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Monday, July 26, 2004  
HEY! YOU!  I know, I know, silence for too long, but what can I say?  I have no idea what's happening in the world, and haven't read a newspaper or a blog in almost a week.  It's like living at the bottom of the ocean, I tell you.  The only thing I'm really aware of, besides the flourescent haze that suffuses my office, is that Lance Armstrong won his 6th straight Tour de France in a walk.  He is reportedly a total bastard, but goddamn

I am going to be on vacation all next week, but I'll try to get something up later in this week, either full of the incisive wit and deep analysis all five of you have come to expect from this site, or at least full of pointers to the wit and analysis of others.  In the meantime, this 3-part "Wall Street Self-Defense Manual" in Slate is worth reading.  It is written by disgraced tech-stock analyst Henry Blodgett, who has discovered in magazine journalism a comfortable loophole in the SEC's lifetime ban against his ever working in the securities industry again (he also covered the Martha Stewart trial with an interesting inside-the-indictment perspective, having recently come out of the other end of his own prosecution for securities infractions).  If I read this series correctly, the entire investment management industry is based upon convincing clients they are forward-looking financial geniuses while returning a percentage that compares unfavorably with what I earn from my savings passbook account.  Unless, of course, the stock market goes insane, in which everyone gets rich and convinces each other they are brilliant masters of destiny, until events prove that they are still the same ignorant, twitchy schmucks they were ten years ago.  Interesting reading, in any case. 

Oh, well, back to the work hole I go. 


Friday, July 16, 2004  
Ezra at Pandagon comments today on the overwhelming preponderance of negative ads that the Bush campaign is running. His conclusion is that as Bush's personal approval is running under 50%, and his campaign isn't trying to bump that number up, they must be desperate, employing a last-ditch, mathematically doomed strategy:
[T]he Bush team has evidently decided that opinions on the president are too well formed to change and their only hope is to destroy voter impressions of Kerry.  That's a very dangerous strategy; they're betting that Kerry will fail, that their definition of him as a flip-flopper and weakling will take hold. Since they're not running on anything positive, if they can't redefine Kerry, they lose, as Bush's approvals are well under 50% and they're putting no effort into boosting them. Meanwhile, Kerry is flooding the airwaves with positive portrayals of himself while weak job growth and body bags launch their attacks on Bush. [. . .]The Bush ad attacks are not just a sign of weakness, they're absolute desperation.

This analysis, while comforting, is really premature, I think. It seems more likely that the Bush campaign knows that Kerry will get a bounce after the convention, and wants that bounce to start from as low a number as possible. If you think Kerry's numbers look pretty good now, imagine what they might have been had the Bushies not been beating the flip-flop drum for two months. There is no denying that that particular meme has slipped the leash and has had an effect on the public's perception of Kerry.

The Bush campaign will start building positives on their guy once their own convention rolls around, and they will have two whole months to saturate the airwaves with gauzy american flags and shots of Bush embracing soldiers.

Premature triumphalism will just make us lazy. Don't kid yourself - the bullshit train is coming.


Six rounds of chess, five rounds of boxing. 
Via Slate.


Thursday, July 15, 2004  
Moe is right. This cartoon is not only very funny, it's oddly...soothing.


Monday, July 12, 2004  
Seriously, this is hilarious. I'm not kidding. Go watch it.


Drip, drip. The pace of posting has slowed to a bit of a trickle, I know, but in the interest of keeping the grass from growing too high around here, I am clipping this excellent guest post by Athenae at Eschaton, which I think hits on something pretty interesting:
Small Time
In their Washington Post interview the Johns bring up a point that hasn't been talked about enough: how completely and utterly this White House wastes the opportunities it has:

"In one of a series of interviews since teaming up on Tuesday, Kerry and Edwards predicted they would win the political fight over which party best exemplifies the values and ethics of most Americans, but Kerry said they would wage that battle on their terms and not what he called the Republican Party's 'little political, hot-button, cultural, wedge-driven, poll-driven values.'"

The entire right wing of the Republican party has done absolutely nothing with all the power they have except push the stupidest, meanest parts of their platform. In their public utterances they've done nothing but pule and whine and bitch that Howard Dean was angry, Michael Moore was fat, and Whoopi Goldberg said they sucked. They've hated on gays and they've complained about the Supreme Court and they've moaned about the media that cheerleaded them into Iraq being "too liberal."

Imagine the Democrats with undisputed control of both houses of Congress and the Presidency. Imagine what could have been done with that power. We could have said we were going to Mars, and actually done it. We could have said we were going to cure cancer, and gone at it with all our power and might. We could have said we were going to eliminate the crushing poverty that makes street gangs a scourge in our cities that terrorists can only dream of. We could have lifted this country up in a way that would have inspired the world. We're capable of that.

Instead, we've picked on the small stuff, on the stuff that doesn't matter, and we've called it values. Values isn't a set of groups against which it's okay to discriminate, or a set of bills designed to send a message. Values are what define us, what we hold dear. And if the Johns can get their message about what Americans hold dear out to the public, if they can say, "We are bigger than this, we are better than this, and we can give you something to believe in and work for," well, they could go to Washington and take it all.

Republicans have used their four years in control of government to show us that the best thing they know how to do is put a loudspeaker up to their own inadequacies. What will we do when our time comes?

Amen! This is pretty spot on, when you think about it. There are, or at least, there have been in the past, grand themes in conservatism: fiscal responsibility, patriotism, and a firm foundation on traditional values of work, home and church. But you wouldn't know it from this crowd. While I find a lot of this traditional platform to be fatuous guff, at least it seemed at one time that it was sincerely felt. But these days, it all feels so artificial, such a put-on. Does anybody really think that the gay marriage amendment is something that Bush really feels in his heart is necessary or good? 'Cos I don't. I think the political expedience of the amendment was explained to Bush, and he eagerly signed up for it without a second thought: Wow! This'll shore up the base and win me votes with the Reagan Democrats! Where do I sign! How can you feel anything other than acid reflux contempt when the current generation of congressional republicans, presiding over the largest deficit in American history, berate the "tax n' spend" democrats? Does anyone, can anyone take a thug like Tom Delay seriously as a defender of anything besides his own influence?

Bleah. Well, I do like the VP selection, anyway, and I think we're starting to see a bit of a bounce - the ticket is over 50% in the latest head-to-head Newsweek poll (47-44 if you throw in Nader). I like Edwards, and I think the VP slot is a good place for a rising star to gain a national stage. We are, of course, starting to hear the carping - "He's too inexperienced! He's not seasoned! He doesn't have any foreign policy experience!" - and the rest of it. It is really pretty funny to hear the same people who put up a one-term governor of Texas (which has the structually weakest state executive office in the country -i.e. little real power) for president four years ago to mock the choice of a one-term senator who served on the Senate Intelligence Committee for vice-president. I say it's funny, because I just can't muster up much outrage any more. An essential aspect of outrage is surprise. Both the Onion and Tom Tomorrow have noted this effect.

Oh, and this Tomorrow cartoon is really, really good.

Oh, and by the way, holy crap and sweet fucking mother of mercy you have GOT to be kidding me.


Friday, July 02, 2004  
More Nader. In comments at Orcinus, Richard G. Elliot offers an elegant diagnosis of Nader's particular malady:
[Nader] has a certain strange religiosity about his quest. It seems to me that he looks upon Republicans as members of a different religion and upon Democrats as heretics. Fanatics always punish heretics more harshly than they do pagans.

UPDATE: When it rains, it pours. Now I see this story from an Israeli newspaper relating Nader's comment that two of the three branches of the U.S. government, are, in fact, controlled by money-grubbing jews:
What has been happening over the years is a predictable routine of foreign visitation from the head of the Israeli government. The Israeli puppeteer travels to Washington. The Israeli puppeteer meets with the puppet in the White House, and then moves down Pennsylvania Avenue, and meets with the puppets in Congress. And then takes back billions of taxpayer dollars.

"The Israeli puppeteer," eh? Anyone who supports this piece of shit should be fucking ashamed of themselves. I'm sorry, but it's true. Via Obsidian Wings.

Fahrenheit 9/11. I was going to write a long post discussing Fahrenheit 9/11, which I saw last weekend, but I couldn't quite bring myself to start - there was a lot to say, a welter of conflicting impressions that I wanted to synthesize. It's a good movie, but it steps out too far in some ways and not far enough in others. One of the people I saw it with left the theater in tears. When asked why she was crying, she retorted by asking us why we were laughing. If the things in that movie are true, she said, it's not funny. It's tragic and awful.

She should be right, of course, but goddammit, the movie was funny, because Moore is funny; he is a master sarcasticist with a devil's eye for deflation. Anyway, by the time I got around to drafting this post, there was no need to, because Paul Krugman had already written it:
There has been much tut-tutting by pundits who complain that the movie, though it has yet to be caught in any major factual errors, uses association and innuendo to create false impressions. Many of these same pundits consider it bad form to make a big fuss about the Bush administration's use of association and innuendo to link the Iraq war to 9/11. Why hold a self-proclaimed polemicist to a higher standard than you hold the president of the United States?

And for all its flaws, "Fahrenheit 9/11" performs an essential service. It would be a better movie if it didn't promote a few unproven conspiracy theories, but those theories aren't the reason why millions of people who aren't die-hard Bush-haters are flocking to see it. These people see the film to learn true stories they should have heard elsewhere, but didn't. Mr. Moore may not be considered respectable, but his film is a hit because the respectable media haven't been doing their job.



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