Friday, June 26, 2009

Fan Letter

In the Shameless Misuse of Server Logs department, I'd like to take this opportunity to say hello to all the folks at Pixar who are checking out the blog today. Love your stuff, guys, and if you really have to make sequels, I bet Brad Bird could come up with one heck of a new Incredibles movie one of these days.

Oh, and tell Steve to get well soon. Thanks...

UPDATE: I suspect this story, which I stumbled upon basically at random, explains why I was getting hits from Pixar. To the surprise of pretty much nobody, Pixar turns out to be quite a class outfit.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


My wife works at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta on the AFLAC Cancer Center. One of her patients is Leo, an 18-year-old kid with terminal cancer, and his dad told her early on that Leo is a huge Stevie Wonder fan.

Beth (the wife) works with Rock Against Cancer, and through their local volunteer and the Atlanta NBC station, she got in touch with Stevie's management ahead of the concert he played here last night. Leo and his family got to meet with Stevie before the show, and not only did Stevie walk out and dedicate the show to Leo, he brought the kid out onstage, sat him down on the piano bench next to him, and kept him there the entire show. We were up on the lawn (the Ampitheater at Encore Park in Alpharetta), and you could literally see the grin on the kid's face from way back there. They also had dinner together after the show.

After the concert Leo's family invited Beth to the after-show party backstage (I tagged along shamelessly), where Stevie played keyboards and harmonica for a good hour, but spent most of his time hanging around with Leo, who by then was walking about six feet off the ground (and on an entirely personal note, watching Stevie Wonder play "Overjoyed" to a small room from a yard away pretty much pegs the cool meter).

There aren't ten big stars in the world who'd do all that. Hell, there might not even be two.

So, to reiterate: Stevie Wonder = Good Guy.

There should be a story about it on the Atlanta NBC affiliate ("11Alive") either tonight or tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Life After Format Death

This one won't go over very well at Sony Headquarters. According to Harris Interactive, via Slashdot:

Currently, 11% of Americans own an HD-DVD player, while just 7% own a Blu-ray player. Crazy, right? More Americans own HD-DVD right now than the "winning" format, Blu-ray. To be totally honest, we aren't so shocked by the news. When HD-DVD was around, it was far and away the "budget" format for high-def. The players were cheaper, the films were cheaper. In other words, it was a format more ready to thrive in a down economy. Blu-ray was always viewed as a niche format for those absorbed in A/V, not the common man's format.

Blu-ray fans will note that this is a bit of a cheat, since the Blu number apparently doesn't include Blu-ray-equipped Playstation 3's, but then again, the HD-DVD number also doesn't include XBox 360 add-on HD drives.

Full disclosure: thanks to landing an LG BH-200 HD/Blu combo player for dirt cheap, I'm a truly bipartisan dual-format guy... but if it weren't for the "Red2Blu" replacement deal from a couple of months back, I'd only own a handful of Blu-ray discs. Movie pricing on Blu-rays is still way too high in general.

You Read It Here First

National Review editor in chief Rich Lowry, in his syndicated column today:

[F]allout from the stimulus and auto bailouts are stoking a distaste for deficit spending and government activism that is remarkable in what is touted as a statist golden age on par with 1933 or 1965. In a Wall Street Journal poll last week, 58 percent of people said the government should keep the deficit down, even if it slows economic growth. Fifty-five percent opposed the bailout of General Motors, and nearly seven in ten expressed worry about the government’s interventions in the economy.
Compared to health care, both the stimulus and the auto bailout are great diversions, for which Democrats are now paying the price. They strain mightily to find a way to keep their legislation under $1 trillion and to actually pay for it, because they already had one enormously expensive freebie this year. With a more measured approach, Obama would have asked for a smaller stimulus and steered clear of the wreckage of the auto companies, saving his strength for the most important policy battle of his presidency.

Advantage: Me.

Andrew Malcolm, in the LA Times today:

Here's the scary thing for the new White House: the terrifying words "Jimmy Carter" have started appearing in print and on the air, recalling the ex-Georgia governor's ineptness and apparent powerlessness in handling his Iranian (hostage) issues in the late 1970s. That impression lead to 12 years of Reagan-Bush Republican White Houses.

Over the weekend Democratic stalwart Sen. Dianne Feinstein was also suggesting on TV that even with 60 seats in the Senate, the president might not have enough support to pass his beloved massive healthcare reforms. Not to mention some modest slippage in Obama's poll numbers.

Advantage: Me, again.

Moving away momentarily from the gratuitous self-back-patting, I ought to point out James Taranto's catch of a better (if still on the weak side) Obama statement on Iran, which was inexplicably cut out of the actual CBS broadcast from last Friday. Like Taranto (and Allahpundit, who uncovered the quotes in the online transcript), I have to wonder just why CBS buried the actual story they had literally in their hands. Were they that clueless? Did the White House ask for those lines to be cut in the name of "not meddling?" Either way, whomever left out Obama's tenative statements of support for the protestors looked pretty dumb when the White House released that (still-milquetoast) press release after the Iranian goon squads did their thing on Sunday.

No matter what the actual reasons were, it was quite a fumble by CBS.

Monday, June 22, 2009

That Figures

Sorry for the light blogging, life intrudes. I did have to note this Drudge-linked story, about the unusually high number of security camera's in the wife's old hometown. The following lines at the very end made me laugh right out loud:

But Jack Bauer, owner of the city's largest beer and soft drink distributor, calls the network "a great thing." His store hasn't been robbed, he said, since four cameras went up nearby.

"There's nothing wrong with instilling fear," he said.

The LA Times failed to mention how many times Mr. Bauer told their reporter to "DROP YOUR WEAPON!" during the interview.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Pro-Ahmadinejad Thugs Attack College Student In Ohio

Via Slashdot and Kos, a college student in Ohio has been attacked for assisting Iranian protestors with their Twitter access:

For those who do not know him he has been essential in providing security for Twitterers in Iran, setting up private networks to provide secure proxies to them, calling for media networks to remove the Iranians Twiterers information from their broadcast, and providing counter-intelligence services (including Basiji and Army Locations) within the Twitter community.

ProtesterHelp confirmed to me that he was attacked by a group of men that seemed to be either Iranian or Lebanese, while walking to class in Ohio. They drove up besides him and threw rocks at him while shouting, "Mousavi Fraud."

He further informed me that his personal information was leaked, and is currently being spread both online and inside of Iran amongst the government. The former most likely lead to this attack. God only knows what the latter will lead too.

The student reports that the local police "seemed uninterested" when he filed a report. I'm sorry to say that I expect the FBI to be just as uninterested, but I would certainly be happy to be proven wrong in that regard.

The Shame Of Silence

Even the Walter Duranty of Iran's mullocracy is saying it:

I still believe there is no alternative to engagement. But it is not the time for Obama to talk about talks. He should be talking about his outrage at the violence.

This is the city of whispers. Its people crave to know that their hushed voices are being heard. Obama, lover of words, is the message man. “Message received” is what he must convey.

Unfortunately, The One seems mostly miffed that he's not able to meet with Ahmadinejad for a rousing chorus of "Kumbaya."

And in the meantime, well, read this:

Yesterday I heard a friend’s cousin in Shiraz was wounded and taken to hospital. He was taken to the operating theatre for emergency operation. The savage thugs that you see in the media and on the internet who are attacking our people, went to the operating theatre and dragged him away and left him for dead outside the hospital.
A family in Shahrake Gharb who were holding a wake for their son killed in the protests were attacked by the riot guards in their home. Their home was set ablaze and all present in the wake were beaten up. Their crime was that they held a mourning ceremony for their son.

The repression is beyond belief. Not even the war veterans and their families are left alone. Yesterday the wife of the former assassinated prime minister, Rajaii, and other relatives of the war martyrs who had backed candidates other than Ahmadienjad were also arrested.

And the most the "leader of the free world" can manage is to look irritated when he's asked to express something more than "deep concern." Pathetic.

Obamanomics Is Over

The Obama Administration is over, at least in terms of major legislation.

Socialized medicine disguised as a "public option" will not pass Congress. Neither will the beloved-of-Hollywood-airheads "cap and trade" energy tax bill. Ditto for the union-pushed "card check" payoff. This triad of massive government expansion, considered the crown jewels for Obama's New New Deal, are all walking dead. Forget about the Democrats having 60 Senate votes to block a filibuster; I doubt any one of the three could get to a bare majority, assuming they ever came to the floor. Which they probably won't.

The realization of all this clearly hasn't sunk in yet with all of the Administration, the Congressional leadership, or the Obamedia, and no wonder: they've thought for months that all of these things were going to be a slam dunk. They're just starting to realize that they could have had the whole megillah of Europeanizing the American economy, but instead, they blew it.

Obama and his party in Congress, wrapped up in a comfortable cocoon of media adulation, misread the results of the last two elections. Rather than examining public disgust at government overspending, overreach and general corruption, they chose instead to read 2006-08 as a mandate for Liberal governance. Running with that imagined mandate, they shoved through one waste-riddled spending orgy after another, culminating in a single-year deficit roughly four times larger than any other in history. Awash in one adoring magazine cover after another, Obama conveniently forgot that he didn't campaign on adding even one trillion to the federal budget, much less multiple trillions.

Their planned federal borrowing (which didn't even count added trillions for the socialized medicine scheme) produced the now-famous chart that half of Washington is still assiduously trying to ignore:

Anytime you might wonder why all these grand new schemes are failing to get support, just look at that chart.

It must come as a surprise to the incoming Chicago camp that the Little People are upset about having to foot the bill for all that spending, rather than simply expressing bovine joy towards their Ivy League-approved government benefactors. This isn't The Way Things Work for the Chicago machine: Democratic politicians are supposed to spend tons of money to buy votes, the money is guided to patronage pork, the interest groups turn out those votes in gratitude, and the suckers--er, taxpayers are supposed to shut up and pay for the whole thing.

It's not working out that way. People were shocked by the initial outlays of Obama's budget, and shock quickly turned out outrage when the Administration nationalized two failed car companies in a naked bid to prop up a major campaign contributor that also happens to be a hugely-disliked labor union. Trillions in boondoggle spending was bad enough, but throwing endless good money after bad to support Government Motors and Chrylser was sour icing on an unpalatable cake.

"Card check" never had any serious hopes of passage, and for good reason: it's a naked power grab that has the added bonus of encouraging intimidation and thuggery. Twentieth-Century unions swing a big bat in the Democratic Party, but for the country at large, they're an anachronism and a nuisance, and now thanks to the UAW, the poster children for government coddling and overreach.

The socialized medicine scheme is dead on the vine for similar reasons. Obama, as ever in love with the melodious sound of his own voice, is still pushing the nonsensical idea that we can save money on health care by... spending a lot more money on health care, and as an added bonus, putting government bureaucrats in charge of it. The shell game of adding a "public option"--one that's clearly designed to simply run private insurers out of business in short order--isn't fooling anybody. People understand that there's no such thing as a free lunch. The only way the government can lower its spending on health care is by paying for less of it. That means Canadian-style rationing by bureaucratic decree, which is something Americans will simply never stand for.

One way out of rationing is, as Mickey Kaus asserts, simply spending ever-more for health care to avoid the political backlash. The problem with Mickey's argument is, the money isn't there. Look back up at that chart if you aren't sure. The only way to get there is with a massive tax increase, and that's never going to fly in this fiscal environment. As soon as I saw the early estimate of $600 billion in new taxes to pay for Obamacare, I said to myself, "That's it--it's DOA." The cost estimate for Obamacare has since nearly tripled, effectively turning the plan into a political zombie.

As for "cap and trade," the massive energy tax disguised as environmentalism, as Sean Connery would say, it's as dead as Julius Ceasar. The monstrous, economy-killing child of Henry Waxman and his Hollywood constituency not only wouldn't do a thing to prevent alleged "global warming," it likely wouldn't manage a majority of Democrats in the Senate, and possibly not even in the House. My guess is that it never makes it to a vote.

Now, obviously, even though he's bleeding political support, Obama is far from powerless, and his party still holds big majorities in Congress. They'll get a lot done as far as passing new laws and regulations and pushing through a generation's worth of new liberal judges. What they won't do, though, is pass any massive new programs that cost tons of new money. That window has closed.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Deference To Barbarism

Of all the non-responses Barack Obama has given to date regarding the Iranian uprising, I think this one is the most disturbing:

You've seen in Iran some initial reaction from the Supreme Leader that indicates he understands the Iranian people have deep concerns about the election.

Excuse me?

Did the President of the United States just defer to an unelected religious dictator? Did the Barack Obama stoop to using the clown's fawning title in a public statement? Did he really suggest that a terrorist warlord was worthy of either deference or trust? Seriously?

Apparently, this is what passes for wisdom in the Obama Administration. From today's WaPo, in an article that was clearly sourced from deep within the White House:

The political unrest in Iran presents the Obama administration with a dilemma: keep quiet to pursue a nuclear deal with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country's supreme leader, or heed calls to respond more supportively to the protesters there -- and risk alienating the Shiite cleric.

So, in pursuit of a deal with a barbarian fanatic, The One is refusing to offer even tepid support to the millions of people living under Khamenei's boot, all based on the fantasy that a pack of vicious thugs who've spent the last three decades working dilligently to kill Americans can be convinced to do things they clearly think aren't in their own interests... if we're just nice enough to them.

So much for the "reality-based community." This particular plan has about as much in common with reality as The Force or Hobbiton.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Welcome Back, Carter

Somebody cue up "My Sharona" or "Le Freak." Apparently it's 1979 all over again.

Rather than offering any crumbs of support to the Iranians who are literally putting their lives on the line for their own freedom, Barack Obama could only manage "deep concerns." In Obamaland, it's not as important to offer even moral support to people trying to shake off the yoke of a barbaric dictatorship as it is to not appear to be "meddling."

This all sounds quite familiar, and everyone over 30 has seen it before. Did somebody replace the "community activist" with a self-righteous peanut farmer while we weren't looking?

The fantasy that "moderates" within the mullah regime can be coaxed into a "grand bargain" has taken in better men than Barack Obama, but Obama doesn't even have the excuse of not being aware of that prior history. The level of self-loathing an American has to possess to believe that the Khomeinists are a brutal, terror-supporting regime entirely because the US hasn't been nice enough to them is pretty staggering.

Khoemeini and his heirs were and are brutal fanatics. Period, dot. They have subjugated and terrorized their own people and done their level best to kill ours for thirty years because that's what they are and that's what they do. The devil didn't make them do it. There's nothing you or I or Jimmy Carter or George W. Bush or Barack Obama ever could have said that would have changed them. The idea that we'd burn some kind of bridge with Ahmadinejad and the ayatollahs behind him is laughable--those guys are never going to be anything other than hostile to us, and Obama ought to be realistic enough to understand as much.

Unfortunately, Obama spent far too much time marinating in Leftoid academia, and invested too much of his political persona in the self-aggrandizing mantra, "Everybody hates us because of Bush" to be able to comprehend the significance of what's going on in Iran right now. It's not about us.

The reign of the ayatollahs in Iran has an expiration date, and the ayatollahs know it. Seventy percent of Iran's population wasn't even alive in 1978, and they've had enough of the mullahs and their Basij bully boys. Whether their yoke is thrown off in 2009 or in 2012 or 2020, it's going to happen, probably within the next decade or so.

I hope any sane person would agree that sooner would be better, but here's a question for all of those who are eaten up with concern over "what will they think of us?" Whenever the turn comes, what exactly will they think of us, if we turn our backs on them today? What will they think if we just hedge our bets against the ludicrous idea that we might be burning (nonexistent) bridges with the mullahs otherwise?

I've meet a lot of Eastern Europeans who have pictures of Ronald Reagan on their mantles. They never forgot the way he stood up for them, in public, against the commissars. Iran's population is going to run off the mullahs one of these years, hopefully this year. When that happens, what do you want them to remember, that we were supporting them, or worrying about what their oppressors would think about it?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Storm Warning

From the AP:

Iranian authorities are restricting all journalists working for foreign media from firsthand reporting on the streets.

The rules cover all journalists, including Iranians working for foreign media. It blocks images and eyewitness descriptions of the protests and violence that has followed last week's disputed elections.

The order issued Tuesday limits journalists for foreign media to work only from their offices, conducting telephone interviews and monitoring official sources such as state television.

This is a very bad sign. It likely means that the mullahs are planning to "go Tiananmen" and send in the tanks.

Every civilized government on the planet should be making it crystal-clear to the Khomeninites that the world will not tolerate such action, and that the individuals who give the orders will be held responsible for their actions.

That said, I have no particular expectation that such a warning will be given, or that the despots in Tehran and Qom would be frightened if it were. All they have to do is ask their Chinese advisors about how they were treated after they murdered their own children in the streets, just over twenty years ago.

In reality, the fate of the Second Iraninan Revolution rests in the hands of Iranian troops. If they turn against the regime, this will end quickly, and for the better. That happened in Russia in 1991. It did not happen in China in 1989.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Dear Mr. President: Help Them

Dear President Obama,

I don't like you. More accurately, I don't like what you're trying to do to my country. If I wanted socialized medicine, I'd move to Canada. If I wanted to buy a socialist car, I'd go to the junkyard and find a Yugo. If I wanted all of the above, plus kissing up to every tin-pot despot with a half-assed grievance, I'd move to France. I didn't vote for you (but to be fair, I wasn't very thrilled about the other guy, either), and I can't do much of anything to help you or hurt you, so given The Chicago Way, it's likely that you're going to ignore anything I might have to say. Fair enough.

But for all that, you are still the notional leader of what we used to call the Free World, and as such, you ought to pay attention when a people--any people--are caught up in a existential struggle for their freedom.

Such a struggle is going on in Iran right now. Despite what you or me or anyone else may have wanted to happen, people who have had far more than the standard ration of crap shoveled in their faces are putting their lives and their fortunes and their sacred honor on the line to gain some measure of what you and I have enjoyed for all of our own lives.

It is meet and right that we--by which I mean you--should help them.

This is your moment, Mr. President. I mean that sincerely. This is your signal opportunity to rise above the mundane, to discard the tired dogmas of State Departments past, to submit your own name among the great leaders of our times. You hold a great and potent seat, an office that derives its greatness not merely by the vast wealth and material might it commands, but also thanks to the hard-won light cast by the shining city on the hill. Yours is the power to cast that light into the dark places of this world, and to bathe in its brillance those who suffer without freedom's gifts.

Iran, the people of Iran, not the misbegotten maniacs of Khomeninism, yearns for that light. For all of their sakes, and for all of ours, do not repeat the cataclysmic errors of Jimmy Carter, and bend to the darkness of medieval Islam because of a lack of faith in your own country and in its ideals. Don't repeat the failures of (yes) Reagan and Bush and Clinton and Bush again, and turn away because the prospects are hard, or because the entrenched bureaucracy whispers its seductive song of the easy way, the stable way, the long road to hell paved with the best (and the most cowardly) of intentions.

Those people in the streets and in the homes and in the dismal prisons of the Basij thugs need you--you, personally--right now. You have won a lofty and puissant office, and perhaps more importantly, a mighty seat from which to mete justice on the rare occasions when the times are right to do so.

This is one of those times. Use your influence. Use your power. You have shown little reluctance to do so when it comes to matters within our borders, so take this opportunity to extend your reach beyond them. Use the brawny arms of our government and its instruments of national policy and fight the barbarians who have enslaved their own countrymen and worked to kill ours for the past three decades.

This is your moment, if you will but use the powers that you have, both external and covert, and help those people to be free.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Reductio Ad Letterman

I haven't watched more than a rare minute or two David Letterman's show in about 16 years. While I'd been a devoted viewer in high school and college, Letterman's move from NBC to CBS roughly coincided with my graduating and getting a real job, and having to show up early in the morning on a daily basis put an end to my late-night TV watching days.

From little what I did see, the CBS move neutered Letterman of his trademark anarcho-goofball style. Letterman thrived when he was NBC's redheaded stepchild, standing outside of the television establishment throwing spitballs. Once he was embraced by it with a better time slot and a plush theater, he became what he'd beheld. The ambling guy from Indiana who once went out of his way to puncture the bloated TV egos of Bryant Gumbel and Dan Rather became just another Manhattanite snarking at the rubes in between celebrity suck-up interviews. Even the music wasn't as good; the tight four-piece of the World's Most Dangerous Band was expanded into a mockingly-named "CBS Orchestra" and lost its punch.

What was left is an unentertaining entertainer on television, another in the endless line of Carson wannabees who've failed to live up to Johnny's immortal standard. Not exactly man bites dog--television is and always has been rife with crap; if it weren't for "Lost," there wouldn't be a single program on any of the old three networks that I'd watch (and "Lost" ends next year, so so long ABC). I never cared much what Letterman's politics were, even though he's apparently lurched way to the Left over the last decade and a half. If a joke dies on Broadway, and I didn't hear it, as far as I'm concerned, it didn't make a sound.

Of course, Letterman's jokes took a turn for the exceptionally foul this week, and the resulting crash was heard well beyond Broadway. What's interesting to me is not what they say about Letterman per se, but rather what they say about the entire left-leaning media establishment. The simple fact that Letterman and his writers obviously thought it would be just fine to utter that kind of stuff on national television speaks volumes about just how insular and blinkered and self-unaware the entire Liberal chattering class has become.

There's no doubt--none--that Letterman would have been fired within hours of telling the same exact jokes if you changed nothing more than the words "Sarah Palin" to "Michelle Obama," or even "Hillary Clinton." The resulting uproar would have made the Don Imis "nappy-headed ho's" kerfuffle look like a preschool checkers game. But that thought clearly never crossed the minds of Letterman or his staff or the network standards people at CBS. In their eyes, nobody worth worrying about would have reason to object to ugly smears of the Palins; after all, everybody they know thinks the Palins are beneath contempt.

You can get away with having a blind spot the size of the Death Star if you work at, say, The Nation or the New Yorker, or until recently, the editorial page of the New York Times. You made up your mind from the jump that they only audience you were interested in was people who already agree with all your own prejudices and petty bigotries. But when your voice carries well beyond the Upper East Side... then you have a problem.

Letterman has a problem. He'll probably get through it, and even if CBS were to show him the door, all that would accomplish is setting up a bidding war between HBO and Showtime for his services. But he'll never been seen in the same light again by all those folks in Indiana and elsewhere in Flyover Country, and the wedge between the elite media and the general public is now just that much larger.

Monday, June 8, 2009

What He Said

Mickey Kaus on GM:

Lutz can't possibly be enough of a moron to believe that the Prius and its "halo effect" are a primary reason for Toyota's ascendancy. Toyota has been ascendant for at least three decades, and GM declining, for a simple reason: Toyota built cars that worked ("bulletproof," as they say) at a time when GM built cars that didn't work. That's what was "drawing people to Toyota lots" a generation before the Prius was conceived. Even today, when GM suffers "under the perception that they [are] saddled with cars of inferior quality," you only have to look at the Consumer Reports reliability ratings to see that the reason GM is saddled with this perception is that the perception is accurate.

Yep. GM (and Chrysler, and Ford) didn't lose out to Toyota (and Honda) because of any enviromental "halo effect"--they lost because Toyota and Honda make better cars.

What a concept.

UPDATE: The alleged Detroit-destroying Prius isn't exactly roaring out of the showroom. Sales are down nearly 50% this year.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Atlanta Music Heads Up: Arc Angels

Austin's Arc Angels were one of those great bands that "should have been." Originally formed as a pick-up band in late 1990, the Angels were composed of the late Stevie Ray Vaughan's rhythm section (drummer Chris Layton and bassist Tommy Shannon, together better known as Double Trouble), plus singer/guitarist/songwriters Charlie Sexton and Doyle Bramhall II. The combination hit it off quickly, grabbed their name from the initials of the Austin Rehearsal Complex, and snagged a major-label record deal back in the days when that still meant something. Their debut (and to date, only) album was well-reviewed, the lead-off single "Living In A Dream" got a lot of airplay, and the band was a top-flight live act.

And then, just as the album was poised to go gold, everything fell apart. Bramhall discovered heroin, and quickly deteriorated as a performer and a bandmate. The band was forced as a result to decline the opening spot on the Black Crowes' blockbuster High As The Moon Tour, and after a disastrous summer 1993 performance at Austin's Auditorium Shores, they broke up, reconveining briefly that October for a set of local shows to pay off their outstanding debts.

Bramhall eventually cleaned up his act, and has been a top session and concert sideman for most of the 2000's, playing with Eric Clapton and Roger Waters. Sexton has also been an in-demand player, gigging with Bob Dylan and other mega-names, and Double Trouble has never had any, er, trouble getting work. Nearly a decade after the 1993 collapse, the band reformed for occasional shows in Austin, then expanded to short tours in Texas.

Finally, early this year, the Arc Angels announced that they (minus Shannon, who's missing for thus-far unexplained reasons) would tour internationally as a band--they're opening for Clapton in Europe--as well as record a new album and release a live DVD.

Their stateside headlining tour stops at Atlanta's Variety Playhouse tonight, so catch them if you can. Speaking for myself, having caught the Arc Angels' farewell show (and unlike a lot of bands, they really meant it at the time) in Austin sixteen years back, I'm pretty jazzed about getting to see them again.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Never Forget

June 4, 1989:

Claudia Rosett was there:

At the north end of the square, still standing as the troops formed up, was the tall, white Chinese statue of liberty built by the demonstrators five nights earlier. She was holding her torch in both hands and facing the huge portrait of Mao Zedong that hangs over the entrance to China's old imperial Forbidden City.

Near that statue, which China's rulers had labeled "an abomination," I watched a handful of young doctors working out of a makeshift medical tent -- themselves in the line of fire -- trying desperately, in blood-stained smocks, to treat demonstrators hit by bullets. During a half hour there, I saw seven wounded rushed in. Then I moved away, fearing it was too dangerous. Before I left, I asked one of the doctors if he had expected the army would open fire. He answered, "Of course."

From loudspeakers which the protesters had mounted on the monument, I listened to the Internationale, the stirring communist anthem that the demonstrators had appropriated as their own. From huge government loudspeakers mounted in the square came the official reply, "If you do not leave, we cannot guarantee your safety," followed by the warning the army had been ordered to clear the square by daybreak.

At 4:00 a.m. the streetlamps went out. In the dark, armored personnel carriers rolled forward into the square. The protesters on the monument held their ground. Just before 5:00 a.m. the lights came back on, revealing the soldiers, guns at the ready, preparing to rush the monument. With that, the protesters began filing off the monument and out the south end of the square. By dawn, the army had sealed off Tiananmen and the streets around it.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Do They Get Beavis & Butt-head In London?

The ongoing Parliamentary expense scandal and associated collapse of the Labour government in the UK is one of the more entertaining stories of the day (naturally, the US media scarcely notices it); for a quick catch-up, check the UK Telegraph (which broke the story), Times or Guardian--or click on Daniel Hannan's blog. It's not quite up to, say, Chicago standards in terms of outright corruption, but for politics as a spectator sport, the British turmoil is still tough to beat.

As an added bonus, the onrushing demise of New Labour also provides us with the following snicker-inducing graphs:

Mr Brown, who confirmed for the first time yesterday that he is planning a reshuffle, is under intense pressure to deliver a shake-up that wrestles back some semblance of authority for his administration.

He is considering replacing Mr Darling with Ed Balls, his close friend and Schools Secretary, but such a move could be politically explosive within some elements of the Labour party. Mr Darling could be offered the Home Office as compensation.

Miss Smith’s friends said last night that she had been troubled by the exposure of her husband’s claim for adult movies.

Uh huh huh huh huh huh...

Monday, June 1, 2009

6,000 And Done

New Orleans Times-Picayune columnist Angus Lind retired yesterday, after over 6,000 published columns. Here's his last column, and here's a great appreciation of Lind by his T-P colleague Chris Rose.

Close But No Cigar

Robert Samuelson, on the media's ongoing Obama love affair in today's WaPo:

The infatuation matters because Obama's ambitions are so grand. He wants to expand health-care subsidies, tightly control energy use and overhaul immigration. He envisions the greatest growth of government since Lyndon Johnson. The Congressional Budget Office estimates federal spending in 2019 at nearly 25 percent of the economy (gross domestic product). That's well up from the 21 percent in 2008, and far above the post-World War II average; it would also occur before many baby boomers retire.

Are his proposals practical, even if desirable? Maybe they're neither? What might be the unintended consequences? All "reforms" do not succeed; some cause more problems than they solve. Johnson's economic policies, inherited from Kennedy, proved disastrous; they led to the 1970s' "stagflation." The "war on poverty" failed. The press should not be hostile, but it ought to be skeptical.

Mostly, it isn't. The idea of a "critical" Obama story is one about a tactical conflict with congressional Democrats or criticism from an important constituency. Larger issues are minimized, despite ample grounds for skepticism.

Obama's rhetoric brims with inconsistencies. In the campaign, he claimed he would de-emphasize partisanship -- and also enact a highly partisan agenda; both couldn't be true. He got a pass. Now, he claims he will control health-care spending even though he proposes more government spending. He promotes "fiscal responsibility" when projections show huge and continuous budget deficits. Journalists seem to take his pronouncements at face value even when many are two-faced.

Samuelson was doing fine up to this point, when he stumbled over the hoary old "impartial journalist" canard:

The cause of this acquiescence isn't clear.

To be fair, Samuelson managed to cough up the "cause" a few lines later:

they agree with his agenda (so it never occurs to them to question basic premises)

... but still buried it amidst a mishmash of feel-good excuses.

A solid B+ for the column, but next time, try to be as honest about the ideological bent of your "journalist" collegues as you are about the politicians they cover.