Blog or Not?

A statistically improbable polymath's views on politics and culture.

Saturday, January 31, 2004
I'm not sure what to think
President Khatami of Iran was hospitalized for "severe back pain" right before an emergency Cabinet meeting dealing with the Guardian Council's control over Parliamentary candidates.

At first my first impression was, "Yeah. Back pain. Sure. Probably caused by the Guardian Council's hired thugs." But then I thought better of it and called my father, a chiropractor. So apparently it's quite plausible that President Khatami could be suffering really debilitating back pain--think of President Kennedy.

Friday, January 30, 2004
If You Can't Join 'Em, Beat 'Em
Remember Martha Bork's crusade against Augusta National last year? Yes, I know, very 2003. But I suddenly realized that Ms. Bork's going about getting women admitted to Augusta National the entirely wrong way. Now, I haven't been able to find specific information about Augusta National, but it seems that there are two ways of becoming a member of the golf club:
1. Filling out an application, which is then reviewed by a bunch of stuffy old guys who give you bonus points for knowing everyone else in the club, being really rich, etc.
2. Winning the Masters Golf Tournament.

Now, Michelle Wie is probably the best golfer of our generation; I have a feeling that she'll be threatening Tiger Woods in a few years. If she were to win the Masters Golf Tournament, Augusta National would have to give her the green jacket*, keys to the club, etc. And if they refused? I'm sure plenty of fine golf courses would jump at the chance of holding the Masters. Besides, do you really want to mess with someone who's holding a Big Bertha and knows how to use it?

*Two hours, everyone's at the seventeenth hole, a corporate guy: "Hey! Call a tailor--it looks like the girl might win this thing! We've got to get one of these jackets altered, and fast."

Monday, January 26, 2004
You're The Breakfast Club! A brain, an athlete, a
basket case, a princess and a criminal are all
sentenced for a day of saturday school.
Insecurities and secrets are revealed while
comedy ensues.

What '80s Teen Movie are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Maureen Gets Results?
A while ago I noted that the Justice Department had dropped the registration requirement for young men from Muslim countries; in a footnote I remarked that a low-key registration requirement for all non-citizens living in this country could be an option. Turns out, according to a man I know at the U of C, that may be what's happening--his wife, a Dutch citizen, was called and questioned by some government officials.

I haven't heard anything on the news about this, so I'm rather concerned--wouldn't it be better public relations for this to be publicized? Perhaps they can use the money that some in Congress had probably earmarked to promote the Ronald Reagan dime and have a PSA with a more formal version of "Hey, if you're a resident alien or here on an extended-period visa, expect a call from the DHS in the next few weeks just to say 'hey, 'sup, what's your addy, thanx, bye' and then, y'know, we'll be sending you a postcard every year just to confirm your address."

(Cliche alert) Developing...

Generation X, Meet Your Political Leader
Harold Ford, Jr. is the thirty-three year old representitive from Tennessee's 9th District in the U. S. House of Representitives. He gave the keynote address at the 2000 Democratic National Convention and in all respects looks to be the new Democratic Golden Boy. Here's his recent Washington Post piece on creating a nation of stockholders, one child at a time. I've read about a similar program implemented by Melody Hobson, CEO of Ariel Mutual Funds, in the Ariel Community School in Chicago, and I really liked the idea--I'm glad to see that politicians are also interested in the idea.

Saturday, January 24, 2004
I want one
Howard Dean Gets Action Figure (Link via Tapped)

The action figure doesn't really look like Dean--unless it's Dean after he goes to the Bahamas for a month and gets a really good tan. And I'm not sure that the governor of Vermont would wear a Confederate flag T-shirt, but the company ( also sells alternate outfits for your action figure, including a rather natty looking suit.

But on the whole, I'm really excited about the possibilities that this action figure brings. During high school, one of the most frequently used media for special projects was movies starring various action figures, Barbie dolls, and stuffed animals. I especially remember a movie telling the story of Cesare Borgia's switch from the Pisan Army to the Florentine Army starring Lorenzo de Medici as a teddy bear and narrated by Pikachu; an excellent film in both plot and technique. So, for a while I've been wanting to see a Texas-style cage match between Howard Dean and George W. Bush, mostly because I think that Dean would kick Bush's ass back to Crawford. This belief of mine is justified because:
1. Dean was a wrestler in high school. Bush was a cheerleader. Unless male cheerleaders learned backflips and other semi-karate-esque moves, Bush is toast.
2. Dean has The Rage™

So now, with the help of, we may all soon be able to see some old-school Democrat-on-Republican ass-kicking.


Friday, January 23, 2004
Media Whores Offline
At approximately 11:30 AM today, I saw a CBS-2 newsvan, transmitter down, parked on 58th Street just off of University Avenue. As I decided to see what the fuss was about, I began to investigate--and then I realized. They were here to film a "human interest story"--the Polar Bear Run. For some reason, the University News Office feels it neccessary to inform the media that 300 naked/near naked University of Chicago undergrads will be running two blocks. You may draw your own conclusions as to the psychological motivations behind both the Polar Bear Run and the publicity.

UPDATE: Turns out it wasn't for the Polar Bear Run, but for something else entirely--the van disappeared just after I blogged, but that had slipped my mind by the next time I was at a computer.

A Small Chinese Character Isn't the Same as a Six-Inch Skull; Or, the Inanity of Polls
The Chicago Tribune and RedEye* had an article today about the possibilities and pitfalls of showing tattoos at work. The main picture associated with the story is of a shirt-and-tie wearing desk jockey with flames tattooed on his exposed forearm--and on the web site, that's the image that's right above the poll asking, "Should Tattoos Be Displayed At Work?"

They're trying to get everyone to vote "No", aren't they? I mean, of the approximately 1 in 10 Americans who have tattoos, how many of them get really large ones in places that could plausibly be exposed at most white-collar workplaces? And would most of those that did get conspicous tattoos work at stodgy, shirt-and-tie places? Probably not. Besides, at some workplaces--anywhere from auto mechanic shops to graphic design firms--tattoos are almost part of the uniform. But then, at some workplaces, such as a courtroom (the attorneys, although the defendants would probably benefit from similar sartorial guidelines), nursing homes, old-school brokerage firms, and other places with a high concentration of the easily shocked/offended, no visible tattoos are appropriate.

Of course, this is symptomatic of a larger problem--the lack of a "maybe" choice in polls. Would it kill pollsters to put a "Depends on the situation" choice?

*For those of you who don't pay particular attention to Chicago media, the "hip [cough], edgy [cough]" (and more importantly, free at many Hyde Park locations) weekday microedition of the Chicago Tribune.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004
Dammit, I Didn't Even Get A Chance to Create A Meme!
The Big Turning Point in the Sullivan drama

Now all that's left is to start betting on when Sullivan declares his support for Bush over (which is far from synonymous with even voting for the Democratic candidate). I'm 95% sure he'll announce it before the Democratic National Convention, and if Edwards or Kerry is the candidate he'll definitely declare before then, probably around March-April--hell, he may even advise those in swing states to vote for Edwards. If the candidate's Dean or Clark--depends on how both of them act during the next few months; Sullivan seemed receptive to Dean at one point before Dean started the hardcore Iowa pandering, and it's pretty difficult to claim that a general wouldn't be good on defense.
Part of me's almost tempted to say that Sullivan'll bolt sometime in February, but remembering that Sullivan's sabbatical last August was taken in part to reflect upon his affiliation with President Bush, I'd say that he'll take some time to reflect on things.

On Cognitive Dissonance
Eschaton gives me the opportunity to not-too-randomly ask a question that's been on my mind for the past year:

Why the f*ck does Andrew Sullivan still support George W. Bush?

I'm not going to bother putting up links; y'all know the story: Sullivan's out, proud, and walking the beagle with his boyfriend in Provincetown; GWB wants to embed homophobia into the Constitution and calls Rick "man-on-dog" Santorum "inclusive". Sullivan keeps pleading for Bush to change his mind--and we all know, when it comes right down to it, that we'll see Utah turn Democrat before that happens. Yet for some bizarre reason (cognitive dissonance?) Sullivan keeps supporting Bush. Come on, Sullivan. Put your cognitive dissonance away, and be a man. Stop being Bush's beard already.

Monday, January 19, 2004
And Conventional Wisdom Is KO'ed Again, As...
- Edwards, Kucinich agree to share support in Iowa caucuses

John Edwards.
Dennis Kucinich.

I'm trying to figure this out. Clearly Edwards has the most to gain from this alliance, as Kucinich won't make 15% in more than a few of the "crunchier" Iowa precincts. But since Kucinich knows that most of his supporters probably have Dean in their second-choice slot, he realizes that he hast to ally himself with someone who has a fundamentally different style so that their switch in allegiance will hopefully be temporary. Or so I'm speculating.

On a lighter note, the Blogger spellchecker keeps trying to replace "Kucinich" with "juiciness".

Sunday, January 18, 2004
Wal-Mart: Officially America's Evilest Retailer
So they lock their late-night Sam's Club employees in, and they say not to leave unless there's a fire, and guess what? The workers are so scared they stay in the store even when they break their legs.

I'm never buying anything at a Sam's Club again.

Saturday, January 17, 2004
A few days ago I was floating the idea in my head that maybe, just maybe, the Forty-Fourth President of the United States should nominate a woman for Secretary of Defense; the obvious choice would be Lieutenant General Claudia Kennedy, former deputy Army chief of staff for intelligence. Tonight I happened upon Foreign Policy's list of the foreign policy advisors to the various Democratic presidential candidates (thanks to Professor Drezner). I'm a Dean supporter myself, but Kerry's inclusion of General Kennedy in his team of advisors, and the lack of any other military/defense personnel among his advisors, is looking damn attractive.

The political question: Would Kerry gain or lose support in Iowa by publicizing General Kennedy's involvement with his campaign? On the one hand, Iowan feminists could be intrigued by the possibility of a female Secretary of Defense*, on the other, she's never served in combat. But at least she's served in the military, unlike former Secretary of Defense Richard B. Cheney.

*Sometimes I lament the absence of gendered articles in English; if I were writing in French I could have just said "une ministre de defense**" and avoided the clunky modifier which I feel rather overemphasizes the General's gender.

**This is legal now, according to the Academie Française.

Thursday, January 15, 2004
The True Home Base of the "Left-Wing Freak Show"
Like many Democrats, I've been rolling my eyes at the Club for Growth's anti-Dean ad proclaiming the Vermont governor's presidential campaign a "body-piercing, Hollywood-loving, left-wing freak show". Has anyone ever seen Dean drinking a latte, eating sushi, or driving a Volvo? And what's so left-wing about these activities? Ann Coulter's probably drank a few lattes.

But at work today I was surfing through the websites of Vermont colleges (perfectly work-related--we're sending recruitment posters) and I came upon some rather interesting degree programs. Okay, so Vermont has some hippies. Big deal. Should we define a state on the basis of its most nontraditional institutions of higher learning? If so, here's Oklahoma, South Carolina, Virginia... and Iowa.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004
At, Not A Peep
Dean Edges Out Sharpton In D.C. Protest Primary (

That's right. I had to go to the Washington Post to get this. Even though it's actually sort of important; conventional wisdom had held that since Dean really didn't have much of a record with black voters, he wouldn't win Washington, DC. Of course, this conventional wisdom was forgetting two rather important points:

1. The conventional wisdom is not a good prognosticator when it comes to Howard Dean
2. Was D.C. really going to pin its hopes of voting rights on Carol Moseley Braun, Dennis Kucinich, or Al Sharpton?

That's right, you read correctly. Only Dean and the Don Quixote Three were in the D.C. primary; apparently the rest of the candidates "opted out". As apparently, so did CNN.

UPDATE: 12:09 CST, and still nothing from CNN, nor from Blog For America.

Monday, January 12, 2004
Do we even need this term?
Popped into my head tonight:

"Information currency": Information used as a tool for barter--for example, the phone number of a guy who can fix your computer.

Friday, January 09, 2004
Billions and Billions... of Dollars
I think even Carl Sagan would agree that Bush's sudden enthusiasm for space exploration is extravagant--he was always more of a SETI guy anyways. But considering the very real needs of America today, couldn't one hundred... billion... dollars be spent on something a little more practical? We could provide full college scholarships for at least 800,000 high school seniors. We could completely overhaul America's public elementary and secondary schools. Or we could provide health insurance for every child in America. And if these suggestions sound too "lib-rul" for the President, may I suggest saving Social Security and Medicare so his daughters' generation won't be burdened with tax burdens rivaling France (but without the benefits of universal health care and free universities)?

Or we could put the money into what had seemed to be Bush's main priority--the War on Terrorism. Wait a minute--I've just been informed (by a source close to the President whose name and title I have agreed not to disclose) that the war on terror is no longer a top priority now that we've captured Saddam. Well--that's good news, that we've won the war on terror, although I had thought that we wouldn't have won until we got Osama Bin Laden's head on a stick.

But anyways, I'm glad that the President now feels that we've successfully eradicated global terrorism. It now means that there's really no reason why we must endure the more draconian parts of the PATRIOT Act any longer, and I feel certain that the President, being a man of vision (as shown by his new goal of Mars) and integrity (I mean, that's why he was, erm, elected, because people thought he had integrity, right?), will immediately call upon Congress to draft a bill which excises these parts of the Act.

Monday, January 05, 2004
A Weather Report, from Saul Bellow
So, wait, what stage are we in?
According to CNN, Dean leads the race for the Democratic nomination among registered Democrats, and in a head-to-head against President Bush would lose 51-46--pretty close, within the poll's margin of error, and Bush still has a bit of the capture-of-Saddam boost.

But at lunch today:

"I really hate Dean"
"I don't know... he just seems so... weasely"

So are we at the peak of the Dean phenomenon, at a minor setback, or what?

(DISCLAIMER: The author of this post acknowledges that she is, in fact, a Dean partisan, but notes that she has not donated money to the campaign, has not gone to a Meetup, etc.)

Sunday, January 04, 2004
Restating the obvious
UNICEF presses for education for all children

You mean they haven't been pushing for this for the last 60 years?

When you think about it, the UN's generally pretty good at preventing countries from doing bad things (through sanctions and the like), but they're completely ineffectual when it comes to getting countries to do good things. So the claim from some of my fellow Americans that the UN does nothing isn't quite true--it can prevent really bad things from happening, and occasionally hasten good things. But it really has no way to compel nations to open schools, stop discrimination (yes, Saudi Arabia, I'm looking at you), etc.

Yes, I'm well aware that the quality of the prose in this post absolutely sucks. Welcome back to Chicago.