The great dodge in DC is “Nobody could have expected…” Which is gargantuan bullshit ninety-nine percent of the time. The Supreme Court ruled some years ago that then-President Clinton could be sued by his political adversaries over activities prior to his becoming President, with John Paul Stevens offering the notion that “…[the case] appears to us highly unlikely to occupy any substantial amount of [the President]’s time.” Now who could have possibly imagined that this would open the door for nuisance litigation leading to impeachment, given that it was 1997 and that the past four-plus years had been spent engaging in using every possible legal means to attack the President – including through the courts?

Now here we go again. The Supreme Court is using the “HOOCOODANODE” defense, as they are shocked, SHOCKED, that the ruling in Citizens United opened the door for one imperial shit-ton of third-party money to pour into the electoral system.

I’m going to make this simple: we have seen third-party money employed for some time now. Hell, some of the landmark moments in political advertising in recent years came via third-party efforts. (Willie Horton, anybody?) We also know full well what kind of enforcement mechanism the FEC actually has and how good they are at using it – to wit, NOT AT ALL. And even if they had enforcement power, what good would it do? If you’re going to allow unlimited money into politicking, exactly what is to prevent people just pouring in the cash and eating the fines later? Hell, once you’ve won the election, what do you care about a wrist-slap and a few thousand bucks and the “naughty naughty” lecture from some nameless bureaucrat or the woeful tears of the “good government” advocates?

Nothing that has happened with third-party money this year should be a surprise. Anybody with eighth-grade civics under their belt should have been able to see how this works. The fact that the Supreme Court didn’t – or wouldn’t – strongly suggests that they are either idiots or complicit. And the recent record of the Court strongly suggests the latter.

Not much to say.

Lots of distracting things going on behind the scenes with assorted and diverse family members, none of it for the good. Which in its way is distracting from the impending disaster.

Look, even in the best case scenario where the Dems hold both houses of Congress, they’re still going to have reduced numbers. It’s not as if having fewer Democrats will make things run more smoothly. Sure, some of the fainting goats of ideological purity on the left will be happy to be rid of some Blue Dogs, but the only way things get better in that scenario is if Pelosi holds the torch to her caucus and Reid inexplicably develops testicles and is willing to reshape the rules of the Senate to fit 21st century American political culture. And somebody who didn’t hold Lieberman to the fire on procedural votes isn’t going to have the sack to burn down the filibuster.

No, in all likelihood the Republicans will get the House and enough of the Senate to prevent cloture under any circumstances. Then stand by for an endless process of House hearings on everything from ACORN to the Tides Foundation to the New Black Panther party to imagined cases of voter fraud to the President’s birth certificate…in short, a return to the 1990s. And don’t be surprised if you get either a government shutdown attempt or an impeachment vote within twelve months.

Ingenious, really, when you think about it. Run the country into the ground, and when the voters finally get fed up and take the reins away, go absolutely scorched earth for two years – and blame the new guys for not fixing all the stuff you broke, then exploit their rage to get right back into power. The GOP invented the “Tea Party” to launder their trademark and bet the farm on scorched earth – and it looks like it’s going to pay off.

Time to up the dosage.


After only a couple weeks of this year’s fall session of adult theology book club (for lack of a better term), I think I have come up with a formulation that nails it with accuracy and precision:

Pre-millenial dispensationalism is Bible study as conspiracy theory, not to mention the fullest expression of Gnosticism in almost sixteen hundred years.

Also, to steal shamelessly and remix from Fred Clark, realizing you’re not going to hell for listening to rock music and drinking Guinness doesn’t also automatically mean that there is no God.

Point? No, behind you.

So Himself went seven bubbles off plumb and apparently delivered quite the raveout during the AAPL earnings call yesterday, arguing that “open vs closed” is missing the point and that “fragmented vs integrated” is the issue. Some Android bigwig replied (in a series of Unix commands, natch) that “the definition of open” is essentially that you can download and build the OS yourself.


I am serious. I do not know one single solitary person myself who has ever downloaded, built, and compiled a phone OS from source, AND I’M A GEEK. I am sure that it is done, and I am sure that it is very satisfying for the sort of hopeless paste-eating spaz that does that sort of thing, but the number of people who want to do that and are making their choice of phones based on that IS LESS A ROUNDING ERROR.

The problem Android has is twofold: one, handset makers and carriers are using “open” to build their own modifications to the phone, which means inconsistent UI and varying OS versions – which will eventually have an impact; if somebody is running Android 1.6 their functionality is limited compared to somebody running Froyo (2.2). And manufacturer and carrier modifications have a material impact on whether a phone gets upgraded – right now, the only way you get all the updates and can run the latest version of the OS on the day it drops is if you have a Google-purchased Nexus One with independently-bought service on AT&T or T-Mobile. If you bought any of the Verizon or Sprint Android phones, if you bought the ridiculous Backflip or one of those Samsung Galaxy S things or something out of the MyTouch series or a CLIQ or…whatever, you are pretty much at the mercy of the carrier as to when you will be permitted to upgrade.

Android may be “open”, but in almost every case, that “openness” is of benefit only to the carrier, and is compromised before the phone ever gets into the hands of the end-user. The iPhone didn’t go to Verizon because the big red V wanted their own UI, their own apps, their own branding, and Himself told them to go shit in a hat – and rightly so. Because Android is “open”, Verizon doesn’t have to ask anybody, and as a result you get Android phones in their own image, with the sole exception of where they’ve produced an “official” Google phone (original Droid being the best example). Still, go in there and dump that VCAST app. I’ll wait…what? Oh.

And now everybody is howling that Android tablets are going to put the smack down on Apple once and for all? Tablets that with the current OS are limited to 800×480 resolution? The only response is: do it. Ship it. Try it if you got the sack. The market will tell you whether you’re any good. The whole market, too – because as Apple learned the hard way, marketing to Gizmorons and Slashdot maniacs leaves you with an awful small slice of users…

Football Update

We expect Alabama to romp Ole Miss. We expect Vandy to get pummeled at Georgia’s homecoming. We expect the Redskins to lose to the Colts, although last night was proof of last week’s assertion that this is a team going the right way. In fact, with the revelation that the teams of the NFC North are not that hot, a season over .500 is looking lots more plausible.

No, this is about the other team in the household.


“Bleeding Blue and Gold – But The Wounds Aren’t Healing”

42-0. This is the significant figure. Forget the final score, or for that matter the entire second half. All you need to know is that at halftime, the California Golden Bears – who were only catching two and a half on the Vegas line – were down by six (6) touchdowns to a team that struggled to beat Virginia at home.

It’s time to tell some hard cold facts about the state of the Bears:

1) When is the last time Cal won a meaningful game of any kind – not just conference – away from home? You can look as far back as the ill-starred Holiday Bowl in 2004, when the team came out flatter than a week-old Diet Coke – but one win in Los Angeles in the Tedford era, and the slaughters at Oregon and Washington last year, or Tennessee in 2006, or Nevada a month ago…this is a team that gets out of the Bay Area and drops off. Precipitously.

2) The characterization in some quarters of “Tedford-bot” is looking more accurate with every passing week. Just as in 2007, the head coach is absolutely unwilling to play the backup QB in any meaningful sense. Sure, Sweeney might get a few reps handing off against UC-Davis in the 4th quarter, but the second half of this week’s nightmare was the perfect time to save the starters for better things and see what else is in the bin. Put it this way: what would Tedford’s excuse have been if Riley – or, God forbid, Shane Vereen – had broken a leg trailing by thirty? Jeff Tedford has never yet learned that decisions made during two-a-days are not legally binding on the rest of the season, with the sole exception of the brief Riley-Longshore tilt-a-whirl in early 2008. (I guess theoretically there was a switch made in 2003 between Reggie Robertson and Aaron Rodgers, but that should have been an obvious move to anyone by that point, and looks pretty damn good in retrospect.)

3) The offense is in shambles. The wide receivers can’t hang onto the ball, the QB can’t get it to them, and the offensive line can’t protect anyone. And the playcalling is conservative enough to get its own AM talk radio program and a million-dollar contribution from Fox News. Right now, the most innovative thing we’re seeing on offense is the decision to run a direct-snap to a Smurf and run up the middle with a guy who weighs literally half what his offensive linemen weigh.

4) There is not one game in November where the Bears should be favored, and 0-3 through that stretch is entirely possible – including the first Big Game loss on home soil since 2000. It’s not time to hit the panic button, it’s time to sit on it.

5) Next year is going to be worse, if anything. Five home games, all at AT&T in front of twenty thousand fewer fans, with a new QB with no starts under his belt. And Shane Vereen, who will graduate in May, has very little incentive not to take the NFL money with a quickness – and he’s the only reliable thing on offense. The LA schools may be worse, they may not, but UCLA can’t struggle behind Price forever, and right now I wouldn’t count on the NCAA sanctions and scholarship limits laying USC low until 2012 when Matt Barkley is gone and the depth across the board is reduced.

6) Oregon is a national contender. OSU hasn’t gone anywhere. Washington, Arizona, and the Farm have all upped their game. Next year, Utah will be a conference opponent, and they’re still undefeated in the best non-BCS conference and have a way of tagging current BCS members (see: Pitt, Alabama, hell look at last year’s Poinsettia Bowl against Cal). Cal is better than they were in 2001, but that was nine years ago. The rest of the conference is moving on. Pete Carroll is in Seattle coaching on Sundays and the “Pac-1” no longer exists.


Jeff Tedford is still the coach of the Bears, but right now, his position hinges on the fact that a program that just cut multiple varsity sports is in no position to buy out a contract and go shopping for a Top-25-caliber coach at the current market rates. This year looks grim, and next year looks no better – right now our best bet is to start loading for 2012, when Keenan Allen will be a junior and (hopefully) a quarterback will emerge and get some reps. But by that point, Cal needs a different hand running the offense – Andy Ludwig is as limited and predictable an OC as the Utah and Oregon fans warned us – and assuming the economy has made some progress and state finances are in slightly better shape, and the new Memorial Stadium is increasing cashflow, it will be time to consider whose hand is running the program.

You know exactly what you get with Tedford – approximately 8 wins a year, solid wins at home, mediocre-to-nightmarish play on the road, and (usually) a win over Stanford. But this program dropped off a cliff in 2007 and is currently in its third straight season of stagnation. If Cal wants the kind of program they had in the early 90s or 00s, instead of the kind they’ve had most of the other past fifty years, something has to change.

Mision Cumplida

Somebody on CNN nailed it: this was Chile’s Apollo 13. And they carried it off brilliantly, and dare I say with panache even – 33 for 33 alive, cheering, chanting, singing, one guy doing schtick with a bag of rocks. The win here, as the President of Chile said, is that from now on when people think of Chile, they won’t think of earthquakes or Pinochet; they’ll think how 33 guys lasted 69 days underground and were all brought home safe.

As an act of national rebranding on the world stage, you couldn’t ask for better.

Joy’s Law

Bill Joy is the man who brought us Ethernet. He also formulated a law: the value of a network is directly proportional to the square of its nodes. One fax machine is worthless. Two fax machines can talk to each other. Two hundred fax machines are universally useful.

I think about this because in the last couple of months, two different people I know have set up their own alternatives to Facebook. I fully expect that one or the other will win out, for the sake of eliminating redundancy. Slightly different approaches, too – one is a social-networking Facebook-workalike while the other is a bog-standard bulletin board type system.

The problem is that this covers one social circle. Am I really prepared to have one social networking service for my crazy internet friends, another one for people I know locally, another one for the high school crew, one for the extended family…you see how this becomes crazy in a hurry. This is why Facebook won – everyone is there – but also why it’s vulnerable, because it still offers very poor controls for handling the interaction of your various circles. I firmly believe that something like Diaspora is going to be a game-changer; somebody who can come up with a standard for social network interoperability other than Facebook Connect will make out like a bandit….

Is this team any good?

To ask that of the Washington Redskins is to ask the wrong question. Look at it this way instead:

Last fall, the Redskins bottomed out as an organization with the loss to Detroit. A team the Skins owned for years, a team on a 19-game losing streak, a team that went an entire season without a victory, the worst finish in NFL history – they broke their skid on the Skins, famously. At that point, with the hapless Jim Zorn at the helm and the clueless Vinny Cerrato running the front office, it was easy to think that there was no reason not to expect forty more years of mediocrity.

Bruce Allen was hired as the new GM in December – but that meant nothing. Mike Shanahan took over as head coach – veteran NFL commodity with a proven playoff record – but again, meaningless until the rubber hits the road. Between them, they brought in Donovan McNabb and settled the QB question with an unequivocal known good #1 for the first time in two decades. They drafted a tackle with the first pick, filling the most desperate and neglected need the franchise had. But that still meant nothing until games started.

Now – have they been lucky? Tremendously. They have exploited bad decisions by Dallas and Green Bay, they’ve taken full advantage of key injuries to opponents (thinking specifically of Mike Vick and Clay Matthews), they’ve gotten the best of the officiating. Hell, when you have given up three more points than you’ve scored, 3-2 is obviously a bit of an overachievement. But the fact is, they’ve taken advantage of the breaks, which is something they never seemed to do before. They’ve made the best of the personnel – is the 3-4 a bad fit for Haynesworth? Sure, but it’s a hell of a good fit for Brian Orakpo, who is turning into a QB killer. It’s a great fit for LaRon Landry, who has gone from knucklehead to Pro Bowler in five games, and you can see the spirit of Sean Taylor riding with him on every spine-rattling hit. It’s made DeAngelo Hall into a tackling machine, it’s transformed Lorenzo Alexander from a backup O-lineman to an effective linebacker in run or pass coverage, and it’s turned the defense as a whole from bend-don’t-break into an opportunistic gang that makes its own luck.

And the offense? Clearly in transition. It’s going to take time to gel, and the loss of Clinton Portis – on paper – looks like a dealbreaker. But Joey Galloway is still a capable receiver, and Anthony Armstrong is becoming a legit option to throw to, and Ryan Torrain is showing flashes of Portis-in-his-prime potential, and the newly promoted Brandon Banks – despite being a Shetland human and damn near a smurf – has given the Redskins a potentially electrifying kick returner in the mold of DeSean Jackson or Devin Hester. McNabb is clearly not the quarterback of the future for this franchise, and depth is a concern, but the pieces are starting to shape up.

So the real question to ask is “Are the Redskins a team headed in the right direction?” And for the time being, the answer is an unequivocal yes.

flashback, part 23 of n

October 2004 was more than just Black October at work. It was the real beginning of the Cal football experience – didn’t lose a single game at Memorial that year, so gameday was an endless sea of marching up with the band and off to Zachary’s after the game, with a high-powered offense whoopin’ that ass in the meantime. It was also the last time I was really paying serious attention to baseball, with the Red Sox falling apart in the ALCS against the Yanks only to complete the single biggest comeback since Our Lord rose from the dead on the third day – something I’ve been reminded of by the Ken Burns series lately.

October was also when I first really started the practice of walking around downtown, since it was only a couple blocks from the apartment. Part of that was necessity – I was still getting regular shipments of cigars from back East, and the layout of the building and the prevailing winds meant that most of my fug would get blown back into the apartment unless I set up shop a safe distance away. And although I would frequently park down the street and set up my camp chair where I could prop my feet on the back of the Saturn, it was often easier just to meander up and down Castro.

I had swiped a whole pile of 80s music, both from the wife and from a collection offered up by a co-worker. It was the first time I’d ever heard “Being Boring” by the Pet Shop Boys, which was particularly evocative – not only because of the bit where you find yourself a world away from where you thought, but because that was ten years since fall of 1994 at Vandy. The notion that in a decade, I had flunked out and built a completely new career – and was now on the other side of the country from it – really brought home how things were, especially with the prospect of a wedding and an international trip impending. And there was all the uncertainty associated with being a contractor in time of flux, and the uncertainty of an upcoming election, and…

Maybe it was just because it was new, but 2004 remains for me the signature California autumn. Although I get the sense that this year could be one too.