Archive for August, 2007

 

NBC Withdrawing From iTunes

Friday, August 31st, 2007

This is perfectly put:

Let me paint a scenario for you of what happens as soon as NBC pulls its programming off iTunes.

First, the company will tout its new video service, Hulu, as the savior for this generation. After that corporate-speak is completed, it will begin telling the world about the issues with iTunes in an attempt to downplay its importance. First, NBC will use the line, “Well gee, shouldn’t we be allowed to make some money too?” And after that doesn’t work, the company will resort to the classic, “Well, look at all of these pirates! It’s the actors who are getting hurt by this. Think of them!”

After this new PR campaign is complete, NBC executives–obviously without any grasp on reality–will sit there and expect their assistants to bring them financial numbers that show exploding growth in programming sales. With cigars firmly in place, the big shots will open up the revenue reports and come to one damning conclusion: revenue from programming has gone down, yet piracy has increased tenfold.

Meanwhile, back in Cupertino, Steve Jobs and company are left counting their iTunes revenue with nary a blink at the modicum of lost revenue they experienced from the NBC move. Give it about six months and NBC will be calling back with an olive branch in hand, hoping to get back onto iTunes. Only this time, NBC will have an even worse agreement with Apple.

I can’t wait. Not that I watch NBC EVER anyways.

Read the whole thing here.

 
 

Entrapment

Friday, August 31st, 2007

Transcript of Larry Craig being questioned by the police officer:

OFFICER: Um. Here’s the way it works. Um. You’ll be released today. Okay?

CRAIG: Okay.

OFFICER: All right. I know I can bring you to jail, but that’s not my goal here, okay? (inaudible)

CRAIG: Don’t do that. You. You.

OFFICER: I’m not going to bring you to jail.

CRAIG: You solicited me.

OFFICER: Okay. Were going to get. Were going to get into that. (inaudible)

CRAIG: Okay.

I think it’s pretty clear that the cop entrapped Craig. Here’s how I see it:

Cop toe taps and runs his fingers under the stall, inviting a return toe tap and finger signal. The cop then lied, saying that he could see the wedding ring on Craig’s finger as he stuck it under the partition, even though the cop was seated to the right of Craig, making it likely that if Craig stuck his hand underneath, he’d have been using the closer hand, rather than twisting around to get his left hand underneath.

Were Craig an out of the closet homosexual who didn’t mind going to court to fight it, he could have explained what the cop did to a judge and gotten it thrown out. As Craig put it, “You solicited me.” But Craig cannot simultaneously claim to be a straight man, unaware of the coded language of bathroom sex and claim to be sure that the cop solicited him. The two positions don’t hold, and Craig would rather claim he’s straight, than claim he was entrapped.

This is really just bad behavior all around.

Mordaxus agrees that things may not be what they seem.

Previous musings on Larry Craig.

 
 

Swedish Bands Of The 1970′s

Thursday, August 30th, 2007

I’ve always been a big fan of Gert Jonnys…

View more Swedish bands of the 1970′s.

(via Neil Anderson)

 
 

Katrina Math

Thursday, August 30th, 2007

This is pretty mind-blowing:

Here’s a pop quiz: How much money has Uncle Sam spent on New Orleans and the Gulf region since Hurricane Katrina ripped the place apart?

I’ll give you the answer because you’ll never guess it. The grand total is $127 billion (including tax relief).

That’s right: a monstrous $127 billion. Of course, not a single media story has highlighted this gargantuan government-spending figure. But that number came straight from the White House in a fact sheet subtitled, “The Federal Government Is Fulfilling Its Commitment to Help the People of the Gulf Coast Rebuild.” Huh?

This is an outrage. The entire GDP of the state of Louisiana is only $141 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. So the cash spent there nearly matches the entire state gross GDP. That’s simply unbelievable. And to make matters worse, by all accounts New Orleans ain’t even fixed!

You might be asking: Where in the hell did all this money go? Well, the White House fact sheet says $24 billion has been used to build houses and schools, repair damaged infrastructure and provide victims with a place to live. But isn’t everyone complaining about the lack of housing?

Perhaps all this money should’ve been directly deposited in the bank accounts of the 300,000 people living in New Orleans. All divvied up, that $127 billion would come to $425,000 per person! After thanking Uncle Sam for their sudden windfall, residents could head to Southern California and buy homes that are now on sale thanks to the sub-prime mortgage crisis and bid up the sagging house prices in the state.

Read Larry Kudlow.

 
 

Wither Larry Craig?

Thursday, August 30th, 2007

A friend asked me, “So why is everyone all upset over Larry Craig? Why is this such a big deal?” This is my half-assed attempt to answer that question.

So just to revisit the facts of the situation, Larry Craig, a Republican Senator from Idaho, was arrested this past summer for apparently soliciting sex from a cop in a men’s bathroom at the Minneapolis Airport. He plead guilty, paid a fine, and went on his way.

Also relevant to the discussion is that Craig is a “values” type of conservative, one who has voted for the Defense of Marriage Act, an act designed to deny gay couples federal rights associated with straight married couples. Moreover, Craig has been accused of sexual impropriety in the past. He issued a denial about being involved with a house page scandal in the 1980′s, and he had been the subject of an “investigation” by a blogger who sought to out Craig, a married grandfather, as a gay man. His investigation involved interviews with men who had claimed Craig had had sex with them in men’s bathrooms. At the time, these interviews were dismissed as hearsay. Today they seem to carry more weight.

So wither Larry Craig? Who gives a damn about an old perv coot seeking out sex in bathroom stalls? Well, there is the pure salaciousness of it. I mean, who knew that a series of foot taps in a bathroom stall was code for seeking out sex in a men’s room? It’s all very weird, very unhygienic, and will creep me out the next time I have to go to the bathroom in an airport, that’s for sure.

But there’s also the hypocrisy involved, if it can be called that. Craig is, evidently, a gay man. Or at a minimum a man who enjoys the occasional gay encounter. What is he doing voting for the Defense of Marriage act?

James Taranto makes a convincing case that Craig is not a hypocrite, but is rather a tragic figure, a man who truly believes homosexuality is wrong yet feels compelled to engage in it:

That said, we’d like to step back and, without drawing any conclusions about Craig beyond what is on the public record, make a case more generally for liberal compassion toward closeted homosexual politicians who oppose gay rights.

The liberal view of homosexuality is based on two claims: an empirical one and a moral one. The empirical claim is that sexual orientation is inborn, a trait over which one has no control. The moral claim is that homosexuality is no better or worse than heterosexuality; that a gay relationship, like a traditional marriage, can be an expression of true love and a source of deep fulfillment. Out of these claims flows the conclusion that opposition to gay rights is akin to racism: an unwarranted prejudice against people for a trait over which they have no control.

For the sake of argument, suppose this liberal view is true. What does it imply about the closeted homosexual who takes antigay positions? To our mind, the implication is that he is a deeply tragic figure, an abject victim of society’s prejudices, which he has internalized and turned against himself. “Outing” him seems an act of gratuitous cruelty, not to mention hypocrisy if one also claims to believe in the right to privacy.

According to the Statesman, the blogger who “outed” Craig did so in order to “nail a hypocritical Republican foe of gay rights.” But there is nothing hypocritical about someone who is homosexual, believes homosexuality is wrong, and keeps his homosexuality under wraps. To the contrary, he is acting consistent with his beliefs. If he has furtive encounters in men’s rooms, that is an act of weakness, not hypocrisy.

So OK, let’s say Taranto is right, that Craig isn’t really a hypocrite, but is instead a tragic figure in the ancient Greek sense. Wouldn’t that also imply that Craig was something else, incredibly stupid?

Why in the world should a homosexual hold the views that Craig does? Shouldn’t he, of all people, understand how homosexuality isn’t a choice? Shouldn’t he, of all people, want to make society more tolerant of homosexuals, so that he himself wouldn’t have to resort to bathroom encounters with random strangers to satisfy his sexual urges?

I know, he’s a politician, and it is extremely unlikely that the people of Idaho are open to gay marriage or having a gay senator. Fair enough. Most politicians are of the Aaron Burr variety, taking positions that are popular just to get elected because they like the trappings of power. They’re just not that principled in general.

But there was really no need for Craig to go so far as to vote for the Defense of Marriage act. He’s a Republican, and he could have justified a vote against the act on simple federalist grounds, that it’s not the job of the federal government to make marriage statutes, that it’s the job of the states. He could have left it at that. But he didn’t, and instead he drew the attention of gay bloggers who were pissed off and wanted him outed. He should have known better than that.

Indeed, it points to the overall stupidity of trying to fight the culture wars in the legislatures. Government doesn’t and shouldn’t create our culture, and attempting to legislate it can only have bad consequences. Moreover, the reality is that the religious right has, by and large, lost the culture wars. Sure, they still have salient points here and there, but on the whole, the culture has decided against teaching creationism in our schools, and had decided to be more inclusive of homosexuals in our society. These are positive developments, both for society at large and for the GOP, as Nick Gillespie aptly points out:

But the Craig scandal also provides the Republican Party, battered into minority status in Congress after years of domestic and foreign overreach, a golden opportunity to recover its attractive minimal-government heritage, at least when it comes to using the state to police sexual behavior among consenting adults.

At least since the opening of the impeachment trial of President Clinton in 1998, when House Speaker-designate Bob Livingston (R-La.) announced his resignation after his extramarital affairs were made public, the GOP has shot itself in the foot repeatedly in the regulation of sexual activity. Certainly last year’s exposure of Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.), who bombarded teenage male congressional pages with racy instant messages even as he authored legislation aimed at online predators, played a key factor in the party of Lincoln’s massive loss in the midterm elections. While it remains to be seen if Craig’s scandal, or the recent revelation that the name of Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) appeared on a Washington escort service’s client list, will have any electoral fallout in 2008, the time is ripe for the GOP to reclaim the heritage of “Mr. Conservative,” the late Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-Ariz.).

Goldwater, who inspired Ronald Reagan and helped lay the groundwork for the rise of the Republicans to majority status in the late 20th century, preached a small-government gospel that was appealing and logically consistent. To Goldwater, the state was inefficient at best and predicated on violence and coercion at worst. As much as possible, he argued, individuals should be left alone to pursue their happiness as they saw fit, whether in the workplace or the home. A longtime proponent of reproductive rights, Goldwater was an outspoken defender of gays and lesbians, noting during the original gays-in-the-military debates of the early 1990s that “you don’t have to be straight” to serve, “you just have to shoot straight.”

Partly owing to their own misbehavior, the Republicans have (thankfully) lost the culture wars, especially when it comes to shutting down alternative sexuality. They should follow the message of the architect of their success. As author Sheila Kennedy has written, “To Goldwater, government did not belong either in your boardroom or your bedroom.” Or, as Craig might add, in your bathroom.

Which brings me to the final, and perhaps most important point:

Craig was the victim of a sting operation.

Consider this: What crime did Craig commit? He tapped his feet, adopted a “wide stance” while sitting on the john, and ran his fingers along the underside of the divider between the stalls. All of which may certainly be weird, but is it a crime? Maybe it constitutes code in some weird homosexual subculture, but how would you go about proving that? More importantly, WHAT IF THE COP DECIDED TO LIE AND MAKE THE WHOLE THING UP?

Not that I think that’s what happened in this case. Craig in effect admitted what he was doing by giving alternate explanations for what the cop said he saw (more evidence that Craig was stupid: he should have offered a Clintonian blanket denial of everything and went on his way). Regardless, cops do lie.

Consider the following situation: you’re pulled over for speeding. You’d had a beer earlier in the night, and the cop asks you to perform a field sobriety test, which you pass with flying colors. Then, he asks you to take a breathalyzer, which you deny. When your day in court finally comes, the cop tries claiming that you failed your field sobriety test.

This just happened to someone I know. Thankfully, the judge could tell the cop was lying and dismissed the charge. But my point is that when you put cops out on stings, eventually they’re expected to bring in perps, and the revenue that goes with the fines issued. If no perps show up during a particularly dry spell, you’ll eventually find yourself with lying cops.

My point is that if the Minneapolis airport was having a problem with lewd conduct in the men’s rooms there, all they needed to do was to station a cop in the restroom. That’s it. Their obvious presence would scare away anyone with thoughts of misusing the facilities, which is what should be the goal of the cops: to make the bathroom safe for EVERYONE to use. Hauling in perps may help in that goal, but it is NOT the end goal.

The problem is that they’ve now created a worse situation for all of us. Should I be afraid of using the men’s room at the airport because there may be pervs getting it on in the stall next to me (or in my stall just before I got there), or should I be afraid to use it because I may be arbitrarily arrested by an overzealous cop who mistakes my toe tap for a solicitation for sex?

Either way, I think I’ll try my best to hold it in until I get home from now on.

 
 

One-Handed Leopard Goatse

Tuesday, August 28th, 2007

See the full gallery here.

 
 

New Book

Tuesday, August 28th, 2007

My fiance’s best friend has written a novel called, “Enchanting The Earl”, and entered into a contest:

- Anytime from August 27 through September 18, go here.

-Sign up to become a member of gather.com (which is actually a pretty cool site — lots of fun articles — and it is totally free)

-Vote on my chapter (we are only judged on how many “10″ ratings that we get, so if you think my chapter is great and that it should be
published, you should give it a 10! :) ) If you have any comments,
too, that would be wonderful because I am always looking for feedback.

It is that simple, but please remember that each person can vote ONLY ONCE. If you vote more than once, your other vote is invalid.

I hope that you like it!

Be sure to go and vote.

UPDATE: I should be clear that this is a ROMANCE novel. Please read it in that light.

 
 

Hitchens Vs. Steyn

Monday, August 27th, 2007

CHristopher Hitchens and Mark Steyn disagree about Bush’s use of the Vietnam analogy with respect to out current situation in Iraq, Hitchens argues that the internal elements of the two conflicts are diametrically opposite, while Steyn argues that the external interpretation of a withdrawal from Iraq will reinforced the lessons learned by foreigners about us by our withdrawal from Vietnam.

They’re both right. Read both pieces.

 
 

A: NO!

Thursday, August 23rd, 2007

Q: Are you taking a poop?

 
 

Housing and Inflation

Friday, August 17th, 2007

Interesting piece in the WSJ today, pointing out how housing costs mirror the price of gold pretty damn well:

Inflation tends to boost housing prices in the same way that it boosts the price of any tangible asset. And inflation is surely a major part of the housing-price story. Over the past three decades, the price of housing at the national level has risen at a rate similar to the growth of nominal GDP, and the correlation between housing prices and GDP is statistically significant. But the relationship between housing prices and the prices of highly inflation-sensitive assets such as commodities is much more impressive than the relationship with the economy. There is a particularly strong correlation between percentage changes in housing prices and percentage changes in the price of gold — especially when a short time lag is taken into account.

When paper money is depreciating rapidly, as in the last five years, it is normal for tangible assets such as housing to appreciate more rapidly than usual, while financial assets such as stocks and bonds tend to perform relatively poorly. This can be understood in terms of the flow of financial capital from one economic haven to another. Capital is mobile. It flows out of assets that are vulnerable to the dollar’s depreciation, and into assets that are invulnerable. Capital promotes growth and price appreciation in the sectors into which it migrates, at the expense of the sectors from which it escapes.

Instead of viewing the price performance of housing during the first half of the current decade as a “bubble,” I see it as having appreciated for the same reason that the prices of commodities and other tangible assets have appreciated. In nominal dollar terms these prices have to rise in order to maintain the status quo in real terms. The rise in housing prices is one more symptom or early warning of the inflation of which the Fed (rightly) is so fearful.

He goes on to state that housing prices (on a national level) are actually running behind commodity prices, and behind inflation. Meaning: housing prices are a relative bargain right now. Again, that’s on a national level. I have no doubt that certain markets are inflated, while others lag behind.

Read the whole thing here.