4/07/2010

Today's GOP vs. Ronald Reagan. (via Sully). Great stuff as usual from Bruce Bartlett.

It may come as a surprise to some people that once upon a time in the not-too-distant past Republicans actually cared enough about budget deficits that they thought raising taxes was necessary to bring them down. Today, Republicans believe that deficits are nothing more than something to ignore when they are in power and to bludgeon Democrats with when they are out of power.
Slate uses Tiger's return to golf (and the zen practice that informed much of his early life) and the upcoming PBS serious about Buddhism to discuss the role that Zen has played in America.

After a broad and amazing recap of the changing perception of Buddhism Wen Stephonson laments the one missing element from the doc:

There is one aspect of Buddhism, however, that (PBS Documentary Producer) Grubin doesn't really touch—perhaps understandably. The question "What is Buddhism?" is finally, for many Buddhists, unanswerable—and the essence of the teaching inexpressible. Zen, in particular, is full of stories in which sharp-tongued masters cut off fruitless philosophical inquiry. Like the one about the ninth-century Chinese master Yun-men and his response to an inquisitive monk:
Monk: "Where is the place from which all buddhas come?"
Yun-men: "Next question, please!"

4/06/2010

Thanks for the patience. it's looks like the computer trouble is over (for now)

4/05/2010

Time makes martyrs of us all. Al Ross, founder of the iconic Doggie Dinner chain has died.
Looks like the effort to legalize tax weed is putting together a stronger cast than originally reported. Chris Good at the Atlantic has the details. The latest Pew report still has support trailing, but the gap is narrow.

4/01/2010

Look like the iPad might meet the hype. Early reviews have it rocking boats.

3/30/2010

You didn't get mad after 8 years of Bush Cheney, but NOW you're mad?

3/24/2010

I'm jaded. I find the web is mostly a mess. A cacophony of poses. But every once in a while some small thing jumps out at me that reminds me of the good old days. When you'd hear a voice that so resonated with you, but you probably wouldn't have met/heard/read it unless these wires brought them to you some how. I felt that way when I first stumbled across DFW, and again reading this article today about video games, coke addiction, and what it all means to one writer. Has he wasted his life playing video games? He doesn't think so.

What have games given me? Experiences. Not surrogate experiences, but actual experiences, many of which are as important to me as any real memories. Once I wanted games to show me things I could not see in any other medium. Then I wanted games to tell me a story in a way no other medium can. Then I wanted games to redeem something absent in myself. Then I wanted a game experience that pointed not toward but at something. Playing GTA IV on coke for weeks and then months at a time, I learned that maybe all a game can do is point at the person who is playing it, and maybe this has to be enough.
I think it's a testament to how unhinged the "Right" has become that David Frum is considered a voice of reason in some parts. He's an ass. But his Waterloo article speaking to how the opposition to HCR is going to hamstring the GOP for sometime has been making the circles. I'd like to hear your thoughts.

For the record, I think he's right here, but it's an anomaly.
This is the sort of Beltway-insider/MSM gossip I tend to find boring (heh, "Beltway insider" I feel like a Tbagger) but Shales attack on Amanpour are unconscionable.

As per usual, Greenwald brings his laser vision to the sitch.
Krug on the contrast between Dems and Repubs as they pushed through the final moments of HCR.

The day before Sunday’s health care vote, President Obama gave an unscripted talk to House Democrats. Near the end, he spoke about why his party should pass reform: “Every once in a while a moment comes where you have a chance to vindicate all those best hopes that you had about yourself, about this country, where you have a chance to make good on those promises that you made ... And this is the time to make true on that promise. We are not bound to win, but we are bound to be true. We are not bound to succeed, but we are bound to let whatever light we have shine."

And on the other side, here’s what Newt Gingrich, the Republican former speaker of the House — a man celebrated by many in his party as an intellectual leader — had to say: If Democrats pass health reform, “They will have destroyed their party much as Lyndon Johnson shattered the Democratic Party for 40 years” by passing civil rights legislation"


He goes on:
I want you to consider the contrast: on one side, the closing argument was an appeal to our better angels, urging politicians to do what is right, even if it hurts their careers; on the other side, callous cynicism. Think about what it means to condemn health reform by comparing it to the Civil Rights Act. Who in modern America would say that L.B.J. did the wrong thing by pushing for racial equality?

Small government may be a rallying cry, but it's not an answer. And it's certainly not governance. The Dems will lose seats in the mid-terms (more or less because of the bill is probably unknowable) but their legacy will be strengthened in the long term because of the passage.

3/16/2010

Film Directors discuss their favourite movie scenes.

Amazing to note, Gene Hackman's famous driving scene from the French Connection basically just happened:
Phenomenal. Basically they just did it. There was no security blocking off other traffic, just Hackman in a car with a camera mounted on the front. They went crazy, lost their minds, and went for it. It was the kind of thing that you just would never get away with these days.
Chris Beam writes a surprisingly sympathetic profile of conservative media rabble-rouser Breitbart.

3/10/2010

David Denby has a dead-eye profile of the career of Clint Eastwood. A must read for movie fans. A wide ranging essay that discusses America, the western, and his place in all tilts on this, "Being underestimated is, for some people, a misfortune. For Eastwood, it became a weapon."

3/08/2010

Bruce Bartlett takes a look at the debt and how much it matters (a lot). And then debunks the ideas that cutting taxes and "growing out of it" will work:

Some Pollyannas, like my friend Larry Kudlow, think we can just grow our way out of the debt by cutting taxes. But this is not really possible given the magnitude of our problem. First, increasing real growth doesn't have as much effect on the debt as one might imagine. According to OMB, raising the rate of productivity, the basic component of real GDP growth, by 0.5% per year over the next 75 years only reduces the long-run fiscal gap by 17%.

Moreover, raising productivity even that much would be hard; over the last five years the productivity growth rate has averaged 1.8% per year, so we would have to raise it by one-fourth just to reduce the projected debt by 17%. And we can't very well expect investment to raise productivity very much when the federal budget deficit will be absorbing a huge percentage of national saving, crowding private borrowers out of the market, which will reduce business investment. Lastly, it's highly unlikely that further tax cuts will do much to increase growth when they will add to the deficit and taxes are already at their lowest level as a share of GDP in almost 60 years--more than 3% of GDP below the postwar average. In any case, the biggest problem businesses have today is a lack of customers, not high taxes."


His solution isn't sexy. Higher taxes and less spending.
A strong piece from the Times of the risk of a double-dip in the jobs market. The first problem is that consumer spending is still lagging, plus:

The second problem is that the stimulus program and the Fed's emergency programs are in the early stages of slowing down.

These programs have done tremendous good, as I've written before. The bubbles in housing and stocks over the last decade were far larger than an average bubble, and yet the resulting bust is on pace to be shorter and less severe than the typical one in the wake of a financial crisis. That's not an accident. It's a result of an incredibly aggressive response by the Fed, Congress, the Bush administration and the Obama administration.
We are all geniuses. Not exactly but David Shenk's new book seems to argue that none of us are born to be mediocre. He claims tries to dispel the "nature vs. nurture" dichotomy that most laypeople get absolutely wrong.

He feels that genetics and environment clearly interact, but not in the deterministic factor we've been lead to believe.

Shenk's particular interest is talent, genius and other instances of extraordinary ability, whether the skills be athletic, artistic or scientific. Musicians and athletes most often get held up as examples of the triumph of innate gifts. According to Shenk, we are erroneously led to believe that stars like Tiger Woods and cellist Yo-yo Ma were born to climb to the top of their fields, when in fact the environments they grew up in are just as responsible (if not more so) for their spectacular feats. To prove this point, he methodically debunks several widely cited examples that supposedly prove the reality of inherited gifts: child prodigies, twin studies and geographical pockets of excellence at particular sports. In all of these cases, he demonstrates, observers have ignored and downplayed the enormous role of environment (especially in early childhood) in favor of touting the preeminence of genetics.

(His book, btw, is called "The Genius in All of Us")

To boil these ideas down even further, Shenk asserts that intelligence is not fixed but rather highly malleable depending on the demands placed upon it and the resources made available. Much of our capacity to think, perform and create is primed in early childhood, so the importance of creating a stimulating, challenging and supportive (but not coddling) context for young children can't be overstated. And while some of us are born with a slight edge when it comes to aptitude, most people can come pretty close to the highest levels of achievement in our chosen field if we pursue it in the right way. Of course, the intensity of drive and commitment exhibited by top athletes like Ted Williams or scientists like Einstein (who said "It's not that I'm so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer") is, in itself, extraordinary. But Shenk believes that this, too, can be inculcated, if we so desire.
Interesting discussion of the challenges of protecting the President Obama. Working from the Southern Poverty Law Center's research it appears that (Shocker!) right-wing extremism presents the most clear and present danger to the President.

A former special agent describes the risks:

"In Obama, we have a president with a very unique personality who likes to be out with the people. Put that together with the political atmosphere of these times that is highly partisan and vitriolic, then include race, and we've got a big challenge. There's no margin for error."
A different kind of freedom.

we're going to miss DFW in ways we're only beginning to understand.

He finishes strong.

But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talk about much in the great outside world of wanting and achieving.... The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day

(The entire piece can be read here)

3/05/2010

Hova at the House. If this doesn't make you smile a little bit...

3/01/2010

McWhorter attempts to shift our gaze from the tea-baggers to work that Obama is doing in education reform:

Obama is well on his way to becoming an Education President in the true sense. No, all of America’s public schools will not be turning into lushly funded academies churning out bright-eyed, civicly-engaged, readaholic yet well-rounded √úbercitizens anytime soon, if ever. But great stuff is happening....

Take, for example, the National Center on Education and the Economy’s plan to have eight states experiment with allowing public school students to graduate after tenth grade upon finishing clearly stated requirements, and to then go on to community college. The states will have pilot schools using this program just two autumns from now.
The Krugman profile is worth a slog.

In his columns, Krugman is belligerently, obsessively political, but this aspect of his personality is actually a recent development. His parents were New Deal liberals, but they weren't especially interested in politics. In his academic work, Krugman focussed mostly on subjects with little political salience. During the eighties, he thought that supply-side economics was stupid, but he didn't think that much about it. Unlike Wells, who was so upset when Reagan was elected that she moved to England, Krugman found Reagan comical rather than evil. "I had very little sense of what was at stake in the tax issues," he says. "I was into career-building at that point and not that concerned." He worked for Reagan on the staff of the Council of Economic Advisers for a year, but even that didn't get him thinking about politics. "I feel now like I was sleepwalking through the twenty years before 2000," he says. "I knew that there was a right-left division, I had a pretty good sense that people like Dick Armey were not good to have rational discussion with, but I didn't really have a sense of how deep the divide went."
know hope

I don't know why, but this feels like progress on the racial front. (albeit tiny)

2/25/2010

Amazing photos of the US assault on the Taliban.

2/24/2010

How great is this? Jimmy Carter pens a response to Foreign Policy's take down of him.
A fascinating discussion about the new book The Watchers; The Rise of the Surveliance State in America that profiles the people behind the the government's efforts to use technology to fight crime and terrorism. Most notably the belueagued Total Information Awareness creater John Poindexter. It's a fascinating conversation that is actually sympathetic toward Poindexter and casts TIA in a new light.

Also of note is the (somewhat obvious) point that TIA still exists under various names, and how influential the disgraced Poindexter remains in D.C.

As a bit of a technological Utopiast myself I understand Poindexter's impulse to rely on a few line of code to strike the right balance between an all-seeing government surveillance system and individual liberty. But that's the gap between reality and Utopia tends to be wide.
apologies for the light posting, major technical difficulties, will try to slog through.

2/18/2010

U.S. Economy Grinds to Halt as Nation Discovers Money is an Illusion-an Onion insta-classic.
Walter Russell Mead attacks the NY Times, and their ilk, for not combating the switf-boating of the global warming debate.

Let me say this again one last time: the story here is that the movement to stop climate change is being swift-boated right before our eyes. And just as Senator Kerry and the journalistic establishment failed to see the importance of the swift boat attacks and develop a counter strategy early, so the Times along with the climate change establishment is, yet again, missing the boat on a major piece of news.

2/17/2010

I hate this stuff, I really do. I have no idea why I'm sharing this with you other than its gawd-awful splendour.

Of course, I'm talking about the AC Transit fight video.

But if nothing else I wanted to make sure that the Epic Beard Man entry received its full due.

I have to agree with the director of the video, if you're going to describe the incident in one word, it's just "Oakland".
Check out the crash video of this bus vs. 20 cars in Taiwan. The side cameras are the worst.
Jay Smooth has shuttered his vlog, but horray! he's opened another one.

in honour of the old site's passing, let me post one of my fav's, his defense of the Christopher Street Boys.
it's been making the rounds of the blogsphere but if you haven't read Esquire's piece about Roger Ebert, do yourself a favor and savour these pages.

My main takeaways (Besides Ebert's amazing spirit) is the craven nature of whatever Disney honcho decided to destroy the original At The Movies set rather than give it to the Smithsonian, and this coda cribbed from Roger:

I believe that if, at the end of it all, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn't always know this, and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.
What caused the healthcare crisis? The Beatles