Friday, January 30, 2009

A Must Read

VDH on what it means to send more troops into Afghanistan. I used to be more upset that Bin Laden and Zawahri aren't caught or dead. I guess I still am, but so long as we're winning a war of attrition against Al Queda...which at the moment, it seems like we are, I'm not sure what the goal of sending more troops to Afghanistan is.

VDH does a good job of tearing the anti-war left to shreds. There is too much to quote, just read the whole thing.
Maybe He's Not Washed Up

Oh, Why Not...

I'm over getting mad at movie studios for remaking great movies with no need of remaking.

Now they're remaking a remake of a short story adaptation The Thing. No way they can better the Carpenter movie.

It is common to critique American foreign policy in the Muslim world for the past 20,30 or 60 years. And yet, no one who critiques the policy ever says what we ought to have done instead or must bear the responsibility for actually making a choice.

Say what you will about the neocons, at least they had the guts to propose a solution and be an advocate rather than just waiting around and watching and pointing out failures.
Our Natural Friends

Anyone slightly familiar with Persian culture knows they are America's natural allies. They are a reasonable people who value education, are fans of business, and have a long history of art and culture.

I'm not sure I can say the same for the Arab people who seem to delight every time something bad happens to America. But I agree with with Sullivan that we don't want to get completely on one side of the Sunni-Shia split - especially since we can use it as a trump card when the shit hits the fan. And it will at some point.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Blago Gone

Well, the bureaucrats got what they wanted - a nice sacrificial lamb.

Now, back to business as usual...

-Who's got the scrilla for the Senate Seat?
Rush Limbaugh and Jake Hatley Weigh In

Rush's stimulus package idea.

I don't know if this is a joke or serious. Basically, Rush is proposing tax cuts and huge government spending. Which is of course exactly what everyone else is proposing. And as far as I can tell, it is not different in substance (but surely in details) of what Obama is proposing.

My view on the issue is that we're taking a cash advance from our credit card to pay our rent. So I'm not excited in the least bit. I'm being told that people are suffering and we need to stimulate the economy. So why not toss out 20 trillion dollars and cut all taxes? My point, I guess, is just because people need help doesn't mean the proposed "stimulus" will work. Particularly because we've done corporate bailouts before and really, we're just kicking the can down the road. Borrowing got us into this mess and now we're being told we need to borrow to get out of it.

But hell - what do I know about economics? I went to film school and spend my free time writing a goddamn blog instead of making money. So don't listen to me. Listen to the experts.
A Nation Drowning in Debt

The original Atlantic article. Ouch. By the way, the Atlantic has a great new "business" section/blog. A nice section entitled "what we're reading." I read this article opposing the stimulus plan as written from this section. He makes a good point regarding tax cuts:

The plan is to give a tax cut of $500 a year for two years to each employed person. That's not a good way to increase consumer spending. Experience shows that the money from such temporary, lump-sum tax cuts is largely saved or used to pay down debt. Only about 15 percent of last year's tax rebates led to additional spending.

That's exactly what I did with my George Bush stimulus payment from last year. The writers suggests another way to bump consumer spending:

Why not a temporary refundable tax credit to households that purchase cars or other major consumer durables, analogous to the investment tax credit for businesses? Or a temporary tax credit for home improvements? In that way, the same total tax reduction could produce much more spending and employment.

Well, I'm not in the bracket to be improving my home or buying a new car at the moment. But I tell you what I would buy if given some incentive: a new bike. I'm annoyed with my cheap ass commuter bike. I spent $250 and I should of spent $500. I guess my problem is complicated by not having a good space, ie garage to keep the bike. The bike's home is outdoors, so maybe it's better to have a bike I semi-hate to a bike I love but am constantly worried about getting ruined or stolen. In any case, a bike tax credit would also benefit the theory.

I do wonder about this proposal for increasing consumer spending. Won't firms simply up their prices to try and take advantage of the tax credit given to consumers? And can't they stimulate purchases by just putting consumer items on sale?

Anyhow, on NPR this morning they interviewed a women talking about taking a "spy class" and she said (paraphrase) "as someone who still has a job, I feel a sense of responsibility to spend money and keep money flowing into the economy." Which as far as I could tell, was a justification for her to go shopping...which, by the way, I don't necessarily disagree with.
America the Ponzi Scheme


Are only the suckers not awash in debt?
The Sam Peckinpah of Politics

This Blagojevich should be lionized.

The governor's own words describing the Senate seat, quote, "It's a bleeping valuable thing -- thing. You just don't give it away for nothing," close quote.

Another quote, "I've got this thing, and it's bleeping golden. And I'm just not giving it up for bleeping nothing. I'm not going to do it, and I can always use it; I can parachute me there," quote. Those are his words, not our characterization, other than with regard to the bleep.

The tapes reveal that Governor Blagojevich wanted a number of things in exchange for making the appointment to the Senate seat -- an appointment as secretary of health and human services or an ambassadorship, an appointment to a private foundation, a higher paying job for his wife or campaign contributions.

At one point, he proposed a three-way deal -- that a cushy union job would be given to him at a higher rate of pay where he could make money.

In exchange, he thought that the union might get benefits from the president-elect, and therefore, the president-elect might get the candidate his choice. I should make clear the complaint makes no allegations about the president-elect whatsoever -- his conduct. This part of the scheme lost steam when the person that the governor thought was the president-elect's choice of senator took herself out of the running. But after the deal never happened, this is the governor's reaction. Quote, "They're not willing to give me anything but appreciation. Bleep them," close quote. And again, the bleed is a redaction.

This guy is great entertainment.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Super Bowl

I'm not making any bets after my humiliating losses last week. But I will be rooting for Arizona.
A Good Sign or Bad Sign?

Is a good sign when a holocaust denier with apocalyptic fantasies and designs on a nuclear weapon welcomes your ideas?

We're sorry Ahmadinejad for doing something before we were born. Now will stop making nukes?

Awful story about a socal family murder-suicide because of no job prospects.

Guess they didn't get the hope memo about Obama being elected. Okay, that was just in bad taste...

But I wonder about these stories...are they more common during recessions? Or do they only get reported during recessions? Does the media fuel the hopelessness vibe with the constant reportage of dim economic prospects? Or is this an extreme reflection of serious pain being felt around the country?

Regardless, people need to know how to ask for help in these kind of circumstances. It is out there.
Thoughts on Urgency

All the experts are saying we need to rush this stimulus through. Of course, they said the same thing about the initial (fill-in-the-blank-I-can't-remember-how-much-it-seems-like-play-money) billion we gave to the banks. Oh yeah, they also said the same thing about the GM bailout.

In my admittedly brief experience in the real world, I've noticed one similar trend in both consulting, filmmaking, and the agenting business: whenever something is rushed it is generally done wrong. Two reasons why: it is usually rushed because someone is trying to cover up mistakes or incredibly poor planning; or it is rushed because they don't want to answer the difficult questions of how the plan will work because they don't know and want to pass the buck.

So when these politicians - Obama included - stand up there urging them to move quickly, I'm skeptical. I mean, why shouldn't we be? What happened to the 80 bil we just gave to the banks? I thought that was supposed to "free up" lending. It didn't work. Or did it? If so or if not, what is the additional 825 billion is supposed to do? According to this report, we did a 240 bil dollar "infrastructure" bill in 2005. So how is this different that that? How does it make more jobs?

And here is a good article about how to really stimulate. The premise:

Many economists think that an economic recovery requires the renewal of lending by banks. Instead, I think that we need to step over the corpses in the financial sector. A revival of business investment will come from profits, not from lending.

Ughh...that makes sense.

The more I read about this thing, the more it bears similarities to the Duke Lacrosse case. Seriously. Here is are a few excerpts:

The tapes purport to show Blagojevich extorting a campaign contribution from a horse race track owner in exchange for Blagojevich signing legislation favorable to the race track. But all the tapes actually show is Blagojevich's chief of staff urging Blagojevich to pressure the race track owner to pay up on a previously promised campaign contribution, and Blagojevich trying to confirm that the payment will be made. Nothing on the tapes states that Blagojevich would refuse to sign the legislation, already passed by a substantial majority in the legislature (including many of the Senators voting on impeachment), if there were no payment. You may be able to make the connection, but these tapes don't do it. We would need much more evidence to show extortion or even conspiracy to extort.


Although not the first time I noticed this, when hearing the affidavit read out loud it became clear that much of the "evidence" against Blagojevich is double and triple hearsay based on questionable witnesses. Something along the lines of "John Smith, who is under investigation and trying to cut a deal for himself, testified that Mary Jones told him that Rod Blagojevich wanted a campaign contribution in exchange for ...."

The media and the public with them, jumped to convict this guy before any evidence was presented against him. The same way the media and Duke jumped to convict the Lacrosse players. And none of it is actually about guilt or the crime. It all has to do with a sense of frustration with the system(s). Clearly, with the Duke case, the rush to guilt was a reflection of a racially and economically divided space - where kids of privilege can hire a poor black women to perform sexual acts at their behest. This narrative fit neatly into the privilege (white) vs. underprivileged (black), this-system-is-all-fucked-up-story we are told is the TRUTH. Never mind that it wasn't.

The Blagojevich issue is somewhat different. Most Americans are purposefully naive about how politics work. They don't like the notion of backroom dealings and paying-to-play. Never mind that in their own lives and work they participate in similarly gray spaces, whether it be taking advantage of tax loopholes, participating in office politics to achieve promotions, using nepotism and favoritism to assist their families/friends, or get their kids into the "right" schools or some playing time on the soccer team. All of that, is simply "part of the game." But with our elected officials we expect pure intentions and pure dealings even though we know the world isn't that way. The Blagojevich scandal just hit at the wrong time for Blagojevich. The public is immensely frustrated with their 401ks and houses losing value and freaked out about their lost jobs or potential for lost jobs. They see this being the fault of those corrupt "other" people in power - Wall Street or politicians - or whoever. It is just someone with lots of money and power's fault. Not theirs. So the rush to judge and the public outcry against this corrupt official swells. It's not important whether he's guilty or what he did was illegal or even outside the norm. It is enough that he was accused and charged. And being the buffoon that he is, doesn't help.

One last thing - the man does not behave like a guilty person. He has not tried to sweep it under the rug and hasn't budged one inch on his proclamations of innocence. He has carried on "as if" there wasn't an unfair charge against him. This makes me think he isn't guilty of a crime because it's also clear that he's too stupid and inelegant to pull off such a stance if he were guilty. (note a difference with Bill Clinton who puffed up his chest and declared he did not have sex with "that" woman and tried to assassinate her character and tried to make the problem go away any which way he could...if the charge were untrue, would he have had a press conference or just carried on with his day-to-day?)

No joke. The difference was the 4th lap. For the first time, I felt strong. First lap was predictably good. 2nd and 3rd still lagging and painful. But 4th lap, while the pain was shooting through the legs, they were strong and determined. I don't read my lap times - because it's too dark - but I knew I had a good time when I finished. I thought 5:40, but was delighted to look at my watch and see 5:35. And it was windy, too. I guess I should revise my goal: 5:30 by spring.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Sappy Oprah Bullshit

But interesting nonetheless. Depression vs. Disappointment.

Depression is a withdrawal from life. There is a kind of hubris in this withdrawal, as though being depressed were a way of saying, "this imperfect, difficult world is not good enough for me. Give me paradise or give me death." The philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre pointed out that depression is like a spell that a person casts over the world to make it utterly gray and uninteresting. Then you can tell yourself, "What's the use of trying? Why bother to get out of bed?"

The disappointed person lingers, however painfully, in the middle of the story, even though paradise has slipped through his or her fingers. Disappointment keeps you connected to life as it continues to unfold and places an important choice in front of you. It informs you that time has gone by and things have changed since you first risked investing in a cause or a career or an intimacy with another person. Neither a utopian outcome nor easy success nor bliss in love is just around the corner. Life is more difficult than you thought. The question is, what next? Are you going to take on the vital forces of life, despite limitations and imperfections, or pull the covers over your head as an exit strategy?

In other words...sack up.

Bill Simmons on underrated players. Hint: there aren't many of them.
Change, Change, Change

Obama's interview on Al-Arabiya and Sullivan's analysis that Obama is trying to "change the game."

What Obama is doing is appealing over the heads of Muslim leaders directly to Muslim populations. I cannot think of any other president with the same kind of personal credibility in such a critical time. And his appeal is to relieve the state of humankind:


My sense, for what it's worth, is that Obama is genuine. He doesn't know whether this bold new play will pay dividends any more than we do. What he does know, I think, is that we have no choice. The trajectory of the current global conflict, centered on the question of Islam and modernity, is an apocalyptic one if the game isn't changed soon. He is attempting to change the game. Which led me to my second reaction.


But George Bush offered the EXACT same thing. A break from the past, bold changes with our policy to the Middle East. And he was ridiculed. is "going over the head" of Arab regimes new? Bush I tried the same thing for the Iraqi people and they got slaughtered as a result of listening to him because we didn't back up our words with force. The left wanted to do the same thing in Iraq II. When the insurgency picked up, they wanted to bring all the troops home and declare it a lost cause, once again making it more beneficial to be our enemy than our friend in the region. For once, we stuck with the right people in Iraq (or maybe I should say, the least bad) and capitalized on some good luck.

And ps - being popular and liked in the Arab World isn't new either...Bill Clinton was adored by the Palestinians. What good did it do? Hope is one thing. Foolishness another. Let's not get confused.

Studies on dead athletes brains show severe brain damage from concussions.

I hate to be a sissy about this, but after seeing the hit last week on Mcgahee and reading about all these awful injuries ex-NFL players have, there ought to be some serious analysis about the long term costs of NFL football careers.

I mean, these guys are essentially enduring car accidents every weekend. The average career is probably 4 years, does not yield enough money to support a family for the rest of your life, and almost definitely deteriorates your life expectancy.
Must Read

As Obama prepares to deploy more troops from Iraq to Afghanistan, a great article on US interests in Afghanistan and the strategy of separating the Taliban from Al Queda.

Even so, in nearly eight years of war, U.S. intelligence and special operations forces have maintained pressure on al Qaeda in Pakistan. The United States has imposed attrition on al Qaeda, disrupting its command, control and communications and isolating it. In the process, the United States used one of al Qaeda’s operational principles against it. To avoid penetration by hostile intelligence services, al Qaeda has not recruited new cadres for its primary unit. This makes it very difficult to develop intelligence on al Qaeda, but it also makes it impossible for al Qaeda to replace its losses. Thus, in a long war of attrition, every loss imposed on al Qaeda has been irreplaceable, and over time, al Qaeda prime declined dramatically in effectiveness — meaning it has been years since it has carried out an effective operation.

The situation was very different with the Taliban. The Taliban, it is essential to recall, won the Afghan civil war that followed the Soviet withdrawal despite Russian and Iranian support for its opponents. That means the Taliban have a great deal of support and a strong infrastructure, and, above all, they are resilient. After the group withdrew from Afghanistan’s cities and lost formal power post-9/11, it still retained a great deal of informal influence — if not control — over large regions of Afghanistan and in areas across the border in Pakistan. Over the years since the U.S. invasion, the Taliban have regrouped, rearmed and increased their operations in Afghanistan. And the conflict with the Taliban has now become a conventional guerrilla war.

The article argues we cannot beat the Taliban in Afghanistan because they enjoy the support of the people (and funds due to poppy cultivation).

I would add that while the Taliban are awful folks, they did not attack the US, have not attacked their neighbors and do not in-and-of-themselves pose a threat to the outside world. We fight them to the extent they protect and harbor Al Queda. To justify sending more troops to Afghanistan, Obama should explain why the current strategy isn't working and why more troops will improve the current strategy.

It seems foolish of the press and the rest of America to be willing to give Obama carte blanche on this issue when he could be sending American troops into a death trap. At least with Bush's surge, there was a huge debate that helped sharpen the argument in favor of the surge - reasons that ultimately proved correct. It's not clear to me anymore the strategy is Afghanistan is failing. What are the goals in Afghanistan? Can they be achieved? Framed as it is in the above paragraph, it's not at all clear we aren't winning a war of attrition against Al Queda central.

Monday, January 26, 2009

But It's Not Fair

Sorry to just keep regurgitating Andrew Sullivan, here, but a reader complains about being the undeserved victim of the financial crisis.

But as non-participants in recent bubbles (we rent and don't invest in vapor technology), we have not been rewarded. Our income has been flat or falling, our conservative investments plummeted, and low interest rates assure few viable low risk savings alternatives.

Yes, being debt-free will (hopefully) allow us to suffer less than many. But why does massive stupidity by some always result in universal punishment? You make it sound like everyone benefited from the overindulgence. We did not, but fully share the overdue hangover.

Living a debt free lifestyle isn't just about the economic benefit. It is also a psychological state of not owing anyone anything.

That said - it's tough to get ahead these days without incurring debt. It's the only way a middle class person can afford a home, buy a car, open a business, or attend college/graduate school. As such, we separate debt into good debt - home loans, college loans and bad debt - credit cards, bookies, etc.

The idea is that good debt is process by which you enrich yourself financially by gaining equity in a home or by improving your job prospects through education (although a home and education are more than an economic consideration) and bad debt contributes to self immiseration by digging a hole to big to get out of.

Problem is, the "good debt" is being gamed right now. The high demand for college and easy credit has propped up college tuition. (I think...I don't know this for a fact, it is merely a theory). The housing market "good debt" was being gamed as well by speculators and folks who were offered and who took loans knowing the probability of repayment was low.
No Way

There is no reason to think the government will get the stimulus right. I don't care how smart Obama is. But I suppose doing something in this case is better than doing nothing. Of course, I felt the same thing about Iraq, so maybe my instincts are not worth betting upon.
If Only

...I didn't need to work.

A new book explores irrational decision making.

Ever since the time of the ancient Greeks, we've assumed that humans are rational creatures. When we make a decision, we are supposed to consciously analyze the alternatives and carefully weigh the pros and cons. This simple idea underlies the philosophies of Plato and Descartes; it forms the foundation of modern economics; it drove decades of research in cognitive science. Over time, rationality came to define us. It was, simply put, what made us human. There's only one problem with this assumption: it's wrong. It's not how the brain works. For the first time in human history, we can look inside our brain and see how we think. It turns out that we weren't engineered to be rational or logical or even particularly deliberate. Instead, our mind holds a messy network of different areas, many of which are involved with the production of emotion. Whenever we make a decision, the brain is awash in feeling, driven by its inexplicable passions. Even when we try to be reasonable and restrained, these emotional impulses secretly influence our judgment.

This is not exactly news for anyone who dates, plays Modern Art, or works.
$200 Laptops

Good piece on $200 laptops and how recession affects tech companies.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Tough Post

The Niners seem to be having a tough time finding an offensive coordinator. Why would a guy take the Lions spot over the 49ers?

Both of these news items are disgusting. Recipients of the stimulus money are mostly major political donors and Hamas are executing Fatah members in Gaza for "collaborating" with the Israelis.

I guess neither should surprise me.

Thought - are the same companies who got us into this economic panic now exploiting the panic to cover their asses. Wouldn't surprise me. Just don't ask me to be happy about the stimulus.

Okay, I almost blew it this week. I put off my mile run on MLK day - it was a holiday and I played soccer on Sunday. Tuesday was a world historical occasion, so I needed to go out and party. Wednesday I was too lazy. But goddammit, last night, I did my weekly mile run. And I got the exact same time as last week. Which I'm okay with, since last week was such a good run. Unlike last week, I didn't almost collapse and die after this run - a decent sign. But then again, no improvement.

I'm going to try and keep up the weekly mile run through the spring. But I will need to be flexible. I doubt I will be able to run on Monday if I play soccer games on Sunday. So it'll be Tues/Wed/or Thurs.

I am not running strong. I run hard the first lap, but am feeling weak in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th laps. I know I can improve by pushing in the 4th lap in the short run...hopefully enough to reach my goal of beating 5:40 by the spring. If I really get nasty, I might be able to swing 5:30 by the summer. That'll take losing a few pounds and probably doing a hard run twice a week and not getting injured at all.

Guess those theories about forever under 5% unemployment are turning out to be wrong.
Not Obama's Fault

A man released from Gitmo is now an Al Queda leader in Yemem. 60 plus men released from Gitmo are back on the battlefield.

How is this possible or acceptable?
It Is A Good Quote

“The trouble with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money” –Margaret Thatcher.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Closing Gitmo

So they put a pause on trials and need to figure out where to move the Gitmo prisoners.

Uhhh...okay. As instapundit asked yesterday, wasn't the whole "problem" with Gitmo the "lack of a fair trial." What does "pausing" accomplish?

It seems to me, if there was a "smarter" way of handling terrorist suspects, there's been plenty of time to figure it out.

My guess - this is mostly a symbolic measure. I just hope we don't re-start the rendition policy and start feeling morally superior because of it.

This is who we're fighting for in Afghanistan.

These are the folks the Europeans won't send troops to support.
A Must Read

Palin's going to write a book
. 2016. I wonder if she'll still be hot.
Are You Kidding Me?

Milk nominated for best original screenplay. Is gay the new holocaust?

I didn't know this was illegal. There goes the weekend plans.
Said It Better Than Me

VDH expresses wariness on inauguration day. The part I most agree with:
Whether Obama is President or McCain had won, no matter; it is still the US, and as a Jacksonian I pretty much pull for America—all the time. I am not a Socratic citizen of the world—given the thugs that rule most of Africa, the creepy places such as Iran or Russia or North Korea, the land of the Lotus-eaters in Europe, or the tribal dictatorships I’ve seen in the Middle East.

The part I don't entirely agree with, but look forward to the challenge of retort:

Excuse me, but as a cynic I confess the politics of the left are now about power, ego, status, and the notion of control, rather than genuine concern for the planet, or the creed of egalitarianism or for freedoms of the people. The conservative grandee at least lives by his unapologetic creed, one that we sometimes abhor, but accept is consistent with the natural law of the jungle in that the stronger and more capable claim that that they deserve a greater material reward for their greater accomplishments or, barring that, even unabashedly for their greater luck in being born lucky.
Wikipedia Entry of the Day

Alcibiades, known for changing his political allegiance on several occasions during the Peloponnesian War.
Is Nothing Sacred?


Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Kennedy withdraws her nomination for the vacant NY Senate seat.
Totally Gay and Totally Cool

I just saw a Honda Metropolitian on the street. Me want.
Best Bang For Your Buck

Not surprisingly, the A's top MLB is wins per $ spent. Notice the Yankees actually underperform the mean when you take into account the amount of money they spend per win.

On slow cooking onions.
Oy Vey

That's his intelligence advice? Are you kidding me? What is this, romper room?
A Huge Idea

A proposal to Obama - end the drug war and lower the drinking age.

I've come around on the drug war issue. From what I understand, illegal drugs are the primary source of funding criminal and political violence around the world. From Columbia to Mexico to Afghanistan, drugs fund terrorists and enormous criminal cartels. These non-state groups are the major threat to world stability in the 21st century and it is only a matter of time before one of these type of groups gets their hands on WMDs as an offensive or defensive measure. Despite the obvious moral issue with legalizing drugs, the pragmatic benefit of cutting off billions of dollars from these groups, cannot be underestimated. Further, illegal drugs ruin sections of entire American cities, putting "fuck you" money into hands of thugs and criminals.

We can't stop drug use. The government is not the right tool for this job. We should acknowledge this, and look at the blow back, and start moving forward. CHANGE!
Good Question

Is dissent still patriotic?

One beef with this "change" mantra...what if one is already a decent, hard working, tax paying citizen? Should this person change?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


This might be the funniest blog paragraph ever written. By Bill Simmons.

The Don Beebe Award for "Best Momentary Silver Lining During An Out-And-Out Catastrophe"

To ABC Family's HD channel for showing the four-movie "Karate Kid" marathon during Sunday's games as my handicapping world was falling apart. Just as it was becoming apparent Eli had a better chance of eating one of the goalposts, digesting it and crapping it out than of throwing a decent pass in the Giant Stadium wind, "Kid II" was finishing up and "Kid III" was looming. So all wasn't lost. I spent the next hour trying to find similarities between Eli and Daniel-San, ultimately coming up with seven: Both wanted to live in Jersey over California; both possess the hard-to-explain ability to tick people off (even complete strangers); both won championships as huge underdogs that, in retrospect, make absolutely no sense whatsoever; both received serious officiating help during those titles (Eli for the various holding infractions during the Helmet Catch that weren't called, Daniel-San for winning the All-Valley Karate title on an illegal kick to the face); both have terrible body language when things are going badly for them (to the point that you lose all hope pretty much immediately); both had signature moments that were surprisingly similar both in stature and surprise (the Helmet Catch and the Crane Kick); and both eventually found forbidden love with a 65-year-old Japanese war veteran. Oh wait, that was just Daniel-San. Sorry, Eli.
Stop Picking on Obama

Okay, after this one additional link.

This is the Atlantic's "case against Obama." And to be honest, it's pretty weak. Akin to answering the old interview question, tell me about your weaknesses..., "I sometimes pay too much attention to detail and get really stressed out because I'm working so hard to do a good job."

But the best point is at the end, a point about Obama and his lack of a central, core character of guiding principles...that he may be in fact a person who everyone easily projects their hopes on, like a glittery Hollywood starlet. There is no problem with this per say, other than if it portends an inability to make decisions...

If you are looking for troubling flaws in the new hero, you will find them in the accounts of his editorship at the Harvard Law Review, where he won golden opinions for soliciting and publishing every view but his own. It may be true that, according to Freddoso, Obama dismissed the slogan “Yes we can” as “vapid and mindless” when it was first proposed to him, in 2004, but he liked it well enough in 2008, and then came the null emptiness of the phrase—the audacity of hope—that he annexed from a windy sermon by Jeremiah Wright. Or you may have already begun to have your fill of verbiage like this, taken from the best seller of that name:

No, what’s troubling is the gap between the magnitude of our challenges and the smallness of our politics—the ease with which we are distracted by the petty and trivial, our chronic avoidance of tough decisions, our seeming inability to build a working consensus to tackle any big problem.

No consensus on making tough decisions! This is not even trying to have things both ways; it’s more like having things no way. It puts me in mind of the utter fatuity of Obama’s speech in Berlin, where he attributed the fall of the wall to the power of “a world that stands as one”—a phrase that stands no test. Or even worse, in his scant pages dealing with Iraq (a country we would have abandoned in 2006 if he had had his way): “When battle-hardened Marine officers suggest we pull out and skeptical foreign correspondents suggest that we stay, there are …” (close your eyes and guess what’s coming) “no easy answers to be had.” To some questions, there may not even be any difficult answers. The very morning after the U.S. election, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev threatened to redeploy and retarget Russian short-range missiles against Poland; as recently as 2005, Obama and his Senate colleague Dick Lugar had contentedly watched as Russian long-range missiles were being stood down. Something more than luck will be required here.

It was, I think, Lloyd George who said of Lord Derby that, like a cushion, he bore the imprint of whoever had last sat upon him. Though Obama, too, has the dubious gift of being many things to many people, the difficulty with him is almost the opposite: he treads so lightly and deftly that all the impressions he has so far made are alarmingly slight. Perhaps this is the predictable downside of being a cat.
Time For A Change

An instapundit reader asks: why is job creation good when the government does it, but capitalist evil when a company does it.

Good point.
American Politics Turns Into Lollapalooza

Look, forgive me for being cynical on this wonderful historic occasion. But I can't help it. It's too easy and too necessary. I mean - anything that causes Austin Kutcher to pledge to end "21st Century Slavery" with a straight face must be the subject of ridicule. Must.

But what is this all about, really? What has changed today? America is the same place it was yesterday with a different symbol atop our political apparatus. Does this outpouring of self congratulation wash away our past (and future) sins? Of course not. And I don't suppose anyone is saying it does. But there is a certain amount of skepticism I feel at this moment...because this love and celebration of America feels very much contingent upon a cultural icon being our elected President. A sort of, "I love you so long as you're so popular..." which really isn't love at all, but infatuation. It is not just the musical line up at the inauguration, but the gushing, electric, nature of the crowd there for the event. Sold out hotel rooms, grand parties, adoring thought we'd actually done something.

We voted a man into office. The same way we did in 2000 and 2004 (and many times before). Back then, the crazed crowds were crying election fraud and the same who swoon today were promising to run off to Canada. What changed? Their guy won. They got their candy. And now they give their love.

Let us not forget, Obama hasn't accomplished much of anything as leader or political thinker. He is smart, wonderfully articulate, and seems very trustworthy. I supported him. I voted for him in the primary and in the general. But his great accomplishment thus far is to be elected...

...and why this gets compared to Lincoln, I don't know. Lincoln merely saved the nation, the constitution, and the idea of America by fighting a bloody four year war against our own citizens. Obama, in contrast, gave a great speech in 2004, was a top student, a one term senator, and happens to be black.

But such is the nature of the 21st Century, I suppose. The Israel-Hamas war yielded 13 dead Israelis. 13. This sounds about as dangerous to Israel as a day on the Los Angeles freeway. But this is a war that the whole world talks about and condemns or views as an existential struggle. Obama's speech contains words directed at Bin Laden - a man with a few thousand followers at most - on the run, hidden away in Pakistan's caves - gets the attention of the President of the World. The 21st Century is about image. The images of the trade center are perhaps more powerful than the event. And the image of Obama is huge. I understand it. The one liner is perfect - a black man becomes President of a country with a tragic racial past. It's the only thing that explains it. Unless I'm missing something.
And So It Begins...

A new era of unabashed self-righteousness and hollow rhetoric. If only I could buy stock on the word "douche bag."
Obama's First Inaugural

To paraphrase:

Dear America,

You're still awesome.

Barak Obama (first black president)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Top Gun In The Afternoon

Caught part of Top Gun just now. Also been watching and hating the second season of Friday Night Lights. Pondering the popularity of Slumdog Millionaire. Thinking Drew Casper might be right - the heart of American Cinema is the melodrama.
What I'd Like To Do With...

Obama - play basketball

Bush 2 - play poker

Clinton - play Settlers of Catan

Bush 1 - talk about spying

Reagan - Make a movie

Carter - spend a day at the farm

Ford - watch football

Nixon - listen to his tape recordings of himself

Johnson - hang out at one of his political rallys

JFK - go to the club

MLK's last speech. Don't know how to explain that.

Rachel Maddow in trouble.

A newsperson ought not say or do things like this:

At a dinner Thursday evening, for example, Maddow reportedly told hacks and flaks at a Television Critics Association gathering she's "never seen a show on Fox at any time, ever."
(hint - this is a snarkly liberal comment)

Walter Cronkite she is not.

Obama is the recipient of more gush than a number one draft choice. For chrissake, can we let the man do something first?

Sullivan evaluates every detail of the man and his choices as if everything he touches is god's gift to human decision making. He is a fan boy and sounds as silly as I must when talking about Miami Vice or a Jerusalemite in the time of prophets.

Over the years, rarely has someone or something with so much hype lived up to potential. Sullivan reminds me of a football scout dreaming over Reggie Bush's speed or Greg Odem's size. He needs Apollo Creed's father to shout at him ringside, "He's a man! A man! Not a machine!"

He's the president, not the second coming. That's enough for me.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


In the scheme of things, I suppose it isn't that big of a deal, but the man appointed to head the IRS is a tax cheat.

Something wrong there.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Tony Blankley

An interview with my favorite member of Left, Right, and Center on his new book. He is right wing, but utterly reasonable. To me, his positions are pretty much like the flip side of the same coin as someone like Obama...both born of reason, experience, and sharp intellect.

On a side note - how awesome would watching a debate between Obama and Newt Gingrich be? I'd pay for that shit.

Most interesting points:

"This was a relatively small war. Now, what happens if the Jihadis overthrow the Pakistani government -- a very unstable government. ...They have nuclear weapons. If we want to stop the Jihadis from getting nuclear weapons, we'd have to go into Pakistan and try to stop that. We don't have remotely the number of troops to do that."

"I think that what has happened in the last 30 or 40 years is that we have not forgotten at all what rights we have -- whether it's the right to be a 96 year old and get comprehensive health care subsidized by our fellow citizens in the last months of our lives....I just went through, with my dad, he had been healthy until he was 92, never had a dollar's expense for himself or the government, but in the last three years of his life, God only knows how many hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent between Medicare, insurance, our out of pocket -- to keep a man who had been vigorous, but lost that vigor, alive for just a few more months.

Is that really a right we have or should we show a little more forbearance in clamoring for every last buck we can get? I think we need to start thinking a little bit about what we owe our country. It goes back to Jack Kennedy's famous phrase, "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." Does the ACLU have to assert every last inch of every possible right, even when it goes against the general interests of our society? I think not.

I don't think being physically in the United States, legally here, and being a citizen is simply a geographic expression. I think it's also a moral proposition and that citizens have some duties. "
Could Be A Mistake

When I was young, I found white supremacists scary. I mean, did you people watch Mississippi Burning? But now I just find them quaint. Is that dumb?
Web Blog Awards

I hardly read any of these. And yet I blog. A testament to the diversity of the blogosphere and the arbitrariness of awards.
I'd Put Money Against It

Andrew Sullivan
thinks Bush will be remembered as the worst President in American history. I doubt it.

Then again, I don't need to repent for voting for him. Sullivan must feel like he does. Didn't he vote for him twice?

Hamas' Iranian unit destroyed.

Hamas: We Didn't Expect it
Two captured terrorists interviewed by Maariv/NRG say that Hamas was not expecting Israel's response to the escalation in missile attacks on Israeli targets that preceded Operation Cast Lead. One of them, a 52-year-old victim of a premature detonation who had already done time in an Israeli jail, said, "Hamas took a gamble. We thought, at worst Israel will come and do something from the air - something superficial. They'll come in and go out. We never thought that we would reach the point where fear will swallow the heart and the feet will want to flee. You [Israel] are fighting like you fought in '48. What got into you all of a sudden?"

Via Instapundit.
Circuit City No More

I never liked Circuit City. I would occasionally shop there, especially during high school, as it was the big gorilla on the block for electronics. I always figured it was too big to fail. I was wrong.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Wikipedia Entry of the Day

Casper David Friedrich, a German Romantic landscape painter.
Mad Men and other TV Thoughts

Finished the first season. Good, not great. Definitely not the same experience as watching The Wire or Sopranos on DVD when I would stay up until all hours of the night obsessively saying to myself "just one more episode." Love the opening credit sequence. I think the female characters in the show are pretty incredible creating a nice contrast to the misogyny of the characters within the show. They do a good job of making morally balanced human beings - in the way Sopranos and The Wire do - but the overall plotting and action of the show is much less sophisticated than either of the aforementioned. In watching, I can't believe I'd never noticed/seen John Hamm or Christina Hendricks before.

I can barely watch Friday Night Lights season 2. I mean - are you kidding me with this Lawry stuff. Jesus Christ. Trying to turn himself in. After all that? And also - how many times is Tara allowed to cry in a season? The show makes me want to puke half the time.

And lastly, I was thinking about Cheers last night. I don't know why. But is the premise that these guys all go to the bar EVERY DAY after work? Seriously - every day. How is that even possible? Don't other things come up sometimes? Or was the premise that this was a Thursday or Friday night when all the folks gathered at the bar and we just got a weekly glimpse?
US Airways Downed in Hudson River

If this wasn't real, I'd think it was fake.
Super Bowl Prediction

You heard it from me: Eagles-Ravens. My logic:

It is impossible to pick the Cardinals to win. The 49ers almost beat these guys this year. Sure, they have a good pass attack, but don't let the announcers fool you - they can't run for shit and their defense is weak for a playoff team. And with the Eagles blitzing schemes, even Larry Fitgerald, as good as he is, can't win the game by himself.

Steelers beat the Ravens twice in the regular season. It is incredibly difficult to beat a good team three times in a row. I assume the Ravens are a good team, given they got this far.
So Much Fun

The disaster of Nazism, he said, informs his brooding world view. “I try to understand the ocean beneath the thin layer of ice that is civilization,” he said. “There’s miles and miles of deep ocean, of darkness and barbarism. And I know the ice can break easily.”

Guess who?
I'll Give It To Her

But I don't think she deserves it.
Appropriate Herzog

I was looking for an old article in my office yesterday and came across a worn down photocopy of the New Yorker piece on Werner Herzog mysteriously lying in the file. Why was this article copied? And why was it stuck in a file of other articles by a totally different author? Confounding. But the article beckoned and I re-read it.

I would love to ski with Herzog. Or go on a long walk. I am sure I could keep up with him on the slopes. I doubt I could keep up on a walk.

There are so many awesome parts to the article - when he threatens to murder a Greek officer if they shut down his movie, when he threatens to murder Kinski when he walks off the set of Fitzcaraldo, when a crew member offers to murder Kinski on behalf of Herzog on Cobra Verde...

...but my favorite part isn't about murder at all, it is this quote, "I think that psychoanalysis is one of the great evils of civilization, even worse than the Spanish Inquisition. At least the Inquisition was about keeping something together. Analysis is only about taking a person apart. I would rather die than see an analyst."

I believe him.

Update: This would offend Werner, I'm sure, but here is a link to the article.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Great Sign

Obama meets with George Will, Bill Kristol, and David Brooks
Stop Aggression!

Coming from Bin Laden, I wonder if he recognizes the irony.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

My Rival

When you type in "public musings" into google: Public Musings of A Mama is #1. I am number 2.
That's Why I Sleep A Lot

To avoid colds. I swear. Nothing to do with laziness.
Important Difference Between Bush and Obama

Via an interview with Bush.

In an interview with CNN's "Larry King Live," scheduled to air 9 p.m. Tuesday, King and Bush discussed Obama's predictions for a bad year ahead for the U.S. economy.

"He'll learn not to become an economic forecaster once he gets to be president," Bush said, agreeing that 2009 will likely be a hard year.

"That's not a good idea to say?" King asked the outgoing president.

"I don't think so. I think he can say it's going to be a tough period but to predict what the economy is going to do ... it is going to be bad, but how bad, how long?" Bush responded.

"What he ought to be saying, and I know he feels this way, is he's going to take the steps he thinks are necessary to get us back on the road to recovery and we will recover."

See I completely disagree with Bush on this. People must hear a non-sugar coated version of reality. This is a goddamn democracy for crissake, we're adults, and can take bad news. Treating adults like kids, and we'll act like kids.

Whatever, it ain't news Bush lacks sharpness.
Always Fun To Read

Victor Davis Hanson on things...

But two observations: why do privileged, entrenched white elites in the NY-DC axis always give soap-box lectures about the beauty of diversity while never (?) stepping aside themselves from their jobs to jump-start the up and coming careers of the other? (For 21 years I watched tenured senior white male professors lecture their departments on affirmative action, then hire by race and gender, and turn away young white male candidates by rote, who usually were far stronger applicants than these diversity prophets ever had been, who were mostly hired by old boy networks in the 1960s and 1970s.)

I think we surely could use more diversity at the New Republic, Vanity Fair, the New York Times, the Nation, Time, Newsweek (its managing editors are mostly white guys), etc. in editing, publishing, and advertising. And why are we to assume that a non-white citizen won’t intermarry out of their race, or won’t get tired of paying 50% of his income in taxes to the federal and state government for redistribution schemes that make things worse rather than better? What we have here is a lot of easy pronouncement and very little actual diversity in practice. Ms. Kennedy seems the emblem of all this for our times: Is the price for privilege going up to Harlem once in your life to have lunch with Al Sharpton—and, then, presto, you’re a woman of the people (rather than say, having five kids in Wasilla?) Surely, she should have been out lobbying for some very hard-working African-American or female New York state or federal legislators who all paid their dues, and, to be considered for a Senate seat, simply need a boost to overcome the old money-status-insider firewall.

Another prior post which rings true:

The message in all of these cases is now becoming unmistakable: if you are hyper-wealthy, gamble with someone else’s money, and lose big-time, then the government will cover your losses. Or better yet, work for a quasi-government agency where the bonuses are yours, while the losses belong to the public. If you build the wrong car, and bet wrongly on the future price on gas, then your successful gambles make you rich, and in times of miscalculation your government covers your losses. And if you buy a house beyond your means, or decide it makes no sense to pay off the mortgage, then someone or something, not you, failed to honor your debt.

But what happens if you are not enormously rich and not rather poor—and, worse still, made the ethical, but old-fashioned decision to pay your debts and not default on what you owe others?
Sounds Good To Me

Obama could ruin the far Left and the GOP.
Oh No, You Didn't...(snap)

Instapundit and the Chicago Boyz dis on California. My email response (I hope they post it):

Inflated real estate prices hit California particularly hard. This is the primary reason middle class people move away - in order to afford a home or cash in. A real estate boom is hardly evidence of a broken system - on the contrary - it is evidence of too many people wanting to buy homes in California. And while the aggregate number of migration is the largest in the nation, as the percentage of the total population, considerably less significant. I suggest readers visit "socialist" San Francisco. You'll find one of the wealthiest cities in the nation brimming with beautiful redone homes, buildings, stadiums, the ferry building, etc. Here is a city that turned an earthquake in '89 into an excuse to tear down an ugly freeway on the waterfront and turned it into an awesome "South of Market" district that homes Gap corporate offices, Pac Bell Park, a high end food open market in the old ferry building, and huge work-live lofts populated with with dotcomers.

Is it possible the reason people leave California is because they can't "hack it" in a super competitive environment as opposed to "socialist" social policy causing the highly productive to go elsewhere?

In the libertarian/right wing blogosphere world, I notice an incredible distrust/distaste/dislike of California because of our left leaning, socialist tendencies. The irony, of course, is most of these people couldn't come to California and hack it in any of the super competitive, wealth creating industries such as Hollywood, Silicon Valley, Farming, or even in the more traditional banking, insurance, or law. I guess they don't understand how a state can be rich, creative, competitive on a global scale, and GASP - Democratic. Sorry folks, but you opened the door to the the brutal Social Darwin truth...

Monday, January 12, 2009

Mickey Rourke

He defends George Bush.

“President Bush was in the wrong place at the wrong time, I don”t know how anyone could have handled this situation… I don”t give a f**k who’’s in office, Bush or whoever, there is no simple solution to this problem… I’m not one of those who blames Bush for everything. This s**t between Christians and Muslims goes back to the Crusades, doesn’t it.”

When you're right, you're right.

The funny thing about Hollywood: the business is fickle and regardless of what you do career wise, most everyone will fall out of favor eventually. This fickleness theoretically would incentivize people to speak their minds when on top and others are listening - because they won't be for long.

Anyhow, I overheard a term today: fuck you money. That's when you have enough money in this business to say fuck you whenever you want. I just found a career goal.

Eat that porch monkey's!

14 seconds in one week. Boo ya.

The real explanation: it was much warmer today and I was running in shorts vs. sweats. But still, the time shaved is impressive. Also, for the record, I felt like grim death after the run. I employed the run-as-hard-as-you can, no pacing strategy. My 3rd and 4th laps were slow, but obviously my first two were strong enough to make a respectable overall time. I didn't check my lap times while running - it was too dark.

I won't be surprised if I regress next week.
Guess He Read Public Musings

Obama plans to close Gitmo first week in office.
How Will The Movie Business Make Money?

Porn technology is generally a couple years ahead of the movie curve.

A "feminist" who has decided not to reproduce to help rid the world of gender oppression and ecological ruin.

My understanding of reproduction is that it is the basis of the institutions of marriage and family, and those two provide the moorings to the structure of gender and sexual oppression. Family is the social institution that ensures unpaid reproductive and domestic labour, and is concerned with initiating a new generation into the gendered (as I analyzed here) and classed social set-up. Not only that, families prevent money the flow of money from the rich to the poor: wealth accumulates in a few hands to be squandered on and bequeathed to the next generation, and that makes families as economic units selfishly pursue their own interests and become especially prone to consumerism.

So it makes sense to say that if the world has to change, reproduction has to go. Of course there is an ecological responsibility to reduce the human population, or even end it , and a lot was said about that on the blogosphere recently (here, and here), but an ecological consciousness is not how I came to my decision to remain child-free.

I guess natural selection still works...
Legal vs. Illegal Corruption

Rich people vs. Government people
. But this section stands out in light of the Blagojevich discussion.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich's hawking of Barack Obama's vacated U.S. Senate seat; Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charlie Rangel's alleged tax-writing favors; former Rep. William Jefferson's business bribes; and the Jack Abramoff scandal are mere pimples on the government corruption landscape. We can think of these and similar acts as jailable illegal corruption. They pale in comparison to what's for all practical purposes the same thing, but simply legal corruption.

For example, according to the Miami Herald, by March 2008, the powerful Florida Fanjul sugar family had given more than $300,000 to politicians and political committees. They didn't fork over all that money to help politicians to uphold and defend the U.S. Constitution. Like businessmen who approach Rangel, Blagojevich and Jefferson, they give politicians money because they want a favor in return -- namely import restrictions on sugar so they can charge Americans higher prices. In the case of the Fanjuls, and thousands of others buying favors, they are engaged in legal corruption.

Legalized corruption is widespread, and that's the job of 35,000 Washington, D.C., lobbyists earning millions upon millions of dollars. They represent America's big and small corporations, big and small labor unions, and even foreign corporations and unions. They are not spending billions of dollars in political contributions to encourage and assist the White House and Congress to uphold and defend the U.S. Constitution. They are spending that money in the expectations of favors that will be bestowed on them at the expense of some other American or group of Americans.

Problem is, it isn't clear Blagojevich did anything doesn't that just fall into legal corruption category?

Living in cities may dull our thinking.

Good thing LA really isn't a city - more of a bunch of suburbs crunched together.
Game Weekend

I'm not talking football - although playoffs were fun and Bill Simmons was 0-4. Ouch. I'm talking board games/card games.

Friday - Poker - no limit Texas Hold 'Em. Maybe the greatest game in the world. One of the coolest elements of Hold 'Em is that players of various skill levels can play each other and the game remains interesting. Also, the rules are simple and newcomer can learn very quickly. As a general rule, a great game must have rules a person of average intelligence can learn in one round of playing. There are a few exceptions - namely Bridge - but that is basically the exception that proves the rule.

Saturday - Trivial Pursuit. How the mighty have fallen. Trivial Pursuit used to be a great game. The new versions are too easy. The old versions were obscure and impossible and awesome...the games used to never finish...but it was fun if you got one super obscure question right, it could increase your game cred forever. I still remember playing it at this high school overnight sleepover thing with teachers and students and there was some question - I can't remember the wording - but it implied a book about or by a runaway slave, and I made an educated guess "Confessions of Nat Turner," because it was a book in my parents study and for some reason I just always remember the title. I was right. The teachers were floored and couldn't stop bringing it up in class for the next two weeks. That's why you play trivial pursuit. They dumbed down the new versions without admitting they dumbed it down. Undoubtedly they were responding to the legitimate complaint that the game was too hard. But they threw the baby out with the bathwater if you ask me. Some things ought to be hard.

Sunday - Modern Art. A game of art auctioning. According to the game crowd tonight, better than Settlers. A very bold statement. Modern Art requires a lot of quick math calculated in your head - all simple math - all pricing. But it requires thinking about present vs. future value and leveraging your art portfolio against the total market (other players portfolios). The one flaw in Modern Art, if you ask me, is the difficulty in keeping track of where you stand throughout the game. You get a vague sense, but one can never tell exactly what they need in the last round in order to win. Maybe this is a flaw, or maybe it is designed this way, it does make the endgame different than most.

Taboo. A lower genre of game - designed more towards the masses - either families or big groups. My SAT analogy - taboo is to drinking games as facebook is to internet dating. Make sense? They are all in the same genus and they all bring out the lower sides of ourselves. Like drinking games, the point of taboo is FUN!?! and laugh laugh, har, har, this is SOOOO funny, ha, ha, can you believe, he/she said that??!!!??? Har har. Oh my god. bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. hahahhahahah. That's sums up Taboo for me.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Too Late

A really good oped about the failure of the 401k system. His point: basically, the 401k isn't weathering the storm and failed it's first big test.

Being a "contrarian," I guess it shouldn't come to news to me that the popular wisdom about the financial security of the 401k was flawed. In the 7 years I've had a 401k, I've basically broken even. When I invested in it, the "long run" upside was all but guaranteed. Well...7 years isn't the long run, but it certainly isn't the "short run" either. Point is, the predictions were wrong and I know some of my money was going to account and broker fees, although they don't show up on the statements.

Upside - I guess I won't be paying any income taxes when I take it out.
Bravo Pizza

A solid pizza place down on Main St. Open until 3am on weekend nights. Good, thin slices. Bravo and Joe's are both really good local pizza places. Dagwood's and Wildflower are okay as well. Now, what we could really use is a decent Chinese place and good bagel place.
Very Odd

Obama is backtracking a bit on the immediacy of closing Guantanamo.

His position is entirely reasonable:

"It is more difficult than I think a lot of people realize," the President-elect explained. "Part of the challenge that you have is that you have a bunch of folks that have been detained, many of whom who may be very dangerous who have not been put on trial or have not gone through some adjudication. And some of the evidence against them may be tainted even though it's true. And so how to balance creating a process that adheres to rule of law, habeas corpus, basic principles of Anglo American legal system, by doing it in a way that doesn't result in releasing people who are intent on blowing us up."

The left has been clamoring for the closure of Guantanamo for several years now. One would think - if this was important in and of itself - that would be adequate time to come up with a proposed alternative. But, as I suspected, the closure of Guantanamo is more about stabbing Bush and his policies in the eye, rather than actually dealing with the problem of terrorist detainees.

In a related note - why can't we try Islamic terrorists as war criminals? I agree leaving them in this weird limbo state as enemy combatants is unsustainable since the war is with a stateless entity who will never surrender. And since they directly target civilians as routine practice, it seems they are by definition engage in war crimes simply in the plotting of such attacks.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Another Wrong Question

From MSN: should your boss be your facebook friend?

The legal case is somewhat fascinating for me - someone who works in the business of underlying rights who also went to film school and has worked on countless unpaid artistic endeavors. How the two mix on the battlefield of Hollywood is pretty interesting. This Watchman case gets at a lot of the big issues.

And PS - it's making me want to see the movie. Any press is good press, right? What a great town.
Time For A Change

There is a side of Obama who is modest...conservative, limited, and reasonable. This, coupled with his intelligence, is what separates him from Bush. Bush is arrogant, and cocky. One of the reasons I, and many others, voted for Obama, was this sense of modesty. But there is another side to Obama, an arrogant side. And I do not find arrogance (his or Bush's) inherently alarming. I prefer it to mousiness in a President. But now is not the time for arrogance and overreach. I hope and wish Obama can summon his modest/reasonable side, especially since the temptation in these troubling times is to act bold.

A bad sign is his call for a college football playoff. In matters such as this, Obama must learn the power of silence. He must know if when he speaks, it is news. Now headlines read: "Obama calls for college football playoffs." This is government at it's worst, poking it's nose into things that don't matter. It is a sign of arrogance and overreach and general stupidity.

And it totally doesn't matter. But his economic plan does. And borrowing money from ourselves is consenting to opening up another credit card to pay this months rent. Hardly a move to get excited about. Another example of kicking the can down the road. Hardly the "change" we were expecting. It sounds like more - much more - of the same to me.
Losing All Their Money

Do I feel sorry for the folks who lost all their money with Bernie Madoff?

Of course. It's an awful feeling to spend your time being responsible and successful, earn a lot of money, and have it swindled out from under you. Will these people starve? No. They are rich people. They will need to work again, perhaps, start taking the subway again, etc. Not the end of the world.

What I find fascinating (in an awful way) are the mixed responses to the Madoff folks losing money and say, the Enron people losing their money. There is a tendency to feel sorry and pity the Enron people and feel smug about the the Madoff folks losing all their retirement dough. I suppose this is a natural - even rational - feeling, those hardworking middle class folks don't have a second or third home they can sell for cash. But both sets of people were duped in a similar way (although I think both sets bear some responsibility for their own losses since entrusting all your dough in either Enron or one single investment manager can be viewed as unwise).

Nevertheless, resentment towards high performing and earning individuals is a serious danger. The day we let this get the better of us, is the day we won't see great sports performances, great movies, new technological gadgets, great writing, etc. Undoubtedly much American wealth is bullshit - handed down from inheritance, lucky real estate or stock purchases, etc - not earned wealth, but found. But resentment towards this wealth is insane and should the day come when I find myself the beneficiary of good luck or good fortune, I don't want to be hated for it.

VDH on the real meaning of stimulus.

For just one week we should ban the verb "stimulate" and the noun "stimulus" — and substitute instead the more honest "borrow," or "print," or "debt"

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Making A Move

The A's resign Giambi. It looks like they're making their move on the Angels this year...especially as the Angels weren't able to resign Teixeira or Krod.
Too Funny

The Onion:

Amsterdam To Shutter Some Coffee Shops, Brothels

In an effort to stem organized crime, Amsterdam announced that it would be closing many of its brothels and marijuana-friendly cafes. What do you think?

Curtis Dunford,
"I hope the government provides assistance to those who will be unemployed. Otherwise, some of them might be forced into a life of prostitution or drug-dealing."
BCS Conspiracy

Rick Reilly thinks Utah are the national champs.
So Obvious It Bears Repeating

Why is there one standard for Israel and a different for every other country in the world.

At the U.N., no surprise, this double-standard is in full force. In response to Israel's attack on Hamas, the Security Council immediately pulled an all-night emergency meeting to consider yet another resolution condemning Israel. Have there been any all-night Security Council sessions held during the seven months when Hamas fired 3,000 rockets at half a million innocent civilians in southern Israel? You can be certain that during those seven months, no midnight oil was burning at the U.N. headquarters over resolutions condemning terrorist organizations like Hamas. But put condemnation of Israel on the agenda and, rain or shine, it's sure to be a full house.

"Bold Action Required"

Again, sounds a lot like something George Bush would do.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Mike Scifres

A quick note - I always thought the punter was pretty much the least important player on a football team. In general, even if they do good by punting a long way, the other team has a chance at a runback. My opinion was solidified when one year the Eagles punter got injured and their quarterback at the time Randell Cunningham stepped in to punt. He launched a 70 yard punt and at the time, it was one of the longest in NFL history. So yeah, all the NFL punters in history got showed up by a quarterback.

My ideas on punting changed after watching Scifres punt last week. The guy made it into an art and is a big reason the Chargers held the Colts to only 17 points.
The Recipe Can't Always Be Right

Like my middle school friend who claimed his father always won when gambling, Republicans and Democrats can't be right when they say:

Tax cuts stimulate the economy.
Government spending stimulates the economy.

Because if this were true, there would never be any reason not to cut taxes or spend government money. Anyone else wonder why we owe $450,000 per American household in deficit? An article about it.

Some controversy as CIA chief. Let me ask: how much worse can he be than Tenent?

Not an interesting story to me...but I like Willie Brown's reaction to the situation which amounts to "Yeah. So what? Of course he tried to sell the seat. That's politics, man. Tit for tat. Grow up, people, it's how the game works."

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Wrong Question

"Does Israel have a right to exist?" Why is it the only country on the planet this question gets asked about is Israel? Is it simply because their enemies hate them so much?

Seriously. This is the wrong question to ask. Israel exists. Does it have a right to exist? Who cares? Does America have a "right" to exist? Shall we add up the crimes of prior generations and add up to see what countries have a "right" to exist. Surely, if one were to perform such an exercise, North Korea would be first to go. After all, it is a slave state - the individuals by definition are slaves to the state itself and it's fearless leader. In any conception of rights, this constitutes a violation. But so what? North Korea exists and we must deal with it as a nation and a people. Let's not hear anymore of this kind of question.
Liberal Snark

I want royalties on this term because I think it's a winner. One of the byproducts of the Bush administration is a political pose I first witnessed at cocktail parties and now notice has found it's into liberal news coverage. It borrows attitude from the Daily Show and infuses it with a self righteousness, which I presume comes from the numerous failures of the Bush administration. Olberman was the first, but Rachel Maddow is the smoother, more polished version. I call this phenomenon: Liberal Snark.

The first clue you are listening to a Liberal Snark is that you can't shake the feeling they think you're a total idiot. A cocked head, pitying eyes, and a slight frown suggesting "oh, I feel so sorry for you, you actually had a thought, but you're such a stupid, unsophisticated ogre, I can't believe we actually live in the same time period, where were you raised, the Jim Crow South? Did you attend underfunded public schools? No wonder you thought that. You probably don't even know who David Foster Wallace is."

You receive this look should you bother to question not only the basic liberal assumptions - Iraq war was wrong, gay marriage is good, more progressive taxation, no oil drilling, end global warning at all costs, etc, etc - but even if you try to frame the question a bit differently than the way they were taught to answer.

See the Liberal Snark is a different breed than the crazy, Michael Moore unhinged left and definitely different than the no-scruples political insiders like the Clintons. The Liberal Snark went to a great college, most likely private, either Ivy, Liberal Arts, or Stanford and did amazing in class. They detest the idea of fighting and love the idea, but not the practice of "multiculturalism." I imagine a Liberal Snark writes essays that deserve and get an A and are utterly without risk. I imagine they would never cheat on the SAT, but would take the most expensive prep classes to teach them how master the test.

They have tons of answers pre-prepared and toss out the one closest to the question. They make it sound like the powers-that-be are dumb beyond description and scold them as if they were second graders.

I'm wise to snark, people. And I don't buy in. The snark avoids the hard questions because the worst thing for the snark is to sound ill-informed. The Snark is hiding. The Snark mistakes platitudes for wisdom. The Snark is a critic and a person who "after the battle goes to field and shoots the wounded."
Revolutionary Road

Hitchens on the novel. It sounds incredibly awful to me. Why do I want to watch miserable people with miserable lives of their own making for 2 plus hours? I can read and watch the Palestinian-Israel conflict or become a divorce attorney or a psycho-therapist if I cared about this shit. In fact, my anti-Revolutionary Road feelings are so heated, I might need to see the movie to get the bitterness out of my system. Who knows, maybe I'll find it brilliant.
A War on Traffic

I despise traffic and often wondered how with all of our advanced technology, we can't cure this ugly beast.

A simple proposal - charge drivers money based upon the amount of traffic. Very smart idea.

UPDATE: An even smarter idea to alleviate the regressive tax concerns is to credit the money toward car registration in the area, so registration costs less per year.

The biggest problem I see is charging people for traffic accidents, which cause unexpected traffic every day.

At least someone is hiring.

Anyone actually emboldened by the current state of "victory" in Iraq has got to be a goddamn fool. Iraq should be understood as a lesson about the limits of America's power, the intractable nature of Arab politics, the fickle nature of our allies, the incompetence of our intelligence services, and how highly divided partisan politics make waging war a terribly difficult prospect. There are some good things to come out of Iraq - a model for counterinsurgency, the empowerment of more amenable and reasonable Arab allies than Saddam Hussein (not saying a lot), confirmation Iraq is not a WMD threat, a battle field defeat to Al Queda (needed), training our troops for future fights in asymetric war.

Like almost everything in his life, Bush barely passed his biggest test, and only at the last minute. He made one good call at the end (the surge), fell into a little luck (Anbar Awakening), and through trial and error found the right men for the job - Gates, Crocker, and Patraeus. He was failing for most of the semester, got a B on the final exam and got a gentleman's C. I imagine his academic career was similar and his business career certainly was. The day the man gets out of office, he owes himself a drink.

It's rather unuseful to write them off as "crazy," even though they are. The quandary of the 21st century, I believe, will be how to deal with the "crazies" as technology allows them a disproportionate amount of power and access whether it be to WMD or Facebook.

The first step is to figure out why they are shelling Israel.

Possible Reason #1 - They are reacting to some specific Israeli aggression not accurately reported.

Possible Reason #2 - They are acting at the behest of Iran (or the Muslim Brotherhood or Syria or some other client) to test the limit of Israeli patience and military capabilities as a follow up to the Lebanon battle last year.

Possible Reason #3 - They are trying to provoke an Israeli response to distract from their own domestic political problems.

Possible Reason #4 - It is their "reason d entre" or reason to exist, they will shell or otherwise attack Israel for the same reason individuals eat and breathe and procreate.

Possible Reason #5 - They are testing the resolve of Western countries to continue to support the Israeli state by provoking Israel into "disproportionate" response.

I suspect the closest answer is a combination of #3 and #4.
Le Carre

I rather like this self description.

Let me tell you a few things about myself. Not much, but enough. In the old days it was convenient to bill me as a spy turned writer. I was nothing of the kind. I am a writer who, when I was very young, spent a few ineffectual but extremely formative years in British Intelligence.

I never knew my mother till I was 21. I act like a gent but I am wonderfully badly born. My father was a confidence trickster and a gaol bird. Read A Perfect Spy.

I hate the telephone. I can't type. I ply my trade by hand. I live on a Cornish cliff and hate cities. Three days and nights in a city are about my maximum. I don't see many people. I write and walk and swim and drink.

Apart from spying, I have in my time sold bathtowels, got divorced, washed elephants, run away from school, decimated a flock of Welsh sheep with a twenty-five pound shell because I was too stupid to understand the gunnery officer's instructions, taught children in a special school.

I have four sons and twelve grandchildren. It is forty years since I hung up my cloak and dagger. I wrote my first three books while I was a spook; I wrote the next eighteen after I was at large.

A good writer is an expert on nothing except himself. And on that subject, if he is wise, he holds his tongue. Some of you may wonder why I am reluctant to submit to interviews on television and radio and in the press. The answer is that nothing that I write is authentic. It is the stuff of dreams, not reality. Yet I am treated by the media as though I wrote espionage handbooks.

And to a point I am flattered that my fabulations are taken so seriously. Yet I also despise myself in the fake role of guru, since it bears no relation to who I am or what I do. Artists, in my experience, have very little centre. They fake. They are not the real thing. They are spies. I am no exception.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Football Bias Against the Best (West) Coast

At dinner over the break I had to suffer listening to an Italian talk about how the 49ers were one of the worst NFL organizations. Que? If my memory serves, the 49ers share with the Pittsburgh Steelers the crown for most NFL championships with five. The Cowboys are next with four. These are the three best NFL organizations historically. The Giants, Patriots, and Dolphins are very respectable and could arguably be put in the first tier. Below that, the Colts, the Packers, the Bears, the Broncos, and a host of other teams are also good, but not in the first tier. (ps - I'm talking NFL post AFC and the Super Bowl, no ancient history).

Coupled with the bowl and playoff results, there is a phenomenon to explain this lazy thinking - a bias against West Coast Football. Because football is revered in the Midwest and South, it does not follow they are better at it.

Example #1 - The Pac 10. The whole year we had to listen to ESPN and the college football experts berate the Pac 10 as weak. The reason USC wasn't even close to the national championship game was because of their Pac 10 schedule (despite being the best college football organization in ages) and their one loss to a surprisingly good Oregan State team. What happens? The Pac 10 goes 5-0 in bowl games. USC crushes the best Big 10 school, Penn St. To put it in perspective, USC barely played in the 2nd half and still won without breaking a sweat. Oregon beats a top Big 12 school (supposedly a top conference), and Cal takes down a Florida school. Some weakness.

Example #2 - The Chargers. If the Colts won the coin flip and went down to win in OT, the press would saying "I told you so!" Norv Turner sucks! LT is weak and old! San Diego can't win a big game. Instead, they beat the best quarterback in football, the good 'ole boy Peyton Manning two years in a row.

Example #3 - Arizona Cardinals. Prior to the playoffs, the rumor was they were the worst team in playoff history. Now we know they are at least second worst.

Example #4 - Do the math...Ohio State had Texas beat tonight if they knew how to manage the clock. Easy runs over tackles. Go down and run off time and win with a field goal if necessary. But they left too much time on the clock and Texas (barely) came back and won. Texas is a team many though should be playing for the National Championship can barely beat Ohio State. USC beat Ohio State this year, 35-3. Are you kidding me?

Example #5 - The rigged South. Big 12 was the "best" conference this year. Why? Because a whole bunch of their teams were in the top 10 - Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma St, ranked in the top 10 at different times. All these teams loss to one another and it was assumed they were ALL good and beating up on each other. Guess what? Turns out another theory is possible: they were all weak. A systemic bias in the BCS emerged - the whole notion of strength of schedule. What if the teams are tagged incorrectly? What system is there for correction once a bias is put in place? The system got all turned around. The Pac 10 beat up on each other, causing the system to reason the conference was weak and the system reinforced it's own bias as the Big 12 all lost to each other.

Example #6 - Utah. The whole reason we got a BCS system was to allow a team like Utah to compete for the National Championship. They were the only undefeated division 1 team. The logic of the BCS was to get an undisputed national champion. But the way the chips fell this year, with all the big teams suffering a loss, the so many teams were eligible for the #1 slot, it became a toss up. Oklahoma, Florida, USC, Penn St, Texas, Alabama all had as a good a reason as the others to think they could be playing for the championship. Only Utah has an indisputable claim. So what happens? The system uses "strength of schedule," aka bias, to conclude Florida-Oklahoma deserve the game. The consolation - Alabama can whip up on Utah just to prove the system was smart and the two best teams get to play. Only problem was that Utah didn't just beat Alabama in fluke, Boise St, style miracle. They ass-raped Alabama from minute one.

I gotta give props to Florida because those guys show up in bowl games. But do you see how USC wins games? They win while playing shitty and not even using half their talent. Sanchez can't develop into a QB because he doesn't get challenged. I remember in college often times in scrimmage the first team would lose to the backups in practice. The first team had trouble getting pumped up and the back ups would play their hearts out. This is USC every year in every game. It makes them soft, I know. They aren't gutty. But if USC played Florida and I had to bet...I mean, USC's defense allowed 7 points per game this year, it'd be USC for sure, dude. For sure.

And I'd take the 1985 or 1989 Niners over anyone. Period.