Friday, July 31, 2009

Who Is Glen Beck?

He says Obama is racist against white people. But isn't Obama part white? So is he racist against himself?

Cambridge Cop Accidentally Arrests Henry Louis Gates Again During White House Meeting.

Thank God for the Onion.
The Only Question

Is whether to see THE HURT LOCKER or PUBLIC ENEMIES a second time. Or to watch the remaining 3 episodes of DEADWOOD Season 1.

Someone was bugging me about PUBLIC ENEMIES the other day. I'm getting tired of "defending" movies I like. Can't a man just enjoy a movie? Or not enjoy? What is the point of debating or defending a movie? I enjoy discussing movies, but debating movies is pointless. It's not a position to defend or court case to be won. I don't give a shit about convincing someone a movie is good or not. What does it matter if you differ in opinion on movies? I differ with everyone all the time. It is no big deal. I don't understand why people want consensus about a movie. Who cares?

I was thinking about why I don't care to pick apart PUBLIC ENEMIES. If you a make an adult film about men with guns, there is a 75% chance I'm going to enjoy it. That's just right off the bat. It you make a cartoonish movie (Pineapple Express) or completely unserious movie (like Righteous Kill), yes, I'm not going to like it. But make an honest attempt at a badass cops and guns style movie, I'm not fricking picky, all right? If you're a cute girl and cool, I'm going to like you. There isn't anything complicated about it. I'm not going to examine every little detail and say, her eyes are too far apart or her hands are too big. Yeah, everyone and every movie is imperfect. It's all about how. If the movie is imperfect, but about a badass robbing banks with a code of ethics in changing times and there's a pretty girl and some bad dudes trying to fuck with his shit. I'm going to like it, okay.

A report that the stimulus is working.

Basically, the economy would have contracted more if we didn't increase government spending. Well, yeah. By definition, spending government money "grows" the economy. If I hired someone to shave my chest everyday and paid them a working wage it would stimulate and grow the economy. Only problem - I can't afford to. And neither can we.

Race Relations

Well, is it safe to say the White House beer solved the race question in America?

Here is Hitchens writing on Obama and race during the election.

To have accepted Obama's smooth apologetics is to have lowered one's own pre-existing standards for what might constitute a post-racial or a post-racist future. It is to have put that quite sober and realistic hope, meanwhile, into untrustworthy and unscrupulous hands. And it is to have done this, furthermore, in the service of blind faith. Mark my words: This disappointment is only the first of many that are still to come.

It seems rather prescient doesn't it?

ps - read the whole article. it is very smart and talks about the reverand wright episode and how obama cynically knew he needed wright for his "base" and that he'd throw him under the bus when it came to national election time. not only that, he did it by equating wright to geraldine ferraro and his white grandmother (both decent folks). anyhow, it makes it pretty obvious that men of character do not come out of the american political system.
When Did Profits Become Evil?

I seriously worry about this attitude only because I notice it even more prevalent amongst younger folks. There is an attitude that working in non-profit is morally superior to working for profit. It isn't. It's one big lie designed to get people to do useless work for really cheap and feel self righteous about it.

I think it perfectly fine to work in non-profit or low wage jobs or do whatever the f you want. Just don't think by-definition it is inherently good or useful. I see these kids on the streets in Westwood peddling nonsense from LaRouche to Prop 8 to save the environment. I'm like - dude, go work at In and Out and make me a burger. I'll pay you for it.
Two New Websites

I was forwarded two new websites created by film school folks.

The first is a social networking site for dreamers: Whats Your Dream.

The second is for talking to dead people: What I Meant to Say.

And no, this is not an onion article. This is for real.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Paying For Lunch


“Four of the most powerful business leaders in America arrived at the White House one day last month for lunch with President Barack Obama, sitting down in his private dining room just steps from the Oval Office. But even for powerful CEOs, there’s no such thing as a free lunch: White House staffers collected credit card numbers for each executive and carefully billed them for the cost of the meal with the president. The White House defended the unusual move as a way to avoid conflicts of interest. But the Bush administration didn’t charge presidential guests for meals, one former official said, and at least one etiquette expert found the whole thing unseemly – suggesting it was a serious breach of protocol”

Yikes. That is tacky.
CNN Misses The Story

How many beers did they drink each? Jesus, if you're gonna report on this nonsense, at least get the good info. Did Biden get drunk and say something stupid? God, I hope so.

It looks like Gates changed his mind and got a Sam Adams Light. Biden drank Buckler. I am not familiar with that beer. Obama should of drank Sam Adams at least. Bud Light. His aides really screwed up. Why didn't someone tell him Bud Light is totally lame?

UPDATE - Holy Fucking Shit - Buckler is a non-alcoholic beer. What the hell is going on with this country? I'm ready to hit the streets in protest. These guys didn't even sit down for a real beer. Get the hell out of here. Why didn't they just get a latte instead? Our nation is going down the tubes. Vlad Putin is just waiting for a moment. The man probably drinks eight shots of vodka a night before writing his memoirs, ordering a journalist to be killed, building an oil pipeline himself, and running a marathon. When the shit hits the fan, we're going out to battle with two guys who drink bud light and non-alcoholic beer. Good lord, the British would of kicked our asses in the Revolution if GW and Alex Hamilton were drinking Bud Light and Buckner. Shit, we probably wouldn't of even beaten the Indians. Shit, we wouldn't of even made it over the Atlantic. Worse, we wouldn't of even thought about coming over the Atlantic. Non-Alcoholic Beer! I'm going bonkers right now. Is Biden in AA? Does that make you unqualified for being VP? They should of gone to Jamba Juice or Pinkberry. Good god. If I ran Mexico right now, I'd be seriously thinking about taking California back from this juice-drinkers.
Screenwriting and the Ivy League

In Variety's top 10 new screenwriters to watch I noticed a very high number, 7 of 11 (one was a team) were graduates of an Ivy League school.

We all know the Ivy League is prestigious and generally smart people go to school there. Even so, 7 out of 11 seemed an abnormally high number from such a small number of schools. Why is this?

One argument, the argument Ivy Leaguers would make, is that top students attend Ivy League schools, so it is obvious that top professionals would be from the Ivy League. This includes screenwriting, a difficult and competitive industry where the cream rises to the top. Additionally, the education at the Ivy League schools are presumably superior to other schools, so you have an awesome combination of the students with the most aptitude for success given the tools for success and it puts Ivy Leaguers at a competitive advantage, etc, etc.

There is something suspicious about this theory. Anyone with a lick of experience in the real world knows competence and talent is hardly exclusive to the Ivy League. And screenwriting talent doesn't seem like it would correspond with SAT scores, which basically what determines your Ivy League credentials. Plus, there is sort of a disgusting elitism embedded in this way of thinking.

If it were true that Ivy Leaguers were generally superior at screenwriting - for whatever reason - it should hold both at the bottom (ie 10 screenwriters to watch) and the top. Therefore, we should look at the top work in the profession and evaluate from where it comes. Here is a basic list of the best writing/writers in the past 10-20 years. Obviously, one can argue on this issue, but I am trying to keep in mind both innovation and form (I include Rossio and Elliot as an example not because they are innovative, but because they successfully made two huge tentpole franchises for the studio) and a mix of film and tv.

1. The Sopranos - not ivy
2. The Wire - not ivy (University of Maryland - David Simon)
3. Seinfeld - not ivy (University of Maryland - Larry David)
4. 30 Rock - not ivy
5. Arrested Development - not ivy
6. Tarantino - not ivy
7. Coen Brothers - not ivy
8. Rossio and Elliot - not ivy
9. Charlie Kaufman - not ivy
10. Wes Anderson - not ivy
11. Alan Ball - not ivy
12. Cameron Crowe - not ivy

Honorable Mentions

13. Alex Payne and Jim Taylor - not ivy (although Payne went to Stanford, which is almost the same)
14. PTA - not ivy
15. David Milch - IVY

So within the top-top tier of screenwriters and television writers of the past 10-20 years there is only 1 out of 20 (including pairs) that actually went to an Ivy League school. And to be honest, if I wasn't watching DEADWOOD right now, I don't even think I would have included David Milch in the mix. You could argue with my list, but come on, this is embarrassing for the Ivies. My list was true, too. Not rigged at all. I came up with the list and then looked at the colleges. University of Maryland was home to both David Simon and Larry David, two of the obviously best TV writers of their generation - who write completely different stuff. UvM beats out every single Ivy League school and Stanford to boot. What's up with that?

Here's my theory: Ivy Leaguers do better at the bottom than at the top. At the bottom, studios or producers or whoever, are taking a risk on a newbie. Folks feel more comfortable hiring an unknown if they went to a really good college. This is stupid, of course, and yet it gives a person just a tiny bit more security if they are hiring someone from Harvard. It's just like Baldwin says is the Departed - "people trust you more if you're married. They think, well, if one person can stand to live with this guy, how bad can he be?" Well, if Harvard thinks enough of this person, they must be pretty talented. It lets people off the hook a little bit. They don't look like a fool to their bosses when the script sucks. "But they went to Harvard!" They can say to themselves. I see this attitude from people whether they went to an Ivy League school or not. Some Ivy Leaguers do it as a form of self-validation. And the non-Ivy leaguers are even worse about it.

There are two other components as well. Film has become more of an attraction to the "best and brightest" in recent years. I'm not sure why, Hollywood has always been sexy, but it seems like the elite are headed more and more out to Hollywood these days. This is just an impression, but it seems to hold up anecdotally. I would suspect there are simply a higher percentage of Ivy Leaguers coming out West now than say 25 years ago when they were probably going into banking or publishing.

And lastly, there is the mentionitis factor. For some reason, when I'm talking to someone who went to an Ivy League school, I know it. It seems to come up or get implied. Not everyone, of course. I'm just making a generalization. But - in general - it seems like folks who attended an Ivy League school view it as a character trait whereas people who attended say, a state school, view it as a place they went to college. It seems to be a little bit more front and center. The best spoof of this attitude is Andy in the office who is constantly mentioning attending Cornell. Not that this is a bad thing - but how it factors into this discussion is that when you read about 10 screenwritings about to hit it big in Hollywood - their Ivy League creds come out front and center. I'm a huge fan of Larry David and David Simon and have followed both for years. I didn't know where either attended college until today. I didn't care. Their work speaks for them. And if you work can't speak for you, well, then maybe your college can.
No Big Surprise

Just add it to the list of pyramid schemes Americans are running.

“Researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine said consumers were paying higher prices for organic food because of its perceived health benefits, creating a global organic market worth an estimated $48 billion in 2007. A systematic review of 162 scientific papers published in the scientific literature over the last 50 years, however, found there was no significant difference.”

We borrow money on our houses with over-inflated fake value to pay for overinflated foods with fake health benefits and to pay for "greener" automobiles and healthcare we don't need. Show me some people who contribute more to the world than they take out of it. Please. And I mean really contribute, like by making shit that is useful.
Important News

At tonight's beer at the white house, Gates will be drinking Red Stripe, the cop will be drinking Blue Moon, and Obama will be drinking Bud Light.

Bud Light? Are you serious? Is on special for $2 at the White House for happy hour? What other reason would a man drink Bud Light?

Vlad Putin is licking his chops right now. Bud Light. For chrissake.

UPDATE: If I were peer counseling these two clowns, I'd insist on sharing a bottle of Oban, watching a Peckinpah film, and playing a round of poker. If they aren't friends after that, there's no hope.

UPDATE 2: Okay, fine, if it needs to be beer, they should share a 12 pack. Budweiser (not bud light) is the obvious choice. I would choose Sierra Nevada. Or Anchor Steam or Negro Modelo (if you don't mind the foreign). I could see choosing some type of Hefeweizen because it's summer time. But I think Obama should insist on one type of beer and they all should drink it. Problem is - Obama obviously is not a beer drinker - and would choose something dumb like Bud Light.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Multiculturalism isn't just diverse restaurants, fun music, and other cool stuff. It also means accepting stories like this:

The allegation is shocking: an 8-year-old girl lured to a storage shed with the promise of chewing gum, pinned down and sexually assaulted by four boys, none of them older than 14.

The response from the girl's family sent a second and equally stunning shockwave through their Phoenix, Arizona, community: "The parents felt that they had been shamed or embarrassed by their child," reported Phoenix police Sgt. Andy Hill.

As a result, the girl was taken into custody by Arizona's child welfare agency.

The prosecutor who charged the four boys called the crime "heartrending" and "deeply disturbing." But to those familiar with Liberia, the west African nation where the families of all of the children are from, the crime and response are both part of a sadly familiar story.

"It's something that happens every day in every community in Liberia," said Tania Bernath, a researcher for the human rights group Amnesty International.

The country was racked by a brutal civil war for most of 14 years. During that time, rape was used by fighters on all sides as a tool of war and a way to spread terror and demoralize enemies.

A United Nations report in 2004, the year after much of the fighting stopped, estimated that 60 to 70 percent of all women in the nation had been the victims of sexual violence.

An example of why America doesn't need to be more like the rest of the world.
Dumb, Dumb, Dumb

It's not that universal coverage is a bad idea. It's just bad timing.

The problem is increased cost, not whether everyone is covered (if you ask me). By covering everyone, we will increase cost. Or so says the CBO and common sense.
An Alternative Explanation of the A's Success

As readers of the blog know, I am a big Oakland A's fan. I am pleased with the publicity the A's and Billy Beane received from Moneyball the book and film. In the past two days, there is a lot of reflection in the blogosphere, spurred by an ESPN article, posing the question - now that the A's are in last place and the movie halted production, does it look like the theories expounded in Moneyball are defunct?

Most conclude no. In fact, it is the success of the Moneyball theories and the adoption of the theories by competition that prove they work. Basically, everyone else caught up to the A's. You could same the same of HBO. The created an awesome original programming model only to be copied by Showtime, FX, etc, thusly creating competition for themselves.

But as a longtime A's fan, I'm in a unique position to evaluate the success of the Moneyball claims historically, as opposed to theoretically. In short, there is an alternative explanation to the A's successes between 1999-2003 than the sabermetric tools used to evaluate players - luck, steroids, and a culture of success.

Let me clarify luck. Anyone who knows anything about baseball knows starting pitching is the most valuable commodity to any team. Good pitching wins games and championships. Every team except for the very top tier spenders, like the Yankees, Red Sox, and Mets try to develop good young pitchers. Actually, I would argue all teams try to develop good young pitchers, it's just the top teams don't need to - they can afford to buy proven pitchers from other teams if needed. From 1999-2003, the A's were incredibly successful at developing young pitching talent - Tim Hudson, Barry Zito, and Mark Mulder were three of the top pitchers in the American League at the time. Mulder and Zito both won Cy Young Awards and if you ask me, Hudson was the best of the three. Not unlike the Atlanta Braves in the early 1990s with Glavine, Smoltz, and Avery (and later Maddux), the A's were blessed with a goldmine. This happens in cycles. Right now, the San Francisco Giants are one of the best teams in the National League because of two young pitchers - Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain. A couple of years ago the Detroit Tigers got to the the World Series on the backs of Justin Verlander, Jeremy Bonderman, and Nate Robinson. The Phillies world series MVP was Cole Hammel, the Marlins won the World Series with a young Josh Beckett. My point is this - all teams try and develop young pitching talent and success at it goes in cycles. The A's cycle was during 1999-2003. Afterwards, the A's did develop Dan Haren (success, but needed to trade) and Rich Harden (injury prone), and Justin Durchester (injury prone), three more good pitchers, only one of whom is a consistent major league success.

But developing one or two good pitchers isn't enough. It provides the foundation for a pennant, but you also need bats. The Giants will probably not win this year because they lack the bats. Ask the Blue Jays or the Royals or any number of teams with a spectacular pitcher, but who find themselves near the bottom of the standings. How did the A's hit from 1999-2003? Well. They had Jason Giambi one of the best hitters in the league, they had Miguel Tejada an MVP winner, they had Johnny Damon one year, Eric Chavez was looking solid, Jermaine Dye, Ray Durham. Later the A's had Frank Thomas and Milton Bradley and all along solid bats throughout the line up - guys like Mark Ellis, Scott Hatterberg, Bobby Crosby (one year he was good), Terrence Long, Eric Byrnes, etc. But the best A's teams and the ones Lewis writes about in Moneyball, are the teams with Giambi and Tejada as the anchors in the line-up. And let's be honest - those two dudes were juicing. Sad as it is for me to admit, the A's were ground zero for the steroid boom in baseball. The bash brothers - Canseco and McGwire were the OG roiders as evidenced in Canseco's book and McGwire's face. Giambi learned from these two, especially McGwire. Tejada either learned from Giambi or his other Dominican pals like Manny or Arod or whoever. Both these guys were juicing and they were the keys for the A's matching up with the Yankees.

It is not as if the A's were the only team that benefited from roids. Seattle had the best record in baseball in 2000 both because they got Ichiro and Brett Boone went from a .250 hitter to an AL MVP candidate because he started juicing. The Giants went to the world series behind Bonds and Rich Aurelia who one year suddenly drops 40 homers after never hitting more than 20. Lots of teams benefited from roids, including the A's.

Lastly, the culture of success. This is a vague term, but I can't figure out a better way to describe why certain organizations are historically better than others organizations. Why are the Celtics so much better than the Clippers? Or the Lakers vs. the Clippers? Why do the Royals and Cubs suck, but the A's and Twins always surprisingly good? Some teams just have a culture of success. The A's have 9 world series championships, third only to the Yankees and the Cardinals. This is one of the oldest and proudest organizations in baseball. And you can see how "trouble-maker" players cast off from other teams (Milton Bradley) came come into Oakland and play well and generally be cool. This is what happened in Boston where Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett came in and got swooped up into the Celtic mystique and won a championship. This happens for Oakland and not for say, the Texas Rangers. The Yankees win not just because of their big payroll, but because there is a mystique to being a Yankee and a culture of fans, owners, and players who demand and expect success. You see it all around the world in different sports - Barcelona, Manchester United, The Lakers, the Dallas Cowboys, the 49ers. Sure, sometimes teams sag, but if you look at these teams historically, they are winners. The A's are one of those organizations. If you applied Billy Beane's sabermetrics to the Kansas City Royals, the Chicago Cubs, or the Los Angeles Clippers, those teams will still lose.

Lastly, the best critique of Moneyball is the book itself. It was written in 2003 and if correct, should be predictive. Let's examine the players Beane picked in the book:


* Jeremy Guthrie - Cleveland, #22 (1st round)
* Joe Blanton - Oakland, #24 (1st round)
* Jeff Francis - Colorado, #9 (1st round)
* Luke Hagerty - Chicago Cubs, #32 (1st round)
* Ben Fritz - Oakland, #30 (1st round)
* Robert Brownlie - Chicago Cubs, #21 (1st round)
* Stephen Obenchain - Oakland, #37 (1st round)
* Bill Murphy - Oakland, #98 (3rd round)


* Nick Swisher - Oakland, #18 (1st round)
* Russ Adams - Toronto, #14 (1st round)
* Khalil Greene - San Diego, #13 (1st round)
* John McCurdy - Oakland, #26 (1st round)
* Mark Teahen - Oakland, #39 (1st round)
* Jeremy Brown - Oakland, #35 (1st round)
* Steve Stanley - Oakland, #67 (2nd round)
* John Baker - Oakland, #128 (4th round)
* Mark Kiger - Oakland, #158 (5th round)
* Brian Stavisky - Oakland, #188 (6th round)
* Shaun Larkin - Cleveland, #274 (9th round)
* Brant Colamarino - Oakland, #218 (7th round)

This was at least 6 years ago, a fair amount of time for these guys to develop. Blanton is a real MLB starter, but not even close to an All Star. Swisher plays, but now is batting 8th for the Yankees, despite being hot earlier this year. Let's just say, this is not an impressive list.

Maybe Moneyball, like Communism, works best in theory.
Cash For Clunkers

This sounds a like a really smart program.

And, as Freakonomics points out, using the fraction, getting clunkers off the road saves a ton more gas than if everyone who already drives a Honda were to get a Prius.

Why does 10 m.p.g. matter more than 22? The reason is that the relationship between m.p.g and fuel savings is not linear but curvilinear. Ten m.p.g. at the bottom of the range matters a lot more than 22 m.p.g. higher up.

This is a hard concept for us to get our brains around. Richard B. Larrick and Jack B. Soll, reporting in Science (gated) found that only 1 percent of college students studied correctly perceived that an improvement from 14 to 24 m.p.g. saves considerably more fuel than an improvement from 24 to 46.

To give our brains a break, we might adopt a better way to look at fuel efficiency, aided by the manipulation of a mathematical tool in use in the Indus Valley almost 5,000 years ago — the unglamorous fraction.

The trick is one that even fourth-graders can master: invert the fraction. Let’s consider not miles per gallon but gallons per mile (or, to make the numbers prettier, gallons per hundred miles). By this metric, we get an unclouded picture: the Prius uses 2.17 gallons per hundred miles, the RAV4 uses 4.17, and the Range Rover uses 7.14.

Thanks to the mileage mirage, our efforts as a society may be somewhat misplaced. There are plenty of policy ideas afoot to get people into state-of-the-art, fuel-efficient cars, but a lot less interest in simply getting people out of the worst gas guzzlers into moderately more efficient alternatives, even within the same fuel-hungry class.

I wish I had a clunker.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Good Idea

Britain and American commanders are opening up talks with the Taliban.

BRITAIN AND US PREPARED TO OPEN TALKS WITH THE TALIBAN: A concerted effort to start unprecedented talks between Taliban and British and American envoys was outlined yesterday in a significant change in tactics designed to bring about a breakthrough in the attritional, eight-year conflict in Afghanistan. Senior ministers and commanders on the ground believe they have created the right conditions to open up a dialogue with "second-tier" local leaders now the Taliban have been forced back in a swath of Helmand province.

Afghanistan is not where we want to make a stand.
Good Idea

Re-thinking how we define "health."

In the past, people sought health care because they were sick. Now the medical-industrial complex seeks patients. It encourages those with minor symptoms to be evaluated and urges those who feel well to get “checked” — just to make sure nothing is wrong.

So, if health is the absence of abnormality, the only way to know you are healthy is to become a customer.

But healthy people aren’t great customers; they’re like the people who pay off their entire credit card balance each month. The money is in those in whom an abnormality can be found.

I'm a bit annoyed with my healthcare over the past year and a half. I basically paid $1000 (which amounts to the maximum) because my deductible is $500 per year - 08' and 09' for a year and a half where I wasn't sick. One could argue on the plus side - $500 a year is a small price to pay for healthcare - especially when you pay over $500 a year on a slew of things like car insurance or alcohol or movies or gay porn. This is smart, preventative care, one can argue.

On the negative side, I maxed out my healthcare costs to get blood work done when I felt perfectly fine. What did they discover? I should take Vitamin D everyday, which is apparently a trend these days in healthcare and over 50% of my doctors patients are "Vitamin D deficient." It seems to me, Vitamin D is a bit like Capri pants, twitter, and pinkberry, a trend that may or may not stick around. In any case, maybe in a perfect world I take some Vitamin D, or maybe I don't. Who freaking knows. But is it worth maxing out my healthcare expenditures? I paid $1000 for it, who knows how much my insurance paid.

The whole experience left me feeling like a customer.
I'm A Convert

In praise of not finishing books.

People have this innate view — it comes from friendship and marriage — that commitment is good. Which I agree with," he says. That view shouldn't, he says, carry over to inanimate objects.

I used to be the type who always finished books, even if it meant slogging through crap. And I still think there is something to be said for finishing things - even little things - you start. But not with respect to books anymore. There is both a ton of crap and a ton of good stuff and I see no reason to waste time on the crap. Until I've read the canon of Western Literature, I cannot justify reading something that sucks for fun.
Fareed Zakaria

When in doubt, it's probably smart to listen to Zakaria.

His tip on Iran: do nothing.

We're playing a high stakes game here since I heard yesterday American Intel predicted Iran was 1-3 years away from a nuke. But the political system right now is shifting and moderate voices are sprouting up. Now is not the time to poke our big noses into the fray.

Interesting times.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Moneyball Analysis

With the movie dead and the A's in last place, is the concept behind Moneyball no longer applicable?
Crazy People

Sex crimes prosecutor accused of rape.

Defense attorneys said she forwarded Gressett a humorous e-mail after the incident. She suggested to police that she and her sister were only trying to calm him as they plotted to kill him.

"We had a lot of discussions about this," she told police. "A lot."


Whatever you think of Iraq, Afghanistan must be even more worrisome as we are heating up over there right now and the Taliban are a more formidable adversary than Saddam or Zarqawi.

The Soviets, for example, tried to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people, but lost sight of their goal and eventually became ensnared in a struggle for control of Afghan LOCs. This degenerated into a firepower intensive bloodbath in which the Soviets inflicted horrendous damage; but, in the end, they had to leave Afghanistan with their tail between their legs. Readers interested in the Soviet experience should click here for a stunning lessons-learned analysis of how nation building Soviet-style failed in Afghanistan. The same kind of degeneration into a mindless applications of firepower happened to US forces in Vietnam. In both cases, all the noble sounding rhetoric about winning hearts and minds of the locals was drowned and forgotten in a sea of mindless body counts and wanton destruction.

The reason we are sending in more troops to Afghanistan to try and prove the premise that Afghanistan was the good war and Iraq was the bad war. It is a political move to show that the Democrats are tough on National Security. These are the echoes of Vietnam much moreso than Iraq.

Yes...I've changed my mind on this issue the more I think about it.

UPDATE: The article about the Soviet experience in Afghanistan.

Unless there is a significant improvement in the quality of aid, President Obama is likely to be disappointed in his belief that a redoubled development effort will help bring peace to Afghanistan. The country probably needs less aid rather than more. It needs to tax its own people directly. (It scarcely does at the moment, and has little incentive to as long as the foreign checks keep flowing.) It needs a small army, not a big one, and a manageable social infrastructure, one it can afford. As happened in the past, pumping in more aid and sending in more advisers will simply reinforce the institutional barriers to progress. The pursuit of our immediate military goals is condemning Afghanistan to perpetual governmental, and thus economic, failure.

If you ask me, we should be pursuing a Rope-A-Dope strategy ourselves in Afghanistan. Minimal troops, build up a strong intelligence apparatus, and if the Taliban reconstitute themselves, undermine them by attacking their infrastructure and leadership. Keep them off balance and insecure. They will never be able to have a safe haven. Burn their poppy fields. Kill their leadership with drones. If they ever take control of villages or regions, put in spies, find their leaders and off them one by one.

A good article on Obama's misleading healthcare proposal.

If you listen to President Obama, his "reform" will satisfy almost everyone. It will insure the uninsured, control runaway health spending, subdue future budget deficits, preserve choice for patients and improve quality of care. These claims are self-serving exaggerations and political fantasies. They have destroyed what should be a serious national discussion of health care.

I disagree with both liberals and conservatives on the heathcare issue. Conservatives basically view the status quo as acceptable. I judge this by their actions as they have not seriously undertaken any steps to reform the healthcare system and expend their energies and passions trying to defeat the Democrats radical overhauls - first Hillary's and now Obama's. The status quo is clearly heading the wrong direction as healthcare costs are becoming out of control and the system is inefficient at delivering care for the way Americans now work.

That said, I am very skeptical of large overhauls of the system and thrusting more control to the government - as a general principle - but as a practical matter, am mostly concerned with the belief the government can both deliver care to the uninsured and decrease overall cost. This is a big lie and yet this is what democrats are trying to sell to the public.

If I ruled the world (imagine that!), I'd focus on lowering the costs first. The democrats, I'm sure, are focused on insuring the uninsured first. I think government needs to demonstrate an ability to lower cost before tackling the issue of the uninsured. If you tackle both, and the costs don't dip, you're basically going to bankrupt the system. If you succeed in the lowering costs, you will automatically be extending healthcare to more people, (by virtue of lowering cost, more people can afford), and will be in a position to extend healthcare benefits to more people in a fiscally responsible way.

By going after the uninsured the democrats are setting us up for failure. Heathcare costs are a problem for everyone. If we go after the uninsured and the costs rise, it'll be pouring water into a leaky beaker and people will start losing insurance as others are gaining it. It is basically akin to the following situation - if you have two sets of outstanding loans - credit cards with a 15% rate and student loans at a 5% rate - and trying to pay off both sets of loans without enough capital. It is impossible to do, yet that what Democrats are claiming can happen. No, the smart approach is to take care of the credit card first. When that issue is resolved, then you take care of the student loans.
More Bullshit

New home sales soar according to CNN. The system is being gamed again with Obama's $8000 tax credit spurring first time buyers on the cusp (ie barely being able to afford their home). Again, this is the beginning of the exact same cycle that got us into the current economic crisis - getting people to buy homes they can't really afford, thereby artificially raising the home prices above the market, allowing all homeowners to take out loans (leverage) against their inflated home prices. This is a cycle that continues and continues and basically amounts to a pyramid scheme of borrowing money. When the market gets wise or the money runs out, suddenly the prices crash and people will owe more money than they have on paper.


Saturday, July 25, 2009


The Dish is turning into a plug for internet dating sites and a yard duty re-dating rules. Sullivan, where are you?

The researchers found that people who are more “sociable are more likely to use Internet dating services than are those who are less sociable. This finding challenges the stereotypical profiling of Internet daters as being just lonely and socially anxious people.” ...High self-esteem folks feel like they have little to lose by trying Internet dating. Low self-esteem folks have more to lose, since more of their own self-value is tied up in the process...

This is called marketing.

Friday, July 24, 2009

A Square or an Asshole

The Dish is discussing what's called "The Neg,"a technique whereby men strategically criticize women they're attempting to pickup."

Any discussion of picking up women by men tends to either come across as square or being an asshole. So I'm aware of the risk going in. The writer argues:

The difference is that while compliments or put downs can be either truthful or disingenuous, only put downs lower the self-esteem of the target. In most contexts, it seems obvious that it is wrong to gratuitously put people down for selfish ends. Why is dating different? That some men cannot understand this really boggles my mind, and makes me suspect that they aren't even thinking of women as being people (interestingly, some of these men seem to think of women as less than human, and others as superhuman). Every man can imagine how he would feel if a woman approached him at a bar, assessed his dress or some physical feature, and breezily made some cutting public remark: "You dress like a guy who has a small dick." Yet numerous correspondents seem utterly unable to imagine that women might also feel badly if criticized this way.

What a lame-o. I don't know about "the neg" or picking up women in bars or any of all this nonsense. I got bored reading the full discussion. But let me say this - teasing people is fun and the mating ritual is fun. Not everything has to be square and I hate this dichotomy of you have be either an asshole player or a nice guy. Both sound super lame to me. I can't stand listening to the self-pitying "nice guys" complain about assholes getting chicks and idolizing girls, putting them up on this pedestal. I know some girls like it, but those girls are lame. The only thing worse are the shameless dudes who read books on how to pick up women and devote seemingly every waking moment to the pursuit. A normal dude is neither one of these and figures out the balance that works for him.
Very Strange Story

Is there an in-depth story about these Somali immigrants being recruited from a mosque in Minneapolis to go fight in Somalia?

I keep hearing about this tangentially. It is a strange story, indeed.
Obama The Peer Counselor

This story won't stop

He reiterated his assertion that he believes police overreacted, but said Gates "probably overreacted as well."

"My sense is you have got two good people in a circumstance in which neither of them were able to resolve the incident in the way that it should have been resolved," he said.

If I were Obama, I'd stop talking about the incident.
A's Trade Holliday

No big surprise, this isn't the A's year and Holliday was underperforming.

An incredible (old) article entitled: Is Pornography Adultery.

Great layout of the issue:

One perspective, broadly construed, treats porn as a harmless habit, near-universal among men, and at worst a little silly. This is the viewpoint that’s transformed adult-industry icons like Jenna Jameson and Ron Jeremy from targets of opprobrium into C-list celebrities. It’s what inspires fledgling stars to gin up sex tapes in the hope of boosting their careers. And it’s made smut a staple of gross-out comedy: rising-star funnyman Seth Rogen has gone from headlining Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up, in which his character’s aspiration to run a pornographic Web site was somewhat incidental to the plot, to starring in Kevin Smith’s forthcoming Zack and Miri Make a Porno, in which the porn business promises to be rather more central.

A second perspective treats porn as a kind of gateway drug—a vice that paves the way for more-serious betrayals. A 2004 study found that married individuals who cheated on their spouses were three times as likely to have used Internet pornography as married people who hadn’t committed adultery. In Tom Perrotta’s bestselling Little Children, the female protagonist’s husband—who is himself being cuckolded—progresses from obsessing over an online porn star named “Slutty Kay” to sending away for her panties to joining a club of fans who pay to vacation with her in person. Brink­ley’s husband may have followed a similar trajectory, along with many of the other porn-happy celebrity spouses who’ve featured in the gossip pages and divorce courts lately.

And then there's Dan Savage's input:

All men look at porn … The handful of men who claim they don’t look at porn are liars or castrates. Tearful discussions about your insecurities or your feminist principles will not stop a man from looking at porn. That’s why the best advice for straight women is this: GET OVER IT. If you don’t want to be with someone who looks at porn … get a woman, get a dog, or get a blind guy … While men shouldn’t rub their female partners’ noses in the fact that they look at porn—that’s just inconsiderate—telling women that the porn “problem” can be resolved through good communication, couples counseling, or a chat with your pastor is neither helpful nor realistic.

And the author's take:

Live with it we almost certainly will. But it’s worth being clear about what we’re accepting. Yes, adultery is inevitable, but it’s never been universal in the way that pornography has the potential to become—at least if we approach the use of hard-core porn as a normal outlet from the rigors of monogamy, and invest ourselves in a cultural paradigm that understands this as something all men do and all women need to live with. In the name of providing a low-risk alternative for males who would otherwise be tempted by “real” prostitutes and “real” affairs, we’re ultimately universalizing, in a milder but not all that much milder form, the sort of degradation and betrayal that only a minority of men have traditionally been involved in.


Which is precisely why it’s so easy to say that the spread of pornography means that we’re just taking a turn, where sex and fidelity are concerned, toward realism, toward adulthood, toward sophistication. All we have to give up to get there is our sense of decency.
LaRouche Wackos

In Westwood today, LaRouche guys are calling for Obama's impeachment. I don't really get these weirdos.

U.S. President Barack Obama delivered a nationally-televised press conference at 8 p.m. on July 22nd, in which on five separate occasions he called for health reform legislation featuring the establishment of "an independent board of doctors and health care experts" to make the life-and-death decisions of what care to provide, and what not, based on cost-effectiveness criteria--exactly the infamous "T-4" policy imposed by Adolf Hitler in 1939, for which the Nazi regime was tried and condemned at Nuremberg.

More on the LaRouche movement and their positions.

* They have called for a moratorium on Third World debt.
* They have opposed the so-called counterculture, and the legalization of recreational drugs, arguing that these create a "bread and circuses"[8] culture of self-centered hedonism, and a highly manipulable population. LaRouche calls for a revival of classical culture, particularly in the domain of public education. This is a view that the NCLC and descendent LaRouche organizations have held consistently since their beginnings in the late 1960s.
* They have supported nuclear energy and other complex technologies often opposed by the environmentalist movement, arguing that human survival depends on a progression of technologies. (see LaRouche on Economics.)
* They have called for the banning of HMOs, and LaRouche has formally endorsed H.R. 676, the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act of 2005 or National Health Insurance Act.[9]
* They believe that the idea of man-made global warming is a "fraud", and have referred to the Oscar-winning documentary film An Inconvenient Truth as "the Great Luddite Hoax."[10] LaRouche proposes that cosmic ray radiation, including that from the Crab Nebula, "determines much of the climate on Earth".[11] LaRouche also states that "we are entering a solar-determined global cooling, as typified by the recapping of the icecap on the Arctic."[12] He has endorsed the British TV documentary, The Great Global Warming Swindle.
* They defended President Bill Clinton during his impeachment scandal, claiming that those who called for Clinton's resignation or impeachment following the Monica Lewinsky scandal were hiding their true motives.
* They opposed the 1991 Gulf War and the 2003 invasion of Iraq and supported Argentina in the 1982 Falklands/Malvinas war, arguing that under the Monroe Doctrine, the United States was obliged to oppose European colonies in the Western Hemisphere.
* They opposed, from 1979 onwards, the deregulation of trucking, airlines, telecommunications, public utilities, and financial services in the U.S., during a period when deregulation was embraced by the leadership of both the Democratic and Republican parties.
* They oppose the United Nations and other international organizations, particularly the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, in cases where LaRouche says they interfere with the concept of the Westphalian state and the Platonic ideal of a "perfectly sovereign nation-state republic".[13] This holds especially true for their conduct toward the nations of the Third World, and LaRouche further argues that this conduct represents neo-colonialism.
* LaRouche proposed the "Homeowners and Banks Protection Act of 2007," which would freeze mortgage rates, ban foreclosures and put the banking system through a bankruptcy reorganization.[14][15][16][17]

Running late to work, not feeling like Morning Becomes Eclectic, I turn the dial over to AM and find Rush Limbaugh. To be honest, I don't think I've really listened to the Rush show before. Rush was pissed off about the Gates incident, suggesting Obama acted unpresidential by calling the cops stupid and rushing to judgment...he argued we were seeing Obama-the-community-organizer/agitator.

I agree with this statement, despite being guilty of the same thing myself. Then again, I'm a blogging assistant and not the President, so maybe I get a little more leeway.

Ann Althouse has a round up on the incident. Especially given the Duke Lacrosse fiasco, we should all know not to rush to any conclusion based upon these hysterical media reports that curve themselves into a pre-established narrative about racial injustice.

In reading more about the story, it sounds like Gates was the one who acted stupid. In either case, someone acted stupid, I think that is safe to say.

Another irony, however, was Rush's quick defense of the cop. Isn't it more of a default conservative position to be suspicious of authority and be more protective of a private citizen's property rights? It'd be pretty annoying - to me - if a cop didn't believe I lived in my own house if I provided evidence for it. I guess the question is what type of evidence the guy showed and how obvious it was that Gates lived there. In my experience, cops can be pretty maddening and aggressive and vindictive. It seems to me the situation would have been easy to sort out without arresting the dude.

In any case, VDH writes a column on it. His last line sums it up: "There were no winners in this comic tragedy — but one clear loser: last night, the president of the United States."

Thursday, July 23, 2009

I'd Be Tempted to Flip Out, Too

On the Gates incident. At first, I didn't really know or care about the story. But the basic gist:

Last week, Mr. Gates found himself locked out of his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Instead of calling a locksmith, he and his chauffeur proceeded to break into the house. When a neighbor noticed the two men forcing their way through the front door, she called the police. According to the police report, when the officers arrived Mr. Gates became belligerent, “exhibiting loud and tumultuous behavior,” and was arrested for disorderly conduct.

It sure sounds like the policeman was stupid. The guy broke into his own home and had evidence to prove it. But why would he freak out to the point of getting arrested? That I don't know. Do I think it has to do with race? Not really. I mean - what are the people involved supposed to do? If a lady sees folks breaking into a house and reports it, fine. She didn't know he was her neighbor. No big deal. I don't know half my neighbors. What was the cop supposed to do? Not respond? The only flaw is the cops dumbass reaction in not believing the guy and then the guy flipping out. But what is he supposed to do? I don't know. It all sounds really petty and dumb. I won't be losing sleep.

Michael Totten dispatch from Iraq.

On measuring public opinion:

"How do you measure public opinion?" I said to him. "How do you know what people really think? We all know about this tendency in Iraq where people tell you what they think you want to hear – or what they want you to hear, which isn't necessarily the same thing. If you ask what Iraqis think of the American military while you're standing there with guns in your hands, they might say oh, we love you guys. Then someone from the Guardian newspaper comes along and asks what they think of the imperial occupation forces, and the same people might say we hate them. So what's their real opinion? Do you take this sort of thing into account? Do you have Iraqis feeling out the opinions of people for you?"

"We do," he said.

"And they report back to you?" I said.

"Right," he said. "We have the Iraqi Advisor Task Force. They aren't spies. That's illegal. But they're hired to measure atmospherics. They monitor the mosques. They hit the restaurants, places like that. And we get these reports almost every other day. Over time we've seen the atmospherics and compared them to what you were talking about, the guy on the street talking to the U.S. soldier. Do they match up? And if they don't match up, we have to figure out what we need to change about the way we're presenting ourselves."

Smart. And then there's this:

MJT: They say you're a good guy to talk to because you give straight answers. It's hard to get straight answers in Iraq.

Sayid: Yeah.

MJT: Can you explain to me why that is? I mean, I have an idea why, but I'm sure you understand it better than I do.

Sayid: It's the formula of our community. There are many kinds of people. I will give you a straight answer, but it's Iraqi like me.

Just 20 percent of our people are good. 80 percent are bad. You should know that.

This is a fascinating issue - the issue of good information and good people. Everyone knows there are people that suck. And people that suck are constant sources of bad information - either intentionally or unintentionally since their outlook is skewed and stupid and generally off. We all know them, work with them, or otherwise have deal with them some of the time. Sometimes it's the traffic cop, sometimes it's the customer service representative, sometimes it's your step-mother, sometimes it's your boss, sometimes it's the dude in charge of the AIG mortgage unit. The question is always - does this person have power - and the good people need to limit the power of the shitty people. Good people do this by honest criticism and sharing information with one another. Bad people get bad reputations, etc. In some cases, however, the bad people are able to fool the good people, or gain access to power through fear and intimidation or other manipulative tactics...and Saddam's Iraq was basically this - a world turned completely upside down where the good folks had no recourse against the idiocy and ridiculous shittiness of Saddam and his pyramid structure of terror and stupidity.

In America, we have plenty of people that suck. I'd say about 10%. (that's 30 million) I'd say there are another 20% that have the potential to suck, but given the right circumstances they are okay. I'd say there are probably 40% additional people who are capable of standing by and doing nothing against the suckiness, and then about 30% of people who are fundamentally decent and will never change. So in great times, we can get to 90% good folks. But there are certainly scenarios I could imagine when if would feel like 70% of the people suck...where you have 30% who truly suck and then 40% who just accept it and do nothing and secretly hate it, but can't do anything about it.

So. By this one dude's account - he claims Iraq is at the 20% cool and 80% suck rate. I imagine, given the right circumstances, this could shift. However, I am not naive and recognize cultural specificity and could buy the argument that Iraqis have a fundamentally higher percentage of shitty people than Americans. I don't find this claim to be racist, although I'm willing to recognize it may be ignorant. But ask any American serving over there or any Arab commentator, and they generally argue that Arabs - in general - don't have the best outlook on life and tend to lie a lot. This is one reason why a lot of American troops argue the Iraqis suck ass (not Saddam, not the the Baaths, but the Iraqis in general).

Can a society with a low good people rate - say in the 20% - operate as a good society? Could the 20% game the system in the way bad folks are sometimes able to game the system in their favor? I think it's possible, but that is a huge and difficult task.

In any future nation-building exercise, the people-who-suck ratio should be taken into account. If over 50% of the nation sucks ass, it's going to be very difficult for a "good" society to emerge.
One Line of Dialog

Sometimes a movie can be essentialized (did I just make up a word?) in one line of dialog. My favorite example is also the tagline of my blog: "I'm a fiend for mojitos," which - in my eyes - perfectly encapsulates the awesomeness of Michael Mann's MIAMI VICE.

500 DAYS OF SUMMER can also be essentialized this way - "Don't be a pussy." Basically, Joseph Gorden Levitt is being a pussy for the entire movie and I wish every character's response to him throughout the entire movie was "Don't be a pussy." I would have enjoyed the film more. I was rooting for the movie, but I knew early on I didn't like was the moment when he is smashing dishes and they bring in his 10-year-sister who apes Harvey Keitel in Pulp Fiction...pretty much gives it away. They tried some interesting cinematic tricks - and I'll give them some credit for playing around - but to me, only two of those moments work - the split screen and the dance sequence. The Bergman riffs were painful as was the non-linear bounce back and forth and the 8mm felt very trite. It felt like the filmmaker was tossing spaghetti against the wall, hoping a few things stuck. Zoey D is cute and lovable and all that...but we knew this before the movie. Who knew her character would only be treated superficially and never dare to show any vulnerability (no wet hair and low light does make alone make a character vulnerable). But she isn't the problem. It is the conception of JGL - this dude who loves this girl and is sappy about it. BORING. I hate dudes like this. Where is the joy? The fun? DON'T BE A PUSSY, for crissake.

Despite all this, I was willing to keep my mouth shut on this film and let it pass into to ether of other forgettable movies, until the moment of ultimate offensiveness, a shot so pretentious and ridiculous it cannot go without being called out for it's essential lameness. If you've seen the movie, you know the shot I'm talking about. It is the crisis moment of the film, when JGL realizes he will never have Summer (Zoey D) and yet, he, as a character decides to pick himself up again. Yes, it is the Lazarus moment, and how do they show this cinematically? A dolly push in to a book JGL is reading: GREEN ARCHITECTURE. Yes, that's right. Green architecture. (if you haven't seen the movie, JGL wants to be an architect). Why didn't we realize this before? The secret to the future of all happiness and goodness and Obamaness is what else? Fucking Green architecture. I laughed out loud in the theater and covered my eyes in pain. By the time I took my hand away the shot was still up on the screen. How long did they hold this shot on the green architecture book? 6 seconds? It made me laugh a second time.

The sudden arrival in the 8th sequence of an entire chalkboard on his apartment wall and Leila Garrity appearing in the final scene was merely icing on the ridiculousness cake.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Still A Mistake

With Iraq holding despite the troop pull down, I wonder if Obama still feels like the invasion was a mistake? Especially given the tumult in Iran...

I'm sure he does. It's a bit odd that the war opponents and war supporters both see their positions as validated by events.

Is it even possible to talk about racism without being an incredible bore?

The racists, like the sexists, like the elitist, like the homophobe is very capable of seeing individuals, of seeing beyond their race, of even befriending them, and at the same time not challenging the history, the presumptions that the world has put on them.


What is - "not challenging the history, the presumptions that the world has put on them." What the fuck does that mean? How does that translate into behavior? When I'm ordering Chipotle for lunch today - which I'm going to do in 15 minutes or so - how can I do it in a way that is "challenging the history, the presumptions that the world has put on them?" Because to be honest, most of my life is simply ordering Chipotle or returning calls or getting to a meeting or a game or work on time. What hell is this guy talking about? And more:

It's worth talking, not to me, but to black people who were really raised as minorities, blacks who grew up in white neighborhoods, and went to white schools. It's not the "Nigger, I hate you" stories that you hear--though there's some of that. Instead you get their white friends telling them, "they're not really black." Or you get their white friends consistently trying to set them up with the only other black guy\girl in the school. (I'm sure some gay cats who've worked in offices, have similar stories.) But these people were their friends, they weren't awful people. And they weren't moral degenerates. A lot of em were the sort of friends you'd want in the trenches with you.

If it's any consolation, I'm perpetually offended whenever someone tries to set me up with someone else - not that it happens a lot - and not because of race - but just because the person is always a person with imperfections and flaws and probably is a little weird and I'm like, "This is what they think of me?" I understand this is probably a problem with my own ego (although it's not like my friends have been setting me up with Anna Farris). Anyway, all this is a fishing expedition for racism. I don't say behind anyone's back "he's not really black," or any such ridiculous statements. I don't consider myself a racist or a sexist or even a homophobe, despite my liberal use of the term "homo." I don't think of races or sexes as inferior, although men are better at sports in general than women, as a fact, just like women get pregnant and men do not. I'm almost falling asleep typing this post. See, this topic is so frigging lame.

UPDATE: One other thought - and maybe this will explain where I'm coming from - I grew up as basically the only half Chinese kid in my school. There were a few full Asian kids, but certainly a very small Asian American community. But as for being offended when being "set up" - I would rank race on a scale of 1 to 10 as being about a 2 - if someone set me up with another half-Asian person simply because they were half Asian - it might be amusingly stupid, but I'd spend about a nano-second being offended, and make one joke about it and leave it there. But, however, if someone set me up with an ugly chick or even a way below average chick, I'd mull and be angry for about two weeks and my offended factor would hover around 8 or 9. I'd be horribly offended because I'm vain and feel like I should be able to do better. My point is this - by bias against ugly chicks is huge - at least 400% greater than my bias or any preconceptions about race. (And probably even closer to 800%). And ugliness is not something one can control - just like race. Some people are just born ugly or below average looking. It isn't fair. I know and everyone knows. Anyhow, enough. I'm sure I've offended someone.

US Debt Clock. Hat tip, Alice.

I'm surprised by the private vs. public debt. Public debt is in the 37,000+ range per citizen whereas Private debt is 23,000+ per person. This is surprising to me - especially since a lot of people have mortgages on their homes which would seemingly exceed 23,000. Am I missing something?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

My Hometown

A great way to get national attention.
What I've Been Watching Round-Up

Last night, I finally saw THE HANGOVER. It was good - as advertised. A nice Monday evening get-my-brain-off-the-monotony-of-the-week. As reported, the Zach Galifianakis character was the stand out, especially in the first act. His humor was fresh - something I hadn't seen before - I don't know exactly what I'd call it - maybe the humor of the obvious, where the humor stems from the character's misunderstanding of what we take for granted. In thinking about humor, it made me think about new and refreshing styles of humor. I consider 30 Rock to be an original style of humor - what I call the humor of wackiness. Also, the original Office was a new style of humor - humor of reaction. Borat is a new style of humor - the humor of painful discomfort. In any case, I give this guy Zack props for coming up with an original style of humor within a pretty traditional dude-comedy.

HUNG. The only show on TV right now I care about. It is barely a comedy - there really aren't many laughs throughout. The second episode was by far the best. I think it's still trying to find it's legs, but I really like the show. It should certainly be an hour long show. There are a lot of characters and avenues to explore in the world they set up.

DEADWOOD. Catching up on old HBO. I love this frigging show. There isn't a ton to say, I'm only 4 episodes in. It's the rare show - like Sopranos and The Wire - when you start watching a disc, you're watching the whole disc nevermind that you need to get up early for work early or have plans that evening. It's a cancel-your-plans, lie-to-your-date, not-get-enough-sleep good show. Not up to Sopranos or the Wire level yet...but we'll see.

ENTOURAGE. I hate Entourage. I loathe it. I hate every character except for Ari's friend. Entourage takes the good things they've set up and overuse, spoil, and ruin them like a pretty-LA-starlet turned into a reality porn star. E is freaking midget. Sloan is an annoying toad. Turtle is a flabby pig. Johnny Drama is an old man. Vince is the blah-est vanilla character in the television universe. Werner was right in season 5 - he has no soul. Ashton Kutcher is more interesting. Ari is obviously the jewel of the show, but he can't carry this team. He's like LaBron in the series against the Magic. F this freaking show. And yet I watch it still.

SEINFELD re-runs. Yes, I still watch whenever it is on. Kramer is the secret ingredient to the show. He is the special spice they throw on the In and Out patty, the rosemary on the chicken, the garlic sauce at Zankou, Tinkerbell's magic fairy dust.... Why? The reason Seinfeld is brilliant is how the plot of each show ties together at the end. This roundness makes it special - many shows have great characters - but none brought together storylines as well as Seinfeld. But how were they able to do this? Was it magical writing? No. Because, no Seinfeld writer has been able to go on and re-create this brilliance - including David himself. No, the secret source of this power is Kramer. Kramer's character - like the Fitzgerald's genius quote - is able to hold two completely opposite positions without seeing any contradiction. It is just as likely Kramer would believe in X as he would the exact opposite of X. And given any show, he might change his opinion and his goal 180 degrees and it would make perfect sense. This character trait enables the show Seinfeld to cleverly tie all plots together efficiently. You need to a character to do something - it is easy to figure out a way for Kramer to instigate - whether it be for himself or for any other character on the show. You need a way for a plot to tie to another plot - get Kramer in there. Kramer will be an ally or an enemy to anyone. He will defend or betray anyone. He can go anywhere - like a queen on a chessboard. Yes, Kramer is the key...

Monday, July 20, 2009


Samuelson slams the stimulus.

It's not surprising that the much-ballyhooed "economic stimulus" hasn't done much stimulating. President Obama and his aides argue that it's too early to expect startling results. They have a point. A $14 trillion economy won't revive in a nanosecond. But the defects of the $787 billion package go deeper and won't be cured by time. The program crafted by Obama and the Democratic Congress wasn't engineered to maximize its economic impact. It was mostly a political exercise, designed to claim credit for any recovery, shower benefits on favored constituencies and signal support for fashionable causes.

Wow. That just isn't nice.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

I Trust Gates

But he this article is troubling.

"After the Iraq (war) experience, nobody is prepared to have a long slog where it is not apparent we are making headway," Gates said in an interview. "The troops are tired. The American people are pretty tired," he said.

What is the goal in Afghanistan? Can someone please say what we hope to achieve? How is it possible for them to say out of one side of their mouths - that there is no military solution in Iraq and then send 20,000 plus troops to a country more treacherous, less likely to stabilize, less important geo-politically. The foolishness of this plan is mind-boggling. At least with the Bush Administration, they came out and made an argument for why we were surging, what our foreign policy goals were in Iraq were, etc. Here we have the Obama administration blindly pouring more troops into a country that toppled the British and Soviet empires and no one is uttering a peep. What is going on? Bin Laden and Al Queda aren't even in Afghanistan anymore. They are in Pakistan. Meanwhile, the Democrats didn't want to fight in Iraq where Al Queda decided to make a stand. I'm so frigging confused right now.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Great Idea

Mappyhour. A map of happy hours all over the world.

A short test run of Westwood and they are missing a couple good ones - Westwood Brew Co's deal during Laker games and Napa Valley Grille. But what do you expect, they're trying to cover the whole world.

Starbucks opens a starbucks not called starbucks that will serve merlot and beer.

If Starbucks is getting pinched in the recession, why not do what other businesses do to get more customers back - lower prices. Who is going to go get drinks at a Starbucks. That sounds incredibly lame to me.

JOE BIDEN: WE HAVE TO GO SPEND MONEY TO KEEP FROM GOING BANKRUPT: Vice President Joe Biden told people attending an AARP town hall meeting that unless the Democrat-supported health care plan becomes law the nation will go bankrupt and that the only way to avoid that fate is for the government to spend more money.

Eh? So when I am about to go bankrupt, I can solve it by spending more money? Thanks, Joe Biden.
My New Hero

Harry Alford, a follow up interview after his tif with Barbara Boxer.

Why is this guy heroic? Because he's NORMAL. As Phil suggested last week after watching episode 2 of Hung - a normal dude is the new anti-hero. This is where our society is right now... Listen to the guy talk plainly about his job, his experience, what he is doing testifying on the hill, and then his reaction to Boxer's idiotic comments. It's genius...but genius because it's so obvious and plain and true.

I'm now voting against Boxer. I suggest the Dems find someone else. I don't care about her seniority. She's a moron and deserves to go.

Obama headline on CNN: Capacity for cruelty still exists.

Uhhhh. No shit.

Re - apologizing for slavery. I don't think slavery needs to be swept under the's an important thing to know about our history as a nation. But I also don't feel like I need to apologize for it since I've never owned a slave or profited from slavery or in anyway endorsed slavery. Although, I did intern. Maybe the government should apologize to interns.
David Carr on Nikki Finke

A Hollywood reporter on a Hollywood reporter.

It sounds silly, but it's actually really good.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Waiting Longer to Marry

On why Americans are waiting longer to marry. I think they are forgetting another obvious reason: life expectancy. We are living longer, so as a percentage of life spent married vs. unmarried, I would think the numbers might be similar. At least in my own head, marriage seems like a big step, a step from which you do not return. So what's the rush? Especially because I plan to live into my 80s and work into my 70s.
Deadly Afghanistan

The war in Afghanistan is heating up and the per-capital casualties are higher than in Iraq.

It is not obvious to me why we are changing tactics in Afghanistan. We are beating Al Queda in a war of attrition and the main leadership is operating out of Pakistan anyway. Why are we heating up to fight the reconstituted Taliban? What are we gaining by adding more troops? What do we hope to achieve? How will those more troops help achieve it?

What concerns me is that the idea and support for an Afghan "surge" is rooted in the mistaken American Liberal perception that Afghanistan was the "good" war and Iraq was the "bad" war...that we took our eye off Afghanistan in '03, etc, etc. This pig-headed view towards reality could turn a winning strategy into a losing one. It needs to be explained why we need to change tactics in Afghanistan and how a "surge" is going to achieve it. I'm flabbergasted Americans aren't demanding an answer to this question, especially in light of the violent opposition to the Iraq War and the Iraq War Surge. Here we are prepping to send a bunch of troops to perhaps swift the tides of war into our DISFAVOR (considering how a large number on the ground could turn the Afghan population against us), and yet everyone is just going along with it. Afghanistan is not Iraq. If you think Iraq isn't ready for democracy, Afghanistan REALLY isn't ready for democracy.

Furthermore, it isn't obvious that the surge ALONE worked in Iraq. The surge supplemented other facts on the ground - the Sunni Awakening - and resulted in the shifted tide against Al Queda. What facts on the ground in Afghanistan suggest a surge of US troops are going to help defeat the Taliban? Granted, the argument for the surge was that it would provide temporary security to find a grand political solution to the sectarian problem. It ended up working differently than planned, by setting the stage for ground up, grassroots, localized efforts to take back control from Al Queda, and undermining their efforts to bring about civil war. It gave Sunnis jobs and it had a ripple effect. I'm sure there could be similar positive externalities to a surge in Afghanistan. But there could also be negative. And is it worth the risk? Iraq is a keystone state in the most volatile region in the world. Afghanistan was a safe haven for Al Queda. We can keep it from being a safe haven with a minimal number of troops. What are we gaining by surging?
Boxer Lit Up


UPDATE: Just judging by the video, it seems that Boxer tries to make her point by citing another "black" group who supports her favored legislation, as if all black groups would have the same opinion on given legislation. The ridiculous nature of such a claim highlights the flaws in viewing a minority community as a like-minded group and assuming such a group has a monolithic set of interests. Plus, it also just shows the stupidity of Barbara Boxer (our US Senator).
A Disgrace

Why we ever gave George Tenent, a medal, I do not know.

AP SOURCES: TENET CANCELED SECRET CIA HIT TEAMS: As CIA director in 2004, George Tenet terminated a secret program to develop hit teams to kill al-Qaida leaders, but his successors resurrected the plan, according to former intelligence officials. Tenet ended the program because the agency could not work out its practical details, the officials told The Associated Press. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the classified program.

Well, make it work, you frigging moron. This guy oversaw the agency for 9/11 and the faulty intel on Iraq's WMDs. Why he isn't a national disgrace is beyond me.
Ryan Seacrest

I must confess to barely knowing who or what Ryan Seacrest does or is, but I know he makes a lot of money. I guess he is on American Idol, but I associate Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell with American Idol, so yeah, I'm pretty ignorant on this whole thing...I know Liz Lemon apes "Seacrest, out" although I'm not sure what that is from.... any case, he jumps from WME to CAA because he doesn't want to pay full commission. The agents are calling him sleeze for not wanting to pay the full 10%. Here's the thing - the guy is signing a contract for $45 mil. It's not like the agents repping him now are the guys that found him when he was doing a one-person show on Santa Monica Blvd. They are guys who inherited him, field his calls, set his meetings, and maybe negotiate his deals (although I bet he has a lawyer doing it). In any case, an agent at his level, what do they do? They aren't pounding the pavement trying to find him a job. Do you think they deserve $4.5 mil for fielding some calls and reading submissions? Probably not.
Facebook Privacy Gaps

The Canadian privacy commissioner (I love that Canada has a privacy commissioner - what is that?) investigates Facebook for privacy gaps.

If you ask me, the entire concept of social networking - facebook included - is a privacy gap. Hat tip, Robyn.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Bruno Could Make You Homophobic, According to Barbara Walters

But what if you already are homophobic?
Sounds Like a Shia LaBouf Movie

Visa mistakenly charges $23,148,855,308,184,500 on credit card. Woops. The guy was also hit with a $15 overdraft fee.
Oh, Good

Farve to decide by July 30th whether he'll return.

He wouldn't want to drag it out...
First Pitch

Comparing Obama and Bush's first pitch.

Obama does not have a good arm. Bush tosses a nice bp like pitch - but what do you expect - the man was a baseball team owner. This is not a fair comparison.

But let me say this...if I ever get to throw out a first pitch at a baseball game, I'm humming in a 70mph+ fastball and the crowd is going to cheer. F-this lobbing over the plate. Even if it hurts my arm, it'll be worth it.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Interesting Theory

Is War Over?

He notes that there have been no wars between developed nations since 1945, and that other international wars that fit the classic definition — the violent resolution of a dispute between two or more nations — have become exceedingly rare. The number of open armed conflicts around the world, on average, has been declining for years. So, too, have the number of combat deaths and war refugees around the world. Is war becoming obsolete?

The other day on the radio, a British General was talking about British combat deaths in Afghanistan. The total - in the 30s. Yeah. I'm sure more Los Angelinos died between 2002-2009 from crime than the British have lost in the Afghanistan "war."

The hippies should be celebrating.

Say what you will, but the news people deserve a lot of blame for the abysmal state of news. I'm watching tonight and all they are reporting are a series of non-stories.

1. Sotomayor's "wise Latina" remark. Are you effing kidding me with this already? The lady misspoke once, already retracted it, why in god's name is this what we're talking about? We should be talking about the issue of Sotomayor being a bad writer. This is not a flaw we want in a Supreme Court Justice. The Republicans, however, don't have a leg to stand on because their two most popular figures in the past 8 years - Bush and Palin - are not very high up on the old oral and verbal skills.

2. CIA's Secret Program to Kill Al Queda Leadership. Who on this planet didn't think the CIA was trying to assassinate Al Queda leaders starting on 9/12? What is the story here? If Congress is saying they were kept in the dark, they're a bunch of frigging morons. Of course the CIA was trying to kill Al Queda and hopefully still are. Jesus Christ what is wrong with these morons?

I stopped watching. This is like the Tara-Landry plot line in Friday Night Lights Season 2. A game-ender. How can I waste my time on this crap when there is Deadwood to be watched?

VDH on the "War Against the Producers."

Is Obama's tax plan going after the very engine of America's economy? This is Atlas Shrugged...
My Doppleganger

Notice the name of the author of this article about Al Queda in Yemen.

I feel like a few different choices along the way, this coulda been me. Maybe it is.

Anyone who thinks the CIA ought not to target Al Queda leadership for killing is an idiot. Here is a pretty obvious legal distinction:

The title of the article uses the word assassination. This is unfortunate, not because it is not accurate in the sense we ordinarily use the term, but because US law and regulation contains a ban on "assassination." Assassination in that specific legal sense is prohibited - but also not defined in US law or regulation. However, successive administrations dating from the 1980s have taken the position - e.g., the speech in 1989 to which the article refers - that a targeted killing is not (prohibited) "assassination" if it meets the requirements for self-defense under international law, including self defense against terrorists. As then-Dept of State legal advisor Abraham Sofaer put it, the assassination ban does not apply to otherwise "lawful killings undertaken in self defense against terrorists." I don't know if this is open access online; it was issued in the Military Law Review in 1989, and Judge Sofaer and others have told me that it was vetted with DOD and the White House as being US policy and interpretations of law. I am not aware of anything that has overturned it as US interpretation of the US assassination ban.
From K&L Wine Merchants Newsletter

We may not have the centuries of wine-growing history here in California like they do in Europe, but the original "New World" of wine does have some stories to tell. Cuvaison and Chalone are two classic producers who made stellar Chardonnays in 2007 that ready to drink and priced to take home.

2007 Cuvaison Carneros Chardonnay ($15.99)

92 points and a Best Buy, Wine & Spirits: "Slice a late summer Bosc pear over puff pastry and bake it - the tart will taste a lot like the flavors of this Chardonnay. It's grown at Cuvaison's estate vineyard, on 30-year-old vines. Though tightly built, the wine broadens into the finish, refreshed by a bristle of acidity. Decant it for roast veal with chanterelles." (07/09)

92 points and an Editors' Choice, Wine Enthusiast: "A beautiful Chardonnay with so much class and elegance, it's a bargain at this price. Shows lush flavors of pineapple creme brulee, Meyer lemon custard and vanilla sorbet, balanced with crisp acidity and a fine touch of smoky oak. Perfect with shellfish." (08/09)

Cuvaison has been a name that has been around the wine world for sometime, since 1969 to be exact (under the same ownership since 1979), and they have been the proving grounds for some great up-and-coming winemakers who turned into legends, Philip Togni anyone? With more history than probably 99% of the wineries in California today, and access to great vineyard sites, it’s a wonder why we don’t hear more about them.

Maybe their 2007 Chard will change all of that. It has already caught the attention of key member of the press; note the double 92-point scores above. It also caught our attention and then it wouldn’t let it go. Maybe it was due to the fruit-driven nose of hot buttered pears, cherry flesh and watermelon. That was surely a great opening line. Or it could have been due to the lime zest, Granny Smith apples and sweet corn that are so explicitly laid out on the palate. Also possible was the lasting impression it left as the finish trailed off into flavors of honeydew and butterscotch. Whatever it is that catches your fancy, the best news is that for a paltry $15.99 this can easily be the new house white. (Bryan Brick, K&L) )

$15.99 is a sale. It usually goes for $18. Either way, it's good.
Michael Totten on Iraq

The link.

The United States has basically won the war in Iraq. No insurgent or terrorist group can declare victory or claim Americans are evacuating Iraq’s cities because they were beaten. America's most modest foreign policy objectives there have been largely secured. Saddam Hussein's toxic regime has been replaced with a more or less consensual government. I doubt very much that Iraq will seriously threaten the United States or its neighbors any time soon. It isn't likely to be ruled by terrorists as it probably would have been if the United States left between 2004 and 2007. It’s a relief. A few years ago, I was all but certain the U.S. would withdraw under fire and leave Iraq in the hands of militias. Even so, many have a hard time feeling optimistic about the future. Iraq remains, in some ways, a threat to itself.

The reduction in violence and the winding down of the conflict allowed me to see the country a little more clearly than I could when I first visited Baghdad. I’m sorry to report that the city is still as run-down and dysfunctional as it was when what passed for daily life was punctuated by gunfire and car bombs. Iraq is backward and messy not only by Western standards, but by Arabic standards.

Though he declares victory, there doesn't seem to be much to celebrate.
Hillary Betrays New York

Shouldn't be a big surprise. Read her last name.

An interesting post about diversity on the court. When Sotomayor is confirmed, there will be 6 Catholics on the court. Is that too many?

See, this is the issue with the concept of "diversity." What does it mean? It has so many permutations once you get down to it, it eventually becomes almost meaningless.

Monday, July 13, 2009

I Asked the Same Question

Did the toppling of Saddam lead to the recent events in Iran?
What A Bunch of Fucking Bullshit

Swearing apparently reduces pain.

In the future everyone will work for free (in the creative content business).

More precisely, the marginal cost of digital products, or the cost of delivering one additional copy, is approaching zero. The fixed cost of producing the first copy, however, may be as high as ever. All those servers and transmission lines, as cheap as they may be per gigabyte, require large initial investments. The articles still have to be written, the songs recorded, the movies made. The crucial business question, then, is how you cover those fixed costs. As many an airline bankruptcy demonstrates, it can be extremely hard to survive in a business with high fixed costs, low marginal costs and relatively easy entry. As long as serving one new customer costs next to nothing, the competition to attract as many customers as possible will drive prices toward zero. And zero doesn’t pay the bills.

I think I picked the wrong business.
Best Places to Live

Almost none of them are in California.

Donde Esta?

Where is the job surge?

More evidence for such...on how we count unemployment. Are the real numbers actually much higher?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Great Line

"Leonore, I have an MFA."
That's a Good Sign for Republicans

Republican pundits open fire on Palin for being a quitter.

If she is around in 2012, I suspect a serious section of the Republican brain trust will distance themselves from their party and possibly leave. Unless, of course, Obama steers the country into worse economic woes. Both of these are entirely possible.
Harvard's Economic Woes

Are Larry Summers and Robert Rubin doing to the country what they did to Harvard?

According to Instapundit: A “Ferrari without the engine.”
Obama Still Smoking

I don't blame the man for being stressed out.
Real Unemployment Actually Nearer to 20%

Yikes. I'm glad they changed the unemployment definition. Bastards. It turns out to be just another way for politicians to sugar-coat the bad.
More Trouble For Housing

To be honest, I'd like to see home prices drop another 10% if not more. Of what long term value is it to give tax incentives for first time buyers to prop up overall home values? You just get more people in more debt in order to save those who already overpaid. You want to help first time home buyers? Let the market bottom out so they buy houses for what they're worth - and what they can afford.