February 28, 2009

The CPAC Straw Poll for 2012

Who is the right-wing base excited about at this point? Romney has a plurality. But I think the more interesting thing is how low the numbers are for Palin and Huckabee, two very well-known political commodities, in the wake of their 2008 national campaigns.

Posted by armand at 07:31 PM | Comments (27) | TrackBack

February 27, 2009

Conservative=Porn Loving?

Who ever would have imagined?!

The biggest consumer[of porn], Utah, averaged 5.47 adult content subscriptions per 1000 home broadband users; Montana bought the least with 1.92 per 1000.


Eight of the top 10 pornography consuming states gave their electoral votes to John McCain in last year's presidential election - Florida and Hawaii were the exceptions. While six out of the lowest 10 favoured Barack Obama.


Church-goers bought less online porn on Sundays - a 1% increase in a postal code's religious attendance was associated with a 0.1% drop in subscriptions that day. However, expenditures on other days of the week brought them in line with the rest of the country, Edelman finds. Residents of 27 states that passed laws banning gay marriages boasted 11% more porn subscribers than states that don't explicitly restrict gay marriage.


States where a majority of residents agreed with the statement "I have old-fashioned values about family and marriage," bought 3.6 more subscriptions per thousand people than states where a majority disagreed. A similar difference emerged for the statement "AIDS might be God's punishment for immoral sexual behaviour."

A touch of ecological fallacy, but fun nonetheless.

Posted by binky at 11:54 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Congratulations to Armand's trivia team for taking home the top prize in the big charity fundraiser trivia competition! Baltar and I were on a different team... it wouldn't be fair to everyone else for us all three to be together.

Posted by binky at 10:36 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

O samba

I've been feeling kind of homesick for Brazil lately. Certainly part of it is the shitty cold weather that has been just hanging around for so long this year. Part of it is the last week being the lead up to Lent, and seeing all the coverage of Mardi Gras. And part of it has certainly been watching Shakesville blogger William K. Wolfram go through his preparations for the big show.

Now, I intend no offense to my co-blogger and his home state, but I just can't get down with the idea that Mardi Gras is the real thing. And even though I've been around the real deal I never went through the expense of going out with a samba school. I went to Imperio Serrano and danced my ass off, and hung out in the open air set of stands with food and beer in the staging area of the big parade, both of which seemed way more fun to me and had the bonus of not including wearing extra layers of polyester in 45C degree weather. The most fun at Carnaval I had was with my good friend John, who is an anthropologist who writes about race and culture. I was going through a bad breakup of a transatlantic relationship with someone who lived in Bahia as I had moved back to the US, and I had been uninvited to go to Salvador for Carnaval. So, a ticket to Rio - which I had just very reluctantly left - it was, and it was the perfect cure. Many residents flee the city for Carnaval, to get away from the noise, mess and tourists. Being broke grad students, we did Carnaval around the edges. Went out behind Simpatia e' quase amor and amongst the Banda de Ipanema made up in part by the Ala Carmen Miranda (or Carmen Miranda Wing). We went to watch the Cordao da Bola Preta, one of the oldest and most traditional neighborhood blocks.

And then when we were sick of everyone, we hauled ass to the home of a professor we knew, in a small community south of Rio. What was especially cool was that this professor had built a small house in a low income area, and had a little yard with a few citrus trees and one wall of the house was glass, looking out over the ocean. Because this town was enough away from Rio, it had its own small carnaval, in which there was no nudity, and most people dressed as either the traditional "Clovis", a masked, almost harlequin figure OR in gorilla suits. There were only local families (and us, of course) and kids ran around, vendors sold pipocao (sweet candied popcorn) and cotton candy and caldo de cana, which at the time we were calling caldo de cholera, since there had been a few outbreaks in the region. But the best part was sitting around with the professor's dogs, a silly boxer and a giant Rhodesian Ridgeback with a heart of gold, a two hour hike through the forest to a remote beach, and caipirinha caseira (homestyle caipirinha) from the professor's trees. It was one of the most restful weeks I have ever had, despite all the noise and confusion of Rio, and having lived there for some time.

Back to reality, and the cold rain spitting against my windowpane, a continent away. The cockles of my heart are warm, and minha alma carioca hears the canto das sereias.

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February 26, 2009

"Clean coal harnesses the awesome power of the word clean"


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Gov. Jon Huntsman (R-UT) - The Politico Interview

Is he the Republican who could be the biggest threat to Obama in 2012 - and more than that the Republican who could win more than a bare majority of the electorate?

Posted by armand at 10:21 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 24, 2009

Nate Silver Classifies the Republicans' 2012 Field

Basically he boxes 'em into a 2x2 typology. And that is fine as far as it goes. But looking at this I'm struck by how non-threatening those names look. It really does appear, albeit 3.7 years out or whatever it is, that the Republicans who can beat Obama would have a very hard time winning the nomination (with the possible exception of Haley Barbour who seems able to survive pretty much anything).

Posted by armand at 10:09 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Plight of Iraqi Widows

Hilzoy highlighted this New York Times story. It's exceedingly depressing, and a reminder of why the US my not be winning "hearts and minds" in the region.

Still, only about 120,000 widows - roughly one in six - receive any state aid, according to government figures. Widows and their advocates say that to receive benefits they must either have political connections or agree to temporary marriages with the powerful men who control the distribution of government funds.

"It is blackmail," said Samira al-Mosawi, chairwoman of the women’s affairs committee in Parliament. "We have no law to treat this point. Widows don't need temporary support, but a permanent solution."

The latest plan, proposed by Mazin al-Shihan, director of the Baghdad Displacement Committee, a city agency, is to pay men to marry widows. "There is no serious effort by the national government to fix this problem, so I presented my own program," he said.

When asked why the money should not go directly to the women, Mr. Shihan laughed.

"If we give the money to the widows, they will spend it unwisely because they are uneducated and they don't know about budgeting," he said. "But if we find her a husband, there will be a person in charge of her and her children for the rest of their lives. This is according to our tradition and our laws."

One of my biggest reasons for opposing the war is that I find it morally objectionable that we would be spending American blood and treausure to support decision makers like that, to spend precious US resources to create and extend that sort of situation.

Posted by armand at 09:47 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 23, 2009

Calorie Counts on WV Chain Restaurant Menus

Other states have done this, and I think it would be a good thing in our state - especially given the health of its citizens, and the costs of their ill health.

Posted by armand at 10:11 AM | Comments (47) | TrackBack

February 22, 2009

The Oscars, 2009

So far so good I'd say. Hugh Jackman knows how to put on a show and it's nice to see the show changing things a bit. And congratulations to Penelope Cruz. Given her Almodovar past, and especially Volver, it's nice to see her so happy.

Though I will say the Red Carpet show was kind of embarrassing. Tim Gunn was more interested in talking to the dresses than the people. There were a few cool dresses though. I've never seen as many pleats as are in the Versace being worn by Marisa Tomei. And hey, any excuse to watch Diane Lane look amazing (seemingly the only way she can look) - I'm okay with that.

Okay that Tina Fey/Steve Martin bit was great.

I'm really enjoying the way they are presenting the Original Screenplay award. This new production team is doing good work.

UPDATE: Here's something for those of you interested in the night's dresses.

And Roger Ebert loved the show - though not everyone covering the show.

Posted by armand at 08:47 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Reader

So since I'll be watching the Academy Awards in a few minutes I decided I should make an effort to see another nominee before the show, so I went to see The Reader this afternoon. I could nitpick it. So I will for a moment. Honestly I wasn't thrilled with how Stephen Daldry shot some of it. Some of the conversations seemed oddly or ineffectively framed, and some moments could have been crisper (why didn't he just end the film with "so tell me"?). And don't get me started on the character-age problems. Winslet's make-up was laughable, and David Kross doesn't look like he's scene 15 in years. But those nits picked, it's a really good movie. I can see its Best Picture appeal.

Posted by armand at 07:55 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 21, 2009

More Academic Conferences Won't Be Held in New Orleans

Tourism is of course a major part of Louisiana's economy, and New Orleans is, of course, an inviting town that appeals to many. But of late more and more organizations are thinking about taking their members (and their money) elsewhere, in light of the right-wing laws the state has approved of late. Political scientists have been debating whether or not to hold conferences there in light of laws that are viewed as attacks on gay people. Turns out that scientific organizations are now bolting the state in light of a law that was approved (by overwhelming majorities and signed into law by would-be-president Bobby Jindal) that calls for creationism to be taught in biology classes.

Posted by armand at 09:56 PM | Comments (22) | TrackBack

The Cooley Show

So, regulars know that Baltar and I, like some other IR/poli sci people out there, have a little thing about the Drive By Truckers. While I travel to see bands - I do live in West Virginia after all - quite a bit, and have a few different band buddies, DBT has really taken the number one spot away from the Flaming Lips in my live act pantheon. As such, they have been the target of quite a bit of traveling to see the Rock Show (as they call it) over the last several months. They have three singer songwriters, Patterson Hood (notoriously prolific), Mike Cooley (he writes less, but pretty much exclusively gems), and Shonna Tucker (just stepping up to the plate recently). The DBT catalog is so deep, that you can see them twice in one day or three days in a row and the overlap will be very slight.

Right now, we are in Washington D.C. for a DBT two night stand at the 9:30 Club one of the best rock venues on the east coast. We have been planning for this for quite some time.

What we had not planned on was that frontman, co-lead singer and half of the duo that has formed the core of the band for twenty-some years, is out of commission with walking pneumonia. This means that the bulk of the leading and singing has to be taken up by Mike Cooley, who usually hangs out on stage left, looking cool and occasionally cracking wise. For some bands, having their frontman out would be en epic disaster. For this band, it is an epic win, a rarity not only of setlist but also of Mike Cooley's performance.

Last night, night one, that was what we got. Even though Cooley is not the more prolific, they still have decades of material to mine. They did a 21 song setlist, and didn't even get to all of Mike Cooley's "greatest hits" (e.g. Where the Devil Don't stay). It was a shame not to have Patterson's material, surely, as well as his stage presence and guitar work, but in many ways this was the most exceptional DBT show I have ever seen. Long have I sworn that I was going to make a live compilation CD of DBT's greatest performances, and the first batch would surely be Cooley only. It was a geek's dream, a superfan's delight, and tonight it's going to happen again, because Patterson Hood is still down with the pneumonua.

So to the big guy, here's a whole heaping helping of get well wishes and hopes that in short order he kicks pneumonia's ass. And in the mean time, the crowd is in the more than capable hands of Mike Cooley, who stepped up and took the whole Rock Show to Cooleyville.

UPDATE: Rockin' Pneumonia

Posted by binky at 04:25 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

February 20, 2009

The Best Paper Title at ISA 2009

So I finally got through the ISA program (yes, days after I left the conference), and there are a lot of papers I want to check out on-line. But one sounds especially fabulous - "Dressed for the Occasion: Post-War British Diplomacy and the Dresses of Elizabeth II." I've got to get my hands on that one (among others). Do any of you have reports of the good, the bad, or the ugly, that you'd like to share from this year's event?

Posted by armand at 01:40 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Oscar Predictions?

Does anyone want to go out on a limb and make some predictions? Over at Awards Daily there are tons of 'em if you are filling out a (for entertainment purposes only) betting form and trying to guess who will win what. But are there any winners you expect to see emerge, especially in the tight races? Are there any nominees you'd really like to see win (or lose) on Sunday night?

Posted by armand at 11:57 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Blessed by a telemarketer

I just got blessed by a telemarketer. A telemarketer working for a charity just called my house, and started the usual "hi this is Angela with XYZ, how are you today Ms. Rasmussen?" My standard response is "I don't make donations on phone solicitations." Her response was "God bless you," and then she hung up. What the...? Is this supposed to make me glow with human kindness, now that I have been blessed by a telemarketer, and repent so that I can now find it in my hard hard heart to donate to charity? I don't know, maybe I am glowing with the spirit, because I have the idea to write a pilot for a crap network series, starring some long-haired, pained-looking waif who changes lives with 30 seconds phone calls: Blessed By A Telemarketer. I'm not sure about how the sidekick angle would work though.

Posted by binky at 10:06 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 18, 2009

The Most Effective US Presidents in Foreign Policy

A new (misleading) ranking of US presidents by historians has gotten a lot of press lately. But I haven't seen anyone note that the last question of the recent TRIP survey (a survey of international relations scholars in 10 countries) asked the participants to rate the 3 most effective US presidents in terms of US foreign policy. The results? Unsurprisingly, FDR came in first by a landslide - he was listed on 69% of the surveys, and 68% of those submitted by US scholars. Among US international relations scholars Clinton came in second with mentions on 36% of the US surveys, while Truman, Nixon, Kennedy, Reagan, Wilson, and George H.W. Bush all came in with the support of 20-28% of the US scholars surveyed. I am surprised Truman is rated so highly in this area given the Korean War. The presidents at the bottom of the lists of US scholars? Taft, Harding, Coolidge, Hoover, Johnson and Ford were listed on no more than 1% of ballots.

The surveys of British and Canadian IR scholars largely matched those of specialists in the US. What differences existed across the participants from other countries? Well, Wilson is rated more highly abroad than he is the US, while George H.W. Bush is rated more negatively abroad than he is in the US. Israelis are huge fans of Richard Nixon. And Kiwis are high on Truman and Wilson (as well as, of course, FDR).

Posted by armand at 03:33 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

A "Cadre" at the Pentagon Is Trying to Undermine President Obama?

Things that make you go hmmmm.

In fact, there's been a steady stream of unreliable leaks coming out of the Pentagon - about troop levels, about the Defense budget - that seem to be emanating from a cadre that opposes the Obama Administration.

And how about that high-quality reporting from Joe Klein, eh? He notes that now he's going to double-check leaks before reporting them.

Posted by armand at 01:09 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Is There an Official Countdown Until Alexi's Annoucement?

Because if this is the current situation, you'd think a young, rich, ambitious, statewide-elected official who wants the president's old Senate seat and who is close to the president wouldn't wait to long before announcing his candidacy. After all, the primary isn't much more than a year away.

Posted by armand at 12:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 17, 2009

All by...

Posted by binky at 08:37 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Hard Times

Woe to the economists.

Supply and demand, indeed. Once upon a time I was married to an economist (I know, an unholy alliance of social science) who told me the reason that they made more money than we did was that they produced a socially valuable commodity and that we political scientists did not.

Yeah, my supply of economist definitely exceeded local demand.

Some excellent hard times as an antidote:

Posted by binky at 07:35 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

P is for Palin, Pouting, and Petty

I'm not surprised by this. That I'm not says a lot about Gov. Palin and her ability to lead anything beyond a fringe movement.

The day of the third debate, Palin refused to go onstage with New Hampshire GOP Sen. John Sununu and Jeb Bradley, a former New Hampshire congressman running for a House seat, because their views on abortion didn't fully align and because Bradley had earlier opposed drilling in Alaska. (He changed his position during the race.) The McCain campaign ordered her onstage at the next campaign stop, but she refused to acknowledge the two Republican candidates standing behind her.

Of course both Republicans lost that fall which I guess ... made her happy?

Posted by armand at 06:48 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

When Will Illinois Democrats Rid of Us of Dan Lipinski?

Seriously, how do you vote "present" on the stimulus bill? The guy is arguably the biggest example of nepotism in Congress, a lousy vote on a host of Democratic issues, and this ... c'mon. C'MON.

Posted by armand at 09:30 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 16, 2009

Out of state meddlers, peddling hate in WV

Hopefully they will go the fuck back to whatever rock they crawled out from under with this nonsense. These are not West Virginia values.

More here, here, here and here.

Posted by binky at 07:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 14, 2009

Sure is nice here in NYC....

Hey, folks. The Bloodless Coup (all of us) are in NYC for work/vacation/conference/nothing. So, posting will be light. If I get bored during a panel, I might try posting. Hell, if I get bored during my own panel, I might try posting.

Back after the weekend.

Posted by baltar at 10:10 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 12, 2009

Maybe the 3rd Time Will Be the Charm

Another nominee for Commerce Secretary withdraws.

Posted by armand at 04:34 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 11, 2009

The 10 Most Romantic Movies of the Decade

There's a long thread growing on Awards Daily on this question. Personally, I tend to gravitate toward love gone wrong, love at a distance, passions disappointed kinds of movies. But hey, I still see romance in some movies. So what would your list look like? Looking at this list and thread, and off the top of my head I'd say my top 10 are (in no particular order): Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Science of Sleep, Punch-Drunk Love, Away From Her, Before Sunset, Brokeback Mountain (just for the last scene), Down With Love, Just Friends, 2046, and Paris Je T'Aime.

However if you think this whole list is a silly exercise because much better romances are found on tv, I might very well agree. I mean what movie has love like Spike's?

Posted by armand at 04:04 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

February 10, 2009

The Sussex Spaniel Wins

Yay for Stump. That is one cute dog.

Posted by armand at 11:01 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Could Chris Dodd Be in Trouble in 2010?

These are lousy numbers for any incumbent, much less a five-term incumbent.

Posted by armand at 04:15 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Will the Poor Economy Lead to Prison Reform?

That seems to be what the Denver Post is hoping.

One of my pet gripes about our legal system is that the lock-'em-away set is costing the states and the country a fortune through the costs of operating the prisons and taking millions of people out of the economy. Maybe a positive side effect of the current crisis will be some changes in this area.

Posted by armand at 01:58 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Geithner's Plan

I'm someone who has usually been in the "we have to do something, even if we don't like the particulars of it" school when it comes to the financial crisis because 1) it is frighteningly bad and 2) the "if it doesn't look exactly like I want it to it's evill and I'm voting against it" approach smacks of both narcissism, a deep misunderstanding of how democracy works, and a peculiar ambivalence about a crisis that is frighteningly bad. That said, I don't see how this can fly in the current political environment, no matter how bad the crisis is. Letting the banks face no stiffer sanctions or transperancy than this, and essentially giving their investors mountains of public money regardless of their past (and quite possibly future) mismanagement ... I guess as a general matter I'd be on the side of the White House in this - but if I was a member of Congress I don't see how I could vote for such a plan if this report is accurate.

Posted by armand at 09:38 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 09, 2009

The Westminster, 2009

At this point in my life I can't imagine having to take care of a dog. But put me in front of the Westminster show for 20 minutes and suddenly I am putting deep thought into which breed I'd want.

Posted by armand at 09:47 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The February 9 Obama Press Conference

I'm going to be interested to see how the tv talking heads deal with this. The typical Mr. Airhead and Ms. Blowdry knows nothing whatsoever about economics, and very little about the US political system. They live in a world of soundbites and moronic labels. What are they going to do with a president who takes 10 minutes to answer every question put to him?

UPDATE: OMG, yank that man's credentials. We're facing the worst economic crisis in decades, scary times abroad, and some jackass asks the president what he thinks about Alex Rodriguez? Whoever Michael Fletcher is, I'd fire him if I was his boss.

UPDATE II: Apparently Mara Liasson thinks bipartisanish is what matters - not getting a stimulus bill, or health care reform or things she implies are important. What matters more to her is how you get those things, not whether you get them. And specifically she wants to know what Obama is going to do to please the Republicans. Why exactly does she think dancing for his opponents should be his goal? And why is she asking the exact same question that another bipartisanship fetishist asked 40 minutes ago?

Posted by armand at 08:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Pentagon Spending on Psy Ops and Propoganda Surges

An interesting AP story.

As it fights two wars, the Pentagon is steadily and dramatically increasing the money it spends to win what it calls "the human terrain" of world public opinion. In the process, it is raising concerns of spreading propaganda at home in violation of federal law.

An Associated Press investigation found that over the past five years, the money the military spends on winning hearts and minds at home and abroad has grown by 63 percent, to at least $4.7 billion this year, according to Department of Defense budgets and other documents. That's almost as much as it spent on body armor for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan between 2004 and 2006.

This year, the Pentagon will employ 27,000 people just for recruitment, advertising and public relations - almost as many as the total 30,000-person work force in the State Department.

Posted by armand at 12:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 08, 2009

The NSC: Bringing Regional Symmetry Across to the Foreign Policy Beaucracies

This strikes me as both a good idea, and the kind of thing it's rather shocking hasn't been done before.

Organizational maps within the government will be redrawn to ensure that all departments and agencies take the same regional approach to the world, Jones said. The State Department, for example, considers Afghanistan, Pakistan and India together as South Asia, while the Pentagon draws a line at the Pakistan-India border, with the former under the Central Command and the latter part of the Pacific Command. Israel is part of the military's European Command, but the rest of the Middle East falls under Central Command; the State Department combines Israel and the Arab countries surrounding it in its Near East Bureau.
Posted by armand at 07:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Random annoyances

Today is a lovely day. This morning I woke to the sounds of birds chirping and neighbor children laughing. For the last, oh, hourish? I have been hearing the neighbor blowing something with his gas blower. First of all, it's February, and nothing has fallen since the last time he spent the whole day blowing in the fall. Second, our yards are the size of most people's kitchens. What the fuck can a person be blowing all this time? Third, if it's just a case of missing the sensation of holding the nozzle, well, dude needs to get a life.

Girly annoyance after the jump. You've been warned.

And what the hell is it with the tampon roulette? Some time last year my old steady brand did a redesign to a "new and improved" model that worked half as well and a third as long as it used to. There was no upgrade available in that brand so I changed brands on the recommendation of a friend. So I switch to another brand, one that still believes in, shall we say, heavy duty performance. And I find out today, our local grocery store has apparently discontinued carrying them. They can carry 150,000 different kinds of pantyliners, but no jumbo tampons? What the hell!?

Posted by binky at 01:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Welcome to Slovakia

Not sure what the exact methodology behind this was, but it purports to be based on similar wealth. Likewise, I don't remember where I saw it. Hat tip to whomever.

Posted by binky at 11:03 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 07, 2009

Coraline in 3-D

Saddling it with "practically perfect" is probably not doing it any favors - but it's a A movie, no doubt. I fear it'll be quite some time before I see another '09 release this good. It's certainly better than the vast majority of the '08 releases. And yes, if you can, seeing it in 3-D is worth it. It's a marvel.

Posted by armand at 09:36 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The Republicans' Favorite Frenchman Doesn't Believe in Their Economic Policy

President Sarkozy commenting on the UK's response to the economic crisis: "Britain is cutting taxes. That will bring them nothing."

Posted by armand at 05:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

MA High Court Rules on Gender Bias in Prosecution of Statutory Rape

An interesting 3-2 decision.

A sharply divided Supreme Judicial Court said yesterday that a 14-year-old boy accused of statutory rape may have been a victim of gender discrimination because authorities charged him and not the three underage girls with whom he allegedly had sex.
Posted by armand at 04:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Robert C. Byrd Joins Stupid ACORN Bashing

Ben Nelson, sure. Nellie will always be on what looks like the moderate-conservative of a vote, regardless of the substance or merits of the proposal. Jon Tester, eh, he might see campaign ads being made on the issue, and he is from a Bush & McCain state. But Robert C. Byrd voting for David Vitter's latest hissy fit against dirty hippies? Just another reminder that while he was against the war, there's loads of reasons for voters on the left not to be the biggest fans of the longest-serving senator.

Posted by armand at 04:09 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist

So I had a BSG, Netflix, and paper-writing Friday night. And the movie didn't disappoint. It's far from complex, but it's good clean fun. Sure Kat Dennings and Michael Cera were appealing. But the supporting cast (including Rafi Gavron from Breaking and Entering and the much-lauded Ari Graynor) were great too, and I don't know that this film would've worked without so many of them being so right in their roles. Throw in a pleasing and appropriate soundtrack with songs from the likes of We Are Scientists and The Real Tuesday Weld, and you've got a movie that I'd give a solid B or B+ to.

Posted by armand at 09:57 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 06, 2009

Booting Democracy, Human Rights and Labor from the Clinton State Department

Whatever the merits of this office move, the symbolism of it is terrible.

Posted by armand at 01:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 05, 2009

Justice Ginsburg Hospitalized

Surgery for early-stage pancreatic cancer. Not good at all.

And for you keeping track of the comings and goings of the Justices - as far as the gossip mavens know, Justice Souter hasn't hired any clerks for this fall's term.

Posted by armand at 01:17 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

The Saudi Arabia of Lithium?

Bolivia. Maybe they'll have to set another Bond film there.

Posted by armand at 10:27 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

It's Cold!

Sorry to whine, but these last two mornings have been frigid. I want mojito weather. [And yes, I know it'll be in the 50s on Saturday, but that'll be hard to enjoy as it'll be raining.]

Posted by armand at 09:28 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 04, 2009

Governors Are the Front-runners for HHS

Sebelius, Granholm, Kitzhaber? All great. Rendell? Oh please no.

UPDATE: And please, not Phil Bredesen either.

Posted by armand at 11:38 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

An Ad for High-Fructose Corn Syrup?

I saw such a thing this morning - a boy extolling its virtues and nutritional value. I'm for tv stations running ads for most anything. But the producers of such an ad ... yikes.

Posted by armand at 09:43 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

February 03, 2009

Tim Fernholz Makes the Case for Appointing Sen. Gregg

And I think it's a pretty good case. The general rule in politics is that incumbents are reelected at higher rates than non-incumbents, and this removes a guy from high office less than 2 years before the next election for his seat. And what do the Democrats lose? Having a fierce partisan at Commerce. But are there strict partisan disagreements about the direction of ... NOAA? Not to the best of my knowledge, no. Given that this is about who runs NOAA and the Patent Office, the brouhaha over it all seems much ado about rather little.

Posted by armand at 10:57 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Did Obama Hire Vetters?

Richardson, Lynn, Daschle - and now Ms. Killefer is withdrawing her candidacy. These things are not being handled well.

Posted by armand at 10:53 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 02, 2009

WTF Gainesville?

Equality laws are under threat, with farther reaching consequences than the homophobic ones intended by the special interests trying to change local law.

Gainesville is a bit of an island in some ugly political territory. Hopefully not was.


Posted by binky at 11:04 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 01, 2009

Will David Vitter Be Primaried from the Right?

So Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) has been trying to wash away memories of his sexcapades that got in the news by running as far to the right as possible. Not a minor feat given that he was already on the far right of his party. Given that, he's working to keep independents out of the Republican primary electorate in Louisiana. But even these moves to right on both substance and process might not block the emergence of another far-right competitor for his seat, namely Tony Perkins, the head of the Family Research Council.

Posted by armand at 12:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


My short review - see The Times of Harvey Milk instead. That documentary is first-rate in every way. It's wonderfully crafted, and does a vastly better job of getting across the politics of the time, Milk's impact, and the effect of his murder.

As to the Gus Van Sant film - eh. I thought Emile Hirsch did a truly great job as Cleve Jones, James Franco did a perfectly nice job in a role in which he had nothing to do, and the costumes were great. And yeah, if you like his showy acting Sean Penn did a good job too. But, personally, I thought the script was terrible, and I thought the direction was merely passable. How can you not do more to get across the feel and emotional impact of tens of thousands marching in the street after the assassinations? Many of the small scenes were shot in ways that were more nothing more than ordinary. And what was with casting Josh Brolin? He was entirely too old for the part in the first place - much less given how the part was written (essentially a lost puppy).

And the script ... oy. It's a combination of exposition, average dialogue, exposition, average dialogue, exposition, exposition exposition ... it's like watching some sort of CliffsNotes thing, and about as subtle as the world's biggest cymbals clanging non-stop. As a matter of history there are giant holes or key matters that are barely touched on (Mayor Moscone? the role of women in the movement). It doesn't even play honestly within its own constructions. The script explicitly notes (for some reason) that state legislator is a bigger job than city supervisor - and then goes on to say that Milk was the first openly gay person elected to major office. Ummm, no, that'd be state legislator Elaine Noble, or if you want to count him, state senator Allen Spear. And of course it repeatedly explicitly says that what really matters is the movement, not the individuals - though that's not what one sees in this film. And that unsubstantiated reaching involving Dan White, while predictable, is a little troubling given that many people will take the film as gospel.

But that's just history stuff - the script's bigger problem is simply that it's ponderous and all too often bizarrely cursory when making what I presume are supposed to be points of important emotion. We are supposed to believe that Ann and Scott were really in that exact situation at the end? Even if true, it was shot in such a way as to make it look unbelievable. And the opera stuff? Marc Forster's opera scene in the last James Bond was much more effective. And by the way what was with that scoring of the opening? An odd choice.

I'll definitely give a thumbs up to the acting. But I don't think this would be entering "best of the year" conversations if a) the vastly superior Brokeback Mountain hadn't so embarrasssingly lost to Crash, and b) if this wasn't a fairly weak year for message/Oscar movies. Again, I highly recommend the documentary. That was great. But this wasn't anything special.

Posted by armand at 11:11 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Dump Daschle

Having minor problems with a complicated tax code shouldn't bar one from holding high office. But $128,000? That's something entirely different. And not disclosing the problem before you are nominated to high office? That's an even bigger problem (given that it suggests not simply bad behavior but someone who shouldn't be trusted). Daschle still might get through given that he is closer to the president than just about any other major political leader, and given that he is nothing short of beloved by much of Capitol Hill. But this behavior goes beyond the problematic. If a suitable replacement can be found (no small problem now that the rest of the cabinet has been picked, and given that complicated health care reform is going to be a top priority), this nomination should be yanked.

UPDATE: I think the 2nd paragraph of this post gets it just right. The former is much more important to me, so it's not like I'll be upset if Daschle survives. But if the president, the opposition, and the press are going to continue their endless loop about the latter, how can he survive? To be clear I'm not saying that loop is a good thing - but if they are going to be consistent ...

Posted by armand at 10:45 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack