Archive for February, 2008

Intermission
February 29, 2008

No posting over the weekend, because I’m going to be down at UCONN visiting friends.

There oughta be a law
February 28, 2008

Those telecom companies are a bunch of jerks. Republicans fight so, so hard to get them off the hook for enabling the Bush administration’s incursion into your civil liberties, and what gratitude do these corporations show them? None!

Those telecom companies are lucky that the fate of the world rests on making sure they’re immune from prosecution. Because if the Republicans didn’t have such clearly noble intentions, then this might very well be enough to make them give up the fight.

Medvedevadinejad?
February 28, 2008

It’s kind of hilarious that neither of the Democratic candidates know anything about the new boss in Russia, but not in a “Wow, presidential candidate George W. Bush has no idea who General Musharraf is” kind of way. No, the reason why it’s hilarious is because it’s the closest either Obama or Clinton will get to say, “Who gives a crap?”

Putin’s going to be the Prime Minister. Medvedev is just the Kermit to his Jim Henson.

The definition of russertarded
February 27, 2008

To clarify: It’s an adjective generally applied to questions or lines of inquiry that are meant to sound tough but are in fact mind-bogglingly stupid.

Usually such questions include an unreasonable focus on obscure past statements the person being asked has made, a demand for consistency over accuracy, ridiculous hypotheticals, demands for the person to denounce something completely irrelevant, and gratuitous references to how totally awesome the interviewer is.

For example, a russertarded question that fits into all of those categories is:

“Senator Obama, you recently said that Omar is your favorite character on The Wire, but an anonymous high-level informant has suggested that your favorite character in the second season was Stringer Bell. My question is in three parts: One, which is your favorite character, two, are you willing to disassociate yourself from Stringer Bell’s alleged hand in the murder of Wallace, and three, if you were president of the United States and Omar challenged you to a fight, would you be able to take him?”

UPDATE: Oops. I just realized that the above question doesn’t have a gratuitous reference to the inherent awesomness of the interview. Here’s the way that question should read, with the added text in bold:

“Senator Obama, you recently said that Omar is your favorite character on The Wire, but an anonymous high-level informant has suggested that your favorite character in the second season was Stringer Bell. My question is in three parts: One, which is your favorite character, two, are you willing to disassociate yourself from Stringer Bell’s alleged hand in the murder of Wallace, and three, if you were president of the United States and Omar challenged you to a fight, would you be able to take him? I’m a highly paid network journalist who is able to rub elbows with other equally important people, yet never forget my working-class, all-American blue-collar roots and heroically speak truth to power. Yay me.

Major Changes
February 27, 2008

No, nothing particularly major is happening. I just can’t keep away from annoying puns in my titles. See, I’m thinking of switching my major. Major = major. Get it?!!! LOL

Right now I’m a Politics major, which seemed to make sense because, as you may have noticed, I’m interested in politics. I did American Politics because I figured that would be all about American history and the eccentricities of the American political system and what not, but as it turns out, instead we’re focusing on game theory and lovely models like the median voter theorem, which, while neat and all, has practically no relation to reality. And when that gets pointed out in recitation, the TA’s response was, “True, but it’s the best analytical model we have right now.”

What seems to trip everyone up is that maybe this implies a problem with overreliance on analytical models. Like, say I’ve got a cracked vase. I decide I’m going to fix that vase with a hammer. This has the adverse reaction of causing the vase to get more broken. So I say, “Huh. I guess I need a more expensive hammer, but until I get the money for that I’m just going to keep using this one.” Not once is there any recognition that the hammer is one tool in a larger toolbox. So right now I’m thinking maybe History is the thing in the toolbox best suited to me. Maybe philosophy. Either way, it looks like Matt, Matt and Ezra were right all along.

Onto other things. You may or may not remember that gratuitous cuddlefest between me, Matt, Dylan and Mike a while back. Well I’ve been looking at some of the other blogs they recommended there, and I realized it’s time to update my blogroll. So, new blogs on the blogroll:

Brian Beutler, Soberish, and Pax American are all good blogs that I discovered because of that, so in they go.

I know I just spent a bunch of time trashing analytical political science, but my point wasn’t that it’s useless, only that it’s usefulness is limited. I still think it’s somewhat interesting, and the Monkey Cage is a great blog for looking at things from an analytical perspective.

Political Cartel beat me out as one of the finalists for this blogging scholarship I applied for, and with good reason – it’s really, really, good. Add it to the cool kid’s club of ridiculously precocious bloggers who don’t yet have college degrees, a list that includes all of the people from the aforementioned gratuitous cuddlefest.

Also, via former TPM-er Spencer Ackerman, I see that one of my former bosses over there, Rachel Weiner, recently started her own blog.

One last thing: this blog post needs some obligatory current events-related snark. Unfortunately, that’s hard, because I didn’t watch the debate tonight. How was it? All the accounts I’ve heard seem to indicate that the questions were sublimely, almost transcendentally, Russertarded.*

*Not to pat myself on the back or anything, but I’m really pleased I came up with that word. I’m probably going to start using it a lot now.

Maybe he should have put that on his résumé
February 26, 2008

Despite Glenn Greenwald’s criticisms of John King, it’s worth noting that it’s not unusual for network journalists to have no idea what the hell they’re talking about, so I think the larger point here is that we should thank John King for at least having the honesty to come out and say, “Look people, I’m paid to have a nice voice and great hair. I know absolutely nothing about anything. Please mute the television and admire the fantastic work my stylist did a few minutes ago.”

Think about it. This country would be a lot better off if Wolf Blitzer were to precede every dispatch with the disclaimer: “My chief qualifications for this job are being literate enough to read a teleprompter and having a beard that makes me look more authoritative. So please turn the television off.”

I mean, if you’re about to get brain surgery, do you want your totally unqualified surgeon to keep his mouth shut and just try his best or say: “Actually, I didn’t go to medical school. I just scanned my old middle school diploma and Photoshopped it. You want to go get a real doctor? Because if not, I’m still totally willing to give this thing a shot. You don’t mind if I eat this sandwich while I work, do you?”

Seven quick and easy steps to securing your party’s nomination
February 26, 2008

Step 1: I AM TEH INEVITABLORZ

Step 2: Lose a bunch of primaries. Not just a couple. A bunch.

Step 3: It’s okay, ’cause only Ohio and Texas count!

Step 4: Uh-oh.

Step 5: Texas doesn’t count anymore.

Step 6: ???

Step 7: Profit!

The first law of evil robots
February 26, 2008

Just when you think it’s over, they RISE FROM THE DEAD!!!

How this could happen: McCain actually realizes that maybe the FEC stuff is serious, he doesn’t want to go to jail, and he can’t go completely dark until September. Mittens steps in, starts writing more checks from Tagg’s bank account, and puts McCain in for VP as part of the deal.

I’m weeping with joy just imagining the possibilities. But what the odds Mittmentum II: Judgment Day ever coming to fruition? If you asked me that question the day after that Times article that concerned itself with McCain’s lobbyist ties and where he was [allegedly] firing his maverick rocket came out, I would have said “roughly equal to the odds of the new Knight Rider being really terrible.” After all, it doesn’t matter whether or not it’s true; it’s been insinuated in a mainstream publication! And even if it wasn’t true, McCain was doing favors for lobbyists! And the Republican Party thinks monogamy is the best thing ever! Yessir, McCain was as screwed as a corporate lobbyist (rimshot).

Except a few funny things happened:
1.) By burying all the important stuff about McCain’s lobbyist ties deep into an article primarily concerned with high school gossip and the extremely unpleasant image of US Senator gettin’ it on, the New York Times was able to shove serious ethical concerns to the sidelines.
2.) The Republican elite decided that invasive probes into the sex lives of prominent politicians were only okay when the subject’s last name rhymed with that of Michael Clayton co-star Tilda Swinton.
3.) Despite McCain’s pathological phobia of truthful statements, the press continues to have a love for him as deep and forbidden as that of [allegedly] a corporate lobbyist.

So it looks like the Straighttalk Express is still doing okay, pending further developments. Short of the FEC suddenly returning full-force, getting mad, turning big and green and breaking McCain’s campaign in half, I don’t see much hope for the Mittmeister.

The Magical Mystery Tour, Summer ‘09
February 25, 2008

I was having brunch the other day with JuanWay Tour passengers Max, Ali and Peter (Max goes to college in the city, while Ali and Peter were up visiting from CT for the weekend) and we were bouncing around ideas for the tour. The tour, for those who haven’t read about it here before and are too lazy to click on the link, is the brainchild of one John Pags, who has purchased a school bus and will be spending the next year or so ripping out all of the seats, converting it to run on biodiesel, repainting the exterior and planting grass on the roof. The newly refurbished roadtripmobile is then going to take a bunch of us across the country during summer 2009.

This idea’s been gestating in John’s head since 2005, and within a year and a half or so, it’s actually going to happen. The four of us at brunch the other day were certifiably giddy. Not just for the tour, but for the other projects that might spin off of the tour. This, after all, isn’t any ordinary road trip.

Our potential to-do list for the tour:

1.) Bring a video camera, document the whole thing, cut it into a feature-length documentary and start sending it out to festivals
2.) Take notes on the whole thing and then write a heavily fictionalized account
3.) Blog the whole trip (You’ll notice I just made a new category for all things JuanWay, plus there’s also the official blog.
4.) There are at least three guitar players coming on the trip, plus Ali plays bass and has a bunch of auxiliary percussion. Michael Franti wrote his best album while touring Israel and Palestine. You can see where this is headed.
5.) Read The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test.

The most ridiculously ambitious thing on the list is, of course, the trip itself. The word “epic” got tossed around a lot yesterday. Sounds about right.

Damn right, it’s better than y’all’s
February 25, 2008

Apparently the Academy Awards are going on tonight. I’m not watching because I’m studying for a physics midterm and, frankly, that sounds slightly less painful than watching four-plus hours of Hollywood vigorously circle jerking, even with Jon Stewart as the MC. Word on the street is that in a just world, There Will Be Blood should win in every single category, including several that it hasn’t been nominated for, and a few more that don’t exist. I haven’t seen it yet, but that sounds about right to me, and I can’t wait to see it.

In the meantime, the Academy should get on making a category for best one-liner. The winner this year, of course, would have been …

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