Friday, February 27, 2009

Waltz from Oldboy

Great movie. Great tune. Good, sensitive performance. Notice the dynamics.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Great Moments In Gibberish

(h/t Ronald Bailey)

Gov. Mark Sanford: Well I think that it’s just, and science is more and more documenting this, is that there are real “chinks” in the armor of evolution being the only way we came about. The idea of there being a, you know, a little mud hole and two mosquitoes get together and the next thing you know you have a human being... is completely at odds with, you know, one of the laws of thermodynamics which is the law of, of ... in essence, destruction.

Fala Is Dead And He Ain't Coming Back

Bob Herbert sez:

The U.S. economy cannot work if ordinary men and women cannot find work. Let’s forget for a moment all the ritualized lingo about tax cuts, all the easy but uninformed talk about entitlement reform and all the empty rhetoric about balancing budgets that will never be truly balanced in our lifetimes.

I very much wish Mr. Herbert is right but I fear that he is the one indulging in "ritualized lingo". Entitlements can indeed be reformed and budgets can be balanced....with a vengeance. It is called going broke and, as Robby The Robot said, "it is quite close now".

The recent run of celebrated air disasters have provided very clear illustrations of the difference between a controlled descent (currently known as a miracle)and an uncontrolled descent (currently known as a crash with no survivors). If we don't get very serious -painfully serious - about paying down our debt and, at the very least, radically reforming our medical costs then runaway inflation, a blown dollar, and a generation lost to economic eclipse is guaranteed. These problems are not just Republican talking points.In the event of a total economic collapse the budget will virtually balance itself as all interests meet on the comon ground of want.

I appreciate Herbert's commitment to some form of infrastructure investment....but lets not try to justify it as some sort of stimulative panacea. We just don't have the cash or the line of credit available for a Keynesian stimulus of the magnitude required to make that kind of an impact. Lets not be seduced by some nostalgic WPA fantasy.

Monday, February 23, 2009

John Derbyshire - A Neo-Rockefeller?

Here's a very entertaining article by right-wing curmudgeon John Derbyshire, "How Radio Wrecks The Right" in which he outlines the manifold ways in which the Dittoheads contribute to the petrification of the GOP.

He's right, of course, but fortunately the process of ossification is too far advanced for his counsel to be heard. This is probably why the article is published in The American Conservative, the Warsaw Ghetto/leper colony of conservative magazines. Even so, one of the lunatics at Free Republic went so far as to describe Derbyshire as a "neo-Rockefeller" type, which is a hoot. For those who haven't read him , the man is not merely right-wing but Screaming Monster Loony right-wing. Still not quite crazy enough for the Alan Keyes grokking brown-shirts that seem to constitute an amazingly large proportion in what's left of the Party,though.

Alan Keyes - "A Highly Articulate Thug"

Just in case you aren't already a Ta-Nehisi Coates fan, here is one reason you should be:
Keyes, a product of the Ivy Leagues, has long been held aloft as some sort of intellectual of the far right. But anyone who's ever seen the wannabe Malcolms coming out of the prison talking "knowledge of self," anyone who's read Soul On Ice, knows exactly what Alan Keyes is--a highly articulate thug.

Couldn't possibly say it better. The comparison to Eldridge Cleaver is brilliant. That's gonna leave a mark.

Luskin Riots?

Gee, did I say something about a public impulse toward gibbets and guillotines? I go over the top sometimes. don't I? Except that it is a matter of real concern in London. From the Guardian:
Britain's most senior police officer with responsibility for public order raised the spectre of a return of the riots of the 1980s, with people who have lost their jobs, homes or savings becoming "footsoldiers" in a wave of potentially violent mass protests.

Superintendent David Hartshorn, who heads the Metropolitan police's public order branch, told the Guardian that middle-class individuals who would never have considered joining demonstrations may now seek to vent their anger through protests this year.

He said that banks, particularly those that still pay large bonuses despite receiving billions in taxpayer money, had become "viable targets". So too had the headquarters of multinational companies and other financial institutions in the City which are being blamed for the financial crisis.

Luskin, Santelli and the rest of the hoo-hah gang need to wake up to how bad things could get. It may be that we need to worry less about the comparisons to 1929 and more about Jacques Necker and the clueless aristocrats on the eve of The Terror.

Filesharing Textbooks

Another business model bites the dust (warning: link opens in .pdf format).

Oh, The Post - Humanity

Heal the sick,
Raise the dead
Make the little girls go outta their head.

From the TED conference (I'm an addict), Juan Enriquez on "the ultimate reboot".

The Unbearable Lightness Of Pockets

Michael O'Hara laments the shackling of women by means of their handbags.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Donald Luskin - A Portrait Of Utter Depravity

Just when you thought you had already seen the absolute worst in mendacity, venality and shameless greed that Modern Times have to offer -well, then along comes Donald Luskin to remind us all that the bottomless depths of Man's fallen nature are known only to God.

Brad De Long has long referred to Luskin as "the stupidest man alive", or at least until Luskin's awesome consistency disqualified him from further consideration for the title (only fair to give others a shot), but there is no way in which I could have prepared myself for his bald-faced indignation that the roulette-spinning brokers and Banco-playing bankers who have mortgaged the future of the country should receive anything less than the six million dollar bonuses to which they have become accustomed. Say what you will about the Red Chinese or the Mafia, but at least they have the sound judgment to reward incompetence on this scale with a lead bonus deposited right behind the ear.

In the pomposly titled screed "The Beginning Of The End For Investing" Luskin gibbers

Typically, highly compensated people on Wall Street earn fairly low salaries, but then get large annual bonuses — usually based on performance. Title VII turns that upside down. No more pay for play. It's all about salary now. So if a bank normally pays a superstar trader a nominal salary of $200,000 — and in a home-run year he earns himself a $10 million bonus — the only way to pay him the same total amount is to raise his salary to about $6.6 million. He'd then get that salary even if he did a lousy job in a given year.

And can you imagine the howling from the Congress and the media if we paid huge salaries to these people? There'd really be no choice but to drastically cut back their total compensation.

What superstar traders? The short sellers? Those domestic petroleum speculators sitting on their stock until the price of crude comes roaring back? As hilzoy has pointed out not all that long ago, it certainly wouldn't be the not-so-prescient Mr. Luskin, who continued to blindly march down Main Street beating the boosterism bass drum long after the economy had gone off the proverbial cliff.

Were performance to be rewarded, we would be talking gibbets, guillotines and breaking rocks in the hot sun....not bonuses and bailouts. And I am guessing that this sentiment is shared across the country on a truly bipartisan basis.

P.S. The truly morbid might enjoy (really not the right word) a quick recap of Luskin's delusional and increasingly hysterical prognostications over the months since the collapse of Lehman Bros..

Jim Bunning Is An Asshole

And a particularly disgusting one at that.

At a Lincoln Day Dinner speech over the weekend, Bunning predicted that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg would likely be dead from pancreatic cancer in nine months, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal.

The paper reports that Bunning reiterated his support of conservative judges, saying “that’s going to be in place very shortly because Ruth Bader Ginsburg…has cancer.”

Cold? Check. Vicious? Check. Incredibly stupid? Check, check, check.

Alternative Tulsa Needs To Pass The Smoke

....because it's gotta be some pretty good shit.

Yet the election of Bell puts Tulsa Republicans increasingly out of step with the public, even with Republican voters. Bell, after all, is a proud John Birch Society member and its a safe bet that few GOP voters under 40 have ever heard of John Birch.

Bell's Ron Paul connection is equally problematic since the deservedly obscure Rep. Paul proved to be a colossal dud among GOP primary voters last year. (How many primaries did Paul win?)

Then there's the losing record of Bell herself, defeated in her race for county commissioner in a heavily Republican county.

Add in her ties to GOP has-been Chris Medlock, former city councilor who lost a race for mayor and the state legislature, and you have local Republican leadership so hapless, cranky and right-of center that anyone even remotely interested in sensible public policy is likely to flee to the Democrats.

As we said at the outset, with Sally Bell in charge, it's a great time to be a Tulsa Democrat.

Wow. Where to begin? First of all, during the Presidential, Tulsa marched in lockstep with every other Oklahoma County to join Alabama in the ranks of "least progressive State" in the Union. Some of that was due to our good ol'fashioned, unreconstructed racism, but not all off it. If our Democratic talent doesn't come from Muskogee or Cherokee County or, God Forbid, from Little Dixie it doesn't come at all. It is easier to find a live octopus here than it is to find an elected Democrat. Texas will go blue before Tulsa does - count on it.

Secondly, by his vigorous opposition to much of the construction and realty interests that treat City Hall as their own personal fiefdom, Chris Medlock actually takes the more progressive position. Greater transparency, neighborhood empowerment....what's so Neanderthal about that?

Lastly, Ron Paul performed shockingly well in the Republican Primaries, particularly since his anti-war, anti-deficit zeal flew right in the teeth of the putative leader of his Party as well as being in harp deviance from the Republican base. Yet, IIRC, he outpolled the "inevitable nominee" Rudy Giulianni and may well have factored in McCain's win in South Carolina.

I'm all for Democratic optimism, but a little realism is usually a good thing.

GOP Suicide

If there were a Darwin Award for politics, this would surely be a nominee:

Sunday, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour announced he would join his neighbor, Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, in turning down federal incentives to expand unemployment insurance coverage; both are Republicans.

"It would require us in the future to raise the unemployment tax," Gov. Barbour said in an interview at the meeting of the National Governors Association. "We're looking to create more jobs. It's a practical matter."

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Dollhouse - Episode 2

OK, I confess, I enjoy Joss Wheadon. Or at least I liked Firefly. And Mad Men and Breaking Bad aren't around so I gave this show a try. The pilot was more or less a huge disappointment, mostly due to the rigorous "stand-alone" episode format which Wheadon has said was imposed on him from above.

But I persevered and gave the thing another try and sho' nuff, the second episode showed a modest improvement....not the plot of the episode itself, which was yet another rehash of "The Most Dangerous Game", but at least you could feel a fairly complex backstory trying to break out as Echo (the dramatically challenged Elisha Dushku) begins to come unstitched at the old psychological seams. And, as a matter of fact, her non-personality is unraveling at such a pace as to make one wonder how they are going to keep the Island-like premise of the show's setting going for very long.

Another word about Elisha Dushku: she's just awful. I quite dig the scarfaced lady doctor, though.

Anthony Bourdain - A Foodie After My Own Heart

He digs MSG.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Paul Volcker Takes it Personal

One telling anecdote from a great talk.

One of the saddest days of my life was when my grandson – and he’s a particularly brilliant grandson – went to college. He was good at mathematics. And after he had been at college for a year or two I asked him what he wanted to do when he grew up. He said, “I want to be a financial engineer.” My heart sank. Why was he going to waste his life on this profession?

A year or so ago, my daughter had seen something in the paper, some disparaging remarks I had made about financial engineering. She sent it to my grandson, who normally didn’t communicate with me very much. He sent me an email, “Grandpa, don’t blame it on us! We were just following the orders we were getting from our bosses.” The only thing I could do was send him back an email, “I will not accept the Nuremberg excuse.”

Maybe The GOP Should Run Rick Santelli

This is actually a pretty articulate takedown of the mortgage bailout plan....lots better than most of what one sees coming out of the Republican caucus. The passion doesn't hurt.

The more I see of the bailout stuff the more I fall back to my original position.....let everyone fail. Expand the safety net,if need be. But don't attempt to resuscitate the corpse of the real estate bubble. Recessions and even depressions are a part of capitalism. We wouldn't be suffering from economic pneumonia now if we hadn't been so intent on using cheap credit and easy monetary policy to avoid catching recessionary colds for the past twenty years. Our debt problems will be catastrophic soon, if they aren't already, and will make for much larger structural changes than anything a depression could do.

UPDATE: Unfortunately, K-Lo thinks he has candidate potential too, whcich is pretty irrefutable evidence that this is a really bad idea. Plus, when you listen to Santelli a second time he starts to sound a little more like Howard Beale in Network.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

My David Broder Problem - And Ours

Courtesy of the comments section at Balloon Juice, we are reminded in the wake of the Judd Gregg debacleof Atrios's definition of "High Broderism":

We normally think of "High Broderism" as the worship of bipartisanship for its own sake, combined with a fake "pox on both their houses" attitude. But in reality this is just the cover Broder uses for his real agenda, the defense of what he perceives to be "the establishment" at all costs. The establishment is the permanent ruling class of Washington, our betters who know better. It is their rough agenda which is sold as "centrism" even when it has no actual relationship with the political center in a meaningful way."

Nancy P. looks pretty savvy at the moment, no? Judd Gregg, who New Hampshire has long known to be a whore of the old school, fumbling for your wallets and watch before you ever hit the sack, reveals this bipartisan nonesnse to be the Chimerical Questing Beast it truly is.

Zhenya Gay

Mr. Door Tree, who blogs at Golden Age Comic Book Stories, actually covers a hell of a lot more ground than just comics. It's really one of the best spots on the web for just about all forms of twentieth-century illustration. For example, here is a very Lynd Ward-like expressionist series by Zhenya Gay illustrating De Quincey's Confessions Of An Opium Eater.

His blog is like Chocks should have some every day.

Friday, February 6, 2009

CNN's Tony Harris - No Scold Like An Old Scold

Is there anything more pleasant than watching a CNN anchor come completely unglued on air? I don't think so. While it lacks the sheer entertainment value of seeing Anderson Cooper perform while dead drunk, viewing Tony Harris wax indignant over the moderately clever "Read A Book, Nigga" video probably was more valuable, at least in terms of demonstrating the utterly conventional and humorless mindset prevailing at "America's Most Trusted News Network".

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Lux Interior, Dead At 62

I hadn't realized he was quite that old, to be honest. How time flies (or Flys, in this case). I was a fairly early adopter, being hooked on their Gravest Hits EP. Sex and drugs were always a little bit better with The Cramps on the stereo. Great live show,too.