Friday, February 27, 2009

Only Slightly Freaking Out

Today, I logged onto my bank account to find my credit card gone. (insert record scratch sound). I thought it was a computer error, so I just logged in again to double check. Still gone.

I've had the card for 10 years without a single issue - ever. I have no idea what happened, but I guess the credit crisis has now trickled down to me. The rest of my money is going into mattresses. Maybe the federal government is now my credit card company.
The NBA Is Broke

I guess it makes sense. Owners losing tons in the market. Season tickets holders/companies broke, so attendance is down.

Too bad. I was enjoying this season. The Tyson Chandler attempted trade was the most ridiculous element here...a team with a decent chance at competing in the playoffs tries to dump their third best player, presumably because they're broke.

Dating in a downturn...economic analysis of dating during a recession...with some great tid bits on larger, macro-dating/marrying issues.

Have hope, dudes: "Will employable schlubs become more attractive dating prospects?"

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Weird Moment

I just realize I've been confusing Alexis Dziena with Eliza Dushku.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Recession Proof: Online Dating

Four reasons why one ought to online date.

I gotta say, I'm impressed with the online dating services marketing skillz. Somehow they've fooled everyone into thinking they're not just personal ads posted online.
Who Gives A S**t

An article about the offensiveness of the monkey cartoon. BORING!

Regarding people who decry America for "not wanting to talk about race." They might as well decry America for not wanting to talk about the best documentary short. I mean, is there a topic more boring than race?
$8 A Week

Some suggestions for economists on what to do with your $8 a week stimulus.

I already know where mine will be going: large meatball sandwich.

An article about the decline of Los Angeles.

In my limited experience with City Hall, they bent me over a table and raped me (metaphorically) for $300 on a tiny amount of income I made as a grad student. Fuck them.
State of the Union

I watched the state of the union at the bar downstairs from work. When it was over the bartender said to me, "So...whatdda think?"

"I don't know."

But at least it's truthful. I have no idea. I read this morning the stimulus bill, etc, has spent more money in one month than we've spent in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Katrina relief in seven years. Is that possible?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

All Time High?

TV viewing at an all time high.

Maybe we're not in the worst industry.
Renter/Owner Divide

Keeping housing prices up, which is the basis of the mortgage plan, helps homeowners at the expense of renters thinking about buying.

Instapundit makes a point:

Government “help” for one group is almost always at the expense of another. Politicians try to disguise that, but it’s the reality.

Thoughts, liberals? Why should we be assisting the relatively rich (homeowners) at the expense of the poor (renters)?
Just Restrict Advertising

But what about the excessive commercialization of weed?

Come to think of it - state revenues on gambling hasn't helped us out of this economic crisis. Maybe the pot plan won't work after all. Government is a wasteful spender no matter what.

Ugh. This is giving me a headache. Where's my medical mary jane?
Necessity is the Mother of Invention

What people do in tough times.

Some famous businesses were born in an economic slump. Proctor & Gamble Co. began selling household products in Cincinnati, Ohio, during the Panic of 1837. FedEx Corp. started a shipping business out of Memphis International Airport in Tennessee during the oil crisis of 1973.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Savior of the American Economy: Weed

This is the best stimulus plan yet! Legalize weed in California.

First off - the tax revenue alone from weed sales could help tremendously with our bankrupt state. Second, California already grows almost a billion dollars worth of weed each year in Humbolt County - legalizing would obviously increase that and put a lot of farmers to work. In addition to being the capital of high tech and hollywood movies, weed could replace the defense industry as a major state employer. In addition, it would cripple the revenues to drug gangs in Mexico.

Hey, if times are as desperate as everyone is saying, this is a very valid idea worth considering. I mean, who are we kidding, weed is basically defacto legal right now.
Euros and Yao

About 20 years ago an announcer got fired for suggesting black basketball players were superior because of slave breeding. At the time, although the comment was considered racist and offensive, most people secretly agreed with the base assessment: black basketball players were superior than other races.

Today, a quick glance at any NBA team, and the same observation holds - there are a lot more black basketball players. Traditionally, the explanation given was physical. Black players tended - for whatever reason - to be faster, stronger, taller and hence, superior to white players.

But a strange thing has happened between now and then. Basketball has gone global. And we see a TON of good Foreign players playing at the highest level. Dirk. Gasol. Ginobli. Yao. Nash. Barbosa. Biedrins. Turkoglu. Scola. Granted, some of these guys aren't at the top level, and for everyone one of these guys, there are ten black american ballplayers to be used as counter examples. But the evidence is enough to warrant rethinking black superiority and that perhaps the physical superiority argument does not adequately explain the phenomenon.

I contend that black superiority in basketball is as much a cultural as a physical phenomenon. To be "the best" at anything requires a delicate mix of talent and perseverance and opportunity. The perseverance element is key - the odds of becoming a pro basketball are so incredibly slim, something else must motivate a young talented basketball player to keep practicing his fall away or to keep playing when he's got a shitty coach or to work hard to recover from a difficult injury or to play pick up every afternoon after school. And I think the only explanation is love - a love for the game or love of competition or sport in general or the camaraderie of teammates or the delivery of the perfect pass or stealing the ball from the opponent or practicing that perfect crossover. Clearly, in the black community - particularly among the young men - there is a love and expertise in basketball that exceeds that in white america. It's the same reason why soccer excels in Brazil and hockey in Canada. It's a cultural understanding and love for the game that nurtures greatness.

There is great example right in front of us:

Chris Paul and Dwight Howard represent the future of the NBA. Outside the freak-case that is LeBron James, they are the two top young players in the NBA. And they provide the almost perfect nature vs. nurture contrast. Howard is a physical freak - 7 ft, strong as an ox. Take one look at the guy and you know he's a beast on the basketball court from a sheer physical standpoint. Coordinated, quick, limber, and about 1.5 times as large as the largest dudes on the planet. There is no secret to his excellence - a pure, physical, raw talent developed into a great basketball player. This is not to say his personality, work ethic, etc, doesn't contribute or isn't of the highest caliber - it does - but this guy is a freak of nature first and a basketball player second.

Chris Paul on the other hand is not physically remarkable. He's 6' tall and really quick. But he isn't quicker than 1000 other basketball players out there. If I had to guess, I'd say there are probably 50,000 people out there in the world with Chris Paul's physical abilities whereas with Dwight Howard, there are probably 10. It isn't Paul's physical abilities that make him great - it's his understanding of the game and smarts on the court. The guy sees the game differently from others. It is his mental quickness that is a cut above and his ability to understand pace and his teammates and opponents and to craft his game into something useful. His superiority is as rare as Howard's, but it is developed just like any other genius is developed, through the right set of circumstances, training, etc.

I'm bored of this post and don't even know where I'm going with it.
Can They Test It With Their Money And Not Mine?

Is the stimulus about trying to prove Reagan wrong?
Trader Joe's

A freakonomics post on Trader Joe's and who owns it. I think the author gets it wrong in describing Trader Joe's customers. I like - but certainly don't love - Trader Joe's. I like their prices and some of their stuff - in particular - the single pre-prepared frozen meals, discount cheese, and a few of the fish dishes. But I've always had a problem with Trader Joe's: it doesn't carry some of my staples and the produce sucks. When I go to the grocery store - I have several staples: milk, Diet Pepsi, Tillamook Cheddar, Tropicana Orange juice, tomatoes, and onions. Trader Joe's does not pass muster on any of these items except for milk. On the branded items, Trader Joe's doesn't even carry them or an appropriate substitute. The tomatoes and onions are subpar.

So for me...going to Trader Joe's also translates to another, additional trip to the grocery story. I think the optional Trader Joe's trip involves stocking up on things like olive oil, soy sauce, cheap wine, frozen dinners, and picking up some snacks OR if you are planning some type of small/medium sized party and you want to eat decent food at reasonable prices (although Trader Joe's spread of cheeses and hummus dips and pita chips are pretty overplayed these days). The off brand Water Crackers are good as are some of the healthier snacks.
Left Right and Center

I posted my first comment on Left Right and Center blog about Bob Scheer's incessant point about "keeping homeowners in their homes." Each week, Bob goes off on how unjust it is to bail out Wall Street at the expense of homeowners who are losing their homes - that we need to put a freeze on forclosures and make sure people don't get kicked out of their homes.

But what Bob never seems to take into account is a simple fact: the "homeowners" he is referring to CAN'T AFFORD THEIR HOME.

Since when has this become a faux paux? It's so simple and obvious, it shouldn't need to be stated.

We could argue forever about whose fault it is - lenders/borrowers/politicians whatever - but the point doesn't change a thing - you can't afford the mortgage, you can't afford the home. Real simple. What is the government going to do? Keep paying the mortgage for them? Pay it off for them? Mystically raise the value of the home to allow for further leverage? I don't understand how you "keep people in their homes?" Why not while we're at it, why not just forgive all the student loans and debt? And why not give everyone a high paying job for the government to do whatever they please? And pay off everyone's credit cards. Sounds like a great society. I want to live there.
'Nuff Said

Can The Stimulus Work?

Not according to this economist. He argues that the very concept of an economic stimulus is a discredited one.

"Stimulus is not part of the language of economics," says Arizona State University economics professor Edward Prescott. I talked to Prescott just hours before Obama set the presidential pen to the stimulus bill. "There is an old, discarded theory that's been tried and failed spectacularly, which is where that language of stimulus comes from." The stimulus bill, Prescott told me, "is likely to depress the economy."

And this:

The incentives of entrepreneurs is central to Phelps' thought. Phelps says he "just doesn't understand" the argument that government can spur innovation through top-down subsidies for selected new technologies. Citing his Columbia colleague Amar Bhide, Phelps suspects that "a lot of money will be made by being in the right place at the right time and knowing the right people. Especially knowing the right people." Phelps is disturbed by the thought that we may be shifting from an entrepreneurial economy toward a lobbying economy. "A lot of potential entrepreneurs, who were contemplating making an innovation and launching it in the marketplace, will now think, 'Well maybe the safer thing to do is to try to get that government contract.' ... And nobody does the innovation. They're all too busy trying to get the government contract."

I guess soon enough, we'll all be on work-fare begging beaucrats for work.
Anal Rape

I'm following the stock market right now - must be because of slow sports time - and jesus, it just keeps getting worse out there. It's really ridiculous. This is not the change I voted for.
Harvey Weinstein Owes Me $12

F Harvey Weinstein. That bastard somehow guilt tripped the Academy into a nomination for The Reader. a misguided attempt to see the five nominated movies I saw The Reader this past Friday. Awful. This movie could be made by a film student with a budget and Kate Winslet.

I suppose the Oscars have always been a marketing ploy...but do these people realize there are at least good movies out there worthy of being seen? I recently watched Doubt and I know it's such a cliche to say Meryl Streep is good, but she outdoes herself in this movie and compared with Kate Winslet in the Reader - I mean, it's not even a contest.

Anyhow, the Oscars are such a bore. The only thing that make 'em interesting is betting.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Costly Metaphors

Using metaphors to describe the current economic crisis is necessary to explain to the layperson what is going on. The first metaphor I heard used was by Warren Buffett on Charlie Rose - the economy is like a patient whose heart stopped. We need to pump money into the credit markets to get his heart beating again. Worry about all else later. Another metaphor used here is that the economic crisis is like a car wreck and the government is just trying to clear the wreckage off the road to get traffic moving again. But the author suggests another metaphor: the government is causing worse congestion with all their emergency vehicles.

And I can see their points. There's no use it talking about a patients eating habits (spending habits) when his/her body is in cardiac arrest - even if those are what got him there.

But a country/economy isn't the same thing as a body. It doesn't die. It evolves and changes over time into something else. And so I wonder if some of these metaphors are misleading - because at least with the patient one - it paints a picture of having no choice whatsoever...which is exactly the opposite of what economics is all about - a science that teaches us there are always choices and costs to those choices.
Good Idea

From Variety the other day - Gemini Man - An agent at the National Security Agency tries to retire and is targeted for death. He discovers that his assassin is a younger, cloned version of himself.


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Collapsing By Their Own Stupidity

The KKK are so quaint these days. The big news is they killed one of their own during an initiation. No wonder the organization is dying out.

One day Al Queda will suffer the same fate. Hopefully sooner rather than later.
Lack of Blogging

I've been down. First, I got a nasty stomach flu and am finally feeling better. Simultaneously, our new wireless router decided to fail and leave me internet-less. Blogging will slowly resume...

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Not Encouraging

Holbrooke says Afghanistan will be harder than Iraq.

Shouldn't a big perk of electing Obama be leverage from our Nato and UN allies on the Afghanistan issue?
Most Overrated Blogs

I'd add HuffPost.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


Wow. Surprisingly good movie. Meryl Street outdoes herself with that accent. An impressive "look" as well. A nice little surprise in a year of poor movies.

Friday, February 13, 2009

What Happened to Change?

Sullivan thinks the Republicans are declaring war on Obama.


Well, I certainly agree it hypocritical of the Republicans to call for fiscal restraint now. Of course, that doesn't mean they're wrong. It is hypocritical for the Saudi's to denounce and fight terrorism while major elements of their society support it. But they are still right to denounce and fight it.

But it is also foolish for the Democrats to cry victim and portray Republican opposition to their proposals as unprincipled. Because Republicans could say the same about Democratic opposition to the Iraq War. I mean, all the same things hold true.

Republicans are stupid to root for the stimulus failure (yet surely some of them do) in the same way the Democrats were stupid for rooting for the Iraq War failure (as surely many of them did). These folks are just partisans and shouldn't be confused as statesmen or even public servants.
Great Idea!

A new holiday: steak and bj day. March 14th.
Just Friends

Watched this movie last night after hearing Anna Farris is really good in the film. I enjoyed it overall. Thought it was a well conceived idea for a rom-com and quite well written. They get a lot of good details right - in casting, character choices, etc. Anna Farris is obviously great. The brother relationship is very good as well. A lot of the side characters are unique and funny - Chris Klein quite good, the kids are funny, and the depictions of parents as being clueless dopes no more mature than the kids counter the more obvious romantic comedy cliche as the know-it-all wise parent. Also a pretty accurate overall depiction of the present day hetero-sexual male feelings toward the female - a general condition of annoyance with certain types of girls and an embarrassing level of pussy/homo type behavior around a girl you really like.

Of course, the only problem with the film is Ryan Reynolds, who I find almost unwatchable at times. God, what has our society become where this guy is a romantic lead. Talk about a homo.
Stimulating Thoughts

An article on why the stimulus won't work.

I am skeptical about the stimulus. Not in concept - because it's pretty clear government is the only institution big enough to try to get things going again. But mostly because it seems like we're putting a lot of good money after bad - towards companies and industries who failed...and who have hijacked the debate and are insisting it is in our interest that they survive. But what do I know?

On a political level, it does seem like the Republicans are a lot more comfortable being the naysayers and critics than the folks in charge. Of course, that role is always easier.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Joaquin Phoenix Loses His Mind

Uhhh. A little bit scary. Seems like he's on hardcore pharmaceuticals and is probably depressed.

He's awfully long winded at times, but I think it's because he writes so quickly and so much, he, in the words of Mark Twain, "didn't have time to make it shorter." But he comes up with some gems.

Luol Deng: Signs of life lately. I caught the Bulls in person recently and it's astonishing that they aren't good or even half-decent. Of all the lousy coaching hirings recently (Terry Porter, P.J. Carlesimo, Michael Curry, Sam Vincent, Reggie Theus, Marc Iavaroni), what's funny is Vinny Del Negro was by far the worst. It's even scarier in person when you're sitting behind the Bulls bench; I know a reader once compared Vinny's coaching to Shooter's taking over Hickory High that first time, but actually, it's more like watching an old person getting ready to go through a metal detector at an airport. Just complete confusion and panic and a lot of stopping and starting and glancing around. I feel bad even making fun of it. Let's just move on.

I laugh out loud at some of his bits.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Great Fake Facebook Mystery

Several months ago I was the victim of identity theft. Someone started a fake facebook page of me and sent invites to my real friends. The creepy interworkings of social networking took over and soon, the fake me was up and running befriending all sorts of people unbeknownst to the real me. When the real me found out, he wanted revenge against the fake me - because the fake me got the real me on a pretty damn good prank. And thus the mystery began...

The clues/evidence:

1. The initial facebook "friends" were from film school, so it was obvious the fake me knew the real me from USC.

2. The picture on my page was from Robyn's Halloween party. The picture was posted on Robyn's page, so presumably the fake me stole the picture from her page. (or was Robyn herself) But either way, this confirms the fake me was from film school.

3. I presumed the fake me knew the real me well because the fake me knew the real me really hates facebook...thus making the prank funny.

4. The fake me tried to set up some type of forwarding email address to my gmail, which I initially ignored, and then later figured out was the fake me. Why they did this remains a mystery to the real me, but indicates a decent technical proficiency (at least higher than my own).

5. The fake me initially would log onto the facebook page and accept friends and respond to wall postings and other emails "as if" they were the real me.

6. The fake me did not mention anything to the real me...instead the fake me was patient enough to let others inform me of my own facebook.

7. The fake me used gregblackjohnson as the email address, an old nickname from film school.

8. The fake me used my old home address as the email password, indicating they know my old address and are likely an older film school friend as opposed to a newer friend.

Turning Up The Heat/The Investigation

I tried several tactics to unearth the fake me. At first I patiently awaited a trip up indicating the true identity of the prankster. I figured the prankster was eager to be discovered because of the cleverness of the set up and sooner or later would reveal him or herself in a clumsy act of admission and allow the real tit-for-tat pranks to begin. But the fake me did not bite. The fake me sensed (or knew) the real me was on the case and decided to go quiet. Instead of "playing" around, the fake me went quiet and started to only accept new friends.

Depressed by the apparent lack of humor by the fake me, the real me got annoyed. The fake me started to accept friends who the real me would never accept as friends and started accepting friends outside the film school circle, including past and present colleagues. The real me began to worry about the the real me's reputation in the workplace and foresaw more future problems with the fake page the larger it got. The real me decided the prank had gone on long enough and emailed facebook to shut the page down before the fake me permanently damaged the real me's reputation.

The real me wanted to know who did this and narrowed the list of possible suspects and confronted all of them. Figuring the fake me could only be a small group of people and that the prank was clearly over, the fake me would decide to come clean, especially confronted with their crimes. But no one came clean. And I believed everyone who denied their role in starting the fake page.

This means the fake me lied to the real me's face. And probably multiple times and not in the spirit of fun. To this day, the great facebook mystery remains unsolved. The trail has gone dead and until new technology arrives, I don't know how to figure out who the perp is.


I've toyed with several different theories. At first, I figured there was a conspiracy or at least two people involved. I mean, what fun would a prank like this be without a co-conspirator?

But, because the mystery has lasted so long, the conspiracy angle seems less likely as one of the perps likely would have cracked by now and betrayed the other one, as crooks are wont to do. (this is also why I'm pretty sure Lee Harvey acted alone).

This leaves it to one person and I suspect the perp is female. The whole "going silent" and passive once the heat got turned up seems very feminine. A guy would have kept the prank going and eventually made a drunken confession and we'd all enjoy a big laugh. A girl is more likely to feel embarrassment or shame and therefore keep quiet about the whole matter.

I also suspect the perp is not well read and did not take away the lesson of psychological torment from Crime and Punishment. The perp figured the prank would annoy me and cause me grief - which it has. But what the perp did not figure is the psychological torment to oneself of committing a crime. The fear and guilt consumes you. And now, it's been so long, if the perp is ever caught, their actions will not be justifiable - they'll be interpreted as weird and their status in the community lessened.

And if the perp is never caught, they will live the rest of their lives with a small secret they are secretly afraid someone will discover. Had the perp read his/her Dostoyevsky, they'd know this...

There is another outside possibility - that one of my initial clues is wrong and I narrowed the pool of suspects too narrow - and it is someone outside the circle. But then the whole project is closer to stalker behavior and not prank behavior and I've got bigger problems I'm not willing to confront.
Playing For Time

Intertwined with a love letter to Obama is a theory about the government's strategy in dealing with the economic crisis: it is playing for time.

I suppose this is the only strategy we can take towards the crisis at this point. Of course, this is the same strategy a degenerate gambler takes toward his bookie...

On the Obama-gush, two quotes:

"Obama, cool as a cucumber, playing his game, five steps ahead, setting up moves that won't come to fruition for months or years, while his opposition flails at the thin air where he used to be. I love it."

"I cannot say as much myself. For me, the future is still murky and unforeseen crises unknowable. But I've learned not to under-estimate the man."

I would like to forewarn Obama. All these people who project mythical abilities onto you and put all their hopes and trust into you...and think you alone will be the savior of this economic crisis (as if it was about one man) are the people you ought to worry about. Because they will feel betrayed and act vicious when you prove yourself to be...gasp...a human being who makes mistakes. They are the future stalkers and Robert Ford's...

High school photos of famous politicians.
How To Needlessly Complicate Your Life

The NY Times on the ways to compartmentalize your Facebook life.

I suppose this is what happens to society when god dies. Thanks for the heads up, Nietzsche.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Getting Worse

Man somehow getting worse at sex.
Shitty Economy Solves Intractable Problems

Illegal immigrants are leaving the US because they can't find jobs.

Two years ago the big problems were meeting troop goals and illegal immigration...with our economy in the shitter, it looks like we're on our way to resolving at least those two issues.
Are You The Change I Am Waiting For?

Scratch that. I Am The Change You Are Waiting For. No Wait. You Are the Change I Are Waiting For. I Are The Change You Wait To See. You Are the Change You Are Waiting For. I Are The Change I Am Waiting For. Change I Am Waiting You To See. For I Change We Are For. Change I Wait You To See. Oh Nevermind. You know what I mean.

The difference for me, between Barak and McCain - with Obama winning, I strongly considered donating to KCRW's pledge drive whereas if McCain had won, I probably would have only slightly considered it.
Oh Well

Did the entire world economic system almost collapse last fall?

Hat tip, Naveen.

So I suppose Bush deserves....what? Credit? Blame?

And yes, things can always get worse.
It Must Be Some Sort of A Joke

I watched Righteous Kill last night. I swear to god, there is some sort of joke going on with this movie. How did it get made? Seriously. How did someone read the script and think - we should make this movie? How did actors deliver the lines without saying "Really? I mean, really? You want me to say THAT?" How did DeNiro not laugh his ass off in the last scene when Pacino explains his motivation for abruptly turning into a serial killer (oops, I just spoiled the movie, but secretly, I just saved anyone who considered watching the movie their time). How did the director watch this film and resist the temptation to steal the negative and burn in his fireplace? Is Pacino fucking with us or something - saying to himself "look at you dumb apes - you'll watch me do anything you pathetic retards. I could sit here and talk about my ass warts and you'll pay money."

So, I'd give it a thumbs down.
Kobe Hater

Bill Simmons counters the charge he is a Kobe hater. Using his criteria, I am much more of a Kobe hater -

1. I always see my Kobe glass as half empty. I enjoy disparaging his abilities, rooting against him and reveling in his failures. When he succeeds, I look for ways to discredit him. In short, Kobe cannot win with me. I am his antifan.

Yes, I do this.

2. Kobe has become such a polarizing player and person that if you aren't rooting for him, it means you're rooting against him. Look at me and The Mag: I'm a hater, but they give him print lap dances twice a year. Two extremes.

No, I don't think this is true.

3. Kobe is the best NBA player and has been for some time. If I'm not willing to admit this, then it can only mean I hate him.

I agree with Simmons - this is just plain dumb.

4. I don't like him personally, which affects the way I think of him professionally.

Yes, this is true. He raped a woman and doesn't give a shit about his teammates. In high school, instead of taking his girlfriend out, he would force them to watch highlights of himself. True story. I don't like him. And his game is reflective of his extraordinary narcissism.

5. I hate Kobe. Like, I really hate him. If I were driving and saw him crossing the street, I would run him over.

I don't hate anyone this much, except perhaps Bin Laden.

Thoughts on Kobe's 61 point game, which I didn't see:

A friend of mine, a lifelong Knicks season ticket-holder since the Bradley era, e-mailed me afterward: "That was the worst night maybe of my life in the Garden. How horrible it must be to play with Kobe. He was signaling constantly to his teammates to get him the ball. THREE ASSISTS AND NO REBOUNDS. Talk about a team guy."

If you like basketball, how can you like this guy?

Monday, February 09, 2009

It Can Always Get Worse

You've heard a lot of people say it lately - well, it can't get worse. It was a popular mantra during the election that America couldn't be worse than it was under George Bush. I myself used this type of thinking when analyzing how our invasion of Iraq would affect the region. In my initial analysis, I figured the middle east couldn't get much worse.

One thing I learned over the past 8 years: it can always get worse. An article about a rising ultra-right wing candidate in Israel gaining popularity.

See the international community thinks hammering down on Israel will get the country to make concessions to the Palestinians. But there is another possibility - keep hammering unfairly - and you'll get a sister ideology to Hamas. Yes, it can get worse in the Holy Land.
What A Bunch Of Morons

A group of students are going around the US dressed as Muslims to see what happens. Quote:

"I expected people to say, 'What is this terrorist doing here? We don't want your kind here,' " said Woldt, a 22-year-old blue-eyed Catholic, recalling her anticipation before stepping into a local barbecue joint. "I thought I wouldn't even be served."

Instead, Woldt's experiment in social anthropology opened her own eyes. Apart from the initial glances reserved for any outsider who might venture through a small-town restaurant's doors, her experience was a pleasant one.

On her way to the bathroom, Woldt said, "One woman's jaw dropped, but then she smiled at me. ... That little smile just makes you feel so much better."

Have these people seen Borat? Have they never traveled around this country at all? Where do these college kids and professors come from? How can they possible have lived in this country for the past 20 plus years and think a hate crime is going happen if you put on a head scarf? Don't they realize this is the land of - we don't give a shit?

If they want a real experience, they ought to go to Saudi Arabia or Iran and try walking around without a headscarf. I'll set a stop watch and see who gets acid in the face first - the Muslim woman in America or the non-Muslim in Iran or Saudi Arabia.

The issue is not how America treats Muslims - especially Muslims living here. The issue is how Muslims treat each other, their neighbors, and in the extreme cases, the US and Israel.

If this is the future, I see the blind leading the blind and dumb.
Mating Analysis

Differences between what men and women are looking for between 1930s and today.

One big mistake in this survey is interviewing college students. Sure, in the 1930s college was a place to meet your eventual mate. Today, college is a place to sew your oats. I know very few married couples today who met in college. Of course college kids are looking for something different. They should be interviewing 30 year olds.
Great Movie Weekend

Managed to see three movies this weekend: Taken and Gran Tourino in a double feature. I doubt I'll see a better double feature this year. Perfectly matched thematically - male revenge fantasy movies.

Watched Double Indemnity last night. Can't believe I hadn't seen this movie before. Very enjoyable.

Hat tip, Naveen.
Living in a Lucas World

The article makes it sound like the USC Film School was all George Lucas. Which would make us Ewoks.

If anyone has any money and wants fancy clothes - Barney's is having their SM airport sale. I got a suit last year for about 50% off.
Democracy In Danger

The NBA opened it's All Star voting on the internet this year and apparently Bruce Bowen came in 3rd for forwards. Bruce Bowen. Have you watched this guy try to shoot the basketball? It's ugly. Hideous. He's a great defensive stopper. The guy the Spurs use to try and shut down Kobe. He is a one dimensional role player. In short, not an all star. Not by any stretch. But Bruce Bowen does basketball workshops in China. Apparently, he's a mini-celebrity over there. And many of his votes for NBA all star came from China.

In and of itself, this really isn't a problem. Who cares about the NBA all star game? Fan voting and popularity has always been an issue. It's an issue for all All Star games, prom queens, and student elections - popularity doesn't mean best or right.

But what does this mean for the future of democracy? Especially around the world where frankly - people aren't accustomed to it. Like China. Like the Palestinian territories. Like Iraq. Or Afghanistan.

All I know is this: if the future of democracy is Bruce Bowen being an all star and Hamas ruling in Gaza, we are in a load of trouble.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Obama Problems

Obama wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post defending the stimulus.

Here's my beef with the stimulus and much of the other things Obama said during the campaign and continues to say. I agree with his broad, unspecific rhetoric. Because there isn't much to disagree with. Sure, I think investing in energy independence and fixing healthcare are great ideas. And sure, I think getting people back to work and the stock market up again are good ideas. Who doesn't? I guess what I'm not convinced of is two things: 1) What is the specific goal of the stimulus? and 2) Will it work?

What I'm skeptical about is the stimulus' ability to serve multiple purposes - get people back to work, prevent the economy from collapsing, invest in our future, and to do all of this without substantial blowback. I'm not a Republican partisan questioning the stimulus for political or ideological reasons. I don't think prescribing only tax cuts will work. I don't secretly hope for failure so Bobby Jindel or Salih Palin will be president in 2012. I understand macroeconomic theory and how the government is supposed to spend and cut taxes to stimulate growth. I get it. I also get it will be imperfect and pork could be required to get it passed. That isn't my concern. My concern is we got into this crisis because of excessive debt spending in the private sector and we expect to get out of it by transferring the downside risk to the taxpayer. My concern is that we've already bailed out banks, insurance companies, and car companies and that by rewarding failure we create more incentives for unnecessary future risk. My concern is that the mass psychology that two years ago got lenders to lend money to buyers who couldn't afford houses is now in a mass panic about going into long term mega debt that I'm eventually going to pay back via future income tax and property tax. Worse, I'm even more worried about inflation rearing it's ugly head as a result of 800 billion dollars of new money going into print. I'm worried because I'm in an industry where the paycheck isn't steady, so it requires a lot of fiscal discipline to stay in it for the long term and that goofy fluctuations in the stock market or with inflation can completely ruin responsible long term financial planning.

Economists and Historians still debate what got us out of the Great Depression. Was it the New Deal or WW2? I don't think anyone knows for sure. But this situation reminds me of the time my friend and I were in Cuba and we were running low on money. You can only use American cash in Cuba because credit card companies can't operate. I brought more more and was generally a bit more careful. Sure enough, by the end of the trip, we were low and in a bit of a panic. He thought the best thing to do was pool our money together to finish up the trip. (I had more). Needless to say, I didn't agree.

Basically, industries who are doing poorly are asking industries and individuals who are doing less poor to help them out. They argue, it's better to help them because the if we don't, it'll get worse. And my friend could make the same argument. It would be bad for me if he ran out of money as well. In the end, and in order to be safe, my parents forwarded us $300 via Western Union. It was embarrassing, but not the end of the world. We paid them back (I think). But the issue there was access to money, not the lack of it. A more appropriate analogy would be that my friend are I were in Cuba traveling while already in credit card debt. In order to get out, we needed to borrow against our credit card and then figure out a future way to pay it back. I guess what I hear from Obama is that we need to borrow against the credit card, without any plan for how we're going to pay it back.

But it's hard to have strong feelings one way or the other on the economy and the government's role. I just would like to know where the 80 bil from last fall went and whether it solved the problem it was supposed to solve. And what happens if the bill doesn't have the desired effect? Then what do we do? I have no frame of reference here. Are we betting the rent money on this thing? Or are we making a smart, logical, double down bet on a ten with the dealer showing a six? I just don't know.

But my other beef with Obama is his WOT rhetoric. He sold the story during the election that Iraq was the dumb war and Afghanistan was the smart war and failures in Afghanistan were due to over emphasizing Iraq. So now the idea is to pull out troops from Iraq and devote them to Afghanistan. Now this analysis makes perfect logical sense. If written for a college essay, it would probably get an A. The problem, I think, is that it is totally wrong. Empires die in Afghanistan. The country is basically illiterate. What do we - in the best case scenario - expect this country to be? How does sending more troops lead to this goal? Is our goal merely to kill/capture Bin Laden and AQ's top leadership or to decimate the Taliban? Can we achieve this? Can we achieve it with the number of proposed troops? Is it worth 10,000 American lives to capture/kill Bin Laden at this point in time?

And yes, spending money on improving the healthcare system and updating our infrastructure and energy independence is needed. But is now the best time to do it? I mean, I know I'll need a new car at some point. But if I have a big credit card bill is it wise to purchase the car now? Or should I wait to pay the credit card and then buy the car? These are the type of questions I don't feel like I have the answers to. And I maybe no one else does either.
Toying Around At Work

I have a similar beef with my office mate.
What Would A Railroading Look Like?

What would it look like if Blago's political enemies wanted to get rid of him?

Perhaps a lot like what happened. Big press. A rush to convict. Very selective evidence. Was this about punishing a crook or overturning an election?
Belated Sports Thoughts

I really enjoyed the Super Bowl. It's been said it wasn't a great game save one play in the first half and the end...but it was just as good a game I could reasonably expect from the Cardinals playing the Steelers. 'Zona earned some major respect. Their D stepped up and got them back in the game (except when it really counted) and Warner played like a champ. I ask myself - if Farve had played like Warner - would this column be different? Would I be blaming the Arizona loss on the red zone int and inability to stop the run back for td at the end of the first half? I guess I don't know. But the measure of a player and team is how they respond to failure and letdown. It didn't crush Warner and Zona stayed strong and almost came back to win. In the end, I think they suffered from inexperience. Their defense softened up in the last minute and couldn't stop Big Ben and Pittsburgh from coming back. It's incredibly hard to do, but they did have the momentum.

But here's the thing - is Brett Farve a better QB than Kurt Warner? If Farve accomplished what Warner did this year (leading a crappy franchise to a title shot), he'd be lionized as one of the greatest QBs of all time and certainly of his generation. In fact, the media was doing just that in week 10 or so before Farve let one of the most incredible letdowns in recent memory and even got his teammates jumping on him. Does this poison his legacy? A little. Even I thought Farve was a least a locker room guy and overrated in the skills and decision making department. But it turns out, at least this year, he wasn't even that. In any case, Warner has the MVPs, the Super bowl ring, and the leading various teams to the title that Farve doesn't have. Farve vs. Warner, in the ring? I take Warner.

Alright - yesterday - Derek Fisher basically locks up arms with Ray Allen on the final shot - how is that not a foul? Jesus!
Layoffs Hurt Men More Than Women

How layoffs hurt men more psychologically than women.

In my experience, "feminists" are more than willing to impose the same age-old gender expectations on men (earning a living). Or, at the very least, are suspiciously silent on the matter.

But that's no big surprise. Feminism today isn't much about principals - it's a tool for self promotion by individual women. Which, as you know, I have no problem with...

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Sports As Metaphor

An article about Ray Allen's changing game.

"I hear so many times guys say they want to win a championship, I want to be a winner, but what they're really saying is they want to win so long as it's comfortable for them,'' Rivers said. "You don't win by being comfortable. You win by doing things out of your comfort zone to make the team better, and Ray epitomizes that to me. He's completely come out of his comfort zone to fit into this team to make us better, and Ray has proved that he's a champion because he's willing to do that.''

One Night Stand

If you need a disincentive.
On Other Issues

It seems to me on other issues, Civil Libertarians would have a big issue with something like this - a database to see who donated to the Prop 8 campaign. Isn't this the same thing as listing doctors who perform abortions?
Transcript of Christian Bale

Reading it is as fun as listening.

I sympathize.
Thoughts on Conservatism

Some really good points on movement conservatism (Republican party conservatism) and classical conservatism (conservatism as a temperament).

One reason I admire Oakeshott is simply his understanding that the two deepest impulses in Western political thought - the individualist and the collectivist - need each other to keep our polities coherent. He, like me, preferred the individualist, and so my own leanings are toward smaller government, lower taxes, balanced budgets, individual freedom and prudent strength in foreign policy. But I also see when the alternative might be needed. There are times when the government does indeed need to make a big infrastructure investment or beef up its security technology or address an emergent and vital threat to a settled way of life, like climate change or Jihadist terror. Finding the best way for government to act at those times is a pragmatic and often difficult task; but I have no issues with such action. Government exists in some measure to provide a collective response to a newly felt need.
Holy Shit

A snake fossil as a big as a school bus that could eat a cow.

In the past 5-6 months a lot of open source intelligence suggests Yemen is becoming an attractive host country for Al Queda central. Don't be surprised if the next attack against American interests originate from there.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Oh No!

Yesterday I went to run my weekly mile and Sanmohi was repaving their track. I did a run anyway, but it wasn't the same. Not nearly. I guess I'm involuntarily taking a week break and will check back next week. Otherwise, I might need to find a new track.

In other news, I somehow made an excellent dinner this evening. The Caesar salad was near perfect. Somehow I nailed the dressing mix. The keys to excellent Caeser:

1. Fresh romaine
2. Homemade croutons from sourdough bread (fry in pan w/ garlic olive oil *secret involved)
3. Simple Caeser dressing: olive oil, lemon juice, worcester, egg yolk (partially boiled), salt and pepper.

Good way to cook a big steak:

1. Salt and Pepper both sides
2. Sear in pan both sides for a few minutes to trap in juices
3. Throw in oven for 3-4 minutes of broil both sides

The result: a nice even cook through. Definitely beware of cooking too long.
Just Another Transfer of Wealth and Power?

Interesting thoughts on the political class making a play on power from the private sector.
We Will See

Hitchens letter to Obama in World Affairs Journal.

And there will be two temptations. The first is that of relying on your charm and multicultural appeal, with its somewhat risk-averse rhetoric and its tendency to emulsify basic disagreements in favor of the invocation of “common ground,” while the second is that of staging a Kennedy-esque “rite of passage” moment, in which you seek to show how tough you are, or can be. Both of these have their—not quite equal and not quite opposite, but nonetheless similar—dangers.


Having said, quietly but firmly, that the Iranian theocracy cannot be permitted to crash through every treaty and agreement and undertaking it has ever made or signed and declare itself a nuclear power, you will quite simply have to declare what the logical and probable consequences of this statement actually are. The Bush administration, despite its reputation for bellicosity, never managed to clarify the implications of its own statements on the matter. And it broke its own promise not to bequeath the problem to the next administration. You will have no such room for maneuver: the long-feared coincidence of a messianic regime with an apocalyptic weapon will either occur on your own watch or will be conclusively prevented from occurring. This is not a difference that can easily be split. Nor is it a question that can be subcontracted to Israel, since nobody will believe that if the Jewish state acts in any capacity it is acting independently of ourselves (or failing to make use of Iraqi airspace, which will come to the same thing). If I may make a tiny suggestion before quitting this topic it would be this: have somebody working full time on Sunni Arab responses to a Shiite theocratic nuclear capacity. We may have more allies than we think in this area. And begin work now on a contingency plan for when Iran threatens to occupy Bahrain, using its strategic nuclear ambiguity to discourage any coordinated international response à la Kuwait, and implying that a local Shiite majority confers upon it the right to alter international borders by force.

Like Sullivan, Hitchens is informed, passionate, and smart, but also not a great "predictor." After all, he thought Edwards would be the Democratic nominee. Yeah, seriously. So let's hope he's wrong about the mullah's eyes on nukes and Bahrain.
Army Meets Recruiting Goals

Not surprisingly, more folks are joining the army when the economy is in tatters.

Guess the solution to "troop shortages" was to plunge the country into recession.
No He Didn't

Obama apologizes for screwing up on the Daschle appointment.

But Obama didn't screw up. Daschle did. Why is he apologizing? He's not responsible for everything. Jesus.
Hollywood Screwed

Hollywood doesn't get any graft from the stimulus. Come on, Obama, we were your biggest shill!

$246 mil is a lot of potential jobs...
Does He?

A quick post on altering our expectations for Afghanistan.

Sullivan thinks Obama gets this. But does he? He's been arguing for more troops to Afghanistan.

Some insider info on how terrorists "recruit" female suicide bombers.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Eating Shit

Former Wall Streeters are getting shit these days. I'm sure a lot of it is unfair. I don't feel a special need to gang up on these guys, but I don't exactly feel sorry for them. Hey...they went for the money and the glory and a slew of them failed. If they are all as smart as we're told, they knew the ephemeral nature of success and saved their money.

I'm sure they all paid their unemployment taxes and are now collecting on it. Fair, right?

Well...wouldn't the honorable thing be paying his taxes in the first place.

As Instapundit said the other day, (paraphrase) returning shady campaign contributions or pulling your name from a job consideration isn't the same as not doing it in the first place.
Sort of Like Margot At The Wedding

You can join the Atlantic facebook page. So the question for me: do I like the Atlantic more than I hate Facebook? No. I'm a hater.

With Margot at the Wedding the question is: do I like Harris Savides enough to overcome my distaste for Noah Baumbach? I haven't seen the movie.

Could Obama permanently neuter the far left wing by continuing to fight the WOT? I think so.

When I asked a reporter with contacts in the intelligence community what the planned closing of Guantanamo meant in practical terms, he was blunt: “If a group of dangerous terrorists are held without public trial in an American prison or military base, as opposed to an American military base in Cuba, have the underlying legal issues changed?" We will, he said, "have to wait and see, as many of the hardest questions on detention and interrogation have been put off for later."

I don't get why closing Guantanamo is such a big deal. But if it'll shut the idiots up and let us get on with the business of winning the war - I say - why not?
Puff, Puff, Give

Michael Phelps caught smoking the tweeds. A funny thought:

I merely note that this broken wreck of a man's failure to win any more than a pathetic fourteen Olympic gold medals (so far) is a terrifying warning of the horrific damage that cannabis can do to someone's health—and a powerful reminder of just how sensible the drug laws really are.

I think Obama should end the drug war. Now that would be impressive!
What the Hell Just Happened?

Why Civil War in Iraq gets front page coverage for months and elections get back page coverage...well, I'm just pointing out the obvious...good news isn't news. In the words of Alec Baldwin, "if I wanted to be told something I already know, I'd read the Huffington Post."

From Sullivan:

From the perspective of now - and this may change in the rear-view mirror of history - the surge was a security success which now can claim some political progress as well. I was therefore wrong about it at the time, believing it was insufficient to the task and that the divides were too deep to be patched over. I don't apologize for this assessment, the way I did about the war in the first place, because it was an honest attempt to understand some grim options. But that doesn't take away from the fact that President Bush was right - and that the US military did something quite remarkable.

Why is being wrong about the surge "honest," but being "wrong" about the war "dishonest." Sullivan - in his own eyes - is basically 0 for 2 when it comes to the big strategic question of the day: how best to fight the WOT. He initially understood the strategic threat posed by Iraq - the "black swan" possibility of WMDs finding their way into the hands of terrorists and how poisonous autocracies in the Arab world were pushing young men into the hands of Islamic Fascist recruiters. Sullivan is informed and passionate about the issues - but he is by his own admission - bad at making the call. Which is probably why he's a writer.
No Computer

The underwhelming blog output of late is due to my computer being "in the shop." I will pick it up today.

I thought this sounded interesting - a movie studio in Michigan.

Endeavor brokered the deal and will represent the studio, while Graham Taylor, head of Endeavor’s film finance unit known as Endeavor Independent, has arranged tax credit, debt and production financing.

Hmmm. Why is a talent agency representing a studio? Isn't that sort of like a Fox guarding a henhouse?