Friday, February 26, 2010

Joel Engel on the Dodgers

Galley Friend Joel Engel has started up an excellent blog over at the LA Times: The Death of Common Sense. Today he writes about taxes and the L.A. Dodgers:

Sometime this spring or summer, when you're drinking a $20 beer at Dodger Stadium surrounded by the fortysomething-thousand fans who attend every game (for seven innings) at $15 per carload regardless of how mediocre the home team is, ponder for a moment that every single one of you (who is still employed) had more money withheld from just your last paycheck than the owners of the ballpark and team have paid in taxes over the last four years on reported income of $108 million.

Excellent stuff.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Unless you're deep into the Whedonverse, you probably don't know who Felicia Day is. She's a nifty little actress and although she's not Tricia Helfer, she's beautiful in the way that most Hollywood actresses are, which is to say very. For instance:

Simple enough. Except that there's this little nugget from her blog, where she talks about taping an episode of Whedon's Dollhouse:

Fortunately I have been friendly with everyone on Dollhouse before shooting this episode, so it was very comfortable, being on set. Working with Zone again was very easy, because between Epitaph One and Two (cute fact) we’ve played D&D together every weekend! He randomly knows my DM, so when I walked in one day, he was sitting at the table ready to play.

What's Elvish for awesome?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Brief Healthcare Aside

If both Jon Chait and Ezra Klein are talking about the healthcare "narrative" within hours of one another, then the JournoList must have finally reached consensus on the most important political aspect of the healthcare issue: Is it better to pass an unpopular bill, or to fail to pass an unpopular bill? As usual, peoples' analysis tends to dovetail nicely with their personal preferences. How convenient!

That said, the question isn't ridiculous. I just think the parties involved are approaching it from different perspective. Let's frame it in a different way:

A husband makes a pass at a woman who isn't his wife. He winds up not following through with the flirtation. His wife finds out anyway. Imagine how unhappy she might be. Now, would she be more unhappy if, instead, she found out that her husband had actually gone through with the affair? Or would her unhappiness be about the same?

That's the lens through which the politicians involved have to approach their decision. And I think that in most instances the wife (ie, the voters) would be more upset if her hubby actually nailed Tiffany from accounting (that trollop!) than if she learned that he merely made a sloppy pass at the office holiday party.

The problem, I think, is that a lot of the non-elected people on the left are viewing this not from the wife's perspective, but from the husband's. In other words, instead of thinking about the question as framed above, they're thinking about it this way:

A husband makes a pass at a woman who isn't his wife. He immediately realizes that, for whatever reason, he isn't going to be able to keep this quiet and his wife is going to be pissed. Envisioning all the trouble he's likely to be in come morning, he thinks to himself, "Jeez, if I'm going to get Elin-ed, I might as well earn it . . ."

That's fine so far as it goes. The problem is that while political opinion writers have the luxury of thinking like the husband, elected officials, by necessity, tend to think like the wife.

Great Moments in Law Enforcement

Academic freedom does not extend to discussion of facts a sheriff does not like being discussed.

The Saddest Thing You'll Read Today

From the headline "Growing Pains Actor Missing":

Police and worried loved ones are searching for actor Andrew Koenig, best known for playing "Boner" on 'Growing Pains,' who went missing in Vancouver a week ago.

Koenig, 42, was last seen on Feb. 14 and missed his flight out of the Olympic host city two days later, according to a statement from TV host Dave Holmes on Authorities are searching for the actor, who has recently been working as a camera operator on the comedy podcast, 'Never Not Funny.'

Andrew's father is Walter Koenig, who played Chekov in the 'Star Trek' series and films.

City of Heroes

I don't love New York the way people are supposed to love New York, but it does have its highlights. The Pig sends me two links. The first is to a bar called the Gotham City Lounge, which takes the real Gotham as its model. Second is shop called Superhero Supplies which sells exactly what you'd think: invisible planes, chaos in a bottle, matter transformers, stately mansions, etc.


Monday, February 22, 2010

Ezra Klein

Mickey Kaus has a real hard-on for Ezra Klein. Here he is poking at Klein's latest bit of analysis:

Obama's compromise health care plan is out, and "the impact on the politics will be tremendous," gushes WaPo's health care cheerleader Ezra Klein. "The release of this plan marks the end of the Scott Brown election and the resumption of the health-care process." It enables the Democrats to "take back control of the media's narrative," just as they did when they waited out the Tea Parties last August, then "used the president's big speech to pivot to the release and subsequent passage of the Senate Finance Committee's bill." ...Remember the stunning success of the president's speech? It's right here on this graph--if you squint hard you can see the temporary pause in the seemingly ineluctable rise in public opposition to Obama's health care reform right around the beginning of September. It lasted a couple of weeks. Then opposition started rising again. Now it's over 50%, with support ten points lower. ... The Dems must have lost "control of the media's narrative"!

Does Klein really believe this stuff? I don't know which answer would be more embarrassing.

Wait a minute--I actually know the answer to this one!

What would be more embarrassing is: publicly admitting that you just figured out where one of the most famous lines of dialogue in the history of cinema comes from.

Update: Santino piles on. In a good way.

A Serious Question About the E.U.

The thing I always wondered about the European Union--and which no one was ever to explain to me--is what the mechanism for secession is.

If a country wanted to leave the E.U., or did something to merit being kicked out, how would that work? I assume the planners in Brussels had some contingency for this, however unlikely. After all, it's not hard to think of a few doomsday scenarios under which it becomes advantageous either to the Union or to individual member states for the two to part ways.

Maybe it's just as simple as dropping the euro and reverting to your own sovereign currency?

Ann Althouse Misses "Obama the Pragmatist"

No, really: "I don't care about the labels and generalities. I voted for Obama the Pragmatist, not Obama the Ideologue or Obama the Lefty."

All due respect to Althouse, I'm not sure how you can seriously make the argument that "Obama the Pragmatist" ever existed. Here's Obama in New Hampshire in 2008:

I]n my own life, I've discovered that if you really know what you stand for, if you know what you believe in, if you know who you are fighting for, if you know what you care about and cannot be compromised--then you can afford to reach out across the aisle. You can talk to people who don't agree with you. And you do so not just because you think that you're always going to persuade them, but because people out in America, outside of Washington, are listening.

And they want to see that we can--that we don't have to agree on everything to work on something. That we can disagree without being disagreeable. That's how we can attract independents
[to the] change agenda. That's how we can attract some Republicans. That's how we build a working majority for change. .  .  . And you can afford to be courteous. And you can say, "Yes, sir." And "No, sir." "Yes, ma'am." "No, ma'am." But if you're going to be in the way of change, get out of the way--we're pushing you aside. Very politely of course. That's how we win elections.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Dept. of Broken Promises

Boy, those Canadians sure did talk big.

But hey, they're totally owning the Koreans.

Worst Video Game Movie Ever?

Quite possibly. (Hey, they shoe-horned in Jack!)

Other contenders: Double Dragon and Street Fighter. Both of which make Mortal Kombat look like Citizen Kane.

Bonus: How bad was Double Dragon? Sure, it had Robert Patrick, Scott Wolf, and Alyssa Milano. But pull up the trailer, freeze fame it at the 1:22 mark, and check out the giant boom mic looming across the top of the frame.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Dubai Assassination--Updated

I think this is all pretty obvious: The operation has Treadstone written all over it.

These guys, they don't make mistakes. They don't do random. There's always an objective. Always a target.

Update: All kidding aside, two things occur to me, aside from how awesome it is that some countries still have functional wet-works divisions.

(1) The really crazy thing about a complicated op like this is that it makes you wonder how often these scenarios occur. One assumes that the logistics involved don't simply pop into place overnight, that the operatives aren't simply pulled in from other divisions, and that planning and expertise is the product of neither luck nor improvisation.

(2) To get back to Bourne: "Kill Wombosi? We can do that anytime we want. I can send Nicky to do that, for Christ's sake."

For such a sophisticated op, wouldn't the real goal be to kill Mahmoud al-Mabhouh and have his death appear to be either accident/unexplained, or the result of some third party?

George F'in Will

It's dispiriting to see George Will fall into "whatever club is nearest at hand" mode:

Conservatives, who rightly respect markets as generally reliable gauges of consumer preferences, should notice that the political market is speaking clearly: The more attention Palin receives, the fewer Americans consider her presidential timber. The latest Washington Post/ABC News poll shows that 71 percent of Americans -- including 52 percent of Republicans -- think she is not qualified to be president.

So conservatives should have embraced Barack Obama when his approval rating was 72 percent because that poll number showed the wisdom of the market? Because opinion polls are a market? And markets are an infallible indicator of wisdom?

As a great columnist once said, this is nonsense on stilts.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Brief Political Aside

This Donald Peck story about the new age of joblessness is about the scariest non-terrorism-related stuff I've read in many years. I don't have any insight on whether or not Peck's proposition is likely to be correct. But if he is right that we are now beginning a prolonged period where unemployment will not go much below 8 percent, then I think he will also turn out to be correct about this being a moment of massive cultural consequence.

And also, of political consequence. If I was a GOP campaign consultant, I'd go out and trademark this mantra for 2010 and 2012:

"It's time to get back to work."

This slogan both gives you a central theme and offers an implicit rebuke to the opponent. It lets you be both forward- and backward-looking. It's infinitely adaptable (jobs, defense, immigration, tax cuts--you name the issue) and it hints at a deep concern about the opposition which no one is willing to give voice to explicitly (that the election of Barack Obama was a deeply unserious act by the electorate). It lets you have both an affirmative mission and a catharsis.

If Peck is right, then unemployment is Obama's Iraq, which is to say that by 2012, even incremental improvements (say, a jobless rate of "only" 8 percent) will only serve to highlight a problem whose very existence voters find unacceptable. It will be the issue through which everything else is refracted.

"It's time to get back to work."

On an unrelated note, Obama reminds me of this great Churchill quote:

The loyalties which centre upon number one are enormous. If he trips, he must be sustained. If he makes mistakes, they must be covered. If he sleeps, he must not be wantonly disturbed. But if he is no good he must be pole-axed. But this last extreme process cannot be carried out every day.

In this sense, much of the loyalty shown to flawed politicians (which is all of them) is understandable. The question always becomes, if the big guy is no good, who is willing to pole-axe him? And what are the consequences of not doing so? Republicans found out the hard way in 2006 and 2008. On this particular subject, I wonder what lessons Democrats will take from the Bush years.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The New Dating Game

Last week The Weekly Standard had a very interesting cover story by Charlotte Allen on the current state of dating and mating among American singles. It's a great piece and well worth reading, even though it paints a bleak picture of modern amor. (In a thumbnail: The sexual liberation of women has created an all-you-can-eat sexual buffet for alpha males, while denying beta males access to young, marriagible women. The macro effects of which are the delay of marriage, decline in fertility, rise of single-parent households, etc. I'm making Allen's piece sound more policy-wonkish than it is: It's a highly readable cultural survey, not a position paper.)

One thing that struck me about Allen's argument--and the arguments of everyone contained within her pieces, from the 17th Wave feminists to the hook-up/player Roissy's of the world--is that they implicitly assume a totally secular world.

Maybe it's so obvious as to be beneath mention, but very little of the behavior exemplified by our new-paleolithics is conceivable among serious religious believers. (Or at least serious Christian believers; I won't presume to know what Wiccans think about the hook-up culture.)

To be caught up in the alpha/beta, neg/peacock, give-it/get-it dynamic is only possible if you surrender the entire field to social Darwinism. If, instead, you hold some religious view of human affairs--a belief in certain defined moral constraints, calls to family life, the sacramental view of marriage, to pick just three--then it becomes difficult (perhaps impossible) to view the mating and dating game the way many of the characters Allen presents do.

This isn't to say that Christians don't hook up or find themselves guided by Darwinian impulses, of course--only that the Christian worldview explicitly precludes these things and that acceptance of serious religion stands athwart the return to prehistoric relations between the sexes in a fairly substantial way.

What interests me is that to the people in the hook-up culture, believers might as well not even exist because they live in such a total remove. Why is this? It's not that people like Mystery or Roissy or Naomi Wolf don't ever cross paths with the religious. Even in D.C. or Manhattan, you'll run into believers here and there. I wonder why they're culturally invisible in this context.

In any case, read Allen's piece. It's great stuff.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Should You Foul a Three-Point Shooter?

It turns out that if you do the math, the old truism about "never fouling a three-point shooter" is right! Galley Friend (and Hoya Superfan) J.B. is on the case.

Read all the way to the end for the totally hot line about Georgetown and the undead.

Fletch Does Not Live

Ever wonder why they never made another Fletch movie?

Courtesy of Galley Friend T.J.

Stagecraft as Soulcraft

I'm a sucker for the Olympics. The pageantry, the hypocrisy, the ridiculousness. I'll take the whole thing. Even the opening ceremonies. This year's opening was, for my money, about as good as it gets. Here's the relevant video. Just fast-forward to about the 7:00 mark.

The arena floor is basically functioning as a giant IMAX screen being projected upon (I think) from below. Yeah. Check out the whales (around the 9:00 mark). Insane. This is 9th Wonder of the World stuff.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Iron Man v. Captain America

Spencer Ackerman takes the side of the Civil War-era Tony Stark in the somewhat-silly spat between Marvel and the Tea Party movement. Ackerman's argument is on point, as far these things go.

But Ezra Klein then jumps aboard and things get a little screwy. Klein writes:

I'm not even sure what the case for the other side is, and the libertarians I've asked haven't been able to come up with one. If the state has any legitimate function at all, it's to train and regulate people who could accidentally kill everyone in a hundred-mile radius.

I wonder what a certain Charles Xavier would have to say about that. Klein may not realize it, but he's going way past Tony Stark and into the territory of Sen. Kelly's Mutant Registration Act. Does Klein really think that (in the imaginary, superhero world) the government has an imperative duty to register anyone with the power to inflict massive damage on society? First of all, how massive is massive enough to count? (Switching universes, would Bruce Wayne cross the threshold, even though he's a non-meta-human?) But most importantly, what if the mutant with this ability doesn't fight crime, but just works a day job at Innertrobe? Should they be forced to register with the state? (As Erik Lensherr might ask, should they be required to carry papers, too? And maybe a distinguishing marker of some kind?)

Maybe. Maybe not. But surely there's a reasonable case to be made for the idea that the government shouldn't require a citizen to register with them just because the individual has special powers.

By the by, without having though too deeply about the subject, it strikes me that it's difficult to be pro-Superhuman Registration Act (Tony Stark) without also being pro-Mutant Registration Act (Sen. Kelly). Not impossible, certainly. But not trivial, either. Despite Stark's protestations, requiring a hero to register with the Feds and take a couple classes is not exactly like getting a driver's license or buying a handgun.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


It's being called the greatest book in the history of fly fishing. And the Galactic Empire: Matt Labash's Fly Fishing with Darth Vader.

I can't recommend it highly enough.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Something To Keep You Warm While the Snows Fall

His answers may be inferred from his various ejaculations . . .

Update: The sign of a subtle, subtle mind:

Indeed, on the Middle East, Andrew falls prey to a habitual tendency to see the world divided between children of darkness and children of light. This is not a problem for a writer who is describing conflicts between Democrats and Republicans.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Why the Saints Won

Because they had this guy give them the pep talk.

Thursday, February 04, 2010


Australia is trying to ban small-breasted women from doing porn.

I don't even know what to say.

Watchmen Sequel?

I think this is a great idea. And in the sequel, we find out that--hey!--the doctrine of MAD worked out just fine, the Soviets were really brutal mass murderers, the American government was not only not-corrupt, but was also responsible for peaceably bringing about the end of the Cold War and . . . oh, who are we kidding.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Brief Political Aside

In re: Sarah Palin. I've always been mystified by claims that she hurt McCain in 2008 because I've never seen any data to support such arguments. On the other hand, I've seen some data which suggests the opposite: That, unlike most running mates, she helped him quite a bit.

Well, here's another data point I've run across: In Massachusetts, 63 percent of voters said that Palin was a factor in their vote--and Obama was +5 among this cohort (52 percent to 47 percent). So Palin hurt McCain, right?

Not so fast: 32 percent of voters said Palin was not a factor, and Obama was +40 among this cohort (68 percent to 28 percent). Which suggests that Palin was actually an enormous net positive for McCain.

I'm not sure whether or not there's exit data on this, but I'd be interested in seeing how other VP candidates impacted their ticket in recent elections to get a sense of Palin's influence is normal or abnormal. My guess would be the latter, but who knows.

New Industrialists = New Media?

More techno-evangelism from Chris Anderson.

Another Shot at Malcolm Gladwell

This time in the Financial Times.

I wonder if we're approaching some sort of tipping point?

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Bonus Fake Steve Jobs

About Bill "The Beastmaster" Gates:

As for Bill, back in the 80s he was notorious at Comdex in Vegas for hitting on hacks and flacks alike, and he was always out there on the dance floor leaping around like a dirty weirdo. Reports back from women who dated him were either scary or hilarious, depending on your point of view and religious beliefs. Golden showers, donkey punches, the filthy Sanchez. Total nuthouse. Bill didn’t even bother trying to deny it. He told me once, Look, when you can get whatever you want, where’s the thrill? You have to go freaky because it’s the only way to get excited. You need to push the envelope.

Anyway, as it happens I was talking to Bill over the weekend.

He wanted to talk to me about the tablet, because of course the goons at the Borg have seen it and have been using it for a while, and Bill himself has been playing with one and he can totally see how huge it is, and I asked him what he’s been up to and if he ever misses being in the game, and he says no because he’s like on the verge of eliminating malaria from the planet and they’re also getting close to having a vaccine for AIDS and a bunch of other really bad diseases, plus he’s been cutting the infant mortality rate by 50 percent which means he’s saving millions and millions of lives, and he says as much as he loved doing technology it’s just nothing compared to saving people’s lives.

And I was like, Yeah, well, that’s cool too, I guess.

Because honestly I know he’s just so jealous of me right now and I don’t want to rub it in, and we all have to do our best to make Bill feel like what he’s doing is super-duper important. The truth is, come on, what is the point of saving people’s lives if they’re going to live on a dollar a day and never be able to afford even an iPod Shuffle, let alone an iPod Touch or an iPhone?

Monday, February 01, 2010

"The brainiac Children of the Corn at Google . . ."

What did Fake Steve Jobs have to say about the iPad and Google? Don't miss it, especially his live-blog of his own event last week.

That Katie, she's such a trooper. You could build an entire schtick around just her.

Merry Christmas

Why hasn't Red Letter Media released Part 1 of his Attack of the Clones Review?

Because he's been busy on an Avatar review. Enjoy.

Public Defender

In the course of one weekend I mounted defenses of lefty comic-book writer/artist Joe Sacco and Jay Leno.

Unsaid in the Leno piece is that I think you can make the case that NBC's own decisions in the Tonight Show debacle are minimally defensible: That is, they might not be optimal--and you or eye might have made different ones--but taken as discrete decision points, each one is not crazy. It's just the totality of the decisions which lead to corporate madness.

Consider the entire episode from NBC's point of view, with a series of if/then propositions:

If Conan demands the Tonight Show, then you can either give him the show and displace Leno, or lose Conan. I would have told Conan thanks for your service, good luck on future endeavors. But it wasn't totally crazy for NBC to think that, with five years of breathing space, they could figure out a way to finesse the situation.

If you've given Conan Tonight, then you can't let Leno out of his contract. You have to keep him off of the air for Conan's sake--you've just decided to hand O'Brien the franchise, you have to protect him in the time slot and keep Leno from setting up a competing franchise somewhere else and eviscerating Conan's early ratings.

If you're keeping Leno at NBC then you can either pay him between $14M and $18M to do nothing, or you can try to find a spot for him to do a show.

If you're committed to putting Leno on the air, a cheap, low-ratings, high-margin primetime show is a viable possibility.

If Leno's low-ratings show angers affiliates so much that they're willing to preempt network content, then you have to make a change somewhere to get Leno's prime-time show off the air.

If pulling Leno's prime-time show costs $80M, and pulling Conan's Tonight costs $60M and--most crucially--Conan still hasn't proven he can find an 11:30 audience, then you have to push Conan aside and reinstall Leno.