Thursday, December 31, 2009

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Cleaning Coaching

First Mangino, the National coach of the year in 2007, and now Leach, who received a tongue bath in the NYT Magazine from Michael Lewis in 2005. (There are budding allegations of similar mistreatment from recently retired Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione on the internets as well).

One can only hope this is the beginning of a minor revolt against shitty coaching -- and not just on the college level, but on all levels. If you have some time, read some of the stories over at Deadspin's Asshole Coach Digest. It's really quite amazing, albeit completely unsurprising. There are some extremely poor coaches out there and not a small number of them succeed despite themselves.

I'd expect more firings for abuse in the near future. Good coaches will pull their teams aside and make sure they're all on the same page with respect to injuies, while players will feel encouraged to speak out against the bad coaches who routinely abuse the unspeakably disproportionate power they have as university officials. There are some great football coaches out there who teach a lot more than football. Unfortunately, there may always be a surplus awful coaches who should never be allowed anywhere near the gridiron.

"The Dow Jones closed at 11,484. (Today, it's at 10,545.) "

... and other things that were true on Dec. 29th, 1999.

Saw This Coming from Miles Away

Fred Dooley, "24" aficionado:
You can see how seriously our President takes terrorism.

It took him 3 days to respond to a terrorist attempt on our soil.

Is his precious $4,000 a day vacation in Hawaii that important?
Last time the exact same thing happened:
Eight years ago, a terrorist bomber’s attempt to blow up a transatlantic airliner was thwarted by a group of passengers, an incident that revealed some gaping holes in airline security just a few months after the attacks of September 11. But it was six days before President George W. Bush, then on vacation, made any public remarks about the so-called “shoe bomber,” Richard Reid, and there were virtually no complaints from the press or any opposition Democrats that his response was sluggish or inadequate.
Next they'll be complaining about trying the dude in civilian courts ... oh, wait ...

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Good Question

From Felix Salmon:

What we’re seeing here is the mortgage equivalent of credit-card sweatboxes: servicers who make sure to drain homeowners’ savings before they foreclose, since they know that they won’t chase homeowners after foreclosure, even in recourse states. By holding out the promise of a modification tomorrow, they make sure to squeeze every ounce of blood out of the homeowner before finally snatching the home away anyway.

So this is what I’d like to ask Megan McArdle, and others who like to extoll the moral virtues of paying one’s debts: just how much of your life’s savings should you give these snakes before they take your house?


Money in the bank.

Champs Bowl

I would have gone for it on 4th and 3, instead of kicking the field goal, in the fourth quarter -- but what do I know?

"God's Own Tabloid"


Wrong on so Many Levels

... but still hella entertaining!

Well Played, Beloit

[via TDW]

Jonathan Krause: J-School Flunkie

I have a lot of issues with Jonathan Krause's lazy brand of worthless commentary, but today on his blog he made a bold venture in to real reporting and failed so spectacularly that it would actually get most journalists fired.

Here are the first paragraphs of Krause's post this morning:
I got the following e-mail from yesterday from Zach Lowe, the Press Secretary for Senator Russ Feingold:


I saw your “Where's Our $100-Million????” blog post this morning and wanted to point out a couple things on background.
Wow -- that's a big get: a response from the office of sitting U.S. senator. Unfortunately, Krause was completely oblivious to the sentence bolded above. Feingold's press secretary is submitting this email unsolicited and "on background." For those who don't know the journalistic lingo, here's what "on background" means, from Wiki:
"On background" (Canadian Association of Journalists). The thrust of the briefing may be reported (and the source characterized in general terms as above) but direct quotes may not be used.
That certainly doesn't mean one can print the whole damn email on one's blog.

From Webster's Dictionary:
(Journalism) An agreement between a journalist and an interviewee that the name of the interviewee will not be quoted in any publication, although the substance of the remarks may be reported; - often used in the phrase "on background". Compare deep background.
Again, same as above: this doesn't mean reprint the whole email.

And from the NYU School of Journalism Ethics Handbook:
"On background" is a kind of limited license to print what the source gives you without using the source's name. But most veteran reporters will not use "on background" information until they can verify it with other sources. People try to go "on background" when their information is very sensitive, which is to say, the information is likely to cause a stir. "On background" means the source's name does not appear in the story. In effect it confers anonymity on your source, but allows you to work with the information the source has provided. Again, it's best to consult your professor in these situations.
Again, same result as the above. We could go on and on but I think you get the point.

In other words, Lowe's email was sent as a professional courtesy to the reporter and not as something intended for public consumption (at least directly). This is Journalism School 101. We can have a debate about whether this is ethical or not, but the fact of the matter is that this is how the world works at the moment and Krause just demonstrated for one and all he has no concept of professional ethics as they currently stand. For someone who's title is "News Director" this is supremely embarrassing.

The astonishing thing is that Krause seems to be throwing a valuable potential source under the bus for almost no reason whatsoever. Lowe's email seeks to clarify Feingold's position on the public option. Krause decided to respond like an angry constituent and fired back a silly string of examples that he believes suggests Feingold is full of it, but really it's nothing more than semantics. I don't know if this is part of Krause's on-air shtick or if he's stupid enough to believe that he's caught Feingold's office in a flip-flop or a lie or whatever.

He didn't. Public officials choose their words very carefully and Krause is interpreting some of Feingold's statement a little too loosely. I doubt Krause understands this because, and let's face it here, folks: Krause is not exactly a wonder of Socratic debate.

I can't imagine he's going to be getting many calls returned from Feingold's office after this little stunt (and you can bet word of mouth will eventually trickle on over to Sen. Kohl's staff as well as the rest of the state's congressional delegation in the House). If someone's a public official in the area, working at the state or municipal level, they're probably thinking twice about working with this clown in the future. Basically, Krause just screwed himself and his radio station by pulling a stupid little stunt that gets him absolutely nowhere.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Saturday, December 26, 2009


Via First Things:

With the recession, shoplifting is on the rise, according to booksellers. At BookPeople in Austin, Tex., the rate of theft has increased to approximately one book per hour. I asked Steve Bercu, BookPeople’s owner, what the most frequently stolen title was.

“The Bible,” he said, without pausing.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Yes, I'm a Snob

I have eaten in some top notch restaurants including places run by celebrity chefs like Emeril Lagasse and Wolfgang Puck. My experiences have always been wonderful. If pressed to find an issue, I couldn’t come anywhere near anything disastrous (though my experiences with my lovely wife, Jennifer on two occasions at Emeril’s at City Walk in Orlando were quite interesting and warrant future blog material).

Health Care = Votes

Shit like this is a perfect example of why it's hard to take The Progressive seriously any more.

Rothchild's screed contains no discussion of facts, statistics or the merits and deficiencies of policy alternatives; nor an assessment of political realities -- real, perceived, or otherwise. It's just a wish list followed by incessant whining and blame:
If you’re a good progressive, and you wanted single-payer health care for all, or, second best, Medicare for All Who Want It, or third best, a robust public option, or fourth best, a paltry public option, now you’ve got nothing, nada, zippo.
The entire construction of this asinine sentence pisses me off to no end.

First, the object of health care reform is to reform health care delivery. Not to progressives, not to conservatives, but to human bodies regardless of ideology. Rothchild seems to think that only "progressives" have any skin in the game (as it were) here. That's bullshit.

Secondly, it constructs a heirarchy based on the government delivery of said health care reform: the more government involvement one desires with reform, the more ore "progressive" you can consider yourself. This is the exact ideological trap conservatives currently find themselves in, only with a liberal twist. The moment liberals return to a mindset wherein they believe the government is the solution to all of society's problems, then they start on that long road back to the minority.

Let's just cut to the chase. One of our favorite numbers here at The Chief is this one: "96 percent of voters -- as opposed to people at large -- have health insurance."

Got that?

This health care bill has the potential to create millions of new voters in the long run ... and those new voters aren't going to be voting for conservatives.

Rush Limbaugh: The Man Who Gave America Health Care Reform!

Kevin Drum and Paul Krugman both have noted the impact that the Club for Growth played in getting Arlen Specter to switch parties and provide the 60th caucus vote.

But just as much praise is also due to Rush Limbaugh.

Recall Limbaugh's "Operation Chaos," an effort to get Republicans in Pennsylvania to re-register as Democrats for the state's closed 2008 Presidential primary in order to vote for Hillary Clinton, whom, Rush theorized, would be dead in the water during the general election. Well, lots of Pennsylvanians did register as Dems during the primary, but they never re-registered back to the GOP, thus creating a more conservative GOP electorate and bad news for Specter.

Say what you will about Nelson and Lieberman, but if Arlen Specter doesn't become a Democrat health care reform never survives a filibuster.


Perhaps you've seen this stupid cartoon being passed around by climate change deniers:

It's very amusing, and not because it's a profound comment on the nature of certainty in the scientific process, but because it's science and historical perspective thereof is so far off that it makes the cartoonist look foolish.

First, the "Flat earth" theory of the world was almost exclusively a result of Biblical interpretation, not science. The ancient Greeks provided the world with ample evidence of the spherical Earth. It wasn't until the middle ages that "flat Earth" notions started to pop up. When they did, they entered the cultural consciousness not by science, but through theology.

The geocentric universe theory is far more complicated, but it's acceptance has it's roots in the epistemology of Aristotle. The notions grounding it are far more what we would consider "scientific" today, but did not develop using the epistemological breakthroughs advanced by Copernicus and Galileo. The philosophical differences between the ancient Greeks and the Renaissance astronomers couldn't be more different, and the details why explain almost perfectly the differences between climate change deniers and those that accept the science. (Unfortunately, this would take forever to explain.)

"Heavier bodies fall faster than light ones." Here Ramirez is just wrong. Speed is a function of distance and time and a bowling ball will cover the same distance "faster," as Rameriz says, than a feather when dropped from the same height. The breakthrough that Galileo made was the law of uniform acceleration, not speed. Why is that important? It's the first step taken to arriving at a theory of gravity.

"The atom is the smallest particle in the universe." Again, this demonstrates a complete ignorance of the history of the atom. In 1897 J.J. Thompson discovered the electron, an atomic element, but still posited a "plum pudding" atomic model. The model that is currently taught to school children didn't develop until 1911.

The last two panels are obviously the cartoon's punchline. I know it's just a comic aside, but if very jest must carry an element of truth in it to be funny, then this cartoon fails on just about every level. Laughing at the this comic demonstrates a total ignorance of the history of science would be like reading a book the explained how the Germans won World War I and blindly accepting it.

Of course, given how good climate change deniers are at ignoring science, one shouldn't be at all surprised that they have an equally poor ability to examine history.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

26 Best of the Decade Lists

Top 50 Photos of the Decade
Best 200 Albums of the Decade
Top 100 Songs of the Decade
20 Best Science Fiction Books of the Decade
40 Best Works of Fiction of the Decade
100 Best Books of the Decade
10 Best Documentaries of the Decade
Top 10 Air Travel Stories of the Decade
Top 10 Web Sites of the Decade
30 Funniest Political Viral Videos of the Decade
Top 10 Viral Videos of the Decade
10 Best Comics of the Decade
15 Best Entertainers of the Decade
25 Best American Breweries of the Decade
10 Worst NASCAR Wrecks of the Decade
13 Best Movie Villains of the Decade
50 Best Video Games of the Decade
Top 20 Male Athletes of the Decade
Top 20 Female Athletes of the Decade
Best Sports Teams of the Decade
10 Best Fashion Designers of the Decade
Top 10 Poker Events of the Decade
Top 10 Cook Books of the Decade
19 Top Medical Advances of the Decade
Top 10 Scientific Breakthroughs of the Decade
The Decade's 10 Dumbest Business Moves

So it's Come to This?

Taegan Goodard passes on this mind-blowing story that I probably wouldn't believe if the whole incident hadn't been caught on video:

Think Progress caught a chilling moment on C-SPAN this morning. A "teabagger," apparently taking Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) at his word, called in tears, worried that his prayers for Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) to die before the early morning procedural vote on health care had backfired. The caller was distraught over the absence of Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK).

(emphasis added)

John Rogers on HCR

None have said it better:
Last fall:

Republicans: Jesus, you're just voting for Hopey McChangey because he's a great speaker and he's promising unicorns and rainbows of change.

Democrats: How condescending. No, I'm voting for Obama based on his stated policy goals and his deliberative nature. We are, after all, the reality-based community.



Why "The Phantom Menace" Sucked

This is the first part of a -- I shit you not -- 70 minute epic review of "The Phantom Menace." Watch every last minute of it -- it's dead on, hilarious and apparently done by some dude from Milwaukee.

MORE: Just wanted to add the link to the other six parts here and a snippet from the original post:
Some guy named Mike from Milwaukee, WI put together a 70-minute video review discussing the many reasons why the movie was horrible. And this isn’t your usual fanboy rant, this is an epic, well-edited well-constructed piece of geek film criticism. In fact, the way I learned about the video was from Lost co-creator and Star Trek producer Damon Lindelof, who said “Your life is about to change. This is astounding film making. Watch ALL of it.”
Lindelof isn't speaking hyperbolically. It's a pretty kick-ass piece of guerrilla film-making. "Mike" -- or the narrator of the review -- actually develops into a character with more depth than any of the characters in the prequels. It's a fascinating meta-narrative that's both entertaining, intellectually engaging and succeeds in so many ways that it claims TPM does not.

I can only hope this is the start of a trend. I'd love to see equally in-depth reviews for episode II and III, the second and third Matrix movies, Battlefield Earth, and countless other filmic disasters. I can see film school students, with literature minors, go apeshit on movie adaptations of classic novels.

In conclusion: more of this, please.

"Destined to be the most ubiquitous Halloween costume of 2010"

Jumping. Jesus. Fucking. Christ.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Drama in The OC

I'd suggest that BAE should be given a big fat gold star for persistence, but the fact of the matter is that's just how the "Beltway Bandits" roll.

Politics over Policy

Nate Silver did yeoman's work yesterday picking apart the absurdity of the "bill killers" argument against the current health care reform bill (here, here and here). Ezra Klein delivered something of a coup d'grace and Jacob Hacker, the dude who "invented" the public option, is on board too ... and yet there are still haters.

Why? Largely because process and politics are trumping sound policy in these corners.

We've noted this before, but bill killers have no interest in public health or policy. They want to stick it to PhRMA and the insurance companies. I don't blame them, but let's cut the shit about what Obama could have done or what the bill should have looked like. It's the view of the bill killers that no one in this country should be insured if drug and/or insurance companies make so much as a dime from the endeavor.

That's just ridiculous.

What's most important to the bill killer is reclaiming a niche that has been dormant for much of the last 10 years -- that of the far left -- with the aim of eventually pulling the rest of the party and/or political apparatus along with it. This is exactly what happened to the GOP during the 1990s.

Looking on the right, there are no shortage of people who have enjoyed long and profitable careers as opinion-makers and advocates for various conservative causes. Think Grover Norquist, Gary Bauer, Team Shlaffley, the late Jerry Falwell, the Bradley Foundation, Human Events, et al. There isn't that kind of infrastructure on the left just yet -- it's still being built. Howard Dean has been angling for just such a position since losing his bid for the presidency in 2004. He started his own PAC, got elected DNC chair, and now consults for a lobbying firm (on biotech issues, it should be noted). He clearly doesn't mean to go back to private practice in Burlington, VT.

We've made the argument in the past that the country is about due for a swing to the left. There will be jobs for people like Dean who give a voice to like-minded individuals who oppose a left-of-center government from the left. Health Care Reform is the first opportunity to make themselves heard. (One can't rule out the possibility that Dean is also still a little bitter about not getting picked to be HHS secretary.) So let's not pretend for an instant that opposition to the HCR is a valiant stand by a few outsiders speaking truth to powerful interests. Their motives aren't a pure as most would believe.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Sean Duffy's Money Bomb Bomb

I can't seem to find the final figures for Sean Duffy's "money bomb," but if what Duffy has put on his Facebook page is any indication, they don't look very good. Let's give him the benefit of the doubt and say that he raised $5,500, a number which elicits little more than a marginal "meh" from us.

To put that in context, $5,500 is well below what only three donors can give for just the primaries alone.

The point of a money bomb is volume and strength in numbers, an avalanche of small dollar donors that render obsolete big money contributors. That really didn't pan out in this case. Far more impressive than the total haul were the number of contributors (which at last count were at 112, but let's be generous and say Duffy finished the day with 120). That's about $46 a head. Duffy can go back to those folks for more money as the campaign wears on, but it's still far below our expectations.

And likely below the Duffy campaign's expectations as well. There's no press release with the final numbers for the day. The last Facebook message for the day was posted over 2 hours before the day ended, which gives the impression that the campaign just said "To hell with this!" and went to a bar or something. Duffy's fund-raising numbers were far more impressive than this guy's, but at least he managed to sound enthusiastic about it (then again, his expectations were marginal). Rand Paul, on other hand, raised $200,000. There are no shortage of reasons why, but it's still not the kind of figure with which one wants to be measured.

How 'Bout Them Cowboys !?!?

We've all been there ... this Cowboys fan just happened to get caught on film.

The Burj Dubai

Now that's one hell of an occupational hazard:

The Burj Dubai is so tall that Bedouins can see it from their oases 100 kilometers (63 miles) inland and sailors can see it from their supertankers, 50 nautical miles out in the Gulf -- at least on the few winter days when the air is as clear as it's portrayed on the mural in front of the model apartment window.

The tower is so enormous that the air temperature at the top is up to 8 degrees Celsius (14 degrees Fahrenheit) lower than at the base. If anyone ever hit upon the idea of opening a door at the top and a door at the bottom, as well as the airlocks in between, a storm would rush through the air-conditioned building that would destroy most everything in its wake, except perhaps the heavy marble tiles in the luxury apartments. The phenomenon is called the "chimney effect."

Thursday, December 17, 2009

With Friends Like These...

Tony Palmeri's in high dudgeon over the health reform bill, joining a few other mostly loud voices on the left calling for it to be killed because it lacks a public option or the Medicare buy-in.

Nothing could be more reckless.

Kevin Drum rather succinctly explains why:
But the fate of failed major initiatives is so obvious that I can't believe anyone is taking this seriously. When big legislative efforts go down in flames, they almost never spring back onto the calendar anytime soon — and that's especially true when big healthcare bills fail. It didn't happen in 1936, it didn't happen in 1949, it didn't happen in 1974, and it didn't happen in 1995. What makes anyone think it will happen in 2010?

If healthcare reform dies this year, it dies for a good long time.
Lets take this several steps further: if health care goes down in flames, the left can also say good bye to meaningful climate change legislation, financial regulatory reform and most other high priority domestic agenda items. Almost immediately the Obama Administration starts becoming about school uniforms and Midnight Basketball.

And that will be the status quo for, at minimum, the next seven years, or until there is a new Democratic president. Of course, that President likely won't enjoy an nominal 20 vote majority in the Senate which means things like a public option or Medicare buy-in are out of the question. Seven years quickly turns into 15, which turns into another generation.

During that time, health care in the real world only gets worse. Premiums are expected to rise 71% in the next decade, and since we may be headed for a very long decade economically speaking, that means more families with fewer health care options. Why? Because members of the far left didn't think they got enough.

Pardon me while I roll my eyes and make the universal "jerking off" sign language motion ...

Here's what the bill still has according to Drum:
  • Insurers have to take all comers. They can't turn you down for a preexisting condition or cut you off after you get sick.
  • Community rating. Within a few broad classes, everyone gets charged the same amount for insurance.
  • Individual mandate. I know a lot of liberals hate this, but how is it different from a tax? And its purpose is sound: it keeps the insurance pool broad and insurance rates down.
  • A significant expansion of Medicaid.
  • Subsidies for low and middle income workers that keeps premium costs under 10% of income.
  • Limits on ER charges to low-income uninsured emergency patients.
  • Caps on out-of-pocket expenses.
  • A broad range of cost-containment measures.
  • A dedicated revenue stream to support all this.
Getting rid of pre-existing condition turn-aways alone would be an enormous accomplishment and would save hundreds of thousands of people from going bankrupt due to health concerns every year. And, as no insignificant bonus, it also expands coverage. Here's what Nate Silver has to say about how the bill will keep costs down (and his battery of questions to those who want to kill the bill).

The bottom line is this: anyone one on the left who thinks this bill must die because it "doesn't go far enough" is not serious about health care reform. They prefer an increase in physical pain and financial hardship, since that's what inaction would result in, over measures that will likely relieve suffering for millions for purely ideological and revanchist reasons. It's impossible to take these claims seriously.

Thankfully, there isn't a Senator on Capitol Hill who seems to be entertaining these calls. Not Feingold, not Franken, not even Bernie Sanders. They all know the stakes are too high to be playing games. I'm sure there will be a few wankers in the House like Dennis Kucinich who will vote against the Senate version of the bill "on principle," but the only principle they'll be voting on is self-importance.

Not Photoshopped

Just awesome:

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Money Bombs are so 2007...

Apparently Sean Duffy is trying to tap into the tea bagger demo by hosting a money bomb tomorrow.

I can't imagine this will end well for several reasons.

1.) He's running for the House ... in Wisconsin. It's not exactly the sexiest elected office in the country. Yes, he's running against the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, but I doubt if that's enough to capitalize on.

2.) He's not the only person throwing a money bomb on the same day. So is Rand Paul, who s something of the rightful heir to the gimmick, as well as numerous others. That means Duffy has to fight for attention from a nationwide audience and rely mostly on donors from Wisconsin, who tend to be frugal.

3.) The economy sucks. That's not a small thing. Money bombs rely on small dollar donors and now really isn't a good time to be throwing money away for anyone.

4.) It's the holiday season during a shitty economy. See #3. People have more things to do with less money right around this time of year.

5.) Money bombs actually take a lot of preparation and laying of groundwork. They don't happen spontaneously. The Duffy camp doesn't look like they've done this. It takes more than just a post on RedState a few days before the event.

6.) No one has ever seemed to replicate the success that Ron Paul had with money bombs. It should be noted that the folks who ran Paul's money bomb weren't officially affiliated with the campaign, which I gather lent a ton of legitimacy to the "grassroots" nature of the effort. In this case Duffy's out there asking for money himself.

The good news for Duffy is that there are no real measures for success with money bombs and therefore no real measures of failure. All partisan cynicism aside, I'm actually quite curious to see what the results are. In the meantime, however, let's look at some expectations.

Duffy is asking folks to pony up $12.16 ... because this event is happening on December (12) 16th. That being the case, I'd imagine that the Duffy campaign needs to clear over $12,160 or $14,000 (or about 10% of last period's total fund-raising effort) for the money bomb to be of any PR use.

Another way they could measure success would be numbers of donors. Let's take an average of $13,000 and divide it by $35, or roughly the average small dollar donation to a political campaign: that gives us about 370 donors. So let's round that out and suggest that if Duffy can pull in 300 donors of any size he'll also have a moral victory on his hands.

These, by the way, are pretty low expectations. The trade-off with money bombs is that they are very public enterprises. If you succeed, everyone knows about it, but if you fail everybody knows about it.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Divas of the World Unite!


Just. Fucking. Wow.

[via BS]

Oral Roberts

I can think of no better encomium:

Anniversaries of the Damned: Philly Fans Boo Santa

Via the 700 Level:
Nothing has continued to eternally damn the reputation of Philly sports fans more than their behavior on December 15th, 1968. On halftime of the Eagles' game against the Vikings, a 19-year-old in a Santa Claus suit came out to greet the fans, and was greeted with a shower of boos and a probably much-harder-to-ignore shower of snowballs. Despite occurring over 40 years ago, the incident continues to get brought up in almost every half-assed indictment of Philly Fans Gone Wild, as the primary evidence of the cold, black heart that apparently beats inside every one of us.

The rest of the post is actually devoted to justifying the booing. Seriously.

This is why I do not screw with Philly fans.

The Big 12?

Lets talk Big Ten expansion!

Lot's of people seems to like the idea because it allows the league to have a championship football game. There are other reasons, I suppose, but this really seems to be the only important one worth mentioning, which is kind of absurd on so many levels. But, whatever ...

So who gets the invite?

Apparently, Notre Dame is out of the picture while West Virginia, Missouri and Louisville are favored (at least according to Brooks). Let me just throw Mizzu off that list right away: their biggest rival is Kansas and I doubt they would diminish one of the most heated rivalries in college football by making it a non-conference match-up. West Virginia seems like a better idea, but they also appear to fit in well with the Big East, so who knows?

And Louisville? Well, if they're going to look at Louisville, the league may as well look at Cincinnati, which is on better footing in both basketball and football right now. This creates an instant in-state rivalry with Ohio State and gives a football team that's on a roll at the moment the momentum it probably needs to get beyond it's head coach defecting to ND.

Another choice: Iowa State. They're really not doing much in the Big 12 right now, fit in perfectly from a geographical perspective, and provide Iowa with an in-state, intra-conference rival. The down side: it's Iowa State. If you're going to invite another school into the league, why not make it a school in a major media market in the Eastern time zone.

If I were in charge of picking the 12th Big Ten school, I'd go with Pittsburgh, though I don't know if they're looking for a change of conference venue.

Any other ideas? Am I missing a school somewhere in the Midwest that would make a natural fit? Tell me what you got in the comments.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Bravo, GOP New Media Team!

You've done it again!

MORE: Unfortunately, all the links have now been broken by the URL shortener.

Is The Horizon League's B-Ball Blog Always this Awesome?

Fucking amazing.

[via D]

The 10 Best Films of the Decade

10.) Amelie (2001)

9.) No Country for Old Men (2007)

8.) Michael Clayton (2007)

7.) Eternal Sunshine for the Spotless Mind (2004)

6.) Ratatouille (2007)

5.) The Dark Knight (2008)

4.) The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001-3)

3.) Children of Men (2006)

2.) There Will be Blood (2007)

1.) City of God (2002)

10 Zeitgeist Films from the Last Decade

These are ten flicks that you want to put in a time capsule to help archeologists better understand the decade we lived in. Most are exceptional (with one notable exception) and really tap into what it was like to be alive during the turn of the century.

The Jason Bourne Trilogy (2002-7)
He's not a ladies man. He doesn't have an arsenal of witty one-liners at his disposal. James Bond he is not, but that's not what we want from our super-spies these days (and it's no accident that when Daniel Craig took over as Bond he felt more like Bourne than Sean Connery). The editing in these films kicks as much ass as the action sequences.

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006)
Here's a question: is the misogynistic, homophobic, antisemitic Borat Sagdiyev merely a stranger in a strange land or is he the personification of how the rest of the world views the "ugly American" let loose in the "US and A"?

Twilight (2008)
Don't laugh: "Twilight" is actually a very well made movie that does something most films should try to do more of: isolate and examine a single human emotion, in this case teenage angst, and then layer every aspect of the project with details that accentuate the primary theme.

300 (2006)
During a decade where the "Clash of Civilizations" between Islam and the West dominated the news, it should be no surprise that one of the most ancient stories about this conflict should be re-told in contemporary way.

Saved! (2004)
In truth this is kind of a compromise picture. There can be little denying the enormous influence evangelicalism had on the decade and "Saved!" highlighted the best and worst aspects of that time in power.

The Saw Franchise (2004-present)
I have to admit to never having sat through more than just a few scenes of any of the now 6 Saw films, but it's hard to deny to the franchise that invented the incredibly lucrative "torture porn" genre does not have a place at the table during the now decade long discussion Americans have had over Guantanamo Bay.

An Inconvenient Truth (2006)
From a strictly filmic standpoint, this movie has "why bother?" written all over it: a lecture (boring) about science (double boring) given by Al Gore, a man who spent the better part of the last two decades being mocked as the most boring man alive. Yet Gore's clinical delivery only adds authority to the film's central disaster movie narrative.

There are also long term promotional effects of the film to consider. Right now, anyone running for President has to "write a book," but somewhere down the line they will also have to "make a movie," something most candidates have been reticent to do since Triumph of the Will . The formula is remarkably simple: find a problem, demonstrate a command of it's complexities, offer solutions and then run the candidate's personal story parallel to the policy narrative. Get used to seeing more pictures like it.

Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle (2004)
If the only movie you saw on race relations in America was Paul Haggis' "Crash" you might be under the impression that we're a nation of bigots incapable of living in the melting pot. The truth isn't nearly that bad, but much more complicated. H&K does nothing better than playing with the absurdity of stereotypes during a time of exploding diversity.

Cloverfield (2008)
I'm kind of surprised there weren't more brazenly 9/11 movies like Cloverfield and Spielberg's remake of War of the Worlds: a mysterious, unexplained monster suddenly starts "terrorizing" New York City and a gang of yuppie/hipster hybrids taken with the decade's obsession of capturing every moment of their lives on some kind of digital device struggle to stay alive.

Avatar (2009)
Nope, we haven't seen it yet, but we're going to take the leap of faith on this one based the premise and Cameron's track record. Yes, it's Dances with Smurfs, but in another respect it's a metaphor for an activity people engage in everyday: how many online avatars do you operate? We increasingly live in two worlds -- one virtual, the other real. Cameron is obviously tapping into this phenomenon with his storyline, which also parallels the immersion effect that his new technology will apparently have on the audience.

Annals of Creative Diplomacy

The Republic of Nauru is an island nation in the Pacific Ocean that covers approximately 8 square miles and has an estimated population of 14 thousand people. Nauru’s government is notorious for its atypical methods of obtaining income, including becoming a haven for illegal money laundering, selling passports to foreigners, and running Australia’s illegal migrant detention center.
And Nauru is Russia's new best friend!

30 Years of Climate Change Articles

From the New Yorker [via DF]

Bart Stupak Wants to be Vatican Ambassador

Interesting/explains a lot ...

Saturday, December 12, 2009

10 Movies From the Last Decade that Deserve a Second Look

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)
The title alone is a provocation that invites the reader to leave his or her preconceived notions at the door. Wasn't Jesse James an outlaw? And aren't outlaws "brought to justice" as opposed to "assassinated"? And aren't the people who bring outlaws to justice "heroes," not "cowards"? "Jesse James" is a great existential Western in the spirit of "Unforgiven" that patiently deconstructs the mythology of the old American West, a terrific film about men trying to define themselves. It's one of the most beautifully shot films in ages and is the rare example of a movie with a voice over from an omniscient narrator that actually works, adding to skillfully crafted atmosphere and performances filled with moody brooding.

Sunshine (2007)
Everyone loved "Slumdog Millionaire," but Danny Boyle's "Sunshine" is one of the great sci-fi mind trips ever made, right up there with "2001." It's a film that touches on very primal nerves by remaking current anxieties into a hellish sci-fi narrative. Let's put it this way: how does your perception of the crew of Icarus II change when you realize that, in a sense, they are all suicide bombers?

Hot Fuzz (2007)
Along with "Shawn of the Dead," Edgar Wright has demonstrated that he doesn't make parodies so much as he makes loving homages to genres he knows all too well. "Shawn" mocked zombies one moment only to revel in absurdly gory violence the next -- all to great effect. Fuzz upped the ante by including all the violence necessary for a shoot 'em up cop drama and added a pretty good detective story with a hysterical villain played by Timothy Dalton.

Shaolin Soccer (2001)
It's a sports movie, a martial arts flick and a live action Looney Tunes carton all wrapped into one. Stephen Chow built a hilarious story that spoke the physical language of both Asian kung fu flicks and Western slapstick comedies and the result was one of the great pleasures of the decade to watch. Shaolin Soccer may be one of the rare films with a sense of humor that transcends cultural boundaries (or borrows from them all).

Blindness (2008)
Fernando Mierelles' adaptation of the novel by Nobel laureate Jose Saramago about a world where everyone goes blind except for a single person can be at times brutal to watch. It's easy to fall into the trap that the story is little more than a continuously pessimistic examination of human nature and social decay under extreme stress, but to do so would be a mistake. "Blindness" is an intensely spiritual movie about the distance between human being in the modern world and paints a bleak picture, but ultimately a redemptive one.
Hamlet 2 (2008)
A great movie that examines the thin line between genius and catastrophe via the staging of a "sequel" to a play in which everyone dies by a high school drama class directed by an out of work actor whose lack of acting ability is only exceeded by his inability to teach. Hilarity and calamity ensue. It's "The Producers" (complete with it's own signature "Springtime for Hitler" musical number) meets a delightful inversion of "Dead Poets Society."

Wonder Boys (2000)
One of the best movies ever made about writing and a vivid portrayal of the absurdities and triumphs of the endeavor. Wonder Boys is a great coming of age story that begs the viewer to ask "Whom, exactly, is coming of age? The awkward young undergrad or his even more dysfunctional college professor?" The scene where Rip Torn boldly -- and pretentiously -- declares "I am a writer!" to the thunderous applause of a conference of writers, may be one of the best moments of professional self-importance ever captured on celluoid.
Collateral (2004)
The best Michael Mann film since "Heat" and Tom Cruise's best acting work in ages. While there isn't much plot to speak of -- it's really just an episodic series of assassinations -- but the awesome and stylized action scenes really just move the central conflict of the film: the spiritual war between Vincent's (Cruise) nihilism and Max the cabbie's will to survive.

Downfall (2004)
Yes, it's the movie with Hitler in the bunker, but if that's the only scene you've ever seen from the movie you're missing a great film, probably one of the best historical dramas ever made.

24 Hour Party People (2002)
Michael Winterbottom must be England's version of Steven Soderbergh: someone who makes risky, high concept movies at a furious clip. 9 Songs, A Cock and Bull Story, and A Mighty Heart are all worthy of praise in one respect or another, but "Party People" sticks out for being one of the best movies made about music in a long time.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The 10 Worst Movies of the Decade

The last decade was a great one for movies, save for one disturbing trend: the devotion to franchising pictures. Many Hollywood films are now little more than expensive serials. There are exceptions -- like the Dark Knight -- but the worst movies to foist themselves on the public in the last 10 years were either sequels, remakes, reboots or spin-offs.

Here's what we thought were 10 of the worst. Movies like "Meet the Spartans" are dreck and never pretend to be anything more. We want to look at films that are made with the pretense of being good.
The heart and soul of the Spiderman flicks is the development of Peter Parker from lowly nerd to superhero. In 3, Sam Raimi examines the superhero's ego at the top of his game, but does so in such a silly fashion, it's difficult to see the hero's success transform him into a dick because Parker is really just portrayed as being just a dolt. It's a strategy that's very conducive to Raimi's film-making style, but doesn't really add anything to the character. Making matters worse, Mary Jane is seems whiny throughout the entire movie and for little reason. All the special effects in the world can save a film that's filled with emotionally in-congruent central characters.
Where to begin? I was sooooo ready to blame the prequel catastrophe on Hayden Christensen after making my way through Episodes I-III. He was a pretty boy who kinda looked a little bit like Mark Hammil circa 1980, but who who clearly couldn't act. Then I saw "Shattered Glass" and realized that it was, in fact, George Lucas who didn't have the first idea how to direct this kid.

Episode III should have been one of the darkest movies ever made. The transition from Aniken Skywalker to Darth Vader should have been complete well before the movie ended, yet it isn't even completely over by the time we're given the last frame of the newly reconstructed Vader. Instead of building on the character's mythologies, Lucas demystified them, bringing them down to Earth for the sake of constructing a weak bridge from the story line of Vader to that of Luke Skywalker. Sigh ...
For what is one of the richest stories in the Western canon, the Iliad seems almost impossible to film. Troy made one very good decision: leave the gods out of it. Then it made a very bad mistake: focus on Achilles the bad-ass, not the tragic warrior. The results were a muddled mess that tried to stay true to the original text while completely ignoring the most important emotional aspects from Homer.
Alas! The Curse of Alan Moore continues ...

For a story that is so morally muddled (and done so with aggressive intention) it's amusing to see "V" become a shibboleth among a certain sub-sect of conspiracy-minded folks. It's basically a movie designed to appeal to males ages 14-17: lots of justified rebellion coupled with the suggestion that anyone has a chance of scoring with Natalie Portman. Never mind that in another respect it's a movie about a domestic terrorist who martyrs himself by glorifying another domestic terrorist.

The cherry on top: when V isn't kicking ass, he's an annoying snob. I don't want him to "free my mind" so much as I want him to shut the fuck up.
Everything from the self-important plot wiped completely clean of the subtlety that made the first Matrix so enjoyable to the hideously designed exo-skeleton gun suits worn by the rebel forces in Zion just didn't work. The first film was a splendid blend of postmodern and Eastern philosophy mixed with some revolutionary action sequences, "Revolutions" was just a mess that seemed to tapper off into nothing.
I like to compare this incarnation with the far superior animated BBC version made in 1979. The makers of the 2005 edition were in such a rush to fill the movie with so many special effects that they sacrificed character growth for spectacle. One minute Edmund is a happy-go-lucky member of the family, the next he's Judas. One minute the White Witch is a cunning seductress, the next she's a totalitarian captor. The transition of the youngsters from scared kids to leaders of a mythical army is entirely unbelievable. Tilda Swinton is way over the top as the Witch, almost unthinkable for an actress who is a master if the low-key approach. It's a pity that a 2-D cartoon was able to add more depth to Lewis' creation.
Way too full of itself. Toulour is a weak and vulnerable villain. The plot is far too "meta" and collapses in on itself entirely by the time a pregnant Julia Roberts playing Tess Ocean has to play a pregnant Julia Roberts as part of an elaborate ploy to steal a priceless work of art that they never really needed to steal from the museum in the first place ... Huh? It's as if the entire Ocean's crew landed in Europe an suddenly succumbed to the solipsism that is a side effect of the worse aspects of Continental philosophy.
The most expensive comedy ever made and one without a single memorable joke. The film was so clearly designed to tap into the evangelical movie-goers demographic that in its attempt to be clean and pure not only forgot to bring the funny, but included some of the most provocative imagery of the last decade as if it were no big deal. Really, the sight of "Noah's Ark" rumbling through the National Mall only to "land" on the Capitol Building as if it were the New Ararat ... and nobody finds anything odd about this?
A cop drama with Robert de Niro and Al Pacino -- what could go wrong? Well, just about everything. This movie is so frustrating that I'm just going to outsource all of my pent up aggression for how awful it is to Rotten Tomatoes. For what it's worth, this was the only entirely original film on this list.
There are awful movies that are fun to watch and then there are awful movies that are shot-for-shot examples of how not to make a movie. The plot is derivative. The dialog is atrocious. The acting is a crime against humanity. The cinematography is pedestrian. For a movie that is little more than car porn, one can derive more enjoyment from last month's issue of Car and Driver.

60 Seconds never pretended to be anything more than a popcorn flick, but even by those marginal standards it sucked in phenomenal way. When "Battlefield Earth" was released many people called it the worst blockbuster ever made, but it's a least watchable for kitsch value alone. Not so "Gone in 60 Seconds," which merely sucks hard.

via WSJ

The Gore/Palin Debates

Fingers crossed!

More on the Oshkosh Corp./BAE Feud

Man, this thing just keeps going ... it's now moved on from the regional and trade press to the august (web)pages of Politico, where I can't help but get the feeling that OC gets the short shrift from the article and others like it.

Left unsaid if the fact that the Texas Congressional delegation is really fighting a fight that they have already lost. SECDEF Gates' trip to Oshkosh to praise workers was a pretty strong indication that the Pentagon is happy with the new MATVs. Also omitted: Oshkosh Corp. has been ahead of schedule in delivering the vehicles -- for the fifth month in a row -- which seems to answer one of the principle questions raised by the Texans.

Let's face it: this is about saving face and appearing to fight for jobs. I can't blame congressmen from a district which just lost lucrative defense contracts for doing everything they can to keep those jobs and don't expect them to give up the fight until the last truck of the contract rolls off the assembly line, but at some point empty gestures like these appear unfair to the folks who lost their jobs and are holding out hope that they might get them back or to the workers who now worry about potentially losing their own jobs. In the grand scheme of things those are probably small factors in a larger political calculus, but it might behoove a news service to help determine just where that line is.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Late Night Banksy

Tea Partiers Hanging Out with 9/11 Truthers

Truly a match made in Heaven:
A conspiracy theorist gentleman a couple rows behind me stood and explained he has video of the government planned demolition of the building in New York on 911. He said he voted for Bush but wanted Bush prosecuted for 911. I guess it fits with having Terry McCormick at the tea party forum. It was time to leave.

Get Your Nobel On

O, those rascally royals:

Dudley R. Herschbach, a Harvard chemist who was honored with the Nobel Prize in 1986, recalls an exchange with the king and queen about their pet, a pink lop rabbit. Herschbach, 77, informed the royal couple that his father had been the one who had created the breed at his California rabbitry.

“Well, the king was obviously skeptical,” Herschbach says, adding that “the queen was extremely gracious. She asks questions which my dad, of course, confirms, and then she turned to the king and says, ‘You see?’ The king says something else in Swedish. Then the king shut up. It was a charming view of the royal dynamics.”

Marc Ambinder on Palin's WaPo Op-Ed

Good stuff.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Tiger's Party Girls

Easily the best piece I've read on the L'affaire Tiger Woods and one that gives the most plausible explanation for why some of the women are keeping their mouths shut: they're not "club girls" or "bar floozies," they're stone cold killers (not literally, of course):
So think of Rachel not as a spurned mistress but more as a faithful confidante in Woods' elite inner circle. She knows where all the coochie is buried (even more than we know at this time), and if there has been any kind of financial transaction made for her silence, it was done with that in mind. Another equally viable alternative is that Rachel had the good sense to know she'll have quite a career for herself in this "legit" business once all this Tiger mess has passed. She knows how to honor the omerta of all VIP hosts that Tiger paid big money for her to observe.