I am a lawyer and a Phd candidate in Political Theory at the University of Florida. First off, I will use this place to host info about classes I am teaching (syllabi, assignments, etc). This is so that most people will be able to have up-to-date info. I might also keep academic works-in-progress here, as well as a current CV.
That being said, I write--academically and informally--about culture and politics. Stick around if you like left-ward slanted politics, discussions about academia, indie-rock, genre and subculture films, pomo literature, comic books, continental political philosophy, and/or TV shows like Lost, Buffy (RIP), The Office, Battlestar Galactica, The Wire (RIP), or Twin Peaks (RIP). I might also write about my family, my house, restaurants and shops I have enjoyed, the little hamlet of Gainesville, and/or how someone SERIOUSLY annoyed me today. But mostly politics, art, and culture. Enjoy and give me feedback.
My pick for the clearly the 3 best dramas on TV right now--LOST, Mad Men, and Breaking Bad--were all nominated for "best drama." And none of the other nominees were *bad* shows per se, and I heard that Big Love really hit its stride this season, so I need to catch up with that. Maybe this makes up for ignoring three of the greatest shows ever--Deadwood, The Wire, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer--for all those years. And, I would have to say that Breaking Bad deserves to win, but it probably will not. But Breaking Bad's second season was pretty amazing, beating the first season by a mile. I know some people find this show *too* painful to watch--a complaint I heard about The Wire too--but, even forgetting the drug-stuff, Breaking Bad has the best TV depiction of a marriage falling apart since Sopranos Season 4. The argument scenes capture the exact nature of marital power-trips and dishonesty-via-honesty.
Hugh Laurie was nominated *again* for playing Greg House. And, really, this character should be annoying and the show should be horrible, but he carries the whole thing on his back. He makes the show. That being said, Bryan Cranston should win for Breaking Bad.
And, YES, Michael Emerson--who I recently tributed on this blog--was the only *acting* nomination from LOST. This is forgivable, and even laudable, because LOST is much more of a writer's show. Its best episodes--Walkabout, The Constant--certainly have great performances, but the show is really about the possibility of a complex non-linear narrative on television. It is really a show concerned with narrative form itself. Only Terry O'Quine--as the pathetic/heroic John Locke--and Michael Emerson as Benjamin Linus are stand-out actors on the show. (That being said, bobody but Evi Lily and sometimes Matt Fox is particularly bad, it is--like the characters on the show itself--that the actors are more like chess pieces that the writers move around the "play-board.") Even great emotional LOST moments--"Kate, we have to go back: WE HAVE TO GO BACK" or the Desmond/Penny moments--draw as much from narrative cleverness as they do from acting. It is telling that most LOST fans are as emotionally invested in characters we barely know--Jacob, the Man in Black, Penny Widmore, hell, even, a smoke monster--as we are in Jack, Kate, and the rest. It is also telling that this year, Mad Men and LOST are the only two shows nominated in the Drama Writing category. Both are "writer's" shows, though Mad Men in a completely different way than LOST.
Anyway, decent job Emmys. And, good luck Michael Emerson!
Of course data doesn't matter as much as bland assertion on Fox "News." :(
On a similar matter, everyone who like politics should look at 538.com. It is run by Nate Silver, who is also a baseball statistician working for the wonderful Baseball Prospectus, and is a numbers-geek who makes love to a high R-squared every night. (Well, the nights he is not wet-dreaming to Rachel Maddow.) He clearly has center-left beliefs, but he is pretty bound by his empirical tests, and Nate is certainly not as knee-jerk liberal as the folks at TPM or Huffington.
And, Baseball Prospectus is a really cool page that embraces the Billy Beene/Bill James/MoneyBall/FireJoeMorgan approach to baseball analysis. (Called "Sabremetrics" or some shit like that.) BP will explain why "batting average" is a dumb stat, and OBP and SLG are much better indicators of the how valuable a player is.
Anyway, I am not a quant-toid, but I respect nice empirical analysis.
I do not mean to mock MJ or 9/11, but the amount of idolatry has been crazy. I guess it probably was the same when John Lennon or Elvis died. That being said, I have been listening to some early Michael Jackson lately, as well as some Jackson 5, and I am stunned. There is really no way to describe the quality of his vocals on something like "I Want You Back" or "Billie Jean." Those two singles stick out to me because they contain some of the greatest pop productions and arrangements, and yet, still, MJ's vocals are the stars. The vocals even outclass the tremendous chord progression in "I Want You Back" and what might be the greatest shaker in pop history--tied only with the shaker in used in the Rolling Stone's "You Can't Always Get What You Want" and "Jumping Jack Flah"--in "Billie Jean." Stuff like "Man in the Mirror" can be annoying, but "Rock With You," "Don't Stop to You Get Enough," "P.Y.T," and "Of the Wall" are stunning. Hence, I am throwing in my lot with the R.I.P. MJ crew. He truly made some of the best pop singles of all time.
So, MJ's death had me thinking about pop music in general. Also, I have been playing Ricky Nelson's "Garden Party" over and over on my Ipod, and I think mostly for the line "If memories were all I sang, I'd rather drive a truck." I just love that line.
Later, I started to think of just PERFECT pop music lines. Some of them off the top of my head:
"I once had a girl, or should I say, she once had me." - Beatles
"My smile is my make up, I wear, since my break up with you" - Smoky Robinson and Miracles
"You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows" - Bob Dylan
"The underground is over-crowded" - Archers of Loaf
"I can't stand it, I know you planned it, I'ma set it straight, this 'Watergate'." - Beastie Boys
"Birthdays were the worst dayz, now we drink champagne when we're thirsty." - Notorious B.I.G.
"Take a sad song and make it better." - Beatles
"Los Angeles give me Norfolk Virginia, Tidewater four ten O nine. Tell the folks back home this is the promised land callin', And the poor boy's on the line." - Chuck Berry
"I know my kisses are not his; I'm not gonna tell you why that is!" - Bob Dylan
"The highways jammed with broken heroes on a last chance power drive" - Bruce Springsteen
And, I think, the best ever pop lyric is:
"Is this a lasting treasure, or just a moment's pleasure? Can I believe the magic of your sighs?
Will you still love me tomorrow?" Gerry Goffin and Carol King (made famous by the Shirelles)
This song/lyric survives pretty mediocre performances by Shirelles singer Shirley Owens and the author itself Carol King (with even worse back-up by James Taylor). (Of course, the Shirelles version is the pinnacle of Phil Spector's "wall of sound" and a great record, and Carol King was a great song-writer but a passable vocalist at best--e.g. compare her version of "Natural Woman" to Aretha Franklin's.) Side note, Dusty Springfield's version of this song is killer.
Ok, so what are some of your favorite pop song lines?
I mean on a political level. Alaska has about the least powerful governor in the country, but she couldnt hack it. Or, truth be told, she couldnt hack the media attention. Maybe that means she won't be running for higher office. Who knows. I am still confused by Charlie Crist would want to run for Senator when being Gov of Florida is such a more powerful position, and better launching pad for a presidential run. Of course, the social conservatives love Palin (and Huck) and hate Crist. So, who knows.
Obama decides the government should actually report the accurate debt. So, as opposed to Bush, he is aiming for complete honesty in the debt. This means:
- adding the cost of the wars to the debt - subtracting money we DONT get from the AMT exclusions - place in average costs of potential national disasters - the HIGH-END cost of the bailout(s), including TARP and his new mortgage plan - if medicare / social security run into debt, that will be included too (it is at surplus now)
These are all estimates, but it represents an attempt to really know our debt. We cannot even begin to tackle this stuff until we are honest with ourselves. On one hand, the numbers will be sobering, on the other hand, people might actually take confidence in some transparency.
Growth started in 1933, and continued until the dip in 1937 when conservative Dems told FDR to "balance the budget" and he cut spending. But it is simply a myth that the WW2 brought us out of depression.
So what the hell is Obama's stimulus? Well, here is just MY take:
For immediate stimulus NOW, it is more important that Treasury Sec. Geithner use the rest of the TARP money in a smart way--by FORCING banks to led
70% (or so) of the money. This will bring more quick stimulus than the so-called "stimulus" plan. Sadly, under Bush, former Sec. Paulson just gave money to
banks, and they used it to recapitalize, NOT lend. Geithner needs to
attach strings to fed money. And some huge investment in SBA loans would be good
too. Also, a "Bad Asset Bank"--which is what Paulson told Congress TARP
would be--is a pretty decent idea. This "bad bank" would buy up the toxic assets and let
them sit for ten years (like in New Deal). When FDR did this, the Government eventually made money on the bad loans. (Of course the assets now are a more confusing.)
Contrary to its moniker, Obama's plan is more a long-term / New-Deal style investment plan than a true immediate "stimulus" plan.
What it does:
Roads/Bridges (Army Core of Engineers rank us as a C- or D+ for interior investment. Lower than Cuba for fucksake.)
New public schools
Nationwide Electric Grid
Alternative fuel R and D
Country-wide public broad-band wireless
Tax incentives for small businesses to make new jobs
Tax cuts for businesses to basically write off all of last five
years losses on this year (even if they wrote them off previously)
Digitizing medical records
All of these not only create jobs in next three years, but lay a
foundation for a "managed capitalism" just like New Deal laid
foundation for our ability to eventually militarize in WW2 and for the great
expansion of the middle class.
Think of a nationwide electric grid, broadband national wireless internet, alt
fuels, and etc, as analogous to the TVA and REA bringing electricity to the southern US or the
Fed interstate system. These are investments that payoff for 50 years (or more).
It is true that, "monetary policy" is usually better than spending and
tax cuts to quickly stimulate economy. But we dont have any monetary
policy any more because we cannot cut interest rates anymore. (They are
at, what, .5%?)
Economists think that for every dollar you spend in public spending
you get 1.50$ to 1.70$ return in the economy. Tax cuts have only a
return of about 75% because people save. BUT, if you can target tax
cuts to create jobs and stimulate the economy, that will help.
This crisis is a perfect storm: housing crisis, unemployment, and (the worst) a credit crisis.
As I wrote, Obama's plan is more of a long-term investment than a
stimulus. . We will not see full effect until 2011. That is OK because
the GAO--under Bush--said the recession will certainly last until 2010
and possibly to 2016. (This report is a nice cover politically for
Obama, especially because Bush's people did it.)
Even though the House vote was along part lines, Obama meeting with
(only) GOPers was a nice piece of good-will. It is also a nice contrast
with Bush who wouldn't even meet with Sens and Reps from his OWN party,
no less the Dems.
But, yeah, 2009 and probably 2010 is shot economically. But people
will suffer less under Democratic control. (New plans give longer unemployment benefits, lower taxes, more food
stamps, roads, bridges, etc etc). Dems will likely lose seats in
Congress in 2010 (like Reagan's GOP did in 1982, and Clinton's Dems in
1994). Luckily, the GOP are on the defense in Congress again when it
comes to retirements and such. (It is very unlikely that Dem would lose CONTROL of either chamber.)
Some other stuff Obama/Gienther/Congress need to do:
- re-regulate the banking industry so that commercial and investment banks are separate again - re-instate the "uptick" rule so traders cannot short sell and then drive down the price of the stock, short selling is ok, as long as you cannot manipulate the stock - refigure the capital-to-debt ratio of banks - reguglate commidies so that things like "credit default swaps" can be a thing of the past - return to older lending rules regarding loans, possibly by changing CRA. Get rid of ARM loans and etc - Extend the Dow dropping "time-out" to a full 24 hours - Back-up stocks in 401ks if people invest in certain types of funds
FDR saved capitalism once; Obama could do it again.
If Obama does it right, he can not only take us out of this bad economy, but he could put an end to the "yo-yo" or "casino" capitalism of the last 30 years. It will finally be the end of Reaganism. The greatest expansion of the middle class was from 1935 - 1968, which also coincides with the New-Deal / Great Society managed capitalism. A new, information-based version of "managed capitalism" can recreate a "middle-class focused" America and create a long-term Democratic majority.