Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Keeping Busy

It's that slow time of year here in DC and all around really, when everyone takes off for the Holidays. Posting will be light at best from now through new years. In the mean time here are a few things to think about and keep you busy...

Lots of folks are still upset about Rick Warren being invited to give the invocation at the Inauguration.

The author of Lies and the lying liars who tell them seems poised to become the 59th Democratic Senator in the next congress. (Bonus points if you knew it was the Democratic Farmer Labor Party in Minn.)

The internal Obama report on their contacts with Gov. Rod 'bleeping' Blagojevich is out.

Slate has some of the weirdest light displays to be found.

Happy Solstice...


We used to transform my buddy's basement and have epic nerf battles back in the day, but we only had access to the old-school models like the four ball popper and the bow and arrow I think we had an automated dart gun but it shot like six darts, not 500 per minute...

(via GL)

posting will be light until the new year, stay warm kids.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Read This Now - Board Games and Wires

Haven't these people ever watched TV?

The WaPo has a well put-together article detailing much of Assistant US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation of pay to play corruption in Illinois politics that culminated in the arrest of Govenor Rob Blagojevich. Turns out the Feds have been flipping people and using wires for years...

Here is the graphic, the WaPo has been getting better with it's online graphics but still lags the NYT which has easily the best dead tree media site online. Also this article isn't available in single page format, arrgh!

It's That Time Of The Year Again...

Best of and Old / New lists are making the rounds. The best to date comes from Chris Buckley...



Worst U.S. President


Bush (II)

Reassuring African- American Leader

Colin Powell


Menacing Ruskie



GOP Clotheshorse

Nancy Reagan

Sarah Palin

Toxic Substance


Collateralized Debt Obligation

Three Stooges

Moe, Larry, Curley

Detroit Auto CEOs

Spurious Casus Belli

Tonkin Gulf Incident


Supremely Self-satisfied Talk Show Host

Bill O'Reilly

Keith Olbermann

Over-The-Top Crooked Pol

Duke Cunningham

Gov. Blagojevich

Eponymous/Onomatopoeic Financial Scoundrel


Madoff (MAY-Doff)

Martin Luther King Wept




Richard Kimball

Osama bin Laden

Wise Man



Hunky Aussie

Russell Crowe

Hugh Jackman

Downed Aviator

Amelia Earhart

Steve Fossett

Oxygen-Depleting, Single-Named Blonde Divorcée



Caribbean Hell Hole

David's Island


Sapphic TV Personality

Ellen de Generes

Rachel Maddow

Cancer Phobia

Cell phones

Bottled water

Unfortunate Sanguinary Photo Op

Saddam Execution

Sarah Palin at Turkey Slaughterhouse

Illegal Substance


Canadian Lipitor

Guilty Pleasure

Downloading Napster

Leaving Lights On

High-minded Catchphrase

Compassionate Conservatism

Audacity of Hope

Cool Brit

Tony Blair

Boris Johnson

Politically Incorrect Gas guzzler



Texan Wind Bag

Ross Perot

T. Boone Pickens

Weirdo Actor

Christopher Walken

Joaquin Phoenix

Scary Weather Event

Perfect Storm


Potty-Mouthed Illinois Pol

Rahm Emmanuel

Gov. Blagojevich

Repugnant African Despot

Idi Amin

Robert Mugabe

Crown Kennedy




Sarah Jessica


$6 Million Book Advance

Colin Powell

Tina Fey

Ubiquitous Historian

Douglas Brinkley

Niall Ferguson

Hyper-Adoptive Actress

Mia Farrow

Angelina Jolie

Tantalizing Opener

Please to contact me most Very immediately re: $16 Mil Dollars (US) In Your Bank of Nigeria Acct!

In the event of an erection lasting more than four hours...

Creepy Pol

Larry Craig

Eliot Spitzer

Village Atheist

Madalyn Murray O'Hair

Christopher Hitchens

Hot Wheels



Frigid, Cash Strapped Landmass



Presidential Reading

My Pet Goat

Team of Rivals

F--- You VP



Cute NASA Gizmo

Mars Rover

Orbiting Tool Box

Fun Clinton



Torture Device


401(k) Statement

Chicago G-Man

Eliot Ness

Patrick Fitzgerald

Hot First Lady

Carla Sarkozy

Michelle Obama

That's Doctor Horrible To You

So I finally saw Joss Whedon's Dr. Horrible with a grown up Doogie himself, Neil Patrick Harris is straight killing it these days (whatever it may be).

I now also have They Might Be Giants stuck in my head...

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Happy Holiday Burritos

I feel a little bad spreading something so obviously put together to go viral (as Bloggasm mentioned) but this is pretty great.

I wish I had a warehouse and the money for a load of microwaves, I've got the time right now...

Friday, December 19, 2008

Franken Pulling Ahead

Democrat Al Franken has pulled ahead in the recount of the Minnesota Senatorial Election.

According to the Star Tribune Franken currently leads by 272. Up to 283 while I typed.

I'm following the Strib coverage and that of Minnesota Public Radio (both have streaming feeds as does the uptake). The Minnesota Supreme Court ruling on the counting of absentee ballots declared invalid sets a deadline of December 31 for decisions to be made (jointly by both campaigns and the relevant county boards) on which of the previously disallowed absentee ballots to count. So we won't have official results until the newyear it seems (I doubt the Coleman will concede). The conventional wisdom says that Franken will gain ground through any absentee ballots added to the recount and the current tally asumes none of them will be counted so things are looking good for the SNL alum.

Read This Now - The Ponzi Era

Paul Krugman asks the obvious question; How, exactly, is the Madoff ponzi scheme different from the way our financial industry as a whole functioned over the past couple of years?

Bonus Materials:

From James Surowiecki's morning reading list:

Thankfully, Chris Cox will not be running the S.E.C. for much longer. Here's Obama's new financial regulatory team, which he unveiled yesterday. And here's a great New Yorker story from 2002 by Jane Mayer on former S.E.C. chair Arthur Levitt and the challenges of financial regulation.

Speaking of the S.E.C., its failure to stop Bernard Madoff looks more egregious by the day. Here's an account of how Harry Markopolos, the Boston accountant who quixotically (it seemed) challenged Madoff's returns for years, actually testified before the S.E.C. on the subject of Madoff and, incredibly, told investigators Madoff might well be running "the world's largest Ponzi scheme." Yet the S.E.C. did nothing.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Yowza, That's Fast

Speed cubing is crazy. Like me, you've probably seen some video of folks working through a Rubik's Cube wicked fast. But, also like me, you probably thought hey that's cool and moved on, today Kottke got sucked down the rabbit hole and coughed up some goodies.

I'd never really thought about how you do a cube fast, other than shrug and figure it tooks lots of practice. Apparently you also need to memorize upwards of 50 algorithms (over 100 if you want to kick serious ass) I guess that's why the speedsters all look the cube over before they start, they're figure out which set of moves to apply based on teh placement of certain tiles.

The math behind speed cubing, and the woman behind the math, were profiled in this week's NYT Science section. It's a nice piece and you should go take a look. The short version is that Dr. Jessica Fridrich grew up in Chezchoslovokia and fell for the cube hard as a kid, taught herself the math to figure it out, met a professor from Binghamton University and went to grad school there, finalized the Fridrich Method, and now works on 'camera ballistics'.

Kottke's right it's a steep slope once you jump down that hole, and right now I'm really glad that I don't have a cube around (although I'm tempted to go get one), so here is just one video of World Record speed cuber Yu Nakajima getting it done with one hand in less than 15 seconds (if you let him use 2 hands he can do it twice as fast).

Division and Hatred We Can Believe In

It is a shame indeed that Rick Warren will be giving the invocation for the Inaugural ceremonies of the Obama Administration. Warren is a spewer of hate and a sewer of division who deserves no place in main stream society and certainly should not be legitimated by the President, certainly not one who claims to be interested in bringing people together.

Think Progress has the rundown with links but I'll recap quickly;
Warren support California's Prop 8 which stripped homosexuals of the right to marry
Warren has equated gay and lesbian relationships to polygamy and bestiality
Warren has likened abortion to the Holocaust
and for good measure...
Warren has called for the assassination of foreign leaders

Because I like to share here is the letter that I sent to the Obama transition team at

I am saddened and deeply offended that the administration would invite a propagator of hate and division such as Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at the Inaugural ceremonies.

I would remind you of the quote from the President-elect posted in the Civil Rights section of this website (

"While we have come a long way since the Stonewall riots in 1969, we still have a lot of work to do. Too often, the issue of LGBT rights is exploited by those seeking to divide us. But at its core, this issue is about who we are as Americans. It's about whether this nation is going to live up to its founding promise of equality by treating all its citizens with dignity and respect."

-- Barack Obama, June 1, 2007

Mr. Warren fails to treat all Americans with dignity and respect and elevating him to such a visible role in the Inauguration and in the process legitimizing his message is not change that we can believe in or that we deserve.
Mr. Obama was asked about the choice of Warren this afternoon:

I'd say that's pretty cold comfort at best and a piss poor explanation to boot.

Being invited to Warren's church is not the same thing as inviting Warren to give the invocation at the Inauguration. The Inauguration is not a time to be having a conversation, that isn't the point to the Inauguration. Rather it is about setting the tone for the Administration and Rick Warren is not the right person to be setting the tone, unless of course you think that homosexuality should relegate an individual to the status of second class citizen.

As to whether Obama can rightly be classified as a 'fierce advocate' for gay and lesbian equality, well Matt Stoller goes to town on that one (it may be a bit much but he does have a point).

PFAW and HRC have issued statements and Pam's House Blend (I don't know anything about it) appears to have the Obama team talking points.

In closing if you haven't seen the Jon Stewart / Mike Huckabee interview on gay rights yet you should.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

UAW Members Do Not Make $70 an Hour

From the comments (yes occasionally people actually post a comment and I do read them and think it's great when people weigh in) comes the oft repeated myth that unionized (United Auto Workers) auto workers are making $70 an hour or more.

This is not true. It is an easy number to get to and it is often thrown around by respectable journalists and pundits, ex cetera who should really know better. The $70 figure comes from adding up all of the money payed out by the auto company (any one of the big three) and then dividing it by the total number of hours worked. Unfortunately this includes the medical and pension benefits being paid out to retired UAW workers and ends up grossly overstating how much current employees are compensated. The actual hourly rate appears to be about $28 an hour inlcuding benefits brings that estimate up to the $35-40 an hour range which ends up being about $60,000 a year.

For further debunking and more on why it matters by actual economists and reporters and to see where I got my info please follow these links (many of them reference each other as well):

Jonathon Cohn, The New Republic - the most comprehensive and informative piece I've seen
Felix Salmon, Portfolio
Ezra Klein, The American Prospect
James Surowiecki, The New Yorker
Dean Bradley, The American Prospect - he's a little worked up and suggests that any reporter repeating the $70 an hour number should get an immediate 10% pay cut.

This isn't to say blindly that unions are all good and grand (although they did bring us the weekend) some unions do crappy things and some do great things and some even manage to do both, sometimes simultaniously. The bottome line is that the Republican Senators (mostly southerners without ties to Detroit) who insisted that the UAW take immediate pay cuts didn't insist that pay cuts be taken in the financial sector nor did they call for white collar paycuts among the big three. They just want to blame it on the UAW, and they're wrong.

Just In Case

Time named Obama their Person of the Year, big surprise. You know, just in case you missed it I thought I'd mention it. Kottke pointed out that the cover is by Shepard Fairey and based on his ubiquitous and very cool poster (there are apparently also some very cool photos).

Also just in case you don't get flow charts, XKCD explains...

And in case you got to wondering when Time switched from Man to Person of the Year (and I was wondering). It wasn't until 1999. Wow, a little late to the party if you ask me.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

It's Shoe-tastic

Is Shoe-gate turning into way too big of a story, in many ways yes. Although the outpouring of support for the shoe thrower, Muntadar al-Zaidi, goes to show that many in the Arab world consider it a just send off for the man who laid waste to the cradle of civilization (everybody's, not just their's).

I'm sure there are other stories that deserve our attention, and as such I promise not to bring it up again (unless of course something interesting happens, like the shoes get sold for millions of dollars).

All that being said, there are street demonstrations in suport of the shoe thrower and there are also rumors and reports that he is being mis-treated in custody. While I genuinely hope that isn't true at this point I certainly wouldn't be surprised. The bottome line there is have we learned nothing?

And yes of course the mashups are here...

Monday, December 15, 2008

Are You Addicted To The Movies?

The site Film Addict will rate your movie addiction based on what percentage of the IMDB top 250 you've seen.

I suppose using the IMDB top 250 is as good a baseline as any, it does contain a pretty good mix of new and old films.

Via Kottke, who is 53.6% addicted. Whereas I came in at 56.8%.

Compare yourself to me, or chart your addiction solo, either way enjoy.

Republicans and Unions

I'll let Candorville explain...

Feels even a little more poignant when coupled with the news today that any restraints on financial executive pay turn out to be toothless.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Who Throw's A Shoe?

Apparently President for 37 more days Bush is in Iraq on a surprise farewell visit and an Iraqi journalist threw his shoes at him shouting "this is a farewell kiss you dog!"

MSNBC (via TP) has the video:

Think Progress, McClatchy, and The NY Times all have more coverage.

I Will Not Fall For Green-Washing

Chevron's latest ad campaign is a pretty blatant green-washing effort. Chevron wants you to think they're going to help save the planet, and in fairness they may be maing some progress, but their query, will you join us? Which is plastered all over DC metro stations and airing during NFL games is disingenuous at best.

The League of Conservation Voters was all over this a month ago, their pledge is to point out hypocrisy. Make sure to check out their release as well, but here is my favorite to give you an idea:

This has been around for a while now, but it's come back to mind as Chevron pushes the campaign during the 'Skins game today.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Read This Now - What's Happening With The Financial Bailout

I was going to say TARP instead of Financial Bailout up there but I couldn't bring myself to do it. I'm still chagrined that the elected leadership of the US got together to bailout the financial industry (allegedly to forestall more widespread catastrophe) and then named the bill TARP.

So basically our economy is now a home construction site in Maine, and according to the new oversight report, we have no idea where the money's gone.

Andrew Leonard has the goods, which include lines like these:

That is, to put it mildly, a mouthful, and there are nine other questions just like it, each one of which manages to stick a stiletto into the Treasury Department's guts, while making quite clear what priorities the Oversight Panel supports. There's also a heaping dose of passive-aggressive derision, such as the following.
The actual report is brutal as well.

Friday, December 12, 2008

I Guess I'm Not Surprised Either - McCain Campaign Failed to Erase Blackberry Before Sale

Those of you who follow DCist will no doubt already be aware that the McCain campaign was holding a fire sale at their Arlington HQ last week, you may or may not have heard that a local Fox 5 reporter snapped one up and discovered that it was full of phone numbers and emails from the home stretch of the campaign.

At least one of the people whose number Tisha Thompson called from her new Blackberry said;

Given the way the campaign was run, This is not a surprise.

You'd think since McCain invented the thing his campaign staff could figure out how to erase one.

Hey F*ck Face - Billy Ripken Speaks

So 20 years later and Billy Ripken is finally telling the tale of how his 1989 Fleer card came to be know as the obscenity card, or just the fuck face card.

Here in MD we were all O's fans already and big Cal Ripken fans, so it probably magnified the story for us, I can remember looking for the card a few years later since I wasn't a big collector until a year or two later.

But I digress, according to the man himself the bat in question was his batting practice one and he needed a quick and recognizable label to distinguish it from everyone else's:

Now I had to write something on the bat. At Memorial Stadium, the bat room was not too close to the clubhouse, so I wanted to write something that I could find immediately if I looked up and it was 4:44 and I had to get out there on the field a minute later and not be late. There were five big grocery carts full of bats in there and if I wrote my number 3, it could be too confusing. So I wrote 'F--k' Face on it.
Extra cool fact, Fleer gave Ripken a bunch of the cards and he autographed them as groomsmen gifts for his wedding.

Definitely check out the rest of the interview, with CNBC's Darren Rovell, for more on the bat and the card, including Billy Ripken's thoughts on Fleer's role.

(image originally from snopes, story via kottke)

Read This Now - The Vast Right Wing Conspiracy Lives

You know Hillary Clinton took a lot of flack over that comment, but she was right.

And now the right wing is ramping up to take on the latest Democrat to succeed, Barack Obama.
Joe Conason has the low down, but there have been some other grumblings out there as well, what did we expect though...

Kids and Computers

OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) has a new ad out, I think it's pretty poignant. As Charlie Sorrel said it's "nothing if not hard hitting"...

OLPC has always seemed like a great idea and project just waiting to take off, but somehow it has never managed to be properly utilized or really get rolling. I don't know enough about the organization to understand why it hasn't been more succesful though. During the holidays they offer a give on get one promotion, my folks took part last year and you end up with a cool new techie toy.

Death to Detroit

A quick thought on bailouts.

Yesterday the Republicans in the Senate shut down a bailout for Detroit because union workers wouldn't agree to a massive pay cut in their previously negotiated contract.

Republicans didn't demand that upper management, in either the financial bailout or this one, take a pay cut or even stop giving themselves bonuses.

Apparently Republicans think that the little guys should take a bath so that their friends don't lose their penthouses.

I've got a word for this, reprehensible. And I've got a word for Congressional Republicans, assholes.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Blagojevich Is A Jagoff

WTF - Technical Difficulties!!

It's official, Jon Stewart has declared it so.

The full episode player at The Daily Show website looks to be running in a much higher definition than last time I checked it out (for that matter it looks like these embedded videos are going to be pretty decent as well). I just finished watching the rest of the above episode, in which Jon delivers one of his best in person take downs ever as he discusses gay marriage and the size and scope of our government with Mike Huckabee.

Since I'm so nice you can check it out here, in two parts:

And in other Daily Show news Rob Riggle is moving on, to fight crime or create his own sitcom...

Alright that has to have satisfied your video fix for the moment and possibly overloaded you on The Daily Show, wait is that even possible?

Text From Gmail

If you still aven't hopped on the gmail bandwagon, and really you should have when it first launched and you could secure your name or first initial and last name etc as your email address, there's yet another cool new addition to the platform to lure you in.

While my cheapskate friends, and those who just happen to be online at the time, have long used the Verizon website to send texts to me (you can send texts from most cellphone providers' sites to their customers) you can now send texts to any US cellphone from the gmail chat window.

Preliminary tests worked great last night, it's a bit better for outgoing messages though as the return text from Becca took about 20 minutes to appear in my chat window.

Check out the labs section when you log in...

While we're on the subject Gadget Lab is reporting that you can send away for gmail stickers, so that you can remember those keyboard shortcuts (that I never use, it's why I have a mouse) or just slap M-velope's on everything. Yes apparently that is the official name of the gmail logo.

Obama's Environment and Energy Team

Looks pretty good so far, although it is all conjecture at this point still but it is also true that most all of the transition leaks have proven accurate to date.

That doesn't change the fact that I think the lede to the WaPo story this morning is disingenuous at best. Under the headline Nobel Physicist Chosen To Be Energy Secretary Steven Mufson and Phillip Rucker write:

President-elect Barack Obama has chosen Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist who heads the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, to be the next energy secretary, and he has picked veteran regulators from diverse backgrounds to fill three other key jobs on his environmental and climate-change team, Democratic sources said yesterday.
What's wrong with this single sentence paragraph? By opening with the statement "President-elect Barack Obama has chosen", the Post indicates that the selection has been made and announced and it is only at the very end of the paragraph that the authors offer the important modifier that this is all according to unnamed sources. That modifier, "Democratic sources said yesterday", should preface the entire paragraph. Which would then much more clearly and accurately portray the situation. Like so:
Democratic sources said yesterday that President-elect Barack Obama has chosen Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist who heads the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, to be the next energy secretary, and he has picked veteran regulators from diverse backgrounds to fill three other key jobs on his environmental and climate-change team.
I'm left to assume that the Post and the authors didn't want to open with the fact that they are reporting rumor under that big definitive headline.

Ok having blown off some steam, it seems like the energy and environment crew that Obama will be nominating and appointing are pretty tip top. Andrew Leonard has a good run down on Chu and they all sound pretty good in that WaPo piece. The WSJ's Environmental Capitol blog has a short post on what the new team will mean especially in contrast to the outgoing administration.

(I was going to tell you what Grist had to say but their site wouldn't load)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Vegas Baby! Vegas!

image from coast travel

I've never been, but wondering how Vegas is doing is a logical question given our current economic situation, and the jokes I keep hearing about a casino bailout being next in line after Detroit.

NPR sent John Ridley to check out the scene last week. He says the place was dead, and on a fight night too boot.

(audio is available through the link)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Quote of the Day Bonus Edition - Senate Seat Fire Sale

Well if you were looking to purchase a Senate seat for yourself you are too late. The Feds shut down the market this morning when they arrested and subsequently indicted Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich on charges of attempting to auction off President-elect Obama's now vacant seat in the Senate.

The quotes were supplied by Federal Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald (yes the very same) but the words are the Governor's:

“I’m going to keep this Senate option for me a real possibility, you know, and therefore I can drive a hard bargain.” He added later that the seat “is a [expletive] valuable thing, you just don’t give it away for nothing.”

“I’ve got this thing and it’s [expletive] golden, and, uh, uh, I’m just not giving it up for [expletive] nothing. I’m not gonna do it. And, and I can always use it. I can parachute me there,”
It's pretty much just a mess folks, NPR has some good stuff including audio from the press conference if you look around.


You should probably also check out the excerpts from the criminal complaint against Blagojevich that Ezra Klein has up, as he says a hell of an endorsement and a narrow thing at that.

Also Adam Serwer at Tapped has a rundown on who the six unnamed Senate candidates are.

Quote of the Day - Obama's Approval Rating

From the new CNN poll which has Obama's approval rating continuing to climb all the way to 79%.

And the money line:

"An Obama job approval rating of 79 percent! That’s the sort of rating you see when the public rallies around a leader after a national disaster. To many Americans, the Bush Administration was a national disaster," says CNN Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider.
(via TPM)

Read This Now - Letter From Pakistan

The President of Pakistan has an interesting op-ed in today's NY Times, describing his personal connection to terrorist attacks and the danger that looms over the region in the wake of the Mumbai attacks, which he labels an attack on Pakistan as well as India.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Post Apocalyptical Detroit?

Nope, just downtown Detroit today. Guess we'll see where the bailout leads us, but this isn't a good place to be starting from...(go look already)

Also here is the cover of last Friday's Detroit Free Press:

(both via Planet Money)

O'Reilly's Alternative Reality

Has grown to include random attacks on New Yorker writers. Well not exactly random, Hertzberg did offer a pretty snazzy take down of O'Reilly and collaborator Newt Gingrich...

Like a polluted swamp, anti-gay bigotry is likely to get thicker and more toxic as it dries up. Viciousness meets viscousness. “Look,” Newt Gingrich, the former House Speaker, said the other day (on the air, to Bill O’Reilly), “I think there is a gay and secular fascism in this country that wants to impose its will on the rest of us, is prepared to use violence. . . . I think that it is a very dangerous threat to anybody who believes in traditional religion. And I think if you believe in historic Christianity, you have to confront the fact.” For diversity’s sake, he added that “the historic version of Islam” and “the historic version of Judaism” are likewise menaced—which is natural, given that gay, secular, fascist values are “the opposite of what you’re taught in Sunday school.”

This sort of sludge may or may not prove to be of some slight utility in the 2012 Republican primaries, but it is, increasingly, history. A couple of days before the California vote, the San Francisco Chronicles John Wildermuth noticed a “No on Prop 8” sign on a front lawn. The lawn and the sign belonged to Steve Young, the football Hall of Famer and former 49er quarterback, and his wife, Barb. Steve Young is a graduate of Brigham Young University, which is named for his great-great-great-grandfather. The Youngs still belong to the Mormon Church. “We believe all families matter and we do not believe in discrimination,” Barb Young said. “Therefore, our family will vote against Prop 8.” It wasn’t enough this time. But the time is coming.
Follow things first hand over at Rick Hertzberg's blog, where he is amusedly reporting in on the ongoing saga.

It'd be funny if it weren't so sad; one of the principles was once the Speaker of the House and way too many people get their opinions via O'Reilly.

Nice to see that the New Yorker isn't to be intimidated, and that Hertzberg is pretty nonplussed.

And by the way, good for you Steve Young!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Random Surfing

Turned up this shot of a bus stop in Dubai, where it gets very, very hot.

From Flickr user elvis_payne, via GGW

Friday, December 5, 2008

The NYT is Leading the Charge

To the future that is. The Times continues to innovate with it's online news coverage. I'm a big fan of their interactive extras and while their latest is labeled as such it's more of a give and take if you will, a move to make journalism more communicative and not just a one way medium.

The Times ran an article about a week ago detailing Senator Rangel's dealings with a corporate tax loophole and large charitable donations. Needless to say the Senator was less than thrilled with the coverage and protested in a letter to the editor. On Wednesday the Times responded, go have a look...

The response reminds me of one of the first things that I ever put up online, I do think that the Times is headed in the right direction and that after some initial stumbling (Times Select anyone?) is leading the way (they now link to competitor's articles).

(NYT vs. Rangel via EK)

Seeing the Softer (Funnier) Side of Secretary Gates

Photo from Chicago Tribune

Time names him the Secretary of Hilarity, it's a great rundown and a lot of the tidbits will make you laugh (via EK).

This is one of my favorites...
"The first fall I was at Texas A&M and we changed the football coach, I told the press that I had overthrown the governments of medium-sized countries with less controversy."— Nov. 26, 2007, before the Killeen, Texas, chamber of commerce
Incidentally, I like Bob Gates and I think he's done a commendable job at Defense. Granted he was following up a complete disgrace so the bar hasn't been set very high but I think he handled Walter Reed and the loose nuke incidents well (shit-can the highest up person with responsibility and then clean things up) and his desire to close the prison camp at Guantanamo is definitely good. The bottom line is that I think he's made people more accountable and that I think keeping him on to oversee the draw-down in Iraq and probable shifting of resources and troops to Afghanistan is a good call.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

I Saw You...

The rise of Craig's List missed connections has been a disappointment for me. The I saw you section in the City Paper was always on my reading list when I snagged a copy, and now it's fairly empty if it even exists at all. It's also true that the best apartments and group houses in town used to be in the City Paper and are now on Craig's List and that Hasn't upset me at all. But I digress...

Greater Greater Washington pointed out this very cool map of missed connections from Craig's List. Each state has the name of the most popular locale, also available broken down by gender preferences (m4w, m4m, w4m, w4w).

Originally produced, and for sale, by very small array.

W, You Should Probably Just Keep Your Head Down and Your Mouth Shut

I haven't watched the Bush-Gibson ABC interview yet and I probably won't. Bush was a terrible president when he had some clout and now as the lamest duck ever, his words are essentially meaningless. Every time I catch a snippet of Bush talking, particularly in reference to our current economical situation I cringe and wonder why we don't switch administrations sooner after the vote.

All this is to say that Joan Walsh did watch the ABC exit interview and she handily takes Bush's thoughts and answers apart, you should go read it regardless of your feelings on watching the interview itself.

Which reminds me that I think the upcoming movie of the Frost-Nixon interviews is a bit odd. I understand the play, seeing real live people act out that interview should be more palpable than watching it on the screen, big or small. And all reports were that they did a fantastic job of bringing the interviews to life. Also the timing is great, I definitely think that it is important to not just let Bush and his cronies slip away into insignificance. We're going to spend a lot of time and energy as a country trying to right the ship of government and the status of our Constitution and the rule of law after what they've done while in power. At the very least they deserve to be investigated and hopefully held accountable.

But I don't really get the movie because now you're just watching two actor recreate a series of television interviews that are available on DVD and the web. Is there any good reason to watch the movie instead of the original interviews? (please let me know if you've got one)

And on moving up the inauguration, Daniel Shorr had a great take on it days before the election. I think that a week would be too fast of a turnaround but surely things could be done before the holidays, say December 20 instead of January. Moving things up a month would be a vast improvement especially given the current economic and war settings facing our nation and the world.

Late Addition: Daniel Schorr talked about these sets of interviews last night.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Jack Black Is Jesus!

I knew it!

Plus Doogie shows us how to save the economy...

(via WR)

Reminds me of my favorite fictional President...

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Georgia, Not So Peachy

If you're a Democrat that is.

It was always a long shot but hopes of a Democratic super-majority of 60 votes in the Senate have finally vanished with Saxy Chambliss' reelection in Georgia.

Your only election fix is now on tap in Minnesota.

Five Thirty Eight has the goods.

(sorry that was gross)

Heck of A Job

I read John Cassidy's New Yorker profile of Ben Bernanke and the current financial crisis last night and I was struck by a couple of things.

First and rather simply after the big lead picture of Bernanke and the opening lines,

Some are born radical. Some are made radical. And some have radicalism thrust upon them. That is the way with Ben Bernanke, as he struggles to rescue the American financial system from collapse.
I was ready for a fairly sympathetic piece about how Bernanke has responded and what he has done to fight the meltdown and staunch the bleeding. So as I read and quotes like this one kept coming up I was a bit surprised at the level of the take-down (not that it was undeserved, quite the contrary actually)
Summing up the widespread frustration with Bernanke, Dean Baker, the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a liberal think tank in Washington, told me, “He was behind the curve at every stage of the story. He didn’t see the housing bubble until after it burst. Until as late as this summer, he downplayed all the risks involved. In terms of policy, he has not presented a clear view. On a number of occasions, he has pointed in one direction and then turned around and acted differently. I would be surprised if Obama wanted to reappoint him when his term ends”—in January, 2010...

In October, at a meeting in Washington of central bankers, executives, and economists, Allen Sinai, the chief economist at Decision Economics, Inc., asked Bernanke how he thought a central bank should manage the economic risks posed by a housing bubble. According to Sinai, Bernanke said that he had no way of knowing if there had been a housing bubble. “I realized then that he just didn’t realize the scale of the problem,” Sinai told me.
As I read on I realized that the story of our current financial collapse reads a lot like the story of what led up to the Septemer 11th attacks or that of Hurricane Katrina. Each time the Bush Administration was warned that there were problems and that they should be addressed before it was too late. And each time Bush and his cronies waved off the warnings and dissmised their critics as worry worts or questioned their patriotism. And each time the critics were right and then suddenly it was too late.

Hell of a track record Bushie.

Make sure to read the article yourself, it is a bit long but available on a single page (woo hoo).

Late Addition: Steve Benen at Political Animal has been having similar thoughts.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Rock the Cello

Puts a whole new spin on an old, old classic (instrument that is)...

(via my cousin JC)

TIVO Attack!

So I don't have a Tivo or generic DVR (shocking I know) and about the only reason that I manage to survive this horrific scenario is that I currently watch very little television.

It's pretty much some sports, a little Daily Show, and maybe some scrubs re-runs. How do I manage with so little TV you ask, I spend time online and I work the Netflix account.

This is all really just to say that everyone that I know with a Tivo/DVR loves it and swears they don't know how they lived before. For some slightly more concrete proof, of albeit back of the napkin style calculation we can turn to Justin Wolfers at the Freakonomics site...

What about the gains to the average American?

Time use data tell us that he watches 2.6 hours per day, or 18.3 hours per week; with TiVo, he can watch this programming in around 12 hours, saving 6 hours.

Average hourly earnings are around $18, suggesting that TiVo saves time that could otherwise have been sold for around $108 per week. We should also add in the benefit of higher quality television — around $11 per week — and subtract the cost of the annoying service charge, which is around $3 per week, yielding net benefits of $116 per week, or $6,000 per year. The net present value of this flow is around $120,000 per person, or perhaps around a quarter of a million dollars per household. Wow.
That's a pretty blatant argument supporting geting a Tivo/DVR especially considering many cable packages will throw one in these days or failing that you can get one for less than $200. Which makes the fact that only about 3 in 10 American households have one astonishing (factoid via Freakonomics).

How will TV survive once word gets out and everyone gets a Tivo? ESPN Corporate has some ideas...

It's also worth remembering how Tivo came into Bucky, Satchel, and Rob's life...

Fascinating First Person Accounts

I always enjoy first person reporting just a tiny bit more. Yes arguably, and more than probably, it ruins a bit of the reporter's objectivity but I enjoy it because the reporter or author is telling the story of what actually happened to them not what it looked like after they arrived or what eye-witnesses, victims and the like had to say.

Unfortunately, although in a perhaps circumstantially necessary way, we tend to get this type of reporting and storytelling in relation to disasters (think NPR's coverage of the Chinese earthquake earlier this year).

Which brings me to two stories from the weekend.

A piece in the WaPo on the still unfinished (how can that possibly be) debate over torture in the Outlook section, written by an American interrogator whose investigation tracked down AbuMusab al-Zarqaw i, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq without resorting to torture or other circumspect techniques which the author stresses don't work. We've already heard lots on this topic but much of it comes from politicians and academics and occasionally so-called interrogation experts but this is the first run down on tactics and results in Iraq and against al-Qaeda targets provided by someone involved.

Less interesting and informative as a whole, but fascinating nonetheless, is the story of a bombing attempt on the NPR crew in Baghdad. Their armored BMW was destroyed and they were narrowly warned away from the car by Iraqi troops who had received a tip. Car-bombings and assassinations are nothing new in Baghdad but it lends a new perspective to the reporting when the reporter has personally experienced the story. (the pictures are very impressive)

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Tryptophan is Gone

And there are still two open Senate races.

Georgia and Minnesota still have unfinished elections, with an on-going recount in Minnesota and a run-off election scheduled for Tuesday in Georgia.

Following up on earlier posts, let us start with Minnesota. Democratic challenger Al Franken is down by about 280 votes to Republican Norm Coleman with 12% of the votes yet to be recounted and over 5000 challenged ballots awaiting a ruling from the state canvassing board (according to the Star Tribune).

Things are so close in this race that its really difficult to predict how it will turn out (straight from the horse's mouth so to speak). Franken could pick up some more votes before it comes down to the challenged ballots and lots of ballots are getting challenged, more and more by both sides as the recount continues.

The Star Tribune offers a graphic on what types of winning percentages on the challenged ballots as things currently stand each side would need in order to win. The bottom line is that it's still a bit of a steep hill for Franken to win, but there is no way to account for the quality of the challenges so who really knows what it'll end up looking like.

Down in Georgia voters will be returning to the polls this week to vote for either Democrat Jim Martin or Republican Incumbent Saxy Chambliss (Libertarian Allen Buckley who helped necessitate the run off by snagging 3% of the initial votes and thus preventing any candidate from reaching the 50% plateau is no longer on the ballot).

Early voting closed before Thanksgiving and no one has any idea how to predict what turn out will look like. There has been a lot of national media attention applied to this race and to the fact that President-elect Obama has not campaigned for Martin despite many other political celebrity appearances on both sides. The polling all shows a close race with Chambliss in the lead but again remains largely irrelevant in the face of unknown turnout, basically it doesn't matter who people say they'll vote for if they don't end up voting on election day. The general feeling seems to be that Chambliss will eke out the win despite the swell of Obama organizers flocking to the state to bolster the Martin campaign.

If want to keep track of all this on your own; Five Thirty Eight still has that election jones, the Star Tribune and Atlanta Journal Constitution both have god election pages up still for a local perspective, and when something definitive finally happens this site will be one of many to have the news...

Friday, November 28, 2008

Read This Now - I hate to say I told you so...

A little post-turkey binge morning reading, or afternoon / lunch reading at this point.

Paul Krugman on how we got into this financial mess, he starts out with a bang...

A few months ago I found myself at a meeting of economists and finance officials, discussing — what else? — the crisis. There was a lot of soul-searching going on. One senior policy maker asked, “Why didn’t we see this coming?”

There was, of course, only one thing to say in reply, so I said it: “What do you mean ‘we,’ white man?”

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Fire in the Sky

If you've ever gazed up at the stars, especially if you were hoping to catch a shooting star you've got to see this...

As the voice-over says the video came from a police cruiser dash cam (man those things are great).

(thanks to my Dad for pointing this out)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Minnesota Update

If only all of the children in Minnesota really were above average, then we wouldn't have had to deal with someone like Norm Coleman as a Senator.

If you're still looking for your daily poll fix, Five Thirty Eight crunched the numbers (guess they're having trouble packing it in as well) this weekend and are predicting that Al Franken will pull it out.

One of These Things...

Is not like the other. Just having a bit of fun with the internets this afternoon and this photo from Salon's home page caught my attention because I'd seen almost the same photo earlier during a bathroom reading session (that means EW time)...

So which hand is the Commish using to ram that dude's head into an aquarium?

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Kinder, Gentler Recount?

The recount is on (has been for a few days actually) in the Minnesota Senate race race between Republican Norm Coleman and Democratic challenger Al Franken. When the recount got underway this week Coleman lead Franken by 215.

The squabbling has been intense, with challenged ballots and injunctions, but is pretty tame when compared to the Florida Fiasco.

According to Al Franken's staff after approximately 50% of the ballots have been recounted Coleman's lead has dropped below 100. The Franken camp also notes that the predominately Democratic districts have yet to be recounted so things are looking good.

The Star Tribune has Coleman leading Franken by 140 votes with 48% recounted and a little over 425 ballots challenged by the campaigns which will have to be ruled on by the state canvassing board beginning on December 16.

But don't wait for the board to rule, head over to the Minnesota Public Radio site and put in your two cents on how some challenged ballots should be counted...

(Franken photo from campaign wesite, Coleman photo from Senate website)

But That's So Rational

Reprinted in full from my new favorite Econ blog, NPR's Planet Money...

Corporate Jets So Bad?

Imagine you're the CEO of a major auto manufacturer in danger of going bankrupt, countless jobs and arguably the financial health of the U.S. could hang in the balance.

Your day is packed packed packed with emergency meetings and phone calls, some just five minutes long. You're not sleeping.

You have to go to Washington DC to ask Congress for help.

Your company, like many other much smaller companies owns a corporate jet which you've used for years.

Do you really book a flight instead on a commercial airline? Wait in line for hours, risk flight delays? Is that really the best use of your time? And if you book that flight, won't lawmakers just say it's a cheap ploy?

Just asking.

See below for a more emotional reaction.

Foto Friday - But You Can Eat It Too

This week's photo comes from Greg Takayama who blogs on food, photos, and life in general.
(photo from this post)