Election day

All eyes on Iraq today... Fox News says there was a 72% turnout. Iraq the Model says the people have won:
We had all kinds of feelings in our minds while we were on our way to the ballot box except one feeling that never came to us, that was fear.

We could smell pride in the atmosphere this morning; everyone we saw was holding up his blue tipped finger with broad smiles on the faces while walking out of the center.

I couldn't think of a scene more beautiful than that.

Hard to imagine one.


From the reading list

Yesterday I was over at someone's place taking home a good amount of stuff that, for no good reason, I'd been storing there for years. Included in the pile were a lot of books; I try to keep my bookshelf reasonable, so I went and sold about 15 of them today.

Anyway, it was a bit of a nostalgia trip so I figured it was a good opportunity to share with you my thoughts on some books I've read over the last year. Here goes:

Cad: Confessions of a Toxic Bachelor by Rick Marin - a memoir by a magazine writer who was also a serial dater. I don't usually go for light reading like this but, you know, try everything once, etc. He comes off as self-obsessed and immature, but he's got a snappy style that makes it hard to stop. If you're into dating exploits from the male perspective, it's recommended.

Lucky Jim, by Kingsley Amis - Jim tries to survive in the clique-y world of humanities academia, mostly fails, then gets the girl anyway. It's a classic for good reason.

The Confusion by Neal Stephenson - the second 1000-page volume in the trilogy after "Quicksilver". It's a little slower than the first one, but all the old characters are back, and there's a fascinating recurring theme of finance - how credit, the markets, etc. evolved during the 1600's, especially as a result of wars. Hey, I'm reading the third one now.

A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole - a monstrous abortion! No, that's what the obese main character, Ignatius, would say. It seems like everyone has read and liked it - I don't know, it was kind of painful reading about one embarrassing situation after another. But I'll defer to the general opinion, because, seriously, everyone else has liked it.


Thanks to the USFTA

Virginia Postrel points out in the NY Times an idea that seems obvious in retrospect - that the U.S. can be thought of as the world's biggest case study in free trade, with each state as a country; the analogy pans out to today's global economy: "A century ago, the poor states were like third world countries compared with the richest states."

So, what happened? Did rich, evil Connecticut gorge itself on cheap imports from North Carolina, consigning North Carolinians to generations of exploitation? No, of course not: "The free movement of goods, investment capital and labor has in fact helped to equalize regions within the United States - and, at the same time, to make the whole economy more prosperous by spurring productivity." No surprise there, unless you were a Kucinich supporter.

(Via The Orange Path - a good free-markets blog I just discovered)


Shopping lists, ephemera

C of A Picture of Me links to various bloggers' pictures of the blizzard

Speaking of C, she also has evidence for various uncanny celebrity resemblances. The Portia de Rossi/Drea de Matteo resemblance is the most disturbing of all. (Wait, where did I just read that before? Oh yes: "I think it's Drea DeMatteo's fault. I just don't enjoy her overacting. (Plus, she shares a face with Portia DiRossi, and that scares me.)")

Right-wing giant puppets? Are they allowed to do that?

Dawn says I'm "worse than Jordan with all the comebacks.". Hey, I never actually said I was retiring...

Jessica goes pre-blizzard shopping on the Upper East Side. Main items of hoarding in the packed supermarket: cake, Gatorade and marshmallows.

This must be the other greatest story ever told: Ken Wheaton, after having played Texas Hold-Em exactly once in his life, drunkenly entered a Texas Hold-Em tournament then won, then ended up on Page Six. If it were me, I'd replace that photo he has on his site with one featuring a good deal more smirking.


Thoughts from a treadmill

Color me impressed by George W. Bush's 2nd inauguration speech, which I went out to the gym to see. It was one of his best. Here was my favorite part:
We have seen our vulnerability - and we have seen its deepest source. For as long as whole regions of the world simmer in resentment and tyranny - prone to ideologies that feed hatred and excuse murder - violence will gather, and multiply in destructive power, and cross the most defended borders, and raise a mortal threat. There is only one force of history that can break the reign of hatred and resentment, and expose the pretensions of tyrants, and reward the hopes of the decent and tolerant, and that is the force of human freedom.

We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.

And then there was this:
Some, I know, have questioned the global appeal of liberty - though this time in history, four decades defined by the swiftest advance of freedom ever seen, is an odd time for doubt.

I think Bush's greatest contribution is his single-minded vision of the importance of liberty. He understands that threats to us aren't caused by third-world poverty, or by the historical actions of America or Israel, or even by religious differences, but by dictators, and people who live in dictatorships. He also understands that freedom is a universal human aspiration, not just an American or Western concept. Together these two explain everything that's right about his foreign policy.

Best of the Web calls his focus on global democracy "arguably the most ambitious policy any American president has ever put forth."


No lo comprendo

What the hell is Adam Sandler doing in a fake, middlebrow, NPR-crowd-pandering monstrosity like "Spanglish"? If this movie were any more fraudulent, it would be called "Alien Autopsy".


Two Kings

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. day, everyone. We celebrate this great man by according him the one federal holiday created for a specific person; I wanted to say something about the political shift he made near the end of his life, because it's hard to reconcile the two public faces he presented, and that conflict has been the source of a good amount of dispute among people trying to explain King's legacy (if you want to read a full biography, by the way, Wikipedia has a good entry).

By 1965, Martin Luther King had started to move toward the radicalism that other like Malcolm X personified, and that before then he had served as a counterweight to. He got involved in foreign policy, speaking out against the Vietnam War from a civil rights perspective. In a 1967 speech, he said the war was "taking the young black men who have been crippled by our society and sending them 8,000 miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem." (Never mind that World War II, with its racially-integrated divisions, served in some people's minds as the beginning of America's civil-rights consciousness.) King also took a class-struggle-based view of America's involvement in Latin America, referring to American funding of the fight against Soviet-backed rebel groups as "our alliance with the landed gentry of South America."

Even that wasn't adequate preparation for what came next: in 1968, several months before he was assassinated, King started the Poor People's Campaign, aimed at getting federal laws in place to ensure basic levels of employment, income and housing. His rhetoric by then was quite bold: "When you begin to ask why are there 40 million poor people in America, you are raising questions about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth. When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalistic economy." Somehow the man who had symbolized reason and dignity had become - a Marxist.

King's radicalization happened at around the same time as African-Americans' loyalty moving from the Republican party to the Democratic party, and I think it's no coincidence. When the state was working to keep blacks oppressed, in the form of first slavery, then enforced segregation and unequal educational funding, blacks sided with the party of smaller government and economic freedom. When the state, mostly through the work of Lyndon Johnson, began to take on the role of proactively helping blacks and other underprivileged minorities, through affirmative action and the creation of the modern welfare state among others, blacks shifted en masse toward the party of bigger government. So it was with King: in the 1950's he talked about ending discriminatory laws, a strong libertarian argument; by the late 60's he was talking about enforced wealth redistribution. It was no longer all the people joining hands in brotherhood, it was poor blacks, whites, latinos etc. demanding the government step in to take from the rich and give them what was theirs.

It's his rhetoric from the 50's and early 60's that I, and I think most Americans, choose to remember, letting his later slide into radical statism fade away like a bad dream. He was a gifted public speaker, maybe the greatest this country has ever seen, at least since the age of recording. Seeing some of his old speeches on TV still sends chills down my spine. And some of the language he used is as arresting and as true now as it was in 1963:
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal." I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

It's time to party and we'll party hard

Finally some wrapups I can link to. I had a really good time! Candace and Ginger of Candied Ginger are as on-point and attractive in person as they come off on their site; I got to talk to them together, which was like a massive charm assault. Sucks that Candace lost her wallet afterwards; I hope it didn't ruin the party for you. Oh, and while I'm talking to both of you directly, more photos for next year please, 'kay? Thanks.

The pretext of the party was a birthday party for C of A Picture of Me whom I never got to meet and deliver the appropriate birthday greeting to, despite repeated attempts to locate her. Well, there's always next year, hopefully.

Also, everybody else I talked to was awesome.


"Do not look at your watch when in the tent. Have the unit invest in Wiley X’s—these sunglasses also serve as sun-wind-dust goggles."

An intersting article in the New Yorker about how U.S. soldiers in Iraq, like the employees of any good corporation, use the web and discussion boards to increase knowledge and bypass the old hierarchies.

Given that this is the New Yorker, the last quarter or so is basically an unrelated tangent about how bad a job they think Donald Rumsfeld's doing.

Via Hit and Run.


Report from the campaign trail

Your correspondent was at Two Boots Pizza in Grand Central today when I realized the man standing next to me at the counter (and lunging past me for some napkins) was none other than former mayoral candidate Mark Green. Not wasting an opportunity, I asked him if he was running. "I am, but not for Mayor," he said. "I'm running for Attorney General, to replace Spitzer." Surprised, I asked him if he had declared already; he said yes, it just wasn't getting a lot of publicity because the election isn't until 2006. I wished him good luck. Though I voted for his opponent, Mike Bloomberg, in 2001, he seems like a nice guy.

So, unless you've heard the news before, consider it a Daily Lunch exclusive: Mark Green will run for Attorney General in '06.

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