Tuesday, July 31, 2007

So I actually rather liked the Democrats' YouTube debate and am disappointed that Republicans are bolting for the door to avoid the format. For anyone who is interested, I posted about this earlier in the week on my Wausau Daily Herald blog... Generic link here...

When 'I don't recall' means 'yes'

Monday, July 30, 2007

So easy a caveman could figure out what the show's about

ABC's buzzworthy Fall series "Cavemen" stirs the racial pot. And as with a lot of things these days, it appears they do so without even trying.

This makes me want to talk to my therapist.

UPDATE: I posted this item before I saw Rob's post below. So what do you think? Is the television establishment racist, or do journalists look too hard for racism?

Sunday, July 29, 2007

The Emmys are straight-up racist

Look, at this point it would be bigger news if the The Wire were nominated for an Emmy. Every season the show gets snubbed and critics write pieces like this or this or this , which are themselves basically reruns of older stories like this or this or this. The Sopranos gets 15 nominations, The Wire gets zero, this is the world we live in.

So there's no need to spend a lot of words on Emmy's cluelessness about the show. But I do have a question. Is there any explanation for this that makes sense besides simple racism?

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Wait, does this mean George W. Bush temporarily assumed the powers of the president this weekend?

Friday, July 27, 2007

Friday history-of-cats blogging

Science Magazine:
The lineage that includes the domestic cat as well as several wild relatives originated much earlier than previously thought, more than 100,000 years ago. Furthermore, it seems that domestication occurred in the Near East in the region of the Fertile Crescent, and not in Africa.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Did the Brookses _really_ converge?

(a gentlemanly response to the recent post of my formidable colleague)

One Brooks tells us there is no inequality problem, and the other Brooks acknowledges growing inequality and tells us it’s no big deal.

Of course there’s plenty wrong with the presidential candidates’ rhetoric on these and all things. But what about the underlying issue?

Arthur says: Did you know “millions and millions of Americans climb out of the ranks of poverty every year”?

Their newfound ability to earn more than $10,210 per year is truly a testament to our current economic miracle.

Arthur says: Did you know a colossal “one fifth of the lower quintile will climb to a higher quintile within a year and one half will rise within a decade”?

This clearly debunks the insidious liberal myth that nobody ever earns more money than they presently earn. But have you seen the quintiles lately? The lowest quintile includes the 23.4 million Americans (including their dependents) who earn less than $17,579. One-fifth will earn more? It’s morning in America indeed.

Arthur says: Did you know the middle quintiles actually got much richer between 1993 and 2003?

If you insist, Arthur, I'll have to agree that Clinton presided over the most pants-moistening expansion of the economy in modern history betwixt albeit loathsome extramarital fellatios. But what about between 2003 and now? According to the non-partisan and uniformly-respected State of Working America report:

  • In 2003, the bottom 90% of Americans lost 1.9 percent in income while the wealthiest .01 percent of Americans saw incomes blossom by 10.4%. In 2004, the bottom 90% gained 1.4 percent while the top .01 percent gained 27.5% of their already unspeakable fortunes.

  • "For 2006...it is estimated that 84.2% of all capital income will have been received by the upper fifth, with 55.3% received by the top 1% and 36.6% by the top 0.1% alone. In contrast, 3.6% of such income is held by middle-income families. This income landscape implies that fast growth for capital income will disproportionately benefit the best-off income groups."

  • In short, I contend that Arthur is not to be trusted on this matter. Furthermore, I am aghast that Democrats have suggested taxing these poor, poor creatures at a higher rate.

    David says: average wages keep rising!

    But of course that has nothing to do with equality whatsoever. Averages are averages. He wants us to know that the lowest quintile, those who currently earn less than $17,579, increased their earnings by 80% from 1991 to 2005. Bill Clinton et al accept your praise.

    Finally, David says: the wealthiest among us often “work like dogs while those down the income scale have seen their leisure time increase by a phenomenal 14 hours a week.”

    Ah, the ol’ “they’re all lazy down there” argument. If the dirt poor would only work instead of vacationing wherever those people vacation (Reno, perhaps?).

    Arthur and David would like us to know that people claim to be happier today than they did thirty years ago. That’s nice, but there are very real, very well-documented issues with inequality that carry much more weight than arguments about self-perceptions of happiness; higher (non-rich) mortality rates, lower (non-rich) graduation rates, higher (non-rich) rates of health decline, and higher rates of crime (for both) to name a few.

    It’s here, it’s a problem and we ought to be talking about it.

    What kind of economy is The Simpsons?

    Economics professor and blogger Joshua Hall is quoted extensively in an article focused exclusively on the economics of Springfield. From the Financial Times (Germany):
    "the city of some 30’720 citizens owns 88 restaurants and bars. Based on the US average data, this would mean that at least 1’150 Springfielders earn their living in kitchens or behind bar counters. Addi-tionally, there are 23 hotels, which sta-tistically would mean another 700 jobs....

    'The quality of the local school system seems poor,' he analyses. There are higher education institutions, but they also show questionable qualities. Spingfield A&M College was founded by a cow, for example."

    Two Brooks converge

    Two recent columns touch on the wave of populist progressivism. You know the arguments in favor of a more progressive public policy. Here are two reasons to doubt them:

    David Brooks, "A Reality Based Economy," New York Times, July 24, 2007. (Non-gated summary here).

    Arthur Brooks, "The Left's 'Inequality' Obsession," The Wall Street Journal, July 19, 2007.

    [Bonus: For the nerdiest among us, Linda Hirshman's recent essay in The New Republic, "Liberals' Misplaced Love of John Rawls."]

    More Trapped in the Closet

    Oh man this is going to be great:
    The new round of "Trapped" videos finds Kelly portraying an old man named Randolph, complete with a pot belly and a fake white beard that nearly falls off mid-scene, as well as a preacher in a gray Jheri-curl wig and garish orange suit. In one of the final chapters, Kelly's Sylvester character talks business with a "Sopranos"-esque mobster who is eating a giant plate of spaghetti.
    Why oh why can't it be Aug. 21 today?

    Thanks Natalya for the tip!

    Wednesday, July 25, 2007

    Kiwi humor

    I don't know if Flight of the Conchords is really "Seinfeld for hipsters" like Garance Franke-Ruta thinks, but it is dead hilarious. The flat-affect New Zealand humor is brilliant, and besides being hilarious the songs are actually very good as songs. (This is a firm requirement of successful parody songs.) I have been humming "If You're Into It" all day, including as I got off the elevator, and the old lady who lives in the room next to me was standing there smoking a cigarette out the window. I hushed up quick but I think she heard me:


    And what the hell, here is another favorite, "Inner City Pressure":

    "The manager, Bevin, starts to abuse me/ Hey man I just want some Mueslix."

    Go here, there are more!

    Tuesday, July 24, 2007

    The Cheney Presidency: A Retrospective


    Thanks to the Haahnster for the tip. (I don't have cable [or internet at home] until August, so I miss these things.)

    Two questions in search of the same answer


    1. From last Wednesday in the WaPo: "Economists see aid to poor nations as ineffective"
    "We find little evidence of a robust positive correlation between aid and growth," wrote Raghuram Rajan, who stepped down as IMF chief economist at the end of 2006, and Arvind Subramanian, who left the IMF this year, said.

    "We find little evidence that aid works better in better policy or institutional environments, or that certain kinds of aid work better than others," they added.
    2. From yesterday on the Freakonomics blog: A Freakonomics Quorum: How to Save the African Rhino? (This marks "the inaugural Freakonomics quorum" in which they "decided to put the question to a set of diverse, smart people we know or tracked down, who might have particular insights to this particular problem.") A reader asks:
    We are raising funds and there is internal debate on whether we spend the money in a corrupt, economically distressed country like Zimbabwe, where rhinos are under severe poaching threat, or Botswana, a neighbouring stable, well-run, minimally corrupt country where poaching stresses are less high. Are there any tools we can use to make the decision as to which would ultimately protect more rhinos?
    An economist member of the quroum begins:

    But where is the incremental impact of an aid dollar greater: Corrupt but very needy Zimbabwe, or relatively clean but comfortably well-off Botswana? This is a question that development economists ask not just about rhinos, but development aid generally, and different economists reach very different conclusions. One view is that the incremental benefit of a mere penny of aid money is greater to a poor Zimbabwean earning less than a dollar a day than a dollar would be for his relatively rich neighbor in Botswana.

    So even if 98 percent of assistance is stolen, we’re still better off channeling our aid dollars to Zimbabwe. Most academic economists would take issue with this view: by continuing to channel resources into corrupt countries, not only are we failing to maximize the impact of our aid dollars; we may even be encouraging the continuation of corrupt regimes, who see no punishment for bad behavior. The idea of rewarding good behavior is motivation for the U.S. government’s Millennium Challenge Account, which gives aid money to poor countries that meet certain conditions of government honesty and functionality.

    Sunday, July 22, 2007

    Brits have more fun

    The British get all the cool free stuff. They can watch the first episode of the Wire online, they get copies of the new Prince CD given to them in their Sunday newspapers... And we're the ones paying David Beckham a bajillion dollars to not play soccer...

    Friday, July 20, 2007

    what are you doing saturday?

    If you answered "assuming the powers of president," congratulations: you're Dick Cheney.

    I for one welcome our new Leader and happily volunteer to recruit thousands of slaves to labor in His underground sugar mines.

    Patrick Fitzgerald for AG

    Via TPM, this Bloomberg article has James Comey, John Ashcroft's former deputy attorney general, saying that Patrick Fitzgerald "would make a spectacular attorney general." It's a great idea. He would make a spectacular attorney general, and he would help to mend the integrity and reputation of DOJ.

    See also, the article's parting shot from a Columbia law prof and former colleague of Fitzgerald's, how Chicago is a "target-rich environment." Boy is it ever...

    Thursday, July 19, 2007

    I said good day


    ...


    ...



    (1) In the elevator, (2) Stuck to my refrigerator, (3) On the second floor
    Will Harry Potter survive? People in Wausau are of the strong opinion that he absolutely will not die in his climactic showdown with Voldemort. No word on what they said about Tony Soprano.

    Wednesday, July 18, 2007

    More FEC Database Fun!

    What's that you say? There's no actors in Hollywood who are Republican? Well, no good ones anyway:

  • Lorenzo Lamas gave $500 to the NRSC

  • Jerry Doyle of TV's Babylon 5 gave $1000 to Dubya

  • Jamie Farr of M*A*S*H gave $250 to the RNC

  • Bob Hope gave $15000 to the RNC

  • Edward Kerr of SeaQuest DSV gave $1000 to Dubya

  • Victor Mature of Samson & Delilah and "Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood" gave $1000 to Dubya

  • famed character actor Dabney Coleman gave $500 to George Allen

  • Ben Stein gave enough to feed Guam for a year, including $500 to the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth"

  • Alexandra Warren of Bad Boys II gave $500 to the NRSC


  • Also of note:


  • Some genius down at the FEC entered Barbara Streisand's last name "STRELSAND"

  • Ed Asner ($450) and Robert Beltran of Star Trek Voyager ($1000) gave to sinister cult leader Lyndon LaRouche!
  • Timbaland: I want to work with Celine Dion

    At least that's what M.I.A. says he told her:
    But by the time that our paths met, Timbaland had already been Timbaland and done all the cool weird shit. He's sampled babies and cows and things, and I was making tracks sampling chickens. And he was like, "I'm done being cool; I want to work with Celine Dion." And I was like, "So you just want to make Titanic?" And he's like, "Yeah, that's what I want to do."

    Giuliani as Nixon's second coming?

    President Bush's former head speechwriter says the leading "Republican nominee is not Reagan's heir but Nixon's political twin." Both demonstrate "some loose ideological moorings," says Michael Gerson.

    My friend Dan's initial reaction: "If I were the intellectual alter-ego of George W. Bush, I think I’d avoid comparisons with Nixon, given the current president’s similar, awful domestic policy track record."

    Don't be jealous that I've been anouncing major league lineups all day

    Cubs pitcher Rich Hill does a pretty decent Kip Dynamite impression at the game.

    Tuesday, July 17, 2007

    The word you are looking for, is "tragicomic"

    Mugabe's price cuts bring cheap TVs today, new crisis tomorrow.
    Across the country, shoes, clothes, toiletries and different kinds of food were all swept from the shelves as a nation with the world's fastest shrinking economy gorged itself on one last spending spree.

    Congress amazes even a cynic like me sometimes

    I've been a huge fan of Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) for as many years as he's been in Congress. Sure he broke his term limit pledge, but I actually sided with him once I realized it's exactly more terms for guys like him that we need.

    But it's moments like this that both want me to entrench him into Hall of Fame for Awesomeness status, and chide him for not putting his talent to better use doing something else. Where are the Democrats on earmark reform, by the way? And lest you think I'm being strictly partisan, it's performances like that, and the utter antipathy from the R's in response, that ensure Flake will likely never rise into any kind of leadership position (or even become a ranking committee member).
    "We don't even know if the group receiving the appropriation exists!"
    It's really a shame.

    Monday, July 16, 2007

    Aid moves in mysterious ways

    Fighting poverty in Africa has become, rightly so, an impressive cause celebre. But the usual call to action involves more direct aid to the usual recipients. If only it were alright.

    Fortunately sanity, if less glamor, comes in the form of ex-World Bank grenade thrower William Easterly. He has turned himself into a one man think tank pointing out the flaws in the incumbent development regime, supported by many, championed by Bono. But Easterly's urgency isn't motivated by the prospect of rich countries and international agencies wasting money, per se -- if that were the only problem, urgency need not apply. The fatal flaw (and I don't use the word fatal heedlessly) is that direct aid is not always just unproductive, but counterproductive.

    But Easterly took a right turn with his latest op-ed in the LA Times. This time he takes dead aim at the notion that, wait for it, Africa is really all that bad off. Okay, his indelicateness notwithstanding, he means only to point out what actually is working and focus readers on the real problem. Take this graph:
    What percentage of the African population would you say dies in war every year? What share of male children, age 10 to 17, are child soldiers? How many Africans are afflicted by famine or died of AIDS last year or are living as refugees?

    In each case, the answer is one-half of 1% of the population or less. In some cases it's much less; for example, annual war deaths have averaged 1 out of every 10,800 Africans for the last four decades.
    His point is that the challenges of the Dark Continent are less mobilizing, but equally catastrophic. Africa, he contends, needs more in the way of clean water, roads, and international trade channels than they do peacekeepers. And of course, as an academic, he's afforded the luxury to be impolite about it. He doesn't get away without throwing some pot shots in at Bono naturally:
    Perhaps Bono was grouchy because his celebrity-laden "Red" campaign to promote Western brands to finance begging bowls for Africa has spent $100 million on marketing and generated sales of only $18 million.
    In the mean time, one could say Bono still hasn't found what he's looking for (I couldn't resist).

    what can we learn from hollywood's 2008 donations?

    among other things:
  • Pauly Shore likes Clinton; Paulie Walnuts likes Giuliani; world's Paulies contribute $1,000 at a time

  • Edwards' anti-salad dressing campaign backfires

  • Ben Stiller willing to break campaign finance laws to keep Obama out of office.

  • Mark Ruffalo is Mike Gravel fan, owner of brass balls
  • IHOP to buy Applebees, form Voltron of shitty restaurants...

    Sunday, July 15, 2007

    Peggy Noonan:
    It's been a slow week in a hot era. I found myself Thursday watching President Bush's news conference and thinking about what it is about him, real or perceived, that makes people who used to smile at the mention of his name now grit their teeth. I mean what it is apart from the huge and obvious issues on which they might disagree with him.

    I'm not referring to what used to be called Bush Derangement Syndrome. That phrase suggested that to passionately dislike the president was to be somewhat unhinged. No one thinks that anymore. [...]

    As I watched the news conference, it occurred to me that one of the things that might leave people feeling somewhat disoriented is the president's seemingly effortless high spirits. He's in a good mood. There was the usual teasing, the partly aggressive, partly joshing humor, the certitude. He doesn't seem to be suffering, which is jarring. Presidents in great enterprises that are going badly suffer: Lincoln, LBJ with his head in his hands. Why doesn't Mr. Bush? Every major domestic initiative of his second term has been ill thought through and ended in failure. His Iraq leadership has failed. His standing is lower than any previous president's since polling began. He's in a good mood. Discuss.

    Saturday, July 14, 2007

    Check us out

    The nearby village of Kronenwetter must pay the Wausau Daily Herald's legal fees, plus a fine, as a result of a recent open records lawsuit.

    Friday, July 13, 2007

    Barry for homecoming king

    The drama is high among Democratic Presidential hopefuls, who more closely resembled junior high cheerleaders backstabbing one another in televised slambooks this week.

    Edwards and Clinton were caught plotting against Kucinich (and Gravel, presumably?). From the LA Times:
    In an exchange captured on camera and open microphone by broadcasters after an NAACP forum in Detroit, Edwards approached Clinton onstage and whispered in her ear.

    "We should try to have a more serious and a smaller group," Edwards said, and Clinton agreed.

    "Our guys should talk," Clinton said, complaining the format had "trivialized" the discussion.
    And later on:
    In New Hampshire, Clinton seemed to lay responsibility on Edwards.

    "I think he has some ideas about what he'd like to do," she said, adding she liked participating in the forums.

    lylas, Obama!

    He's your problem now

    In the mold of those Chuck Norris facts you've seen on the internets, Yellow Dog Democrat posts some Rod Blagojevich facts over at Illinoize. My favorite:
    When Rod Blagojevich jumps in the water, Rod Blagojevich doesn't get wet. Water gets dishonest and incompetent.
    Sure glad he's not the governor of my state, that must be horrible.

    Where I'm calling from

    For those of you who aren't already regular readers of wausaudailyherald.com, I thought I'd post a few links to stories I've written in my first week on the job:

    "Downtown square's users divided on improvement plan," 7/13/07

    "Big, old maple trees fall to Fifth Ave. reconstruction," 7/12/07

    "Should fireworks crackdown continue?" 7/11/07

    Over the weekend I'll have a piece about a pro-immigration rally and one gauging reaction to Vatican statements about Catholic primacy. In the next couple of weeks they will set up a blog for me and I'll start interacting more with online readers. I'll definitely link to that blog here once it exists.

    Thursday, July 12, 2007

    The Way of the Samurai

    As described in Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai and put into practice by me last night:
    There is something to be learned from a rainstorm. When meeting with a sudden shower, you try not to get wet and run quickly along the road. But doing such things as passing under the eaves of houses, you still get wet. When you are resolved from the beginning, you will not be perplexed, though you still get the same soaking. This understanding extends to everything.

    Tuesday, July 10, 2007

    Apart-ment


    ...


    ...

    BREAKING: Attorney General Alberto Gonzales may have been less than forthcoming in testimony to Congress.

    Sunday, July 08, 2007

    Thursday, July 05, 2007

    I am moving to Wisconsin today

    My wife, the cats, and most of my stuff won't be moving for another few weeks. But today I go.

    So long, Chicago.

    Wednesday, July 04, 2007

    Best 4th ever

    Laura and I ate outside at Smoke Daddy on Division Street. Ribs, baby.

    Solves all Problems


    This post is about the future.
    Here's a video snippet from bloggingheads.tv that has Mark Schmitt explaining how Barack Obama is like the iPhone. Sounds silly, but take a look; Schmitt's analogy is actually pretty nuanced. It's all about the difference between the elite info-junkie-types and, well, everyone else.

    UPDATE [7/4 5:37pm] ... Looks like Eric Zorn was thinking the same thing. He adds that Hillary Clinton is like the Blackberry, and a commenter chimes in that John Edwards is like the RAZR. They may be getting carried away with the pols-to-phones analogies... Although actually all three of those sort of do make sense...

    Tuesday, July 03, 2007

    Angry comedians

    Today while packing boxes I listened to some radio, and one of the things I listened to was Patton Oswalt on Fresh Air. The subject turned to dealing with hecklers and Oswalt talked a little bit about Michael Richards's crazy racist tirade from last year. He also said it was also possible for a comedian to turn on an audience in a way that is actually funny and interesting. His example of this was a tour de force 15-minute-long rant by Bill Burr against the entire city of Philadelphia.

    So I went and watched the YouTubes of Burr, and the performance really is something to behold. Here is part one, here is part two. Beware, the language is quite graphic. But it is also kind of like a symphony of profanity, the superconcentrated hostility is remarkable.

    I'm not embedding the videos though. This is a family blog.
    Via Yglesias, the Cato Institute offers up some jail sentences that actually deserve to be commuted. As long as the president is in a commuting mood.

    Monday, July 02, 2007

    Wasting no time. Bush commutes Scooter Libby's prison sentence.

    UPDATE [7/2 8:01pm] ... Statement from Patrick Fitzgerald's office:
    We fully recognize that the Constitution provides that commutation decisions are a matter of presidential prerogative and we do not comment on the exercise of that prerogative.

    We comment only on the statement in which the President termed the sentence imposed by the judge as "excessive." The sentence in this case was imposed pursuant to the laws governing sentencings which occur every day throughout this country. In this case, an experienced federal judge considered extensive argument from the parties and then imposed a sentence consistent with the applicable laws. It is fundamental to the rule of law that all citizens stand before the bar of justice as equals. That principle guided the judge during both the trial and the sentencing.

    Although the President’s decision eliminates Mr. Libby’s sentence of imprisonment, Mr. Libby remains convicted by a jury of serious felonies, and we will continue to seek to preserve those convictions through the appeals process."
    Courtesy my friend Beth Davidz, a cool AP graphic breaks down the '06-'07 Supreme Court term.
    For hobbyists only: Barack Obama talks to Hot 97's Angie Martinez, says he has "a little Jay-Z" on his iPod. Hey, it beats Celine Dion...

    Sunday, July 01, 2007

    American Psycho is the opposite of the Great American Novel

    It is shallow, narrow, empty. You have got to be kidding, Julia Keller.

    Keller deflects criticism by claiming she's trying to start arguments with her readers. Mission accomplished! Bret Easton Ellis should not be on anyone's list of great anything. (Email her your outraged disagreement at jikeller@tribune.com.)

    I do agree with Keller that Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian is a contender. In my book so are Gatsby, Invisible Man, Huck Finn and Faulkner's Absalom! Absalom! Nabokov's Pale Fire is one of the great works of the 20th century, but I am not sure it does what you want a Great American Novel to do. I haven't read any Willa Cather, whose My Antonia Keller mentions, and I haven't read her 2003 pick, An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser, either.

    But that's neither here nor there! The Great American Novel is Moby Dick, period. Isn't it obvious?

    No? Please offer your own nominees and never-in-a-million-years choices, with Julia Keller and with me, too.

    But I thought this was a family blog

    Guess not.
    Online Dating
    I do however encourage children younger than 17 to sneak into AMillionMonkeys after buying tickets to, like, Cute Overload.