Just like this new DNC ad...
I was offline from Thursday - Sunday so I missed the big GOP budget roll out, from the looks of that ad it was pretty amusing.
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Unfortunately the answer is most probably a definitive yes.
Atul Gawande (whose journalism is superb and never to be missed) writing in the March 30 New Yorker describes a wide range of experiences with long term solitary confinement and its single, overarching, and undeniable result. It is torture. Regardless of the captive's status it is torture; it was torture when John McCain was held in solitary confinement in Vietnam and it was torture when US hostages were held in solitary confinement by terrorists in Lebanon and it is torture when at least 25,000 and as many as 100,000 prisoners are held in solitary confinement in the American criminal justice system.
America is pretty much alone in the use of extended solitary confinement but that fits right in with our astounding imprisonment rates, and as such sadly should not be surprising. Gawande outline's Britian's success in moving away from the practice in the article. Which is long and way too impressive a piece to be summed up in excerpts, although if forced to pick this bit sums up well...
This past year, both the Republican and the Democratic Presidential candidates came out firmly for banning torture and closing the facility in Guantánamo Bay, where hundreds of prisoners have been held in years-long isolation. Neither Barack Obama nor John McCain, however, addressed the question of whether prolonged solitary confinement is torture. For a Presidential candidate, no less than for the prison commissioner, this would have been political suicide. The simple truth is that public sentiment in America is the reason that solitary confinement has exploded in this country, even as other Western nations have taken steps to reduce it. This is the dark side of American exceptionalism. With little concern or demurral, we have consigned tens of thousands of our own citizens to conditions that horrified our highest court a century ago. Our willingness to discard these standards for American prisoners made it easy to discard the Geneva Conventions prohibiting similar treatment of foreign prisoners of war, to the detriment of America’s moral stature in the world. In much the same way that a previous generation of Americans countenanced legalized segregation, ours has countenanced legalized torture. And there is no clearer manifestation of this than our routine use of solitary confinement—on our own people, in our own communities, in a supermax prison, for example, that is a thirty-minute drive from my door.In a more heartening counterpoint Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) has introduced much needed prison reform legislation that has recieved a bit of recent praise. Also pushing the prison reform envelope is the current economic collapse, with many states rapidly sucumbing to rising bidget shortfalls the cost of housing prisoners is quickly becoming an enormous burden.
The bottom line seems to be that America's obsession with being 'tough on crime' has pushed us way over the edge as a society.
Ezra Klein has some interesting thoughts on Webb's proposed legislation, basically that there isn't much to it. And some more interesting thoughts on the fact that there is a whole lot to the fact that Webb is tackling prison and criminal justice reform. Klein also has the floor speech Webb gave as an introduction and links to the new criminal justice reform section of Webb's website.
First Tom Colicchio shows up in an ad for Diet Coke that takes a huge swipe at Grant Achatz...
And now Padma Lakshmi is starring in a new bit of food porn (yes, and not in the sense that the food is sexy either) with a Western Bacon ThickBurger from Hardee's...
These ads are terrible. Is there something in the water on the Top Chef set that's affecting people's judgment? Do Colicchio and Lakshmi really want to be associated with Diet Coke and Hardee's, it certainly makes me question their bona fides. I'm not going to drink Diet Coke or eat a Thickburger because of Colicchio or Lakshmi but I will think twice about buying a cookbook or frequenting a restaurant run by either of them because of these ads.
(both via Young & Hungry)
Monday, March 30, 2009
Figuring out when those two trains would meet may well have been the bane of your middle school existence but getting your weekly fix of new math from Craig Dramrauer will help make Monday's something to look forward to...
Probably about an 75% success rate I'd say, some are definitely better than others.
Posted by Henry Coppola at 12:57 PM
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
We've been meaning to share this photo from The Big Picture for a while now...
Footprints carved in wood, which locals believe were made by a worshipper who prayed at the same spot for decades, are seen at a monastery near Tongren, Qinghai province February 5, 2009. Local Tibetan monks and pilgrims gather to celebrate Monlam, or Great Prayer Festival, one of the most important festivals in Tibetan Buddhism. (REUTERS/Reinhard Krause)
That is impressive. After a while it would become increasingly easy to return to the same spot as the wood began to wear away, but to get to that point probably took years of managing to return to the exact same spot with ridiculous precision.
This morning, via NPR, I learned about Archie Green who was a very cool folklorist, archivist, and activist of sorts. His signature achievement was helping secure the unanimous passage of the American Folklife Preservation Act in 1976, but he was just cool in general and Green would definitely have approved of my mottos.
Alas, Archie Green died this weekend at home in San Francisco at the age of 91.
Listen to the Morning Edition Obituary here, it's fantastic.
Posted by Henry Coppola at 10:52 AM
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
The current economic collapse was largely caused by hedge funds making highly risky, poorly thought out gambles on sketchy assets.
In order to save the economy we'll form a new hedge fund to make highly risky, poorly thought out gambles on what have now proven to be very sketchy assets with tax-payers' money.
Brilliant! The market was certainly happy though. Then again in our current economic structure there's Wall Street and Main Street and never the twain shall meet.
Yes, things are quite a bit more complicated than this, but bottom line the new bailout plan does boil down to this, and that's not good.
(I'm sure somebody else has said something quite similar to this, we'll add links if we come across it)
Posted by Henry Coppola at 10:12 AM
Monday, March 23, 2009
The fact that RNC Chairman Michael Steele has more or less gone into hiding after finally realizing just how damaging his media appearances were has put a damper on his acceptance of Stephen Colbert's rap battle challenge.
Being the gentleman that he is Colbert consulted the rap rules of etiquette and handled things the other night...
|The Colbert Report||Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
|Michael Steele's Rap Battle Response|
Posted by Henry Coppola at 11:33 AM
Sunday, March 22, 2009
As enthralled by cool technological advantages as I am, they often remind me of the Matrix, or Terminator series and I wonder if we'll end up like the people in Player Piano.
Nevertheless these new robotic fish that are being released off of the coast of Spain to hunt out pollution and spills etc are very very cool...
Friday, March 20, 2009
We like to talk about politics and pop culture, and accordingly here is last night's Tonight Show interview of President Obama...
In case you missed it, this was the first time that a sitting President appeared on any of the late night shows, any bets on an SNL appearance?
Ezra Klein reads between the lines to say that Obama doesn't support the plan to tax bail out bonuses.
War Room discusses the lame attempt at a joke.
I'm watching the interview right now, so far it seems like a great venue and medium for Obama.
Posted by Henry Coppola at 11:21 AM
Thursday, March 19, 2009
First she dyed the fountains green for St Paddy's day and now First Lady Michelle Obama is poised to put in a vegetable garden on the south lawn.
Both the WaPo and The NYT have nice articles about the garden this morning. Seems it's the first proper garden since Elanor Roosevelt's victory garden although the Wilson's take the cake; they had sheep!
From the NYT here's what will be planted, the White House chefs wrote up a wish list.
And word is that everyone, yes everyone including the President, is going to help tend the garden.
Posted by Henry Coppola at 8:25 PM
Here is a great shot, if you like astronomy I guess, taken by the hubble telescope recently.
Four, count them four, of Saturn's moons are captured transiting the planet...
I love that you can see some of the shadows. Read more on the Discover Magazine blog.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Since I started I may as well keep going. Here is some reading if you want to keep digging at the AIG mess.
James Kwak at The Basline Scenario has a rundown on how AIG sums up everything that's been going on thus far in our economic meltdown:
$165 million, of course, is less than one-tenth of one percent of the total amount of bailout money given to AIG in one form or another. Yet it may turn out to be the $165 million that broke the camel’s back.
The AIG bonus saga neatly encapsulates many of the problems that we have identified with the financial system and with the bailout to date...
Felix Salmon goes over why AIG was and continues to be propped up by the government.
Andrew Leonard takes a swipe at derivative trading in general.testifying this afternoon.
Have fun, I think.
Posted by Henry Coppola at 4:46 PM
This is especially for CEO's who can no longer afford, or at least can't afford to be seen living,the high roller style they are accustomed too in all its glory.
I've never flown Jet Blue myself so I can't speak to the snacks or connecting flights at the Illuminati terminal...
(via Calculated Risk)
Posted by Henry Coppola at 12:55 PM
So the outrage continues to build and boil over at the recent bonuses paid to AIG employees after the firm had accepted nearly $200 billion in tax payer funded bailout money from the government.
The whole financial situation continues to be a terrible mess and most likely a scarier one than we can, or care to, understand. While the amount of cash that AIG just paid out is minuscule in the big picture it is so emblematic of the fact that the people who burned the economy to the ground and essentially gave the lie to free market capitalism don't understand what they have done or that things are necessarily different now, in the wake of the destruction that they have wrought.
The AIG bonus fiasco has been all over the place of late (Nate Silver used Memeorandum to track its rise) and Talking Points Memo has been doing yeoman's work on the story, I recommend their coverage highly.
A few other comments that are worth a look include Steven Pearlstein in today's WaPo on what we could and should have done with regard to AIG specifically but to much of the banking industry as a whole as well. Writing at HuffPo Aaron Zelinsky says that we don't need new legislation to go after the bonuses that the IRS can simply declare them unreasonable. And Eliot Spitzer (not so smart in his personal life, but the man does know from financial regulation) writes about the more important questions that the bonuses are distracting us from in Slate.
AIG's recently installed chairman Ed Liddy will be testifying on the hill at any moment and wrote an op-ed in the WaPo this morning, it seems as though Pearlstein is exactly right when he suggests that Liddy was and continues to be the wrong man for the job.
You know who did a great job of summing this one up though, Stephen Colbert...
Posted by Henry Coppola at 11:02 AM
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
While it's not quite the same as pissing off Jon Stewart, you probably don't want to pick a fight with the SEIU either...
The video is probably a little too long and not quite tight enough to keep Boren from weaseling away, but it sure drives the point home that there will be a price to be paid for failing to support the unions.
Greg Sargent has been following these developments closely over at the Plum Line.
Posted by Henry Coppola at 10:17 AM
Through Facebook a friend just turned me on to La Blogotheque, and it's fantastic.
Apparently a Parisian collaborative with access to great musicians they put together 'concerts a emporter' or 'take away shows', you should really check this out. I first got sent to the great Fleet Foxes video but I'm gonna share Pigeon John from the in a van series...
Pigeon John - Higher - A Take Away Show from La Blogotheque on Vimeo.
Follow the links through for much more and larger HD video and sound...
Monday, March 16, 2009
What's wrong with you? Mostly it's just looking at toys, and if it's food shopping it's looking for some good stuff to eat, yum.
If you feel lost in the grocery store though here are some helpful tips; they're quite straight forward but useful nonetheless...
Also if you find yourself wondering what to do at the fish counter or in a seafood restaurant text FISH and the type you're wondering about to 30644 and the Blue Ocean Institute will help you out.
Have you seen the new shuffle? The thing is tiny.
Apparently they also make a Lego version. I don't know what's going on with Legos these days; when I was little I was totally jealous of Zack the Lego maniac kid from the ads but I grew up, and then when they started doing the marketing crossover stuff with movies I decided that Lego had pretty much jumped the shark.
Still that's a cool shot. I copped it from Gadget Lab, don't know where they got it though.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
While it is unclear as to the actually ramifications of doing so the DOJ announced over the weekend that the Obama Administration would no longer be using the classification of 'enemy combatant' that the previous administration had invented and made so much use of.
Some observers are reporting that this amounts to little more than a change in language, but even such a change is an important one. As is the Obama Administration's claim that the authority to hold prisoners in Guantanamo is derived from authorities granted by Congress and the international laws of war as opposed to because the President said so.
The DOJ release can be read in full here.
Posted by Henry Coppola at 9:59 PM
So it turns out that yesterday March 14 (3.14) was National Pi Day.
Yeah, that's pretty cool.
No I'm totally serious...
That's a movie you should seriously watch, yes it will make your head hurt but it is totally worth it.
This is my favorite from about 5 minutes on you tube, this looks to be another one of those deeeeep rabbit holes...
I'll forgive you if you don't rush to read this one (I didn't get too it until this cold and rainy weekend), but make a note of it and when you have the time settle in and enjoy a great piece of writing and an important piece of thinking from Zadie Smith.
Her piece, Speaking in Tongues, from last month's NY Review of Books is an examination of the process, power, and possibilities imbued in the ability to speak in many voices if not necessarily simultaneously than still all at once.
Smith writes primarily about President Obama's extraordinary prowess in doing so...
Throughout his campaign Obama was careful always to say we. He was noticeably wary of "I." By speaking so, he wasn't simply avoiding a singularity he didn't feel, he was also drawing us in with him. He had the audacity to suggest that, even if you can't see it stamped on their faces, most people come from Dream City, too. Most of us have complicated back stories, messy histories, multiple narratives.
It was a high-wire strategy, for Obama, this invocation of our collective human messiness. His enemies latched on to its imprecision, emphasizing the exotic, un-American nature of Dream City, this ill-defined place where you could be from Hawaii and Kenya, Kansas and Indonesia all at the same time, where you could jive talk like a street hustler and orate like a senator. What kind of a crazy place is that? But they underestimated how many people come from Dream City, how many Americans, in their daily lives, conjure contrasting voices and seek a synthesis between disparate things. Turns out, Dream City wasn't so strange to them.
I'm totally hooked on google reader, any rss reader will probably do but google integrates with all the other things I already use so well (gmail primarily). I've been using the reader with greater regularity of late, which means that instead of trying to keep my unread posts in the 500 neighborhood I'm manging a much more impressive 250-300 level despite recently adding several new feeds.
This does mean that I'm more on top of my feed management which means that new feeds are under higher scrutiny and have only a short time to sink or swim.
I've got a food section (oh you didn't know? you need to ask somebody!) and thought that the Atlantic's new food feed looked worth a shot, especially considering that it promised to be at least slightly DC centric.
So far, not so good. The feed is currently dangling by a thread after several uninteresting posts, nothing that I wanted to star and then to cap things off a note on coffee types that not only didn't tell me anything I didn't already know but used Starbucks and Peets as the baseline for good coffee.
Good luck with that one Atlantic, I'm giving you the chop on Monday.
Posted by Henry Coppola at 12:38 PM
Friday, March 13, 2009
Megan McCain that is. This one being the attacks on her body shape / weight from the far right over her recent media resurgence which has included a denunciation of Ann Coulter and extremism in general.
Think Progress has been following the dust up.
Posted by Henry Coppola at 5:23 PM
Will Ferrell's You're Welcome America: A Final Night With George W. Bush has been playing on Broadway for the past month and this Saturday HBO is showing it (supposedly live).
I wanted to bring you a trailer but Blogger is continuing to mess up embeds.
So instead visit the HBO site and check them out I like the attack on bamboo the best.
Posted by Henry Coppola at 2:23 PM
So after more than an hour of struggling to post the unedited full length three part Jim Cramer - Jon Stewart Interview / Face Off denouement we've finally got it up, albeit in multiple posts. (Blogger and Comedy Central embeds are not playing well together)
The three parts each appear below in their own posts, they are unedited so turn the sound down or plug in some headphones if you're in a setting where a few f-bombs will be unwelcome.
Further down there is a link to the full episode viewer (which contains the on-air version of the interview) you can visit The Daily Show's site for the intro and opening segments which are both quite funny as well.
I was happy to see Jon Stewart lay in to Cramer at times and on the whole not back down and give him a break. It's what we've come to expect from Stewart, and his honesty and determination to call it like he sees it (generally in the harsh light of reality) is the main reason for the show's popularity as well as the reason that The Daily Show gets cited by younger adults as one of their main news sources.
Also, Jim Cramer does deserve some credit for going on The Daily Show, yes he got his ass handed to him over the course of this brouhaha (several times over probably) but he still showed up which is more than can be said for some of his colleagues.
As an aside, this little dust up really has taken on a life of its own, google is currently returning about 2,690,000 hits for Cramer Stewart.
Posted by Henry Coppola at 10:24 AM
Well last night Jon Stewart and Jim Cramer got together on The Daily show. Below is the unedited 'outtake' version (in several parts) of their discussion. If you only have time for one watch part 3.
You should also go watch the full episode if you didn't catch it last night (11pm is currently past my bed time)
Amazing that it takes a nightly comedy program to bring up these issues, and we wonder how we ended up with this economy...
I've been trying to post all the parts of this video together for almost an hour and blogger continues to report errors in the embed code. So we're going to try it in individual posts.
Posted by Henry Coppola at 9:18 AM
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Well we've brought you this far, so despite the fact that both Jim Cramer and Jon Stewart are doing their best to lower expectations for tonight's face off on The Daily Show you should be ready.
Scroll down, or follow these links to get caught up.
Here's Stewart last night:
You can see Cramer get warned by Martha Stewart that he needs to watch out for Jon and talk about how nervous he is (Ha) here.
While Stewart may be down playing the show down in the offing, Stephen Colbert is worried enough about the hurting that might get put on Cramer to offer Stewart a bribe...
And just in case you thought this wasn't worth the attention; the feud was on the front page of today's paper...
You bet that was a little tongue in cheek.
Posted by Henry Coppola at 4:16 PM
Salon assigned Gabriel Winant the unenviable task of watching CNBC all day in an effort to see if it's really as bad as Jon Stewart makes it out to be.
The short answer: Yes, it might even be worse.
Got that? It's not our fault none of the models are working. The economy collapsed because the government broke it. Buy Verizon. If it goes up, Cramer and Kudlow and Santelli are geniuses. If it goes down, it's Obama's fault. Either way CNBC wins...Along the way Winant links to this video of Art Laffer and Peter Schiff on CNBC back in the fall of 2006 because the guest that CNBC still turns to is Laffer. Watch the video to see just how little sense that makes. Excepting a wierd tangent on whether mothers want to be working or staying at home Schiff absolutely nails the state of the economy and its future downturn. Always interesting to see that once again disater loomed and not everyone missed it but the media didn't want to hear from the folks who said wait, this isn't going to work very well (Iraq ringing any bells?)...
I'm not going to argue that the Dow Jones is irrelevant to the economy, but the fundamental problem of the bubble years was that the Dow Jones was growing and our actual assets were not. We weren't really getting richer. We were just pretending to get richer.
In mistaking themselves for the country at large, and the bouncing of the market for the health of the economy as a whole, Cramer, Kudlow and the whole talking-head crew give the lie to Rick Santelli's assertion about a "silent majority." CNBC feels like bizarro world because, in an important sense, it is.
(if you follow the video link through to the YouTube page there are a lot more videos of Schiff accurately diagnosing the economy and predicting its problems)
Is nothing in these troubled economic times sacred? Via Freakonomics comes the news that Haagen Dazs is reducing the size of their pints of ice cream from 16 to 14 ounces. The company claims increasing prices for ingredients, but the bottom line is you now get less ice cream for your buck. Also HD is lying to you about how much they're giving you; the containers will still says one pint only now they aren't a pint.
It isn't really like I needed another reason to reach for the Ben & Jerrys instead but that pretty much seals the deal for me. Especially when B&J's says that in tiought times like these I deserve a full pint of ice cream.
Reminds me of when Dannon downsized their yogurt containers from 8 to 6 ounces and I instantly switched to the next brand over on the shelf who's containers said still 8 ounces in big bright letters (I think that was the Brown Cow one).
I'll really be upset if this kind of thing creeps in to bars and beer sales. It's bad enough that they tell us a pint is 16 ounces here in the States can you imagine 12 ounce drafts and 10 ounce cans and bottles? Shudder.
Posted by Henry Coppola at 10:36 AM
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
When will they learn...
See Stewart's earlier takes here and here. Cramer's full piece here.
On The Daily Show's home page it lists Cramer as an upcoming guest for Thursday March 12, that ought to be interesting.
More from Stewart...
Posted by Henry Coppola at 10:11 AM
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
So over the weekend this happened...
I don't watch much SNL these days so I'm just jumping in here but Darrell Hammond is the only one doing a good impersonation. While I like the skit what I really would have liked to see was The Rock playing Obama straight, I think he'd kill it.
Posted by Henry Coppola at 10:58 AM
Monday, March 9, 2009
Fun article in the WaPo Style section today, especially if you grew up in Montgomery County. It seems that Led Zeppelin may (or may not) have played the Wheaton Rec Center as one of there earliest US gigs.
Jeff Krulik, who made Heavy Metal Parking Lot (which I haven't seen) is sorting out the story and putting together a film on it.
These days what you should do is keep an eye out for Lez Zeppelin's next swing through town, they put on a fantastic show.
Posted by Henry Coppola at 8:34 AM
Friday, March 6, 2009
In this morning’s New York Times, columnist Thomas Friedman makes a grave prediction regarding Obama and the ongoing financial crisis: “I fear that his whole first term could be eaten by Citigroup, A.I.G., Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, and the whole housing/subprime credit bubble we inflated these past 20 years.” Friedman is a three-time Pulitzer Prize winner, a staple of The New York Times, and a bestselling author, and thus this prediction should be taken very seriously—in some alternate universe where the news media is a meritocracy and Thomas Friedman is a competent observer of the world and its workings. The rest of us can probably relax.The piece pulls up a top five of Friedman's greatest prognostications; on relations with China and Russia, Colin Powell's stint as Secretary of State, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Plus they threw in some artwork.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
I've been meaning to write something about Rick Santelli's recent whack job spout off on CNBC, how hypocritical it was, how sad, what terrible things it said about us as a people that it rocketed him to a type of stardom. Then Santelli canceled on Jon Stewart and I'm just gonna let Jon tell you about Santelli and while he's at it Stewart would like you to know just how good the work they've been doing over at CNBC is...
Also it seems as though Santelli wasn't acting so spontaneously after all, new reporting indicates that he got paid to call for a 'Chicago Tea Party'.
Note to self - never, ever cancel on Jon Stewart.
Posted by Henry Coppola at 6:10 PM
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Much has been made of the decline and fall of the daily newspaper of late, with several large papers recently closing up shop (RIP Rocky Mountain News) and many others streamlining and otherwise cutting back.
David Simon, former Baltimore Sun reporter and creator of The Wire, outlined one of the consequences of downsized and disappearing daily papers in the Washington Post last Sunday:
Half-truths, obfuscations and apparent deceit -- these are the wages of a world in which newspapers, their staffs eviscerated, no longer battle at the frontiers of public information. And in a city where officials routinely plead with citizens to trust the police, where witnesses have for years been vulnerable to retaliatory violence, we now have a once-proud department's officers hiding behind anonymity that is not only arguably illegal under existing public information laws, but hypocritical as well.You should read it.
Monday, March 2, 2009
So the last issue of Vanity Fair had a big article on the ins and outs of getting The Godfather made (I've skimmed it, worth a read). But the author, Mark Seal, never managed to run down the rumor that some of the cast had hung out with the real deal to get the flavor, as they say.
Well when that issue hit the news stand the phone rang at Vanity Fair and to keep it simple, the cast of the Godfather had gone to pretty much the real live Tony Soprano's in Fort Lee New Jersey to pick up some pointers and his daughter, Gio, wanted to share the story and some pictures.
Seriously go read the story already, it has all the details...
So the Dow continued in it's seemingly effortless free fall today, eventually closing at 6,763.29. Yikes, that's about where it was when I first learned about the market in a high school econ class over 10 years ago.
I don't really have much to say about the economy, particularly the market side of things, as it seems to be a pretty much uncontrollable beast at this point, at least from my perspective. So I thought I'd mention who I turn to for a better perspective, we may as well try to understand what's happening as capitalism comes to a screeching halt all around us.
My Econ folder in the rss reader contains the following:
Paul Krugman - pretty much a must read.
Floyd Norris - another NYT writer and econ columnist
Andrew Leonard's How the World Works - which was much more fun before things imploded
NPR's Planet Money - not into the podcast, though if that's your thing it's worth a listen
James Surowiecki's Balance Sheet - the best reading of the bunch, he also writes the weekly financial page in the New Yorker.
Calculated Risk - the new kid on the block (for me) lions and tigers and charts galore oh my.
Also discussing economics but not really why I read them are:
Dean Baker - it's called Beat the Press and it's great but it's mostly media criticism
Freakonomics - is under my entertainment heading
TPM - always pulling in heavy hitters for comments especially as to the political ramifications.
So that's where I turn, they'll give you something to chew over at least.
Here's a scary thought from Floyd Norris; AIG lost $456,421 per minute in the last quarter of 2008, as he points out that's a year's ivy leage tuition every six seconds.
Posted by Henry Coppola at 9:05 PM