Wednesday, August 29, 2007

NYC is Farm Country!

Via Matt Yglesias, we get this map of Manhattan. The red dots indicate recipients of federal farm subsidies, with the big dots showing the ones receiving more than $250,000 a year.

I had no idea agriculture was such an integral part of my city's economy. I'm imagining a version of "Green Acres" where the Gabor sister prevailed over her husband.

Be glad that your tax dollars are helping to save the family farmer!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

On Craig's Cruisin'

After the discovery of Senator Craig's arrest for lewd conduct in Minneapolis, the meme de jour on the lefty blogosphere has been that although Craig is a hypocrite, he did nothing wrong. Matthew Yglesias thinks it, David Kurtz thinks it, Hilzoy sort of thinks it.

Let's look at the arrest report:
I could see Craig look through the crack in the door from his position. Craig would look down at his hand, 'fidget' with his fingers, and then look through the crack into my stall again. Craig would repeat this cycle for about two minutes. I was able to see Craig's blue eyes as he looked into my stall.

Many years ago, when I was younger and perhaps less equipped to deal with the situation, a man very purposefully peeked through the crack in the door of my toilet stall, presumably for the purpose of soliciting sex. I banged on the door and he got the message and left. But it was definitely a violative act and I was upset by it.

Look, I'm pretty liberal on gay issues. I think gays should be able to marry the people they love and have all the rights that heterosexuals enjoy. But what Craig did -- in a public place -- was illegal... and wrong. To call it 'disorderly conduct' is mild.

UPDATE: Here's a much better story about an uncomfortable experience in a men's room.

Sunday, August 26, 2007


Because Microsoft-bashing is always fun.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Obama Republicans?

I've noted before that Barack Obama has the remarkable ability to make conservatives like Andrew Sullivan and David Brooks swoon. This Iowa poll indicates that this effect is not limited to pundits; Obama is polling ahead of Thompson and McCain as the preferred general election candidate of Iowa Republicans.

The Score on Iraq

Kevin Drum gathers together some helpful metrics on Iraq, but Matthew Yglesias delves into the Army's counterinsurgency field manual to remind us what the really important metric is.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

McCain in Trouble?

Kos has what he aptly calls "a shocker of a poll" showing that McCain is in trouble... in the race for Arizona Senate.

The New New Iraq

The Bush Administration has criticized the Maliki government sharply, and now Maliki has sniped back calling them "discourteous" and saying Iraq could "find friends elsewhere."

I had wondered how the administration would sell a continuation of their Iraq policy in September, when a report to Congress is due. Back in the spring the NEW AND IMPROVED! factor had been the surge. Yes, we've been in Iraq for four years now, but never with shiny new General Petraeus! Never with a true counter-insurgency strategy! Never with this troop surge!

Well, the surge came and -- because of troop availability -- it will have to wane in the spring. The incremental increase in troops managed to cut down on violence in Baghdad, but country-wide both US and Iraqi deaths are up compared to corresponding months last year. With key Sunnis leaving the cabinet, the political situation has actually gone backwards. In a development unrelated to the surge, Sunnis in Al-Anbar have teamed with the U.S. to fight Al-Qaeda, but that's a double-edge sword... we may just be arming future combatants against the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government.

So how can the administration sell a continuation? What's the new excuse to delay a reckoning? Where's the new NEW AND IMPROVED! factor?

Expect a new Prime Minister soon.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Elizabeth Murray, 1940-2007

While I was on vacation one of my favorite artists passed. Elizabeth Murray was 66; she died of lung cancer. Her work is her testament, so I'll let it speak for itself. (Click any image to enlarge.)Bowtie, 2000.

Above: Open Drawer, 1998.
Below: Worm's Eye, 2002

Saturday, August 11, 2007

On Vay-cay!

The blogging has been light this week, and probably will be over the coming few days. I'm in SoCal visiting friends and doing the SIGGRAPH convention. Will tell all when I get back!

I Was Once in a Cramer Crater

By now nearly everyone has seen this clip of Jim Cramer flipping out over the need for Bernanke to lower interest rates.

Is Jim Cramer really this insane or is it an act for television? Actually, he really is like this. Many years ago I pursued a career as a playwright and made ends meet by working at the document center of Goldman Sachs. Jim Cramer was there, working in the fixed income department. One day he came down with two hours of work which he needed done in 40 minutes in order to meet a Fedex deadline. For some reason he was under the impression that if he yelled at me, at much the same volume he reaches in this video, I would somehow attain the ability to type three times faster. Predictably, we didn't meet the deadline. Afterwards he seemed a little embarassed but didn't say he was sorry. After he left, his analyst underlings did apologize for him, though -- profusely.

There were a lot of type A personalities at Goldman, but Jim Cramer was really in a category of his own.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

The Last Illusionist Locket Post?

Most of the traffic I get on this blog is because of a single post: my March piece on how to build the locket from the Illusionist. Of course, I didn't really show how to build it... I just showed how it theoretically could be built in 3D animation. Many enterprising souls came up with more workable plans than I did, such as The Mechanical Philosopher, and now I notice that some people have actually built the thing. Here's Jane from The Cranitorium and Evadedia's blog. Both have videos of their completed lockets, and Evadedia -- who spent 3 days building hers -- is now selling it on Ebay.

Congratulations, people! It's been fascinating being part of weird worldwide subculture that has been hypnotized by a prop they saw in a movie.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

More Nonsense from AP

A couple of days ago I wrote about the AP's horrendous coverage of an Obama speech. Well, they've done it again. Kevin Drum writes how the first version of an AP story read as follows:
Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama said Thursday he would not use nuclear weapons "in any circumstance."

This is how the conversation went:

AP: Sir, with regard to terrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan ...

OBAMA: Yeah.

AP: Is there any circumstances where you'd be prepared or willing to use nuclear weapons to defeat terrorism and Osama bin Laden?

OBAMA: No, I'm not, uh, there has been no discussion of using nuclear weapons and that's not a hypothetical that I'm going to discuss.

AP: Not even tactical?

OBAMA: No. I think it would be a profound mistake for us to use nuclear weapons in any circumstance. Uh, if involving you know, civilians... Let me scratch all that. There's been no discussion of nuclear weapons. That's not on the table so...

If a politician corrects a statement right after he's said it, it shouldn't even be reported, much less shorn of context and described as his view. This is crazy and unprofessional.

The Union Says It's Okay

Matt Yglesias is live-blogging from YearlyKos and comes up with a post that seems like conservative parody of what a liberal post would look like.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Chronicle of a Distortion

Sometimes bad news coverage can set the tone for a story. Here's what the Associated Press wrote about Barack Obama's speech:
The Illinois senator warned Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf that he must do more to shut down terrorist operations in his country and evict foreign fighters under an Obama presidency, or Pakistan will risk a U.S. troop invasion and losing hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. military aid.

Wow! Obama threatened to invade Pakistan! Drudge was off, Maguire was off, all the boys started ooh-ing at Barack's invasion threat. Except, of course, he said nothing of the sort:

As President, I would make the hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. military aid to Pakistan conditional, and I would make our conditions clear: Pakistan must make substantial progress in closing down the training camps, evicting foreign fighters, and preventing the Taliban from using Pakistan as a staging area for attacks in Afghanistan.

I understand that President Musharraf has his own challenges. But let me make this clear. There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again. It was a terrible mistake to fail to act when we had a chance to take out an al Qaeda leadership meeting in 2005. If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won’t act, we will.

And Pakistan needs more than F-16s to combat extremism. As the Pakistani government increases investment in secular education to counter radical madrasas, my Administration will increase America’s commitment. We must help Pakistan invest in the provinces along the Afghan border, so that the extremists’ program of hate is met with one of hope. And we must not turn a blind eye to elections that are neither free nor fair – our goal is not simply an ally in Pakistan, it is a democratic ally.

It's a nuanced view. It offers Pakistanis carrots and sticks in exchange for their cooperation, it favors Pakistani democrats, and it allows for the possibility of military operations on Pakistani soil.

Ah, but it was too late. J-Pod over at the Corner was off:

Obama is full of it. This country is never — never — going to stage a major military action against Pakistan. Pakistan is a nation of 170 million people that has nuclear weapons and whose admittedly problematic and troublesome regime has, to some extent, cooperated with the United States in the war against Al Qaeda both in ways we know and ways we have no idea about. The concern that this strategically vital county might become an Islamic fundamentalist state is, should be, and will be paramount in every and all discussions about how to conduct the fight against Al Qaeda.

What's more, every serious person knows the United States won't invade Pakistan, even with Special Forces — since the reason we cancelled the proposed action against Al Qaeda in 2005 is that it was going to take many hundreds of American troops to do it. This isn't 15 people dropping like ninjas in the darkness. It's an invasion, with helicopters and supply lines and routes of ingress and escape. It would have had unforseen and unforeseeable consequences, but it would have been reasonable to assume the Pakistanis would have turned violently against the United States and hurtled toward Islamic fundamentalist control.

If the evil Bushitler Cheney Rumsfeld Monster wouldn't do it, nobody will do it.

Of course, both Clinton and Bush considered military operations in Pakistan, from a cruise missile attack to a special forces snatch-and-grab. Now maybe they made the right decision to not go through with those plans, but there's no reason why a President Obama should rule out such an option, especially when the threat itself might be persuasive.

If Giuliani had said the same thing, J-Pod would be chirping happily, but when a Democrat says it, the reaction is first to distort what he says, and then to have a tantrum and protest that it's impossible to out-hawk our Dear Leader so please don't even try.