Saturday, December 30, 2006

Coming up Roses

Last post of 2006 as I'm heading to down to southern California today for The Grandaddy of Them All.

Everyone have a safe and happy new year!

Ding Dong

Saddam is dead.

Josh Marshall has an interesting take on the execution here.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

"We love ourselves! We really, really love ourselves!"

Shorter New York magazine: "We would fellate ourselves...if we could only get our heads out of our own asses."

Don't get me wrong...I love New York City. I have family attachments to the Big Apple (mom is a Bronx girl, my grandfather spent most of his life in the city and in Yonkers), and I have very fond memories of being a child, taking in the wonder of Coney Island and enjoying Nathan's hot dogs. But the piece linked above is why lots of people sometimes can't stand New Yorkers; there's an elevated sense of self-love that can border on the egocentric that stems largely from...merely being a city resident. It's the same kind of braggadocio that's behind this kind of thing.

Hate the sin, love the sinner I guess.

Well that was unexpected...

Barry Zito...San Francisco Giant?


Monday, December 25, 2006

Friday, December 22, 2006

Conservatives and Keith Ellison

It has been illuminating to watch the reactions of some religious and social conservatives to the election of Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress. Ellison, an African-American Democrat who converted to Islam while in college, will represent the 5th Congressional district of Minnesota in the 110th Congress. Over the course of his campaign, Ellison amassed a diverse array of progressive endorsements, including backing from the American Jewish World, a local Minneapolis news daily.

With that kind of solid, across the board backing, one might draw the conclusion that Americans can see past their personal differences and choose candidates that best represent their points of view. However, the backlash from the right to Ellison's election shows that we still have some way to go to eliminate religious intolerance from our society.

The first salvo launched against Ellison came from CNN's Glen Beck, who had the audacity to ask the congressman elect, in a live televised interview, to prove to him that he was, "...not working with our enemies'".

Next, Dennis Prager, a conservative columnist and radio host, penned an ignorant editorial on, making the point that Ellison should not have the opportunity to use the Koran for his swearing in ceremony:
Forgive me, but America should not give a hoot what Keith Ellison's favorite book is. Insofar as a member of Congress taking an oath to serve America and uphold its values is concerned, America is interested in only one book, the Bible. If you are incapable of taking an oath on that book, don't serve in Congress. In your personal life, we will fight for your right to prefer any other book. We will even fight for your right to publish cartoons mocking our Bible. But, Mr. Ellison, America, not you, decides on what book its public servants take their oath.

The above statement shows a disturbing lack of historical knowledge on the part of Prager. Members of Congress, when they take their official oath of office, do not swear on a religious book of any kind; rather, they place their hands on the document they swear to uphold, the United States Constitution (the very same Constitution that prohibits the use of any religious tests to disqualify potential members from serving). In a separate, non-official ceremony, elected members are allowed to use religious texts (or indeed, anything at all) for their swearing in. The Carpetbagger Report gives more background:

Second, Prager argues that "America…decides on what book its public servants take their oath." Wrong again. Public officials, from the president on down, have always picked their own books for oaths of office. Some have chosen the Christian Bible, others haven’t. There is no official national book for oaths.

Third, Prager argues that Jewish public officials "for all of American history" have taken their oath on the Bible, and no member of Congress has ever strayed from this standard. Fifteen seconds on Google turned up a very recent example — Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) refused the Christian Bible offered by House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) for her swearing-in and eventually borrowed a Hebrew Bible from a colleague. Somehow, Prager's hysteria notwithstanding, American civilization survived.

Here's the real kicker: according to a report last week in Roll Call, when lawmakers are sworn on Jan. 3 on the House floor, there is no Bible present. When we see pictures of members putting their hands on a holy text, those are ceremonial photo-ops, not the actual oaths of office.

For that matter, even then it's optional. This year, for example, Rep.-elect Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), who is Buddhist, will forgo use of any religious text in her ceremonial swearing-in ceremony. That's her right; it doesn’t undermine the fabric of society.

As if the two above examples were not bad enough, this week, Rep. Virgil Goode (R-VA), sank to a new low by releasing a letter to his constituents, warning that "many more Muslims" might be elected to Congress if legal immigration policies are not tightened. Despite the considerable outcry the letter has received, Goode has declared that he will not retract his statements. He even went so far as to say, in response to a note supporting his position, that he wished, "...more people would take a stand and stand up for the principles on which this country was founded."

Goode, like Prager, has apparently forgotten (or conveniently overlooked) his history. Mr. Goode's congressional district includes the city of Charlottesville, where the University of Virginia resides. The writings of the founder of UVa, Thomas Jefferson, can offer Goode some guidance on the principles he seems to have misunderstood. One of Jefferson's most important contributions to the political and social fabric of our country is the Virginia Statue for Religious Freedom, which he authored in 1786. That document says that Americans of any stripe should have the freedom to believe in any supreme being they so choose (or to believe in no such thing at all). That Goode would attempt to demonize an entire religion to score political points shouldn't at all be shocking, but it should be terribly disheartening, not only for his constituents who don't share his odious views, but also for anyone who dares to believe that our political discourse can be, and should be, better than this.

Update: Over at Talking Points Memo and TPMuckracker, Josh Marshall and Justin Rood have been noting the silence from the GOP on Goode's remarks. Notable today, however, were the comments from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on ABC's This Week. Graham's comments can be found in full here.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

D#$k in a box

For that special someone this holiday season.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

So NOW free markets don't look so good, eh John?

John Derbyshire of the Corner laments his skyrocketing insurance costs. Apparently, an 81% hike in his premium is enough to make John realize that there's a problem with our health care system.

Brad DeLong offers the Derb a lesson in market economics, while Hilzoy goes further:
Seriously: John Derbyshire writes for one of the most respected conservative magazines out there. He advocates free markets. Was he somehow unaware that his own principles leave him with no grounds for complaint when something like this happens? Or that all sorts of other people face this sort of thing all the time?

Hilzoy closes the piece with this:
John Derbyshire: meet your principles. Principles, Derbyshire.

I think that says it all. You can't decry the same system you prop up at every opportunity when it bites you in the ass.

Freedom's just another word...

...for not having anything to do. Due to a university wide shutdown, today begins my almost 3 weeks of vacation.

Let me tell you, it feels pretty good.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Slow Down

Over at Ezra's joint, there's a lively discussion going on in the comments section about a speech Barack Obama gave last week in New Hampshire (full admission: I chimed in as Mike P in the comments).

The main complaint I've seen in regards to Obama's remark is about what wasn't there, i.e. a list of concrete policy proposals. To me, this is much ado about nothing. People clamoring for big ideas at this moment need to take a step back and take a look around at the other hopefuls:

-While most Americans now favor getting out of Iraq, one of the Republican presidential hopefuls, John McCain, is talking about sending more troops to a futile conflict
-Another Republican presidential hopeful, Mitt Romney, is being questioned for his shifting views of gay rights
-Joe Biden is out making an ass of himself
-Not much has been heard from Tom Vilsack since his announcement to seek the presidency
-Hillary Clinton continues to tease the media about her real intentions

Past that, we're still dealing with the fallout from the Iraq Study Group and the stage is being set for a new Congress to take office in January.

Why on God's green earth would Obama, who is not even officially in the race yet, tip his hand in regards to his policy ideas at this early date in the middle of all of this? By doing so, he would be painting a huge bulls-eye on his back that every declared or prospective candidate would hone in on with laser-like intensity. It's not worth it to go down that road at all at this point. The man is attracting huge crowds in the two major presidential primary states, Iowa and New Hampshire, and is making waves with his book tour and he hasn't had to spend his "political capital" (am I the only one who loathes that term?) in the least.

Again, I don't see why this is so hard for people to figure out. Obama is giving the people a taste of what's to come. Rather than saying there's a lot of sizzle but no steak, why don't wait and see what comes out of the kitchen?

6th Annual Year in Ideas

Must read from this week's New York Times Magazine. In a word, it's fascinating.

Check out Ezra's take on "hyperopia", something all college kids have definitely experienced.

Monday, December 11, 2006

TIME targets the Straight Talk Express

What do you know? A hard hitting piece of journalism examining one of the media's favorite golden boys.

Notable observation:
McCain insists that he has always been more conservative than many of his fans believe him to be. But the most important perception people have about McCain is not about ideology; it's about integrity. After staking his reputation on the moral high ground by speaking truth to power on issues ranging from deficits to torture, McCain is uniquely vulnerable to anything that hints of hypocrisy--even on questions that ordinary politicians would get a pass on.
(emphasis mine)

The first two lines above are important. Many people who were either politically unaware or considered themselves independents or moderates of any stripe back in 2000 felt like they got McCain because he seemed like a "real" person, a person they could relate to. But if you look at where McCain's politics actually are, they are right to very right of center, which is contra his image as a high minded centrist. McCain supported the gay marriage ban in Arizona (which was rejected by the voters, meaning that the citizens of the state are much more in touch with the spirit of famed Arizona conservative lawmaker, Barry Goldwater, than is the man who sits in his senate seat), and he is easily the most hawkish voice in the Senate on Iraq, where McCain would like to send 20,000 additional troops (no mention is made of where these troops would come from or what exactly it is they would be doing). And that, of course, overlooks the fact that most Americans want us to disengage from Iraq, not put more troops in harm's way.

Secondly, McCain's currency is his integrity and it's hard to look at him now when he's hired as his campaign manager one of the men who viciously slandered him during the 2000 primary campaign, or to watch him break bread with people he once labeled as "agents of intolerence" and not wonder how low the I-bank account must be running. And that leads to this other telling quote...

"A profile in courage can become a profile in unrestrained ambition," says former Reagan White House chief of staff Ken Duberstein, who was one of the few G.O.P. establishment figures to support McCain's 2000 presidential campaign. "He has to remember who his friends are and not spend his integrity on one-night stands with those who will never fully trust him."

Who will get to the White House first?

A black man or a woman?

Good read in the New York Times Week in Review on this by Adam Nagourney.

The answer to the question? The wimmnen.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Friday, December 08, 2006

For Your Consideration

Ezra rightly flags the Freidman and Krugman op-ed's in today's New York Times. Though the articles are behind the Times Select paywall, see if you can get them offline. Krugman lauds those who got Iraq right from the outset (Dean, Feingold, Gore) and Freidman argues why leaving Iraq now isn't just the only option but also the best option.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Concert blogging: Damien Rice at the Paramount, Oakland, CA 12/6/07

This was my second concert at the Paramount in the last 3 weeks. Rice was a pretty funny showman, drinking wine before launching into "Cheers Darlin" and otherwise cracking jokes and being a wiseass.

Here's an incomplete setlist:
Accidental Babies (set opener, Rice on solo piano)
9 Crimes
Rootless Tree
Me, My Yoke, and I (this one probably shocked a lot of people because Rice and the band were playing electric guitar and it was LOUD)
I Remember
Cheers Darlin
Older Chests
They worked "All Along the Watchtower" into the bridge of one of his songs
The cello player did a piano version of the Flaming Lips' "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots"
Cold Water (set closer...all lights out, only 3 candles on the stage...went on for like 10-15 minutes...then the spotlight came up on Damien and he played "Hallelujah" by Jeff Buckley on acoustic guitar, mic off...solid)

Follow up: Lisa Hannigan took lead on a song last night and tore it up...I had no idea what the song was, but after some searching around online, I was able to turn up a version of the song, "Be My Husband" (a Nina Simone original), that Lisa performed on NPR. Check it out.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Stating the Obvious

Shorter Iraq Study Group: "We could have said this two years ago, but this war is a disater."

The Iraq Study Group's recommendations can be found here.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Just Because

I'm not going to get into the habit of posting a best 70's or 80's video of the day like Andrew Sullivan, but any time you have the chance to post some Journey, you have to.
(H/T Crooks and Liars)

So Fresh & So Clean

At the Caltrain depot today, I noticed a homeless man shaving with a Bic razor in the bathroom.

I have nothing else to add. It was just odd.

It's back

Mark Steyn, above, puts on his power ring.

Yglesias has the breakdown.

The War on Drugs

This is the kind of story that can shake your faith in your government. Read the Observer story and Glenn Greenwald's powerful commentary.

The only thing to say is wow.

I was going to write about the BCS...

but Jonathan Weiler at Sports Media Review made all the good points, so just read his post.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Bob Lipper on Al Groh

Typically reading a Bob Lipper column makes me want to throw a breakable object very hard into the nearest wall, but I find myself in 100% agreement with his article today about Al Groh's possible contract extension at UVa.

Groh has had two seasons of note at Virgina in his six years there; 2002 (because the team overacheived and got shafted in the bowl selection process) and 2004 (when the program was poised to move into the upper echelon of the ACC, but promptly messed the bed when the bright lights were shining).

To be sure, coming into the season, this looked like it was going to be a rough year, but several of the losses were terrible (Western Michigan and ECU quickly spring to mind) and one game was unforgivable (squandering at home a 20+ point halftime lead to a slightly above average Maryland team, before losing 28-26). Win any one of those, and the team goes bowling. Win two and well...

Anyway, the team will return more starters next year (18) than any other ACC program and, in retrospect, handing QB Jameel Sewell the keys to the team this year will probably be seen as a wise move. The defense improved over the course of the season, and I think that next year might be the first time the d-line in Groh's 3-4 scheme might be worth talking about (Jeff Fitzgerald and Chris Long are a fantastic end duo). To top it off, many of the better teams in the league will be losing important players to the pros or graduation, so there is reason for optimism.

Next year will hinge on several factors, among them:
-Will Mike Groh remain the O.C.? Mike had a shaky (at best) first season calling the offense. The playcalling was far too conservative in games where the team had nothing to lose an everything to gain (V.T.). More imagination is needed to keep opposing defenses on their toes.
-Who's going to carry the load? Though he gave a great effort, Jason Snelling was just not a feature RB. He's a fantastic fullback and I think he could even make the pros as such, but teams were not afraid of him. One of Cedric Peerman, Mikell Simpson or Keith Payne is going to have to step in and be the man.
-Is there a second viable wide receiver on the team? Kevin Ogletree and Sewell already have a good thing going, so it's important that somebody else step up on the other side to share the load. Having two respectable wideouts makes the great tight ends, Tom Santi and Tom Stupar, much more effective and it keeps teams from putting 8 in the box to stop the run.
-Is there more speed to be found on defense? The LB corps needs speed...badly. Though the overall team speed has improved in recent years, it's still not in the same league with elite teams like an Ohio State, an LSU, or a (sigh) V.T. The LB's are the main attackers in the 3-4 and I'm not sure we have the horses now to contain some of the more athletic teams on the schedule.
-Kicker...can we find a good one? Please?

All in all, I think UVa was wise to decline picking up the option for the 2011 season at this point. Groh shouldn't be rewarded for putting an unexciting 5-7 team on the field. Next year will represent the best chance for the program since the '04 season to prove it belongs with the big boys. The schedule lines up nicely. I just hope, for once, lady luck will smile on the Hoos and give us a year to remember.

The Bush - Webb Flap

Many people are up in arms because Jim Webb didn't play nice with President Bush:
At a recent White House reception for freshman members of Congress, Virginia's newest senator tried to avoid President Bush. Democrat James Webb declined to stand in a presidential receiving line or to have his picture taken with the man he had often criticized on the stump this fall. But it wasn't long before Bush found him.

"How's your boy?" Bush asked, referring to Webb's son, a Marine serving in Iraq.

"I'd like to get them out of Iraq, Mr. President," Webb responded, echoing a campaign theme.

"That's not what I asked you," Bush said. "How's your boy?"

"That's between me and my boy, Mr. President," Webb said coldly, ending the conversation on the State Floor of the East Wing of the White House.

This, perhaps predictably, sent George Will of the Washington Post into an absolute tizzy.

But Greg Sargent catches Will conveniently leaving out important parts of the account reported in the same newspaper.

Now, the only reason this is getting blown out of proportion is because Webb (or his office) leaked that he was so angered by the exchange that he wanted to "slug" Bush.

Personally, I think letting that information out into the public was a bad move, any way you slice it. There's probably millions of Americans who would like to lob a haymaker at Bush, but millions of Americans are not U.S. senators and, as such, Webb should hold himself to a higher standard and keep that kind of thing in his office and off the front pages of major newspaper.

As to the exchange itself, I just don't get the stance of the "Webb is a ass!" crowd. Could Webb have answered the question in a different manner and conveyed the same point in a less combative way? Sure. But, in essence, a lot of people are basically saying that Webb should have lied to Bush and gone on his way. Webb has been a very vocal critic of the war in Iraq, and this man, a decorated Vietnam vet and former Secretary of the Navy, believes in honor, duty and sacrifice; he's not going to stand in front of a president (this president, especially) and sugar coat his feelings (especially since Webb's son is in theater in the Middle East).

If Webb really wanted to be an ass, he could have simply asked about how the twins were doing down in Argentina.

What Reporters Used to Do

Froomkin uses a bad word to make a good point.

Where did all the real reporters go?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

ACC - Big Ten Challenge

The good guys race out to a 4-1 lead. Tonight's tally (winner in bold):
NC State 74 - Michigan 67
Maryland 72 - Illinois 66
Wisconsin 88 - FSU 66
Georgia Tech 77 - Penn State 73
Duke 54 - Indiana 51

The Hoos (ranked #25 in the A.P.), go to Purdue tomorrow night. The big game of the challenge will be in Chapel Hill as the #6 Tar Heels (ESPN/USAToday Coaches Poll) take on #1 Ohio St.

More No Child Left Bhind

Matt and Ezra offer additional takes on the New York Time's Magazine feature I mentioned yesterday.

If you haven't, do read the article since it addresses the widening achievement gap between the poor and middle class children, the role parenting plays in bridging that gap, and how different types of schools (namely charter schools, like KIPP) are tackling the very monumental task of trying to catch up underprivileged students with their better off peers.

On that last point, I found this comment to be especially important. From The Quick and the Ed:
Tough's conclusion, which I think is the right one, is that while the achievement gap is caused by a lot of deep-seated inequities that occur outside of schools, really good schools can go a long way to mitigating those problems--but only if they're really good schools.

It's not enough to stop giving disadvantaged students less money, worse teachers, and fewer educational resources, which is what we're doing now. We have to give them more of all of those things than we give other students, which is difficult and expensive--but not nearly as hard as managing the consequences of the inequitable school system we have today.

"Sorry, haters..."

Thankfully, Nancy Pelosi was successful in pressuring Alcee Hastings, former federal judge who was removed from the bench on suspected bribery charges, to give up his pursuit to be the chair of the House Intelligence Committee. Click here to see his letter withdrawing his name for consideration (and pay special attention to the closing).

Monday, November 27, 2006

No Child Left Behind?

Excellent article in this week's New York Times Magazine about the implications of President Bush's effort to re-imagine the American education system. There's too many interesting nuggets to mention, so read the entire piece.

Calling a spade a spade

NBC News has decided to take the plunge:
But after careful consideration, NBC News has decided a change in terminology is warranted -- that the situation in Iraq with armed militarized factions fighting for their own political agendas -- can now be characterized as a civil war.

Well, some outlet in the mainstream media had to be the first. The U.S. military maintains that what is going on does not constitute a civil war.

And then this from the New York Times:
Is Iraq in a civil war?

Though the Bush administration continues to insist that it is not, a growing number of American and Iraqi scholars, leaders and policy analysts say the fighting in Iraq meets the standard definition of civil war.

The common scholarly definition has two main criteria. The first says that the warring groups must be from the same country and fighting for control of the political center, control over a separatist state or to force a major change in policy. The second says that at least 1,000 people must have been killed in total, with at least 100 from each side.

American professors who specialize in the study of civil wars say that most of their number are in agreement that Iraq’s conflict is a civil war.

“I think that at this time, and for some time now, the level of violence in Iraq meets the definition of civil war that any reasonable person would have,” said James Fearon, a political scientist at Stanford.

But then this, from the Washington Post's Dana Priest:
I will say for the Washington Post, we have not labeled it a civil war. I have asked around to see why not or see what’s the thinking on that and really our reporters have not filed that. We try to avoid the labels, particularly when the elected government itself does not call its situation a civil war. I certainly — and I would agree with General McCaffrey on this — absolutely the level of violence equals a civil war.

So NBC is ok with casting the uncontrollable violence in Iraq as a civil war, but the Pulitzer prize winning Priest is afraid to call it that, even if that's what she thinks it is?

Um, ok.

Calling what is going on in Iraq is not merely a semantic discussion; there are policy issues in play. More from Foreign Policy:
Titling Iraq a civil war may have significant impacts on American foreign policy - according to the NYT, acknowledgment by the White House would mean an admission of failure of the administration's policy in Iraq. Furthermore, it might also encourage a greater demand for withdrawal from the public, who may view the role of American troops redundant in the context of a civil war.

One hell of a mess, isn't it?

War of the Imagination

Mark Danner, in the New York Review of Books, has an exceptionally long and in-depth survey of the Iraq war. I've just printed it out (32 pages!) for train time reading, but it's already getting effusive praise from people far smarter than me.

If you're so inclined, follow the link above to the article and dive in.

But...he doesn't REALLY mean it

Greg Sargent catching more of the media looking away while Saint John does his thing.

I thought this bit was especially on point:
Of course, it's not easy to see how the view that (a) McCain's pandering should be excused because he doesn't mean what he says can be reconciled with the view that (b) he's a straight-talker, but such is life on Planet Pundit.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Saint John

Back during the 2000 primary season, I supported John McCain, and I think that, looking back, I (and countless others) were swept up in the "John McCain, Maverick" wave that was making its way through the mainstream media. However, since our foray into Iraq, I've been forced to reconsider my stance on the man (given his unshakable stance as a war hawk), even though the portrait painted of him by the press remains unchanged. McCain continues to get the same kind of fawning treatment from the Wise Men of Washington that George W. Bush got through his first run at the White House. Nary a critical eye has been cast in the direction of the actual voting record that defines the man, the myth, the legend.

So, I was quite pleased today to see this op-ed in the Los Angeles Times by Matt Welch. Leaving aside McCain's completely transparent attempts to rally his former enemies to his charge to the White House, and the fact that he supported one of the most shameful pieces of legislation ever passed by Congress, Welch's article is an attempt to clearly lay out what we could expect of a McCain presidency, which would simply be a case of the new boss being the same as the old boss.

"Playoffs? Playoffs?!?"

Gene Wojciechowski airs his frustrations with the BCS. I can't really disagree with the absurdity of the BCS formula, but I don't have any real problem with USC going to the title game against Ohio State. For all of those who want to see a re-match of OSU/Michigan, I would simply say that the Wolverines had their shot...and blew it. You can argue all day about USC being better than Michigan (or vice versa) but I personally think there were would be more excitement for a "fresh" game rather than Game of the Century (TM), Part Deux.

I will agree entirely with Wojo's take that Div. 1A football simply needs to go to a playoff system and be done with the foolishness that the BCS entails. One of the more common arguments against a playoff is that it would render the current bowl system, useless. I find that unconvincing. There's already an unofficial hierarchy to the bowl games, so just integrating the lower bowls into the playoff system, I think, would not be exceptionally difficult. It would undoubtedly raise the profile of some of the lesser bowls since there would actually be something riding on them and the potential for intriguing match-ups would be high (Louisville-Michigan? LSU-Wisconsin? Notre Dame-WVU?)

Friday, November 24, 2006

The B.U. scholarship and Affirmitive Action

There's been a fair amount already written in the blogosphere about the "Caucasian Achievement and Recognition Scholarship" that has been created by the College Republicans at Boston University. It's clear that this is an elaborate political stunt whose express purpose is to challenge the idea behind affirmative action, but I think there's more to discuss here beyond what's on the surface.

I have to admit that I have supported the current system of affirmative action with little reservation for some time. However, for reasons that are both prudent and fair, I now believe that considering socio-economic status as the primary (though not only) basis for awarding this particular type of aid makes more sense. On a purely practical level, it's much easier to build a coalition behind the idea of helping the poor than it is to have disparate groups unite under the banner of helping lift one race over another. Additionally, many of the same people who would be helped under a race based system would also benefit under a system that targets family income levels.

Happy Thanksgiving!

It's technically the day after Thanksgiving now, but it's never too late to think about what you're thankful for in your own life. I've been blessed with a wonderful family, the best friends a person could ever ask for, general good health and a job that I enjoy. Any one of those things alone would be more than enough reason to be thankful, but I am lucky enough to have them all and I only hope I've been able to touch the lives of others in the same positive way in which they've touched mine.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Casino Royale

Checked out the new Bond flick after Thanksgiving dinner Home. The movie is long at 2 1/2 hours, but it was very good. The last few Bond flicks had grown too reliant on crazy gadgets and shaky story lines. Seeing as the movie is prequel of sorts (though it's set in the present day, it opens with Bond just being anointed a 007), it does a good job of showing, among other things, how Bond becomes a cold, calculating womanizer. The big set action pieces were well done (the opening chase scene was fantastic), and several of the scared cows of the newer films (the famous "shaken, not stirred" martini, the eye candy as sidekick) get skewered here. There's even a rather disturbing torture scene. Craig holds it all together and he will be a good Bond. He shows the right mix of hubris and vulnerability in this story that gives us insight into what the character will eventually become.

I would recommend this one with no reservations (but I have to note the absolutely shameless product placement by Sony...seriously, guys, that was ridiculous).


Harold Meyerson of the American Prospect, on what's eating conservatives.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Always Right

It must be hard to deal with the fact that you're never wrong, yet people don't always come around to your point of view. Jon Chait explains.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Isn't it time we stopped listening to these people?

Taking all the wrong lessons from last week's "thumpin", neo-conservative Joshua Muravchik, writing in Foreign Policy, tries to rally his fellow travelers and makes the case for...bombing Iran.

Apparently, being a card carrying member of a now largely discredited intellectual movement that led this country into the worst international crisis in a generation still gets one prominent platforms form which to spew madness.

For a look at what's actually happening with Iran out here in the reality based world, Sy Hersh has the skinny.

One Last Push

So it's time for "one last push" in Iraq, the idea being that throwing 20,000 new troops into the frying pan will somehow get things under control. It's not that we don't have a plan, it's just that we haven't made the best effort we can to win this thing! This seems like a good time to direct readers to the Green Lantern Theory of Geopolitics.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The UCLA taser incident

I'm a few days late in addressing this. but my quick take is that while the student definitely seemed to be a little more defiant than he needed to be, the response of the campus police was decidedly over the top.

Video of the incident is here. Former Bruin Ezra Klein has additional commentary.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Your "liberal media": Washington bobbleheads edition

Greenwald on the inside the beltway hatchet jobs on speaker elect Pelosi.

Your "liberal media": Holding Its Tongue

See, this kind of thing would have done a lot of good, you know, a few years ago.

Thursday, November 16, 2006


The Washington Post I think goes overboard in its examination of Steny Hoyer's election to Majority Leader. The Post calls the rejection of John Murtha a "major blow" to incoming Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. But was it? Much has been made of Pelosi's letter declaring her support for Murtha's candidency. As even Hoyer noted, this was expected, since Pelosi and Murtha are close. The problem with Murtha was simply that he's got some ethical skeletons in his closet that won't go away, and, seeing as ending corruption was a major reason the Dems took both houses last week, its probably not good politics to have a Majority Leader who didn't get up and walk out of the room when he was offered a bribe during an FBI sting.

So, will it really hurt Pelosi in any lasting way that her hand-picked number two was defeated? Probably not and John Cole of Balloon Juice (blogging over at the Carpetbagger Report) details why.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Late Night Music Blogging - Damien Rice

Rice just dropped a new album and will be performing in the Bay Area at the Paramount in Oakland next month. I've only heard three tracks from the new album, but I like them all quite a bit. "Grey Room" to me is in the same vein as "Delicate" from O."The Animals Were Gone" is fantastic. The string section, which builds to a swirling crescendo near the end of the song, infuses the whole production with an almost dream-like quality. It feels like a slightly boozy waltz...wonderful track. The standout of the three is easily "9 Crimes", a devastating piano ballad featuring Lisa Hannigan. My take is that the song is about a the end of a relationship, and if so, the imagery produced is stunning:

"Leave me out with the waste
This is not what I do
It's the wrong kind of place
To be thinking of you
It's the wrong time
For somebody new
It's a small crime
And I've got no excuse

Is that alright with you?
Give my gun away when it's loaded
that alright with you?
If you don't shoot it how am I supposed to hold it
Is that alright with you?
Give my gun away when it's loaded
Is that alright with you?
with you.

Leave me out with the waste
This is not what I do
It's the wrong kind of place
To be cheating on you
It's the wrong time
but she's pulling me through
It's a small crime
And I've got no excuse

Is that alright with you?
Give my gun away when it's loaded
Is that alright with you?
If you don't shoot it how am I supposed to hold it
Is that alright with you?
Give my gun away when it's loaded
Is that alright
Is that alright with you?

Is that alright?
Is that alright?
Is that alright with you?
Is that alright?
Is that alright?
Is that alright with you?


Reading the lyrics is one thing, but put together with the piano and slight string arrangement and the haunted vocals of Rice and Hannigan, the song becomes transcendent. If ever there was a song for a cold winter night spent on reflection, this is it.

You're a conservative....until you're not

There's a peculiar meme gaining currency on the right that, in essence, says George Bush is a failure as president because he's not conservative enough. Actually, let's go one step further...he's a liberal! Of course!

From Hullabaloo:

Digby (11/26/05)
Movement conservatives are getting ready to write the history of this era as liberalism once again failing the people. Typically, the conservatives were screwed, as they always are. They must regroup and fight for conservatism, real conservatism, once again. Viva la revolution!

There is no such thing as a bad conservative. "Conservative" is a magic word that applies to those who are in other conservatives' good graces. Until they aren't. At which point they are liberals.

World Net Daily (11/15/06)
Reluctantly, we may finally have to admit that President George W. Bush has governed more like a liberal Democrat than the true moral conservative we all wanted to believe he was. If Richard Viguerie is right, more bad things will continue to happen to the Republican Party as long as conservatives remain unhappy.

I don't think anything else needs to be said.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Military Commissions Act and the twilight of American civil liberties

This probably won't get the attention it deserves in the mainstream press tomorrow ("your liberal media...still not liberal"), but it's worth reading this entire post from Glenn Greenwald to get a sense of just how dark the lights have gotten in the "shining city upon a hill. Easily the most awful bill related to civil liberties in my lifetime, the Military Commissions Act of 2006 would allow for immigrants to be detained indefinitely, without knowing the reasons for their imprisonment (and they would be robbed of any means of contesting their detention).

From Greenwald:

There is no greater betrayal of the core principles of American political life than to have the federal government sweep people off the streets, throw them into a black hole with no contact with the outside world and no charges asserted of any kind, and simply keep them there for as long as the President desires.

If you care at all about what it means to be an American citizen, you should hope that the incoming congress can at least untangle some of this abomination and restore habeas corpus for anyone currently being held under these pretenses. Those who only see this act through the prism of the "war on terra" don't seem to grasp the sprawling scope of what this means. From the A.P. article linked above:

It's pretty stunning that any alien living in the United States can be denied this right," said Jonathan Hafetz, an attorney for Al-Marri. "It means any non-citizen, and there are millions of them, can be whisked off at night and be put in detention.

It is shocking that we as citizens of this country, a country that has done more for the advancement of human rights around the world than any other nation, would allow our president to let something this draconian become the law of the land. Shameful is just one of many words that come to mind.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Monday Night Concert Blogging - Ray LaMontagne

Checked out Ray at the always impressive Paramount Theater in Oakland with Catherine and Marjorie. This was my second time seeing Ray in concert...I saw him with Heidi back at the Fillmore in S.F. last year. The shows were very different, but both were excellent. At the Fillmore, Ray's band featured an upright bass and a small string section. Tonight's show was more austere...Ray on acoustic guitar, an electric bass, a slide guitar, and drums. The crowd was mostly silent, which is perhaps the way it should be, since Ray's voice simply overpowers...well, everything. The arrangements leaned toward the country-ish, though that's not a bad thing (it was almost like Ray fronting the Cowboy Junkies at times).

In any case, despite a few problems with the sound, the show was great. Ray led off the show with the first three songs from his new album, Till The Sun Turns Black. "Be Here Now", "Empty", and "Barfly" were all well done. Highlights of the show for me were "Narrow Escape", "Trouble", "Can I Stay", "Jolene", and the closer for the night, an impassioned performance of "Burn". Ray also did a cover of "In A Station" by The Band.

College basket-blogging

The Hoos opened up the brand new John Paul Jones Arena with a big win over #10 Arizona. All everything point guard Sean Singletary led the Cavaliers with 25 points and sophomore Mamadi Diane added 25 points of his own to help the Hoos to a come from behind victory.

Coach Dave Leitao has stressed defense and it looks like the Hoos closed up some in the second half to seal the win. I don't want to take too much away from this victory (1st game of the season, opening a brand new arena, all manner of pre-game theatrics) but this is a solid way to get this season going. The Hoos have a real chance at getting to the dance (I think we've got the best backcourt in the ACC with Singletary and J.R. Reynolds) as this should be a wide open season in the best conference in the land.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Brady vs Manning

As far as sports writers go, I think Bill Simmons is one of the best working today. That said, he has some annoying traits, and perhaps most annoying among them is his slavish defense of Tom Brady (and all things Patriots) and his constant belittling of Peyton Manning. In assessing last week's home loss that the Patriots suffered at the hands of the Colts (built on a magnificent performance by Manning and a 4 interception outing by Brady) Simmons damns Peyton with faint praise:
Taking my right shoe off ... )
(Taking my right sock off ... )
(Jamming my entire right foot into my mouth.)

There. You happy, Colts fans? Just remember, Chamberlain's teams beat Russell's teams plenty of times in the regular season. Didn't mean anything in the big scheme of things.

Simmons is a homer for all things Boston (not that I have a problem with least he doesn't hide his allegiences). However, beating the "Manning can't win in the post-season" drum is getting old in fact that in today's Miami Herald, Dan Le Batard breaks down the idea that Manning is a "stat-padding loser". Worth the time to read.

The New Congress

Michael Tomasky, former editor of The American Prospect, has a must read editorial in today's Los Angeles Times about the make up of the new Democratic majority. The conventional wisdom that is emerging seems to revolve around the idea that some of the newly elected (relatively) socially conservative Democrats will keep the caucus from shifting too far left on social issues; Tomasky points out that the social issues will be relegated to the sidelines in any case because highlighting those issues would harm party unity and, instead, the Democrats will unite around and push economic issues, where the newbies are closer to the party's mainstream.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Our dead servicemen in Iraq, 2006

Steve Gilliard has a list.

I won't lie...I just looked at this and tears ran down my face. What could a person event attempt to offer as a justification for the death of these young men and women, patriots all of them?

If it doesn't leave you speechless, it should.

Friday, November 10, 2006

About the G.O.P. losing

Noam Scheiber takes a look at the spin being put forth by conservatives about why they lost on Tuesday:

Conservatives seem to be advancing one of two theories here, both of them at odds with reality. The first is that the drift from limited government principles demoralized the GOP base, leading to the Democratic landslide. The first problem with this theory is it's not at all clear it was government spending and not, say, the war, that demoralized conservatives. But, for the sake of argument, let's say that's right. That leaves an even bigger problem: While the GOP's performance among conservatives was clearly disappointing, the party suffered significantly larger losses among moderates.


Of course, that leaves a second theory: that the GOP's abandonment of small-government principles explains the defection of moderates. But I doubt it. While the publicly-available election data can't answer this question definitively, everything we know about public opinion suggests there isn't a majority constituency for economic libertarianism. (Tax cuts, perhaps, but not the smaller government that goes along with it.) Probably the best source on this is an exhaustive 2005 study by the Pew Research Center, which divided the electorate into nine different "typologies." Of the nine groups, only two were discernibly libertarian on questions of economics, amounting to 20 percent of registered voters. The rest were sympathetic to government, to varying degrees. Even more empirically-minded conservatives--like National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru--have conceded as much.

That's just for starters and it gets better. Read the whole thing.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Paul Krugman and the end of movement conservatism

Excellent piece by Paul Krugman in Friday's New York Times (Times Select...but the pay wall is down this week) about the rejection of this particular brand of conservatism:

Why do I want to see movement conservatism crushed? Partly because the movement is fundamentally undemocratic; its leaders don’t accept the legitimacy of opposition. Democrats will only become acceptable, declared Grover Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform, once they "are comfortable in their minority status." He added, "Any farmer will tell you that certain animals run around and are unpleasant, but when they’ve been fixed, then they are happy and sedate."

And the determination of the movement to hold on to power at any cost has poisoned our political culture. Just think about the campaign that just ended, with its coded racism, deceptive robo-calls, personal smears, homeless men bused in to hand out deceptive fliers, and more. Not to mention the constant implication that anyone who questions the Bush administration or its policies is very nearly a traitor.

When movement conservatism took it over, the Republican Party ceased to be the party of Dwight Eisenhower and became the party of Karl Rove. The good news is that Karl Rove and the political tendency he represents may both have just self-destructed.

The crack up continues...Part II

The odious Ann Coulter and the decidedly more eurdite Bill Safire catch a case of the vapors.

While it's certainly true that the the crushing loss (and let's be honest, that's what this was) for the Republicans might indeed get them back to their principles (and, whatever your politics, having an engaged opposition party is a good thing in a democracy), I think some conservative commentators (and their media enablers) are still drinking from the "everything bad is good for you" kool-aid vat that says anything that happens (be it losing both houses of Congress, or increasing levels of violence in Iraq) ends up being good for Republicans. Clearly, that's just not the case.

Update: Erza, who actually is a political writer (unlike me, who just plays one on this blog), breaks down the "conservatism won" meme that seems to be gaining currency.

It's official...Dems win the Senate!

George Allen just gave his concession speech, making Jim Webb the new Democratic senator from the great Commonwealth of Virginia.

Monday night's Van Morrison/Rolling Stones concert

Things have been so busy with the election and what not, but I would be remiss if I didn't get in a few comments about the Van Morrison/Rolling Stones show at the Oakland Coliseum Monday night.

Quick highlights:

Van Morrison - Broke out some great older tunes in addition to the crowd pleasers ("Moondance", "Wild Night", "Brown Eyed Girl"). Especially welcome were personal favorites "Cleaning Windows", "Real Real Gone" and the more obscure "One Irish Rover".

Rolling Stones - Mick Jager might be in his 60's, but he runs around like a dude in his 20's. A hyper-kinetic ball of energy. Keith Richards looks like an especially eccentric homeless man, but he still shreds. The Stones sound great (really) and if this was their last tour (who believes this?) they went out on top .

Set list below:
1. Jumpin Jack Flash
2. It's Only Rock n Roll
3. Let's Spend the Night Together
4. She Was Hot
6. Streets of Love
7. Bitch
8. Midnight Rambler
9. Tumbling Dice
10. You Got the Silver
11. Connection
12. Under My Thumb
13. Just My Imagination
14. Start Me Up
15. Honky Tonk Women
16. Sympathy for the Devil
17. Paint It Black
18. Brown Sugar
19. Satisfaction

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

By God, they've done it!

The Associated Press is calling the Virginia senate race in favor of Democratic challenger Jim Webb. Webb's win over incumbent Republican, George "Macacca" Allen, gives the Democrats the senate with a 51-49 margin.*

Back this spring, Allen was considered a possible candidate for the White House. Now, he's unemployed.

The Commonwealth comes through!

*As of now, Allen has not conceded the race, but there are rumors that he's going to get pressure from above to back off his pursuit of a recall.

Blue skies in Big Sky Country!

Big Jon Tester is claiming victory over incumbent Republican Conrad Burns in Montana.

That leaves the senate hinging on the Allen/Webb race, and Webb is still up...more to come.

The crack up continues...

Republican incumbent Dick Pombo tossed by Dem. challenger Jerry McNerney.

Tester still up in Montana, Webb still up in Virginia.

But today's big news, just breaking...Secretary of Defense Donald H.Rumsfeld is going to step down.

A good night just turned into a great morning.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election Night Blogging!

Live from the Manse on Russian Hill, it's time for the 2006 mid-term election night running diary!

6:38 p.m. - Senate: So far, incumbents little Ricky Santorum in Pennsylvania and Mike DeWine in Ohio have gone down to defeat, with Ben Cardin winning in Maryland over Michael Steele (this one is based on exit polls and may change) and it looks like Lincoln Chafee will lose to Sheldon Whitehouse in Rhode Island. Ned Lamont's effort to unseat Joe Lieberman looks like it is going to fall short. Bob Menendez holds off Republican Tom Kean, Jr. in New Jersey.

So far, + 3 in the senate for the Donkeys (Cardin-MD, Casey-PA, Whitehouse-RI).

Tenn., Virginia, Missouri...all too close to call right now.

9:53 p.m.

After dinner from Polkers and setting up the new printer, we're back! The good news...the Dems have the House of Represenatives. The Dems are +23 in the House right now and still waiting on some others to come in. As of now, no Democrat incumbent has lost a seat.

The senate is getting interesting...Tennessee was just called for Corker, keeping Frist's seat in Republican control. Currently, Jon Tester is ahead of incumbent Republican Conrad Burns in Montana, Claire McCaskill just jumped ahead of incumbent Republican Jim Talent in Missouri, and the big one, in my home state of Virginia, looks like it's going to a re-count...Jim Webb is up over incumbent Republican George Allen by 2,726 votes.

Right now, Dems are +3 in the senate and they need to win everything outstanding to take both houses.

Update: CBS News just called Missouri to Claire McCaskill. If that holds, Dems just need Virginia to win the senate.

Say hello to the new Speaker of the House.

Friday, November 03, 2006

New laptop blogging

Heading out to new hip kid hot spot Double Dutch shortly, but I am posting on a newly up and running Dell E1505 Inspiron laptop. Still getting used to the keyboard, but liking it so far.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Things you can do between the ages of 18-29

-Buy smokes (age 18)
-Enlist in the military (also 18)
-Buy booze (21)
-Rent a car (25)

You can do all of these things (and more)...but, apparently, you're not supposed to have sex.

I have no problem with abstinence education being taught along side a traditional sex-ed curriculum, but this is bordering on (actually, it's crossing into) the absurd.

Consider the relevant statistic from the article:

"They've stepped over the line of common sense," said James Wagoner, president of Advocates for Youth, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit that supports sex education. "To be preaching abstinence when 90% of people are having sex is in essence to lose touch with reality. It's an ideological campaign. It has nothing to do with public health."

Clearly, all conservatives are not living cloistered, sex-less existences (you can't get to the 90% figure with just liberals and undecideds doing all of the, ahem, heavy lifting) what to make of this? If I were what I would call a "traditional" conservative, I would be hopping mad (government in the bedroom is supposed to be a liberal thing). I imagine Libertarians are collectively ready to jump off a cliff.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

South Park: "Miss Teacher Bangs a Boy"

I haven't watched South Park with any regularity since I was in college, but every now and again I catch it and it's still hysterical. Last week's episode ("ripped from the headlines" a la Law & Order), involves Kyle's kindergarten-aged brother, Ike, being molested by his female teacher. Cartman figures into the episode as the hall monitor who puts the brakes on the forbidden lovers...a hall monitor who looks, sounds and acts just like famous, incarcerated bounty hunter, Duane "Dog" Chapman. Cartman has some gold lines:

-"You got a hall pass, bra?"
-"You just dealt with the dog, bitch."
-"You got a crush on your teacher, bra? Keep it out of my hallway! Go with Christ."
-"Jesus is can go one direction in life or you can just walk around hallways without a hall pass...or you can see the light, bra."

There's also brilliant placement of REO Speedwagon's "I Can't Fight This Feeling". Catch the repeat.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Speaking of religion...

Matt Yglesias makes an interesting, if controversial point:

On this view, a person who led an entirely exemplary life in terms of his impact on the world (would an example help? Gandhi, maybe?) but who didn't accept Jesus as his personal savior would be subjected to a life of eternal torment after his death and we're supposed to understand that as a right and just outcome. That, I think, is seriously messed up.

But I shouldn't say so!

As Matt points out, this is something that, for the most part, just isn't said. And, clearly, there are reasons this view doesn't get much airplay in our public discourse (challenging the validity of one's religious beliefs is still pretty taboo in America). I have to agree with Matt's general point here; if a person lives what many would consider a "good" life but doesn't claim a particular deity as their personal savior, have all their positive contributions been for naught? I'm not prepared to say yes to that.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Simple Answers to Simple Questions

So I'm stealing one of Atrios' bits...

Should a person who is actively questioning his abilities and having a crisis of confidence be reading a book that challenges the ideas of faith and belief?


This has been an addition of simple answers to simple questions.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Fall tunes

Inspired by this post, I humbly submit some of my own sounds of the season. I would agree with Catherine's selection of Wilco's "Being There" (my favortie song from disc 1, "Far Far Away") and to that I would add these songs/albums:

"Cole's Corner" Richard Hawley
"Ice Age" Pete Yorn
"Barfly" & "Empty" Ray LaMontange
"Night Driver" Tom Petty
"Meet Me By the Water" Rachel Yamagata
"New York City Serenade" and "If I Should Fall Behind" Bruce Springsteen
"The Boxer" Simon & Garfunkle (probably more of a winter song, but still)
"All of My Days" Alexi Murdoch
"NYC" Interpol
"It's All in the Game" Van Morrison
"Black Dress", "These Crimson Tears" & "This One's For You" Ed Harcourt (I recommend the solo piano version of the later song if you can find it)
"Stay out of Trouble" Kings of Convenience
"Lay Lady Lay" Bob Dylan (A strong contender for THE best Dylan song of all-time, IMO)
"Fireflies" Rhett Miller & Rachel Yamagata
Anything from "O" by Damien Rice
"Every Little Kiss" Bruce Hornsby (this song always reminds me of the fall in Virginia)

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Teh Awesum

So the S.F. crew did a party trolley this past weekend (organized by moi). I did not perform my due diligence and was shocked to learn on trolley eve that the laws governing alcohol on board our alcoholic chariots had been changed so that booze was no longer allowed on the trolley (thus making it nothing more than highly conspicuous designated driver). However, due to the efforts of friend and former room mate Andy Ross, we were able to upgrade from trolley to "rock star" bus (and it was literally a rock star bus: 3 flat screens, a bar, fridge, bathroom, ridiculous sound system). Needless to say, our evening of medium pimpin jumped a few levels rather quickly. Trader Sam's scorpion bowls were well received (as always) as were the Twinkies at Butter (tasty). We ended at Monaghan's (aka Cheers) where the reliable Patrick and Jimmy took care of the rest of the night.

Now, I made a scene with the girlfriend, Heidi (which was all my fault), so I almost ruined what was otherwise a very fun night. Note to self: don't be an asshole.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Make it stop! (Part II)

No blogging lately on account of several trips (San Diego for fun, Pasadena for work, Charlottesville and D.C. for a job interview) and now Reunion Homecoming at Stanford this weekend. Not to mention a trolley party that I'm running on Saturday in the rest for the weary (or the highly disorganized).

Good things from my travels:
-Amazingly bad Rolling Stones cover band in San Diego
-Hoboken Pizza in Pacific Beach. Late night slices and Bruce Springsteen. Word.
-Marzen and Cinnabon in the San Jose Airport
-Amazing Cuban food at Porto's in Glendale (H/T Emily)
-30th high school reunions taking place in my hotel. People watching galore.
-The 3 cheese waffle cut fries and a burger at Coupe's in Charlottesville
-A BYOB jazz bar in D.C. called HR-57. Jack Daniels+ Ginger Ale + live, hot jazz = a good night (and a bad hangover...just kidding, mom)

Thursday, October 05, 2006


The Bay Area seems to have skipped its traditional Indian summer and jumped straight into fall. The skies have gone grey and yesterday produced the first rain of the season. The mornings are cool. The daylight is getting shorter.

I am sitting here at my desk, packed and about to head out in 20 minutes to catch a flight back east for a job interview. I'm excited because I get to spend a few days in a place that's very near and dear to me (Charlottesville, VA, where I went to college), but I find myself confused over the opportunity that awaits me there. The job that I have now is wonderful in so many ways, but, as anyone who truly knows me would suggest, working for UVa would seem to be even more of a "dream job" than my current one. We'll see.

I find it interesting that I will be leaving San Francisco and its faux fall (grey skies and rain) for the weekeend to head back into the "real" fall of central Virginia...I hope that the leaves have changed on The Lawn. I've always found that walking around Jefferson's Academical Village this time of year to be inspiring.

As I sat outside of Za pizza last night contemplating my future, I stared at the slight rain falling quietly, making Russian Hill feel even more the quaint hamlet it almost certainly aspires to be. I felt at peace, even though I'm about to face one of the biggest decisions I've had in recent years. Seasons bring change and for once, I feel ready to embrace it...whether that means staying put at my new job with expanded responsibilities, or jumping into the great wide open with the new position.

I feel like this could be the start of an important part of my life...I sit just a month away from my 29th birthday and need to recognize that life, like my sister says, is not a dress rehearsal; we only get one shot at it. I think it's time to for me to embrace change and not live in fear of the new or different.

Here's to the new.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The New York Times is shrill

Very shrill. The America we used to know is slipping away right before our very eyes.

Bob Sagat on wax


Torture...made legal and easy!

Your United States Congress at work.

Glenn Greenwald, as usual, has all the depressing details.

Monday, September 25, 2006

George Allen's Racial Insult of the Day

At this pace, this might become a running item in this space. It seems that while George was a quarterback in the 70's at our alma mater, he loosely tossed around a tried and true racial slur, rather than resort to a more exotic term like macaca, which he hurled at an Indian-American staffer for the Jim Webb campaign in August. Shortly after Salon's report which broke this story was posted, Allen's campaign released a strong denial of the allegations. However, one of Allen's classmates at UVa (who also happens to be one of the most respected political pundits in the country and a former professor of mine), came out and basically called b.s. on Allen's statements.

Now, to be fair, some of the allegations in the Salon article have yet to be substantiated, but George seems to have a peculiar fascination with the ways of the Old South...which is slightly odd for the son of a famous NFL coach and a French mother who grew in up in the posh community of Palos Verdes, CA.

Earlier this year Allen was talked about as a serious contender for the White House in 2008. That dream seems to be all but dead and there's no guarantee that Allen beats out Webb in November, though I think the odds are still in his favor. However, Webb's campaign is wasting no time in making hay off this episode!

Friday, September 22, 2006

Have we come to this?

I understand that the playing field has changed dramatically since 9/11, but I never thought I would see the day when the American people basically accepted the idea that it was ok to condone the practice of torture. Marty Leaderman of Balkinization lays out exactly what's wrong with the deal put together by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Sen. John McCain (R-AZ, who, as an aside, continues to engage in dog and pony shows to improve his standing among moderate, undecided voters), and Sen. John Warner (R-VA). Friday's New York Times ran an editorial that spells out clearly why this is indeed a "Bad Bargain" for those who care about what the U.S. used to stand for. And Charles Pierce of The American Prospect rightly blasts the Democrats for letting a few senators who have a history of talking tough but caving when the deal goes down carry their water.

I think our Founding Fathers would be terribly distraught at what we have become. America, the "indispensable nation", the "city shining upon a hill", has abdicated the moral high ground in the hopes of beating useful intelligence out of "enemy combatants" (contrary to the Army's own newly revised Field Manual) which states:
"The use of force, mental torture, threats, insults, or exposure to unpleasant and inhumane treatment of any kind is prohibited by law and is neither authorized nor condoned by the US Government. Experience indicates that the use of force is not necessary to gain the cooperation of sources for interrogation. Therefore, the use of force is a poor technique, as it yields unreliable results, may damage subsequent collection efforts, and can induce the source to say whatever he thinks the interrogator wants to hear."


Late Night Friday Misc. Blogging

On a whim I purchased John Mayer's newest album, Continuum last's very good (definitely one of the better records I've picked up this year). It alternates between the standard well-written pop songs that Mayer's known for ("Heart of Life" is basically "Daughters" Part II) and some very good soul/blues numbers, the best of which is easily "Gravity". Mayer has got some serious chops as a bluesman and he stretches out a little on this song. It opens with some soulful licks from Mayer's guitar and what sounds like a Hammond organ. It's one of those songs that you imagine could have been cut late night in the studio and the groove just felt right and they nailed the take.

"Stop This Train" is a great tune about aging and trying to preserve things we wish would never change. "Slow Dancing in a Burning Room", to me, sounds like some long lost Tom Petty song. There's something about the guitar and the backing that evoke a small dive bar, a bottle of Jack, and a flood of memories over a relationship lost.

The lead single, "Waiting for the World to Change", is Mayer's "What's Going On". It's definitely the most overt political song Mayer's penned to date, with lyrics like:

"Now if we had the power
to bring our neighbors home from war
they would have never missed a Christmas
No more ribbons on their door"

In fact, the song even feels like it could have come floating out of Motown...jingly bells, a head nodding beat, an organ pushing things forward. It's very well done and it's much weighter than almost anything else coming across the airwaves these days.

All Music Guide gave this 4 1/2 stars out of 5 and I see no reason to contest that rating in the least.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Good Link of the Day

Via Get Rich Slowly, the Daily Lit site allows you to download classic books in the public domain for...wait for You give them your e-mail, pick your book, schedule delivery of your daily portion of the book, and it goes to your in-box (and if the read is getting good, you can request the next portion via a link in the e-mail). Some of the authors include Jane Austen, Joseph Conrad, Henry James, Edgar Allen Poe, and Walt Whitman...check it out:

Daily Lit

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Get Fat Friday

Had my first dinner at Suppenkuche last Friday...holy plates of meat, Batman. Not for the faint of heart, this meal. Love the set-up of the feels like a beer hall (though I've never been to a German beer hall, I suspect this is what it would probably feel like). We had a big group, which seems to be a must here, lest you find yourself eating communal style with total strangers (there could, of course, be worse things, but don't say you weren't warned). Anyway, excellent beers as one would suspect (I had a Paulaner Oktoberfest and a Salvator), and we scarfed down a good portion of the menu. As I am violently opposed to beets, I mostly opted out of the Salat mit Karotten, Kraut, Kartoffeln, Rote Beete und Kopfsalat (Salad of Carrots, Cabbage, Potatoes, Beets and Butter Lettuce); however, the Reibekuchen mit hausgemachtem Apfelmus (Potato Pancakes with Homemade Apple Sauce) was rather tasty (akin to hash browns for lack of a better comparison). The Käsespätzle mit Zwiebel-Buttersoße und gemischtem Salat (Cheese Spätzle in Onion Butter Sauce served with a small Mixed Salad) was a hit with the entire group. For my main course, I had Gegrillte Nünberger Bratwurst mit Sauerkraut und Kartoffelbrei (Grilled Pork Sausage with Sauerkraut and Mashed Potatoes) which was very good (I wimped on the much for the totally authentic experience). Overall, a fun night and a place I expect to visit again in the not too distant future.

Monday, September 11, 2006


Never forget.

Friday, September 08, 2006

What Would A Patriot Watch?

Well, this coming Sunday night, a patriot would watch the first ever Manning Bowl and then the NFL Double Header on Monday night, rather than check out ABC's fictionalized account of the worst terrorist attack in American history, "The Path to 9/11". No, I won't link to it. If, however, you've been living under a rock and don't know what the controversy is about, read the Moderate Voice.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


I have been keeping two blogs for some time, this one for non-specific subject matter, and another blog for thoughts on politics and the like. In an effort to make things easier on myself, I'm going to start posting about everything on this blog. Don't stop reading if you find my ideas on the current state of our union contrary to your own...I promise I'm open-minded and, besides, I play well with others.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Easy Like Sunday Morning

Hit the Monet in Normandy exhibit bright and early last Sunday with the lovely Heidi and the lovely Whitney. Whit's just had surgery on her ACL so we decided we could snag one of the limited number of wheelchairs for her by getting there when the museum opened for the day (with the fringe benefit of bypassing the crowds). We were able to achieve only one of our modest goals. Wheelchair? Check. Crazy lines? Um...wth? For reasons that remain murky, we found ourselves in a slow moving line just to get into the exhibit...we hypothesized that perhaps the looming closure of the Bay Bridge for Labor Day weekend drove East Bay art nuts into the city to get a view of the exhibit before it skips town. In any event, we were reduced to viewing the paintings as part of a herd, which was less than enjoyable, but high art is tough, you know? After departing the Legion of Honor, we headed for brunch at Perry's (after which a Sunday Swerve began...I obstained). Not a bad Sunday...not bad at all.

Ray LaMontagane - Til the Sun Turns Black

Just picked this up, and at two songs in, my jaw is still on the Ever since the first time I heard Ray sing, I started pushing him on anyone that would listen. His voice is one of the few truly great voices I've heard in quite some time...urgent, passionate, visceral, primal, soulful...those are just a few of the words that I could use to describe it.

Now three songs in to the album and my immediate take is that this is a more produced album, but I don't mean that in a negative manner at all. Some wonderful strings have been added to the otherwise basic instrumentation, giving the songs an almost cinematic sweep..."Barfly" has some old school soul guitar licks playing over the top a wonderful organ...these are the kinds of songs that make you stop in your tracks when you're in a bar or a record store and send you off on a frantic chase for the bartender or store clerk to help you find the record.

"Three More Days" is a tight laid back almost Staxx-like jam...trumpets, organ, and a funky backbeat, all swirling around this voice that screams "LISTEN!"..."Gonna give it to you 'til you can't say no" indeed.

Some people who loved "Trouble" (Ray's first album) might be taken aback by the new, more expansive production. I would argue that it makes a lot of the compositions stronger than they might have been had this album been attacked in the same fashion as the last album. The strings make the tortured lamentations that much more poignant. "Can I Stay" is a song that uses strings to great effect(and it's a song anyone who's had a terrible fight with their girlfriend or boyfriend and immediately wishes it never happened can identify with):

"Can I stay here with you 'til the morning
I am so far from home and I feel lost and alone
Can I stay here with you til the morning
There's nothing I want more than to wake
up on you floor.."

As I said, something everyone can identify with.

"You Can Bring Me Flowers" has a sinister snarl to it...a jazzy trumpet and a blues guitar add to the effect...and THEN you get hit with the flute near the fade out...this could have been recorded in some back alley juke joint.

Enough of my ramblings for now, but I highly highly highly recommend this one...go pick it up and take it out for a drive on one of these last fleeting summer won't be sorry.

(Addendum: If you haven't heard it, here's Ray's cover of Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy")

Monday, August 14, 2006


I walked home tonight from the Union Street theater after checking out one of the funnier movies I've seen in a LONG time. I had my iPod along and spun together a nice little playlist for the walk home (Alexi Murdoch, Arcade Fire, Mark Knopfler & Emmylou Harris). The weather tonight in San Francisco is invigorating; there's just a hint of chill in the softly blowing breeze. The skies are clear. From my back deck, I have the great pleasure of being able to see both Alcatraz and Coit Tower, and on nights like tonight, you have to take advantage of the view since it's normally either too cold or too foggy (or both) to pause for a second and take in just how amazing San Francisco really is. Accompanined by a Miller Light and Cole's Corner, I gazed for the better part of an hour at the water and the cool glow of the Tower at night, shining against the dark sky like the North Star. I took my headphones off after a time and was reminded again at just how silent the city can be at night...far from being in a state of perpetual motion like the Big Apple, San Francisco can at times seem like a ghost town (but a very picturesque one at that). The only sound I could hear was the trickle of the fountain in my neighbors yard as the lighthouse on the Rock cast its gaze my way, keeping a stoic vigil over the Bay. Everything is still.

Sometimes you are presented time for reflection when you most need it, and this was one of those times. It might not have been a perfect night, but it was pretty close.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Truly Tragic

North Beach Fair and N.B. Jazz Fest cancelled due to alcohol permits being revoked. F$%k.

Thursday, May 18, 2006


I have not seen the house where I grew up for over six years. Truth be told, I have not been in any rush to head back to my hometown. I certainly miss my parents and wish I could see them more often, but going back to Martinsville is not something that has been high on my agenda for some time.

So it was with some surprise that I listened to a voicemail from my mother two days ago. My mom was moving out of the house (my parents separated several years back) and the home phone was being disconnected. In truth, this should only have caused a moment or two of reminiscence and nothing more. Instead, my mind raced back to days long gone by, and I was immersed in thoughts of a place that I may never see again. I found myself thinking of evenings playing pinochle and listening to Benny Goodman in my grandfather's basement room. He dressed nattily and was ever the gentleman. He liked tennis and anchovies on his pizza. He smelled of something like Old Spice and was very wise. I miss him.

Thinking of home has always been a rather mixed bag for me. I have, for the most part, very positive memories of life growing up in my small town. Living in Northern California for six years has not completely robbed me of my southern accent, something I appreciate more as I get older. I miss having real seasons; San Francisco is marked by either rain (winter), fog (summer), or clear skies and moderate temperatures (the rest of the year). Virginia, thankfully, experiences four truly distinct seasons. I especially miss spring and fall. The Foxfield Races at my alma mater were rites of spring and passage. The crisp fall nights spent in the pressbox at Lancer Field (alas, my high school has since become a middle school), watching the larger than life (at least at that time) spectacle of high school football is still quite vivid. I met many special people I was lucky to call friends there.

Since my parents split however, I have been less inclined to visit. My sister lives here in the Bay Area (a fact that I take for granted) so I've never felt alone, which is an emotion that a great many people who move to San Francisco have dealt with in some form or fashion. The roots of my father's side of the family are in Martinsville and so he has always been content to spend the totality of his days among his kin. In stark contrast to my father's rural roots, my mother is a Bronx girl through and through. Spending the better part of her adult life in the relative seclusion of southside Virginia was probably not what she had envisioned for herself.

It's here that I should say something about my parents. I love them both deeply. My mother and I are frank and mostly open which each other and I treasure our exchanges, be they by phone or e-mail. She has a subversive wit and a sharp mind. She can be comfortable with almost anyone and yet she greatly appreciates her personal time. She is a voracious reader and sometimes she sings when she thinks nobody is around. Her voice can sound so mournful, like a gospel singer at a wake. She would often sing the words from James Ingram's "Just Once": "I did my best, but I guess my best wasn't good enough...". Thinking about her singing now makes me understand my appreciation for songs that are both wistful and melancholy.

I have a complicated relationship with my father, and I suspect that the complications lie mostly with me. He is loving and deeply religious. Family is truly important to him. He wants only the best for me and my sister. He preaches personal responsibility and having your word truly mean something. However, my father also possess a hair trigger temper and can be domineering when the need arises. More than a few times when my mom and dad got into fights I was caught between wanting to step in and end the hostilities or run as far away from my father's screams as possible.

There are things you just know innately in life and at some point I just knew that my parents were not fated to be together forever. I think they mostly stuck together through college for me, but they separated shortly after I moved to the west coast. In the end, it's probably best for everyone. My father has a new girlfriend, and while I still can't bring myself to call his home for fear that she might answer, I suppose I am happy that he's happy. My mother, now liberated from the albatross that was our house, is free to roam and I suspect she will. I hope she entertains more seriously the idea of moving to DC to be near her sister or of moving here, to be near her children.

I suppose one day I will drive the slow and winding country roads back to see my old house. I suspect that it will not have changed much, but even if it has, the memories made there will always be our own. Perhaps I'll stop and ring the doorbell. Most likely though I'll drive by slowly, take it all in one last time, and then be on my way...back to wherever it is that I call home.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


Seeing as summer is almost here, most major network tv shows are winding down for the season. As such, this week and next provide the final new episodes of both 24 and Grey's Anatomy (the later of which I have been drawn into very reluctantly).

Having admitted to watching Grey's I can now probably hand in my manhood card, but in doing so I must comment on the sheer absurdity of the final three hours of the season:

  • Simply put, the show will be better off with Izzy gone, if her resignation holds. Her hysterics on Sunday made the show borderline unwatchable.
  • Meredith Grey is quite possibly the most f$@ked up female lead character in a drama series in television history. Good God. She's ruined one marriage (it takes two to tango, Derek did his part as well), pretty much crushed George, and is going to crush Finn. I understand the need to create dramatic tension, and I also recognize that shows like Grey's are supposed to be escapist schlock, but come on.
  • The show excels at making the audience dislike characters they should otherwise have sympathy for. Case in point: Addison. Like seemingly everyone else on the show, she has fidelity issues, but in the current state of affairs, she's the only one trying to do the right thing in her relationship; but, of course, she's portrayed as shrill for trying to preserve her marriage.
  • Using the dog as a stand in for the Meredith/McDreamy relationship? It's no wonder I've made it a point to stay away from so called "chick flicks" and the like when this kind of contrived symbolism is employed to tug at the heart strings.

I will say the twist of Preston getting shot was unexpected, but otherwise on a scale of 1 to 10, I'd have to give the finale a 3.

To regain my credibility as a member of the male species, I must now turn my attention to Jack Bauer. On the whole, this season, to me at least, hasn't been as enjoyable as last, partially due to the fact that we don't know who the bald guy with the glasses is and how he's making Logan cooperate. In any event, the last two hours have a lot of promise...I eagerly await Chole getting the chance to get medieval on the obsequious Miles, Curtis avenging his shooting by pwning some faceless former Communists, and, of course, Jack hopefully blowing away Logan.