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The most exciting 12 minutes in sports

Joey Chesnut took down reigning champion Takeru Kobayashi today in the annual Nathan's Famous hot dog eating contest.

Joey Chestnut, a 23-year-old engineering student from California, ate a world-record 66 hot dogs in 12 minutes yesterday to unseat the six-time champ, Takeru Kobayashi, at the Nathan’s Famous hot-dog eating contest in Coney Island.

Chants of “U.S.A.” and “Joey! Joey!” rose from the crowd when Mr. Chestnut hoisted the Mustard Yellow International Belt of the champion.

“The Fourth of July brought this out,” he said, when asked where he found the strength to consume more hot dogs than a large family at a holiday picnic. It was his first victory in the 92nd annual event.

Mr. Kobayashi bowed and was humble in defeat. But he also pointed straight at Mr. Chestnut and yelled, “I will definitely beat him next year.”

Video with melodramatic commentary:

What Michael Moore hasn't done is lie in a corridor all night watching his severed toe disintegrate in a plastic cup

Kurt Loder reviews Sicko [via HnR]:

What's the problem with government health systems? Moore's movie doesn't ask that question, although it does unintentionally provide an answer. When governments attempt to regulate the balance between a limited supply of health care and an unlimited demand for it they're inevitably forced to ration treatment. This is certainly the situation in Britain. Writing in the Chicago Tribune this week, Helen Evans, a 20-year veteran of the country's National Health Service and now the director of a London-based group called Nurses for Reform, said that nearly 1 million Britons are currently on waiting lists for medical care — and another 200,000 are waiting to get on waiting lists. Evans also says the NHS cancels about 100,000 operations each year because of shortages of various sorts. Last March, the BBC reported on the results of a Healthcare Commission poll of 128,000 NHS workers: two thirds of them said they "would not be happy" to be patients in their own hospitals. James Christopher, the film critic of the Times of London, thinks he knows why. After marveling at Moore's rosy view of the British health care system in "Sicko," Christopher wrote, "What he hasn't done is lie in a corridor all night at the Royal Free [Hospital] watching his severed toe disintegrate in a plastic cup of melted ice. I have." Last month, the Associated Press reported that Gordon Brown — just installed this week as Britain's new prime minister — had promised to inaugurate "sweeping domestic reforms" to, among other things, "improve health care."

Moore's most ardent enthusiasm is reserved for the French health care system, which he portrays as the crowning glory of a Gallic lifestyle far superior to our own. The French! They work only 35 hours a week, by law. They get at least five weeks' vacation every year. Their health care is free, and they can take an unlimited number of sick days. It is here that Moore shoots himself in the foot. He introduces us to a young man who's reached the end of three months of paid sick leave and is asked by his doctor if he's finally ready to return to work. No, not yet, he says. So the doctor gives him another three months of paid leave — and the young man immediately decamps for the South of France, where we see him lounging on the sunny Riviera, chatting up babes and generally enjoying what would be for most people a very expensive vacation. Moore apparently expects us to witness this dumbfounding spectacle and ask why we can't have such a great health care system, too. I think a more common response would be, how can any country afford such economic insanity?

As it turns out, France can't. In 2004, French Health Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy told a government commission, "Our health system has gone mad. Profound reforms are urgent." Agence France-Presse recently reported that the French health-care system is running a deficit of $2.7 billion. And in the French presidential election in May, voters in surprising numbers rejected the Socialist candidate, Ségolène Royal, who had promised actually to raise some health benefits, and elected instead the center-right politician Nicolas Sarkozy, who, according to Agence France-Presse again, "plans to move fast to overhaul the economy, with the deficit-ridden health care system a primary target." Possibly Sarkozy should first consult with Michael Moore. After all, the tax-stoked French health care system may be expensive, but at least it's "free."

I'm not sure what's more impressive:  the review itself or the fact that Kurt Loder is apparently a thoughtful guy.  What next - Kari Wuhrer writing for The Economist? Gideon Yago with a massively popular blog?  Oh wait...

Why the Transformers movie will suck

Three words:  Michael Fucking Bay

I've seen the previews and they don't look promising.  Full review after Wednesday.

They're not even trying to hide it

I posted last week about the new traffic laws in Virginia.  More details:

Virginia motorists convicted of minor traffic violations will face a new, multi-year tax beginning July 1. Led by state Delegate David B. Albo (R-Springfield), lawmakers slipped a driver responsibility tax into a larger transportation funding bill signed by Governor Tim Kaine (D) in April. Albo, a senior partner in the Albo & Oblon, LLP traffic law firm, can expect to see a significant increase in business as motorists seek to protect their wallet from traffic tickets that come with assessments of up to $3000 in addition to an annual point tax that tops out at $700 a year for as long as the points remain.

"The purpose of the civil remedial fees imposed in this section is to generate revenue," the new law states. (Virginia Code 46.2-206.1)

Driving as little as 15 MPH over the limit on an interstate highway now brings six license demerit points, a fine of up to $2500, up to one year in jail, and a new mandatory $1050 tax. The law also imposes an additional annual fee of up to $100 if a prior conviction leaves the motorist with a balance of eight demerit points, plus $75 for each additional point (up to $700 a year). The conviction in this example remains on the record for five years.Again, this is a ridiculous law that will clearly be enforced arbitrarily as nearly everyone goes over

As I stated before, this is a ridiculous penalty that will be enforced arbitrarily because everyone drives at least 15 MPH over the speed limit during rush hour on the DC Beltway and because it's not safe to go the speed limit.  Moreover, the penalty is completely out of proportion to the "crime" in question.

What got my attention though is the bolded (mine) sentence above.  They're not even trying to pretend that they're concerned with justice, safety, the American Way, etc.


<self-righteous lefty>What do you mean he looks gay???</self-righteous lefty>

The irrelevance of the Middle East.

The most expensive city in the world. I had no idea.

Hippie currency.

Ron Paul paraphernalia.

"I am in no way a violent person."

Gives new meaning to "going nuts":

Amanda Monti, 24, flew into a rage when Geoffrey Jones, 37, rejected her advances at the end of a house party, Liverpool Crown Court heard.

She pulled off his left testicle and tried to swallow it, before spitting it out. A friend handed it back to Mr Jones saying: "That's yours."

Monti admitted wounding and was jailed for two-and-a-half years.

How Republicans take more of your money

The Virginia General Assembly has passed a new "Dangerous Driver Law" which will add hefty "fees" to already existing fines for traffic violations.

It will keep the clerk's office busy collecting the first of three annual civil fee payments from drivers convicted of any number of traffic violations. The civil fees will be on top of traffic fines courts impose, and are part of the new financial package to help fund Virginia's beleaguered highway department.
For instance, an offender charged and convicted of reckless driving for going 20 mph over the speed limit would pay the traffic fines and court costs, plus be accessed a $1,000 civil fee. One-third of the civil fee would have to be paid the day of the conviction. The rest would be paid in two equal installments over the next two years. The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is responsible for collecting the final two payments.

So an extra $1,000 added extra out of the blue for going 20 mph over the speed limit, which as any Washington DC commuter can attest is something that most drivers do on the Beltway anyway.

The idea, according to published a report, is “Drive Safe and Save Money.” “We felt it would be a good thing to do for public safety and a unique way to raise more funding,” said Del. Steve Landes, (R-Weyers Cave,) who co-sponsored the legislation this past winter.

I'd like to see a published study that proves that lower speed limits actually increase safety, cause I'm skeptical.

Instead of direct taxes to fund transportation, some are calling the civil penalties “hidden fees.” They range from $250 to $3,000, depending on the traffic violation, and will be assessed on a variety of misdemeanor traffic violations including being a passenger in a hit and run or the failure to give a proper signal.
Local elected officials didn't want to go on the record commenting on this way of raising funds for transportation in the state, but privately several said it was a way of keeping the Republican-controlled General Assembly from having to implement a new tax or raise taxes for the troubled transportation system.

In the words of Barry Sobel from a memorable Dr. Katz episode, that's how they get you, that's how they get you!

Religion of Peace, Part 29384

What a sentence!

A diplomatic row over Salman Rushdie's knighthood erupted yesterday as Britain expressed "deep concern'' over claims by a Pakistani minister that the honour was an affront to Muslims that could justify suicide bombings.

In other words, the Pakistani minister is saying, "We're so offended by your honoring a man who we think insulted our religion that we might have to kill you in the process of killing ourselves."

The Pakistani minister in question is Ejaz ul-Haq.

The minister, Ejaz ul-Haq, told lawmakers on Monday that "if someone exploded a bomb on his body he would be right to do so unless the British government apologizes and withdraws the 'sir' title."

Hey Ejaz ul-Haq: fuck you!

You call that parallel parking?

How is spoofing the Sopranos supposed to help Hillary Clinton? I'd think the last thing she wants to do is create a dark sense of foreboding.

Community Page

In case you haven't taken a gander in a while, there's some good stuff on the community page, including sourcreamus's post on the complexity involved in analyzing political systems and rightsaidned's post on the effect of the Iraq outcome on the American psyche.

In other blog related news, a WYSIWYG editor should be up and available for everyone to use, though we're still getting the kinks worked out.

Comments are still screwy but at least they're not getting eaten.

Gilmore to Dubya

Republican presidential candidate Jim Gilmore writes an open letter to George W. Bush. It's probably the most reasonable thing I've read about what the US should do.

It is clear from the statements previously made by your administration that there was never any intention to become embroiled in a guerrilla war, urban or otherwise. American power is not advantaged in such a situation. Trying to fight a guerrilla war in the cities and towns of Iraq has opened opportunities for terrorist enemies such as al-Qaeda and fostered an environment for a Shiite-Sunni civil war in which we have no stake. We were led down this path in part by those who said, "If you break it, you own it." This statement asserts a responsibility to contain, control or resolve the centuries-old conflict between competing interests in the Middle East. We did not create these competing interests, and we do not own their conflict. I assert that where and what we fight for must be strictly measured by the interests of the United States.
I urge that we define our goals in terms of America's national interest, and let the people of Iraq take care of their national interests. The United States has a stake in preventing a government from emerging that is expressly hostile to us, such as in a coup inspired by al-Qaeda. The United States has a stake in not permitting the invasion and occupation of Iraq by any of its neighbors. This can be done through a military assistance program and diplomatic initiative. Beyond this, the responsibility for peace and order of the country rests with the Iraqi government, which can make a specific request to the United States for assistance like any other country of the world.

Apparently there are a lot of libertarians on the internet

There's an article in the WaPo today about Ron Paul's large presence on the internet.

On Technorati, which offers a real-time glimpse of the blogosphere, the most frequently searched term this week was "YouTube."

Then comes "Ron Paul."

The presence of the obscure Republican congressman from Texas on a list that includes terms such as "Sopranos," "Paris Hilton" and "iPhone" is a sign of the online buzz building around the long-shot Republican presidential hopeful -- even as mainstream political pundits have written him off.

Rep. Ron Paul is more popular on Facebook than Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). He's got more friends on MySpace than former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. His MeetUp groups, with 11,924 members in 279 cities, are the biggest in the Republican field. And his official YouTube videos, including clips of his three debate appearances, have been viewed nearly 1.1 million times -- more than those of any other candidate, Republican or Democrat, except Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.).

No one's more surprised at this robust Web presence than Paul himself, a self-described "old-school," "pen-and-paper guy" who's serving his 10th congressional term and was the Libertarian Party's nominee for president in 1988.

"To tell you the truth, I hadn't heard about this YouTube and all the other Internet sites until supporters started gathering in them," confessed Paul, 71, who said that he's raised about $100,000 after each of the three debates. Not bad considering that his campaign had less than $10,000 when his exploratory committee was formed in mid-February. "I tell you I've never raised money as efficiently as that, in all my years in Congress, and all I'm doing is speaking my mind."


Good Intentions? Really?

There's been an interesting discussion on other blogs about the acceptance of communist chic. Says Jim Henley:

America kicked the Nazis’ ass too, though, so what about that, huh?? you might say. Count me among those who believe that the Soviets were awful - I’m glad they’re dead - but that the Holocaust was sui generis. Uniquely awful, not in terms of body count but in terms of intention. Nazi Germany earnestly intended to pursue every last Jew on Earth and murder them. Even the Turks were content to allow any Armenians who actually made it out of Turkey to get on with their lives somewhere else.

(bold mine, italics his)

Julian Sanchez says, among other things:

I think Jim's right that the unique reaction to the Nazi case has to do with a special horror at the intentions of that regime: Soviet communism, one might say, turned out to be massively murderous, while the extermination of an entire group of people was a core goal of Nazi ideology.

I have to be honest. I'm surprised at these statements. I agree with Glen Whitman who says,

This rationalization doesn’t quite work for me. Maybe it would have worked as an excuse in 1945. But in 2007, anyone who doesn’t understand that communism is murderous and brutal is either willfully blind or woefully ignorant.

Quite a few people believe that particular communist myth: a bunch of people got together and tried to "implement a system" to better their lives, but as it turns out, the results weren't quite what they expected.

That's plain wrong. Communism was certainly supported by some based on ideals of "brotherhood" and "sharing". But a large part of it was also based on hatred. It gave people an excuse to hate people different than them. Lenin said in response to peasant farmers refusing to sell food to the state at subsistence prices,

These leeches have drunk the blood of toilers, growing richer the more the workers starved in the cities and factories. The vampires have gathered and continue to gather in their hands the lands of landlords, enslaving, time and time again, the poor peasants. Merciless war against these kulaks! Death to them!

The Nazis hated based on race; the communists hated based on class. The Nazis believed that the wealthy Jews were to blame for their ills; the communists believed that the wealthy were to blame for their ills.The Nazis tried to exterminate Jews; the communists tried to exterminate kulaks, Ukranians, and all sorts of ethnic minorities. Most historians believe Stalin was on the verge of a Jewish cleansing before his death.

The myth of "good intentions" was eloquently answered by Bryan Caplan a couple of years ago on this blog. I quote at length:

In any case, this argument is too subtle to explain why the world judges Communism less harshly than Nazism. In my judgment, the main reason for the double standard is that, even today, people believe that the Communists had better intentions than the Nazis. Perhaps the most eloquent statement of this position comes from Joseph Davies, the pro-Stalin U.S. ambassador to the U.S.S.R.:

Both Germany and Soviet Russia are totalitarian states. Both are realistic. Both are strong and ruthless in their methods. There is one distinction, however, and that is as clear as black and white. It can be simply illustrated. If Marx, Lenin, or Stalin had been firmly grounded in the Christian faith, either Catholic or Protestant, and if by reason of that fact this communistic experiment in Russia had been projected upon this basis, it would probably be declared to be one of the greatest efforts of Christian altruism in history to translate the ideals of brotherhood and charity as preached in the gospel of Christ into a government of men… That is the difference - the communistic Soviet state could function with the Christian religion in its basic purpose to serve the brotherhood of man. It would be impossible for the Nazi state to do so.(Journal entry, July 7, 1941)

But while the argument from good intentions is probably the main reason why people think that Communism was better than Nazism, the argument is at best half-baked. The Nazis dreamed of “perfect brotherhood” too - an Aryan utopia. Even in his Final Political Testament, Hitler placed “every single person under an obligation to serve the common interest and to subordinate his own advantage to this end.” And both Nazis and Communists had the same basic road map to perfect brotherhood: killing everyone unfit to be their brothers.

In short, both ideologies began with the creepy demand that human beings stop being the diverse, self-interested animals that we are, and eagerly jumped to the conclusion that a bloodbath was in order. How could their intentions be any more comparable - or any worse?

Perhaps the parallel is hard to see precisely because, even in the West, anti-capitalist propaganda has successfully dehumanized the bourgeoisie, landlords, money-lenders, and “the rich.” So when we hear Communists chant “Death to the bourgeoisie,” we don’t feel the same way we do when we hear Nazis chant “Death to the Jews.”

What is worth remembering every May Day, then, is that the people murdered by the Communists were, by and large, as blameless as the farmer who grows your food, the banker who lends you money, or the landlord who rents your apartment. Like the Jews of Europe, they were scapegoats - and anyone who genuinely had good intentions could have seen it at the time.

Human nature, being what it is, makes it difficult for most people to willfully kill another human being. When mass murder on the scale of what happened in the Soviet Union occurs, the basic traits of empathy and compassion have to be overcome. The dehumanization of certain groups of people that communist philosophy inspired was vital for this to happen. It's naive to believe that communism was merely a failed attempt to implement a different way of doing things or that its intentions were good.

Dennis Miller on Harry Reid

I make... kids miserable!

Taylor Mali, slam poet/teacher, talks about how great he is:

To me, very little of what he claims to do is something I'd want my kids to go through. He's proud of being a tyrannical authority figure.