Monday, March 30, 2009

Do Nations Go To War Over Water?


Bushfire Jihad?

Daniel Pipes suggests the recent catastrophic wildfires in Australia were actually set by (guess who?) Islamists. When you've got a hammer...

Cold War Redux

Juan Cole thinks Obama's Afghanistan policy is a 21st century version of domino theory: "This latter-day domino theory of al-Qaida takeovers in South Asia is just as implausible as its earlier iteration in Southeast Asia (ask Thailand or the Philippines)." But it's not really a question of plausibility - it's a question of whether you can afford to ignore the implausible.

Corruption, Arrogance, Impunity

If you have ever found yourself wondering "how does machine politics really work?," read this.

China's High-Tech "Death Van"

If it was used by the Nazis, then it must be just the ticket for cost-savings and efficiency:

The Nazis used adapted vans as mobile gas chambers from 1940 until the end of World War II. In order to make the best use of time spent transporting criminals and Jewish prisoners, Hitler's scientists developed the vehicles with a hermetically sealed cabin that was filled with carbon monoxide carried by a tube from the exhaust pipes.

The vans were first tested on child patients in a Polish psychiatric hospital in 1940. The Nazis then developed bigger models to carry up to 50 prisoners. They looked like furniture removal vans. Those to be killed were ordered to hand over their valuables, then stripped and locked inside.

As gas was pumped into the container and the van headed towards graves being dug by other prisoners, the muffled cries of those inside could be heard, along with banging on the side.

With the 'cargo' dead, all that remained was for gold fillings to be hacked from the victims' mouths, before the bodies were tipped into the graves.

Now, six decades later, just like the Nazis, China insists these death vans are 'progress'.

The vans save money on building execution facilities in prisons or courts. And they mean that prisoners can be executed locally, closer to communities where they broke the law.


"Nature in an Age of Global Warming." Book rec of the day.

A Sequel To PNAC?


Catching Fox in the Act


In Case You Missed It...

... NPR's This American Life did a great piece about "what it really looks like when a bank fails and is taken over by the FDIC."

California Republican Gubernatorial Candidates Run Away From Arnold's Record


Ten Things You Didn't Know About Barney Frank


5) In 1980, Pope John Paul II ordered all Roman Catholic priests to withdraw from electoral politics. Father Robert Drinan, who represented the Fourth Congressional District in Massachusetts, complied. More than a dozen local politicians eyed the seat. Frank narrowly won the election. His slogan was "Neatness Isn't Everything," a reference to his rumpled wardrobe.

Boom and Bust in the RV Industry

Thank god for election campaigns or they'd really be in trouble.

Where the Unemployment Rate is 41%


Saturday, March 28, 2009

Poll Shows Dem Leading in NY-20

Bad news for Michael Steele... or is it part of his master plan?

Churchill On The Hot Seat

Ron Kampeas argues that Caryl Churchill's "Seven Jewish Children" is more nuanced than its critics want to admit, but still anti-semitic. You can listen to a reading of the play on New York radio station WBAI here.

What Role Should Voluntary Programs Play at EPA?


Mission Accomplished

Firedoglake rounds up some appallingly wrong and short-sighted commentary by Bush apologists on Afghanistan. Via Sullivan.

Cool Pics of Alaska's Mount Redoubt


Underground Economy Is Suffering, Too

Forbes profiles underground-economy sociologist Sudhir Venkatesh:

One conclusion of Venkatesh's work is that the underground and mainstream economies are intimately entwined. "The boundaries are fluid, particularly in the global city where the black market has become instrumental--one might even say vital--to the overall economy," he says. In New York City illegal workers serve sex, drugs and takeout to the wealthiest members of society--or at least they did until financial sector layoffs began in 2008.

The underground economy includes a vast array of people providing services that are off the books but otherwise legal. Venkatesh enumerates those having a harder time in the face of the recession: office cleaners, squeegee men, informal security guards, "canners" who scavenge for recyclables (there's less consumption now, so less to recycle) and nannies whose employers have been laid off. And as business contracts, underground workers face certain problems unique to their status. They have no unemployment insurance or other benefits, and, with little protection from law enforcement, they tend to resolve disputes by physical means.

When Ways of Life Collide

"Multiculturalism and Its Discontents in the Netherlands." Book rec of the day.

Responding to Jake DeSantis

Matt Taibbi:

Like a lot of people, I read Wednesday's New York Times editorial by former AIG Financial Products employee Jake DeSantis, whose resignation letter basically asks us all to reconsider our anger toward the poor overworked employees of his unit.

DeSantis has a few major points. They include: 1) I had nothing to do with my boss Joe Cassano's toxic credit default swaps portfolio, and only a handful of people in our unit did; 2) I didn't even know anything about them; 3) I could have left AIG for a better job several times last year; 4) but I didn't, staying out of a sense of duty to my poor, beleaguered firm, only to find out in the end that; 5) I would be betrayed by AIG senior management, who promised we would be rewarded for staying, but then went back on their word when they folded in highly cowardly fashion in the face of an angry and stupid populist mob.

I have a few responses to those points. They are 1) Bullshit; 2) bullshit; 3) bullshit, plus of course; 4) bullshit. Lastly, there is 5) Boo-Fucking-Hoo. You dog.

A New 'Sort-of Sport'


Something To Do in Greater Los Angeles

At the Huntington Museum:

Lecture, "Mind the Gap: Did Darwin really avoid publishing his theory of evolution for 20 years?"
April 10 (Friday) 7:30 p.m. Free
It is widely believed that Charles Darwin avoided publishing his theory of evolution for many years because he was afraid of the consequences. John van Whye, director of The Complete Works of Darwin Online at Cambridge University, will discuss how "Darwin's delay" is a recent historiographical theme for which there is no clear evidence. Van Whye will show that Darwin did not keep his belief in evolution a secret. Thus, van Whye believes, a fundamental chapter in the story of Darwin's life and work needs to be re-written. No reservations required.

Michael Steele's Jedi Mind Tricks

Apparently the Limbaugh gaffe, followed by the pathetic Limbaugh groveling gaffe, were part of Steele's master-plan. Are these people (Bachmann, Palin, Steele) being paid by George Soros?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Party Like It's 1849


Follow Lance Armstrong As He Goes Into Surgery...


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Who Was At The Britney Spears Concert in Washington Last Night?

Eric Cantor, among others... (Well, I guess you can't accuse him of pandering to his party's "family values" evangelical base.)

Mississippi Bans Red-Light Cameras

Perhaps they confused them with red-light districts? While the usefulness of red-light cameras has not been empirically established, it seems silly to ban them outright... couldn't individual communities be left to make their own decision? P.S. Rage against the machine! It's bad enough that angry drivers are bashing in red-light cameras, but hit-and-running municipal tax collectors? I think it's safe to say that's crossing the line.

Mark Twain & AIG

Now-famous resigned AIG exec Jake Desantis apparently lives on the old Mark Twain estate in Redding, Conn. What would ol' Sam Clemens have had to say about the AIG mess?

The Most Boring NCAA Tournament Ever?



It does seem that Twitter has been getting a lot of attention lately in TV talk show interviews... is this just a coincidence? A good product with good word of mouth? Kaus is skeptical. P.S. A vast conspiracy indeed!

The Truth About Mexico

A website rises to Mexico's defense. Via Radosh.


It's not looking good for Republican Arlen Specter at the moment. (Democrat or Independent Arlen Specter, now that's a different story.) EFCA is an impossible issue for him -- he's pretty much damned either way he goes, losing the right in the primary if he votes for, and losing some critical union support in the general if he votes against. Like Linc Chafee in 2006, the guy's got so many problems it's hard not to root for him on some level, though of course rooting for and actually voting for are completely different things.

Polo - Not Just For Aristocrats Anymore


2012 Republican Presidential Nominee Bracketology

How the hell did Alan Keyes make it into the tourney?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Behold The Bachmann Effect

The Minnesota congresswoman -- who makes Sarah Palin look like Ken Jennings -- has a talent for eliciting exasperated looks.

Hitting All The Cliches

Alex Beam is tired of the "Why Blah Blah Matters" concept. How about "Letters to a Young Blah Blah About Why Blah Blah Matters"?

Leonard Cohen


Homeless People and Cell Phones

Some conservatives were apparently outraged that some people receiving a meal at the soup kitchen where Michelle Obama has been volunteering recently were photographed with cell phones... as it turns out, social services professionals say 30-45% of the homeless people they work with have cell phones, and without the phones these folks would have much less of a chance of getting back on their feet.

The El Al Collectibles "Museum"

Collector Marvin Goldman has an estimated 10,000 artifacts related to Israel's national airline. (Speaking of little museums, a couple weeks ago I got a chance to see the by-appointment-only US Presidential Museum in Worcester, Massaschusetts -- assembled by businessman and collector Francis Carroll and located at his company's headquarters on Main St. It's one of the largest collections of US Presidential memorabilia in private hands -- and curiously interspersed with fine Japanese lacquer and wall hangings.)

Giant Penis Drawing Visible in Google Earth

The likes of Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin are paid millions of dollars to do things only half as clever as this.

Rejected-resume site featured on NPR yesterday...

Is Nicolas Cage The Worst Movie Star Alive?

Christopher Orr:

Since Cage won his Oscar for 1995's Leaving Las Vegas, just 8 of the 23 films he's starred in (6, according to "top critics") have been certified "fresh" [according to movie review site]. This is entering the territory of stopped clocks and monkeys with typewriters. Moreover, this dismal record isn't limited to a single genre, a la Dolph Lundgren or Pauly Shore; rather, Cage has stunk in superhero flicks (Ghost Rider), war movies (Windtalkers), romances (Captain Corelli's Mandolin), caper films (Gone in 60 Seconds), gritty thrillers (8 MM), and horror-mysteries (Wicker Man). He is truly a man who can do all wrong.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Death of the English Pub?

American-born Londoner Michael Goldfarb:

Rural life is unrecognizable from 20 years ago and British drinking habits have undergone a sea change, as well. Both of these factors have led to a crisis for British pubs. Thirty-nine a week are going out of business forever.

And the bad news is accelerating. The numbers were awful before the recession kicked in, but now they are brutal. In the last quarter of 2008 sales of beer were off by almost 10 percent in pubs, according to figures from the British Beer and Pub Association. Now politicians are becoming alarmed about the future of an industry that employs upwards of half a million people.

If the pub business is going down the tubes, the Welsh rarebit and pickled egg industry can't be far behind.

Fox News's "Special Olympics" Moment

That's what you get for insulting Canada.

Extreme Nerdiness Meets Patio Man


Potato: A History of the Propitious Esculent


Why Faith Communities Should Start Gardens

Here and here. It's not just about "nutrition," as Michelle Obama would have us believe (though her efforts are certainly welcome). It is about reclaiming a connection with land and labor. It is about pe'ah. It is about preparing for transition beyond the era of cheap oil.

Religious Toleration

With Tony Blair on hand, Jordan opens the Baptism Centre for Christian pilgrims:

Tony Blair, founder of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, was present alongside the Baptist World Alliance, HRH Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad of Jordan, and others, in the dedication of the new Baptism Centre in Jordan, where he highlighted the need for openness to religious diversity.

The Centre is located on the bank of the River Jordan on land close to the region known as Bethany beyond Jordan, where it is traditionally believed that John the Baptist baptized Jesus Christ. The Centre will be available particularly for use by all Christian traditions that practice the believers' baptism by immersion.

Tony Blair said, "It took courage and leadership for Jordan to facilitate this site of baptism, here by this ancient river. But it took more. It took the same spirit that animated John and Jesus, and the Prophet Mohammed and all the Prophets of old. Each took the world as it was - alienated from God - and tried to make it how it should be - reconciled to God Justice, mercy, compassion, the 'us'' not the 'me', pure unselfish love. This is what they stood for."

New J Street Poll

"69 percent [of American Jews]... support the U.S. working with a unified Hamas-Fatah Palestinian Authority government to achieve a peace agreement with Israel, even when informed that the U.S. does not recognize Hamas due to its status as a terrorist organization and its refusal to recognize Israel. Interestingly, a March poll conducted by the Truman Institute at Hebrew University reported that 69 percent of Israelis also think Israel should negotiate with a joint Hamas-Fatah government." Read more. And despite the economic shitpile, J Street is planning to double in size this year.

32 Under Par For 72 Holes


Cast Lead Context

I'm just now getting to Ethan Bronner's important article in the NYT over the weekend about the religious war taking place in the Israeli army. This war is the context into which the recently published soldiers' testimonies about abuses in Operation Cast Lead have emerged, and unfortunately suggests that the whole issue of human rights in the territories and military rules of engagement will become even more hopelessly politicized than before.

Schlimazel Alert

Good god, who runs into a deer while riding a bicycle?

Too Big To Fail

Contra Paul Krugman, Kaus believes that "Obama is too big to fail."

Todd & Sarah & John & Greta

How can Greta Van Susteren pretend to be a journalist while maintaining a wink wink relationship with the Palins? How can Sarah Palin rant about media bias when she and hubby Todd are like fellow members of a swingers club with Greta and John Coale, sharing each others' dirty secrets? Geoffrey Dunn pens the definitive smackdown.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Paging Bobby Jindal


Rebuffing Buffett

Is it just me, or was Obama's comment about Warren Buffett on 60 Minutes earlier tonight - to the effect that Buffett's recent criticism of the Administration is motivated by his personal financial stake in Wells Fargo -- not likely to win him any friends in the Buffett household?

Reserving Judment, Sort of

I don't really want to comment on this story until all the facts are in, but I concur with Jeffrey Goldberg's point that the oft-heard lament of Israeli government spokesmen that all Israel needs is better hasbara has perhaps never seemed more beside the point.

How Do You Amputate A Phantom Limb?

Mind over matter:

One of Ramachandran's patients complained that he was suffering from an excruciating cramping in his phantom arm. He felt that his phantom hand was clenched so tightly, he could feel his fingernails digging into his phantom palm. The patient was in no way delusional. He knew his arm had been amputated and that the pain was emanating from a nonexistent limb. Yet his grasp of this reality was no match for his perceived pain.

Ramachandran came up with an unusual treatment. He placed a mirror in a cardboard box and instructed the patient to place his existing hand inside the box, next to the mirror. When the patient looked down at the mirror, the reflection of his existing hand stood in as a visual replacement of his phantom limb. The patient was told to imagine that the reflection was in fact the lost limb, and to practice clenching and unclenching his hand while looking in the mirror.

To the patient's surprise — and Ramachandran's — the illusion worked. After two weeks, the patient's pain vanished, along with his perception of a phantom arm.

How To Pay For a Global Climate Deal


Modernity's Graveyard of Languages

The Economist has an excellent chart. "In America, 53 languages have become extinct since 1950, more than in any other country." Does that include George Bush's crucification of the English language for the last eight years?

The Recession and Golf

George Kirsch:

During the 1930s thousands of golfers who could no longer afford club dues patronized semiprivate and public facilities, which were generally in a sorry state of neglect. Today’s municipal courses are in better shape, but some could use sprucing up. It remains to be seen whether the Obama administration will include funds for renovation of municipal links in its proposed public works legislation. Under Franklin D. Roosevelt, during its first two years (1935-37) the Works Progress Administration spent more than ten million dollars on 368 public courses nationwide, including sixty-two new facilities. This year, infrastructure projects such as bridges, tunnels, highways, and mass transit as well as schools and other worthy construction projects deserve priority over recreational facilities. But a modest sum might still be allocated for parks and public golf courses. After all, spending a few hours on a well maintained, beautiful, and relatively inexpensive public course might provide a welcome diversion for unemployed golfers.

Now there may be some who argue that using stimulus money to groom the local muni is pork-barrel spending. Don't listen to them.

The Cattell Controversy: Race, Science, Ideology


Sunni-Shia Biker War in Australia

"An ancient religious enmity is at the centre of a new conflict in the Sydney bikie scene, with a new gang comprised mainly of Sunni Muslims warring with a group of bikies with a Shiite Muslim background. While detectives continue to investigate the February 4 bombing of a Hells Angels clubhouse in Crystal Street, Petersham, police and other sources are indicating that the city chapter of the Comanchero is involved in an escalating feud with a new club, Notorious." Read the whole thing. P.S. The situation seems to be getting increasingly out of control. P.P.S. Radosh says the term "bikie" makes Mad Max seem a lot less cool.

Friday, March 20, 2009

About To Go Platinum (Or Plutonium?)

An original rap about the large hadron collider.

No Prophet At Home

But apparently they love Howard Dean in England!

Tai Chi Scooter


Los Angeles Says "Happy Birthday, Xenu!"

The financial situation may be tough at City Hall, but never too tough to waive special-event fees for L. Ron Hubbard's birthday celebration.

Highways To Nowhere

Bridge to nowhere
Originally uploaded by jimcnb
Seven ridiculous new roads being built with stimulus money.

Portable Potty Pyromaniac

Or "toilet torcher" if you prefer... (How much do you want to bet he will tell the judge he was doing performance art?)

It's On!

Special Olympian challenges Obama to a bowl-off...

Moons of Saturn


Believe in Something! Even If It's Wrong! Believe in It!

Glenn Beck's new slogan for Fox News.

Awesome Seattle Crosswalk


Hunting Eichmann

"How a Band of Survivors and a Young Spy Agency Chased Down the World's Most Notorious Nazi." Book rec of the day.

The Case for Legalizing Urban Chickens

"Chicks are hot thanks to the sustainable food/eat local movement, which is pushing to legalize city hens across the country. Due to the rise in organic food consumption and the growing locavore trend, city farmers on Web sites such as and are reporting a nation-wide run on baby chicks. Meanwhile more and more cities including Madison, Wis., and Cleveland, Ohio, are legalizing and regulating urban chickens after lobbying by environmentally conscious urbanites." Read the whole thing. Are chickens next on Michelle Obama's list?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Porn-Politics Nexus

An interview with the star of Who's Nailin Paylin: Adventures of a Hockey MILF. And in case you were wondering, yes, there will be a sequel.

AIG Reality Check


For Mature Audiences Only

I heard something about Dan Aykroyd's winery on the news this morning and went to his website -- apparently you have to be over 18 just to enter the site.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

You'll Definitely Want to Bookmark This

Ayatollah Khamenei joins Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the blogosphere.

Uncertainty is For Douches!

Short Jeff Goldberg: If you aren't 100% certain that Iran has a burning desire to nuke Israel no matter what the consequences, you're Neville Chamberlain. With these sources you can take it to the bank!

A Shitty Economy is the Mother of Invention?


Malibu Residents Upset at Bob Dylan's Outhouse


Sucking Up to the Spandex Crowd

Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood sucks up to bicyclists on his blog... though the name of the blog, as a bike-advocate friend of mine points out, is working against him.

Takes One To Know One

Gavin Newsom gets all metrosexual with Ryan Seacrest.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Bill O'Reilly Talkin' Sexy


The Day Wall Street Exploded


Holy Bagels!

In a single blog post, Andrew Sullivan compares Israel to both South Africa AND the Jim Crow South!

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Sinister Side

"How Left-Right Symbolism Shaped Western Art." Book rec of the day.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Anti-Zionism Isn't Anti-Semitism

Judea Pearl, the father of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, says anti-Zionism isn't anti-semitism: it's worse. (The piece is clearly intended as a counterpoint to this - or maybe vice versa.)

During Recessions Do Men Want Plumper Women?


A Nation of Purple States


How China Conquered the Art World

Arne Glimcher: "During the Cultural Revolution, the Politburo directed the Red Guards to vanquish the 'four olds'—old ideas, old culture, old customs, and old habits. In doing so they created an aesthetic vacuum waiting to be filled by foreign influence." Unintended consequences!

Areas Worst Affected by Global Sea Rise

Thankfully it's not like a major population center or anything... oh wait!

He's Baaaack!

Michael "Heckuva job, Brownie" Brown shows up... in New Orleans!

'Waltz With Bashir' Is A Hit in Beirut


Madoff's Willing Executioners

Michael Hiltzik:

What hasn't been widely reported is that Markopolos also pointed the finger at numerous eminent financial institutions, including Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase & Co., suggesting that their option-trading bosses almost certainly knew that Madoff's strategy was a sham. Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch reportedly warned some clients not to invest with Madoff. Yet none alerted the SEC or warned the investing public, at least not forcefully enough to get Madoff shut down before his scheme buckled under its own weight. JPMorgan Chase Chairman James Dimon groused in a speech last week that bankers were being unfairly "vilified" for the financial crisis. Let's hear him defend his firm's silence in this case.

There's No Place Like Home


Even A Broken Clock...

Peter Schiff, whom the Ron Paulistas would like to challenge embattled Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd, insists that the very existence of the SEC enabled Bernie Madoff:

I mean, look, we've got the SEC. Get rid of it! ... Look at Bernie Madoff. People have gotten their life savings destroyed with Wall Street with the SEC protecting them, with FINRA protecting them. What the hell do we need these entities for? Get out of it. Let the free market function. Let the people do more due diligence. I'm sure that if there were no SEC, Bernie Madoff never could have existed. Because it was the SEC auditing him and saying that he was okay that made everybody think, "Oh, he must be good. The SEC is auditing him; he must be legit." There's no way he could have pulled off that Ponzi scheme without the SEC. Because people would have done their due diligence.

Supposedly Schiff's views have credibility because he predicted the crash. There is an old joke that an economist is someone who predicted five out of the last three recessions. Apparently an extreme libertarian is someone who predicted five out of the last three recessions AND can raise oodles of cash on the Internet from Ron Paul supporters.

UPDATE: Make Bernie Madoff Secretary of the Treasury?

Insta-Book Reviewer

What exactly does Glenn Reynolds have to contribute to a discussion about Booker T. Washington? Joe the Plumber wasn't available?


Stan Katz examines the promise and peril of Obama's new arts czar: "If President Obama were genuinely to develop and implement a broad cultural policy for all the federal cultural programs, he could be accomplish something quite unusual and important."

Economic Downturn Isn't All Bad...

Right-wing talk radio in California seems to have taken a hit:

For all the anti-tax swagger and the occasional stunts by personalities like KFI's John and Ken, the reality is that conservative talk radio in California is on the wane. The economy's downturn has depressed ad revenue at stations across the state, thinning the ranks of conservative broadcasters.

For that and other reasons, stations have dropped the shows of at least half a dozen radio personalities and scaled back others, in some cases replacing them with cheaper nationally syndicated programs.

I don't want to say I'm rooting for them to fail, but...

How the Religious Right Shaped Gay and Lesbian Activism

"Addresses debates that lie at the center of the culture wars and, ultimately, she demonstrates how the contentious relationship between gay and lesbian rights activists and the religious right—a dynamic that is surprisingly necessary to both—challenges assumptions about how social movements are significantly shaped by their rivals." Book rec of the day.

Same Ol' Same Ol'

On one level it seems strange that this article about Evan Bayh ("Republicans were delighted when Sen. Evan Bayh published an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal this month urging President Barack Obama to veto the $410 billion spending bill he signed into law last week") and his cohort of "pragmatic centrists" never mentions the DLC at all... testimony to the fact that while the DLC may be weaker than ever, its ideological adherents have simply started hanging a different shingle on the door.

I Guess Shmuel Rosner Thinks I'm Dumb

Rosner, commenting on Chas Freeman's interview in The Nation, is unable to conceal his contempt: "Freeman is building on the ignorance of readers (we're talking about The Nation here, so this might be [sic] sound assumption)..." Accusing others of being stupid while using bad grammar yourself is a kind of moral and intellectual suicide. Rest in peace, Shmuel.

Oklahoma's Earmarks

Sounds like anti-earmark crusader Tom Coburn needs to put his own house in order. Via Glenn Thrush.

The Invisible Hand

Chile's "free market" for water has yielded some disastrous results.

Charles Freeman Notwithstanding, The Debate Has Widened

I guess ever since the New York Times broke the taboo on discussing a binational state in Israel/Palestine, the MSM thinks anti-Zionism (or at least a vigorous debate about it) is hunky-dory. Sign of the times.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

CNBC Not All Bad

So we all know now that CNBC totally sucks and everything but this report they did on the marijuana industry (particularly in Mendocino County, California - the "Emerald Triangle") was pretty top-notch.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Art of Ill Will

"The story of American political cartoons." Book rec of the day.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Don't Mind the Mixed Metaphors - Michael Steele is Toast

Charles Blow thinks the already-infamous GQ interview may be the lid on Michael Steele's coffin: "such a glorious flame-out that it may well be the beginning of his swan song." To be clear, his tenure as RNC Chairman may continue but his ability to be effective will not.

Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da Juice

Kaus sees the debate over the Employee Free Choice Act as welfare for Republican lobbyists:

A "juice bill," in California parlance, is a bill that is so important to monied interests that lawmakers are showered with contributions from interested parties and lobbyists all find work representing one side or the other."Card Check" is the Odwalla of juice bills. It's a proposal that terrifies virtually all of American business, which has responded--as Politico's Ben Smith first chronicled--by a massive program to employ out-of-work Republican lobbyists. The problem with "juice bills" is that so many people have a vested interest in keeping the fight going. Politicians, most obviously. The longer they're undecided, the longer corporate and union interests will try to subtly influence them with large campaign contributions.

Who's Unknown?

Chris Arnott on Tyler Perry:

One of the most bothersome things about the Tyler Perry phenomenon is how long it took mainstream America to catch on — and how the media still fails to appreciate his achievement. Time used this backhand compliment to describe him: "the most successful 'unknown' conglomerate in show business." "Mad Men" or "The Wire" or other shows that are referenced without condescending qualifiers like "unknown" would probably kill to have an audience as large as that which is aware of Perry's stage plays, let alone his films and TV series.

Bye Bye Sears Tower


Steelers Rooney to be Named Ambassador to Ireland?


Tweeting For Democracy

One Connecticut legislator has begun to master the complex art of making Twitter politically meaningful and relevant.

Dump Truck Suspended In Air

Check out these amazing pics from I-84 in Connecticut.

From The Horse's Mouth

Last night I was on a conference call with Obama Middle East adviser Dan Kurtzer, and he insisted in no uncertain terms that (believe it or not) AIPAC really didn't have anything to do with the campaign against Chas Freeman.

Air Hockey Fight


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Pulling a Lieberman in PA - UPDATE

Apparently Specter can't run as an independent if he loses the Republican primary.

Memo to GOP Senators: Watch Your Airport Behavior

Why do Senate Republicans keep getting into trouble at airports?

Don't Ask, Don't Tell

Is this really a "naval fracas" as reported or some sort of homoerotic hazing ritual? From the NY Times:

According to the American account, as the Chinese vessels approached the American ship, Chinese sailors waved flags and ordered it to leave. The Impeccable, which did not carry large-caliber weapons and was operated by civilian contractors for the Military Sealift Command, told the Chinese vessels that it had the right of safe passage in international waters. But two of the Chinese ships blocked the Impeccable after it requested safe transit, while Chinese sailors dropped pieces of wood in its path and wielded hooks. During the confrontation, the Impeccable’s crew sprayed some of the Chinese sailors with a fire hose, causing some of the sailors to strip to their underwear. [Emphasis added]

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Most Awkward Hug Ever

(Except for this one, of course.) Check out the top of the fold picture in today's (print edition of the) New York Times, of Jon Corzine at the St. Patrick's Day Parade in Hoboken. It's a perfect illustration of Corzine's "struggle" to "connect" with "average" voters (strangely Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild was not asked for comment), or as Corzine puts it: "I’m not Jim McGreevey. That’s got both good and, I presume, it’s got some negative elements from the standpoint of pure politics.”

Monday, March 09, 2009

Sacramento Housing Bust - A One-Minute Interactive Graphic


Sunday, March 08, 2009

Clarence Thomas, Supreme Court Liberal?


Where Have All The Political Songs Gone?


The One-Straw Revolution: An Introduction to Natural Farming

Thanks to the wonderful folks at NYRB Classics for bringing this back into print. Book rec of the day.

Risotto, Steamed Broccoli, Apple-Carrot Muffins...

Someone remind me to dine at this soup kitchen next time I'm in DC.

The End of Recycling?

Originally uploaded by ghb624
Jeffrey Yoskowitz: "For now, with fewer purchasers and lower prices, it seems that recycling centers will be forced to sell once-valued commodities for cheap, undercutting their expenses. And, if things worsen and the markets erode further, a great deal of recycling could halt altogether, putting stress on our landfills. This, in turn could force manufacturers to seek out virgin raw materials to produce what were once products with multiple life spans."

Let's Get Real About Wasteful Spending

As William Smith usefully points out, if you are a Republican senator who supports a $95 million outlay for abstinence-only education, you have no credibility to speak about wasteful spending in the federal budget. Simple as that.

Los Angeles's Growing Tent Cities

Here, here, and here.

Workplace Toxicity

What James Surowiecki says about calls to fire Tim Geithner -- "treating disagreements over policy issues as prima facie evidence of evil intentions, or as a reason for firing, creates an environment for policymaking that’s toxic, and makes it harder to get good people to work in the public sector" -- could equally be said about the borking of Chas Freeman.

The Meek Shall Inherit the Earth (At Least A Bill Clinton Endorsement)

The former president, who has intervened in only three Democratic primaries since leaving office, seems to be going out of his way to support Kendrick Meek's bid for the Democratic nomination in Florida's 2010 Senate race.

When You're Only Halfway Up, You're Neither Up Nor Down

Rick Hertzberg on Obama's joint address: "Congressional standing ovations: America’s answer to North Korean calisthenics."

Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter the Rubber Room

This week This American Life had an amazing story on the New York City Department of Education teacher reassignment facility, a.k.a "rubber room." If you don't think public school bureaucracies are plagued by waste and mismanagement, do yourself a favor and listen to the whole thing. The story came out of this documentary by Jeremy Garrett.

Blogging the Bible

Slate's David Plotz (per Christianity Today, a "a Harvard-educated reformed Jew," whatever that means) describes his "WTF?!?!" moment as he read the Bible closely:

I guess I'm one of these agnostics who is becoming closer to atheism now because I am so upset by the picture of the God there. I am so disturbed by the God that I found there. The most disturbing part of this whole journey for me was, how do I as a Jew cling to a God who seems to be so unmerciful so much of the time and so cruel so much of the time? That's very troubling. Do I want such a God to exist? I don't know that I do.

Brother Can You Spare a Rupee?


Name That Title Sponsor

Banks no longer want to be seen as doling out big bucks for golf tournament sponsorships, wreaking havoc on already-printed tournament merchandise.

UPDATE: Unsurprisingly, the Wall Street Journal is all over this story.

Did Reagan Try to Convert Gorbachev?

James Mann:

As the meeting ended, Reagan became even more direct and personal. He noted that his own son Ron did not believe in God either. "The President concluded that there was one thing he had long yearned to do for his atheist son. He wanted to serve his son the perfect gourmet dinner, to have him enjoy the meal, and then to ask him if he believed there was a cook."

Way to exploit your family, Mr. President! The watchmaker analogy meets Top Chef! I'm thinking new reality show here...

Joe Klein on L'Affaire Freeman

Except for writing "Steven Cohen" when he means "Steven Rosen," I think Joe Klein is on the money here... and this (an intelligent, cautious defense by the people, colleagues and peers, who know Freeman best) is encouraging, though to paraphrase Churchill, the smears get halfway around the world before the defenders get their pants on.

Republicans Meet Peril in Trying to Push Out Jim Bunning

"You never know what a cornered animal is willing to do." Read the whole piece, especially if you like sports metaphors.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Hezbollah's Bizarre Roger Cohen Graphic

Very strange indeed. The most cryptic part for me is the "Iran loves Jews" sign in front of "Arbeit Macht Frei." Anyway, definitely not going on Cohen's resume.

Pulling a Lieberman in PA

Kaus wonders if Specter could "pull a Lieberman" and win as an independent.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Toward a Credible Pacifism


Radical Dithering

Earlier tonight I was listening to right-wing radio talker John Gibson, who alternated between abhorring the President's radical transformation of America into a socialist hellhole and for dithering ("even the ultra-liberal Paul Krugman says...") on the economy, without ever acknowledging let alone resolving the contradiction. Which is it, John? Radical transformation or dithering? Nor did Gibson bother to explain to his zombie audience that what Krugman was lamenting is Geithner's unwillingness to embrace nationalization of the zombie banks, an agenda I assume Gibson does not support.

It is impossible to overstate the moral stink of right-wing talk radio right now.

UPDATE 3/11: Yesterday, Rush Limbaugh spent some time trying to use the Krugman column against Obama as well.

Guess Who Showed Up to a Grateful Dead Tribute Band Concert?

Originally uploaded by Riude
I just returned from a concert by Shakedown, a popular Grateful Dead tribute band... and I can report that there were guys from NORML at the show handing out marijuana legalization lit (and informing me specifically how to support relevant legislation in my state). As recent events have shown, anybody who thinks these folks are just a bunch of incompetent stoners with no political savvy clearly isn't paying attention.

Krauthammer's Dire Prediction

Charles Krauthammer has been warning of an "imminent" or "inevitable" attack on Iran for at least three years now. One can see his latest tocsin either as the sort of over-anxious and uninformed doomsaying for which conservatives (including Krauthammer himself) are always impugning liberals, in particular environmentalists... or one can see it rather cynically as an attempt to raise the stakes on the fate of Chas Freeman. Get it? If the appointment of Chas Freeman goes through, it will force Israel's hand!

Ontology of the Turncoat

Responding to Rick Hertzberg's mini-memoir of Charles Krauthammer's political evolution, Sullivan hits the ontology of turncoatism right on the head: "In the polarized politics of the past couple of decades, it has been very hard to sustain a complicated politics and have a social life in Washington." How true! Turncoatism is as much about sociology as psychology. Turncoats become turncoats when the left and right appropriate for themselves all the benefits of political participation. The skewed distribution of incentives - money, fame, acceptance - push the recovering ideologue back out to the margins, just as a pendulum rests only at the perigee. Friends don't let friends be centrists.

But this has always been true, ever since the 1940s when turncoats became an institution in American political life.

How To Revive Multiple Careers All At Once

Seinfeld stars to reunite in primetime!

Political Intimidation By Goat!

No word if Rahm Emanuel was involved...

Who Says There Aren't Growth Sectors in the Current Economic Shitpile?

Check out this amazing profile of Wit Solberg, whose macabre job is in the rapidly expanding field of "toxic asset detective."


It's lovely that Jeff Goldberg has successfully played matchmaker for Rabbi David Wolpe and Roger Cohen... but to suggest that Wolpe's heavily Persian congregation in Los Angeles is going to 'give you the straight story' about Iranian Jewry is like saying the Brigade 2506 Museum in Little Havana is going to give you the straight story about Fidel Castro.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Dr. Cole Desorio

Daniel Radosh smells a rat in the recent spate of beer-pong-as-herpes-vector stories.

Rabbi Michael Lerner's Latest Fundraising Tool


Misusing the Dow

FAIR looks at the odd misperception of the stock market as a sober, rational referendum on White House policies, or as if it were the same as a political prediction market (which seems like a reasonable analogy only if you think all actors in the equity market are long-term investors). And they don't even bring up my huge pet peeve that the Dow is often used synonymously with "stock market" when it represents no such thing - a conflation that is not only misleading but also an advertising subsidy for Rupert Murdoch.

What AIPAC Doesn't Want Discussed in Court

Gershom Gorenberg links to a must-read piece about the AIPAC trial by former senior AIPAC staffer Douglas Bloomfield.

President Rush?

The truly sickening notion is broached.

USPS Goes Postal On the Taxpayer

Why did the US Postal Service buy a $1.2 million home for one of its employees?

In The Footsteps of Edward Said

The Chronicle of Higher Education profiles Rashid Khalidi. Money quote:

Upon the death of his close friend Edward Said, in 2003, Khalidi left the University of Chicago and took the chair named for Said at Columbia, assuming an even higher public profile. (When Arafat died, in 2004, Khalidi spoke to 34 news-media outlets in a 24-hour period, New York magazine reported.) "With the passing of Edward, Rashid became one of, if not the, most significant voice on Palestinian issues," says Ussama Makdisi, a professor of history at Rice University, who is Said's nephew. Khalidi jokes: "It means that I inherited the target that was on his back."

Overall it's an illuminating piece but the paragraph beginning "Nor is the academic left always sympathetic toward Khalidi's work. Benny Morris is a professor of history..." makes no sense whatsoever.

Fat People Buy American!

World's heaviest man gets lift in pimped out Chevy Astrovan. I can feel the GM share price shooting up already.

Toomey Part Two


The Shocking Truth About Pundits

Expert pundit does study showing expert pundits really are wrong about everything (and never in doubt). Via Politico.

Don't Go There

Rotwang on Barbara Bush's heart operation: "advances in microsurgery."

A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line

"Clarence King is a hero of nineteenth century western history; a brilliant scientist and witty conversationalist, best-selling author and architect of the great surveys that mapped the West after the Civil War. Secretary of State John Hay named King 'the best and brightest of his generation.' But King hid a secret from his Gilded Age cohorts and prominent family in Newport: for thirteen years he lived a double life—as the celebrated white explorer, geologist and writer Clarence King and as a black Pullman porter and steel worker named James Todd. The fair blue-eyed son of a wealthy China trader passed across the color line, revealing his secret to his black common- law wife, Ada Copeland, only on his deathbed." Book rec of the day.

Slumdog Millionaire's Inspiration & 19 Other Indian Novels

You know it's an Indian novel because of the outlandishly colorful cover! See how that works?

A Symphony For 111 (Er, Make That 30) Bicycles


City of Apathetic Angels

"What if they threw a mayoral election in the country's second-biggest city and nobody cared? That is not a rhetorical question." T.A. Frank captures the lameness and absurdity of Los Angeles politics. Is it any wonder there are half a dozen "neighborhoods" (including the San Fernando Valley with 1.5 million people) in the city desperate to secede?

While the prevailing meme has been "Antonio cruises to victory" the actual story is that getting 55% against a bunch of quacks and cranks is a dismal under-achievement for the mayor. Fortunately, there's someone who gets it (no matter what Mickey Kaus says, David Zahniser alone is a reason to keep the LA Times afloat).

Who Knew?


Reasons to Rejoice That Tiger Woods is Back

Steve Rushin:

Because in Tiger's absence, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich made a mockery of the mock turtleneck. Blago, clearly in need of a checkup from the neck up, wrapped said neck in a mock turtle in manifold photo ops. Tiger's return restores some dignity to this troubled fashion, and to fashion generally. Before Tiger, golf chic meant Tom Lehman in Dockers. During Tiger's convalescence, it consisted largely of Ian Poulter, in plaid slacks.


Liz Taylor, Breaking Down Barriers

Jewish actress gives $100,000 to the Alliance for Christian Education "because our new president challenged us to break down barriers that divide us," proving that celebrities are never too old or washed up to behave abnormally.

For Better or For Worse

More people lie about actually having read George Orwell (when they actually haven't) than lie about reading any other book. Hey, at least people have good taste regarding books they don't read! And Barack Obama's memoir seems to be gaining on Proust and the Bible.

National Grammar Day!

Apparently you missed it... but there's always next year. Looking at their "Bad Grammar Hall of Fame," it appears that the price of rock 'n' roll superstardom is poor English usage. Small price to pay.

At The Eleventh Hour

There was some resentment on the left that Obama's health-care forum would exclude important voices for single-payer health care. But at the last minute Dr. Oliver Fein, president of Physicians for a National Health Program, and Congressman John Conyers were added to the program. From the PNHP press release: "Two leading advocates of single-payer health reform, sometimes characterized as an improved Medicare for All, received last-minute invitations to attend the White House health care summit being held today. The invitations were greeted as a victory by single-payer supporters." Of course there's grumbling about a single-payer "media blackout" as well.

Suffice it to say that I went to a congressional forum last week where liberal Democratic Congressman John Larson (5th ranking member of the House leadership, has a bunch of insurance companies in his district) heckled and was heckled by single-payer advocates... and there is a lot more of that left-liberal infighting to come as the health care debate proceeeds.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Dalai Lama Tweets

E.g., “Tweet others as you’d like to be tweeted.” See more.

You Know There's A Credit Crisis When...

... Heath Ledger's final film can't get a US distributor.

Skepticism of Obama's Farm Subsidy Reforms


Why is a 'Green Room' Called That?

Short answer is we have no idea. Long answer here.

Translating Hillary Clinton

Bernard Avishai translates four (encouraging!) morsels of Hillary-speak.

Thomas Friedman's Five Worst Predictions

Josh Marshall calls it shooting fish in a barrel.

You've Just Been Named Editor-Publisher of a Medium-Size Metropolitan Daily Newspaper...

What would you do, other than stock up on cheap SSRIs from a Mexican pharmacy? Colin McEnroe's suggestions range from the radical ("video-stream your daily news meeting") to the rather practical and mundane -- "do more with your archives" seems simple enough but is often overlooked. "As a Courant blogger, I sometimes link to somebody else's story, even when the Courant has its own perfectly good piece on line, because I know the HC link will go dead in a few weeks." It's not good when your own bloggers don't feel comfortable linking to you.

Privatization of Peacekeeping?


From The Inbox...

This should be good...

Dear friends,

Communist Party National Chair, Sam Webb will be a featured guest on conservative host Glenn Beck’s show on Fox News tonight.

Beck has been running a series on the show called “Road to Socialism” which makes that claim that government programs for working people = big government = socialism. Did he make the same argument amount the corporate welfare and war spending that actually bloated the national debt? Didn’t think so.

Tune in at 5pm EST, Wednesday, March 5, 2009 and hear what Sam has to say.

Understanding the Social Security Act


Monday, March 02, 2009

Will the Stimulus Package Help Our Education System?

Eric Hanushek and Alfred Lindseth are skeptical:

An especially egregious element is the $100 million addition to the impact aid program. Impact aid was introduced in 1950 to provide funds in lieu of taxes for schools located near military facilities (which did not pay taxes). It was later expanded to include aid for Native American schools. The distribution of funds under this program is, however, not only highly inequitable, but a very inefficient way to support these schools. For these reasons, virtually every administration since the 1960s has tried to eliminate this program, but now it is being expanded... This example illustrates our biggest concern – that the stimulus program simply locks in a set of bad policies.

Mazel Tov

Sholem Aleichem
Originally uploaded by Klezmercruise
Sholem Aleichem goes sesquicentennial. And boo hoo to these philistines.