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.


Of course, there's so much one could say, but, yet, it's really hard to say anything at all that would come close to approximating how we all felt that day. Was it really 6 years ago? It has been odd to me to look at the papers today and not see the expected feature stories about those who were lost that day, or the op-ed's trying to make some sense of the senseless.

Rather than go on, I will simply say that we should never forget and we should always strive to honor our mourned dead.

Monday, September 10, 2007

A Biological Reason for "Stay the Course"?

Interesting new study that shows that liberals tend to be more adaptable to new stimuli than conservatives.

So, maybe Bush can blame nature for his awful policies.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Movie Review: No End In Sight

Took in Charles Ferguson's Iraq documentary, No End In Sight, last evening and it is devastating and depressing. Well, even more than depressing it's fantastically frustrating. Frustrating because it is apparent that many of the principal players involved with formulating the justifications for the war (Vice President Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz, former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy ) or those tasked with leading the war effort (former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld) or the rebuilding of Iraq (Coalition Provisional Authority head L. Paul "Jerry" Bremer) were so certain of the righteousness of their plans that they disregarded area experts, our own military commanders, and Iraqis in positions of power who were sympathetic to our cause.

Rumsfeld comes in for the most abuse, perhaps justifiably. His smack down of Gen Eric Shinseki for suggesting that we would need something on the order of "several hundred thousand troops" to pacify Iraq looks foolish in retrospect (it was in fact foolish at the time as well). Repeatedly, Rumsfeld looks like a man who had not in any way given thought to what a post Saddam Iraq would look like. He blithely dismissed the looting that presaged the general breakdown in Iraqi civil society by infamously saying that, "stuff happens".

Oddly enough, President Bush is largely absent from the movie. Apparently, Bush felt that all he needed to do was delegate down the chain and things would take care of themselves. I don't know if that leads to a more or less damning view of the man, but it is food for thought.

The most sympathetic figures in the movie are the lifers in the foreign service (Amb. Barbara Bodine, who was in charge of Baghdad for the U.S. Occupation) and several of the career military men (in particular Gen. Jay Garner, who was the head of the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, or OHRA and Col. Paul Hughes, who was Director of Strategic Policy for the U.S. Occupation in 2003). Bodine was placed in impossible circumstances, finding her staff placed in office spaces that had been looted and lacking such basics as telephones to having her directives for security placement around prominent cultural institutions ignored (her team had wanted the national archives and library given top priority; no security teams were dispatched to those institutions, which were subsequently robbed of their treasures).

Garner and Hughes, on the other hand, were kneecapped almost immediately by Bremer once he was in country. As has been noted elsewhere, Bremer's two most fateful decisions were to purge all former Baath party members from positions of authority and to disband the Iraqi army; those two decisions, in my mind, actually helped form the basis of what is now the insurgency in Iraq. The combination of removing all the senior civil servants in the country and sending many hundreds of thousands of professional soldiers into the ranks of the unemployed with no means for recourse was just too combustible.

In any case, I would recommend the film to anyone who wants to understand why we are where we are in Iraq. The movie closes with U.S. Marine Lt. Seth Moulton saying, "Is this the best America can do? It makes you angry". Indeed, it does make you angry and it makes you want to desperately find a way to answer Lt. Moulton's question with some kind of positive formulation. But, the tragedy of our war in Iraq is that there may be no resolution with which anyone could be satisfied.

Why All the Fancy Vodka?

One commenter basically makes the point that, "It's the marketing, stupid" and I think that's right. I, for one, have never been able to tell the difference between Grey Goose and Stoli, or between Absolut and Skyy. But being that vodka is not my drink of choice, perhaps I'm not the best judge on the subject.