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Showing posts from 2013

My annual "What's wrong with Duke?" post

I could just repost every Duke post I've ever written as an explanation for why they lost just about any game. Coach K has the same issues every year. For all his greatness, he has several blind spots that get exposed by good teams or bad match-ups. Their two losses this year haven't been bad losses like we've seen in the past. And the team is built a bit differently than most recent Duke teams. But even their wins have exposed some serious problems for this team. In short, Coach K doesn't value rebounding enough and falls in love with his "scorers" even when they aren't shooting well. Let's look at the 3 close games they've played so far to see how this plays out.

First, the way this team is different than previous years is that Duke finally has not just one, but two very talented small forwards in Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood. This position has been a black hole for production recently. So Coach K is justifiably excited about those two guys and…

Contraception coverage will go to Supreme Court

I've been retweeting some good questions that news of the SC deciding to hear a case about mandated contraception coverage by employer-provided health insurance. The basic story is that a corporation like Hobby Lobby thinks it's a violation of its religious freedom to have to provide contraception in the health insurance they give their employees. The questions I've been retweeting deal with what could happen if the court agrees with Hobby Lobby and lets any corporation do whatever they want based on their religious beliefs:

What if your boss opposes "Western medicine" and refuses to cover your kids vaccinations and insists you go to a homeopath?— Amanda Marcotte (@AmandaMarcotte) November 26, 2013

What if your employer doesn't believe in modern medicine at all & thinks we heal with prayer? Can they refuse employees health care?— Jill Filipovic (@JillFilipovic) November 26, 2013

What if your blood transfusions violate your employer's religious beliefs?…

Being a man and being a feminist

Ta-Nehisi Coates had a typically great post about the appropriateness of certain words. For the most part he talks about the word "nigger". I don't have anything to add to that discussion. But TNC mentions the word "feminism" in the post and then addresses it more at length in the comments:

To pick this up, I have no issue with the word "feminist." I think people who try to get cute and pretend that if we invented a new word, sexism would be easier to confront are delusional. Feminism has the connotations it has because it is a movement opposed to people with power. This is not a naming issue.

But I also think it's important for people to have a space of their own. I don't really have to be in that same space to agree and sympathize with the movement. Susan B. Anthony and Ida Wells are heroic to me. I'm suspicious of a need to obviate the differences in who we are in order for me to say that.

And those differences are important. If I am hon…

My favorite episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Can't believe I hadn't thought of doing this before I saw this ranking of every episode from Buzzfeed: http://www.buzzfeed.com/louispeitzman/ranking-every-episode-of-buffy-the-vampire-slayer?bftw I'm not going to rank every episode, just list some of my favorites.

Tabula Rasa

"Randy Giles? Why not just call me Horny Giles or Desperate for a Shag Giles?" The shot of all the gang screaming when they open the door to a few vampires is one of the best shots of the series.

Fool for Love

Spike backstory is always gold. Love the interaction between him and Buffy at the end.

Lover's Walk

Spike returns to Sunnydale after Dru cheated on him, looking for a love spell. Reminiscing about killing a homeless guy is disturbingly funny. I don't care about the Buffy/Angel relationship. But it was fun to hear Spike tell them the truth about their relationship. If Spike is anything he's honest.

Passion

Angel watching Buffy and Willow get the phone call that Ms Calendar w…

Government reopens, but for how long?

Democrats finally used the leverage they had (by benefit of holding the presidency and a majority in the Senate) and waited for Republicans to realize they wouldn't cave to their ridiculous demands. For future reference, Democrats, that is how it's done. Please repeat as necessary. And sadly, I think it will be necessary sooner rather than later. A fairly short term continuing resolution was passed during the last big shutdown in 95. A deal wasn't worked out and there was another shutdown. It was only the second time when Clinton refused to give into all of Newt Gingrich and the GOP's demands that they came to an agreement. I think we're likely to see the same thing happen.

Let's start with what Republicans want, because they are clear about it. They want to cut as much spending from just about everything (maybe not defense, but even then I'm not sure since they seem to be accepting the sequester cuts). If they could do anything they wanted, they would at …

Government shutdown

A quick analogy to highlight how ridiculous Republicans are being: imagine Romney won the presidency in 2012, Republicans gained control of the Senate, but lost House control to Democrats. Then imagine that instead of passing a budget or a continuing resolution, Democrats in the House (where spending bills have to originate) say they will let the gov't shut down unless the Senate and Romney agree to very strict gun control policy. That would be ridiculous. What's beyond ridiculous and a lot more dangerous is threatening to not raise the debt ceiling while advocating the same policy.

And that brings me to a point Matt Yglesias made today in regard to negotiations (I'm too lazy to link to his post. If your interested go to my twitter page.) He says that Dems and Obama shouldn't just sit back and wait for Republicans to cave and inevitably pass a "clean" CR, meaning it contains nothing about defunding or delaying Obamacare. He thinks their stance should be to a…

Polling on the deficit

Kevin Drum points us to a NYT/CBS poll, specifically a question about the deficit and whether people approve of the way Obama is handling it:

54 percent of the public disapproves of Barack Obama's handling of the deficit. And yet, as the chart on the right shows, the deficit is shrinking dramatically. Last year it dropped by $200 billion, and this year, thanks to a recovering economy, lower spending from the sequester, and the increased taxes in the fiscal cliff deal, it's projected to fall another $450 billion.

Bottom line: It's unfortunate that the deficit is falling so fast. It's a headwind against the recovery that we don't need. Nonetheless, the deficit is falling fast, and no one seems to know it yet. The chart above is one that deserves much wider distribution. Be sure to show it to your conservative friends at every opportunity.
I strongly suspect Kevin is right that most people are thinking about that question in terms of cutting the deficit. So while I dis…

House will vote on CR, including defunding Obamacare

Speaker of the House John Boehner announced today that he would put a continuing resolution (CR) up for a vote later this week. The CR is just a budget placeholder that continues current levels of federal spending. Nothing too crazy in simply doing that, aside from the fact that it contains sequester cuts and general austerity while the economy is still not doing well. But that's probably about the best deal that can pass the House. And we probably won't get a better deal if we let Republicans shut down the gov't. So all things considered it's probably best to swallow a crappy CR and move on.

The really ridiculous thing about Boehner's announcement is that the CR will include a provision that defunds Obamacare (or ACA). This has been the Republican hobby horse from the moment the ACA passed. The reason (aside from Republicans just being crazy) is that they see this as a political winner for them. Their opposition kept the bill moderate in the first place. And sinc…

Breaking Bad: Ozymandias

Spoilers to follow...

It's been a few days and I'm still trying to wrap my head around everything that happened in this incredible episode. You've probably read a bunch of recaps and analysis elsewhere (I have). So I won't be repetitive in that sense. What I did want to talk about a bit was Hank, whose fate I probably had the strongest reaction to. I wrote about Hank and how his sense of masculinity had big effects on his actions. In that post I also linked to this post from Pajiba talking about how masculinity affects everyone on the show.

Hank's macho personality made him a bit ridiculous, funny and kind of annoying in the early part of the show. And as I said in my post linked above, it almost gets him killed in the middle seasons. But we don't see the same Hank as we did in the first season or so after he is almost killed by the cartel twins. I'm not sure if that experience was a symbolic way of killing off that hyper-masculinity or if it just served t…

Gif of the day

What Tennessee Republicans make me want to do:

TN Republicans hate job creators

Bruce Bartlett explains:

Consider the case of Bob Corker, the Republican senator from Tennessee, and Volkswagen, the German automaker that employs 2,000 workers at a plant in Chattanooga. As my colleague Steven Greenhouse reported last week, the company is working with the United Auto Workers on a plan to unionize its factory so it can establish what is known as a “works council” in Germany.
...
In an interview with the Associated Press, he called Volkswagen’s decision to engage in these talks “incomprehensible” and said the company would become a “laughingstock in the business world” if it went ahead with the plan.
...
The lawmakers say they are worried that a unionized Volkswagen plant would somehow ruin the investment climate in the state and compel other companies not to invest there. A more realistic explanation for why the lawmakers oppose the U.A.W.’s foray into their state is that they fear it will support the state’s Democratic party.

The strangest thing about Mr. Corker’s an…

Gif of the day

Obama to Congress regarding Syria:

Ben Affleck will be Batman in Man of Steel sequel

He wasn't one of the names floated to play Batman. Some wanted him to direct the next Batman solo movie. But given his comments about not liking playing Daredevil I guess people just assumed he wouldn't be up to playing another superhero. But Batman isn't just another superhero. I'm not sure how you turn this role down. I'm not sure if there's another job in the world I'd rather have than playing Batman in a movie, even being president. So I doubt it was a tough decision for Affleck.

I'm optimistic about the choice. He's got the look. He's 6'4 with a solid build. He's 41, which is only two years older than Christian Bale. And he's a good looking guy, not that Bruce Wayne necessarily has to be good looking. I'm not sure he's as versatile an actor as Christian Bale. How many are? But I think Affleck has the ability to be a good Batman. Most of his roles lately have been more serious than those of his early career. He spent muc…

Tennessee judge changes kid's name because Jesus was too awesome

I feel sorry for kids who could catch crap just because their parents gave them a certain name. But my sympathy can't justify any kind of limitations on the choices parents have in naming their kids. And the 1st Amendment can't justify this:

A judge in Tennessee changed a 7-month-old boy's name to Martin from Messiah, saying the religious name was earned by one person and "that one person is Jesus Christ."
...
The boy's parents were in court because they could not agree on the child's last name, but when the judge heard the boy's first name, she ordered it changed, too.

"It could put him at odds with a lot of people and at this point he has had no choice in what his name is," Ballew said.

It was the first time she ordered a first name change, the judge said.

Messiah was No. 4 among the fastest-rising baby names in 2012, according to the Social Security Administration's annual list of popular baby names.
...
"The word Messiah is a tit…

Breaking Bad's Hank and masculinity norms

As with all tv it seems, I'm a late-comer to Breaking Bad. Luckily for people like me, AMC has been showing the series from the beginning leading to up to the final season's premiere this Sunday. I've got three episodes left in the 3rd season. While the show had been good through about half way through the 3rd season, I didn't think it was great. But my brother said that it gets better. I trusted him and the general consensus that the show has been great of late. So I figured the further I got the more it would pay off.

Well, I think the latter half of the 3rd season has taken a step to the next level from good to very good. Everything had kind of been building to the moment when Hank tracks down the RV, which he thinks solely belongs to Jesse, but which he doesn't know also belongs to and at that moment, contains Walt as well. This might have been the most tension-filled moment of the series up to that point and it helped create some dramatic moments shortly ther…

Explaining conservatives, part...I lost count

There's been a debate on the right lately about whether the conservatives movement has any room for libertarian populism, whatever that is. I'm not sure there is such a thing, at least not in country with our past. But assuming it can, some liberals have offered their thoughts on the debate and have come up with some good stuff that conservatives/libertarians should do. First from Noah Smith:

The five big pieces of Conservative White America’s Grand Strategy that I think need reevaluation are:

1. “White flight” to suburbs and exurbs
2. Rigid and inflexible “family values”
3. Hostility toward immigrants and minorities
4. Excessive distrust of the government
5. Distrust of education, science, and intellectualism
Completely agree. But Mike the Mad Biologist explains why those reevaluations very likely won't happen, much less actually lead to change, which is taken from his excellent piece on Sarah Palin and why she was loved by conservatives:

In Palin’s case, it’s an emotional …

Man of Steel sequel announced, will include Batman

By now you've probably heard the news from Comic Con that Man of Steel will be getting a sequel and that Batman will appear in the movie. Head over to Modern Myth Media for the official press release and to Batman of Film for Bill's thoughts on the news from the perspective of one of the biggest Batman fans out there. When I heard this news yesterday my immediate reaction was a lot of excitement. I enjoyed Man of Steel and I thought it showed a lot of potential for what could become a great Superman franchise. And obviously I love Batman. So the prospect of getting more of that character is always welcome news.

Having slept on the news I'm still mostly excited about it. I have my concerns about how they will portray Batman within Superman's world given the obvious difference that Batman has no superpowers. You can't make Batman look overwhelmed by every other hero or villain or else you risk making him insignificant. And you can't invent too unrealistic things…

The Bridge: Sonya and introverts

I was going to write this post about how Sonya from FX's new show The Bridge is very introverted and how I can identify with her. But I checked wikipedia to see how to spell her name correctly and I found out that she isn't so much really introverted as she has Asperger's syndrome. Though that's kind of like a heightened form of introversion. So I wasn't too far off. In fact, just a quick skim of some articles suggests that we don't know a lot about introversion and Asperger's.

There seem to be some overlapping traits; isn't comfortable around people, quiet, reflective (why Sonya is probably a good detective). But there don't seem to be many agreed upon definitions as to what introversion is and how far away it is from being autistic or having Asperger's. That link I posted right above suggests that maybe these things exist on a scale where different people have varying degrees of one characteristic or another.

I identify a lot with Sonya beca…

James Madison on gov't power

Charles Pierce posts a quote from James Madison every night because James Madison is pretty awesome and should be read every day. So thanks to the also awesome Charles Pierce for that. The post from last night from Federalist 46 discussing concerns about federal and state power was interesting:

The federal and State governments are in fact but different agents and trustees of the people, constituted with different powers, and designed for different purposes. The adversaries of the Constitution seem to have lost sight of the people altogether in their reasonings on this subject; and to have viewed these different establishments, not only as mutual rivals and enemies, but as uncontrolled by any common superior in their efforts to usurp the authorities of each other. These gentlemen must here be reminded of their error. They must be told that the ultimate authority, wherever the derivative may be found, resides in the people alone, and that it will not depend merely on the comparative am…

A solution to local tax revenue problems?

The Memphis city council passed a budget a few weeks ago. The city isn't in great financial shape, thus it was difficult for the council to figure out where to cut or how much to raise taxes. Likewise, Shelby County (which is where Memphis resides) is in a similar financial situation. They have recently been debating whether they should raise property taxes in order to pass a fairly modest budget.

One way to generate more revenue without raising rates would be to get more people to start paying property taxes. That would entail changing zoning codes around the county to allow more construction and get more densely populated areas, making that housing cheaper and therefore open to new taxpayers. But that's going to be limited by the state of the housing market and the demand associated with it. Another way to generate revenue would be to start charging property taxes on already existing entities that don't pay anything. I've written about this before. Matt Yglesias has…

This is the Republican party

They can't make any more clear who they are as a party than what they did with the Farm bill:

House Republicans successfully passed a Farm Bill Thursday by splitting apart funding for food stamps from federal agricultural policy, a move that infuriated the White House and congressional Democrats who spent most of the day trying to delay a final vote.

....The vote made clear that Republicans intend to make significant reductions in food stamp money and handed Republican leaders a much-needed victory three weeks after conservative lawmakers and rural state Democrats revolted and blocked the original version of the bill that included food stamp money.

....The White House said late Wednesday that President Obama would veto any Farm Bill that fails to comprehensively address federal farm and food aid policy. In a statement, White House officials said they had insufficient time to review the bill.
To recap, they just voted to spend hundreds of millions of dollars for farm subsidies and n…

Chuck series finale: memories and love

I've mentioned that I'm rewatching Chuck. I'm at the end of the series where Sarah loses her memory of Chuck because of the intersect. If you're unfamiliar with the show, Chuck was a computer geek who worked at the show's equivalent of the Geek Squad. He was implanted with a dataset (the intersect) of all the government's intel and secrets by an old friend as a way to keep the intersect out of the wrong hands. Sarah, a CIA agent, was sent to watch over Chuck. Long story short, they had chemistry right away and after a few seasons of well-handled will they, won't they stuff, they fell in love and got married.

Stuff happens in the final season that brings Sarah to the moment that she has to install the intersect (this version equips the person with combat skills and intel) in her mind so that she can save Chuck. But this version of the intersect is faulty and it causes Sarah to lose the memories of the last five years. She has no idea what happened or who Ch…

The 7th Annual Pajiba 10 and my 5 freebies

It's time for one of my favorite internet traditions, the 7th Annual Pajiba 10. Get all of the details and see who is already in the Pajiba 10 Hall of Fame at the link. In short, you pick the five people you would cheat with if you had immunity. All the votes are tallied and the 5 people from each sex with the most votes make up the Pajiba 10.

Here are my votes from last year. I went with Alyson Hannigan, Alison Brie, Krysten Ritter, Aubrey Plaza, and Anne Hathaway. As I explained last year, I take into account whether someone is already in the Pajiba Hall of Fame (Alison Brie made it last year) and I weight their current or recent work more than their earlier work. I also don't include anyone who is in my Hall of Fame, which I'll post at the end. So here's my 5 freebies for 2013:

Krysten Ritter
Anna Kendrick
Jenna-Louise Coleman
Yvonne Strahovski
Amy Acker

Ritter is the only holdover from last year. Don't Trust the B in Apt 23 was canceled. But she will likely not be …

Gay marriage and religious rights

I mentioned the good news on gay marriage at the end of my last post. I didn't feel the need to comment more since it's so plainly right and pointing out how wrong those who oppose it are would be, at this point, redundant and exhausting. But Charles Pierce brought my attention to Ross Douthat's response to the Supreme Court ruling on DOMA and I couldn't resist:

Unless something dramatic changes in the drift of public opinion, the future of religious liberty on these issues is going to depend in part on the magnanimity of gay marriage supporters - the extent to which they are content with political, legal and cultural victories that leave the traditional view of marriage as a minority perspective with some modest purchase in civil society, versus the extent to which they decide to use every possible lever to make traditionalism as radioactive in the America of 2025 as white supremacism or anti-Semitism are today.
So because more and more people might see the anti-gay ma…

This week in racism

Race has been in the news a lot this week with the Supreme Court's ridiculous decision to rule parts of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional, the affirmative action case (especially Thomas' concurrence) and with Paula Deen saying racist stuff (I've always found her extremely annoying). Alyssa Rosenberg has a good post about Paula Deen and how people like her trying to change the narrative. Check that out here. Dustin Rowles over at Pajiba has a good post describing his experience being born in the south and dealing with racism. Before you check it out, beware the horrible picture of Deen. You've been warned. Dustin's experience felt similar to mine, which I posted in the comments over there which I'll put here as well:

I was born in Memphis and have lived here most my life. It's a clusterfuck of racial tension. Words like "nigger" are rarely said in public. And people have gotten very good at using code words and couching their arguments in what …

The Farm Bill clusterfuck

Because about half of this country seems to have always hated the poor, food stamps (or SNAP) funding has been a part of what is know as the farm bill for a while so that it would have an easier time passing than if it were left to be voted on by it's own merits. It's actually the biggest part of the farm bill, which also includes subsides for people like Rep. Stephen Fincher who can use those subsides for their corporate farms to get rich and run for congress where they lecture people on how Jesus really didn't care about the poor unless they put in a full 60 hour work week, or were a farmer like him.

This process by which we throw a few bones to poor people so they can afford to eat while giving wealthy farmers millions of dollars usually goes off without much of a hitch, because of course it does in our corporatocracy. But this year's vote in the House brought it down in spectacular fashion when the combination of some Republicans disliking the fact that the bill d…

Man of Steel review

I've never been a huge Superman fan. I respect the character. And while I also respect the original Superman movies for breaking new ground, I have major problems with them. Superman Returns wasn't bad. And Smallville had some decent stretches. But I was hoping that my lack of love for Superman was a problem with filmmakers just not getting it right rather than an inherent flaw. So I wasn't as excited for Man of Steel as I was for The Dark Knight Trilogy. But I was excited enough to go to a midnight screening.

My first impression of the movie was kind of...meh. It was pretty good, but not as good as most of the early reviews said it was. The first half of the movie worked well. I was emotionally invested in Clark and the story. But the second half kind of lost me. I didn't feel much tension within the many fight scenes. And I didn't care for what had to be a ton of civilian casualties as a result of the massively destructive fights. Visually everything was very go…

Kevin Drum on chutzpah

This is a fine example of chutzpah Kevin Drum alerts us to, from Senator Jeff Sessions on why he opposes immigration reform:

This increased GDP will be at the expense of poor and working-class Americans. The benefit will go to the business owners while the wages of U.S. workers—which should be growing—will instead decline
I want to print out that quote and throw it at Sessions every time he contradicts it. My arm would get tired pretty quickly because as Drum points out, Session and Republicans have never given a shit about the expense of the poor and working class. If they did the business owners and rich of this country wouldn't have been making the vast majority of economic gains at the expense of the rest of us for at least the past 30 years. I'm so sick of the elite white men of this country being assholes that soon I'll have to start giving myself pep talks in front of the mirror so I don't hate myself for being one of them, well, except for the elite part.

Why is the US involved in Syria?

It was reported recently that Syria has used chemical weapons on some people. And for some reason, killing some people with those weapons is completely different than killing many, many more people with other weapons to the Obama administration. Thus they decided they had to do something more than what they were doing, which is openly arming rebels against the Syrian gov't.

There are big questions as to who among those rebels we should arm, not to mention the more important question of whether it's a good idea in the first place (see Afghanistan for perhaps the best example as to that problem, more recently Libya). I've tweeted links to smart takes on those questions. I didn't blog about it because I don't think I can add much to them. So I'll leave you to comb my twitter feed if you're interested in the specifics as to why it's probably not a good idea to arm rebels or do much of anything to escalate our involvement in the situation. It sucks to have …