December 30, 2005

O-Ver-A-Ted: Jonathan Chait, one of the new op-ed columnists for the local paper of record, has a fine piece on the 2005 USC Trojans. Considering that there is nothing to indicate that the PAC-10 was a particularly deep conference this season, or that the Big-12 was particularly weak, I don't see why Texas should be such a significant underdog next week. USC has a spectacular offense, led by the winners of the last two Heisman Trophies, but their defense (Pete Carroll's strong suit, after all) is not that impressive. Besides the now-legendary game with Notre Dame, they almost lost to Fresno State and Arizona State, teams with four and five losses, respectively, and were a bad call away from being 17 points down to Oregon.

Texas is a hungrier team, had only two close calls (both against schools named "O.S.U."), and actually know how to play good defense. They would be hard to beat even if they were playing an opponent that wasn't undeservedly being included among the greatest teams of all time. As the author alludes to, the last time we had a match-up like this, Ohio State knocked off Miami, the defending national champion, in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl.

December 29, 2005

One of the drawbacks about being a single, 40-ish guy is that I always stay home on New Years Eve. That, and the infrequent sex, the assumption by some that because I haven't gotten married, I must be gay (not that there's anything wrong with that), the fact that most of my friends are functioning alcoholics, the realization that my life is never going to get any better...yeah, I admit: I'm drowning in a torrent of clinical depression right now, one that massive quantities of Prozac won't cure. Life sucks.

Loneliness is a terrible burden, and there's no amount of rationalization that's going to sweep it away. December 31 always brings this issue to the forefront. It's the one occasion that people, no matter what creed, race or socioeconomic class, find the time to just have a blast. No presents to buy, no fake ethnic tie-in, like March 17 or May 5, just an evening to stay up all night and party. And I never get invited.

Going on a year-end cruise has been one way out of the thicket. I don't get to be with friends, either, and the other party-goers are either blue hairs or teenagers, but at least there's festivity everywhere. I don't have to drive home, and the cruiseline is usually generous with the champagne. For me, it's as good as it will get, and I'm only out a month's income.

This year, that isn't an option. So while everyone else is having a blast, I'll be at home, watching cable reruns and trying to figure how my life took such a wrong turn.

December 27, 2005

A liberal blogger discovers, to her chagrin, that conservative bloggers take care of themselves. Here's a hint: it has nothing to do with banging a tin cup and asking other people to beg for money on your behalf.

It should come as no shock that for a blog to be both popular and good, it requires a great deal of time and effort on the part of the host. When I first started this site, back in April, 2002, it seemed that most of the people doing this sort of thing were either freelance journalists, professors, college students, or lawyers with their own practice. That is to say, bloggers were people who already wrote for a living, and who had the time to post frequently and write deliberatively. To them, blogging was a hobby that could supplement their normal routine.

Once blogging became "hip", it drew in a lot of people who had writing talent, and were not in any of those professions. Those bloggers included a tremrndous amount of undiscovered talent, but only a few who will ever be hired to write for a living. As a result, once the high of writing something for a public audience wore off, making money off this gig became paramount for the neophyte. Unfortunately, bloggers don't have anything to sell but their work product, so unless you can find a sugardaddy willing to support you, or happen to be independently wealthy, you better be writing about something that can turn a profit for somebody else.

With almost no exceptions, political blogs can't turn the trick. Moreover, perhaps inevitably considering the string of recent defeats Democrats had in the aftermath of the 2000 election, liberal blogging has become dominated by a style of rhetoric that ensured that such blogs would never make mucho dinero: an in-your-face, abrasive, attack-oriented style that focused most of its wrath primarily on the media, and secondarily on the Bushies and neocons. People who were comfortable with the status quo weren't going to turn to this newfangled medium anyway, but for the significant number of people who weren't, those blogs were a godsend. The more extreme the invective, the more rhetorically violent the site, the greater the page visits. While it was cathartic to finally have someone take the fight to the other side, it does tend to be even less successful in generating a cash stream than it has been in winning elections.

And alternatively, bloggers who hoped to use their access to this public forum to formulate policy alternatives got the short end. Ironically, it was the bloggers who actually had something, in the form of ideas and policy prescriptions, that might be of value to the marketplace, that lacked the volume of traffic necessary to make the sale, while the ones who did have the traffic only sold snark and invective, products that nobody's buying.
Why television may be on the verge of making motion pictures as passe a form of entertainment as radio drama....
November totals for the Central District of California are out...and they show that the number of bankruptcy filings fell by more than 90% from the totals of one year ago. The large drop in Chapter 13 filings after October 17 (remember, that's the provision favored by the new law) is perhaps the strongest indication that it's not so much the new law scaring people away as it was the end of the old law drawing a high number of people out of the woodwork, who then filed before YBK.
Last night's much-hyped final episode of ABC's Monday Night Football (won, incidentally, by the Patriots, 31-21, over the Jets, the same score the Jets lost the first MNF game thirty-five years ago) included the airing of several clips featuring one of the most important figures in the development and popularity of that show in its early years. I am, of course, referring to John Lennon, the ex-sidekick of Paul McCartney with the Beatles, who allegedly made at least one appearance in the booth in the early-70's, where the most-overrated figure in rock history suffered the indignity of being interviewed by the most-overrated figure in TV sports history.

I say "allegedly", because after an hour or so of googling, I can't pinpoint an exact game, date, or season that the "Smart Beatle" actually appeared on the broadcast. I have seen references to him showing up at the '71 game at Candlestick Park (famous for being the site of the last Beatles' concert) between KC and Frisco, a '73 game at the LA Coliseum between the Rams and New York (where he supposedly said, according to one account, that while he still gives peace a chance, he couldn't say the same thing for the Giants, who lost 40-6), and a game in '74, between the Rams and Washington. The latter game would appear to be the best bet, since he had famously separated from Yoko Ono around that time, and was living in the City of Angels.

Also, he apparently befriended the then-governor of California, Ronald Reagan, that night; according to Frank Gifford, the Great Communicator also visited the booth, and during a lull before they were to be interviewed, explained the rules of what we Yanks call "football" to the Walrus (Lennon, not Craig Stadler). Nevertheless, the actual details of what happened don't appear to have been studied by any Beatles historian with any depth, no transcript of the Cosell-Lennon interview seems to have survived, and so we are left with what appears to be an "authentic" videotape of the artist known for such treacly classics as "Imagine" and "In My Life" comparing that night's crowd to a rock concert.

More detailed information does exist about the other famous MNF link to John Lennon: the announcement of his death in 1980, late in a game between Miami and New England. Like many other Beatles fans, I still remember Cosell, with his very unique delivery, intoning the words, "dead on arrival" to punctuate his scoop. I doubt that it was actually the first notice by which many of us received the horrible news; in Los Angeles, ABC's local sports anchor, Ted Dawson, had announced the bulletin several minutes earlier, and in all likelihood other local stations broke the news the same way. But Cosell being Cosell, we were bound to remember his announcement more.

December 26, 2005

We must be do something right...: Matt Welch, wintering in Paris, has some interesting thoughts on the world's two oldest democracies, and why they stay that way.

December 25, 2005

Festivus Reading: A sanguine analysis of the topic of impeachment, by Michelle Goldberg of Salon, and a brief rundown by Josh Marshall of an op-ed piece by former Bush advisor John Yoo, now a Boalt Law Professor.

The prevalent view among his apologists seems to be that President Bush must have absolute power during "wartime", and that any Congressional or judicial oversight is unnecessary. Regardless of the merits of the claim that permitting the executive branch to review any telephone call, e-mail, or personal communication without a search warrant is an effective way to stop a terrorist attack, the notion that fighting a war necessitates giving a single man absolute power is, quite frankly, a noxious one. It is not only un-American to expect that the Constitution be suspended every time a President decides to start a war, it is counterproductive to the goal of actually winning that war, once our troops are so committed, when the Commander-in-Chief who has been vested with those powers is so completely incompetent.

Moreover, Yoo's argument, that the Constitutional mandate limiting the power to declare war to Congress alone has no substantive meaning, and can therefore be ignored by Presidents, is one of the most frightening claims ever made by a sitting law professor. A declaration of war isn't some legalistic archaism left over from eighteenth century political theory; it's a principal that requires that any war we fight be subject to the approval of the people, by way of the one branch of government that is directly chosen by the people. It's not a condition for committing troops, but you better damn well have a declaration in hand if you want to act as a "war President".

In the military actions taken since 9/11, there was no exigent circumstance requiring the President to bypass Congress, no immediate necessity that forced us to take up arms against Iraq, or even the Taliban. Ignoring the Constitution was Bush's way of saying "screw you" to coequal branches of our government, making them as relevant in the checks and balances within our government as the British monarch is in that country. If the Republican Congress does not wish to put the brakes on Bush's folly, then the Democrats must press the issue of impeachment, or we'll losing something more important than our lives.