Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Where Is Walter Cronkite?

In the latest Atlantic, Chris Hitchens ponders who is today's Walter Cronkite? He is miffed by his classroom's response: Jon Stewart.

But the answer is actually quite obvious: Charlie Rose. A long and fascinating article about Charlie Rose. Hat tip, Webbs.
Upside Down

Why are the French coming across as pragmatic realists and the US coming across as naive bumpkins?

Nicolas Sarkozy was furious with Barack Obama for his adolescent warbling about a world without nuclear weapons at a meeting Mr. Obama chaired of the United Nations Security Council last Thursday (9/24).

"We must never stop until we see the day when nuclear arms have been banished from the face of the earth," President Obama said.

What infuriated President Sarkozy was that at the time Mr. Obama said those words, Mr. Obama knew the mullahs in Iran had a secret nuclear weapons development site, and he didn't call them on it.

‘President Obama dreams of a world without weapons...but right in front of us two countries are doing the exact opposite," Mr. Sarkozy said.

At this rate, soon we'll be making the best cheese.

An iphone application to locate sex offenders.

It's amazing, the human species lasted all this time without this particular application. This, I'm sure, just causes inordinate anxiety all around. But that seems to be Americans number one product these days - anxiety. About everything.

Both men and women prefer hot faces to hot bodies.

A new study by Dr. Currie at Royal Society University in London confirmed that men and women approach long-term relationships in a similar way—both genders pay way more attention to gorgeous faces than hot bodies. When it comes to short-term relationships ... well, women were more likely to go for face over body while the dudes placed much more importance on the body than the face. Shocker. Gives a whole new meaning to the term “butter face.”

I could of saved them some time and money and told them that.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Facebook Poll

Facebook shuts down poll on whether Obama should be killed for healthcare reform. Gee, I sure am glad everyone now can have a voice on the internet.

Get the secret service on those m-f--kers. I take this facebook shit seriously.

What's a little unnerving to me - I can no longer tell whether this is the work of right wing nutjobs or left wing nutjobs posing as right wing nutjobs for attention.

Ahhh...welcome to the digital age.
Oy Vey

It's google meets twitter meets email meets texting meets myspace meets friendster meets blogger meets facebook meets....puke already.

Am I the only one who wants less of this crap rather than more? Why do I want to learn a whole new system? Phone and email work fine for me.
Woody Allen Demands Polanski Release

There is a joke in this CNN headline.

I'm not going to take a position on this thing. On the one hand, drugging and raping a 13 year old is a criminal act. On the other hand, it happened 30 plus years ago and I don't perceive Polanski to be a danger to society. On the other hand, if he was a civilian and not a member of the cultural elite, he would have gone to jail. On the other hand, Chinatown is one of my favorite movies.

This - like the Obama beer summit - is a big no-win situation for everyone. So why press the issue now? I know if Bush were Pres, everyone would be saying it was because of him. So...good thing he isn't Pres?

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Best Loss I Can Remember

Singletary is spot on -

"I don't want to see you looking at the floor!" he barked, while at the other end of the tunnel Brett Favre was basking in the glory of his game-winning 32-yard prayer-and-a-half to Lewis, the Vikings' fourth receiver. "You didn't steal nothing! You didn't do anything wrong! We will see them again! In the playoffs! Hold your heads up! Don't you look down at the floor for nobody! You have nothing to be looking down at the floor about! Pick your heads up, put your shoulders back and let's rock!"

Yesterday's game was great. Going in Minnesota, losing Gore at the very beginning of the game, and still outplaying the Vikings. Two big special teams plays virtually cancel each other out. People will talk of Farve's greatness. Let them. He chucked up a hail mary pass and got lucky. That's what happens when you give an NFL team three chances to come back. Yes - I don't agree with the running the ball into the line at the end of the game. I believe in ball control, possession, and sticking the knife in the other team's belly at the end and not allowing them to get the ball back. You want to break the will of another team, that's how you do it. And we have the team to do it. Shaun Hill is not a comeback quarterback like Montana or Elway. What he is, however, is a conservative quarterback, a "game manager," if you believe what you read. We can trust him to throw the ball and get first downs without making back-breaking mistakes. We have Bruce and Davis who are both possession receivers - Davis with his speed and size and Bruce with his perfect route running. We take the ball with 4:32 left in the game and should not let the other team get it back. And especially not twice. And I'm willing to bet our young team does not make this same mistake twice.

As to Farve - let him bask in this glory. I do not fear this guy at all. If you want to see late game heroics, you should watch the end of the Cincy-Pitt game. Palmer drove his team down TWICE against Pittsburgh's defense to score touchdowns in the 4th quarter. And they were real drives. Not two dump off passes we have them and a hail mary. Vikings will implode this year, despite having the best running back (and player) in football and a great defense. Why? You can't win with an idiot coach and a crappy quarterback. You can perhaps win with one or the other, but I'm guessing a first round playoff exit.
Applying The Iraq Strategy to Afghanistan

I get this point.

I still haven't heard a convincing argument as to why we're losing in Afghanistan. In Iraq, it made sense, as violence was tremendously high and the government could barely operate. But we had a big stake in an operable government in Iraq. Do we have a similar stake in Afghanistan? Or is our concern just keeping Al Queda off balance?

Friday, September 25, 2009

What Worries Me

The Niners are looking good. I know it. Simmons picks them as the upset lock of the week over the Vikings. The defense is damn good. The team plays hungry. And yes, everyone knows they don't have a passing game or QB (although inexplicably Shaun Hill is 9-3 as an NFL starter). However, as other folks begin to the notice the Niners and pick the Niners, they base their theory on the questionable assumption they have a good running game. Yes, Gore ran for 200 yards plus last week. But that primarily based on two runs of 80 yards which were Seattle mistakes. I think people are remembering the 2007 Niners when Larry Allen (aka the strongest man in the NFL) was left tackle. We don't have that kind of line this year that can push the other team off the line of scrimmage. We are committed to the run, but if you take away those two 80 yard runs, you know how many running yards we have over two games? 118. 2.2 yards per carry.

Do we have a good running game?
Okay, Well Make That Argument, Then

Brooks tackles the question of Afghanistan today.

His point - we need to wipe out the Taliban because they have designs on both Afghanistan and Pakistan. My position - if we keep the Taliban off balance with a light footprint, they can neither harbor Al Queda nor take over Pakistan. Mine is cheaper and seems to be working in that we are killing AQ at a high rate and they have not been successful at launching attacks against us.

His argument is we need to defeat the Taliban completely. I could be persuaded, I suppose. But I have trouble gauging the possibility of this - and the cost.
Trouble Closing Guantanamo

Obama Administration doesn't know what to do with the terrorists in Gitmo. Basically, they're having the same problems as the Bush Administration.

Is it just me or wasn't there plenty of time to think this through before making it a campaign promise? Like 7-8 years? And all this reveals to me is that Obama and his crew base their position on not knowing the issues. Which is kinda a scary thought considering all the various legislation they are going for.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

I Ain't Gonna Lie

If Crabtree doesn't sign with the 49ers, I don't wish him well. I hope he fails and sucks.

I know I'm underpaid, but this is crazy:

did you know Peterson's base salary is just $755,000? Can you remember another time a half-decent player made 15 times more money than the best player on his team? Peterson isn't the type that would complain about this publicly or hold out. What kind of person is he? The kind who takes out his anger on other teams. Like he did last week. Keep an eye on this one. We could be headed for the first-ever Eff You season by a running back.

Adrian Peterson, ie the undisputed best player in the NFL, is making under a mil in base salary. Que? For some reason, this makes me feel better.

The Soviets may have developed a doomsday devise, but for different reasons than Strangelove hypothesized.

The silence can be attributed partly to fears that the US would figure out how to disable the system. But the principal reason is more complicated and surprising. According to both Yarynich and Zheleznyakov, Perimeter was never meant as a traditional doomsday machine. The Soviets had taken game theory one step further than Kubrick, Szilard, and everyone else: They built a system to deter themselves.

By guaranteeing that Moscow could hit back, Perimeter was actually designed to keep an overeager Soviet military or civilian leader from launching prematurely during a crisis. The point, Zheleznyakov says, was "to cool down all these hotheads and extremists. No matter what was going to happen, there still would be revenge. Those who attack us will be punished."

Cold War psychology is fascinating to me. I worry about all this stuff because our principal enemies today are a different creature - religious/tribal fanatics who do not care about life on this earth, but rather, the afterlife. They are delusional, but would absolutely eliminate all life on this planet if given the power to do so and the slightest provocation.
What Is Going On?

Netanyahu blasts the UN. And rightfully so. The place is a parade of dictators and petty thugs from Ahmadinejad to Chavez to Gaddafi. What a joke. It's becoming a circus.

I heard on the radio yesterday Obama has single digit approval ratings in Israel. Yikes. That isn't good. One of best allies.

Reading the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict is infuriating. The UN mandated Israel exist post WW2. The Arabs do not accept and invade Israel. They get their asses kicked. The "Palestinians" are displaced because Israel takes territory from the countries who just invaded them to protect themselves. This proves wise as the Arabs again attack Israel in 1967 and Israel kicks their ass again and takes more land to prevent future attacks. Arabs decide to no longer fight face to face battles and fight proxy wars through terrorist groups claiming to be fighting on behalf of the displaced peoples. They call on the UN for protection and support and cry war crimes against Israel.

This is the equivalent of joining a poker game, losing all your money, asking for it back, being told no, then fighting, getting your ass kicked and not getting your money back and getting more money taken, then fighting more and getting more money taken, and then hiring teenagers to attack and annoy the bully until he gave the money back, and then going to the UN and asking for the money back and to complain about the bully fighting the teenagers. I mean, the whole thing is total joke. But that's people, I guess.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Gadhafi gives rambling speech to the UN.

He wants "equality." Of course that means turning the whole world into the 3rd world. No thanks. If this is the UN, I agree with him on one thing - it's pointless.

Always fun to read about. Hat tip, Naveen.

On the future of film festivals:

“You have to be cautious about film festivals. The time of film festivals is kind of declining and coming to an end like at the end of the 19th century when the big time of the world exhibitions slowly came to an end. Festivals will come to an end. And they will come to an end because many of them have become self-serving entities. And the real problem is that you have over 3,000 festivals in the world per year, but you do not have more than three or four good films per year. There’s a very, very dramatic disbalance between the amount of festivals and the amount of good films.”


She's my daughter. (slap) She's my sister. (slap). My daughter. (slap). My sister (slap). She's my sister and my daughter!

That's some serious Roman Polanski crap. Don't do drugs, kids.
Official Retraction

Initially, I was in favor of cash for clunkers. My reasoning - it would work by getting people to buy cars and save gas. And it did work - people bought cars.

But after reading two nobel prize level economists experts dismiss the program as a joke, I officially change my position. Two main reasons:

1. Hundreds of thousands new cars will be purchased under the program, but many of these purchases would have occurred later in 2009 or in 2010 instead of during the five week window of the clunkers program. There is little value to the economy in subsidizing consumers to buy cars a few months earlier than they would have bought them anyway.

2. Even if the older cars were in reasonably good shape but got poor gas mileage, new cars would be driven more miles because, being much more fuel efficient, they would use much less gasoline per mile of driving. On balance, the clunker exchange might result in only a small net reduction, if any, in the amount of gasoline used. According to Sunday's New York Times, the average trade-in got 15.8 miles to the gallon compared to about 25 miles per gallon for the cars that were purchased. If the cars will be driven about 50% more miles per year than the clunkers that were exchanged-not an extreme assumption- there would be essentially no effect on the gasoline consumed.

The main problem I have with the cash-for-clunkers program from the viewpoint of reducing pollution is that the program is such an inefficient way to cut down on gasoline consumption. The obvious best approach, not politically easy to accomplish, would be to raise the federal tax on gasoline.

I hope this isn't an early warning signal of the stupidity of the stimulus spending. More from Beckner:

Other parts of the increase in spending in most countries are far more dubious and may even have harmed their economies. I include in that most of the $800 billion Obama stimulus package, much of which is still not spent even though the brunt of the recession is over This package was promoted as a way to fight the recession, but mainly it is an attempt to reengineer the economy in the directions of larger government favored by many liberal Democrats. I believe much of this reengineering will hurt the functioning of the economy, and of course at the same time will add to the debt burden.

A very small example was the cash for clunkers program in the US that ended a short time ago. The 19th century French essayist Frederic Bastiat discussed facetiously the gain to an economy when a boy breaks the windows of a shopkeeper since that creates work for the glazier to repair them, and the glazier then spends his additional income on food and other consumer goods. The moral of that story is to hire boys to go around breaking windows! The clunkers program was hardly any better than that (see our discussion of the clunkers program on August 24th).

Posner on how much we should care about government deficits. Now, this will put most readers to sleep, but it is of interest to me. The beginning of the article outlines how deficit spending works and importantly, it's function in the world economy. Useful. The end is a warning about what will happen with excessive debt.

As real interest rates rise as a consequence of the growing public debt and decline in demand for the U.S. dollar as an international reserve currency, U.S. savings rates will rise, and by reducing consumption expenditures this will slow economic activity. Economic growth may also fall as more and more resources are poured into keeping elderly people, most of whom are not highly productive members of society from an economic standpoint, alive. The United States may find itself in the kind of downward economic spiral in which "developing" countries often find themselves. As an economic power we may go the way of the British Empire, which occupied approximately the same position in the world economy in the early twentieth century as the United States does today.
Mullahs Are In A Box

The Iranian mullahs are in a box. I would not want to be them right now.

In 2006, the Mullahs were in great shape. They were bleeding us in Iraq and we were on the verge of running away with our tail between our legs. In fact, if there was a Presidential Election in 2006/07 the Democrat would have run on pulling out of Iraq and won the election. The Iranians would have had a larger influence in the post-US occupied Iraq and tried (perhaps successfully) to make it a client state. This would have given them enough time and enough cover to make a bomb. With a bomb and oil money from Iraq and Iran, Iran would have ascended to be a real world power. Or, in 2006, they could have made a deal to with the US to stop killing our troops, mutually buy a peace in Iraq, halt nukes, and probably get normalized relations. Could have staved off death to the regime another 20 years at least.

But like all fanatics, they can trace their downfall to themselves. First, they created too many enemies for themselves. They were orchestrating killings of US troops and Sunnis in Iraq, sewing bitterness and rivalry. Eventually, the fears of the Sunnis caused some of them to team up with the US and push AQ out. Note - this wasn't all directly about Iran, but they certainly didn't do themselves any favors by killing lots of Sunnis. Second, they put this nutjob, Ahmadinejad on the world stage forcing Western nations together to oppose his lunacy, whereas there are a number of ways to divide Western thought on Iran. Third, they rigged an election they probably would of won anyway and turned their own citizenry further against them and turned some of the Qom mullahs against them as well. Fourth, they keep trying to get a nuke, and empowering Israeli hardliners who will without a doubt, preemptively attack Iran if they believe Iran is on the verge of having a nuke.

Today, they are in a box. They can't stay the present course, as their own citizenry will ultimately toss them out. Therefore, they need to get more extreme, either by cracking down or developing a nuke and provoking a war. If they provoke a war with Israel, they are going to be smashed to smithereens. If they just go to the brink and punish internal dissent, they'll get sanctions by the rest of the world (who knows if they'll be effective in terms of hurting the regime or the people of the country...sanctions famously helped prop Saddam up). They could halt the nuke deveolpment and seek a deal with the West? But they are in a much worse position than in 2006-2007 and we'll bend them over the table if they want a deal now.

I don't see a favorable out for them right now. This is both bad and good. Those trapped tend to do reckless things. Then again, they may fall.
The Counter

The first time I went to the Counter in Santa Monica I was underwhelmed. I didn't like all the choices and didn't get the hype.

Last night changed my mind:

1/3 lb burger with blue cheese, grilled onions, tomatoes, baby greens, and peppercorn sauce. Sound weird? It was frigging delicious.

Now I get the hype. The fun/difficulty at the Counter is picking the right condiments. You really have to make a single choice and build the burger around the choice. I choose blue cheese and all the rest came from there. The peppercorn sauce was the big final decision. It looked interesting, but too crazy initially. I thought to myself. Peppercorn sauce next time - I'll build around the sauce next time around. But because they didn't have a good mustard, I just said f--- it, I'm going with peppercorn. It was awesome.

Ironically, had I started with peppercorn, I may have eventually come around to the same conclusion with the blue cheese, onions, etc.
Good for Canada

They are walking out on Ahmadinejad's UN speech.

“President Ahmadinejad’s repeated denial of the Holocaust and his anti-Israel comments run counter to the values of the UN General Assembly, and they’re shameful,” said one Canadian official.

Of course they do. I wish more countries would show such spine.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Middle Class

When work doesn't pay for the middle class.

By trying to help people out, are we de-incentivizing work? Everyone laments the loss of the middle class - are we exacerbating it by punishing those who work hard to create for themselves?

Instapundit is more harsh:

“For decades there has been debate about how to help the poor without discouraging work, saving or marriage. Yet with almost no notice just such disincentives have crept up the income ladder, observes economist C. Eugene Steuerle, a former Treasury official and expert on the taxation of families. . . . Work isn’t the only middle-class virtue that is getting punished. The system penalizes savings, too–not just through taxes, but also through programs that reward debtors, the profligate and college families that show up at the financial aid office with empty pockets. Yet another series of tax and benefit rules penalizes marriage. ‘This is a big social experiment. We really don’t know what the long-term effect of all these incentives is going to be,’ Steuerle says.”

My prediction: You’ll get more of what you reward, and less of what you punish. But maybe the political class is okay with that. “They’ll turn us all into beggars ’cause they’re easier to please.”

Monday, September 21, 2009

My New Least Favorite Team

The Jets tampered with Crabtree. Or at least, they are being charged with it. This is like hitting on dude's new girlfriend. (versus the 49ers who were tampering with Briggs several years ago was like hitting on an unhappy housewife)

This is added to Rex Ryan's blustering about the Patriots. First off, the Patriots are the most successful team in the the post-salary cap era. They've dominated the Jets for years. Here is a guy talking trash about the Pats while they're clearly on their way down with age and injuries. This is like picking a fight with a dude when you know he just got diagnosed with a head injury and isn't likely to be aggressive. Where was Ryan mouthing off with such bravado when the Pats were wiping their asses with his face?

Not to mention all this Sanchez nonsense and the Farve nonsense from last year. Do these guys forget they collapsed at midseason last year? Who the f--- are the frigging Jets? I don't even remember the last time this team was in the playoffs. They suck ass. Sanchez throws for -8 yards in the first half yesterday and finishes the game with 160 yards and these guys are sucking his balls? Jesus Christ.

These guys are my new least favorite team. Plus, they're from New York...even worse.
Zarakia on Missile Defense

The Obama administration did the right thing for the right reasons in the wrong way. It needs to fix the fallout and move on.

Fair enough.
Bad News/Good News

In 2010 ARMs are coming up. Many speculate this will be the next big round of forclosures. I've heard of these things - basically home loans that have you paying interest only to begin with - with the idea that you'll be making more money down the line and therefore able to afford higher payments in 5 plus years. This is just another financial service ponzi scheme real estate folks were running to make commissions and bankers were packaging to hide the risk.

Not looking so good right now.

What's interesting about these loans, however, is that unlike subprime loans, the majority of these loans were used in high-value real estate areas (ie good spots). And they were used because people with decent incomes wanted to live in good spots, but whose home prices were incredibly inflated and perceived to be safe. Basically, folks just used to a certain standard of living. Who know what will happen in 2010, but going by the story link - there are folks stuck with 750,000 in debt on 500,000 homes. Ouch! Add it all up and it's 30 bil. I smell another bailout.

PS - side story - heard on the radio today about the AIG bailout and how it protected an enormous amount of personal assets for financial services senior executives. Can someone do the math on this please and explain why incredibly rich dudes who steered the ship to near ruin aren't bankrupt? They wanted to play risky and they lost...and we bailed them out.

The UK Telegraph slams Obama very politely.

Barack Obama is an eloquent, brainy and likeable man with a fascinating biography. He is not George Bush. Those are great qualities. But they are not enough to lead America, let alone the world.

Is that racist?

But seriously, regarding the missile defense decision - whether it was wise or not - the Polish President wouldn't take Obama's call after the decision because of perceived betrayal. That isn't the way to treat your friends. The old addage about liberals being too broad-minded to take their own side in a quarrel seems apt.
Like I Said Last Week

Someone is doing a real good job in Pakistan or Afghanistan in the past year or so.

While the terrorist groups are concerned about the losses, especially among the leadership, what alarms them the most is how frequently the American UAVs are finding their key people. The real problem the terrorists have is that someone is ratting them out. Someone, or something, is helping the Americans find the terrorist leaders. It wasn't always that way. In 2007, there were only five UAV attacks, compared to three in 2006, one in 2005 and one in 2004. Back then, it wasn't just the lack of identified targets that kept the UAVs away, but fewer UAVs, and Pakistani resistance to American UAVs making attacks inside Pakistan (even though the targets were terrorists attacking Pakistanis, including senior leaders.) By 2008, the Pakistanis changed their mind.

This Hellfire campaign is hitting al Qaeda at the very top, although only a quarter of the attacks so far have taken out any of the most senior leaders. But that means over half the senior leadership have been killed or badly wounded in the last two years. Perhaps even greater damage has been done to the terrorist middle management. These are old and experienced lieutenants, as well as young up-and-comers. They are the glue that holds al Qaeda and the Taliban together. Their loss is one reason why it's easier to get more information on where leaders are, and why rank-and-file al Qaeda and Taliban are less effective of late.

And then this:

Pakistani officials believe that the multimillion dollar rewards on bin Laden and other al Qaeda leaders may now actually work. The problem has always been that you can't capture an al Qaeda big shot without the assent of local tribal leaders. For a large chunk of that reward, that assent may now be had from some chiefs, and bin Laden knows it. He also knows that he has lost an irreplaceable number of veteran leaders (and allies), to U.S. Hellfire missiles, in the last two years. Rumor has it that big money was paid for the information that made some of these attacks possible. It's bad enough that al Qaeda is losing senior people, it's worse that they are now seen, by local tribesmen, as a way to get rich. Al Qaeda leaders now know what it's like to be terrorized.

Tick tock m---f--ers.

Note - In truth, this is at least a decade long investment in intelligence networks someone, I assume the CIA, has been building up in these areas. But dividends are getting paid now. This echoes the task force that eventually killed seemed like they were on or close to him for 6months to a year. When the momentum goes, it goes and goes quick.
Tightwads and Spendthrifts

Are apparently attracted to one another.

Despite rising unemployment, crime - both violent and non-violent, is down.

Could be an aberration, but someday someone will figure out why this happened and I'll be it'll be interesting.

Is the federal government encouraging artists to promote a specific policy agenda?

I don't care if they are right about everything, this is corruption.
A Real Test

The Niners defense has looked stellar in the first two weeks of the season. Next week, we're up against Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin and Brett Farve. It will be a test. I just home we come in hitting hard and aiming to stop the run. Let Farve try to take the game into his hands (and importantly, get it out of Peterson's) and let him make mistakes. That's my game plan, anyway.
Mandatory Health Insurance

The newest healthcare proposal apparently will require Americans to have health insurance, in a similar way drivers are required to have car insurance. On the surface, such an idea doesn't seem unreasonable (especially given the huge costs of the uninsured). But Left Right and Center broke this idea down quite succinctly - by pointing out the difference between a right and a privilege.

Driving is a privilege. It is not a right. The government grants you the right to drive (via driver's licenses) if you own insurance and pass driving tests so you don't cause undo liability on others. Also, you can choose not to drive if you can't afford or don't way to pay insurance.

But life is not a privilege. It is a right. Your right to life exists prior to government. For the US government to force people to buy private insurance to protect their health is unjust. Further, you are unable to "opt out," without dying.

Lastly, they pointed out the cost. Roughly $15,000 a year. That's a lot of money for a middle income person making $70,000. Nevermind a low income.

How this healthcare thing became such a mess, I know not.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Survive This

I know this isn't like the Great Depression...yet...but the California jobless rate is at it's worst since the WW2.

I wonder whether this recession/depression/economic crisis, whatever you want to call it, will have lasting effects on the character of our generation in the same way the Great Depression affected those who lived through it. When my Great Aunt passed and my relatives were cleaning out her house, they found stashes of cash all over the place, hidden. I don't know if this was reflective of her generation or her personality - but I actually think this was much more common for people who were alive during the run on the banks. We don't imagine the bank run happening, but nowadays, we can imagine losing 50% of our 401ks in a month and seeing our houses drop 50% in value (if you live in a bubble market) and also can picture, long, extended months of unemployment...whereas previously, this was not the case. Whether this will have a long term impact, I don't know. In some ways, I hope it does.

But for the time being, it would be nice to return to a little more security all around.
Red vs. Blue

Thoughts on why the vitriol is up.

Irresponsible Leadership Chris Matthews and former Democratic congressman Kweisi Mfume blamed congressional leaders for allowing the fringe to dominate. "Maybe we are starting to enter that uncharted area where people feel free enough to act out what they want to do," Mfume said, criticizing both Republican and Democratic leaders who refused to condemn fringe elements. "And so skinheads become more outspoken and the bigots become more outspoken."

Matthews agreed. "There was a time when people like William F. Buckley would stand up to those in the conservative movement who were Birchers, who were John Birch Society types who thought that Eisenhower, General Eisenhower, was a communist," Matthews said. "There are those who thought that being a conservative meant being anti-Semitic. People like Bill Buckley stood up and said, 'No way can you be part of our movement.' Where are the conservatives out there saying, 'Don't bring a gun to a political meeting, this isn't the '30s in Germany?'"

No one else has said this...but I basically view my blog as an extensive Liberal critique of American Liberalism post 9/11 - with some movies and sports thrown in for good measure. **Side note - even my sports coverage is political. For instance, my critiques of Kobe are politically-based. He is a fascist criminal and as a liberal democrat in the tradition of Magic Johnson, I must oppose him with every fiber of my being. I an often mistaken for a conservative or a libertarian, but I don't view it that way. Am I am a center leaning liberal. Nevertheless, I am merely pointing out that I opening criticize my own side, but my blog isn't widely read outside my own circle. I could blame the world for reading only what they want to hear, but I don't really think that's the issue. In fact, I think the vitriol between right and left has more to do with the last point brought up:

* Americans are Simply Scared and Confused The Washington Post's Jim Sleeper suggested that what looks like partisan fighting is really "fear and rage" prompted by a confusing era and economic recession. "The thwarted decency in them is trying to find a political home, a sense of civic standing that is slipping away," he wrote. "And now, such individuals are looking for someone or something to blame." Sleeper points to misplaced anger that, lacking an easy target, is easily directed by partisan figures and pundits. "Anything will serve, if it spares them having to face being had by the unaccountable powers and riptides that are destroying their dreams."

A Bit Scary, A Bit Sad

A story about a former financial services guy who can't find work.

Essentially, a huge chunk of his industry disappeared over night. Here's the thing - this story of middle aged workers having a tough time finding work once laid off - is not new. This has been going on for a long time and not many people talk about it - particularly men - because of the shame associated with it. Men, moreso than women, find a sense of purpose and sense of self-worth through work. Middle aged guys are too expensive for a companies and the "efficient" ways companies work nowadays. Many become obsolete.

I actually think this is both economically and culturally unwise for our society to discard folks this way. With all we know about health today, folks are living longer and longer and therefore their working careers should be longer.
Another Story About Dumb People

Another frustrating story on how dumb bureaucratic practices as a hospital cost someone their life.

This isn't really an issue of insurance so much as pure stupidity. And is it just me, or aren't hospitals supposed to perform live saving procedures even if it isn't covered by insurance? Especially on a young person. They ought to be sued for malpractice in this case.

Also - does anyone honestly believe this type of stupidity goes away with universal coverage? You can't legislate around dumb people or mistakes. They're going to happen.
A Good Argument Against Internet Dating

Thrown together clips of video-dating profiles from the 1980s. Who wants to bet your internet dating profiles and emails correspondence is going to look exactly this comical in 20 years?

High school yearbook pictures are goofy enough for me.
Leila Garrity

I get these gossip emails from one of my tracking groups. I sort of hate the idea, but can't help but read:

Minka Kelly and Derek Jeter took in Broadway’s “In the Heights” on Sunday. /DN 18

So Jeter is banging a high school chick? Wait a second, I just checked IMDB and it turns out Minka is 29. 29!!! Jesus, I'm jealous of Jeter. What a frigging bastard. I want to see "In the Heights."

“I’d rather have a rectal examination on live TV by a fellow with cold hands than have a Facebook page.” – George Clooney, while promoting “Up in the Air” at the Toronto Film Festival. /NYP 13

Way to go, George.

CNN headline - "Dying From Lack of Insurance." What a ridiculously manipulative headline, especially after reading the story. Here is a wonderful insight from our greatest news source:

Other studies have indicated that the uninsured are at greater risk of mortality than the insured.

If this wasn't the case, why would we pay for insurance at all?

Hannum thought he had a stomach flu or food poisoning from bad chicken. On Monday, his brother saw him looking ashen and urged him to go to the hospital. "He had a little girl on the way," his older brother Curtis Hannum said. "He didn't want the added burden of an ER visit to hang on their finances. He thought 'I'll just wait,' and he got worse and worse."

By the time Hannum got to the hospital and was admitted to surgery, it was too late.

Paul Hannum, 45, died on Thursday, August 3, 2006, from a ruptured appendix. His daughter, Cameron was born two months later.

The other stories are similar. Now, let's get facts straight. These folks died because they didn't go see the doctor and get properly diagnosed, not because they didn't have insurance. There are probably people without insurance who have ruptured appendix's and go to the doctor because they are in awful pain.

Obviously, I feel bad for anyone who can't afford insurance or doctor care or who runs into unlikely health problems and premature death. These things suck. But doesn't everyone know they ought to have some health insurance? I mean, that's not a secret, right? So if you are without insurance, are people trying to get insurance? Are their families trying to help them out? Their friends? Can't you go to Kaiser and pay a couple hundo a month and get some type of coverage?

People do dumb things all the time that cost them money and increase their chances of dying - they smoke, they drink, they drive too fast, they drink and drive too fast, they do drugs, they gamble, they don't wear their seatbelts, they eat fast food, they don't exercise, they don't see the doctor, they play risky sports, they travel in unsafe countries, they take high stress jobs, they do low stress jobs that don't pay get my point.

The meta-message here is - everyone should have health insurance. Fine. I agree. Who pays? I welcome anyone who volunteers to step up to the plate and pay for some strangers health insurance. In fact, why doesn't someone start a website that people without insurance can sign up for and others can voluntarily pay their health insurance for them? Seriously, explain why this is a bad idea...

This is what I never quite understand about liberal conceptions of good government. Liberals expect government to pay for socially good things - ie health insurance for everyone. When you ask who should pay, they argue, "the rich," ie someone else.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Doing Something Right

Someone, somewhere is doing something right. We killed another Al Queda leader in Pakistan.

Divide and conquer these mutha-fuckers.

A fossil of a smaller version of a TRex was found in China.

Based on estimates of other similar-sized theropods, or "beast-footed" dinosaurs, Sereno and his colleagues estimate an adult Raptorex was about 9 feet tall and weighed about 143 pounds.

By contrast, the Tyrannosaurus rex, which topped the prehistoric food chain until dinosaurs went extinct about 65 million years ago, was believed to weigh at least five tons.

Scientists hypothesize that Raptorex ran its prey down, using its enlarged skull, powerful jaws and sharp teeth to dispatch animals much larger than itself. Like the T. rex, the Raptorex also had tiny forelimbs, they said.

"We can say that these features did not evolve as a consequence of large body size but rather evolved as an efficient set of predatory weapons in an animal that was 1/100th the size of Tyrannosaurus rex and that lived 60 million years before Tyrannosaurus rex," Brusatte said.

Interesting. Would not was to run into these guys on the street.

I love this old athletes piece in

It claims Darryl Green could still run a 4.2 40-yard dash when he was 42 for the Redskins. If you followed football in the 1980s you knew Darryl Green was widely considered the fastest man in football. But I don't believe he could run a 4.2 40 at that age. No frigging way.

I find this piece oddly inspiring as it is my goal to play competitive men's league soccer until I'm 40. Maybe I should up it a couple years.
I Blame The Bud Light

Obama surrenders to Russia on missile defense.

I'd put money on a Russian puppet running Ukraine and Georgia within 4-5 years. The only question is whether the Russians give cover to an Iranian bomb. I still think it's in their interest NOT to, but they might calculate it's worth the loss since it'll be a greater loss to the US and our allies.


Epitaph on a Tyrant

Perfection, of a kind, was what he was after,
And the poetry he invented was easy to understand;
He knew human folly like the back of his hand,
And was greatly interested in armies and fleets;
When he laughed, respectable senators burst with laughter,
And when he cried the little children died in the streets.

When you're good, you're good.
On Packing Light

Rick Steves:

Remember, packing light isn't just about the flight; it's about your traveling lifestyle. With only one bag, you'll feel lean and in control. After you enjoy that sweet mobility and freedom, you'll never go any other way.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Looking For Dude Friends?

Apparently there is a new trend on craiglist - dudes perusing for dude friends.

Cough-gay-cough-cough. Okay, just letting my latent homophobia out there for a moment. Not that there's anything wrong with it. But seriously? I'm against searching for friends on the internet just as much as I'm against searching for love on the internet. It just seems weird, if you ask me.
Stocks Going Crazy

Stocks are way up. I see this as a bad sign since the underlying issues of the economic crisis are clearly not yet worked out. More of the same "let's all pretend everything is good and keep borrowing and spending" vs. producing. Hopefully I'm wrong. But I'm not buying anything right now.
Is Facebook Racist?

Clearly, the answer is yes.

Study is about teenagers. Turns out white kids go to facebook and black kids go to myspace.

I went and looked at these kids’ MySpace profiles—this is before Facebook. Sixty to 70 percent of them had MySpace profiles that I could find. There were deep segregations in the friending patterns. Latinos friended Latino kids, black kids friended black kids, and white kids friended other white kids. There was very little overlap.

So here are the adults going, ‘We don’t have a race problem because we’re integrated.’ And the [verbal] language of the teens is deeply racist, deeply segregationist, marked by gangs, marked by narratives that were about race in particular. And they were reproducing this online. We’re deluding ourselves that just because we put kids of different racial backgrounds together, they’re going to be friends.

If you practice Facebook, you practice segregation. Just thought you should know.
Value of Space

I think this is right regarding terrorist save havens.

Here is where I disagree. Clearly training camps are not of paramount importance to terrorist groups, and the Internet provides a fluid and almost risk free way to communicate both ideologically and personally, and physical safe havens are not as vital to many aspects of the terrorist threat as they were before 9/11. But it misses a key point to dismiss their importance to the degree Pillar does.

Almost all the personal ties and connections that were formed among those who have carried out different terrorist attacks took place because the actors had a place where they meet each other, understand they were not alone in their vision of jihad, and build relationships of trust.

This is fundamental to any cadre, and something that virtual exchanges simply cannot replace. The meetings in the hotel rooms and apartments were possible because of the bond of trust forged in a broader common experience.

This is why I do not advocate a full pull out of Afghanistan. If these camps ever get going again (although I assume they have some camps somewhere), they need to be burnt to the ground by our pilot-less drones dropping all sorts of reckless explosives. As long as we keep our intel in shape, the camps from not operating, and WMDs out of their hands for 40 more years or so, this current group of jihadis will die out and we'll win a war of attrition.
Never Cry Wolf

Fair point on charges of racism in the tea party movement.

[If] the Tea Party movement is significantly animated by racism or appeals to white racial resentment, we will certainly find out about it, and it will lose whatever popularity it has now, because racism in this country is genuinely unpopular. And by the same token, if the Great Klan Hunt fails to turn up more than just a fringe scattering of kooks, it may be time for some on the Air America left to begin considering that limited government sentiment is not automatically a form of sublimated racism.

Liberal Vs. Conservative Notions of America

I read an essay or heard a radio program months ago about how liberals and conservatives view "America." These divergent understanding help explain a good deal of policy disputes and why each side gets exacerbated with one another. I wish I could find it because it articulated a point very well than I'm having trouble recalling exactly. I'll try here.

Liberals view "America" as a constant work-in-progress. A great experiment in human liberty and democracy and a place we are constantly and vigilantly trying to make better. In short, America is to be improved.

Conservatives view "America" as a beautiful work of art born out of struggle after struggle of generations of people preserving the traditions set forth by the founders. They view "America" as a special, unique place in the history of the world, the latest incarnation of the great civilizations of the past - Greece, Rome, and the Judeo-Christian world. In short, America is to be admired.

Obviously, both sides have a point. And reasonable people on both sides can see this. But one can understand how policy disputes devolve into angry shouting matches when each side privileges a particular view.

Recently, Obama proposed 9/11 become a day of service. This makes sense from the liberal perspective. 9/11 is a national tragedy and what better way to "serve" America than to a national day of service to improve the country for the better. A lot of liberals don't understand why this irks conservatives. It irks them because they don't think "America" is a work in progress in need of constructive criticism and improvement. Rather, 9/11 is a national tragedy and should be a moment of reflection and remembrance. A day we remember the brave firefighters and the heroes on Flight 93. A day that falls within a historical trend of dark/totalitarian ideologies attacking the bright/freedom-loving countries of the world. "Serving," is the not the appropriate response on 9/11 as it would not be appropriate behavior at a funeral.

You see it all around in all these disputes. Obama's big progressive plans for the country threaten conservatives because they feel as though he is undoing what their ancestors built. When conservatives try to valorize the past, liberals see them valorizing slavery and japanese internments and jim crow and all sort of horribly illiberal and unfree practices. Conservatives would argue no country is perfect and liberals are holding their ancestors to impossible standards...akin to a football player playing his ass off in a game, doing a great job overall, scoring the winning touchdown, being a great teammate and then coming home to a father who says he missed a block in the first quarter and should have scored three touchdowns.
Books Follow Up

By the Harvard historian:

Reading… and Writing
Time was when readers kept commonplace books. Whenever they came across a pithy passage, they copied it into a notebook under an appropriate heading, adding observations made in the course of daily life. The practice spread everywhere in early modern England, among ordinary readers as well as famous writers like Francis Bacon, Ben Jonson, John Milton, and John Locke. It involved a special way of taking in the printed word. Unlike modern readers, who follow the flow of a narrative from beginning to end (unless they are digital natives and click through texts on machines), early modern Englishmen read in fits and starts and jumped from book to book. They broke texts into fragments and assembled them into new patterns by transcribing them in different sections of their notebooks. Then they reread the copies and rearranged the patterns while adding more excerpts. Reading and writing were therefore inseparable activities. They belonged to a continuous effort to make sense of things, for the world was full of signs: you could read your way through it, and by keeping an account of your readings, you made a book of your own, one stamped with your personality.

Sound familiar? They were blogging...
A New Restaurant Trend?

Low-mid priced, but tasty restaurants opening in formerly expensive/exclusive areas?

I like the sound of it.
A Good Writer

I haven't noticed before, but the 49ers insider writing at the Chronicle gives a damn fine analysis of the game.

Having a good writer to help one reflect on the games will only add to the experience of the football seasons. Hooray.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

ReThinking Bush

His initial thoughts on the Palin nomination:

I was about to be engulfed by a tidal wave of Palin euphoria when someone—someone I didn’t expect—planted my feet back on the ground. After Palin’s selection was announced, the same people who demanded I acknowledge the brilliance of McCain’s choice expected the president to join them in their high-fiving tizzy. It was clear, though, that the president, ever the skilled politician, had concerns about the choice of Palin, which he called “interesting.” That was the equivalent of calling a fireworks display “satisfactory.”

“I’m trying to remember if I’ve met her before. I’m sure I must have.” His eyes twinkled, then he asked, “What is she, the governor of Guam?”

Everyone in the room seemed to look at him in horror, their mouths agape. When Ed told him that conservatives were greeting the choice enthusiastically, he replied, “Look, I’m a team player, I’m on board.” He thought about it for a minute. “She’s interesting,” he said again. “You know, just wait a few days until the bloom is off the rose.” Then he made a very smart assessment.

“This woman is being put into a position she is not even remotely prepared for,” he said. “She hasn’t spent one day on the national level. Neither has her family. Let’s wait and see how she looks five days out.” It was a rare dose of reality in a White House that liked to believe every decision was great, every Republican was a genius, and McCain was the hope of the world because, well, because he chose to be a member of our party.

In retrospect, this seems pretty spot-on.
What Is This, A Cruel Hoax?

A fascinating article written by a former Bush speechwriter in Men's Style about Bush's final days. Hat tip, Naveen.

I don't know what the writer's intention was, but I come away a lot more sympathetic towards the former President. I mean, maybe he is supposed to appear clueless in the face of the economic crisis...but the way I read it, I feel sympathy for him. This economic crisis is crazy. It came out of nowhere. No one can understand this shit. The smartest people in the world couldn't possibly wrap their heads around it with any certainty. Bush's confusion and frustration is HUMANIZING, not evidence of stupidity. I much prefer someone who admits confusion than the cocky bullshitter who feigns understanding and confidence in the face of something they don't understand.

And I'm sorry, this is almost the several paragraphs I've read in weeks -

The president, like me, didn’t seem to be in love with any of the available options. He always believed Hillary Clinton would be the Democratic nominee. “Wait till her fat keister is sitting at this desk,” he once said (except he didn’t say “keister”). He didn’t think much of Barack Obama. After one of Obama’s blistering speeches against the administration, the president had a very human reaction: He was ticked off. He came in one day to rehearse a speech, fuming. “This is a dangerous world,” he said for no apparent reason, “and this cat isn’t remotely qualified to handle it. This guy has no clue, I promise you.” He wound himself up even more. “You think I wasn’t qualified?” he said to no one in particular. “I was qualified."

The president didn’t think much of Joe Biden either. “Dana, did you tell them my line?” the president once asked with a smile on his face.

“No, Mr. President,” Dana replied hesitantly. “I didn’t.”

He paused for a minute. I could see him thinking maybe he shouldn’t say it, but he couldn’t resist. “If bullshit was currency,” he said straight-faced, “Joe Biden would be a billionaire.” Everyone in the room burst out laughing.

Bush seemed to feel considerable unease with the choice of McCain as well. I think he liked Romney best. (The rumor was that so did Karl Rove.) My guess was the president hadn’t so easily forgotten the endless slights he’d suffered, but there was little he could do. To him, McCain’s defeat would be a repudiation of the Bush administration, so McCain had to win. The president, who had quite a good political mind, was clearly not impressed with the McCain operation. I was once in the Oval Office when the president was told a campaign event in Phoenix he was to attend with McCain suddenly had to be closed to the press. The president didn’t understand why when the whole purpose of holding the event had been to show Bush and McCain together so the press would stop asking why the two wouldn’t be seen together. If the event was closed to the press, the whole thing didn’t make sense.

“If he doesn’t want me to go, fine,” the president said. “I’ve got better things to do.”

Eventually, someone informed the president that the reason the event was closed was that McCain was having trouble getting a crowd. Bush was incredulous—and to the point. “He can’t get 500 people to show up for an event in his hometown?” he asked. No one said anything, and we went on to another topic. But the president couldn’t let the matter drop. “He couldn’t get 500 people? I could get that many people to turn out in Crawford.” He shook his head. “This is a five-spiral crash, boys.”

We tried to move on to something else. But the president wouldn’t let go. He was stuck on the Phoenix event. At one point, he looked off into space and said to no one in particular, “What is this—a cruel hoax?”

Bush could have a second career as a Baldwin-esque foil on a good sitcom.
Death Of Books?

Hardly. A historian argues books aint going nowhere despite all this digitalization crap.

I like the quote to start the essay:

God is dead.


Then, added in another hand:

Nietzsche is dead.


And this:

Yet the general lack of concern for history among Americans has made us vulnerable to exaggerated notions of historic change—and so has our fascination with technology. The current obsession with cellular devices, electronic readers and digitization has produced a colossal case of false consciousness. As new electronic devices arrive on the market, we think we have been precipitated into a new era. We tout “the Information Age” as if information did not exist in the past. Meanwhile, e-books and devices like the Kindle represent less than 1% of the expenditure on books in the United States.
War Crimes

Does the concept of war crimes posses any meaning?

It seems as though every single war currently fought, both sides claim the other is guilty of war crimes. If this is the case, does the concept have any meaning? Aren't we merely saying "war is a war crime?"

Last night on NPR someone was talking about a funeral of a friend they went to recently. It was actually quite moving because he talked about his friend having the audacity, the chutzpah of actually living a normal life in Los Angeles. The guy had a job for years with a defense company, raised kids, lived in a normal house, with more or less standard middle-class/middle-American values and goals.

It got me thinking what Phil always says about the show HUNG - how normal is becoming the new anti-hero. Granted, Hung is about a male-prostitute, but it's more of a tonal/character thing, ie how they handle the male prostitute issue. He is devoid of neurosis or pathos or addictions (like say, Tony Soprano or McNulty or Don Draper) and essentially longs for simple white-picket fence values - his family and job and to keep his house.

It's actually an ironic this town of glamorous stars, fake tits, desperate writers, packed freeways, apocalyptic fires, and lower back tattoos, just being normal can be rather subversive.
Censorship Will Be Enforced

I suggest we make discussing race illegal or least bracket it off into some lab where I don't have to listen to it anymore. It's so annoying. I can't think of a more frustrating, pointless, and endlessly unproductive discussion topic.

All over the radio and news today are cries about a Republican cabal that questions the legitimacy of the Obama presidency - from the birthers to the "you lie," to the guns at tea party protests.

Am I missing something here? These are the exact same tactics the Left used against Bush after the 2000 election. The exact questions of legitimacy and undermining the respect and authority deserved of the office. I agree it's completely dumb and petty on both sides - but why is racist when directed at Obama?
Team on the Rise

Next week will be the real test.

The San Francisco 49ers. No one has more pride in being a 49er than former receiver Jerry Rice. When I asked him recently what he thought of the job Mike Singletary is doing coaching his beloved former team, Rice's eyes lit up. It sure looks like Singletary’s decision to have his players practice in full pads for the entire duration of the two-a-days in training camp is paying off. As a hall of fame linebacker, Singletary must loving coaching a phenom like Patrick Willis. I can't wait to see what the 49ers do against a good Seahawks team this week.

The Seahawks crushed the Rams last week, so whoever wins has got to be considered the NFC West favorite. Shaun Hill somehow is 7-3 as an NFL starter. Don't ask me how. But it's the defense that is impressive. This isn't the 49ers of old who systematically dismantled opponents, but I'll take a scrappy, play-hard and above themselves type of team with a gutty QB who makes the other team hurt.
Most Appropriate Swayze Nostalgia Movie?

Leading Contenders:

Road House
Point Break
Red Dawn

Outside Shot:

Dirty Dancing
Next of Kin

Major Stretches:

To Wong Foo Thanks For Everything
Donnie Darko

Winner to be announced later today.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Why Entourage Sucks

There are so many reasons, big and small, but one glaring example came forth last night when Ari takes his abuse of Lloyd 9 steps too far. I was waiting for a Mr. Miyagi moment when Lloyd loses his shit and then Ari shows him wax on wax off was really teaching him defensive karate movies, but of course not. Ari just acts like a lunatic and Lloyd finally quits to go to a rival agency at 3 times the pay. Talk about an easy decision. Any normal, real human being would have quit ages ago and Ari would never dish it like that to a good assistant. A much more interesting angle would have been if Ari kept making empty promises and delaying Lloyd's promotion until Lloyd quit and then Ari tries to get him back or something along those lines. As is, I didn't believe either character's behavior and the plotting made the choices so beyond obvious.

And Drama's make-up was one of the dumber gags I can remember. God...Entourage is turning into Saved By the Bell, a stupid, yet somehow addictive show.
Buying A House

Seven tips on buying your first place.

I like this tip:

BUY BEST (OR CHEAPEST) All of these caveats have given rise to some unusual strategies. Michael Kalscheur, a financial planner with Castle Wealth Advisors in Indianapolis, suggests buying the dream house you covet (if you can afford it) or an inexpensive starter house but not anything in the middle.

“If people have their heart set on something, inevitably, if they can’t afford what they really want, they buy the next best thing,” he said. “That’s absolutely the worst thing you can do. Not only do you not get what you want, but it sucks you dry.”

Why? Well, if you buy that entry-level home instead of the silver-medal home, you can save a lot more money each month after making the house payment (as long as you’re disciplined) than you would if you were paying a big mortgage toward that next best house. And all of your other housing costs will be lower, too. Then, several years later, you’re in a much better position to buy what you actually want.

Niners are considering a new offer to Crabtree. Unfortunately, at this point, it's become a no-win situation. There is no way Crabtree can come in missing all of training camp and expect to be effective. The Niners are coming off a great beginning of the season road win against Arizona where the defense looked good and the offense totally pathetic save for one great drive. We need Crabtree, but not handling this early on in pre-season reflects why our organization is in the shithole. If we had Crabtree as a threat this year, we might be playoff contenders. Without? I'm not optimistic. Maybe 8-8. This is what you get when the owners give the reigns of the team to a 29 year old trust fund baby, their son. Jesus.

On Iran's behavior towards the US.

Ledeen concludes: "This of course has been the real issue all along, the issue nobody wants to talk about: they're killing us. They've been doing it for more than thirty years."
Now We're Talking

Ideas on how to control debt spending.

13 things that don't make sense.

Sometimes I think the career of a scientist must be similar to that of a screenwriter. Toiling away in obscurity, playing around with ideas/theories, occasional moments of grand discovery only to come back later and learn you were all wrong. But all in service of some type of deeper human understanding or progress...
Real Change: Legalize Drugs

I've never been in favor of it, but I'm definitely coming around.

Drugs are funding the Taliban and the death toll in Mexico last year - 4,000 drug deaths. Are you kidding me? That's like a low-level war.
Sorry Ass Defense

The soda can terrorist plot defense:

"The plot would have succeeded but for intervention of police and security services," he said, rejecting a defense argument that the men would have failed to get the chemistry right and actually blow up planes.

We were actually too stupid to pull this off, so we should be free. I'm not sold.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Fight! Fight! Fight!

Do it.
Tila Tequila

I usually do a good job of zoning out these stories, but somehow I got trapped into this one by this tagline:

A request for a foursome was what lead to Shawne Merriman and Tila Tequila’s alleged fight last weekend. Tequila threatened to sleep with one of the NFL star’s friends after arriving home to find him with two women in their bed – and being asked to join in. Merriman is accused of attempting to choke Tequila after she made the threat.

Everyone involved was certainly drunk and/or high. Merriman says he was trying to restrain crazy Tequila from driving home. Or was he trying to choke her for threatening to sleep with his buddies? By the way - this is an incredible threat - because it is totally believable a) that she would do it b) his friends would do it and c) it would make him very angry. Hilarious.

For the record, prior to this story, I did not know who Tila Tequila is. And I'm still confused about her fame. Nowadays you can get famous for simply acting crazy. I love it.
My New Hero

"I Will Not Read Your Fucking Script." Hat tip, Naveen.

Which brings us to an ugly truth about many aspiring screenwriters: They think that screenwriting doesn't actually require the ability to write, just the ability to come up with a cool story that would make a cool movie. Screenwriting is widely regarded as the easiest way to break into the movie business, because it doesn't require any kind of training, skill or equipment. Everybody can write, right? And because they believe that, they don't regard working screenwriters with any kind of real respect. They will hand you a piece of inept writing without a second thought, because you do not have to be a writer to be a screenwriter.

With all the digital video equipment these days, the same can be said of filmmakers. One of my parents friends kids did a 30 minute short film and sent it to me. It took me weeks to get around to watching it and sure enough, it was unwatchable. I labored over trying to give notes, but the fact is, there weren't notes to give. The best note was - try again. All I could do was reimagine how I might conceive of the idea or theme or how a great filmmaker might deal with the take or theme. I wrote to him an email about experimental film and tossed in remarks/thoughts on Chris Marker and further thoughts on narrative and non-narrative filmmaking and challenges in both. I told him we do as lit agents in Hollywood and what has market value here, etc, etc. Yes, I got no real response or thanks. The dude just wanted an agent. So who's the fucking dick?
Sadness and Happiness

A breakdown of Americans.

In broad strokes, the happiest Americans are older, richer and living out in California. The least healthy are middle-aged, lower-middle-class, and southern. Why?

Dig into the numbers and you begin to see some interesting gaps in well-being. The healthy behavior index is almost 10 percent higher in the West compared with the Midwest and South (68 vs. 63.3, 63.1, respectively.) Separated couples have a low 56.2 overall well-being rating, compared with married couples' 69.4. Asians lead all ethnicities.

Can I hear a woop, woop for old Californian Asians! I guess I just need to stay alive, stay married, get rich, and stay in California and happiness will be mine. Shouldn't be too hard.
The Vikings

I didn't realize Percy Harvin is on the Vikings as well. Are you effing kidding me? Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin and Brett Favre...jesus...this team is going to be watchable. I'd enjoy just watching Harvin and Peterson in a 40 yard footrace. Who wins?

**PS**I'm on the record as calling Favre the most overrated quarterback in history. But that's not to say the guy isn't watchable. He is. He does crazy shit - good and bad. I just think ESPN highlights the good and tends to ignore the bad. The man is not better than Kurt Warner. But no one calls Kurt Warner one of best of all time.
9/11 Article

"What 9/11 Taught Me About Human Nature."

The article is all over the place, but nonetheless interesting. I wrote about something similar the other day with respect to terrorism/facebook/etc:

Mohammed Atta surely didn't think slamming a plane into one of the Twin Towers was going to make Bush go down on his knees before Osama Bin Laden. What he knew was that being part of Bin Laden's network gave his life meaning.

There's some of that kind of sentiment in all of us. Independent thought will always be the exception, regardless of levels of education. It fascinates me, frustrates me and scares me all at the same time--but it no longer surprises me. It's why 9/11 no longer perplexes me. With modern technology, it was only a matter of time, and its like will happen here again.

It's true. The tribal member in all of us is a scary beast. It is easy to forget, but this is in our biology, in our brain, instincts, and mind. You see it sporting events - playing or watching - you see it in international relations, in domestic political debates, in competitive business, or games. It is everywhere and unchangeable. We cannot undo the way our minds evolved. It is there inside everyone. And with the exponential growth of technology it is only a matter of time before larger and more heinous attacks of the tribal sort occur again.

On another note -

More indicative to me were two American academic colleagues who sincerely believed that we should not invade Afghanistan, and that our response to attack should be pacifism.

Their sense seemed to be that America owes the world passivity in the face of attack because of our power, as well as our less honorable moments on the world scene. This struck me as a deeply sophisticated position. Yet I couldn't help wondering whether they or like-minded people would be able to wangle that magisterial brand of mental equipoise as they cradled their mother's corpse in the smoking ruins of an Amtrak bombing.

With perhaps insufficient faith, I suspected not--the primum mobile, one sensed, was the comfort of a higher wisdom rather than pure A-to-B logic.

Strange as this may sound, I had a similar thought right after 9/11. What if our response had been pacifism? Was it that once-in-a-lifetime moment where America could demonstrate an ability to "let-go" of an incredible grievance and thereby give the world an opportunity to do the same? Could the Arabs have their pride back for a moment and graciously "forgive" the Jews and the West and everyone all around the world decide to move forward?

If my 31 year old self heard my 23 year old self propose this theory I would laugh in my face. And then I would calmly retell the tale of the scorpion and the frog:

The story is about a scorpion asking a frog to carry him across a river. The frog is afraid of being stung, but the scorpion reassures him that if it stung the frog, the frog would sink and the scorpion would drown as well. The frog then agrees; nevertheless, in mid-river, the scorpion stings him, dooming the two of them. When asked why, the scorpion explains, "I'm a scorpion; it's my nature."

When I was 23, I thought most humans were the frog and the tale was meant as a warning about trusting bad people. Now...I think most humans are the scorpion, a tragic species trapped by our own base instincts.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Healthcare and Cost

Thanks to Vondy, I just read a good New Yorker article about why healthcare costs are skyrocketing in some places and work fine in others.

It's a good article because it gets away from the dramatic - why can't we be like Canada or Japan/everyone deserves healthcare vs. death panels/public insurance is going to ruin America kind of discussion. It focuses on what works and what doesn't in the American system and why some regions have expensive healthcare and others don't. It makes a lot of common sense.

The most fascinating part, to me, of the article deals with the concept of the anchor tenant, because the implications are much larger than the healthcare question.

Woody Powell is a Stanford sociologist who studies the economic culture of cities. Recently, he and his research team studied why certain regions—Boston, San Francisco, San Diego—became leaders in biotechnology while others with a similar concentration of scientific and corporate talent—Los Angeles, Philadelphia, New York—did not. The answer they found was what Powell describes as the anchor-tenant theory of economic development. Just as an anchor store will define the character of a mall, anchor tenants in biotechnology, whether it’s a company like Genentech, in South San Francisco, or a university like M.I.T., in Cambridge, define the character of an economic community. They set the norms. The anchor tenants that set norms encouraging the free flow of ideas and collaboration, even with competitors, produced enduringly successful communities, while those that mainly sought to dominate did not.

The article goes on to talk about the Mayo Clinic and other successful regional healthcare systems vs. unsuccessful regional healthcare systems like McAllen, Tx.

Understanding healthcare on this level gives me little reason to believe a huge Washington bill is going to influence the system one way or the other. Rather, it seems like a set of localized strategies to combat ridiculous systemic practices such as bribery and incentives for doctors to give too much care is a much smarter solution. This is not dissimilar to what happened in Iraq in 2008...while all the politicians in Washington fretted about a grand national bargain between Sunni and Shiaa political groups to end the near Civil War, what actually ended up working were a series of small local deals that grew in number where Sunni groups simply decided to take on Al Queda on their own and solicited American support. It wasn't a top-down solution at all, but rather a bottom-up solution.

The person that figures out to work this in healthcare is going to be an unsung hero. Like the dude Bill Simmons lionizes for creating the shot clock in basketball, the man who created the sandwich, and whoever first allowed us to turn right on a red light...these guys aren't rich or famous, but they made the world a whole hell of a lot better. We need guys like that in every community to fix small rules with huge implications. Like the dude who invented Settlers of Catan. I say just bring him in to McAllen, Tx and all the lame places, pay him a million bucks and go with whatever he recommends. I swear it'd probably work.
Kaus on Healthcare Speech

Pretty interesting commentary. Money bits:

[W]e've estimated that most of this plan can be paid for by finding savings within the existing health care system

Reducing the waste and inefficiency in Medicare and Medicaid will pay for most of this plan ..

a) Does anyone really believe this--that is, if you define waste and inefficiency as things that don't actually help improve your health, as opposed to things that might improve your health marginally but aren't worth the cost? b) Specifically, does the average Medicare recipient feel that the system that he enjoys is rife with waste, inefficiency, fraud, and abuse? I suspect not. This seems like the greatest point of vulnerability in the speech. ... Faced with the need to choose between a) alarming centrist budget hawks concerned about deficits driven by rising health costs and b) alarming seniors concerned about the measures that might be taken to control rising health costs, Obama chose to pretend the problem didn't exist (though he did throw budget hawks a crude procedural bone--see #9 below). ...

Is it just me or does this whole idea sound crazy? Just fixing inefficiencies, really? That sounds like a McCain idea. If the government has all these inefficiencies and waste within their own systems, what do you need a big bill for? Why not just fix the inefficiencies and waste? I'm confused.
Newt On Healthcare

Newt is better when he's the feisty opposition. His idea on healthcare - rather than having one huge omnibus bill that tries to solve everything at once (for an industry that is 18% of the US Economy) is to do 4-5 smaller bills that tackle one issue at a time. One bill on tort reform. One bill on rules governing preexisting conditions and insurance. One bill addressing the uninsured. One bill fixing Medicare's unfunded liability.

This idea is makes a lot more sense to me. I suppose from Obama's perspective, he does not gain as much politically by doing it incrementally and can argue none of the pieces will work independently of one another.

To bring it back to my own life, experience, etc...doing one huge healthcare bill would be the equivalent of trying to start a movie studio...whereas Newt's suggestion would be more along the lines - write a good script, then make a good directing reel, produce a feature film, raise a fund, etc, etc. Do it in steps rather than all at once.
Fair Point

I only heard clips of Obama's speech, but I couldn't stand listening to the applause over these exact bits Hinderaker is talking about.

JOHN HINDERAKER: Obama’s Speech — Did It Help Him? “I’m not sure whether Obama and his handlers understand how this sort of talk grates on those of us who are not liberal Democrats (a large majority of the country). Debating public policy issues is not ‘bickering.’ Disagreeing with a proposal to radically change one of the largest sectors of our economy is not a ‘game.’ This kind of gratuitous insult–something we never heard from President Bush, for example–is one of the reasons why many consider Obama to be mean-spirited.”

Wednesday, September 09, 2009


Does exercise not help you lose weight?

The basic problem is that while it's true that exercise burns calories and that you must burn calories to lose weight, exercise has another effect: it can stimulate hunger. That causes us to eat more, which in turn can negate the weight-loss benefits we just accrued. Exercise, in other words, isn't necessarily helping us lose weight. It may even be making it harder.

Whenever I exercise, I am hungrier.
Is It Possible To Be A Moral Coward?

A clip from VDH's new column:

There is a strange pseudo-culture in America, of which Obama is a perfect example. Millionaire Michael Moore announces, “Capitalism is evil” as he hypes promotion of his moneymaking new movie. Oliver Stones praises Chavez, as the dictator shuts down voices of dissent—yet Stone himself could not make a movie in Venezuela as he does here. So too the murderer Che becomes a popular T-shirt emblem among the college elite.

I was thinking this last night as I watched an interview with an author of a new biography on Curtis LeMay. The author quoted Robert McNamara who said "LeMay is the best strategic general in American history." For those who don't know about LeMay, his story is either one of horror or awe.

In WW2, LeMay was the youngest general in the Armed Services and a member of the Air Force. He is the only American general who led out in front of his troops. By that I mean, when we first started bombing Germany, he literally flew the lead plane to targets. This would be the equivalent of the first man through the door in a police raid. And these weren't easy assignments. Early in the war, inexperienced American pilots fought the Luftwaffe (the best air force in the world at the time) and lost men at a greater rate than the Marines in the Pacific later on in the war. Due to his success against Germany, later in the War he was moved to the Pacific Theater (the only general to fight in both theaters). It was his plan to fire bomb Toyko (the most human deaths in a single night in world history). It was his mission to deliver the bomb. Both times.

Because he was so young, his career didn't end after WW2 like most generals. He created the strategic air command, the round-the-clock bombers carrying nuclear weapons near Soviet airspace who were the front line deterrent against the Soviets. He basically created the concept of Mutually Assured Destruction. Because the Soviets had a much stronger conventional army in the 40s-60s than anyone in Europe, this was the principle line of defense against Soviet aggression. And the Soviets knew - after bearing witness to Toyko and Hiroshima and Nagasaki - that with LeMay around, America would drop the bomb if sufficiently provoked. Many believe - reasonably - this is a reason the Soviets didn't try any major acts of military aggression in the late 40s-60s.

So here you have a guy who arguably saved a million American lives (the estimated death toll of an mainland invasion of Japan), considerably assisted defeating the Nazi regime - arguably the most terrifying army/regime in the history of the world, and may be the person most singularly responsible for keeping mainland Europe free from Soviet rule. At the time he was a hero, per his profile in the New Yorker, being on the cover of Time Magazine, etc. But how do most people in elite liberal enclaves know/picture him? The buffoonish spoof of LeMay from DR. STRANGELOVE, played by George C. Scott. Or as the mass-murdering tyrant of the Japanese.

Now, I'm a fan of DR. STRANGELOVE as a movie, although the first time I saw it as a college student, I found it a bit dated. But it does get me making an anti-war film like DR. STRANGELOVE an act of moral cowardice? Is it the equivalent of biting the hand that feeds you? Is it cowardly to mock the person who saves/protects you?

I suppose you can argue back and forth whether LeMay is that guy. And you can argue a movie is a movie and freedom of expression and all that...but thinking of Inglorious Basterds and the Goebbels filmmaking machine and Leni Riefenstahl, etc, it does not seem to me movies are completely out of the realm of moral inquiry. Certainly a movie can be immoral - the Riefenstahl movies are easy examples, so what does it say about a filmmaker who lives and operates in a world protected literally by LeMay who in turn mocks him and profiteers from the mocking?

Sure, it is satire, but does satirizing make one immune to moral questions?

LeMay himself is famous for saying, "if we'd lost the war, we'd all be on trial for war crimes." Little did he know, even though we won, his actions would still be on trial.

I'd buy the album.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Still Detoxing

Maybe had the hardest day at work today since I started...couple it with being dehydrated still from a long weekend in the desert...and well...I didn't blog. Hopefully something will come soon.

A highlight of trip - US Soccer defeating El Salvador in Utah. An exciting game. US is a superior team and won, despite an early El Salvador goal. The soccer-only stadium in Sandy, UT is pretty damn awesome.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Terrorism and Glamor and Facebook (read to find out how I connect)

Virginia Postrel writes about The Baader-Meinhof Complex, a movie glamorizing the West German terrorist group from the 1960s.

Forget the movie for a moment (which I will be seeing) -

These contradictory reactions reflect an uncomfortable fact about terrorism and political extremism: To the right audience, they can be very glamorous. They promise purity and meaning, attention and fame and a sense of belonging. Evil does not always appear ugly and unappealing. It can even be sexy.

This is most certainly true and helps to explain the appeal of extreme political violence. It is equally clear that there is some connection between the conditions of modern life - hyper consumer and sexual culture, scientific and technological progress, etc - that encourages an extreme reactionary/terrorist impulse. In short, the terrorist seeks virtue and a spiritual purity and generally eschews the comforts and expectations of the modern world.

I will not argue the terrorist has a point. He does not. He is delusional and seeks a simple answer. His answer is wrong, but his questions are not (at least not entirely). His discontent with the modern world is not his alone.

The modern world provides many things - entertainment, longer/healthier lives, good and plenty food, shelter, in short, many material comforts. It does not, however, give meaning. It does not help us answer the question: what is the point? And while it does provide some tools, those tools are no more sophisticated than those of our forefathers. Especially if you consider the rate at which scientific technology progresses, the rate of say, moral progress is actually quite pathetic. We're not much further in those terms than in the 1800s, after the American/French revolutions and Marx/JS Mill/Kant, ie the harm principle, the categorical imperative, and Marx's critique of capitalism.

Facebook is the ultimate expression of this meaninglessness. It is a world reduced to small endless cocktail party of nonsense and pointless babble. It is the movie equivalent of watching un-edited dailies over and over to the point of nausea. It is picture after picture, message after message, data after data of all the small and petty and worthless moments of every day life. It is the repetition of running daily errands and brushing teeth and doing online shopping. It is completely and totally unsatisfying. It is filling up on snack food and watching only commercials and topping it all off with sour patch kids. It is not interpersonal relationships. It is advertising. It is "selling" yourself to others. It has nothing to do with friendship and everything to do with "friendship," as a marketing tool. It takes what should not have a monetary value and attempts to monetize it. It is shameful and frivolous. Users are part customer, part billboard model. It promises meaning and connections and does not actually try to deliver it. It's only goal is to collect enough data on you to sell you stuff one day. That's it. If it provided what it advertised, you would cease to use it.

It is the flipside of the terrorist seeking virtue. It is a spiraling descent into complete meaninglessness whereas the terrorist believes one act of virtue will render himself heroic and pure and give all that which came before him (and after him) meaning.

I abhor both. In my perfect world, all the terrorists would endlessly play with themselves on facebook.