Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Iran is Burning

Like Americans, Iranians love their cars and hence, hate gas rationing.

Take it to the Mullahs!

A tipping point?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Insomnia = Good

On Sunday I played in a soccer game followed by a dinner party during which I injested 3 beers. I had gotten a bunch of work done during the weekend and was feeling good, no anxiety or lingering deadlines. The recipe was perfect for a good night's sleep. Only I couldn't. I kept waking up. I was incredibly comfortable, I remember, because I spent time setting up my fan to bring cool air into my room.

It made no sense. I even got out of bed at one point and started doing a little work on a script. My day at work was miserable. I kept falling asleep.

So I figured last night I would crash early. I got into bed around 10ish with a book and was like, all right, a good night of sleep. And then, again, tossing and turning. This time I really jumped up and worked on my script until about 2am.

Now I'm tired again at work, but I did get a good deal of work done during these weird bouts of insomnia that I am currenty blaming on my experimental fried chicken...which was the only constant over the last two nights - both times I had it for dinner.
Not Staying the Course

A detailed outline of the surge plan, how it differs on the ground from previous operations, and why it has a good chance of working.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Hitchens on How to Deal With Angry Muslims

Angry Muslims are starting to grow passe on me already. Worldwide interest in them has peaked, and I'll grant them some credit for lasting longer than Lindsay Lohan in the world's eye.

Hitchens has listed all the offenses over and over: Rushdie's book, Danish cartoons, a rumor out of Guantanamo, the pope's comment, Rushie's knighthood...all of these minor insensitivities (and that's being generous) somehow get young Muslim men from all around the world up in arm, burning flags, calling for death...meanwhile Al Queda bombs a mosque in Iraq TWICE trying to kill as many innocent Shiite civilians as possible and what is the reaction from the angry Muslim? Blame the Jews or the Americans, of course.

Give us a break, these guy's don't deserve being treated with any respect or interest whatsoever. The appropriate response, if we were watching them from above, burning flags and going crazy over some bullshit offense in the streets of Karachi would be to whip it out and piss on their heads.
Intelligence and Leadership

Why smart leaders tend to do worse than stupid leaders. I'm paraphrasing, of course, as two of the smartest men on the planet talk about the issue.

Headline: Bush looking for Iraq War Truce on Capital Hill.

This seems to me the making of a very clever political maneuver where the Democrats can be made to look like trouble makers if they come across as more interested in making Bush looking like a fool than actually trying to resolve anything. Say what you will about Bush, he is a talented politician.

Of course, on this issue, I think he's got the big picture right and his opponents generally have it wrong, making it all the easier to come out looking better.

Friday, June 22, 2007


Who knows if it's nuclear blackmail. Frankly, I don't care. With the way the world is right now, we should pay NoKo to stay out of the nuke club...they don't seem to be into proliferating and there is no sense that they would be able to deal with regime change. The place is obviously backwards and heinous, but at the moment, we've got much bigger fish to fry.

I'm way more concerned with Iran, Iraq, and Pakistan.
I'm Used To It, Now

Oakland is going to part with Milton Bradley. I liked this guy and am sad to see him go, but he was injured too often to be counted upon. Still a good hitter...
Not Knowing vs. Bad Intel

Knowing Iraq does not have WMDs seems better to me than not knowing under Saddam.

I know I'm in the minority here, but I'm not entirely sure why.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Hope For Democracy?

The "weak" Lebanese Army crushes the Fatah Islam.

I've got one thing to say: Boo-Ya.
Reporting From Iraq

This is blogging at it's best.

Michael Yon is out there in Iraq in the middle of shit writing up stories on his website. This is raw, like hearing a conversation. He says locals are turning on AQ and giving up information. I imagine that has less to do with believing in our cause than picking the stronger horse. I'm glad to see that they think it's us.
Skill of the Week 6/19


Last week (6/12): Teaching self to make steamed milk at the work espresso maker.

Status: Have learned to heat the top of the milk to make more froth. Still not an expert, but make satisfactory Cafe Au Lait - 1/2 coffee and 1/2 steamed milk.

This week (6/19): Teaching self the one-handed backhand.

Status: Been working on it a little bit for awhile now, but think I made a conceptual break through on how to grip the racket differently from a forehand. Makes the shot a bit more difficult b/c it requires changing grip during play, but with the grip, the shot is a lot more effective and easy.

Potential Future Skills:

1. Top spin second serve.
2. How to fry chicken.
3. Develop a mini-work out to be performed during work
4. Create a small, playable board game.
5. Learn how to write an inquiry letter for a magazine article.
You Call That Reporting?

CNN Headline: 14 Troops Killed.

I guess they didn't read my link to Bill Roggio's blog yesterday. Not a single mention of the major operation against AQ right now. It seems to me the context here matters quite a bit. This is a case of what war supporters call MSM bias. I'm not convinced it's any more than lazy stupidity.

Two versions of the same story:

1. 14 more US troops dead. Implication: Needless death.
2. US undertakes major new operation to root out and kill AQ insurgents in and around Baghdad. 14 soldiers killed in battle. Implication: Sad but necessary sacrifice.

I think everyone is against needless death. So when we're told by news outlets this version, it helps explain why support for the war is so low. But regardless of all that...isn't it the job of reporters to find the story and the context of events? I don't care if the truth doesn't support my opinion, I'd rather hear it and make my own judgement than merely get statistics that reflect someone else's...
Good For Them

Some Liberal Arts colleges are deciding not to participate in US News and World Reports Rankings.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Growing Sympathy

I used to have little sympathy for NFL players or any athlete or movie star asking for more money when they were already getting paid an enormous (by any regular standard).

But now, I have a growing sympathy for them. A star athlete takes tremendous physical risks by choosing their career. They also take on a financial risk because success in a professional sport is quite a rare achievement, yet they dedicate a lot of time and energy to that pursuit. Same goes for movie stars. Plus, their shelf life of value is relatively short. Unlike a businessman, lawyer, or many other professions, athletes and movie stars risk only being relevant for a short period of time. The average NFL career is something like 4 years. Not only is that a short career, the NFL doesn't exactly prepare you for another coaching. My point is, these folks get very little opportunity to "cash in," both in terms of making a bunch of money and in terms of winning a risky bet by getting to a position where they are able to demand more money. The downside is coming across as greedy...but long after the crowd forgets your name and consequently, whether you were greedy or not, if you've pocketed away a good chunk of change at least your family will be taken care of.

By sacrificing one year or a couple years of lower pay during their prime, an athlete runs a huge risk of getting hurt, lowered performance (after all, you're competing against the best), and consequently devaluing oneself. Not only that, they do not benefit from sticking it out with the firm over the long term because the firm rewards loyalty. Bullshit. If a better player comes along, they are gone...just like that. And then we ask them to be loyal to us, as consumers as teammates, etc.
Welcome to the Surge

Bill Roggio outlines the surge plan currently taking place in Iraq.

The basic idea: block the exits and trap AQ in their current positions. Then, kill them instead of merely clearing them out. Afterwards, they have holding troops and humanitarian aid ready to step in and help with the aftermath.

Meanwhile, Special Forces continues to raid and kill AQ head quarters and rear positions and smaller offensive operations against Sadr militia and Iranian networks take place as warning shots: do not get involved.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

More Redistricting Buzz

You can find the link to the CNN piece here.
Rather Disgusting

Palestinians are trying to flee Gaza into...Israel. I wonder why? Why would they flee their democratically elected province into an illegal, oppressive, occupying force?

Not only that, a few Hamas fighters disguised themselves as fleeing civilians and threw gernades at the Israeli checkpoint.

I'm all for humanitarian help, but I don't blame Israel one bit if they don't in a single Palestinian. Sorry folks, by why should a country help you if you call for their destruction? I don't say this with animosity...I say it because you elected a government whose charter - ie by definition - calls for the destruction of the state of Israel and sanctions any and all forms of illegal (by international standards) violence against said country.

Do these people not understand irony? How can you deal with a suicidal culture?
The Biggest Testament to Our Sorry-Ass Foreign Policy

Is that we have a group like Al Queda who is basically a murderous gang of thugs with a clear M.O.: pick weak Muslim countries and try to spark chaotic violence through murder and mayham. Their hope: all civilized people and armies will eventually pack up and leave, allowing them the remnants to install Sharia Law to govern otherwise failed states.

It's the same story from Afghanistan, to Waziristan, to Somalia, to Iraq, and to Lebanon. How we can't create a band of allies to fight this scourge is truly pathetic. I understand certain countries have at various time uses for Al Queda - we did against the Soviets in Afghanistan, the Saudis have at times used them as a bulwark against their own internal discord, Iran is using them right now in Iraq to hamper US interests, the Taliban used them to run Afghanistan...but that we don't have a wider consensus to get rid of these guys is a testament to pretty enormous failure of expressing our ideas and winning over friends.
Just Stop Provoking Them

If we'd just stop provoking and attacking Muslims, they would stop attacking us...of course, attacking Muslims includes knighting Salman Rushie. What a bunch of insensitive savages we are....Jeezus....this shit is never going to stop. Can we just plaster those damn Danish cartoons over all the currency we spend in the Middle East?

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Redistricting Game

Has been released and is now online. It is getting a lot press as well at PC World, NYTimes, NPR, etc.

I can't tell you how many times I played drafts of this game and I will take personal credit for making the original paper prototype of the game and working on a lot of different elements throughout the project. It's nice to see it up and running.
This Is Stupid

First off, Neocons don't advocate staying in Iraq forever...everyone has different strategies...they merely think that American power will have long term positive benefits for the region. Adding more troops or removing troops is an issue for the generals to decide based upon the situation. In any reasonable persons mind the issue isn't getting out of Iraq or staying, it's in what capacity do we stay - even prior to Iraq War II we had no fly zones over the Kurdish north. Point is, do we remove troops from the Sunni areas, or send troops there to root out Al Queda? We're going to maintain some troops for the indefinite future regardless if you're a neocon or not.

Second point - democracy has always been the least worst of all governmental options. Lamanting the first set of democratic elections in the Middle East in a long ass time (if ever) in Gaza, Iraq, and Lebanon is giving up way too easy. Autocracy had it chance and it failed miserably...for the people there and for us. Democracy deserves a chance.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Poker Slump

Finally last night I pulled out of a 4-5 month poker slump. Bear in mind, my slump wasn't always losing, it was merely about playing mediocre. I won a few games when I had the best cards...which any adequate player can do. Last night, in a cash game, I finally got back into playing the style of poker I like - smart aggression. The whole game started in a single hand when everyone was feeling aggressive. I had Jack, Nine, and was dealing. First position bet out two bucks (a decent sized bet). I probably would've folded, but every single person went in before the flop. From a pot-odds perspective I wanted in for the chance at two pair or a straight. Six, Seven, Eight came up on the flop and the first position bet out four bucks. Man, could he have made the straight already? I was unsure what I was going to do, but I liked my odds because if he was betting his nine, I was in a position of splitting the pot or winning with a ten (because I had the jack). A bunch of people before me called. Again, I had a pot odds on the straight possibility. So I called. Up came the 10. He bets out six. Now I know he has the straight, but I have the nuts because of the jack. Everyone else folds. I go all in. He has to call. I win a huge pot and become the major chip leader.

From there, I was super aggressive anytime I was in a hand. Basically, if someone was going to go for a pot that I wanted, I made it clear they were going to have to go all in by heavy early betting followed up with heavier betting. This is really tough to play against because unless you have the nuts, it's hard to commit all your chips. I knocked three more people out and I got three people to fold hands where I was working a long shot draw at best.

Later on, I mellowed my strategy as my cards started to cool and lost a few hands where I tried to win it early with big bets and ran into someone with cards. People started folding earlier as well and not chasing pots - which backfired on me once when I tripped up on the flop. I pissed away about 20 bucks, but still walked away with 65 after putting in 10. It was fun.
Downside to the Auteur Theory

Most filmy people subscribe to some version of the auteur theory that the director is the author of a work. Truffaut went so far as to say, "There are no good and bad films, only good and bad directors."

The basic idea is that despite film being a collaborative and industrial undertaking, good films are by filmmakers who leverage the tools and industry to create a personal work. Of course many of the great films, especially from the French New Wave and the American 70s are auteur films, and the theory was developed from the work of Hitchcock, Hawks, and Renior. The auteur theory is the predominant theory of how film is taught all around the world today - from within Hollywood to all the regional cinemas of the world.

What I find distastelful about much discussion surrounding "auteur" work is the privileged status auteur films are given by filmy people. We tend to think auteur work is better than non-auteur or industrial work such as television or comic book studio movies. And from my recent Netflix viewing I have two auteurs I would like to advance as evidence: Ed Zwick and Jackie Chan.

As much as any current American director, including Michael Mann and Martin Scorcese, Ed Zwick must be considered an auteur. All of his films deal with the same themes - injustice, war, political and civil rights, and have some sort of heavy handed liberal message. They are glossy, emotionally wrought works which almost always do well at the box office. They normally feature a hero working within the system to make small changes. His work includes Glory, The Seige, Blood Diamond, Courage Under Fire, and the Last Samuari. He often works with Denzel Washington. I don't dislike Ed Zwick movies, but I don't proudly list him off as one of my favorite filmmakers.

Even less could be said about Jackie Chan. He is as familiar to people around the world as nearly any movie star. He does not direct all of his movies, but has directed several. He had enormous control of his hong kong movies and early American films. All of them had the same features - ridiculous fighting sequences, cheesy acting, virginal/sister like female characters, goofy bad guys, and humongous stunt/action sequences. Jackie Chan is always a do-gooder who gets wrapped up in some sort of fight against bad guys too numerous to count and ends up needing to defeat them more or less single-handedly. The auteur theory must expand to Jackie Chan movies because he clearly leverages the industry of filmmaking to tell a personal vision.

I point out these two auteurs in an effort to de-privilege auteur work. Because I think it is both false and unuseful to put too much weight on the auteur. Historically, there are a number of examples of great work that have counterbalanced the auteur theory - the classic example being Casablanca, a completely studio engineered masterwork. Other examples of great collaboration are Citizen Kane and The Third Man (ironically the auteur theory could argue for Orsen Welles)...but I've also been thinking about this in terms of television shows recently as I went to panel on Friday Night Lights the other night and the recent end of the Sopranos.

I was surprised to hear how FNL works in that Peter Berg essentially wrote and directed the pilot, hired the entire cast and when the show got picked up, handed over most of the control to a showrunner. The pilot is unbelievable, but a lot of the later shows are great in a way one could not have necessarily seen in the pilot episode. Not to mention that this is a derivative work from a prior book and film...despite many of the characters being added and changed and switched around between versions. I don't know how this could possibly be considered an auteur work - who would it be? Peter Berg? Buzz Bissinger? It would be weird to consider it such because they have little to nothing to do with the current project which is being run by Jason Katims.

The same goes for Sopranos. Everyone talks about David Chase, but fans of the show would be stupid for not noticing the input of Terence Winter and Tim van Patton not to mention a series of other directors and writers.

In any case, there are very few directors whose every work I enjoy. Sure, I'd take any Michael Mann film over any film by Brett Ratner...but the recent Grindhouse movie threw me for a big loop as I enjoyed the Rodriguez film considerably more than the Tarantino movie and couldn't say anything but the opposite about those two filmmakers prior to Grindhouse. Time affects directors in different ways...look at Clint Eastwood's later work compared to his early work - or even the two films he did last year: Flags vs. Letters. Or try to watch all Godard or Herzog films. These guys are brilliant and times and completely unwatchable at others. Same goes for Renais and Soderburgh. I see filmmaking more like a sport. Some days you are on, other days you are not. Some players have one great season - remember Brady Anderson? Others are great for extended period of time - Larry Bird, Michael Jordan. Some players simply have great moments. Some players transcend at certain aspects of their sport but their teams underperform - Barry Bonds and Kobe Bryant. I think filmmakers experience the same type of ups and downs. Robert Altman had a stretch of films in the 70s where he was prolific and amazing, then fell off the planet seemingly for the same amount of time.

Is the Middle East A Disaster?

Can we trace Gaza being taken over by a terrorist group back to Sharon's withdrawal? Sure. Of course we can. Shit, I supported it. Am I happy Hamas is in control of Gaza? No. Is this a disaster? I don't know.

As far as I can tell, the Middle East has been a disaster for decades now. Everything we do or fail to do, support or fail to support, somehow fails. There simply isn't success to be had in this region, just different levels of abject failure and misery. That is why I'm in favor of almost any new, innovative ideas to try to get this region functioning better. I supported getting rid of Saddam in Iraq. I supported Israel's move to unilaterally pull out of Gaza. I support the surge. I support elections in Palestinian areas and Iraq, but I don't support working and supporting radical Shiia or Sunni groups - unless they are doing our killing for us, by attacking other radical groups as in Anbar - even if they are elected. Is that hypocritical. I don't think so. I believe in democracy, but it doesn't mean I'll always support the winners. I support the process.

Anyways, I'm just rambling.
Dan Haren

Quietly, the A's have developed ANOTHER Ace. I don't get it. I really don't see how the A's are able, year in, year out, to develop talent the way they do - particularly pitchers. You could win a World Series with the team that A's have given away in the past 8 years. Imagine the line up with these guys -

1. Johnny Damon
2. Jason Giambi
3. Miguel Tejada
4. Frank Thomas
5. Eric Byrnes
6. Ray Durham

And a pitching staff with:

Zito, Mulder, Hudson...

Meanwhile, Haren is the best pitcher of all of them 8-2, 1.64 era...the guy is going to start the All Star game and he's the guy they got in the Mulder trade. Jeezus!

Not to mention Harden, the supposed Ace, whose injured. I don't get it. But I'll take it.

The tribal split with Al Queda in Anbar is good. But..."This is Arab culture. They will support you one second and murder you in cold blood the next. And they will do exactly the same to one another."
Moratorium on the West Side

The last two days I've drive 100+ miles and spent 10+ hours on and driving to various places on the West Side - Venice, Culver City, Westwood, Santa Monica. Granted, when I get out there, I have a good time. But the process is so unbearable because of the vast distance, my lack of geographical expertise on the region, and unpredicable traffic conditions.

Many of these places are like visiting a foreign country - one where they speak English. It certainly feels like I'm in a different world, a different climate, different looking people.

The enormous length of streets always throw me for a loop. Sepulveda, Venice, Slauson, Lincoln, Pico, what weird, large and long streets these are. Shit, Slauson is practically a freeway - the 90. What is that?

Anyhow, the vast amount of resouces it takes me to get out there make the trip too costly in time and resources (gas). It takes me the entire night (if it's a weeknight) and busts up the entire day if it is a weekend. Sorry folks, I've self revoked my Westside visa and won't be over there until July.
Deep Down, It's Worse that That

Sullivan points out that the reason Democrats are perceived as weak is because they huff and puff and then don't stand up and take action for anything they believe in.

I actually think it's worse than that - deep down, the Democratic core doesn't have a clue about what they believe in. Their most distinctive "voice," is a negative one, one of opposition to church-mongering Republicans, or one completely rooted in the past era of Vietnam and Civil Rights.

They aren't sure which values are worth protecting and fighting for and in what circumstances. They don't know the difference between a friend and enemy.

My favorite quote that sums it up best is that "a liberal is too broad minded to take his own side in a quarrel."

Friday, June 15, 2007

So Would AJ Be in Hamas or Fatah?

The Sopranoification of Gaza.

The title alone merits a link from this site.

Another note that is obvious but still needs to be said - it isn't good for our horse to be the loser in this fight. And our horse was certainly Fatah...although I think the press is misrepresenting things by not reporting how Hamas has always been powerful in Gaza and to the layperson who doesn't follow these events over time, it makes it seem like Hamas has taken control over the Palestinians...which they have not.
The Pakistan Problem

An article about the relatively difficult relationship we have with Pakistan.

The goofy thing about this whole situation - I have Iranian and Pakistani friends - folks who have lived in the US and I really like them...not just toleration of differences, mind you, truly like and can consider friends. These are not nations of people with different, inreconcileable values from us...why can't we all just get along...

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Can We Somehow Blame Israel?

Of course we can. Hamas executes Fatah members in the street. No one expected anything less, did they?

Although I mentioned the other day that I didn't have a horse in this fight...I'm starting to feel not so good about Hamas winning handily. Things like that tend to embolden violent Islamic fanatics. Jeez, I'm surprised Fatah couldn't put up more of a fight. Pretty pathetic. Anyhow, it seems like the only victory any Arab army can win are those against other Arabs.

Can anyone name another? Don't say Afghanistan - they aren't Arabs.
Off the Deep End

Sullivan finally appears to have gone off the deep end as he is now comparing the US Army to the Gestapo. Way to go, Andrew. Hope your new friends at the ANSWER Coalition treat you well.

On a side note, Andrew proposes Iraq war supporters also ought to support sending troops to Gaza.

I don't quite understand what isn't clear about the surge plan. Hasn't Petraeus outlined exactly what we are trying - and isn't it worth seeing whether it will work? I don't think we should go about invading Iran and Palestine at this moment. It doesn't make sense. Why don't we wait and see the results of the surge? Andrew thinks it is bound to fail. He also thinks an invasion of Gaza or Iran is bound to fail. At one time Andrew's principal concern was the spread of radical Islamic violence. Now his greatest concern is getting out of Iraq and being a blowhard about American torture. What happened?

As for why Iraq and not Palestine - easy - Iraq matters to the global economy and our troops are already there. Palestine does not.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

What Does Leaving Iraq Mean?

Hitchens on Kurdistan.

On a side note, it appears Hamas is kicking Fatah ass in Gaza. Hamas has always been stronger in this shouldn't be a huge surprise. I'm also pretty sure that we're supplying Fatah with guns and intelligence and might have been involved with stirring up the current trouble.

What an fun region to live in!
Sexual Politics

According to this interview, the Al Queda - Sunni Tribe split had to do with sexual politics in that Al Queda wanted to marry Sunni women against custom with the tribes, who keep the women within tribes.

Well, what can I say...some forms of stupid backwardness make me smile a little bit.
Is Iraq Important or Not?

VDH on Iraq and Honesty.

Iran is moving towards executing porn stars. Seems a bit excessive to me.

This type of thing will do more to bring down the mullah regime, I imagine, than any of our covert attempts.

Then again, perhaps not if the world responds with the same outrage we expressed at the Salman Rushdie fatwa and Danish cartoon blaming the victims. I don't think the Ayatollah's would be smart to issue a fatwa against Jenna Jamison...she has a lot more fans than Rushdie.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


In this fight, I find it hard to root for anyone.

At least in Iraq, I have a series of groups I like most to least and will root for whomever I like more. In this order:

1. The independent Kurd North
2. The Provisional Government
3. The Shiia groups affiliated with Sistani
4. The Sunni Tribes
5. Former Baathists
6. Sadr Brigades
7. Al Queda

I realize there is some overlap in these groups and I'm probably leaving some out.

But between Fatah and Hamas...I hate Hamas, but much less so than Hezbollah or Al Queda because they haven't attacked US and they seem willing to abide by some ceasefires, etc...but I also don't care for Fatah because they are impossible to hold to anything and also seem to have little to no control.
Not A Bad Argument

Not a bad argument against Neoconservatism.

It still seems to me Iraq was worth the shot. If Neoconservative logic ends in Empire, or in his best words, "the alleged peril of not having an empire," was to prove faulty, it would've needed to have been tested somewhere...and at what better time and what better moment than in Iraq in 2003?

The fact is, Iraq was an experiment to see if a new type of foreign policy could shake things up in the Middle East. All the moralizing and sentimentalizing over the troops and Bush and all that shit doesn't do a lick a good.

I guess my beef with Sullivan - although I agree strongly with this post - is that at one time he supported the war as it was being handled, then he didn't support the war as it was being handled (in fact, he wanted more troops), and now he is saying he doesn't support the entire logic behind using American troops as an occupying force.

I don't care if people change their minds because new facts become apparent...but Sullivan is too fickle for my taste.
Do We Have the Leaders We Deserve?

Watching part of a Nelson Mandela documentary today and it's amazing how people respond to the guy. They write songs about him. They love and adore him. Bill Clinton recently said that Mandela was the best man he's ever known, and I figure Clinton has met nearly everyone important from his generation.

It made me think about how most Americans respond to our leaders and representatives. We've got George Bush and Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid and Dick Cheney. Regardless of politics, no one really adores these people. They don't seem, on the surface at least, to be the best America can offer to the world. Or maybe they are.

A lot of punditry and op-eds lament that the American people deserve better. There is a romantic notion of the American people and how we deserve better leaders. All the new candidates say so. But is this true? Maybe we get the leaders we deserve. Our loyalties are fickle and based upon self interest. We want character, but at the same time, we want winners. We want good leaders, but we also want good looking leaders. Plus, we vote for these people...

The same goes for other things. So many people talk about how TV is stupid. Regardless of the fact that the Soprano's might be the greatest TV show of all time, people still lament TV. But TV sucks because that's what people want to watch. So isn't it more the case that people suck and our TV reflects it?

Another thing...a lot of people who don't support the war say they support the troops. But how is that really true? That is like saying, "I support you, but I don't believe the work you are doing is useful. In fact, I think what you're doing is bad." Wouldn't it make more sense to say, "I don't support the troops. I don't think what you are doing is good. I think it is wrong, unhelpful to you and to the people there." Plus, the most awful thing about Iraq - Abu Gharib - was perpetrated by troops. The Marine's on trial for murder at Haditha - more troops.

I guess it's one the problems with Democracy and a Market economy - we don't really have any legitimate gripe against anyone but ourselves...
A Gay Bomb

This is almost too funny to be believed.
Dennis Miller

On Harry Reid. Yipes.

Monday, June 11, 2007

The End

Yesterday was sad day as the Sopranos finally ended. But it went out at the right time, before the show got stale as it hinted at getting last season. This season was certainly impressive, especially the way they handled AJ. He went from being the least interesting character to one of the most watchable in the course of 8 episodes. His bits in the final episode were by far the funniest, only eclipsed by the momentary crowd pleasing moment of Phil Leotardo's crushing death.

I always thought Tony was going to die at the end in an operatic gangster style, but alas, I was wrong and Chase brought it back to the core: The family. Final scene was unbelievable and will be talked about as one of the greatest end scenes in TV history, except that it is momentarily overshadowed by the abrupt end cut. I admit to thinking it was a technical error for a moment (being that my job is spotting technical errors on shows), but the tension mixed with sentimentality mixed with the mundane of the entire scene was pretty awesome. A few things I read regard the end cut as brilliant. I suspect it was the type of thing where it left a lot of the viewership unsatisfied...sort of like watching Zidane's wonderful performance in the World Cup Final only for the performance itself to be eclipsed by the head butt.

Overall, I thought the final episode was a little clunky with a few awesome moments. But whatever...if stuck on a desert island, I'd take the Sopranos, clunk and all, over any work of fiction - TV, movie, novel created in the last 8-9 years.

Friday, June 08, 2007

What We've Been Hoping For

I don't see how this can be construed as bad news with former tribal insurgents taking up arms against Al Queda.

I never understood why some Sunni tribes and former Baathists took up with Al Queda and the insurgency in the first place, to be seemed like a losing proposition. That it took this long for them to come around is the biggest surprise to me. Then again, I know nothing about the conditions on the ground. From a former insurgent commander:

"After we are done with al Qaeda," Abu Ali says, "we will ask the Americans to withdraw from Iraq. ... If they do not withdraw, there will be violations and the American army will be harmed."

He adds, "Especially after the help the U.S. Army has provided us, we would like them to go home as our friend, not enemy."

Sounds good to me.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

A Book or Paper

Someone should write a book or paper on the evolution of Law and Order SVU Unit pre and post 9/11 and how it reflects upon American attitudes. At my job, we've been getting the entire 7 year synidication run of the show. I'm catching up on the early years and they are dramatically different from later years.

The clue is in the opening credit sequence whose final shot is a skyline shot of New York City. In the first season, the the helicopter shot reveals the Brookyln Bridge on the left side of frame and we catch a nice shot of the World Trade Center. Come the fourth season, we are using a different helicopter shot - actually, I speculate it was the back end of the same take, this time, the Brooklyn Bridge is on the right side of frame and the World Trade Center missing.

Dick Wolf's name appears across the credit.

In the first season, we focus a lot more on the private lives of the detectives and how their lives relate to the cases they are following. In "A Single Life," we open up with Olivia purchasing groceries for herself and she happens upon a victim whose been thrown out a window. She gets personally involved with the case because the girl turns out to be a single young professional with no apparent friends or family - not unlike herself. We also get insight into the private lives of the captain and the male detective, going into his home life at times as well. In the end, it turns out the women committed suicide after a long history of abusive relationships starting with her father. In short, there was no murder.

Fast forward to season four. The World Trade Center is gone. So are the personal lives of the detectives. The show is still the same length, but it has become pure procedure. Instead of meandering through victims lives, we are plot twist after plot twist, discovering new and increasingly more perverted things. In the episode titled "Tortured," we find a girl's body left out for display. They discover blood on her boots. They take off the boot. Her foot is missing. This is post-9/11 Law and Order SVU. The crimes are horrific, almost off the chart brutality. It isn't enough to have a rape-murder victim. Now the victims are rape-tortured-mutilated and oftentimes by someone close to them. After all, Law and Order needs to compete with Zarqawi's snuff videos...

How the world has changed.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Our Goal

An interesting take on how to win the WOT - try to mold the transnational terrorist groups into criminal gangs.

Since so many of the members of these groups are primarily criminals, exploit that greed and get the criminal element to attain more power than the ideological element. Their activities will then cease to be aimed against attacking US interests and become primarily about making money. It is actually quite a smart strategy.
Brilliant Analysis

Counterterrorism blog author Walid Phares has a brilliant analysis of the fighting in Lebanon.

He gives specific details about how the Syrian regime uses Sunni Islamic terrorists to further their regional goals. This kind of analysis makes US newpaper reporters look like bumbling idiots in trying to explain the region.
No Doubt

We should all be rooting heavily for the Lebanese Army to kick the living shit of Al Queda in Lebanon (Fatah al Islam).

Go Lebanon!

Saturday, June 02, 2007

World War 1 and the Caucus

I'm reading a fascinating book about a mysterious author from the city of Baku in Azerbaijan. Never heard of either? Check out the map.

As you can see, Azerbaijan is a small country between Iran and Russia. Baku is a city on the Caspian Sea. In the early 1900s Baku was one of the richest cities in the world as it become a high-functioning oil port. Before the discover of crude petroleum in Saudi Arabia and other states in the Middle East, oil was literally found in and around the Caspian Sea, as pools of oil were on the surface of land in this area.

Oil millionaires funded what was an ethnically diverse city in the East. Muslims, Jews, Russians, Aremenias, Turks, you named it from the East lived in relative peace and prosperity in this city. It was World War 1 that brought total chaos to this region and shaped the 20th century.

I know very little of WW1. Most of my understanding of the conflict is picturing the Western Front in France and trench warfare between the Germans and the British/French/American troops. Gas masks and machine guns. A few images from Gallipoli. I think of the peace and the attempt to create the League of Nations and the high cost to Germany, giving rise to Fascism and World War 2.

But this was only a portion of the conflict, which spanned literally across the world. First off, to put the thing in context, prior to WW1 there were feudal empires ruling across many countries and a few Colonial empires. The Ottomam Empire still existed, a mixture of peoples: Turks, Kurds, Arabs, Jews, Armenians, and Greeks. This was a diverse Islamic Empire where Jews and Christians (Armeniana is a bit time Christian country from the time of the Crusades) and Muslims lived together. Russia was still ruled by the Czar. Austria-Hungry was an empire that stretched from Prague to Budapest and included Bosnia. Germany was the Prussian Empire, France and England, colonial powers.

But what is so interesting about this time that we forget, or never knew, was all the crazy little groups that existed within these empires. World War 1 was started by an anarchist who killed the Arch Duke Ferdinand. Anarchists were basically terrorists who wanted an end to all government. They were small, but crazy, not totally unlike Al Queda. Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia because they wouldn't bring the men to justice (Not unlike the US declaring war on the Taliban). Because of a complex set of alliances and an existing arms race between Britian and Germany, the world exploded.

The East, however, sounded like complete madness. Russia entered on the Allied Side and fought against Germany and the Ottomans. The Czarist armies were huge, but underperformed and were getting their asses kicked. Meanwhile, revoluationaries in Russia saw how weak the Czar armies were and gave them confidence. The Bosheviks used terror and the secret police to attack the Czar and try to take over Russia. Russian bailed on WW1 to fight it's own internal revoluation - and one could interpret the Russian Revolution as part of WW1. However, prior to bailing, Russia had tried to attack the Ottomans and pictured extending the Russian empire all the way to Constantinople...even though they failed. In response, the Ottomans were susceptible to the militant groups within the empire knowns as the Young Turks. Instead of viewing the Ottoman Empire as a mix of Arabs, Kurds, Jews, Armenians, they viewed the Turks as the superior race and sought to create a large Turkish empire that extended into Russian-held lands, including Mongolia. They saw themselves as descendants of the Khans. Bear in mind, in the East, the values of war were different than what we know today. Empires conquered each other and the people didn't believe so much in things like countries and nationalities. They basically paid taxes to whoever conquered them and simply lived under different regimes - ideas such as nationalism and so forth were not much of an issue. This changed after WW1.

In any case, these young Turks used racism and found an internal enemy: the Armenians (Christians - possibly linked to the Russian Czar) and committed the first modern genocide in an effort to seize more power. The Bolshevicks turned out to be more successful than even they imagined, but in Russia there seemed to be total chaos between tons of different groups: the Reds: Bolsheviks and revolutionaries and the Whites: Monarchists, Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, Moderate was perhaps because of the many differences in the Whites that they lost, but something we may forget about the Russian Revolutions is that the true radicals won...that it was not moderate communists, but radical, terrorists.

Baku was in the middle of this and at various times occupied by German soldiers, Russian Czarist forces, and Bolsheviks. The Bolsheviks controlled the population with the Cheka, a secret police whom Hitler later modeled the Gestapo after. Hitler also modeled his Jewish genocide after the Turkish genocide of Armenians, famously saying, look what happened to the Armenians - no one did a thing.

Anyhow, enough talking on this subject, I just find the whole era and time fascinating and it's crazy that it happened only 100 years ago.

A real life case of Austin Powers...a Polish man awakes after 19 years in a coma and is astonished to find democracy.

It's not the cure-all for all political problems, but democracy does have it's benefits...

Friday, June 01, 2007

So Much Law and Order

There are so many episodes of this show. I've been watching constantly for the past week at the job and I'm only on the later seasons of a single spin off. I've got to hand it to Dick Wolf for sheer volume.