Friday, August 31, 2007

It's cynical all right, but that doesn't make it true

Michael Crowley at TNR blogs that the retirement announcement of increasingly anti-war GOP elder Sen. John Warner could be good news for Bush because:
A Warner seeking re-election and in need of Northern Virginia swing voters, if I may be cynical, would likely have been increasingly critical of the war. But now that he's freed from political calculations, I wouldn't be shocked to see him adopt a Bushian "forget-the-polls, what-matters-is-the-judgment-of-history" pose and start saying we need to tough it out in Iraq.
This is an odd way to look at it. It's true Virginia is trending Democratic, but why would being freed from political calculations necessarily make Warner more pro-war?

Isn't it at least as possible that Warner's ties to the GOP -- including the fundraisers and political machinery necessary for any reelection campaign -- caused him to hold back in his criticizing the war? Surely a 28-year Republican senator faced political pressures from the right, too, not just the left.

It's worth considering that Warner may actually believe the war is going badly. And doesn't being freed from political considerations mean, you know, being freed from political considerations?

P.S. ... There is another way I can imagine Warner's announcement helping Bush, and that is if it makes it easier for Bush and the media to write off Warner's war criticism. Instead of "respected elder statesman John Warner," he now becomes "soon-to-retire-from-politics John Warner," which could lessen the impact of criticisms going forward.

P.P.S. ... Still a very, very hard seat for Republicans to hang onto in 2008, though. Who's going to beat Mark Warner?

Event #2: Find an appropriately ironic T-shirt

"The Hipster Olympics" (via Megan at Asymmetrical Information)

"Today Stuyvesant has a remarkably diverse and varied student body, ranging from math geeks to science nerds. "

I’m even reminded of something my dad said to me at my graduation. He put his hand on my shoulder, looked me right in the eye and said, “I’m not your father.” Then he wrapped me in his strong, Samoan arms and said “don’t ever call me.”
From Conan O'Brien's Speech to Stuyvesant High School Class of 2006.

Also, here is Conan's Class Day 2000 Speech at Harvard. Both well worth reading/listening to.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Most interesting line I read today

[To borrow from one of Tyler Cowen's blog tricks]
The federal highway system--the "Interstates," like I 35W--has a total length of about 50,000 miles, and though that is only 1 percent of the total highway mileage in the United States, it carries almost a quarter of the nation's total road traffic, amounting to some trillion persons a year, and half its truck traffic.
From Richard Posner's analysis of the Minneapolis bridge collapse and the infrastructure "crisis" (quotation marks his, emphasis mine).
Truly even libertarians and economists might have to acknowledge the vast efficiency gains from certain public infrastructure investment. At least we must say there is some unappreciated economy of scale going on here.

UPDATE [8/31 1:43pm EST]: Some related reading
--In "The New Privatization," Steven Malanga overviews the turning over of major freeways in
Indiana, Chicago, and elsewhere to the private sector.

-- Back in 1992, Anthony Downs (who had previously made his name by writing one of the most cited books on the economics of voting and democracy several decades prior) wrote the bible of the economics of traffic.

--Google Maps introduced real time traffic info back in February. Where have I been?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Is voting for Bush a fattening enterprise?

Brad Smith points out that 21 of the top 23 fattest states went to Bush in 2004. And the two states (Virginia and Michigan) that he lost were by only "thin" margins. Brad ponders:
Is Karl Rove manipulating the minds of obese people with subliminal messages in Bush commercials? Why would heavy people be more likely to vote Republican?
Why do we think this is? I mean, I'm actually wondering. Avoid glib epithets please.

UPDATE [8/30 1:55pm]...also from the Division of Labour blog, this post about the many recreational (and sexual) differences between R's and D's, according to various surveys. This line stuck out:
the car make that is most favored by Republicans vis a vis Democrats is the Porsche. The make most favored by Democrats vis a vis Republicans is the Volvo. In other words, it appears that wealthy Republicans want to have fun on the road, while wealthy Democrats drive in fear of the next accident.
While I don't agree with the Republican implication, do calls for regulation and risk preference go hand-in-hand?

Monday, August 27, 2007

Fredo out. Preparing a run for the White House? On the Unity '08 ticket, perhaps? He certainly did unite senators of both parties on the judiciary committee...

UPDATE [8/27 9:17am] ... Recommended replacement: Patrick Fitzgerald. You don't think Bush still holds that whole Scooter Libby thing against him, do you?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Health care heterodoxy of the day

The U.S. ranking is influenced heavily by the number of people -- 45 million -- without medical insurance....The 45 million figure is misleading. Thirty-seven percent of that group live in households making more than $50,000 a year, says the U.S. Census Bureau. Nineteen percent are in households making more than $75,000 a year; 20 percent are not citizens, and 33 percent are eligible for existing government programs but are not enrolled.
From a piece by John Stossel on RealClearPolitics.

He also has a great explanation of why average life expectancy is a misleading indicator of health care quality (and it's not because the average is a poor representation of the whole).
Big NYT feature on HBO's troubles finding a commercial or critical hit manages never to mention The Wire once. Annoying.

Let me get this straight

A handful of people got together and gave Al Gore 51% nod in a straw poll in Scottsdale, AZ, and this makes the first column on Drudge Report?

This reminds me of the time a bunch of us were in a bar and decided by a clear supermajority that Cinnamon Toast Crunch was, like, the best cereal ever.
More than 40 participants from Scottsdale, Fountain Hills and the Rio Verde foothills took the poll Saturdayat the home of Margaret Hogan, chair of the District 8 Democrats.

About 35 people paid the $20 fund-raiser fee required to receive a ballot.

....A local contingent of Gore supporters showed up, complete with stickers, even though the former vice president has not announced the he intends to run for president.
I should note, the confidence interval for a sample like this is something like plus/minus 16 points.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

My day job

Have I ever actually officially linked to my Wausau Daily Herald blog here? Here it is. Visit any time, and feel free to leave comments...

R. Kelly, humorist revisited

Kelefa Sanneh on Trapped in the Closet:
And yet there is something slightly unnerving about the kind of attention “Trapped in the Closet” has received. Many of its biggest fans seem to think they’re laughing at Mr. Kelly, not with him, as if the whole thing were some sort of glorious, terrible mistake; as if the far-fetched plot turns (most infamously, the policeman cuckolded by the “midget” hiding beneath the sink) and cliffhanger endings (“Oh my God, a rubber!”) were the work of someone who set out to make a traditional musical and failed. It’s hard to think of a work that has inspired more parodies, from Weird Al to Jimmy Kimmel, from sketch comedy to cabaret. Why do so many people think the funniest pop star on the planet is the butt of the joke when he is so obviously in on it?


Some “Trapped” fans may think they’re flattering Mr. Kelly by praising his alleged insanity or naivete, but that’s the kind of praise that can easily sound like condescension, especially when directed (as it often is) at African-American performers. And some IFC viewers might not know that Mr. Kelly is deploying some of the same dramatic devices you can find in the world of urban theater, sometimes affectionately or derisively called the "chitlin circuit.” Many of his stock characters (the pastor with a secret, the nosy neighbors, the semireformed ex-con, the stuttering pimp) and melodramatic revelations would be at home in a play by Tyler Perry, Shelly Garrett, Angela Barrow-Dunlap or David E. Talbert.
My earlier argument that R. Kelly is in on the joke here.

UPDATE [8/22 9:13pm] ... And Slate's Jody Rosen: "Kelly has managed to breathe life into sex music by embracing sexual farce."

UPDATE II [8/23 9:31am] ... And Tom Breihan from the Village Voice: "I'm concerned that Kelly is going the David Hasselhoff/William Shatner route, allowing his career to essentially one long self-parody."

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

I will give them Beckham. But they'd better stay the hell away from Timberlake...

Monday, August 20, 2007

Trailer for the new Madlib record

Karl Rove, liberal panderer

"If Karl Rove played to any base (in Bush's first term), it was the left-wing base, not the right-wing base."

-- Rush Limbaugh, today.
Washington Post op-ed about snitching by community organizer Ronald Moten:
This is the true definition of a snitch: someone who commits a crime but then blames an accomplice so that he can negotiate a lighter sentence or even go free. Often he tells lies and incriminates the innocent. People like that are the real snitches and they are cowardly. Snitching is a way for criminals to game the system.

But not everyone who talks to police is a snitch. If you're a victim of a crime and you or someone you trust cooperates with them, you are not a snitch. If you try to get rid of negativity in your community, you are not "hot" or a snitch.

I blame the hip-hop industry for spreading confusion about the definition of snitching. I also understand that the artists are just trying to sell records by glorifying a criminal and prison culture they often know nothing about.
Sounds about right to me. And it's criticism of hip-hop by someone who actually knows something about hip-hop culture.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

I'd hate to work at the Patent and Trademark Office

United States Patent Number 6,368,227 (filed November 17, 2000):
Method of swinging on a swing: A method of swing on a swing is disclosed, in which a user positioned on a standard swing suspended by two chains from a substantially horizontal tree branch induces side to side motion by pulling alternately on one chain and then the other.

...The user may even choose to produce a Tarzan-type yell while swinging in the manner described, which more accurately replicates swinging on vines in a dense jungle forest. Actual jungle forestry is not required.
Fortunately "licenses are available from the inventor upon request," giving us renegade Tarzans atleast some legal recourse.

[HT: David K. Levine]

Is the wig too campy?

Now that I think about it I am also half-worried that "Trapped in the Closet" might jump the shark, just like Austin theater director Henri Mazza. At first I thought that was a ridiculous concept, but what if too much self-consciousness really does ruin it?

Probably won't happen; I'm sure I am fretting over nothing. I am still insanely excited about the release of the next ten chapters, which I am going to watch an as soon as we finish moving this weekend.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Frum: Don't blame me

Former Bush White House speechwriter David Frum takes a whack at Karl Rove in the NYT. He also makes sure it's understood that Bush's political woes aren't his fault:
Inspiring rhetoric and solemn promises can do only so much for an incumbent administration.
Look, I provided the inspiring rhetoric! It's Rove who mucked things up...

Dogs at Halsted Market Days



Saturday, August 11, 2007

The San Diego Tribune editorializes about a nightmarish dystopia where "every American start[s] a blog and [is] given health coverage." The horror!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Do not hold your breath waiting for R. Kelly to get back to you

This is apropos of nothing in particular except my continuing excitement about installments 13-22 of R. Kelly's "Trapped in the Closet", which drop this month. (Catch up on episodes 1-12 here.) But tonight I listened again to Kells' "Leave Your Name" from Double Up -- still the best album of 2007! -- and was reminded of something that I've thought many times before, which is that if you heard this on R. Kelly's voicemail:
Leave your name, right after the beep
And I'm sure to get back with you,
If I'm not asleep, or
Smoking on some trees, or
Having some sex, or
If I'm not faded, or
Making a baby
Isn't the take-home message that you are not getting a call back from R. Kelly ever? At least he is on the level about it, admitting that "If you think I'm screening calls, you're motherfucking right." Well okay then!

P.S. ... Also note that "smoking trees" and being "faded" are the same thing, as are "having some sex" and "making a baby." The life of a player, folks, seems to consist of two main things.

P.P.S. ... Refresh your memory with Trapped in the Closet Episode 12.5 here.

Line of the day

Nostalgia isn't what it used to be. It was just a few years ago that VH1 could profitably fill hours of airtime with the likes of I Love the '70s, but that cultural energy has waned....The new thing is more like I Hate Myself for Loving the '80s, or maybe I Love the '90s, but They've Stopped Loving Me Back.
From Troy Patterson's latest Slate column.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

About those early primary states

In comments on the previous post Saxdrop points out that Romney is ahead in early primary states Iowa and New Hampshire, which not coincidentally are the very states where he's been spending his money so far. (Well, there's also South Carolina, but you know, two out of three is pretty good.)

Obliquely, this raises a question I've been wondering about. I've seen a lot of speculation that the frontloading of the primary schedule will amplify the importance of those earliest votes in Iowa and New Hampshire. But is this really true?

Lots of big states -- Michigan, California, Illinois -- have moved up their primary votes, and the quasi-national nature of that day ensures that overall polling is going to be universally available to the type of motivated political person who votes in primaries. How much will it really matter if a Romney or an Edwards wins in Iowa, if everyone already expects a Giuliani or a Clinton to sweep Super Tuesday? Aren't outcomes in the big states much less susceptible to big last-minute swings based on early results?

I am just asking, I am not sure this is the case. Certainly most pundits seem to think it's the opposite. But I do wonder whether the Internet and the new primary schedule might make the Iowa caucuses obsolete after all.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Attention, Republicans: Rudolph Giuliani is pro-choice

Sure, it's significant that only 41 percent of Republicans don't know that Rudy Giuliani is pro-choice -- but only if all of them do eventually find out. What if a sizable percentage of Republican voters never get the memo? If they don't know yet, when will they know?

Put another way: At what point in the most-followed primary season ever does it cease being early? This is a hard question for a political junkie to answer. It still seems possible that sooner or later Romney is going to get desperate and start running "Rudy loves abortion" ads on repeat in early primary states, which could do the trick. But I'm starting to wonder if Giuliani's pro-choice beliefs might just keep on eluding Republican primary voters, who after all mostly continue to think things are going swimmingly in Iraq.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Two roads diverged

I came across this graph from The American. The first thing I noticed was the major uptick for National and Whites between last year and this year, and that after a two year decline no less. Why? My initial thought is the rise of Obama. It may obtuse to hitch a national statistic to one person or phenomenon, but I can't really think of anything else.

Then I noticed, why do Blacks diverge so heavily (it's not the magnitude, but the direction). Given, the 2006-07 decline continues the previous trend, but it actually becomes more pronounced. And why, with the rest of the country turning around in their belief, do blacks not do so as well. Is this really a case and point of the state of black-white relations? Does the "Obama effect" work in opposite directions for different people.

Note: The source is Gallup Online, 2007.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Yes! It has always driven me crazy that Bush won't answer "hypothetical questions," and I am glad Obama will. There is no defensible reason for a politician to refuse to publicly entertain hypothetical scenarios, since doing so is pretty much their whole job. It's one of those dodges that make no sense, and we shouldn't let them get away with it.

Change vs. More of the same