Monday, September 29, 2008

No Way To Run A Business

I was over at the National Alliance Review blog trying to get a read on the different partisans' reactions to the bailout failure (consensus: the House GOP chose to demagogue rather than pass a bipartisan bill and now the Democrats are free to pass a progressive dream bill along party for me). One of the fascists over there posted this hilarious reader email on a different topic:
My husband’s business is a canary in the coalmine...[A]t the mere thought of a President Obama, he has paid off his debt, canceled new spending, and jotted a list of whom to "let go."...
My husband will make sure that we’re okay, money-wise, but he won’t give himself a paycheck that will just be sent to Washington...[H]e will not spend his money, not show a profit, and scale his workforce down to the bare minimum.
Multiply this scenario across the country and you’ll see the Obama effect: unemployment, recession, etc.
Amazing. It is apparently the "mere thought" of President Blackazoid, and not, say, the descent of the actual Republican-helmed economy into the actual economic shitter, that is to blame for a small business's financial hardship. Pray that the mighty captains of industry don't picture Bill Clinton's penis or we'll all be doomed.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Friday, September 26, 2008

956 Pages!

I just put The Recognitions on hold at the library this week. I was aware Gaddis was "difficult," but I guess the comparisons I'd heard to Pynchon had me picturing something along the lines of Crying of Lot 49, lengthwise, for his first novel. But it is not so.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Means of Production

I understand Atrios is joking here, but I think it's worth noting that insurance megacorporations are exactly the sorts of inefficient entities that are unique to capitalism. Insurance and banking don't produce anything and wouldn't exist under the Socialist Utopia.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Harley Girl
John Kerry on a motorcycle

Schwinn Guy
George W. Bush with a bicycle

Not Socialism

Pam at Pandagon on the AIG bail-out:
What do you think the direct return on investment is going to be for the American people? And how many other “too big to fail” companies have whimpering executives already sitting at the table with the government begging for their turn on the teat?
That whole free market, let-the-markets-decide philosophy works—until it doesn’t. Then it becomes socialism - has conservatism completely failed or what?
I see what she's getting at. An economic system that's "free becomes socialism" is a pretty dead-on description of what was originally termed capitalism: the state existing to defend and promote the interests of organized capital.

Laissez-faire claptrap notwithstanding, the recent state interventions attempting to prop up the financial industry are not deviations from the principles capitalism, but rather their fulfillment.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Interesting Choice of Phrase

From the long Times article on Sarah Palin from the other day:
Ms. Palin handled the crisis with a street fighter’s guile.
(Hyperlink added by me.)

Monday, September 15, 2008


Ezra links to an interview with Paul Roberts (whose End Of Oil I found incredibly eye-opening and despite its title not at all Peak Oil/end-is-nigh-ish) on his newest book, The End Of Food, about the increasing energy costs of food production.

One of his commenters points out early on that the per-calorie energy costs of meat and other animal products dwarf those of long-distance shipping of vegetables. That got me thinking that it would be nice if there were an easy way to cut down on the animal products you consume without necessarily going whole hog, cold turkey.

For example, the milk in my coffee every morning: if I have to choose between continuing my present dairy consumption and switching entirely to soy, I'll probably stick with the status quo. But the same way in some parts of the country you can fuel your car with different mixtures of gasoline and ethanol, you should be able to buy milk that is some combination of cow and soy. That way you could sort of ease into a more responsible diet instead of having to make a single drastic change from which you may be more likely to relapse.

Unprofessional Behavior

BAGnews has a post on the story of Jill Greenberg's deceptive photo shoot with John McCain for the Atlantic. Basically she took unflattering photos of him for the magazine's cover and then put the unused images on her website, altered and captioned to highlight the candidate's odious politics. On the magazine's blog, the author of the cover story responds, and I think his final line says it all: "What I find truly astonishing is the blithe way in which she has tried to hurt this magazine."

Yes, heaven forbid anyone ever do anything to tarnish the sterling record of the vaunted Atlantic. By all means, let us put aside the distasteful question of whether John McCain is, in fact, a bloodthirsty warmonger, and focus on the real victims here, those noble truth-seekers who so wisely and soberly beat the war drums as the US geared up for Iraq, and who never miss an opportunity to undermine progressive values at every turn.

It is no surprise that the likes of Jeffrey Goldberg find words such as "bloodthirsty" so very unseemly when applied to McCain. The Atlantic's entire editorial board has blood on its hands, and it is only by hyperventilating over a photographer's startling lack of professionalism that they can forget their own complicity and sleep at night.

Greenberg's actions were "unprofessional" in that she allowed her humanity to trump the genteel detachedness of professional journalism: she refused to treat John McCain as a decent man, because he is not a decent man. That kind of behavior is also known as integrity, and to the extent it is in conflict with professionalism, we should be very, very concerned with the question of whether "professionalism" is something we should value in journalism.


As an avid reader of liberal political bloggers, I've long been familiar with the concept of "working the refs," usually in the context of describing how constant whining from Republicans about media bias creates an environment in which the media are afraid to go after conservatives even (especially!) when it's justified.

But until a week ago, I thought "refs" was short for "references," and meant that GOP operatives were going through their rolodices, calling every media figure they knew to air their grievances. It wasn't until just a few days ago that someone extended the metaphor sufficiently that I understood that it was about working the referees.

What a moran.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Put A Fork In Me, I'm Done

Stuck a new fork on my bike and trued the shit out of my front wheel. Should be ready to go again after the crash:

Front of bike with new carbon fork

As I was tightening up the brake, I noticed something a little scary...there's actually paint from the taxi that cut me off on both my brake lever and the bell mounted on the other drop:

Brake with taxi paint
Bell with taxi paint

Friday, September 12, 2008


Okay, elephants are crazy. Their nose is as long as a whole person, there is no reason for that. Do not tell me that shit evolved.

Food Porn

Harper's has made Frederick Kaufman's 2005 article, "Debbie does salad," about the parallels between cooking shows and pornography, available for free on their website. This is one of my favorite pieces to run in the magazine since I became a subscriber.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Feeling Pessimistic

Dday at Hullabaloo has a post on the Obama and Republican ground games. I'm not feeling very positive.

Kerry was going to turn out newly registered and young voters in unprecedented numbers too. For all I know Al Gore had the same intent. It doesn't work...they're newly registered because they weren't registered before, and they weren't registered before because they don't vote. Relying on non-voters to put you over the top is a losing strategy: voters are going to trump non-voters in any sort of voting-related competition.

In contrast, focusing on people who do vote, and who vote for Democrats, and then denying them the ballot, is an excellent approach for Republicans to take. If they can get away with it, and by every indication they certainly can, it is just an eminently more sensible approach to winning an election.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Oh Shit

Via Bike Snob, I totally didn't believe this was going to happen, but it looks like the Sturmey-Archer fixed 3-speed hub is going to happen. So awesome/ridiculous. Apparently they are calling it the S3X. I guess 8008135 was taken.

Anyway, I'll order one when they come out with a fixed 3-speed with a dynamo.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Can Tony Hawk Take Off From A Treadmill?

The alt-text for today's xkcd comic refers to a traditional internet flamewar of which I had not been aware: whether an airplane can take off from a treadmill.

After looking into it, it seems like one of the most convincing intuitive arguments supporting the correct answer involves pulling oneself forward over a treadmill while on a skateboard or while wearing roller skates. I seem to remember that the airport level in Tony Hawk 3 featured some moving walkways, but I can't remember whether they affect your ground speed when you roll over them.

(Obviously, the physics in Tony Hawk demonstrate rigorous adherence to reality in all other regards.)

Friday, September 5, 2008

Take Debate

On Wednesday I attended a debate between the two politicians running for the state Senate in next week's Democratic primary. It was sponsored by the Citizens Union, who were going to base their official endorsement on the debate's outcome. They said a couple times at the beginning and end of the event that they would post their decision on their website the following day—Thursday—but as of noon Friday there's still no word.

The debate itself was a blast. I went in uninformed, undecided, and leaning towards the young challenger, Daniel Squadron. But the incumbent Marty Connor really just wiped the floor with him, I thought. Squadron has marketed himself as a reformer, but Connor's not corrupt and not part of the Brooklyn machine, so the race has mostly amounted to discussions over things like "energy" versus "experience."

The Gotham Gazette (a Citizens Union publication)'s Wonkster blog reported on the debate, and acknowledged the "little difference" between the two candidates "policy-wise," and then makes no mention of the promised CU endorsement. My guess is that CU expected to endorse Squadron (as the Times and Paper have), but found themselves so unimpressed with his vague promises of "change" during the debate that they're not sure which way to go.

One other weird note in the Wonkster coverage is the idea, at the end of the piece, that the primary battle "could be a microcosm of this year’s election as a whole." Surely this can only be true at the most superficial level: one older candidate having held office for some time versus a younger opponent promising change. But nothing in the presidential race parallels the dynamics of the state Senate going Democratic for the first time in 35 years, the possibility of which has reverberated throughout the primary; and nobody could possibly pretend that Obama and McCain are anywhere close to one another "policy-wise."