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3.30.2005

I'm Spinning As Fast As I Can

Yes, they're getting a lot of legislation through. It's called having a majority in both Houses & control of the WH and the SCotUS. Social Security is more dear to most Americans than the Alaskan Wildlife Refuge, so Grover's talking about two different things. One's a loser for the Republicans, even after 3 months of concerted on-message scareblather. One's a winner that, ten years from now, will provide a smidgeon of additional oil to our gaping maws. So Norquist declares victory and tries to twist the knife, while trying to pretend that slowly drowning SS to death while borrowing trillions of dollars and putting future generations' retirement in the hands of Wall Street is 'progressive.'

Changing the Grand Ole Party into the Grand Rove Party: "Yet as ugly as the Social Security debate has been for Bush and the GOP, it has served, perhaps intentionally, one salutary purpose: distracting Democrats while Republicans legislate, with ungodly brio, the rest of their agenda. Class-action reform, the bankruptcy bill, drilling for oil in the Alaskan wilderness: Republicans are teeing up pet legislation and knocking it down the fairway like Tiger Woods with a brisk wind at his back. "Without Social Security," Grover Norquist, a Rove confidant and head of Americans for Tax Reform, told me, "this other stuff would've been the front line of battle. Instead, Democrats are holding us up on Social Security, while we get everything else we want done."

Like Moore, Norquist concedes that Social Security reform (at least any version featuring private accounts) is unlikely to be passed this year. But this, he contends, would hardly be catastrophic for Republicans, and he has a point. "On Social Security, we're playing on our field, Norquist says. "What would a Democratic win be? The status quo! Not exactly exciting for the party of progressivism."


3.22.2005

Bubblicious

In the past week, two separate friends have bought residences in the Bay Area. One, a 'power couple' who make a combined $300k a year, bought a loft after looking for about six weeks (and being outbid on a handful of other places). They paid $800,000. This stellar price was a mere $100,000 over what the listed asking price was.

The building, a new one, is situated in the SOMA neighborhood, a rapidly gentrifying area that until the 1990s was largely the home of auto repair places and gay bars. Now, though, pastel-colored steel-and-stucco luxury lofts have sprouted up from the former parking lots and warehouses. I don't envy their location at all; the building is located at the end of a busy freeway off-ramp, & is across the street from a loud bar (The Stud, in case you're playing along at home) and a parking lot for enormous tour buses. On the same block, it is wedged inbetween a gas station and a homeless shelter.

Friend 2, a software engineer with a 6figure salary, just bought a place in Berkeley. A cute little 2br with 4,500 square feet. He tells me that they paid $640,000, which I should note is also $100,000 more than the asking price of $540k. Strategically, they were able to get the agent to accept their bid before a bidding war began.

I don't know much about economics and housing bubbles, but the median price of a home in SF continues to grow at 10-20% a year, far faster than the wages are growing post-recession. In 2000, right when the dot-conomy cratered, I may have been able to afford a home, but not anymore.

But both of my pals were annoyed at being foiled in their earlier efforts by people who outbid them, which makes me think of some weird food-chain analogy: if a couple making $300k a year, who are overbidding the asking price by nearly six figures...if they are feeling grumpy and stung, how am I to feel? Empty, I think.


3.16.2005

The Fame, it Beckons

Ran across ex-coworker and 90s pal Ana Marie 'Wonkette' Cox on Tina Brown's Topic A show sunday afternoon at a time when, having just returned from a 48-mile bike ride, i was well-suited for zoning out and absorbing the tepid talk about Michael Jackson and other pressing issues of the day. AMC is becoming much more visible, I thought to myself. Tina is definitely a fan, and Ana, now accustomed to being on tv, acquits herself well. much better than the quiet self she assumed on the blab-fest Charlie Rose segment featuring her, Instapundit, and Andy 'the bear' Sullivan or her early appearances on Scarborough Country.

The editor’s desk was faced with a conundrum: talk about Michael Jackson, ignore Michael Jackson, or talk about not talking about Michael Jackson. Tina chose the third way: “On Thursday, fifty people were blown up in Iraq,” but we were looking at MJ’s PJs. Apparently Thursday’s media spree — and her column on the trial — was not enough for Tina. She asked, seemingly powerless, “can we say enough is enough?” Luckily, Wonkette Ana Marie Cox was there — cough, no conflict of interest here — to provide perspective: “Perhaps we can… I like how you set this segment up,” yet “I know that we have to keep talking about it for another ten minutes.” Tina turned defensive, “Until the pajamas, I had in fact checked-out… I felt there was no suspense in the trial,” at which point Cox pulled out the third-person: “She was drawn back in because she had a column to write.”

Last week, a co-worker brought the current issue of Lucky ('the magazine about shopping!') in, just to show me the 7page spread on Ana's fashion.



Then today i'm reading Tony Pierce's blog, a blog i rarely read, and he's effusing over someone else's camera phone photo of said-same AMC outside an Austin bar (big blog conv at SXSW this year); she, clad in poncho, is dialing her phone. Apparent irony: in a town full of bars, 30something AMC is denied entry to a party celebrating her, for....wait for it.....neglecting to bring a drivers' license.

Earlier today, reading about Malcolm Gladwell's appearance on the panel - she is namechecked after him, and I wondered how they could really be equated, fame-wise. This feels like a leap, to me; Ana's done a lot of great, funny, insightful stuff, but she's no Malcolm Gladwell. (for one thing, i can't think of a single joke he's done involving anal sex.)

http://www.dfw.com/mld/startelegram/news/state/11140123.htm
"Along with best-selling writer Malcolm Gladwell, who spoke about blogs in his keynote address, the biggest star at the conference was Ana Marie Cox, better known by her blogging handle of Wonkette."

So now I'm finally making a projection: it will only be a short time before i'm seeing Ana's smile and creamy complexion on billboards and the sides of buses. cable news shows will feature her each night. Shortly after that, she will sell a thinly-veiled fictional/autobio script detailing her few short years here in San Francisco, and in the movie Ethan Hawke will have a bit-part playing me, which will probably take place in a bar, and will irk me to no end. She got out, bless her soul.


3.08.2005

Mission Accomplished

So, couple this with op-ed pieces like Brooksie's ode to Paul Wolfowitz, and it's obvious we're still moving the goalposts. But they're also getting wider; while once the righties were fine with claiming that the mythical Joe Iraqi was better off than they were in Jan 2003, after a whole two weeks of protests in Lebanon we're supposed to believe that this is the Berlin Wall moment of the WoT. Is it? And here there are repeated jumps in analogy: it's like Reagan and the Berlin Wall! It's like if we'd stopped Hitler before he really got his game on in WWII!

So we'll see. Whether there's any objective argument to be made that our war on Iraq will lead to any narrow or wide 'democratization' in the Middle East (and perhaps there may be), Bush will automatically, immediately take credit for it all (remember the 'political capital'?). And he'll blame Clinton. And anything bad that happens will be written off to the Rumsfeldian unknown-unknowns and a few bad apples (this extends from the 'dead-enders' to US troops that misbehave and is utterly mutable).

Tacitus: The Dawn

If WMD was the official justification for the Iraq war, then the unofficial justification was surely the neoconservative vision of a democratized Middle East, birthed by the example of a free Iraq in its midst. It has become commonplace for the lazy left to assert that this or that vision or tendency is the work of "the neocons"; but the abuse of the term does not mean they do not exist. For the original neocons were indeed the best of the American left: men and women whose moral vision informed their ideology to a true love of liberty, and a belief in the state's role in promoting it. One may well hope that future generations may see the neoconservative projects of the past quarter-century -- eradicating the Soviet Union; democratizing the Muslim world -- as triumphs of the better nature of the humane left. More likely those generations will see the left's rejection of that better nature as symptomatic of its moral degeneracy.
For herein lies the paradox for those who denounce war in the false belief that peace and justice are synonymous: that neocon vision is working. The specific events we now see in motion have been recounted well enough elsewhere, but a brief survey will suffice. What has happened since America oversaw the first free elections in Iraq in a half-century? In Saudi Arabia, local elections have been held, and local Shi'a are asserting their public identity for the first time in generations. In Egypt, the local autocrat has felt compelled to allow, at least in theory, competetive elections for the first time since the British presence. In Lebanon, "people power" of the sort once seen in Manila and Kiev has compelled the beginnings of a Syrian withdrawal -- and the fiercely anti-American Druze potentate Walid Jumblatt has directly credited the American occupation of Iraq with enabling it. In Syria itself, the rumblings of popular opposition are seen now as they have not been since Hama rose in revolt a quarter-century past. It is a long time coming before we can say that freedom is sweeping the region; and it is a long time coming before the definitive strategic lessons of Iraq are known. But it is enough to be able to say now that this war has set events in motion: good events, and hopeful events in this erstwhile squalid, dusty environ of tyranny.


RIP HST

Rocky Mountain News: Local: "A gravelly voiced Johnson read a Thompson passage about electricity - a lazy, actually neutral force - that could turn quickly and punch someone in the gut with one wrong move. Just like when Johnson asked Thompson "What is the sound of one hand clapping?" Thompson slapped him across the face. "


3.04.2005

Sad.

Report: Freed Journalist Injured by U.S.: "A freed Italian hostage was injured and an Italian secret service agent killed Friday after a U.S. armored vehicle fired on a car in which they were riding in Iraq, two Italian news agencies reported.
...
The editor of Il Manifesto, Gabriele Polo, said the secret service agent was killed when he threw himself over the freed hostage to protect her from fire, according to Apcom. He also said Sgrena was in the hospital but was not seriously injured.
...
Sgrena, 56, was abducted Feb. 4 by gunmen who blocked her car outside Baghdad University. Last month, she was shown in a video pleading for her life and demanding that all foreign troops — including Italian forces — leave Iraq."


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