me. At all. (See (b) above)

I'm sorry, I still can't come up with a reason to care. In fact, this is sort of a self-fulfilling posting. I could say more, but I just don't care enough to bother. In the meantime, feel free to send me comments (, but don't be surprised if your comments about this "Augusta" place are met with a bored silence.

Monday, March 22, 2004

There are many things I just don't care about. Some of them are prominent news stories. Two topics I just can't muster up enough interest to care about are:

(a) that golf club that won't let women in but the big tournament is held there; and

(b) whether France should let girls wear headscarves.

I don't care how frothy the New York Times gets, I just don't care about either story! If someone can give me a reason I should care about either controversy, email me at (Catchy, eh?)

Sunday, March 21, 2004


article is haunting me.

Friday, March 19, 2004

The pledge of allegiance case is coming before the Supreme Court pretty soon. I think it's a pretty interesting case. On the broadest level, the key question is whether the words "under God" matter. If they do matter (i.e. if the kids are really pledging allegiance to America, an indivisible nation under God), then adults are forcing kids to acknowledge God--and the government can't force kids to do that. If they're just empty words, though (like on money), there's no harm in forcing kids to say them. So W (in the guise of Ted Olsen) is in the somewhat odd position of arguing to the Supreme Court that the words "under God" don't matter. That no one pays them any attention. That the word "God" means nothing! (Presumably they didn't ask God for His opinion...)

But of course that's completely 100% false and everyone knows it. The whole reason there's a controversy is that the words do matter. If no one cared about including those two words in the pledge, the Christian right wouldn't get all frothy about it. Of course it matters. At least to adults.

But on the other hand, does it matter to kids? I remember saying the pledge. It was rote and stupid and one ended up mindlessly mumbling it every morning. (I believe the practice in Granville, Ohio was to say it up until the 5th grade.) So by this logic, there's no harm in including the words "under God" because while they obviously matter to adults, kids aren't paying attention anyway.

W will also be arguing that the pledge isn't mandatory. Riiiiiiight. And that there's no stigma to not saying it. Uh-huh. One of my few memories of saying the pledge every morning was of Joel "The Jehovah's Witness" Van Zandt. He didn't pledge. But he stuck out like a sore thumb. When one is in the third grade, that can't be pleasant. So yes, it technically isn't mandatory. But there's undoubtedly a stigma attached to not saying the pledge, especially when every other eight year old-AND ONE'S TEACHER!-is reciting it with hand over heart.

Personally, I believe that the words "under God" have meaning. One shouldn't say them unless one means them.

To me this is one of those dumb little controversies that's interesting only because what it says about society. In the end, it's dumb because no kid's life has EVER been affected one way or another by saying the words "under God" in the pledge (it's interesting to note that those words were added in 1954, to fight off the godless commies, I guess we all got along just fine without them). But it's also interesting for the light it shines on us all.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Props to the A's, for signing Eric Chavez. I like the A's. They're a fun team, they have smart management, and they have really cheap tickets. It's a great crowd at A's games too. In sharp contrast to Giants 'fans' (hey, I love Pac Bell Park too--it's a great park and it's completely privately financed, but 25% of the fans are watching the game and 75% are chattering on their cell phones or loudly talking about their investments), A's fans are loud and energetic. It's a great atmosphere. And did I mention $1 hot dogs on Wednesdays? A surefire recipe for success.

[The Oakland Coliseum is also the site of one of my favorite baseball memories--Game 5 of the Sox-A's series last year. But I'm being nice to the A's, so I won't mention it again.]

Sunday, March 14, 2004

It's NCAA tournament time, which means that again it's time for sportswriters to recycle the same stories they "wrote" last year.

My personal beef is the story about the bracket with six or seven tough teams. Sportswriters will bemoan the fate of the #1 seed in that bracket by listing each of the other six strong teams in that bracket, saying that they have to "get through all these tough teams". (It will be the "toughest bracket" or perhaps even the "bracket of death", depending on which brand of hyperbole the particular writer ate for breakfast.)

This has bugged me for years because it's so completely false. The obvious reason is that no team will play more than four other teams in its bracket! Each #1 seed gets one gimme game anyway, so they're actually facing at most three tough games. It doesn't matter that there are six tough teams, because they're only going to play three of them! To take an easy example, this year St. Joe's is in the same bracket as Oklahoma State, Pittsburgh, and Wisconsin. Dangerous! (I don't follow college basketball much, so I don't know much about these teams, but my point will work for whichever bracket Dick "The Obvious" Vitale decides is the most stacked.) It's irrelevant that these teams are all dangerous, because St. Joe's will play, at most, one of them (all three of those teams are in the bottom half of that bracket). The others will knock each other out first.

But sportswriters will write the story anyway, because why write something interesting when one can submit the same cliche'd-yet-nonsensical story from last year? (As a sidenote, it's different in the World Cup, where each team in a group of four plays the other three teams. In that round-robin format, one can really have a group of death, because you have to play everybody to get out.)

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Is it just me, or is it incredibly cool that we have two-TWO!-vehicles driving around on Mars? The pictures are astonishing.

(I'm not sure which is cooler, these pictures from Mars or the pictures from the asteroid a few years ago--these movies still give me chills:

I think that it's a little optimistic to talk about a manned mission to Mars, though. It's just too hard. We may get there incrementally, but it's too big a leap. First we ought to build a (permanent) base on the moon.

Monday, March 08, 2004

Now that spring training games have begun, baseball reporters can start over-analyzing the results of games. Newspapers will publish the standings and reporters will talk about a teams "record" as if it matters. This is entirely ridiculous. Spring training isn't a time to win games. Managers are trying young prospects, and a team's actual players often don't play the full game. Many games are split squad games anyway. As a policy, I refuse to pay attention to any spring training scores.

In other baseball news, the players union is really digging itself into a hole on the steroid/human growth hormone issue. I'm not sure what Gene Orza is thinking (he's the #2 guy at the players union, and he's been loudly claiming that cigarettes are worse for one's health than steroids and that because baseball doesn't prevent players from smoking, it shouldn't prevent them from using steroids either). From a strategic standpoint, I'm pretty sure that the union would rather negotiate with the owners than with Congress, but if they're not careful, they'll find themselves in congressional hearings. This is an election year, and what member of Congress wouldn't want to get on the evening news pontificating about the perils of steroids and the risks to Our Youth from the use of these drugs by professional athletes?

Saturday, March 06, 2004

Well maybe Martha Stewart is heading for the pokey after all. Generally, I don't think that sending people to prison does much to prevent other crimes. Jailtime should be predicated on punishment, not deterrence.

BUT, I think that white collar crime is an exception. Rich executives really really don't want to go to jail and they're probably knowledgeable about both the law they'd be breaking and celebrity cases like Stewart's. So I think it's good for society to throw the occasional Martha Stewart (and Sam Waksal--who was far stupider and has a good six more years left to think about it) in jail, even if it's unpleasant for her. That being said, I don't think there's any reason to put her away for long. Waksal's crime was far worse. Seems to me that six months-one year is about right. Just enough to send a loud message.

Friday, March 05, 2004

Osama Bin Laden.

I've been wondering for some time when he'll be found. Normally I'm not much of a subscriber to conspiracy theories, but in this case, frankly, it wouldn't surprise me if he turns up, oh, about three weeks before the presidential election. A month ago, I predicted a date of October 15. I'll still stick with that.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Why Iraq is not, and is, like Vietnam.

If Iraq turns into another Vietnam, everyone this side of Wolfowitz would agree that it was a big mistake. I think that although there are some differences, there are also some worrisome similarities.

First, the differences. Thankfully, Iraq's opposition doesn't have a hardened army on hand (we took care of that already), nor does it have a General Giap to lead it.

Next the sort-of-differences. The North Vietnamese were supported by Chinese/Soviets. The Iraqi insurgents will be supported by various sketchy rich people in the Persian Gulf, probably hailing from, among others, Syria, Iran, and our good friends in Saudi Arabia (note: sarcasm). North Vietnam's patrons were prepared to give it much more organized aid than what the Iraqi insurgents' patrons can supply. So I think that the bad guys in Iraq can expect some help, but not as much as the North Vietnamese got.

Now the similarities. It seems to me that one fundamental problem with Vietnam was that we were supporting a losing horse or, rather, a series of losing horses. Every South Vietnamese government was, for one reason or another, no good. But no matter how many coups occurred, the new government wasn't any good either. We knew who we were fighting against, but it was unclear who we were fighting for. And all along, it was clear that without us, the South Vietnamese government would collapse. This is what I see as the big similarity between Vietnam and Iraq. We could install a puppet government in Iraq, of course, but unless the Iraqi people support it, we'll again be in the position of outsiders supporting a series of losers. Are we going to fall in behind Chalabi? I hope not! But if we do, I can't see him lasting (or living!) long. Presumably we're going to be fighting against insurgents, but who are we going to be fighting for? The central government? What if it turns out to be oppressive? Will we overthrow it? if there's a civil war, who will we support? Will we fight for the Kurds? Against them?
I don't know. I sure hope Bremer knows, but I'm not convinced. I've read nothing indicating that W has even really considered the matter. I don't want us to be stuck in a quagmire there.

n.b.-many of these same arguments apply to Afghanistan, but in that case we had no choice but to go in. It appears that Hamid Karzai is at least someone we can support. I don't see anyone like that coming forward in Iraq.

Monday, March 01, 2004

The other day I passed a Ferrari. On the right. And therefore it was a good weekend.