Archive for September, 2003

Tuesday night at the Doghouse Tavern

September 30, 2003

Met Thomas and Lori Gray at the Doghouse Tavern in Midtown to watch UH play East Carolina. An entertaining game, that Houston won 27-13.

Because it was a beautiful day, I walked the two miles to the Tavern before the game, taking Waugh to Fairview to Bagby. Fairview through the Fourth Ward is a surprisingly nice walk (albeit one I wouldn’t want to take after dark): A jumble of architectural styles, in disrepair and patchwork and rehab.

The Doghouse Tavern is a good place to watch sports — not too noisy, not too smoky, and with clear sightlines to the television screens. The beers are reasonably priced, and they let you bring in food from the Italian takeout place next door. The Yahtzee game in each booth is an odd touch…does anyone play Yahtzee any more?


Fair and balanced e-mail #2

September 29, 2003

An e-mail to Fox News:

Date: Mon, 29 Sep 2003 18:01:09 -0500 (CDT)
From: Steve Casburn
Subject: White House phone logs

Based on your story last week about Wesley Clark, Fox News is familiar
with the fact that “the White House […] logs each and every incoming
phone call”, and that the White House checked these logs in response to a
request from The Weekly Standard

Have you requested that the White House check its logs for calls to and from Robert Novak during the month of June? If they’ll do a log check for a bunch of McCainiacs, I’m sure they’d happily do one for the loyalists at Fox News.


(Credit for the idea goes to Josh Marshall.)

Update: I botched two things in the e-mail: One, the only phone logs the White House has admitted to keeping are for incoming calls, and not outgoing as well; two, the calls to check should be the ones for July, not June.

What I think of the Bush administration, part 2

September 29, 2003

Brad DeLong asks the question I have asked many times since 1995: Where are the grownups in the Republican Party?

I recently read Henry Fairlie’s 1978 book, The parties: Republicans and Democrats in this century, and Fairlie agrees with Hubert Humphrey that

Democrats seem to love government, while, I suspect, high-level Republicans too often really do not. For too many of them, service in Washington is nothing more than a break between two jobs in private industry, or banking or law, and the art of government is itself less appealing, less exciting than it is to Democrats. [pgs. 215-16]

(Again, that was in 1978, before the Reagan wing, with its slogan of “Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem”, took over.)

So I wonder (as does Fairlie) if a main reason for the many mediocre or failed Republican presidencies of the last 100 years — Taft, Harding, Coolidge, Hoover, Nixon, Ford, Bush 41, Bush 43 — is that Republicans since Theodore Roosevelt have had such contempt for government that they have never learned (and don’t see a point to learning) how to govern?

Or, as an alternate explanation, I wonder whether Republicans govern so poorly because the agencies and aims of the federal government have been created and determined almost exclusively by Democrats during the past 70 years?

What I think of the Bush administration

September 28, 2003

Kevin Drum says it better than I could.

Remember: [the Plame affair] is not just some run of the mill political dirty trick. It’s perilously close to treason. No truly principled conservative administration would do a thing like this, and the fact that they’ve been trying to dodge it for two months tells you everything you need to know about them.

There are plenty of honorable conservatives out there who deserve conservative support, but not the ones running this administration.

On proper forms of revenge

September 28, 2003

A “Viva Mexico” party held by Duke University’s Sigma Chi fraternity has angered Mexican-Americans at that campus.

Sad to say, the anger of the aggrieved students, as they are now expressing it, will not deter future such parties or even provide catharsis. Protests, denunciations, administrative warnings…these so-called remedies neither punish the offenders nor console the offended. The offense is that the men of Sigma Chi at Duke think that the cultures of other nations are funny. The true redress is to point out that the culture of Sigma Chi can be funny, too.

Why doesn’t one of local Latino student groups re-enact Sigma Chi’s secret rituals in the middle of campus, while distributing flyers explaining each one in exhaustive detail? Or throw a “Rush Sigma Chi” party, complete with every variety of stereotypical fraternity behavior? Or visit a local homeless shelter, give the residents Sigma Chi clothing, and teach them the Sigma Chi handshake? (Readers are invited to suggest better ideas in the comments section.)

Are these responses immature? Perhaps.

Would they do more to stop offensive fraternity parties than crying will? Yes.

And isn’t that the point?

[Link courtesy of Critical Mass.]

Wheatcroft knocks 9-11 response

September 27, 2003

Geoffrey Wheatcroft scorns how silly many of “the literary intelligentsia” were when responding to September 11:

Imaginative writers are distinguished not by a sweeter character (too often very much not), greater intellectual honesty, or even deeper intelligence, but—apart from the gift of expression which is their stock in trade—a way of looking at the world which is interesting because it is exaggerated or distorted. After an event like 11th September, such expressive gifts might be more hindrance than help; some things are best said simply rather than dressed up in look-at-me prose.

[Link courtesy of Arts & Letters Daily.]

Journalistic malpractice

September 24, 2003

A recent Associated Press article demonstrates how the news media often miscover medical and scientific news.

The title and first paragraph of the article sound promising:

Study: Even mid-life diet change can extend life

WASHINGTON (AP) — It has long been known that laboratory animals live longer on a low-calorie diet. Now a study suggests that even if sensible eating is delayed until middle age, health can be improved and life extended.

And with childhood and adult obesity a serious problem in the United States, who wouldn’t find these paragraphs reassuring?

The carry-home message from the study, said Linda Partridge of University College London is that it is never too late to improve health by switching to sensible eating habits.

“If this works in humans, then it means that from the time a person starts on a restricted diet, they’ll be like individuals of the same age who were always on that diet,” she said. “Their prospects of survival are the same.”

That reassurance fades, though, if you read to the end of the article:


Jim Tressel: Visionary

September 22, 2003

I was a Jim Tressel fan even before he was hired as Ohio State head football coach, and the work he has done in Columbus has only increased my admiration.

Tressel has been criticized recently for the Buckeyes’ three consecutive close wins at home against weaker teams. San Diego State, North Carolina State, and Bowling Green each had a chance to beat Ohio State in the fourth quarter, and the Wolfpack even took the Buckeyes to three overtimes.

Maybe the uninformed see these games as coaching miscues, but to the insider, they illustrate how Jim Tressel is revitalizing the Ohio State program.

Let me explain:


Friday night at Helios

September 21, 2003

Jason Smith, bass player in Strangelight and a friend from high school, helped put together a show at Helios Friday night, featuring Alan from Dallas and Pale from Houston. I enjoyed both bands — standouts were Alan’s fiddle player and closing song (called “Sigh”); and Pale’s impressive drummer. I’m looking forward to seeing both bands again.

I tried ouzo while waiting for the show to begin. I’ve heard that Greeks can spend an entire afternoon with a small glass of ouzo. My glass had less than 100mL, I drank it in two hours, then spent most of Saturday wishing I could stand up. Opa!

Book Review: The Info Mesa

September 13, 2003

I have given up on Ed Regis’ book, The Info Mesa (Norton, 2003), because of the shallowness of the writing. The final straw:

Unfortunately, all this business activity had taken its toll, and in 1972 he and his first wife divorced. He remarried two years later, however, and he and his new spouse, […], both of them being good Catholics, would wind up raising six kids. [page 50]

“Catholics have a lot of kids” is cliché, and calling a man a “good Catholic” right after mentioning his divorce and re-marriage is careless (and, judging from the tone of the book, not meant as irony or sarcasm).

It’s a shame that The Info Mesa is such a weak popularization — its subject, the Silicon Valley-like grouping of information science companies around Santa Fe, is worthy of and could provide the material for a good general-interest book.