Friday, March 27, 2009
Has anyone out there tried Kogi yet?
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Update: County Dem party chair Cindy Lowery confirms it. Congratulations, Daniel.
Later update: I was following this little election not just because Kagan is a friend, but also because he quite publicly "backed the wrong horse" last year -- he was an outspoken Hillary Clinton supporter. He was one of the delegates who successfully campaigned for the roll call vote on the convention floor last summer. I was curious (as was Kagan) whether there'd be any sort of payback among fellow Democrats, whether a Clinton backer would be automatically disqualified in a vote among party insiders. It looks like the answer is no.
Because of a law that the Congress passed in 2001, the estate tax, which at is 45 percent this year with an exemption up to $3.5 million in assets, will be entirely repealed in 2010 before abruptly returning to its former rate of 55 percent rate in 2011.They say that we tax the things we want to discourage and subsidize the things we want to encourage. Well, next year should be a real test. Financially speaking, next year is the best year to die in America. More properly stated, next year is the best year to have a wealthy relative die. You'll receive your inheritance tax-free. It will not be a good year to be on life support.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
I really wonder what this means for academia. I'm guessing a lot of other major academic publishers will follow suit. Print books are terribly expensive to produce. I have a hard time imagining myself reading electronic books the same way I read print ones. But maybe it's easier for today's college students, or the kids who will be college students ten years from now. After all, you can use a Kindle or an iPhone on an exercise bike, or on a bus, or on the toilet... pretty much any place you'd read a print book. But it's a little tougher to writes notes in the margin.
Also, will a tenure review committee look upon a University of Michigan-approved PDF file the same way they look upon a printed text? In theory, it's the same gatekeeper, the same hurdle. But maybe it feels different.
And maybe it's not the same gatekeeper. University publishers limit the amount of stuff they publish in part to maintain the value of their press. Cambridge is a prominent publishing house precisely because they don't publish everything that comes across their desk. But if the costs of printing (derived from purchasing and binding cloth paper) drop dramatically, do they start publishing more? If so, how many books will junior scholars have to publish to get tenure?
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Monday, March 23, 2009
The group of people who serve on the vacancy committee generally heavily overlaps with the people within the Democratic party who nominate candidates during the caucus process in Colorado for general elections.It's actually a considerable amount of power for a pretty small group of people. It's a solid Dem district, too, meaning that their pick will likely hold this seat through the middle of the next decade.
At least nine candidates have put in their names for the seat, and the committee will meet this Thursday.
I've seen (and participated in) a number of discussions about the Galactica finale. Several people were bothered by the ending, in which the survivors decided on a pretty Luddite existence and chose to drive their ships into the sun, to disperse themselves across the Earth, and to forgo cities.
This anti-technology choice actually made sense to me on several levels. For one, the survivors kind of had no option. As we were reminded in the final episodes, the fleet was running out of basic supplies, including fuel, ammo, and toothpaste. They were triaging patients in sick bay. The Galactica was dead and the other ships were falling apart. The idea of building another Caprica was kind of far-fetched.
The decision was also strategically sound. I took it that the Cylon colony was fatally damaged and probably got sucked into the black hole. But Cavil and the others are still out there in one form or another. If they happened across the new Earth and found cities and an orbiting fleet, they might decide to attack. As the show ended, though, the Cylons would go right past the planet without batting an eye.
Finally, one can sympathize with the position of the survivors. They might have said, "We have all these wonderful inventions; how much good have they done us? Our inventions brought us from billions of people across 12 planets to 40,000 starving souls on a primitive rock." Going Walden and breeding with the natives probably sounded pretty good at that point.
I didn't take it that they were going completely Amish. They did talk about distributing provisions, presumably some things like antibiotics, blankets, etc. But still, I get their position.
So I liked the ending. They could have cut it off about 30 seconds earlier, though, before the dire warnings about Japanese robots. Styx drove that point home years ago.
I respect the nerdiness at work here, but there are a few problems with this line of inquiry. For one thing, Newitz uses a viewer poll that identifies seven episodes in which BSG jumped the shark. This, to me, suggests no clear consensus. All they've identified are episodes that weren't particularly good, like the boxing one. I would suggest that the show never jumped the shark, except maybe in the final 30 minutes of the final episode, when the show had, by its own standards, completed its story arc (more on that later).
My definition of shark-jumping is when a show has clearly lost its mission -- whether that's to convey a message, to shake up the status quo, or just to entertain -- and now exists just for the sake of its own existence.
Clear instances of shark-jumping, in my opinion:
- The eponymous one, when Fonzie jumped a shark.
- When all the Walshes left "90210," eradicating the entire point of the show.
- The addition of 7 of 9 to "Star Trek: Voyager" may have been a jump, in that it was a craven acknowledgment that a sci-fi show couldn't survive without a hottie. But they actually built some nice stories around her so I think they recovered a bit.
They should be begging for a shot at redemption. They should work without pay, without sleep, without credit. They should wear sackcloth and ashes. But more than that, they should be trying to help. The damage they wrought might have been unintentional, but that doesn't absolve them of responsibility for the aftermath. What we've got, however, is an economic hit-and-run, with one wrinkle: The collar-popper peeking out of the bloodied Porsche is willing to stick around if we pay him for his time. Give him a bonus and he'll dirty his hands with CPR.The whole post is worth a read, especially when Ezra compares the folks at AIG to R'as al Ghul.
Beyond that, while I'm normally not that into raw populism and recognize that it has serious downsides (mob justice, scapegoating, racism, etc.), I think a little pitchfork politics is probably healthy in this case. A small, wealthy, greedy elite actually did wreck the country. To be sure, that behavior probably wasn't criminal, and in most cases probably wasn't even intentional. But there should be a stigma attached to this sort of behavior. A modicum of public shaming might really help.
There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Sen. Abel Maldonado's political career is likely over. Not only will he be opposed in the primary if he runs for statewide office, but there's a group that wants him recalled now. Their awesome tagline: "It's time to raise some Cain on Abel!" And out in San Bernardino County, Assemblyman Anthony Adams will likely face a recall and a primary challenge, and he's been booted as chair of the county Republican Party.
I'll give the GOP activists credit: they've made raising taxes look like a selfless and heroic act.
Denver police have issued a description of one suspect who may be responsible for at least four of the break-ins. They're looking for a black male about 6 feet tall, "with a medium to light skin complexion, wearing a dark-colored hooded sweat shirt."
But on and around a diverse campus, [student Jason] Friend said, "it's so vague it could fit 90 percent of the population."
Huh? Has anyone looked at the campus' diversity statistics lately? It's just below the multiracial citadels of Amherst and Brandeis.
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Okay, so apparently Chief is going to the British Isles? (Galen. Nice.) Um, is he going to build Stonehenge? I know that doesn't make much sense. He can't do that alone, and Stonehenge isn't 150,000 years old. But the episode got me thinking about that bit from the first season when they went into that temple on Kobol and got to see the skies from the perspective of Stonehenge, presumably on Earth. Which Earth were they on? I assume the Cylon one, since no one (aside from the indigenous hominids) had ever been on "our" Earth before. But why did the constellations look right from the Cylon Earth? Or did they? I'd have to see that again.
And just who are Chip Six and Chip Baltar? Presumably some kind of angels? So who's God? And why doesn't he like to be called that? Did Daniel somehow re-emerge from the Cylon resurrection ships and obtain godlike powers? Was it he who resurrected Starbuck (his daughter?) to fulfill some mission? Did he so love us that he gave us his only daughter to die for our sins and redeem us?
I guess we'll never get these answers, but man, what a cool ending. Usually final episodes can be absurdly schmaltzy (MASH) or can work so hard to tie up loose ends that they just don't feel like the show anymore (Friday Night Lights). This one did a nice job of tying up very complex story lines but still leaving a lot of interesting questions out there.
Very nice review here.
Friday, March 20, 2009
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
I'm not sure this is as radical a change as the Times describes. I've had access to Lexis-Nexis for more than a decade now, and when I was a juror, I could theoretically look up caselaw at night after the court recessed for the day. Beyond that, except in special cases, the jury is never really sequestered -- the judge just tells jurors not to discuss or research the case until it's been concluded. But how much does this really deter curious jurors? Remember that Henry Fonda's character in "12 Angry Men" did some research on his own, against the judge's orders, procuring evidence that helped acquit the defendant. And that was in 1957, half a century before the invention of the iPhone.
But perhaps such research is now so easy that it's going to require us to rethink how we conduct trials. Maybe we just have to accept that jurors will have more information than we want them to. Or maybe we should go the other direction and wire all juror deliberation rooms with cellular signal jammers, or just build them out of whatever material the Palmer House Hilton lobby is made out of. But it seems like information is only getting easier to come by.
I would also add that Springsteen appears to be on an upswing, as well. "Working on a Dream" is probably better than anything else he did this decade. One of the tracks that particularly caught my ear is "Queen of the Supermarket," which is, if anything, a song about having a crush on a girl. Thematically, that seems so innocent and youthful and reminiscent of stuff from the 70s like "She's the One." But, of course, we don't stop having crushes on girls when we leave our 20s; we just stop talking about it. Not the Boss.
Here's one of my favs from the new U2. Play it loud.
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Friday, March 13, 2009
It's actually very similar to his appearance on Crossfire back in 2004. In both interviews, you have an admittedly fake journalist lecturing slightly more real journalists on their responsibilities. Stewart proceeds from an almost unassailable position. His show is an entertainment show, and he doesn't claim it to be anything beyond that. Then he criticizes journalists for resorting to entertainment to sell their shows. With Crossfire, he told Carlson and Begala that they posit themselves as a debate show, but they're really providing cheap entertainment that just serves the politicians. Cramer, Stewart alleges, actually understands finance but dumbs it down with cheap stunts and convinces people to buy stocks they shouldn't be buying.
Stewart is undoubtedly right in his criticism. Of course, imagine what shows like Crossfire and Mad Money would look like if Stewart ran them. They would invite politicians and CEOs on the show and criticize them heavily when they dissembled and try to explain to viewers when they're being lied to. This would certainly be useful, except that no one would go on the show. With no one on the show, no one would watch it.
It was no accident that the only one telling King Lear the truth was the fool.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Okay, maybe. But my interpretation was that Snyder was giving a nod to the fact that the terrible, horrible, completely implausible conclusion of "Watchmen" has, in fact, already happened. The 9/11 attacks were a lot like the finale of the book - alien, unexpected, tragic, unifying - only without the giant squid. In fact, the actual attacks serve to undermine the book. Yes, the world united in response, but only for a little while. Okay, maybe you could blame Bush for squandering the post-trauma unity, but how much longer would that have lasted under a President Gore, or Nixon?
Snyder felt he had to at least address that in some way. The allusions to the towers were a way of saying, "Okay, I get it. This has already happened."
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
I rarely if ever trash a student in a letter of rec. If I don't feel that I can in good conscience give a nice letter, I'll decline to write one rather than say bad things. But what happened here? Did people write letters ignoring this student's behavioral problems? Or did the student just find the two or three people who didn't know him at all but were still willing to write letters? Either way, it's a problem.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Monday, March 9, 2009
Unity Gave Way to CrabbySigh. In other words, people got along great at the beginning, before they had to vote on anything, but then disagreed when it came to making actual policy decisions. You could say legislators were representing their constituencies. You could say they were advocating for an ideological viewpoint. Dismissing disagreements as crabbiness strikes me as pretty unhelpful.
The 10.7 billion transit trips Americans took last year amounted to a 4 percent increase over trips taken in 2007; at the same time, Americans drove measurably less, according to the Transportation Department.
The increase is significant because cheaper gas and job losses tend to drive transit ridership down. Almost 60 percent of transit riders go to work.
Okay, this is a good thing, but wasn't gas hugely expensive during most of 2008? I know it got cheap in the fall, but last summer was $4/gallon gas, right? Didn't this drive a lot of people to public transportation?
UPDATE: An enormous thanks to Cory for catching an unfortunate typo, which is now fixed.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
The one thing I found troublesome was one of the performances. Matthew Goode, who played Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias, just didn't sell the part. I just dismissed it as bad acting at the time. But Dana at Edge of the American West has me thinking that this bit of casting was a particularly damaging problem for the film. Veidt is supposed to be a golden boy. He's supposed to be the optimistic American ideal superhero, not the humorless, egotistical capitalist who gets into pissing matches with Lee Iacoca. As the book depicted him, the events at the end of the story become tragic and revelatory. In the movie, it's just not all that interesting.
And while I'm complaining about casting, Robert Downey Jr. should have played the Comedian.
Saturday, March 7, 2009
Just to recap, Jason Gedrick plays the teenage son of an Air Force pilot who has been shot down and captured by some evil Muslim country. Gedrick is trying to get the Air Force to go in and attack and save his dad, but no one wants to risk a war. So he finds a retired pilot, played by Lou Gossett, Jr. (who, after earning an Oscar for "An Officer and a Gentleman," clearly wanted to prove that he could suck, as well), and they team up on a rogue mission to steal some F-16s and rescue the POW.
One of Gedrick's friends is played by Larry B. Scott, who played the 80s archetype of the smart, skinny, funny black friend. (Scott played this role well in "Revenge of the Nerds" and "Spacecamp.") In one particularly annoying scene, Gedrick is whining that no one will help his dad. Scott says it'll work out fine. "Right, like in Iran?" Gedrick asks. "Yeah, but that was when Mr. Peanut was in charge," replies Scott, getting in a Jimmy Carter dig. Now, we have a president who won't take any crap: "Why do you think they call him Ronald Ray-Guns?"
Anyway, Gedrick trains extensively in a simulator while listening to Queen's "One Vision," a song they wrote while well into their lamentable "Radio Ga Ga" period. And this training is apparently enough to allow a teenager to destroy an entire enemy flight group. So all you kids listening to crappy music while playing flight simulators, your country needs you. Suit up.
It would be no small thing for either Perlmutter or Romanoff to take on such a group.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
Must be tough to be a capitalist when the median voter's a Marxist.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Here's the same graph, only comparing 1928 and 1932:Okay, that's really different. All this just goes to show that 1932 was a critical election. There was a substantial shift in partisan voting patterns. But I was surprised to see just how much of that shift was concentrated in the South. In 1928, southern states voted more Democratic than the rest of the states, but with significant variance. Al Smith did really well in South Carolina but only barely won Alabama and actually lost Texas. Go forward to 1932, and all the deep South plus Texas voted overwhelmingly -- and similarly -- for FDR.
My interpretation of this is that both the economic and race dimensions were important to southern voters. They usually stuck with the Democrats due to the race dimension (i.e.: they were still mad at Lincoln), but they'd sometimes lean a bit Republican if they were happy with the economy under Republican presidents. Come 1932, there was no longer any cross-pressure. If you were angry about the economy and fearful of blacks, the Democratic Party was suddenly the place to be!
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
To me, though, such efforts look like little more than lip service. Here's their platform:
Through this newly formed organization, the business community can join together with other likeminded leaders, to advance meaningful, market-based solutions to this crisis. By advancing a set of core principles to guide and shape state and federal policies embraced by the coalition, the business community can, and should be, in a leadership position to advance solutions that reverse rising healthcare costs, solve the problem of the uninsured, and dramatically improve the quality of care for every American.What does that mean, exactly? They want market-based solutions (as opposed to a single-payer plan, I suppose), but where do they go from there? It's pretty vague -- more of a recognition that there's a problem and a commitment to continue to talk about it.
It kind of reminds me of those annoying Divided We Fail ads from last year. I was never sure what sort of policies AARP, the NFIB, SEIU, and the Business Roundtable would come up with if they worked together. Probably just a big muddle of nothing. It sounds great to complain about gridlock and demand leadership, but what are they actually proposing? Single-payer health insurance and a stronger social safety net? Guess what, they just lost half their coalition. Limiting medical malpractice lawsuits and reducing entitlements? They just lost the other half.
There's no shortage of good reform ideas out there, and some of them can actually be empirically tested. But most of those ideas are already associated with an ideology and a party. They don't necessarily become better ideas by melding with those of another ideology or party.
Monday, March 2, 2009
Then there's the ill-considered tag line, "Repeal your breed ban!" It's the "your" that really sucks, making it quite transparent that there are some people outside of Denver who disapprove of its laws. Anyone who understands the ad and might be vaguely sympathetic to its message will probably be put off by the outsiders telling us how to live. "Repeal the breed ban" might have been more effective and less off-putting.
Finally, I recognize that I'm not a dog owner and thus am not likely to be persuaded by this ad in the first place. But I also recognize that there are some concerns out there -- overhyped, perhaps, thought probably not completely fabricated -- that pit bulls are dangerous. The photo above of a pit bull with a cute little kid doesn't make me feel sympathetic to the dog; it makes me worry about the kid.
Which one of them has to apologize? That seems like a pretty good test.
Ah, that was quick.
"I went back at that tape and I realized words that I said weren't what I was thinking," Steele said. "It was one of those things where I thinking I was saying one thing, and it came out differently. What I was trying to say was a lot of people ... want to make Rush the scapegoat, the bogeyman, and he's not."
HARRISBURG -- A new statewide poll shows 53 percent of Pennsylvanians -- and 66 percent of Republicans -- want someone to replace Sen. Arlen Specter.It's not that an unpopular Republican makes me feel good. It's that the behavior of politicians in DC ultimately gets communicated to the voters back home. That a Republican politician would be relatively unpopular in a state that went for Obama by double digits last year is not particularly striking. But Republican voters have noticed that he's a bad Republican, and they're much more sour on him than Pennsylvania Democrats are.
I saw a similar poll a few years back on Joe Lieberman, who was reasonably popular in Connecticut except among Democrats, who noticed that he wasn't being a very good Democrat. Voters do figure stuff out.
The student senate has already voted in favor of the tobacco ban, so I assume the purpose of this demonstration is to suggest to the chancellor, who will ultimately decide the issue, that students are far from monolithic in their support of the senate's actions.
If any of the demonstrator's organizers are reading this blog, please accept one bit of advice: no giant papier mâché figures. I have never yet seen a successful political movement that used them. Also, they're really annoying.
Sunday, March 1, 2009
Nope. Right near Georgetown, we passed by three big-horned sheep grazing by the side of the road. Traffic picked up to 70 mph right after that. Yes, traffic was at a stand-still because people wanted to see the sheep.
Now, I grant you that these are cool animals, and they're usually pretty difficult to see. But I was still kinda pissed.
But this got me thinking... I didn't particularly care to slow down to see the sheep. But I had to because others did. Probably the vast majority of the drivers were in my boat, forced to slow down because of the interests of a pivotal minority. How many drivers does it actually take to make an entire freeway slow down to a crawl? Probably not too many. And yes, I know this is the stuff that kept Campbell Scott's character up at nights in "Singles."
All the more reason to take the Supertrain.