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President Bartlet delivers his State of the Union message. The scene in the House antechamber (starts about 1:30 in) still makes my heart skip a beat. And of course the cold smash opening is a classic.

Prior to Bartlet's first SOTU speech, he briefs the Assistant Undersecretary of Mining who, according to custom, is the sole member of the cabinet to remain behind -- in case the US Capitol is destroyed in an attack.

  • So Bush knowingly bucked the NIE. Are you surprised? Me neither.

  • Google announces the “fastest rising U.S. search terms” and #1 on the list: iPhone. Tell the truth now -- how many of these entries had you scratching your head, e.g., club penguin?

  • Another thing about the NIE: should I care that a couple of years ago the intelligence community said Iran was going for broke on their nuke program -- and now this assessment contradicts that one?

  • Welcome back Wolfie. Are you bringing your girlfriend with you this time?

  • Is Amy Winehouse for real, or does she just have, you know, a really good press agent?

  • The words "Miss California" and "strips" have collided in the same HuffPo headline. Coincidence? We report -- you decide!

  • Lewis Black takes on this year's political outrages. Fun!

  • Just in time for Christmas: Jack Chick has the Shocking History of the Mormon Church!

  • Oh, baby! No. 1 Ohio State doesn't stand a chance against No. 2 LSU in the BCS title game. Mark -- you goin down!

  • Although it's a minor Jewish holiday really, we can say without much doubt that, without Hannukah, there would have been no Christmas.

by shep

John Rogers:

This is where I'm always amused at libertarians, because they so love markets but never seem to understand how business actually works. If you, my fine libertarian friend, decide to forego the union and negotiate your own contract vis a vis residuals (or pretty much anything else), you will find that unless you are one of the maybe eight out of 12,0000 most famous and profitable writers in Hollywood, you will get exactly the same deal from each studio, or slightly worse. Because what possible motivation would they have to share their profits, relative to each of the other five competitors? That's just common sense.

Rogers is obviously talking about the writers’ strike – cruise the whole blog if you want a great writer’s perspective on the issues.

But he also make a great point about Iibertarian “free-market” types: they have no idea how the marketplace really works, suffering mainly from the delusion that the market is always a force for competition and good (Microsoft, Enron and Halliburton, they never explain). Rogers uses a great Chris Rock joke as a metaphor for the amoral, predatory nature of business:

One of my favorite jokes, just a lovely piece of writing, is Chris Rock's bit about the time one of Siegfried and Roy's tigers mauled Roy.

"Everybody's mad at the tiger. 'That tiger went crazy!' That tiger didn't go crazy ... that tiger went tiger."

This is how I feel about corporations in general, extended to the Studios in particular. There are those who rail at the AMPTP for being profit-maximizing heartless, soul-less bastards as if that were a bad thing. It's not.

A corporation's job is to make money, and if necessary fuck you in the process. Just like a tiger's job is to eat, and if necessary kill you in the process. I'm okay with that. I like capitalism. A lot. I like tigers. A lot. That doesn't mean I trust corporations not to try to screw me and everyone next to me when negotiating. Nor would I trust a tiger not to attack me in the wild. Nor am I personally offended when they try.

Exactly. It’s just business. But that is why you need regulatory government and institutions like unions to make it a fair fight. You alone, against the tiger, will soon be jungle fertilizer, ten times out of ten.

And the problem stretches the tiger analogy when you look at the other worst consequence of unregulated “free-markets”: pretty soon the biggest, baddest, most ruthless tigers start eating their own until there are only a few left that can survive (see Microsoft, Enron and Halliburton). In other words, competition – the supposed source of predictably “good” market outcomes - gets gobbled up by the market itself if left to its own amoral, greed and power-based nature.

You’d think that these facts would be self-evident, looking at what has actually transpired in marketplaces and societies throughout history, relative to the strength of existing trade unions and other worker and consumer-based institutions and (very occasionally) liberal, democratic government. But that’s reality-based thinking and, I’m sure, not nearly as satisfying as a simplistic, comforting worldview about business, government and human nature gleaned from a work of bad fiction.

[Cross-posted at Dispassionate Liberal]

Marcel Marceau, 1923-2007

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by Mark Adams

Speaking of Kathy (Suck it Jesus) Griffin, it looks like she's hooked up with the head of the "B" list of computer gurus, Apple co-founder Stephen Wozniak.

Kathy isn't the only one with a sense of humor. Woz is a legendary prankster, one of the few humans who could go on Stephen Colber's show and "take him down." And she's just flat-out funny. This sounds typical, classic Griffin:

"The thing is he doesn't realize that I am the brains of the operation and he is like some dumb bimbo that I picked up!"
But what you might not know is Woz also founded Dial-A-Joke in San Fransico. Really.
He met his first wife by responding to a Dial-a-Joke call "live", as he often did for fun, saying, "I bet I can hang up faster than you" and then hanging up. She called back, they chatted, and he asked her out.
The guy invented the Apple I, Apple II and game Breakout (as if that weren't awesome enough). He plays guitar, like me, so what's not to love? While I still miss my old Apple ][e,c and GS's, I've learned to adapt to this new-fangled Mac interface. (Yes, I've gone through over a dozen Apple computers over the years, never once considering a Windoze product.) I'd like to get one of those pads of $2.00 notes he gets from the Bureau of Printing and Engraving. That's just cool.

Woz, (the Other Steve) was always the "cool one" at Apple IMO. While Steven Jobs and Bill Gates played the marketing game, I always considered Woz and Paul Allen (the Microsquish co-founder, owner of the Seahawks and Trail Blazers who thinks Searching for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence is a worthy cause) the guys who still retained a bit of their soul they wouldn't sell for any price.

They're "B" list Billionaires. At that price there is no "C" or "D" list. The list is short, including Virgin's Richard Branson, always chasing world records and humanitarian causes, and Ted "Captain Courageous" Turner (before Jane Fonda and Time-Warner sucked the life out of him). They're the ones you know would pick up the tab after doing beers (and in Ted's case, it would certainly be a huge tab).

Woz and Kathy are now officially my favorite celebrity couple -- so Suck It, BradJelina.

Tim Grieve:

The job numbers for August were released this morning, and they show that the economy actually lost 4,000 jobs last month.

It's the first time in four years that the economy has actually lost jobs in a month, and that wasn't the only bad news. The 92,000 jobs the economy supposedly gained in July? The Labor Department has just revised that number down to 68,000. And the 126,000 jobs the economy was thought to have added in June? Now the Labor Department says the real number was just 69,000.

The biggest losers: August saw the loss of 46,000 manufacturing jobs and 22,000 construction jobs.

Look! Over there -- Osama! 9/11!
The White House said that any new video message from bin Laden would only underscore the threat the United States and other nations face from extremists.

I'm sorry... were you talking to me?

Bin Laden's beard appears to have been dyed, a popular practice among Arab leaders, said Rita Katz, director of the SITE Institute, a Washington-based group that monitors terror messages.
Oh, crap! Why didn't you say so in the first place? Now you've got my attention!
"I think it works for their (al-Qaida's) benefit that he looks young, he looks healthy," Katz said.
Those crafty bastards!

obl-macca.JPGIn other news, Paul McCartney was spotted canoodling with Elle McPherson.

Cross Posted by Not Ara

dick Cheney vs. The Sopranos

The following is reprinted without permission, but with a LINK to the original, and a nudge to check out more of McSweeney's Internet Tendency where you can find more silly lists.

Who Said It: Vice President Dick Cheney or Phil Leotardo From The Sopranos?


- - - -

1. "Except for the occasional heart attack, I never felt better."

2. "You sound like a damn politician with all these excuses."

3. "What can you do—throw money at the problem?"

4. "He's never won anything, as best I can tell."

5. "Next time, there won't be a next time."

6. "You couldn't fuckin' retire?"

7. "Principle is OK up to a certain point, but principle doesn't do any good if you lose."

8. "First off, it wasn't an offer. It's my position."

9. "Everyone knows that you're not really a man unless you own a gun."

10. "I'll take that Discman and I'll ram it up your box."

11. "You want compromise?"

12. "Go fuck yourself."

Answers under the fold:

And after you're done scoring yourself, read this first class rant. Read it out loud, with passion! Great therapy.

James Wolcott nails it:

It's understandable that the camera-preening flaunting of wealth, youth, arrogance, and privilege on an endless red carpet strut through the supermarket tabloids and the E! network would produce a tangy taste of payback when a Paris Hilton gets tossed in the clink or a Lindsay Lohan is photographed puking and looking unstrung, but there are bigger, better objects for our derision, worthier causes to flex our jaw muscles about in chewy indignation.
As if to illustrate his point, we read yesterday that the same photographer who captured the now-ubiquitous image of Paris Crying (above) also captured another iconic image of a young woman crying, nearly exactly 35 years ago yesterday (below):


Read more about Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Huynh Cong "Nick" Ut.

Salon gives Alec Baldwin the honorary Oscar:

his confident bearing, the way he cocks an eyebrow at just the right angle -- speaks of healthy skepticism, an intolerance of idiocy and phoniness. An understated superhero in an age of overstatement, he can zap bullshit with a single glance: His X-ray vision seeks, and destroys, baloney. Baldwin is always both laid-back and on point, which seems a contradiction but is actually a delicate balance that's hard to strike. And although we're lucky to have him now, with his elegant carriage and knife-edge timing -- not to mention that voice, a voice with the texture and suppleness of the silkiest luxury mohair -- he'd be just as much at home in the comedies of the '30s and early '40s: Preston Sturges would have adored him.
Speaking of comedy, Baldwin has been outstandingly funny on 30 Rock. In an era where "bringing the funny" means showing people shouting at each other, Baldwin barely speaks above a whisper -- yet he's the funniest thing on an already hilarious show. He understands those things that makes him so good -- "healthy skepticism, an intolerance of idiocy and phoniness...understated superhero...zap bullshit with a single glance...X-ray vision seeks, and destroys, baloney" -- and manages to actually make a parody of it. That's how good he is in this show. Check it out for yourself:

Funniest show on TV -- and Baldwin won a Golden Globe to boot.

YouTube logoLots in the news recently about how rocky is the road travelled by Google in trying to make YouTube an online video money-making powerhouse. The always-excellent Internet Marketing Monitor has catalogued a series of "setbacks" suffered by Google recently:

...and so forth.

I know how they feel. I believed that Google couldn't help but succeed, given the enormous amount of money that Google's audience represents in advertising revenues. Reading these stories was a disappoitment because I felt that Google might let this opportunity slip through its fingers.

But then I thought about it some more and here is what I found…There is plenty of blame to spread around.

In fact, although you could blame Google, I think the lion’s share of the blame should rest with the studios — based on their ignorance, greed and a desire to control forces that are grossly beyond their control.

Hear me out and consider this:

Of all the studio honchos that I’ve read about, only Anne Sweeney, president of Disney-ABC Television, got it right when she said “We want to go wherever our viewers are. Viewers have control and show no sign of giving it back.”

Is she really the only honcho who understands that the viewers are walking away (in droves!) from “traditional” movie, music, and broadcast TV prodcuts? Maybe not. But she does show a refreshingly pragmatic approach to the market.

Seems obvious — there’s no putting the genie back in the bottle. That said, Disney is still taking the ultra-cautious approach, having cut a deal with board director Steve Jobs’ iTunes and not Google. And make no mistake: iTunes represents only 1/40th of the volume of downloaded music — and they’re the Big Dog in the pay-for-play music industry. Hunh.

Makes you wonder what would happen if someone offered non-DRM mp3s for, say, 3 cents each. I think there’s money to be made on that, boys and girls. But the traditional studios won’t do it because they want the Big Score.

In other words, all the other studio heads are still thinking about old patterns and protocols. For example, television networks are used to getting $0.30 and more in commercial advertising revenues per viewer for a hit show.

But the revenues from Google advertising are considerably lower than that: A page eCPM of $1 generates only a tenth of a cent per view in revenue. Multiply that by ten and you still have only a cent. But those fractions-of-a-penny have added up to billions-with-a-B for little old Google.

Yes, yes, I know: the content on YouTube is infringing on copyrighted material. But, paraphrasing Sweeney again, piracy is, in fact, a business model.

But that apparaently is too daring a concept for the studio heads. Not only that — they cannot even acknowledge that a YouTube video ain’t broadcast TV and never will be.

So, I ask you: who really has their head you-know-where?

Bottom line: movie, music and TV entertainment content isn’t worth what the studios think it’s worth — not anymore, not in a Bit Torrent/YouTube world.

In THAT world, I think Google has a better idea of what (and where) the viewers are — and where the money is coming from and how much of it there really is and how to get it.

Anyway, that’s all just my opinion. I might be wrong.

But I doubt it.


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