Saturday, February 18, 2006


Responding to the washington post online and their continuing insistence that a) comity is more important than truth and that b) jack abramoff was a bid democrat, i write as follows:

if one thousand readers respond to a story, using language so foul it would curl the very hair of a sea captain, and those thousand responses were right on the facts--would their intemperate language change the underlying facts?

it's a yes or no question.

let me save you the trouble. no. the facts would remain. swearing is the reddest of herrings.

deb howell either lied or was hideously incompetent.

you covered up for her by removing non-profane posts which made substantive points that were not refutable and that put you in a terrible light. they showed that you were compounding your initial lie with further ones.

that's two really ugly lies, both which happen to support a republican narrative, one that (provably) has been deliberately crafted.

your readership, particularly on line, skews both left and sophisticated when it comes to these things. we saw through this in, oh, 2 minutes.

you aren't servicing that readership. that's bad business practice.

you should be fired. deb howell should be fired in disgrace. Derek Willis should either show us his evidence or be fired. sue schmidt should prove to us she doesn't do what she is told by republican operatives, or she should be fired.

you aren't just bad reporters and editors, you are people whose ethics are anethema to everything i believe in and try to teach my daughter. it's sickening.

profanity, or lack thereof, changes none of this.
So the NYTimes front-pages Sudan today. And midway through the third graf comes this little bit of kistof-ian gratuitous religiousity (with a backhanded karate chop at the left!):

Fighting between rebel groups and government-backed militias has destroyed entire villages, killing more than 200,000 and displacing about 2 million people. Both the United States and the United Nations have been criticized for responding too slowly to evidence that the African Union peacekeepers were having little effect.

Evangelical Christians have been particularly outspoken in their calls for a more active American role, and Mr. Bush's remarks, in a question-and-answer session in Tampa, appeared to focus increased attention on the issue.

NATO has played a small logistical role in Sudan thus far, primarily airlifting African troops. Until recently, government officials had said NATO might do more, but all the discussion has been about providing equipment, communications and other logistical support.

i put in all three paragraphs there to highlight the extraordinary incongruity of that sentence. let's look at the "and" there--when you read papers by kids learning to write, they often struggle with the concept of "but" (hell, when you read scripts by fully grown adults you will see the same thing) being oppositional, not THIS, but THAT. i think that David Sanger, front pager for the Times, has forgotten how "and" works. it tends to link two related thoughts in one sentence. are we supposed to assume that bush is throwing out red meat to the base by highlighting something of signifigance to them? if so, Sanger should report that directly. he has both things in the same sentence, after all.

of course, i'm giving the benefit of the doubt where none is due. let's imagine a scenario--kristof grabs sanger for lunch at the office. they go somewhere midtown--i want to go with smith and wollensky, but i'm guessing--and kristof bends sanger's ear for an hour and a half about two things: one, how good it feels to buy cambodian hookers, and two, how the evangelicals really do get it on darfur better than anyone, really they do. and how remiss the times is in covering that fact.

cut to the next day, and sanger is preparing his column. he asks kristof for input, and kristof suggests highlighting the evangelical involvement in darfur. sanger, rushed for time, shoves something in there. eh voila, total nonsensical writing on the front page of the times!

and hey, the left wing blogosphere has been highlighting sudan troubles for 2 years. we have a couple of million readers in total over here. our readers are active. but i didn't note an utterly weird sentence about us in there. or about john kerry, who brought darfur and sudan up repeatedly in his campaign.

the times continues down a suicidal path. it will never be seen as being pro-evangelical enough, and it will lose its core readership, its base, if you will, of left-leaning folk.

Friday, February 17, 2006

How the blogosphere ate my brain, an essay

As usual, Glenn Greenwald is on fire, here.

he puts the NSA scandal, and its potential arc, in the context of the Watergate scandal. he's not the first to do, though he is the most articulate. that glenn guy is a really good writer and thinker. there's a big future ahead for him i suspect in policy. i hope spitzer is aware of him.

that said, i think he's a bit off base here in his Watergate analogy. what has changed since then? what is the key change in how the public consciousness is provoked and shifted? why, it's the internet! the internet changes everything. and it's not clear, in this case, that it changes things for the better.

let me explain: i was talking to friends last night, facetiously to an extent, about "scandal fatigue". I mean, every time Peter Daou makes a scandal list it is increasingly depressing. so why doesn't any of it stick? why, for instance, could whitewater go on and on, despite early and frequent exonerations of the clintons? well, it might be that those were the old days, when newspapers could focus on such things with real resources. the days before the 24 hour news cycle.

at first, it seemed with the advent of the cable channels that focus was what they did best. if they got their teeth on something prurient, slimy, or trashy, they just wouldn't let go.

and then came drudge. some won't remember, but before it turned out he was a shill for the republican party (and i'd love to know if they sought him out or if he...offered his services. natas si drol and all that. hope his soul is toasty currently) he was a paradigm-shifter. you could sit at your desk at work and Bam! news! hot and fresh. and though the cable news nets wanted to blow him off, and the networks even more so, how could they once he started putting up real numbers, breaking real stories? Of course, we found out later those stories were bullshit plants by Lucianne Goldberg and her hellspawn, but that wasn't the point--for all their haughtiness, the newspapers and networks, the opinion shapers, had to take note.

and they did.

then, to speed this travelougue up a bit, instapundit gets going, and then comes mediawhoresonline (lamented, missed, asskicking rip-roaring monsters they were) and bob somersby at the daily howler. then atrios and kos. and here's where it gets interesting. Markos decided to build something different--a real community. and dailykos is (re)born. then an interesting thing starts to happen. diaries and posts come so fast and furious it is impossible to keep up. and they rush by--ever pushed out by the one that was posted two minutes later.

but it gets even more complicated. as it happens, every post has the possibility to reference some other expert's take on something: "jane's got something new on plame, read here" or "glenn really nailed the NSA thing, read here" or "look what CNN just posted here" and so on. it's relentless, and it leaves us no time to focus on any of it as we try to focus on all of it. it's a new paradigm of how to process information, and it's never been tried on a mass scale before. all source material on everything is ubiquitous and omnipresent, and expert commentary is available often about 5 minutes after a new piece of info surfaces.

and it is amazing! it's amazing how many brilliant thinkers and writers and polemicists are out there--all at my fingertips. 24 hours a day! such a profusion of public thinking and writing is unprecedented in scope in the history of the world.

Gutenberg was a piker compared to bennett cerf. sorry, but it's true.

but with such a massive shift in how information interfaces with all of us, one must ask--what effect has all this had on our ability to make change happen in the off-line world? and i believe the answer is: it has lessened it. because information is now flowing faster than our ability to incorporate it, deal with it, and use it. by the time we've really pondered on anything, something new happens.
[as a side note here--some might say "well, these particular people who are running the country are so corrupt, so venal, and so incompetent that it is THAT fact that makes it hard to focus. it's the old "do stony things happen more often when people are stoned, or is it just that it seems that way're stoned." i'm saying the paradigm shift just coincidentally happened at the same time as the vogons taking over our country.]

anyhoo--net of all this is, cheney shoots some old guy in the face, and it knocks the new diary off the front page, and out of mind.

so, what to do? well, we are going to have to figure out how to manage this process in such a way that we break through the noise (and by we i mean "the left" or "the left blogosphere" or "rational scientific people" or "secular humanists" or "brights" or whomever.) anyone but fucking rick warren or james dobson or al-zarqawi or the republican party and its apologists. we haven't got it right yet.

one possibility: imagine a world in which the democrats in concert with the blogosphere (hey, if there is a blogosphere can their be a blogosopher? just askin.) just don't comment on whatever new shit flows down the intersewer. "cheney shot someone in the face? hope he's ok. anyway Bush broke the law with the NSA thing." repeat eternally until you've made your point.

i guess i'll cross post this at my kos diary you know, for the irony of it all.
Metal Sludge - W. Axl Rose throws suprise listening party for Guns n' Roses recording "Chinese Democracy" in NYC! - The Power & Glory since 1998

look at this photo and then please ask yourself:






Thursday, February 16, 2006

Another post about being a dev exec in h town

because i ankled. sort of.

i used to work with this guy from this country that is below sea level. very nice guy, but could be...difficult? he had a close friend with whom he had worked for several years (in a slightly different capacity), another director, and the two of them would bitch and moan about how hollywood was screwing them, how evil it was, how much better things were in the old days back home in clogville. or wherever.

these two guys have quotes of probably over 10 million dollars, between the two of them. they've been responsible for some of the worst (and, in my opinion, some of the best) hollywood action movies of the past 20 years. they've managed to get themselves studio deals with all the trimmings. they've bought houses in the hills. they've got budgets of over 100 million approved. their exquisitely stupid notes have been swallowed by many of the very people they bemoan.

if hollywood were a tit, they have sucked a DD cup down to about an A.

and yet. here it is, 1999 or thereabouts, with between them two of the biggest flops in the history of htown behind them, and still they bitch about the assholes who pay them their massive checks. and to be clear, in my humble, they are both genuises, and in both of their cases, have genuinely been fucked over by the process.

and yet.

gigantic checks cleared and cashed. the opportunity to make movies that so few can even dream of. my sympathy is limited. some other blog is indeed one of the very best of the best. he's seen the shortest end of the stick one could imagine in our town. like so many others. william faulkner, for instance. kurt fucking weill and bertolt fucking brecht before him.

but still, the checks do clear, and the houses are nice.

i'm just saying.
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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The perks of power are sweet! SWEET!

Jonathan Schwarz of "A Tiny Revolution" with an excellent catch regarding an incident in Turkey 2 years ago, an incident considered by many Turks to be the most humiliating public betrayal in recent history.

would you believe it involves the US? and that you'd never heard of it in an american newspaper?

you would. if you were me.
OK--let's watch as my head explodes.

assuming, as i do (being sane and rational) that the NY Times, when it reports on international affairs, is not a hotbed of liberalism but rather a very good newspaper--right, we can agree on that? good, so assuming that is the case, today's front pager about "Afghan attacks linked to Taliban points to Pakistan" would have to lead a sane person to say, "gee, we've pretty much screwed the pooch on Afghanistan. And pakistan, while we're up."

1. We invade Afghanistan, bombing a county in the stone age back into the iron age. fair enough, they did have it coming, sort of. or the taliban did, anyway, although our bombs tend to hit more civilians than anything else, and those civilians had, in the main, welcomed the taliban when they came to power mostly because the (often US backed) warlords were serial rapists (especially of young boys) making the taliban look good by comparison. but fine, we did what we had to do. other than destroying the taliban totally, or capturing that bin laden guy.

but other than that, what have the romans ever done for us?

2. We pledge large amounts of money to the reconstruction of Afghanistan. this is a good idea on several levels: a real Marshall plan for this part of the world would make an enormous difference in the lives of afghanis, who've seen the short end of the stick over and over from us, from their leaders, from the soviets. we could right a few wrongs here and look good in the court of world opinion. maybe even regionally, such as in...

3. pakistan, who are ostensibly our ally. why are they our ally? well, it's not because of AQ Khan, who sold the bomb to N Korea and Libya. it's not because of the ISI, who supported the taliban and OBL. it's not because of musharraf, who's a dictator. no, it's because they have the bomb, period. one thing we've learned these past 5 years is that countries WITH the bomb don't get attacked, pace N. Korea. Countries without it are fair game. so pakistan can support our mortal enemy OBL, can support our enemies the taliban, no problem.

4. we stop giving any money of any note to afghanistan about 6 months after we pledge to rebuild their society. hamid karzai is installed, and then elected, to be the "mayor of kabul" since the rest of the country is back in the hands of the rapist warlords, with whom we have been doing business since 1982 or so.

5. the taliban regroup. they get money from...our ally...pakistan! and guns! and the afghan warlords, many of whom HATE the taliban, suck it up and start helping them, because while they may hate the taliban, they hate outsiders more. although they are happy to take our guns and butter.

6. Musharraf continues to be unable to find OBL, although it seems clear he travels with impunity in the hinterlands of NW pakistan. still our ally though!

7. the ISI starts arming suicide bombers (something afghanistan has never had before) to go into afghanistan and blow themselves up the better to bring the taliban, you know, the guys who blew up buddhist statues and ruined women's lives, and harbored OBL? those guys? to bring those guys back into contention to run various parts of afghanistan.

8. meanwhile, a massive and devastating earthquake hits pakistan. another opportunity for the US, the richest country in the world, to show the muslim world of our munificence. squandered. even as we speak. but we are tied up somewhere else, known as...


10. worst. president. ever.

here: Afghan conundrum.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Strange Detractor's professional accomplishments

now that shit is funny.

very very funny.

go. read. leave me and my blog in peace. for the time has come for all good men to play soccer. right now. at pop star's house. you know the one i mean.
so over at some writer's blog, some guy who claims to know my friend who was at this dinner the other night...

it's a bad intro. i'm not a writer. i'm a (recovering) development executive. here's the thing about being a development executive. and it's good news/bad news.

good news. once upon a time i'm playing on my hardscrabble soccer team in the LA Municipal league. this was a team i'd put together in one of the mid-level divisions (the core of which would go on to dominate in the top division later), we played at some shitty fields, but we had a good time. i had a writer friend on the team (several), most of them not getting much work. some of them seemingly living in their cars. but we were all friends, and my junior junior junior exec career was just beginning, so i was a beacon of hope for these guys. one friend and his partner had done a t. corghasson (spelling?) boyle short story adaptation, and a pretty damn good one. no one had bitten, but it had got them meetings around town. which, of course, pays very little rent. but here i am at my new fancy job (pay? 27,000k a year.) reading, oh, conservatively, 8 scripts every tuesday (spec day!!!), all on a rush, all needing synopses and comments, and should my bosses actually read them?. plus a manuscript, usually on wednesdays, 500 pages and could you turn it around in 2 hours? and is it any good? and about 15 scripts a weekend. and the notes: mother of gog and magog, the notes! massive tomes, documents that would stand the test of time! oh mighty notes, i must have written an asimovian output of them. and to some damn good writers--some of the top in the industry. i had been working in the biz for a year or so. no background in film. but these guys had to execute my notes, or be fired.

but i continue, as is my way, to digress.

so my friend, let's call him John, though his real name is jon, has written this adaptation of boyle. and i force my boss to read it, because my boss has been fixated on this brilliant moon ghost story thingie. for years. but no one has been interested. so he likes the boyle script, brings the writers in for a meeting, and lo! and behold! they get hired. and they get a nice chunk of change, something around 6 figures. and suddenly, i've hooked my friends up with a great paying gig. and that is just fucking cool.

that's the good. the bad, and here josh f only gets it half right: sure, often the gig requires saying "this is grrrrrrrrrreat" about steaming piles of ordure. but more often, in my experience, it requires coming up with endless stuff to say about why, oh, i don't know, a story about the gadget guy at the CIA should be about a low level engineer type who discovers the secret to cold fusion. in other words, auto-job-justification. pages and pages. notes on notes. notes on drafts that are based on previous notes rewritten to meet previous notes all of which are contradictory. and if the writer is "good", all of which have been executed faithfully, because by jove if the character needs to be more "somber" yet "funnier" somewhere in the same set of notes, you had better deliver.
you think i need barton fink to give me that barton fink feeling? i've got a thousand barton finks!

i once told a certain director from a certain country where they wear a certain kind of shoe made out of a certain naturally growing substance about a certain script that became a certain movie with academy award winning actors/editors/producers/production designers/composers and so on...i told this guy, upon receiving the (greenlit, budgeted and ready to roll, full fee to the director who was like a boss to me, in that i worked for him) script, that it sucked. ass. that it would be a mistake to make it.

i was fired.

just in case any prospective future employers are reading this, i just want to make very very clear: message received.

back to my regularly scheduled ranting.
The Washington Note

so the other thing today--valerie plame was working on something important? you don't say? covert? you don't say. involving nuclear proliferation (which, for the morons in the crowd, is the same thing as nucular proliferation)? huh. Iran? really? funny that.

so to summarize: A covert operative, one who our government spent enormous amounts of (our) money training, sent out into the field where she made relationships with people in dark and dangerous places, who further put her life on the line in the service of our country and against the proliferation of the most deadly weapons on earth, who in turn came back to the states to try to get the government response just right, and who's husband has been called a national hero by no less than GB 41, that's the person they chose to out?

if you can't figure out why this is the most evil act imaginable by government official, you are beyond hope. there is a special place in A.Q. Khan's heart for you, though.
Here is the report,
in all its gory glory, about the right wing-ed imbalance on the Sunday wind breakers aka Press the Meat et al.

basically, you will be shocked shocked shocked to find that the damn things have more conservatives than liberals, that positions seemingly held by a majority of americans are not represented etc.

i've always wondered--that guy Scott Ritter, ex-marine, ex-head of the Iraq WMD task force--yeah, you've heard his name, oddly he never ever seems to get on these shows.

which is funny. because he is the only person involved who had any kind of voice (and who wasn't, say, insane, like your ramsey clarks of the world) in the national media who got the WMD call right. everyone else who pontificated was just wrong wrong wrong. not ritter. that got him disinvited from the party, apparently. weird.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Debt and Denial - New York Times

Krugmania! Now more than ever.

since most can't read the above without the magic password from the times selectoton, here is an excerpt, and a choice one at that:

"Last year America spent 57 percent more than it earned on world markets. That is, our imports were 57 percent larger than our exports.

How did we manage to live so far beyond our means? By running up debts to Japan, China and Middle Eastern oil producers. We're as addicted to imported money as we are to imported oil.

Sometimes large-scale foreign borrowing makes sense. In the 19th century the United States borrowed vast sums from Europe, using the funds to build railroads and other industrial infrastructure. That debt-financed wave of investment left America stronger, not weaker.

But this time our overseas borrowing isn't financing an investment boom: adjusted for the size of the economy, business investment is actually low by historical standards. Instead, we're using borrowed money to build houses, buy consumer goods and, of course, finance the federal budget deficit. "

Good times, people, good times. As someone who lives at the epicenter of the housing bubble, i feel it is incumbent on me to set 100 dollar bills on fire while drinking expensive champagne. that's what the neighbors do around here, anyway.