• Onward Blogging Soldier

    Phil Carter, of Intel Dump, has been moved from the ready reserves and into the 101st Airborn, with orders to deploy in three weeks. Wow. Around the blogs, much is made of the 101st Fighting Keyboardists, and some of us are quite fond of demanding that war supporters enlist (a line of logic I find to be garbage, for all the reasons stated here , here , here , and here ). Phil Carter has been a thoughtful, often critical, supporter of the war, a position, given his vulnerable status in the reserves, that took no small measure of bravery. He also, along with Paul Glastris, penned a much discussed piece advocating a universal draft (at least if America wanted to continue as a superpower), that I criticized at length. Shortly thereafter, Phil wrote me a considered response and suggested we get lunch when I moved to LA. I regret never making the date. But that's okay. When he returns, I'll buy. Good luck Phil. And be careful. There's a meal in it for you.
  • Batman Begins

    Like good people everywhere, I spent last night in a dark room watching Christian Bale kick unbelievable amounts of ass. The verdict? Batman Returns is undeniably the best Batman film ever made, and is probably one of the best action flicks I've ever seen. First, I'm a comic geek. Not so much anymore, but for years, young Ezra received his allowance entirely in comic books, five a week. When I was in Vermont working for Dean, the mosquito-infested flop house I lived in was 150 feet from a Borders -- an air-conditioned, open-till-11 Borders where I read every graphic novel in the store. And so, for me, the last few years have been good. Franchises have been hitting the screen in peak form. The X-Men movies were great, Spiderman was fun, LOTR (not originally a comic, I know), was superb, etc. But Batman's the toughie, few powers but heaps of psychological trickery. And my did they ever get it right. Bale is a fantastic Dark Knight. His storyline -- and this is a shocker -- actually...
  • Unocal in Red

    I'm not particularly concerned by the Chinese government's bid (through CNOOC Ltd., which they control 70% of) to buy Unocal. If they offer a better deal than Chevron, why not? Worries that Chinese ownership somehow compromises our national security strike me as way overblown. If we and China ever get to a point where we threaten each other, who owns Unocal and its relatively minor energy assets will be the least of our problems. Moreover, in wartime, business ownership is something less than an inviolable fact of nature. Stateside Unocal assets would be nationalized by America, not allowed to continue production for the hostile Chinese under some bizarre fetishization of property rights. Further -- and this is really an important point -- we're not going to war with China. They do not threaten our national security. They are not our enemy. Purchases they want to make should not be subjected to a extra level of scrutiny as they are not a hostile, or even threatening, power. America...
  • Corn For Plastic

    The nice thing about high oil prices is that they make new technologies more cost-effective. Take Cargill, a company that has figured out how to replace petroleum in manufacturing tasks with corns and biomass, and is suddenly able to do it on the cheap: When Cargill launched its factory in 2002, its pellets were far more expensive than equivalent material made from oil. Wild Oats Markets, an early customer, paid 50% more for takeout containers made from the bio-plastic. But over the last two years, the Cargill plant has gotten more efficient — and oil prices have soared. The result: The "corn-tainers" in the deli now cost Wild Oats 5% less than traditional plastic, Wild Oats spokeswoman Sonja Tuitele said. Huh. Maybe all our presidential candidates can promise to powercharge this process, thus paying tribute to Iowa's farmers in a non-useless manner. Huzzah!
  • In Defense of Popular Friends

    Fortuna has a good post on the crucial issue of high school dynamics, particularly the cool friend/less cool friend relationship, that ends saying: Every time I see one of those movies I wonder if anyone who makes them thinks about what it's like from the other side. If you have a friend who is cooler than you, then you are constantly forced into the role of sidekick. Which can be a huge drag, I can tell you. Not always. Like her, my closest friend walked on water and made flowers grow whenever he returned to land. Whether he was better looking than I was is up for debate, but there's no doubt that he was far more charismatic, shockingly better liked, and effortlessly able to float through all manner of social strata, while I clumsily doggy-paddled alongside him. So to start, I empathize. Unlike Fortuna, however, my friend didn't just accelerate past me with well-timed body maturation and a sixth-sense for social relations. I'd spent my childhood with an extra fifty pounds, but then...
  • Why? Me Worry?

    This article , detailing the results of a simulation focusing on oil crises, is worth reading for an idea of why people are concerned about peak oil. My excellent guests from the Oil Drum gave you a nice rundown this week, but hearing it from Gene Sperling and former CIA directors James Woolsey and Robert Gates has an authenticity that's hard to match. Incidentally, what really worries me are the arguments from folks like Tim Lee who seem to think that just because the worst case scenario is unlikely, everything will be fine. Their answer to peak oil is that prices will rise, people will stop using so much oil, and we'll figure out other ways to power our economy. Simple. And like most simple things, it's been thought of. The reason we're all still worried is that the alternate ways of powering our economy are all far more expensive and the long-term solutions are still decades from technological maturity. Tim quotes a comparison of oil markets with a pistachio-loving kid whose...
  • Screw the Market (It's What the Market Wants)

    Henry Farrell and Matt Yglesias have launched into a fascinating discussion on the relative merits of market taking and market making political approaches. Market taking is identifying a current and understood desire and exploiting it. When Microsoft jumped into the video game sector, it was a market taking move -- they knew folks wanted video game consoles, they thought they could worm into that niche, and so they did. By contrast, market making is (to use Matt's example), Starbucks. No one knew there was a large market for upscale, comparatively expensive coffee drinks, but the expansion of Starbucks created one (and now Peets, Diedrichs, Seattle's Best, and others have entered as market takers). All this is being used to argue which strategy is best: the current method of constant polling used to identify hot issues and direct campaigns at them (market taking), or a more long-term, visionary strategy that tries to predict what needs aren't being fulfilled and create the...
  • What A Rove Wants

    It's been nice to see Democrats respond to Rove's remarks in much the same way Republicans responded to Durbin's. That Rove unleashed a smear with treasonous implications certainly helps, but the bulk of the credit has to go to a party newly uninterested in being smacked around. This, however, was not all our idea. It was Rove's. Ann Coulter would have to snort a bucket-full of Adderall and spend a few hours focusing her mind in order to compose a speech so perfectly aimed to offend. The question, then, is why Rove wanted this. Shortly after the 2004 election finished, Newsweek released a special issue filled with an 80-some page narrative from inside the campaigns. There was little of note within the Bush camp, save for one tidbit from the race's beginning. Early on, the Bush campaign released a commercial with 9/11 firefighters in it and quickly came under fire for exploiting the day. Democrats were pretty pleased, it seemed an amateurish move. But so, according to Newsweek's moles...
  • And Now, Back To Me.

    Thousand thanks to the wonderful guestbloggers who filled in this week. You can find them at their normal haunts, Scott Lemieux at the excellent Lawyers, Guns and Money , Prof Goose at The Oil Drum , Shakespeare's Sister at her eponymous site , Matt Holt at The Health Care Blog , and the Jew at the Jewish Blog . Also, a belated thanks to Neil Sinhababu from The Ethical Werewolf for helping out last weekend. All were great, and you should keep up with your favorites.
  • The Jewish Blog

    Thanks Ezra for the opportunity to post here for a while along side such talented guest bloggers. Read my stuff at The Jewish Blog . Check out some of my past posts if you’re interested in understanding: The Solution to Oil Shocks Why the West had the industrial revolution instead of the East Why Ancient Piracy is almost just like Terrorism The Real Problem with Walmart The Definition of Terrorism What’s the deal with Gen Y Why Being Religious is Hard The Key to Message Control I was thinking about doing another post about the Borg possibly being the good guys in Star Trek, but you’ll have to check it out on my blog on Monday. See you then. - The Jew Update: The Jew's got a further post on Rove he wanted me to direct you all to. So off you go . Ezra