Monday, July 11, 2011

Recapping the Last 10 Years of Republicanism

This all actually happened. In fact, I left out a bunch of stuff.

The Texas Republican money machine used sham companies to steal a bunch of cash on the spot energy markets (and from third-world countries) in the late 1990's and early 2000's, funneling the money to the political career of George W. Bush. Bush became President, boosting the fortunes of Texas money men and Fox News alike, but the sham companies suddenly collapsed in a cloud of dust when the recession of the early 2000's hit.

Then terrorists attacked New York and Washington and after a quickie invasion of Afghanistan, the GOP laundered some useless intelligence through the British and used their version of the information to drum up support for a much larger-scale invasion of Iraq, a country with no ties to the attacks on the US. At first the invasion appeared to be going well, so the Republicans staged a ceremony on the deck of an aircraft carrier and Fox News anchors (and Chris Matthews) spent a week talking about how Bush looked great in his uniform.

Then after the invasion went pear-shaped and started to become unpopular, the Republican administration began blaming British intelligence for their shoddily sourced "dodgy dossier" but maintaining that the Iraq invasion was still a success. The GOP lost Congress and then the Presidency amidst a rapidly collapsing financial system and two failed wars, each with several satellite countries nearby in various stages of unrest and collapse.

Then when the Democrats took over the White House, the GOP licked its wounds and Fox News returned to its Clinton-era mode of scandal-hyping and rumormongering, implying among many other things that the new president was not an American, that he was secretly a muslim sympathetic to terrorists, that he was a Communist who would destroy the free enterprise system and turn the economy over to black people as slave reparations, and that he planned to use universal health care bills to convert the Unites States to Nazism.

Now we find out that over this entire period Fox News' parent company has been spying on numerous British government officials including the Prime Minister, accessing his bank records, impersonating officers of the court and even Brown himself, and bribing active duty police officers to collect personal information on Brown from police computers.

The best part:

In October 2006, the then editor of the Sun, Rebekah Brooks, contacted the Browns to tell them that they had obtained details from the medical file of their four-month-old son, Fraser, which revealed that the boy was suffering from cystic fibrosis.

Stay classy, GOP.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

ATS Rentals Review

I recently rented a Sony camera from ATS Rentals. The way it works is that you order online and ATS ships the equipment to a location you choose. This was imperative for me because I was not able to transport equipment to Tampa in a cost-effective way, so I had the camera shipped to my uncle in Orlando, who kindly drove up to assist me with the film.

The process was extremely easy and sending the package back was a breeze. UPS actually lost track of the return shipment for a period of time, but ATS contacted me and once I gave them the information from my UPS drop receipt they told me not to worry about it and that it was between them and UPS. A few days later I got a message that it had all been resolved.

I left some of my own equipment in the box and ATS even shipped it back to me! It was a great experience and I'd recommend them, just as they were recommended to me by award-winning Athens, GA filmmaker Chris Ethridge.

If I had to complain about something, I'd like it if you could search their site by feature set so that I could browse all the cameras with similar features (1080p capabilities plus external microphone, for example) without having to look through other cameras that don't fit my needs.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Michael Mandel on Innovation

Michael Mandel breaks down the State of the Union's focus on technological innovation, arguing that the US should focus on areas where we already possess a big competititve advantage over the rest of the world.

I'm not really in a position to evaluate the wisdom of that position, but I do think it's worth looking at the bigger picture here. American commentators are constantly fretting that "health care spending" and "education spending" are consuming larger and larger shares of our national income. Supposedly this constitutes an "unsustainable" trajectory that will eventually bankrupt us.

However, if you look at the macroeconomic situation that's actually being described by these measures, what's happening is that the economy of the richest, most prosperous country in the world is being devoted more and more to hospitals, universities, and research facilities. It's hard to see why that's a problem; in fact it's basically what you'd expect to happen.

I personally don't see the US as facing a choice between clean energy research and biomedical research - I think we can do both and do them well. But the big problems with these things come on the production and consumption side, not the development side.

The problem with our medical system isn't that it's expensive - it's that a lot of the stuff we spend money on isn't actually useful medical care. Ditto education spending - it's not that we need to spend less money, it's that we need to address the areas of our education system that don't work very well.

Of course the most useless and wasteful spending in in government actually also happens to be the area where we pour the lion's share of our federal R&D money - military technology. The US could shift 70% of its military R&D to trying to create leprechaun unicorns and still get more out of those dollars while remaining the largest and most advanced military in the world for the foreseeable future.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

In Praise of Vagueness

Matthew Yglesias notes today that a number of commentators are chiding Obama for being too vague in the State of the Union and not offering enough specific policy proposals.

I'm all for bold strokes, but on issues like tax policy there just isn't anything to be gained by laying out a detailed plan. The President can describe the basic principles that would lead him to support and sign a tax reform bill, but anything more specific than that gives his opponents something to shoot at before his supporters have time to load their rifles.

The State of the Union is usually a place to describe goals, not tasks. One of the worst things about Bush's SOTU speeches is that he routinely threw in specific tasks he wanted to accomplish and then he would just sort of abandon them later for no obvious reason.

Remember Mars?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Blogs I'm Reading

Just coming out of a long blogging hibernation, and still quite focused on editing the film, I nonetheless am going to try to return to general-interest blogging and I thought the State of the Union would be a good opportunity to let you know what I'm reading and will probably be commenting on in the near future.

I don't really have much to say yet about the SOTU myself except that I found it unusually good and that I continue to be impressed by Obama's clarity and incisiveness at the podium. Certainly a contrast to Paul Ryan who evoked nothing so much as LaVar Burton reading from a YA novel set on Capitol Hill.

Here's who I'll be watching for reactions:

Matthew Yglesias

One of my favorite bloggers from way back when, MY has boucned around a bit but has found a good niche as the Center for American Progress' "name" political blogger. He's good on almost everything and great on applied political philosophy and other generalist-type topics.

Progressive Fix

Readers who know politics might be surprised to see Raul Groom's alter ego linking to Will Marshall, who's something of a pariah in true lefty circles, and for good reason. But I've always found Marshall's analysis cogent and sober-minded, unlike so many who call themselves "centrist" and "pragmatic." The time may well be coming that the Will Marshalls of the world can again find common cause with those of us on the true left. At the very least, the PPI doesn't put out the same old crap most Liebermanite orgs push on us.


Issues of feminism and misogyny don't get a lot of mainstream airtime these days, but feminine self-determinism and human rights are still at the forefront of the progressive agenda, and Amanda Marcotte is one of the leading lights of my generation's feminist movement. She's often bombastic, sometimes petty, but always sharp and uncompromising in pointing out the absurdities and injustices of our male-dominated culture.

Center of the Universe

Warren Mosler is best known as the idiosyncratic creator of a long-running line of high-performance cars, but he's also a finance wizard and one of the brightest stars of the school of economics often called "Modern Monetary Theory" or MMT. Closely aligned with L. Randall Wray's Center for Full Employment and Price Stability Mosler offers daily takes on everything from Federal Reserve policy to currency and commodity markets.

I hope some of you come to enjoy reading these sites as much as I do in the coming year. Leave your own suggestions in comments!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Me and Angelo Dundee


[that's a joke - apparently I say "So..." at the beginning of every interview question I ask. What can I say? I'm a pro.]

As you probably know if you're reading this blog (which was defunct until very recently) I've recently filmed an interview with Angelo Dundee, the great trainer of fifteen world champions including Muhammad Ali.

It was a great experience, and once I'm done with all this editing I hope to post a longer description of everything that happened in Tampa. Right now, though, I'm focused on getting the clips cut down, the sound in place, etc.

Since that process will probably take some time, I thought I would provide a short, rough clip for everyone to see that indeed I DID conduct the interview and did not just con everyone out of a bunch of money. The clip is of Angie describing his introduction to the world of boxing via the great trainers he worked with as a kid, including Chickie Ferrara, Ray Arcel, and others.

You'll notice the sound is really bad - that's because I haven't cut in the sound from the good mic; this is the multidirectional Panasonic on-camera mic that records things like me scratching my eye. The final version should sound much better (fingers crossed.) Also the full 1080/60p resolution was too much for blogger so this version is considerably lower resolution than the final cut will be.

This clip is a little over a minute - the whole interview is around two and a half hours. Further updates as developments warrant. Thanks a lot for your support everybody!

Friday, February 19, 2010

A Man Drives a Plane

A lot of liberals, myself included, have made note of the hypocrisy of militaristic conservatives who don't seem to see why a white man flying a plane into a government building is a form of terrorism.

That's obviously one point to be made here - if a black guy trying to ignite a bomb in his underpants deserves to be treated as a violent form of political expression, then so does a white guy who crashes his plane into the IRS. But it's worth asking the question - what good does such an attitude do us in either case?

Perhaps instead of arguing that white Christians who spout some half-baked political bullshit before murdering should be labeled terrorists, we should be asking whether dark-skinned Muslims who spout some half-baked political bullshit before murdering should be thought of, in most cases, simply as criminals.