Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Hindsight is 20/20

Did we overreact to 9/11?

A very interesting article and a super legitimate concern. I think the thing that is still so shocking to Americans is how unexpected, off-guard, and symbolically spectacular it was. Today, another big terrorist attack that killed even more people would pale in comparison to the emotion 9/11 invoked.

9/11 awakened America to the threat of Islamic Fascism. No big deal, it's just that prior to 9/11 we didn't widely recognize the extreme level of hatred they possessed towards us. We're dealing with it and it's a testament to our strength that we can try and fail at different attempts - ie policing, military, economic, and diplomatic, until we figure out how to stomp it out before we allow them to grow and escalate into an existential threat.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

More 30 Rock

Somone else recognizes the brilliance of 30 Rock.

This article pointing out a split command structure seems like a legitimate potential problem with the surge. Big suprise, it's not coming from the anti-war folks.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Two Words: The Janissary

That's the new title of my big budget movie.
Face Recognition

I don't know about this face recognition stuff...mine, in order of likeness:

Adrian Brody
Emperor Hirohito
Luke Wilson
Hugh Grant
Jessica Biel
Vladmir Putin
Iris Chang
Peter O'Toole
Prince William of Wales
Tzipi Livni
Talking Ourselves Into Defeat

Great title. Great article.

We can only beat ourselves...
All Babies Are Cute

Friday, January 26, 2007

Horrific - Yeah Right

It's basically an episode of Cops...
Now This Pisses Me Off

Donald Sensing is reading the same article as me about the troop surge. He reports that we are undergoing a military strategy shift from training the Iraqi Army to killing the insurgents. What?!?!

I was under the impression the top priority was stopping, ie killing, insurgents. If this is the case, I have a serious beef with how the war was being run for the past 3 years. You've got to be kidding me...

Update: I second this criticism of Bush.

Thursday, January 25, 2007


I don't know if this is really happening or not, it feels very hard to tell.

I always overestimated the influence of Al Queda on the insurgency. Perhaps it was due to the media coverage devoted to Zarqawi. But it also had to something to do with imagining myselves in their shoes - for instance - would a Baathist really want to fight to the death against the occupation? Why? They have an option for living in a divided Federal Iraq or trying to continue to fight to restore the Baath Party. It seems irrational to try to restore the Baath Party because of the very small likihood that it could happen and no evidence suggesting progress towards that goal.

I can understand Sunnis going over to the insurgency because they fear a Shiia dominated Iraq comprised of death squads, etc. But the death squads were a reaction to the insurgency. So again, the whole Sunni insurgency trying to restore Saddam or the Baath always seemed like a rather stupid overall strategy and one without much hope for success.

On the other hand, Al Queda has potential to achieve what it wants in Iraq...actually what it wanted in Afghanistan...and that is an American occupation that will slowly and surely cost a lot of American lives and resources, eventually leading to the complete withdrawal of the US from the region. After which, they plan to take over Muslim countries one by one.

It is for that reason, I always thought Al Queda was the heart of the insurgency. However, over time, it seemed like most of the insurgents were Sunni Iraqis and less foreign fighters. I never quite understood this. I also don't understand why Iran is supposedly supporting the Insurgency. Are we calling the Shiia death squads part of the insurgency? It's all a bit confusing.

But anyhow, the development of the situation described in this article makes logical sense to me - from all sides. If it is true, I think it bodes well for us. The whole idea behind Iraq and the post-9/11 strategies is to that we need to turn the Muslim world against Al Queda, rather than against us and Israel.

If the options in Iraq are between Al Queda inspired insurgents and a Federalized Iraq with the backing on US troops, guess who most people will be with. It is then, we'll be able to turn the tide...I think.

30 Rock showed a rerun tonight of the episode when Liz thinks Tracy is illiterate and Jack can't act. One of the better episodes.

Baldwin's performance in the episode is pretty incredible. First off, the depiction of "bad acting" and having trouble acting is great and I would imagine, not easy to do. His walking alone, but also the moment of snickering pride at the audience reaction. Awesome. Second, the one line zingers he pulls off when Liz tries to one-up him throughout the episode are amazing little moments when he reestablishes power over Liz after feeling weak. Three examples:

"Don't gloat, it makes you seem mannish."

"If you were any other woman in the world, I'd be sexually aroused right now."

"Don't be cute, you're too old."

"Nuff said.
A Man Come Round

Sounds like a good book.

Cohen has no problem with those who are upset about state-sponsored exaggerations of the causes of war, or furious about the bungled occupation of Iraq that has ensued. People who think this is the problem are not his problem. Here’s his problem: the people who would die before they would applaud the squaddies and grunts who removed hideous regimes from Afghanistan and Iraq, yet who happily describe Islamist video-butchers and suicide-murderers as a “resistance”. Those who do this are not “anti-war” at all, but are shadily taking the other side in a conflict where the moral and civilisational stakes are extremely high.

There are two possible sorts of “left” reaction to a dilemma like this. One is to seek out the democratic and secular forces in the Muslim world — the Kurdish revolutionaries in Iraq, say, or the Afghan women’s movement — and to offer them your solidarity whether Bush or Blair will do so or not. (Some things, as Orwell wrote, are true even if The Daily Telegraph says they are true.) The other is to say that globalisation is the main enemy, and that, therefore, any enemy of that enemy is a friend. In this twisted mental universe, even a medievalist jihad is better than no struggle at all. Cohen has decided to adopt the first position, and to anatomise and ridicule the second one. The result is an exemplary piece of political satire, in which the generally amusing and ironic tone should not lull you into ignoring the deadly seriousness of the argument.
A Little Thing Called Truth

I like how Sullivan unpacks different conceptions of Truth in this article.

Scientific Truth....Historical Truth...Religious Truth...Artistic Truth. These are much different terms of discussion than the relative truth posited by a lot of Post Modern thinking.
If We Can't Win

According to the press, the democrats, and everyone I come across here in LA - we can't win in Iraq. If that's the case, the only good news is that Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Sunnis are starting worrying more about Iran and less about US.

A good old fashioned cold war between the Sunni and Shiia in the region. If either of them get too out of line, we hop on the other side and help them win. Doesn't sound ALL that bad, given other options.
Ouch to College Soccer

NCAA Soccer a dead end for MLS talent, by Paul Gardner.

So we now have the Beckham Rule. MLS has decided that its sport needs livening up, it needs a buzz of superstar excitement, it needs some better players. Each team will be allowed to sign one player outside the league's miserly salary cap restrictions. And David Beckham gets his name on the rule because he is the prime — and no doubt the most expensive — example of a player who could bring in both publicity and soccer skill.

The move is to be praised. MLS is trying to move with the times, it is willing to alter its rigid single-entity structure as circumstances dictate. It is also aware that the current level of play in MLS is no more than adequate. Better, more imaginative, more exciting players are urgently needed.

Which brings us to a highly public secret that bedevils the sport in this country: the role of college soccer. While college sport feeds a regular supply of basketball and football stars into the pros, it does very little for pro soccer.
Quite the opposite in fact. What needs to be said is that college soccer is the biggest obstacle to progress in the area of developing future pro players. Everyone, apart from a few college diehards, knows this to be the truth. But it is a truth that is rarely spelled out.

The reasoning has always been that this is the American way — the laudable scheme of using athletic ability to acquire an education. It works for football and basketball, sports that flourish within the college structure as crypto-professional activities. Soccer operates at a much lower level — it is a nonrevenue sport by the NCAA's classification. Its season is short, its level of play is weak, ditto its attendances.

This is a scenario that is unlikely to produce top players. And it does not. The reason that the Beckham rule is necessary is that the college products who fill most of the playing spots on MLS teams are simply not top-class pro material.
I need to stress again that this state of affairs is well known to everyone.

When MLS started in 1996, it quickly introduced a program called Project-40. The idea was to identify the 40 best young players in the country and have them train with MLS clubs while giving them scholarship money for an education. In short, the idea was to keep them out of college soccer.

But such is the stigma of offering any criticism of the college system that the real aim of Project-40 was never stated. It was, in fact, repeatedly denied. Project-40, we were told, was merely an alternative to college soccer.
Understandably, no one wanted to be seen as anti-education.

One coach who was not fooled by any of this guff was Bruce Arena, the most successful college coach of his era. After he joined the pros, Arena spoke out on the difference between college and pro soccer: "Clearly, it's night and day."

The huge gap remains. Those who argue that the college game is improving are deluding themselves. A recent telecast of a game between Duke and Wake Forest (currently the no. 1 and no. 2 ranked teams in the country) presented little beyond the banality of hectic, highspeed physical effort. That is college soccer. It is first and foremost about hustle. There is rarely any time or space in the college game for soccer brains to mature, for pure soccer skills to develop.

To imagine that playing for four years in that ambience can produce soccer superstars is patently absurd. So MLS is forced to continue its efforts to reduce the influence of the college game. Two weeks ago it came up with another youth development scheme, one that requires all its teams to create teams in up to five age groups, from under-14 to under-20.
State of the Union

I posted a really short thing on the State of the Union the other night right after I watched it that somehow got lost...

It was totally weird - I pretty much agreed with everything he said. I pay for my own health insurance now and his proposal to give a tax break for people, like me, in such a position has a real effect.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Call Me Stupid, But

I just watched the State of the Union and sort of agreed with more or less everything Bush said. Is there something wrong with me?
My Real Problem

I can't really work for 8 hours in a day. It's hard to keep concentration for that long. I need some of those BS meetings we used to have at my consulting company or little chats with hot chicks from the office or something to keep me going.

Writing and other solitary work whether it be boring internet computer crap or semi-interesting game design projects is totally exhausting.

Which explains all the blog posts...

My beef with the Oscars is about what kind of surprises the academy yields.

For the most part, the Oscars are totally predictable. There are about 6-8 films/actors/whatever in each category that are plausible and they pick 5 of them. The only interesting thing are the subtle surprises. They are never a big deal, but they are always the wrong choice, in my eyes. You see, democracy and voting and popularity, work for a political science, but not arts and crafts.

So yes, it bugs me that the most audacious and interesting movie of the year - United 93 was snubbed a best picture nomination. It was given a best director as a type of consolation prize for being too bold and subtle simultaneousl (which incidentally, is exactly what makes it great). Same thing with Paul Giamatti not getting nominated for Sideways...the guy only delivered the most touching male performance of his generation and all people can think about is whether they liked him or not or whether he represented California liberal values. And my list goes on.

My point is, I have both no problem and a total problem with the way the Oscars work. Because the only thing I actually cared about was seeing United 93 win best picture. And it didn't get nominated. So that pretty much sums it all up.

I'm a fan. And I believe he's right.

In reference to the non-binding resolution the Senate is talking about...which does not support the renewal of troop support:

"Mr. Lieberman is also frustrated that those supporting the resolution are dodging the tough questions. "The resolution that is being talked about, in one sense I'd say it is offensive, because it is only cosmetic. . . . It won't affect the implementation of a new plan to succeed, to win in Iraq. But at the same time it will send a mixed message to those who are fighting for us in Iraq, and those who are fighting against us in Iraq. It will be a very graphic example . . . that we are divided."

But what can Mr. Lieberman, President Bush and others do to stave off such a capitulation? For starters, he responds, his side needs to make sure the naysayers aren't allowed to just criticize. "Part of the case would be, look, if you are really against the war and you are really against what the president is proposing, have the nerve to do what Congress under the Constitution is authorized to do: Move to cut off the funding and then let's have a real head-to-head debate.""

Congressional war opponents don't have a position. They say out of one side of their mouths they want to bring the troops home, but don't have the nerve to do anything about it. The reason: a) they are scared of the domestic political fallout from losing and b) they are scared to deal with the consequences to America's long term interests in the region.

These are legitimate concerns. But that's what leaders are supposed to do - take all the facts and make difficult decisions. But it seems to me, you've got to make a choice: meaningfully support a just and wise war, do everything in your power to stop an unjust and unwise war, or propose a different set of actions and put them out there. That's your job when you're a Congressman. The press can criticize details of the plan and the wisdom of it. Their role is to play devil's advocate. The Congress's job is to make meaningful decisions.
Guess That's Why They Call It The Ivory Tower

Weekly Standard takes to town the Duke Faculty.

But can you really blame them? They have no time for a silly old concept like the truth.... They are busy with bigger things, like taking down the metanarratives of White Male Privilege.

In other news the movement to banning words has begun - and surprise, surprise, it's not coming from the Christian crazies who burned books in Flashdance, but the Liberal crazies who don't like the n-word.

When I read Farenheit 451 and Animal Farm in grade school they felt quaint because it seemed no reasonable person would ever let this happen. Jeez. Shows how sheltered I was.
I Swear I'm Not Angry

No seriously, I learned rather quickly feeling jealous of my peers was of little use. Especially ones with no talent, no directorial voice, no personality, no charm, no charisma, no soul, who make monsterously awful wastes of celluloid and who get rewarded and celebrated by the rest of the world.

I'm not bitter. Not angry. I swear.

Pretty Good Points, All

Hitchens reviews Steryn. Good stuff here.

I think he sums up a pretty smart and hopeful way to look at the events of the past 5-6 years:

"I still think—or should I say hope?—that the sheer operatic insanity of September 11 set back the Islamist project of a “soft” conquest of host countries, Muslim countries included. Up until 9/11, the Talibanization of Pakistan—including the placement of al-Qaida sympathizers within its nuclear program—proceeded fairly smoothly. Official Pakistani support for Muslim gangsters operating in Afghanistan, Kashmir, and India went relatively unpunished. Saudi funds discreetly advanced the Wahhabist program, through madrassa-building and a network of Islamic banking, across the globe. In the West, Muslim demands for greater recognition and special treatment had become an accepted part of the politically correct agenda. Some denounced me as cynical for saying at the time that Osama bin Laden had done us a favor by disclosing the nature and urgency of the Islamist threat, but I still think I was right. Both Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have had to trim their sails a bit. The Taliban will at least never be able to retake power by stealth or as a result of our inattention. Millions have become aware of the danger—including millions of Shi’a Muslims who now see the ideology of bin Laden and Zarqawi as a menace to their survival. Groups and cells that might have gotten away with murder have wound up unmasked and shut down, from Berlin to Casablanca.

Of course, these have not been the only consequences of September 11 and its aftermath. Islamist suicide-terrorism has mutated into new shapes and adopted fresh grievances as a result of the mobilization against it. Liberalism has found even more convoluted means of blaming itself for the attack upon it. But at least the long period of somnambulism is over, and the opportunity now exists for antibodies to form against the infection."

Monday, January 22, 2007

Update: Do What You Love

Here is the full text of the Levitt/Dubnar review on the talent vs. work/persistence academic study. The results are surprising.

This guy started on a serious topic, about America not understanding Nationalism in other countries and getting fat when in a position of extraordinary power. But then he goes on to make all sorts of stupid statements about Bush and Cheney trying to put colored people in their place to restore white male pride. Gimme a freaking break. What an idiot.
Talent vs. Persistence

Interesting article about education refuting a claim by Charles Murray that college is worthless to about 60% of the people who attend because basically, they aren't smart enough to get anything out of it. There's a whole host of reasons why this is untrue, mostly because college doesn't just offer education, it forms networks and helps people "get ahead" in life (hence - people still attend). But there is certainly something to his notion from a strict educational perspective...there does seem to be a bunch of wasted resources out there.

But that's not what really piqued my interest in this article. This did:

There is a role for practice and dedication. A New York Times Magazine article by Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt reports on research by Anders Ericsson and colleagues on expert performance.

Their work, compiled in the "Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance," a 900-page academic book that will be published next month, makes a rather startling assertion: the trait we commonly call talent is highly overrated. Or, put another way, expert performers — whether in memory or surgery, ballet or computer programming — are nearly always made, not born. And yes, practice does make perfect.

I love those Freakonomics Guys. And in my experience - they are right. I've witnessed it in academics, sports, art, in nearly everything I've spent a lot of time doing, talent plays a role but is almost always overrated. The other factor that needs to be considered is luck. Luck and circumstance play a tremendous role. BUT, putting yourself out there, ie persistently trying stuff puts you in the position to "get lucky."

Sunday, January 21, 2007

I Didn't Leave the Left, It Left Me

A powerful condemnation of the Left from the Guardian.

"Consistent anti-fascism added enormously to the left's prestige in the second half of the 20th century. A halo of moral superiority hovered over it because if there was a campaign against racism, religious fanaticism or neo-Nazism, the odds were that its leaders would be men and women of the left. For all the atrocities and follies committed in its name, the left possessed this virtue: it would stand firm against fascism. After the Iraq war, I don't believe that a fair-minded outsider could say it does that any more."

What made me liberal...when I came of age to decide for myself rather than just follow my parents...was a passionate hatred for bossiness, bullies, and certitude - qualities I saw in the Right more than the Left. In political-speak I hated totalitarianism, I hated Fascists, I hated tyrants. And I that's what I thought the Left stood for.

Imagine my sadness the day Leftists poured out onto the streets of San Francisco, right in front of me, to protest the removal of a Fascist Dictator? And to learn they were joined by millions in London and Paris.

And now I have to degrade myself by defending a guy like George Bush...
Riddle Me This

Nate correctly mentions the anti-war (and pro-war) folks don't just fall into a binary and there's all sorts of nuance to a lot of people's position. What I've never quite understood, however, are the all the folks (and there are many - smart ones) who initially supported the war and then turned against the idea at various points when things got ugly - concluding the war was completely mismanaged, perhaps even criminally.

Frankly, I don't understand this position. Almost all wars are criminally mismanaged since stupid choices result in the death of innocent people and soldiers, as opposed to say, making a bad movie or losing a client. The Civil War was completely mismanaged by the North for several years before Lincoln promoted Grant. And then, we only managed to finally win the war by the scorched earth warmaking of Sherman's March through the South - a crime by any modern standards. Furthermore, the war gave birth to organizations like the KKK and Jim Crow laws. Certainly many people of the South preferred the good 'ole days of slavery. And yet, the "mismanagement" and potentially illegal warmaking didn't make the endeavors wrong.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Genius of the Founding Fathers: Jury Duty

I just completed my first jury duty assignment. It's amazing I've been able to skate by for ten years of being eligible and never needed to attend. I got assigned to a criminal case and the jury selection was taking forever, and this afternoon I was sure I was going to be stuck for several more days and blam - the case got resolved by a plea bargain. Anyhow, jury duty mostly consists of waiting and it's a real pain in ass pretty much for everyone. But there is a certain genius in getting together with different members of community who you would otherwise have little interaction with and getting to wait around with the possibility of performing a civic duty. It sparks conversations about larger things and gives people a space to wax a little philosophical and to think about the justice system. The judge performs a big role in the jury process, generally giving jurors a little bit of a civics class recap and doing a little reminder of why we have the system we do and challenging people to perform a civic duty.

Being a slow and arduous process affords the opportunity to observe how different people behave. I developed opinions about some of my fellow jurors....

People I liked:

Old black man who complained about his adult children still being on the dole. We talked about USC, church, and basketball.

Cute, well dressed hispanic girl who laughed at jokes.

Incredibly well spoken and articulate black judge.

Middle aged hispanic man with moustache who befriended a group of older ladies.

Middle aged hispanic lady truck driver supporting three children on her own who dealt with sexual harassment at work.

Old white dentist whose father was an LA defense attorney.

Old asian lady who would run to the jury room to be on time only to sit around for the next hour and a half.

People I didn't like:

Young white guy with a BMW who only talked to the cute white girls.

Middle aged lady with a Marc Jacobs bag who insisted she could never find anyone guilty.

Young asian guy who would have trouble following a law he didn't believe was right. (The judge hammered him on this saying he didn't think the guy realized how radical a statement he was saying - that we are a nation ruled by law, not of men, and this is a system we all live under and ask to benefit from...)

Fat chick who talked too much.

Hippy chick who weaseled out of the second day of jury duty claiming she couldn't be unbiased in a sexual assualt case.

Middle aged hispanic guy who kept trying to get a special weasel out for financial hardship. (note: nearly everyone had a financial hardship)

Old man who kept complaining about everything and who yammered about weird things and kept trying to talk to me.

The defendent who was missing a lot of teeth and was being accused of raping and sodomizing a homeless woman.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

I Know Who I'm Rooting For

Does the fact that the Islamist Extremists truly hate Bush's foreign policy suggest at the very least - that it isn't all that bad?
Keep Your Eye Out For...

Everyone is talking Obama, Hillary, Gore, McCain, Guiliani, Romney...but pay attention to Newt Gingrich. Very quietly this guy has been talking calmly, candidly, and seriously about Iraq.

While Hillary can do nothing more than oppose Bush's troop surge (so what does that mean - she supports the status quo?), Ginrich is talking candidly about the cost of losing, strategies for winning, mistakes that were made, and how to move forward.

Here are some sample articles, speeches, interviews, etc.

I never cared all that much for Ginrich, but I'll give him this: he's smart as hell, experienced, and has the tone of a man who no longer cares what opinion polls think of him. He rose to the top and came crashing down. Now he's rising again and with that, you get wisdom. My dad said something smart in 1996 - he said the Republicans were stupid to run Bob Dole because their soul was Ginrich. They may have beaten Clinton that year. But the old school Republican party prided themselves on decency and it was Dole's turn to run. That Republican party doesn't seem to exist anymore. That should not be construed as remorse - which would be completely phony because I never liked those guys to begin with. So onto other matters...

Of course we all like Obama - what's not to like? But I don't like how everyone treats him as some sort of political messiah. I don't believe in angels, I don't believe in being rescued or being saved by some magical person coming over the hill in majestic backlight. And it feels to me everyone (dems, i mean) want Obama to be that person. This time around, we need to err on the side of wisdom and not hope.

Hillary strikes me more and more as a political opportunist like her husband. I mean when you take away the brains and the connections and the experience, what are these two people? Does Hillary have...I hate to say it without a sense of irony...any character? I mean, what does she stand for? What does she believe in? She is smart. She is tough. I like her. But I guess this sickly feeling about her that she sold her soul somewhere along the line to keep herself in the game. But that's probably something we all do. I guess I don't imagine that for her it was a very hard decision. Which makes me suspect that deep down, there just isn't much there.

On other news, I started reading Kevin Drum the other day. Has a couple of interesting posts about the anti-war movement prior to the war.

He takes up the issue of anti-war liberals and pro-war liberals - the anti-war position of "I told you it was a mistake the whole time," versus the pro-war liberal position of, "Iraq is a mess, but for none of the reasons the anti-war liberals predicated."

He seems to think the anti-war liberals ought to be given the benefit of the doubt, because, well, they were MORE right or in his words, they got the big questions right. I, of course, disagree because I think it is a stupid game to get too invested in American failure. The anti-war was more broadly, a movement rooted in constraining the use of American power around the world and opposing a democratically elected American president because they didn't like his vibe. They filled in the blanks with reasons why Iraq would fail and the reasonable ones were worried the day Iraqis dipped their fingers in purple ink. I think they're on the wrong side of history and mistake our enemies for our friends. But anyway, Drum looks at the issue more consisely and better than I do...

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Always Worth Reading

An old interview with Michael Mann about his characters in Heat.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

New Week

More poker...I like watching Jamie Gold get read like a book by all the pros.

Update: I like Jamie Gold getting ribbed by Shana Hiatt even more.
You Want Cynical Realism?

Say the realists are right and Iraq is a disaster... My question: for who?

Some say, most Americans haven't sacrificed anything.

Some say, this has created a whole new generation of jihadists.

Some say it's ruined our reputation around the world.

Some say it's weakened our position in the Middle East.

Some say it's ruined our moral standing.

And on and on...these are the arguments from the realists (now) and the moonbats (who we won't don't even really need to bother with anymore).

So say - as the realists do - that all that matters is American interests and those interests have been damaged. How so?

Our economy is strong. Sadly, we can afford to blow hundreds of billions on failure and still buy cars and houses and send our kids to college. Our armed services are tied down - who cares? Was there something else we were hoping to use them for in the meantime? Is Hitler taking over Europe? Nope. I don't see anything more pressing -- except perhaps Iran, but even that's a stretch.

Most Americans haven't sacrificed anything - good. That shows it hasn't cost us much.

It's caused a new generation of jihadists? Who cares? Just more guys to kill - they've proved how easy that is.

Our reputation is ruined. Who cares? Does it affect our wallet? Does it affect our ability to project power? Nope. Does it affect us getting what we want? I don't see any evidence of it, four years later.

Position in the middle east weakened? Are you kidding? Whose the biggest, badest militia in the region? Not Hezbollah, not Al Queda, not Iran Revolutionary Guards, not the Republican Guard, not even the IDF...sorry folks, we swing the biggest stick and everyone knows it.

Our moral standing. Pfft. This is the realist position, remember?

But what about the Iraqis? Who gives a shit? Seriously...in the realist argument we didn't care about them for the past 27 years...why should we care now. Maybe we don't.

The surge, pullout - what's the difference? It's all change to us...like pondering over whether to tip the guy at the Coffee Bean.

Getting played by Iran? Yeah right. They know as well as we do, if they push us once too many times we blow up their oil facilities and bankrupt their state. Or better yet, fund the Sunni insurgents to get bold and start attacking the Shiia in Iran. Or even better yet - just allow the Saudis to fund the Sunni insurgents. It won't even cost us anything. They get really out of line, we let the Israelis nuke them. Still no skin off our back. The fact is, Iran can't even do anything to us to provoke a direct response. That's how uneven this relationship is. We don't even need to deal with them - we just let others do it for us. Our assistants handle it.

New set of thoughts....

What does the events of post-9/11 mean to the cynical realist? It means we can get hit with an enormous surprise attack - that we can lose Al Queda's "all in" bet and five years later feel little to no long term affect to our country. Shit, we can even make money off it by making movies and mini-series. Al Queda basically provided us with a lot of serious entertainment. They haven't changed our lives a single, remote, tiny bit.

Meanwhile, Al Queda's leadership hides in caves and now considers the ability to release a video on youtube a success. They can do what every 12 year old in America with a Mac is able to do. Congrats. They basically have a lot of time to pray and worry about if anyone is going to betray them.

And not only that...to hammer down the point...we invade a pinnacle country in the heart of the Middle East - not because they had anything to do with 9/11 - but simply because they were in the damn region and looked at us goofy, we went in with one hand and one leg tied behind our backs...without even raising taxes and thumped Saddam and his sons and let the pesky, annoying little militias on all sides spend the rest of the time killing one another while we got suntans in the greenzone or worked on screenplays or bought condos while living in the greatest country on earth.

The lesson - don't fuck with us or we'll turn your country into a civil war zone and play all sides against each other while we read about it on weblogs.

The burden of power. Ha. Pass me a bloody mary. I'm a cynical realist now.

A pretty good op-ed about Beckham and Posh and why me and so many others love living in LA.

The author makes a nice point - because LA is shallow, it doesn't make us shallow...but let's face it - who would be more fun to see at coffee shop, Paris Hilton or Malcom Gladwell?

Enough said.
Wait A Second

Is this suggesting I wasted (3.5 years - 2 days) and $59,605?


Monday, January 15, 2007

Does That Mean I'm Pregnant?

Last night before falling asleep I craved pancakes with syrup and butter. This has not happened in years. I don't even like pancakes.

My theory is that it has something to do with my body after a soccer game. These soccer games, even at this really low level, absolutely knock me out. I am unable to do any work - whatsoever - afterwards. I can barely read. All I can do is either nap or watch TV or talk on the phone.

Often, I have penciled in my planner - write Sunday night. See movie, whatever...some sort of plans for the five or six hours free after the soccer game. And never am I able to do much other than watch football highlights.

I must be getting old.
I Could Have Told 'Em That

"Contrary to what almost everyone has maintained for years - that the solution to the problems of the Middle East lies in the resolution of the Israel-Palestinian problem - the present civil war in Palestine proves that no one cares about the Israel-Palestinian problem. The so-called Palestinian issue has been subsumed into the broader problem of containing Persian imperialism, and the Palestinians have been left to fend for themselves, rather like the Kurds - but without the Kurds' language, 3,000-year history, and success in creating institutions of self-rule."

Palestinians should know that no one really gives a shit about them - Israel, the Arab World, the Europeans, or the United States...everyone uses their suffering for their own benefit - the Arabs more than anyone else.
An Odd Take

Has Bush already changed the Middle East to benefit the US? The old divide and conquer.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Seeking Advice From Tom Cruise

According to Beckham, he is "a really wise man."

Any bets on how long it takes Beckham to embrace Scientology?
Analysis of a Hand

Good analysis of a poker hand.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Damn NBC

As if the Tracy Morgan meat machine was not enough, NBC has added a new show - online only - and it's quickly become my favorite viewing pastime: Poker After Dark. It is so simple, but incredibly relaxing...a perfect thing to watch before going to bed.

On top of that, they have ideas for a great reality TV idea: this Grease audition show which will follow the process of casting and making this broadway show and then of course, the kicker, is that if the show is a hit a ton of people will go to broadway to see these personalities perform Grease. Incredible idea. This could be the shot in the arm the theater needs. Who knows if the people will be watchable, but I actually think it could be GOOD.

This Poker After Dark show is really good. It's like the Maysles Bros meets the World Poker Tour.

Reality TV has several different styles - documentary, sports, and game shows. I think what so many people respond negatively to are the game shows...but there's still a lot of unrealized potential in this form as some producers and networks seem to be willing to explore - Dog Whisperer, Poker After Dark, and Grease. Keep your eyes open.
What's So Civil About War, Anyway?

Someone is starting to make a lot of sense.

Rather that fighting over whether Iraq is in civil war or not - maybe the question is better posed: So what if Iraq has a civil war? Is leaving catastrophic? Will it give Al Queda reason to cheer? (I hope they do publically, so we can see them blown to bits).

How bad would the Civil War really be? Would it affect us at all? Certainly we wouldn't want to see a Taliban like safe haven develop. What makes us think it would?

Finally a prosed opposition to Bush's policies that makes some sense. What took so long, I wonder?

Our country needed a bloody Civil War that killed 600,000 people to resolve differences that couldn't be settled in the compromises over the Constitution. Maybe Clemenza is right - a war needs to happen every now and then to clean out all the bad blood between the families.
BEWARE: Film School Grads

A bit of a scary statistic...

My friend from high school has an older brother who attended the USC MFA Production program (like me), he graduated in 2000 and reports that 90% of his classmates, including the very talented ones, are still "trying to figure out what to do." Many of them are yet to write their first script. Scary thoughts...
Poker At Night

One thing I notice about Jerry Buss, the only non-professional at the table, he folds a lot of winning hands regardless whether he's in position or not. The other guys seem to fold very early, and fold almost anything when not in position.

Doyle Brunson is bluffing at a lot of pots and winning most of them unless he runs up against the nuts. I'm guessing it's because he figures the other guys think he's going to play conservative.

One of my favorite bits is when they start talking about who's going to be the democratic nomination for President. Doyle mentioned that he thought Obama was an atheist. Negranu insists he isn't. The way they discuss who the nominee will be - awesome, it's all in better terms and odds - true poker players.
Goals For Going Into Iraq

Note, these were my personal goals and the reasons I supported the war and not necessarily reflective of other war supporters reasons, ie the President's plan.

1. Kick Saddam Hussein's Ass [DONE]
2. Tech Lesson to Dictators: Don't thumb nose at world. [?]
3. Do Not Allow Iraqi WMDs into Terrorist Hands [DONE - albeit in a round about way - we thought Saddam had them, or might have them, and we were getting our hands on them first. Turns out, he didn't have them...but we still achieved the goal. It's debatable whether it was worth the cost.]
4. Bring Model Democracy To Region to counterbalance dictators and religious extremists [NOT DONE]
5. Ensure Iraq will not be a terror state for another generation with Uday and Qusay [NOT DONE - yes, the Tikrit brand of Sunni terror is gone but there could be another form, that of Shiite religious fanatics taking over]
6. Kill Lots of Al Queda [?]

this post isn't done, but I need to think about it more...

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Oh My, Iraq

Okay, let's talk options first because that seems to be how these things get framed. We'll do a second section on goals, which should be first...but anyway.

Option #1 - The President's Speech: Send in 20,000 more troops to secure Baghdad. Send gunships towards Iran, opening the possibility of a new front of the war if Iran acts any more provacative. Force the Iraqi government to take measurable steps towards providing their own security - presumably meaning taking on the militias.

Option #2 - The Democrat's Response: Start drawing down troops into friendlier places than Baghdad. Keep a smaller, mobile force ready to hit Al Queda when we can.

Option #3 - The Andrew Sullivan Plan: Double-down and send 50,000-100,000 more troops to bring brutal stability to country. Disarm the militias ourselves (ie not working with the elected govt)...I guess.

Option #4 - Stay the Course: Keep troop levels the same, continue to support the elected government. In the current case, this means allowing the militias to stay armed and fighting the Sunni Insurgency and Al Queda. Negotiating with tribes in Anbar to give up Al Queda.

Option #5 - The Arianna Huffington Plan: Pull out all troops, acknowledge Iraq was a tactical and strategic failure. Ask forgiveness from the world and Iraq.

Option #6 - Widen the war. Ask Americans to volunteer (draft, if necessary) and take down the Mullah regime in Iran before they get nukes and because they are helping the insurgency kill American troops.

**Note: I am unclear on who Iran is helping. Are they helping the Sunni insurgents and Al Queda? This seems to be an odd pairing, only because the Sunnis hate the Iranians so much. Are they helping the Shiite death squads? Sadr? I'm just confused on this...

Option #7 - Take a side.

7a - Broker some argeement with the Shiite's and Kurds to completely empower the Shiite's and leave the Kurds autonomy and big oil check and help them eliminate the Sunni insurgency

7b - Assist the defanged Sunni insurgents to keep the country unstable and provide a counterweight to Shiite (Iranian) power in the region.

Option #8 - Break up the country. I'm not even sure we could do this if we wanted, but basically break it into Kurdistan, Shiiastan, and Sunnistan. Leave the oil with who sits on it - the Kurds and the Shiia and screw the Sunnis.

That's all I can think of right now. Each different option has ups and downs and could be done for varying costs. Although scaling back troops would presumably cost less than increasing troops, this would not be the case if scaling back meant we'd be there longer or if it caused an escalation of some sort.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Position is Big

Position is so huge in these games - with good players they all basically know what everyone before them has when they bet.

The odd thing is that it takes luck to win any of these matches and you can play shitty and still suck out.
Poker After Dark

On the NBC website they have an exclusive Texas Hold 'Em game with six players: Mattesau (sp?), Gabe Kaplan, David Grey, Doyle Brunson, Jerry Bust, and Daniel Negranu (sp?). They play low blinds and so not too many hands, but it's an incredibly relaxing game to watch. It's also very subtle and you have to pay a little closer attention than the high pace and stakes of the World Series. Me likey.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Down Syndrome

This is an odd article. Since we can now discover fetus' with down syndrome, speculation is that 90% are aborted.

I personally find it frightening. I don't have much experience with down syndrome people, but I did work with one actress named Marcy on a project and she was an absolute delight to work with - her parents were sweet and nice and she was open, receptive, and way smarter than I imagined.

I imagine it is incredibly difficult on parents to raise a child with down syndrome, as if raising a child isn't hard enough. But it's still scary.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Child Molester Sting

While flipping channels during an NFL playoff commercial, I turn on MSNBC and see a program where they've set up sting operations for child molesters who contacted fake 13 year olds on the internet. They've got an elaborate set up with cops, etc, and when these perverts who think they are meeting a 13 year old boy come into the house, the host of the show comes on with cameras shoved in these guys faces.

I've never felt more sympathy for child molesters. This program was one of the most awful things I've ever seen. One guy is sitting there getting peppered questions by the self-righteous host "WHAT are you DOING here?"

The molester says, "Look, I know I'm in trouble you know I'm in trouble, I don't want to get in any more."

The host says, "You're on a national television program."

The man almost collapsed. He weakly held up his hand to his face, but there were about 5 hidden cameras and he was already exposed. He stood up and started to go after the host - weakly - this was not a tough guy and was pleading, "You can't do that. You can't." He almost started to cry. It was the fact that he would be on TV. He looked like a normal guy and it turned out he was a rabbi.

Everyone is rightfully worried about child molesters, particularly parents and so forth, but it's pretty clear what the problem with these people are - they were mostly victims themselves when they were little and have severe problems. We treat them like monsters of society, but it's pretty clear of all the type of criminals, these are the ones that would be most worth rehabilitating because they are generally normal, functioning members of society otherwise.

I just can't believe they would do this on TV. Really awful.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Hmmm...Maybe This No School Thing Is Going to Work Out

Without school and without any social obligations today, I actually managed to get a lot done. Imagine that. Things I accomplished:

1. Re-worked and wrote a few scenes for a spec script.
2. Drafted a tutorial outline for my game project.
3. Went to the doctor.
4. Returned all my library books.
5. Bought discount movie tickets.
6. Emailed a friend of a friend in the industry.
7. Contacted a music rights owner about a song.
8. Watched the latest Friday Night Lights and 30 Rock
9. Went to the grocery store.
10. Bumped into a few folks and did a teeny bit of socializing.

It's the only day for a long time I finished everything on my "To do" list. Guess if I don't goof around, go to school, or blog, I can get a lot done.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Liberal or Conservative

I'm 18.
Would I Come Back?

Duke spat in the face of a couple of their students, presuming they were guilty, canceling lacrosse and kicking them out of school for a year. If they treated me like that, I wouldn't be all that excited about returning.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Why The Good shepherd is a Bad Movie

Nate poses a good question - what makes The Good shepherd a bad movie? The politically correct answer is that if you enjoyed it, you enjoyed it, and that's all that really matters. As a consumer product, which movies are, this is true. And for movies in general, people have different tastes and some people will enjoy movies that others don't. But I'm not a fan of political correctness and I have developed a point of view about filmmaking perhaps not consistent with the layperson. This is what 7 semesters of film school hath bought:

Point 1: Taste is objective. That means there is such thing as good and bad taste - and hence good and bad movies.

Point 2: As a human being, I enjoy many things that are in bad taste and often don't enjoy things that are in good taste.

My point here is that enjoyment does not equal good. To illustrate:

I enjoy the movie Commando, but it is not a good movie.
I enjoy the movie Predator, and it is a good movie.
I do not enjoy The Deer Hunter, but it is a good movie.
I do not enjoy Garden State and it is not a good movie.

Okay. That's a fairly simple round up. The second issue is what makes a movie well-directed vs. well-written. This is certainly a tough, but not impossible, distinction because - at least under the autuer theory - writing is simply one component of a directors vision, others of which are casting, performance, production design, camera choices, and editing choices.

BUT, on a basic nuts and bolts level, writing=characters+structure+dialog. Directing = casting+performance+camera choices. There are other elements such as pacing, locations, production design, and sound, all of which are huge and technically fall under directing...but for the sake of the Good shepherd, we'll try to keep it simple (and I'm only going from memory of the film, which I've seen once).

From a writing perspective, the Good shepherd had some pretty huge structural holes - which are more glaring in spy thrillers than say, a comedy where it doesn't matter as much. But how in the hell did Matt Damon's son end up in Africa or wherever the fuck he was with his "wife." Hunh? All of a sudden this kid shows up giving key secrets away to some girl when the last time we saw him he was in college. It made no sense whatsoever. And why did Damon fly all the way there for his wedding only to have the girl killed? I understand he did it for emotion and tension (what's going to happen?), but the structural stupidity had me scratching my head. Also, what was the point of Matt Damon's wife? It was as if she were tossed in under the mad lib blank: Obstacle #1: Girl gets pregnant. This is a problem with character. Now, it wasn't all bad - some characters were good/decent and the structure wasn't a total mess, and the dialog was fine...but you can't compensate for the few bad choices because no really bold or good choices were made, they failed to examine Damon's psychological complexity, the flashing forward and back was pretty blah, and there just wasn't anything to cheer about writing-wise. So the bad writing in the Good shepherd amounts to : bad structure + a few bad characters + mediocre dialog = bad.

Now the Damon wife topic is a good segway into the directorial failures - casting Angela Jolie? Are you kidding me? What guy in the world wouldn't be home every night shagging the living shit out of Angela Jolie? Come on. Does anyone become this morally complicated, dark human being when you've married into total wealth and managed to snag the hottest girl on the block. No. You thank your lucky stars, take a plush board room job, and have lots and lots of children. No actress in the world could've done much with the part as written. It was crap. But to compound the mistake, you hire the hottest, sexiest actress around to play the women he's trying to stay away from? Come on. That's bad casting.

Now onto performance. It's interesting because on the top level, you're getting great actors, you don't really need to worry about what beginning directors can't always get - and that's believable performances. It is one reason why student films are so poor because we can't get good actors in them. So at this high level, of course, you're going to get pretty good performances. But what you have to look at is what are you getting out of the talent you've got. Check Matt Damon in The Talented Mr. Ripley. Creeeeepy. That's a performance. That's Minghella. See Baldwin in The Departed. That's a performance. Scorcese. Check William Hurt in a History of Violence. None of these guys are playing their "A" game. They are Kobe scoring 18 and dishing 5 assists. Iverson scoring 20 with 4 assists. They aren't up to speed. The best performances of the movie, I thought, were DeNiro and Billy Crudup - BUT a big thing about those parts - great characters...well written characters. So all this stuff ties together, but nonetheless, they can be broken into component parts.

And so lastly - at least on my above list - is camera choice. (position, lens, and format) DeNiro doesn't make an interesting camera choice in the entire movie. It is again, competent. I mean, how can you make a huge Hollywood movie and make incompetent choices (although Coppola famously did in the Godfather and they had to compensate with sound in some scenes...which ironically contributed to its brilliance). But merely making competent choices at this level, I believe, is not enough. One needs to make strong, decisive choices (see Clint) or bold creative choices (see Children of Men). For example - the silhouettes of Clint in Million Dollar Baby in the boxing ring. Unbelievably simple, crisp, decisive, and powerful. Or Children of Men, just watch the opening shot of the movie or the car chase scene, with really long single takes capturing action sequences. Bold.

Which brings up an interesting movie - Miami Vice (those who knew me would probably predicted I'd figure a way to work it in). Miami Vice, to me, was neither bold nor strong and decisive, but rather experimental in the HD shooting mixed with Michael Mann's own camera operating style. This is one reason why many people dislike the film...because experimental takes a certain mindset to enjoy and tends to take upon a difficult quality, generally throwing more power to the audience to get some meaning from the movie, rather than washing over you with images and sound and story as most Hollywood movies tend to do. Experimental filmmaking tends toward reevaluation and makes you either never want to hear, speak, or talk about a movie again, or perhaps, if something touched you - to see it again and again and discover something new.

Anyhow, that's the short analysis (wink) off the top of my head of the Good shepherd. Attack away, ye readers....

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Hollywood is Stupid, But...

Smarty pants pundits and politicos from DC rightfully criticize Hollywood for generally having moonbat liberal ideas when it comes to politics. Actors don't tend to be the best and the brightest. And movies are hardly a high art form - if art at all.

I just caught some of Fox News (yes, it's one of my guilty pleasures and how I, unlike most lefty hollywood types stay in touch with the common MAN!) and O'Reilly guests were Michelle Malkin and some lady with the last name Power, two youngish fairly attractive young pundits. I'm thinking - okay, these folks are fairly smart and are decent looking, but both women were dressed kinda frumpy and wore too much make-up and deep red lipstick (yuck!) and I realized that these smarty pants politicos don't have any style. I've commented on it before, but there is something rather tacky about the DC establishment, a tackiness I noticed when I lived there, but continue to notice on TV.

So criticize away nerds about how stupid us Hollywood people are. We're better looking and I'll take that anyday.
Origins of the French Revolution

My resume search got me in the caves of my own work. Who knew I wrote about the origins of the French Revolution when I studied in Europe? This blog, lest I forget, is an archive.

Origins of the French Revolution

Until the 1960’s scholars widely recognised the French Revolution as a social upheaval, a displacing of the monarchical feudal system in favor of a bourgeois capitalist society. This Marxist interpretation of the French Revolution attributes deep-seeded social and economic inequalities to the events of 1789. However, the last thirty years have seen an academic re-evaluation of the causes of the French Revolution, preferring to view the Revolution as a political, rather than a social event. Financial difficulties during the 18th century revealed severe systematic problems with the French monarchy. Politically, the Old Regime could not accommodate the complexities of a large and modern nation. Accompanied with political infighting between figures and factions, the Old Regime collapsed under its own weight leaving a huge void of power. The events of 1789 to 1799 were the struggle to control the power previously held by the monarchy.

A re-examination of France before the revolution, in response to a backlash against Marxist versions of history, questioned the validity of the claim that the social and economic inequalities triggered the French Revolution. In fact the 18th century saw an increasingly unclear distinction between the privileged and unprivileged because of an influx of “new” nobles into French society. More importantly, there was no clear distinction between revenue acquired between commoners and nobles. Thus, economic policies did not significantly favor either nobles or commoners. As such, the nobles and commoners had no specific quarrels during the years preceding the Revolution that led to the collapse of the monarchy. The battle for power between the nobility and the third estate came as a result of the vacancy of power previously held by the monarchy. This battle occurred as a result of the monarchy’s failure and not as a result of deep seeded social inequalities. “ ‘Interest,’ as a principle of differentiation, is a symbolic and political construction, not simply a pre-existing social reality.” (Baker, 6)

The abandonment of the Marxist model necessitates an alternative explanation of the events of 1788-1789, the collapse of the monarchy and the ensuing struggle for power. The collapse of the Old Regime took a series of events that collectively built an inflexible monarchical system that could not accommodate the financial crisis of 1786.

The Financial Situation

The 18th century was financially rough for France. Debt incurred through a series of wars with Britain was problematic, not necessarily in the size but rather the relative rates of interest the French promised compared to the British and Dutch. This was a result of the lack of a publicly supported bank in France.

During the 1770’s all of Europe was stretched financially. To counteract shaken public confidence, Louie XVI appointed a well-known banker, Necker, to be in charge of royal finances. In the latter half of the decade, French support of the American Revolution proved too tempting to resist because of the potential financial benefits of a damaged Britain. To this end Necker was able to raise 520 million livres, much of it on high interest, short-term loans. By the time Calonne had taken over and closely examined the royal finances, it was too late. In 1786 he showed the king the dire financial situation of France and the problems with any simple solutions. Cutting military spending was not an option because of the instability of Eastern Europe after the death of Fredrick the Great. The recent number of indirect taxes targeting nobles already had the nobles upset and prevented the option of levying more new taxes. Merely chipping away at the debt was not possible because many of the loans were short-term and demanded full payment within a couple of years. (Doyle)

Calonne understood the extent of the crisis and the need for reforms. With the approval of Louie XVI, he introduced financial reforms with three major parts. The first reform was an overhaul of the tax system that would tax equally in proportion to land holdings. Secondly, he proposed a plan of economic stimulation, eliminating internal custom barriers with the hope that it would lead to more tax revenue. Lastly, he wanted to eliminate government controls over the grain trade. These reforms would each take time to have an effect, but with the confidence that long-term adjustments were being made, Colonne felt justified in borrowing more money to circumvent the immediate crisis. (Doyle)

Although these proposed reforms came from some of the best minds in France and the notables were aware something needed to be done about the financial situation, they met opposition in the Assembly of Notables in February 1787. The clergy, a small and determined faction, was persistent in their attempts to stop the land tax and any part of the plan that would effect them. But the clergy alone were not sufficient to dismantle the reforms, more opposition came from Colonne’s rivals in the ministry and other notables determined to restore Neckor to his former position. This political infighting damaged the already dire financial situation. Colonne’s power was weakened and the king began to lose faith in his ability and his proposed reforms. Colonne had mistakenly assumed that the notables would accept his reforms without conflict.

In a final effort to enact his reforms, Colonne appealed to the recent phenomenon of public opinion. He released the previously secret text of his proposals to the public. Priests were encouraged to read the reforms to the people. Again Colonne failed to present his reforms in a manner to garner support, as the public displayed no reaction. At this point the situation had become worse and Louie XVI replaced Colonne and added other new ministers. The notables had lost faith in Louie XVI’s ability to resolve the financial crisis and began a call for the Estates-General. “Having run out of money, the old monarchy and its servants had also run out of ideas.” (Doyle, 114)

Rising Importance of Public Opinion

Plagued by war, political division, and social unrest, centralisation of the king’s power in 17th century France was necessary to effectively use the resources of society. The idea was that by centralisation, the monarchy could co-ordinate the activities of communities and corporations for the common good. Thus, the traditional order of the monarchy changed, reducing the power of local government and of parlements. Louie XIV went so far as to, “systematically close off channels of communication between society and the state (such as the Estates General, the remonstrance’s of the parlements, the municipalities and the town councils).” (Furet, 36) After the reign of Louie XIV, parlements remained unrepresentative of the people because of their conservative policies and perhaps due to their diminished role under Louie XIV. Thus, 18th century French society sought a new form of representation or spokesman, in the form of the men of letters or philosophers.

Tocqueville understood that, “by abolishing the ancient liberties and destroying the political function of the nobility without also permitting the formation of a new ruling class on a different basis, the monarchy unwittingly set up the writers as imaginary substitutes for that ruling class.” (Furet, 36) The people sought a spokesman and writers filled the void. The problem with the growth of political power of writers was the lack of connection with the traditional structure. The structure failed to incorporate the political wills expressed by the people through writing; or looking at it another way, failed to incorporate the political will that influenced people through writing. Thus, two competing claims for political power were acting in complete isolation. First, the monarchy, already confounded with internal financial and political problems, had a self-perceived claim of legitimate political power. And secondly, political philosophers a la Rousseau (among others) expressed ideas that legitimate political power was rooted in the consent of the people. The claims of philosophers, journalists, etc. were expressed by the formation of sociétés, cafés, salons, and Masonic lodges. Since the traditional structure had no means to incorporate the new form of popular expression, it was unconscious of the extent to which public opinion mattered. Perhaps more importantly, it was also unconscious as to the shaping of public opinion, an art perfected by the writers, pamphleteers, and journalists of the time.

18th century France was a sophisticated country. By the time Louie XVI was king public opinion had become a political force that everyone, including the monarchy, recognised as important. However, the monarchy’s lack of influence over public opinion and lack of systematic incorporation of public opinion into policy severely impaired the power of the Old Regime.


Coupling the internal financial and political problems of the monarchy with the alternative sources of political power supplied by writers of public opinion the collapse of the Old Regime became imminent. Furet denominates the summoning of the Estates General, the (re) appointment of Necker, the recall of the parlements, all in the summer of 1788, as the surrender of Louie XVI’s power and the first major step of the French Revolution. The vacancy of power opened up numerous possibilities, the results determining the fate of the French nation and more broadly, the entire world.
“The reorientation (of the French Revolution) can best be characterised as a shift from Marx to Tocqueville, from a basically social approach to the subject to a basically political one.” (Baker, 1) The more modern understanding gives greater credence to the problems with the French monarchy as causes of the Revolution than the social inequalities focused upon by Marxist scholars. Thus, the worldwide shift from feudalism to capitalism was more a product of the French Revolution than the French Revolution was a product of the shift from feudalism to capitalism.
Absolutely Fascinating

I'm working on my resume today and I was trying to find some super old copies with my script reading internship information. I ended up going back to an old hotmail account to look up old messages. I couldn't find the resume, but I took a look at some old email folders I had created at one time to try to organize my emails. The titles were things like: Friends, Film School, Investments, Foreign Service, Job Search, Soccer, LA Housing, etc. Each of them have a few scattered messages that are absolutely fascinating to read. One was a conversation with a film professor from San Fran State about High Noon as a metaphor for the Iraq War. Another was from 2000, I was seeking job and life advice from a girl a couple years older than me who I worked with at the DOJ. Another was a scattered group of emails right before I moved to LA after a long cross country road trip with old coworkers at my consulting job. Funny stuff. These email accounts are going to be brilliant to read 25 years from now looking back upon life.
Nate Responds!

Nate returns from hiding to poke holes in the seemingly irrefutable logic here at Public Musings. Nate's criticism of Blair and Bush is that they err on the side of ideology rather than pragmatism, which has contributed to the continuing problems in that country. He is surely correct to some degree. Right now I'm almost finished with the Assassin's Gate, a Christmas present and a must read for those with a curiousity about Iraq. It starts by following the policy battles in Washington, about the curious group everyone loves to hate known as the neoconservatives and how their arguments were able to win the day after 9/11 and how they became fascinated with Iraq. The book goes into chapters about Iraqi exiles and their plans, American troops on the ground and their experiences, Kurdish, Sunni and Shia men and women in Iraq and their perspectives. Now I'm in the Chapter appropriately entitled Civil War?

The book is a monster. Packard goes in with a ferocity trying to find truth and make sense of a situation that for all intents and purposes is unknowable and almost incapable of understanding. The people of Iraq are curious creatures and one feels equal parts sympathy and frustration with their deliberations, hopes, and suspicions.

But one thing remains clear to me in reading this book, a single man like Saddam can ruin and psychologically batter an entire generation of 20 million plus people in the relatively short historical time frame of 30 years. His policies were all geared towards subjugating the majority of the population underneath a terror government which benefited no one - not even the Sunnis in power. He had an odd layered system, a pyramid scheme of power in which no one benefited and everyone lived in fear. His sons were monsters of their own system. It was sick.

Knowing this helps explain the difficulties today. The ethnic fighting makes more sense when you know that Saddam had a policy "Arabizing" Kurdish areas by moving Arabs into Kirkuk and taking land and space away from the Kurds, who now want it back.

I know this: If you have credit card debt, you can keep paying off the minimum and get by. But one day, you're going to have to pay the whole thing at a massive interest rate. Iraq had gotten to a point where the balance was so huge, it was paying more interest than the principal. One day, someone was going to need to pay this debt - maybe it wasn't us in 2003, but some day someone was going to have to deal with Iraq and it was never going to be pretty. Maybe we weren't suited to. In fact, surely we weren't...and aren't suited to. But then again, who else is there?
Movie Thoughts

Last night I saw one of the best movie previews - ever. I actually don't want to describe the preview because describing it will ruin in. But let's just say, the filmmaking and camera use is incredible. The funniest (and oddest) part about the preview is when the title comes up - The Hills Have Eyes Part 2. No joke.

A holiday movie and dvd roundup.

The Good Shephard - Lousy directing, bad writing. So much talent not used property. All the other new spy movies coming out look stupid as well. Thank goodness. It means there is still space for the Janissary.

Rocky Balboa - Bad. A few good moments when I got pumped up like the Rocky of old, but this one was just bad. Not as bad as Rocky V, but still bad. To put it in perspective, Rocky IV was on the other day on television and I watched the entire thing on TNT because it's so damn engrossing and fun to watch. You couldn't pay me to see Rocky Balboa again. Seriously, where were the music video montages to Eye of the Tiger? I miss that gay cheese.

Children of Men - I really liked it. I was surprised how much I enjoyed it and how emotion I felt during parts of the film. The politics and the cheese can be talked about, but I got washed over by the pace of the story, quality acting, and exciting filmmaking.

Freaks and Geeks - A show on TV for one season around 2000 or 2001. It was a one hour comedy (rare) about a group of freshmen geeks and junior freaks. The show is great and a lot of the creators and directors of the show have gone on to much bigger things - Jud Apatow, Mike White, Jake Kasdan, Gabe Sachs. This is a pretty awesome high school show, but I thought the second half of the season lost it's steam and it made sense to me why the show didn't find an audience large enough to sustain itself. In constrast, there are shows like Arrested Development, which inexplicably, couldn't find an audience.

The Office Season 2 - The American version is good entertainment, what can I say?

Babel - I saw this over Thanksgiving and thought it was really great, although all the stories ended weaker than they. The filmmaker obviously has big ideas and thoughts but hasn't quite figured out how to put it together cohesively into a tidy narrative. But then again, maybe he's not interested. And frustratingly to me, talented enough to get away with it.

I feel as though I'm missing something, but there are still a bunch of movies to see: Little Children, Volver, Letters from Iwo Jima, just to begin with.