July 31, 2009

The 2009 West Virginia Derby

Most racing fans will be focused on the Haskell Invitational this weekend, watching to see if famed Rachel Alexandra can post yet another high-profile win (after her wins in the Kentucky Oaks, Preakness and Mother Goose). But here in the mountain state we have a derby too, and this year it will include the winner of the Kentucky Derby.

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Ezra Klein Rips Apart Meghan McArdle's "Arguments" About Health Insurance Reform

I don't know why people read Ms. McArdle, but apparently some still do. Ezra Klein points out why that might not be the best of ideas if you want thoughtful commentary, as opposed to ideological ramblings, on health care issues. The best line - "Megan doesn't have straw men here. She has invented imaginary friends for her argument." If you enjoy seeing ideologues knocked about, it's a fun read.

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July 30, 2009

Last Year at Marienbad

So I have now filled one of the most alarming holes in my knowledge of French cinema. I watched Alain Renais' 1961 classic Last Year at Marienbad. And that was both very impressive and interesting, though I can see how some would find it intensely boring. But personally, I was impressed. Roger Ebert nails it:

Viewing the film again, I expected to have a cerebral experience, to see a film more fun to talk about than to watch. What I was not prepared for was the voluptuous quality of "Marienbad," its command of tone and mood, its hypnotic way of drawing us into its puzzle, its austere visual beauty. Yes, it involves a story that remains a mystery, even to the characters themselves. But one would not want to know the answer to this mystery. Storybooks with happy endings are for children. Adults know that stories keep on unfolding, repeating, turning back on themselves, on and on until that end that no story can evade.

The variations, repetitions, rhythms, games, and of course the oddities and beauties of its look - it's an interesting film.

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July 28, 2009


Stephen Frears has made some exceptionally good movies. This is not one of those movies. Unless you want to look at pretty art nouveau set designs, revel in the pain of a relationship that is even worse than yours (bitter people of the world unite!), or marvel at pretty Rupert Friend convincing play a torn-up "man with no character" (ummm, I think that's a compliment), you'd probably prefer staying away from this. Kikimonster out-and-out hated it. I wouldn't go that far, but it seemed like this was ruined early in its design. My top complaint is that the bouncy, sprightly score (which was far too intrusive) was entirely inappropriate to at least 2/3rds of the film and made it something of a muddled mess. Or a worse muddled mess. Given the talent involved, both in front of and behind the camera, I was expecting a good deal more from this film.

Posted by armand at 10:23 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 27, 2009

The Political/Media Line of the Day

Chris Matthews on Sarah Palin - "She's hitting all the erogenous zones of victimhood." Given Matthews' rep perhaps that's not the smartest thing for him to say, but it has a ring of truth to it.

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Daniel Radcliffe Will Be a Lib Dem/Nick Clegg Voter

Should anyone care? Eh, maybe not. But hey, he does play "The Chosen One", he seems a nice-guy celebrity with a good head on his shoulders, and from the perspective of someone an ocean away, he appears to have made a fine choice.

I guess now we are waiting to hear who Rob Pattinson will endorse.

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David Frum Is Ripping Sarah Palin to Shreds on CNN This Morning

Mocking her irresponsibility, her arrogance, her presumptuousness (regarding what American soldiers want), her spending, her taxing, her reliance on the negative politics of greivances ... I know I knock CNN about (and true to form their right-wing morning anchor was presenting would-be balancing material clearly intended to defend Palin), but there are a lot worse things to see on tv in the morning than that.

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July 26, 2009


song chart memes
see more Funny Graphs

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Arlen Specter's Survival Instinct

I think this post is right on the money. I'd be very surprised to see Arlen Specter be as reliable a Democratic vote if/when he gets by Rep. Sestak. Every step of the way he's done what's in the best interest of Arlen Specter.

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July 24, 2009

Senator Hatch (R-UT) to Vote Against Sotomayor

Interesting. When Sen. Graham (R-SC) announced his support for Judge Sotomayor's nomination I was thinking we might see double-digit support for the Supreme Court nominee among the Republican senators. But with the announcement by the former Judiciary Committee chairman that he'll oppose the nomination, I'm thinking that the number of Republicans supporting her won't hit such a high number. The Republican caucus has gotten so right-leaning that there aren't many senators notably to the left of Hatch. So at this point I'm doubting there will be 70 votes in favor of her nomination.

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July 23, 2009

Obama's Judicial Nominees Aren't Exactly Elderly, But ...

Of course this piece is working off a small N. Obama's only begun nominating judges to the national's top federal courts. But so far his nominees are notably older than the appointees of previous presidents.

Posted by armand at 10:23 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Okay I'm going against the norm (or a view held by several) - I liked it. I had some complaints. Like most of the movies, they didn't know how to end it. I mean the actual ending - though here they also changed the final battle in a way that drained all drama out of it. That resulted in the final 20 minutes or so being kind of lame. But on the whole I liked it better than most of these films. Why? Well, it looks great. Really great. There are images in it that are beautiful, and which are excellent at conveying both mood and story. There are some wonderful set pieces. The worst of the childish acting has improved. There was the proper mix of comedy and angst. We were spared some of Potter's usual me-me-me short-sightedness. Young Tom Riddle was very good. The effects and editing worked for me. All in all I thought it achieved what it set out to quite well. Though I will say that I'd probably have been lost if I hadn't read the book.

Posted by armand at 09:23 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

July 21, 2009

Senator Byrd Returns to Vote for Pork

Most of the political blogs noted that the nation's longest serving senator returned to work today, after a prolonged absence due to illness. What most of them failed to note though was why Byrd returned. From an e-mail from the West Virginia Democratic Party:

Byrd returned to the Senate chambers today to vote against an amendment to delete funding for the U.S. Air Forces' F-22 jet fighter program. Byrd noted the importance of the number of jobs the continued production of the jet fighter program provides nationwide in a struggling economy, including in the state of West Virginia.

No interest in military strategy, competing priorities in the defense budget, or the advice of the country's military leadership - no, Senator Byrd just wants to throw billions at in-state jobs, regardless of whether the program is needed, efficient, wanted, or even the most effective way to spend such a sum in a way that would develop West Virginia's economy. Plus ca change ...

Posted by armand at 07:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Informers, Amsterdam, and the Curious Incident ...

So as is always the case when I'm stuck spending bunches of hours in airplanes and on airliners I caught up on some fiction reading over the last week. So a few quick thoughts on my most recent reads. First, the Mark Haddon book merits the praise it's received. I really admire the way it was written, and hell, I just admire fully plowing into the concept of a (sort of adventure) story from the perspective of a boy with Asperger's. It was really pulled off well. As to McEwan's Amsterdam - eh, a thumbs-up I guess. Honestly, while I admire his ability to make you feel what his characters are feeling, something he does extremely well, I am simply not in love with his prose. And the twist at the end didn't work for me at all. Finally, I re-read Bret Easton Ellis's The Informers since it's been made into a movie (that looks to be terrible). That one I loved, but then I tend to enjoy Ellis, yes, even when he's throwing vampires into his dark melange of fucked-up, disconnected beautiful people.

Posted by armand at 03:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Very, very, very wrong

Henry Louis Gates arrested:

Police responding to a call about "two black males" breaking into a home near Harvard University ended up arresting the man who lives there — Henry Louis Gates Jr., the nation's pre-eminent black scholar.


Ogletree said Gates had returned from a trip to China on Thursday with a driver, when he found his front door jammed. He went through the back door into the home - which he leases from Harvard - shut off an alarm and worked with the driver to get the door open. The driver left, and Gates was on the phone with the property's management company when police first arrived. Ogletree also disputed the claim that Gates, who was wearing slacks and a polo shirt and carrying a cane, was yelling at the officer. "He has an infection that has impacted his breathing since he came back from China, so he's been in a very delicate physical state," Ogletree said.

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July 20, 2009


Cancer + MCA:

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July 15, 2009

Interesting Reading List

I'm away at a full-on Geek-Fest Summer Camp for a few weeks. It's an academic retreat that teaches security studies, with a specific focus on military strategy and operations. We spent a couple hours today arguing about Lee at Gettysburg, for example.

Anyway, Conrad Crane (bio) came in yesterday. He's the head military historian at the US Army War College, and also helped write FM 3-24, the new US Army field manual on counterinsurgency (the project was overseen by General Petraeus, now head of CENTCOM and in charge of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan). He's pretty prestigious, and had some interesting background on the manual and how the Army operates.

Anyway, I got to have dinner with him, and asked him what were really interesting books on military history. Stuff that really made him pay attention. He gave me a list. This is it. I've attached Amazon links to everything. Anyway, an interesting list.

Alistair Horne, "A Savage War of Peace" (link). French counter-insurgency in Algeria in the 1950s.

Eric Bergerud, "Touch with Fire" (link). The land campaign against the Japanese in World War II.

Rick Atkinson trilogy (only the first two are published) (link link). US Army actions (successes and failures) in Africa and Italy (respectively) in World War II. I've read these; very, very good.

John Muirhead, "Those who fall" (link). US Airpower in World War II Europe.

Lyn Macdonald, The Somme (link) and Passchendaele (link). Reviews of two of the major British battles in World War I. Crane said the description of battle at the Somme was the most heartbreaking thing he's ever read.

Moore/Galloway, "We were soldiers once and young" (link). US Army actions in Vietnam.

Bernard Fall, "Hell in a Very small place" (link). The French defeat at Dien Bien Phu in Vietnam in 1954.

William Slim, "Defeat in Victory" (link). Description of the campaign Sir William Slim commanded against the Japanese in Burma in World War II. I've read this one; a great account of a retreat and then victory. Officers read this for tips on command and how to lead troops. Slim maintained morale and control through some incredible circumstances.

William Craig, "Enemy at the Gates" (link). Battles on the Eastern Front (USSR/Germany) in World War II. Made into a movie, but the book is better.

Sager, some book on the Eastern Front (can't find it)

Morris, "Washing of the Spears:" (link). Account of the Zulu wars in southern Africa.

Fehrenbach, "This Kind of War" (link). US Army in Korea in the early 1950s.

McCullogh, 1776 (link). Revolutionary War America.

David Fisher "Washington's Crossing" (link). More Revulutionary War America.

Carol Reardon, "Pickett's Charge" (link). A decription of Pickett's famous charge at Gettysburg, which ended in failure. The book covers the charge, but also how the action has moved into the collective memories of various groups post-Civil War.

Ethell & Price, "Air War South Atlantic" (link). A look at the Falklands campaign in the early 1980s. Crane said the book convincingly argues that the Brits came very close to losing.

Cordesman/Wagner, "The Lessons of Modern War: Volume II: Iran/Iraq" (link). Someone noted that not much had been written on the Iran-Iraq war (1980s), and Crane recommended this. Not sure how good it is, just that it covers the period.

Mansoor, Bahgdad at Sunrise (link). Single best book, according to Crane, on military operations during the insurgency period recently in Iraq.

"On Point One" and "On Point Two" (US Army official histories) (link) (link). More on the build up and first few weeks of fighting in Iraq in 2003.

Posted by baltar at 11:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Explaining Jay-Z via IR

This is absolutely awesome. Marc Lynch explains the battles between rap stars via international relations theory.

And it works.

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July 11, 2009

Politics, Public Policy, and Bravo's Response to Gossip Girl

So I have yet to actually make it through an episode of NYC Prep which looks to be a dull (we're talking "Lonely Boy" dull), pale imitation of Gossip Girl. But I've got to say I might turn in for at least one or two episodes now that I know that the guy who clearly seems to be the only reason to possibly watch NYC Prep (PC) is the grandson of Pete Peterson. Yes, that Pete Peterson - Senior Chairman of the Blackstone Group, former Chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations, former Chairman of Lehman Brothers, co-founder of the Concord Coalition and one of the country's leading deficit hawks, founder of the Peter Peterson Foundation, the man Richard Nixon fired as Commerce Secretary because he disapproved of whose dinners and cocktail parties he was attending. I mean if the Bush twins were on a Bravo show I'd give that a try. And from what I've seen so far PC dresses better than those two, so, yeah, I guess I'll give the spectacle a go at least one more time.

Posted by armand at 05:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A "Scathing", "Not Unfair" Review of Robert Bork's Latest Book

David Bernstein highlights a "scathing" review by Richard Epstein of Robert Bork's latest book, and in the resulting thread Bork finds notably few defenders - with many criticizing him as a terrible example of originalism, and some saying his haphazard application of it, and his personality, have done more harm to the cause than good. It's interesting to see how far his star has fallen among some on the Right.

Posted by armand at 05:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 09, 2009

Senator Ensign's (R-NV) Sternly Written Letter

Ugh. Ugh ugh ugh ugh ugh. And the affair continued for 6 months, even after this exhortation to follow Him again. I think we definitely need both hands to count the number of forms of fraud going on in that affair, and in Ensign's approach to his job and constituents.

Posted by armand at 03:43 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Chief Judge Karen Williams Retires

Until a couple years ago people regularly described the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals - which covers Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, and the Carolinas - as the nation's most conservative appeallate court. But then some of its jurists began retiring and the Fifth Circuit (Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi) started to attract greater attention for right-wing activism. It appears we are now on the brink of a major change in the Fourth Circuit. There were already four vacancies (out of fifteen seats on the Court - though President Obama has already nominated a federal judge in Maryland to fill one of those vacancies) and today we learn that there will be a fifth opening on the court as Chief Judge Karen Williams, who is only in her late 50s, will retire from the bench. More than any other federal court, the appeals court that covers this area is going to be remade through appointments by the Obama White House.

Posted by armand at 08:44 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Transformers 2

If you aren't going to see the movie, here is a brief FAQ so you can keep up with those that have.

If you have seen the movie, the FAQ will explain what you have seen, since I know you don't understand what the hell happened in that movie.

Posted by baltar at 12:44 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 08, 2009

Massachusetts Sues the US Over DOMA

Well, it's finally happened. The AG of Massachusetts is suing the United States, arguing that DOMA's definition of marriage is discriminatory, and that the law steps into matters traditionally left to the states. Is this the right time to start this fight? With this Supreme Court? I don't know. But it'll obviously be something worth watching closely.

Posted by armand at 03:11 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

July 07, 2009


Emphasis mine:

An EPA official told FOXNews.com on Monday that Carlin, who is an economist - not a scientist - included "no original research" in his report. The official said that Carlin "has not been muzzled in the agency at all," but stressed that his report was entirely "unsolicited."

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La la LA la la, la la LA la la

It's about time.

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The first time

I'm not a huge sushi eater, at least not to Jeremy Piven standards, but I've had my share over the years. Tonight, at a local place, for the first time ever, I got a bone in a piece of sushi. Ew.

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July 06, 2009

Sarah Palin: Serial Quitter

So she's done this before it seems. In both cases she seems perfectly happy to abandon public service and the business of governance if it limits her ability to enjoy, well, the "oomph".

Posted by armand at 03:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Why Sarah Palin Is No Richard Nixon

Harsh. Not necessarily inaccurate of course, but harsh. And yes there are hundreds of ways they differ, but these seem on point when it comes to trying to find an upside to spending years in the wilderness.

Posted by armand at 03:02 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 05, 2009

Culture of Truth Translates This Week - July 5, 2009

I can't sit through Steph's show. Happily one can get the gist, in a far more entertaining format, here.

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July 04, 2009

Gail Collins on Palin's Resignation

Cutting to the point of Gov. Palin's explanation.

Basically, the point was that Palin is quitting as governor because she’s not a quitter. Or a deceased salmon.

And she recalled her visit with the troops in Kosovo, whose dedication and determination inspired her to ... resign.

On Friday, Palin said that finishing out her term would be just too easy. "Many just accept that lame-duck status, hit the road, draw the paycheck and 'milk it.' I’m not putting Alaska through that," she said.

So she's too dedicated and determined to try to accomplish anything in the job voters gave her the responsibility to complete, and she'd feel bad about sticking around and completing her work while drawing a paycheck, so ... she has to resign? Hmmmm? Something like that? Well I can't make sense of that either. And no, not just because of her wacky capitalization and a love of exclamation points that dwarfs that of Elaine Benes. But I guess one thing is clear. She's not a dead fish.

Posted by armand at 03:08 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Confessions of a Shopaholic

Egads. There are utterly predictable movies that are still made within the lines of expectation in a well-constructed and amusing way. And then there are utterly predictable movies that are terrible, silly, stupid, pointless and just plain bad (not bad in a good way). Sadly, this movie falls into the latter category. From it's concept this movie could look good - but it doesn't. The movie has a stunningly appealing cast - Hugh Dancy, Kristin Scott Thomas (the best thing in the movie), Wendie Malick, Joan Cusack, Krysten Ritter, Leslie Bibb, Clea Lewis, Julie Hagerty, John Lithgow, Christine Ebersole, Lynn Redgrave - which it mostly does nothing with, and shoots poorly. It's a loss in pretty much every way. Throw in the things that leave you confused (Ms. Cusack is playing Isla Fisher's mother?), and the things that are just out and out flat (Dancy and Fisher have no chemistry), and the best efforts of Mr. Dancy and the impressive supporting cast can't save this movie. There are a couple of inspired moments - setting a magazine empire in the new Hearst Building, Stephen Guarion's fairy (ahem) godmotherish receptionist who puts the film in motion - but on the whole this thing can't be saved from the writing, the direction (though I liked Hogan's Peter Pan), an unappealing central character, and the fact that one is likely to spend the first half of the movie wishing it really did star Amy Adams since Ms. Fisher is trying so hard to play it like someone thinks Amy Adams might.

Posted by armand at 12:37 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 03, 2009


Sarah Palin resigns as Governor of Alaska (effective, end of July, 2009). I won't link to anything; you can find it everywhere.

I'm listening to her press conference. It is, to be charitable, somewhat disconnected.

I have no idea what she is up to.

Posted by baltar at 08:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Chris Cillizza and Palin's "Rebound"

So I sent a personal email to a friend yesterday slamming, at length, this terribly silly, obviously trolling for links from Halperin and/or Drudge piece by the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza. I mean it's obviously going-against-the-grain for the sake of going-against-the-grain, and contains a laughably obtuse comparison to the Lewinsky scandal that tells us nothing beyond the fact that Cillizza shouldn't rely so much on the talking points of DC's Republicans to understand the tides of public opinion. And as much as it pains me to mock a Hoya ... well, it was dumb dumb dumb dumb dumb. And Mr. Cillizza must be feeling awfully sheepish about it in the wake of this afternoon's events.

Posted by armand at 05:34 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The 2009 Wimbledon Championships

So the singles finals are set, and they'll involve the Williams sisters, Federer, and Roddick. The tv network must be thrilled.

Posted by armand at 02:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 02, 2009

Because "The Comparative Politics of White People" sounds like such a fun class

Despite the fact that students who enroll in multicultural studies programs perform better, wingnuts in Arizona want to de-fund schools that teach "ethnic studies:"

The law in question prohibits the teaching of classes that “advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals...“


... by the same standards that would forbid the teaching of Latino history and culture, the teaching of Anglo history and culture is also prohibited by this law.

Not to mention the fact that teaching the history of the Southwest with only Anglo culture represented sure does leave out a whole lot.

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Increasing Opposition to a Blair Presidency


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July 01, 2009

Day Glo

Check it out! KCB's hubby got his book reviewed on boing boing!

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