Google, Haiti, and Taxachusetts

Saturday, January 23, 2010

There have been so many juicy topics to cover, it’s been difficult to keep away. Every time I’m moved to write, though, I really have something else to do or simply don’t want to devote the time to it. That said, here is, in summary, how to think about the following issues:

Google/China: Yes, if Google was #1 in China this wouldn’t have happened, but they’re not and it did. As a result, this is one of the great humanitarian corporate moves of all time. Perhaps the greatest (there’s not a lot of competition, I’m guessing). Google should follow through and close their business there. As arguably the most important corporation in the world, the move will properly shame China and the many companies that remain in that authoritarian country. Here’s a question that any one doing business there should ask: Would I want to live here?

Haiti: Nothing to do in the aftermath but help. In the long term, I’m with David Brooks and Bret Stephenson. Let’s stop giving money to countries “in need.” It does nothing, and may actively do harm. It’s difficult, because it is human nature to try to help fellow humans in need, but it’s also the right thing to do. Certainly, what the first world has been doing for decades has not worked.

Taxachusetts: I would have voted for Scott Brown too. Seriously. I would have voted for a cardboard cutout against Coakley. Although she was inept, I would have done it to send the message. I have said, many times, that if Obama and this Congress can’t get it done, then there is no hope for us. Year one has been an epic, unmitigated failure. Iraq, Afghanistan, secrecy, deficit spending, bank coddling, and worst of all, the healthcare nightmare. I blame Obama for not using his robust post-election strength to strong arm Pelosi (failure) and Reid (failure) immediately. Weak, poorly managed, pathetic. Obama, where are your balls? It’s time to lead.

And, btw, why do you need the 60 votes? Make an exceptional bill and let the GOP filibuster. Call their bluff. If they do it, and the bill dies, you hang it around their neck. Now, the bill dies, and it’s a Dem failure. Disgraceful.

(But then there would be no healthcare bill, someone wails. So fucking what? Paul Krugman can cry to his cats. This is not the most pressing issue in America. Budget restraint, financial reform, and confiscatory, punitive taxes on very wealth bankers, should be the priority. Followed by a 10% spending cut across the entire government, no exceptions.

We are going to have to suffer, period. Let us start suffering already so we have a shot at not fucking our children.)

The bottom line for me, in all this, is that I have really given up hope. I don’t believe our Congress (and the state legislatures) are capable of introducing the change (ethics, responsible spending) that is necessary.

Something very, very bad is going to happen in the next ten or twenty years. War with China, epic depression/inflation/default, or, in the best case scenario, a benevolent military coup (and a draft) that reforms the government in a way that makes it possible for America to function properly.

David Petraeus, are you out there? Rome needs you. Cross the Rubicon. Cast the die!

P.S. I can’t believe I just wrote that. Nevertheless, letting it stand.


Understanding the Large Hadron Collider

Saturday, September 13, 2008

This op-ed from Brian Greene is about as close any mere mortal is likely to get to understanding the purpose of the Large Hadron Collider.

The bottom line is that scientists may be able to resolve some of the deepest mysteries of the universe.

And that’s a good thing.

Ranking the Best Political Blogs

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Updated 9/22/08: I’ve been reading these blogs and others ceaselessly as the presidential campaign gets into high gear. I have updated based on now intensive reading.

There are, literally, dozens of worthy political blogs out there. With such an abundance, one can’t (or won’t) possibly read (or even skim) them all. That said, this is a list of what I believe are the top political blogs of 2008. They are chosen on a purely subjective, qualitative scale with an eye towards reflecting both sides of the partisan divide. Choose one from the right, one from the left, and one news blog, and you’ll never be out of the loop again.

10. The Corner / National Review – Brief and sarcastic, the Corner presents the William F. Buckley viewpoint (philosophically, not stylistically) on the events of the day. Always good for a sense of what the dark side is thinking, and a fine place to recharge your batteries, the Corner is a quickie look at whatever stick is currently up conservatives’ asses. [The Corner]

9. CNN Political Ticker – Marshalling forces from different parts of the CNN organization, this blog is the place to go for an informal look behind the news of CNN. It’s updated frequently and covers the world of politics authoritatively. For a political junkie, it’s a good place to get your fix. [CNN Political Ticker]

8. Mark Halperin / The Page – Mark Halperin is a veteran journalist who founded The Note for ABC News, and has taken his show to Time. This is a solid read every day, with a strong editorial filter that weeds out a lot of the B.S. that one must contend with on other blogs. Halperin is well connected and influential and The Page reflects the intelligent (slightly right of center) journalism he’s spent his life devoted to, without sacrificing a sense of humor. [The Page]

7. Ben Smith / Politico – I find myself coming back to Ben Smith more and more often. He is able to find the perfect seam between news and gossip and often has genuine scoops. He’s always informative and has a strong insider perspective on the political scene. [Ben Smith]

6. Glenn Greenwald / Salon – Though not really a blogger, Glenn Greenwald makes the strongest case for upholding the constitution of any scribe on the Internet. He is a relentless and effective writer who doesn’t pull punches while presenting the evidence that makes his case (he’s former constitutional lawyer). He’s a pleasure to read and almost always manages to get the blood boiling (if you’re into that sort of thing), while taking on government abuse and hypocrisy. [Glenn Greenwald]

5. Andrew Sullivan / The Atlantic Monthly – I have been reading Andrew Sullivan more recently and believe him to be the rare partisan with a decent moral compass and sense of honesty. He posts frequently, throughout the day, and links to and comments on almost everything worth reading about. He is ostensibly a conservative, but, as I say, he’s not an blind ideologue. A daily must. [Andrew Sullivan]

4. Daily Kos – There are many reasons why Daily Kos is a must-read; numerous informed and unique perspectives, the daily congressional overview and analysis, the unalloyed (yet not stupid) liberality, and The Great Kos (Marko Moulitsas – the man who started the trailblazing site) himself. But the single most important reason to go to Daily Kos is because they actively dispute and rebut virtually every thrust of the Republi-Conservative knife with accuracy and proof. That alone makes it worth the trip. [Daily Kos]

3. Josh Marshall / Talking Points Memo – A slightly more objective Daily Kos, TPM is essential political reading for the simple reason that Josh Marshall is a very effective journalist. Marshall knows his stuff and does a great job squeezing relevant news out of what may seem to be a dead issue. Well researched and clearly a labor of love, the site always has something to surprise and engage. [TPM]

2. Real Clear Politics – In a short period of time, Real Clear Politics has become the clearinghouse of the political landscape. If you can’t find it here, it may not exist. The poll summary data is an invaluable resource, the links, combed from far and wide, give you the day in a snapshot, and the depth and breadth political coverage means that you can scrap your RSS feeds and just visit RCP. In addition, the sister website Real Clear Markets performs largely the same purpose for the financial world and helps give readers a comprehensive picture of the most important news of the day. [Real Clear Politics]

1. Coming soon.

Honorable Mention
Kevin Drum / Mother Jones (formerly Washington Monthly) – Always a fresh perspective.
The Caucus / New York Times
The Trail / Washington Post
The Plank / The New Republic

Dishonorable Mention
Drudge Report – A sleazy propaganda organ of GOP
Huffington Post – An influential site, I know, but I find it overwhelming. Needs a redesign.
Instapundit – I’m not there.
The Fix / Washington Post – The pic of Chris Cillizza makes him look like a pompous ass.

Koons, Serra, Murakami, Hirst Under Fire

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Jed Perl of the New Republic has authored a nice rant against the above mentioned “artists,” (you see, I used quotes) and others, in a piece covering their recent shows as well as the architecture of several new museums.

It’s like he took the words right out of my mouth. Referring to Murakami, he writes:

You cannot possibly understand what a safe haven for frauds and con artists the art world has become until you have walked into this trickster’s trap.


Those of us who are outraged that Koons and Hirst and Murakami now take up so much space in our museums are not angered by their work. We are angered by the significance that arts professionals are attaching to this work. There is no art here to enrage me–or to engage me, either.

And he goes on, decrying this dismal state of affairs. I don’t expect anything will change, but it’s good to know that people are trying.

Read also:
Koons in Chicago
Richard Serra in Paris
Robert Rauschenberg

ACLU Condemns FISA Legislation

Thursday, June 19, 2008

And with good reason. In the manic push to get legislation to Bush before the summer break, Congress is going all out to compromise. Yesterday, the House reached a settlement on the war spending/new GI bill. Today, the Dems, unfortunately, caved on civil liberties to back the Bush-favored FISA renewal.

According to the ACLU, “this bill allows for mass and untargeted surveillance of Americans’ communications. The court review is mere window-dressing – all the court would look at is the procedures for the year-long dragnet and not at the who, what and why of the spying. Even this superficial court review has a gaping loophole – ‘exigent’ circumstances can short cut this perfunctory oversight… In the end, there is no one to answer to; a court review without power is no court review at all.”

The bill also provides cover to the telecoms who aided spying without a warrant by forwarding decisions about retroactive immunity (again, why is this necessary unless the law was broken?) for the telecoms to U.S. district courts, where the Attorney General simply needs to certify that the spying was authorized by the president and took place in the period between September 11, 2001 and January 17, 2007 for the case to be dismissed.

I hate to keep telling people to contact Congress, but now is the time to make your voice heard. They are acting, and quickly, and they need to know what they are doing with this bill is wrong.

Cell Phone Danger for Babies

Monday, May 19, 2008

In the ordinary course of life, there is no one more justifiably fearful than a pregnant woman. Knowing this, entire industries are built around the idea that by using their product or expertise you will prevent some harm from happening to your baby.

This story, by Geoffrey Lean in the Independent (UK), is going to scare the bejeebus out of parents. Apparently, in a huge study involving 13,000 children, researchers from UCLA and Aarhus, Denmark found a link between cell phone use by pregnant women and behavioral and emotional disorders in children. This follows on the heels of an announcement by an official Russian body saying “that use of the phones by both pregnant women and children should be ‘limited’.”

This research is going to change the culture, just watch. This story will be the most emailed of the year. Every trial lawyer reading it is salivating right now.