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Friday, December 30, 2005

Frank on Romney

Barney Frank held court with the AP yesterday in his office. The headline coming out of the exchange was the rather unremarkable observation that a gay marriage referendum would be divisive, and the congressman also let loose his acerbic wit on the fledgling Romney for President operation:
Frank mocked Gov. Mitt Romney, a prospective 2008 Republican presidential candidate, for shifting positions on issues like abortion.

"He's stopped saying 'evolved' because the people he's courting don't like evolution," Frank said. "His position on abortion has been intelligently redesigned.' "

Thursday, December 29, 2005

New Year's Resolution Generator



In the year 2006 I resolve to:

Watch more TV.



Get your resolution here


2005 Retrospectives, Part 7: Slate Edition

Slate's ten most popular articles of the year makes for an interesting list:

During 2005, Slate covered the war in Iraq, Hurricane Katrina, and the future of the Supreme Court, but our most popular stories were, for the most part, about dogs, beer, celebrities, and naked ladies.

So that's the key to getting readers.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Syriana

I had high expectations going in but I think this was actually a pretty bad movie. While I appreciate the effort to tell a topical story about the geopolitical struggles of our time, I found this to be poor storytelling.

I disliked it because it seemed like one of those movies that think they are good just because they are complicated. I wish the makers of Syriana et al would realize these are not the same thing. It's as if the filmmaker thinks he's too cool to let viewers know what exactly is going on. In a way, it reminded me a lot of another George Clooney-Matt Damon movie that I saw almost exactly a year ago, Ocean's Twelve (that was a lot more light-hearted, but similarly practiced obfuscation for its own sake).

I found a seemingly accurate summary in an IMdb thread on the movie:

George Clooney works in the Middle East for the CIA. It's his job to kill terrorists and bad guys that would hurt the United States. He's a good person and does his job well.

Back in Washington DC, some well-connected oil industry executives have influence over the policy makers that give the CIA direction. These oil industry people can get the CIA to support certain goverments overseas, and frame the discussion of American Interests so that it benefits them personally. Because these oil industry men want to make a lot of money for themselves, they get the CIA to kill the Good Prince so that his Stupid Little Brother will become King and award them lots of valuable contracts.

George Clooney is tricked into thinking that he's killing some evil terrorist, when all he's really doing is being a hired-hit man for some businessman who wants to win a contract.

Along for the ride is a corporate lawyer, Bennett Holiday, who will get lots of money if the government approves the merger of 2 oil companies. He's supposed to find any problems with the deal and report them to his bosses so that the deal sails through without government intervention.

Also along for the ride, and getting the short end of the stick, are some Pakistani workmen who lose their jobs when the oil companies merge. With no money, no jobs, and no girlfriends, they end up in Islamic School, where a cleric teaches them that their true goal in life is to strike back at Oil Companies and the United States.

Matt Damon's character is to make sure we understand that there's a Good Prince, and a Stupid Little Brother.

The main message of the movie is that US foreign policy has been hijacked by some corporate executives for their own interests, and they're just using the CIA to do their personal bidding instead of letting the CIA work for America.

The Good Guys all Die, and the Bad Guys Get Rich.

That's all correct (as far as I can tell), but it takes a lot of mental work on the part of the viewer to keep up. I don't think that is always a bad thing in a movie, don't get me wrong. But here I don't think it worked since all the focus on who is doing what detracts from whatever broader themes the movie may have been trying to explore. And turning off most viewers by frustrating them with the unclear plot is likely to dull any political impact the movie can have by preventing any chance of mass appeal.

In short, I applaud the effort, but I am still waiting for the definitive film on US foreign policy in this era.

Boise?

Why the hell is there a college bowl game played in Boise, Idaho? And why did Boston College have to go play Boise State on its home field in the MPC Computers Bowl this late afternoon/evening?

Bowl games should be played at neutral sites whenever possible (USC in the Rose Bowl is unavoidable, I guess) and they should always be in places with nice climates. The goal should be to get the teams' fans to travel to the game; I didn't see a single BC fan in the pouring rain of Boise on ESPN earlier, and I can't blame them.

To make matters worse, Boise State went and turned the bowl banquet into a pep rally and slighted the BC attendees, angering the Eagles. With BC blowing out the Broncos 24-0 at halftime today, Rece Davis of ESPN said, "If Boston College comes to town, don't run out of potatoes." Then BC nearly blew the big lead, needing a late interception in the end zone to preserve a 27-21 victory. What a crappy way to end the season, even if it was a win.

The BC fans should demand palm trees next new year's.

Congrats to Ben

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The Education of a Coach

My second post-Christmas reading conquest today was David Halberstam's new book on Bill Belichick entitled The Education of a Coach (which Bill Simmons recommended this fall). It explains a lot about the idiosyncracies of Belichick's coaching style through a close examination of his life and professional history.

For instance, Halberstam tells readers about the high school and college coaches Belichick played for, as well as the coaching staffs he was a part of, and what Belichick learned along the way. There's some real interesting discussion of how Belichick interacted with Lawrence Taylor, what went wrong in Cleveland, and how he made the decision to go with Brady over Bledsoe. And there's a good deal about Belichick's dad Steve, a long-time coach and scout for the Naval Academy, who famously was doused with Gatorade standing next to his soon after the last Super Bowl win and then died earlier this fall.

A few notable tidbits emerge, including that Belichick, previously a film guy and special teams coach, began to work with the defense as a linebackers coach in Denver in the late 1970s, where one of the LBs was Tom Jackson, who 25 years later incensed Belichick as a TV analyst when he declared that the Patriots hate their coach. Halberstam explains the Belichick-Parcells rift more clearly than I have ever seen it explained, and in a way that Parcells can't like very much, since it is quite favorable to Belichick (in any book like this, I wonder how much the access granted the author is re-paid through a favorable depiction of the protagonist).

Finally, after a book that repeatedly notes the long hours Belichick spends preparing for opponents, Halberstam reveals that Belichick and his wife separated in 2005. This isn't something I've seen reported much in the media, probably out of respect for the coach's privacy, but it is especially salient in light of the James Dungy suicide and Stan Van Gundy resignation for personal reasons that have made sports headlines recently, emphasizing the toll that professional coaching takes on family life. It was an ending that highlighted the price of being the best coach in the NFL.

MNF, Part 2

I'm getting lots of hits today based on my Monday Night Football post, so I'll briefly add that I agree in full with Peter King who explains why he considers the MNF "finale" a non-event that wasn't worth writing his column about:

I understand this is the last Monday Night Football game on ABC. I have noticed the long pieces on TV and in the papers about ABC not doing the games anymore. In fact, a higher-up at SI.com suggested I use this week's column to give my thoughts on the last Monday nighter at ABC. Here's why I didn't: Do you, as readers, care? Do you, as talk-show callers, care? I don't think so. I listen to talk shows and I haven't heard one caller, not a single one, call and wax eloquently about the end of an era in TV sports. Look, the Monday night games have had an impact on the league, but the biggest impact was in the Cosell days. There's still going to be Monday night football next year, though the package won't be as impressive as the Sunday games.

And so the bottom line is this: Fans are going to turn the TV on to watch good football games. They don't care if they're on ABC or ESPN or NBC. They care if the games are good. They also don't care, I've found, who the announcers are. No one looks in the TV listings and says: "Wow, John Madden's doing the game! I'm watching!" Or on Sundays, no one picks a game on dueling networks because Phil Simms is analyzing one and Randy Cross the other. That's why I'm not writing about the last Monday night game on ABC.

You have to click "continue article" five times to get to the last page of the article where this passage appears, but trust me, it's there, and it's right.

Freakonomics

I read Freakonomics today, the first day of my annual post-Christmas reading binge. This is possibly the most blogged book of 2005, so I'll keep my comments to a paragraph.

I now understand why this book has been such a commercial success since it is quite interesting and a breezy read. While the passages on basic economic principles, such as those explaining that human beings respond to incentives, seem very basic to someone like me with a background in the subject, the applications of basic econ to broader social issues cover some unconventional territory, making this book fun because it is basically a bunch of engaging anecdotes strung together. And clocking in at 207 pages, the book only takes a few hours to polish off. Much as the authors tout it as a revolutionary way of thinking, the book will probably be remembered (by me at least) primarily for the informative passages about topics ranging from real estate agents, crack gangs, the KKK and sumo wrestling.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Monday Night Football

The Monday Night Football "finale" that is on ABC right now seems overblown to me in light of the fact that Monday night NFL games will continue to be televised next year on ESPN, and network primetime telecasts will continue with NBC's Sunday night games. Despite that, I am a sucker for watching old footage of football on TV, and I am feeling a touch nostalgic for my childhood when, as a boy in the second and third grade, I would watch the 9pm opening of MNF while tucked into bed from a little black and white set on a bedside table. It was so exciting and I was sad to be a little kid who had to go to sleep before halftime.

As a side note, one Alex Karras served as a color commentator for Monday Night Football during a few years in the 1970s (I get search engine hits for "Alex Karras" now and then). Karras, an All-Pro with the Detroit Lions went on to have an acting career, notably as the adoptive father George of Emmanuel Lewis on "Webster" and including appearances in Porky's, Blazing Saddles, MASH, and even as host of Saturday Night Live in 1985. Based on this impressive resume, I am OK with being the second most prominent Karras on the internet.

2005 Retrospectives, Part 6: Weird News

Chuck Shepherd of Washington City Paper is in the Washington Post today with a compilation of entertaining oddities that made the news this year. A sampling:

Oklahoma state senator Frank Shurden proposed legislation to revive the "sport" of cockfighting, which the state outlawed in 2002. But to make it more rooster-friendly, he suggested that the birds wear tiny boxing gloves instead of razor cleats and wear fencing-type electronic vests to record hits. "Let the roosters do what they love to do without getting injured," he said.

I also enjoyed the items about Greenpeace and the Mexican theme park.

NBA Christmas Cheer

Does it seem perverse to anyone else that the NBA builds its holiday TV ratings bonanza around two stars who hate each other? Not the warmest of holiday sentiments being peddled there.

No Reindeer Games

I was pretty excited about Chad Johnson's plan for a touchdown celebration featuring a live reindeer. Unfortunately, it did not happen on Saturday. In case you missed the story, here's what Johnson promised:

"On the highway, I hit a deer," Johnson said Tuesday, insisting he was serious and that the animal wasn't hurt. "I kept him. He's at home in the garage. I'm going to use him for the celebration this weekend. He's a prop. They might suspend me for the last game, but I think this one is worth it."

..."This is going to be the greatest celebration of all time, man," he said. "I actually use an animal."

And here's what occurred after Johnson scored a touchdown in the game:

Never will you see someone who just scored a touchdown walk to the sidelines with such dejection. Chad Johnson took one to the house against Buffalo, but could not find his reindeer afterwards.

He went to the sidelines, couldn’t find whatever it was that he was looking for, and was completely dejected. A ref came over and looked like he was explaining something to him. ... Chad did manage to salvage a little something, however, by opening up a bag of gifts he had and distributing them to some fans.

I was bummed that this did not pan out. There's always next Christmas...

Wish List: No More Books!

There's plenty of good stuff in the year-end Christmas Sunday papers that will probably be overlooked due to the holiday. I got about an hour with the Times today and I recommend this humorous essay on books that you receive from others.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

2005 Retrospectives Part 5, Blogpulse Edition

There are a bunch of interesting links over at Blogpulse's 2005 review. Merry Christmas too.

Friday, December 23, 2005

2005 Retrospectives, Part 4: Checks and Balances Edition

VandeHei and Babington have a year-end analysis of the give and take between the executive and legislative branches, with the power flowing toward Capitol Hill in 2005:

This week's uprising against a four-year extension of the USA Patriot Act was the latest example of a new willingness by lawmakers in both parties to challenge Bush and his notions of expansive executive power.

Since this spring, Congress has forced Bush to scrap plans for a broad restructuring of Social Security, accept tighter restrictions on the treatment of detainees and rewrite his immigration plan. Lawmakers have rebuffed Bush's call to make permanent his first-term tax cuts and helped force the president to speak more candidly about setbacks in Iraq.

Their thesis statement: "Bush may have reached the outer limits of a long-term project to reshape the powers of the presidency." If only Congress had done its job these previous four years...

MORE: Dan Drezner adds, "The great thing about the American system of government is that whenever one branch exceeds its traditional scope of authority, that branch is eventually brought to heel by the other parts of government."

Know Thy Neighbor

Via these guys (somehow I am on the leftyblogs "Massachusetts Blogwire" with them and others) I got the link to a list of people who signed the anti-gay marriage petition. I have been checking to see if anyone I know signed the thing.

Know thy Neighbor has disseminated this public information on the theory that we should know if our neighbors are against equal rights for homosexuals. Opponents have been calling this an intimidation tactic in the papers, but if the info is truly public, I don't see why there should be any expectation of privacy (it reminds me of another site, in fact). The fraud concerns are the (at least stated) reason why Mass Equality has posted the names as well, albeit only searchable by town and without the addresses.

This is an interesting move since it may well be that people will favor discriimnation against gays so long as they don't have to publicly avow their support for such public policies. If their positions become known among the people they associate with, though, some may not be so committed to the ballot initiative. The magic of the internets...

Playing Dress-Up at the Vatican

A few days old, but still Christmasy enough to post this question: did anyone else find it odd to see the pope dressed up as Santa Claus? In case you missed it:



He is reported to favour medieval-style red slippers over more practical shoes while padding around his Vatican apartments.

Fashion-watchers have also reported spotting the pope wearing Gucci sunglasses and Prada shoes in recent months.

Coincidentally, just to the right of the picture, the BBC has a link to a story on "Gay Clergy."

2005 Retrospectives, Part 3: White House Happy Talk Edition

2005 was a year full of "accomplishments", claims the White House, to an incredulous wire service:

By most accounts, it was a tough year for President George W. Bush, marked by a drop in public support for the Iraq war, legislative setbacks on Social Security and arctic oil drilling and a politically disastrous initial response to Hurricane Katrina.

But according to a White House fact sheet, 2005 was a year full of "accomplishments" -- six, single-spaced pages worth distributed to reporters as Bush left town for his holiday break.

In part two of the retrospectives series, I now realize, I forgot about the social security lies and the the John Roberts non-response-a-thon on Capitol Hill.

Osama's Niece

She's got a photo spread in GQ, seriously.



This photo supplied by GQ Magazine shows Wafah Dufour, the daughter of Osama bin Laden's half brother, posed for an article of GQ's January edition. 'I want to be accepted here, but I feel that everybody's judging me and rejecting me,' says the California-born Dufour, a law graduate who lives in New York. (AP Photo/GQ Magazine,Jeff Riedel)

AP adds: "The pictures are likely to be considered obscene by conservative Muslims in and outside of Saudi Arabia where women are required to be veiled." You think?

Seems like a lovely girl, too bad about the family connections and all!

MORE: There's an excerpt on GQ's site under the headline "It Isn't Easy Being the Sexy Bin Laden."

The face is alluring (big dark eyes, long lashes, plump lips, caramel skin), but she looks wounded. And there’s something else. At first I can’t quite figure it out, but then it hits me: She looks a little like her uncle, albeit a waify ninety-eight-pound tiny-footed version. Sexy Osama!

There's also this:


These are my favorite Bin Laden pictures since this happened:



MORE: from Wonkette.

2005 Retrospectives, Part 2

Kos linked up Arianna Huffington's list of things she would rather forget about 2005, part one and part two. This serves as a reminder of how much crap has gone down in the '05. A quick list of items Arianna covers: Bill Frist's video diagnosis of Terry Schiavo, Frist's stock trades, high gas prices, the bankruptcy bill, Harriet Miers, Jeff Gannon, Judy Miller in jail, Scooter Libby indicted, Bob Woodward disgraced, Bush asking Condi for a bathroom break at the UN, the torture debate, Dick Cheney declaring the insurgency's "last throes", Jean Schmidt declaring John Murtha a coward, the NSA spying story, Hillary Clinton tilting conservative, Tom Cruise going nuts, intelligent design, Duke Cunningham, Paul Wolfowitz at the World Bank, the Hurricane Katrina debacle, the over-the-top John Paul II praise when he died, Bush ignoring Cindy Sheehan, Bush appointing John Bolton during a senate recess, Karl Rove, Natalee Holloway, Michael Jackson, Nick and Jessica, Brad and Jen, Pat Robertson advocating the assassination of the president of Venezuela... You get the idea. Arianna seems to have forgotten the runaway bride and Tom DeLay's indictment somehow. Too much badness to cover, even in her two posts, I guess.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Canadian Hockey Needs a PR Department

Let me get this straight, the Canadian Olympic hockey team will include thug neck-breaker Todd Bertuzzi but not the young sensation Sidney Crosby? Who is doing PR for these guys, the Catholic Church?

Last-Minute Gift Ideas

Alex Beam has a few. For example:

You know those touching and always-original Christmas letters that people send around this time of year? "Johanna has a new job. . . . Jonny is prospering in his latest venture"? Now someone is selling theirs on the Internet, for only $29.99!

Yes, Doug and Diane Hughes of Santa Clara, Calif., are selling copies of their 142-page Christmas letter, "Hughes News," off of the print-on-demand website lulu.com. It's a D-Day level invasion of privacy. You can read young Kaitlin Hughes's college admission essay; Kaitlin is interested in the field of "Nutrition and Dietetics" and tells about her Advanced Placement English paper ''on how the diet of Madame Emma Bovary may have contributed to her depression and eventual suicide."

That makes the Pops family newsletter sound like a postcard by comparison. Continuing:

Now that the laws on electronic surveillance have been suspended, your top priority will be to listen in on other people's phone calls. You don't have the 30,000-person National Security Agency working for you, but there are still plenty of handy-dandy snooping devices out there.

You may or may not want to start out with the unfortunately named "Basement Bugger's Bible," available on amazon.com, which does provide some helpful eavesdropping tips using off-the-shelf technology from Radio Shack. And thespystore.com will sell you useful gizmos like the TeleSpy Remote Audio Monitoring Device, which the website insists "should be used only in a legal and lawful manner." If anyone complains, tell them George Bush sent you.

Oh, the political barbs mixed with the Christmas gift advice, my sides!

Unions Bad!

Fox News just had the following text on the screen while the mannequin was reading the news update: "Illegal NYC Transit Strike Enters 3rd Day."

I am not doing the legwork to form a real opinion on the strike, though I can assure you that if the DC Metro went on strike I would be letting loose a stream of invective here. So I can understand where these angry New Yorkers are coming from.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Re-Gifting: A How-to Guide

I found this useful in light of the impending drama of opening presents on Sunday. Turns out both NYT ethicist Randy Cohen and Dear Abby support re-gifting.

Gotta Love Boston

Where the Johnny Damon signing leads off every 11:00 local TV news. What other city would have this kind of coverage of its centerfielder going elsewhere?

Who the %*@! is Ted Stevens?

That was the title of a Daily Show bit a few weeks back that noted how Alaska's senior senator has been making all sorts of trouble on Capitol Hill, from demanding millions for a bridge to nowhere, to refusing to swear in oil execs at a hearing, to slipping the ANWR drilling into a defense appropriations bill, his latest stunt. On account of Stevens being such a jerk, the NYT has a profile of Stevens that you can even read for free!

Among the fun facts I learned from reading it: Ted Stevens worked in the Interior Department during the Eisenhower administration, arguing for Alaska to be granted its statehood; he has been trying to get ANWR drilling passed for 25 years, including an unfulfilled deal with the late Hery Jackson and Paul Tsongas, and a Clinton veto in 1995; he wears a Hulk tie when he is facing major political battles; and he took a sleeping pill the other night (maybe that explains how an octogenarian can last through these all-night floor debates the senate has).

"I'm never confident of anything - I keep telling you that!" Mr. Stevens, wearing the Hulk tie, declared Tuesday, barking at a mob of reporters after explaining that the sleeping pill he took the night before was just now making him groggy. "I don't go out on a limb and say, 'Yes, I've got votes.' I'll get the votes that I deserve."

Yes, you got the votes you deserved, Senator.

One fact omitted from the Times piece is that Stevens is also the Senate pro tempore (longest-serving member of the majority party), which actually places him third in line of succession to the presidency. This is really a succession line that should be changed, in light of the years Strom Thurmond was third in line. It is even further reminder that impeaching Bush is a bad idea because even if he's removed, we get Cheney, and even if Cheney goes too, we will be at the mercy of Dennis Hastert and then Ted Stevens.

Only in America do we let crackpot senators from states with half a million people mess with the policies of a nation of 300 million.

Music in Iran

The ban on Western music by Iran's new psycho president has been gotten me reading a bit and learning about a foreign culture. For instance:

The move will silence the hip-hop that can frequently be heard blaring from car radios in Tehran's streets.

It means music including Rush, by Eric Clapton, and Hotel California, by the Eagles, both of which regularly accompany Iranian broadcasts, will be outlawed.

Who knew the Iranians liked classic rock and hip hop? Continuing on:

Earlier this month, Ali Rahbari, the conductor of Tehran's symphony orchestra, resigned and left Iran to protest against the treatment of the music industry the country.

In his farewell concerts, he played Beethoven's ninth symphony to near sellout crowds over several nights - the work's first performances in Tehran since 1979.

The concerts angered many conservatives, prompting newspaper columns that accused Mr Rahbari of promoting western values.

These people were offended by Beethoven concerts--not exactly gangsta rap, last time I checked.

MORE: TCS with a more clever title, "Hearing Beethoven in Tehran".

2005 Retrospectives, Part 1

I'll probably be linking up a bunch of 2005 retrospective articles in the next week since there is unlikely to be much other news. It's the time of year where even minor stories get huge attention because there's nothing else to feed the news cycle.

With that introduction, I give you Page 2's annual The Year in Sports and Sex. A sampling from August:

Sports Illustrated asks 50 PGA Tour players if they'd abstain from sex for a year in return for a win in a major. Thirty-eight percent say they would. One player thinks the question is too vague. "With my wife?" he retorts.

Apparently the PGA has groupies. Don't miss the reference to German zoos either, though I am disappointed at the lack of details about the Vikings' love boat situation. In case you want a rather graphic description of what transpired on Lake Minnetonka in October, read this.

On a far less sexy note, Roger Ebert's top 10 movies of 2005 is also available for your internet surfing pleasure. He rates Crash #1 (even though IMdb says it came out in 2004?). Naturally, I haven't seen it. More 2005 nostalgia to come...

WWJDD? Sign with the Yankees

I am not as crestfallen over Johnny Damon signing with the Yankees as, say, my mother. If the Yankees desperation for a centerfielder means they will overpay for Damon, I say let them. Damon has been very good the last few years, but he's not worth $13m per, given his lack of an outfield throwing arm and his injury-prone nature of late. I think we've seen the best of him. Damon became such a media darling that someone was bound to get caught up in the hype and overpay him, I'm just glad it wasn't the Red Sox.

Unfortunately, the Sox now have some rather glaring holes at shortstop and centerfield. I hope the front office gets on that soon.

One reason I thought Damon might not end up a Yankee was that Steinbrenner would force him to be clean cut and ruin Damon's highly marketable image. But as Gordon Edes reports in the Globe, "Damon vows he will keep clean-shaven to accommodate Yankee owner George Steinbrenner." Funny how free spirits like Jason Giambi and Randy Johnson are willing to clean themselves up to join the Yankees. I guess I would shave for a few extra million bucks too.

Back in Boston

Ho ho ho, and all that crap. I will try to do some blogging over the holidays as I will not be returning to DC until 2006. Right now I am busy being reminded of how much I despise buying people gifts.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Howard Stern Day

Jeff Jarvis is in New York chronicling the festivities surrounding Howard Stern's final day on broadcast radio.

Jeff's evangelism aside, I agree it will be very interesting to see how the Stern jump to satellite radio impacts the media landscape. In a more immediate sense, I will be happy if the radio stations that used to carry Stern's show play music instead; funny as Stern is, I would prefer to rock out in the mornings, personally. I fear most stations will just replace Howard with some other knock-off blah blah show trying to make dirty jokes. (Also, can we get Opie and Anthony back on a satellite radio station please?)

On Holocaust Denial

I understand that Holocaust denial is insensitive and crackpot crazy, but that alone does not seem like it should be that much of a problem in having present-day relations with Iran. After all, there are plenty of world leaders who have nutty ideas.

What seems more relevant is that Mahmoud Ahmadenijad really seems to want to destroy Israel with nuclear weapons. Perhaps all of the news stories about the Iranian president's Holocaust denial could lead with the more pertinent present-day threat info, no?

Lame Duck Watch

Both the Globe and Herald have now called for Mitt Romney's resignation since he obviously has no interest in being the governor of Massachusetts and is focusing on running for president--way to step up, newspapers, I'm so proud of you guys!

Romney has rejected these calls, even though he was agitating for John Kerry to resign from the senate last year. The important difference, of course, is that John Kerry was facing a real prospect of losing the presidential race, in which case he would continue on as senator, as he has. Romney is just flat-out leaving office because he doesn't much care for being governor. Massachusetts needs someone committed to the job.

Romney is a Fraud notes the series of misleading statements Romney has made about his 2006 intentions. What will happen to that blog now that Mitt is on his way out? Ben has another blog ready to go, though I think there will be plenty of inanity to continue chronicling as Romney debases himself before Republic primary voters. (NRO sent Mitt a love letter yesterday.)

"Yes, it's the gay cowboy movie. Get over it."

Ty Burr seems to be writing directly to me in his review of Brokeback Mountain.

Mickey Kaus predicts that the film will suffer a lack of commercial success in spite of good reviews, and that this will lead to a round of hand-wringing about how homophobic the American public is. I think it's important to point out that straight men don't even like watching the portrayal of heterosexual relationships on screen that much, unless it's slapstick or raunchy or otherwise unserious. And the women who go see those sappy romance films will probably find the Heath Ledger-Jake Gylenhaal pair appealing too, so I don't foresee this being much different from the normal scenario.

Best Poll Ever

Inquiring minds want to know: how early in marriage do Japanese women break wind in the presence of their husbands? (Seeing this gem reminds me of why I need to read Boing Boing more often.)

While I'm being bad, I'll link the news that the new Superman is running into some problems keeping the hero in his tights, ahem. As if having another Superman movie being made weren't bad enough, the prospect of having to see too much of this guy seals the deal that I won't be catching this one in the theater. But at least Brokeback Mountain fans will have something else to go see next year. (Yes, I am clearly a homophobe because I don't want to see the gay cowboy flick, I know.)

Thursday, December 15, 2005

How to Deal with Iraq's Insurgents

There's a good leader in the Economist (subscriber link, I think, though I have access) on how the post-election political horse-trading in Iraq provides a chance to take steps toward stemming the insurgency. I'll throw out the important excerpt on actions to be taken:

Official Washington has stuck for too long to the line that the insurgents are mostly jihadists linked to al-Qaeda and "regime remnants" intent only on reclaiming their former privileges. It has been convenient for both the Bush administration and for Iraq's interim government to portray things that way; but, if it was ever true, it no longer is. The insurgency now has a broad base within the Sunni population, much of which was traumatised by the sweeping away of the Baathist state and the erasure of its key institutions, notably the army. In many Sunni minds, Mr Hussein's dictatorship is being replaced by a Shia dictatorship. The Shias may be the majority but are held to be carving a proud Arab nation into one oil-rich Shia state under the influence of Iran, and a separate breakaway region, also rich in oil, for the Kurds. If the post-Saddam dispensation is to be winner-takes-all, Sunnis seem determined to make sure that there will be no winner at all.

The new parliament's first job must therefore be to create a coalition government broad enough to persuade the Sunnis that they will have a central, if no longer dominant, place in the new Iraq. The United Iraqi Alliance, a predominantly Shia Islamist collection implicitly blessed by the hugely influential Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, looks set to win the most votes. An alliance of the two main Kurdish parties is even surer to sweep the Kurdish north. Together, these two blocks have the numbers to run the show, as they have done for the past year. But it is crucial that they now embrace at least one of the Sunni-led alliances that have emerged since January.

This will not be an easy thing for Shias and Kurds to do. Many feel that they owe the Sunnis nothing after years of oppression at their hands. But taking Sunni parties into a governing coalition is only the first of several difficult steps the former underdogs need to take if they are to draw the sting of the insurgency. They will also have to make real concessions, even if this means tweaking the new constitution. Though the document has many merits, and was negotiated painstakingly, its formula for sharing Iraq's oil revenues is divisive, making Sunnis fear they will not get a fair whack. And parliament should limit a provision that enables the Shia Arabs to create a "super-region" of perhaps eight or nine provinces. As it stands, this lets Sunnis believe that federalism means breaking up the country. Parliament should also soften the deBaathification rules, so that many more Iraqis who served Mr Hussein's dictatorship should be drawn back into the machinery of state, unless they are senior figures with blood on their hands.

I just found the novelty of reading some constructive suggestions on what to do in Iraq exciting and thought I would share. The Economist, a publication that has ardently supported the war, candidly admits that "Iraq is a bloody mess" in the opening line of the piece, it acknowledges that military might alone cannot defeat the insurgency, and it argues that convincing the Shia to make political concessions, while it will be difficult, is necessary. "Otherwise the country will not hold together, and the blood of too many Iraqis--and too many Americans--will have been spilt in vain."

I am not optimistic, given the missteps so far, that the people running the show in Iraq will somehow figure things out suddenly and pull this off. But here's hoping.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Romney's Out

Oh, praise Jesus, it's official: Mitt Romney isn't running for reelection. It would've been interesting to see him try to get reelected after he's been traveling all over the country bashing Massachusetts for several months.

A few choice reactions to the announcement:

"Bill Weld wanted to vacation in Mexico. Paul Cellucci fled to Canada. Jane Swift was banished from office. And now Romney has set his sights on Washington. ... Once again, a Republican governor is abandoning Massachusetts. Next year, we will make sure voters elect a Democrat who will be invested in this Commonwealth and all of its citizens." -- Phil Johnston, chairman of the Massachusetts Democratic Party.

"Today's announcement confirms what we have known for a long time -- that Mitt Romney is not interested in the job of governor of Massachusetts." -- Deval Patrick, former Clinton administration lawyer and Democratic candidate for governor.

"He made the right decision for Massachusetts. This is about our future, not his future. His focus has been elsewhere and he's become a distraction. He's held us back." -- Attorney General Tom Reilly, a Democratic candidate for governor.

Romney laughably claims that he's done everything he wanted to do while in office, so even though he loves his job and has accomplished lots of great things, he's stepping down. If he's really God's gift to the commonwealth, why not stick around for another term and bestow upon Massachusetts residents four more years of his beneficent governance?

Oh, and on a totally unrelated note, he hasn't made up his mind about running for president. I look forward to watching Romney debase himself in 2008.

Tookie Williams

As a death penalty opponent, I am not happy to see anyone executed, but I am also perplexed by the rallying of support for Tookie Williams in the days before his being put to death. If we are going to have a society in which executions occur, then the founder of the Crips seems like a prime candidate for capital punishment and not someone who should be adopted as the poster boy for the movement to eradicate the death penalty. Could we find a more sympathetic figure, perhaps?

30,000 Dead

The president yesterday openly admitted that by his (undoubtedly conserative)estimation approximately 30,000 Iraqis have died as a result of the war he began. Why is this not a major scandal?

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Willard Mitt's Wish List

The Fraud Governor has made his Christmas list.

While I haven't tracked Romney's idiocy as much of late in this space (the hijinks at last month's Federalist Society convention were cute), I remain of the opinion that getting a new governor will make 2006 a happy new year for Massachusetts.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Osama's Homo-bortion Pot and Commie Jizz-porium

Go watch Jon Stewart's Kwanzaa gift to Bill O'Reilly.

...can't direct link the video, click on "Secular Central" from the Comedy Central home page to see it.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Smellin' Roses

This has to have been the most lopsided doubleheader of college football ever televised, mercy.

Texas 70, Colorado 3
USC 59 (and counting), UCLA 6

So much for the upsets, I guess.