Subscribe via RSS Feed

Liquid Bread

[ 0 ] May 10, 2007 |

Daniel Davies really likes Budweiser.

I’m not prepared to refute or defend Davies’ post — it’s actually quite interesting, even if his defense of Bud is actually a refutation of anti-Budweiser ideology rather than a purely aesthetic celebration. And that’s fine, since Budweiser is such a overdetermined brand that I’m not sure I can even say what it actually tastes like anyhow. What intrigued me, though, were the several references (in the post and in comments) to the merits of Budweiser as a “breakfast beer.”

I don’t believe in angels, but I could swear I heard a chorus of them singing when I read that phrase. Maybe I just fell off the turnip wagon, but I’ve never really thought of anyone other than my first-year college dorm mates drinking beer first thing in the morning. I’ve certainly wanted to drink first thing in the morning — plenty of times, really, and with increasing frequency as I get older — but I’ve never actually followed those impulses, probably with good reason.

Still. I submitted my final grades yesterday, and I need a plan for the summer. My wife doesn’t finish up with her kids until early June, so I’ve got about three weeks of unsentried breakfasts before the fun ends and I have to explain why I’m drinking at 7 a.m.

Recommendations? I suppose I could start with Budweiser . . .

I Hate Bloggingheads

[ 1 ] May 10, 2007 |

… and pretty much every other variant of videoblogging. The glorious thing that the internet gives us is precision; I can take interest in a particular point of a post and add my own comment in my own space. Video blogging is inherently imprecise. Sure, Bloggingheads gives bookmarks to particularly interesting parts of the conversion, but even judicious use of those bookmarks leaves the viewer struggling in a wilderness of irrelevant non-sequiter. To push the military technology metaphor, if blogging is a cruise missile, video blogging is an artillery barrage. Artillery barrages are great, but cruise missiles are as likely to get the target and are far less wasteful. For example, I’m actually pretty interested in what Matt Yglesias and Dan Drezner have to say to one another, but I have no interest whatsoever in wasting an hour of my life watching them chat. How is a Bloggingheads matchup more productive than, say, setting up a messenger chat and recording the transcript? That, at least, would have the benefit of being easy to quote at other blogs, and would presumably be easier than the “click here, then advance 2:41 seconds”. I’d also like to think that such a chat would produce discussions that were better thought through than what we see on Bloggingheads. Drezner and Yglesias might also have engaged in an interesting dialogue about any number of issues through a series of (gasp!) inter-linked blog posts. That would have the merit of allowing others to contribute to the conversation as it proceeded, rather than comment about it afterwards.

The above problems are common to all video blogging, but I find Bloggingheads specifically troubling for other reasons. Bloggingheads breaks, if you will, the formal diplomatic equality of the blogosphere. One of the great things about the blogosphere is that a single post at a tiny blog can, if good and lucky enough, reach thousands of readers through a series of links. I wouldn’t go so far as to claim that the blogosphere is egalitarian or meritocratic, but there is something… democratic about the way the system doesn’t formally privilege any particular author over another. Bloggingheads breaks that system in three ways. First, it’s not egalitarian; tiny bloggers don’t have a voice, while big bloggers have their voices amplified. Second, Bloggingheads gives little or no opportunity for the boosting of small blogs. It’s cheap and easy for a major blogger to send some hits to a small blog with a brief description and a link. This rarely happens in Bloggingheads, because the format doesn’t easily support it (although, in fairness, they usually have links to mentioned posts), and because the time limit doesn’t facilitate discussion of small blogs or posts of mild but specific interest.

Last and worst, Bloggingheads brings back the fourth wall. As far as I’m concerned, comments are critical to the functioning of the blogosphere. This is more true in left blogistan than right, but I’d call that a point in favor of comments rather than against. Bloggingheads has comments, but the act of commenting there is much different than the act of commenting at Crooked Timber, or Tapped, or here at LGM. Comments at a good blog are a conversation between the blogger and the reader. The blogger may not read the comments and may not respond even if she does, but then again she may. At Bloggingheads, the comments are a conversation about the speaker. The Bloggingheads participant is, in an important sense, speaking a different, more rarefied language than the commenters. This destroys the particular blogger-reader relationship that makes blogging a worthwhile form of communcation. It’s worse than that, even, because the Bloggingheads form makes the other form of blog communication (posts that comment on other posts) so much more difficult. It’s harder to link to Bloggingheads conversation, harder to track back such that your discussion becomes relevant, and harder in general to become part of the discussion, rather than part of the audience.

The blogosphere ought to be about more than producing a leaner, meaner generation of TV pundits. I grew out of Crossfire when I was sixteen years old, long before Jon Stewart scuttled the wreckage. While toppling David Broder and replacing him with someone sensible would be an improvement, it would also be a crushing disappointment of the prospects of the blogosphere. Bloggingheads fundamentally misses the point of the blogosphere by trying to make the stars converse with one another. What makes the blogosphere unique and exciting is that it facilitates a conversation between the stars and everyone else.


[ 0 ] May 10, 2007 |

There’s a front page article in today’s USA Today about the Pentagon’s decision to convert to the MRAP, or Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle, as a replacement for the Humvee. The MRAP, it is argued, “provide twice as much protection against improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which cause 70% of all U.S. casualties in Iraq.” The record of the MRAP with the Marine Corps in Iraq has thus far been fairly sound, although a couple of soldiers died in an IED attack in an MRAP two weeks ago.

Armchair Generalist isn’t so sure about the MRAP. The design in moving to production and deployment without sufficient testing, which could have negative consequences:

We’re talking about making a multi-billion dollar procurement deal on a system that hasn’t been run through any operational tests, to replace a system that cost about a fifth of the armored vehicle, and the military wants to rush production of “low rate initial production” vehicles through five contractors to meet the demand.

Now I know why the politicians will vote for this, because they’ve got a knee-jerk reaction to any issue that includes the term “protection from IEDs” in the title. But you have to ask, what the hell are the military leaders thinking by rushing these vehicles to the field? “These MVAPs have to work, because… because… if they don’t, it’s our asses.” There’s no excuse to short-cutting the operational testing of this vehicle, not when the consequences of failure are so high. My frustration with these kind of decisions is in part fueled by the continued demands by the military leadership to continue modernizing their aging equipment simultaneous with funding the high optempo requirements of the war, while the training and repair infrastructure in the United States continues to crumble.

The cost is certainly a concern. It’s easy to say “we’ll spend whatever we need to protect our troops”, but that obviously isn’t true, and every new expense takes away from something else. There’s also the problem of innovation. Insurgents in Iraq (and, really, everywhere else) have demonstrated a powerful capacity for tactical and technological innovation in the face of new threats. Indeed, a war characterized by small, atomistic, and often competing insurgent cells may be ideal for such innovation. Building a procurement program around a specific enemy weapon, and particularly an enemy weapon that’s susceptible to disguise and modification, is a recipe for disaster. It’s simply not the case that the new vehicles are going to stop IED attacks in Iraq; the MRAP may reduce casualties, but insurgents are going to come up with new methods of attack, and those attacks are going to destroy these extraordinarily expensive new vehicles. Thus, the futility of trying to fight a counter-insurgency conflict through reliance on hi-tech innovation.

Cross-posted to TAPPED.

I’m clearing my calendar for August 1

[ 0 ] May 10, 2007 |

The annual migration of the cruise ships began this week, and along with it the entire corporate ecosystem of Juneau erupted into life. It’s pissing outside — we live in a rainforest, after all — but no one is deterred. Non-locally-owned tourist shops opened their doors, ready to discharge cheap t-shirts and baseball hats into the narcotized hands of befuddled tourists; restaurants nudged their prices ever so gently upward; fleets of buses and trolleys, hungry for sweet, rich pedestrian blood, disembarked from their winter lairs; helicopters and float planes began dotting the skies like a scene from Apocalypse Now; and the entire city was suddenly filled with young, attractive men and women working summer jobs that involve rafting, kayaking, hiking, and smoking lots and lots of marijuana.

Each year brings with it an assortment of celebrity sightings. LL Cool J dropped by two years ago, and in 2004 I nearly killed several people downtown by sticking my head out the window to yell “Richard Simmons! Woo hoo!” to the frightened amazement of the people riding in the car I was driving at the time. (Simmons smiled and waved, so you tell me if it wasn’t worth the effort.) When Brad Pitt was seen jogging shirtless on one of the local trails a few years back, one of the local radio stations — and the phrase “no shit” comes to mind here — reported the news with great enthusiasm.

And this year? Glory be.

Things to do on August 1:

(1) Get Arthur Laffer to draw a pirate on a cocktail napkin.
(2) Chat with Dick Morris about the good times.
(3) Ask Doughbob about that book he’s not working on.
(4) Get Victor Davis Hanson to read excerpts of No Man a Slave during open mic night at The Alaskan.
(5) Gift basket (NSFW) for Robert Bork.

Beyond that, I’m willing to take requests.

The Self-Immolation of Rudy

[ 0 ] May 10, 2007 |

As a staunch Giuliani opponent, I must admit a certain grudging admiration for his decision to be explicitly pro-choice rather than adopting the High Contrarian “I’m pro-choice, but it should be left to the states (and, er, whatever regulations Congress can pass” position, and it’s refreshing in a way that primary voters would see this as the kind of dodge it almost always is. It’s good for the country for a serious Republican candidate to take the normatively correct and (funding questions aside) majority position on the issue. Matt seems right, however, that “John McCain and Mitt Romney should, in my opinion, be popping some champagne this morning.” The strategic calculation seems to be that the front-loaded primary will include more liberal states in which his abortion position won’t be a big issue. The problem is that I don’t see much evidence that Republican primary voters in those states are particularly socially liberal. Schwarzenegger had to win a special election because he probably couldn’t have won his party’s primary in a state election (where an anti-choice position is much more damaging than for a national candidate.) New York Republicans, for reasons known only to them, also put forward an anti-choice candidate for governor last year. I’m sure Republicans in those states are more liberal than those in South Carolina, but not enough that I can see Giuliani having any chance. It’s over.

Having said that, I return to a question I still can’t answer–who the hell will win? I continue to agree that McCain’s bid is DOA; I still don’t see how someone who is both the most conservative candidate and the candidate most despised by conservatives can win, especially since his more-hawkish-than-Bush stance has shredded his support among NH independents. Romney seems like the default candidate on paper to me, but while it’s showing up in his fundraising it has yet to show up in polls. The field, in other words, seems ripe for another entry, but I still can’t take Fred Thompson or Gingrich that seriously. Until then, I guess I have to pick Romney, who I think benefits most from Giuliani’s decision (flip-flopping has to look better to a majority of GOP primary voters than being straight-up pro-choice.)

"Please address this matter immediately."

[ 0 ] May 10, 2007 |

I still don’t know how I would respond to this.

Abortion and Down Syndrome

[ 0 ] May 9, 2007 |

Atrios makes an interesting point with respect to my argument that pro-lifers are likely to identify certain types of abortion is particularly immoral and use that as a wedge, and fetuses identified with Down Syndrome would be one example:

I really don’t think so. I imagine large numbers of the “abortion is icky” and “pro choice for me but not for thee” crowds would see the abortion of children with severe disabilities as “good” abortions in many cases. I don’t think this would be an especially productive strategy for the anti-choice crowd.

It’s certainly possible. According to the story in today’s Times that Dana Goldtsein drew our attention to, for example, “About 90 percent of pregnant women who are given a Down syndrome diagnosis have chosen to have an abortion.” I suppose this won’t necessarily stop opponents of abortion rights from invoking these cases–according to the data I’ve seen, women who identify as “pro-life” are no less likely to get abortions than those who identify as “pro-choice”–but it has to create a strong presumption in favor of Atrios’ point that such a move would be ineffective. (Sex selection, which I lumped into the argument, is likely to be a more effective wedge.) I seem to remember the Down’s Syndrome argument being deployed, but without further data I have to concede Atrios’ point.

UPDATE: In comments, Michael reminds us about this post, [corrected!] which is also very much worth your attention.

As a matter of controversy late stage abortion is highly discussed in the political arena. For great info on medical doctors and procedures turn to med-help. Everything from hair loss advice like buying propecia online to learning CPR. Get great up-to-date medical information so you’ll know without waiting.


[ 0 ] May 9, 2007 |

Via Kingdaddy, this is, like, pretty awesome.

Long Live the Revolution!

[ 0 ] May 9, 2007 |

The venerable Martini Republic, one of this blog’s earliest allies, has expired. Rising from the ashes is Martini Revolution.

Adjust your links accordingly.

Joining the Increasing List Of People So Corrupt And Incompetent They Can’t Even Keep Working For the Bush Administration

[ 0 ] May 9, 2007 |

I mentioned earlier today the scandal concerning the DoE allowing loan companies to loot subsidies intended to help poor students–they were informed about the loophole by a whistleblower, who was of course blown off. Well, somebody has at least finally paid the price. Er, I mean she’s taking time off to spend more time with Randall Tobias’s masseurs:

Under criticism that it has been lax in policing the $85 billion student loan industry, the Education Department announced yesterday that the chief official responsible for overseeing the loan program was stepping down.

The resignation of the official, Theresa S. Shaw, was made public two days before Education Secretary Margaret Spellings is to testify to a Congressional committee. Ms. Spellings is expected to face tough questions about the oversight of lenders’ practices and her department’s enforcement of policies against conflicts of interest.

Officials in the department characterized Ms. Shaw’s departure as chief operating officer of the office of federal student aid as unrelated to disclosures about how lenders have plied universities and financial aid officers with favors to win more business.

Ms. Spellings said in a statement that Ms. Shaw told her in late February that she would leave in June. That was after the Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo of New York announced an investigation of ties between lenders and universities.

“Terri has told us that she plans to take some time off,” a spokeswoman for the department, Katherine McLane, said.

Ms. Shaw was appointed in 2002 by Education Secretary Rod Paige after 22 years in industry, mostly at Sallie Mae, the largest student lender.

Ms. Spellings called Ms. Shaw “a tireless advocate for students and families,” saying that the aid program “now delivers more aid to more students at a lower operating cost with greater accuracy than at any point in its history.”

Mr. Cuomo, by contrast, recently told the House education committee that the Education Department had been “asleep at the switch” in regulating the practices of lenders.

Once again, the changes from the Democratic takeover of Congress are manifest and salutary.


[ 0 ] May 9, 2007 |

When asked, I’ve always said that if I didn’t pass quietly in my sleep at the age of 85, I would want to die — heroically defending my reputation for dexterity and rhythm — in a dance contest.

Looks like I need a new Plan B.

But How Does He Hold A Megaphone?

[ 0 ] May 9, 2007 |

Jon Chait gets the modern GOP down cold:

Of all the low points during the Bush administration, perhaps the most surreal was the week in December 2004 when Bernie Kerik was poised to become secretary of Homeland Security. By the traditional measures used to judge qualifications for this sort of job, Kerik was not an ideal candidate. The main points in Kerik’s favor were his loyal service to Rudy Giuliani, first as driver for his mayoral campaign, then corrections commissioner, then police commissioner–the last of which was commemorated by the casting of 30 Kerik busts. On the negative side of the ledger were his multiple alleged felonies, including tax evasion and conspiracy to commit wiretapping (currently being investigated by federal prosecutors), and his (also alleged) ties to the DeCavalcante and Gambino crime families.

If a “Sopranos” writer proposed a plotline in which a Kerik-like figure rose through the ranks to become head of the department charged with preventing the next terrorist attack, he would be laughed off the show. So how did it almost happen in real life? The Washington Post recently reconstructed the Kerik nomination: The decisive factor seemed to be that Bush was “lulled by Kerik’s swaggering Sept. 11 reputation.”

That last sentence is, in many ways, the perfect epigraph for the Bush presidency. The Kerik episode displayed many of the pathologies of modern Republican governance: incompetence, corruption, an obsession with loyalty over traditional qualifications. But it shows with particular clarity Bush’s most distinct contribution: the mistaking of macho bluster for strategic acumen.


Alas, Republicans seem to be making the same exact mistake again. Exhibit A is the leading GOP candidate, Giuliani. Republicans love Giuliani, of course, for the same reason they loved Bush: He’s a 9/11 tough guy. Recently, GOP consultant Roger Stone explained the basis of Giuliani’s appeal to Texas Republicans. “Stylistically, Texans like the Giuliani swagger,” Stone told The Wall Street Journal. “He’s a tough guy, and Texans like tough guys.”

The war on terrorism, boasts Giuliani, “is something I understand better than anyone else running for president.” This would be very scary if it were true. In recent weeks, Giuliani mistakenly said that it was unclear whether North Korea was further along toward a nuclear bomb than Iran, casually lumped together Shia Iran and Sunni Al Qaeda, and confessed he didn’t know enough about the Bush administration’s approach to terrorism detainees to take a position. In fact, Giuliani wasn’t even a particularly good terrorism fighter as mayor. A mere six years after the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, he decided to locate the city’s emergency headquarters in the World Trade Center itself–the one spot in all New York City he knew had been targeted for attack. He also failed to ensure that police and firefighters could communicate with one another, with disastrous results.

I am still inclined to think that Giuliani won’t win the nomination (although I must admit I can’t say who will win it.) But it does make sense that he would do better than one might suspect given his substantive positions. He’s the logical heir to the vapid candidacy of George Allen. Anti-terrorism is Giuliani’s selling point, but his actual record is one of gross incompetence that led to many unnecessary deaths on 9/11. But he looked good holding a megaphone, and to Republicans (not only the base but many elites) that’s what really matters.

For one of hundreds of examples of how this leads to appallingly bad governance, see the Bush Department of Education helping its friends in the student loan industry loot the public fisc.

[via Yglesias]

  • Switch to our mobile site