Saturday, July 12, 2008

Gonzo: The Life And Work Of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson

Last night I drove over to Dallas to see "Gonzo", the new documentary about journalist Hunter S. Thompson.
It was worth the trip.

The movie doesn't give you any new info on Thompson. It doesn't keep you on the edge of your seat. You probably know going in that the hero dies by his own hand.

But it's fun to see unexpected guys like Jimmy Carter, Pat Buchanan, and George McGovern fondly reminiscing about a drug-crazed writer for Rolling Stone. (I already had a subscription to RS back when it was still published on unstapled newsprint, which would've made me about 14 years old. The magazine had great music and concert reviews, wonderful political writing, and would take chances on experimental projects by writers like Thompson and Tom Wolfe. It's been depressing to see the magazine decline into a support system for fashion and fragrance ads.)

The documentary doesn't spend much time on his childhood in Kentucky, but takes you ASAP to Thompson's coverage of the Hell's Angels biker gang. His gun fetish gets a lot of attention. His collaborative relationship with artist Ralph Steadman is fully explained. I was surprised by the amount of available Thompson TV and news footage.

The first Mrs. Thompson is, shall we say, bitter.
Jimmy Buffet is aging gracefully.
Gary Hart is aging gracefully.
Various Hell's Angels are not.

It was a bummer to watch home videos of the last few weeks of Thompson's life in Colorado, no longer at the top of his game (having lost some of his mental capacity to mescaline, coke, and bourbon), getting jowly, plinking around on an IBM Selectric, and writing a sports blog for ESPN.

Dr. (from a mail-order divinity degree) Hunter S. Thompson is what you get when the libertarian positions on gun rights, free speech, and opposition to drug and alcohol prohibition are carried to the extremes.

And that's how Dr. Thompson wanted to live his life. Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent And Depraved, and Fear And Loathing On The Campaign Trail are by themselves worth far more than any retired, healthy, Kentucky journalist.

Gonzo logo was borrowed from The Plastered Poets. The last sentence was borrowed from Faulkner. (Hit the "journalist" link.)

Friday, July 11, 2008

It's Mark Steyn, not Mark Stein, filling in for Rush Limbaugh

It's Mark Steyn, not Mark Stein, filling in for Rush Limbaugh.
Here's what you need to know about the guy:

1) He writes for MacLean's, a Canadian newsmagazine that is pure greatness. Some of his warnings about organized Muslim hyper-sensitivity got him and the magazine hauled in front of the Alberta Human Rights Commission - a group that makes kangaroo courts appear to have The Wisdom of Solomon. From a free speech point of view, these Human Rights Commissions are beneath contempt. End of story. If you're interested, check out this thread about a Canadian blogger named Ezra Levant.

2) Mark Steyn (not Mark Stein) began his career as a musical theatre critic.

3) He recently published the book "America Alone", about the U.S. being the last bastion of Liberal Tolerance. I'm only halfway through it, but the general theme is that a curtain of intolerance toward traditional liberal values - Free Speech, Women's Rights, Equality Under The Law - is descending over much of Europe and Canada.

4) The book seems somewhat alarmist until you realize that Canada now has the dreaded "rights" tribunals, England is drifting toward an acknowledgement of Sharia law, and, for the crime of pointing out this intolerance, Steyn's book will soon be banned in Canada. Because it is intolerant.

5) Hmmmm.

6) He's very funny. More of a Libertarian than a Conservative. Here's his website. Enjoy.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Alisa In Wonderland

And now for something completely different....

Someone calling herself Alisa In Wonderland is a frequent commenter on two of my favorite blogs - Counting Cats and Samizdata.

Alisa's observations (in English) on these two sites are usually brilliant. Her blog (in Hebrew) probably is also, but I can't read most of it. She occasionally toggles back and forth between English and Hebrew. Or Yiddish. Or whatever it is.

She writes from Jerusalem.

I know from my hit counter that a lot of seminarians from SWBTS regularly visit my site on heresy hunting field trips. Perhaps you guys could go there and brush up on your Old Testament source language.

It's the best Israeli bilingual libertarian blog you'll ever be unable to read. I promise.

Please join me in encouraging Alisa to write everything in parallel translations.

Barack Obama's Manhood Is In Danger ! ! !

Several months ago, Newsweek magazine referenced Michelle Obama possibly being an "emasculating" influence on Barack Obama. Mrs. Obama denied any such ability. But Newseek used the same quote three times in one issue, an obsession which I thought strange enough to write about.

Now Jesse Jackson has expressed an urge to emasculate Barack Obama. The unfortunate Reverend Jackson was caught on tape.

What is there about Barack Obama's manhood that makes it such a highly coveted item?

When Lyndon Johnson ruled the Senate he claimed to know how certain colleagues would vote, stating "I've got his p***er in my pocket".

Is it just a matter of time before Obama's manhood winds up in the pocket of those who want to claim it as their own? And, if so, is the object in question entitled to additional Secret Service protection?

Addition from 9:00 p.m.... here's some video and sound of the Jesse Jackson Obama comments. This will turn into a Press Agentry/Publicist case study that will be studied for decades.

Caption This

I need a caption for this picture.

Congratulations to Pete Wann at West And Clear, winner of last week's caption challenge. A two dollar donation has been made in his name to The Whited Sepulchre Outreach Ministry And Social Club For Wayward Shipping Personnel.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Trucks In The Left Lane

I work in the freight and shipping bidness, and one of the recurring gripes that I hear from drivers has to do with the signs shown above.
The left lanes of Fort Worth's Interstate-30 were closed off to "trucks" a couple of years ago. This was supposedly done to improve traffic flow.

But, as one of my mentors recently told me, "if you ain't got the data, the chatter don't matter".
Words to live by.

Does this restriction make a demonstrable difference?

According to a study presented in (ahem) College Station, TX.... completed at a cost of $960,000.00..... and this doesn't include the cost of the signs or their installation....traffic has averaged a 1/2 mile per hour improvement.

Interstate 20 and Interstate 30 both got the signs and restrictions, and the data from both highways is lumped together as one number in the presentation.

Why? I'm betting that one of the highways had a meaningful improvement in speed, and the other one stayed the same or even declined.

But lets look at the methodology for a moment. The study compares what they call Phase 1 (August) to a similar time period in Phase 4 (January/February). Can anyone else in the trucking business (I don't want to be the spoiler) let us know how much difference there is in freight volume between August and January/February?

We're not comparing apples to apples, or even apples to coconuts. It might not even be apples to alligators. It's huge.

And a 1/2 mile per hour improvement? (Unless I'm mistaken, the decimals are rounded upward from here to here.) I think we're looking at static, white noise, and dissimilar time periods. These numbers aren't significant enough, in my opinion, to show us anything outside the margin of error.

Who is more likely to hop onto an interstate highway for just a few miles? The guy in a two-door compact, or the long-haul trucker? The left lane should be for those who are just passing through. Those going from exit to exit for a few miles should be in the right lanes. And they don't need 18-wheelers in their way.

Photo from Flikr

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Colombia Free Trade Agreement

A few months ago, The Clintons fired pollster and campaign strategist Mark Penn. Hillary had been speaking out against the Colombia Free Trade Agreement, and Penn had met with Colombian officials to strategize on how to get the bill passed.
I've been saving editorials ever since, waiting until an appropriate moment to put together something that might be worthy of your attention.

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has been in the news lately for helping orchestrate a dramatic hostage rescue.
John McCain has been down there, trying to promote the Free Trade Agreement.

So let's get started. This is from Arianna Huffington:

(After Penn's resignation), then came word that Clinton campaign spokesman Howard Wolfson also has financial ties to Colombia via his involvement the Glover Park Group, a company founded by Clinton administration alum Joe Lockhart that has also been advising the Colombian government.

And that's not all. It wasn't just Penn and Wolfson and Lockhart. Someone else was taking money from the Colombian government in exchange for influence. Someone much closer to home. Someone who lived at home. One of the owners of the freakin' home.

And, of course, there is the Whitman sampler of Colombian goodies gobbled up by Bill Clinton, including: $800,000 in speaking fees from a Colombian pro-free trade agreement group; a "Colombia is Passion" award bestowed by Colombia's president Alvaro Uribe (who honored the former president as an "unofficial minister of tourism"); and a sweet Colombian oil field deal for a company Clinton pal Frank Giustra's investment firm had advised. Giustra is the mining magnate who has donated $31 million to Clinton's charitable fund, and whom Bill personally introduced to Colombian President Uribe (Giustra is the same guy Clinton helped land a uranium deal in Kazakhstan, but that's a Clinton story for a different blog post).

I apologize for the amount of sleaze in this particular post, and I hope the good people at don't censor all this. Ms. Huffington goes on to describe how the He-Clinton bundled an aid package, a giveaway for Lockheed-Martin, and other goodies in the same package.

I'm afraid that I've made the Colombian government sound like the villain here. That's not the case. They're merely the weak storefront on the block, forced to pay protection money to the guys with connections who run the rackets. At least that's what Kimberly Strassel says.

Critics will point out that all this smacks of a protection racket, as Democratic lobbyists and consultants cash in by offering to protect companies from their own party's agenda. There's undoubtedly some of that, but it's old Washington news. Many lobbyists and politicians take up causes with which they aren't entirely in tune. It pays the bills, and also siphons up cash for their greater political purposes. Talk to New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, who last year stepped in to save private equity firms from a big tax threatened by his own party. In thanks, the industry coughed up for his Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which is now working to add several Democratic seats to the Senate.

I love that line..."cash in by offering to protect companies from their own party's agenda".

Various opponents of the Free Trade Agreement point to a high level of violence against union officials. Not so, says The Boston Globe in the preceding link. President Uribe and the Colombian government know where their bread is buttered.

Others point to the quantity of coke and weed produced in Colombia, coke and weed that somehow makes it across our borders despite not being a part of anyone's trade agreement. They say this is harmful, and that the Colombian government doesn't do enough to stop the drug trade. Not so, says former U.S. president Jimmy Carter. Colombia works very hard, under the circumstances, to curtail the drug trade. According to former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, there are now more Latin American and South American deaths from North American tobacco than there are North American deaths from Latin and South American cocaine.

I know this is hard to believe. But yes, Jimmy Carter was once elected President of The United States.

Here's an editorial from Daniel Weintraub that explains why the chief benefit of a Colombian Free Trade agreement would be the elimination of the 20% tariff that Columbia currently has on American imports. (If you're a total geek, do some Googling on a concept called "The Lerner Theorem". It essentially states that a 20% tariff on imports is the same as applying a 20% tariff on your exports. This is something that everyone but Hillary and Barack have known since 1936. Yes. 1936. There are people in high places who rely on you being economically....dense.)

Finally, here's a John McCain press conference. I'm not wild about the guy, since he's a Republican, and the Republican Party needs to be punished. (As for as government spending goes, they've made the Democrats look like coupon-clippers who wear their socks twice to save on detergent.) But McCain's supports Free Trade, and seldom hesitates to say so. Heck, he went to Iowa and spoke out against the ultra-protectionist Farm Bill.

Let's go back to the Daniel Weintraub piece. Nancy Pelosi of California seems to be the primary obstacle with getting this bill passed. Here's Weintraub:
Pelosi could have been the grown-up on this issue, drawing on her own state's experience to show that globalization, just like technology, has made our economy more dynamic and robust, and, over the long term, healthier. Instead, she is playing to the worst impulses of her party and pandering to those who believe that economic nationalism is the road to prosperity. The best argument for free trade is a moral one: The government ought not use discriminatory tariffs to discourage two parties from buying and selling goods that otherwise would be legal. It shouldn't matter whether the trade is between a Californian and a Kansan or a Californian and a Colombian. It's a matter of free will.

So here's the problem..... Hillary's advisors have made plenty of money, taking Colombian cash for access to Congress. Bill has made money on the deal. The Friends Of Bill have made money on the agreement. Has no one thought to buy off Nancy Pelsosi? Or do the Democrats want to leave it out there, thinking the electorate is dense enough to condemn McCain for supporting it? Do the Republicans want to leave it out there, thinking that Obama's waffling on trade issues will hurt him in November?

The Colombians are moving heaven and earth in order to be partners with us, giving their citizens access to markets that doesn't involve the drug trade, and they've long been one of our allies in the region.

Why hasn't someone thought to pay Nancy Pelosi to get out of the way?