Monday, December 31, 2007

Count Basie Orchestra & Ledisi at Yoshi's, San Faancisco

Quick take...the band cooked and Ledisi is just an amazing talent. I was familiar with her earlier R & B work, but she worked it out last night. Her phrasing and timing (and scatting) were fantastic and her voice...she blew people away, and rightly so. Her range is fairly large and her clarity is I can't wait to see her again in a venue like that. You could also tell she was clearly excited to work with a band like the Basie orchestra (she even had her high school jazz teacher conducting them while she sang)!

The acoustics in the concert hall are great, definitely built for jazz. The crowd was petty good...thankfully, people were actually into the music and there was not a lot of talking going on during the performance.

Downsides were the seating (packed in too tightly) and the drink service (not attentive). I think our server was either drunk or stoned (or a coke fiend)...she came around right after we got seated and it took her probably 15-20 minutes to bring the drinks out. Next time she came around was with our bill as the last song was about to start (two drink minimum and we only had one). I'll blame that on it being the holidays and the place probably being a tad understaffed.

Overall, a great experience and I can't wait to see some more shows there.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

A Weekend of Firsts

Friday night: Early evening cocktails at Bar Drake, dinner at Nopa, post dinner libations at the Grand Cafe and the White Horse.

And, oh yeah...a 15th floor room at this place.

Tonight, my first show at the brand, spanking new Yoshi's in San Francisco.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The 50 Most Loathsome Americans - 2007



Just checked it out at the new (and very cozy) Sundance Kabuki. Ellen Page is pretty much perfect as the title character. She's hilarious as is the rest of the cast (Jennifer Garner is kind of scary the obsessive/compulsive yuppie adoptive mother). It's a very cute movie with a great low-fi soundtrack.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Pro Sports & Race in Boston

Great read from Boston Magazine about the problems black athletes have experienced while playing in Boston.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Are You Experienced?

Not as much as she'd like you to think she is.

Again, let's be real. Barack Obama has held elected office longer than Hillary Clinton.

Merry Christmas!

Happy Holidays to everyone out there! Posting will be light between now and mid-January (4 grad school applications due) but enjoy the rest of the holidays and have a fantastic new year!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Jonathan Alter on Krugman vs. Obama

This is probably the single best retort to Krugman's column from yesterday. Alter, who might know his Roosevelt just a bit better than Krugman, points out that while populism might sound good in the ear, it doesn't win the White House:
Krugman is a populist. He writes that if nominated, Obama would win, "but not as big as a candidate who ran on a more populist platform." This is facile and ahistorical. How many 20th Century American presidents have been elected on a populist platform? That would be zero, Paul. You could even include Al Gore, who won the popular vote in 2000. Instead of exploiting the peace and prosperity of the 1990s, Gore ran on a "people vs. the powerful" message. It never ignited.

Krugman says that pundits like me who reject sharp anti-corporate rhetoric and prefer cooperation are "projecting their own desires onto the public." We'll see. But last time I checked, millions of Americans still work for corporations or aspire to do so and bashing them wholesale is a loser politically. It works sometimes in Democratic primaries with a heavy labor vote (though not for Dick Gephardt). But not in general elections. The last two Democrats elected president-Jimmy Carter in 1976 and Bill Clinton in 1992-also campaigned during recessions. Both were smart enough to reject populism in favor of a responsive but upbeat message.

Alter goes on to make a pretty obvious point that Krugman continues to blithely dismiss, and that is you simply can't steamroll interests as entrenched and as powerful as the health care and pharmaceutical industries:
The Edwards alternative-to simply overrun them-is unrealistic. Even a 1932-style mandate at the ballot box (highly unlikely) wouldn't make them capitulate. Look what happened when New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, elected in 2006 with a huge mandate, tried to "steamroll" a bunch of hacks in Albany. He got his head handed to him.

To call Obama "anti-change," as Paul Krugman does, is anti-common sense. Leadership requires a mixture of confrontation and compromise, with room for the losers to save face. "They have to feel the heat to see the light," LBJ liked to say. That heat is best applied up close. In public. Across the big table.

Well worth the time to read.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Restaurant Review: 1300 on Fillmore

The lower Fillmore is experiencing something of a renaissance at the moment. Seeking to reclaim some of the magic of its earlier years, the neighborhood is humming as the live music scene got a recent jolt with the opening of the 400 seat Yoshi's San Francisco which is going to serve as a catalyst for revitalizing the entire area. Along with the Fillmore, Rasselas, and the Boom Boom Room, there's something here for music fans of all stripes. Combine that with the recent opening of the new Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, and some notable new restaurants, such as SPQR, and the forthcoming Long Bar (taking over the old Fillmore Grill space) and the second outpost of Pizzeria Delfina coming and you have the makings of something good.

One of the other new restaurants of note is 1300 on Fillmore, which is located in the other end of the Fillmore Heritage Center from Yoshi's. The sign for the restaurant is a bit hard to find (it's lurking 3/4 of the way up a post on the corner of Fillmore and Eddy), but there's ample parking in the public garage located under the center (which is a good thing because parts of the neighborhood are still a bit rough).

The space is, in a word, gorgeous. Done up in beautiful dark wood and complemented with soft blue tones on the walls and chocolate leather backed banquettes, it's sophisticated and old school (in the best possible sense). The lighting is appropriately dim and a rotating parade of black and white pictures of the glory days of the neighborhood flash silently over the bar. Off the main entrance is a petite lounge and a three piece jazz trio was set up there in the corner, swinging the night away. The crowd was a colorful melange...older black couples out for a night on the town, post work Financial District types, and jazz heads getting a bite before hitting a show next door.

As to the meal...well, it's simply one of the best I've had in San Francisco in quite some time (see the menu, sans desserts, here). There is, to me at least, a clear nod to the south, specifically New Orleans in the cuisine. We stared with the fresh water shrimp hush puppies with an ancho chili remoulade. The shrimp did taste a little fishy, but nothing to really complain about. The complimentary homemade corn bread served with honey butter and a red pepper jam was fantastic. The corn bread was warm and crumbly, just how I like it.

For my entree, I had the house brine grilled pork chop with caramelized chicory, Calvados apples, and apple cider sauce. The pork chop was served atop whipped mashed potatoes. Everything about this dish worked. The chop was served medium and the meat was juicy and extremely flavorful. The apple sauce was a great touch to go with the pork and the potatoes were very creamy and rich (perhaps too rich for some).

My dining companion had the bouillabaisse, which was a lobster mash, mussels, crab meat, snapper, Andouille sausage and rouille served in a broth with some spices we couldn't identify. I only had a piece of the lobster, but the portion was sizable and buttery.

We also ordered the buttermilk chive potatoes for the table. The potatoes were a little less whipped than the one's served with the pork, but no less tasty.

We finished with benigets (another nod to the Big Easy) served with a chocolate sauce and a coffee soda. The benigets were light and the sauces were perfect accompaniments.

This was truly a great meal and I both highly recommend it and can't wait for my next visit.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Paul Krugman vs Barack Obama

Sigh. This is going to be my first post of substance in awhile and it is one I that I'd rather not pen at all, but considering my first application for journalism school has been submitted, I need to get used to writing even when I'm not in the mood (or when I'm unsure of my total grasp of the material...or both).

Anyway, at the outset, I should say I am a huge Paul Krugman fan. He's been the most vocal liberal pundit at the nation's most influential newspaper for some time now, and he (generally) presents timely, devastating and factually accurate critiques of the Bush administration and its policies. He's not afraid of being called a liberal (perish the thought!) and he's not afraid of a fight. Given how polarizing the last seven years have been, this is all very good and Krugman should be celebrated for taking strong stands in support of some policy positions long before they became popular with the masses.

I should also note that I am in the bag for Obama. Should he get the nomination, I will certainly be voting for him.

So having said all that, it pains me to see the repeated swipes that Krugman and Obama have been taking at each other. In his November 16th op-ed in the New York Times (entitled, "Played for a Sucker"), Krugman began to advance the idea that Obama was buying into conservative talking points by labeling social security in "crisis". Whether one believes that to be true or not (I agree with Krugman that social security is not among the top issues facing the country at the moment), Krugman's take was especially harsh in its judgment of Obama's desire to move the nation in a "post partisan" political environment:

He is, however, someone who keeps insisting that he can transcend the partisanship of our times — and in this case, that turned him into a sucker.

Next, in his November 30th column, Krugman comes after Obama again, this time on health care. Krugman, who generally likes Obama's health plan, criticizes it because it lacks a mandate (both Hillary Clinton and John Edwards have released health care plans with an individual mandate). Krugman again makes the charge that Obama is echoing right wing talking points, much like he did on social security:

Mr. Obama, then, is wrong on policy. Worse yet, the words he uses to defend his position make him sound like Rudy Giuliani inveighing against "socialized medicine": he doesn't want the government to "force" people to have insurance, to "penalize" people who don't participate.

I recently castigated Mr. Obama for adopting right-wing talking points about a Social Security "crisis." Now he’s echoing right-wing talking points on health care.

What seems to have happened is that Mr. Obama's caution, his reluctance to stake out a clearly partisan position, led him to propose a relatively weak, incomplete health care plan. Although he declared, in his speech announcing the plan, that "my plan begins by covering every American," it didn't — and he shied away from doing what was necessary to make his claim true.

Now, in the effort to defend his plan's weakness, he's attacking his Democratic opponents from the right — and in so doing giving aid and comfort to the enemies of reform.

The social security spat didn't merit a real response from team Obama, but the health care column did, and Obama's campaign website quickly posted a "fact check" contesting Krugman's previously announced affinity for the plan. This was followed up by unsourced (and as of now, unproven) claims by Chris Bowers at OpenLeft that Obama's team was collecting "oppo research" on progressive bloggers. That in turn led to a host of liberal bloggers (many of whom I greatly admire and try to emulate, like Ezra Klein and Matt Yglesias) denouncing Obama for attacking, in Klein's words, "arguably the most progressive voice in American media."

Yesterday, Krugman came out with his strongest attack on Obama yet. With health care once again the backdrop, Krugman removes the gloves and calls Obama "naïve" for his continual belief that we can have something other than our current divisive political atmosphere. He goes on to call Obama "unrealistic" for thinking that he could actually get drug and insurance companies to sit down and agree to constructively aiding the health care reform process. And then we come to the heart of the matter once again...Krugman's dislike of Obama's message of change:

As health care goes, so goes the rest of the progressive agenda. Anyone who thinks that the next president can achieve real change without bitter confrontation is living in a fantasy world.

Which brings me to a big worry about Mr. Obama: in an important sense, he has in effect become the anti-change candidate.

There's a strong populist tide running in America right now. For example, a recent Democracy Corps survey of voter discontent found that the most commonly chosen phrase explaining what's wrong with the country was "Big businesses get whatever they want in Washington."

And there's every reason to believe that the Democrats can win big next year if they run with that populist tide. The latest evidence came from focus groups run by both Fox News and CNN during last week's Democratic debate: both declared Mr. Edwards the clear winner.

But the news media recoil from populist appeals. The Des Moines Register, which endorsed Mr. Edwards in 2004, rejected him this time on the grounds that his "harsh anti-corporate rhetoric would make it difficult to work with the business community to forge change."

And while The Register endorsed Hillary Clinton, the prime beneficiary of media distaste for populism has clearly been Mr. Obama, with his message of reconciliation. According to a recent survey by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, Mr. Obama's coverage has been far more favorable than that of any other candidate.

So what happens if Mr. Obama is the nominee?

He will probably win — but not as big as a candidate who ran on a more populist platform. Let's be blunt: pundits who say that what voters really want is a candidate who makes them feel good, that they want an end to harsh partisanship, are projecting their own desires onto the public.

And nothing Mr. Obama has said suggests that he appreciates the bitterness of the battles he will have to fight if he does become president, and tries to get anything done.

The above section is where it comes off the rails for me in terms of Krugman's arguments and I think there's a lot wrong there. First off, the "strong populist tide" that's sweeping the nation is apparently not as strong as Krugman thinks. If it is indeed so strong, why is John Edwards, the most unabashedly populist candidate in the race, stuck in 3rd in Iowa? Throwing red meat to the unions during the primary season is a smart move as far as it goes, but these aren't the unions of your parent's youth; they account for only 12% of the American workforce and have been in decline since the first Reagan inauguration. Michael Cohen at Democracy Arsenal takes this further:

Krugman seems to believe that Democrats need to run a populist campaign that takes on big business and the influence of corporate America. This is a familiar refrain from liberal Democrats; if only Democrats were true to their Rooseveltian legacy and played up their populist roots they would win every election.

It's a nice tale; it's also one that has virtually no historical precedent and is almost certainly wrong. With a few notable exceptions, Truman in 1948, possibly FDR in 36 and Wilson in 1912, populism, or us vs. them, rhetoric, simply doesn't work in American presidential politics.

Krugman argues the John Edwards view that "America needs another FDR, a polarizing figure" who will take on the "economic royalists." Krugman claims that recent focus groups run after the last Democratic debate show that John Edwards was the big winner - hence populism works! Not only is that, how shall we say, a small sample size on which to base an argument, but if Edwards strategy was so effective then why is he still running third in Iowa? Krugman blames the media for blunting populist appeals and in particular, the Des Moines Register, which recently attacked Edwards "harsh anti-corporate rhetoric." One would think that for a populist, Krugman would give Iowa voters a little more credit. Voters may respond viscerally to populist appeals, but in the end they usually choose the guy with the more positive message (just ask George Wallace and Ross Perot).

But even worse, Krugman's "FDR argument" ignores the fact that in FDR's first race for the White House he ran a very tepidly populist campaign (even in the throes of the country's worst economic downturn). Yes, FDR attacked big business, but not to the extent that Edwards is today and frankly most of his venom was directed at government inaction. "Bold experimentation" was the catchword of the campaign not us vs. them - that would come in 1936 and even then was far more tame then the radical populism of Huey Long and others. For anyone who thinks Roosevelt ran on liberalism and big government in 1932 go back and read his campaign speeches where he attacks Hoover for failing to cut government spending.

Since Harry Truman slash-and-burn populist campaign of 1948, one is hard pressed to think of a single Democrat who has won on with a populist message (possibly Carter in 76, but his populism was directed more at post-Watergate Washington rather than big business). In fact, the most embarrassing defeat by a Democrat in recent memory, Al Gore in 2000, came because of his misplaced "the people vs. the powerful" campaign theme. In recent years, it has been Republicans, not Democrats that have been the most effective populists, utilizing the us versus them argument of big government versus the people.
(Emphasis mine)

I think that's a pretty through demolishing of that particular line of attack. I think Krugman here has been stricken with a case of the pundit's fallacy.

Next is the idea that Obama isn't going to be enough of a fighter to champion progressive ideas if elected (an argument which is picked apart pretty well by Mark Kleiman and Ed Kilgore). Here again Krugman is projecting (odd considering he's talking about pundits projecting in this passage):

Let's be blunt: pundits who say that what voters really want is a candidate who makes them feel good, that they want an end to harsh partisanship, are projecting their own desires onto the public.

As Dan Drezner notes, this shows a lack of self-awareness on Krugman's part. Drezner also says that:

Matt Yglesias thinks that the Obama campaign is "poor[ly] handling... its relationship with the country's highest-profile liberal columnist," but I have to wonder if Obama is calculating that the long-term benefits outweigh any short-term costs.

As Krugman acknowledges at the beginning of his column, "Broadly speaking, the serious contenders for the Democratic nomination are offering similar policy proposals." Therefore, he's going to broadly support whichever Dem is nominated.

Obama, on the other hand, is not going to be hurt in the general election from a pissing match with Paul Krugman. Indeed, dust-ups like this provide Obama with the kind of perceived independence that plays well with... er... independents.

That last point is also aired in Clive Crook's latest Financial Times column:

But progressives have been under the Republicans’ hammer too long. Rapprochement is the last thing they want. What they want is their turn. They come not to work with Republicans, but to bury them. If Mr Obama believes he can come to useful compromises with those people, many liberal activists believe, he is either far too innocent for this kind of work or a traitor in the making.

A parallel springs to mind: Tony Blair’s love-hate relationship with Britain’s old Labour party. The country’s class-warriors never liked their most successful leader for decades and in the end you could say their fears were realised: he was indeed, as a cover of The Economist once put it, “the strangest Tory ever sold”. On the other hand, you cannot capture the centre without appealing to the centre.

Mr Blair often used the hard left’s barely veiled hostility as a means to entrench his power – for example, picking fights with the unions to prove his muscular pragmatism whenever his popularity flagged. The Obama campaign may be weighing the same strategy, for use if not now then after his hoped-for victory in the primaries. Angry progressives are as repellent to the centre that Mr Obama aims to recruit as the Republican fundamentalists at the other extreme. If the centre counts – and there lies the gamble – then the squirmings of the Democratic base are an asset to be exploited.

So far throughout this campaign, you've had folks like Krugman and Kos who are either dismayed or digusted with Obama's "above the fray" mentality and rhetoric. Those two guys, along with a lot of other Dems and progressives are in no mood to sit at at a table and talk turkey with a conservative movement that has been griding its boots into the face of the larger progressive movement for almost three decades. They see this election as one in which liberals can push through one of its last sacred cows (universal health care) and usher in a new progressive era . However, what if the pugilist mentality is wrong? One of the supposed strengths of Hillary Clinton is that she's a fighter, that her time as First Lady (which, by the way, should not count as "experience" as it relates to her own run for the White House) prepared her for the nasty battles and smears that she would have to face from the conservative noise machine. While it's certainly true that there is something to PDS, we may be moving to a time where our political class is more partisan, but the citizenry is less so. For awhile now, I've thought that the more strident liberals and progressives have misread the zeitgeist, and it appears there some truth to that notion:

After debacles in Iraq and New Orleans and mushrooming scandals that exposed much of Congress and the Cabinet as a low-rent crime family hired to collect protection money for the likes of Halliburton and Pfizer, people simply do not trust the politicians they vote for to be anything less than an embarrassment. You get the sense they approach the upcoming election with the enthusiasm of a two-time loser offered a selection of plea deals.

People hate the mechanized speeches, they hate the negative ads, and they especially hate venomous news creatures, myself included. It's now so bad that a poll last month found that fifty-six percent of all likely voters agreed with the phrase that the presidential race is "annoying and a waste of time" -- a shocking number, given that it excludes the forty to fifty percent of Americans who already don't vote in presidential races.

People don't want to feel this way, but the attitude everywhere is the same: What choice do these assholes give us? And it's that grim prejudice that has pervaded this process for a generation, forcing the public to choose from an endless succession of lesser evils and second- raters of the Kerry-Dole genus, stuffed suits who offered nothing like a solution to the main problem of feeling like shit about the American civic experiment.

Until now. Emphasizing that this is not necessarily a reflection of who or what Obama really is, he unmistakably and strikingly attracts crowds that, to a person, really seem to believe that his election will fundamentally change the way they feel about their country.

"I just want to see if there's going to be a difference with this cat," says Richard Walters, a forty-three-year-old New Yorker, who had come to hear Obama give a speech at Harlem's famed Apollo Theater. "Because if there's something different, we need it -- now."

"At this point, I'd be glad if he recited the alphabet correctly," says Xiomara Hall, another New Yorker. Laughing, she and her friend add, "We got hope. Change is goood!"

"I just want to see if he can do something, anything, to change things," says Shirley Paulino, another visitor to the Apollo event. "See if he is what he says he is. We just -- we need it, you know?"

Normally the sight of prospective voters muttering platitudes about "hope" and "change" would make any reporter erupt with derisive laughter, but at Obama events one hears outbursts of optimism so desperate and artless that I can't help but check my cynical instinct. Grown men and women look up at you with puppy-dog eyes and all but beg you not to shit on their dreams. It's odd to say, but it's actually moving.

An important component of this phenomenon is that the Obama crowds are surprisingly free of the usual anti-Republican venom. As much as anything, his rise is a reflection of the country's increasing boredom with partisan hatred.

"I'm so tired of the president just talking to one part of the country, or one group," says Malia Scotch-Marmo. "I was in my twenties with Reagan, but I felt he talked to me, even though we were all Democrats. It would be great to have a black president. It would be great for kids to see. It would be a nice mind shift."

After a combined sixteen years of rancorous political battles under Bill Clinton and George W Bush, many Americans are tired of the fighting, the partisan sniping, the combative rhetoric. While I can certainly see why some might see Obama's inclusive rhetoric a bit hokey, it's also pretty clear that it's speaking to a lot of people at the moment. Simply attacking corporate interests as part of a populist message campaign as Edwards is doing (which, let's remember, didn't work in '04 either) or going negative by engaging in race baiting (like the odious recent attacks by the Clinton campaign) isn't moving people. Obama's message of change and hope is. Andrew Sullivan tends to wax a bit poetic when he writes about Obama, but on one thing, he is surely right; there is something different about this candidate, something that is exciting a host of Americans of all political stripes like never before. Will it be enough to put Obama over the top? We'll know if a few short weeks.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

An excellent way to look at the "surge" in Iraq

From Hilzoy at Obsidian Wings:

Fourth, noting that political reconciliation has not happened is not the "equivalent of sticking your fingers in your ears and chanting "La la la la la la la I can't HEAR you!"" It's more like this: suppose I had a friend who insisted that he couldn't kick his crack habit because he was under too much financial pressure, so I agreed to pay his bills for a few months, on condition that he use that time to actually try to quit. Liberal bloggers thought this was a bad idea: my friend had no apparent interest in kicking his crack habit, and thus it seemed pretty likely that I was just throwing my money away. No, I assured them: I have made it clear that my commitment is not open-ended. I've said: it's time for you to perform, and I will judge you now less on your words and more on your performance. I'm not just giving this money blindly; my friend has adopted benchmarks for success, and I plan to hold him to them, though I won't say how.

Now suppose that while I paid my friend's bills, to no one's surprise, his financial problems got better, but he made no effort to stop smoking crack. Liberal bloggers said: well, of course it's good that your friend isn't feeling as much financial pressure, but the fact remains that the whole point of this was to let him kick his crack habit, and not only has he not done that, he hasn't even tried. That would not constitute sticking their fingers in their ears and chanting "La la la la la la la I can't HEAR you!", or refusing to take yes for an answer. It would just be basic common sense.

That's just one portion of the post and the entire thing is fantastic. Read the whole thing.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

What's for dinner?

Pasta Carbonara, courtesy of a recipe in GQ.


  • 1/2 box of spaghetti
  • Hunk of pancetta (or slab bacon, or proscutio)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 eggs
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1> Put the pasta into lightly salted boiling water.
2> Put a handful of pancetta, cut into quarter-inch matchsticks, into a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add a tablespoon of olive oil.
3> While the pancetta and the spaghetti are cooking, break the eggs into a mixing bowl. Pick a good bowl, since you'll be using it both to prepare and serve the spaghetti. Add half a handful of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and a pinch or two of black pepper. Beat the mixture together, only enough to combine everything evenly.
4> Since the pancetta will take only about five to ten minutes until it's nicely browned, turn down the heat to low until you're ready to assemble the dish. When the spaghetti is done, strain it and add it to the egg mixture in the bowl. Add a small handful of cheese and toss the mixture well with a couple of forks until the spaghetti is coated. A lot of people put the pasta in the pan with the pancetta, but that can ruin the flavor.
5> Immediately turn the heat back up on the pancetta for 30 seconds, until it's sizzling, then pour off half of the fat. Dump the pancetta and the remaining fat onto the pasta and sprinkle with more cheese and some pepper. Let it sit for about 30 seconds before mixing - if the pancetta's too hot, the sauce won't blend as well.
6> Serve yourself in a clean bowl and give the bowl the pasta was mixed in to your guest - this is the originale, which has the good stuff at the bottom and is considered good luck.

Considering I ate alone and there's two ways I could have screwed it up (what with the eggs being raw and the potential of undercooking the meat), if you happen to read this in the next few days and you haven't heard from me, you'll know why.

Friday, December 07, 2007

More Like This, Please

A major news magazine debunks a dangerous claim about taxes. Let's have a lot more of this kind of thing!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Quick Notes

-Dropped my first grad school application in the mail on Saturday morning. Cal's Graduate School of know what to do. Texas, Northwestern, Columbia and CUNY are on deck.

-My Hoos are going to the Gator Bowl!

-It's a party week! My first Channukah party party on Thursday, my office party on Friday and then this little shindig on Saturday night.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Commonwealth Cup Day

13-7 Hokies at the start of the second quarter. This is stressing me out so much.

Update: Sigh...33-21 Hokies. Just couldn't keep them out of the endzone on a crucial drive or two. We'll get 'em sooner or later. I'm not going to be upset about a 9-3 season though...but playing in Jacksonville next week would have been pretty sweet.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Current Musical Obsessions

Joe Henry "Civilians". Nocturnal and introspective. Fantastic.

Jens Lekman "Night Falls Over Kortedala". Probably the most random listen of the entire year. He sounds faintly like Rick Astley singing 60's R & B doo-wop...and it's great.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


Last night I had an incredible 30th birthday party and all I can say is that I have amazing friends.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Time to Drop the Newsweek Subscription?

I don't read the Great Orange Satan on daily basis anymore, but for reasons that should be obvious to long time readers of this minor outpost on the interwebs should know that I am sympathetic to Kos' viewpoints, so I have no problem with him being a part-time contributor to Newsweek during the 2008 elections cycle. Predictably, this lead to calls of "liberal media" bias, so to even things out, Newsweek has added....Karl Rove to its roster.

Dear God in Heaven.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Random San Francisco Things I've Never Done (Until Tonight)

Due to Oracle World (note to Larry Ellison: Please hold this shit show at your mansion outside of the city next year, K TKS), traffic has been snarled all week south of Market. After jumping off the 45 at 3rd and Howard, I walked into Union Square on an unseasonably warm mid-November night (mid 60' warming's upside?) and ended up taking the Hyde St cable car home. I've often avoided the cable cars because, just like Fisherman's Wharf, they are tourist traps. However, having the chance to ride up through Union Square, over Nob Hill, through upper Chinatown and then over Russian Hill was a complete treat. Hanging out one side of the car with a live rendition of "Incident on 57th Street" playing on my iPod as we snaked up the steep San Francisco hills was yet another reminder of how incredible this place is.

When Rap Meets Graphing Software

In case you wanted to know how good it feels to be a gangster.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Dark Side of the Ron Paul Campaign

I was starting to wonder when this stuff was going to start coming out as I'd heard rumors about stories floating around on the web, but here's a piece from Jewcy detailing the Paul campaign's contributions from hard right, white supremacist organizations. Now, as is noted in the article, Paul's people have not decided yet what to do with some of those contributions, but that alone ought to give people pause. If you want to be the president of the United States of America in 2008, taking cash from the leader of Stormfront probably isn't a good idea.

For more on this, check out Orcinus.

Update: Seems that there's a lot more to this and it sheds a much better light on Paul than the original story.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

American Gangster

Not going to do a long review of it, but the movie was very good (albeit a tad long at just over two and a half hours). Denzel was menacing and methodical as Frank Lucas and Russell Crowe was a good foil (but he didn't match the intensity of Washington). Josh Brolin was convincing as a dirty cop (complete with a sweet 'stache). Very violent but with a few good laughs here and there. Recommended.

Ill Wind

I have no idea what got into my Hoos last night, but Mikey likes it. Tuning off the lights at the famed Orange Bowl with a 48-0 destruction of Miami...well, it made my weekend.

Next up after the bye week are the hated Hokies with a spot in the A.C.C. title game on the line. Let's Go Hoos!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The L Word

As Ezra notes, this is a good article pointing out Rudy Giuliani's fabrications about health care. Paul Krugman also tackled this last week . This is all well and good, but reporters need to resort to stronger language here. In fact, there's a word tailor made for this kind of thing!

1. a false statement made with deliberate intent to deceive; an intentional untruth; a falsehood.
2. something intended or serving to convey a false impression; imposture: His flashy car was a lie that deceived no one.
3. an inaccurate or false statement.

Come on can use the "L"'s ok, really!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Palencia in 7 X 7

My friend Archie Palencia has just opened his own Filipino restaurant in San Francisco and it's getting some good buzz. Palencia (also the name of the restaurant) gets a good write up in 7 x 7. Check it out and more importantly, give it a try!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Fuck Clear Channel

Bastards. The lot of them.

Does it make any sense to anyone that songs from the #1 record in the country aren't being played on the airwaves? I suppose trying to silence the voices of artists opposed to the current administration is one way to do business, but it doesn't seem to be a profitable one to me.

Head Hunting

I am going to have to strongly disagree with the growing chorus of people calling for a bounty on Tom Brady in light of the way the Patriots are beating teams this year. Isn't a bit unseemly for prominent sports columnists like Mike Wilbon to air this kind of thing? We're basically talking about crippling a man because your team got its bell rung. It's a god damn GAME people. It's all fine and good to whine about running up the score, but the score is not being run up ON YOU. Unless you're down on the field getting strafed by the Pats, you really ought not to take it so personally. Besides, the players are supposed to be professionals; if they are getting abused between the lines, there's something they can do directly to address that: they can play better.

I'm Still Here

Haven't been updating as much recently, but I hope to change that soon. But, as to what has been going on:

  • My beloved Wahoos finally dropped one last Saturday on the road to N.C. State. We were in it until the last drive, but not having starting QB Jameel Sewell in the game just killed the chances of another last second comeback. However, if you'd told me at the beginning of the season that after 9 weeks we would be 7-2, I would have laughed in your face...and I'm a pretty die-hard fan. Here's hoping we can right the ship this week at home against a dangerous Wake team.

  • BRUCE!!!! Box seats in Oakland last Friday night to see the Boss & The E Street do their thing. Great, great show. Highlights for me were "Racing in the Street", the bluesy re-working of "Reason to Believe", and, of course, "Born to Run".

  • First grad school application (Cal) is due on Dec. 1. Oy vey.

  • A timely trade of Brett Farve and Javon Walker for Alex Smith and Reggie Wayne has jumpstarted my main fantasy football squad. The new lineup, which will finally be in place in week 10 will feature: Matt Hasselbeck, Frank Gore*, Edge James, two of Braylon Edwards**, Deion Branch, or Reggie Wayne, Jeremy Shockey, Nick Folk and the Jags D. I'm now 3-5 but still have a shot at playoffs. Overall, across 5 leagues (!) I have winning records in 3, and of those 3, I'm the league leader in one and a game back in the other (Tom Brady FTW!)

  • Tonight, catching Paul Krugman at the Commonwealth Club to speak about his new book, The Conscience of a Liberal and Yo Lo Tengo on Thursday at the Palace of Fine Arts Theater.

*Gore has been a massive disappointment, but this has been the trend in fantasy thus far for this season; the top running backs (LT, Alexander, Gore, Larry Johnson) have underperformed. If you could re-draft today, Willie Parker and Joseph Addai would have to be in the top 5 picks, right?

**On the flip side, this has been the year of the wide receiver in fantasy. I got Edwards in one league in the 5th round and in another league I got him much later. He's proven to be the most productive and consistent player on my team. I got a combined 50+ points of my wideouts last weekend...that is what you would expect out of a couple of good runners, not receivers. As always, fantasy football is a very fickle mistress.

Friday, October 26, 2007


Minus three hours and counting...Mr. Springsteen & The E Street Band in Oakland.

To get ready, "Born to Run":

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


You would have at least thought we could have gotten past Halloween before this ghost of holidays past showed up.

The only thing one can say is...

Just Because You Say It Doesn't Make It True

It's kind of crazy that media types just don't laugh in the faces of politicians who continue to assert that cutting taxes raises revenues. They should laugh in their faces because tax cuts, do not, in fact, raise revenues. James Surowiecki tries to kill this undead nonsense for good:
This supply-side orthodoxy is striking in a couple of ways. First, it requires Republican politicians to commit themselves publicly to a position that is wrong—and wrong not as a matter of ideology or faith but as a matter of fact. Saying today that tax cuts will increase tax revenues is not like saying that bombing Iran constitutes a sensible foreign policy, or that education vouchers will wreck the public schools. It's more like saying that the best way to treat sick people is to bleed them to let out the evil spirits. Second, despite the fact that the supply-side faith has no grounding in reality, within the Republican Party there is little room for dissent on the subject, as Jonathan Chait details in his new book, The Big Con. Last week, the blogger Megan McArdle wrote that she had a book review for an unnamed right-wing publication spiked because in it she dared suggest that, in the U.S., tax cuts decreased government revenues.

Read the whole thing.

Monday, October 22, 2007

First Crack at a Book Review

My review of Deer Hunting With Jesus...enjoy!

The American South is the most romanticized, most vilified, and perhaps most misunderstood region of the country. Home to both Faulkner and Falbus, known for its hospitality and also its resistance to change, the south has been a source of fascination and frustration to those who have observed its ways from afar but have never walked the long and dusty miles down its many roads. This is especially true of liberals, if the prevailing stereotypes (that of coastal dwelling, academic elites) of them are to be believed. Ever since George W. Bush twice captured the White House with unfailing support in the southeast states, liberals have been racking their brains trying to understand just who the "typical" southern voter is and what motivates him. Some Democratic activists argue, like the political scientist Thomas Schaller does in his book, Whistling Past Dixie, that Democrats need to write off the South as lost to the Republican party for the immediate future, and focus their attention on building a new governing coalition out of the Mid- and Southwest. Race and religion, Schaller argues, make the south uniquely hostile to the message Democrats would bring to the table and so they should forgo wasting time and resources in a region that they have no chance of realistically winning anytime soon.

But is it wise, even with high bars to clear to become competitive, for Democrats to completely cede the South to the Republicans?

Progressive author Joe Bageant, a native son of Winchester, Virginia, who lived in California for thirty years before returning to his hometown to take stock of how much the landscape changed, attempts to address that question by demystifying "the South" (which, contrary to popular belief, is not monolithic) in Deer Hunting With Jesus. Part populist polemic, part social and cultural history, Deer Hunting With Jesus serves as a profane, yet tender and timely guided tour of this seemingly inscrutable region. The book, which is more a collection of essays rather than a singular overarching narrative, provides some much needed, plain-spoken insight into the motivations of a voting block that might be more in play than the conventional wisdom acknowledges.

If there are easy stereotypes used to identify liberals, there are equally facile ways to pigeonhole conservatives and Bageant's writing is concerned with the iconography of rednecks, "red state" God and gun loving men (and women) who pass their time when not sitting in the pews by watching NASCAR races and drinking Budweiser on their couches in twice mortgaged double wide trailers. In Bageant's world, however, these are not stereotypes at all, but rather "his people", real live folks who go by names like Dot, Dink and Pootie. They spend their evenings on the bar stools at Winchester's Royal Lunch after they've pulled twelve hour shifts at the local Rubbermaid plant. Their concerns mirror those of a lot Americans in these perilous times: figuring out how to pay for prohibitively expensive health care, dealing with evaporating job security and rising inequality in an increasingly globalized economy and harboring fears about America's role in this rapidly changing world.

But Bageant feels like these sincere and pious (yet pliant) people have been sold a bill of goods by the conservative movement and its effective message machine. He surveys the scene and determines that things don't have to be this way. Sounding very much like a righteous man of the people, Bageant declares that these average Joe's, "are purposefully held in bondage by a local network of moneyed families, bankers, developers, lawyers and businesspeople in whose interests it is to have a cheap, unquestioning, and compliant labor force paying high rents and big medical bills." The populism in his sentiment is unmistakable and it echoes similar remarks from Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards and Jim Webb, the freshman Democratic senator from Virginia.

From Bageant's perspective, his family and friends are conservatives not because of any conscious decision to be so, but rather because the challenges of their daily lives cause them to be ignorant of the outside world and the larger forces at play. To combat the complacency he sees, he pleads for liberals to make their case on the back of a push for education (while noting the difficulty of the challenge):

"It's going to be a tough fight for progressives. We are going to have to pick up this piece of roadkill with our bare hands. We are going to have to explain everything about progressivism to the people at the Royal Lunch because their working-poor lives have always been successfully contained in cultural ghettos such as Winchester by a combination of God rhetoric, money, cronyism, and the corporate state. It will take a huge effort, because they understand being approximately poor and definitely uneducated and in many respects accept it as their lot. Right down to being sneered at by the Social Security lady. Malcolm X has it straight when he said the first step in revolution is massive education of the people. Without education nothing can change."

But merely pushing for education won’t change the situation entirely and Bageant knows this. Liberals have to be able to enact economic policies that will ease the burdens many of these blue collar families face as well as win the image battle with Republicans and make a real effort to meet the denizens of small town, working class America on their own terms where they live. It's a tall order for certain, but it is one that has to be filled to keep the promise of the American dream a reality.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Cell Phone Manners

Like many people, I am constantly amazed at the lack of decency and manners in our society today and, for all of the good they can do, cell phones are a major contributor to our current state of affairs. So I heartily endorse this list of manners put forth by C|Net. Of that list, the transgressions that infuriate me on a regular basis are people who leave their ringers on during a movie (vibrate, people...or better still, turn it off; you're in the theater to indulge in some escapism, right? So escape for God's sake), people who talk on their cell phones at the gym (seriously? I don't normally harbor ill will towards anyone, but I'm not going to say I won't chuckle at the idiot was falls on their ass while talking and running on the treadmill), and talking on the phone while at dinner (I used to be bad about this one myself, but I now make it a point to turn off my phone during meals or I leave it on vibrate and simply excuse myself if I am expecting something that I have to respond to in a timely fashion).

And, oh yeah...dude with the bluetooth headphone look like a deranged Trekkie who's gone 'round the bend talking out loud to nobody in particular. STOP.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

I Got Published!

Sort response to an e-mail over at Andrew Sullivan's place got posted. Check it out here.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Esquire Tells Me to Eat

Esquire's November 2007 issue contains its listing of the best new restaurants in America, and I see two of their selections are in my fair city. I'd not heard of Cafe Majestic in the Majestic Hotel, but it looks promising. However, I have heard of LarkCreekSteak and I've been skeptical of a steakhouse in a shopping center becoming a destination dining spot, but there you go. Even the local food elites
have given it their blessing, so I think it's time to give it a chance.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Two Posts to Highlight

Yesterday's Paul Krugman column in the New York Times that shows (yet again) that the presidency of George W. Bush is exactly what modern conservatism should expect its standard bearer to look like (complete with a nifty reference at the end to this song...who knew economists were so hip?)

Ezra Klein, still on his righteous anger kick, blasting the Right for their beyond the pale (and frankly, creepy) attacks on a family that appeared in a commercial support the SCHIP legislation that Bush vetoed.

My First Crack at a Restaurant Review

This is the review I did for the online magazine writing class I'm currently taking...comments welcome!

Fresca is a well lit and intimate (if slightly cramped) space tucked nicely into a stylish block of Fillmore Street. This outpost is actually one of three in a local chain specializing in the tastes of Peru and the crowd on the Wednesday night we visited consisted of young couples out on mid-week dates and small groups of professionals having a casual, post work meal. We waited outside in the cool evening air for a bit before our table was ready and we were slightly put off by how hot the restaurant was before we were seated. Thankfully, the service and quality of the meal more than made up for the mild discomfort due to the heat.

Shortly before our meal, my dining companion and I were having libations at Harry's Bar and were told by some friends that we happened across there that we should definitely try one of the generous preparations of ceviche on the menu. And so we did, but after starting with the Camarones Chicama, coconut crusted prawns, served over a black bean salad with mango cream. The prawns were exceptionally large and the coconut flavor was rich, but not overpowering. The black beans proved to be a nice, if unconventional, accompaniment to the prawns and the half pitcher of the very smooth home made sangria worked very well with all the dishes we sampled.

Now, back to the ceviche. Our selection, the ceviche chino, seemed to have a vague Asian influence and contained ahi tuna, a yuzy-soy dressing, guacamole and wonton chips served in lettuce cups. Eating the ceviche was not unlike having a spicy tuna roll, albeit a crunchy one due to the presence of the wonton chips. The tuna was slightly spicy, the guacamole fresh and its lighter consistency provided a nice change of pace from the heavier prawns and our much heavier entrée.

The Churrasco "A Lo Pobre", grilled ribeye steak served on a bed of French fries, caramelized shitake mushrooms, plantains, pickled onions and topped with a fried egg proved to be a formidable main course. The ribeye, which we requested medium rare, was expertly prepared and had a great, grilled flavor and the egg was nice and runny. The other parts of the dish seemed to get lost in the shuffle a bit, blending together in a mush on the plate.

Dessert was a mini-chocolate cake with a mango sorbet. It was a nice cap to what was, on the whole, a very tasty introduction to Peruvian cuisine.

2114 Fillmore Street
San Francisco, CA
Cuisine: Peruvian
(415) 447-2668

Sunday, October 07, 2007

This Is Why Americans Hate Political Journalism

I certainly hope that my fellow citizens aren't casting their votes for president based on what a particular candidate wears on his or her lapel.

This is a joke of the worst sort because it's reported on as though it's a serious matter in the paper of record. This is just like the John Edwards haircut flap and the recent stories about Hillary Clinton's "cackle".

These are just not real issues and it is infuriating that this is what passes as "serious" journalism these days. No wonder Americans are indifferent to most of our political reporting...matters of true national significance are ignored and trivial issues are reported on breathlessly with the media heard acting like Hollywood paparazzi.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

A New SNL Digital Short


And here's some back story from the Times.

This is How You Blog!

Ezra Klein ate his Wheaties or something this morning because he empties both barrels in response to Roger Cohen's op-ed in the New York Times today.

Read it. Read it. Read it. Just a withering take down.

A Death in the Family

I'm not quite sure how he was able to write such an elegant piece considering his involvement in this story, but do read Christopher Hitchens' essay about coming to terms with the fact that his pro-war writings, in part, spurred a promising young American to enlist for the war in Iraq...where he subsequently was killed by an improvised explosive device. Heartbreaking, but worthy of your consideration.

"A Death in the Family"

Several Items of Note

In no particular order:

  • Not that this is news, but Ann Coulter said something idiotic again, this time in regards to women having the right to vote, saying that:
    If we took away women’s right to vote, we’d never have to worry about another Democrat president. It’s kind of a pipe dream, it’s a personal fantasy of mine, but I don’t think it’s going to happen. And it is a good way of making the point that women are voting so stupidly, at least single women.

    Let's not forget...Coulter is a member in good standing with the Republican Party. I think the Democrats should try to get her censored like the Republicans did with MoveOn's "General Betrayus" ad...actually, I don't, but just know that this offense will get about one tenth of the coverage of the MoveOn kerfluffle.

  • Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) is retiring from the Senate due to health reasons. I hope that he is able to recover from what sounds like a pretty awful disease.

    But, and I know this seems heartless at the moment, there are political considerations to examine and one is that it would make perfect sense for Bill Richardson to kill his presidential aspirations in favor of running for Domenici's seat. If he were to get it, and the Democrats were able to get wins next year in Virginia (Mark Warner), Minnesota (Al Franken), and Nebraska (Bob Kerrey)...well, assuming the Democrats lost no seats, they'd be getting really close to the veto proof 60 votes.

  • Big article in today's New York Times
    about how the Bush Administration said one thing on torture...but continued to do quite another. Andrew Sullivan summons up some righteous indignation here (going so far as to call Bush a "war criminal").

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

S.F. Restaurants Get Local

Seeing as I'm almost done with Michael Pollan's informative, eye-opening and thoroughly engrossing, The Omnivore's Dilemma, I found this post from the San Francisco Chronicle's food critic, Michael Bauer, about local restaurants that take a hand in growing their own ingredients pretty interesting.

As Atrois Might Say...

..."Your liberal media...still not liberal."

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Stopping the Maddness

Eugene Robinson offers a clear eyed corrective to all the "woe is me" stories floating around on the eve of the publication of Clarence Thomas' forthcoming autobiography, My Grandfather's Son.

Friday, September 28, 2007

iPod Shuffle Play Picks a Gem

"Most of the Time" by Bob Dylan. A tremendous song, made all the better by its inclusion in one of my favorite movies, High Fidelity.

"Most of the Time"

Most of the time
I'm clear focused all around,
Most of the time
I can keep both feet on the ground,
I can follow the path, I can read the signs,
Stay right with it, when the road unwinds,
I can handle whatever I stumble upon,
I don't even notice she's gone,
Most of the time.

Most of the time
It's well understood,
Most of the time
I wouldn't change it if I could,
I can't make it all match up, I can hold my own,
I can deal with the situation right down to the bone,
I can survive, I can endure
And I don't even think about her
Most of the time.

Most of the time
My head is on straight,
Most of the time
I'm strong enough not to hate.
I don't build up illusion 'till it makes me sick,
I ain't afraid of confusion no matter how thick
I can smile in the face of mankind.
Don't even remember what her lips felt like on mine
Most of the time.

Most of the time
She ain't even in my mind,
I wouldn't know her if I saw her
She's that far behind.
Most of the time
I can't even be sure
If she was ever with me
Or if I was with her.

Most of the time
I'm halfway content,
Most of the time
I know exactly where I went,
I don't cheat on myself, I don't run and hide,
Hide from the feelings, that are buried inside,
I don't compromised and I don't pretend,
I don't even care if I ever see her again
Most of the time.

A Rare Friday Night Post

And on politics, no less...

So, I've not commented on it, but the pundit class seems eager to anoint Hillary and ready to pen the epitaphs for the rest of the candidates in the Democratic presidential race.

Andrew Sullivan wonders, though, which other candidate is able to turn out a crowd (possibly 20,000 or more) a year before the election?

The typical rejoinder is that events like this, spectacles in their own right, with wide cross sections of the population (check the comments at this post from the Caucus blog here for observations from event attendees) aren't doing anything to move Obama's poll numbers. Like Sullivan, I think what people don't get is that this DOES mean something. The "conventional wisdom" thinks that this groundswell won't turn into votes, but I'm not so sure. This is a change election in a lot of ways. I'll go on record now and say that, absent some 9/11 level event, the Democrats will probably win the White House. Having said that, Matt Yglesias makes a point about Hillary (and her inner circle) that I think a lot of people are overlooking:

One of the things that worries me about the prospect of Mark Penn once again becoming king of the political hill is that his approach to politics seems antithetical to this concept of mass engagement. Instead, it's a model where you break the population down into the smallest possible groups, and assemble a winning coalition of stitched-together wedges of people each engaged through their own micro-initiative. That's not all there is to Hillary Clinton or to the broader case of Clinton-style centrism. Indeed, it's quite different from (in some ways the reverse of) the initial critique of interest-group liberalism with which the DLC launched itself. And in the best moments of her campaign -- the health care plan, the day care plan -- Clinton has completely gone beyond the inane politics of "are archery moms the new soccer moms?" but all that's been in no small part responsive to the new new politics of John Edwards, Andy Stern, and Barack Obama.

I think that a lot of people, in reality, don't WANT the kind of politics that Hillary represents anymore. It's clear that, despite her negatives, Hillary also has some very strong factors in her favor (name recognition, a history of being a competent senator from an important state, and that guy named Bill) that are adding to her invincibility myth. But, to me, this ignores the fact that people are tired of combative, polarized politics, which is exactly what Hillary's election would ensure. Obama's campaign is stirring something in young people that we as a nation need to be able to harness to shape a better future.

Update: Oliver Willis touches on the importance of the youth vote to Obama's campaign.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

In Short

My friends are incredibly bad ass.

GQ Follows a Trendsetter; Pimps Music That I Like

I'm kidding (mostly) about being a trend setter, but in "The Essentials" column in October's GQ, they give a favorable nod to one of my favorite under the radar artists, Richard Hawley. I've been a big fan of his since randomly deciding to listen to "Cole's Corner" at the now closed (R.I.P.) Tower Records in North Beach almost two Christmas' ago. It's a majestic, sweeping and throughly retro album, made for rainy nights in dark bars.

He has a new record about to drop and I can't wait to pick it up. That it's coming out in fall is pretty much perfect.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

From the "Are You Kidding Me?" Department

A "White House official" (unnamed, of course) calls Barack Obama, "intellectually lazy".

What's funny here is that the current president has repeatedly shown himself to be the most incurious and intellectually lazy man to ever hold the office.

But, yes...calling a magna cum laude Harvard graduate, who also happened to be president of the Harvard Law Review "intellectually lazy" makes a lot of sense.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Note to Forbes: Ask Real, Live People to Confirm Your Survey Results

A month or so ago, I blogged about Forbes magazine naming San Francisco as the best city in America for singles. I sent that out to a bunch of my single friends here in the city and the article was roundly (and predictably) mocked. The question many of us posed as the time was, "Did they actually ASK anyone who lives here about this"?

Well, the call has been answered! Yesterday's San Francisco Chronicle has a piece up about the Forbes survey and the reactions to it by S.F. residents. Needless to say, the views of the people interviewed in the Chron's story jive with the experiences of a lot of the folks in my social circle.

I hate to reference my own work, but I'll link again to my piece of a few years ago on this topic. I think it aligns fairly well with what's in the Chronicle article.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Falafel Bill Leaves Me (Virtually) Speechless

During the September 19 edition of his nationally syndicated radio program, discussing his recent trip to have dinner with Rev. Al Sharpton at Sylvia's, a famous restaurant in Harlem, Bill O'Reilly reported that he "had a great time, and all the people up there are tremendously respectful," adding: "I couldn't get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia's restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City. I mean, it was exactly the same, even though it's run by blacks, primarily black patronship." Later, during a discussion with National Public Radio senior correspondent and Fox News contributor Juan Williams about the effect of rap on culture, O'Reilly asserted: "There wasn't one person in Sylvia's who was screaming, 'M-Fer, I want more iced tea.' You know, I mean, everybody was -- it was like going into an Italian restaurant in an all-white suburb in the sense of people were sitting there, and they were ordering and having fun. And there wasn't any kind of craziness at all."

Are you kidding me?!? Why does this man get beamed into the homes of millions of Americans on a nightly basis? It boggles the mind.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Brother, Please

I can't explain the recent uptick in race related topics here, but just bear with me...I'm sure this theme will run its course soon enough.

But since I'm still in the groove, I need to highlight this idiocy from Jesse Jackson.

After a speaking arrangement at the historically black Benedict College in South Carolina on Tuesday, Jesse Jackson commented that Barack Obama was "acting white" in his response to the (under reported) case of the so-called "Jena Six", a group of black high school students in Jena, Louisiana who are charged with aggravated second-degree battery and conspiracy for beating a white classmate in the wake of several racially charged incidents at the school.

Per the usual, we have to define what "acting white" means in a situation like this. Is Obama "acting white" because he's not down there arm in arm with Al Sharpton? Is he "acting white" because he's not spending every waking minute talking about this situation?

Look, the situation in Jena sounds terrible for a variety of reasons and it's sad to think that we've got high schools in this country were the black and white students barely acknowledge each other, much less socialize. Still, though, I'm not really sure what it is Jesse wants here. Obama is running for president and if he wades too deeply into this, he's going to be accused of being a race pimp or lord knows what else. Obama is already walking a fine line, so he can't afford to alienate white suburban voters by becoming Jesse, part II. For better or for worse, Obama does need to comment on this, but he can't be consumed by it.

And as to Mr. Jackson, I'll let another black blogger, the estimable Oliver Willis, take it away with his post on the subject.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

PB & J, You Say?

Yes, please. Off to see Peter, Bjorn & John (for the second time this year) at the Warfield shortly. Should be a good time. But first...Olive's for pizza and beer.

To get in the spirit:

Monday, September 17, 2007

Sean Taylor + LarRon Landry = Pain

Skins are 2-0, and while it wasn't pretty, a early road win for this team in the NFC East is huge. Taylor and Landry just pasted the Eagles wideouts tonight. However, it's something of a Pyhrric victory for the Skins as we lost Randy Thomas with a tricep injury. Jason Fabini, Thomas' replacement, was awful (two false start penalties in the red zone in the same drive). On the upside, though, Jason Campbell looked great (if only he'd not overthrown Moss late!), Portis and Betts ran hard, and Cooley is money.

But a win is a win is a win. Bring on the reeling Giants next week!


I should note that I am the happy owner of two tickets to see the Boss & The E Street Band at Oracle Areana in Oakland in late October.

Last time I saw Bruce was in '03 was at Pac Bell and it was phenomenal. I'm not sure how psyched I am about it being an indoors, but in any case, I'm going to see one of the best live shows in the music business. I have nothing to complain about.

On Student Loans

Michael Kinsley demolishes the so called "student loan industry". An excellent look at an instance where government is actually saving the consumer money and competitive private industry is actually anything but.

More here from Rick Perlstein.

Should Democrats Forget About White Male Voters?

"Yes", says Tom Schaller, an associate professor of political science at the University of Maryland at Baltimore County. Schaller has long since argued that Democrats can make strong electoral gains without pandering to what has been, for almost a generation, the backbone of the Republican majority. Schaller points out that the changing demographics of the country tend to trend in favor of the Democrats:
But the underlying reason may be demographics. In 1952, according to calculations performed by Emory University political scientist Alan Abramowitz for Salon, white males were nearly half the American electorate. Thanks to the recent growth in the Latino population, however, the white male share is now dropping about a percentage point a year, accelerating a decline that began with the increased enfranchisement of African-Americans in the civil rights era. In next year's election, white males may account for fewer than one out of three voters. Bubba is no longer a kingmaker.

This is not a new argument and it has been advanced at length by John Judis of The New Republic Ruy Teixeria of the Center of American Progress made in their 2002 book, The Emerging Democratic Majority.

Digging further into the matter, Schaller also points out that the dominance of the African American vote by Democrats has effectively neutralized the white male vote in the Republican party:
Yet centrist Democrats continue to urge the party to find new ways to lure white male voters back into the fold. Bill Galston, former domestic policy advisor to Bill Clinton and one of Washington's sharpest analysts, is a proponent of a Democratic reinvestment in white male voters. "Today, white males form about 39 percent of the electorate," Galston wrote in Blueprint, the monthly magazine of the Democratic Leadership Council, in the summer following the 2000 election. "The Republican margin of 20 to 25 percentage points among white males thus translates into an edge of between 8 percent and 10 percent of the entire electorate. By comparison, African-Americans form 10 percent of the electorate, and the Democrats' 80-point margin in this group translates into an eight-percent edge in the electorate as a whole. Republican strength among white men more than offsets Democrats' dominance of the African-American vote."

That's one way to look at it. But Galston's own math reveals an obvious alternative view, namely, that Democrats are able to neutralize their white male voter problem with votes from African-Americans -- even though the latter group is only about one-third the size of the former. While Galston was right in 2000 about the "more than offsets" effect of white male votes relative to black votes, by 2004 the share of all votes cast by white men had shrunk by 3 percent while the share cast by African-American voters has increased by 2 percent; today, the black vote fully compensates for the Democrats' deficit among white men.

Schaller goes on to note that if African Americans continue to vote as they have and inroads are made with white women and other minorities (especially Latinos), that Democrats can forgo their efforts at attracting southern white males. And, in the end, that might be a good thing, because Democrats would more than likely be wasting their efforts:
So should Democrats really be all that worried about Bubba? After snubbing him during primary season, should they revert to form during the general election, and begin their familiar, unrequited quest for his affections? Republican pollster Whit Ayres has a clear preference. "I would dearly love for the Democrats to spend millions of dollars trying to persuade NASCAR fans to vote for the Democrats," Ayres chirped last summer. "They tend to be disproportionately southern, disproportionately white and disproportionately male, which pretty well defines the core of the Republican Party." In other words, it's a waste of time and resources for the Democrats to pursue them -- a classic sucker's bet.

I'm slightly convinced by this line of thinking. I don't think it makes sense to totally forget about southern white males, but, at the same time, I'm not sure what kind of outreach would persuade that particular cohort to come back into the Democratic fold. The scenario I envision would include some continual combination of our awful policies in Iraq (rural whites are carrying a heavy load in our armed services at the moment) and the Democrats perhaps getting some kind of universal health care plan passed, coupled with a real effort at reducing our foreign debt/dependency on oil. Even then, I'm not sure it would pry them loose, mostly because of the yawning gap on social issues, but it's still interesting food for thought.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Numbers Game

In the course of discussing the "subversive crotchgrab in menswear" maneuver in the new Ciara video (featuring Reggie Bush), Matt Yglesias goes on to make an interesting point about the dating pool:

Unfortunately for Ciara, though, a healthy share of the responsibility for the behavior she deplores seems to have deeper structural roots in the high rate of incarceration and low life expectancy of African-American men combined with the persistence of substantial social pressures against inter-racial dating. Note that "nationwide the Census Bureau calculates that among single non-Hispanic whites in their 20's, there are 120 men for every 100 women. The comparable figures are 153 Hispanic men, 132 Asian men and 92 black men for every 100 single women in their 20's of the same race or ethnicity." Insofar as people date intra-racially, that means African-Americans are facing a very different climate from whites, Asians, or Latinos.

There's a lot of directions this can go from here. First off, speaking from personal experience, I agree 100% that a black male or female living in a major American city (with the off the top of my head exceptions of New York, D.C., Atlanta, Houston, L.A., and probably the San Francisco Bay Area) will have a tougher time finding a mate of the same race than almost any other group. If you add in education levels, it gets even harder. College educated blacks are still fairly rare in America (salient fact from the link: In 2005, only 17% of African Americans over the age of 25 had at least a B.A.). Even in the cities I mentioned, it's just very simply a different thing to date as a black man. Few groups carry the social stigmas that black men do, from being violent (we're all angry!) at one end, to being sexual studs (Mandingo, anyone?) on the other. However, for as bad as black men have it, black women have it much worse (see this link for more). There are simply less black men for them to choose from and black men, for reasons I can't really explain, have been able to cross over, if you will, into dating people of other races more easily than black women have (NOTE: it's still not easy, it's just easier). For black women, this further depletes what was, at the outset, a fairly small pool of potential mates to begin with.

This is oversimplified, to be sure, but this strikes me a simple question of, for lack of a better way of putting it, choice. If you are a black man or woman (or a member of another minority group, for that matter) in a city where there are not a lot of people who look like you, you have a few avenues to explore. One is to make a dedicated effort to frequent places where you can meet people who look, sound, and act like you. The other readily available choice is to broaden the scope of people you would date.

Some people might take offense at that last statement, but I think that all depends on your view of people. If you are honestly of the belief that only a person of your race could make you happy, then there's not much I can offer. However, if you're willing to believe that there's more than one potential mate out there for you, and that the factors and circumstances under which you could fall in love with someone depends on a myriad of factors (which may or may not even include race), then I think you have to take the broadly inclusive view of things and make an effort to explore your potential interests, whatever they may be, and let the chips fall where they may. It's often been said you can't control who you fall in love with and I think that's true. Finding a soul mate is hard enough, so limiting yourself by skin color, to me, is a way of closing yourself off to the potential of an amazing experience. Variety is indeed the spice of life.


A new study by a team of economist entitled, "Conspicuous Consumption and Race", declares that:

...Blacks and Hispanics devote larger shares of their expenditure bundles to visible goods (clothing, jewelry, and cars) than do comparable Whites. We demonstrate that these differences exist among virtually all sub-populations, that they are relatively constant over time, and that they are economically large.

The study's conclusions spurred responses from Andrew Sullivan (here
), a rejoinder from Ann Althouse (here
), which spawned a trying to make sense of it all post from Tom McGuire (here).

The above responses are all off to me and it's pretty clear why; here we have three, highly educated and fairly well to do white people (who have good intentions, I suspect) trying to diagnose a pathos that they clearly have little real world experience with. This is not to dismiss them, it's simply to say that I don't think Sullivan (who has written for several of the most prominent political magazines in the United States and who studied at Oxford and Harvard) and Althouse, who went to Michigan, NYU Law, and is a professor of law at the University of Wisconsin, have a lot in common with the people they are writing about in these posts.

Why do blacks (and hispanics) spend more money on fashion, jewelery, cars and the like that do "comparable whites" (there's an ambiguous term)? From where I sit it's pretty clearly a mixture of several things. One is the marketing of the American dream; that is to say, we live in a culture that values and promotes luxury and celebrity and the accumulation of material goods. We see this almost everywhere we look. What's the hot status symbol of the moment? Answer: a $600 (well, $499) cell phone. Countless magazines and blogs exist simply to relay to us, the unwashed masses, the every move of the rich and famous. Even our president, in the wake of 9/11, told us to go out and keep spending. We are almost hard wired to lust after the top of the line, the newest, biggest, and baddest toys available.

Take that mentality and then apply it to black Americans, in particular poor black Americans, for whom the overarching expression of the above way of thinking is seen in rap videos. It's a case of people who have nothing finally "getting theirs" and showing it off for everyone to see. Women, ice, name it, the more, the better. It's pageantry, for lack of a better word. It goes without saying that there's not a huge premium on building life savings in the ghetto. Rates of incarceration and premature violent death are especially high for black males and so that breeds a kind of live fast and live hard mindset (why do you think so many young black rappers idolize Tony Montana, the iconic central character in the cult favorite "Scarface")? That story is a (violently) romanticized version of a story so many of those young men want to live; coming from nothing and from nowhere to become the master of all they survey.

So, in short, the study simply points to something a lot of people could have told you without having to do a study; poor people who don't know any better waste their money on visible flashy goods because they don't understand the concepts of wealth creation and savings. This is something that is is pretty evident but also fairly hard to fix.

Friday, September 14, 2007

15 Second Restaurant Review: Dosa

I went to Dosa in the Mission on Wednesday night after volunteering with One Brick at the offices of At The Crossroads (both organizations worthy of your time, by the way).

Dosa was jumping with lots of people milling about outside in the nice evening air on Valencia Street while they waited for seating. Somewhat surprisingly, we only had to wait 15 minutes for a table. The space is attractive, if a bit cramped, done up in deep oranges and browns. There's some interesting Indian artwork adorning the walls.

I am not very adventurous when it comes to Indian food, but I can say that I would absolutely recommend everything I ordered to anyone going there (and would have most of what I had again).

I started with the Chennai Chicken, followed by the Chatni Masala, the Lentil Chicken Curry and, for dessert, the Gulab Jamoon. Check the link above for better descriptions of everything. Definitely a cool experience and great exposure to some tasty South Indian fare.

What's For Dinner?

Well, last night's dinner consisted of steak tacos, constructed using this recipe from Esquire.

I have to was both pretty easy and pretty tasty. I did not make the guac or the homemade salsa (opting for no guac and used Trader Joe's mild salsa, instead) and the lime creama was very...lime tasting (I didn't have enough sour cream), but the seasoning for the meat was very good and the cook time was only six minutes.

A very worthy meal that I will definitely make again.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Ringtone Madness!

I don't want to sound like a snob, but I've never really gotten the idea of having a song as a ring tone on my cell. It just seems obnoxious to me. But to each his own. It's mindless fun and generally doesn't hurt anyone (except for innocent bystanders who happen to be unexpectedly bombarded at high levels by "Umbrealla" when some jackass won't silence their ringer).

However, David Pogue of the New York Times sees a more sinister scheme at work, perpetrated by the music industry. I find his rationale convincing.

And, no, I'm not bitter because my sister made her ringtone for me the main theme from, "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly".

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A Note to E-vite

Your new redesign is fucking awful.

Musical Obsessions of the Moment

UCLA songstress Sara Bareilles who's first album, "Little Voice", has been a breakout hit. Here's a clip of her performing "Gravity" in San Francisco.

Loudon Wainwrights "Strange Weirdos: Music from and Inspired by the Film Knocked Up" is amazing. Who would have thought that one of the summer's most crude and uproarious comedies could have produced a suite of songs this deep and meditative? The songs are autumnal and introspective, dealing with the ins and outs of love. The review is here. It's a perfect album for the fall.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Chaos Hawks

There are far too many excellent posts about the surge hearings for me to recommend, but I will push upon you, all of my three readers, this spot on post by Kevin Drum on those he has deemed the "chaos hawks". An excerpt:

I think it's worthwhile for proponents of withdrawal to be honest about the likely aftermath of pulling out: an intensified civil war that will take the lives of tens of thousands and end in the installation, at least in the short-term, of an Iran-friendly theocracy. This is obviously not a happy outcome, but neither is it the catastrophe the Chaos Hawks peddle. The alternative is to babysit the civil war with American troops, spilling blood and treasure along the way, without truly affecting the course of events in any substantial measure.

Politically, this is the key battleground now. As long as the Chaos Hawks are able to panic the public into believing that withdrawal will result in a Middle East in flames and ten dollar gasoline at home, no Congress will have the backbone to defund the war and force a pullout. This means that it's time for more sensible regional professionals to screw up their courage and tell the truth: pulling out won't be pretty, but if it's done prudently neither will it be Armageddon. The sooner we figure this out, the sooner we can leave Iraq.

As the kewl kidz say, read the whole thing.