Sunday, August 31, 2003

Solidarity

On this day in 1980 the Polish communist government agreed to the demands of the striking workers in the Gdansk shipyard. Workers would have the right to organize freely and independently

The strike marked the beginning of the end of communist rule in Eastern Europe. Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher are, rightly, given the greatest share of credit for winning the Cold War. But Lech Walesa and John Paul II played indispensable roles.

In the 70s many experts believed that continuing the Cold War was pointless-- the Communists weren't so bad, not every society valued Western style freedom, cowed populations accepted what they could not change. Solidarity and the Poles put the lie to such talk.

In the long twilight struggle against Stalinism, the workers of Poland were the first light of sunrise.

Saturday, August 30, 2003

Double Standards

It is OK to drop a crucifix in urine, call it "Piss Christ," and exhibit it as art. Liberals don't see that as anti-Catholic bigotry. In fact, they think Catholics should be taxed in order to fund the making of such art. Not to fund it is a dangerous form of censorship.

Same goes for a painting of the Virgin Mary smeared with animal dung.

Hollywood can make movies which mock and twist the central Christian story. Yet believers were urged to see "The Last Temptation of Christ" before they criticized it. Those who wanted the film to be changed or boycotted were decried as censors.

All that free speech, robust dialogue stuff goes right out the window when we get to Mel Gibson and "The Passion."

Usually, the entertainment industry argues that they are not in the morality business-- they let the market decide. So why are studios not lining up to distribute this film? Given the early praise it has garnered, and the eager anticipation of a large demographic hungry for such a film, distributors should be competing for the rights. Instead, they are afraid of "controversy". (They have no problem defending Marilyn Manson, Eminem, or "Dogma").

Friday, August 29, 2003

Liberal=Smart, Conservative=Dumb

Clayton Cramer has a couple of good posts (here and here) that take on a Seattle op-ed column. The op-ed writer followed the Florida hypothesis (discussed here) which views cultural liberalism as necessary to economic growth.

Academic towns like Austin, do tend to be liberal. But that is not proof that conservatives are dumber than liberals. For one thing, the prevailing liberalism of the academy tends to turn-off conservatives and persuades them not to pursue careers in higher education. As David Brooks wrote in the Atlantic recently

People want to be around others who are roughly like themselves. That's called community. It probably would be psychologically difficult for most Brown professors to share an office with someone who was pro-life, a member of the National Rifle Association, or an evangelical Christian. It's likely that hiring committees would subtly -- even unconsciously -- screen out any such people they encountered. Republicans and evangelical Christians have sensed that they are not welcome at places like Brown, so they don't even consider working there. In fact, any registered Republican who contemplates a career in academia these days is both a hero and a fool.

In addition, we should be careful not to confuse credentials with intelligence. Disciplines are not equal when it comes to the rigor of its curriculum and the quality of its students. Is the holder of an Ed. D. necessarily smarter than an engineer with a bachelors? Is a BA in history less learned than an MBA?

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Open Range

The ads for the new Costner movie made it look interesting. But any movie can look good in a 30 second ad. Now, thanks to One Hand Clapping, we have a review of the movie from someone who is not reflexively anti-western.
Closing the Barn Door

So a new book coming out in November argues that Kathy Boudin "plunge[d] more deeply into radical violence than she has acknowledged in court or in parole hearings. " And "also attacks the centerpiece of Ms. Boudin's initial defense and request for parole in the Brink's case."

Of course, it doesn't matter. She already has her parole.

Saturday, August 23, 2003

Why I Am Not a Libertarian (Reason #491)

This column is opposed to the National Do Not Call registry. The writer doesn't believe that it is a legitimate function of government to give us the means to end most of those calls.

I liked the one commenter's point that joining the registry is like getting a restraining order. That seems like a good analogy. We who do not want to be annoyed have to sign up. It's not like the Feds abolished telemarketing.

This was a neat touch too:

"Do not call" proponents have asked the federal government to save them from themselves. And while conservatives may not see a problem here, it ought to set alarm bells off for libertarians. It isn't the responsibility of the state -- and most certainly not the federal government -- to enact policies that inhibit private contracts. Even contracts we may later wish we had never entered into.

The problem with telemarketing is that it results in a legal contract, but the scripts are very carefully written to disguise that fact. They mimic conversation in order to exploit the good manners of the people they call. The best thing to do is hang up, but that is rude. Telemarketers exploit our desire not to be rude to line their pockets.

And just because i like the quote, i'll close with this:

Nonetheless, people such as Ayn Rand—and the nerds and geeks who cling to her in the naive belief that her rotten novels will turn them into supermen—could never understand the fact that human beings are social animals.
Amazed and Maybe Ticked Off

Kathy Boudin brother is chief judge of the First Circuit Court of Appeals. Appointed by Bush 41.

So, having a father who is a radical lawyer and a sister who is a murdering terrorist is no problem. You can still be an appeals court judge. A Republican will even nominate you. That just doesn't seem right.

Found via Letter from Gotham.

Friday, August 22, 2003

3 Lives=22 Years

Kathy Boudin is getting out of prison. She's the former member of the Weather Underground who participated in the 1981 armed robbery that left a Brinks guard and two policemen dead.

Not surprisingly, Talk Left thinks her release is the right thing to do.

"For the parole system to have any meaning, Boudin should be paroled."

"We wish some of those objecting to her parole would think more about what it is like to spend 25 years in prison for a crime, and remember that she also was deprived of raising her son, Chesa now a Rhodes scholar."

Boudin herself has expressed her remorse in typical modern language:

"For the last 19 years I have lived in prison, quietly making a personal journey that has helped me to face the tragedy I am responsible for, understanding what allowed me to be involved, and building a new sense of life and what is worth doing."

These two articles in the Sun Times and NY Post are pretty good on the anti-parole case.

Interesting trivia: The mastermind of the robbery was Tupac Shakur's stepfather.

In this Boston Globe article, the writer describes Boudin merely as an "antigovernment activist".

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Clinton and FDR

Reading this review of The Clinton Wars and Living History, i surprised to see this quote by Sidney Blumenthal:

Just as the presidents of the late 20th century operated in the shadow of F.D.R., those of the first part of the 21st century will stand in the shadow of Clinton.

I think that he really believes that. Which is further evidence that SB is so blinded by loyalty and ideology that he can't be bothered with the facts.

Item. FDR won reelection in 1936 with 61% of the popular vote. In 1996 Clinton got a shade less than 50%.

Item. After FDR's second mid-term election (1938), the Democrats held 22 more Senate seats and 51 more House seats than they had in the summer of 1932. Under Clinton the Dems LOST 11 in the Senate and 56 in the House.

Item. FDR retained his popularity and won a third term with 55% of the popular vote. While Clinton couldn't run in 2000, his vice-president did (think of it as a third-term by proxy). Gore won 48%. This better than LBJ's VP did in 1968 (43%) and the same as Ike's veep in 1960. However, Reagan's VP won 54% in 1988. So Clinton is at best average by this measure.

All in all, Clinton does not come close to measuring up to FDR. His electoral success was personal and did not translate to his party's benefit It was neither as broad or as deep as FDR's. But he really did have a way of collecting acolytes.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

If you read nothing else today.....

Read The Fat Guy's post on Jonah Goldberg's Vermont adventure. He says everything that needs saying.
Mad Cow and CWD

This is a good article on Mad Cow, Chronic Wasting Disease, and other scary illnesses.

CWD attacks deer and elk. As the author points out, there is evidence that these diseases (Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies) can sometimes jump the "species barrier", so that infected deer herds might lead to Mad Cow in this country.

Swan notes that "if it is ever found that CWD can jump the species barrier to livestock or humans, a war on deer and elk will occur. "

He's right about that. Wisconsin had an outbreak of CWD south of Madison, and the DNR had not choice but to slaughter as many deer as possible over a 256 square mile area. (Read more here).
Why Concealed Carry Is Necessary

Check this out at Cold Fury.
Why Goldberg Is So Annoying

These two posts sum it up. Bottom line, the rules were inconvenient so he broke them. Then he gets outraged because someone in authority actually calls him on it.

Unfortunately, in most areas, attractive public spaces require a lot of rules to remain attractive. The frontier is closed, we just can't do our own thing anymore. And there are too many people like the Goldbergs who think that their convenience is more important than maintaining public spaces. So we end up with rules and rules enforcers.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Forgotten Men (First of a Series)

Track and field used to be a popular sport and the mile was one of the glamour events. One of the great sport standards was the four-minute mile-- first achieved by Roger Bannister in 1954 (3:59.4).

In the twelve years after Bannister’s run seven men held the mile record. On average each new record took 0.8 seconds off the previous mark and each record lasted for an average of 21 months.

On 17 July 1966 Jim Ryun ran the mile in 3:51.3, breaking the record by an amazing 2.3 seconds. A year later he lowered the mark to 3:51.1. That record would stand until 1976 (95 months).

In an afternoon he lowered the mile record by 2.3 seconds. It would take thirteen YEARS for the best runners in the world to beat Ryun’s mark by that increment.

Ryun was America’s greatest miler. He was the first high school runner to break four minutes and in 1965 he ran 3:55.3 which stood as the fastest time by a high school runner until 2001 (36 years).

At the time, his achievements were recognized by the wider sporting world. In 1966 he was named Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year and was awarded the Sullivan Award (nation’s top amateur athlete). Today, unfortunately, great track and field athletes are ignored in favor of showy exhibitions like the X-Games or Slamball.

Check out the National Track and Field Hall of Fame here.


Ryun is now a Member of Congress and his site is here.

Monday, August 18, 2003

Greatest Figures of the Twentieth Century (Rightwing Edition)

Check it out over at Rightwing News.

For what it is worth, here are the names i submitted.

Winston Churchill
Ronald Reagan
Franklin Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt
Konrad Adenauer
Mahatma Ghandi
George Marshall
Pope John Paul II
Margaret Thatcher
Anwar Sadat
David Packard (Hewlett-Packard)
Alfred Sloan (General Motors)
Jack Welch (General Electric)
Adm. Chester Nimitz

I would point out that when Sloan took over GM, Henry Ford's company was number one. Within a few short years, GM passed Ford and never looked back.

Sunday, August 17, 2003

Neos and Other Conservatives

Irving Kristol has a column in The Weekly Standard on Neoconservatism. (Can we all agree now that it is not just a code word for Jewish conservative?)

View from the Right has a masterly analysisof it from the perspective of traditional conservatism. (The comments are worth reading as well.)

Two additional points---

1. Kristol writes that neoconservatives Republicans "cannot be blind to the fact that neoconservative policies, reaching out beyond the traditional political and financial base, have helped make the very idea of political conservatism more acceptable to a majority of American voters."

Kristol, understandably, wants neoconservatives to get credit for the political success of the Republican party and the broader conservative movement. But this is absurd. The key switchers-- looking at the 1972 or 1984 elections-- were Roman Catholic voters in the North (Reagan Democrats) and white Southerners. Few of either group were prompted to vote for Reagan or Nixon because Commentary urged them, too. Kristol is acting a little like the rooster who thinks its crowing causes the sun to rise.

2. He also writes that "But they are impatient with the Hayekian notion that we are on 'the road to serfdom.' Neocons do not feel that kind of alarm or anxiety about the growth of the state in the past century, seeing it as natural, indeed inevitable. Because they tend to be more interested in history than economics or sociology, they know that the 19th-century idea, so neatly propounded by Herbert Spencer in his The Man Versus the State, was a historical eccentricity. People have always preferred strong government to weak government, although they certainly have no liking for anything that smacks of overly intrusive government"

Here Kristol performs a little sleight of hand. American conservatives often were in favor of strong government--- local government. A belief in federalism, states rights, or decentralization is a little different than libertarianism and has next to nothing to do with Herbert Spencer. Kristol doesn't want to address the more difficult question so he fudges by ignoring it.
This Mark Steyn Column is a Classic

On Arianna

I heard Huffington speak at one of David Horowitz's Dark Ages Weekends (1998/9). She was in the middle of her "ideological" migration from right to left. She used her time to denounce Denny Hastert who had just emerged as Gingrich's successor in the House. She kept calling him a mediocrity who got his job because he was "a good old boy." (Obviously that didn't sit well with me).

Her career is a tribute to self-promotion and sleeping around strategically. There is no reason why she should be taken seriously. But she gets air time because she is a celebrity and makes for an entertaining interview.

Friday, August 15, 2003

The Miracle On The Vistula

On 15 August 1920, the Polish Army launched a counter-attack against the Red Army which stood at the gates of Warsaw. They succeeded to such a degree that the Soviets were rolled back and Poland gained twenty years of independence.

The Polish victory was even more important to the West. A Russian victory at Warsaw would have brought the Red Army into Germany. The Cold War would have begun in 1920 with the Iron Curtain starting at the Rhine. Despite the importance of the battle, the Poles fought it alone-- the French and British were hamstrung by domestic politics and did next to nothing to aid the defense.

In fact, British unions were defiantly pro-Soviet. During the Russo-Polish War they sometimes refused to load ships with military goods bound for Poland.

Thursday, August 14, 2003

Myth-III

In his memoir of his WWII service (Quartered Safe Out Here) George MacDonald Fraser makes an interesting point

There is, for some reason which I don't understand, a bitter desire in some to undermine what they call the 'myths' of the Second World War. Most of those myths are true, but they don't want to believe that. It may be a natural reaction to having the war rammed down their throats by my generation; it may have its roots in subconscious envy; it may even spring from a reluctance to recognize that today's safety and comfort were bought fifty years ago by means which today's intelligentsia find unacceptable, and from which they wish to distance themselves.

"It may have its roots in subconscious envy." In a sense, that is the other side of Shakespeare's St. Crispin Day speech:

And gentlemen in England, now abed, shall think
themselves accursed they were not there.
And hold their manhood cheap, when any speaks
who fought with us on Crispin's Day.


A neat little theory could be worked up "explaining" the 60s upheavals in terms of those feelings of inadequacy and the related desire to disparage the accomplishments of the World War Two generation.


Speaking of "Myths"

One of my favorite book dedications is found in Louis L'Amour's Bendigo Shafter

To the hard-shelled men who built with nerve and hand that which the soft-bellied latecomers call the 'western myth'.

I think it is the "soft-bellied latecomers" that hooked me.
The Myth of the Masculinity Myth

From James Bowman's Blog

Steven LeBlanc and Katherine Register do not go into the matter, but there is also an anthropological investigation to be made into the reasons why feminists, like Miss Dowd, and intellectuals, like Mr Braudy, cling to their belief in a mythical matriarchal world without war and therefore without swaggering presidents dressed up as G.I. Joe. Because that world is a hypothesis, a fiction, it takes a large army (you should pardon the expression) of writers and pundits and wits and English professors (Dr. Braudy’s trade) furiously scribbling away around the clock to keep our belief in it alive in spite of bitter experience.

Found via the New Criterion Blog
The Passion

Check out this post over at Dust in the Light.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Liberal Hypocrisy

Jane Galt points out that the green-tinged elite who summer at Cape Cod are not keen on having a wind farm off their coast.

Rich liberals on Nantucket and environs are arguing pretty much openly that while of course they are in favor of renewable energy in theory, they are only in favor of it in practice when it does not interfere in any way with the comforts (and property values) of rich liberals.

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Advertising Blogs

In Ad Age Randall Rothenberg offers "Eight Basic Steps to Reform Today's Creative Department." Number Eight is:

Start a creative blog. This is the cheapest way to share knowledge across office and global boundaries, and the fastest way for an agency to make sure the best ideas pollinate the world.

I, of course, agree since i wrote this back in June:

Blogs, it seems to me, should be an integral part of that effort. They are superior to email or meetings for keeping a whole team up to speed and for thrashing out differences.

Catching Up

Although I am not an Objectivist or even a Libertarian, I did enjoy Tuccille's It Usually Begins With Ayn Rand. No surprise, then, that i liked this Objectivist Bestiary over at God of the Machine.

The Midwest Conservative Journal has been outstanding in dealing with the Episcopal Church.

Geographica has a good post on higher education.

Thanks to Dean Esmay, i found this review of Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion, by Gary Webb. It is devastating.
Like I Said

Jim Treacher is a stand-up guy.

Saturday, August 09, 2003

Serious Journalists

When most journalists write about blogs, they usually slip in a dig or two about the trivial stuff that appears in blogs--- pictures of cats or breathless celebrity worship. That's evidence that bloggers are not serious people.

But what does it mean when all three cable news channels provide live coverage of a movie actor when he appears at a playground? Sure Arnold is running for Governor, but so are approximately 13,683 other people in California. Was his appearance the most important political news that day?

By the same token, are the Laci Peterson murder case and the Kobe Bryant case the most important matters now facing our country? Based on the air time devoted to them, they must be.

It is hard to take the profession seriously when they talk about doing the people's business and then shamelessly fill time with tabloid stories and punditry. It has little to do with our "right to know" or "professional news judgment." It has a lot to do with cost-effective programming that pulls in ratings.
California

I don't understand why any Republican wants to become governor via recall. The legislature is completely dominated by Democrats. They will stymie any serious attempts at reform. At the same time, in the 2004 election, it will be the Republican governor who is the new face of higher taxes and lower spending.

It seems to me it makes more sense to let Davis and his allies stew until 2004 and then try to elect some Republicans to the legislature.
Tabloid Town

This is a nicely jaundiced view of the media circus in Eagle, Colorado.

Like so many other media frenzies, from Michael Jackson to O.J. to Scott Peterson, the reporting that has taken place in Peo. v. Kobe Bean Bryant has more to do with a search for ratings than a search for the truth.

Friday, August 08, 2003

Nuance and Ideological Purity

This post on Charles Lindbergh is also a defense of nuanced history.

Yet simplistic moral lumping -- "good / bad" especially when long dead historical figures are lumped, misapplies modern moral standards to people who didn't think at all like us, and it also causes us to disregard the good lessons that might be learned from the past's flawed figures.

It deserves to be widely read.

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

The Meaning of Defeat and the Utility of Victory

An interesting discussion on US military prowess and how it shapes post-war outcomes is going on. It was kicked off with this post by Vodka Pundit and then this response by One Hand Clapping.

I find myself agreeing with Vodka Pundit when he says:

Need to understand why West Germany gave up on Nazism? Because it got every single one of their major cities reduced to rubble, courtesy of the 8th Air Force and the RAF.

The high price Germans paid for Hitler's adventures drove a wedge between the Nazis and the German people. It was not just that the Nazis were evil (Germans managed to ignore that in 1941), it was that they betrayed the German people and allowed them to be crushed, starved and raped.

But he loses me when he writes

Want to know why West Germans feared Soviet tanks? Because they saw firsthand what Patton's tanks could do.

Sorry, the Germans feared Soviet tanks because they had firsthand knowledge about the Red Army. They saw more Russian tanks than American tanks. Berlin, after all, did fall to Zhukov, not Patton.

OHC rightly points out that the

Fighting the modern way is certainly not more difficult than before. It is not easy - Stephen is right that war is never easy - but to imply that this year's Iraq campaign was somehow more difficult than, say, the Normandy invasion or the Battle for Manila is just plain wrong. America's modern way of war enables us to defeat the enemy much faster than ever, and there is no way that means war is more difficult than it was, oh, at the Battle of Gettysburg.

But modern US commanders do face one factor that was not present in World War Two or the Civil War. Patton and Nimitz did not have worry about the political fallout of operational victory. During the August 1944 breakout, the German army tried to escape from the Falaise pocket before Allied armies encircled them. Tactical air power and artillery pounded the retreating Germans. Yet there was no domestic outcry in the US about the uneven combat with a retreating enemy. This is in stark contrast to the "Highway of Death" hysteria in 1991.

The American way of war calls for the deployment of overwhelming firepower at the decisive point to win rapid victory with a minimum of casualties. That used to mean American and civilian casualties. Today it means enemy combatants as well. This is a complexity the World War Two and Civil War generals did not face.

OHC also writes that

The Iraqi soldiers who survived the war this year are not claiming that they were not really defeated. Many of them have been beaten by the US twice - 1991 and 2003. They know they were beaten badly and could not have prevailed even with better generalship. Modern technology enabled us to defeat Iraq's military without killing enormous casualties among Iraqis.

As i read this i was reminded of an incident Col. Harry Summers related in On Strategy. After the ceasefire in South Vietnam, an American officer said to an NVA officer, you never defeated us on the battlefield. His counterpart replied, that is true, but it is also irrelevant. (Paraphrasing from memory here).

Victory on the battlefield does not automatically mean that we gain our strategic objectives.

Clausewitz wrote that "War is thus an act of force to compel our enemy to do our will" . In Iraq I, our victory compelled the Iraqi's to leave Kuwait and also allowed us to destroy much of their WMD program. However, in Iraq II, we have the much more difficult challenge of creating a functioning polity that is stable and somewhat liberal. Decisive military victory against Saddam's conventional forces was a necessary but not sufficient condition to achieve this.

One factor needed is a patriotic rallying point for Iraqis that is untainted by the Saddam regime. In West Germany, for example, Adenauer was an anti-Nazi and thus an acceptable politician to lead them during and after the occupation. Perhaps more important, though, were the officers who tried to kill Hitler in 1944. Though they failed, they preserved the "honor" of the army. A German patriot could admire their bravery, repudiate Hitler, and still take some pride in his country's history.

DeGaulle and the French Resistence served similar roles in the restoration of French pride and confidence. French soldiers helped liberate Paris and that helped ease the pain of the defeat in 1940 and the shame of Vichy.

After the Civil War, Robert E. Lee served a symbol for reconciliation and stability. The North and South could agree that he was a good general and honorable man. By accepting defeat and repudiating guerrilla war in 1865 he brought the bloodshed to an end and opened the possibility for a better civil society in the post-war South. Unfortunately, there was a shortage of Adenauer-types to lead the states and insufficient troops to police the occupied South.

At this point, unfortunately, we don't seem to have either type of rallying point in Iraq. They are beaten, liberated, and occupied. But all of that is due to an external power. I worry that if a heroic, patriotic figure emerges, he will do so by fighting or opposing the US. Sort of the way the Communists emerged in China and Vietnam as both anti-colonial and anti-Japanese.
The Bias of Blogger Lists

The American Mind makes a really good point.

But ranking the Clintons so highly isn't necessarily a sign to Right-wing wacko-ness. It's just an example of society's lack of historical knowledge.

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

I'm Puzzled

We've been told over and over again that Marilyn Manson and his music had NOTHING to do with Columbine. Nihilistic song lyrics do NOT encourage teen suicide. Violent video games do NOT promote school shootings. Natural Born Killers is just a movie and can NOT be harmful in any serious way. Gangster Rap is just good clean fun.

In short, popular entertainment is not to be blamed for any crimes. They are just songs, videos, games, comics.

OK. So if all that is true, how can a respected scholar get away with writing in the New Republic that

When violence breaks out, Mel Gibson will have a much higher authority than professors and bishops to answer to.

(The article is not available to nonsubscribers, but it is discussed here.)

Why is Gibson uniquely responsible for the actions of his customers? And why should this movie be capable of provoking violence when we all know that movies don't do that?

Monday, August 04, 2003

David Brooks

Some have wondered how Brooks is going to fit in at the New York Times. Based on his latest column in the Atlantic Monthly, he'll do just fine.

People want to be around others who are roughly like themselves. That's called community. It probably would be psychologically difficult for most Brown professors to share an office with someone who was pro-life, a member of the National Rifle Association, or an evangelical Christian. It's likely that hiring committees would subtly -- even unconsciously -- screen out any such people they encountered. Republicans and evangelical Christians have sensed that they are not welcome at places like Brown, so they don't even consider working there. In fact, any registered Republican who contemplates a career in academia these days is both a hero and a fool.

Note the lack of outrage. Ivy league schools discriminate on religion and ethnicity and that is apparently OK by Brooks.
The Worst Americans

Rightwing News has the results of a survey of 39 bloggers. It is certain to be controversial.

Saturday, August 02, 2003

Fehlschlagenfreude

Excellent post over at God of the Machine on Schadenfreude. Among the highlights:

It is failure, not mere bad luck, that universally gladdens the human heart.
********

I am rooting not for failure but for justice.



That seems exactly right. And he even explains why Fehlschlagenfreude is a better word for it.

On the other hand, i can't agree with this related post at 2blowhards.

Still, in some ways, life is more agreeable than it was when money seemed more abundant, isn't it?
*********

Conclusion: Maybe the occasional chastening episode isn't such a bad thing.


Seeing a hedge fund laid low because it falsely promised high, risk-free returns (as Long Term Capital Management did) is one thing. To revel in the desperation of retail workers is something completely different. Yeah, i hold highly paid people to a higher standard i guess.

But, I have to admit that i am fairly tolerant of indifferent customer service. I expect courtesy but i don't get bent out of shape if the clerk or waiter makes an honest mistake or fails to act like a proper British servant. In fact, slavish service makes me uncomfortable. I find it profoundly un-American. That Upstairs/Downstairs thing is best left for the Brits.