Thursday, January 20, 2005

Snarling for Dollars

Roger Downey's opinion column in Seattle Weekly speaks for itself. Clik the title or copy/paste this:
Should the public pick up the difference between what it costs to build and operate (an arts facility) and what its prime tenants are willing to pay? These aren't one-time questions. Squabbles about who ought to pay for buildings or renovations are endemic...Some(arts organisations) ultimately expired, to universal condolence. No one, so far as I know, shrugged and said, "Too bad; well, that's show business."

...We've forgotten, or been taught to forget, that whatever its social or spiritual value, art is a business like any other. When a fine restaurant closes its doors, we may regret its passing, but we don't try to set up an endowment to keep it open; when a plumber goes out of business, we assume the plumber must have ignored the bottom line and hit the Yellow Pages to look for another.

...Somehow only arts organizations are allowed to claim immunity from the laws of financial gravity; for them, there's no connection between supply and demand, balanced budgets are for profiteers and sissies, and water runs uphill when we tell it to.
Where on earth did he come from? What rock has he been hiding under? That is bar-none the best opinion column in years on politicized arts funding.

I am a small-potatoes art supporter in Milwaukee- passionate about my own areas of interest, but not one of the financial heavy-hitters. I think that government support of the arts is by it's nature highly destructive: it cannot be otherwise.

Politically distributed money by it's nature seeks the inoffensive, the safe, the non-controversial. The political posturing- and outright misrepresentation of the issues by the pro-NEA forces- during the 1990s, and the funding of nothing but the bland since then is a case in point.

The pro-NEA people claimed that the anties were engaging in censorship, but I took the trouble to actually read the criticism, and there was no effort at the national level to stop production of such art as Robert Maplethorpe's or Andres Serrano's photographs, nor any federal attempt to stop exhibition. It was to stop handing out taxpayers' money. The anties said explicitly: Make what you want, exhibit what you want. Just don't demand subsidies from the taxpayers, who don't have a choice about handing over their money to the taxman.

I call the whole idea of entitlement to tax money (from any sector, not just the arts) Snarling for Dollars. People have convinced themselves that they have a right to other people's money, extracted against those people's wishes through the tax system. Arts people believe it, baseball teams believe it, football teams believe it, sugar producers and steel producers believe it.

Frankly, I believe that the idea is flat out anti-American. A major philosophical purpose of this country was to let people decide for themselves how to spend their own money. Using the government to extract money from people who wouldn't give their money voluntarily was and is the European system. That is not a system Americans should be admiring. Let the importunate get their money voluntarily- including thru donations- or let them sink.

Arts will be the freer for private funding, unconstrained by politicians demands. The federal government has used it's funding of museums as a major source of control. Museums are addicted to federal money, and now, when the feds say "Do the PC Dance" the museums dance. That is a bad thing, and it is absolutely inherent in politicized funding.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Iraq Election Poll Workers

What a wonderful idea. Condi should mention it in her confirmation hearings: Invite back the human shields who so courageously protected Iraqi orphanages and power plants from American bombs.

This idea is from "Lance Frizzell, a 2nd Lt Medical Platoon Leader with the Tennessee National Guard 278th Regimental Combat Team, currently serving in Northern Iraq."


Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Maryland State Police call for end to ballistic fingerprinting of handguns

According to an article by David Snyder in the Washington Post, Maryland State Police now think that mandatory ballistic fingerprinting of handguns is a $2,600,000 waste of crime-fighting resources and should be ended:
A Maryland law requiring state police to collect ballistics data on every handgun sold in the state is ineffective and expensive and should be repealed, according to a report by the Maryland State Police.

Police have gathered information from more than 43,000 guns since the law was adopted in 2000, but the data have not significantly aided a single criminal investigation, according to the report...

Leah Barrett, executive director of CeaseFire Maryland, a gun-control group, said it would be a "tragedy for the whole field of ballistics imaging" if Maryland's ballistics program were scrapped...

"You just need a bit of imagination, a bit of skill and a bit of competence in your state police, as well as a bit of political courage, and frankly we're lacking that here in Maryland," she said.
So, is it CeaseFire Maryland's official position that Marylanders are unimaginative cowards with incompetent police? How charming. This is sure to garner new converts to her cause. How many millions do the taxpayers have to spend on not convicting criminals before even she thinks it is a waste of money? Or is convicting criminals only the stated agenda?

Thanks to EmmaGeeMan for the lead.

For the whole article clik above or copy/paste:

This is a truly inspiring hamburger story

100 pound woman eats a 6 pound hamburger, plus 5 pounds of trimmings. Don't miss the pics. Golly!

Thanks to National Review Online for the lead. Some folks go out of their way to put the important news of the world on our plates.

Cool Space Pic of the Day

This is a nice one if you like blue. Clik above, then on the little pic to get the big hi res version, which is much cooler. I wish the stuff visible along the dark, intersecting dust lanes visible in my apartment looked so nice.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Condoleeza Rice, the Birmingham church bombing, and Martin Luther King

Jonathan Tilove in the New Orleans Times-Picayune:
In September 1963, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered the eulogy for three of the four girls killed in the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala. What King could not know was that, within earshot of the blast, just blocks away at her father's church, was another little black girl, a friend of the youngest victim, who 42 years later would be on the verge of becoming America's foremost diplomat.

This year, the Martin Luther King holiday, marking what would have been his 76th birthday, falls on Jan. 17. The next day, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee opens hearings on the nomination of Condoleezza Rice to succeed Colin Powell as secretary of state.
Judging from what very little I have heard from his later speeches, he was by then rather anti-capitalist, but so were many, and he didn't leave his mark on economic theory but on civil rights. Perhaps from limited familiarity I misgudge his sentiments on captialism. In any case, it is a bit astonishing that 42 years could make such a difference. He could surely be proud of that.

Thanks to Glenn Reynolds/ for the lead.

The Seymour Hersh/New Yorker article

Everybody seems to be talking about Seymour Hersh's article in the New Yorker, concentrating entirely on a relatively small portion of it: The statement that the US has covert operations going on in Iran to identify and target possible nuclear weapons facilities in preparation for destroying them either through bombing or Special Forces attacks.

It would hardly be surprising if true, perhaps more surprising if not true, given the perceived danger of Iran's current government developing nukes to put on missiles they already have which can reach all of Europe.

The article covers a good deal more and is well worth a read. Clik on the title or copy/paste below. A power struggle is going on between the Pentagon and the CIA, and Donald Rumsfeld is doing what he can to consolidate power in his office.

The Europeans are described as usual as being in favor of pinning their hopes on negotiation with the Iranians, but that is hardly surprising as they have no viable military options.
The Israeli government is, not surprisingly, skeptical of the European approach. Silvan Shalom, the Foreign Minister, said...“I don’t like what’s happening. We were encouraged at first when the Europeans got involved. For a long time, they thought it was just Israel’s problem. But then they saw that the [Iranian] missiles themselves were longer range and could reach all of Europe, and they became very concerned. Their attitude has been to use the carrot and the stick—but all we see so far is the carrot...”

In a recent essay, Patrick Clawson, an Iran expert who is the deputy director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (and a supporter of the Administration), articulated the view that force, or the threat of it, was a vital bargaining tool with Iran...
Hence, of course, any US covert ops in Iran: to establish a credible threat.
In 1981, the Israeli Air Force destroyed Iraq’s Osirak reactor, setting its nuclear program back several years. But the situation now is both more complex and more dangerous, Chubin said. The Osirak bombing “drove the Iranian nuclear-weapons program underground, to hardened, dispersed sites,” he said.
This is likely exactly what the renewed American interest in low-yield, burrowing, bunker busting nukes is designed to address. It isn't just command centers, it is underground labs, factories, storage, and launch facilities.

The Administration has been conducting secret reconnaissance missions inside Iran at least since last summer. Much of the focus is on the accumulation of intelligence and targeting information on Iranian nuclear, chemical, and missile sites... The goal is to identify and isolate...targets that could be destroyed by precision strikes and short-term commando raids.
A former C.I.A. clandestine-services officer told me that, in the months after the resignation of the agency’s director George Tenet, in June, 2004, the White House began “coming down critically” on analysts in the C.I.A.’s Directorate of Intelligence (D.I.) and demanded “to see more support for the Administration’s political position.” Porter Goss, Tenet’s successor, engaged in what the recently retired C.I.A. official described as a “political purge” in the D.I. Among the targets were a few senior analysts who were known to write dissenting papers that had been forwarded to the White House. The recently retired C.I.A. official said, “The White House carefully reviewed the political analyses of the D.I. so they could sort out the apostates from the true believers.” Some senior analysts in the D.I. have turned in their resignations—quietly, and without revealing the extent of the disarray.
This jibes with what I have read elsewhere, altho the spin is different. Alt spin: Tenet was thrown out for lousy CIA performance, Goss has indeed engaged in a purge of Tenet-types who were seen as working to undermine needed changes, and the disarray was in fact a major and long-needed house cleaning. Note that I am not taking sides here: just pointing out that Hersh's spin is not the only one. Nota bene: the quote above is from a "recently retired C.I.A. official."

Update: It seems clear that the CIA (which is not alone in this regard) needs considerable changing. Going way back, they missed the Iranian Revolution, they missed the coming collapse of the Soviet Union, they missed the Sept 11 attacks until Sept 11, they missed either the non-existance of WMD in Iraq or the clandestine removal of same prior to the war, and they missed Saddam's plans for the guerrilla war we find ourselves fighting there.

They figured all the Iraqis would welcome us with open arms, as tho the Sunni Baathists would love the overthrow of their power source. It seems the CIA needs radical change, and that if that change takes place there will be a lot of screaming. However, a lot of screaming does not necessarily mean that productive change is happening. The flip side of that tho is that if no screaming is going on we know that the changes aren't being made. Therefore in my mind the complaints give cause for hope but are not in themselves proof that good stuff is going on. This will take a lot of time.


UPDATE: Michael Ledeen, author of The War Against the Terror Masters, and resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, critiques Hersh's column in National Review Online. He calls Rumsfeld timorous and meek.

The Economics of Unhappiness

The Economist reports that Lord Layard has discovered that a significant portion of unhappiness is caused by other people having bigger incomes, no matter what the unhappy person's income is, mind you. His prescription: "near the top of Lord Layard's list for improving human happiness, comes the following recommendation: much higher rates of income tax to tame the rat race."

The idea seems to be that people who earn more money thereby make others unhappy, so let the currently affluent work as hard as they might, but take their mean-spirited money away from them. Not too surprisingly, Lord Layard is both an economist himself and a Labour Party peer.

Unexplained, at least in the article, is why the government couldn't make everyone ecstatic by removing all of their income.

Clik above or copy/paste:

Thanks to Arts & Letters Daily for the lead.

That'll do it.

LITTLETON, Colo., Jan. 16 (AP) - A dentist found the source of the toothache Patrick Lawler was complaining about on the roof of his mouth: a four-inch nail he had unknowingly embedded in his skull six days earlier...Mr. Lawler had what he thought was a minor toothache and blurry vision.
He was probably right about the blurry vision part, anyway.

Clik above or copy an' paste:

Babylon trashed?

I would love to read the Pentagon's response to this report by the British Museum, assuming the Guardian article is reasonably accurate- I don't understand what was so important about Babylon's position that it justified such treatment. Babylon is hardly one of those sites obscure to the layman.
He saw a 2,600-year-old brick pavement crushed by military vehicles, archaeological fragments scattered across the site, and trenches driven into ancient deposits.

Vast amounts of sand and earth, visibly mixed with archaeological fragments, were gouged from the site to fill thousands of sandbags and metal mesh baskets. When this practice was stopped, large quantities of sand and earth were brought in from elsewhere, contaminating the site for future generations of archaeologists.

Of course, until seeing the actual report- the Guardian doesn't seem to link to it- one might also wonder how much unmentioned agendas influenced either the report or the article. That is part of the frustration in trying to figure out what is going on. Single sources are clearly suspect in anything politicized, and nowadays it seems nearly everything is.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

He showed more patience with bad service than I would have.

"A confused moose rambled about for several hours inside the children's clothing store in Lillehammer."

Someone finally tranked the poor guy and hauled him off to the mhoosegow. Cute picture of him thru the window.

Norman Podhoretz on the War in Iraq and its opponents

Podhoretz has a lengthy analysis of the factions and their strategies for winning- in some cases by encouraging a US defeat. Creating a US domestic perception of defeat is key for some, as it was in Vietnam. So perhaps those who shout Quagmire! Vietnam! Quagmire! do have a point. What worked with Vietnam may work in Iraq. That has been my concern from the beginning: the antis will spin the news, and the war won in battle will be lost at home. Bush comes in for a fair bit of criticism, as he well should.


It turns out that one of my favorite words not only exists (it's in the durn dictionary) but it isn't even listed as substandard: Disremember. I did suspicion that it, too, was a Huck Finnism, and turns out that I was right. Of course, 'suspicion' wasn't decried as substandard neither, so this may merely be a case of a refusal to dent the self-esteem of the linguisticly impaired.

Thinking of looking for terms via Google, does anyone know the origin and context of "As goes Rome, so goes the empire"? Google didn't help. Did I just make it up? Or didn't I get it right enuf to get a Google hit?

For all you gun types

Here are some cool videos from Armed Forces Journal "Shoot-out 2004." Bullet resistant glass, .45 autos, Todd Jarrett (1996 IPSC World Champion) with pistol-shooting tips, several videos of the XM-8, which may to replace the M16. Poke around the site for plenty more. Clik above or copy and paste: