[F]or conservatives who have actually been in power, the liberal media
thesis is a bit like the theory of intelligent design is for Rich Lowry
and Peggy Noonan: an intellectual embarrassment. It's important to have
those who passionately believe it as part of your coalition. They can
do some serious damage to the opposition, so you want them "on" their
game and active. But you can't operate with their press think. Like the
social conservatives who deserve a seat on the bus but shouldn't be
allowed to drive it, the yahoos who think the press is a tool of the
Democratic party are needed but should not be heeded by conservatives
Yesterday's flight from EWR to GSO was only two hours late. They told us that the pilots couldn't get a flight plan because of a problem with the air traffic system; whether this was a routine glitch or a symptom of the FAA's multi-decade, multi-billion dollar struggle to get its computers running right I do not know. A guy sitting near us asked how they used to do it before computers. I thought about a sci fi story I read long ago, in which people are amazed at the skills of a man who can still do math without a calculating machine.
Glenn Reynolds links to a Mickey Kaus post about the seemingly minor decline in housing costs, suggesting that neither man has thought very hard about the nature of the housing market or the relationship of housing prices to the credit markets and the larger economy. Also, it ain't over til it's over.
We saw Juno. It was funny and smart and touching and in many important ways unrealistic. I reminded my children that the dad who handles his daughter's pregnancy with such perfect loving wry aplomb, and the wise daughter who maintains such ironic distance from her own pregnancy, were characters in a fairy tale, not creatures actually found in the wild.
So in a state of blissful brainlessness over the holiday I was watching VH1 I Love the 80s 3-D with my two born-in-the-90s children, and I'm trying to remember when the c-list celebrity with a scripted quip and implanted memory thing seemed fresh, and I'm wondering, huh, did I miss the fact that The Three Amigos was a cultural phenomenon when I was in my 20s or are they making that up, when I hear the c-listers start burbling about 1987 being the year of the microwave oven, and I thought, wait a minute, didn't we have microwaves when I was in high school back during the I Love the 70s era, so I googled it and found out that yes, the microwave was indeed very popular by the Carter years, and it occurred to me that VH1 is not the most reliable source for history lessons.
Previously: a mention of blissful brainlessness in front of the TV on another holiday.
"I don't know what to do!" cried Scrooge, laughing and
crying in the same breath; and making a perfect Laocoon of
himself with his stockings. "I am as light as a feather, I
am as happy as an angel, I am as merry as a schoolboy. I
am as giddy as a drunken man. A merry Christmas to
everybody! A happy New Year to all the world! Hallo
here! Whoop! Hallo!"
Christmas Eve is the big event in my wife's family. Her maternal grandmother had two sisters and two brothers, and every year a few dozen of the descendants of the five DeMarco siblings congregate at a cousin's house for cheer. Bea and May handed out the presents when I first joined the family in the late '80s, while their brother, Quentin, aka Uncle Sonny Boy to his niece, my mother-in-law, held court, but that whole generation is gone now. Elijah and Sydney were part of a baby boom in the family, then there was a brief demographic dip, and now the kids who were little when Lisa and I got married are married and breeding, so there will be excitement when Santa comes by on a firetruck. The little kids, even the ones who are shy at first, are wired by the time the presents are opened. The older kids, even the ones who are cool at first, often end up in conversations with cousins they don't really know. There is usually a football game on the downstairs TV. The kitchen is the hub of activity. Smokers (fewer every year) were banished to the deck some years ago. Our hosts keep a bottle of whiskey for me, which I appreciate. The food is set out buffet-style in the dining room. John has been handling a lot of the cooking since he retired (that's BeaBea's John, not Johnny, John Jr., Chrissie's John, or Vicki's John, and of course not John Jr's son, John, who is called Jack and is just a little kid anyway). Shells, meatballs, eggplant, and so on. Somebody will come in late -- often it is Albert. Familiar stories will be told. Chris will call me Ted, because of that one time in 1993 that her daughter who is now in college called me Ted. Quentin started early on our football argument this year, via email; I probably should have saved my Marino is just Fouts with a Super Bowl loss blast for tonight. After a long while the fifteen of us in Lisa's nuclear family will go to the house she grew up in for a smaller version of the above. Merry Christmas.
One of the first Google hits for "southern converting greensboro" involves attempts to turn Jews into Christians, which is funny because I was looking for a reference to an old junk-yard* that figures in a Christmas tale involving two Jewish boys looking for a Christmas present.
It was 1949 or so. My dad and my uncle were looking for a gag gift for the uncle, Max. Max was one of my grandfather's younger brothers. He used to run the Haw River plant for Proximity Manufacturing and later became a cattle rancher in Costa Rica, but none of that has anything to do with this story, although the cattle rancher in Costa Rica part may suggest a slight eccentricity that fits the gag-gift-recipient aspect.
Anyway, the brothers spied a urinal behind a fence. They thought appropriating the urinal and presenting it to their uncle would be hilarious. No artistic intent, just a joke.
The salvage-yard owner and the cop who took the boys home and my grandfather were all much less amused.
My father went to his grave thinking this story was hilarious. My uncle, with whom I reminisced about it recently, does not.
I side with my dad, although if my kid did it I'd whip him.
*I had remembered the establishment as Dixie Salvage, but my uncle says otherwise, and he was there.
TypePad: "We’re sorry. We messed up, the anti spam system got way too aggressive...we're putting in place some processes to make
sure that if the anti-spam system tries to get too aggressive again, we
can dial it back more quickly."
Something else will come along for that corner, but as Dr. Wharton said, "now that the citizen groups have their electronic networks in
place, it will be easy to rally the troops again when they're needed."
A thought about the war on the phony War on Christmas: it's taken some of the fun out of the season.
It used to be that you'd go around town and people would say "Merry Christmas" or "Have a great holiday" or whatever, and it all seemed to come from the same nice place.
But now every seasonal wish is a potential political statement.
Did that person just wish me a merry Christmas because they want me to have a merry Christmas, or did Bill O'Reilly enlist them in his crusade? Did that person want to wish me a merry Christmas, but went another route because the phrase is now a weapon in the culture wars?
Previously: "Here's the thing about Christmas: It's an American holiday as well as a religious one...Scrooge, school vacations, eggnog, old Coke commercials, the giant
Santa at Friendly Center, and a midnight Mass my wife and I once
attended at Notre Dame de Paris all coexist peacefully with my own
beliefs and practices."
NYT calls the Jamie Lynn Spears pregnancy story "a teachable moment."
Well, yeah. As the father a teenage daughter and a teenage son, I think there is plenty for us to discuss.
NYT: "High school girls here wondered aloud on Thursday why no one was talking about contraception." That will certainly figure in our conversations.
Not sure I understand the Atriosposition on this one -- yes, teenagers have sex and it's harmful to pretend they don't, but it's generally a bad thing when 16-year-olds get pregnant, and this strange family chose to sell the story of their pregnant child to the media, which would seem to undercut the outrage over people chiming in on the topic.
The fact that a young woman who plays a virgin on teevee got pregnant says less about the culture than the fact she's decided to play the whole thing out in public.
Wall Street Journal: "It didn't take a rocket scientist to steal a fortune from mortgage lenders in recent years."
Fraud goes a long way toward explaining why mortgage defaults and
foreclosures are rocking financial institutions, Wall Street and the
...Yet the system itself bears blame. The evolution of mortgages into a
securities instrument turned loan origination into a competition.
Caution gave way to a push for speed and volume. Embroiled in an
all-out war for market share, issuers reduced barriers to credit, for
example, by offering so-called "stated-income" loans, which require no
proof of income. "The stated-income loan deserves the nickname used by
many in the industry, the 'liar's loan,' " says the Mortgage Asset
Research Institute, which works with lenders to prevent fraud. A recent
review of a sampling of about 100 stated-income loans revealed that
almost 60% of the stated amounts were exaggerated by more than 50%,
Apologists for the mortgage industry claim, as Mr. Greenspan does in
his new book, that "the benefits of broadened home ownership" justified
the risks of unregulated lending.
But homeownership didn’t
broaden. The great bulk of dubious subprime lending took place from
2004 to 2006 — yet homeownership rates are already back down to
mid-2003 levels. With millions more foreclosures likely, it’s a good
bet that homeownership will be lower at the Bush administration’s end
than it was at the start.
You've got til Feb 3 to see the show at the Baltimore Museum of Art, but you can see a lot of Matisse bronzes and lithographs closer to home at the Weatherspoon Museum at the corner of Tate and Spring Garden in GSO (left, Madeleine I, Henri Matisse, 1901).
Nouriel Roubini, who's been bearishly correct about the housing and credit woes besetting the economy, will appear this evening on the television program of Larry Kudlow, who has been wrong about these things in roughly equal measure.
CNBC, 7 PM.
I shall be at a seasonal gathering, enjoying viands and sweetmeats and a dram (oh, and the company of friends), but I hope you enjoy the show.
Source. The site will start tracking water usage across the state, says the N&O.
"Gov. Mike Easley today urged all local water systems to begin charging higher rates to customers who use a lot of water...Higher rates, he said, would
discourage people from wasting water.
water use is beginning to creep up after a conservation push earlier
"...Easley said he would convene a meeting in
Greensboro on Jan. 14 of representatives of the 30 systems with the
lowest supplies to make sure they have back-up sources of water and
emergency plans in place. The representatives also will discuss plans
to connect their systems to those with more plentiful supplies."
Peter Cohan is a business professor at Babson College. He says the
Fed's money was expensive. But the banks grabbed it because they're
unwilling to lend to each other like they usually do.
Peter Cohan: Banks have lost confidence in each other. They've lost confidence in each other as credit risks.
says most banks are still sitting on mountains of losses from their
investments in subprime mortgage securities. Many aren't fessing up to
how badly they've been affected. So banks don't know who's a safe bet
to lend to.
My alma mater joins the make-college-more-affordable trend, replacing loans with grants and asking those who receive such funds to give to an endowment "throughout their lives as their means allow and the spirit moves, with no pre-set expectation of how much they contribute."
Curt Schilling on Roger Clemens: "If he doesn’t [take legal action to clear his name] then there aren't many options as a fan for me
other than to believe his career 192 wins and 3 Cy Youngs he won prior
to 1997 were the end. From that point on the numbers were attained
through using PED's [sic]....if that is the case
with Roger, the 4 Cy Youngs should go to the rightful winners and the
numbers should go away if he cannot refute the accusations."
On Barry Bonds: "Barry is pretty much the guy that’s been represented by the media as a whole in my opinion."
TypePad's comment-spam filter seems to be set a bit tight today --at least one comment got hung up here earlier, and I just had one of my own snagged at Guarino's.
Reminds me of the time a comment kept getting rejected at my old blog, and we finally figured out that the word "socialism" contains the word "cialis."
Anyway, it's not us, it's TypePad, and I've sent in a help ticket.
UPDATE: TypePad explained to me how to hand-select filtered comments for publication, so we should be current here. Over time, the software should improve its discernment of good from spam. Meanwhile, I'll try to remember to check the filter from time to time -- and please email me if your comment is rebuffed, I'll see that it gets published.
For all our crooked pols, and despite the rule that an appearance by North Carolina in the NYT is rarely good news, this really is in some ways a well-run state; this chart shows how we're doing on pension funding.
Casey Aldridge has been close to the Spears family, as both a hometown
boy dating youngest daughter Jamie Lynn and as a buffer standing
between the teenage actress and the pressures of Hollywood."He took amazing care of Jamie Lynn," a source close to the family
tells PEOPLE. "Anything ever went wrong, he always comforted her. He
took care of her."
Jamie Lynn and her mother say that Aldridge is the father of the 16-year-old Zoey 101 star's baby.
A banker with whom I do business sends these out every Christmas.
I can't bring them home, because my wife and daughter are allergic to nuts. I can't eat them all, because I would blow up and die. And I can't eat them slowly, because they are so good and I am so weak.
So I've been walking around my office building, offering them to the neighbors and stopping to chat a bit, which has been very pleasant and seasonal.
More from the column: "Hospitals that don’t use the fee-for-service model, like those run by
the Veterans Health Administration, are already getting better results
for less money. They closely track their performance — that is, the
health of their patients — and motivate employees to improve it."
Peter Jackson will exec produce -- but not direct -- two movies of The Hobbit.
NYT: "Mr. Jackson and his wife, Ms. Walsh, will be executive producers of the
Hobbit films, and they will share with New Line the right to approve
all creative elements: director, screenwriter, script, cast, filming
location, even the visual-effects company used (as if there were any
doubt that his Weta Digital would be chosen)."
More red ink on Wall Street, and another big buy-in from a foreign government. WSJ: "Morgan Stanley swung to a fourth-quarter loss as the company took $9.4 billion in
mortgage-related write-downs and announced a $5 billion investment from
China's sovereign wealth fund."
Christian Post: "The Institute for Creation Research, which teaches from a literal biblical worldview, in Dallas scored the recommendation of a state advisory committee last Friday. It
is now waiting for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to
make a final decision next month on whether to issue a certificate of
authority...state approval would allow the nonprofit to seek
accreditation from a regional recognized agency, most likely the
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
"While most of the institute’s
students end up teaching at private Christian schools, Nason shared
with the American Statesman, some may choose to teach in public schools
– which their degrees would qualify them to do."
Inside Higher Ed: "Texas is fast becoming a key state not only in debates over evolution
but over what kind of government scrutiny is important and legitimate
when reviewing colleges with particular ideologies."
Institute for Creation Research: "All things in the universe were created and made by God in the six literal days of the creation week described in Genesis."
Computing, as we experience it today, no longer takes a fixed,
concrete form. It occurs in the Internet's ever-shifting "cloud" of
data, software and devices. Our personal computer, not to mention our
Blackberry, our mobile phone, our gaming console and any other
networked gadget we use, is just another molecule of the cloud, another
node in the vast computing network. Fulfilling Napster's promise, our
PCs have merged with all the other devices on the Internet....
Read the rest of the excerpt here. Pretty dramatic stuff. I spent some time on the phone with Carr last week and will post that interview soon.
Jim Young: "About two minutes into the second half of Duke's game against Albany
on Monday night, Kyle Singler caught a pass on the right block, turned
and put up a shot that hit the rim and trickled off...it was the first time all game
that the Blue Devils had tried to score in the low post."
That is not going to work in the ACC. Dook had better hope Lance Thomas comes back soon from that sprained ankle.
With Web companies now beginning to dominate the
market for local ads online, newspaper publishers are scrambling to
change the way they sell ads, hiring sales teams that specialize in the
digital market and creating new editorial packages to sell. But it may
be a case of too little, too late...for the first time,
pure-play Web companies have the biggest share of the local online-ad
Local media companies, because they are based in the
communities they serve, would seem to have an edge over Internet
sellers when it comes to persuading the diner or corner hardware store
to take out an ad. But they have largely failed to convert that
advantage into sales. Instead of tailoring their sales to local
businesses, many newspaper companies initially focused on selling ads
to bigger advertisers who were already buying space in their print
Previously at this blog: "[The N&R] underinvested in new media and product quality as the
market began to change. Yes, it has been smart and forward-looking with
blogs, and it made early attempts at becoming an online platform, but I
haven't seen the kind of game-changing investments that show long-term
emphasis and a deep understanding of the ways the business will
continue to be transformed. Where's the meaningful local answer to
Google and Craigslist? Where's the local online ad market, and the
new-media counterattack on TV and radio?"
On the off chance that you were doing something on Saturday night other than watching Book TV on C-SPAN2...here's video of Eric Muller's appearance to discuss his new book, American Inquisition: The Hunt for Japanese American Disloyalty in World War II.