Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Worst MUNI line

I tried to write something about this a few months back, but SFist is on the case. They are accepting submissions for worst MUNI bus line through this your civic duty and write in. My votes: the 30 (too packed and there's always too many of them around when all you really want is a 41 or a 45), the 22 (same issues as the 30), and the J (simply not available at any time whatsoever).

Punctuation matters

Josh Marshall on Joe Biden's Obama quote.

And, your

Matt Yglesias and Josh Marshall address the underlying importance of George W. Bush's "mistaken" utterance of "Democrat Party" (as opposed to "Democratic Party") in the State of the Union address last week. Most people would probably overlook such a thing (especially given this president's repeated mangling of the English language) but, as Greg Sargent points out, this isn't the first time Bush has done this sort of thing.

So, why does this matter? It matters because it quite simply shows a lack of respect from the Republican Party in regards to their political opponents. The simply think they can push people around, much like the high school bully. I'm going to quote Matt's post at length here because it's on point:

The key charge against liberals is that we're weak. Weak on Communism. Weak on crime. Weak on terrorism. Weak-minded, soft-hearted, weak, weak, weak. Well, what's the key sign of weakness: a person who won't stand up for themselves.

To call someone by something other than the name he wishes to be called by is rude. To make a mistake is forgivable, but to persist -- deliberately -- in declining to use your adversary's proper name is rude and insulting. It's not a big deal unless you take standing up for yourself to be a big deal. When Democrats go on TV and let a conservative get away with the phrase "Democrat Party" it's signaling that Democrats are weak. They're too weak to stand up for themselves. They're too weak to have a sense of group solidarity or party loyalty. They're inclined to let things slide. They don't want to make a scene. They don't like to have a fight. They're weak. Is a political party that can't even protect its own name really going to keep America safe?

What's more, it establishes the conservative media as a truth-free zone. Presumably, if CNN cared about accuracy it would not employ people are regular commentators who can't correctly name America's older and larger political party. Nor would ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, C-SPAN, NPR or any other media outlet. Yes, yes it would initially seem petty and bizarre of all these outlets to insist that people either name the party correctly or else not appear. But the fact that this would seem petty and bizarre is the point: "Democratic" is the correct word and this isn't an obscure point. That everyone lets conservatives say "Democrat" over and over again is part of establishing mainstream acceptance of the idea that the conservative media operates in an accuracy free zone. They're propagandists and that's okay by the MSM -- no need to get things right!

That last bit is especially important in regards to the bogus story from last week in which Insight magazine (owned by the very conservative Washington Times) asserted that Barack Obama had attended a Muslim religious school, or madrassa, as a child growing up in Indonesia. CNN thoroughly punched holes in the story and Obama's office issued a forceful press release denouncing the story. What's more, Obama now seems to be "freezing out" FOX News (who also ran with the Insight story).

Obama's forceful push back against FOX, like Jim Webb's exchange at the White House with President Bush, shows that Democrats aren't going to stand idly by and allow themselves to be smeared or belittled by the White House or the media. Standing up and fighting is the way to put these people in their place.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Black like me?

No, I'm not talking about this, but rather this interesting piece from the Sunday Styles section in today's New York Times. The piece, titled "Truly Indie Fans", deals with the growing sub-culture of black kids drawn to indie rock music. It's an interesting read for a number of reasons, some of which I can identify with. As I write this, I'm listening to my latest musical obsession, a band out of Austin named Voxtrot. I think it would be safe to classify them as an indie act, and a random sampling of my most recent iTunes downloads (Josh Ritter, Cold War Kids, Great Lake Swimmers, minus the two Ghostface Killah songs) would probably classify me as a "blipster", sans the fascination with skateboarding. I also do not own cool glasses, like the guys from TV on the Radio.

I think the real issue touched on in the article is about what is deemed as "acceptable" by the black community in terms of self-expression. To me, this also ties into the long running debate about whether or not black children who attempt to do well in the classroom are acting "white". There's a weird kind of pathos at work that says it is ok for black children to act like thugs and gangsters (which, of course, perpetuates long standing stereotypes), but frowns upon academic advancement or forms of expression that don't adhere to some arbitrary definition of "blackness". Rock, after all, has its roots in black music (yes, I picked that link off of a post from Yglesias), so blacks playing rock shouldn't be considered odd, but, due to the way music is marketed in this country, all black rock bands like Living Colour, majority black rock bands like the aforementioned TV on the Radio*, and rock bands with black lead singers like Bloc Party are considered to be anomalies.

So, having said all that, what to do about it? Frankly, I don't know. Other than continuing to push the now banal sounding idea that embracing diversity can help open doors, break down barriers, and promote understanding, I'm not sure what else can be done as a practical matter. Music, ultimately, is based on deeply personal preferences and it would be ridiculous to expect everyone to like the same thing. For now, I suppose I would consider it progress if a black kid who decided to go to a Killers show didn't get funny looks from the crowd at the concert...or the kids in his neighborhood when he got home.

(*It should be noted that TV on the Radio is the type of band that is hard to get into, regardless of your musical leanings. The music is dense and challenging, and sometimes seems to meander into weird places that might be be understood with the aid of potent, controlled substances).

Monday, January 29, 2007

John McCain vs...himself

I suspect this little 3 minute clip from new website The Real McCain will be making the rounds on the Hill today.

This will certainly leave a mark.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Movie review: Children of Men

Spoilers below

Just got back from a matinée showing...personally, I enjoyed it. I share Matt's reservations about the trustworthiness of the vaguely explained "Human Project", and, as has been noted in many places, why the human race can no longer reproduce is ever explained, but, aside from a few sections, the film moved along at a good pace and the extended single shot hand-cam action scene toward the movie's end is fantastic (I especially like the reactions to the child by the soldiers). The dystopian England shown throughout the movie is convincing and the brutal and repressive imprisonment of illegal immigrants in the movie would probably make Tom Tancredo quite happy.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

30 second new bar review

Made it out to the newest Vintage 415 venture, The Ambassador, this past weekend. Located right across the street from Rye in the increasingly jumping Union Square area, the bar at first looks like a complete knock off of Mr. Smith's: high ceilings, nice lights fixtures, open air second deck. To help give the place its own personality, there are large, black leather booths located along the wall opposite the bar that have old rotary style phones built in to them (presumably so you can call and flirt with other tables). The music was mostly hip hop, spun by a slightly nebbish looking hipster with glasses who looked as if he were being swallowed by the large, canary yellow sweater he was sporting (further sartorial aside: the d.j. also wore a plaid tie and had his baseball hat turned to the these days). The drinks were expensive ($6-$9 range for call liquor) and were a little on the weak side. There's table service at the booths (with decidedly New York prices), but all in all I would recommend checking it out. I never got a chance to scope out the second floor, so further investigation will be needed.

Look who's crying now

Shorter G.O.P.: "Wahhhhh!"

Slightly longer G.O.P: "It's not hypocritical of us in the least to complain about Democrats giving us the same treatment we gave them."

Bonus mindless pundit forecast!
It will basically go something like this: "The Democrats are bad, very bad, for not only pushing through legislation they promised on the campaign trail (that also garnered support from Republicans in Congress and the backing of a majority of Americans) but they are also bad because they're not helping the nation heal after a divisive election season."

This, of course, is ridiculous. Currently, Democrats are riding a wave of public support and there's no need to stop pushing their agenda now. I fully suspect that the House leadership will eventually allow Republicans to offer competing bills and to contribute to the debate on issues, but all this whining over 100 hours (after 12 YEARS of nasty, partisan politics) is really rather sad. Time to reap what you've sown, G.O.P.

Also, Atrios has more (riffing off a post by Matt Yglesias):
What Yglesias says, and then even one more thing. Unlike a couple of months ago, the Democrats control Congress. They have no reason to try to take Bush proposals and make them better, because they get to actually put their own proposals up for a vote. Republicans not named Bush also don't have any particular reason to support Bush proposals, unless they like them, so there's just not much reason to really care what Bush thinks about health care, immigration, or any other potential areas where Congress might be passing laws. Given the nature of the Senate, they do have to worry about pleasing some Republicans, but not ones named Bush.

Sure there's that veto thing, but Bush's ability to block good legislation is no reason to support bad legislation.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Bridging the Divide

It has been rather satisfying to see both liberals and conservatives alike demolishing Hoover Institute fellow Dinesh D'Souza's new (and offensively titled) book, The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and its Responsibility for 9/11.

It seems that all we need to close the blue state/red state gap are more ill-conceived, incendiary screeds from D'Souza and others like him.


Matt Yelesias touches on an oft-overlooked point:
No matter who it is the Democrats nominate, that person is going to wind up mocked as obviously the wrong the choice; obviously just an absurd person who absurd primary voters picked over dozens of more appealing choices.

The "liberal" media (read: people like Joe Klein) and the conservative pundit class (George Will, Jonah Goldberg, Ann Coulter, Charles Krauthammer, etc.) will begin their scorched earth policy now, claiming that John Edwards is just a trial lawyer with a pretty face, that Barack Obama is a crazy liberal light on experience, and that Hillary is just...Hillary.

Apparently, the only way to be considered "serious" on certain issues is to advocate policies that are seen as deeply flawed by the vast majority of the American public.

Lovie and Tony going to the Big One

Yes, this angle will be driven into the ground over the next two weeks (and after), but congrats to both Lovie Smith and Tony Dungy, the first African-American head coaches to reach the Super Bowl.

At least he didn't say "Read my lips..."

Your health care plan might be getting taxed if Dubba has his way.

Ah, good times.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

What does "Victory in Iraq" mean?

I, for one, would like to know. I don't know that I've ever seen an objective with more moving goal posts.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Good Tee Vee

Things are certainly looking up, what with Jack back and Heroes also making its return next week. However, I would be remiss if I didn't highlight the kick-off of the second half of Battlestar Galactica's third season. The Sci-Fi network is running an all day marathon today and I just so happened to come in as they were airing "Unfinished Business", which, in my humble opinion, is not only one of the best episodes of the series, but also one of the better pieces of tv that I've seen in the last year.

The episode is built around a boxing tournament but is intercut with flashbacks to the occupation on New Caprica that give each bout more emotional heft. Adama allowing himself to be beaten to a pulp by the chief would have been almost enough on its own, but the final bout with Lee and Kara and all of their considerable emotional baggage is fantastic, simply because it captures how powerful and destructive desire can be if left unchecked.

People who write the show off as simply science fiction are missing one of the better shows in recent tv history. One of the major plot lines of the early part of this season dealt with the remaining human population (aka "insurgents" in the view of the Cylons) resorting to suicide bombing to strike back at their oppressors. Surely this subject matter is influenced by recent world events, but by tweaking the situation just a little (by making us identify with the humans, the audience, in a sense, comes to view the bombings as necessary) it challenges the viewer to consider the idea of terrorism in a way they might not have before.

It's a morally ambiguous show for morally ambiguous times, but it's all the better for it.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Andrew Sullivan finds shovel, digs hole

Andrew Sullivan performs some slight of hand, casting former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson as a liberal.

This tired act has played itself out countless times on the Right over the past few years. A dyed in the wool conservative, such as Gerson, has his core beliefs shaken by watching how Bush has corrupted the philosophy that governs his worldview, questions the movement that he committed his life to, and then gets branded a heretic for daring to re-examine his views.

This is especially ironic coming from Sullivan, since he's also been commenting on how other conservatives have been bashing Rod Dreher for his recent come to Jesus moment.

I understand Sullivan (and others like him) wanting to protect ideas that they have spent the bulk of their adult life advancing, but this "you're a conservative...until you're not" sort of character assassination is truly mind-numbing to watch.

All hail Chuck Hagel

The Republican senator from Nebraska puts the Last Honest Man in his place.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Reality & Economics

Econ has never been my strong suit, but I did find that a lot of this article made sense to me.

One of my big problems with hard core conservatives and libertarians is their almost religious faith in the idea that free markets will ALWAYS provide the best outcome. This idea typically relies on the assumption that all people are rational actors and, as such, conduct themselves in a way that maximies their own utility. However, simple observation shows us that a lot of people don't always act in accordance to their own interests. The linked article above delves into some of that and, so, it strikes me as a more pratical way to deal with several pressing economic issues.

Monday, January 08, 2007

An escalation by any other name

Feel the surge!

On a serious note...besides The Last Honest Man and St. John, nobody really thinks this is a good idea, except for (should be now) discredited apparatchiks such as Bill Kristol and Fred Kagan.

Bush is going to use the bully pulpit to sell the "surge" on Wednesday night. Pelosi has said that the Dems will not blindly fund the escalation.

The op-ed pages of the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal are going to make for some great reading on Thursday morning.

Pundit Idiocy Watch

For some time now, the esteemed Matt Taibbi has been taking apart some of the banal pronouncements that come flowing from the keyboards of America's self-congratulatory pundit class. In the wake of last week's execution of Saddam Hussein, Taibbi checks in on the work of Mr. "The World is Flat", Tom Friedman, and finds his commentary lacking.

Monday, January 01, 2007

The Rose Bowl

Just home from the Grandaddy...sadly, it wasn't the best game as USC throttled Michigan. The game day experience, however, was incredible. The passion of the fans was fantastic and the tailgating was top-shelf (my condolences to the University of Michigan business school students who had to arrive at 4 a.m. today to hold their plots).

As to the game itself, it was a defensive struggle throughout the first thirty minutes, but, as is usually the case with USC, they came out with an adjusted game plan from the half (throw the ball to all everything wideout Dwayne Jarrett) and marched to a convincing win.

The number one complaint I heard throughout the game in the Michigan student section was that the playcalling on both sides of the ball was boring and predictable. I have to agree. The Trojans keyed on shutting down Big Blue's star tailback, Mike Hart, and in doing so they were able to prevent the Wolverines from using play action to spring their receivers free. On defense, Booty had FAR too long to make his reads and he simply could wait for his guys to come open. Michigan also defended (and I use that term loosely) the slant worse than any college team I've seen for awhile (save one, and it pained me to link to that).

All in all, though, it was a hell of a time and it's an experience I'd love to have again one day. And I did get a cool t-shirt out of the whole deal as well, so I have that going for me.