Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A failure of leadership?

While it's clearly a farce for the GOP to blame their failure to get enough votes for the bailout on Nancy Pelosi saying not really all that mean things about them. You can certainly make a plausible case that everyone in D.C. has failed to explain why the bailout is necessary. I mean, Bush is giving daily speeches about it, but nobody's paying attention to that guy anymore... probably something to do with his approval rating, and the fact that he's cried wolf before.

McCain deserves much of the blame for his politicization of the issue, but to be fair, Obama has been somewhat hesitant to show strong support for similarly political reasons. Instead of taking the hard road, and explaining why we need to do this, he was content to just let the bill pass under the cover of bipartisanship without having it be called "Obama's Wall Street Bailout Plan". Hedge his bets, as it were, since the polls were already turning towards him. Since I was calling for exactly that kind of "safe" political play, I guess I can't really criticize him for it... heh... but clearly the situation changed after yesterday.

Well, if anything happened yesterday that was good, it's that Obama is stepping up to the plate:
Over one trillion dollars of wealth was lost by the time the markets closed on Monday. And it wasn’t just the wealth of a few CEOs or Wall Street executives. The 401Ks and retirement accounts that millions count on for their family’s future are now smaller. The state pension funds of teachers and government employees lost billions upon billions of dollars. Hardworking Americans who invested their nest egg to watch it grow are now watching it disappear.

But while the decline of the stock market is devastating, the consequences of the credit crisis that caused it will be even worse if we do not act and act immediately.

Because of the housing crisis, we are now in a very dangerous situation where financial institutions across this country are afraid to lend money. If all that meant was the failure of a few big banks on Wall Street, it would be one thing.

But that’s not what it means. What it means is that if we do not act, it will be harder for you to get a mortgage for your home or the loans you need to buy a car or send your children to college. What it means is that businesses won’t be able to get the loans they need to open new factories, or hire more workers, or make payroll for the workers they have. What it means is that thousands of businesses could close. Millions of jobs could be lost. A long and painful recession could follow.
I also like this part:
This is not a plan to just hand over $700 billion of your money to a few banks on Wall Street. If this is executed the right way, then the government will temporarily purchase the bad assets of our financial institutions so that they can start lending again, and then sell those assets once the markets settle down and the economy recovers. If this is managed correctly, we will hopefully get most or all of our money back, or possibly even turn a profit on the government’s investment – every penny of which will go directly back to you, the investor. And if we do have losses, I’ve proposed to institute a Financial Stability Fee on the entire financial services industry so that Wall Street foots the bill – not the American taxpayer. I’ve also said that if I’m President, I will review the entire plan on the day I take office to make sure that it is working to save our economy and that you are getting your money back.

Will this reach any voters? I don't know, but it's at least a good start.

What now?

Well no floor votes for a day and a half at least, since Congress is in recess due to Rosh Hashanah. The Senate returns Wednesday afternoon and the House returns Thursday morning. Presumably there will be behind the scenes machinations... but to what end?

ABC is reporting four options being bandied about... only the 4th is really that attractive:
...one other unlikely option talked about on Capitol Hill is to try to pass the bill almost entirely with the Democratic majority in the House. That would require adding a major stimulus package favored by Democrats, infrastructure spending, unemployment insurance spending, and heating and food stamp assistance for low-income Americans.
The argument for the current attempt to craft a bipartisan solution was so that nobody ended up "owning" an unpopular piece of legislation. Then they say they "held their noses and voted for it for the good of the country, yada, yada." Well, Boehner, Bush, and McCain couldn't deliver the votes they promised... so why should Dems hold their nose at all? Or worse, try and buy off 12 GOP votes with something ridiculous like a capital gains tax holiday or something?

I guess it depends on what the ideology behind the "Nay" votes among was Democrats, and other than the bipartisan "I don't want to lose my job" vote, it's not entirely clear what the deal was. Both Progressives and Blue Dogs didn't vote as coalitions(roughly 50-50 each I think), so there doesn't seem to be much of a consensus.

The thing is, that after the Dow lost 777 points yesterday, I'm betting the bailout is getting a lot more popular among the American people... and if the GOP gets justly blamed for the failure yesterday... they're going to cave and something like the original plan will get passed with some minor modifications.

Robert Reich prediction actually sounds kind of nice:
A scaled-down bill will be enacted by the end of the week. It will provide the Treasury with a first installment of $150 billion. Treasury can use it to back Wall Street’s bad debts with lend no-interest loans of up to two years, until the housing market rebounds. Or to invest in Wall Street houses directly, in exchange for stocks and stock warrants. There will be strict oversight. Congressional leaders will promise further installments, but with conditions calling for limits on salaries and relief to distressed homeowners.
Not so bad really.

Well stay tuned.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Bailout fails in the House?

So what the hell did you spend the weekend negotiating if not a compromise bill that would pass? A compromise bill that doesn't pass, is, I guess, the obvious answer.

From what the article says, it appears the only thing with broad bipartisan support right now is Reps being afraid of losing their jobs over this mess... which I have to admit makes sense... but if that's the case then why didn't the Dems just make an uber-partisan bill(tacked on stimulus package, relief for homeowners, temporarily nationalizing companies that participate, etc) and ram it through if this is what compromise gets you?

They're going to vote again though, so maybe this is just parliamentary politics. We'll see.

SNL does Palin/Couric Interview


Yet more evidence that the Governor Palin's selection as the GOP VP candidate was engineered somehow by Tina Fey as part of her Machiavellian plot for political comdedy domination.

The craziest thing is that some of the more hilarious sections aren't even exaggerated that much.

I also loved the blinking... that was one of the parts that struck me the most about the actual interview... it seemed that Katie Couric was trying to send Palin a message in Morse code, and the less sense Palin made the more furiously she blinked.

You are now (almost) allowed to pay attention to daily tracking polls

A not just because Obama is up by 5+ points(heh)... but an interesting post by John Judis over at The New Republic, noting that the predictive power of daily tracking polls increases as of October 1.
Since 1960, Gallup’s tracking poll registered the winner in the popular vote (including Al Gore in 2000), eleven of twelve times. The one exception is 1980, when Jimmy Carter still led Ronald Reagan by 44 to 40 percent. The late September-early October polls have not necessarily predicted the final margin. Third party candidates usually screw up the total, because their support usually drops by the final election. and generally the race narrows somewhat by the end. In 1996, for instance, Bill Clinton led Bob Dole by 14 percentage points on October first. Clinton’s final margin would be 8.5 percentage points. In 2004, George W. Bush led John Kerry by 8 percentage points. His final margin would be only 2.4 points. But in six of these elections--1960, 1964, 1976, 1984, 1988 and 2000--the final margin was different from the October first polling results by less than three percentage points.

October 1 seems like a bit of an arbitrary cut off and 12 elections isn't a terribly large sample, but it does make sense that people are paying significantly more attention now than in July... regardless, we can all now officially remove the caveat that "daily tracking polls are meaningless" before we start obsessing about them. You can now obsess with a clear conscious!

The Bailout

So Congress has come up with a plan to bailout financial markets, that will probably be brought to a vote today, but the international markets don't seem to be too impressed just yet. I guess we'll see what Wall Street has to say in a bit.

I don't really know much about the substance proposed, but Krugman seems to not hate it... so that's sort of good I guess?

Politically, it seems Republican leadership is behind it, but I suspect Republicans in close races are going to be tempted to vote against it... which would probably still leave a broadly bipartisan solution that both Presidential candidates sign on to.

UPDATE: If your curious as to who is planning a 2012 run for Prez, see who comes out publicly against it. Huckabee's already slammed it, I believe... so Romney and Jindal you're on the clock.

UPDATE II: Steve Bennen is seeing lots of indications the vote's going to be a nail biter. Well, if that's the case why did Dems cave on anything? If it's going to be a squeaker the Dems are going to end owning, then they should have put some protection for home owners on it.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

No Belgian Beer Fest

Despite ordering it a week and a half ago, I never received my ticket to The Belgian Beerfest, so alas, I can't go. I have to admit I'm fairly annoyed by Beer Advocate(whom I've tried to contact once it became clear the ticket might not arrive in time), and will be asking for my money back... a fairly disgraceful way to run a business to be frank.

UPDATE: Looks like I didn't put in my state information correctly, as the order page says "Cambridge, Alabama"... which FYI is not where I live. But why didn't they e-mail me saying I made a mistake? Or why didn't they respond when I e-mailed them last Wednesday? Irritating, to say the least, but I obviously have to shoulder some of the blame here.

And then?

I thought McCain came on strong enough at the end that he could be declared the victor of the debate itself... but, such a declaration, would be an acknowledgment of not understanding the difference between strategy and tactics.

A narrow win conferred by the debating team judges, is not what McCain wanted or needed. In fact, this was declared a HUGE win for Obama according to the early polls... which I suspect is totally a 1980 phenomenon, where people realize the dude with the funny name is making sense.

Holding his own on the Foreign Policy debate sez that this is going to be a cakewalk. Granted, there is still the possibility of alien invasion, but otherwise... this election is done. Obama should be up by 5 points easy, by Wednesday and then it's Biden vs. Palin on Thursday? Please.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Live blogging the First Debate

8:46PM - I'm not sure about the the Cheetara print for Michelle Obama. Love her, but I'm just sayin'.

8:52PM - Doh! 70% are expecting an Obama win... booo for your expectations!

8:55PM - Huckabee pwns, and the random people assigned to CNN Live can't comprehend it.

8:59PM - Teddy is at home and watching, which is good, but I have no other insight into his medical situation.

9:03PM - Jim Lehrer says he pwns the economy with his Foreign Policy questions. Nice.

9:05PM - Pretty clumsy by Obama, I hate to say.

9:10PM - Too rushed Obama! Calm the F Down!

9:12PM - McCain looks bad too, so maybe it's cool?

9:14PM - Lehrer is on fire.

9:16PM - McCain NOT smooth... but maybe effective? Obama needs to make the case.

9:18PM - Oh it's ON. Feeling Obama here.

9:22PM - McCain pork, pork, pork, and...

9:24PM - Tax health care benefits? McCain is dodging, not defending.

9:28PM - Obama goes energy independence and health care.

9:30PM - McCain goes for pork again.

9:34PM - Spending freeze promise from McCain?

9:39PM - You're Bush! Am not!

9:44PM - McCain is doing Wingnut points. Interesting.

9:46PM - "You were wrong"

9:50PM - Surgeie Surge Surge

9:54PM - No Pakistan... hmmm. PATREUS!!!!

9:59PM - McCain loves war, but not ALL wars.

10:03PM - Obama sez McCain sez "Muddle through Afghanistan", but McCain sez SURGE.

10:05PM - Note that McCain didn't include the Spaniards in his League of Fun Time.

10:09PM - Obama made an interesting case for diplomacy with our enemies, and now McCain is fearmongering.

10:11PM - Oh damn with the Preconditions. Total PWN.

10:17PM - Russia now.

10:20PM - McCain just called Putin a KGB guy... which is true, of course.

10:27PM - Hey McCain opposes torture! 9/11 question surprised me... McCain doing ok...

10:31PM - Nobody wants to lose Iraq. Strange hill to die on McCain.

10:33PM - Obama calls Afghanistan. Well done.

10:35PM - Back to the Surge for McCain. Weak.

10:37PM - POW!!!

10:39PM - Whoops! Flowers not Cheetara.

Ouch


Calling her a deer in the headlights would be offensive to deer. Meth maybe?

Cefferty with the takedown no less. Crazy.

Financial crisis solved!

Oh wait...  no not really...  but McCain will go to the debate.

As much as I hate to say it, I expect McCain to win this debate thanks to all his campaign's clever tactical shenanigans. There are going to be a lot of McCain bonus points awarded methinks.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

McCain's "No Mas" moment

The big news late yesterday afternoon was, of course, McCain's announcement that he was "suspending his campaign" to race back to D.C. to single-handedly solve the financial crisis. Now, what does "suspending his campaign" mean? Not going on Letterman for one, and no campaign ads for two... and for three, canceling the Presidential debate scheduled for Friday.

I was with them up until canceling the debate... I mean, of course it's a political stunt, and of course Congress doesn't need McCain or Obama mucking up, what's seemed to be a relatively orderly process, with the posturing and grandstanding of Presidential candidates... but I think most Americans think Senators should be doing their jobs right now, and even if Obama and McCain don't sit on the relevant committees, they are the heads of their respective parties at the moment... and no deal gets passed without their explicit approval. So the first half of the idea, while silly, seems like it would play well politically with the voting public... even if he had to blindside Obama to do it.

Trying to dodge the debate however, looks like a straight up ploy borne of fear. A man running for President of the Free World should be able to handle a crisis and prepare for a debate at the same time... I don't think he gets to call up world leaders and go "Time out guys!" if the stock market tanks... and, in fact, wouldn't that be the ideal time for an enemy to take advantage? Not feeling it, and I say it strikes to the center of what the "leadership moment" idea was supposed to convey... and what's the nail in the coffin? "Whoops, financial crisis calling! I guess we'll have to cancel the VP debate to reschedule! Oh, darn."

I mean, c'mon... we're not that dumb. Palin can't handle Katie Couric and come out looking competent... so is there anyone in America (besides Hugh Hewitt) who doesn't see right through this little "Hide the VP" ploy?

You should have just said you were suspending your campaign operations to go to D.C. and left it there, my friend... this... this is gonna turn out bad.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Rejoice Lions fans

The Matt Millen era is over.

It's not going to make your team not terrible all of a sudden, but I imagine the sun seems a little brighter today.

Congressional leaders not stupid?

A shocking assertion I know... but what I've been worrying about this week, regarding The Bailout was that Obama and the Dems in Congress were going to be forced to be adults and pass a less than ideal (or possibly really bad) deal to Save The Economy... but McCain and Republicans could vote against it, since a bailout of Wall Street is likely to be widely unpopular, and it would still pass and Bush wouldn't veto it. McCain and Republicans would thus be able to distance themselves from both Congress and Bush while still getting their buddies bailed out. Pretty sweet deal, and a tactic that I think would have been very effective.

However, via Ezra Klein, apparently Democratic Congressional leaders have undergone spine transplants:
Senior Democrats on the Hill are worried that Sen. McCain, R-Ariz., will "demagogue" the bill, continue to voice opposition to it, use is to run against both Wall Street and Congress, as well as to distance himself from the Bush White House. Democrats worry McCain will not only vote against the bill, he will provide cover for other Republicans to do so, leaving Democrats holding the bag for the Bush administration's deeply unpopular proposal.

A Democratic congressional leadership source says that Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson went so far as to assure Democratic leaders that McCain "won't be a problem" -- in other words, that McCain will vote for the proposal.

This afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said, "I was told, yesterday afternoon, by the secretary of Treasury, that McCain was in favor of the program. We heard, all through the night, that he wasn't sure. And we don't know, this morning, where he stands on the issue."

So who knows, but it's becoming more clear that, while we are in a crisis, Paulson doesn't need to spend $700 billion YESTERDAY... and the thing that makes the most sense it to get a bipartisan solution doesn't suck. In the worst case, you could approve a short term blank check... like $150 for three months, and ask Paulson to come back and ask for more. Even if McCain votes against something like that, it's not nearly as bad as the Full Monty.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Neal Stephenson not as popular as Neil Gaiman


It was a pretty good sized crowd, but not the insanity that was Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys book tour... which makes sense I suppose, since Gaiman cuts across a lot more genres. That was all for the good because it meant the signing line at the end moved petty well, and even though I somehow ended up at the end of the line despite being one of the first people there... it didn't take all that long to get through.

He just read two early sections from the book and took questions. You can sort of tell that he thinks these things are pretty useless and a waste of his time, but he answered plenty of questions and he even seemed to appreciate a few of them. It was mostly hard core Stephenson nerds with a smattering of people who didn't really know much about him but apparently take every opportunity to go to book signings... which I guess isn't a bad policy. A guy I was sitting next to brought shirts that he and his buddy made to give to Neal... and another in front of me brought his own fountain pen for Stephenson to use when he signed the book, complete with some sort of super ink (Neal Stephenson writes all of his books in longhand with a fountain pen).

So anyway, mission accomplished both books are signed, and I even asked him while he was signing my books what he thought of this years BU's hockey team(he is an alum)... but, alas, he doesn't follow them so his prediction was that "they would skate around"... which is, I admit, probably a safe bet.

Authorization for Use of Financial Force


I'm obviously no economist, but making Hank Paulson into some sort of Economics Overlord immune to any kind of review or oversight seems a tad extreme, and reminds me a bit of when Congress gave some other dude in the administration far reaching powers to start wars on the grounds of "I'm sure they know what they're doing".

Besides needing direct oversight, and limitations on the conferred powers, I also think there have got to be strings attached... no blank check nonsense.

We'll see if Congress has any willpower to resist the White House's typical "agree to our every demand or we'll tell everyone you hate America" shtick... I can't say I have high hopes for them suddenly growing spines, but at least they're making noise. Obama has a noon speech scheduled to discuss the problem, so we'll see how hard he pushes for changes... if at all. I think he could probably make some political hay about how it's a bailout for Wall Street with no provisions for homeowners... but we'll see.

Oh, and apparently there is no such thing as investment banking anymore. Remember when that's where all the high powered people who thought brain surgeons made chump change went? I wonder what will replace it as the go to job for soulless greed?

UPDATE: I forgot to link to it this weekend, but Jim Manzi has the most lucid explanation of the financial crisis that I've yet seen on the web. Highly recommended reading for those of us still trying to wrap our heads around the enormity of the problem we're facing.

UPDATE: Added relevant figure from Alex Tabarrok

Saturday, September 20, 2008

New GPS app for iPhone users

I don't have an iPhone, but I'm becoming a pretty big fan of EveryTrail.com since I first used it to post the GPS data and photos from a hike in Acadia(Giant Slide) Anna and I did... and it turns out that they've released what seems to be a really cool application that allows you to use your iPhone to get GPS data and synch up photos you take so that you can post them on the site. I have no idea how well it works, but the convenience factor of only needing your phone to GPS a walk/hike is pretty sweet.

The major problem I see with it, is that(I presume) you need cell phone service to use it... and in Acadia, at least, service is spotty at best. Though, on the other hand, if you just want to GPS your vacation and be able to localize your photos on a map and put them in context, I can't think of anything that would be easier that this. I'm not quite oblivious enough to wear my Forerunner when walking around in Sienna or something... but I certainly wouldn't mind using this application... if I had an iPhone... or were in Sienna. But, you get the idea.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Good Old Games Update

Well, I got my Beta Key to the new retro gaming website Good Old Games about two weeks ago, but I hadn't done anything with it other than register and look at the catalog of games. I didn't think the Beta access meant much other than the ability to buy these old games that have been brought up into XP/Vista compatibility a little bit earlier than everybody else... until the crafty bastards sent me a "buy one get one free" offer that expires at the end of the weekend. Don't get me wrong, I was always planning on getting Fallout 1 and 2 for $5.99 a piece... as well as Jagged Alliance 2: Unfinished Business... and maybe trying a couple of others that I either missed or had forgotten about, such as Giants: Citizen Kabuto or Hostile Waters: Antaeus Rising... however, I was in no particular hurry, since I have plenty of games on my "to play" list right now... but a free game.

Suffice it to say that Fallout and Jagged Alliance 2: Unfinished Business have been purchased, and I'll let you know how it all works out once I take them for a spin.

The Mother of All Bailouts

I don't have much time to blog today, but the big economy news is that, despite yesterday's late Wall Street surge... the economy is still in deep doody.

The current thinking on what the bailout would look like is this:
"What we are working on now is an approach to deal with systemic risks and stresses in our capital markets,” said Henry M. Paulson Jr., the Treasury secretary. “And we talked about a comprehensive approach that would require legislation to deal with the illiquid assets on financial institutions’ balance sheets,” he added.

One model for the proposal could be the Resolution Trust Corporation, which bought up and eventually sold hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of real estate in the 1990s from failed savings-and-loan companies. In this case, however, the government is expected to take over only distressed assets, not entire institutions. And it is not clear that a new agency would be created to manage and dispose of the assets, or whether the Federal Reserve or Treasury Department would do so.

So some sort of entity buys up all the bad mortgages that banks are holding, perhaps renegotiates to make them more affordable, and then sells them back off at some later date. On its surface, this seems preferable to lurching from one government takeover to the next with no real plan... but it also means that nobody gets punished for bad investments except the US taxpayer... and will it even stabilize the market?

Robert Reich doesn't think so, and cries foul about the consequences to the American people:
However much bad debt there may be, that amount is surely far greater than the $394 billion of real estate, mortgages, and other assets that the old RTC bought from hundreds of failed savings-and-loans -- thereafter selling them off form whatever it could get for them. The Bailout of All Bailouts would therefore put taxpayers at far greater risk than they are even today, and require an unprecedented role for government in reselling assets. Another major step toward socialized capitalism.

A better idea would be for the Fed and Treasury to organize a giant workout of Wall Street -- essentially, a reorganization under bankruptcy, for whatever firms wanted to join in. Equity would be eliminated, along with most preferred stock, creditors would be paid off to the extent possible. And then the participants would start over with clean balance sheets that reflected new, agreed-upon rules for full disclosure, along with minimum capitalization. Everyone would know where they stood. Bad debts would be eliminated. Taxpayers wouldn't get left holding the bag. And there would be no "moral hazard" incentive for future financial wizards to take giant risks with other taxpayers' money.

I certainly like the idea of the companies responsible paying more of a price, but it strikes me as unfeasible to get Wall Street to agree to this... though when the alternative seems to be complete socialization of our economy, maybe it's possible?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Unleash La Furia!!!

Since I adopted Spain's national team for Euro 2008, and courageously spurred them on to victory with my somewhat indifferent and opportunistic cheering, I feel it's my personal duty to be outraged that Senator McCain has no idea who the Prime Minister of Spain is. Of course, I didn't know who the PM of Spain is either, so I wasn't initially too moved by TPM's reports... I mean, it's being translated and all that, so it's natural that there might be some confusion... and it's not like I expect the Prez to know every single world leader's name (but I'd recommend memorizing our NATO allies' names)... but listening to the audio, it sounds much worse than I thought... the man just sounds clueless and out of it.

Bizarre. It seems unlikely this is going to get much play stateside, as "who the !$&@ cares about Europe anyway!?"... but if it does, it won't do much to assure voters about the age issue with McCain.

UPDATE: So word out of the McCain camp is that he knows exactly who Zapatero is, he just doesn't want to meet him for insane Neocon reasons. Whew! So instead of being a confused old man, he's a crazy old man. I guess that's better, but I hope this quickly contrived macho posturing doesn't affect the price of sangria or I'm going to be pissed.

UPDATE II: Atrios begins to ponder how we might address the Rogue Regime in Madrid in a military fashion... I had thought our treaty obligations to defend their territorial integrity might be a bit of a roadblock to direct confrontation, but Atrios cleverly sidesteps this by proposing to secretly fund (and train?) separatist groups. Genius.

Elote

Elote, or Mexican "street" corn, is grilled or boiled corn on the cob slathered with mayonnaise, cheese (cotija usually), and topped off with lime juice. I had never had it, but I did have a recipe, and Anna had intrigued me by talking about how popular it was down in Mexico... and not only that, it's corn season pretty much everywhere right now, so it is quite easy to get some locally grown stuff.
The recipe I used called for queso fresco(which is like feta) instead of cojita(which is a hard cheese and more like parmesan). In addition, the corn is broiled instead of grilled or boiled, so even people like me, who don't have backyards, can get that nice browned and charred effect.
The recipe is very simple and shouldn't provide too many issues... I got the queso fresco in my regular Supermarket, not a specialty store or Whole Foods or anything... but you can substitute Farmer's Cheese or Feta if you need to. Also, I'm not sure if my broiler just sucks, but I found the recipe's recommendations to be way off the mark... so I'll put the "official" times and directions in, but explain where I diverged from the printed word.
Broiled Corn
  • 6 Ears of corn, husks and silks removed, but keep the stalk if you can.
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
Sauce
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon juice from 1 lime
  • 1 medium garlic clove minced or garlic pressed
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 oz queso fresco crumbled (about 1/4 cup)
Garnish
  • 1 lime cut into wedges
Directions
  1. Depending on your oven, you might need to adjust your oven rack to get it near the heating element... the recipe says 5-6 inches, but at least with my broiler (the "on the bottom of the oven" kind) that wasn't nearly close enough... by the end, I had the corn on the second highest position. Turn on your broiler. Take your broiler pan or cookie sheet and cover it with aluminum foil. Brush the corn with the olive oil, place it in the lined pan, and put it under the broiler.
  2. The recipe says about 10 minutes, or until well browned, flip it over and go for another 10 minutes. There are two problems with this, the first, as mentioned above, is that it takes a lot longer than 10 minutes if your corn is 5-6 inches from the heat (at least with my broiler)... so move it closer and keep an eye on it... second, what about the other sides? Doing it this way you'll end up with 2 brown and 2 raw sides... so I kept checking and rotating. As the corn gets more browned, it takes less and less time to do the other sides... so I don't think it's a huge burden, though it means paying a lot more attention.
  3. Anyway, during that initial 10 minute broil, you can pretty quickly put the sauce together. Just stir it all together in a bowl until it's uniform.
  4. Once the corn is fully browned, brush each cob (on all sides) with the sauce and then put it back under the broiler for a minute or two until the cheese looks slightly browned.
  5. Remove the corn from heat and brush each cob on all sides with the sauce.
  6. Serve it with the lime wedges and any left over sauce.

I really liked it. Sweet, cheesy, spicy, and tangy... all at the same time. I was a little dubious about the mayonnaise at first... I'm not a huge fan... but the heat really did something weird to it, that somehow turned it delicious. The lime juice squeeze at the table is key, so don't forget the wedges.

I definitely recommend anyone looking for something interesting to do with a bounty of corn to give this a try.

UPDATE 6/25/12: Changed the recipe to reflect how I currently do it (i.e I do not put the corn back under the broiler once I brush with the sauce... residual heat is more than sufficient to do the job).

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Most boring Presidential ad ever?


It very well could be, and that's why it's brilliant and perfectly timed... in my humble opinion, at least. If you don't feel like watching it, given such a glowing endorsement, it's 2 minutes(!) of Senator Obama sitting down and talking to the camera about our economic troubles and his plan to fix it. He's very calm and relaxed, takes no partisan shots, and instead talks about how we can solve these problems together. *Yawn* right? A waste of money because Americans can't sit still for 2 minutes let alone comprehend policy proposals, eh?

As I said at the start; I don't think so. Why? Because it was a fireside chat, brought about by a financial situation that seems nearly as dire to us today as it did to our grandparents in the 30's... and I think it will have a similar effect in calming nervous Americans, but this time it will calm those who were nervous about voting for Obama. As Kevin Drum quips:
Pretend you are an ordinary American. I know that's hard: as a reader of an elitist coastal blog you're barely even an American at all.

I continue to believe (and I'm certainly in the minority here) that all Obama needs to do is make Americans comfortable enough to vote for him... because they really want to, but they're not sure he's ready to be President. This ad is boring as hell, especially if you've been following this thing for the last two years and know his plan inside and out, but if you try to think about it from the perspective of somebody who is scared to death about their pension plan, paying their mortgage, and filling up their gas tank... I think it strikes a chord.

The current financial crisis has given Obama the opportunity to "look like a President" reassuring the country... or as Todd Beaton said:
The ad definitely passes the "do I want this guy in my living room for 8 years" test and projects Obama as caring, knowledgeable and competent, three things America is desperate for in a president.

The convention bounce has essentially receded, and we will probably be back to Obama with a narrow, but consistent, 3-5 point lead by the time the first debate hits next week... and for that debate and the subsequent ones, the goal will be the same... to look and act like a President... and he can be as boring as all get out, as long as he is "caring, knowledgeable and competent".

Well, this isn't really working out as planned...

Dow falls 300 points this morning.

UPDATE: Step away from the computer when it looks like they're rallying, and they end up down 450.

Belgian Beer Fest Sept. 26 & 27


So I just purchased my ticket for the Belgian Beerfest, Session II. Word on the street is that they are likely to sell out by the end of the weekend, so if you're interested you better hop to it. I've been the last two years and really enjoyed it... it's an opportunity to taste dozens of unusual beers from all over, that would takes months and months and hundreds of dollars to try on your own (and many are only available at festivals like this).

Looking over the brewery list, Victory is coming, which I think is a first... and they're bringing two beers I've never heard of... Abbey 6 (Single; 6.5%) and V-12 (Strong Ale; 12.0%)... so that's pretty cool. Allagash has a stout now too, which is intriguing... and Unibroue is bringing a startlingly large selection of beers I've never tried. Looks like it'll be a fine time.

I'm actually going to bring a camera and a notepad this time so I don't end up forgetting half the beers I thought were awesome, why I thought they were awesome, and what their label looks like. I will, of course, blog my thoughts after.

photo used under a Creative Commons license by flickr user cmurtaugh

Now we own an insurance company... yay?

Congratulations US taxpayers! Your money now backs all of AIG's terrible investments! But at least the Fed controls 80% of their stock, which is totally not Communist or anything because... well... because.

Here's the terms of the bailout:
Under the plan, the Fed will make a two-year loan to A.I.G. of up to $85 billion and, in return, will receive warrants that can be converted into common stock giving the government nearly 80 percent ownership of the insurer, if the existing shareholders approve. All of the company’s assets are being pledged to secure the loan. Existing stockholders have already seen the value of their stock drop more than 90 percent in the last year. Now they will suffer even more, although they will not be totally wiped out. The Fed was advised by Morgan Stanley, and A.I.G. by the Blackstone Group.


Honestly, I don't know what to think about this, but a bailout seems better than a complete collapse of the financial sector. Hard-core capitalists disagree, I suppose, and think we should risk a second Depression to allow for "market correction"... and I dunno, I have some sympathy for that viewpoint... but it seems that the people who would end up suffering the most wouldn't be stockholders and CEOs.

If you're curious about how it's legal for the Fed to take over a random industry not typically in its purview Marty Lederman has some thoughts. I found this part particularly fascinating:
As today's decision demonstrates, this New Deal law apparently gives an extraordinarily broad authority to the Fed to "discount" notes, drafts, and bills of exchange, without limit. Recall also, unitary executive fans, that the Fed could have made this loan over the objection of the President, although in this case the Treasury supports the Fed's decision.

I don't think I had ever really considered how powerful the Fed is. Interesting, to say the least.

Regardless, the next question is, of course, are we done bailing out companies yet, or are more dominoes about to fall?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Japanese Cuisine Update

Anna and I dined at the ever popular Ittyo in Porter Exchange last evening, where she had a tempura vegetable soba dish and I had eel and soba. One of the more surprising things we discovered about Ittyo is that they allow you to substitute vegetable broth for the classic fish broth, meaning that vegetarians and vegans are all set here... and not just restricted to curries. Anna really enjoyed her dish, and I have to say it was fairly cleverly constructed... as I noted previously, tempura disintegrates into the broth over time, creating nice layers of flavor as you eat, and as if to emphasize this, the chef created a large tempura... ball, I guess... of vegetables all stuck together. As the tempura came apart, she could take off pieces of broccoli or carrot or whatever. I had a little bit of it and thought it was really good... even the veggie broth.

My dish was a little different... it was basically this, but all on one plate:

So it was distinctly less pretty... which is what you'd expect from a tiny little stall in a mall.

Regardless, though it was in one dish, many of the same elements were present... broiled eel, soba noodles, soy sauce, wasabi, and pickled radishes. The mistake I made with it, was not adding a bit more soy sauce to the noodles and mixing in the wasabi and radishes at the very beginning. I ate everything sort of piecemeal, adding touches of wasabi as I went. It still was quite tasty, but I would have consumed it differently in retrospect.

I think it's probably time to hit up Fugakyu and do the udon thing... as much as it pains me to not get a pile of sushi and my favorite sushi place(I'll still get some), I need to see what things are like at a top end Japanese restaurant. I feel like I've gotten as much as I can from the Food Court options, though I'll certainly come back for a reasonably priced and good tasting meal.

image used under a Creative Common's license by flickr user roboppy

Stephen Baldwin pledges to leave country if Obama elected

Now that is change I can believe in.

"Extinction-level event"

So my knowledge of the economy makes John McCain look like a University of Chicago Economics Professor, but the fact that the DOW fell 500 points yesterday, AIG's credit rating was downgraded, and that AIG is thus down another 62% this morning, all strike me as Very Bad Things.

This weekend we learned that, unlike Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Bear Stearn's... Lehman Brothers was not too big to fail.

What about AIG? Search me, but they certainly sound important:
But there is a bigger potential failure lurking: the American International Group, the insurance giant. It poses a much larger threat to the financial system than Lehman Brothers ever did because it plays an integral role in several key markets: credit derivatives, mortgages, corporate loans and hedge funds.

Late Monday, A.I.G. was downgraded by the major credit rating agencies (which inexplicably still retain an enormous amount of power in the marketplace despite having gutted their credibility with unreliable ratings for mortgage-backed securities during the housing boom). This credit downgrade could require A.I.G. to post billions of dollars of additional collateral for its mortgage derivative contracts.

Fat chance. That’s collateral A.I.G. does not have. There is therefore a substantial possibility that A.I.G. will be unable to meet its obligations and be forced into liquidation. A side effect: Its collapse would be as close to an extinction-level event as the financial markets have seen since the Great Depression.

WHHHEEEEEEEEEE!!!

Richard Cohen wants John McCain to get off his lawn

When I predicted a revolt of punditocracy against John McCain's dishonorable campaign, I didn't honestly expect Richard F-ing Cohen to be leading the charge:
I am one of the journalists accused over the years of being in the tank for McCain. Guilty. Those doing the accusing usually attributed my feelings to McCain being accessible. This is the journalist-as-puppy school of thought: Give us a treat, and we will leap into a politician's lap.

Not so. What impressed me most about McCain was the effect he had on his audiences, particularly young people. When he talked about service to a cause greater than oneself, he struck a chord. He expressed his message in words, but he packaged it in the McCain story -- that man, beaten to a pulp, who chose honor over freedom. This had nothing to do with access. It had to do with integrity.

McCain has soiled all that. His opportunistic and irresponsible choice of Sarah Palin as his political heir -- the person in whose hands he would leave the country -- is a form of personal treason, a betrayal of all he once stood for. Palin, no matter what her other attributes, is shockingly unprepared to become president. McCain knows that. He means to win, which is all right; he means to win at all costs, which is not.

Ouch. Now, Mickey Kaus thinks that the fact that every member of the press corps and pundit class are convinced that McCain has morphed into a lying sleazeball and besmirched his honor and integrity is... wait for it... GOOD NEWS FOR JOHN MCAIN! I'm with Mr. Sullivan here... what are you supposed to do when the MSM (finally!) calls out a Republican for telling outright falsehoods... ignore it? Talk about loser strategy; Mickey I've got John Kerry on line 2. This is a slam dunk, gift wrapped by McCain and the MSM, and the Obama campaign played it perfectly:

Now, I would agree that Obama shouldn't spend too much time talking about what a lying, liar McCain is... especially when even Fox news(!!!) does it for you... but I thought going after an opponent's perceived strength was the Rovian tactic that all Dems loved to hate?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Neal Stephenson Book Tour

So my favorite living author recently embarked on a book tour, to promote his new book Anathem.

For fellow residents of Cambridge/Boston you can buy $5 tickets for his 7pm Saturday the 20th appearance from Harvard Bookstore (not online: in person or w/ credit card over the phone). You can actually redeem the $5 you pay on a future purchase from the (quite excellent) store, so it's not a total jack. It's at the big church on the corner of Mass. Ave. and Church Street... and if Neil Stephenson is at least as popular among Cambridge Nerds as Neil Gaiman(who I saw read at the same venue promoting Anansi Boys), then it's likely to be a sell out, and be prepared to wait for hours in line to get him to sign your book(s).

Anna got me a first edition, first printing (fine/fine condition) of Cryptonomicon for my birthday a couple of years ago, so I'm pretty excited to finally be able to get him to sign it. I'm not a book collector, but I love that book so much I thought it would be cool to have a pristine, collector worthy, version to sit on my bookshelf and never be touched... obviously that's kind of silly... and indeed, I've had it for over a year and it's still wrapped in the bubble wrap it came in... because I'm, frankly, sort of scared of it.

Anyway, I'm totally looking forward to the reading, though I have absolutely no idea whether the book is any good... and yes, I know the book has been out for a week, but I've always planned on buying it at the reading to get signed, and I'm not sure I can embrace the policy of buying two copies of a hard copy book (one for reading and one for collecting).

Live Blogging the Apocalypse

Well, OK, not THE Apocalypse... maybe just an apocalypse... and only of the financial variety, but it's still weird to see what the intertubes dun brung us:

The New York Times has Floyd Norris Live Blogging the possible(probable?) collapse of the US financial system.

Surreal.

Giant Slide Hike


Giant Slide Hike

Widget powered by EveryTrail: GPS Geotagging

So this is my first GPS'ed hike, and my first use of the EveryTrail website... which seems to have a lot of nice features for something that appears to be free so far. I can't figure out how to import photos and place them on the map though... I'll have to mess around with it and maybe try a different browser.

Anyway, here's the description of the hike that I posted on their site, if you don't feel like clicking through:
We had planned on doing Beehive, but it rained heavily on Friday, and so we decided the iron rungs and ladders on that trail might be too slippery and dangerous. Instead, we tried Gaint Slide which is supposed to be especially beautiful after rains. It was indeed very pretty, with numerous small water falls and clear mountain pools as you clamber over moss covered rocks. It's pretty strenuous, not because of grade or length, but because you need good balance and attention to make sure you don't slip. The trail suffers a bit from being an "out and back" and not a loop... it's not quite as much fun to come back down the rocks as it was to come up them. We tried to to make a bit of a loop by climbing up to Parkman mountain's peak for the return, cutting off some of the rocks, but as you can see on the map, we turned back. The trail, while pretty obvious, was not blazed at all (at least as far as we could see) and we had no desire to get lost.

Here's an example of one of the small water falls you spend most of the trail beside, or scambling across:

UPDATE: Figured out the pictures... they just take a while to show up. Putting them in the right spots was kind of a pain, since I had to look at the actual GPX file and match up times on the photos, but it comes out pretty cool though, huh? I had to make my blog wider to fit in the widget, since it is resistant to resizing, but I also had been meaning to do that for some time any way... but the site could really use an option to change the size for embedding.

UPDATE II: Added some more photos, and it turns out that you can let it auto align them on the GPS route based on their timestamps... you just need to set the offset... previously, the page with the photos weren't coming up for me, so I did it manually. The auto align method is vastly superior, and pretty damn impressive.

This seems bad



Nothing to worry about, as Krugman says:
Will the U.S. financial system collapse today, or maybe over the next few days? I don’t think so — but I’m nowhere near certain.

Whew!

Next time a libertarian tries to tell you about the wonders of a free market, remember this, and that if out financial system doesn't collapse it'll be because we, the taxpayers, bailed their dumb irresponsible asses out... again.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Off to Maine

I'm heading up to Maine for the weekend, so no blogging (not that I generally post a ton on weekends anyway). If the weather holds for Saturday, I should get a some GPS and heart rate data with my Garmin(I brought my charger this time) for Beehive trail in Acadia... Anna wanted Precipice, but after looking at this picture I voted for the (only slightly) less vertical Beehive trail. I don't think of myself as being particularly afraid of heights, but still find exposed vertical climbs on iron rungs to be... intense. I want to work my way up to that one.

Hurricane Ike

I'm with Hilzoy... this is a fairly terrifying advisory:
NEIGHBORHOODS THAT ARE AFFECTED BY THE STORM SURGE...AND POSSIBLY ENTIRE COASTAL COMMUNITIES... WILL BE INUNDATED DURING THE PERIOD OF PEAK STORM TIDE. PERSONS NOT HEEDING EVACUATION ORDERS IN SINGLE FAMILY ONE OR TWO STORY HOMES MAY FACE CERTAIN DEATH. MANY RESIDENCES OF AVERAGE CONSTRUCTION DIRECTLY ON THE COAST WILL BE DESTROYED. WIDESPREAD AND DEVASTATING PERSONAL PROPERTY DAMAGE IS LIKELY ELSEWHERE. VEHICLES LEFT BEHIND WILL LIKELY BE SWEPT AWAY. NUMEROUS ROADS WILL BE SWAMPED...SOME MAY BE WASHED AWAY BY THE WATER. ENTIRE FLOOD PRONE COASTAL COMMUNITIES WILL BE CUTOFF. WATER LEVELS MAY EXCEED 9 FEET FOR MORE THAN A MILE INLAND. COASTAL RESIDENTS IN MULTI-STORY FACILITIES RISK BEING CUTOFF. CONDITIONS WILL BE WORSENED BY BATTERING WAVES CLOSER TO THE COAST. SUCH WAVES WILL EXACERBATE PROPERTY DAMAGE...WITH MASSIVE DESTRUCTION OF HOMES...INCLUDING THOSE OF BLOCK CONSTRUCTION. DAMAGE FROM BEACH EROSION COULD TAKE YEARS TO REPAIR.

The 100 bucks I was planing to send Obama this month might need to go to the Red Cross. Hopefully it's not as bad as it sounds.

The Palin Interview

I did not watch it, as I don't have TV (though perhaps it streamed live on the intertubes), but reactions were pretty predictable... if you think she's dangerously unprepared then there appears to be ample evidence to support that, and if you think she is the greatest thing since Yacht Rock you are posting on The Corner or Redstate, and nowhere near this website.

Anyway, there's another segment being aired tonight somewhere around 10 pm on 20/20 if you are interested... I'm likely to miss this one too, as I'll probably be on a bus to Maine... but this is probably going to be the one you want to catch, since if there are any remotely tough questions then they'll be tonight. I'm not expecting much quite frankly, but I am curious as to whether she will lie to Charlie Gibson's face about the Bridge to Nowhere.

I really wish it was Matt Damon asking the questions instead of Charlie Gibson, but oh well:

Yeah I know, it just reinforces the "condescending coastal elite" thing when you have movie stars making fun of hockey moms... but I'm sorry, it's just funny (but scary at the same time). I also share Mr. Damon's curiosity as to whether she believes there were dinosaurs walking the Earth 4000 years ago... or alternatively, whether God put their bones there to test our faith... however, I won't hold my breath for Charlie to ask.

UPDATE: Here's a long Fallows post on why it's so terrible for her to not know what the Bush Doctrine is:
Sarah Palin did not know this issue, or any part of it. The view she actually expressed -- an endorsement of "preemptive" action -- was fine on its own merits. But it is not the stated doctrine of the Bush Administration, it is not the policy her running mate has endorsed, and it is not the concept under which her own son is going off to Iraq.

How could she not know this? For the same reason I don't know anything about European football/soccer standings, trades, or intrigue. I am not interested enough. And she evidently has not been interested enough even to follow the news of foreign affairs during the Bush era.

As he goes on to state... that sounds a lot like our current President. I mean, I'm not a foreign policy think tank guru, but I know what the Bush Doctrine is just by, you know, following the news. She makes quite clear(as she has in older interviews), that up until she became the Vice Presidential nominee, she didn't give a damn about anything outside the borders of Alaska... unless it was earmarks to build a hockey rink. And yet, she's extraordinarily confident about these issues she's ignorant about, and the big question is whether or not she cares that she's ignorant about foreign affairs... is she currently trying feverishly to get up to speed on national security and foreign affairs issues, or is she happy just to repeat right wing talking points and skirt around questions? It's quite hard to say, but it doesn't look good... and is the possibility of Bush Pt. II having the nuclear codes really something we want to gamble on?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

9/11/01

I was in California, L.A. specifically, when the planes hit. I was out there, staying with my friend Jeff and his girlfriend, trying to find a place to live and get registered for classes for my short stint as a grad student as UCSD. I had rented a car while staying with Jeff in Silver Lake, and did the hour or hour and a half drive to La Jolla daily... trying to get my shit together by the time classes started.

I was awoken from sleep by numerous calls to my cellphone in the wee hours of the morn... I didn't check the messages, and just rolled back over, figuring them to be drunk dials I could check when I got up in a little bit. I got up around 6:30 AM or maybe a bit later, as I had been pretty motivated to get this grad school thing working, and the long drive meant getting up early... my first surprise of the day was seeing Jeff up and watching TV. Both towers were on fire. Neither of us saw the planes hit... we just watched the towers collapse. I remember wondering whether L.A. was next... were those planes still in the air headed for us? It seems a bit silly in retrospect, but we discussed whether Jeff's girlfriend should go to work or not or whether it was too dangerous... they both ended up going to work, and I ended up just sitting there wondering what the hell just happened.

I think I'm still wondering.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

That's what I'm talking about


I know Josh Marshall and David Kurtz over at TPM disagree, as they have called for ATTACK! ATTACK! ATTACK! since August, but this is where Obama is at his best... neatly parrying the attack and turning it right back against McCain. He calls it BS, and points out that the McCain camp is focusing on this kind of nonsense because they have nothing to say about the issues... all the while looking calm, cool, collected... forceful, but not angry.

Journalistic organizations like TPM, as well as political junkies, tend to focus on the immediate, and are thus obsessed with the concept of "winning the news cycle". This is basically nonsense IMHO, because it ignores the long term cost of what the candidates do to win the news cycle. The thing that is missed with this kind of myopic viewpoint, is that Obama is attacking and he is going negative on McCain... it's just getting overshadowed by the completely insane sleaze spewing out of McCain campaign headquarters. What is Obama supposed to do? Try and out-crazy the McCain camp just to be the top story? No. First off, that would be impossible... second, like I said, these antics have a cost. The press is starting to bail, and even die-hard McCain mancrushers like Chris Matthews are going WTF dude. In a few days or so, once the convention bounce has receded, the Palin novelty has worn off, and Obama's back up by 3-5 points... will winning this news cycle with CRAZY be worth it? McCain comes out of this with further diminished cred with the press and looks desperate, while Obama comes off looking like the President, and as a man who cares about the American people, not trivialities.

I don't know, maybe I'm naive and this strategy is doomed to failure, but I'm with Howard Wolfson here... the Obama campaign built the best brand in politics (and beat the most powerful political machine in recent memory) with this strategy and I don't imagine they're going to stop now... and, quite frankly, I trust their political instincts more than I do TPM's or Paul Begala's.

The abyss gazes also


It's hard to know what to make of the McCain campaign's descent into one of the sleaziest campaigns in modern memory... I mean, they were bad in August, but they were mainly childish and, dare I say it, "unserious"... however, in the last couple days we've him and his surrogates lie repeatedly, and baldly, while sacrificing any semblance of honor the man had left with some of the most offensive attacks I've ever seen in a Presidential race.

The "Bridge to Nowhere" lie that Palin and McCain endlessly repeat is shameful... but repeating lies that have been thoroughly debunked by all media outlets I can think of is pretty much the Republican way, right? If you're interested, TPM has a good time line of her fervent support for said bridge, that only ended once Congress said no and that Alaska would have to pay for it themselves. However, lying to the American people is only the beginning of McCain's dishonor.

Hell, it's not even the McCain's pathetic attempt to play the gender card that, once again, all the reporters who used to be in his pocket are calling out as ridiculous.

The real sleaze, however, is an ad I won't even link to... an ad that claims that Obama wants to give your kindergartner sex lessons. It even includes images of Obama seemingly leering at children! Of course, it's also a complete and utter lie.

I'd call it career suicide, but I guess it's still possible he might win this thing... and that appears to be the only thing that matters to him.

When McCain first started running the "Celebrity" ad, I warned that he risked losing the press... well, little did I know that he had even deeper depths to sink into. As Steve Benen noted a couple of days ago:
In recent weeks, we've seen fairly strong denunciations of McCain from Time's Joe Klein, Newsweek's Jonathan Alter, and the New York Times' Thomas Friedman. Today, it looks like the Washington Post's Sebastian Mallaby, hardly a reflexive liberal, has joined the club.

Well, there hasn't been much reaction from the pundit class on this latest bit of shameful behavior from McCain... only Joe Klein vowing not to accept the inevitable apology 6 months from now... but I'm betting they won't be fans.

Will it matter? I don't know... I'd like to think so, but it seems that the McCain campaign is going for full on Culture War and character assassination while working the age old "liberal media bias" angle. I really don't care so much about the politics at the moment... I mainly find it sad to see a formerly honorable man become what he hated.

UPDATE: I should also note that the title reference is not merely a denunciation of McCain, but a warning to my fellow liberals. As the not-dead-and-not-fired Andrew Sullivan says:
My only advice to Obama: stay calm; stay cool; focus on the issues; behave like the president you want to be. They are trying to get into your head. But you are so much smarter and more decent than they are. Patience. And steel.
I would expand that out to Obama partisans in general. Let's not be so shell shocked from 2004 that when we see it happening again we turn to the Rove playbook. These are the ploys of desperation, not a call to arms. Stay cool. Knock down the nonsense, but keep it rational and stay away from all caps.

photo used under a Creative Commons license by flcikr user my stification

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Andrew Sullivan doesn't post all day: Internet in tizzy

Ah, if only people cared this much when I didn't post for a day... no wait, scratch that... in fact, that would be terrible. Sometimes it's pretty nice being a blog that few people read.

Regardless, I counted one, two, three separate bloggers going "AFAIK he's fine, could you stop e-mailing me now?" before the man himself quelled the rumors, of which there were apparently legion:
Thank you for your many emails of concern. For the record, I'm absolutely fine, nothing has changed with this blog, no one is pressuring me to write or not write anything, and I spent part of the day yesterday with my husband soaking up the last moments of summer together.
So I guess if he hadn't posted for 48 straight hours we would have had to assume that the zombie uprising had begun and that they went for the bloggers first.

Monday, September 8, 2008

McCain gets BarackRolled


The fusion of a multitude of internet and political memes here is kind of disturbing, but it does a good job of illustrating why it's a bad idea to give a speech in front of giant video screens showing mainly blue and green images. The video editing is quite impressive as well.

Ahhhhh intertubes, is there anything you can't do?

via Pandagon

Japanese Cuisine


So ever since a couple of friends took us to Wagamama for dinner, I've been curious about the things they serve at Japanese restaurants that aren't sushi. Now, Wagamama is a chain that serves a westernized versions of many of those dishes that I find quite tasty... but it's clearly not authentic and as such, an offense to Japanese food snobs everywhere. (See Yelp! reviews)

As an amateur food snob (of the Western variety) myself, I decided this needed some more looking into. I've never been a big fan of tempura or teryaki, and ever since I was introduced to it in college, the only thing I've ever ordered at a Japanese restaurant is sushi. Now, this makes a good deal of sense, since sushi is something that is incredibly dependent on the chef and ingredients, so when you have an opportunity to eat at one of Boston's many fine Japanese restaurants, it's hard to turn away from the exquisite sushi and ask for some noodles in broth... but that's what I'm starting to do. It helps that we live in Cambridge now, where the sushi scene is decidedly inferior to places like Coolidge Corner, while living two blocks from Porter Exchange, which has the semi-upscale Blue Fin(pretty good sushi and large menu)... but is mainly dominated by food stalls like Ittyo serving traditional Japanese fare with tables cramped together and overflowing into the hallway.

Right now I'm sticking to basics: ramen, udon, soba, and donburi. At this point, I've had udon twice... once at Blue Fin and once last night at one of the Porter Exchange food stalls. I have to say that I'm still not quite sure where I stand on it... and there are so many varieties it may be a while before I am. At Blue Fin I had shrimp tempura udon, and they gave me a big bowl with the broth, udon, and shrimp tempura in it, another small bowl, and then a shaker with some red pepper mixture. You pulled out the noodles and shrimp you wanted into the small bowl, spooned some broth onto it, and then seasoned it... eat, repeat. It was pretty tasty, though fairly subtle, and it was interesting how the broth became flavored as the tempura broke down in it. Last night at the food stall (whose name I can't remember), I tried vegetable and fried tofu udon... which I wasn't terribly impressed with at first, but came to appreciate as the meal progressed. The main problem was the lack of a second bowl... I had really liked that feature at Blue Fin (though I had to ask my waiter what I was supposed to do with it at first) and definitely missed it this time out. The missing second bowl, and very crowded first bowl, highlighted the sweet glaze on the veggies and tofu... which struck me as a bit out of place and overly strong at first, but as they mixed with the broth it added a nice layer of complexity. Therefore I suspect that if I had been pulling out udon and vegetables/tofu into separate bowl and spooning broth over them the meal would have been more balanced. Possibly just stirring a bit would have been fine, but as I said, the bowl was quite full... so it would have been a delicate procedure.

Well, that's a review of my initial foray into the world of "Japanese food that is not sushi" in Boston/Cambridge. I'll update as I discover more.

photo used under a Creative Commons license by flickr user Jon ├ůslund

Friday, September 5, 2008

H-y-p-o-c-r-i-s-y


You've all seen this bit(RIGHT!?), but I wanted to preserve the brilliance on the 'ole blog.

Ah, Karl Rove and Dick Morris.

That was some Straight Talk

There isn't a whole lot to say... it was really really boring. Like what you'd expect from some random speaker you've never heard of, but 3x longer. Honestly, though, the POW stuff was the only compelling part of the speech, and now I know why it was a part of every other speech this week.

I was really hoping that he would tear into Obama, and that they were desperate enough for that... but, alas, it was pretty much the speech you would expect. Despite three decades in D.C., he's the Maverick we need to cut taxes and drill, drill, drill... and also, apparently, to assume control of school boards across the country so he can start firing teachers... because, otherwise, I'm not exactly how the President gets rid of "bad teachers". I mean, the Prez makes a lot of appointments, but Sally's 1st grade teacher is not one of them.

In the end, scheduling the GOP Presidential nomination acceptance speech during the first NFL game of the season was the cagiest decision they ever made.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Straight Talky Maverick Time

Big digital flag floating behind the Senator. Really a surprise touch that is.

OMFG! He accepted the nomination!!! The crowd goes wild.

Calling in the 9/11 card a little early aren't we?

I know you won't believe this, but he's going green screen and creepy smile. Wow.

He's not so stiff though... delivery not repulsive!!! Could this be a GOP coup?

Good appeal for civility... not that I trust him.

OK at some point we moved to an Iwo Jima-esque flag and a blue screen.

Government broken... I'm bipartisan... and Palin roxxors!!

What does it mean if someone says: "I don't work for a political party and I don't work for special interests: I work for YOU" and they say it at the GOP convention. Cynical much?

Petraeus. Yay. Why isn't he running for President if you cede all decisions to him?

McCain's been totally not terrible... almost competent! But extraordinarily boring.

Wait... corporate welfare by Obama for oil? Never heard that one before, and it seemed to catch the audience off guard. What's that about?

Oh, Health Care war is ON. Ezra must be frothing.

Tax cuts. Tax cuts. Tax cuts.

Did Grover Norquist write this section?

Re-training with subsidy for people who lost a job.

Vouchers.

Drill, Drill, Now, NOW. Nuke plants.

This is a really boring speech.

The McCain family has suffered from war, so you gotta believe they want to make Uber Peace... just a few more wars and they'll be all set.

Ok, here comes the Country First part.... McCain has scars that Obama doesn't have. Weak.

No more than 5 minutes, right? Gotta end at 11.

Please stop! I'll tell you anything!!!!

Look I'm begging here.

OK, I'll admit it's a powerful story... incredibly so, even delivered in a bland monotone. I'd recommend sticking to the video narrator Senator, but it's pretty amazing how getting told the same story over and over doesn't get old if it's a good story.

Cognitive Dissonace Part 846: I just told you how my Biography makes me ready to be President, but I don't think I deserve it. I won't say that I'll say no, but I don't really WANT it... despite the signs to the contrary. That black dude though... man, doesn't he seem entitled?

Wow, the GOP is pretending that was the best thing ever... I'm wondering how long before it's Palin/Romney.

Bizzaro World - Day 3

Senator Lindsey Graham just makes me laugh... I can't take him seriously, so his attacks didn't bother me.

Tom Ridge... Vietnam. Country. Win. Patriot. Victory. Maverick.

Personality Cult? The last few days have basically been about how McCain's a reincarnation of George Washington... but that just shows what a Maverick he is, I guess.

I noticed that Cindy McCain's celebratory story of triumph and romance didn't mention that he was already married we they met. However, I must say that her charity work was shown impressively.

When did being a "Hockey Mom" become the most awesome thing ever? I guess Should BU expect an uptick of recruits? Should I go back and get some season tickets? Oh wait no... Hockey Moms only exist in places like Alaska and.. Arizona!? The fact that Northeast Coastal Elites actually PWN pretty hard in hockey, is probably not something we should mention.

Palin Reax

Her speech was almost universally well thought of by the commentariat, conservatives are shaking their fists and liberals are shaking in their boots. I thought it was well delivered, for the most part, and she's pretty charming, but I thought the rhetoric was pretty lame and the attacks jarring. I still feel you should only be gushing about this speech if you thought she would come out and act the drooling idiot... and you would pretty much have to be a drooling idiot to think that... but then I also don't come from a small town or have 5 kids or go out hunting so the "folksy" and "homey" stuff goes right over my head, which is why the former Mayor of New York sneered at "cosmopolitan" cities(!!!), I guess. We just don't get it... and thus the Culture Wars are back on, but that's a topic for another post.

So anyway, I thought this was an ineffective speech and a poor strategic choice for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I don't think most Americans will think she has the status to attack Obama. I'll let Nate Silver lay it out since he said it first and better:
I think some of you are underestimating the percentage of voters for whom Sarah Palin lacks the standing to make this critique of Barack Obama. To many voters, she is either entirely unknown, or is known as an US Weekly caricature of a woman who eats mooseburgers and has a pregnant daughter. To change someone's opinion, you have to do one of two things. Either, you have to be a trusted voice of authority, or you have to persuade them. Palin is not a trusted voice of authority -- she's much too new. But neither was this a persuasive speech. It was staccato, insistent, a little corny. It preached to the proverbial choir. It was also, as one of my commentors astutely noted, a speech written by a man and for a man, but delivered by a woman, which produces a certain amount of cognitive dissonance.
I think this is exactly right. Nobody knew who she was except for movement conservatives until she was announced amid a media firestorm of controversies... if people who weren't already convinced of their view points were tuning in last night, it was to see what all the fuss was about... and while I'm sure they came out with a much better opinion of Palin (which is obviously good for the GOP), she's still a complete unknown from a small town in Alaska, railing on somebody they've known for months now. He is a "celebrity" after all. ;) I just don't think this works... and I think it's why we haven't seen many "complete unknowns" in the VP slot these days, as it undermines their attack dog status.

Nate then goes on to look at combined "Very Favorable OR Very Unfavorable" percentages as a marker of "entrenched opinion" - people who just either love or hate the person and are not changing their minds no matter what happens. He then compares Obama at 63% to Kerry at 45% and concludes that this is why Swift Boating worked on Kerry... lots of persuadable voters who had no strong feelings for him... and why similar tactics by McCain against Obama have had no real impact on what was basically a static race all summer. I tend to think Kerry was more about underlying fundamentals than Swift Boating, but Nate makes a good case. Regardless, the ineffectiveness of bald character attacks against Obama underlines the strategic mistake of going Stereotypical GOP Smear Machine in a "change" election... they tried very hard all night to have it both ways with talk of reform one minute and blaming "liberals" for their runny eggs the next, but I just don't think that flies. You just can't run as a reform candidate as an incumbent... and while McCain/Palin have a better chance than many other GOPers to come across as anti-establishment, each Rush Limbaugh quote and Rove attack deadens that effect. Mark Schmitt makes the historical case of what happens to the GOP when they get hyper-partisan:

It was the face of the Republican Party that got so carried away with itself that it impeached Bill Clinton. It was the face of the self-righteous, nasty party of Tom DeLay, John Boehner, Bill Frist, and George Allen. It was the face of Newt Gingrich and Dick Cheney, not the softer and superficially more accomodating tones of Ronald Reagan and, to be fair, the election-year George W. Bush.

This was exactly the face of the Republican Party that people have been voting against since at least 1998, when Democrats gained in congressional races amidst impeachment. It's certainly the face of the Republican Party that voters rejected in 2006, when they turned out Allen, Rick Santorum, DeLay, and others.
It will be interesting to see whether McCain goes for the jugular in a similar way tonight... and I suspect he will, as he's got Rove advisors and a deep personal animosity for Obama... but I think it's fundamentally a bad call. As Schmitt says, when people vote against the GOP, this is what they vote against.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Palin

The crowd loves her, as expected... lots of biography so far. Lots about her family(off limits!)... isn't that supposed to be what other speakers are for? Intro videos?

OK, now she's saying Mayors of small towns kick community organizer's asses. We need to schedule a basketball game. 'Bitter' and 'cling to guns' is back... no surprise there.

Biography... Hockey Mom with Reformist Platitudes. Not a bad delivery, but her voice and accent really annoy me... but that's probably because I'm a sexist coastal elite.

Nice line about getting rid of the chef.

Completely lying about "The Bridge to Nowhere" now.

Drill! Drill! Drill! And Pipes! (and also other alternatives)

OK... she just said Obama hasn't accomplished anything. Sarah Palin just said that Obama hasn't done anything. The one who got Foerign Policy experience from living next to Russia. I'm living in Bizarro World... oh wait no, this is your 2008 GOP!

I feel like she's totally lost the crowd... she gets them for the big applause lines, but otherwise they seem lethargic... might just be the way it is this year.

Celebrity blah blah blah.

OK small town populism time, and change is more of the same(Trust us!).

Mavericky McCain. Stands up to elites.

Irony Moment: "This is not supposed to be a journey of personal discovery" Yeah, I'm guessing the McCain camp wishes they vetted you too.

POW. POW. POW.

OK I'm done. I can't imagine anyone liking this, but I'm not its intended audience so I shall have to read what the pundits say... I expect a lot of "did what she had to do".

Rudy

He's bringing the mock on Obama, but is he really the right man to be making fun of Obama? His delivery is very poor and he's not getting much from the crowd, not to mention that he's pretty much a joke at this point... Giuliani questioning Obama's experience? Biden's already adressed that. I have to admit I am amazed that he has yet to say "9/11" (that I heard).

Anyway, this is an incredibly weak speech in both delivery and text. Not impressed.

UPDATE: Did he spend the last 10 minutes trashing Obama's experience and then praise Old Man McCain for loooking to THE FUTURE for his VP pick while Obama looked to the past!? It's like they screen these speeches to make sure that they have excessive cognitive dissonance. It's some sort of mind exploding weapon against we poor Democrats watching this nonsense.

Walking Talking Parody

I'm trying not to watch the Republican National Convention, because I see no need to get upset... but I'm getting drawn in a bit (but I keep muting it and trying not to fume), and I have to say that my former Governor Mitt Romney is making one of the stupidest arguments I've ever heard: The last 8 years are the liberals' fault... and that to enact change we need to eject the liberals from Washington and elect McCain/Palin!?

Ah yes, the problem with the last 8 years is that current administration hasn't been blindly partisan enough. Just a little more torture, bombing, and tax cuts to Mitt Romney and everything would have been AWESOME. Goddamn liberals.

If people can't see through this nonsense, I give up.

UPDATE: Huckabee on the other hand... quite good so far. Small town populism that I expect we'll see echoed in Palin's speech. (Nice dig on Biden) Though, as someone already vetted who is a great speaker and has the same base appeal, why didn't they go with him?