Thursday, November 13, 2008

It Sucks to Be Cassandra

This guy, Peter Schiff, was right over and over for years--and just listen to the scorn with which he is treated by his fellow financial show guests. (Arthur Laffer and Ben Stien are especially ridiculous).

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Charles Krafft

Charles Krafft from Patricia O'Brien on Vimeo.

This video popped up over at the "street art" site Supertouch. Charles Krafft is an artist I got to know when I lived in Seattle through our mutual friend Larry Reid. Back then, he had just started doing his "Disasterware" pieces--charmingly created Delftware-style plates and teacups with scenes of horrible events on them--aerial bombardments, massive fires, maritime disasters, etc. Krafft had been a painter for a long time when he started creating these bizarre curios, but his work gained a new audience. The irony and humor was appealing to lots of folks who maybe wouldn't otherwise connect with contemprary art, and the fact that the pieces themselves were fairly inexpensive encouraged young hipsters to start collecting. (I was one of those young hipsters.)

But Krafft had really was serious about ceramics and delftware, and kept pushing it further--in his own idiosyncratic way, of course. So he expanded into pieces like the one below.

The film is quite good. Krafft doesn't pretend that he is just making his art and that how it is interpreted is none of his business. He knows he is pushing buttons and takes responsibility for it. He is an amusing, articulate person, and an excellent spokesman for his own artistic practice. And his owlish, bow-tied professorial look is the perfect icing on the cake--he looks like the kind of guy who would be lecturing on Delftware at the local garden club!


Friday, November 07, 2008

Even Better Than Puppies

I'd like to identify all these ladies. Anyone wish to help?


Thursday, November 06, 2008

David Booth and Eugene Fama

David Booth, co-founder of Dimensional Fund Advisors, just gave $300 million to the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business. In exchange, they are renaming the school the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. That's the way it goes--a rich donor gets the school named after him. At least this donor came out of the school that will bear his name.

But given that Dimensional Fund Advisors has long based much of their business on the work of Eugene Fama, who did his research there at Chicago, it'd be nice if they named the school after him. After all, Booth will die someday and basically be forgotten even by the students who attend the school (at best, they'll recall he was "the rich guy they named the school after"). Whereas students of Chicago will probably learn Fama's work as long as there are intro finance textbooks. I guess you could say that Fama's immortality is more-or-less assured, while Booth must buy his.
(Eugene Fama)

This reminds of a travel book about Texas written by an English writer in the mid-80s. He had been hanging with a lot of Dallas socialites, and someone commented to him that in Dallas, there was more respect paid to the guy who owned a painting than to the guy who painted it.

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

No More Politics

Even though there will be important run-offs in Georgia and Minnesota, I declare politics to be officially over.

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The Circularity of History

During the past few months, some of the most interesting political writing has come from conservatives. Not the hate-mongers, swift-boaters, and conspiracy theorists, but from writers who tend to be a little more philosophical. They are also writers who tend to be pretty discouraged by where the conservative movement went under Bush, and recognize that Obama was probably going to win (and in some cases even welcome it). A lot of these guys found their home in The American Conservative, the magazine run by that old racist paleocon Pat Buchanan. But what Buchanan has done is pretty much open his magazine to the dissidents and iconoclasts within the conservative movement, and it has made for some interesting reading. That's where I found the remarkable piece by Francis Fukuyama that I quoted a few days ago.

Other thoughtful conservative writers I like to read (even if I very often disagree with them) are Ross Douthat and Rod Dreher. Anyway, this has all been a lead in to a little blog post by Dreher that I thought was quite clever (if not really profound):
1. The modern conservative movement began with the crushing defeat of Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater in the 1964 presidential race. The modern conservative movement ends with the crushing defeat of Arizona Sen. John McCain -- who took Goldwater's Senate seat upon his retirement -- in the 2008 presidential race.

2. Modern liberalism began its implosion with riots in Chicago's Grant Park at the 1968 Democratic Convention. Tonight, modern liberalism is reborn at Chicago's Grant Park, where a black Chicago Democrat will celebrate winning the presidency.

Interesting, huh?


Tuesday, November 04, 2008

A Political Dialogue

For months, voices have been screaming at America, screaming things like "OBAMA IS A SOCIALIST! OBAMA IS A BLACK POWER RADICAL! OBAMA IS A MUSLIM! OBAMA IS A TERRORIST!!!"

And today, America replied, "Y'know, that's all just a load of bullshit."


Overheard in Accounting Based Valuation Class

"I voted for Obama because I didn't want to vote for a loser."


Monday, November 03, 2008

Hold the Republican Party Accountable When You Vote

To amplify something I wrote in the post below, I want to quote Francis Fukuyama's endorsement of Barack Obama from The American Conservative magazine.
I’m voting for Barack Obama this November for a very simple reason. It is hard to imagine a more disastrous presidency than that of George W. Bush. It was bad enough that he launched an unnecessary war and undermined the standing of the United States throughout the world in his first term. But in the waning days of his administration, he is presiding over a collapse of the American financial system and broader economy that will have consequences for years to come. As a general rule, democracies don’t work well if voters do not hold political parties accountable for failure. While John McCain is trying desperately to pretend that he never had anything to do with the Republican Party, I think it would a travesty to reward the Republicans for failure on such a grand scale.
I think this is behind The Economist's endorsement of Obama as well.

The same is true for Harris County, particularly when you look at its criminal justice system. There are many good, dedicated people working in this system, but this is also the system that was lead by Chuck Rosenthal, permitted the Ibarra brothers fiasco to happen (that cost the County over two million dollars), turned a blind eye to the criminally incompetent Harris County Crime Lab (which after being shut down in 2000, investigated at a cost of $5.2 million, and rebuilt and restaffed from scratch, had to have its DNA lab closed again this year), and was the locus of many other scandals, large and small. As Fukuyama says, the party that held power during this reign of incompetence and corruption should be held accountable.


We Need a Change

I'm ready for the election to be over so I can find something new to obsess about. Tomorrow is voting day (if you haven't voted early).

If you would like to see an energy policy that includes cap-and-trade and serious efforts at alternative energy, along with renewed and expanded domestic energy production, vote for Michael Skelly for the 7th Congressional District of Texas. If you'd like a Congressman who supports transit in his region and doesn't block it at every turn, vote for Skelly.

If you want a Senator who will actually be able to do something for Texas and not be an irrelevance, vote for Rick Noriega. If you would like to see someone representing us who understands soldiers and veterans and their needs, and who is not merely a bloody-minded rah-rah boy for endless war, vote Noriega.

If you are ashamed that the U.S. has embraced torture as one of its tools of statecraft, vote for Barack Obama. If you want an end to the protracted and pointless war in Iraq, vote for Obama. If you want someone who will deal with the U.S.'s economic problems boldly and will abjure the failed and bankrupt policies of the last eight years, vote for Obama. If you prefer a competent government that actually does what it is supposed to do, instead of an incompetent government run by people who hate the very notion of service to the public good, vote for Obama.

Previously, I would never recommend voting straight Democratic. But this time around, I think all those not-terribly-ideological Republicans running for judge or Justice of the Peace or dog catcher need to recognize that they are hitched to a party characterized by radicalism and corruption, the party of Tom DeLay, George Bush, Chuck Rosenthal, and Sarah Palin. They choose to remain in this party and run beneath this party's standard, and therefore do not deserve your vote. Not this time. Vote Democratic.


Sunday, November 02, 2008

The Economist Endorses Obama

This magazine, which for a long time seemed to be leaning more and more toward a Bush-ite neo-conservatism and which has always been a free-trading, libertarian magazine, endorsed a liberal Democrat for President. Bizarre, huh? Their disillusion with the current regime, and McCain's perverse embrace of its policies, as well as Obama's calm, brilliant campaign and apparently willingness to do whatever works regardless of ideological source, seem to have won them over.

But as has been pointed out elsewhere, The Economist for many years has always supported the candidate for the non-incumbent party. So Clinton in '92, Dole (!) in '96, Bush in 2000, Kerry in '04, and now Obama in '08. It seems like The Economist has perpetual buyer's remorse, and is never really satisfied with the President, whoever he may be. So they love Obama now, but if he wins, I suspect they'll have many problems with him in the months and years to come. As they have always done.