Thursday, August 31, 2006

Sacrifice and Civilized Countries

Via Digby, I find this great post by Bouphonia about American sacrifice:

[F]or all BushCo's talk of "homeland security," nothing has been done in the last four years to improve response time and efficiency in a disaster, whether natural or man-made. If you can't evacuate people after a hurricane - a hurricane that you watched travel towards you at twelve miles an hour - you can't evacuate them after a dirty bomb detonated with no warning. Any terrorist who is thinking of attacking us must be delighted to learn that Bush's incompetence will act as an awe-inspiring force multiplier.

It's often claimed that George W. Bush has asked for no sacrifices in this time of war. On the contrary, he's asked us to sacrifice our humanity and our compassion. He's asked us to sacrifice our privacy and freedom, and our respect for our fellow citizens. He's asked us to sacrifice every irreducible ideal - and there were few enough of them, God knows - on which this country was founded, and whatever fragile steps we've taken towards implementing them under the law. He's asked us to sacrifice any religious truth that would interfere with the dreary, mechanical pursuit of redundant wealth and false security. He's asked us to sacrifice our souls and our conscience, in exchange for his snake-oil promise that we'll never have to suffer the consequences of our own inhumanity. He's asked us to sacrifice our present for his future, and our future for his present.

Bush admits that he didn't respond appropriately to this disaster, and we know that this failure - if it was a failure, and not a policy, or a whim - killed people by the hundreds, if not thousands or tens of thousands. In a "civilized" country, Bush would've resigned in disgrace by now. In an "uncivilized" country, he and his goldbricking cronies at FEMA would be hanging by the neck from lamp-posts. But only in a soulless country - one that's turned its back, essentially, on itself - could there be any possibility of letting him remain in power.
Yes, in a soulless country, this leader's henchmen get to go in front of military veterans and call the political opposition "fascists" (a continuation of the great political game of "I Know You Are, But What Am I?") without long-term consequences.

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All Things Dylan

Here’s a nice trifecta from the Philadelphia City Paper (h/t largehearted boy)—an article that reviews Dylan’s new album, the new Dylan Encyclopedia, and an apparently interesting (and unauthorized) documentary, Bob Dylan 1966-1978: After the Crash. It’s Bob Season once again!

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Fascism

Fascism: a governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce, etc., and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism.
Yeah, if that doesn’t describe Democrats and anybody who dissents, I don’t know what does.

I just figured that, you know, if they were going to use the word, they might as well know what it means.

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Weather, Water, Energy 8-31-06

The big story, of course, is the bipartisan agreement in CA between the legislature and the governor to put a cap on greenhouse gas emissions, showing it can be done despite the best efforts of the feds. For better and (often) worse, CA sets the path for the rest of the nation. Let's see how long it takes Bushnev's DOJ and/or Supreme Sovi . . . Congress to pull the old "write a pretend federal rule to preempt progressive state action" stunt. . . . The bigger news, though, to me anyway, is this Climate Progress piece wherein one of the nation's chief skeptics about global warming and hurricanes has come in from the dark side. In fact, now he's saying, “I don’t see any reason why the power of hurricanes wouldn’t continue to increase over the next 100 to 200 years.” Now, is this good news or bad? . . . And finally, a weird story from the Kansas City Star on how gasoline in hot temps will expand but not be accounted for at pumps, meaning we're paying more than we should. Like $2.3 b. (that's billion) a year. Those of you not physics-challenged will probably get the details better than the rest of us, but it's another thing to brighten your holiday weekend.

You're welcome.

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Olbermann on Rumsfeld

Well...Rumsfeld and everybody else, really. Via Crooks and Liars (which also has video):

That about which Mr. Rumsfeld is confused… is simply this: This is a Democracy. Still. Sometimes just barely. And as such, all voices count — not just his. Had he or his President perhaps proven any of their prior claims of omniscience - about Osama Bin Laden’s plans five years ago - about Saddam Hussein’s weapons four years ago - about Hurricane Katrina’s impact one* year ago - we all might be able to swallow hard, and accept their omniscience as a bearable, even useful recipe, of fact, plus ego.

But, to date, this government has proved little besides its own arrogance, and its own hubris.

Mr. Rumsfeld is also personally confused, morally or intellectually, about his own standing in this matter. From Iraq to Katrina, to the entire "Fog of Fear" which continues to envelope this nation - he, Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney, and their cronies, have - inadvertently or intentionally - profited and benefited, both personally, and politically. And yet he can stand up, in public, and question the morality and the intellect of those of us who dare ask just for the receipt for the Emporer’s New Clothes.

In what country was Mr. Rumsfeld raised? As a child, of whose heroism did he read? On what side of the battle for freedom did he dream one day to fight? With what country has he confused… the United States of America?
Read (and watch) the whole thing. He really didn't even need to quote Murrow at the end. His statements here were already more eloquent than anything I've seen on the news in quite a long time. Well done, Keith.

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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Betty La Fea (Ugly Betty) Mas Bella Update XVI

Bringing in Patricia Manterola for an extended cameo as they just have is one of those nice touches that you get in “La Fea Mas Bella,” and “Betty La Fea,” the original, that most telenovelas can’t do because of their narrative structure. Having the celebs on board, either as themselves or minor characters, is a way of winking at the audience and the telenovela concept itself. Manterola is one of the hardest of bodies in the telenovela world and, like many of its stars, doubles well as a singer and performer. Over the course of the serial so far, we’ve seen traditional novela heartthrob Jorge Salinas turn up as Luigi’s heartthrob in the most clever of the turns, but we’ve also seen veteran Paty Diaz (she played the snobby beauty in the hall at Lety’s old bank) and that singer guy whose name I never can remember. There may have been others I’ve forgotten, and it’s a safe bet there will be more turning up. In “Betty,” I recall Laura Flores at one point and newscasters, but I was just getting into telenovelas at the time and probably missed a ton.

This will be one way to keep tabs on how much the ABC version, “Ugly Betty,” will try to keep to the novela spirit, at least “Betty La Fea”s. Will they be bringing in stars for cameos the same way? We know producer Salma Hayek will be showing up as a character in Betty’s dad’s favorite telenovela. Who else could pop up? It would be wise for building up audience to use several Latino stars, at least those recognizable to non-Latinos. Why are only Daisy Fuentes and Eric Estrada coming to mind? Jlo wouldn’t do it . Oh, well. . . . wait, what about Shakira? Could they get her? Is Thalia well enough known? Paola Rey does hair commercials. Jorge Ramos, the newscaster? That Miss Universe Trump thought got too fat (she still looks mighty good at her size, by the way)? My personal choice would be Barbara Bermudo, the anchor of the early evening “Primer Impacto.” Non-Latinos aren’t likely to know her, but I guarantee that every conversation in the room would stop the second she appeared on the screen. (Disclaimer: On my list of celebrities my wife will let me sleep with, Barbara would likely come right after Salma, or maybe Carey Lowell. Of course, as I may have hinted in the past, Salma is, like, the first dozen names on the list. My problem is, I think Carey Lowell may be on my wife’s list. Wait, is that a problem?)

Uh . . . to get back to reality, having these celebrities on the show demonstrates the underlying playfulness of “Betty” and “La Fea” that “Ugly Betty” will have to “get” to have a chance of living up to the standard set. Manterola is a nice touch, and she’s playing to it well. I’m interested in seeing who else they call on in the next months (yes, it still has months) as the story progresses. If they follow “Betty,” there will be plenty of natural opportunities. And hopefully the people working on “Ugly Betty” are paying attention. A lot of the excisions they’re apparently making can be forgiven if they capture that playfulness. Maybe Manterola can do double-duty. I can’t think of much better, except, maybe, that Carey thing. . . . better go now.

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Weather, Water, Energy 8-30-06

Quick links you should follow. Now. (Thanks to Avedon Carol for the first one.)

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Rumsfeld changes sides!!!

In remarks to several thousand veterans at the American Legion’s national convention, Rumsfeld recited what he called the lessons of history, including the failed efforts to appease the Adolf Hitler regime in the 1930s.

“I recount this history because once again we face similar challenges in efforts to confront the rising threat of a new type of fascism,” he said.

...

“Can we truly afford to believe somehow, some way, vicious extremists can be appeased?” he asked.

“Those who know the truth need to speak out against these kinds of myths and lies and distortions being told about our troops and about our country,” he added.
Wow...very brave of him to stand up to the Bush Administration like that...and at the American Legion conference, no less.








What was that? He was defending the Bush Administration? Oh, so he was being ironic, I see.










What was that? No irony? Huh.

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Weather, Water, Energy 8-29-06

Since I criticize our blogging community frequently for losing sight of the reality of the weather, water, and energy crises that face us and that should be the rallying point for the campaigns to reverse our political decline, I should also give credit where it's due. ThinkProgress, probably the best group blog on the topics, and Susie Madrak, probably the best individual blogger, both have posts up that should set you thinking. And even the estimable Digby turns her attention to the subjects, giving hope to us all. The best news is that ThinkProgress has created a blog specifically for the climate topic, ClimateProgress, to keep us all going. Now, if the big names could just start bubbling up the political strategy to make it stick, or at least to coax Big Al, the only credible political leader, into mobilizing the movement, there might be even more than just hope.

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Has it been four years already?

Gee...seems like only yesterday...

Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt that he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us. And there is no doubt that his aggressive regional ambitions will lead him into future confrontations with his neighbors -- confrontations that will involve both the weapons he has today, and the ones he will continue to develop with his oil wealth.

...

As President Bush has said, time is not on our side. Deliverable weapons of mass destruction in the hands of a terror network, or a murderous dictator, or the two working together, constitutes as grave a threat as can be imagined. The risks of inaction are far greater than the risk of action.

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Tuesday Pirates Rant™ - Best 51-81 Team in the League!!

Another normal week for the Pirates—a 3-game winning streak (prompting Bucco Blog to announce that they’ve turned a corner—“I'm sorry.. but even 14-year pessimist Joliet Jake here sees the light now. This is no fluke. My eyes are wide open.”) followed by a 3-game losing streak full of bad pitching, bad hitting, and bad defense. Your typical young team, or your typical Pirates? You decide.

Good

* The Pirates are 21-21 since the All-Star Break, which is better than the 30-60 before the Break, and therefore it counts as a good. It’s only August, and the Pirates seem to get fans’ hopes up by playing good ball in August after the season is lost, but hey, minor details. For most of the last month, they’ve played against teams who are still in the playoff hunt, and they’ve held their own...except against Houston, anyway, who has taken 6 of 7 against them in the last month. But these are happy bullets, so ignore that.

* Freddy Sanchez still leads the league in hitting. After going 3-for-5 against the Cubs yesterday, his average is .349. Miguel Cabrera is in second place at .337.

* Now seems to be a pretty good time to remind our six loyal readers that Jason Bay really is one of the best outfielders in the National League. This year he’s batting .291 with 29 HR’s, 93 RBI’s, a .401 On-Base % (meaning he’s gotten a TON of walks this year thanks to the fact that people like Joe Randa and Jeromy Burnitz have been batting behind him most of the year), and a .545 Slugging %. Great numbers. He’s streaky as hell, but those are great numbers.

* Damaso Marte got a win this week!! Why is that big news? Because the “solid ERA, but don’t you dare pitch him in a clutch situation” lefty reliever had started the season 0-7, that’s why. Losing streak over!

* Top prospect Andrew McCutchen, a 19-year old outfielder from Florida and the Pirates’ #1 pick in last year’s draft, was recently promoted to AA Altoona and, after a few weeks there, is still crushing the ball and batting .345. That can’t be a bad thing...as long as, as I said last week, he doesn’t get promoted to Pittsburgh too soon. Ken Griffey Jr. was able to jump to the majors at 19, but that doesn’t mean just anybody can.


* The Beaver County Times continues to press on with the "Dave Littlefield might be fired" angle. Honestly, I should probably put this under the 'Bad' bullets because it's just a big tease to GM-hungry bloggers like myself, but I'll be a naive optimist and put it here.

Bad

* After taking 2 of 3 in Atlanta, the Pirates came home and played four games against Houston, three of which were in front of sellout crowds. They were outscored 28-11 and lost 3 of 4, including a 13-1 Sunday debacle. But then again, Shawn Chacon started that game, so I guess that was to be expected.

Damn, and I thought I might get through an entire Rant™ without mentioning his name.

* The Pirates’ front office continued their ongoing trend of playing down injuries, then quietly putting a player on the disabled list when nobody is looking. In the last couple weeks, young starter Tom Gorzelanny went from “We’re going to hold him out a start—he’s got stiffness in his left arm” to “We’re going to skip him another start or two” to “
Yeah, he’s going on the DL with tendonitis—he’s likely done for the year.” Closer Mike Gonzalez, who has 24 saves and a 2.16 ERA this season, and who absolutely dominated in his last three appearances went from “We’re not pitching him this weekend because his arm is tired,” to “Yeah, he’s going on the DL with tendonitis—he’s likely done for the year,” in about four days. Yes, it’s better to sit these guys than to risk injury, but after five years of this, you get kind of tired of the misdirection.

* Not only did the Pirates get dominated in front of record crowds last weekend, but they also hired a punk cover band to entertain the crowd during a fireworks show Friday night. This may be shocking, but...
it didn’t go over well. What, you say? A punk cover band didn’t make a bunch of Western Pennsylvania families happy? Shocking, I know.

Seriously, whose idea was this? Why do they still have a job?

* Speaking of still having a job, here's a piece from Sports Illustrated (employer of a former roommate of mine, so I hate to bag on them...but I have to) in which Jon Heyman suggests that Dave Littlefield really is a good GM who just hasn't been given enough money to work with. All I can say is, he was given money this year. He spent $20 million on Jeromy Burnitz, Joe Randa, and Sean "Thrown out on a grounder to left field" Casey. When he was hired in 2001, they won 62 games. At the moment, they're on pace for 62.5 games this season. If they lose tonight, that pace is an even 62. That's an improvement of somewhere between 0.0 and 0.1 wins per season. He has failed his audition, and it's time for him to go.

Blog

Lots of good stuff from the blogs this week...impressive since most people have switched their attention to football season...

Here's
Bucs Dugout on next year's payroll projections:

Dave Littlefield says that next year's payroll will be "plenty." Which, after the listener stops laughing, begs the question: "plenty" enough for what? Another 100-loss season? If it weren't so easy to call the Pirates on their BS, I'd be tempted to suggest that we look at this article again in a year, when the Pirates will again be near the bottom of the standings. By then it will have turned out that either the payroll was not, in fact, "plenty," or that Littlefield just can't get it done.
Here's Romo Phone Home about the "forbearance of the Pirate fan":

My keyboard player and I did an unplugged gig at Atria's next to the stadium after Saturday night's game, and after we were finished, I engaged in a friendly but heated discussion with a Pirates fan who disagreed with my propensity for going on the radio and berating Pirates management. To this guy, it seemed patently obvious that the Pirates are now doing things right, that they have finally distanced themselves from the mistakes of the past, and that with the young players now on the field, they are poised to contend in 2007.

I find this point of view startling. It seems that, by now, I should hardly have to verbalize a statement such as "We have the worst general manager in baseball," much less justify it with examples. That we have the worst general manager in baseball should be obvious to anyone paying the least bit of attention. 14 losing seasons. Craig Wilson for Shawn Chacon.
Ed Creech. Brian Bullington and B.J. Upton. Tell me when to stop...

...

I don't claim any superior intelligence here. At best, what I have is a higher level of interest and engagement with the game of baseball than the average person, which may have as much to do with pathology as it does with intelligence, and the interest and engagement, I daresay, result in my paying closer attention and therefore being better informed than the average fan.

I had a similar experience at a preseason event at Atria's in March, in which KDKA ran a marathon pre-season talkfest in which I was asked to participate. The room was abuzz with optimism resulting, as near as I could tell, from the acquisitions of Burnitz, Randa, and Casey, and the consensus was overwhelmingly in favor of the notion that the Pirates were about to end their long run of futility. When I got up to the microphone, like
Tobermory in the short story by Saki, I silenced the room when I said, "If the Pirates play .500 ball this year, I'll walk from here to Philadelphia."

If the Pirates continue their post-All-Star-break run of mediocrity (when compared to abject ineptitude, mediocrity impersonates success), look for the post-season optimism to arise again, defying all sense and reason.
Here's Where is Van Slyke, noting that it could always be worse:


I did a lot of complaining about Jim Tracy early in the year. Since about June he's tended to shut his mouth, stopped blaming his players for everything that went wrong, and stopped praising his staff for everything that went right. He's shifted towards playing mostly younger players, and in general given Pirate fans very little to complain about. I'm still not sure he's a great manager (and this isn't an analysis of his work this year), but as stupid as he can seem, he's never said anything as mind bogglingly stupid as this Dusty Baker quote:

"On-base percentage is great if you can score runs and do something with that on-base percentage," Baker said... "Clogging up the bases isn't that great to me."
Of course, a special thanks to Fire Joe Morgan to alerting the world to just how stupid the people that run baseball can be at times.
Until next week, when I'll have a nice, fresh sunburn from Saturday's tailgating. It's football season!!

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Monday, August 28, 2006

Weather, Water, Energy 8-28-06

From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, a San Fran Chronicle article (!) on how energy industry executives are readying themselves for the inevitable regulation as a result of global warming, which they all but unanimously (if not cheerfully) accept. The options are going ahead and cutting the best deals v. prolonging the agony in defense of stubbor . . . the status quo. Looks like the former may win. A strangely encouraging article, actually . . . . UPI picks up a Guardian story on the shifting of Europe's seasons to earlier springs and later falls. . . . And finally, the Senate Repub's go-to guy on the environment, Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, told a crowd this weekend that the Kyoto Protocol would shut down agriculture, military, and oil production in Oklahoma and that global warming is an issue exaggerated by "a liberal media who caters to Hollywood." His solution is to pull the US out of the UN.

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Quick Notes

The Christian Science Monitor baits its readers with this headline--"Numbers Show a Second-Rate US." But then it stakes its claim. Out of 16 wealthy nations, the US is at the bottom (or top if you're a Social Darwinist) in people at or below the poverty line. Despite our wealth and power (No. 1 in defense spending!!), we're in the middle in educational outcomes, health care, job creation (great economy!!), productivity, and unemployment. On the positive side, we're No. 2 in income per capita (thanks, Bill Gates!! . . . but not you WalMart family) and NO. 1! in annual weeks worked!!!!!! The article gives the more objective commentary . . . . I don't mess much with U.S. News & World Barone, but it has a couple of quick notes itself on a frequent theme here--the way Repubs will win in 2006 by driving the negative campaigning so hard that "moderate" voters will stay home and the Dem bloodletting that will occur if the Repubs retain Congress. I disagree about which Dems will be the most bloodlet, but at least someone in the MSM has raised the warning flag for the Dems. Will any of them pay attention?

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Unbelievable

Correction: totally believable.

The electoral court has dismissed all of the complaints filed in the recent election.

Considering that some of those involved precincts where ballots were completely missing, precincts with massive miscounts, and a shift of roughly 0.25% of the vote just from the recount, I don't see how the PRD can view it as anything except a corrupt decision. The court will annul a few precincts, but it is chopping down a couple of trees while pretending there's no forest.

I thought they would at least scold the PAN, to give some appearance of impartiality.

I can't read Spanish, and I can't find a word about it on cnn.com (but thank god they're covering every ounce of the new Jon-Benet developments...Nancy Grace's head probably just exploded), so I'll have to take Charles' word for it. Sad day in the land of telenovelas.

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Sunday, August 27, 2006

Sunday Blogroll!!

And how was everybody's Saturday? It finally rained hard in Missouri Friday night, but that didn't stop us from working outside on the new retaining wall.


Really, though, we only worked outside for a couple of hours...leaving plenty of time for all the other important Saturday agenda items: going to Barnes & Noble, reading the new Rolling Stone and Wired cover to cover, preparing for my Monday night Fantasy Football draft, watching Memoirs of a Geisha (not my choice, but it really wasn't too bad...one important question: why in the world was that movie in English? It was like a Japanese movie being filmed in Chicago...only with every American in the movie speaking Japanese...was just weird.), and finding and watching most of Fahrenheit 9/11 on one of the Showtimes (The Butterfly hadn't seen it). Good times. Anyway...on to the Blogroll...

De-coding Neocon proposals in
one easy step (Debate Link). It makes total sense! Brilliant!

Live blogging from the NOLA
Rising Tide Conference (First Draft...who actually has a series of strong Katrina posts...read them all). Meanwhile, Susie asks, shall we say, a pretty straight-forward question.

Atrios
links to WaPo, and normally I'd be apologizing for doing the same, but this is a pretty decent write-up. Lots of people (my wife, for one) have been talking about debt and the over-extension of a normal family's income for quite a while, and it seems the first wave of consequences is hitting the shore.

I still haven't gotten around to writing another Fraud in the Land of Telenovelas post, but thanks to Mercury Rising, and the fact that Charles does a better job of summarizing it than I do anyway, I haven't been in much of a hurry.

Two great (and unrelated...mostly) links from
this Avedon post: 1) I'm curious how much play this will get nationwide. An army lieutenant refuses to go to war because "A soldier has an obligation to disobey illegal orders." There's already been a Time article, which is always a good start. 2) Bush says "I'm responsible for the federal government," and Corrente Wire says "No, you're not."

Seriously, how inept are Joementum and his advisors...they've actually managed to alienate themselves
from Hilary's people (FDL). Is she a crazed, angry liberal too now? Yes, but don't you forget--Joe is a tried and true Democrat (AMERICAblog), no matter what those crazy blogofascists might say...and no matter what his own actions may suggest.

The Boston Globe takes
on evil incarnate (Gadflyer).

Dear Leader is just trying to protect us, so
these two Americans must have done something wrong (Greenwald)."

"No no no, it's okay when we do it (Billmon)."

"I'm nothing like those crazed liberal blogofascists...they're so...so...angry (Digby)."

Going to great lengths to win hearts and minds...of our own troops (Booman).

Fear and tax cuts...
for the good of the country (Existentialist Cowboy)!

Real Time is one of two reasons why I miss HBO (the other, of course, is Entourage), but thanks to C&L,
I don't have to miss it quite as much. And speaking of C&L (and YouTube), Dana B. looks at the "Year of the Clip."

Here's the latest in Echidne's lovely Cootie Awards series.

I'll just take this time to say that my morbid curiosity meter is going off the charts for the '08 Republican Primaries, and I'm really not sure why. From TBogg.

Alter Destiny makes its debut appearance on the blogroll by mentioning something interesting--why in the hell isn't the "
Wake Up Wal-Mart Tour" focusing mostly on the Midwest. I live in a mid-Missouri town (Columbia) run mostly by Wal-Mart money...91,000 people here, and one Supercenter is not enough...so they're building THREE more. They'll have covered all four corners, and it's disgusting.

Republicans feasting on each other
in my home state (Fired Up! Missouri). Good times.

Wolcott takes on
one of his favorite targets. Making fun of PM is like shooting dead fish in a barrel, but this post is worth it for the title alone.

Rosie Ruiz runs for office (Rising Hegemon).

Upyernoz is back from vacation! And he gets all scientific and stuff!

Mannion
writes about Orson Welles.

If sarcasm is for losers, then the GN blogroll is screwed (Pandagon).

And finally, the Far in Lefarkins links to the
most important issue of the week. I vote for That's Not Sangria!

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Only Fair

If I'm going to rip on the bloggers, pundits, and politicians who don't realize that we have hit the tipping point of a five-decade infection of authoritarianism in our democracy, then I need to recognize the folks who do get it more often. Sara at Orcinus and Norman Mailer, via poputonian at Digby, get it. Go give them some love and then heed.

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Saturday, August 26, 2006

Welcome!

A hearty hat tip to Crooks and Liars for the link, and a welcome to all visitors who followed that link.

And while we're at it, thanks to Alter Destiny for the blog roll.

We're very much believers in quid pro quo, and therefore we've added two more sites to our own blogroll.

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Albert O. Hirschman V (Finale)

I'll conclude the series I've been doing (finally) on the works of Albert O. Hirschman, one of maybe a half dozen economists sufficiently grounded to the planet enough to put confidence in their words. I want to spend a little time on a couple of compilations of his essays, Essays in Trespassing: Economics to Politics and Beyond and Rival Views of Market Society and Other Recent Essays. He apparently had other compilations earlier in his career, Journeys Toward Progress: Studies of Economic Policy-Making in Latin America and A Bias for Hope: Essays on Development and Latin America, that I haven't read, mainly because I never saw them at the book store (like all the others I've reviewed here) at some point over the last decade or so (now only Exit, Voice and Loyalty is likely to turn up) and haven't really gotten online to track them down yet.

I haven't been as interested in the early works because, while the writings of his on development are extremely informed and thoughtful and predictably more insightful than most development writings, even with the recent critiques of the World Bank and IMF, I'm just not that interested in that topic. And that's also a problem for me with the two remaining books at hand here. Several of the contributions to both are on development and its problems, but, if you don't know much about the topic or only get your views from the economic press and pundits, you owe it to yourself to get an objective and experienced view.

What is good about Essays and Rival Views is the remaining writings. For one thing, many of them give him a chance to respond to critiques of his works like Exit and The Passions and the Interests, reviewed here earlier. Essays in Trespassing is essentially nothing but his chance to rethink his views on those works and other earlier ones, such as National Power and the Structure of Foreign Trade and The Strategy of Economic Development (again, unread by me). The benefit, of course, is that you get his summary of his themes in the books as well as what others have said and how he has responded. Since Exit is my favorite of his books, one of my favorite of all books, hearing his addendums is especially helpful, particularly his expansion of the concept of "voice," which he tells us now is, compared to exit, richer, more modulated, exuberant, treacherous, and hazardous (which is why I've tended to opt for exit once it was clear the voice could cost too much and still fail). In Rival Views, he makes clear that more attention should be given to "voice" as it reflects the complexity of social life that many (most?) fellow economists have unfortunately missed in their simplistic modeling (my words, not his). His last couple of essays, on Passions, are a call for a return to the older, broader (more complex, again) view of econ and society exemplified by Adam Smith and dumped on by his devoted followers.

This understanding of and emphasis on complexity is the hallmark of Hirschman's work and what drew me to him from the beginning. His work in economic development, trying to apply simplified models to a complex world, made him able to see the application of the dynamic field of complexity theory to society, politics, and economics well before the discipline even got started. Reading his works, you see the contingency and power of social interactions with their flows and tipping points and unintended consequences, as well as the ways that streams of human events can produce similarities of thought and action. I realize that, in giving you just a cursory view of these two books' 22 essays plus intro notes, I've failed to convey what's in them much (but there are 22 essays plus intro notes!!!). I hope that the earlier reviews on his monographs will give you the flavor of what you find in these two. In fact, if you only have time for one Hirschman book, one of these might be what you should do (I'd go with Essays). You'll get his recaps and updates. And probably go ahead and check out the other books, after all.

I know I take shots at economists here without always explaining why. I find most of them, with their truncated views of reality and history and their exalted views of themselves and discipline, so limited and predictable in a world that's not that I groan when they open their mouths because they are just "capitalist" versions of the old, failed communists, similarly unaware of their ignorance and liabilities. But there is the alternative tradition, the way of the Smiths, Heilbroners and Galbraiths, Lindbloms and Hirschmans, to actually study the world as it is, not as their dogmas and gospels would have it. Hirschman writes the shortest, most densely packed with insight pieces, and his style is every bit as entertaining as Heilbroner or Galbraith. (I left the others out intentionally.) If you've realized yourself that economists are saying more about their religion than their reality but still want somebody to help you get to understanding, Hirschman is where you should start. You'll just feel smarter when you're done.

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Weather, Water, Energy 8-26-06

January water skiing in WI? Maybe it's just a matter of time. (h/t Think Progress)

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Friday, August 25, 2006

Props to Paul Hackett

Paul Hackett is doing some fundraising work for Sherrod Brown through Democracy For America, and that's very commendable. The way he was pushed out the door by Democrats (and some bloggers) for an establishment candidate like Brown was upsetting and disheartening, and I just assumed he'd be sitting this campaign out, but it looks like he's decided that, disheartening or not, the midterms are too important to sit on the sidelines. Kudos.

While Sherrod has stood up to the administration on things like the war in Iraq, he has always fought to protect our troops, to make sure our first responders have the tools they need in an emergency, to tighten our borders, and fix the problems in homeland security that Republicans have allowed to still exist five years after 9/11. But we don't have to take it lying down.

...

As an Iraq War veteran, I know what fighting for America's security means. Sherrod Brown opposed the war in Iraq from the start. Since the invasion, he's successfully lobbied to get body armor for our servicemen and women and he's held the Administration accountable for the $8 billion it spends on Iraq every month. We need leaders like Sherrod Brown who will bring real security to Ohio communities.

Republicans are going to come after Sherrod with their typical lies and false negative tactics. We need to strike fast and hard with the truth. This is a critical race that we can win, but only if we help Sherrod Brown back against Republican attacks.

...

I hope you can join me in supporting Sherrod Brown so we can take back the US Senate and restore honest political leadership to Ohio.

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So...

...tell me specifically why a nationwide ad campaign of "Republicans have been wrong about everything for the last five years. Republicans cannot govern well," wouldn't work? Too tactless? Nah, that can't be it. Seriously, why wouldn't it work? People would feel sorry for Republicans or something? Here's one of their most highly-esteemed "experts" 3+ years ago:

This war is over. The only question now is whether a new provisional government is installed before the BBC and The New York Times have finished running their exhaustive series on What Went Wrong with the Pentagon's Failed War Plan. . .

...

It takes two to quagmire. In Vietnam, America had an enemy that enjoyed significant popular support and effective supply lines. Neither is true in Iraq. Isolated atrocities will continue to happen in the days ahead, as dwindling numbers of the more depraved Ba'athists confront the totality of their irrelevance. But these are the death throes: the regime was decapitated two weeks ago, and what we've witnessed is the last random thrashing of the snake's body.

...

But, for everyone other than media naysayers, it's the Anglo-Aussie-American side who are the geniuses. Rumsfeld's view that one shouldn't do it with once-a-decade force, but with a lighter, faster touch has been vindicated, with interesting implications for other members of the axis of evil and its reserve league.

Seriously, why?

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Weather, Water, Energy 8-25-06

One step forward, two back. The Bushnev folks in DOE have finally come up with an energy efficiency rule that would save $9 billion in electricity costs and eliminate the need for 11 new power plants over the next 28 years. The problem is they scrapped a DOE rule that would have saved $11 b. and 16 plants in the same period (plus be more likely to stand up under peak loads), and no one seems to know why. . . . Science Daily reports that concerns about methane emissions associated with global warming 12,000 years ago came from tropical wetlands or plant products, not release of seafloor methane deposits as other studies suggested. There was fear that a repeat of the seafloor releases now might trigger far more massive outcomes than have been predicted. For now, it appears that possibility is off the tables. . . . Susie Madrak at Suburban Guerilla has a story on fish from warm water climes to the south now turning up off the Rhode Island coast. The seafood restaurant industry is undoubtedly thankful. . . . And, of course, British Petroleum was apparently warned two years ago of the pipeline corrosion problem that has shut down production in Alaska. Can the old "his lips are moving" joke apply to a corporation?

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FRIDAY CAT BLOGGING!! Mr. Cranky Pants


I'm tired....leave me alone...I just wanna go to bed

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Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Lance Known as Mannion

Lance Mannion has had a run of eclectic and truly interesting posts in the last week or so, occasionally political but mainly showing what talent and diverse interests can create. Go read.

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Willie Mays and Robert Reich

As someone who grew up watching Willie Mays, I found the end of his career difficult to watch, the once amazing skills eroded by time. I'm having the same feeling now watching Robert Reich. The man who gave us "knowledge workers" also wrote Tales of a New America, which should have been required reading for wannabe Dem powerbrokers for 20 years. But somewhere between there, thinking peopl would be interested in his getting lost at the Dept of Labor, and now, he's as self-deceived and helpless as Mays on a high fly in the sun that last year.

Joshua Holland at Gadflyer has
reamed him better than I could, or want to. I'll just say that he is the perfect example of Beltway savants who don't understand how sick our democracy is and how it needs not a bandaid but a thorough cleansing of the toxins left by 40-50 years of authoritarian influence and power-grabbing. Reich's "advice" to Dems should they capture a house in 2006 is exactly the battleplan they followed after McCarthy, after Nixon, and after Reagan/BushI and Iran-Contra. And because the Dems failed to make the case that those people inflicted crippling wounds on our democracy and historical legacy, the Repubs came back into power each time further and further along in their quest to institute one-party authoritarian rule. The Dems had a chance to anchor Enron around the Repubs' neck, but, no, Reich-parrot Lieberman took the same tack. You wonder if they've lost the capacity to learn. (And don't get me started on nitwit Clinton preaching how he worked with Repubs in Congress. At least he's showing indelibly what a self-serving tool he's always been.)

We will not recover our democracy if the Bushnev Administration is allowed to walk away from its corruption, subversion, and destruction. Simple as that. If Dems follow Reich's "advice," when Jeb later inevitably takes office, he will pick up exactly where his increasingly demented brother left off. It's not about "payback." It's about our very future as a constitutional democracy. Tell Reich he's still lost and to STFU unless/until he finds his way again.

POSTSCRIPT: As if reading my mind,
Matt Taibbi and Susie Madrak have the same wisdom for Robert and his idiotic ilk.

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Time to Get Scared or Serious

Mary at Left Coaster has a linky story that should scare the urine out of you. Which Dana Blankenhorn is his usual demure, understated way supplements. Remember, we warned you.

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Tough Dems v. What We Get

Over the last week or so Digby has continued to raise the point that other bloggers, much less Dem power-types, still don't seem to get. If the Repubs score even when their messages are a minority view, how does that happen? Cheating and deception? Yes. Compliant, retarded media? Yes. Lazy, self-obsessed citizens? By God, yes. But it's more than that. They understand that communication isn't just the message, it's also the messenger.

When they roll out the "manly" Reagans, McCains, and Codpieces, the blonde Aryan sisterhood, they're using channels that are reinforcing, counterintuitive and thus attention-getting, and hard to counter. "I may not agree with him, but I like that he stands for something." "Sure, she's as bad as Stalin with her rhetoric, but she's so pretty and look at how she's smiling. She's just entertaining us." And against these image-conscious spokespeople, the Dems continue to send out the Reids and Kerrys and Pelosis (who gives Joan Rivers and Victoria Principal real competition for scary). As Digby argues over and over, the Dems have people like Hackett and Waxman (maybe Webb, maybe Clark) who can fling the crap back at them in the same reinforcing, counterintuitive way, but look what they did to Hackett in the name of another blow-dried Beltway-ite who might not even beat DeWine. And for the face of progressive blogs to be a mousy Berkeley type who even some of us feel is dangerously short-sighted, predictably narrow-minded, and ethically challenged is an error beyond magnitudes.

Lakoff is wrong, as much as I've admired his work for two decades. Dems aren't seen as the nurturant mother. They're seen as MisterRogers, only on the make and without as much testosterone. If/when the Repubs really overplay their corrupt, undemocratic hands, and nothing else is going on, the public may, may, find the rubber-spined, feel your pain, keep me in power regardless of results guys more palatable. Otherwise, "he stands for something" and "she's just kidding."

Does anyone know what Digby looks like?

POSTSCRIPT I: After I finished this post in draft, I stumbled across this Science Daily
article verifying the immediate and long-lasting impact of snap judgments about people based on how they look. Note the "direct correlation between how competent a campaigning politician's face was and how great his margin of victory turned out to be." But, by all means, let's let our focus be our six-point position papers.

POSTSCRIPT II: And, of course, Digby himself adds another
layer before I can even get this posted.

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Betty La Fea (Ugly Betty) Mas Bella Update XV

Okay, the deed is done. Boy has met girl, boy has gotten girl (really gotten girl), . . . . So let's look at who is really important here.

Marcia.

Both the original "Betty La Fea" and its remake "La Fea Mas Bella" have developed one of the better characters in television, the feckless (but becoming feckful) hero's fiance--Marcela in "Betty" and Marcia in "La Fea." Blessed in both cases with excellent actresses doing fine jobs (Natalia Ramirez in "Betty" and Elizabeth Alvarez in "La Fea"), the story takes someone who could have been the stereotype rich bitch fiance and makes her someone you genuinely feel sorry for as the first of two betrayals comes forth. Marcela/Marcia is an accomplished and confident woman who clearly believes in the importance of female independence and achievement (witness the advice given Lola). Yet, when it comes to Armando/Fernando, she ended up as smitten and helpless as Betty/Lety herself. It's much more nuanced than the hero deserves, and you wonder how either of them could fall for this guy so badly. Okay, Marcia has apparently loved him since they were kids, and Lety worships him for defending and supporting her despite her fea-ness. But still . . . .

You also wonder how the US version will deal with it, not being known for much nuance in its melodramas. Well, it sounds like we don't have to worry. Why not? Because it doesn't sound like that plotline will be there. According to advance synopses, the hero in the ABC show will be such a known hound dog that his father hires "Ugly Betty" because she's ugly and won't attract him. That's 180 away from the original. That tension between fecklessness and hound dog-ism and living up to his father's ideal of him is what drives Armando/Fernando into the wrecklessness that powers the entire plot. Maybe they'll get at that in some other way in "Ugly Betty," but they've already jettisoned a perfectly good theme. And, in doing so, it sounds like they've jettisoned the Marcela/Marcia equivalent, as well as the chance for bringing that wonderful character to a broader audience. Just like they've jettisoned Betty's/Lety's mother to give us that tired old "aging father/loyal daughter" plotline. I know I predicted they'd have to cut a lot to fit it into American formats, but does anyone know exactly what they're keeping?

In the meantime, enjoy Elizabeth Alvarez's performance as Marcia. She has even better coming up, and now I'm sure she will be up to it, if they follow true to "Betty," which they've done much better than it sounds like others I could mention.

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Ready to Listen Now?

Let’s see—officials clearly ready to subvert the Constitution to get and/or retain great political power? Check. Same officials lie and concoct stories to mislead Americans about the truth of a history-changing event? Check. The enforcement and intelligence communities who were supposed to stop that event lead the investigations and inform a commission which issues a reality-defying report? Check. A compliant media dutifully parrots the official line and disparages and minimizes critics? Check. And Arlen Specter is right there to pretend objective, dispassionate pursuit of truth and justice while really selling out the nation to the powers-that-be? Check.

Iraq and its aftermath? Nope. The Kennedy Assassination. If anything good can come from the clear perversion of our democracy by self-aggrandizing zealots who take upon themselves the power to pursue their dreams of shaping the world their way, maybe it will be a greater sympathy among prior skeptics for those of us who have see everything related to post-9/11 happen before. In 1963.

Digby recently ran a post on how the Josh Marshalls and Kevin Drums of the world have awakened to how their beknighted and long-defended “moderation” may have been a bit misguided. Their “it can’t happen here,” “only paranoids believe conspiracies happen” attitudes have been shared among their “moderate” and “civilized” brethren about the reality of Kennedy’s death for decades and held back the true accountability that may have established better defenses against the post-9/11 debacle. People who suddenly realize just how dishonest, incompetent, and malignant government types can be with regard to the last five years might, just might, now have the same realization about the same motivations and even people who convinced “moderate” America that a third-rate prosecutor’s brief guided by an FBI and a CIA doing major CYA and written by, guess who, Arlen Specter might not have gotten at the truth. Certainly that na├»ve faith in Hoover and the Warren “Let’s not scare Americans into WWIII” Commission should at least be shaken a bit.

The truth of Kennedy’s murder may never be known. Likely few of those who know its components are even still alive. If rogue zealots and/or vengeful Mafia types did take him out when the FBI and CIA should have stopped them (9/11, anyone?), then we clearly can’t expect any revelations from them, then or now. Killing JFK wouldn’t have required a ton of people to cover it up, just people who could be blamed for not preventing it. People can’t keep secrets this long? Please. Direct me to the study that proves that, all the controlled experiments on what happens in a presidential assassination, especially when “moderates” claim anyone who does come forward is psychotic.

Ironically, the post-9/11 fiasco has made it clearer to me why people whom I would trust to demand a far higher standard of evidence than has ever been provided by Arlen Specter’s report instead joined the scoffers. When writers I respect, Digby and Krugman and Greenwald, publicly admit that it’s only been in the last few years that they had gotten their clue about power, politics, and deceit EVEN IN AMERICA when it’s been expanding from Nixon on, then no wonder the Armstrongs and Drums likely still roll their eyes if you suggest the same forces with the same self-serving evil might have been at work to remove a president seen as caving in on nukes, commies, Cuba, Vietnam, oil, and Negroes and then cover it up later when whole agencies and institutions were at stake. (Look at what the “sane” folks do when you suggest today that undemocratic, power-hungry officials would rig elections through machines they control.) No, it’s probably too late for reality to be rediscovered about JFK’s killing, but at least the “it couldn’t happen in America” crowd will now have to explain why what happens in the 2000s couldn’t have happened in 1963.

POSTSCRIPT: Or not. Check this
story blowing a giant hole in Specter’s “magic bullet” theory. Think about all the blogs you read. How many of them, Armstrong, Drum, Digby, Greenwald, any of them, have commented, linked to it? (Even as Greenwald essentially makes my case regarding the recent NSA wiretap coverage?) The only ones I’ve seen are Susie Madrak at Suburban Guerilla and Will Bunch at Attytood. Blinders never come completely off, do they? And so the threat will never be overcome.

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Weather, Water, Energy 8-23-06

Derrick Jackson in the Boston Globe alerts us to a Weather Channel series this fall, "The Climate Code," that will stop hemhawing about global warming and start focusing on what we need to do, particularly inner-city areas whose residents will be unusually susceptible to heat, floods, and other predictables. It's good news and hopefully the start of reality in our media. . . . An Edmunds.com study shows that hybrid cars and their fuel efficiency will pay for themselves over time. So it's time to end the tax breaks that help them do so, right, DC? God, I hope future historians don't choke themselves laughing at our stupidity right now. . . . Meanwhile, a Christian Science Monitor editorial documents the dangerous effects of our pollution on our oceans and how the oceans may get us back if we don't get our acts together. It's not pretty, on so many levels. . . . And just when you think you know all the possible problems, here comes the release of mercury into that stuff we breathe by the drying of wetlands and peat that have absorbed it and burning them up. "Hundreds of years of mercury accumulation," we're told, will be released. Yum.

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God: "I've Had It"

Really nice piece in the Boston Globe's op-ed section today by a United Church of Christ minister. A well-written, very humorous take on God's likely judgment of today's landscape, probably too true to be as funny as it should be. One excerpt to convince you to read it all:

Citing the recent war in Lebanon as the final straw, God declared that, until further notice, each of the world's major religions would be punished. God then sent the religious leaders, with their faiths, to their rooms so they could ``sit and think about all the ways they've been bad. They can take their sacred books with them to read," continued God, ``but that's it. No TV, no cellphone, and no iPod."
POSTSCRIPT: Turns out the Onion has done a similar take, of course.

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Via atrios...

...any time someone mentions the worst, dumbest, most insane Senator this country has ever seen, I make sure to pass the word along (h/t Atrios).

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Water, Water, Nowhere

Another couple of articles today on the need to start paying attention to water needs. This Reuters article goes into how much water is used in the Great Plains to produce food . . . and how that underground, aquifer water is being drained faster than replaced. Add in the growing non-food demand and uh-oh. This NM article focuses specifically on the state's coming problems and growing calls for "proactive planning." You think? I was teaching a summer course on water shortages and their political implications in the mid-'80s. Good thing we're such a serious people . . . wait, have to go. A Jon Benet story is on.

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Tuesday Pirates Rant™ – Best 47-78 Team in the League!!

It’s almost football season, so there’s no sense in spending just a ton of time on an organization that doesn’t care about winning, so let’s cut to the chase.

Good

* Well, the Pirates did win a game this week (7-3 over the Reds Friday night). That’s always a good thing. And until Saturday, they were able to say they had a winning record since the All-Star break. They’ve since remedied that. All in all, they’ve lost 5 of 6 since winning a breath-taking (for this team) 4 in a row last week. But they did win a game, and Ian Snell did pitch well again, so I’ve at least got one good thing to mention.

* Another good thing: 2005 1st-round draft pick Andrew McCutchen, after doing quite well at Class-A Hickory, was promoted to Class-AA Altoona last week and has proceeded to rip the cover off the ball, batting .360 with HR power despite being a skinny 19-year old centerfielder. I could make a comment that this will just cause the Pirates to promote him to Pittsburgh too quickly and ruin him, but I won’t. These are supposed to be happy bullets.

* One more good thing: as bad as Jim Tracy has been as manager, at least he hasn’t
gotten into a fist fight with one of his own starting pitchers.

* And one last good thing (I’m trying!): ESPN has a
good piece on Freddy Sanchez, who is leading the league in hitting and doubles despite being benched in favor of Jose Hernandez and Joe Randa for the first couple months of the season.

"He's so competitive, he'll destroy himself to be better than you," says Freddy's agent.
Ouch. This season must be killing him then, eh?

Bad

* For starters, Shawn “I think I have a torn ligament in my shoulder, but the Pirates traded for me anyway” Chacon starts tonight. That’s never a good thing.

(Speaking of which, this is from The Onion: “Pittsburgh acquires Shawn Chacon from New York, prompting Pirates owner Kevin McClatchy to run around the office screaming, ‘We got a Yankee!’” Any time The Onion is making fun of you, you suck. Just thought I’d point that out.)

* Young players are falling left and right—rookie reliever Josh Sharpless and rookie-ish outfielder Nate McLouth both went on the DL last week, and promising starting pitcher Tom Gorzelanny is being held out while experiencing “stiffness” in his elbow.

* Here’s a bombshell that I didn’t even see coming—and I’m pretty damn cynical by this point. Headline: “
Hernandez could be in the future plans.” That’s right. Soon-to-be-38-year-old Jose Hernandez has so amazingly well in stealing at-bats from Freddy Sanchez and other young players that Jim Tracy wants to bring him back. As bad a manager as I think Tracy is right now, I think it’s safe to say that he’s leaps and bounds better as a manager than as a talent evaluator. I’d say he has no future in the front office, but then again...I’m sure the Pirates will be hiring sooner or later…

* In today’s paper came news that GM Dave Littlefield is “
in search of a left-handed power bat.” Well good. I guess it’s good to acknowledge that you’ve developed 0 left-handed power hitters in your five years as GM. You’re probably thinking that I’m about to mention that Littlefield could have traded Kip Wells for Ryan Howard last year for what would probably be the 5th straight Rant™, but the joke’s on you. I’ll mention no such thing.

Blog

Here’s Sam at
BucsDugout, responding to the propaganda machine that is the Pirates’ MLB.com official website:

Read this really entertaining atricle. You'll laugh, you'll cry...probably just cry.I know that this is an article for the Pirates' website, so they are grasping at straws for good things to say, but this new article has crossed the line that separates stupid and insulting. In short, this article makes me want to vomit, then consume said vomit, then vomit the aforementioned vomit up again.

It starts with the title:

Pirates hope to Motor in Tigers' path
Blossoming talent, guidance of Littlefield have Bucs headed up
W-W-WHAT? "Blossoming talent" is a vague enough phrase that I could tolerate this writer using it, but why the hell does he have to include Littlefield in all of this? Is this man related to Littlefield, or something? It is strange how this verbal massage comes on the heels of news that the Nuttings may actually be (Gasp!) dissatisfied with their horrendously inadequate GM...is J. Edgar Hoover involved in all of this somehow, even though he is dead? That must be it.

Basically, the thrust of this article is that the Tigers went from worst to first, so the Pirates will definitely do that too. The author employs a variety of "evidence" that includes (willfully?) negligent use of statistics, obligatory stupid quotes from baseball managers, and optimism that borders on fanaticism. I am not sure why all of this burns me so much. I guess it is because I can see the Pirates justifying another five years of horrible baseball by constantly pointing to the 2006 Detroit Tigers and scolding fans for their impatience.
Here’s Where is Van Slyke’s preview of last night’s Braves-Pirates game. See, it’s not just me who’s turned unredeemably cynical!

Zach Duke and John Smoltz will face off tonight with Duke taking the place of the "glitch-elbowed" Tom Gorzellany. As we speak the scribes (or more accurately, the people who replace "Kris Benson" and "Jason Schmidt" in the form columns with "Ian Snell" and "Tom Gorzellany" and "10 losing years" with "14") at Pirates.com are probably churning out tons of tripe comparing the young Pirate staff to that of the Braves circa 1990 (I wouldn't know, I can't even bring myself to look).
Until next week, when I will care even less because we’ll be only four days from the college football opener...

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Monday, August 21, 2006

The Real Must See TV III

In our second of this three-part series on the wonders that are infomercials, we left you with a cliffhanger, teasing you with a taste of the most ubiquitous of all the early morning, cable station fare--the diet and exercise infomercials. As I noted in concluding then, they are not always presented together even though their goals are presumably the same--the "sculpting" of a wonderful new you. The diet ones don't always emphasize workouts, just meal plans that have helped these so-personable women (and occasional man) lose the equivalent of an adult male in fat (old joke--how can you lose ten pounds of ugly fat in one second? Cut off your head. Bada-boom. . . . sorry). And the meals come right to your door!!! Or, if you prefer not to diet but actually exerting your muscles yourself is too onerous, try the electronic belt that will send currents of electricity into your muscles in patterned intervals. Surprise, they contract without your having to do a thing, unless that special gel doesn't prevent the third degree burns. Or the Parkinson's doesn't set in later. It's great to watch the models just smile as they're being electrocuted, like being administered shocks is cool. (If nothing else, you can put the belt on your dog to teach it not to jump on people. . . . please, don't call the cops on me. . . .)

If you want real tone, though, to look hot in your bikini or Speedo, you need one of many tried-and-true exercise programs (with "diet" in small print, like "caution: results may not be typical. . . no fooling, jack). The heavy duty machines for arms, biceps, pecs, and upper body tend to be more male-oriented, with bodies well-oiled enough to draw the Playgirl crowd. Abs, butt, and thighs? Women's territory (although there are definitely guys who should pay attention). Some of the upper body stuff looks pretty tough, but that 50-year-old grandma in the bikini can do it, macho man. The ab and butt stuff essentially use machines to help you do the crunch, donkey kick, or butt lift that Jack Lalanne taught 50 years ago (speaking of whom, he still gets wheeled out to animatronically do a juicer commercial) or Denise Austin does with that "want to wipe that smile off her face" perkiness even now. But how could doing regular exercises be as much fun as these people are clearly having with the Firm Body Beach Ab Crunch Lounge Doer Shaper in Six, Twelve, or Thirty Seconds, Minutes, Lifetimes?

After a while you get to know the personalities because they show up over and over. The Total Gym commercials (Personal Testimonial: I have one, and it works) with Chuck Norris and Christie Brinkley are everywhere. I love watching little, round, potato-shaped Chuck in his tank top get to out-macho all these muscle-mag studs who marvel at his T-Gym prowess. He'll be the next Lalanne. Christie, of course, just has to look like Christie (and, while we're on the topic, WHAT WAS THAT GUY THINKING???? and don't get me started on Billy Joel), but she does the workouts much more impressively than Chuck or his scary skinny wife who needs less Total Gym and more Oreo.

Another ever-present guy is Body by Jake (don't know his last name but he's famous). He's got machines for everything, and he's sold them all on screen at one time or another. Deion Sanders swears by him, so what more do you need? This is just one of several exermercial (??) tropes--using the sports celebrity (or former movie/tv star or SI swimsuit model) to sell the product since they owe their professional careers to the machine. Okay. I like Jake, though, because he tells me "Don't quit" although lately he's started adding "on you" which seems too many words and a little colder and less personal. I don't know, it could just be me. I happened upon one of his commercials on Telemundo the other day, which was surreal (Jake in Spanish) but cool. The most obnoxious guy is Tony Little, who did do a funny GEICO commercial (and apparently wore himself out on his Gazelle (Personal Testimonial: I have one, and it works) and now is hawking pillows and juicers). Watch out, Jack. And Chuck.

There are female versions of these guys. Sometimes you already know them (Ali Landry, Daisy Fuentes, Charlotte Ross), but mainly they’re new faces, perky, perky new faces. Beach Body has a couple, one a spunky blonde named Chalene (I hate spunk) who will have knee joints the size of melons (which will go nicely with her chest, though) when her slim through kicking days are over. There's another one named Debbie who is into her third version of her routine now, at least since I've been watching, sidekicked by Julie Moran assuring us that the exercise helped her get rid of all that baby weight. (Which is a common gambit here--this woman lost 70 pounds!!! 10 of which turns out to be baby and placenta, and 50 more the baby weight coming off. Not that the exercise doesn't help, but 70 pounds worth? Please.) Debbie has undergone a chest area transformation herself since the earlier commercials. Maybe we’ll see her on those breast pill commercials next. One of my favorites is Darla Haun, a thirtysomething brunette who has sold pills, makeup, Gazelles (they tried someone else in the last one, lasted maybe two weeks), and Ab Lounges, although the last was with a Brady Bunch boy unfortunately (I thought they were all dead). She still looks remarkably good, thanks to the machines, no doubt, although the eye work has become noticeable. But, Darla, all these infomercials and we've never seen your legs, your clearly long, long legs? What's that about?

Of course, my academic interest in these particular infomercials is in the models, the female ones, many of whom confusingly got their perfect shapes from several different products apparently. You see them sweating to one machine/routine and then, ooops, there they are getting those great abs and terrific thighs and butt from something else. What gives? Do they think we're stupid? (Well, yes, actually. Practically every one of these has some scene which starts off with an overweight body then "melting" into the perfect shape promised by the machine, and in small print somewhere on the screen will appear the word "simulation." Really??? And does the US Patent Office really give patents for a revolutionary “sculpting arc”?)

For a long time there was a scary skinny but muscled blond female on everything who had moved over from the ESPN exercise shows (where are those things now???? In the soft-core porn section at SunCoast?). You can still see her with Chuck (if you haven't quickly changed channels). Right now there's a slightly better fed and more wholesomely pretty blonde turning up on everything from The Firm to Jake to Windsor Pilates, out-attracting Daisy Fuentes. For a while a dark-haired female broke the blonde stranglehold and did Jake (get your mind out of the gutter), Ab Rollers, and ended up in an anti-gas commercial (intestinal, not the other). That was disturbing, frankly, and made you wonder about the consequences of making yourself so skinny. It's bad seeing them hawking the exercise thing and then the next infomercial it's sound systems or "enhancement." Can they truly be so Renaissance, you find yourself asking, and then your skepticism begins to rise. (In the interest of gender equity, there is one guy, a “former professional soccer player,” who turns up with his Adonis body in everything. He annoys me.)

You might think, surely these things get old pretty quickly, and, in truth, most of them do, although not really watching them prop Jack up, like the Soviets used to do to Brezhnev. But, usually, just when you’re getting bored, something new pops up, a Time-Life series of 60s Beach Blanket songs or that software guy with the brunette in the tight knit white top and the tight split-side skirt . . . . Sorry. Right now there's a pretty good one about a moving seat that you can twist yourself back and forth on for your abs, although I think a bar stool would work as well, and one that takes off on the "Dancing with the Stars" craze that shows great abs but not much more. It's too much like "Yoga Booty Ballet," though. But now that I’ve found Jake on Spanish tv, whole new permutations are taking shape. I’m telling you, it’s neverending entertainment. Try it and see.

(You think I made that Yoga Booty thing up, don't you?)

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Sunday, August 20, 2006

Sunday Blogroll!!

That's right...everybody's favorite Friday tradition has moved to Sunday. How was everybody's Saturday? Let's see...mine was busily unproductive. I finished Mysteries of Pittsburgh, read 75 pages of Mind Game, read another 75 pages of On Writing, watched Dazed and Confused, tested the new Quiznos BBQ brisket sandwich (thumbs up!), watched two Simpsons episodes on DVD, caught every episode of Feasting on Asphalt on Food Network, worked for about an hour on a new song to post on MySpace, worked out for 90 minutes...I did everything, I did nothing. I laughed, I cried. Anyway...more of the same today, hopefully! On to the linkiness!

We'll start off with
some strange polling (Digby). 35% of those polled are worried that Democrats will weaken our terrorist defenses, but 46% are worried that Republicans will involve us in more conflicts...thereby presumably weakening our terrorist defenses. Woohoo! We win!

Not saying Israel was ever particularly good at this stuff, but apparently when you side with the United States, you immediately become just as bad at diplomacy and public relations
as we are (Susie). What a disaster. Susie's right--war doesn't work. But we'll continue trying it anyway. Speaking of public relations, what's sadder...a 38% dive in about a month, or the fact that he's still more popular than Dubya (Wolcott)?

Chris is right--Dems really are going to have to
respond by playing hardball with their "good friend" Joementum, and I don't think they're capable of it. Dems are nothing if not "incredibly naive or purposely self-destructive." Meanwhile Atrios and Jane give their takes on the "What do we do now?" issues of Lamont/Lieberman, and both are worth reading.

All I can say about the TNR defending Coulter this week is that, well, it was to be expected. There's a reason they endorsed Lieberman in '04...they're supposed leftists who want to do nothing except take down the Left. Just like good old Joementum. It doesn't even make me angry anymore...it just makes me sad. Echidne, on the other hand,
has plenty to say about it.

There are plenty of posts out there about the warrantless wiretapping issue, but Len's post
here is one of the best. Love this:

If we had wanted a monarchy, we had one! It didn't work out! Moreover, the one we had —King George III —was better than the cretinous would be King that arrogates unto himself powers he doesn't have and doesn't deserve. King George III was wrong and mad, but George Jr is merely ludicrous and slow witted.
Up is down (TBogg)! Left is right! Black is white! Stable is unstable (Billmon)! Gaining in the polls is freefalling (Alicublog)!

Here's a nice "Iraq v. Vietnam: why they're different" post from Dana. Meanwhile, here's a nice "Iraq v. Vietnam: why they're relatively similar" post from BooMan.

Pandagon's always very reliable at discussing articles and issues about which I never would have otherwise thought.
Here's one for the weekend. Hef's almost universally loved now, but this make me realize that I actually have no idea who/what he really is. The "Divorce in '54 is, like, so unfair to men" article tells me more than I wanted to know.

Karl Rove,
comedian extraordinaire (Rising Hegemon)!

Gadflyer, in response to inevitable "lefties are conspiracy theorists" outcries,
provides a nice summary of the shaky timing of the England arrests last week.

It's always sad
when relationships end (Left Coaster).

Before going on vacation, David discusses being
a radical moderate. A good friend of mine in Oklahoma is the same way. He wants to be bipartisan, and he feels he's pretty conservative on a lot of issues...but in the current political environment he ends up feeling just as mad and outraged as the so-called shrill left extremists do. As an anonymous poster wrote in the comments to David's post...the Bush administration 'radicalized' a lot of people.

Whenever I get around to writing another "Fraud in the Land of Telenovelas" post, I think I'll have to call it "
Fraud, Corruption, Murder, and General Sleaziness in the Land of Telenovelas" (Mercury Rising). Seriously...there's some really creepy stuff down there, and nobody's paying attention.

Avedon has a
great thought in regard to the bubble discussion I linked to yesterday:

[A]s we have seen time and again, these same pundits will go into optimistic overdrive over the next big thing, once again advising us that there can never be a crash because it's all different now, and then when their projections prove false, blame the rest of us for having (they claim) believed such an unrealistic thing.

Sometimes I think they must do it on purpose: Their claims about the wonderful, Everything Has Changed-type economic miracle-of-the-moment make no sense, so people get the idea that economics is way over their heads and don't bother to follow it. Then when some moron claims that the economy can never go bad again because It's All Different Now, their alarm bells don't go off, because they figure it's just too complicated for them to understand. (I guess it's kind of like our foreign policy, then.)
Via Lefarkins (and Roxanne), here's an excellent piece from the LA Times on a journalist who tried to expose something even other journalists couldn't get behind. This does remind me that I've been wanting to write a good post about the crack epidemic for some time. Time to put on in draft status...and likely forget about it for another 3 months or so. I suck sometimes.

I'm enjoying this
far too much (Great Society).

I don't know what's sadder for me,
that the fear mongering is working, or that, I admit, a small part of me would have reacted the same way (Greenwald).

This just further proves (via Fired Up! Missouri) my thoughts that Myspace and YouTube have allowed the Internet to change the world a second time.

Wow,
is this funny (via First Draft). Denis Leary was by far my favorite comedian when I was in high school, and it makes me happy to see him jumping on good causes, from helping fire fighters to slamming Mel Gibson.

And finally...I'm sorry, but they really need to stop making
these lists (Mannion). And by the way...Arnold Schwartzenegger and Ben Stein were in Dave for a total of about 5 seconds (honestly, I don't even remember Ahhnold being in there at all, but I haven't been awake for all that long), and that was enough to make this #2 on the list? Seriously, you're just embarassing yourselves. Please stop.

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