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Vanguard Fed Up with Fashion Stealing Proles

I'm not going to pretend like I know a whole ton about fashion, but since this is the DR's culture blog, away we go...

There is now a slow clothes movement. The liberal elite have had it with stores like H&M and Forever21 that take the trends of high end fashion, remove the designer label mark-up, farm out the manufacturing to third world countries, use cheaper materials, and allow all the hoi polli in Flyover to resemble their cultural betters, at least in garb.

I'll pull from a conservative rag, the Daily Mail, who's style expert Liz Jones spits out the following:

Cheap fashion, like cheap, factory-farmed salmon and chicken, has stripped away any notion we had of something being luxurious or in any way special (£8 cashmere sweater, anyone?). It has devalued all our lives, making us ever more dissatisfied, always wanting more.

I am going to go out on a very long and thin limb and guess that the "fashion expert" at the Daily Mail doesn't have a problem getting hold of high end fashion and cashmere sweaters. I'll also go out on a limb and say the folks that can now afford cashmere for the first time don't feel like their lives have been devalued. Jones goes on:

The problem, and it's a big one, is that women (it is particularly women who have fed this trend for ever-cheaper clothes) now think very low-cost but fashionable designs are their 'right' because they are 'worth it'.

That's completely different form the right Jones seems to think she has to keep "fashionable designs" the exclusive property of the upper class. When Jones says special, she means exclusive. In the past, once the hoi polloi got wise and started dressing like their cultural betters, it was time for a new seasonal collection. And time to keep stacking seasonal collection upon seasonal collection in an arms race of snobbery.

Are these folks really going to try to blame the grubby masses for the speed at which trends in high fashion change? The whole point is to keep everything moving fast enough and prohibitively priced so that members of the vanguard don't end up looking like proles. There used to be clear divides in the fashion world. High fashion took time to filter down to the masses. How long it took your clothes to ping back to the source told the fashionistas what your caste was. Make no mistake about the slow clothes movement, the crux of it is that these folks are now royally pissed off that the H&M's and Forever21's of the world are fucking up their radar. What's the point of being upper class sans status signaling?

The upper class left has always despised the sensibilities of the middle class and working class. That the market is now making their fashion one in the same is truly horrifying in their eyes. That the slow clothes movement is yet another chance to dredge up the same old condescension under the guise of environmentalism is perhaps the most predictable element of the movement. Al Gore doesn't want to give up air travel, he wants you to. On a smaller scale, we have Liz Jones and her cashmere sweaters.


Thankfully They Only Come Once Every Four Years

Nothing in the sporting world annoys me more than the coverage devoted to the Olympics.

For starters, a huge portion of the events are rudimentary contests (fastest, farthest, highest, heaviest) where there are no alternative routes to athletic success (the kind of strategizing and randomness that make watching sports interesting). Is it neat to know who the fastest human is? Sure, but a single sentence in the next morning’s newspaper is all it will take to quell that interest. I’m well aware of the years of training Olympic athletes go through in order to push the boundaries of what the human body is capable of, but one-dimensional tests are just plain dull. What should any given silver medalist have done differently? Not have slipped, or gone faster? Wow, we’ll all be talking about that race, lift, jump for years to come (or until that record is broken again in four years).

Same thing with all this Michael Phelps nonsense. Most gold medals in history? Big deal. He’s the biggest fish in a very small pond. The world’s best athletes don’t flock to swimming. I’m well aware that no baseball or soccer player can beat Phelps in a pool, but the inverse applies as well. Can we please get on to the next 47-month stretch when no one cares about competitions like who can swim the fastest?

Fat Camp

“Women” gymnasts are on par with pageant children.

Human interest stories make me nauseous. All the producers and anchors that work on these broadcasts, with their truly inspiring stories with montages and soap opera scores that seem to dominate half the coverage should be pulled out of their studios by the hair, thrown into the street, and beaten to death with gardenhoses filled with leadshot. If you think I’m being harsh, please watch five minutes of Tiki Barber and Jenna Wolfe on MSNBC’s Olympic Update and keep your ears open for the mention of the nation of Hungaria, USA basketball coach Mike Rezevski and hundreds of Chinese volunteers cleaning up algae with their hands.

Thankfully, both Major League Baseball and the Fédération Internationale de Football Association have more or less told the Olympics to go fuck off. FIFA only allows nations three players over the age of 23 to compete for any country in soccer, and even that proves disruptive for important league and cup matches at the club level. Fortunately many professionals opt out, and the World Cup remains the premier international soccer tournament, and with good reason.

Baseball is being bounced from the Olympics after the current games because their player’s union refuses to submit to Olympic standards of drug testing and because MLB itself refuses to allow Major Leaguers to be released from their professional clubs to play in the games (only minor leaguers may participate). Baseball has a well publicized drug problem, but receives way more scorn than other similarly tainted sports like American football and still more than completely compromised sports like cycling. And the Olympic drug testing regimen goes beyond urine samples. Athletes are required to regularly provide blood samples to test for HGH, and there are reports that the tests aren’t even effective. I’m quite surprised NBA players have put up with the whole mess in order to play for their countries in basketball. Furthermore, can you imagine MLB taking time out of an already packed 162-game schedule and interrupting the pennant races of late summer that define the sport on behalf of a bunch of international bureaucrats? Incomprehensible.

While I’m glad baseball is ridding itself of the mess, Fidel Castro raised a stink about baseball being dropped because it was the one source of athletic pride his unnecessarily impoverished nation could cling to. With the best players from around the world busy playing in MLB and Japan’s top professional league, those Cubans who hadn’t yet managed to defect could still get their chance by playing for the Cuban national team and, in the past, beating up on college students and later minor leaguers. Let’s see how many WBC titles the island nation wins in the coming years when it has to go up against the big boys from Japan and America.

All this means a greater importance will be placed on the World Baseball Classic. The first tournament was played in 2006, will be held again every four years starting in 2009, and is baseball’s equivalent of soccer’s World Cup. Since the 2006 WBC produced more drama on the diamond than any Olympic Games in memory, having the WBC as the sole focal point for international competition will only be a boon to the sport. (Perhaps the most compelling storyline involved the upstart South Koreans going undefeated through the first two rounds of pool play, twice beating favorites Japan who admitted shame upon the first defeat and vowed not to lose again, but did. Unfortunately, the two nations met up in the single game semifinals and Japan prevailed, going on to win the first ever WBC crown.) Also, avoidance of this monstrosity can only be a plus.

Sure, Olympic tennis is pretty much the same as a regular tournament, so it is on par, and Olympic basketball is the focalpoint of international play because basketball hasn’t yet gotten its act together as a sport and come up with their own international tournament, but the rest is rubbish.

Most annoying to me are the kings and queens of the smaller team sports. Listening to former players in the booth no one was ever familiar with blather on like John Madden does about Brett Favre for the likes of Super Dan the Chinese badminton ace or the Netherlands’ field hockey star whom I’m having trouble googling quickly is enough to provoke random violence. Being the bad boy of badminton is like being the prettiest girl at fat camp, or Michael Phelps.

Thomas Boswell started of his legendary 1987 list of 99 reasons baseball is better than football with the following:

1. Halftime.
2. Halftime with bands.
3. Cheerleads at halftime with bands.
4. Up With People singing "The Impossible Dream" during a Blue Angels flyover at half time with bands.

That pretty much describes my reasons for loathing the weird spectacle that is the opening ceremonies. Combine the worst aspects of high and low culture, say the NEA and American Idol, and this is the shit that would result. Later, seeing a Chinese dance troupe take the platform immediately after the final lift in the clean and jerk event blew this whole kind of thing into its own orbit of bizzare and pointless. I'm sure all seven of the Russian weightlifting fans in attendance were captivated.

Then there are the governments that prostitute themselves for the “privilege” of hosting these trainwrecks, with the dubious claims of tourism income and raising their world profile. Let’s banish these games back to Athens on a permanent basis. This crap shouldn’t be any bigger on a global scale than the College World Series, which remains confined to Omaha, Nebraska. Maybe, just maybe, the Olympics are interesting from a Steve Sailer eugenics point of view, but that doesn’t warrant a full month of coverage with a signal-to-noise ratio lower than a presidential election.


Fair or Foul?

Nate Silver, the baseball statistician behind the PECOTA projection system, is now trying his hand at projecting electoral votes instead of on-base percentages. PECOTA is a very fun and informative tool, so I'm hoping his new site FiveThirtyEight is as interesting as electoral politics can get. I still prefer real hardball to the figurative.


One Upping

I'll try to top David Masten's post. The Senate majority leader in my home state of Minnesota, Larry Pogemiller (DFL), recently had this to say:

I think it is simplistic and naive to say that people can spend their money better than government... The notion that everybody can individually spend their money better than government, I just think is trite wrong-headed and anti-democratic.

Video here.


Did Anyone Else Catch This?

I was watching one of the CSPAN channels last week when a member of the ACLU said, straight faced (and there were no chuckles from the audience nor did he crack a smile or give much of a pause), that more rich white people should be falsely indicted (a la the Duke case) to help expose prosecutorial misconduct. I was pretty stunned, but everyone on stage with the guy didn't seem phased at all.

Getting crapped on by the government sucks for all involved. If prosecutorial misconduct is given greater scruitiny as a result of the Duke case, I'm very glad such a silver lining exists, but yikes, man. I don't even wish that kind of stuff on Scott Scheule.

I tried googling to find out the name of the ACLU employee, but there is so much with Duke case and ALCU I didn't get far.


Good, Evil and the Lulz

Tyler thinks Roissy is evil, but Scott wins the game (from the comments under Tyler's post):

Come on, people. A big chunk of this blog's readership is already profoundly evil. I certainly am.
-Scott Scheule

If I were God for a day, the first thing I'd do is set the homepage of everyone Tyler's age who likes Lolcats and ICanHasCheezburger to /b/. (Back to the source with ye!)

One of my favorite posts by Roissy:

But before I could stop putting women on a pedestal I had to first kick them off. So I had an asshole phase. I think every man who was not born with his dick in a girl’s mouth needs to go through an asshole phase in order to seduce women in a healthy way. It’s important to experience for oneself what the power of assholery can do to a girl’s attraction buttons — press them like an epileptic on coke and E playing whack-a-mole.

It’s also important to stay in touch with your asshole side in case you ever find yourself slipping into bad beta habits. This way you can play the asshole card when the moment calls for it. Believe me, it’s much more efficient than groveling your way back into her good graces with expensive dinners, flattery, and engagement rings.

Have you ever said “Fuck you” in anger to a girl you were seeing? Have you ever told a girl “Enough of your shit”? Have you ever let a girl argue for 20 minutes then look her in the eye and say “You done?” and walk off? If you haven’t done any of these things you don’t know just how much is possible in your dealings with women.

It’s easy to dismantle the pedestal when you read this:

Scott Peterson, the man who was convicted of murdering his wife and unborn child, had been on Death Row barely an hour when the first proposal arrived from a woman who wants to be the new Mrs. Scott Peterson.

Three dozen phone calls came in to the warden’s office on Peterson’s first day at his new home in San Quentin State Prison — women were pleading for his mailing address, and one smitten 18-year-old said she wanted to marry him.

18 years old. Scott Peterson was twice her age. So much for the theory that chicks get creeped out by older (murderers) men. Heh.

So think about that the next time you find yourself romanticizing the woman of your dreams. There are women who would take their chances with a sociopathic death row inmate over law-abiding nonmurderous free men they know.

I say nuts to Frank Sinatra and the lessons learned by Red Fox. You can work the big rooms with blue material, at least on the net. I feel like I need to drink in all the off-color laughs I can before I can't anymore. But am I being paranoid?

What do French author Michael Houellebecq, a fifteen year-old British teenager, and Canadian columnist Mark Steyn have in common? They have all been, in the eyes of different Western governments, criminally offensive. Nevermind being offended is a choice and no matter what you do someone, somewhere will always find it offensive, or at the very least claim to be offended if they disagree with you (and I can't imagine this getting better if it becomes apparent that doing so will effectively censor your opponents).

There have certainly been calls for censorship in our recent past. But, it seems like there has been a change. I don't see the far-out ACLU defending "hate speech." It is now the left, and not the right, that is trying to do the censoring. The thin skinned have moved beyond going after rap music and porno mags on behalf of "THE CHILDREN!!!" and are now trying to enforce, with the guns of the state, the "right" for all to never be upset by something they read, see or hear, ever.

I think we are in for rougher seas. And I'm going to get all the lulz in that I can before the party van arrives.


Definition of Sabotage

The Cato blog linked here and the following caught my eye:

The Cato Institute will present this student, Yon Goicoechea, with the "2008 Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty" at a dinner costing $500 per person.
The student movement against the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela has been receiving money from different agencies of the United States, such as the National Endowment for Democracy, USAID, and other U.S. and international agencies.

Yon Goicoechea has made it clear that the $500,000 from the Cato Institute will be used for further attempts to sabotage the Bolivarian Revolution.

Emphasis mine. My guess (and it is just a guess, I know nothing about Goicoechea)is that sabotage in this context means to hold a contrary opinion and speak out on it.

Note to the New York City Independent Media Center: The Venezuelan government's price controls will take care of the sabotage of the Bolivarian Revolution. If that is the goal of Goicoechea and Cato, either would be better off keeping the cash.


The Chicken or the Egg

Baseball Prospectus:

Vernon Wells (45 DXL)
The Jays keep taking hits in what was seen as a make-or-break season for this version of J.P. Ricciardi's plan. Instead, they're six games back and in last place, so losing Vernon Wells until the All-Star break isn't going to help them make up ground on the Yankees in the battle for fourth. Wells fractured a bone in his wrist, believed to be the scaphoid fx (not a hamate), on a diving catch. Wrist injuries tend to sap power and bat control, two things that Wells can't afford to lose. The Jays will shift Alex Rios over to center field in the interim, using newly-acquired Kevin Mench and Brad Wilkerson in right field. Wells' return should come without significant difficulty; with new technology, seeing him at the end of June isn't out of the question.

Yahoo! Sports:

May 10: Wells will miss 6-8 weeks after breaking a bone in his left wrist on Friday, the Toronto Star reports.

Recommendation: Alex Rios will likely slide over to center field, while the newly-acquired Kevin Mench and Brad Wilkerson should see more playing time in right. Joe Inglett was recalled from Triple-A Syracuse to replace Wells on the roster.

Emphasis mine. I remembered the Yahoo! version while I was reading Baseball Prospectus tonight because I thought it was poorly phrased. If you're not an obsessed baseball fan like I am, you wouldn't know if just Mench or Mench and Wilkerson was/were newly-acquired. Could be coincidence, but the same confusing, hyphenated use of newly-aquired drums up suspicion.


What would be the ideal price?

Everywhere I turn on the net—blogs, message boards, etc—sports fans are decrying increases in ticket prices and slamming franchises and leagues and owners because "real fans" can no longer afford to attend sporting events in person. Meanwhile, our population has grown, modern transportation continues to make it possible for fans to travel greater distances to attend events, and television, radio and their internet counterparts have provided sports fans with new methods of following their favorite sports from around the globe (depending on your level of interest in sports and your views on intellectual property, myp2p may be your favorite site on the internet). So while the number of sports teams and leagues have grown, that pace has nowhere near matched the increase in demand for tickets generated by the aforementioned factors.

I have no doubt that many passionate and dedicated fans are being priced out of attending as many games as they would like to, but one question that I never see asked is how their lot would be different if tickets were price controlled (and for the record we're now operating under the assumption that only lower-to-middle class fans can be "real fans").

Starting with an extreme example, if tickets were free, they would have to be rationed by some means other than price. Perhaps everyone that wanted to attend sporting events for a particular team or league would put their name on a waiting list and once they received their ration of tickets they would move to the bottom of the queue. But here, "real fans" probably wouldn't get to attend as many games as they would if there were a charge for tickets, because casual fans, having to invest nothing more than their time, would consume more tickets. Invariably, a black market of ticket scalping would emerge and the "real fans" would go right back to paying for tickets, since "real fans" would undoubtedly value the tickets more than other people.

There seems to be a pervasive assumption that there would be no increased competition for cheaper tickets. I'm preaching to the choir here, but I challenge anyone who self-identifies as a "real fan" to name me the price at which they, personally, could afford to attend more matches and would also be able to secure tickets against the increased demand that would come hand in hand with those lower prices. It is no doubt out there, but it is going to be hard for the average fan to identify and will vary from fan to fan depending on their disposable income, travel costs, and a variety of other factors.

Going further, let's speculate about a situation similar to rent control in New York City. What about cheap season tickets that could be renewed, indefinitely, at their original purchase price, even if adjusted for inflation. The decriers seem to be operating under some sports variant of Kip's Law, in that they assume they'd be the lucky few with season tickets priced way below demand that would rarely, if ever, be relinquished. Heaven help you if you fall in love with a franchise after all the renewable season tickets have been rationed by a means other than market price.

A good portion of this backlash is directed at the number of seats sold to companies, instead of directly to individuals. Soccer fans often raise this complaint with regards to the difference in crowds between professional club and national team competitions. The spectacle of the World Cup draws in a greater number of casual fans, aided by the number of tickets given out by large companies, which leads to a less boisterous crowd. What I find humorous is, if operating under the viewpoint of "real fans", the act of tickets being given out by corporations to casual fans actually demonstrates the problem caused by removing market forces from the pricing of tickets—with less of a sacrifice required to win tickets in competition with other fans, be they casual or "real", the casual fans end up with a greater share of the available tickets. And none of this touches on if self-identified "real fans" have more of a right to tickets than the casual fan.

I remember the Society of American Baseball Research conference I attended in the summer of 2005. One panel included members of the Toronto Blue Jays front office and they were kind enough to field questions from obsessed baseball fans on why they are bastardizing the game (namely the J-Force dance troop that performs on top of dugouts in between innings, something that could get those well meaning dancers shot at Fenway, Busch, or Yankee Stadium). One Jays official said that, unfortunately for "real fans", the focus is at the margins. The hardcore baseball fans show up for Blue Jays games because the team plays in the best league on Earth and the quality of play is the highest around. The Jays official said this group of "real fans" probably account for around 15,000 seats a game. The remaining seats get filled by bandwagon jumpers when the team is doing well and casual fans drawn in by promotions and other entertainment like the abomination against God that is the J-Force.

All of this could be chalked up to the evil influence of money in sports, but like anything in life there are tradeoffs. Without money, teams and leagues wouldn't attract the caliber of athletes they do. They'd leave for other teams, leagues or sports, and eventually sports altogether. That horrible corrupting money is the reason we now enjoy levels of competition unrivaled in history.

I recently watched a DVD of the original BBC broadcast of the 1961 FA Cup game won by Tottenham Hotspur, a team that won "the Double" that season (where a club soccer team wins both its league title and highest tournament cup). Compare that to the DVDs I own of today's Tottenham Hotspur beating Arsenal 5-1 in the decisive leg of the Carling Cup semifinal, and their following 2-1 victory over Chelsea in the final at Wembley. Tottenham are a mid-table Premier League side this season, and today's Carling Cup is considered the lowest of five potential trophies available to Premiere League clubs. Nonetheless, the 2008 Spurs would completely and utterly obliterate their 1961 counterparts, who were the finest club England had to offer in that day. This massive improvement in play is a result of all the money that has followed all the interest the sport has attracted. The difference in the speed of play between the two championship matches I own on DVD, separated by less than 50 years, is staggering.

As often happens with naive populist grumbling, the faults of the market are derided while at the same time the benefits are taken completely for granted. The fact that, despite all this complaining, the Premiership (as an example) is growing in popularity the world over speaks to the fact that the quality of competition is the absolute bottom line when it comes to our enjoyment of sports. Far and wide, there will be cries of outrage as the top leagues pull top players out of their native countries as these players go in search of more money and greater competition, but I for one welcome it. With modern media, attending a match live, while often an amazing experience, isn't the primary method of following sports. Sites like myp2p are the future. The real problem going forward will be time zone differences. How can we make it so fans from the Americas, Europe, Asia, Africa and all parts in between can watch the same games live? In any case, I do not count myself among the ranks of the doomsayers. I think the future looks bright.


Gillespie & Welch: Right for the Most Part

Gillespie and Welch rightly take Congress to task for their hysterics over Major League Baseball's steroid use here. A couple things stood out as misleading, though (emphasis mine):

The uncomfortable truth is that illegally obtained muscle-rebuilding treatments exist on a continuum that includes laser eye surgery, Vitamin B-12 shots and Tommy John surgery (a procedure that grafts ligaments from knees or elsewhere onto a wrecked elbow, frequently giving pitchers more velocity than they had before). Sorting out the morality and legality of self-improvement has more to do with aesthetic revulsion and moral panic than with considered science or logic.

This makes it sound as if Tommy John surgery, named for the pitcher that first underwent the procedure invented by Dr. James Andrews, increases a pitcher's velocity? Kind of, in the sense that someone with a torn ligament in their elbow can't throw very hard at all. But pitchers don't throw harder than they did prior to injuring their elbow, rehab time after the surgery is 12 to 18 months, and players usually don't regain their pre-injury velocity until their second year of pitching after the injury, if ever. Dr. Andrews should be inducted into baseball's Hall of Fame, or at least given some award by Cooperstown and a plaque in some part of the museum, because the procedure has saved numerous careers and is responsible for tens-of-thousands of innings at the major league level. It has changed baseball, but Gillespie and Welch almost make it sound as if pitchers are moving ligaments around to give some more jump to their fastballs.

Another paragraph that caught my eye (emphasis mine):

But Congress no more established a Major League Baseball commissioner than the Blackhawks, a professional hockey team founded in 1926, ever held a seventh-inning stretch. In fact, when baseball owners appointed the racist judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis the league's first commissioner after the Chicago Black Sox game-throwing scandal, Congress tried to forcibly remove him from the federal bench. When Shays's wild pitches were pointed out to him, his response was to shrug like Hall of Fame pitcher and self-admitted cheater Gaylord Perry caught with Vaseline on the mound: "I could care less."

Norman Macht, a baseball historian held in high regard by many (his new biography on Connie Mack is 700 pages long and 20-some years in the making), had a presentation at last year's SABR Convention that convincingly aruged that baseball's color barrier was a product of the owners and not the commissioner (Landis). That Landis, while not taking any active steps to do away with the color barrier, wasn't opposed to integration. He knew that none of the current crop of owners would have it, and if none of the teams were willing to integrate, a decree from the office of the commissioner wouldn't have righted the wrong. It can be argued that such a stance is still racist and that by taking such a stance Landis is a racist himself, but it isn't as clear-cut as Gillespie and Welch make it seem.

Everything Gillespie and Welch say about congress is spot on. They just make a few errors on the ballfield. Particularly interesting is the way the anti-trust exemption Major League Baseball received has actually fowled things up. The exemption was incorrectly granted on the grounds that baseball doesn't transact business across state lines. It obviously does, especially now with online merchandise shops, national network broadcast contracts, satellite radio, cable and internet broadcast packages, etc. The problem with the anti-trust case against baseball is that the individual teams aren't seperate firms colluding, but a joint venture. The teams together sell the product of on-field competition. Two competing Subway franchises would like nothing more than to drive each other out of business and being the last franchise standing, reap all the sandwich sales, but this does not apply to baseball franchises just because they compete on the field. The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox don't want to drive each other out of business, as their rivalry is worth millions of dollars. They just want to win on the field, which esentially means they're both working together to give their customers the best possible product.

David Boaz' take at Cato here.


The Market Prevails Again!


The Scientists

Micha wrote the following about Samuel Konkin:

Darrington tells me [Konkin] had the charming weirdness of the modal libertarian, Rothbard's intended but misfired slur (embrace it, yo! modal+beltway unite!), up to and including endearing obsessions with science fiction, communal living, and funny neck jewelry.

Jumping into the New Libertarian Manefesto, Konkin himself writes:

Seeking an art form to express the horror potential of the State and extrapolate the many possibilities of liberty, Libertarianism found Science Fiction already in the field. (Page 7)

And:

The rest of this Libertarian society can be best pictured by imaginative science fiction authors with a good grounding in praxeology (Mises' term for the study of human action, especially, but not only, economics.)

Some hallmarks of this society - libertarian in theory and free-market in practice, called agorist, from the Greek agora, meaning "open marketplace" - are rapid innovations in science, technology, communication, transportation, production and distribution. (Page 14)

Which comes first, the free-market society or the rapid innovations in science and technology? Does the libertarian interest in science fiction reflect the former? Or, is it just more exciting to have the later quickly spawn the former within the timeline of a work of fiction (Mike the self-aware computer system in Heinlein's The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress), where technological progress leaves a coercive, regulatory system in its dust and remakes society despite its tantrums (like the RIAA feebly throwing sandbags at the tidal wave that is file sharing).

It comes as a mild surprise to me that, with this libertarian affinity (Konkin) or escapist distraction (Rothbard), however you want to look at it, there isn't more of a libertarian interest in the '90s Champaign-Urbana space rock band Hum. The band's lyrics are far too oblique to carry any discernable political message, but often reflect the beauty inherent in the kind of freedom that space travel (and other technological leaps) may provide.

The first verse and chorus from 'The Scientists' off Hum's incomparable Downward Is Heavenward:

Electrified and lit up by an outline of herself,
and smiling now as only she can be.
She said, "I made some new connections to astound them all,
in ways we've never dreamed about."
Her lovely hand is glowing from a light inside itself,
from soaking in the esters stacked for miles on a single shelf.
Holding my eyes still so she can see,
all the super-undercover custom hybrids got to me.

It's too much, you're too late. I want to see it all again.
She says, "Keep this benzene ring around your finger,
and think of me when everything you wanted starts to end."

All the techno-geek libertarian stereotypes are there. There's the dominant female romantic interest that serves as savior for the dateless Ghertner crowd who would otherwise have to fight stacked odds for female attention in the male-dominated libertarian sphere (or engineering department). There's new technological progress. There's even an ubergeeky tip of the hat to Friedrich August Kekulé von Stradonitz. And not that this song gives any indication, but the band found their drummer after hearing him play along to a few Rush tunes in a rehearsal space.

If Hum is where left-libertarianism leads you (star gazing lyrics over the drone of layered and effected guitar tracks), maybe it is worth checking out. If you aren't familiar with Hum, is it then safe to write you off as one of my cranky paleocon brethren? If you fall into the latter category, don't worry. They still host piano recitals with music from the Habsburg Empire at the Mises Institute.


Give It a Name

Jesse Walker has a review of Steve Earle's newest album Washington Square Serenade up at Reason Online that's worth a read. Walker brands Earle's new songs as folkery-fakery, a term which, best I could find, can be attributed to Dwight Macdonald who used it to define Pete Seeger in his essay Country Joe McDonald is a Better Kettle of Fish (available in this collection). I wasn't born until the 1980s and have always had a strong gag reflex to folk music due to the practice of well-off leftists faking populism by purposely slumming it, so maybe the term was once used by in-fighting members of the scene? I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall during a folkie agruement in the Sixties about whether the bourgeois electric guitar was kosher or not. Never letting the American middle class have their due, the new bohemians (not, to my knowledge, of the Edie Brickell variety) now claim the garage band was a European invention, as if it wasn't the growing middle class in America buying both electric guitars and garages in the Fifties (or that the Pacific-Northwest garage scene, rockabilly and surf rock didn't predate the British Invasion). Back to the point, whatever the origin of folkery-fakery, I find it a very fitting and useful term.


Thomas Sowell Is No Capitalist

Thomas Sowell has penned a column on the need for professional athletes to model their behavior aound the fear children will take up fraud, dog fighting and the abuse of steroids, and in the latter case it's strange to see someone writing for Capitalism Magazine cast aside the principle of self-ownership (this is my first encounter with the online rag, so maybe the shock will quickly fade).

Sowell joins a long line of folks who overstate the potential harm to children caused by steroid use by professional athletes and couples it with with a complete lack of understanding that it is currently impossible to completely remove performance enhancing drugs from baseball. Let's start with the latter.

There is a huge difference in the minimum salaries paid to players in Triple-A (the highest of six levels of organized minor league baseball) and the Major Leagues. Triple-A players make a minimum of $25,800 and Major Leaguers a minimum of $380,000. If you're a fringe Major Leaguer making the equivalent of $12.40 an hour in Triple-A, there's a $354,200 annual reward to the risks that accompany steroid use. Maybe you get caught, face legal charges, hurt your reputation and get suspended from baseball (currently the first offense is a 50-game suspension), but maybe without steroids you never make it to the big leagues anyway. And from a health standpoint, shouldn't it be up to the individual what risks they'll take for hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars?

Among established Major Leaguers, one group of players that has shown up in investigations and testing are players that suffered serious injuries. Major League contracts are guaranteed, but injured athletes still have strong incentives to recouperate as quickly as possible. And healthy Major Leaguers' careers can also benefit from steroid use, especially as players reach their mid-to-late thirties and forties. It seems highly unlikely that even impassioned pleas to "think about the children" are going to curb demand.

On the supply side of things, the scientists devising the testing are always reacting to the scientists developing the masking (you probably can't develop a test for a substance that doesn't exist just yet), so baseball will always be playing catch-up. There isn't even a test for Human Growth Hormone (HGH) yet. All of the players that baseball has caught through testing were either minor leaguers too poor to buy the newest performance enhancers or Major Leaguers too stupid to stop using the old stuff. The only players accused of HGH use have been mentioned in testimony or paper trails.

I fully support whatever penalties baseball wishes to impose upon steroid users. The sports sells the product of competition and if steroid use, made public, undermines that product in the eyes of the public and lowers the demand for it, baseball would be foolish not to take steps to prevent the practice.

What I don't support is Sowell's assertion that the children of America are going to start taking steroids in large numbers because some professional athletes have, or that what an athlete chooses to put into his own body is anyone else's business, particularly if the foundation of their criticism rests on a bed of failed parenting and a lack of property rights.

Sowell also recommends the implementation of asterisks, as if baseball went through no significant peroids of change (desegregation, night games, the screwball and the split-finger fastball*) prior to the recent surge in steroid use. Hell, there was a significant spike in homerun rates when MLB moved the manufacturing facilities for their baseballs from Hati to the Dominican Republic in 1987. The better machinery wound the balls much tighter and had to be corrected for 1988. Should anyone that hit a homerun in 1987 have an asterisk next to their name in the Baseball Encyclopedia?

*Check out Mike Scott's 1986 season, the year he was taught to throw the splitter by pitching coach Roger Craig. The splitter's emergence dates only as far back as the mid-seventies, with Hall of Fame closer Bruce Sutter being indentified as one of the first pitchers to feature the pitch.


What I've Learned

In response to Jonathan's Edge 2008 post: 

After reading Taleb and observing Hanley Ramirez, I'm giving an equal amount of weight to subjective player analysis (scouting) so it's on par with objective performance analysis (sabermetrics) while at the same time reducing my opinion of both.

Ramirez compiled a very poor statistical record throughout his minor league career and when he was the main component of a package that the Marlins got in return for dealing Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell and Guillermo Mota to the Red Sox, I thought the Marlins got robbed. There was a small consensus of scouts that said Ramirez was bored in the minor leagues and would put his career into gear once he reached the majors. Ramirez went from a .720 OPS in his final year of Double-A, to skipping Triple-A, to posting a .889 OPS over the past two seasons in the Majors while playing his home games in a pitcher's park. He'll probably have to move from shortstop to a less challenging postion defensively sooner rather than later, but he's got the bat to weather such a change.