Charles Oliver - Econ/Media-Boy
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Charles C. Watson - Science/Tech-Boy
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Ron Campbell - sushi-bait.
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Even a blogger needs to eat. This blog is primarily Charles' hobby. But if he is intent on continuing to woo the Hooter's waitresses in Chatanooga he needs something that pays.... wings don't come free you know. Here's a link to his day job where he works the education beat and, assuming he can't annoy enough people that way, is sometimes allowed to write opinion pieces.

Need perspective? Watson offers readers all they could possibly eat. For a unique view on current events, namely how they look from orbit, here's Chuck's Real-Time(ish) Satellite Imagery of Areas of Interest. Whenever it strikes his fancy, and there's good telemetry, Chuck will process and post near real-time images of locations in the news. Eminently engrossing.

Wanna get into the head of a Japanese salaryman? Why, for Chis'sakes?! Well, assumin' you do, feel welcome to check out the on-line journal of Campbell's English class. Everyday, a group of disaffected salarymen are required to spill out their inner-most thoughts about life, the universe and everything in broken English. Amazingly prosaic.

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Chiizu taberu koufuku shiteiru saru ga kangei-saremasen.
Sunday, May 30, 2004
Small Town Celebrities. People sometimes say to me, "Don't you miss being in Hollywood and seeing all the celebrities?'

Truth celebs and I generally didn't hang out in the same place. Yeah, I ran into Dennis Hopper late one night in the supermarket nine-items-or-less lane. I was picking up Coke and chips. Dennis had cigarettes and tampons. And I did run into Tom and Nicole in a deli once.

But Dalton has a few celebs of its own. Robert Chambers was spotted here last year. He said in an interview with The Daily Citizen that he as just visiting friends, but i've heard repeated reports that he has actually taken up residence here.

And I'm not exactly sure who Aaron Carter is, but he apparently has relatives here that he visits a lot.

Deborah Norville is from Dalton, and she comes back occasionally to visit family and friends.

Marla Maples says she's from Dalton, but she's really from Tunnel Hill, which is just north of Dalton. I'm told she came back pretty often when she was married to Donald Trump, but hasn't com e back as much since their divorce. Make of that what you will.

Andrea Owenby, aka woman crowned by Howard Stern as the world's dumbest stripper, claims to be from Dalton, but I haven't been able to confirm that.

posted by Charles at 8:40 PM

First Toby Keith, Then Mel Gibson. Now we find that Tom Clancy opposed the second Iraq War.

All three are cultural conservatives. Gibson's peculiar blend of unorthodox religious ultraorthodoxy seems to make him very skeptical of secular authorities in general and the military in particular. But Keith and Clancy are definitely flag-waving, support-the-troops kind of guys.

Their skepticism points to a potential problem for Bush.

I live in one of the reddest areas in a very red state. The strong tendency here is to rally behind a president during war, especially if that president talks a lot about Jesus in a faintly Southern accent. And quite frankly, there's a strong willingness to use force against people who don't act like us or look like us.

But from the very start of the run-up to war, I've heard vague rumblings of discontent from unlikely sources: former veterans, Baptist ministers, good ole boys down at the mill.

These men, and women, certainly aren't squeamish about using the military against someone who is a threat to the United States. If someone is a threat, you bomb them, you kill them. And then you leave. Simple as that.

But they aren't big on democratizing the Middle East or nation-building or whatever you want to call it. For them, the military exists to do some fairly simple things: bombing, smashing, killing. Simple as that.

They don't care if Saddam Hussein was in violation of United Nations resolutions. At best, the people here view the UN as a cesspool of Third World kleptocrats living high on the "donations" of U.S. taxpayers. At worst, they see it as an organization working towards a one-world socialist government.

They are perturbed by Saddam's treatment of the Iraqi people: the rape, the torture, the mass killings. But they'll tell you without any hint of guilt that, by their math, the life of one American serviceman is worth more than that of 1,000 Iraqis.

These people were never convinced that Saddam Hussein was a threat to the United States, as opposed to a threat to Israel or Saudi Arabia.

They might agree with Tom Clancy that the war lacked a "casus belli," if you explained what that meant.

They'd certainly agree with Keith when he said "Look, my stance is I pick and choose my wars. This war here [in Iraq], the math hasn't worked out for me on it. ... I was for Afghanistan, 100%. We got struck and the Taliban needed to be exterminated, but this war here, in Iraq, I didn't necessarily have it all worked out. It didn't work out for me. I know a tyrant is gone and all of that, but whether it was our duty to go do that, well, I haven't figured that out."

Those who express such sentiments locally are still a minority, but I hear them expressed more and more.

I guess supporters of the war will say that points to Bush's continuing unwillingness or inability to explain and defend the reasons for the war, not a fundamental mistake in strategy.

I'm not convinced about that. But I do know that the longer this goes on the louder the voices of redneck opposition become.

posted by Charles at 6:13 PM

Sunday, May 23, 2004
Hope She Brings some Hot Wings Thanks to Domenic for alerting me to this story.

posted by Charles at 8:14 PM

The Fall Guy. Whom will the Bush administration sacrifice for any problems in Iraq? The candidates are obvious, -- neocons Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith -- but they may not be high-ranking enough to saisfy political needs.

For the hard-liners at the Defense Department, the raid came as a surprise. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his senior deputies, Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith, got the news from the media. When Iraqi police, guarded by American GIs, burst into the home and offices of Ahmad Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress, looking for evidence of kidnapping, embezzlement, torture and theft, the men who run the Pentagon were left asking some uncomfortable questions. "Who signed off on this raid?" wondered one very high-ranking official. "What were U.S. soldiers doing there?" asked another, according to a source who was present in the room.

Until at least very recently, Chalabi had been the darling of these top Pentagon officials. How could it be that the men who run the most powerful military in the world could not know that their own troops were about to run a raid on a man once regarded as the hope of free Iraq? Just last January, Chalabi had been seated behind First Lady Laura Bush at the State of the Union Message. Now, according to intelligence officials, he is under investigation by the United States for leaking damaging secrets to the government of Iran.

A civil war simmered in Iraq last week, not between Sunnis and Shiites, but between American government officials. On the one side are the neoconservatives inside the Pentagon and the Bush administration who backed Chalabi as a freedom fighter; on the other are the spooks and diplomats who have long distrusted the former Iraqi exile with a taste for well-cut suits. The neocons, who once swaggered, seem to be slipping, losing confidence and clout. It is telling that the ground commanders in Baghdad who participated in the raid on Chalabi headquarters did not bother to inform their chain-of-command higher-ups at the Pentagon. (The raid was apparently OK'd by the American proconsul in Baghdad, Paul Bremer, probably with tacit approval of White House officials.) Embarrassed by horrific images from Abu Ghraib, a growing number of uniformed soldiers are blaming their political bosses in Washington — Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Feith — for whatever goes wrong in Iraq.

posted by Charles at 2:14 PM

Saturday, May 22, 2004
Borrowing From The Volokh Conspiracy. One of the conspirartors from time to time does a daily song lyric, I rather like the idea, so today I offer Ronnie Van Zant's "All I Can Do Is Write About It." Critics, including the voting committee of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, dismiss Lynyrd Ksynyrd as a bunch of rowdy rednecks, but this song, and some others I could cite, than songs about drinking, fighting and partying:

Well this life that I've led has took me everywhere
There ain't no place I ain't never gone
But its kind of like the saying that you heard so many times
Well there just ain't no place like home
Did you ever see a she-gator protect her young
Or a fish in a river swimming free
Did you ever see the beauty of the hills of Carolina
Or the sweetness of the grass in Tennessee
And Lord I can't make any changes
All I can do is write 'em in a song
I can see the concrete slowly creepin'
Lord take me and mine before that comes

Do you like to see a mountain stream a-flowin'
Do you like to see a youngun with his dog
Did you ever stop to think about, well, the air your breathin'
Well you better listen to my song
And Lord I can't make any changes
All I can do is write 'em in a song
I can see the concrete slowly creepin'
Lord take me and mine before that comes

I'm not tryin' to put down no big cities
But the things they write about us is just a bore
Well you can take a boy out of ol' Dixieland
But you'll never take ol' Dixie from a boy
And Lord I can't make any changes
All I can do is write 'em in a song
I can see the concrete slowly creepin'
Lord take me and mine before that comes
'Cause I can see the concrete slowly creepin'
Lord take me and mine before that comes

posted by Charles at 6:27 PM

Tuesday, May 18, 2004
Asian Economies. China could be on the way down, and Japan's economy is rising despite mild deflation.

posted by Charles at 8:49 PM

Duane Allman: An Anthology, Vol I-II. That was the last eight-track tape (well, tapes) I bought. It's a collection of his session work at Muscle Shoals, some unreleased Allman Brothers stuff and songs from the first band he had with Gregg, Hourglass. Great, great album, especially "Walk on Gilded Needles."

posted by Charles at 8:45 PM

Saturday, May 15, 2004
The Jacksonian Turn. Supporters of the Iraq War seem to be getting in touch with their inner Old Hickory.

At National Review's The Corner, Rich Lowry contends that "As Wilsonians are discredited to some degree by recent events in Iraq, we will have to rely more on Jacksonian sentiment to see us through there."

And Andrew Sullivan says Zarqawi has misunderstood the Jacksonian part of the American psyche. Well, that's not quite what he said, but it's what he meant.

Since Walter Russell Mead offered his taxonomy of American foreign policy in 1999 it has been enthusiastically embraced as a useful descriptive device by many pundits. But the most ardent supporters seem to be self-described Jacksonians to justify their desire for total war. Surprisingly, many of these Jacksonians are conservative or libertarian.

Mead, intentionally or not, puts a fine gloss on Andrew Jackson and Jacksonianism.

Jacksonians, in his telling, just want peace, but if pushed they are ruthless in war.

But that description, or at least the first half of it, doesn't apply to Andrew Jackson himself.

Andrew Burstein's new book "The Passions of Andrew Jackson" presents as useful corrective to Mead's fable. (Also check out Amy Sturgis' review of the book in Reason.)

Put simply, Jackson himself wasn't a man of peace. In his personal life, he was a bully. A man with a violent temper, he not only challenged others to duels at the slightest provocation, he goaded friends and associates into similar behavior. While certainly capable of cunning, rational thought doesn't seem to have been his strong suit.

He rode to the White House on his reputation as an Indian fighter. Now, conflict between Indians and whites was probably inevitable, but there's plenty of evidence that Gen. Jackson didn't merely fail to find peaceful solutions to the Red-White conflicts, he actively whipped them up.

And in both his presidency and pre-presidential career, he displayed a respect for the law, the Constitution and for basic morality only when it suited his own purposes.

God help us if unleashing our Jacksonian impulses are the only way to win the war in Iraq.

posted by Charles at 11:17 AM

Friday, May 07, 2004
Bad Girls. This USA Today article on judoka Ronda Rousey is the talk of martial arts boards.

Rousey has broken several women's arms with armbars during competition. That's a legit move. The person whose arm is locked is supposed to verbally submit or tap, and even if he or she doesn't, the referee is supposed to call ippon if the person can't get out.

Some have charged Rousey has snapped arms after the ref has called the point, but she, her family and coaches deny it. Most judo fans say they've never seen her do that. And the USA Today article makes it clear that, at least in some cases, the problem is that the opponent doesn't submit, the ref doesn't see the submission or appreciate just how much danger Rousey has put her opponent in. Or as the ref in the article notes, Rousey is just very fast and very aggressive.

So what's a high-level judoka to do:

"If the ref doesn't stop it, you have to decide what you're going to do," Rousey's mother says. "And I say crank the sucker and pop that baby."

And if the women complain:

Rousey's coach, Jimmy Pedro, the veteran, grizzled keeper of judo secrets and the father of former world judo champion Jimmy Pedro Jr., says of the criticism that his star pupil is a vicious, remorseless arm-breaker, "The girls who are getting hurt, it's their own fault. If they don't like it, tell them to take up pingpong."

If Rousey was a 17-year-old man accused of playing too aggresively and his father and coach defended him with those words, I don't think anyone would think twice about it. But I guess women aren't supposed to be such cold-blooded competitors.

posted by Charles at 7:19 PM

Tuesday, May 04, 2004
For You Fans of Nobel Laureates, Robert Mundell is on Letterman again tonight. He's telling "Yo momma jokes" this time. If you are on the West Coast, keep an eye out.

posted by Charles at 11:52 PM

Sunday, May 02, 2004
Hidden Inflation? Robert Blumen has been arguing for some time that official statistics understate price inflation. (See this and this.)

I'm not convinced he's right, or rather, I'm not convinced the official numbers are off by as much as he thinks. Still, of all the major economic number, the CPI and other inflation measures seem to me to be the most arbitrary. The adjustments for improved quality, for instance, are particularly capricious. Some of the articles Blumen links to, while from quite dbubious sources, do a good job of showing just how dubious some of the decisions about what counts as an improvement in a product and how much to discount for that are.

That said, I never understood Alan Greenspan's temporary obsession with deflation. In times of rapid technological change and rapidly growing productivity (like we are allegedly having now), wouldn't you expect mild deflation?

In fact, my former professor George Selgin has persuasively argued that mild deflation is a good thing.

posted by Charles at 10:12 PM

Saturday, May 01, 2004
But Who Is The Red Queen? I'm sure the Bush administration will hail this as a victory, also.

I'm perplexed at those hawk bloggers, radio talk show hosts and online posters who are now taking the "Bush won the war but is losing the occupation" direction.

What was the goal of the entire endeavor? And why was war necessary to achieve it, i.e., would some other alternative hve worked.

Bush himself doesn't seem to ever had any clear answer. His supporters have offered a constantly shifting numbers of goals. Remember just a few weeks ago when establishing democracy in Iraq was the goal? Now, we are putting former Bathists back into power. And if you listen to right-wing talk radio the lemmings are squealing about the Army investigation into the alleged torture by U.S. personnel of Iraqis at the Abu Ghaib prison. Why is the Army punishing these good soldiers? Doesn't the Pentagon understand torture is the only thing these Arabs understand? So far, the Washington hawks haven't gone that far. But I wouldn't be surprised to hear one do it soon.

posted by Charles at 9:40 PM

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