Saturday, October 29, 2005

I Get Letters

Upon completion of "Big Fat Liars," I wrote the following brief note to NPR's Scott Simon to inquire as to his authorship of the foreword to the book:

"Is the Scott Simon who wrote the preface to Morris Chafetz's "Big Fat
Liars" the same Scott Simon who hosts WES? If so, is he (Scott Simon)

Well, it now appears that he's been Faurissoned. Here's his response:

Dear Jeff,

Thank you for contacting NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday. Below is Scott's response to your inquiry:

Several years ago, I consented to do a favor for the father of an old friend and write a letter in support of a book proposal by Dr. Morris Chafetz. Dr. Chafetz has had a long, active, and generally esteemed career in education about alcoholism, which has been a problem in my family. Years ago, when I was a child, Dr. Chafetz tried to help my father overcome his drinking problem. My father was not successful, but I remained grateful for Dr. Chafetz' help. His son Adam and I have become friends. Dr. Chafetz has served on numerous presidential and medical committees that have dealt with addiction problems. I believe strongly in alcoholism education and

Dr. Chafetz furnished me with about sixty pages that his agent was going to shop around for his book proposal. The burden of his argument was, as it was with alcoholism, that self-anointed experts, including himself, must be regarded skeptically, and that there is no substitute for personal responsibility (this is also a tenet of Alcoholics Anonymous). I wrote a note saying it was an argument that deserved to be heard, being careful to begin by saying, "I don't agree with all of the conclusions in this book, and I think the author might be delighted by my caution."

I was not paid for my letter of support. I write several such letters a year. I do so to encourage the traffic ideas, or yes, as a favor to friends. Some books wind up being published; most have not. Over the past couple of years, I have also written the forward to a book of British poetry and a cartoon collection, as well as my own latest book.

I lost touch with Dr. Chafetz for the most peculiar reason--the gym we both used to go to closed. I remain friends with his son.

I gather that Dr. Chafetz finally found a publisher, finished the book, and it has now appeared under the title, Big, Fat Liars. I do not like that title, but I was not consulted. I do not think would not have written a letter of support for a book proposal with that working title.

My letter of support has been converted into a foreword. I was not paid to write a foreword, or informed of the book's appearance. I am glad that my affiliation with NPR is not mentioned; it certainly was not in the letter.

My agent is investigating the matter, and I do not rule out a legal case. A legal case against the father of an old friend who once tried to help my father overcome his drinking problem would give me no pleasure, but may be necessary.

Clearly, Dr. Chafetz added a lot of material to the sixty-some pages that I saw. I do not necessarily agree with any of his arguments. But I would draw any reader's eye to the last line of his book: "The faults and criticisms are mine and should be directed to me."

I gather that the book has been out since March, and find it significant that I have not heard anything about it until now.

with best regards,

Scott Simon

Kudos to Scott Simon for not having intentionally supported such a terrible book. Once bitten, twice shy, I expect.

Friday, October 28, 2005

A "Fucking" Saint!

Sex confessions of 'living saint' shock France
Kim Willsher in Paris
Friday October 28, 2005 The Guardian

A leading Roman Catholic cleric who is regularly voted one of France's most popular personalities has shocked the country by admitting he has had casual sex. Abbé Pierre, a member of the French Resistance during the second world war and a fervent defender of human rights, made the confession in his latest book, titled My God - Why? The 93-year-old Abbé's carnal confession - amounting to just a few lines tucked away in his "meditations" - has exploded like a bombshell in the Catholic community, which has long regarded him as a living saint.

Abbé Pierre, an outspoken critic of Rome's intransigence over clerical celibacy, caused a minor storm last year when in a previous book he admitted having a long but platonic passion for an unnamed choir singer who had the "voice of an angel".

Now what has stunned France's Catholics almost as much as the fact that he succumbed to temptations of the flesh is that his sexual relations with women were conducted in a "transient" manner. Explaining that he had decided to devote his life to God and other people from an early age, he wrote: "I took a vow of chastity that didn't take away the power of desire and it has happened that I have given in to this in a transient way. But I have never had regular liaisons because I never let sexual desire take root. "I felt that to be fully satisfied, sexual desire had to be expressed in a loving, tender and confident relationship while such a relationship was closed to me because of the choice I had made in life."

The Abbé also expressed his support of women priests and gay couples being allowed to have children or adopt.


The politics of personal destruction, or justifiable "pushback"?

The Unwashed Masses

Up until now we had restricted the ability to comment to official members of the KKRB. Now, any ole' slack-jawed yokel can do so, provided he keeps it clean and doesn't persistently peddle crackpot notions, like restricting H1-B visas.

UPDATE: I had to enable the "word verification" option in order to avoid comment spam. Apologies for the inconvenience.


The politics of personal destruction, or justifiable "pushback"?

The Perils of Good Looks

Another sign that democracy just doesn't work:


Handsome male candidates had a 56 percent chance of winning an election while their less dashing counterparts had a 44 percent chance, according Daniel Hamermesh, the study's author and an economics professor at the University of Texas.

Hamermesh studied the election of officers for the American Economic Association, a professional group, from 1996 through 2004.

"It was very clear that being good-looking helped and also helped more for men than for women, and that seems to be something one finds in looking at the effect of beauty in other outcomes such as earnings and wages," Hamermesh said.

He did not have a clear answer for why that was.

This is Hamermesh's sixth study on the impact of good looks, with others examining the classroom, the business arena and the legal profession.

He asked four outside observers -- three men and one woman -- to rate the attractiveness of 312 photographs used by 216 candidates on ballots.

The same people running for office several times sent in different pictures each time. The better their photograph, the more likely they were to do well, according to the study, released on Wednesday on the National Bureau of Economics Research Web site.


Pretty lame excuse for "science," if you ask me. Who pays these guys to perform these studies? I'm reminded of those guys in Ghostbusters blowing their department's research budget on flirting with co-eds.

Besides, it's not always the case that the handsomer guy wins. Why, just look at Viktor Yushchenko. Scarred for life by an alleged pre-election poisoning, his crippling disfigurement didn't prevent him from becoming President of Ukraine.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

The People's Republic of ExxonMobil

I wonder at what point the lines between "employee", "consumer", and "citizen" will cease to exist, and we all become loyal subjects of various massive corporations.

From today's Wall Street Journal:

Exxon Posts Record Profits, Sales

Exxon Mobil, the world's biggest oil company, reported a jaw-dropping third-quarter profit of $9.92 billion, up 75% from a year ago and a record for a U.S. company, on revenue of $100.72 billion, also a record. If Exxon were a country and revenue were its gross domestic product, its $404 billion in annualized GDP would make it the 18th-most-productive country in the world, with a bigger economy than Switzerland. Its quarterly revenue was more than the latest quarterly revenue of fellow Dow components Alcoa, American Express, Boeing, Caterpillar, DuPont, Walt Disney, Home Depot, Honeywell, Coca-Cola and McDonald's combined. High oil prices helped Exxon, as they helped ConocoPhillips, which reported an 89% jump in profits yesterday, and Royal Dutch/Shell, which reported its highest quarterly profit ever, $9.03 billion, up 68% from a year ago. The sad news for Exxon was that its earnings excluding one-time items fell shy of Wall Street estimates. But its shares didn't fall very far; there was grumbling that the company might have poor-mouthed its earnings in order to avoid a political backlash.


If that's not impressive enough, consider that ExxonMobil has practically no debt, is sitting on mountains of cash, and is buying back shares of outstanding stock at a rate uncommon in the industry. Contrast this to the US government swimmin' in debt, and one feels inclined to start practicing the song now: EXXONMOBIL, UBER ALLES....

More Deep Thoughts by Alan Keyes

The resilience of our spirit as a people, the characteristics that have made us strong and provided the foundations for much of this nation's success in the world, are rooted in the moral culture of the family farm. . . . [But] we can't save the family farm with economic arguments, because if Money is God in American politics, the agri-business corporations will control agricultural policy in America. To protect the family farm, we need to move beyond economic arguments to generate a sincere and permanent commitment to the human institution involved.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Deep Thoughts by Alan Keyes

Certainly it is true that the actual defense of our national borders is normally delegated to the professional military. But we must never think that this revocable delegation of responsibility for national defense is a transfer of ultimate responsibility. We, the people, are responsible for the defense of country and liberty, and the Second Amendment is crucial to our performance of that duty.

Conservatives, and the conservatives that define them

Conservative standard bearer Fred Barnes on the conservative rift inside of conservatism:

Bush, of course, is a conservative, but a different kind of conservative. His tax cuts, support for social issues, hawkish position on national security and terrorism, and rejection of the Kyoto protocols make him so. He's also killed the ABM and Comprehensive Test Ban treaties, kept the United States out of the international criminal court, defied the United Nations, and advocated a shift in power from Washington to individuals through an "ownership society." On some issues--partial privatization of Social Security is the best example--he is a bolder conservative than Ronald Reagan, the epitome of a conventional conservative.

....uh, thanks for clearing that up, Fred. Bushies like Fred don't know quite what to do when comparing Dear Leader to their beloved Reagan. RR floats on some lofty plane of existence, surrounded by seraphim, eating popcorn shrimp with God and Colonel Sanders, and no effort is spared to trot out his bones and hold them up as "the epitome" of conservatism. Reconciling their support of a bonehead like Bush with their adoration of RR involves such painful rhetorical contortions that we end up with meaningless nonsense like this.

I hope this "conservative revolt" against Bush vets some of the dead weight out of the bloated right wing punditocracy. I remember watching Fred when he was a regular on The McLaughlin Group in the 90's, and he was an incomprehensible bumblefuck back then too. Fred and George Will and Tony Blankley should all hang it up - maybe they can recruit John O'Sullivan and start a barbershop quartet.

While I'm on the subject, can we pool our collective energy and publicly shame Art Buchwald into retirement? He hasn't been funny for years, and now he's got a new book out.

Who are you?

I'm wondering, with all of these screen names, exactly who everybody is. If you could be so kind as to post your name (first only - this is the World Wide Web after all). Obviously Tri, Jeff and Ann K. need not apply. Much obliged.

The Master Speaks

"The subjects of every state ought to contribute toward the support of the government, as nearly as possible, in proportion to their respective abilities; that is, in proportion to the revenue which they respectively enjoy under the protection of the state ....[As Henry Home (Lord Kames) has written, a goal of taxation should be to] 'remedy inequality of riches as much as possible, by relieving the poor and burdening the rich.'"

-Adam Smith, Wealth Of Nations

This quote does not, I grant you, offer any support for top marginal tax rates above 80% (a state of affairs that obtained in this country during the prosperous days of the Eisenhower administration), but I think it's an important point of departure for thinking about whether neo-classical economics has outgrown the sturdy moral constraints that once characterized its proponents.


I've added this bit from Wealth of Nations for reference here rather than in the comments due to its length, but my response to Mark is in the comments.

"The proportion of the expense of house-rent to the whole expense of living is different in the different degrees of fortune. It is perhaps highest in the highest degree, and it diminishes gradually through the inferior degrees, so as in general to be lowest in the lowest degree. The necessaries of life occasion the great expense of the poor. They find it difficult to get food, and the greater part of their little revenue is spent in getting it. The luxuries and vanities of life occasion the principal expense of the rich, and a magnificent house embellishes and sets off to the best advantage all the other luxuries and vanities which they possess. A tax upon house-rents, therefore, would in general fall heaviest upon the rich; and in this sort of inequality there would not, perhaps, be anything very unreasonable. It is not very unreasonable that the rich should contribute to the public expense, not only in proportion to their revenue, but something more than in that proportion."

Team Kang & Kodos?

How about a bar trivia update, gents?

Monday, October 24, 2005

American Military Primacy

With nuclear proliferation on the rise in rogue states and terrorism giving everybody the heebie jeebies, It's nice to know that our military researchers are not just sitting on their hands.

Behold, the ARCHIMEDES DEATH RAY!!! Just like the ancient Greeks, we now have the technology to focus mirrors on an anchored fleet of wooden ships, setting them and their freedom-hating crews ablaze.

This is a phenomenal feat of American ingenuity. We may lack the armor to keep our troops protected in battle, but our citizenry is well-possessed of mirrors of various sizes and strengths, and I am confident that an effort of collective will could repel a naval attack on the Homeland.

Of course, it would only work if our enemy had wooden ships. And they didn't move. And it wasn't too cloudy. And they didn't just shoot us and our mirrors.

Unfortunately, lab (also known as "reality tv") results show it didn't work. Or did it?

I My concerns can not be assuaged

by Jacque Chirac's evil twin.

Damning with Faint Praise

The homepage for Perfectly Legal (which I still think sounds pornographic) should go far to assuage MKChicago's and SexyRetard's concerns about having to read a book plugged by Ralph Nader and Jim Hightower. The book also gets high marks from Jack "The Animal" Bogle and Lou "The Mouth" Dobbs! What more iconic right-wingers could you ask for? Dobbs alone is worth at least Molly Ivins, Greg Palast, and a first round draft pick.

Sunday, October 23, 2005


Using The Smurfs to shock Belgians into donating to charity is rather a clever marketing ploy, but I find the advert itself a little heavy handed. Maybe I just don't really get it - if Smurfs are really tiny and live in mushrooms, isn't carpet bombing them a little excessive?

Irregardless of the intent of UNESCO, Smurfs are clearly protected under the Geneva Conventions, and any depiction of their unseemly demise qualifies as "humiliating desecration."

Friday, October 21, 2005

Sign of the apocalypse?


Prevailing Wages

I knew contractors could hold a local politician in thrall - hell, every alderman in Chicago is some contractor's bitch - but the fucking President?

If we aren't even going to keep track of all that money that we fast-tracked through to help Katrina victims, it's transparent duplicity to let contractors pay garbage wages to the workers who are going to rebuild the gulf.

This sounds like a job for SexyRetard, since accountability turns him on.

From Reuters:

Democrat forces US House vote on Bush wage order

WASHINGTON, Oct 20 (Reuters) - A Democratic lawmaker on Thursday moved to force a showdown in the Republican-led House of Representatives over President George W. Bush's order to allow contractors to cut the wages of Hurricane Katrina clean-up workers.

Rep. George Miller of California filed a measure under a never-before-used parliamentary procedure that would require a House vote on whether to overturn Bush's Sept. 8 order allowing federal contractors to pay workers in hurricane-ravaged states less than local prevailing wages.

Miller's maneuver under the 1976 National Emergencies Act requires a vote by Nov. 4 on an issue that has Democrats united and Republicans divided.

If Republican leaders fail to hold a vote on Miller's joint resolution by Nov. 4, the act allows him to demand that one be held within three days, according Miller spokesman Tom Kiley.

Because no one has ever used the emergencies act's "fast track" procedure to force a vote, Kiley could not rule out some unforeseen parliamentary obstacle by Republican leaders. But he added, "It's hard to imagine what they'd come up with."

Miller, the ranking Democratic on the House Education and Workforce Committee, filed a bill in September to overturn Bush's executive order. Despite its 203 co-sponsors -- all House Democrats and one independent -- there is no assurance that Republican leaders would have allowed the 435-member body to vote on second-guessing a Republican president.

But another 37 House Republicans recently wrote Bush to ask him to reinstate the prevailing wages required under the 1931 Davis-Bacon Act.

Kiley said he was optimistic that many of those Republicans would join Democrats in voting to overturn Bush's order. Senate Democrats are considering a similar maneuver, Kiley said.

Bush told Congress last month that Hurricane Katrina had caused "a national emergency" that permits him to suspend the Davis-Bacon Act in ravaged areas of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi.

The law requires contractors of federally funded construction projects to pay workers at least the prevailing wages in the area where the work is being done.

"The prevailing wages along the Gulf Coast were already among the lowest in the country," Miller said in a statement.

Anyone following PlameGate?

This sentiment could easily be applied to the Plamegate hullabaloo - the exposure of unseemliness in the halls of power.

Hunter Thompson on Watergate and the tapes:

"There are a hundred or more people wandering around Washington today who have heard the 'real stuff,' as they put it - and despite their professional caution when the obvious question arises, there is one reaction they all feel free to agree on: that nobody who felt shocked, depressed or angry after reading the edited White House transcripts should ever be allowed to hear the actual tapes, except under heavy sedation or locked in the trunk of a car. Only a terminal cynic, they say, can listen for any length of time to the real stuff without feeling a compulsion to do something like drive down to the White House and throw a bag of live rats over the fence."

Tom DeLay, Prison Bitch

Near as I can tell, based on the reports I've read, DeLay's defense seems to hinge on two tenets:

1.) Funnelling money from my PAC to local Texas races is what everyone in politics does, and I am being unfairly singled out.

2.) Ronnie Earle is on a mission of political destruction, and I am being targeted by a prosecutor who seeks to either gain personal political advantage or saddle me with political liability.

I sure hope that's not all they've got. He's presumably paying his lawyers a lot of money to defend him, and neither of the arguments above will be of any help to his defense. Both are intuitively and demonstrably false. The first, because few politicians are as well-heeled, well-connected, or as focussed on electoral domination as Delay (not to mention as inclined to such money-funnelling shenanigans, as his track record indicates). Second, Ronnie Earle has gone after Dems and Reps for ages, and as such is an equal-opportunity prosecutor.

But even if these points are debatable, neither actually defends him against the charges! Just because everyone else does it doesn't make it legal; despite the large numbers of jaywalkers in Chicago who get away with it, I am still breaking the law when I cross on red. And I ain't no fancy Stetson-wearing barrister, but even I know the motivations of a prosecutor are not admissable in court.

I may think Tom Delay is a scumbag, but I also think that he is innocent until proven guilty, and that he deserves competent legal representation. (I wish I could say I have observed a similar sentiment on the right when high-profile Dems are indicted, but all I can recall is the sickening display of glee during LewinskyGate, whitewater, etc.) Surely his legal team can come up with something better.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Regardless of guilt or innocence...

the man takes one hell of a good mugshot.

Sure he's guilty. I hate him, so he must be!

In theology we call it something like the aosegetic approach, where someone has a preconceived belief, and then makes any data conform to that belief. I reckon that public opinion on the DeLay case will be based less on what they think of any facts of the case (and so far I'm aware of two checks and nothing else) and more on what they think of Tom DeLay.

I think he's guilty, and probably so is half of Congress. I also think he'll be acquitted.

What matters most to me is that whatever standard there is be uniformally applied, so that everyone who does something like election fraud, of whichever party or ideological leaning, is treated as similarly as possible.

Stop! Hammer Time!

So I'm hearing on NPR about Tom Delay's impending case and not really having any idea what really went on , I'm wondering what everyone thinks is the most likely reality. I'll submit this as a poll, although I don't know how to format it as such. Post your answers in the comments, I guess:

The Tom Delay indictment is :
A) perfectly warranted. He is devious scum and the allegations are consistent with his past behavior.
B) Political retribution. Ronny Earle is motivated only by politics, has no case and he knows it.
C) A and B
D) B and A
E) How bout dem Sox!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

There are some good ones out there

From Hitchenswatch:

"Buried deep beneath that irritating grandiloquence, the contrarian prose, the vainglorious affirmations of his own intellect, exists a man who, I believe, is veracious in his punditry and who evinces a certain truth in subjects which seem to matter most to him. Too often, though, he is a prick who tries to skid by on his own self-bestowed laurels."

So many beautiful things

There are a great many advantages to the current blog. For example, I am, at this moment, looking as if I'mdoping something important.

The ability of people to dissent from their leaders is an often-overlooked reality by the political establishment of both parties. I dare suggest that both sides find the most mindless amongst us, and put them up for election. As politics is bad for the soul, only the least righteous will do.

On a great many levels, I'm glad that the best the right has to offer (as well as the left) is more likely stuck at some graduate-level class than at some government post.

Hope everyone's well.

I suppose this one is more appropriate. Posted by Picasa

Just a little experiment in publishing pictures. enjoy. Posted by Picasa

Links, and the brigadiers who love them

Add your own list of links! While in editing mode, go to the Template tab, scroll down to the links part, then just copy and paste the relevant code and insert your favorite sites. First one in, please hijack the "Your own damn links" block and make it your own.

UPDATE: Germanicus says he sees no Template tab when he's in posting mode. Figures. When you're on the screen titled "Dashboard," (which you can access by clicking the Blogger icon on the uppermost left corner of our home page) and you click the name of our blog, you will see four tabs, one of which is the Template tab.

2ND UPDATE: Apparently none of you is good enough to merit the Template tab. Until I can remedy this, let me know if you want to add links, or if you have other formatting ideas for me.

Who is Scott Simon?

I can't quite tell whether the Scott Simon who wrote the introduction to Morris Chafetz's book is really the NPR guy we think he is. That Scott Simon seems Bob Greene-like, more into baseball and folsky decorative garden gnomes, and less into Morris's brand of strident moralizing.

Whoever he is, he seems to have a mini-career writing introductions for books. The book Affluenza, for example.

He could be that Sha-na-na guy.

If anyone finds out any info, please post. I'm curiouser and curiouser.

Set Coordinates for Bob Dole

The politics of failure have failed.

And speaking of failure, please bear with me as I explore the basics of quantum blog mechanics, and expanded blog access for all of Kang's and Kodos' children (you). I hope that I'll have it all under control by the time you read this, but feel free to school me, those of you with prior blogsperience.

To recap: The next meeting of the K&KRB will take place on Tuesday, November 15 at 7:00 PM at Ann's place, the coordinates of which Ann will provide on her inaugural post. Pete chose as this month's selection "Perfectly Legal," by NYT tax correspondent David Cay Johnston. It's a good read.

As I sappily noted last night, I'm very pleased with The Brigade's composition, intellectual rigor, and overall willingness to cross party lines to attack/defend propositions based on the weakness/strength of the supporting data. I think this blog presents a fantastic opportunity to sharpen arguments over particular books, suggest further reading to expand the knowledge base, drill down to core issues in preparation for our live discussions, and waste lots of work time on our employers' dime.