Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Keifus and Me

For those of you who didn't slog through my "working out" saga over the past year and a half (here and here), I'm still at it. I dropped forty pounds and gained some density besides. (I went from a soft 230 to a pretty firm 190.) I'm wouldn't say I'm proud (There's still ten pounds that could stand to go away), but I'm pleased to be back to my pre-childbirth weight, back when I stumbled around the ice rink every winter and the tennis court every summer. That's gotta count for something.

I had the company digital camera yesterday to take some report-filling pictures (see, I'm working!) and thinking of changing the picture in my bio, I snapped some of myself. See the difference? The whopper on the right is me, last July. On the left, that's me yesterday. I'm happy to see Meat Loaf over there dissolve, less happy to see my best friend's father emerge from the folds. Getting older sucks.

Who's less photogenic than these two?

Mr. Smug here on the left was taken about six months before Chubsy McFatass up above. It was before peak poundage, but believe you me, that's a purposeful pose, and there's a reason for the beard. It guides the eye to a then-hypothetical jawline. I don't know about you, but I'm sick of looking at his scruffy mug.

Still, I don't consider the cameo anything like a success. Maybe if I could airbrush in some more hair and learn how to smile. In an effort to look less like a total dork when I reply to people, I'm going with Mr. Stick Figure as my new profile shot. If you can't get enough of looking at me, I encourage you to bookmark this post. (Otherwise I'll send you the shirtless photos for $5.95. Good for darts, drink coasters, scaring children, etc.)


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Healthcare Made Easy

Cleaned up some, but still really boring, and very nearly pointless. (It has an alternate purpose, can you guess it?) You were warned.--K

My wife has been reading Thomas Sowell's pile of assumptions and hearsay about economics and politics (frustrating but forgivable, I started from similar places as I grew interested in the world around me). The information in the book has already led to a spousal, um, spirited discussion, spurred by the Massachusetts gubernatorial debate last week, as the crooks and loons had at the subject of health care.* Sowell offers up the usual conservative bromides against state-sponsored medical programs: people will use services more freely when it's paid by someone else. He also argues, I think contrary to his first point, that R&D isn't supported in state-run systems like Canada's. (This is bullshit, right? If more people are using services, isn't there more money invested into the medical economy?). And of course he rails against malpractice insurance, even though it's a tool to make the system equitable.

As is usual for any think-tank pundit, he's telling only a small part of the story. The government may well have no business planning** the ins and outs of the medical industry, but no one's asking that. State systems instead seek to run the medical insurance industry. Since insurance depends on spreading risks, then it makes sense to spread it to the largest possible pool, namely the entire public. A self-selected pool of people of similar risk is an OK as an economic exercise, but it neglects the social goals of insurance. Some of the economic goals too--you still might catch the flu from a poor person (or smallpox, polio, etc., depending on how "free market" you want to get).

Is state insurance going to break the bank? As I see it, the costs of health care are broadly distributed as follows:

  • Services
    • preventative (including disease control)
    • emergency

  • Development
    • R&D
    • marketing

  • Administrative
    • point of care
    • insurance
    • legal

In America, it's usually argued that costs are dominated by development, which is driven by our collective desire to have a medical industry here in the states. This desire is independent of the manner of payment. Administrative costs are another biggie, and I understand that paper-shuffling and Byzantine payment documentation outweighs the legal fees by a big margin (but again I can be convinced otherwise). I've never been sold that emergency costs outweigh preventative costs in the aggregate. Prevention is cheaper case-by-case but you need more of it. Prevention does lead to a better quality of life, however, as does having as many mechanisms as possible to correct system defects.

But back to the debate, as well as my familial argument: what's the best health insurance model? I've considered four possibilities: (1) no insurance; (2) optional multi-payer insurance (the prevalent model in the U.S.); (3) mandated multi-payer insurance (the new Massachusetts model); and (4) state-administered single payer insurance (as in Canada and Western Europe). They're arranged on the following table, and I make my judgements below.

Non-insurance model:
This is the real free market case, and even though some libertarians prefer to imagine the "country doctor" scenario, in which small independent medical businesses compete locally for my health care dollars, it's more likely that doctors and hospitals would consolidate corporate-style. (The idea of the heart surgery division of McDonald's is dark comedy.) These medical service divisions will still be sensitive to supply and demand, but accountable to shareholders. And it's probably a myth to think this would eliminate very much bureaucracy.

There would be no spread of the risks in this fantasy model. If the wheel stops on you, then hopefully you've saved up. If you're young and healthy, pay up. If you're old, hope for a quick death. Even though it's an economic issue in many ways, you can forget about public health too. No one's going to suggest that your neighbor gets his shots.

I think Sowell's wrong that this fantasy situation will stimulate much R&D however. That's because price minimization fights R&D and infrastructure development. Yes you still want to please your shareholders with growth of new technology (or markets), but the R&D required for corporate growth is less than the R&D demanded by altruistic public goals. That's the problem with the drug industry. That's why corporate R&D in general has slowed so damn much in this country in the last century. Meanwhile, advances will come in areas that people can demand in advance, like plastic surgery, and highly marketed boutique ailments, while basic care maintains bare minimum standards. (This is why there's a shortage of flu vaccine. No money in it.)

Insurance models:
The multi-payer system is basically the current U.S. system--it's admittedly the most expensive on the market. We're pooling risks, but only among select members of the public. We've introduced some measure of centralized planning (less responsive to cost pressures) and a whole raft of paperwork (more expensive). An HMO is going to feel some measure of pressure to reduce costs, but they're far removed from users. It's the worst case of all administration-wise because there are multiple payers for the same care, and these must be sorted and stacked by care providers.

Doesn't the multi-payer system encourage competition between insurers? Only if there's really much of a choice. There are few options for individuals, and employers quickly find that the providers are all damn similar. Furthermore, a diversity of plans shifts costs (on a statistical, not an individual, basis) to the sicker and more risk-prone. I'd prefer that the people engaging in risky behavior paid more, but people who are born that way? Or who were unfortunate enough to get old? Hardly seems fair.

In any of the insurance models, more money is flowing into the system for basic care (and therefore more money overall), because more people are utilizing it, such is Sowell's "free" argument. This distributes the costs of R&D as well as for care. The more inclusive plans distribute the costs wider, and presumably generate more capital overall for this sort of thing.

The optional multi-payer model shifts the costs of the uninsured to people who do pay. The uninsured end up getting treated anyway, and since the costs are distributed, people don't complain so much about absorbing them. The uninsured likewise fall out of the public health net. The state-mandated or -supplied models plug these holes.

The difference between state-mandated insurance and state-provided insurance is that there is less redundant bureacracy in the latter, reducing costs, but the administration is more centralized. I don't think there's much difference in managing the care of 30 million vs. 300 million users, but the effects of corruption or mismanagement would be more damaging, and could only be fixed by state mechanisms--courts or legisltation. And you're as likely to find a well-informed voter as a well informed consumer.

Finally, I want to note that state-backed plans remove the burden of insurance from employers, and instead distribute it among citizens. The same pot, maybe, but it offers corporations more competitive advantage when it comes to dealing with companies overseas, which, as it turns out, typically don't supply insurance to their employees. Tying insurance to employment seems to mung up both enterprises.

*I'll probably vote for the loon.
**if you read the earlier draft, I'd written "regulating," which was not what I meant. I'm all for having, for example, FDA approvals.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Railroad's Final Legacy (Recycled, with Pictures!)

Well switters, you inspired this one. I was motivated enough to recycle, not enough to create. I've been meaning to do this post-with-photos experiment for a while now.

There's a long history of re-use of building materials from civilizations past. Those civilizations that laid down the best architecture were primo sources for new buildings when they finally left town. Excavated Roman ruins, for example, routinely show signs of theft, with their masonry subsequently cobbled together to form later, and presumably lesser, British churches, manor homes, and so forth. Not just British, of course (though the Brits seem rather fond of their archaeological history), but in all places where the Powers That Be passed on to become Powers That Ain't. Clever archaeologists find useful information in the evidence of this theft, but who can condemn the robbers for extracting value from the bones of an old oppressor, built on the labor of their ancestors? That is, in those cases where it wasn't scavenged at the whim of some new overlord.

We Americans lack the lengthy architectural legacies of civilization-rich Europe or Asia or North Africa. Here, "old" is measured in terms of a scant couple centuries, not millenia. With no majestic ruins of Rome to absorb, our modern plunder comes from times less grand, from the dirty, smoky industrial revolution when New England forests, unsacred, were cut down wholesale to make way for belching mills and marginal farms, muddy roads winding through stump-filled downtowns. (Now it's all prime real estate, and barn board, if you can find it, is valuable.) The American prairie was profaned with the same vigor, and through it all, the Railroad rises to the top as the symbol of the fervid economic and geographic expansion of that time. When the new empire of highways took the stage and kicked that grimy, magisterial old enterprise upstairs, we plebes were left to plunder its architectural riches for our own lowly purposes. The prime construction material looted from that age is one that fits befits its beauty and permanence: the railroad tie.

I'm going somewhere with this. Your Keifus is constructing a retaining wall and stairs out of the things, building up the gravelly bank separating the front and back of halves of my puny yard. With two full years of successful procrastination behind me, the tarry ziggurat is finally nearing completion. This is a rant.

You can buy "landscape timbers" from your local Home Cheapo, but please don't confuse them with railroad ties. Unlike the genuine article, the carefully named timbers are regularly-shaped, lightweight, and expensive. They are used only by smart, sane people with deep wallets—the unproud kind of people that would instinctively hire contractors for this sort of thing. On the other hand, your typical railroad tie is a monster. It's about seven by nine by a hundred inches long, give or take a lot, and soaked with creosote to delay rotting. They cost just over ten bucks apiece, about half the price per unit wall height than those wussy hardware store jobs, which is why I bought them. At that size and that level of infiltration with sticky black goo, each one weighs about 200 pounds or more, depending on how long it's been raining. If you've somehow found "new" railroad ties and want to commisserate, save it, because anything that hasn't survived twenty years of locomotive traffic isn't fit to hold back my fill.

Each of these beasts is usually heavily damaged on at least two sides, in danger of splitting along its entire length, tremendously heavy, hiding chunks of metal or stone, not quite regularly shaped, and filled with tar that makes your tools dull and dirty in no time. Stacking them together requires cutting (a chain saw is best), lugging and lifting (more managable when cut), leveling (good luck!), drilling ten inches deep holes (did I mention the dulling effects?), and pounding in feet and feet of rebar with a hand sledge through recalcitrant logs and rocky earth (I feel like a sweaty Vulcan at one of his less glamorous gigs). You eventually get a knack
for picking only the good sides for exposure and identifying which ends can be hidden into the earth for...satisfactory results.

Why only satisfactory? Because for all that painstaking effort and physical expenditure, you still can't really get past the fact that you've just made a big pile of nasty old used railroad ties. God bless that enterprising human spirit!

Addendum: Grand introduction notwithstanding, railroad ties last about 20 years. My supply no doubt comes from maintenance on existing modern rail lines. They are now making ties out of recycled plastic waste. No doubt these will be a valuable source of polymer in some future where petroleum is dethroned.

Addendum2, Cost:
  • about 50 nasty, tarry, ties at $11/ea
  • about 300 linear feet of rebar at $0.10/ft
  • about 3 hammer handles at $6/ea
  • about 10 yards of dirt at $15/yd
  • about 10 shrubs at $30/ea
  • drainage pipe, storm drain, and concrete at $50
  • about 3 yards of mulch at $20/yd
  • sweat, pain, & satisfaction for my big pile of lincoln logs?
    --um, about $1158.

  • Friday, October 20, 2006

    Blasphemous Book Reviews II: Mark Twain, Letters from the Earth

    Grade: B

    I don't want to mislead you. If this were a novel, or a coherent collection of complete works, it would be pure gold, but Letters from the Earth is not that. It's a collection of fragments, cleaned from the master's desk upon his death, and pasted together by his (probably well-meaning) editor and biographer for the purposes of making a posthumous buck. Said editor made a noble effort to hold the "Papers of the Adam Family" section together, and, to my delight, the titular section holds together quite well on its own, but that doesn't excuse the man for scrabbling together the middle third of this volume. There's great prose in it, but no unity of purpose, and too often it's comprised of the unpublished bits of things that had already grown legs and hiked themselves out of the protoplasm, leaving shed tails behind only for the consumption of completists. It tears my heart out, but I'm afraid the mere passing grade must stand.

    But since I'm into blasphemy this time around I'll limit what's left of the review to the section "Letters from the Earth," and similar pieces, which happen to be the good ones anyway. Near the back of the book, there's an essay collection called "The Damned Human Race" which, saying the same thing in more prototypical form, bookends the volume nicely.

    When I think of Mark Twain, I consider roughly equal parts schmaltzy Americana, humor, wonderful prose cadence, and negativity. The first thing obviously battles the last, and who can deny that that conflict helped make the man great? The spotlighted satire is probably what delayed the publication of Letters until 1962. Unlike Morrow below, Mark Twain took a dim view of humanity at heart, and a dimmer view of its creator. The letters are from Satan (on leave for his loose tounge) to the other archangels describing the peculiarity of man. Among them: the implausibility of creation; the ridiculousness of devising an afterlife we hate (and other assorted "sarcasms" regarding our view of God and his of us); the description of man as God's lowliest but most prized creation, and the superlative evil we're capable of. People suck, and yet....and yet, here we are.

    It's good stuff, and this time around, just what Doctor Downer ordered. Back to my usually jolly self next time around.

    [Up next, I go Greek. (Not like that, you perv.) Been looking forward to this pair.]

    Saturday, October 14, 2006

    Get Rich Quick Scam #49

    All those people who had school spirit grew up to be parents. They are tools.

    The people with spirit get tooled as well, and if you've got a certain sort of street smarts (which I haven't), you screw them like a driver. If you're not particularly shrewd nor are you particularly spirited (ahem) you tolerate it all with bemused arrogance, but you don't participate in the expensive frivolity. Just like in high school.

    Parents are easy marks, caring, as we do, about "education" and "curricula" and "extracurricular activities" and all that other happy horeshit. The latter is quite possibly unwise. Going outside to play is as good for the character as those expensive gymnastics lessons might be, and in many ways it's better. For a five-year-old, say, outside is almost certainly better for the little scamp, provided junior isn't a world-class tumbler in the making (oh Christ, have I denied my little Sweetums a single fragile opportunity, oh please God, no!). But off they go just the same. We sign 'em up because it's a bulwark against predators and God forbid we actually interact with the littl'uns. So it's off to the rink with 'em, off to the camp, to the gym, to the studio, to the pool, to the meeting, to the friggin stable. One of those things has got to stick--I've heard anecdotes!

    But, like lunches, there's no such thing as a free after-shool activity. The least they'll ask you to do is volunteer, but it's more likely they need cash, and wherever money flows, there's room for middlemen to dip into the stream. You might think that the best way to fund these things would be to--you know--pay for them outright, but here in America we would greatly prefer to consume our way to solvency. Some marketing visionary (quite possibly pioneering the use of the charmingest little sales force out there) discovered he could "support" these noble activities at a (I am not exaggerating) 90% take. But as a parent, who can take a chance?

    The parents of said youngsters, guilty of benign negligence as it is, feel positively obligated to buy the crap from the kiddies' catalogue or the junk-box.* It's bad enough we parents are pressured into this lame consumption, but it's highly suggested we solicit those other poor wretches we're forced to see every day. And who else do you think is so pathetic as to actually be lured by the myriad selections of wrapping paper, candles, nuts, and other assorted gifty swill? Other parents, that's who! So if you buy some garbage from my kid's catalogue, I'll buy some from your kid's. So that's two items that each of us felt we had to purchase, for which neither of us had the slightest interest. For my part, the thirty bucks could have been a straight donation and been done with it (or even better, the netted buck-fifty apiece) and felt that warm glow without having to re-gift a stanky candle no one wants.**

    So even though it hurts me inside when my little girl gets excited about the comic-book-back-page prizes she could win if she sells however many thousand units, I still get that warm fuzzy knowing that, by not participating, Daddy is building character. After all sweetie, look at your old man. He turned out OK. Right?



    *A horrible memory. When I was a member of Lord Powell's young Movementarians I had to truck around giant cardboard suitcases of trinkets for sale. Back then, it was de rigeur to go door-to-door and canvass strangers, before it became acceptable for Mom and Dad to become junior sales associates at their places of employment.

    **Interestingly, the only kids that solicit for direct donations are the young cheerleaders outside the liquor store. That's a whole different sort of wrong.

    Thursday, October 12, 2006

    Found Art

    (compiled from subjects of junk emails)

    Mrs. McCoy, compunction made!
    You cumm too quickly and without control.
    Don't let others beat you fighting for this bread
    Man-made incorporated, lovliness, honor roll.

    Decrepit experimental communication
    Imagery hidden, successively.
    We know it'll go off tomorrow contain
    Theses, bridgeport ancillary .

    New and hot housing profit sharing,
    It will go to the sky tomorrow.
    Baby boom mayor, see you at the mounting.
    Cautiously dollar, bulging owe.

    Have all delights using this wonderful product!
    when to stop blogging until summer for.
    Re: your letter darzell, was no optic
    not fit computer, impunity of the world.


    That was inspired in part by those crazy cats over at Gun Tamga, and this feller helped nudge it into existence too.

    But like most of my, um, pretensions, I can probably thank Mad magazine at the bottom of it all. It would thrill me to get my hands on an online archive of classic Mad articles. Writing this "poem" reminded me of a sixties vintage article (from my aunt's stash probably) satirizing the advertising industry. It postulated future highways so crowded by billboards that they all ran into one another, achieving some kind of accidentally grandiloquent ur-marketing message. Which is a lot of words to describe a silly one-panel cartoon.

    Here's what I got 20 years after the fact from memory. If anyone can fill in the missing lines, I'd be grateful for another 20 years.

    Treat your cat to Miller Lite
    Turtle Wax makes dentures bright
    Cutty Sark protects your car
    Levi's give you lower tar
    Banish gray with roll-on Ban
    Keds. now in a twelve ounce can!
    [something something Quaker State?]
    Ex-lax makes the going great!


    Wednesday, October 11, 2006

    Blasphemous Book Reviews I: Towing Jehovah by James Morrow

    James MorrowTowing Jehovah (B+)

    I was originally going to open this review with "what this author lacks in writing ability he makes up for in big brass ones," but as I went on, I found neither statement to be true. Early on, Morrow drenches his prose in far too many bad similes ("eyes scintillating like twin Van de Graf generators" and such), but he does finally catch a groove with it, and by the time I got to the protagonist's sardonic captain's log, I found myself chuckling with some regularity. And some of the jokes and puns are ridiculous enough to be good. A bookish priest chasing after a bunch of debauched apostates, begging them to remember their Kantian imperative, that's funny stuff. As far as the brazenness is concerned, I guess it's there, I mean what with the gigantic dead body of God floating in the ocean, presented eventually with all its warts and pimples, and defiled with regularity--driven on, towed by its earbones, eaten by sharks and by a desperate crew, burned, rotted, drained of blood and torpedoed. Horrible as all of that sounds, Morrow pulls off something that's more of a madcap romp than it is biting satire.

    And that's really the problem--okay, my problem--with Towing Jehovah, it's the utter lack of spite in the thing. The book posits the factual existence of God, and by consequence, the veracity of all the rest of the stuff in the popular Judeo-Christian mythology. A variety of ideological blowhards are assembled to have their philosophies shattered on the bluffs of the floating Corpus Dei, and it's all great fun, but the observation that God tastes more like Chicken McNuggets (you know, for the masses) than filet mignon is about as sharp as the satire gets. Under it all is a secular humanist body of morals that's left in the wake of the ones long ago imposed on stone tablets. Instead of getting angry at a creator that holds his wreck of a creation responsible for itself, Morrow plays all these inconsistencies up for laughs.

    Lucky for him, I like laughs, so the high grade is maintained.

    (Mark Twain's pen digs less deeply but wounds far more. More on that next, whenever I get around to it.)

    Monday, October 09, 2006

    Innocent Music

    (How'd this one escape the archives?)

    Warning to diabetics! This post is rich in treacle and poor in musical taste (or knowledge). Proceed at your own risk.

    "Daddy, what's this cd?"

    "Put it in sweetie, tell me what you think."

    Keifus grooves, junior observes, thinking.

    "Do you like the sound of it," I ask.

    "Kind of. Actually, it's a little scary."

    And she's right I suppose, though I might have gone with angry as the adjective of choice. If you asked me ten years ago (back when I meant to buy the cd), I'd have argued that you'd need a certain measure of seething anger--need to know just how much to direct inward and just how much to send out--to really appreciate that sort of music. I wish like hell I could tell you what does it--it seems like the same old three or four chords, if ordered a bit differently. I can see how unexpected progressions could prick the hackles and all, but maybe it's just the powerful and wavering vocals and the heavy guitars. My daughter evidently gets some of the emotion however, and rejects that sense of menace for now. Good for her.

    "Daddy, I'd rather listen to that bluegrass cd.**" (G, C, and D again, but now in happier progressions.) So we do. I practice rhythm as the kids dance around. It's cute, and it's maybe the best fun I've had all week.

    But it's a funny thing. We didn't used to need fun music to catch the mood. It was anything with a beat and a melody. We were never a Raffi family, and we didn't shield the children from stuff we enjoyed. Keifus got moody and pretentious and my wife had a penchant for the mellower moodiness of Vietnam-era tunes: Paul McCartney and Buffalo Springfield and Creedence sort of thing.

    Six or seven years ago, when she was little, my daughter and I would dance around together to heavy guitar riffs, at her request, because she knew I liked them. She'd groove along with me to the brooding strums, and we'd both be grinning, finding the modicum of joy that's the kernel of any artistic release. It was a pure thing in its way.

    But no more. She's growning an appreciation of context.*** She still prefers the simpler pleasures, as you'd hope a child would, but now she needs the pleasurable cues to help her access them.

    Ah well, there's a lot of life to learn yet, and she will. And even though her tastes are innocent now, I already miss the days when they were innocent enough to listen to angry rock and dance to it with Daddy.


    **Note that she doesn't mean the good bluegrass--I can't even play their rhythm fast enough--but rather the play-along garbage that wifey bought to learn the fiddle during her quarterly musical inspiration. It's very frustrating stuff, actually. It's just the right speed so that the bare melody they play is dreadfully boring, but playing fills or solos is just north of my speed limit.

    *** I drive the kid nuts telling her that she's not allowed to watch certain TV programming until she can tell me convincingly that she knows what irony means. She's closer than she thinks

    Saturday, October 07, 2006


    The writing bug, like too many bugs, bit me much too late in life, somewhere around my thirtieth birthday. Very little of that writing has been poetry, but just this same, I wrote this one before any of that, about ten years ago. It's not much in the way of mechanics, but I still like the image behind it. --K

    My memories are events
    Images--frozen in four dimensions
    Stilled contortions of reality
    Liquid suspended in air
    A voice captured in its ululation
    All devoid of background and out of cntext
    Laughing as a child
    A fraternal ritual
    A smiling woman stroking my knee.

    Just several points
    On the invisible grid of space-time.
    An intersection of the surfaces
    Of our existence
    Existing still at that point.
    At that event
    And somehow observable
    By the machinations of my memory.

    Friday, October 06, 2006

    Any Honest Conservatives?

    It's not been my intention to work in the traditional blogger style, and certainly I'm not a fan of gotcha politicking, nor of empty-headed generalizing punditry, but it infects everything I read, and sneaks out of me now and again as well. And, since I know that both of you are just dying to know what I thought of Towing Jehovah, I can at least throw a little bone while I gather what passes for my thoughts.

    So in that spirit, I present to you (via alicublog, a hilarious exception to the gotcha rule) the stupidest shit I've read all month. Well, the stupidest shit that's intended to be taken seriously anyway. (The absolute stupidest lies somewhere down there in the comment apologia.) And October's only a week old, I admit.

    So if you can stomach the empty-headed generalizing of David Brooks (I can't but you know, he lays on the "thoughtful" schtick as thickly as he can), you'll have found he and his cheerleader Ms. Althouse framing an argument in which moral equivalence was drawn between a fictional character and something that happened in real life. A nationally syndicated columnist said, presumably with a straight face, that liberals who like terrible feminist stage polemics are just as evil as certain wayward congressmen who (wink wink) under the influence of alcohol, abused their authority position over underage interns.

    Perhaps it shouldn't be so surprising. I mean, I've seen enough people conflate the fictional Jack Bauer's ability to torture the truth out any motherfucker he pleases with any actual foreign or domestic policy. Yeah sure, real world torture and surveillance is effective and conscionable, because you just know that nasty brown people have started the big red LEDs are ticking down somewhere. There's probably theses to be written on how television drama has corrupted critical thought. Or at least a triple handful of poorly reasoned op-eds.

    But I refuse to believe that all of conservatism is this stupid, just because some of them are. There was a time in my life, a scant decade ago really, when I would have identified myself as conservative (had I bothered to identify myself at all), back when I associated conservatism with balanced budgets and individual liberties (I was young and deluded, ya see). I am fairly certain that I nodded along to a George Will column or two sometime back in those hazy dark days. It's easier to look smart when you're out of power. And hey, in 1990 it was pretty easy to find liberal whackjobs who'd been taken seriously for far too long.*

    But accepting nutters on either inadequate side of the national political debate, I still thought opinion journalism was something about principle. I pretty much lost my faith in it however, after seeing Al Gore clean George Bush's clock in the televised presidential debates. All the until-recently pundits of the tough truths were falling all over themselves to apologize away the deficiencies of a high-functioning retard. What happened to the intelligent conservatives?

    It's been tougher on them since. Any conservative who's stuck with these guys has had to defend narrowing of the first, fourth and fifth amendments (for starters), not to mention unsustainable hubristic foreign and economic policies. I guess to support these guys, you need to mount an intelligent defense of imperialism, and/or convince me that abortion and "the terrorist threat" have been worth squandering our national defense and moral authority and trade balance. A tough row to hoe, that.

    I feel somewhat guilty about the blogroll here, which, if you've read any of them, mostly tend liberal or libertarian (some of them reluctantly so--I'm trying to figure out if Dennis Perrin's "liberals suck" thing is a gag, or if maybe he has Tourette's syndrome). I'd like to add some challenging conservative voices, but it seems the only intelligent ones I can find are the insufferably earnest bible-thumpers. The rest are self-assured delusionals with fingers in ears and the "lalalala" at full yodel.

    Surely liberals aren't this bad, right? (Oh, wait....)

    Anyway, if you know any non-stupid con blogs, let me know.


    *I was about to say "like Eve Ensler," but to be honest, the Vagina Monologues, while no doubt every bit as ridiculous as I perceive it, does seem to have lifted some taboos on female sexuality. At least you don't hear reporters cringe anymore when they say the title.