Wednesday, May 31, 2006

What To Do?

What we do about Islamic fundamentalism is a topic we must deal with. I suspect that it will take a global effort and a willingness to deal intelligently with the impending global oil crisis. There will be other challenges as well, including potential wars and regional strife and any of the other things that have marked civilization from the beginning. All peoples must deal with such things.

But there is no war on terrorism. The nation is less secure because of this false construct. We are spending money we need not spend, making enemies we need not make and wasting lives we need not waste in the name of something that doesn't exist. That is as politically incorrect a statement as can be made in America today. But it's true.
I think that's about right.

It's a hackenyed cliche, but the boy has cryed wolf. Unfortunately, this may well blind me and mine to the fact that there is an actual problem out there - consider this from Peter Beinart (sub only?):
But I would add, just by way of not being too light on the threat of jihadism, and because it is something that worries me a little bit, that there is a bit of a tendency sometimes amongst liberals to think that because George W. Bush has hyped this so much that it's mostly hype. If you look at the Lugar poll, which I cite in the book, Senator Richard Lugar, who is not an ideologue, gets together all these non-proliferation types and basically says what are the chances we're going to be hit with a weapon of mass destruction attack in the next ten years? They say 70 percent. He says what are the chances we are going to be hit with a nuclear attack? They say 30 percent. And 80 percent say it is most likely that one of those will come from a terrorist group. And these are not people who are on Karl Rove's payroll.
Sobering. (Incidentally, Beinart's new book looks interesting, as I tend to be perhaps overly dismissive of 'liberal hawks' such as most of the TNR braintrust.)

The difficulty is that many are so fed up with the bill of goods they've been sold, and by the manifest unseriousness of those in charge that they forget that these are real problems. I've said it before, but if this really was the massive threat that we've been warned about, perhaps tax cuts, school prayer and 'protection of marriage' could wait - the 'permanent majority' will still be here when you get back. Beinart, to his credit, seems to recognize this difficulty, and I think Kevin Drum identifies the quandry in which left-leaning folks such as myself find ourselves:
[W]hat is it that Beinart really wants from antiwar liberals? The obvious answer is found less in policy than in rhetoric: we need to engage more energetically with the war on terror and criticize illiberal regimes more harshly.

Maybe so. But this is something that's nagged at me for some time. On the one hand, I think Beinart is exactly right. For example, should I be more vocal in denouncing Iran? Sure. It's a repressive, misogynistic, theocratic, terrorist-sponsoring state that stands for everything I stand against. Of course I should speak out against them.

And yet, I know perfectly well that criticism of Iran is not just criticism of Iran. Whether I want it to or not, it also provides support for the Bush administration's determined and deliberate effort to whip up enthusiasm for a military strike. Only a naif would view criticism of Iran in a vacuum, without also seeing the way it will be used by an administration that has demonstrated time and again that it can't be trusted to act wisely.
Not to mention that my crticism of, for example, Iran is not likely to have any meaningful benefit - Iran will still be terrible. And, as Drum argues, any action my words may in any small way encourage is likely to be injudicious, hastily planned and poorly executed.

Smart people frequently remind me that focusing on the President's past failings is not especially helpful - he's still around for 2.5 more years. And buttoning up and 'riding it out' until then isn't much of a plan. But are the options on the table really do nothing or do something poorly? And, sadly, I don't necessarily have a lot of faith that 'my guys' will do much better. When do the grownups get home?

Update 6/1/06: Sully articulates the charge of 'unseriousness' more thouroughly than I was able to do.

Vote For PedroPooh

Go here, then go here and cast forth your acclaim.

Thank you for your support.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

We're #1!


I've never been prouder of my little home state.

In completely unrelated news:
JUNEAU -- Former two-term Democratic governor Tony Knowles said Monday that he will run for a third term. . .

In 2004, Knowles ran and lost against Republican Lisa Murkowski for the U.S. Senate seat that her father, Frank Murkowski, had vacated and appointed her to fill when he became governor in 2002.

Frank Murkowski announced Friday that he will seek a second term as governor.
This could get interesting, I wish I could say more.

Worst. MixTape. Evah!

So, I spoke too soon in denigrating song listings today. Once again, via the Man of Otto, the World's Shittiest MixTap competition. My mission, having chosen to accept it, is to compile the worst listing of 5 songs imaginable.

#1 Jon Secada - "Just Another Day" - Overdubbed, pre-Ricky Martin, latin-synthpop terribleness and it's worst. You're damn right I owned this CD...

# 2 Timmy T. - "One More Try" - the song used to prove the falsity of the "you can never have too much bass" hypothesis. It's hard to truly describe the terribleness of a track where the instrumental sounds like it has been sloooowed dowwwwwn, and the singer sounds like the Chipmunks less talented cousin. I did not own this one.

# 3 Mystikal - "Shake It Fast" - As Jon Stewart said several years ago, Mystikal is the most safety conscious of rappers, telling the girls to "shake it fast" but warning "but watch yourself." A gentleman and a scholar.

# 4 J-Lo - "Jenny From the Block" - ARRRRRRGHHHHHHHH! This one was stuck in my head for an entire semester of law school, and may well explain my rather uncharacteristic support of prior restraints on speech, if only because this song and/or video are the strongest pro-censorship argument I can imagine.

# 5 Clarence Carter "Strokin'" This is the Starship Troopers/Army of Darkness of crap songs, so existentially horrible that it attains a sort of perfection.

Beat that with a stick...

Update: Vote for Me! Go here.

You can do it...

PoohsDay Blues Links

Since listing off iPod tracks is simply pandering to my (limited) readership, I'll suspend the blues tracks for the week, and instead direct your attention to interesting reads.

First, via Otto Man, the Kung Fu Monkey has an excellent Memorial Day piece on civilians and our duty to the troops. "Support" vs. Support, one might say.

Second, via Ezra, a discussion of the economics of electronic 'information' commerce. See also here:
Now, the reason the music recording industry wants different prices has nothing to do with making a premium on the best songs. What they really want is a system they can manipulate to send signals about what songs are worth, and thus what songs you should buy. I assure you that when really bad songs come out, as long as they're new and the recording industry wants to promote those songs, they'll charge the full $2.49 or whatever it is to send a fake signal that the songs are better than they really are. It's the same reason we've had to put up with crappy radio for the last few decades: the music industry promotes what they want to promote, whether it's good or bad, and the main reason they want to promote something is because that's a bargaining chip they can use in their negotiations with artists.

Here's the dream world for the EMI Group, Sony/BMG, etc.: there are two prices for songs on iTunes, say, $2.49 and $0.99. All the new releases come out at $2.49. Some classic rock (Sweet Home Alabama) is at $2.49. Unwanted, old, crap, like, say, Brandy (You're A Fine Girl) -- the crap we only know because it was pushed on us in the 70s by paid-off disk jockeys -- would be deliberately priced at $0.99 to send a clear message that $0.99 = crap.

And now when a musician gets uppity, all the recording industry has to do is threaten to release their next single straight into the $0.99 category, which will kill it dead no matter how good it is. And suddenly the music industry has a lot more leverage over their artists in negotiations: the kind of leverage they are used to having. Their favorite kind of leverage. The “we won't promote your music if you don't let us put rootkits on your CDs” kind of leverage.
It all comes back to the rootkits, doesn't it? Bastards.

and finally, one of Mark Kleiman's commenters urges restraint in picking sides in the Jefferson 'Congress vs. FBI' feud:
I'd be careful about picking sides too early in this one. It looks to me like it's shaping up to be a monumental struggle between bad and evil.

BookBlogging #9: The Republican War On Science (or How to Blunt Your Point By Choosing an Overly Polemical Title)

"The Republican War On Science" by Chris Mooney is a searing indictment of the attacks upon the naturalist scientific method perpetrated by Big Business and Religious Conservatives over the past two decades. It is exhaustively sourced and seems very soundly researched. Yet it is almost certainly preaching to the choir, for the simple reason of the inclusion of "Republican" in the title. I don't think much would have been lost by simply entitling the work "The War On Science" with perhaps a subheading of sorts.

In much the same way that Ramesh Ponnuru's "Party of Death" has largely been dismissed by left-of-center-types as a partisan attack piece, "RWOS," merely through it's title, forestalls serious, two-sided discussion. Easy enough for me to say "great book - look at what those bastards did now..." But, I'm singing in the choir as far as that goes. But for someone to my right, who might be suprised by some of the incidents documented, it can easily be viewed as a slightly more urbane attempt to describe conservative as backwards, theocratic rednecks - what intelligent person could possibly be anti-science?

And, to a degree, the title is something of a misnomer - it most cases, it is not Republicans qua Republicans who are fighting 'science,' it is certain distinct constituencies within the GOP that are battling against the scientific consensus on many issues. A perfect example of this can be seen in the furor over the Al Gore global warming film. While certainly Republicans are sniping this seems to be on the political front (despite evidence that Gore is probably not running in '08 Too bad, I think.) Those attacking the substance of the film seem to be more of Big Industry variety.

Incidentally, this makes perfect sense from an 'interest' standpoint - once a technology is 'discovered' those who control it's use have a vested interest in A) not letting it be supplanted; and B) not being exposed to additional costs. Thus, there is a clear incentive to muddy certain waters. When something is first invented there really isn't much known about empirical 'side-effects', which often take the form of negative externalities. Naturally, any good supplier doesn't want to be forced to internalize these outputs, because then they would just be "costs" which result in lower "profits" and one less Bentley in the CEO's garage, and perhaps having to settle for Jermaine Dupri over 50 Cent at your kid's Sweet 16. Further, a characteristic of a market with negative externalities is societally inefficient overproduction - also good for the producer, less good for consumers and/or everyone else. If costs rise, quantity and margins are likely reduced. Once again, no Bentley, and we're probably down to Kris Kross or Funkdoobiest - for which your son resolves to hate you, drops out, moves to Seattle to work at Starbucks and protest the WTO, giving you ulcers and huge bills from Dr. Melfi's office. Not good times.

So, naturally, Mr. CEO wants none of this to come to pass, so he has to beat back the scientific consensus. Funny how studies tend to produce outcome favorable to the funders...And here's the neat trick - you talk to your business-friendly Congressman, (who probably doesn't know science from a hole in the ground) and you show him your study, and suddenly
global warming [is] “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people”
Interest politics are less clear in the other constituency at issue, the Religious Right - certainly the economic incentive is not there for 'Intelligent Design' as it is for the global warming skeptics. Rather, it is a clash of outlooks, perhaps based on a misperception. Science doesn't claim to have the answers - it seeks to determine the observable process.

Such empricism may have some inherent tension with faith, but it certainly isn't required until God is posited as the reason for all that is unobservable. Naturally, as the universe of knowledge increases, God's role 'decreases' - which was heresy for Galileo, and apparently not much has changed for some.

Identifying the 'real' culprits does not obsolve those (like Inhofe or Frist or Gingrich) who sign on to these efforts of culpability, but I think the book would have had more universal appeal had it focused more on the former than the latter - the underlying problem is the politicization of science, and calling out the GOP for doing so isn't likely to help.

Pooh's View: Another one to get my liberal (as well as 'economist' dander up) - suffers a little from Mooney's (understandable, considering the evidence) polemicism. For further reading, the motley crew of academics at Crooked Timber recently conducted a fascinating 'seminar' on RWOS. The author participated, as did Steve Fuller, a noted skeptic/techonological optimist. Good stuff.

Monday, May 29, 2006


Yes, back in the day, I was something of a comic-book dork. I'll own up to that.

So naturally, when a movie like X-Men 3: The Last Stand comes out, I generally line up with the FanBoi's and see it on the opening weekend. So I did. My expectations were actually pretty high - the end tease of X2 left me so fired up, as it seemed like a nod to the true fans. However, I don't really think X3 quite measures up - at the very least, I'm not satisfied.

As far as big-budget action movies go, it was certainly passable - there's all kinds of coolness possible within the X-Men universe, and they exploit a good deal of it. HOWEVER, the problem lies in that very richness of the back-story. I may not have intellectually understood it at the time, but at their best, the comics of my youth were well-illustrated morality tales. To a degree, this carries over into films, as the best adaptations (the first two Batman films, as well as Batman begins; whichever Superman involved him giving up his powers; Spiderman II as well as the X-Men franchise) tend to grapple, to a degree, with the "great power = great responsibility" theme.

And one of more involving storylines specifically implicating this theme was the whole Phoenix saga. While X3 does a good job of making Jean Grey's Phoenix incarnation suitably badass and unstable, it ignores the far more interesting and explicitly Faustian aspects of the original. I suppose it is unfair of me to evaluate the film in this light, but those stories (at least as I remember them) were so rich and textured that it's a shame to lose that.

Of course, as long as they keep making 'em, I'll keep seeing them.

Punditocracy Discussed

I haven't had much to say recently, or more specifically just haven't said much, with a combination of factors (mostly busyness at work combined with nice...VERY NICE weather and the massive level of golfing activity which that entails) to blame, I thought I'd pass along three perspectives on a topic which 'm finding increasingly interesting: dealing with a 'opinion makers' who don't seem to be doing a great job.

I mean, I enjoy a good fisking (you're welcome, Ron, BTW) as much as the next guy (having indulged myself from time to time), and batshit crazy ideas deserve to get called out as such. But what purpose does such righteous indignation serve? I mean, aside from the personal satisfaction of bashing someone upside the head with your rhetorical boomstick? Of course, some people specialize in slicing and dicing low-hanging fruit, and there's nothing wrong with that - SN and Jesus' General and The Poorman aim to be more humorous than serious. But what of those whose goal is rather more 'substantial?'

By way of explanation, see the comments to this Ezra Klein pointer post to a 'flamethrower' fisking. Specifically:
What is the goal of the blogosphere? We need to provide an attractive alternative to the MSM. Reviews, critiques, and reviews of Broder and Fineman and Bumiller ain't gonna do it, tho it is entertaining for the hardcore blog audience. We need to expand our audience to the crowd that doesn't get excited about beltway competition.

Substance, please.

Indeed. This is not to say that "reviews, critiques and reviews" lack utility - some of the best written argumenation out there takes the form of articles ostensibly termed "reviews." Additionally, a casual reader might not have internalized the POV's of various commentators - David Broder is obsessed with 'balance'; Krauthammer has a pretty strong neocon agenda; Krugman hates, hates W, etc. For these reasons, it's important to challenge both the assumptions and conclusions of mainstream opinion makers - if they go uncontested they quickly become "conventional wisdom" internalized by the public without any realization of all of the implicit preconceptions they are accepting.

But if these criticisms take the form (if not substance) of a tantrum, what good is served? It should be clear that such intemperance is counterproductive (see, e.g. "Left, Angry" for illustration.) It's not enough to say that "pundits are crap." And the talent to do better is clearly out there - for a perfect example see this discussion of Gregg Easterbrook by Laura at Liberalism Without Cynicism (check her out BTW, she doesn't write often, maybe 3 times a week, but it is generally thoughfully argued and well written. But she is Canadian, we can't all be perfect...)

Like the man said, "substance please."

Update 5/30/06: Digby let's loose on the theme as well:
Here on the blogs we have some masterful voices of ridicule and Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are liberal heroes for the same reason. Wr [sic] have tons of biting, dizzyingly precise take-down artists on our side. But none of these themes seem to capture the mainstream media as do the wingnut themes and I have concluded that it is because they are too sophisticated. Just like Goldberg and his frappucino sipping sycophants, we too entertain ourselves with this stuff. But unlike them, we only entertain ourselves. They entertain the press.
Triumphalism (and ad hominems) aside, Digby is basically right - we lefties can have our little giggle, but it doesn't go much beyond there. I honestly wonder why this is - I can speculate by saying that from a philosophical perspective those on the left tend to care less about such things as the Clinton's sex life and Nancy Pelosi's hair (or whatever the comparable GOP related narratives would be) so those stories just don't get written, but I really have nothing more than a gut feeling on which to base that.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Suns-Mavs Game 2

FINISH. Leandro Babosa, you must start finishing at the rim. (You too, Diaw. But I can't kill you after you scored 60 whatever in two games on the road.) And Phoenix (as D'Antoni just said on TNT) missed about 5 WIDE open threes in a row coming down the stretch. That said, I thought, contra D'Antoni, that Diop made a pretty big difference - a lot of those misses at the rim were because he was a presence. Yes Diaw scored a bit, again. But Diop was able to clog the middle a bit more so that Phoenix didn't destroy them with pick and roll after pick and roll.

Also, the switch from Harris to Diop forced Dallas to slow down, meaning Phoenix had to produce all of their own momentum - they weren't quite as quick tonight as they were on Wednesday. I'm not sure it was fatigue, but the ball seemed to stay out of bounds just that half-count longer. It probably also helped that the Mavs did a better job getting back (but see again the slower pace, which enforced better floor balance, aiding transition D)

Naturally the injury issues massively favored Dallas. Bell was out (and Barbosa gave them very, very little) Josh Howard doesn't have the "Jimmy Leg" as Kramer would say, he's got a "Jimmy Body." And if he can knock down j's all series, very bad news for the suns.

Both teams can be reasonably confident (though the Suns having taken a game on the road are certainly happier with the outcomes), as each team has played one game at their prefferred pace, but the other team can honestly feel like they coulda/shoulda won.

As a final note, the thing where Nash presses his non-dribbling hand against his chest (wiping his hand off?) really annoys me, and I'm not sure why...

Til You See the Whites of Their Eyes

Is that what they are waiting for? When exactly is it time to start pushing back?

It's becoming harder and harder to identify myself as a Democrat. I no longer know if my preferences for political action match the Party's. No, I'm not hopping on the "party without a message" bandwagon. There is a message, but the evidence is mounting that the establishment Dems have internalized the wrong lessons from the current administration - my distaste Bush and Co.'s problem always been less about the rhetoric than about the actions taken in support of that rhetoric. Or to my view the actions taken inconsistent with the 'message,' as well as the "creating . . . new realities" BS - a different symptom, but the same disease.

But if the proof is in the pudding, what the hell do the Dems really believe? They mouth off from time to time about this or that outrage and promise things, but when it comes time to actually do things, the best they can manage is phones calls from Switzerland. "Wait, wait," they tell us "the time isn't right yet." Why not, Atrios has been posting ponies (for new lows in approval polls) several times a week for a month or more. And still nothing.

First they absolutely cave on the Hayden CIA nomination. As Chef might say, "Why Bad?" Well:
The reason for Democrats not to support the nomination was to avoid (accurate) lead paragraphs like this one, from a Reuters article today reporting on Hayden's confirmation by the full Senate by a vote of 78-15:

The U.S. Senate on Friday confirmed Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden as CIA director in a vote that gave a broad bipartisan endorsement to the architect of President George W. Bush's domestic spying program.
And, by pretty logical extension, tacit support of said program. Certainly gives at least the appearance of "playing politics with national security" (if not substance, which I'm becoming more open to being convinced.) I've always thought that charge was Rovian horseflop, but all but 15 are indeed quacking like ducks.

Then there is the William Jefferson FBI raid 'scandal'. While the Dems' response hasn't been as catastrophic as Hastert, et al's, it has still been half-a-loaf (and I understand where the Congressional Black Caucus is coming from - why is Jefferson's the first office raided? But the answer is not to defend him, but rather to say "please, have a look around at the chambers of Messrs Delay, Ney, etc. while you're in there") and an enormous missed opportunity to both put the 'culture of corroption' in contrast and to expose GOP hypocrisy on the executive power issue.

And the final capitulation was today's confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh for the D.C. Appellate court. Generally speaking, I'm deferential to executive privilege in terms of nominating jurists - that's up front a part of what people are voting for. However, my two conditions are non-extremism and competence. Kavanaugh fails both tests, pretty badly:
Brett Kavanaugh has no judicial experience and, at 38, would be one of the youngest members in the history of the Court of Appeals for the Washington, DC, Circuit--the bench that sent Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas directly to the Supreme Court. Kavanaugh is the principal author of Ken Starr's prurient final report to Congress on President Clinton. He drafted the grounds for impeachment and, after leaving the independent counsel's office, went to work at Starr's law firm, Kirkland & Ellis.

Kavanaugh has never participated in a trial. In his Judiciary Committee questionnaire, he was asked to list his ten most significant cases; four of those he cited did not even involve a courtroom appearance, and in two he merely filed a Supreme Court amicus curiae brief for a third party. Most recently, Kavanaugh has worked in the White House selecting Bush's judicial nominees, coordinating the unsuccessful nominations of Estrada and Priscilla Owen.

When he worked for Ken Starr, Kavanaugh spent a lot of his time trying to challenge President Clinton's assertions of executive privilege. But one of his jobs in the Bush White House has been to defend claims of executive privilege. Kavanaugh has blocked a Senate committee from getting to see Enron-related documents, and he wrote the executive order that blocked the release of presidential papers, despite a federal law requiring that they be made public after twelve years.
So, if ever there was a guy to filibuster - even more so than Alito (who, for whatever extremism he embodies in the real of Executive Powers, had impeccable credentials as far as competence and temperment) - this is it. But instead, the predictable people made the predictable noise, probably raised some PAC money, and then when it came time for some action...well stop me if you know how this one ends.

I always get riled up when people start talking about the "party of no" and obstructionism and so on and so forth. Seldom have I actually wished it to be true. Better to say "No!" then to say "No...well, let me think about it. Okay, try not to screw it up too badly. But we'll give you a second chance even if you do."

Events like these make me wonder if it's all just a big Kabuki as more and more power and influence vests with the corporate elite who pull the (purse) strings of both paries. An apropo aside, interesting how a charismatic, unmuzzled rank outsider, Paul Hackett got pushed aside by the Democratic leadership with a variation of the "Angry Left" theme. can't upset the apple cart, now can we?

As John Cole says, when things like this happen
it briefly makes me want to go apologize to all the Naderites for making fun of their paranoid conspiracy theories.
Very briefly. But still.

Are they interested in regaining power to actually govern effectively or more concerned individually in staying "in power?" Feckless, hopeless or completely, hypocritically cynical? You make the call.


Let's get down and/or dirty...

1. "Bo Diddley" - Bo Diddley. I saw him live a few years ago at an outdoor Blues Fest up here in AK - he remains one bad looking dude, and he somehow managed to achieve more cowbell reverb then he does on record. 9/10.

2. "I Need A Lover" - John Mellancamp. Don't we all? Just one? I thought the point of rock stardom was never really needing for this sort of thing. And all groupies drive you crazy? What are we to tell the children who look up to you? 6/10.

3. "No Woman, No Cry" - The Fugees. I haven't heard a second of their new album, because I'm fearful. The Score was so good (as were the Lauryn Hill and the first two Wyclef albums) that I'm certain it will be a collassal disappointment. Not to mention that it might suck as well. 7/10.

4. "Desire" - U2. Heresy, but some of the Middle-Era U2 kinda boors me (this song, "In the Name of Love" and "When Love Comes to Town" spring to mind). 4/10.

5. "Stiff Upper Lip" - AC/DC. How can Klosterman both hate the blues and love AC/DC, who are essentially an Aussie blues band with bigger amps and more/better drugs? 9/10.

6. "Boom Biddy Bye Bye (Ft. Fugees) - Cypress Hill. Perhaps the best song Cypress ever did...and it only got released as a B-side/Remix. Really sounds more like a Fugees track than Cypress anyway, but this is a feature, not a bug. 9/10.

7. "Loch Lomond" - Chanticleer. Moving on. Quickly. (Yes, I am taking the low road, but I'll be finished with FRT afore ye...) 5/10.

8. "Get It Together" - Beastie Boys. I'm almost certain that this song was played 3+ times at every single house party I attended in college. Not complaining mind you...Uhhhh-uh-uh. OOOOH AHHHH EEEEEEEH OOOOH. (Oh yeah, "Heart like John Starks" might be the best rap lyric ever...) 10/10.

9. "Like a Stone" - Audioslave. Another band Klosterman hates. Though he claims that cops, LOVE these guys, which is odd when you consider that it's 3/4 Rage Against the Machine. F'you Officer, I won't do what you tell me... 7/10.

10. "Whenever, Wherever" - Shakira. The great thing about the Napster/Kazaa era was that it gave you plausible deniability for songs like this. Though it does put me in an akward bind of either admitting I paid for it or admitting I acquired it...extralegally. Photo bump to 5/10.

A very mainstream 7.1 this week.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Pistons-Heat Game 2

Flip, it's a simple game - when you guys move on O, you score. Pooh's unofficial stats - they ran some variation of a Rip Hamilton curl play 7 times in the first half, got 3 buckets (2 for rip, one for Sheed) 4 fts for Hamilton, McDyess missed a layup, and one turnover when Wallace ran away from a pass in the post. I didn't keep track, but I somehow think that whatever variation of that high pick & roll they ran with Billups (who was shooting rather poorly...) and either Wallace, their efficiency was lower. Why they ever run that play with Big Ben as the screener, I dunno.

Seriously, Miami, who had no right to be in the game had 4 looks at open threes in the 4th (2 by Williams, one by Posey and one by Wade) and if any one of them goes in, Dee-Troit is in serious neckbone territory.

'Toine, not good, but he'll keep shooting. (Obviously the other big difference from Tuesday was that the role players for the Heat sucked.

Suns-Mavs Game 1

More please? Though, at this rate the Suns will have about 6 players available by game 5. Which only means that it will be time for the Niklos Tshiskgsigcisgihsihvilischiviilli coming out party... it's entirely possible that I could average 20 a game playing alongside Nash, Marion and Diaw.

A few random thoughts:

1. The Suns never play good defense, but at times they succeed in running around a lot and scrambling the game, which forces a few turnovers and gets them easy buckets. Plus, over the course of the game, they have to put some doubt into you - perfect example being when Jason Terry took a wide open three with about 18 seconds on the shot clock...and Steve Kerr opined that that was a bad shot against the Suns - and I was forced to agree.

(Thinking about this last people a little deeper, assume he makes that shot at 35% clip, he'll average 1.05 pts/att. I'm willing to bet, that even factoring in offensive rebounds, the Suns will come out ahead in the wash - considering that they probably score close to 2 pts/possession on the ensuing fast break if he misses, and they are so good at running on makes that they'll get a good portion of the 3 right back on average anyway)

2. Tim Thomas is maddening. How is he not at least a bordeline all-star? There is no good reason for him not to average 18 and 8 every year.

3. Ener-gy. As I talked about regarding game 1 of the East finals, energy plays a big roll in the outcomes of games, and if Phoenix can keep their level of energy (which I doubt, because Nash was visibily tired in the second half, before he caught his second wind with about 3:00 to play) they are going to be tough to deal with. Dallas' style of offense (essentially rotating isolations) is always going to leave them vulnerable to runouts by a team as comitted to running on everything.

Which brings me to the most impressive thing about the Suns - the ability to run off of makes. Pretty much every coach I ever head preached "get it out, get it in and let's go!" But no one really expected it to happen - there is the natural 1 second shoulder-slump when the ball goes through for the other team. Except the Suns are conditioned not to care (which is perhaps the silk purse of the sow's ear of their crappy D - they're used to being scored on, so they aren't disappointed when it happens) - all 5 guys are playing offense instantly. It's not enough for Nash to move for the outlet, or even for Thomas or Diaw to get the ball out of bounds quickly - Marion and Barbosa are gone as well.

Coaches of slow-down type teams like to talk about making the other team defend for the full shot clock, but that's a lie - they have to defend for about 10 seconds at most because this type of team isn't even looking at the bucket for the first 14. Phoenix really does make you have to defend for the full clock. They are ready to score at any point between 23 to zero on the shot clock - they're just talented enough offensively that they find a shot rather quickly pretty often.

4. If I'm Avery Johnson, don't I have to think about trying a zone, especially if Bell is out for any length of time? Phoenix is versatile enough that they are going to put Dallas in a horrible position with the pick and roll (last night, they exploited the switch that put Devin Harris or Jason Terry on Diaw pretty often.) Plus, playing zone would allow the Mavs to keep Dampier on the floor a little bit - I don't think Phoenix can keep him off the glass. I mean Dirk, not exactly the banger's banger had 9 o-board last night. And as the Lakers showed in the first round, I think making Marion and Diaw guard a big guy will wear them down a bit - something like a boxer working the body, so that in the later rounds, the legs are gone.

The major downsides of playing a zone are somewhat negated - Phx isn't going to kill them on the boards; Dallas is already getting lit up in transition; and if Bell is out, that significantly reduces the vulnerability to 3-pointers unless and until Barbosa or Jones start making jumpers again.

5. As a final Mavs thought, Adrian Griffin should play more, and the Terry-Harris backcourt less. Against the Spurs, speeding the game up with JeT and Harris was to Dallas's advantage. Against the Suns, it's just the opposite, and it's not like Dallas won't be able to score with a more defensive lineup. And with the 'fast' lineup, the Mavs won't be able to resist the temptation to play at Phoenix's pace. Which makes for entertaining hoops, but comparative advantage: PHX.

6. As the Chuckster said, Steve Nash is indeed one bad whiteboy. He was the best player on the floor last night by a huge margin. And Dirk played pretty well...

Wednesday, May 24, 2006


Tom Delay's #1 defender...Stephen Colbert?
This morning, DeLay’s legal defense fund sent out a mass email criticizing the movie “The Big Buy: Tom DeLay’s Stolen Congress,” by “Outfoxed” creator Robert Greenwald.

The email features a “one-pager on the truth behind Liberal Hollywood’s the Big Buy,” and the lead item is Colbert’s interview with Greenwald on Comedy Central
Seriously, is this the best you've got? At this point, it's well understand that comedy is hard, and not everyone 'gets' Colbert's schtick...but the Report is on Comedy Central. That might have tipped me off as a savvy media consumer that this might not be a straight news program...

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Heat-Pistons Game 1

On any given night in the NBA, winning comes down to one thing - Energy. Over the course of the season, there are nights where one team is playing it's 4th game in 4 cities in 5 nights. Predictably, these teams tend to get killed.

In David Stern's infinite wisdom, such scheduling irregularities don't happen often in the playoffs. However, when the Heat finish off the Nets rather quickly, and the Pistons have to go 7 to beat Lebron, it's hardly surprising that the Heat had more in the tank tonight. And, in a way, I think Wade's foul trouble (btw, if he's supposed to get 'star' calls, shouldn't Lindsay Hunter not be able to fling his chest sideways, create contact, and still draw offensive fouls? Just asking.) played into the dynamic. Detroit had to expend so much energy to make the game close into the fourth that when Wade came back into the game, fresh, he simply ran circles around them.

I have to say, Wade's game is a bit tougher for Detroit to handle than Lebron's - he might have the nth degree of explosiveness, but he is more controlled in his ability to rise up and hit 18-20 footers with ease. Also, there is Shaq, which helps - especially when he has his nimble shoes on. And when Payton and Walker are feeling frisky, as they were today, they can't guard Wade with 2.5 players and a coach like they did to LBJ.

As to Detroit, what happened to their offense? Where is the movement? Why is Rip Hamilton just standing in the corner instead of running his man ragged? Do you not either want to tire Wade out, or force Payton/Williams to guard somebody? The difference in their efficiency between possessions where they ran static isolations and where they had what Hubie B. likes to call "your continuity game" was dramatic. Pay attention, here Flipnosis.

That said, I can't see Miami having the energy edge in game 2, so if Detroit gets there
stuff together, they win comfortably on Thursday.

I (Silently) Told You So

Ok, I could have sworn that I claimed to be optimistic about what Mike Lowell would bring to the Sawx this season. The closest I can find is an allusion to the pretty obvious 'Roid suspicions involved in his precipitous dropoff from '04 to '05. But seriously, I was happy about it - we could afford the salary (especially as part of the Beckett deal), it was for two years, and at very least he was going to play Gold Glove 3rd base. Well, he's played superbly in the field...and is hitting .333 while remaining one of the Major League Leaders in extra-base hits.

Wily Mo is starting to make a believer out of me, perhaps CF is his best position. And he just rakes the ball. Plus, he's both huge, and slightly expendable - which will come in handy for the inevitable brawl with the Yankees. (I say we send him after Robinson Cano...)

And, more good new on the way with one Covelli Crisp returning soon (btw: ouch!:
Crisp, meanwhile, is not much more than a week away from rejoining the Sox, his rehab stalled two weeks ago by a debilitating bout with kidney stones.
TMI!) and Big Boomer Wells to return on Friday...

I don't want to get too jacked up and jinx the whole thing, but this could turn out to be a pretty special team - deep starting rotation; a lock-down closer; great infield defense; depth (two out of Crisp, Nixon and Pena for the non-Manny outfield spots) another murderous top-to-bottom lineup, featuring Kevin Youkilis, the Greek God of Walks as one of the emerging leadoff hitters in the game (with the glaring hole being the Gonzales-Cora-Pedroia Axis of Feeble at short); and a two of the most feared hitters in the game as our anchors in Manny and Papi...

I feel a tremendous sense of trepidation even posting this but...

Pooh'sDay Blues: On the Road With Klosterman (Book #8)

So, when I like a guy's writing, I tend to like his writing and go whole hog. After breezing through "Fargo Rock City", I jumped the queue and tore through "Killing Yourself to Live." Billed as a story of a roadtrip across America to try to understand how one in fact must die in order to be fully alive. In the memories of others. If you are a musician. Or something like that.

But it's not really about that at all. Klosterman amost goes out of his way to prove the aphorism that criticism inherently says more about the critic than about the subject. Without counting pages, I'd guess that Klosterman spends more time talking about his love life than about any of the musicians or their 'meaning' over the course of the book. This isn't surprising since the book is actually about his love life - "Killing Yourself to Live" is as good depiction as any of the self-flagellation he engages in over the 3 (point whatever) women in his life over the course of his road trip.

The whole thing is, naturally, set to music. And in these parts he at least head-fakes towards the ostensible topic - the obligatory Cobain/Corrigan/Vedder death, genius and relevance discussion, a truly great passage about the enduring utility and greatness of Zeppelin and standard Rock-Critic Snobbery - he wants you to know that he f'ing hates punk, country and, worst of all, "the F-ing blues" though he loves blues rock.

To be sure the blues he's thinking of (your Parchman Farm era Robert Johnson's, Charley Pattons and Skip James) are something of an acquired taste for one used to the 'majesty' of modern production values. The simplicity of a Robert Johnson man-and-a-guitar-on-literal-wax track must be jarring to one who genuflects at the altar of O.K. Computer every few hours.

All my complaints aside, Klosterman is such an engaging narrator that I end up not caring what he says. The way he says it is diverting enough, and there is plenty of meat on the story, with the music and the girls and the random Midwest observations (homesick much, Pooh?) thrown in as he drives his trusty "Ford Tauntan" from one end of the country to the other.

But he should like the blues. Strike one...

Monday, May 22, 2006

Heads I Win...

So, it is probably impossible to have missed it, but John McCain got, erm, what's a good neutral way to put it...a less than universally approving reception at the New School University Commencement this weekend.

I've already said that I rather liked the McCain speech so far as political speechifying long a rhetoric and short on specifics goes (the New School remarks being pretty much the same as those given at Liberty ten days or so ago.) But I wouldn't want it 'performed' at my graduation either, for several reasons. First, I'm not sure I'd have much desire (or, considering the activities of Senior Week, have much capacity) to be lectured - it's safe to say he went slightly beyond gentle admonitions to Not Forget the Sunscreen - on the rules of substantive discourse. Especially by someone who doesn't always deal well with challenges from the young 'uns. See also this rather bizarre Obama-McCain exchange re: lobbying reform. And let's not forget the erm, less-than-civil response of one of his staffers to Ms. Rohe. Not that any of this makes Sen. McCain more or less faithful to the ideals of open debate than the rest of us, but it is worthwhile to mention that he is providing a salutation rather than precisely leading by example on this front.

But, more importantly, it's my graduation, not your campaign whistle-stop. If, as a group, the student body gets together and decides 'hey let's get Candidate X to come give a stump speech,' that's all well and good. Somehow, I don't think that's what happened here.

More disturbing to me is how yet again, this has turned into an opportunity to hector the 'Angry Left' (with even pretty reasonable types getting in on the act) and lecture about civility, et. seq.

I have several responses - the first is, this is rather how it is supposed to work. McCain says...whatever, at Liberty and plans to say the same at NSU. So a student at NSU who has the floor disagrees. Pointed disagreement, but largely respectful. It's called counterspeech, and is how the vaunted 'Marketplace of Ideas' functions. On the merits, I'm not sure Mr. Rohe is taking McCain's remarks in the spirit intended, but she certainly has a plausible reading, and she at the very least cautions against the more dismissive aspects of McCain's call to temper the passions of youth.

Second, this is pretty clearly exactly what McCain wanted - a gentle scolding to Falwell, which somehow demonstrates his independance (while at the same kissing the ring of the religious right) followed by some controversy at a bastion of liberalism - see, the hippie kids hate me. I must be a true conservative. All the while, the Straight-Talk meme survives and thrives. It's good politics, to be sure. But it's also obvious politics, so spare me the crocodile tears, please.

And my final bone of contention is largely this - the people complaining about this 'lack of civility' the loudest have no real standing to do so. Consider Greenwald, comparing the reaction to McCain at a liberal venue and an anti-war speaker at a conservative venue:
So, to re-cap the rules: (1) When a pro-war politician gives a pro-war speech as part of a graduation ceremony, and students in the audience heckle and boo him, that shows how Deranged the Angry Left is -- because they heckled a pro-war speech. (2) When an anti-war politician gives an anti-war speech as part of a graduation ceremony, and students in the audience heckle, walk out and even riot, that also shows how Angry the Left is -- because they "provoked a near riot" by pro-war students.
(Per usual with GG, Read The Whole Thing.) A neat trick - heads I win, tails you're angry. And next week, we learn how to become rubber and turn the opposition to glue...

As a final note, a vigorous side-discussion has arisen amongst various lefty heavyweights as to whether or not this form of dissent was particularly 'effective', whatever that means. Personally, I don't think it did much, on its own, to damage the well-burnished Straight-Talkin Maverick Express image. BUT, that doesn't mean Rohe was wrong for doing what she did (and if the STME is to be, sorry, derailed it might take a sustained critique of this nature to wake the more mainstream opinion-makers up to the notion that McCain is as ruthlessly political as they come, and 'Straight-Talk' is more of a schtick than a reality. [Update 5/23: Ezra appears to agree that the image of McCain as "Once and future Mavericking" politician might need to be killed by a thousand small cuts...thousand "Rohe's in bloom." His puns, thankfully, not mine...])

I Need A Minute

I don't think I can do this game 7 thing least not if the first one goes to OT...

Hopefully, Dirk has largely shed the 'soft' label, as that and-1 at the end of regulation was definitely a "MARBLES!" play. And note that as soon as OT started, Dallas started attacking on offense, just as they stopped doing once San Antonio started their huge run in the third quarter (aided largely by Avery Johnson's refusal to make the obvious move and put Diop in the game to guard Duncan.) It seemed more like they were just trying to use possessions to get to the end of the game, rather than executing a coherent plan to keep scoring. But when they needed a bucket, Dirk simply decided that he was too big for a little (or a lot) Bruce Bowen hack to stop him. Now, let's go Suns for a stupendous WC Finals!

Sunday, May 21, 2006


Ok, 20 points, not 35, but the Pistons roll on. In all honesty, it wasn't exactly a hard call on my part - you just knew the Pistons had too much pride to not win Game 6, and the Cavs had no chance today. For some reason it took them 6 games to run three guys at LeBron on every possession, but once that happened, it was over. And my goodness did the Cavs offense look terrible.

But, he's 21, and he single-handedly put the fright to the best team in the league. More to come.

Bring on a couple of better game 7's tommorow, please.

"Da Vinci Code"

An impulse add to the 'in progress' bookpile was "Fiasco: A History of Hollywood's Iconic Flops" - a look at, wait for it, some of the memorable film flops of all time. All manner of things can go wrong in the production of a movie, but the common thread running through to Cleopatra's, Ishtar's and Showgirls' of the world is best described as excessive ambition bordering on hubris.

I bring that up, because for all the hype and hoopla, one thing noticably lacking in the film version of "The Da Vinci Code" is ambition. In retrospect, I'm not sure why this is surprising, as a by-the-numbers pot-boiler novel most easily translates into a by-the-numbers pot-boiler film. If not for the 'controversy' of the religious aspects (and the built-in audience of 40 million copies sold) this is nothing more than another here-today, gone tommorow, pseudo-historical thriller (think National Treasure or Sahara)

As an example of the genre, DVC is perfectly acceptable - especially considering the star-wattage which exceeds what can usually be brought to bear. That said, I have three minor quibbles and one major one.

The small ones - 1. Paul Bettany's ludicrous attempt at a Spanish(?) accent. Was it Mexican or more Belorussian? I half expected him to yell out "Say Hello to my lil' friend!" as he whipped himself.


3. The utter lack of chemistry between Tom Hanks and Amelie.

But my big problem was the faith with which the film follows to book's plot - there are so many twists and turns that just don't come through well in the time alotted. The plot moves fast without moving quickly, so their is a rush from scene to scene, none of which are particularly compelling. Indeed, it serves more to demonstrate the combination of banality and risibility for which Dan Brown's novels are justly noted. The only portion that really hums are the vingettes involving Ian MacKellan who barely even pauses for tea to wash down the scenery he's been devouring.

And saddest of all, the film doesn't even live up to the controversy, as the 'Holy Blood, Holy Grail' theories on which it is based are presented so quickly that there is very little in the way of a frontal challenge to the church.

Pooh's View: Decent popcorn fare, MacKellan is good, but mosly 'Feh!'

Friday, May 19, 2006

Fearless Prediction

Contra Simmons, I predict that the Pistons win games 6 and 7 by a combined 35 points. I've seen this story before, and the Cavs are just not good outside of Bron - when your second best player is SideShow Bob er, Anderson Varejao, you got problems.

Spurs win by about 6 to force back to back Western Conference Game 7's, both of which make me giddy at the prospect. (For more, FD has a fantastic post about the Mavs. Go there.)

BMF: You Know How We Do It


1. "Come On Home" - Franz Ferdinand. If ever there were a song written in search of a Quentin Tarrantino soundtrack. 6/10.

2. "Pink Houses" - John Mellancamp. I won't change hit the skip track button, but if I start listening in mid-song, I'm not rewinding, either. Meh. 4/10.

3. "My Immortal (Band Version) - Evanescence. What? What?!? I like this band, screw you. Though this particular song (which you have to have the CD and then download this 'free' version and then go through a whole rigamarole) was perhaps more trouble then it was worth to get into the White Plastic Box of Muscial Goodness. But it's here now and nothing you can do will change that. A defiant 8/10.

4. "Bron-Y-Aur Stomp" - Led Zeppelin. One of my 10 favorite songs of all time. Incidentally, also a song that demonstrates why Zep is head and shoulders above most other 'Hard' bands - yes they "rock", but these guys were just better at music. By a lot. 10/10.

5. "Eighteen Hammers" - Taj Mahal. How many people write a part in a blues song for a tuba? How many of those can actually pull it off? (My guess is 'Taj' and that's all for both...) 7/10.

6. "Ramblin' On My Mind" - Robert Johnson. Something almost ghost-like about the main slide-riff of this bad boy. I may have mentioned it somewhere around here before, but Clapton's solo performance of this to open "VH1's Concert of the Century" a few years back is "the one that got away" as far as my recordings of musical performances goes. If anyone out there has a copy, I'll pay you 1, maybe even 2 $ for it. 10/10.

7. "Simple Kind of Man" - Lynard Skynard. Not quite the pinnacle of the "good song ruined by use in crap commercials" genre - that would be Seger's "Like A Rock" - but right up there. 8/10.

8. "Machinehead" - Bush. For being a bunch of poseur Brit-wannabe-be-Seattle-grungers, these guys don't totally suck. Even Klosterman begrudingly acknoledges that "6Teen Stone" is a listenable album - though "listenable" from Chuck is sort of like describing a whine as "quaffable, though hardly transcendant." 7/10.

9. "My Son Calls Another Man Daddy" - Hank Williams. The orignal Hank, not the "ready for some football" wanker with the C. Everett Koop beard and aviator shades. The joke about playing country music backwords, you get your girl, your truck and you dog back, etc...5/10.

10. "Check Yo Self" - Ice Cube. This song is just so good, I have to post some lyrics and leave you with that - (plus the use of "The Message"'s like a jungle sometimes and makes me wonder how I keep from goin' under...) actually, no I'm not, because they're pretty filthy upon reflection. Not "Wait" filthy, but filthy... 9/10.

7.4 avg. Boo-yeah.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Respectfully, Yes You Probably Do

"I don't need to be lectured by you. You are no more a protector of the Constitution than am I," Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pennsylvania, shouted [at] Sen. Russ Feingold
Are you sure, Arlen? Sen. Feingold does seem to take his oath to protect the Constitution rather more seriously. I suspect that he might even put a key witness under oath at a hearing. But that's just me. He's certainly not averse to taking a stand. Specter, you might recall, is pretty useful on these issues "as long as you don't need him", "taking a stand" by mouthing some platitudes about oversight and then...well we've heard that story from the gentleman from Pennsylvania a few times now.

If there is a positive, it's that I can fairly safely put Specter into the 'pandering' category any times he "takes a stand" on something. This blowup came in the midst of commitee debate over the proposed amendment same-sex marriage ban. Specter, being a good guy, voted "yeah", however:
Not all those who voted "yes" support the amendment, however. Specter said he is "totally opposed" to it, but felt it deserved a debate in the Senate.

Right. Having your cake, as well as eating, absorbing, ingesting and possibly even smoking it for good measure.

Update 5/19/06: Via Ezra, apparently Jack Cafferty went off on a similar tangent on CNN. C&L has the video.

Ezra also asks "but really Mr. Chairman -- what would ya say you do here? to which a commenter offers "I have PEOPLE skills! Can't you understand that? What the hell is wrong with you people?" HehIndeed.

Talking Sense, or Pandering?

I suppose it largely turns on whose ox is being gored, but in the last week or so, their have been several ostensibly sensible speeches by political figures. Alternatively, they would say that...

First, we have Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, either trying to blunt the ongoing attacks on Dems, arguing that a GOP loss of the house will result in some combination of endless partisan hearings, retailiatory impeachment proceedings, and the Stay-Puft Marshmellow man signalling the coming apocalype or plotting a sensible course for oversight:
So, rather than seeking impeachment, I have chosen to propose comprehensive oversight of these alleged abuses. The oversight I have suggested would be performed by a select committee made up equally of Democrats and Republicans and chosen by the House speaker and the minority leader.

The committee's job would be to obtain answers -- finally. At the end of the process, if -- and only if -- the select committee, acting on a bipartisan basis, finds evidence of potentially impeachable offenses, it would forward that information to the Judiciary Committee. This threshold of bipartisanship is appropriate, I believe, when dealing with an issue of this magnitude.

One-party rule has dug our nation into a deep hole over the past six years. The Judiciary Committee needs to fully implement the recommendations of the Sept. 11 commission, strengthen laws against wartime fraud, ban trade with state sponsors of terrorism, increase funding for community policing and protect government whistle-blowers. Most important, before we have another presidential election, I believe we need to pass laws protecting the integrity of our electoral system -- the very foundation of our democracy.
Sounds good, but, he would say that, wouldn't he?

Similarly, John McCain, in the Lion's Den at Liberty University last weekend (a great speech, BTW, hard to pick out the best parts to excerpt):
Americans should argue about this war. It has cost the lives of nearly 2500 of the best of us. It has taken innocent life. It has imposed an enormous financial burden on our economy. At a minimum, it has complicated our ability to respond to other looming threats. Should we lose this war, our defeat will further destabilize an already volatile and dangerous region, strengthen the threat of terrorism, and unleash furies that will assail us for a very long time. I believe the benefits of success will justify the costs and risks we have incurred. But if an American feels the decision was unwise, then they should state their opposition, and argue for another course. It is your right and your obligation. I respect you for it. I would not respect you if you chose to ignore such an important responsibility. But I ask that you consider the possibility that I, too, am trying to meet my responsibilities, to follow my conscience, to do my duty as best as I can, as God has given me light to see that duty.

Americans deserve more than tolerance from one another, we deserve each other’s respect, whether we think each other right or wrong in our views, as long as our character and our sincerity merit respect, and as long as we share, for all our differences, for all the noisy debates that enliven our politics, a mutual devotion to the sublime idea that this nation was conceived in – that freedom is the inalienable right of mankind, and in accord with the laws of nature and nature’s Creator.

We have so much more that unites us than divides us. We need only to look to the enemy who now confronts us, and the benighted ideals to which Islamic extremists pledge allegiance -- their disdain for the rights of Man, their contempt for innocent human life -- to appreciate how much unites us.
This sentiment runs throughout the speech, and it is a beautiful one, but then "the Straight Talk Express" would deliver this message, wouldn't he?

And of course, there was President Bush's immigration speech, which everyone seems to view as pandering, despite the eminent sensibility of recognizing that we just aren't going to deport 11 million people and/or build the Great Wall of Texas.

How do we determine whom to believe and who is merely politiking-as-usual (as if those are mutually exclusive propositions)? Are we really forced to listen to pundits and their bullshit about 'authenticity'? (Consider Joe Klein's near cult-like devotion to 'authenticity'. Except where a candidate displays all the his defnied characteristics of authenticity and he savages them anyway.)

There is so much noise, so much spin, so much out-and-out perveracation, that how is a non-junkie supposed to keep track?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


George Will has a fantastic column in tommorow's WaPo discussing an aspect of American political discourse - the "values voters" on the cultural conservative right. My issue is not that they aren't casting their votes based on values, but rather that the rest of us aren't. Will:
This phrase diminishes our understanding of politics. It also is arrogant on the part of social conservatives and insulting to everyone else because it implies that only social conservatives vote to advance their values and everyone else votes to . . . well, it is unclear what they supposedly think they are doing with their ballots.
Just so.

Now, we can disagree on the normative worth of our respective values (and as Calimachus says here, should do so as strenuosly as necessary,) but certain 'values' are not, by definition superior to others:
Conservatives should be wary of the idea that when they talk about, say, tax cuts and limited government -- about things other than abortion, gay marriage, religion in the public square and similar issues -- they are engaging in values-free discourse. And by ratifying the social conservatives' monopoly of the label "values voters," the media are furthering the fiction that these voters are somehow more morally awake than others.
Precisely - I would suggest that supporting the rule of law and opposing torture reflect values just as much as promoting abstinence and opposing abortion. Once again, we can disagree as to importance, but finger wagging about moral seriousness doesn't do much aside from make the wagger feel superior and the waggee feel pissed. Will seems to recognize this point as well:
Today's liberal agenda includes preservation, even expansion, of the welfare state in its current configuration in order to strengthen an egalitarian ethic of common provision. Liberals favor taxes and other measures to produce a more equal distribution of income. They may value equality indiscriminately, but they vote their values.

Among the various flavors of conservatism, there is libertarianism that is wary of government attempts to nurture morality and there is social conservatism that says unless government nurtures morality, liberty will perish. Both kinds of conservatives use their votes to advance what they value.
And he concludes that despite their differences, the two frontrunners for 2008 have one thing in common:
both are and will remain busy courting only values voters, because there is no other kind.
As some say, read the whole thing.


Because, that's what credit cards are for, Amazon is trying to wreck me by selling Criterion Collection DVD's at 45% off. May I particularly suggest, for those that like the quality films, Carol Reed's The Third Man?


What If It Just Sucks?

I admit, I'm psyched for the "Da Vinci Code" movie - I enjoyed the book (well, the reading, since I 'read' it while driving from Minnesota to Texas a few years back. Brown's rather leaden prose is more easily digestable when spoken, apparently.) And the stupidity of the 'controversy' surrounding the film is delicious - if there is one thing that you would think people have learned by now, it's that creating a stink about something ensures a wider audience then there would have been. No publicity is bad publicity, etc.

And, as has been noted, the book was pretty much written to become a blockbuster screenplay. Add Tom Hanks, Opie Cunningham, Gandalf, and Hot French Chick du juor, what could possibly go wrong?

Well, for one, suckasge. A possibility that I'd never really considered is that it might turn out to be just a Bad Movie, not an Evil movie, Dr. Dobson, just a bad, bad movie. Consider:
At Cannes, one scene during the film, meant to be serious, elicited prolonged laughter from the audience, and when the credits rolled, there was no applause, only a few catcalls and hisses. Things were no better Stateside, where the film screened for critics in New York.

The Hollywood Reporter headlined its review, " 'Da Vinci Code' an unwieldy, bloated puzzle."

"No chemistry exists between the hero and heroine, and motivation remains a troubling sore point," wrote reviewer Kirk Honeycutt, panning Tom Hanks' "remote, even wooden performance." Only co-star Ian McKellen managed to avoid criticism.
As the canines are wont to say, "Ruh Roh!"

Consider my expectations lowered. But I'll still be there on Friday.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


Not nearly as annoying as that %^6*&4 "Tales of Tasty Shrimp" Applebee's spot from March Madness, but something about it just creeps me right out. Notice, btw, that Big Head Peyton Manning Kid chokes at the end, giving up the dinger to Life-Sized Gourd Jeter (and has Jennie Finch talk trash to him for good measure) Same as it ever was...


Via, well, everyone - Arlen Specter, profile in courage:
Specter has mollified conservative opposition to his bill by agreeing to drop the requirement that the Bush administration seek a legal judgment on the program from a special court set up by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978.

Instead, Specter agreed to allow the administration to retain an important legal defense by allowing the court, which holds its hearings in secret, to review the program only by hearing a challenge from a plaintiff with legal standing, said a person familiar with the text of language agreed to by Specter and committee conservatives.
Predictably, my thoughts follow:

More nuanced views from GG and the Anonymous Liberal.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Pooh's "Dude" Theory of Hoops

Unlike some of the worthies at FreeDarko, I'm heartily enjoying this NBA playoff season - there has been one great series and one flawed but thoroughly entertaining train-wreck (and sorry MY, but if you lose to Da-mon Jones, you must accept shame and mockery until, well, forever.) Plus, we've had two knucklehead suspensions, a few great performances and Charles Barkley doing the Peanut Butter-Jelly Time dance on a near infinite loop. And that's just the first round.

Watching some of the second round, I'm struck by one thing - these are better teams then we've seen in a while. For too many years, the NBA was all about finding about 3.5 guys who could score, filling the rest of the lineup with athletic defenders/interior bangers and hoping that your "Dude" outplays there's at the end of the game. See Lebron-Gilbertthe majority of Cavs-Zards for a better than average iteration of this dynamic.

Somehow, that's changed a little. Of the remaining teams, at least 6 have a lot of guys who can play, there are more 'dudes' on the court then I'm used to seeing. At the end of the previous NBA golden Era (which roughly coincides with the Lakers/Celtics/Pistons championship years), this was not uncommon - the last good Celtics team of that period had about 7 'dudes' (Bird, McHale, Parish, Lewis, Shaw, Dee Brown, Kevin Gamble), other teams had even more, the Trail Blazers team had so many dudes, that a future 'super-dude,' Drazen Petrovic, barely got any run.

However, the thugball Knicks and Heat of the mid to late 90's put an end to this - guys like Gamble got bullied out of the league, replaced by Mario Elie or Darvin Ham or (shudder) Bruce Bowen. So teams went with variations upon the "Big Three" theme, with the archetype being the George Karl coached Milwaukee Bucks of Cassel, Allen and Big Fraud Robinson.

Somehow, in the last two years, things have come, if not full-circle, then 270 degrees - the combination of the several things has brought about deeper teams than we've recently seen: The stellar 2003 Draft class maturing; some quality Europeans improving (Tony Parker, Boris Diaw, etc.;) this year's 'amnesty' rule which allowed teams not run by Isiah Thomas to cut some dead wood (and thus for Thomas to acquire said kindling...) and the continued willingness of certain teams to remain crappy by giving up quality parts for spares (the Hawks...well yes, the Knicks as well. Remember he's assembling the headcase point guards over there, so we don't have to over here...)

Thus, the top echelon teams are deeper then they have been in years, at least by my completely unscientific couting mechanism - how many "dudes" does each team have? Without getting overly (or at all) technical, a 'dude' is a player who, if you're a fan of the opposing team you are worried about. (Ergo, the Wizards got beat by a non-dude. Oh, the ignominy...)

Consider for example the Spurs-Mavs series (another stupendously good game tonight), the Mavs have 6 legit dudes (Dirk, Terry, Stackhouse, Josh Howard, Daniels and the electric Devin Harris - where has this guy been?) while the Spurs have about 7 (Duncan, Parker, Manu, Big Shot Bob, Barry, Finley and Nicky the Gangster.)* Pretty much any of those guys can take over a game, which makes for excitement.

Now, I'm not saying that picking winners necessarily comes down to simply counting dudes, but it provides a useful guide as to which teams will be succesful. As a rule of thumb, any team that routinely has two or more non-dudes on the floor = done.

*One of the great difficulties of this theory is deciphering when someone no longe warrants "dude" status. Given Steve Kerr's out of mothball performance for the Spurs a couple years back, I'm willing to give Nicky a little benefit of the doubt.

Discourse Discussed

Alan Stewart Carl at Donklephant:
What irritates me about leftwingers’ debating style: they perceive all opponents as either brainwashed sheep or evil manipulators. They always want to “educate” rather than actually debate.

What irritates me about rightwingers’ debating style: they categorically reject nuance, boiling down every issue into an either/or dichotomy where their side is righteous and their opponent’s side is a threat to our way of life.

What irritates me about centrists’ debating style: they reflexively avoid conflict, choosing tepid compromise over real solutions.

To which I'd add that what irritates me is that the utility of any statement or argument seems to be based almost wholly on the identity of the arguer, rather than the contents.

I was looking back through some of my old posts, and it seems that at best, I'm a mix between the first and the third. At worst, I'm a different mix between the first and the third...

Nothing To See Here, Cont.

Just a little...creepy?

The FBI acknowledged late Monday that it is increasingly seeking reporters’ phone records in leak investigations.

“It used to be very hard and complicated to do this, but it no longer is in the Bush administration,” said a senior federal official. . .

Officials say the FBI makes extensive use of a new provision of the Patriot Act which allows agents to seek information with what are called National Security Letters (NSL).

The NSLs are a version of an administrative subpoena and are not signed by a judge. Under the law, a phone company receiving a NSL for phone records must provide them and may not divulge to the customer that the records have been given to the government.
What, me worry?

The Carpetbagger connects some dots:
Way back in January, NBC's Andrea Mitchell was interviewing New York Times reporter James Risen, discussing Bush's warrantless-search program, which Risen helped expose. Mitchell, mid-way through the interview, asked, "You don't have any information, for instance, that a very prominent journalist, Christiane Amanpour, might have been eavesdropped upon?"

It seemed like an odd question, the kind she wouldn't have asked unless she had some reason to believe CNN's Amanpour had been spied on. The story got even more intriguing when the MSNBC website edited the transcript of the Mitchell/Risen interview, removing only the exchange about Amanpour, while leaving the rest of the interview intact.
Shrill, conspiracy mongerers, all of us
Once you set aside the law as your guide for action and view the president's will as a source of legitimacy in itself, then everything becomes possible and justifiable.
What could possibly go wrong?

Update: Ok, very creepy.

"They are here only to make themselves feel important"

So says Alex Sharrat of Soccernet about the new school of mogul ownership in European soccer. Suffice it to say, he is not a happy bunny:

Football sucks.

That's a nasty way to open, but after witnessing the conclusion to THE WORST SEASON EVER, it had to be said.

Ouch, babe.

After detailing the Yankification (pre-this, of course) of most of Europe's top leagues, he becomes, well, shrill

No, something's rotten here.

European football is drowning in its own self-importance, and the fans have become too scared or lazy to throw the game the life jacket it so desperately needs.

Instead, we sit at the poolside, fat and bloated after gorging ourselves on a super-Size diet of bland and tasteless football, remote control resting on our swollen bellies, flicking from one mind-numbing championship to another.

Sniff, sniff, sniff. But how did all this happen?

It happened because football has been stolen from the fans by a deceitful, shadowy cartel of money-mongers - and the most humiliating thing of all is that they did so right under our noses.

While we gazed with open mouths and wide eyes at the circus freaks parading in front of us, we didn't realize that they had an army of shifty little cronies walking amongst the crowd, picking our pockets.

Childish naivety is the only excuse we can offer; our brains were too fried from the free candyfloss and root beer to notice what was really going on around us.

I feel like I've finally awoken from a five-year blackout, and this past season has been one long and dirty hangover as my throbbing head tries to work out what happened.
For the last few seasons, I have noticed that something was indeed rotten in the state of Denmark. And Spain. And Italy. And England. And...Soccer is a game that relies on 'style' for it's entertainment value, and what has happened recently is the commodification of football. Function trumping form to such a degree that one might almost be watching some sort of 'Strat-o-matic soccer'.

In a game where the average score is probably 2-1, what goes on between goals is mightily important - what has largely happened is that top talent is largely concentrated in the top few teams in each league (an almost necessary situation given the almost unfettered free market for playing talent). Thus, 'smaller' teams know that they will have a hard time competing skill-for-skill in a open, flowing (and thus entertaining) game. So they "park the team coach in front of goal," stultifying, unsatisfying, 1-nil to Chelski games ensue, and I changed the channel 20 minutes in.

The most frustrating aspect, for me, is the 'big clubs' propensity to buy up young, exciting talent and park it on the bench. Example #1 from this season is Chelsea's Shawn Wright-Phillips. A year ago, people were openly wondering whether the then Man City winger should start for England. Ahead of the one guy even us yanquis might recognize:

Suddenly, he signs with Chelsea, hardly plays all season, and is left off the England World Cup squad (not even there as an alternate). Good times.

Baseball's owners should take note - though they've actually done a decent job spreading the wealth to a degree, I think this is more a reflection of how bloated and top-heavy the Yankees have become (despite their $200mil + payroll this season, they have about an $80 mil roster) than any particular genius of Selig and co. It remains to be seen how long fans in Tampa and Kansas City and Seattle (and rapidly, Minnesota) will stand for teams not in contention, especially without the worry of relegation from the top league for the worst teams, and without the artificial drama of parralel tournaments contested during the season.


I think it was a really, really, really bad move for NBC to show the first and last episodes of the Wing back to back last night. The contrast between the sharp, speedy, substance laden Sorkin years and the schmaltzy, emotional relationship-driven melodramatic pap that all too often characterized years 5-7 were in full display.

When was the last time an episode featured a 3 minute walk-and-talk? And also note that more time was spent of the characters' love lives in the 7th season than in the first 6 seasons combined. As invested as we were with the characters, this was still jarring because the what made the show different was how little time was spent on 'backstory' items while still developing the individuality needed to make each character compelling.

The kicker is that in a finale devoted to bringing emotional closure to the various character arcs, there was only one (Bartlett-Charlie) that was vaguely satisfying. And that was outweighed by two too-cute-by-way-more-than-half-moments - the return of the "Bartlett for America" napkin (another callback to one of the great episodes) and Santos's use of "What's Next." Compare this finale to that of NYPD Blue, and it's really no contest - one could be the pilot of a show I'd like to watch, the other would never even get picked up.

However, I am massively enthused for Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. But I will go on record as saying that I think using Brad Whitford as the fast-talker with funny hair will prove distracting, as he will still be Josh Lyman as long as he's spouting Sorkinesque neo-poetry.

Nothing to See Here

If you don't have anything to hide...
A senior federal law enforcement official tells ABC News the government is tracking the phone numbers we (Brian Ross and Richard Esposito) call in an effort to root out confidential sources.

"It's time for you to get some new cell phones, quick," the source told us in an in-person conversation.

ABC News does not know how the government determined who we are calling, or whether our phone records were provided to the government as part of the recently-disclosed NSA collection of domestic phone calls.

Other sources have told us that phone calls and contacts by reporters for ABC News, along with the New York Times and the Washington Post, are being examined as part of a widespread CIA leak investigation.
Remember, they hate us for our freedoms. Unfortunately, I'm less and less sure who "they" are.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Moral Quandry (This Week in Hideous Arm Injuries)

So, imagine you are a Red Sox fan. And you just took 2 of 3 from the evil MFY's and Judas Jones, Right There, Right Now like. So you are already pretty happy. Additionally, in the last game of the series, one of the two MFY's who legitimately terrifies you in clutch situations (Jeter being the other) gruesomely breaks his wrist and will miss the next three months.

What is the appropriate emotional reaction to this injury? It undoubtedly helps the Sox (unless Palpatine Steinbrenner sends $30 Mil or so to the Reds for Junior Griffey), but you don't want to win because the other guy is hurt, do you? Is it wrong that there would be much more glee and much less consternation if it had happened to someone truly deplorable like Slappy McNonClutch or that little biyatch, Dumbo? I'm conflicted here, help a guy out.

A Nice Break

So, Uncle Cliffie Robinson got suspended for 5 games for lighting up. During the playoffs. (Hey, at least he didn't complain about minutes. That would have made him an asshole...)

So bad for Robinson, and bad for the Nets. But good for the guy who gets/has to step in and guard Shaq - John Thomas ($):
Thomas, a journeyman power forward who had brief stints with Atlanta and Memphis earlier this season, now becomes the first and only line of defense behind Jason Collins at power forward and at backup center behind Nenad Krstic as the Nets head into Game 3 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Miami Heat.

Pretty significant role for a player who thought he'd be working on a computer marketing program in Los Angeles right about now rather than trying to hold his ground against Shaq. . .

Thomas' wife is a producer of television movies, and she had been working recently on a reality show starring former NBA player Doug Christie and his mercurial wife, Jackie, while Thomas himself was working on production of a computer program that would allow television viewers to interface with particular shows, clicking on a piece of wardrobe in a music video, for instance, to receive information about that particular apparel.

Chances are he never imagined clicking on a No. 41 jersey in a random Nets game and having his image pop into the screen, but that's about the equivalent of what happened to the player drafted No. 25 overall by the Knicks in 1997 before his career wound through Boston, Toronto, Minnesota, China, Spain and the Dominican Republic before coming nearly full circle to the arena just eight miles across the Hudson River from where Thomas played his first professional game.
I have to admit a huge soft spot in my heart for Thomas. First he was a key member of the Bobby Jackson led Minnesota Gopher team which made the Final Four.

But more importantly to me is he facilitated the most fun period of basketball I had in my life - In the spring and summer of '02, just before I went to law school, I wasn't working. I had quit my temp job and was spending most of my time either playing basketball or coaching ultimate. JT started showing up at the suburban Minneapolis health club where I played pickup hoops.

He was trying to get in shape for a summer of tryouts, hoping to catch on with a team in the NBA, or at least secure a lucractive overseas contract. To that end, he organized a regular game at an irregular time (mid-afternoon to miss the lunch time hacks, and to beat the after work crowd) to ensure a high-level of play. Most everyone in the game was either a current D-I player or recent grad playing some form of professional basketball. Occasional players included Khalid El-Amin (for my money, the best guy I've ever played against), Bobby Jackson and Devean George.

Somehow, I got included as well despite being short, slow, and nowhere near skilled enough. (Memory isn't perfect, but I imagine they had 9 guys and I was the only non-tool left in the gym from that day's lunchtime crowd.) But I held my own the first time, and and John encouraged me to keep coming back. For that 3 months, I played ball at a higher level than I really thought possible for myself. And through it all John was nothing other than a teddy bear of a guy, as unthreatening as a 6'10" 275-pound guy can be.

So, anytime I see him catch on and get a little bit of the spotlight, it makes me a little happy. So congrats, John, and make the most of it.