ustoo Dead

Sites to see:

Essential
Almost Essential
From the Left
From the Right
Magazines and Journals
Various Weblogs and Pundits
Think Tanks
Data
Vast Right Wing Conspiracy
Shrill Leftist Garbage

 

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Nader 

Nader says he has good reasons to run and he agrees that defeating Bush is "essential." Apparently he believes that Democrats will all go for Kerry and "disaffected Republicans and independents" will be the only ones voting for him. I wish Nader would show someone the numbers that back up this assertion. (Though that wouldn't make me hate him less, he was still campaigning in Florida and PA right before the election, siphoning off voters from Gore when staunch Republican states would have been a much better place for him to gather vanity votes.)

Update: I posted before I even finished the article. Nader cites "the wholesale abandonment of our campaign by the big donors in 2000 and our prominent liberal supporters: Michael Moore, Phil Donohue, Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon" as evidence that he needed to run. Where was he in 1996? The centrist '96 Clinton/Gore ticket was far less liberal than the 2000 ticket and the 2004 ticket promises to be more liberal than both. What candidate would this man be satisfied with? Oh, yeah. I forgot.

-Daddy Brooklyn  12:53 EST | |

The Journal is back to its usual form (now improved with the correct Simpsons quote) 

People protesting the Bush Administration's immigration policy had the nerve to "storm" Karl Rove's front yard. What the silly protestors didn't realize is that the Bush Administration is completely exculpated of their charges because Karl Rove lets immigrants in his house (as long as they're wealthy lawyers or the progeny of said lawyers). The protestors are also "stupid" because they don't realize that the detentions and deportations immigrants face along with visa hassles and stalling on Mexican labor talks are ultimately good for them.

This op-ed was laughably incoherent. I'll paraphrase Grandpa Simpson and the author (Alan Bromely) at the same time: "Like the time we went over to Shelbyville during the war, I wore an onion on my belt....which was the style at the time...you couldnt get those white ones, you could only get those big yellow ones.................now where was I........oh yeah, the important thing was I was wearing an onion on my belt, which was the style at the time, you couldnt get those...thus 'under God' should stay in the pledge."

-Daddy Brooklyn  12:34 EST | |

Conspiracy Mongering 

I think the Nick Smith bribery scandal (here's a good summary of the particulars and links to more in depth articles) is the biggest story in years that hasn't gotten a ton of attention in the press. After all, there's scads of evidence (on audio and video tape) to support the charge that a Senator was offered a bribe to vote for the Medicare bill. The bribe issue is even more important in light of the realization that the Medicare bill is a bigger financial disaster than was thought at the time. I can think of two reasons why this story hasn't blown up.

Maybe the practice of big guys with access to big money (Democrat or Republican) explicitly offering financial rewards in exchange for votes is more common than we know? The exceptional parts of this case would be that the bribe happened on the House Floor and Congressman Smith, in an effort to show off his unimpeachable integrity, wasn't sufficiently discreet about the offer. What if some powerful people just don't want this can of worms opened?

Okay, enough of me being a crackpot conspiracy theorist. Is there an effective difference between the Senator who trades his vote in exchange for campaign support of a relative and the Senator who toes the party line because he knows that he'll be treated favorably for it? I imaganie that some journalists say no and that's why this story hasn't caught fire. (Look at me and my ackneyed synonyms, "ton of attention", "blown up", and "caught fire"...I should do better.) If a Senator is elected as a Republican and he casts party line votes in order to get money to help his re-election, and if his constituents don't mind that he doens't "vote his conscience", then nothing is really wrong. The problem is that in the Nick Smith case, the accusation is that he was offered money that would benefit a third party.

-Daddy Brooklyn  12:26 EST | |

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

It is the principle of the matter... 

If there is a sentient being in this country who didn't laugh out loud when they saw this headline, well, what can I say? Your sense of irony is underdeveloped.

So Rice (and the White House) reverses and decides that she will testify to the 9/11 Commission less than 48 hours after she went on "60 Minutes" to argue, once again, that the constitutional principle of separation of powers prevented her from testifying. Josh Marshall has covered the story well.

Nevertheless, I have to keep reminding myself of this important fact: Bush is a man of principle. So, dear lord, don't let the mendacity of his White House shake your faith in government, democracy et al.

UPDATE: The Daily Kos says it even better here.

-Ziggy Stardust  10:23 EST | |

Hit the Road, Whitney? 

Wen I saw a WSJ editorial entitled "Hit the Road, Whitney, the Biennial should get out of New York," I was expecting it to piss me off, but then it ended up being a good idea. The big problem is that it would take a ton of money to make the Biennial a traveling show.

-Daddy Brooklyn  07:40 EST | |

Reading before bed 

Both are good reads. On negative reviews and the state of rap. I thought the latter was off target...I feel qualified to comment and I probably will when I get a minute.

-Daddy Brooklyn  00:23 EST | |

Monday, March 29, 2004

Preparing for the end of days 

Usually, New York is the cultural capital of the world. There aren't a lot of movies that open in the U.S. that don't open in NY. If you're doing a book tour or a concert, chances are that you may pass through town. Unfortunately, there are some exceptions. Take the LEFT BEHIND series by well-known evangelicals LeHaye and Jenkins. Although their twelfth book is now released and they are touring from Spartanburg, SC to Plano, TX, no NYC stop. Damn, damn damn.

Check out the story in today's NYT.

The money quote: "I really believe that there is a blessing on this series from the Lord," he said. "Just like with the `Passion' movie, it is all part of the warning we get before Christ returns." He added, "Many people have asked me, Do you think they will finish the series before Christ comes?"

These are sincere beliefs that are held widely and deeply by decent people, which just goes to show you how wide the gulf is that separates religious and secular America.

I used to be a big believer in the possibility of a deep and binding public morality that could survive the fact of plurality in belief and faith. The broadly tolerant liberal vision that would encompass all people of good will. But I am becoming less and less certain that there exists enough in common between me and the people of Hattiesburg, MS (save for you Christine, you're tops!). I'm not sure if this post concludes naturally, but I do want to leave open the question of just what values we as a society/people/country share? Are they enough?

-Ziggy Stardust  12:46 EST | |

Search for Matt Adams on Google 

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Best news story evah! 

Mark's stunning prescience 

Granted, I was stating the obvious at the time, but two days ago in a comment on this blog I wrote:

Right now [the Republicans] can blame, without much justification, intelligence failures inherited from Clinton (and Clinton's "law enforcement" approach to fighting terrorism) for 9/11 and then focus on their results. I cna [sic] see the talking points from the White Houses [sic] looking something like this: no new terrorists attacks in the U.S., two wars "won", one Middle Eastern dictator gone, one North African dictator sufficiently cowed, and we aren't being pushed around by the communist UN or the French anymore.

Bob Dole wrote this in a NY Times op-ed today:

President Bush also has one clear advantage that President Clinton never enjoyed: people view him as a robust leader on defense and security issues...the president can't let the voters forget some key facts: Saddam Hussein is in jail; Iraq has a new Constitution built on democratic principles; the Taliban have been overthrown; 50 million people in Iraq and Afghanistan now are getting a little taste of freedom; and other rogue leaders, like Muammar el-Qaddafi of Libya, now know that the United States means business.


Democrats should not be daunted by this list of supposed achievements. Yes, dictators know the U.S. "means business", but terrorism is largely financed and commmited by non-state actors who will find recruits among the nascent radicals who saw carnage on Al-Jazeera while the U.S. was watching CNN. Iraq has a lovely Constitution, but how will it be implemented? No serious pundits/journalists (save Sey Hersh, I guess) questioned that the U.S. military could easily invade Iraq, but many people made convincing cases that the occupation would require more resources than those alloted (see this article that appeared five months prior to the invasion and this retrospective.) The ensuing chaos in Iraq has damaged U.S. standing in the Middle East.

If there ever was an odious regime it was the Taliban, but Afghanistan is an underfuned basket case where the central government exerts no control outside of Kabul and to a lesser extent Khandar. I don't know if the people in Afganistan and Iraq are better off now than they were in 2001. The dead people aren't. And a society is hardly free when crime is rampant and terrorists kill indiscriminantly. Qaddafi gave up his minimal nuclear program while Pakistan, our ally in the War on Terror, exported nuclear technology all over the world.

-Daddy Brooklyn  15:35 EST | |

According to an article in the Las Vegas Advisor (run by Anthony Curtis -- a blackjack legend), the WTO hasn't looked too kindly on US laws against internet gambling. For more, read here. Sadly, the US, as usual, told the WTO to suck it (I'm just making shit up here, but honestly, can you imagine another response?). Ben, you might have to change my bio sometime soon ("former aspiring gambler").

-Matt  10:42 EST | |

Saturday, March 27, 2004

and first place for best site that I wish I had done myself goes to... 

Quick test for HIV!  

This is badass! You spit on a stick and 20 minutes later, you know whether you have HIV. Easier, quicker to test now. Hopefully there will be fewer carriers who don't know they're carriers.

I do have a question for the NYT, though. You say the test is 99% accurate...does that 1% account for false positives or false negatives. Hopefully it's positives.

-Ben  14:31 EST | |




You're Pale Fire!

by Vladimir Nabokov

You're really into poetry and the interpretation thereof. Along the
road of life, you have had several identity crises which make it very unclear who you
are, let alone how to interpret poetry. You probably came from a foreign country, but
then again you seem foreign to everyone in ways unrelated to immigration. Most people
think you're quite funny, but maybe you're just sick. Talking to you ends up being much
like playing a round of the popular board game Clue.



Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.



I object to the part where it says "most people think you're funny"

-Ben  14:19 EST | |




You're The Guns of August!

by Barbara Tuchman

Though you're interested in war, what you really want to know is what
causes war. You're out to expose imperialism, militarism, and nationalism for what they
really are. Nevertheless, you're always living in the past and have a hard time dealing
with what's going on today. You're also far more focused on Europe than anywhere else in
the world. A fitting motto for you might be "Guns do kill, but so can
diplomats."



Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

-Matt  14:05 EST | |

Not sure why I waste my time like this... 




You're Love in the Time of Cholera!

by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Like Odysseus in a work of Homer, you demonstrate undying loyalty by
sleeping with as many people as you possibly can. But in your heart you never give
consent! This creates a strange quandary of what love really means to you. On the
one hand, you've loved the same person your whole life, but on the other, your actions
barely speak to this fact. Whatever you do, stick to bottled water. The other stuff
could get you killed.



Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

-Ziggy Stardust  11:13 EST | |

You know that Green Day song they play at graduation? 

Well, it fits perfectly with this.

[And, no, you don't need more information to click on the link. You have 5 seconds.]

-Ziggy Stardust  06:00 EST | |

Friday, March 26, 2004

New Discussion 

Question: What will be the major themes/topics that will determine the outcome of the presidential election?

The two most important, I believe, are the war in Iraq /National security, and the economy.
Kerry will win the economy debate , while Bush probably has an advantage on the National Security pulpit (thought that is questionable after this week's developments)

What other factors will come into play?

Who will gain control of the topics most of the time: Kerry or Bush?

What factors will be most important in swing states?

Discuss amongst ourselves via the comments section.

And yes, for those who will gripe, I stole borrowed this idea from Kos

-Ben  21:52 EST | |

reviewing the reviewers 

I am a prolific blog poster on my days off. I did go in to work today...I had to play poker at lunch or I would regret it all weekend.

Contrary to the original impression I gave you guys when I forwarded it, Katya did not write this. I assumed she wrote it because it sounds an awful lot like something she would write, she forwarded the text (as opposed to just a link), and I didn't even look at the link where the original author is. My mistake. It's still very funny. Here's an excerpt:

There is sometimes a dreadfully earnest, ponderous style to the New York intelligentsia. You see it in the writing and you hear it when they discuss worthy matters in a worthy tone. As the conversation shifts to the philospohical paradigm de jour, so do their voices. New York writers do not discuss. They declaim at each other, they intone, like Roman senators addressing the forum. Then their voices go back to normal when they pop out to buy a sandwich.

Like a book review in the New Yorker, this restaurant review made me want to burn something. I disliked Amanda Hesser by the second sentence when she used the phrase "olfactory amuse-bouche". By the end of the piece I wanted to grab her and make her wear clothes from Old Navy and eat Big Macs for the rest of her life.
Take a peek:

"A maître d'hôtel with carefully rumpled hair wearing a "Late Night With David Letterman" T-shirt and a sports coat takes your name at the door. Lights from the open kitchen in the rear outline a long row of spectators at the bar. A large canopy, resembling the top of a Chinese bed, creates a shadowy garden for a group of diners. Waitresses in silky persimmon-color smocks, open at the back, sweep through. Howard Stern and a girlfriend amble by. You are in a James Bond movie, a high-end bar in Bangkok, a Vong to the 10th power."
I imagine you are probably working on a novel, Amanda. Everyone else in New York is. One word of advice. Stop.

-Daddy Brooklyn  15:47 EST | |

Is someone paying attention? 

For years Americans maintained that "Bush is so honest" while the evidence mounted to the contrary. It seemed like people either weren't paying attention or they were being misinformed (most likely by Fox News as this survey shows).

This poll, cited in a WashPo article today, is good news to my ears.

A poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, conducted Monday through Wednesday, found significant public interest in Clarke's criticisms, with nearly nine in 10 of the 1,065 Americans surveyed saying they had heard of them. Of those polled, 42 percent said they had heard "a lot" about his claims and 47 percent said they had heard "a little."


-Daddy Brooklyn  10:06 EST | |

more on Clarke 

How long before people decide that the preponderance of evidence is not in favor of the Bush, Cheney, Rice version(s) of the state of pre-9/11 counter-terrorism policies?

Josh Marshall pointed out this excerpt:

[Outgoing Deputy National Security Advisor Lieutenant General Donald L. Kerrick], who stayed through the first four months of the Bush administration, said, "candidly speaking, I didn't detect" a strong focus on terrorism. "That's not being derogatory. It's just a fact. I didn't detect any activity but what Dick Clarke and the CSG [the Counterterrorism Strategy Group he chaired] were doing." General Hugh Shelton, whose term as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff began under Clinton and ended under Bush, concurred. In his view, the Bush administration moved terrorism "farther to the back burner."

America Unbound, p. 76
Ivo Daalder & James Lindsay

Here's the review that convinced me to buy Unbound.

-Daddy Brooklyn  09:46 EST | |

The Gaint Sucking Sound revisited 

Daniel Drezner wrote an unquestioningly pro-outsourcing piece called The Outsourcing Bogeyman that's on the Foreign Affairs website right now (it will be in the May/June print issue). Pair this with an excellent (well written, interesting, heart rending) New Yorker article about job losses in South Texas.

Drezner's article is a good summary of the standard arguments in favor of free trade/outsourcing, but I think that a few of the things he wrote are misleading or contradictory.

Here's the main paragraph that I have a problem with:


Delta Airlines outsourced 1,000 call-center jobs to India in 2003, but the $25 million in savings allowed the firm to add 1,200 reservation and sales positions in the United States.

Oh, really? Is that how it works? This example isn't representative of the typical results of outsourcing. Normally the $25 million would be returned to the shareholders and officers of the corporation who would then spend it on tobiko, shiatsu, and the services of sommeliers. The Invisible Hand would go to work and the more capable of the former telephone jockeys would sharpen their knife skills or learn to give massages or pick up a wine book. In the short and medium term, the rest of the newly unemployed would go live under a bridge.

The truth is, corporations exist to maximize their value (I can say something so presumptuous as "The truth is", because that really is the uncontested truth). If Delta knew that adding reservation and sales positions would increaes profits--you have to assume that Delta wants to gain a customer service advantage over its competitors and deems the $25 million a worthwhile expense--they most likely would have done it anyway, with or without the outsourcing. Okay, so maybe airlines don't have a ton of cash on hand right now and maybe the Delta corporate finance guys decided that it was too costly to raise cash through debt or equity markets or a private lender and they needed to save money before they could take on this great new growth opportunity. But I doubt that the outsourced jobs were swapped for new ones. It’s much more likely that the Delta PR guys are just spinning it this way and the new customer service people would have been hired anyway.

Even if Delta’s outsourcing did result in new jobs because it freed up some hard to come by cash(admittedly, I’m not familiar with the particulars of this case), it’s disingenuous to argue for outsourcing using this atypical case. The benefits of outsourcing come from creative destruction and which isn't as easy or painless as Drezner paints it here. Companies don’t send jobs overseas and then immediately replace them with new domestic ones. The theory goes that the newfound wealth gains from trade result in more consumption (e.g., sushi or massage) and after some re-training this leads to new jobs later on. As a society would we rather have a bunch of people sewing shirts for a living or do we want those people providing (luxury) services that increase our standard of living? I would choose the latter, but it would be much easier to make this choice if there were a better social safety net in place to take care of those who need re-training for new (most likely service oriented) jobs.

The rest of this is just me knitpicking.


Moreover, it is debatable whether actual levels of outsourcing will ever match current predictions. Despite claims that the pace of onshore and offshore outsourcing would quicken over time, there was no increase in 2003. In fact, TPI Inc., an outsourcing advisory firm, even reports that the total value of business process outsourcing deals in the United States fell by 32 percent in 2003.

Outsourcing decreased while the economy was slumping badly (and was only propped up by robust consumer spending). There’s a shocker. Why am I not convinced that this is a trend?


Employment in computer and mathematical positions increased by 6 percent.

So that’s why I picked a major where there were no girls in half the classes.


It is also worth remembering that many predictions come from management consultants who are eager to push the latest business fad. Many of these consulting firms are themselves reaping commissions from outsourcing contracts.

Good idea. We can’t trust the management consultants.


McKinsey Global Institute has estimated that for every dollar spent on outsourcing to India, the United States reaps between $1.12 and $1.14 in benefits. Thanks to outsourcing, U.S. firms save money and become more profitable, benefitting [sic] shareholders and increasing returns on investment.

Nah, McKinsey is just hyping outsourcing because they’re “reaping commissions from outsourcing contracts.”


McKinsey Global Institute estimates that such a scheme could be created for as little as four or five cents per dollar saved from offshore outsourcing. IBM recently announced the creation of a two-year, $25 million retraining fund for its employees who fear job losses from outsourcing. Having the private sector handle the problem without extensive government intervention would be an added bonus.

McKinsey is of the Rolls Royce of management consulting firms, but we can’t trust them can we?

-Daddy Brooklyn  00:47 EST | |

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Clark vs. Clarke 

If you haven't read this Fred Kaplan article about Dick Clarke yet, ya should. Just so we're clear, this is the other Dick Clark.

You may be wondering why I'm up this early. Let's just say that it's a beautiful morning.

-Daddy Brooklyn  06:26 EST | |

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Fallout 

Rasmussen Reports publishes daily tracking polls on the presidentail race. Here is their latest:

Date Bush Kerry
3/24   44    47
3/23   47    45
3/22   48    45

I guess this Clarke thing is becoming a nightmare for the Bush administration.

Kos has more and more interesting things to say about it than I have time or proclivity to write.

-Ben  23:39 EST | |

Good Food Writing 

Hot on the heels of Mark's example of shitty food writing, I bring you this ode to In-N-Out Burgers. God I wish I could eat one right now.

Tasting Menu discovered via Jewish Buddha via DeNovo. Yeah, I get around.

-Ziggy Stardust  18:57 EST | |

Monday, March 22, 2004

This will take a few moments to do 

Mother Jones magazine has a photo essay about wounded soldiers coming home from Iraq.

It is a hard thing to look at.

-Ziggy Stardust  17:42 EST | |

Sunday, March 21, 2004

A little scary 

Ok, so does Al Quaeda have Nuclear weapons? Not dirty bombs, but serious, we're not fucking around, thermonuclear devices? Some think so(link via Pandagon).

Apparently, there is no (admitted) real evidence to support Zawahiri's claims that they have suitcase bombs. Unfortunately, the lack of evidence is not evidence. I expect there is a possibility that these devices are available from the right people for the right price. Witness Pakistan, which has shown that any nation can buy nuclear technoligy, given a large enough bank account.

This brings up something unsettling that is on my mind. The Madrid bombings have reinforced the appearance that a strategically timed terrorist attack can affect national policy. The impression for those who would carry out these bombings is this: the Socialists won the election in the aftermath of the bombings in part as an outcry to get Spain out of Iraq (because the bombings were carried out in retaliation for Spain's policy of US assistance). In short, the message is that terrorism works. Granted, Spain's actual response to the attacks, and the outcome of the elections there is more complicated and has more to it than that, but bear with me.

Can we expect a terrorist attack in the US prior to our elections? Al Quaeda's M.O. has major attacks occouring several years apart...time enough for the populace in the terrorized country to regain a sense of security and complacency. 9/11 was 2.5 years ago. Since then, we have Invaded Afganistan and Iraq. We are hunting down the Al Quaeda leaders in Pakistan. The US is feeling peretty good about itself. We feel pretty safe.

But we're still vulnerable. The Department of Homeland Security has not met all of it's goals for increased security. Our ports are still not secure. Airport security is not up to snuff. The US borders are still very porous. US intelligence is still sketchy (if the Bush administration is even paying attention) Despite what we are being told, the US is prime as a target right now. The outcome of the Madrid bombings makes the upcoming political season all the more attractive a time for the next terrorist attack.

I hate to be a Cassandra, but I fear a terrorist attack on the US. Soon.

-Ben  17:02 EST | |

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Young America, I give you your role model: 

Jessica Simpson at a benefit for the Ford Theater (or, as President 43 called it "the Lincoln Theater"), upon being introduced to Interior Secretary Gale Norton:
"You've done a nice job decorating the White House."
'nuf said.

-Ben  06:27 EST | |

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

New Moveon.org ad 

Check it out. Though I have to say that the movement to have Bush or other high-ranking administration officials censured by Congress for merely misleading the American public about why we should go to war seems almost quixotic. I mean, isn't censure for important things like lying about sex?

-Ziggy Stardust  17:18 EST | |

For all of y'all who wear fanny packs... 

Or, rather, if you're interested in what law school is all about I highly recommend the new group blog De Novo. They are currently hosting/publishing an online symposia about different perspectives about law school (yes, this probably is solely for Alex's consumption; Mark does have to admit though that he'd like law school).

De Novo is the new blog from the same guys who brought us En Banc which recently perished due to an unexplained but presumably personal falling out between the co-bloggers. Good stuff.

UPDATE: I was informed by one of the new De Novo writers and a former En Banc'er that the demise of En Banc had nothing do with any personal falling outs. My apologies to all for the unwarranted presumption.

-Ziggy Stardust  16:59 EST | |

Monday, March 15, 2004

Colorado politics and a site recommendation 

We all grew up in Colorado, but most of us had the good sense to get ourselves to blue states on the coasts. Nonetheless, I still harbor fond attachments to Colorado (especially to certain houses in Boulder and Denver) and so try to follow Colorado politics a little more closely than the average Brooklynite (do I get to call myself that yet?). The fact that I worked for the Colorado Dems during the midterms also may explaing my fascination with Colorado's wacky political dynamics.

Anyway... here is a summation of the current Colorado Senate race that has been wild ever since Campbell announced his intention to retire. And while you're at it, give the entire Daily Kos site a look, it is one of the first pages I look at it every day.

-Ziggy Stardust  13:51 EST | |

Quick, disjointed thoughts on 'Spartan' 

David Mamet takes his version of screencraft to a whole new level.

I love the escapism that some movies offer. Those few minutes while I am walking out of the theater and then in my car, when my mind is stuck between the reality of the movie and actual reality are wonderful to me. I love having to remind myself that certain things are not real. I love the feeling of not knowing for sure what is real or impossible.

David Mamet's latest, Spartan, really did it for me. Here is a movie that immersed me in a dark, shadowy world of spies, politicians and intrigue (and Val Kilmer in a rare roll as a good actor).

This movie just happens. Everyone does their job. The good guys die and everyone misses a shot now and again. Unlike so many movies of this genre, precious screen time is not wasted explaining to the audience what is going on, what this or that gizmo is, and who the villian is (thank you, Ebert). For a few moments, this movie was real.

Aside from Mamet's usual wrangling about politicians, the characters in this movie are fairly simple: they have a job to do, a responsibility to someone, a duty to fulfill. That is their goal. Little time is spent discussing why, only that one must. That is all the justification necessary for these characters.

Kilmer is some sort of spy-secret-agent-type. The president's daughter has been kidnapped and he is involved in the search. The film quickly moves into confusion, then clarity, then more confusion. They've found her, she's dead. Or so everyone thinks... Only Kilmer knows where she is. Only he can save her. It sounds like the stuff of a lesser movie, but in Mamet's hands it becomes absolutely beautiful. Dark, suspenseful, unreal...real. An action/spy movie with the feel of Mullholland Dr.

Don't see this movie if you are looking for some important message. See this movie to view a master storyteller at work.

-Ben  02:37 EST | |

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Gay Dad 

Slate is running an interesting piece on the controversy over whether gay parents raise better kids than straight parents.

Apparently, it is either like raising tomatoes or it is like growing mint.

When you plant tomatoes, you need to put them in the right spot. Plant them early and near a garage, or the house, that will radiate heat back at the plant in the middle of the night. Cover them at night in the spring. Plant them in just the right soil as to provide perfect nutrients. Oh, and never let water splash on the leaves. Anyways, if you do all of the right things to your tomatoes, come late summer you will have the plumpest, juciest, most beautiful things you have ever had the pleasure of eating. Everything anyone ever told you a tomatoe should be. Fail, however, to give your tomatoes the right environment and they will look worse than the rotten crap that you buy at Safeway.

Mint is a little easier. You plant it in the ground, give it some water now and again, and it goes nuts. Pretty soon, you have mint everywhere. It does what it wants, and, given just a little care, turns out ok no matter what.

So, which is it...no one seems to agree. I do have one insy question, though. The anti camp in all of this -those who don't believe that a homosexual family is a good place to raise a child- is most likely also a camp who disagrees with homosexuality in general. Maybe they believe it is a choice, one based in part on how one was brought up. If this is the case, wouldn't these people be happy to see more gay children resulting from gay parents (some slightly agreed upon numbers show that the numbers are the same no matter how one is brought up)? Then they can stand up and say "look, ma, them gay folk mightn' notta been quite so queer if'n they'd not-a-been raised by thm danged ol' homasexals...now we'ns gonna convince 'em to change back from their sinnin' ways"

Just somethin' 'twas on ma mind.

Incidentally, Gay Dad is a pretty good brit pop group. Their first album, Leisure Noise, is excellant and available on Rhapsody (a music service that I was recently brainwashed to try and sell to everyone I meet. The brainwashing was actually kind of fun...there were cookies)

-Ben  23:19 EST | |

Story board for a Kerry ad 

Saturday, March 13, 2004

As if the FMA wasn't enough... 

The Bush Administration may take a different tack.

-Ziggy Stardust  18:13 EST | |

From a press briefing put on by Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert: 

Q: You met with the administration yesterday. Did they say they would support the target number?

Speaker Hastert: We need to go forward, we need to go to conference with the Senate, and then if they want to be involved in that conference, they certainly will be able to be involved in it.

Q: But did they say they would sign?

Hastert: They didn't make a commitment.

Q: Did they say they would veto it?

Hastert: They didn't say they would veto it.

Q: Is that with the President or with the people?

Hastert: That is with the President. I don't deal with his people anymore.

Q: Sir, what did you mean by that last comment: That was with the President; I don't deal with his people anymore?

Hastert: Well, we weren't getting straight numbers from his people, and they changed their mind in the middle of the process. So we are going to do what we feel we need to do.

Q: Just on this issue or on --

Hastert: On this issue.

Q: Or in general?

Hastert: On this issue.

Q: Sir --

Q: What kind of numbers were you getting from them?

Hastert: Different numbers.

Q: Different from?

Hastert: Where they added up.


Woah, let's go beck to that:
Hastert: That is with the President. I don't deal with his people anymore.

Ok, folks...this was more than an innocent remark about only this spending bill. Mr. Hastert is a tactful man who is usually very good with his words.
Is the divide between the White House and congress widening? Methinks this little slip betrays that the GOP in the legislature is upset with the Bush administration over more than just spending.

-Ben  16:17 EST | |

Now if only someone would do this for David Brooks 

Wonkette, despite Slate editor Jack Shafer's protests, is damn fine blogger; her weekly interpretation of Tina Brown's column is a treat.

-Ziggy Stardust  15:53 EST | |

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Herpes 

From the NIH.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 45 million people in the United States ages 12 and older, or 1 out of 5 of the total adolescent and adult population, are infected with HSV-2.

Nationwide, since the late 1970s, the number of people with genital herpes infection has increased 30 percent. The largest increase is occurring in young teens. HSV-2 infection is more common in three of the youngest age groups which include people aged 12 to 39 years...

...A person with genital herpes also can infect a sexual partner during oral sex. The virus is spread only rarely, if at all, by touching objects such as a toilet seat or hot tub.

-Daddy Brooklyn  18:38 EST | |

I object 

I object to Ziggy being characterized as a "man about town." He's more like a man about the law library who happens to venture out to a Karaoke or dive bar 2-3 times per week.

-Daddy Brooklyn  18:08 EST | |

America is #1, thus our Constitution has to be #1 too, right? 

Jack Balkin is a law professor at Yale and damn fine blogger. He has a post on clauses in the new Iraqi constitution that American conservatives would object to here in America. It is a little snide, but dead on in terms of pointing out the weaknesses of our own constitution.

Robert Dahl, also of Yale and one of the preeminent political scholars of our time, wrote a book a couple of years ago titled HOW DEMOCRATIC IS THE AMERICAN CONSTITUTION. The basic claim of the book is that the American constitution is deeply flawed and anti-democratic. Anyone who understands the electoral college will understand this to be almost a self-evident claim. The interesting comparative claims of the book though stems from the fact that no democratic constitution that has been written since has used ours as a structural model. Rather, the new constitutions are much more likely to include socio-economic rights and proportional representation (South Africa is an excellent example of a modern case).

The Iraqi Constitution is only an aberration then in the sense that America has such control (presumably) over the substance of the new Iraqi constitution and the ideologues in the Administration are not, umm, the most progressive of constitutionalists...

Note: I am organizing/attending a talk by Noah Feldman today who I am sure will have some insight on the drafting process of the actual document. More on that later... (I know you all can't wait).

-Ziggy Stardust  10:24 EST | |

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

A brilliant argument against gay nuptials... 

...published in my hometown newspaper.

March 10, 2004


GAY MARRIAGE




A Pandora’s box of unexpected situations



Here is an angle on gay marriage I’ve yet to hear discussed. If Congress doesn’t set the definition of traditional marriage by passing a constitutional amendment, consider the following scenario:

The definition of marriage will likely be changed to include homosexuals being equals in marriage to a traditional oneman and one-woman union. Since the definition will be up for further consideration if the initial meaning is morphed, this won’t be the end of it.

The definition of marriage will eventually be changed to include a sexless marriage. This would allow many people to take advantage of the benefits of marriage without having to fit any of the current definitions. Two same-sex people in their 50s who have been best friends since the third grade. Both have multiple divorces and just don’t manage marriage well. However, they could marry and file joint income tax returns. They could share each other’s medical benefits. They would not be labeled as homosexual since sex isn’t a requirement for marriage and they could both continue to have opposite-sex friends like any other same-sex roommates could.

Another example could be two young soldiers of the same sex who are living in the barracks could decide that marriage would help their situation. They could get the extra money paid to married soldiers and be authorized to live off post. They could influence the assignment branch to keep them co-located, as the military often does now when two servicemembers are married. And since sex wouldn’t be a requirement for marriage, the military’s ban on open homosexuality wouldn’t be violated as long as the soldiers were admitted heterosexuals.

Long term, this could further strain our already suffering Social Security system as well as present a whole new set of criteria for estate laws and retirement plans. If marriage ceases to mean the traditional one-man, one-woman union, in all the legal aspects, it will open the doors to many rooms not yet considered. They may not be all bad, but definitely not planned for.

William A. Easterling

Colorado Springs

-Daddy Brooklyn  20:22 EST | |

Thanks Dan Savage 

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Sometimes the WSJ editorial page leaves me speechless. 

Pop quiz, hot shot. 

Who uttered the quotes below?

Was it:
a) 41 on Clinton.
or
b) 43 on Kerry?


"And my argument with him is you cannot be on all sides of every issue. You cannot flip-flop. You cannot turn the White House into the waffle house."

"We cannot put him in the White House. He's like a struggling Little League manager wanting to go to the Atlanta Braves."

"When you are president you cannot try to please everyone."

"Mr. and Mrs. America, when you hear him say we're going to tax only the rich, watch your wallet because his figures don't add up."

"He said -- here's what he said at the time of the war. He said, . . . 'I agreed with the minority, but I guess I would have voted with the majority.' What kind of decisive commander in chief would that be?"

(this next one pretty much gives it away)

The Democrat's health care plan "would slap at least a 7% payroll tax on middle-income Americans . . . My plan would provide tax relief to Americans, to help them pay for their own health care." If my opponent wins, Bush continued, "within a year the government will run health care in this country. Our health care system will combine the efficiency of the House post office with the compassion of the KGB."


Thanks to The Note for that.

-Ben  13:40 EST | |

Why I love Slate 

Ok, this is just priceless.

Two former mafia reporters are having a runing (I assume it will run for most of this season) discussion about the sopranos. How real is the show? How good a job are the writers and director doing of keepin' it real?

I love Slate because I can't stop reading even the drivel that they publish.

Interesting, too, is that one of the writers of this ongoing piece, Jeffrey Goldberg (a New Yorker staff writer) is working on a book about the Middle east. I would be interested to read what a mob reporter has to say about the situation in the cradle of civilization.

-Ben  03:21 EST | |

Sunday, March 07, 2004

Spirit-Christians v. Rule-Christians as an analytic structure to understand American Christianity 

Legal Fiction is one of the most interesting blogs I read. This is probably true for me because he writes a lot about the law (he's a law clerk) and we hold the same general ideological principles (I really differ with his views regarding how worthwhile rational arguments are, but I'm always just a little worried that I disagree because I want reason to have more influence than it actually does... c'est la vie).

Anyway, read this post.

LF's schema for understanding American Christianity resonates with me. As a recovering Baptist myself (American, not Southern), his division of rule following Christians and spiritual Christians makes sense to me when discussing the moral motivations of Christians. However, (and this is where the anecedotal replaces any sort of wider observations) in my personal experience, even the more positive Christians (those who embrace the love of Christ as an animating principle in their life) also have a tendancy to be less politically liberal (tolerant of difference, especially) than non-Christians. Not that this really does damage to LF's analytic division, but it makes it less relevant to the political implications of the divide. I think it is safe to assume that the conservative Christian leadership, e.g. Dobson and Robertson, are rule-Christians; yet they still have influence on the differently-motivated spirit-Chrisitians.

For example, my parents are both kind and generous people (to a fault when it comes to their kids) who value justice and would never participate in the explicit acts of hatred and bigotry that are staples of the more odious rule-Chrisitians (does anyone really think a loving god just happened to exclude gays? C'mon people, get some internal consistency at least...). But my parents are still opposed to gay marriage, support Bush, dislike "liberals," and all the other tropes about conservative Christians. It is my guess that the politically liberal/conservative Christian divide doesn't neatly map on to the rule/spirit divide.

It would be interesting to see the data on the numbers of liberal/conservative Christians and rule/spirit Christians and how the two identities overlap. For example, it would be odd indeed if there were a substantial number of rule-Christians who were also politically liberal, but--as in my parents case-- the inverse doesn't seem to hold true.

But, if the distinction between the rule and the spirit Christians does prove to be meaningul, perhaps it would an opening for the Democrats to close the religious/secular gap that is so disheartening in a country as devout as our own. For a good blog run by a liberal Christian, check out Political Aims.

-Ziggy Stardust  16:28 EST | |

Damn you, Nader voters 

A report on some polls.

Ok, so read this.

I wish so very, very much that voters would apply some strategy to their voting habits. As referenced in Slate's TP, Bush stands for nearly everything that Nader (and presumably your average Nader voter - I know, Nader voters are far from average) hates. Assuming that most Nader voters would vote Kerry if Nader were not running, then a vote for Nader IS a vote for Bush.

The poll plays out like this: Among 1000 randomly phoned adults- 771 of whom are registered voters- 45% would vote Kerry, 46% would vote Bush, and 6% would vote Nader if the election were held today. Polls that exclude Nader have Kerry leading Bush by as much as 4%.

In other News, Pew has some interesting numbers out. Most notably, 29% of the nation's electorate is identified as 'uncomitted.' These wsing voters feel good about President Bush's moves in Iraq, but are uneasy about the economy. As a whole, this group feels that the economy will get better, but that Bush "could do more."

Also interesting in this pew study is that these swing voters widely favor "controlling ownership" of guns, by roughly 57:37%.

I know that these numbers are likely to shift significantly once Kery chooses a VP and once the full onslaught of Bush's $100,000,000 war chest (all of which he must spend before the GOP convention, on 30 August, less than 6 months away, by the way), but I like knowing where things stand right now.

Finally, speaking of the veepstakes, Polling Report.com has some numbers on potential Kerry/whomever vs Bush/Cheney. The long and short of it is that if you have been talking about a Kerry/Clinton ticket, stop it. Those two get trounced. Kerry/Edwards looks the best of all. It would be nice to have a Clinton back in the White House (or at least the OEOB, which is near the White House) again.

-Ben  08:51 EST | |

Thursday, March 04, 2004

A rant... no promises regarding coherency... 

Read this.

Where to fucking start?!?!?!?!?

Okay, I know that I have more liberal attitudes towards sex than most people. But for Christ's sake... boycotting girl scout cookies because some Scout leaders don't think it is a sin to know and teach about masturbation and homosexuality?

Okay. Okay. Okay. I tell myself these backward-fucking-religious-bigots are a small minority-- there are always going to be bigots, but they don't matter in my life. Thank goodness....

But then, I realize that I am not safe. Because the same fucking people who boycott girl scout cookies vote for Bush.

Fuck me (and us).

-Ziggy Stardust  21:19 EST | |

Monday, March 01, 2004

Readme 

There's a great process piece in yesterday's WaPo about the Dean campaign and it's shipwerck of an ending. The thrust of the article is that infighting and poor managment sunk the whole thing.

I won't go into detail, but basically Dean's campaign staff makes out like rank amatures.

-Ben  14:37 EST | |

About us:

This weblog is an ongoing, if periodic, effort by several friends to stay in touch, in reading material, and in ideas.

Lucky Luciano is a former Italian Stallion real estate hustler and Benedict Arnold CEO turned shady lawyer-to-be. He lives in Denver.

Ben is a Paramedic and would-be philantropist who lives in Denver. He knows everything about nothing.

Fuzzy Dunlop lives in Manhattan. He is more than capable of standing up to the stresses of a high crime urban environment.

Jess is a teacher. But have YOU given her an apple? No, you haven't. You should be ashamed of yourself. This crazy feminist currently rests her copy of Awakening in Jersey City.

Matt is a pariah, iconoclast, and professor of gambling living in Oakland.

Miguel Sanchez is not Lionel Hutz.

Daddy Brooklyn lives in Brooklyn. He hates Republicans, though he wouldn't mind being ensconced in the landed elite of New York City.

Paul just smoked my eyelids and punched my cigarette.

Ziggy Stardust has no past.

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