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Be True to Your Scene

by Ted on June 1, 2006

It’s probably long since time that I hang up my blogging spurs. This isn’t a result of any sort of bad news; mostly, it’s just a matter of time. I’ve been increasingly unable or unwilling to carve it out, and that’s not likely to change any time soon.

I don’t want to write a “whither blogging?” bit any more than you want to read it, so I’ll spare you. Suffice it to say that I believe that Sturgeon’s Law (“Ninety percent of everything is crap”) has proven to be much more supportable than each and every rah-rah slogan about how “the blogosphere is self-correcting” or whatnot. I still believe that there are plenty of jewels in the political blogosphere making the world a slightly better place, including (but certainly not limited to) Obsidian Wings, Radley Balko, Kevin Drum, The Editors, Jim Henley, Brad DeLong, Tim Lambert… And that Matt Welch’s old article has held up better than most anything I’d have written.

It was an act of extraordinary generosity for the brilliant folks here at Crooked Timber to give me a platform and lend me some of their credibility. I hope that I haven’t tarnished it too badly. It’s been a great pleasure and honor to be part of the crew here, and I wish them nothing but continued success and good luck.

The Return of the Friday Fun Thread

by Ted on April 14, 2006

Like many a youngish man with a NetFlix subscription, I’ve taken advantage of the enormous NetFlix back catalog to catch up on film classics that I’ve heard about but never seen. Also, like many a youngish man, I’ve had a creeping feeling that I was born too late to get much pleasure out of some of them. Some films have been so influential that they’ve entered the bloodstream of cinema, and their innovations feel like cliches now. Some were made for an audience with different expectations than mine about pace and acting style. (I don’t think we’ll ever see another movie star like Rock Hudson, for example.) Some are just not for me. (Sorry, Gone With The Wind.)

Of course, this is not always true. I’d be interested to hear about movies that were released ten or more years before your birth that you genuinely enjoyed, rather than appreciated. Here are a few of mine:
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War on Science

by Ted on March 27, 2006

I had to be on guard while reading Chris Mooney’s The Republican War on Science, because it’s a sterling example of a book that tells me what I want to hear. For the lion’s share of the readers of this blog, it’s what you want to hear, too. So take this with a grain of salt.
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Look back in sorrow

by Ted on March 20, 2006

Many bloggers are looking back these days, and I’m no different. I was recently reminded of an old post of mine in which I criticized media outlets for prioritizing coverage of the Michael Jackson trial over a massive North Korean train accident.

That was almost a year ago. Since that day, I’m sorry that I can honestly say that not a day has gone by in which I have thought about that train crash again. Not once.

To my fellow Timberites: despite my admiration for countless blogs such as Obsidian Wings, Arms and Influence and The Agitator, if I’m ever caught engaging in anything resembling blog triumphalism, pull the plug on me. I mean it.

Slap shots

by Ted on February 16, 2006

– Even though you can’t trust him to tell the truth about Democrats, I’ve always had a soft spot for George Will. He knows a few things, and he seems to have more on his mind than the care and feeding of Bush talking points. This column makes a strong argument that Congress should not allow the Bush Administration to win the legal argument that the ability to initiate warrentless wiretaps, in violation of FISA, is inherent in the President’s powers. If they do so, it will hobble the willingness of future Congresses to authorize military force, out of fear that future Presidents will make further power grabs. (Will believes that Congress should authorize the wiretaps without conceding the legal point, although I’m not sure if he thinks they should still be required to get a warrant.) (via Matthew Yglesias)

– Mickey Kaus might be the only blogger whose comment section is predominated by people who loathe him. This comment, on Mickey’s dishonesty about Brokeback Mountain‘s numbers, is a treat.

I never heard of this, either. I’ve got a funny vibe about the story, though, like it’s something that will get a lot more attention in history books than newspapers.


by Ted on February 15, 2006

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Cracked Magazine, the unbearably crappy MAD rip-off of our youth, has been reborn as a sharp humor site featuring such favorites as Neal Pollack and Jay Pinkerton. For starters, check out More Cartoons that Might Offend in the Middle East, or the Spring Movie Preview:

V for Vendetta


An ex-mental patient builds a terrorist cell in dystopian future Britain, commits murder and blows up government buildings with the help of a bald-headed Natalie Portman. Luckily the terrorism’s completely inapplicable to real life, since in this fictional scenario, they only do it because the government lies. That sound you just heard was 10,000 impressionable trenchcoat-wearing outcasts cocking their semi-automatic rifles, by the way.


Because League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and From Hell already proved there isn’t a subtle, textured Alan Moore graphic novel in existence that can’t be turned into a feature-length Hollywood film about a farting donkey CEO on roller skates switching places with a pantsless Rob Schneider… with outrageous results!

Block that kick

by Ted on February 14, 2006

Steve Benen at the Carpetbagger Report passes on a story about public financing of advertising and PR campaigns. In the past two and a half years, the federal government has spent $1.6 billion on it. While that’s a drop in the federal bucket, it’s enough money to get excited about.

It’s framed by Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman as if it the Bush Administration was spending over a billion dollars of public funds to promote his agenda. Steve is right to highlight cases in which this has, in fact, happened. But if you read the report (.pdf), it’s pretty hard to defend that characterization for the large majority of the money. Most of the money is spent by non-partisan government agencies- the military, the Census, the DEA, lots of things. Quite a lot of it is unobjectionable. The military really does need to buy advertisements to recruit soldiers. The NIH really should be promoting heart disease awareness. Some of these agencies exist just to create and promote public awareness campaigns about things like breastfeeding or child safety seats. And so on.

That doesn’t make it bulletproof, of course. Quite a lot of it is surely a waste of taxpayer’s money, like the $55 million the Bureau of Engraving and Printing spent promoting the new currency. It has the potential to be an enormous patronage machine. And, we’ve seen that some of it has been used inapproriately for partisan campaigning. But we’re not looking at $1.6 billion for An Army of Armstrongs. (ahem)

My first response was “This is why good people turn libertarian.” Upon reflection, that’s my second response, too.

P.S. I’ve spent a fair amount of time on government websites recently. Did you ever notice how many have a “For Kids” section? I really hope that there’s some teacher, somewhere, getting some use out of Energy Ant.

P.P.S. I’ve just defended the Bush Administration from a Democratic attack, and pushed for spending discipline. Why won’t the right reach out and engage a moderate like me? What I’ve noticed, over and over, is that the bloggers on the left link to you when they agree and ignore the disagreements, and the bloggers on the right link only for the things they disagree with, to denounce you with short posts saying you’re evil/stupid/crazy, and don’t even seem to notice all the times you’ve written posts that take their side. Why is this happening? I find it terribly, terribly sad, and in no way transparently self-serving.

WHAT’S MORE: The point of that last paragraph isn’t necessarily obvious if you don’t already live inside my head, which relatively few people do.

To be more straightforward, I’m not at all irritated with any lack of approving links from right-of-center bloggers. I think that’s just the way of the world. Rather, I’m poking fun at Professor Althouse and the alleluia chorus surrounding the post that I’ve linked to in the last sentence. It seems to me that Althouse is starting with the assumption that, since she is at the center of political discourse, any asymmetrical treatment that she recieves from the right and left blogosphere must be due to the personality and intellectual flaws of liberals. I think that the asymmetrical treatment is better explained by the perception that she’s a moderate conservative, and I’d point to her self-placement in the Conservative Blog Advertising Network and her pleasure at being named a Conservative Blog Diva, and her own asymmetrical concern about national security leaks, as evidence.

This is not to minimize the pleasure of the links from right-of-center blogs, which I do greatly appreciate.

This scallops dish is a lovely special dinner for two. It’s fast, delicious and impressive. It requires two pans (you’ll likely be happier if one is a non-nonstick 12-inch pan) and a few unusual ingredients, but nothing special-ordered. If you can stir, and you can measure out three minutes, you can make this. As a bonus, it leaves you with an open bottle of champagne to drink with dinner.

Reproduced from memory from the highly-recommended Les Halles Cookbook.
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Creating our own reality

by Ted on February 6, 2006

It’s not the most important issue in the world, but I thought it was striking that the Pajamafolk are seem genuinely tickled by the same exchange that lefties think is hilariously pompous. Just one of those things, I guess.

Friday fun thread: Rock out

by Ted on February 3, 2006

Most popular songs end with a reprise and fade-out, or a tiny jam session/ git-ar solo. Nothing wrong with that at all. But can you think of songs that do something different and end especially well? I’ve found it harder than I would have thought.
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What’s that black Viking doing there?

by Ted on February 2, 2006

One of the wiser things that Hollywood has done in recent years is fail to hire me as a casting director. This is canny for a few reasons: I’ve never worked in TV or film in any way, I’ve never lived in Los Angeles or New York, and I’d be crap at it. Well played, Hollywood.

A number of screenwriters with blogs (John Rogers, Alex Epstein, Craig Mazin, Denis McGrath and John August) have been having a fascinating discussion of how they deal with race and ethnicity in their scripts. I’ve found this interesting for a long time because, in a world full of touchy people, it’s so much easier to get wrong than right. (When I say “wrong”, I mean that you get someone angry at you. I personally think that kvetching about ethnicity in casting is generally inappropriate, but not everyone agrees.)
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Ten second posts

by Ted on January 27, 2006

* Do you suppose that Jonah Goldberg has been asked to supplement his upcoming book, The Hitlery Cut ‘n’ Paste Funtime Reader with a chapter explaining how the Nazis were ferociously opposed to domestic wiretapping?

* I was reading the back pages of Kung Fu Monkey when I came across this, in response to Rove’s old speech that accused liberals of treason:

Did you know that the definition of treason is quite specifically defined in the Consititution? Did you know it’s the only crime actually spelled out in the Constitution? DO. YOU. KNOW. WHY?

No. Of course you don’t. Nobody ever bothers to read the goddam thing.

Because the Founding Fathers had seen the charge of treason used too many times against the political opponents of the British Government. They knew, when the government gets nervous and breaks out the Big Evil Golf Bag of Shutting Up Questions, the first club out is the Treason Charge. They knew the first guy to yell treason was the bastard.

* I’m all for liberals making a fuss about unfair and inaccurate news. I agree that it distorts the news when media organizations get a tempest of feedback when they offend the right without a similar level of feedback when they offend the left. In other words, ditto. And this warms my heart.

But, let’s be realistic about what we’re doing. I can’t remember where I saw it, but one line sticks in my mind: “Conservatives get upset when the media do their jobs, while liberals get upset when the media don’t do their jobs.” Come on, guys. I like honest partisan pushback, and I’d like to see more of it, but it’s simply not the same thing as apolitical media criticism. If there is such thing as apolitical media criticism.

* What bothers me most about Mickey Kaus’s crusade against Brokeback Mountain is not the dumb-ass argument that people go to the movies simply to ogle the opposite-sex actors (hence the pathetic failure of Reservoir Dogs with male audiences), nor the implication that he just isn’t crazy about watching gay intimacy. A lot of people aren’t. What bothers me is his overriding resentment (or, given his professional persona, his faux-resentment) that imaginary liberals would fail to to treat his discomfort with respectful silence.

* Do you ever think that A** C****** will turn back into a mummy if thirty days pass without her name in the press? It would explain a lot.

Blue Force

by Ted on January 26, 2006

Please welcome Blue Force, a blog dedicated to progressive discussions of military and national security issues, with a special interest in electing military veterans.

This ought to hotten up the blood:

Do you have a question you’d like to ask Tim Russert, Peggy Noonan, or Fred Barnes?

I’ll be in a conference with all three next week. I’m not sure how much face time I’ll have with any of them, but there is a good chance I’ll be able to ask at least one question each.

So: what is the question you’d most like to ask each of those folks?

I’m looking for insightful questions that might set them back on their heels. They’ve thought of all the obvious ones and have their formulaic answers well rehearsed.

Let’s shake them up!

Comment over there, not here.

The Army and Vietnam, part 4

by Ted on January 26, 2006

Last post from The Army and Vietnam by Andrew F. Krepinevich. This section describes both the Iraqification and the “oil spot” strategy, in which local forces take over security duty, and pacificed areas spread out and undercut the ability of the insurgents to draw strength from the local population. Eventually, this forces the insurgents back toward the borders and back into low-level harassment. It sounds as good as anything I could come up with. However, a strategy that heavily employs many small, light infantry units is inevitably in conflict with the goal of force protection, as these small units are vulnerable to IEDs and hit and run attacks.

It’s also interesting to note how the analogy with the Vietnam war breaks down with regards to Iraq. Iraqification is probably more difficult than Vietnamization because of the threat of ethnic civil war, and I don’t think that it’s accurate to talk about “guerilla bands that lie in wait just outside the populated areas” in Iraq. But, as always, I might be wrong.

(Comments on the last excerpt were especially good.)

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The Army and Vietnam, part 3

by Ted on January 25, 2006

Still more from The Army and Vietnam by Andrew F. Krepinevich. What strikes me in this passage- and I know this is done to death outside of the Pajamasphere- is the incompatability of counterinsurgency strategy with the Rumsfeldian goal of minimizing troop numbers. The coalition in Iraq had a striking advantage, which Americans in Vietnam did not: they were replacing an unpopular dictator with a much more inspiring fledgling democracy. Maybe we could have short-circuited the escalation of violent ethnic conflict if we had paid sufficient attention on Iraqi security. I don’t know.

(As always, Arms and Influence has more.)

(UPDATE: This sort of corruption, of course, is another big part of the story.)

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