November 29, 2002

Why do people pretend that the Washington Times and FoxNews practice "journalism"? The notion that they are in any way equivalent to the Washington Post and CNN, both of which have a conservative lean but at least strive, on paper, to some objectivity and balance, is loopy. The day that the head of ABC News gives secret political advice to Al Gore will be the day I can hear the term "liberal media", and not laugh (btw, if you want to read a particularly bizarre defense of the "liberal mendacity=bad; conservative lying=good, check this out).
I've always been someone for whom the day after Thanksgiving was always a happier time than the holiday itself. I got the day off when I was at school, and most of the jobs I've ever held the day has either been free or a paid "holiday", when I was expected in at work but not expected to do anything other than keep my chair warm til lunchtime, when I would take off. Needless to say, it's a much better sports day; while the Friday after always has a great slate of college rivalries and showdowns, Thanksgiving is famous for having probably the weakest selection of games of all the holidays: mediocre NFL, no good college games, no hoops or hockey worth mentioning. MLK Day is much, much better.

The appeal of the evening's feast has always escaped me as well. To put it bluntly, roast turkey sucks. I am always left wondering why my mom would always enthusiastically save portions of the turkey for leftovers; why would I want to eat something that was dry as toast when it was originally served. Was keeping it in the fridge for a few days going to loosen up the meat? Safe to say, it's the only time of year I consider putting candied yams or cranberries on my dinner plate, and I have never been a big fan of mashed potatoes. Thanksgiving, bah humbug !!

So a couple of years ago, I decided to take matters into my own hands. Rather than suffer my parents' (or one of my assorted aunts') cooking in silence, I would contribute in a more positive manner to the holiday. I invented (I think) my own Thanksgiving masterpiece, Turkey Jambalaya. It took a couple of hours to prepare, but at least I knew there would be something in the feast that I knew I would eat with a certain enthusiasm, it was a way I contribute to the family, rather than being a mere parasite during the holiday, and it killed time I would have spent sitting like a blob on the sofa watching an execrable Detriot Lions game.

It's not a hard recipe. Take some sliced turkey chunks, and submerge them in cayenne pepper. Use fresh, uncooked shrimp (one of the things that takes awhile with the preparation is deveining the creatures) and either andouille or turkey sausage. I also like to add lobster pieces; they go well with the rice. The rice and spices take a little longer to prepare; the proper way to make jambalaya can be found in the appropriate cookbooks, but Zatarain's mix is a speedy if bland substitute. Add the turkey and sausage after the rice has boiled, and add the shrimp and lobster towards the end. Stir frequently, and liberally add cayenne pepper. Bay leaves are a nice touch at the end. A minute before you turn off the heat, add salt and just a little gumbo file. Let it sit for a half hour.

Always make enough for two portions: yours, and the rest of your family (just kidding). And I tell you, there is nothing like having your host (my cousin's hubby) ask you specifically to leave the leftovers with him. When someone you hardly know praises your dish, you finally get to a chance to see why it was your mom used to slave away in the kitchen on Thanksgiving: not for signs of appreciation or thanks from others, but from a sense that you contributed something to the happiness of others.

November 28, 2002

The I.O.C. is prepared to vote tomorrow on whether to eliminate three sports, baseball, softball, and the modern pentathlon, following the 2004 Olympics. Those sports would be replaced by rugby and golf(?), although the conventional wisdom is that they won't act at this time, and they will get a reprieve. Softball is only included now as a female counterpart for baseball; outside of North America and Australia, the sport doesn't exist. When baseball was added for the 1992 Olympics, the hope was that one day major leaguers would take part, and the Olympics would represent a "World Cup" for the sport. Clearly, that hasn't happened, and the hope of many baseball fans to one day see a gold medal game with Pedro Martinez squaring off against Randy Johnson will not come to fruition any time soon.

The third sport they want to dump, the modern pentathlon, was designed originally for soldiers, who make up a disproportionate number of the participants. It's an interesting hybrid of cross-country running, fencing, shooting, swimming and the steeplechase, but it is nearly impossible to televise, and regardless of what happens tomorrow, it is inevitable that it will eventually be cut. It's too bad; there should be a place in the Olympics for events that may be boring for spectators and invisible to NBC, but still require unique athletic skills; ironically, its most famous participant in the Olympics was George Patton, who finished fifth in the 1912 Stockholm Olympics after he performed poorly in the shooting phase of the competition (no wonder he couldn't hit the Luftwaffe at the beginning of Patton).
One thing not to be thankful for...Arik Sharon is now considered a "moderate". I guess when your opponent is, for all intents and purposes, a fascist, it's not hard to look like you're middle-of-the-road.
As I prepare to start my world-famous "Turkey Jambalaya", I would like to wish all of you a Happy Thanksgiving. I will share my dark thoughts on the holiday later....

November 27, 2002

Because I care about my readers, and I consider this site to be a pleasure, not a chore, I will continue blogging through the Thanksgiving weekend. Others may abandon you for their families and their turkey and their lame-ass football games involving Dallas and Detroit, but I will never leave you....
Absolutely brilliant put-down of George Will in TPM. I am always going to have this picture of Mr. Will in the back of my mind giving "backrubs to power", kind of like Sydney Bristow in last week's Alias episode.
Political Correctness Run Amok: It's not like what this person said was false, but someone's sensitivities might be hurt, so she had to go.

November 26, 2002

Yesterday's interminable brief on the topic of permalinks was originally intended to comment on this other Jim Capozzola post. Since he subsequently published something even more interesting, I put it aside, but now that most of the bloggers have opined on that issue, I would think that a better solution than simply de-perming a blog that links to LittleGreenFootballs or any other hatesite, would be to find out why people link there in the first place. Appropriate reasons for currently linking to LGF include: 1) I link to every political blog on the web that I know of, regardless of politics; 2) Charles Johnson saved my life, and permalinking LGF is the least I can do; 3) I linked there awhile back, before the Remulaks took over the site, but I will soon de-perm, as soon as someone teaches me how to use the delete key; or 4) I fervently desire to see the extermination of every Arab on the face of the planet. Any other reason puts you beyond the pale of rational political debate.
There is still one Senate race to be determined: the runoff in Louisiana between Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu, and Republican Suzanne Terrell. As I have said before, this is a race that liberals should feel no stake in whatsoever. Landrieu voted for the Bush tax cut, the authorization to invade Iraq, and the Homeland Security Bill, she has indicated that she will not filibuster right wing judicial nominees, she doesn't appear to have too many African-American friends in her home state, and, in any event, it doesn't really make a damn bit of difference if the Democrats have 48 or 49 Senators, if one of our Senators won't come through at crunch time. This isn't Al Gore being knifed in the back by Ralph Nader, mind you. The defeat of the Zell Miller philosophy within the party has to be one of the few bright spots for Democrats in the last election, and I can't help but be amused at the irony of all those Democrats who kissed W's rear end on the tax cut and Iraq discovering, to their horror, that he couldn't care less.

November 25, 2002

This next post will probably be of interest only for the blogging-obsessives out there, people who spend way, way too much time, at work and at home, crafting their own posts and scrounging for hits, hopping from blog to blog in search of that moment's zeitgeist; nevertheless, I'm going to write this for those of you who either visit this site regularly, but no other blogs, or those who have visited here by accident, in a forlorn attempt to pursue a Google search for "Nude Hayden Christenson" references.

As many of you notice, off to the side is a list of other web sites, predominantly bloggers, that I have sorted according to a very loose categorization (Politics/Humor/Misc). Those are called permalinks, and they serve a number of functions here. I visit each site at least once a week, and in effect, those sites get free advertising here. I do not endorse everything that gets posted on those other websites, but my criteria tends to be that if I consistently like what I read, and I agree with the blogger's politics, that site gets permalinked.

If I don't agree with the politics, but I find the blogger to be interesting, informative, and respectful of the opinions of other people, well, the same thing goes; they get included. I am still naive enough to believe that the most important political activity a free people get to participate in is the dialogue, where men and women of good will can debate issues and share insights developed from different experiences, without name-calling and slurs. Right now, just a little bit more than half the people in this country disagree with most of my views; two years ago, a little bit more than half the people in this country seemed to share my opinions, for all the good that did. Of course, such a belief has not dissuaded me from occasionally shouting when I should be arguing, but hopefully I limit my choice of targets in that regard to public figures who have access to much wider media than I have, and who can defend themselves.

Another reason for setting up permalinks is convenience. Just by visiting my own site, I have ready access to a few dozen favorite links, even when I'm away from my home computer. Moreover, a few months ago, I installed a code (called "Sitemeter") on my computer that allows me to track how many visitors I get each day, and how they were referred here. Wherein I discovered that many visitors were bloggers who had discovered my website from their own version of Sitemeter, or another related program, when I (or someone else) had visited. Instant Karma !! Permalinking another blogger's website was a darned effective way of advertising this site without having to spend a dime. I could also see whether other bloggers were permalinking my site; my philosophy in that regard is to link to anyone who links to my site first, just out of common courtesy.

So what's the point, you ask? Late last week, there was a blogging conference at Yale Law School, featuring many of the rather minor celebrities of this field, including Joshua Marshall, Mickey Kaus, and Glenn Reynolds (ie. Instapundit). From what I can gather, it was a largely uneventful seminar, but I was struck by a comment that Mr. Kaus made, to the effect "that among bloggers there is a 'Darwinian self-interest in being nice to each other and maintaining a civil discourse.' He may disagree with Andrew Sullivan but he doesn't really want to piss him off; it's about links; it's about traffic; it's about -- gasp -- community." (Sullivan, for those of you who don't know, is a former New Republic editor who has a popular, but increasingly erratic, far right blog) [Link via Eschaton]

While I have no doubt that such an attitude is all-too-common, being terrified myself that if I ever publish my true opinions of Bruce Springsteen, I will lose my hallowed position on Altercation's list of permalinks, I have to ask what the hell difference it makes how much traffic I get. Is there anybody out there who thinks he or she can make money off their blog if they get more links. Who cares if you have fifty hits a day or fifty thousand? Isn't your obligation to tell the truth still the same? In any event, what are you selling to your visitors, if not your own individuality? There might come a day when someone is able to do a blog for profit, or even make a living at it, but we haven't reached that point yet, so there isn't really a point to selling out.

So having said that, why do I even care if anyone links to this site? And I do care. I visit Sitemeter every couple of hours, just to monitor who's visited. I try to time my posts for the fifty-second mark each minute, so I am more likely to be listed on the role of recently updated sites, a dependable source for unique visitors. It does matter to me.

Well, as it turns out, it's all about high school. The same social hierarchies that existed in high school remain with us to this day, in the blogosphere and elsewhere, as James Capozzola brilliantly points out here. One of the ways these social cliques revisit themselves on us years later is our need to be popular, and the consequent need to make others less popular, lest we lose popularity ourselves. One can see signs of this behavior in the way Al Gore is covered by the media; the former Veep is an intelligent, handsome, and decent politician, who committed the unforgivable sin of having been born into some degree of privilege and being a person of substance. Having attended an all-male prep school, I knew guys like that, people who were rich, well-connected and intelligent, possessing an ease with the opposite sex that I never had, and who were nice guys to boot. I hated people like that, since it forced me to squarely confront my own mediocrity: I realized that no matter how hard I might work, I was always going to be a step behind those people, and that they actually might deserve their success.

Hence, we get to read article after article about how Al Gore "claimed" to have discovered the Internet or the Love Canal, or how he's constantly reinventing himself, all of which is bullshit. Pundits have the same view of Gore that Nixon had of the Kennedys, that it was so unfair that the Kennedys were born into privilege, and were so beloved for their public service, while he had to fight and scrape for everything he got. Doesn't Al Gore realize how intelligent they are, how worthy they are to be popular; unlike that rich idiot, George W., who gives them nicknames and goofs off on the campaign plane, Gore speaks in complete sentences, and treats the public like adults, truly insulting behavior for a well-born politician. And so, pundits quickly realize that the best way to get ahead is not to challenge the conventional wisdom, and to not do anything that would jeopardize their popularity.

To look at one example, take the case of Christopher Hitchens, aka Mr. Samgrass, self-proclaimed English "contrarian". For years, he was a respected if controversial columnist for The Nation magazine, and penned occasional screeds for leftish papers in the U.K. No cow was too sacred, and he wrote scathing pieces about Kissinger, Mother Teresa, the Royal Family, and just about every political figure in the US and Europe. As he got older, he began writing bi-monthly pieces for Vanity Fair, the unofficial journal of nouveau riche America, and became a fixture on the Washington social scene. Once he became more of an establishment figure, his obsessions changed, and his targets became easier. During the Clinton years, he became a one-man conduit for wacko Arkansas conspiracy theories, and has the distinction of being among the few people who still believe Dolly Kyle Browning, Juanita Broderick, and Kathleen Willey. He made the execution of a mentally disabled murderer in Arkansas in 1992 a cause celebre, but has never offered even a word of condolence to that person's victims(who were killed before the convict lost his mind). He testified against one of his best friends at the Clinton impeachment trial, because of a minor difference in recollection about whether the President had referred to Ms. Lewinsky as a "stalker"(as it turns out, accurately, albeit unfairly) . He later spoke at a rally hosted by a white supremacist website,, and became chummy with an historian who denied the Holocaust. Today, he is as sycophantic to George Bush as he was to Kenneth Starr, and in the immortal words of I.F. Stone, will never need to worry about dining alone.

And, so it goes among bloggers. Mr. Kaus' point is that it is human nature to sell out your opinions, even on a form of communication which stresses individuality, and doesn't pay any money. The fact that he may not generate income from his site (which is a part of Slate, a much larger website) has little bearing on whether he is willing to publicly disagree with one of Andrew Sullivan's rants accusing liberals of being treasonous, or (more famously in Kaus' case), refusing to criticize or de-link Ann Coulter from his website after she published a book with fabricated footnotes, and jokingly supported the bombing of the NY Times. If you want the acceptance of your peers, you keep any non-conforming opinions to yourself, and spout the conventional wisdom. I hope that I will have the strength of character to quit publishing this site rather than follow that path, but I doubt it. Please keep me honest.
Today is the 21st birthday of the Bush Twins. Happy Birthday, Barbara and Jenna !!!