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Archive for October, 2011


[ 47 ] October 18, 2011 |

Gallup has conducted its first poll on marijuana legalization showing more people favoring it than opposing.

Given the seeming inevitability of decriminalization if not outright legalization, I find it somewhat odd that the Obama Administration is looking to crack down on the most pot-friendly place in the country, California. This seems like an issue where government indifference is the best move. It certainly doesn’t feel like legalized pot is going to be an election issue so I don’t think there’s any concrete political benefit here.

It could be that Obama outright opposes unregulated medical marijuana dispensaries and legalization and is giving his law enforcement team full powers to crack down. Given the budget crisis, unreasonable sentencing for drug violations, and overcrowded prisons, this doesn’t seem like very good public policy.

On the other hand, you can make a legitimate argument that the pot culture of California has gotten a bit too public. I was in Oakland last weekend for the Western History Association conference. I went with some friends around San Francisco. My friend knew of an excellent beer bar in the Mission so we stopped in to get a delicious beverage. We go out on the patio and people are openly smoking pot out there. And not just the surreptitious joint but pulling out pipes. I don’t have any principled opposition to this and no doubt people within the neighborhood knows what establishments allow what. But, like cigarette smoke, it’s a drug that those around you also inhale, so the actual smoking of pot in public seems suboptimal. So I think there needs to be some kind of control on the process.


Content Non-Neutrality

[ 11 ] October 18, 2011 |

Camping to express political views might be unccaptable, according to Mayor Richie Rich.   Camping to buy corporate products, on the other hand…

Editors: Our Best Friends

[ 67 ] October 18, 2011 |

I love editors. I say this as someone who doesn’t have the greatest confidence in his own writing. I don’t always agree with their ideas, but I usually do.

I am reminded of how much I love editors when I see the Director’s Cut of most any film. Gerardo Valero has an excellent piece on the disaster known as the “restored” version of Cinema Paradiso. This is the only version of the film I’ve seen and I don’t think I could go back and watch the original. Tornatore may have wanted all that footage in the original, but someone knew better. All the modern stuff tacked on to the end is completely unwatchable. I absolutely cannot understand what people saw in the original other than nostalgia, but that’s probably because I was subjected to Tornatore’s vision rather than the work of many collaborators, including editors and studio executives who realized a bunch of this sucked.

And then of course you have Apocalypse Now Redux. There wasn’t a single second added to the original that was worth a damn. The scene with the Playboy Bunnies in the original is bad enough, but then their copter goes down and Martin Sheen has sex with them? Really? The added scenes with Robert Duvall searching for his surfboard destroys the power of his character built up in the previous scenes. And then the whole French plantation scene, well, the less said about that the better.

The Director’s Cut phenomenon comes straight out of the auteur myth around directors. But any film is a collaboration among many artists with many different vision. The director may be the most important single individual, but cannot make a film by him/herself. When they are given full artistic control, disaster can often result, which we can see so many examples ranging from Coppola after Apocalypse Now to Kevin Costner’s dross.

Al Davis

[ 27 ] October 17, 2011 |

I came into football awareness in the late 70s and early 80s in Sacramento, California.  The choice in football lay between the Raiders and 49ers, and for reasons I can’t fully explain I chose to love the Raiders and hate the Niners.  This persisted in spite of the Raiders move to Los Angeles; by that time I identified closely enough with the team that I hated those who hated it. This meant, of course, that I developed a healthy lack of respect for the NFL and for establishment sports media at an early age.

I don’t know much about Davis’ political leanings, although apparently his father was a Taft Republican.  The Raiders donated more money to the Democratic Party than the Republican, but this would not be unusual for a team that bounced between Los Angeles and Oakland.  Davis did hire the first Latino head coach, and the first black head coach of the modern era.  Davis had a reputation for generosity with his players, although this doesn’t mean that he supported any structural efforts on their behalf.  Indeed, Davis understood his relationship with the players in personal terms, supporting Howie Long’s devastating decision to cross the picket lines in the 1987 strike.   And of course, Davis knew how to hate.

What to say about Davis and Marcus Allen?  Davis lost faith in Allen on November 30, 1986, when Allen fumbled in overtime on what should have been the winning drive against the Philadelphia Eagles.  The Raiders were 8-4 at the time, but they lost the last four games of the season, including an awful 37-0 defeat at the hands of the Seahawks.  It was twenty-four years ago, but I swear I remember the fumble like yesterday; I was crushed in the way that only a 13 year can be crushed.  It was very, very easy for me to blame the Raiders’ collapse on Allen, and so on some level I understood Davis’ reluctance to rely on Allen.  But then, I was 13 year old; Davis was fifty-eight, and should have known better.

But… The Raiders drafted Bo Jackson in part because of Davis’ skepticism about Marcus Allen, and it turned out that hey, Bo Jackson was actually better than Marcus Allen.  Jackson didn’t become a Raider by accident; he was precisely the kind of player that Davis was interested in, and the Raiders targeted him because of the feud.  The Jackson-Allen 1-2 punch almost made up for the fact that the Raiders were trying to put together an elite team with helmed by Jay Schroeder, although this was itself a result of Davis’ weird attitude about Steve Beuerlein.

As I understand it, Davis’ player acquisition strategy was guided by an emphasis on athletic ability over demonstrated football skills.  The Raiders thus aimed for players of outstanding physical ability, without specifically trying to fill holes in the offense or defense.  As a strategy, this seems to have made sense for the first two and half decades of the Raiders existence, and less so afterward.  I don’t think that this is accidental; as the NFL (and the NCAA) matured in terms of physical training and scouting, it became harder to find “athletes” who were undervalued because of their lack of skills.  This is to say that NFL teams began to appropriately correct for lack of skill in their acquisition, just as the gap covering raw athletic ability narrowed.  By the 1990s, the Raiders were drafting players like Ricky Dudley, who had Hall of Fame caliber athletic ability but who couldn’t catch the ball.  Under Davis’ influence, the Raiders were never able to update this acquisition strategy.

That said, the thing I hold most against Davis is a departure from the focus on athletic ability, which was the drafting of Todd Marinovich.  Not much serious thought seems to have gone into this, beyond the notion that Marinovich was somehow undervalued because of his attitude.  Turned out that Marinovich just sucked, and that he didn’t even fit into the Raiders offensive scheme.  If there’s one thing I can’t forgive, it’s that Al Davis made me believe in Todd.

Nevertheless, he was a remarkable individual, and football would have been poorer without him.

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Form and Content in Grant Morrison’s All-Star Superman

[ 24 ] October 17, 2011 |

Before I begin, I would like to re-admit that I don’t “get” Grant Morrison.  I understand and, to some extent, can appreciate what others find interesting about his work, but for me reading Morrison is akin to arguing with someone who believes that, after death, we enter “the Supercontext … a fifth-dimensional, informational continuum where things that we don’t quite understand go on.” (Because that’s exactly what it is.) In other words, I don’t disapprove of Morrison’s grand scheme so much as I think its philosophical underpinnings are as sound and stable as those of anyone else who drops too much acid and claims communion with unseen entities of vast esoteric power. They—being the philosophical underpinnings, not the unseen entities of vast esoteric power—are there, certainly, but they’re there to be accepted as revelation, not to be argued with.

That said, I decided to teach All-Star Superman anyway and will attempt to do it justice. Fortunately for me, that’s not too difficult to do if I concentrate on the opening pages of the first issue. To wit:

Read more…

Breitbart proudly “breaks” broken news.

[ 31 ] October 17, 2011 |

Item #1 (16 October 2011):


Item #2 (12 October 2011):

Matt Taibbi, in his Rolling Stone column, writes that “the time is rapidly approaching when the movement is going to have to offer concrete solutions to the problems posed by Wall Street. To do that, it will need a short but powerful list of demands. There are thousands one could make, but [he]’d suggest focusing on five.”

The lesson?  The material on this list is so volatile it can only be published in a national magazine four days before Breitbart exposes it on the internet.

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Banana Republic Stores to Open in Panama and Colombia

[ 22 ] October 17, 2011 |

I’m not sure if this is a very good idea.

I know I look forward to them spreading across Honduras and Nicaragua. Maybe they can sell shirts emblazoned with images of the lifeless body of Augusto Sandino.

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More LRA

[ 8 ] October 17, 2011 |

My views on this are basically the same as Rob.    I don’t mean to sound like Nino Scalia, but I actually do believe that the president is bound by the statutes Congress actually enacted, not by the legal principle of What Would Russ Feingold Do?  Second, I think that unilateral presidential power is a serious constitutional issue, but I don’t believe that this means that every deployment of forces requires a declaration of war.    The explicit authorization by Congress in this case clearly satisfies long-established constitutional norms.

Romney to Woman Who Will Die If She Gives Birth: “Well, Why Do You Get Off Easy When Other Women Have Their Babies?”

[ 31 ] October 17, 2011 |

Jessica Valenti savages a heartless misogynist man by the name of Mitt Romney.

Slow Food Movement

[ 26 ] October 17, 2011 |

A very interesting interview with Josh Viertel, head of Slow Food USA. The piece particularly interrogates the annoying Mark Bittman piece from a couple of weeks ago when he blamed the poor for their own obesity, accusing them of being too lazy to cook for themselves. Viertel explicitly addresses this, noting that the food environment of the country makes bad food decisions the only food decisions and that while his movement is accused of elitism, that they are fighting this charge by their actions rather than empty words.

How to spur economic growth

[ 28 ] October 17, 2011 |

Insights from laid-off big law firm associates at my other place:

At October 17, 2011 7:56 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

BL1Y- are you saying that selling houses back and forth to each other again and again is not a viable engine for genuine economic growth?

At October 17, 2011 8:13 AM , Anonymous BL1Y said…

Yes, you can’t grow an economy by passing houses back and forth.

What you need to do is draw up some paper work, pass it off to several other people, have them pass their pieces around in a circle, and then gather them back together, give them back to you, and then you hand them off to a lawyer, who divides the papers up among another group, they pass them around, hand it back to the lawyer in charge, who then hands it back to you. Now, you hand those papers to the other party to the transaction, they divide them up among their staff, pass them around, collect them, hand them off to the lawyer, have their lawyer divide them up, pass them around, collect them, and pass them back. …And then you pass the houses back and forth. THAT is how you grow an economy.

“The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.”

[ 75 ] October 17, 2011 |

Shorter Ann Althouse:  With a sales tax, you control what you pay through your shopping decisions.  So when you think about it, drastically cutting income taxes and replacing some of the revenue with a sales tax is actually pretty progressive.   After all, you might “choose” to pay taxes by investing most of your income in food and clothing, or you might “choose” to avoid taxes by putting money into a second house or index fund.   Very progressive!

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