Tuesday, May 23, 2006

 

A Surprise From Cato

Let's just cut to the punch line - Cato, the de facto voice of libertarians (in so much that such a thing can exist), states that low taxes actually increase the rate of government spending.

Such a statement may sound like a 180-degree turn from conventional conservative thinking, but when viewed from the perspective of a free market, it makes perfect sense:

It is most implausible that reducing the tax burden of government spending on current voters would reduce the level of government spending that Congress would approve. In private markets, there is a consistent negative relation between the price of a good or service and the amount demanded.

$5 says that Grover Norquist won't sign up for this line of thinking.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

 

Paging Emmanuel Goldstein

The Instapunk would have us believe that Bush's sliding poll numbers are the result of... wait for it... the evil mainstream media! How unoriginal. And how inaccurate.

First of all, I'm not going to deny the fact that the MSM is loaded with idiots who carry a variety of prejudices. But consider this - the media took its best shots at Bush right up until Election Day of 2004, and the man still squeeked by with 51% of the popular vote. But we're to believe that in the following 18 months, the media somehow cracked the secret code of conservatives and won them over to the dark side?

I suspect that what really happened is quite simple - roughly 40% of the people who voted for Bush are now finally fed up with his shit and bailed out. They've simply woken up to the same reality that was discovered by a handful of conservatives a few years ago - the man just is not the heir to the legacy of Reagan and has driven a spike right through the concept of Goldwater conservatism.

Further proof of this is found in the congressional polls. Yes, the Republicans in Congress only get a 25% approval rating, but that happens to be closely mirrored by the performance of Democrats as well. So, you see, it's not the media's portrayal of Tom Delay, it's the fact that he's a slimebag. And despite the fact that we haven't been bombarded 24/7 with negative stories about the likes of Pelosi, Schumer, McKinnley, Kennedy, and Feinstein, the American public is smart enough to see them for what they really are - totally incompetent.

Anyone who doesn't view Bush's poll numbers in the context of the public's general discontent with politicians is missing a huge point, and it's really one that should be trumpeted by those conservatives who fear that the movement has lost its bearings. The bottom line is that people are just not very happy with anything that the government does, and that should be good news to any small-government conservative - even if the Republican golden boy is left twisting in the wind. The problem is that conservatism is no longer about shrinking the role of government, but rather using it as leverage to maintain a grip on Washington power.

 

Oh Lord, Please Stop The Stupidity

I think I've made myself clear on illegal immigration once before (and that was back in November, when we didn't even have a problem!), so I'll spare everyone the waste of breath. Now, if only Michelle Malkin would do the same.
You see those people? Michelle states with authority that "day laborers gather here, congregate here, out of the shadows, out in the open, without fear of arrest". Um, well, it's entirely possible that it's due to our lax immigration enforcement, or maybe its just because standing on a street corner in Virginia with brown skin has been legal for several decades, and is no longer a reason to fear for one's freedom.

Seriously, how can someone state with any conviction that any ol' Hispanic person who's standing around is automatically a wetback? I mean, that's just ridiculous. Don't get me wrong, I've occassionally had the same thought before when I see a group of Hispanic men standing outside of the local grocery store, but there's a huge gap between a prejudiced thought that's kept to one's self and making a claim on a psuedo newscast.

Oh, yeah, then there was Bill O'Reilly last night accusing the NY Times of "flawed thinking", and then following up that accusation with the "fact" that nearly 100,000 illegal aliens are currently in US prisons. Well, there are also 1.9M US citizens in jail, which is about 0.6% of the population. Assuming that the US illegal immigrant population is 11M, that puts the illegal alien incarceration rate at a whopping 0.9% - hardly a reason to panic, considering that the crime-income correlation is biased against them.

There are already plenty of reasons to worry about illegal immigrants without a lot of blustery talk, and a full 77% of Americans view illegal immigration as "a very serious problem". With that in mind, it'd be nice to see the pundits trying to kick around some solutions instead of trying to convince people of a viewpoint that they already hold, but then again that'd require some serious consideration of a problem rather than a lot of bluster and chest-thumping.

UPDATE: Sorry, I forgot the batshit-craziest comment that O'Reilly made last night:

According to the lefty zealots, the white Christians who hold power must be swept out by a new multicultural tide, a rainbow coalition, if you will. This can only happen if demographics change in America.

I don't know what he's on, but don't bother passing it over to me. But this is what I get for switching over one of the TVs in my gym's cardio room to Fox News.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

 

Net Neutrality = Chinese Oppression?!?

I'm on the GOPUSA mailing list (as RATM one said, "Know Your Enemy"), and I just received an message from a group calling itself the "Center For Individual Freedom" that attempts to link Yahoo!'s desire for net neutrality to the imprisonment of Chinese dissidents:

Yahoo is bankrolling the Network Neutrality Coalition in hopes that you won't learn about their other high-profile activity - helping to lock-up Chinese dissidents. We question what Yahoo and Moveon.org's real definition of "network neutrality" is.

The Chinese may love American jeans, entertainment, and free speech, but they do not have equal access to these by-products.

So, just how the hell does the censorship activities of Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo! in China (actions I find deplorable, by the way), relate to the carrier's interest to exert their leverage over internet bandwidth? Hell if I know. This seems like political pandering of the worst type, but that's exactly what we should expect with the current collusion between Big Government and the telcos. In fact, I wouldn't be the slightest bit surprised to find that AT&T and its brethren handed over their call records to the feds in exchange for favorable legislation regarding preferential treatment of the 'net.

Oh, and I gotta comment on the now-mandatory mention of "Moveon.org" in discussions regarding net neutrality. Yeah, sure, I bet that particular PAC has interest in a level playing field on the 'net, but what about the Gun Owners of American and Parents Television Council? Why, I bet those groups are right there alongside Moveon in trying to hand over control of the internet to the UN (a claim that was made in a GOPUSA email last week).

 

An AE Album Review - Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Stadium Arcadium"

There have been three types of double albums in the CD era:

  1. True movie-length epics of related songs, such as the Drive-By Truckers' "Southern Rock Opera",
  2. Two contrasting albums, one being more mainstream work for a band and the other showing a different (usually softer) site (the Smashing Pumpkins' "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness" and the Foo Fighter's "In Your Honor").
  3. The work of egomaniacs who are too proud of everything they produce and feel that every track deserves "A" status; Guns 'n' Roses' "Use Your Illusion" I & II being the prime example.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Stadium Arcadium" doesn't really fit any of those categories. The first type wasn't going to happen, as the Peppers rarely find a theme that's sufficient for a single track, much less a complete album. Option #3 requires someone such as Axl Rose, and we're all fortunate that there's only one of him. That leaves the ying-and-yang sort of double personality double album, but SA doesn't quite fit that model, either. Sure, maybe with different sequencing of the tracks, maybe we'd get something with more of a black-and-white flavor, as "Californication" and "By the Way" showed that the band is capable of transforming its punk-funk style into something closer to that of the Beach Boys and the Beatles.

But the melodiac tracks find themselves sprinkled amongst others that could have been outakes from 15 years ago (almost like a Supersized edition of "Californication"), and the result is a bit of a jumbled mess. As a single work, SA frankly falls flat. But there are individual songs that are among the best ever recorded by the Peppers, such as "Dani California", "She's Only 18" (with a guitar solo that's damn near Hendrix-like), "Especially in Michigan" (probably recorded to win back Midwesterners like Oberon and I who have gravitated towards Local H), and "Readymade" (maybe the closest thing to a straight-up southern rock song that RHCP has every laid down on tape).

On all of the album's tracks, the bass pops with the the style that Flea has refined over the years, bridging Chad Smith's drumming together with John Frusciante's amazing guitar work, and Anthony Kiedis actually sings half-way decently. Even on the some of the weaker songs (which are by no means terrible), the band member's individual attributes shine through and still lead to an enjoyable listening experience.

Much like the other albums that fall into categories 2 and 3, though, I'm left wishing that a single, super-strong 70-minute consolidated work was the end result. Fortunately, we have iTunes playlists to take care of this problem. A few more listens through the whole thing, and I should be able to pick out my 10-12 favs and create my own ideal album, just as I finally had the chance to do last fall with "Use Your Illusion".

 

An AE Album Review - Tool's "10,000 Days"

Attempting to review a Tool album after only a few listens - or a few hundred spins, for that matter - is much like attempting to drive at age five. It's not an impossible task, just one that's likely to end in disaster. Therefore, I really shouldn't even be sharing my thoughts on this album for at least another year, since it'll take that long for my to properly evaluation the work as it stands on its own and in relation to the rest of the band's catalog.

That being said, I can indeed say that "10,000 Days" carries along in the tradition of "Lateralus", in that it further moves the band away from the nu-metal that it's so oftenly (and mistakenly) catagorized with, and cements the band's status as a prog-rock act for the ages. Really, there's little about the album as a whole that identifies it as a work from 2006AD - with the exception of the lead-off track "Vicarious", which follows in the tradition of "Aenima" and releases the band's anger towards the stupidity of mass media and its effects in one 7:06 chunk. From there, the album launches into a catharsis of sorts for Maynard regarding the passing of his mother (a stroke victim who was paralyzed for the last 27 years of her life, hence the album's title). It's the album's meandering path along emotions other than anger that really set it appart from previous works, and it's an impressive progression from the days of "Prison Sex" and "Crawl Away". Have no fear, however; songs like "Rosetta Stoned" still contained the sort of fucked-up lyrics that we're used to.

Speaking of what we're used to getting from Tool, here's the album cover:


Unfortunately, its 3D trickery isn't properly captured by my camera. It also doesn't work well for those who wear eyeglasses. That takes nothing away from the fact that it's damn cool, although I'm still not sure if it lives up to the prismatic cover of "Aenima" - it's hard to top an animation of California falling into the Pacific Ocean.

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