Welcome. This here blog offers what I learn, in commentary for all its worth. Know that I try to know best, when I know anything at all.

Journey onward!!!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Conversation with God re: The Lucky New York Giants

After catching the Giant's first touchdown of Super Bowl XLII, David Tyree counted his blessings. In an ulcerous fourth quarter, he caught a perfect bullet from Eli Manning down the middle of the end zone, putting the Giants up 10-7. Of course, he was the immediate subject of a Fox cameraman, who probably wasn't sure who had just caught the touchdown.

With the game ball held aloft, Tyree looked and said to the nation: "It's all God. It's all God, baby."

How DID Tyree appear out of nowhere that day? Though he credited God Almighty, let's be realistic: no doubt the game plan called for him, as he was offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride's secret weapon that day. His abilities as receiver were not being watched.

Nice move, Gilbride, near brilliant.

But what abilities? Noted special teamer Tyree had not caught a touchdown all year long, and never achieved 300 season yards receiving. Yet, somehow, his road brought him to Super Bowl XLII, where he proceeded to join mighty company in the annals of football history.

No surprise that "it's all God; it's all God, baby" would be Tyree's instinctive reaction.

After all, many people still hold that the 2007 Giants team, on the whole, just got lucky that day, that the entire post season run and Super Bowl victory were mere flukes.

Not a day goes by on the internet without some comment to that effect.

I reject this, but yet there is no denying a measure of luck did favor the Giants late 2007. Some go further, incredulously, to say this very same luck assigned the Giants a 12-4 campaign in 2008.

So, are the Giants lucky, or are they not? Today, I look to one whose insight is beyond all partisan leaning.

Here's what God had to say.

Excerpt from Interview
ME: "So, God, did you have Tyree in mind that day?"

GOD: "Not exactly. Tyree walked a certain path that I laid out, not unlike many paths others have taken before him. Another man could easily have walked Tyree's path, or a woman, or to a different destination."

ME: "Eh, right."

GOD: "In life, people often stray from my paths, some never to return. Tyree got there that day."

ME: "But you do realize that, because you are God, you are in part responsible for that miracle play, when Eli Manning somehow escaped the turf and heaved..."

GOD: [interrupts] "Yes, I know. I have always known. Circumstances are superfluous to name here."

ME: "Yes, of course. I'm sorry."

GOD: "You are forgiven. Yet I will try to be more specific. Balance is critical to the world's design; tides rise and ebb, such that it never overwhelms."

ME: "Ah, you're talking about the notion of tension and release."

GOD: "Yes, very good. This, I know, is what humans find most captivating about sporting."

ME: "Please, God, I understand circumstances are superfluous to name here, but you said you would try to be more specific."

GOD: "Tyree's catch was but one moment in a balanced scheme of luck; it was no outlier. I demonstrate this by recounting two plays prior to and after that fateful catch:
  • Two plays prior, Manning nearly fumbles the football on a scramble;
  • One play prior, a pass to Tyree was in then through the hands of Asante Samuel, the opposition;
  • During 'The Catch,' Manning is almost sacked, Tyree almost loses the football, yet neither occurred;
  • Next play, Manning is sacked;
  • Next play, Manning throws into double coverage for Tyree, risking interception."
Me: "Wow, great specifics, God. If anything, by your recount, luck appeared to favor the Patriots, save for the actual Manning-to-Tyree miracle."

GOD: "I know. When people walk the paths I set for them in good faith—knowing or unknowing, witting or unwitting—miraculous things do happen; within balance, of course. I am an equal opportunity benefactor, favoring all yet none."

ME: "..."

GOD: "Walking a path in good faith—be it to me or yourself—is the source of good fortune. There is no such thing as coincidental luck, namely that Tyree got there that day, with that group of people in those circumstances."

ME: "Thank you, God, I will think on this. Now, let's get back to the meaning of life..."

GOD: "By all means."

I now realize that Tyree, Eli, and the Giants were no luckier than anyone else on that field; they simply utilized their luck better.

Luck is a fleeting resource you must seize immediately, or else waste. Think of luck as something you manage, namely that when it comes your way, you had better be ready for it.

Consider TWO really hot French women at a bar, let's say in Montreal. As your man-luck would have it, they both take a liking to you, approach, and suggest un menage a trois. Shocked into wussiness, you respond like a little boy, attraction dies off, and you have no one to blame but yourself for failing your own good luck.

Alone, luck only carries you so far. God recounted that the Patriots had plenty of lucky chances to derail the Giants' final scoring drive; they failed their luck, plain and simple, while the Giants did not.

As God plainly suggested, there is "no such thing as coincidental luck" because He is an "equal opportunity benefactor, favoring all yet none [within] in a scheme of balance."

Thus the key to understanding God's oracle lies less in theology, and more in recognizing how luck actually works.

Luck only favors those who can capitalize on it. In professional sports, this does not come easy. If you were a lesser quarterback than Eli Manning, or else a lesser receiver than David Tyree, all that good luck in Super Bowl XLII might have gone right over your helmet (pun), or sacked into the turf.

However lucky, victory in football is not like winning the lottery. With every day's training and hard work, professional athletes get closer and closer to mastering luck. They do so by having faith and believing in themselves, namely their abilities and potential for greatness.

This is what God meant by the notion that "walking a path in good faith—be it to me or yourself—is the source of good fortune." Whether it is Eli Manning facing the red meat New York media his whole career, or David Tyree staying on the long path of hard work and little glory, they both persevered and thrived.

Luck favors these men because they have earned it. This is precisely why you and I will probably never win the lottery, for we can only be victims of luck, not its masters.

Nevertheless, two years on, many people still write off the Giants' Super Bowl victory as mere, unmerited luck. This is nonsense, yet it does not surprise me. As I observed elsewhere, in a society that worships microwaved celebrities a la American Idol, luck becomes an end all to itself and is thereby rendered meaningless.

I pity the people who honestly think the 2007 Giants "just got lucky," as I suspect they may have trouble appreciating life's finer depths. I would double down on this suspicion for people who write off the Giants' 2008 campaign in the same way.

Luck did not target Tyree, Eli, or the Giants, but rather that they targeted the luck. Yes, they got lucky, but capitalizing on luck of such high order demands skill, integrity, dedication, poise, and generally hard work. After all, they were pitted against Tom Brady and the indomitable 2007 Patriots.

And won.

Sometimes it is better to be lucky, too, than MERELY good.
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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Iran Knows: Republicans Want Obama to Fail in the Middle East, Too

Back during the campaign, then-Senator Joe Biden guaranteed that Obama would soon face an "international crisis, a generated crisis," one designed to "test [his] mettle." After North Korea, prophetic proof came again in the form of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, freshly returned as president with damning evidence of election fraud.

But I wonder: is Obama's true test coming from Iran, or actually from Republican opposition at home? Sometimes I'm really not sure.

Driving home from work tonight, I tuned into The Mark Levin Show to find the fiery, preeminent star of conservative talk radio downright abusing an Obama-aligned caller. At the incensed apex, he demanded that the overwhelmed caller read his book, Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto, then call back.

Yet one does not have to read the book to know Levin's response to Iran. His agenda is self-evident in the title, remote but clear.

To the Republicans and some Obama supporters alike, that the American president does not forcefully repudiate Iran is beneath contempt. At stake, of course, are the values and principles all Americans cherish. We elect a man not just to run the country, but to represent us as a people.

Nothing else matters. To hardline GOP hawks, Iran is an existential threat to America, nevermind nukes.

If life was a FPS video game, Obama's choice would be easy: reprimand Iran, denounce the legitimacy of the Khamenei regime, grandstand tall for the world to admire, and march down the glorious path to civilizational war (as expertly narrated by Spengler in 2006).

Unless, of course, the video game is a Sid Meier masterpiece, whereby the game is a portrait of life, not fantasy.

The Republicans badly want Americans to miss the Bush Doctrine, and for Sarah Palin to memorize it well by 2012. By appealing to raw American values, the GOP hits Obama where it hurts the most politically, namely for making an informed choice.

In fact, caution is the only choice Obama could have made. Had he responded to the Iranian election with unbridled indignation, an eventual US invasion is all but assured. After all, if you do not talk to an enemy with words, you talk with bullets.

Had Obama taken McCain's advice, erased are all diplomatic progress overtures in the Middle East to this point, possibly for good. Then we would be back at square one: bomb-bomb-bomb Iran. No McCain, you were not joking.

Yet, all joking aside, it may very well be that bombing Iran will come as the final act, the beginning of the end. But it is also apparent that if you think that, it is very likely you really will end up bombing Iran.

Is there no other way? Bombing Iran would spell the beginning of the end of our so-innocent Middle East enterprises.

The region would be set ablaze, awash in bloody rain beyond all fictitious fancy. Already I hear the first rumblings. Be assured that Iranian proxies Hamas of Gaza and Hezbollah of Lebanon, vis-à-vis the US Army in mighty Israel, are already licking their swords, struggling vainly at the noose leash.

I am not opposed to fighting, since war is how peace is made. Yet I, and many others, should be careful what we wish for.

Do not forget the 2006 humiliation the Israel military puppy suffered against Hezbollah in Lebanon, or, more poignantly, the ongoing Iraq quagmire initiated by the American pit bull. Nevermind the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan the failed state, affectionately known as the Af-Pak war theater recently unveiled by Impresario Obama.

It is painfully apparent that, at present, Iran is not a fight we can win without another Nagasaki. Yet if Iran does develop nuclear warheads, let them beware.

This sobering reality has shaken me enough for a second take on my world view. If we must fight, then we fight. But, given present circumstances, what we should NOT do is guarantee a fight a la Bush Doctrine.

Things are bad enough already.

To think: here is Iran, landlocked by Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and a fleet of indomitable American maritime fortresses. All the while, John McCain makes funny about bombs (he should joke about President Oh-bomb-ma).

If I were Iran, I would build me a nuke, you betcha. Why else do you think the US is so convinced Iran is weaponizing plutonium?

I am not an Iran apologist, but a grudging voice of reason. There are realities one must consider before succumbing to professed ideology. This is, of course, my definition of a postpartisan act, as channeled by Obama. If I must sacrifice my precious American values for contingent wisdom every now and then, then let it be so.

Apparently, wisdom is no longer a virtue for the GOP crazies, not in matters of foreign policy. If we have to prove this factoid with blood ONCE AGAIN to the American people, I'm moving back to Hong Kong.

We have already leveled two Middle East countries; how many more before hardline conservatives learn a lesson? How many more before ALL Americans know folly when they see it?

If no one else, Obama has learned from the Bush Doctrine. Yet, the average American, who will never be as smart or engaged as our president, can glean as much from the writing on the wall.

Namely, when one model of reality is proven false, it's time to try something else. Insanity, as Einstein sagely suggested, "is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Please, someone pass this timeless bit of wisdom on to the neoconservatives, who have long had their chance on Capitol Hill.

My hope is that enough voters know better. Obama's timid response to Iran is, of course, part and parcel of his vague campaign promise of "postpartisan change." Clearly, Obama supporters who now regret their vote did not think through the matter of Iran. More than that, these people—who cannot stand up to the Mark Levin's and John McCain's of the world—should be careful what they wish for.

"Peace through superior firepower," they say? Yes, but not in a war wherein nukes are involved and the odds are stacked against our favor, please.

In a way, Iran gave a test to the American people, not Obama. Unwittingly, the Republican party has become Iran's surrogate mouthpiece.

The Republicans know Obama's is an informed choice, which is precisely why they can attack it. After all, the average voter does not have the time of day to be informed. Between the "smart" and the "right" thing to do, there is a 50/50 chance the GOP will hit blackjack, and they know it.

Apparently the GOP wants to roll Obama in the same Middle Eastern mud that they are still choking on.

How I wish that 17 year-old caller on the Mark Levin show could have read this post first, and how I long to be in that caller's place, forcing Levin to reveal his true face (see picture of Bush at top) to the talk radio masses.

Listen, forget all that. Moving forward, our choice is simple: do we bomb, or don't we bomb Iran? If you cannot make this decision, just shut up and listen to Obama, OKAY?????

UGH stop fucking with me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Buyers Be Aware: The Real Apple Premium

Luxury goods come at a high price. By being remarkably superior to the competition, consumers are willing to pay a cost premium simply because they merit the price. Apple revels in this business model, etching out a powerful niche in the PC market against which rivals cannot yet hope to compete.

Most Mac users testify to a peerless computing experience. Spurning the headache that is Windows, they are more than happy to pay an expensive premium for a superior product.

Yet there is much more to the superiority of Apple computers than meets the eye. That the Mac experience merits its price is only one half of the Apple premium.

The other half is unadvertised and often unthought of. It demands that users pay extra to help Apple uphold its market exclusivity, something vital in ensuring the superior Mac computing experience.

In this unusual and brilliant reversal, the Apple premium actually merits the product.

No one should buy a Mac unless they find both realities palatable.

Reality One: Product Merits Price
This post is not a piece of anti-Apple propaganda. Consumers are not mistaken to recognize the superior quality of Mac machines.

With little exception, Mac users say the computing experience more than justifies their investment. In a nutshell, the Apple experience is everything the PC is not. Macs promise to 'just work' out-of-the-box, retain its 'youth' over time, require little maintenance, and resist malicious attacks.

Many Mac users testify that, for the most part, these promises hold as advertised.

Deep down, no child hardened by the Microsoft age can be unmoved by such promises. For many, the Apple experience cures the persistent headache that is Windows. To them, Macs are not overpriced, but merit an expensive premium that is worth every penny.

It is hard to disagree with them. Besides, Macs are mad sexy.

Reality Two: Price Merits Product
In singing the Mac's praises, its secret ingredient to success is often overlooked: exclusivity in the PC market.

Mac computers are luxury products, occupying a tiny piece of the PC market pie. Yet, in the face of economic recession, Apple's high-rolling pricing strategy remains unchanged. Clearly the company is not interested in growing beyond the niche PC market where it dominates unchallenged.

This strategy may dumbfound economics students, but I suspect it is precisely what Apple wants.

In the PC world, a small market share translates into fewer external pressures. For one, it is a natural security shield against malicious software. It reduces the interest of third-party software developers, thereby minimizing end-user headaches and OS bloat. It also gives Apple more freedom to design and control its OS as it pleases.

In this view, a small market share is a matter of existential importance to ensuring the peerless Mac experience. It is perhaps why Apple must continue to charge high prices, even during an economic recession.

After all, why else would students buying an expensive Mac net them an iPod Touch freebie? Apple would try anything before a price drop.

That the high price of Macs puts a natural limit on the number of its adopters is no coincidence. The Apple premium, which some call the "Apple Tax," is what creates the exclusivity vital to the Mac's overall success.

Put another way, the Apple premium actually merits the product.

These realities, I suspect, are not lost on Steve Jobs. From the shadows of irrelevance, he shrewdly observed Windows come of age, noting its myriad strengths and weaknesses. A man of his brilliance must see that Apple can simply price itself above the storm that mires Windows, provided that consumers are willing to pay the premium.

To Jobs and company's great credit, many people can't be happier to buy into Apple's vision of the PC world.

An astute friend of mine likened Macs to a serene country club vìs-a-vìs Windows to an overcrowded public park. The analogy cannot be more apt. Paying the Apple premium does not only get you a good computer, but also residence in a digital gated community.

Having been a prospective buyer, I went as far as to put back-of-the-envelope numbers to this theory. With the baseline 17" MacBook Pro costing $2,500, I certify that it is entirely possible to get a comparably spec-ed, coupon-free Windows machine for $1,500, probably less. In this scenario, the Apple premium is $1,000 in total, of which $500 gets you a superior OS, able first-party apps, and a damn sexy machine.

The other $500 of that premium, of course, is your ticket into the Apple country club.

Prospective buyers should be aware that, while apt, the fallacy in this analogy is self-evident.

On the one hand, parkland is a fixed space and cannot be scaled to fit more people. Competing against free but overcrowded public parks, the expensive country club is merited by intrinsic value, namely open space.

On the other hand, in the digital world, the concept of open space does not exist. Virtual scalability is the name of the game; whoever scales better, faster, more ingeniously, wins. Just ask Google, Microsoft, or Wikipedia, all "public parks" who merited their success by scaling its services to as many users as possible.

Yet this is exactly opposite of the Mac business model. By pricing its machines as luxury goods, Apple thrives on high profit margins while limiting its user base. Platform scalability—the traditional yardstick for innovation in software engineering—is rendered nearly meaningless by the Mac's market strategy.

There is nothing unusual about the luxury goods business model, except that it is being applied to the PC industry.

Steve Jobs laughs in the face of Windows' struggles because, in a "country club," economies of scale are irrelevant. Apple can and will continue to thumb its nose at the industry, provided that enough willing people pay the Apple premium to keep the Mac club exclusive.

Personally, this strategy feels like a cop out for a premier OS developer like Apple.

Still, no matter how one looks at it, Steve Jobs is the only man who can eat off Microsoft's table. At present, Apple's strategy is brilliantly successful. The quality experience and soaring popularity of the Mac brand all but ensures its persistence in the foreseeable future.

My Conclusion
There is nothing wrong or evil about the Mac business model, or with paying the Apple premium to perpetuate it. Beyond question, Mac computers merit the price premium. Be aware, however, that the premium you pay is also meriting the product.

By paying the Apple premium, YOU erect the walls around the Mac gated community, making it serene and desirable. Apple only pours the foundation, and decorates walls better than anyone.

That Apple users have paid many hundreds extra to help Apple maintain its market exclusivity is not my idea of an honorable business model. It should be the producer's responsibility, not the consumers'.

In a sense, Apple passes the true cost of innovation on to the consumers, and it will do so until a worthy competitor emerges.

If you find this reality palatable, then by all means, buy a Mac. You won't be disappointed. Though bear in mind: in the amoral marketplace, you can feel a winner and yet be a loser all the same, both consumer and producer alike.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Spengler Exposé

Several times in this blog, I have taken on Spengler's writings as inspiration for my own. David P Goldman, a religious American Jew writing under the pseudonym Spengler for Asia Times Online, recently lifted his veil after a decade of closeted commentary.

For all his controversial, incendiary and often conceited opinions, it is not surprising he chose to remain anonymous. As a result, I've been criticized for springboarding off his work while leaving unchallenged his opinionated world view. Most recently, my post on Spengler's take on American Idol has ruffled some feathers and deserves better exposition.

This post is dedicated to conveying why I have not directly challenged Spengler's presuppositions about American Idol. In short, it is beyond my ability to do so. What I have attempted, however, is to challenge his conclusions in the only way that I am capable, namely on the basis of intuition.

I have never read anyone with whom who I agree and disagree so strongly before, often at the same time. Perhaps it is this paradox that gives Spengler his allure, and why I read his columns extensively. He is not the typical, simple-minded ideologue. Rare among his peers, especially in right-wing opinion these days, Spengler has developed a rather unique, cohesive, and cultish system of thought in which his opinions are bred.

Conceptually, I find that refreshing, compelling, and inspirational, even if I don't consider myself adherent to his world view.

I once read that one measure of a person's intelligence is the ability to hold two contradictory thoughts in their mind at the same time. I don't remember who said that, nevertheless I have taken those words as a vow, a challenge with which to discover my own sense of integrity and intellectual congruity. I am a long, long way from that journey's end but frankly, I know of no other way to go about it.

What began as a simple plea for support from my friend Steve, turned into an expository essay on the world that is Spengler's. While I understand Spengler on an intuitive level, I lack the ability to efficiently verbalize what Steve has done here. What would have taken me months to compose, Steve completed in the span of an hour or two without batting an eye. Thanks man!

For those interested, here is Spengler's world as channeled by Steve, one who has ruminated through his writing for years uncounted. Though it may not seem so at first, Steve will steer his narrative back to American Idol ere the end to great effect.


So this is just me, chiming in on Spengler and what he has to say about American Idol. I want to do this because I think Spengler is worth it, and that the things that make him worth understanding are precisely the things that make him difficult to understand, particularly when you take his work column by column, isolated utterance by isolated utterance. Spengler is one of the few truly systematic thinkers writing about politics and culture for an audience of layman today. It is difficult to explicate his work because it is one integrated system. It's hard to know where to begin.

One good starting point is with his discussions of paganism. Paganism is a central concept in understanding his critique of Western modernity and of the fraught history of Abrahamic monotheism. He ascribes a deep significance to the worship of a totally abstract, transcendent deity, and the otherworldly religiosity that attends it. Christian otherworldliness devalued the actual world. To become a Christian meant being severed from your old life and old self, to cut your roots and enter unto a new life. Life in the Christian community meant experiencing death, and become a new person.

By contrast, paganism elevated the self image of human beings into the order of the cosmos. The pagan god was an expression of narcissism, with every people, every ethnicity having its own pantheon of gods. The Abrahamic god was totally transcendent and could not be represented by images; such a god cannot be represented by physical, external reality but can be felt as an internal presence. Where the pagan god was a narcissistic reflection of the self, the Abrahamic god was an absolute other.

So according to Spengler, the conversion of the West to Christianity was incomplete; the latent paganism of the barbarian peoples of Europe never completely disappeared. Much of the history of the west can be understood as a consequence of this incomplete conversion. One must ask whether a complete conversion could ever occur. Christianity is an extremely difficult religion to follow, for it asks us to believe, to really and sincerely believe, that 2000 so years ago, God, the lord and omnipotent master of the universe, became a lowly carpenter in ancient Palestine who was willingly crucified out of love for humanity. One who believes must place all of his faith in the otherworldly love of God, and of eternal life. Naturally, this is an impossibly high standard.

What happened to Europe was that it found it could not believe in eternal love and salvation, and so looked instead to a modern form of idolatry, that is, ethnic nationalism. The idea that one's culture and way of life will continue long after one dies is the only form of immortality that modern man believes in. With the collapse of religious belief, man has looked to new gods.

Now, on to a discussion of Spengler's ideas about music. For Spengler, the glories of Western culture are a direct result of Christian spirituality. In particular, he sees the soaring, transcendent achievements of Western classical music from Bach through Beethoven as being the highest expression of Christian spirituality. The total transcendence of the Abrahamic god was an impetus to Western composers to express the inexpressible reality of God's sublime being. In this, I am somewhat inclined to agree with him. Anyone familiar with the history of Western classical music knows how bound up with sacred music and the musical setting of liturgical texts that history has been.

Now what does all of this have to do with American Idol? I am sorry to be roundabout about things. American Idol. Idol, idolatry. I can see why the show would be such a tempting target for him. I wanted to give you some idea of the complexity of Spengler's thought, and of how it all hangs together. I think Spengler views popular culture as another expression of paganism. He reiterates this idea over and over again, that people would rather listen to music produced by people much like themselves and that doesn't force them to stretch themselves. For Spengler, the collapse of Christian religiosity was a cultural catastrophe, because with it went the belief that people needed to look beyond themselves for a standard of value. For modern man, the self is the measure of all things. They no longer even aspire to learn about and equal what is great. Not only that, but today people increasingly feel only confusion and resentment towards the great achievements of the past. In other words, Spengler sees the egalitarian, populist strains in American culture, its more democratic aspects, as being deeply destructive, even decadent in many ways, and that much of this because, at its base, is resentment of whatever makes us feel bad about ourselves. Feeling bad about ourselves is, of course, the beginning of aspiration.

Now, do you see why Spengler detests American Idol, and why I do not have the facility to challenge him?
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Monday, May 18, 2009

2009 NY Giants and the Plaxico Trap

Many people think the Giants are doomed if they don't replace Plaxico Burress with a big time veteran wide receiver. Not just fans, but a majority of mainstream media, beat writers and their like have published strong opinions to that effect. I thought so too, for a time.

It is easy to see why people would think so, seeing as how Plax's blunder cost his team the 2008 post season. But it is harder to see how everyone is missing the point, namely that the 2008 Giants collapsed due to their game plan, not Plax.

As I opined several months ago, losing Plax was so catastrophic precisely because the offensive game plan relied entirely too much on his presence.

He bears his share of fault, namely for putting a hole in his own thigh, but it was not his fault the Giants collapsed as a result. Plax is a football player, a drone, not the team's strategist who made him so crucial in the offensive scheme. The 2008 Giants' problem was rooted in the game plan, not Plaxico per se. Even the horrid playcalling we witnessed was an extension of the failed game plan.

Calls to replace Plax, then, actually amount to a call for more of the same: a thin playbook based on a power running game plan denominated by Plaxico Burress, the same strategy that tore apart at the seams late 2008.

Is this really the offensive game plan Giants fans want to see rehashed in 2009? Bear in mind: despite Super Bowl glory in 2007 and a 11-1 run in 2008, it turned out the incumbent strategy was much too precarious. A normal football injury might as well have been a bullet hole; either way the Giants offense would have collapsed, whether it happened to Plax or some other peer receiver.

Yet it appears lots of people do want more of the same, considering the tone of the many analyses and op-eds out there, not to mention fan comments therein. I pity the panicked fans who worry if Hakeem Nicks, our round one draftee, can fill Plax's shoes. Even more incredulously, some believe the free agency improvements we made to the defense, and spending high draft picks on receivers, were merely bargaining chips to service a trade for some Plax-caliber receiver.

I concede it is possible that, if the Giants really want to double down on the 2007-2008 game plan again in 2009, they will acquire Braylon Edwards, Anquan Boldin, or some equivalent receiver at all costs. But the Giants organization has not forgotten how that game plan turned out. I don't know about GM Jerry Resse or Tom Coughlin, but my wound from that spectacular breakdown is still open fresh.

Reese clearly still feels it. Passing up the free agency market and drafting rookie receivers instead was a clear signal he wants to move forward. I think the Giants brass knows the 2008 unraveling was due not to the loss of Plax, but rather to the team tapestry into which his role was woven; it was really the game plan that failed.

Fans calling for a Plax replacement should be careful what they wish for, and experts should know better. The mainstream fixation on replacing Plax demonstrates that many Giants watchers are missing the point, namely that to successfully move forward, one must reconcile instead of replicating the past.

Too many salaried journalists have shown they do not understand the past, suggesting that they don't really think about what they're writing. While the casual fan is excused, journalists deserve no such reprieve.

It makes me glad football organizations are not democratically run, and to see that GM Jerry Reese knows better (so does Brandon Jacobs). Moving forward, he understands that nothing helps a transitional offense more than a fearsome defense.

I predict this is exactly what the Giants will get in 2009, if the rookie defensive coordinator holds up. Our first-class defensive line just got a whole lot deeper and is now arguably world-class. The linebacking corps, perhaps the weaker defensive unit, received a nice boost in free agency and the draft. The secondary is populated by talented backs with experience of the highest standard. On average, the Giants' defense is just entering their prime.

More than anyone in the offense, the big question mark looms over coordinator Kevin Gilbride. Though he likely masterminded the Plax game plan, he needs to prove he was also a victim of bad fortune, that his playcalling circa late 2008 was really not as bad as it looked. This will largely define our overall success in 2009.

Even if 2009 brings a fresh new game plan, we must take care to retain lessons learned. When the 2007 playoff Giants upset opponent after opponent, they looked in the mirror and learned just how "perfect" an imperfect team can be. Defeating the "perfect" Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, then falling flat after a near brilliant 2008 campaign, the Giants learned just how imperfect a "perfect" team can be.

These are valuable lessons that make champions. With that in mind, I look forward to the 2009 campaign without Plax. And for the record, as Plaxico Buress is no longer a Giant, herein will be the last time I refer to him affectionately as Plax.

September can't come soon enough!!!!!!!!

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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

And The Next American Idol Is.. Yourself? Yay?

For anyone interested in a scathing thesis on why American Idol is so popular, and its implications for Western culture at large, I recommend a courageous read.
The day is gone when a smile and a shoeshine will get you a shot at the American dream, but a smile and a song can still get you a chance at instant stardom.

More than ever, audiences in the West validate their own mediocrity by crowning stars-for-a-day. That is the message of [vain] hope that Susan Boyle bears to the beleaguered Anglo-Saxon world. Meanwhile, in China, 60 million children are learning music the hard way.

Here is Spengler, at his best, commenting on the symbolism of a certain Susan Boyle's victory in the British version of the singing contest. He basically warns that the West lives in a fantasy world, with real consequences in the real world where in walks China.

In said article, Spengler judges "pop culture" against "high culture," which really isn't a fair comparison by today's standards. Nevertheless, the balance in America does lean toward "pop" over "high" concerns even in times of crisis, whether it's AIG and Wall Street bonuses, stupid pirates or pig flu. Some believe this trait carries irrevocable consequences, especially in a self-governing democracy.

Here is Spengler's basic argument: while Americans aspire to musical mediocrity on American Idol, large numbers of Chinese are diligently learning Western classical piano. In other words, while the West is consumed with "validating its own mediocrity," the Chinese are keen on bettering themselves through the study of "high culture."

To Spengler, when a civilization has lost perspective on high culture, it is driving down Decadence Lane. When it comes to cultural aspiration, he believes the American character is firmly en route to being surpassed by its Chinese counterpart.

Analysis - Stage One

It is almost amusing how aspects of American culture completely disgust Spengler, revealed to be a Mr. David Goldman. While in some sense it is difficult to find fault in his criticism, conceit runs deep in his bolder conclusions (as I will point out).

Be that as it may, the significance of his criticism merits wider attention.

Spengler finds truths in the way a civilization manifests its own history. In China, centuries of national strife and humiliation have etched virtues of thrift and diligence into the modern Chinese with a "conviction that the world shows no mercy to mediocrity." On the other hand, the modern American has pioneered a microwavable world wherein "high culture" is edged by a "slacker's desire of reward with neither merit nor effort."

It is a fair criticism, agreeable to those disgusted by unbridled materialism and celebrity culture; or presumptuous reality shows, Wall Street alchemy, Facebook narcissism, so on and so forth.

But the Chinese may be little better off, contrary to what Spengler implies. However more thrifty or diligent they may be, a culture of strict discipline can seed a decadence of its very own. Their intensive musical studies, while more valuable than Guitar Hero, may cause bereavement of other kinds.

As a case in point, here is a story imparted to me by a good friend:

I'll never forget that I had a friend from China in middle school. I went over to his house and his sister was practicing the piano for some recital. I guess she missed a note and her parents just went ballistic on her. I remember thinking, damn she sounded all right to me. Maybe she was just screwing around or something; I've always told myself she missed a note, but she seemed hard at work on that piano.

I will leave the reader's imagination to measure the significance of this account. I dare not speculate, but would venture to say that our freedom to slack off vis-a-vis their regimented discipline both have its price.

To dismiss Spengler's observations on this basis, however, is to miss the point. While I believe he overstates the integrity of the Chinese character, his warning of decadence in the West stands on its own.

Analysis - Stage Two

Simply bettering oneself for betterment's sake seems to be an overlooked enterprise these days. The deep popularity of shows like American Idol suggests that Americans are more concerned with showmanship and microwaved celebrities. This triumph of mediocrity over high culture, Spengler argues, presents nothing higher for people to aspire to other than their own average selves.

I am sympathetic to this argument.

Consider the case of musical studies. American parents often think that joining the school band or taking private lessons will help their kids get better grades. While this holds some truth, these parents are completely missing the point.

Involvement in music isn't about getting good grades, nor for the sake of participating in "high culture." Rather it is about simply getting good at doing something (read: anything). The best activity, of course, is the kind that teaches how to better yourself. Why any parent would need other reasons for musical studies, scientific or not, is beyond my understanding.

Do we really need a reason to commit to something other than to better ourselves? It seems that we do, perhaps because Americans feel little need to better ourselves beyond who we already are.

We feel we have arrived; the American Century was unfolding before our very eyes, with the pre-9/11 world coming to order. All major wars have ended, save for the ones we begin. As the sole superpower, the world was our backyard. Wealth, prestige, influence, power, morality, these are all things Americans have harvested in abundance and come to take for granted by the 21st century.

After all, why struggle to better ourselves when we have already made it?

If the Chinese do surpass us one day, it will not be because of their incubated diligence and discipline. Rather it will be our own complacency that drives the West into decline.

(Perhaps we can find solace in the fact that China is probably headed down the same road toward a consumerist existence. After all there's nothing like materialistic complacency to wipe out the hard-learned lessons of history. This we should know.)

One thing about Spengler's dire warning is for certain: the West still has no idea what kind of trouble it's in.
If Westerners think the present recession is unpleasant, they cannot begin to imagine how the recovery will look, for it may occur entirely remote to them, on the other side of the world.

It is harder and harder to dismiss the awful thought that Americans, too, might require long experience with hard times to restore the sort of diligence that their Chinese counterparts learned at such a high price.

May he be proved wrong. In the meantime, who will be the next American Idol? You? Yay?
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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Miss Cali Thinks Gay Marriage Is Not Right, But Does That Make It Wrong?

Miss California made a fatal gaffe at the venerable Miss USA pageant, or did she? Basically she stood up and gave her honest opinion on gay marriage, saying she was brought up to believe that marriage "should be between a man and a woman." Respectable an opinion as that is, her response became red meat for partisans on both sides of the issue.

See for yourself.

The general public's response to this is as you would expect, namely praised by some as ideologically pure and derided by others as ignorant bigotry. These are, of course, dead end talking points, so I feel motivated to offer an alternative angle on this touchy gaffe.

There may be no wrong answer to the question of gay marriage, but I believe there is in fact a right answer.

The way I see it, Miss California should have said 'I don't believe gay marriage is right, but that doesn't mean gay marriage is wrong.' Such an answer would have been at once politically correct and in line with her stated morals.

Had she said that, I bet she would have gotten every single one of those judges' votes for her encompassing vision; she would have gotten mine. Instead, she basically said 'I believe straight marriage is right, which means gay marriage is wrong but oh, it's ok if you do it; it's a free country."

In my view, there is nothing wrong with her principles per se, but that is simply the wrong answer.


Other than the fact that I am an admirer of painfully hot women, I am not interested in these pretty contests. What does interest me about this particular gaffe is that it showcases the woefully black-and-white vision of the world many Americans are comfortable with.

The notion that either you're right or you're wrong--you're with us or against us--simply repulses me. Life is never as simple as a rulebook. When a partisan blasts the viewpoint of an opposing partisan, usually he is just as guilty of myopic vision as his counterpart. This is a classic case of existential hypocrisy that I hope to explore here at a later date.

Consider the case of Miss California. Had she given the answer I suggested above, she would have in fact demonstrated a POST-partisan understanding of gay marriage. By suggesting that gay marriage is not right but not wrong either, she could have genuinely vindicated gay marriage without sacrificing her own moral integrity and sense of honesty.

If you listen closely, that is basically what she was trying to say. In her full statement, she began by stating that "it's great that Americans are able to choose one or the other . . . [that] we live in a land [where] we can choose same or opposite sex marriage." However she failed miserably at reconciling this open-minded statement with her subsequent and proud declaration of heterosexual supremacy.

(I recently read this great quote by G.K. Chesterton: "when the modern man see two truths that seem to contradict each other, he would take the two truths and the contradiction along with them." Apparently this afflicts modern women as well.)

Fortunately I am here to connect the dots for dear Miss California. By having cheered the freedom to choose, she basically suggested that there possibly exists an overriding ethos of responsibility and pragmatism which trumps the rigidity of ideological belief, namely her own.

(Yet I am not convinced she really knew she was actually suggesting this, which doesn't exactly surprise me considering how modern and hot she is 0_0)

This is, as I have asserted elsewhere, my definition of a true post-partisan stance. The post-partisan may take partisan positions, but he also recognizes that there may be greater truths to which he must submit.

In other words, you can support gay marriage without being a supporter of gay marriage.

Americans, however, are generally not bred to think this way. We are raised to cherish the sanctity of individual opinion. That is all fine and good, but unfortunately life is not as simple as a rulebook, and as such certain social issues intrinsically lie beyond the purview of partisan opinion. Such it may be for gay marriage, that is if you believe gay people are precisely that: people.

In a democratic society, the tenet of self-governance demands that we look beyond rigid partisan beliefs with the understanding that not one party has the right answers. The fact that Americans are generally satisfied with knee-jerk partisan outbursts tells me that perhaps self-governance is getting to be a burden too heavy to bear (see my post on AIG).

Incidentally, I happen to agree with Miss California in that gay marriages are not right. However I also recognize that just because I think it is not right, that does not make it wrong. This effectively puts me in the pro-gay marriage camp, although I am not pro-gay marriage per se.

This is what a healthy democracy should be all about. I fancy Obama might agree that I have been a good post-partisan on this issue. Taxing my RYO tobacco habit, however, would be an entirely different story..
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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

GM in America, Land of the Subprime?

The joke is on us. If you thought the subprime mortgage market collapse was "funny," then the auto market collapse is even funnier. GM, as it turns out, was no less subprime than home owners in Arizona who borrowed beyond their means. Like Washington, our bankruptcy-bound automaker had presided over a business model running almost entirely on debt.

They call it 'borrowing,' but in reality Wall Street was basically GM's way of printing its own money. It is no coincidence that, just as Wall Street collapsed, GM executives promptly knocked on Washington's door. They were begging the Treasury to print some money for their company because, for the first time, Wall Street (and GMAC) didn't have any left to bail them out.

To Washington, this was something wholly new, but to GM it was just business as usual. What difference does it make that GM is bailed out by Washington or Wall Street? Perhaps one: GM is now dealing with a lender with real teeth and some semblance of conscience. After all, we are talking about prospective taxpayer money here.

The truth is that GM was crushed beneath an old weight. It was a slow death because up until 2008, plentiful Wall Street loans kept GM humming indefinitely. Armed with credit eternal, GM made and sold enough cars to make its minimum loan payments. All the while GM's debt kept ballooning and its global competitiveness continued to falter.

But that was fine with GM, apparently, so long as it could borrow enough money to pay its bills.

Little did Wall Street know it was lending to a subprime borrower in GM. Perhaps GM itself did not know. Actually, maybe regulators, bankers and rating agencies just ignored some facts (from 2004) and made the loans out anyway. This kind of self-assured negligence in Washington and Wall Street is precisely what precipitated the subprime mortgage market crash and vaporized a whole lot of phantom wealth.

Sadly, GM's bankruptcy will vaporize more than just wealth, namely tens of thousands of jobs.

This is not just about GM. What brought down the ill-fated automaker also brought much of the American economy to its knees. See job losses in 2008. As it turns out, credit flowed from Wall Street to credit-unworthy or -addicted borrowers across the economic spectrum. The question now is who will be the latest on the chopping block.

Don't just take it from me, but from the man who saw it all coming: Nouriel Roubini, affectionately known as Dr. Doom, who had the strength of will to see through mainstream pre-2008 economics. Everything he is about to say in the following warning is worth looking out for:
This crisis is not merely the result of the U.S. housing bubble’s bursting or the collapse of the United States’ subprime mortgage sector. The credit excesses that created this disaster were global. There were many bubbles, and they extended beyond housing in many countries to commercial real estate mortgages and loans, to credit cards, auto loans, and student loans. There were bubbles for the securitized products that converted these loans and mortgages into complex, toxic, and destructive financial instruments. And there were still more bubbles for local government borrowing, leveraged buyouts, hedge funds, commercial and industrial loans, corporate bonds, commodities, and credit-default swaps—a dangerous unregulated market wherein up to $60 trillion of nominal protection was sold against an outstanding stock of corporate bonds of just $6 trillion.
(read the whole thing here)

This is a joke on us. Have we emerged from the American Century not only as the sole superpower, but also a subprime nation in disguise? When the American economy looks itself in the mirror, does it see GM? How about that family with the foreclosed home? Just don't ask Dr. Doom.

One thing is for sure: we reap what we sow. Wall Street made us rich beyond imagination; too rich, as it turns out. By the 21st century, we had too much wealth chasing too few worthy investment opportunities. So Wall Street, with Washington's nod, proceeded to loan out to the unworthy, the subprime, the GMs of the world, and any family who happens to wants a house.

(Hell, even to illegal immigrants; I mean come on, why not! The party was just getting started!)

After all, Wall Street had no choice. The only alternative was to forfeit the wealth flowing into our markets from all around the world and say, "thanks but no thanks, heehee, we are too rich already." But of course, no self-respecting capitalist nation could ever do such a wrong thing. Certainly not Wall Street, the key driver and underwriter of the indomitable American economy.

This is precisely why our best and brightest minds worked on Wall Street, and why the sum of Wall Street bonuses can dwarf entire nations. This is also why AIG "deserves" its retention bonuses (as I have argued) and Wall Street managed to bag the sixth largest all-time bonus payout in 2008, as I have previously reported.

(F*%&-ing EH, where were the pitch forks for the Wall Street bonuses??!?! AIG was NOTHING compared to what the real banks got. I'm REALLY pissed about that. It was appalling, what populist Washington did to AIG. Democracy at its worse, I'm sorry to conclude.)

It may be hard to imagine today, but there was a time when Wall Street was a legitimate force respected worldwide (even if grudgingly). Of course, this was before Wall Street had to squeeze corners and coax the subprime to keep growing, and growing, and growing, which is what capitalism is all about: relentless growth for profit and shareholders, often at a cost that is not immediately apparent.

Capitalists, as such, cannot escape the temptation of alchemy, that elusive art of spinning straw into gold. The best kind of money is, of course, the kind that you don't have to do anything to make. Just ask Wall Street.

Admit it, you wish you had a friend named Rumpelstiltskin, just like the American economy and GM had a friend named Wall Street.

Whether we like it or not, the post-industrial American economy, as it were, is done for. "Change" is coming and it has nothing to do with Obama's initiative, whose job is merely to administer change. It is "change" we might have to believe in.

The biggest irony is that this crisis was made in our own subprime image. Like GM, Washington saw this coming with eyes wide shut. Have our free markets grown to a weight that can rival that of any centrally planned economy?

Now that, my friends, is a scary thought.

Forget about AIG bonuses or Obama palling around with Jay Leno or his stupid teleprompter. That the very notion of American capitalism is under siege at home and abroad should receive our full attention.

I for one never imagined I would write as I am about these topics. Hell I can't even vote yet!!

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Part 1 - AIG Bonuses Are Immoral, But That Is a Good Thing

Anger can be therapeutic, so can drama. Therapy, however, does not always diagnose accurately. Especially when the therapist is a politician, we should all know better. The mad drama surrounding the AIG bonuses is such that one is hard pressed to separate reality from truth.

I juxtapose truth and reality because, in reality, there is every reason to demonize AIG and Wall Street. After all, the financial sector did bring down our economy. In truth, however, these are bankers and executives who were merely doing their jobs. To punish them is to punish guilt by association, while the real culprits of the financial crisis lie safely elsewhere.

Do not forget that there was nothing illegal about the practices that brought our economy to its knees. For the sake of keeping our eyes on the ball (forthcoming in Part 2), I will defend AIG insofar as reality permits and truth allows.

In Truth
Bonuses are standard practice on Wall Street, be they performance- or retention-based. Even when financial firms suffer big losses, big bonuses are still doled out to executives in the name of retaining their services and clientele. However reasonable they may be, retention bonuses alone seem unconscionably huge to the common man.

But the truth is, these exorbitant sums accurately reflect the importance of finance to the post-industrial American economy. Simply put, Wall Street salaries and bonuses are set in proportion to its real economic worth, not by losses in a single fiscal year. $165 million does not sound unreasonable in today's context.

I have argued in another post that, even today, our economy needs Wall Street more than Wall Street needs us. Certainly the massive and grudging bailouts of Wall Street and AIG affirms this point. Without Wall Street, the most desirable aspects of the American lifestyle that each one of us covets (admit it) would not be possible.

Until our reliance on Wall Street changes--and it will--AIG deserves its bonuses as much as they ever did, plain and simple.

The truth is, why should it make a difference whether their bonuses are comprised of tax money from their fellow citizens or deposits from far off Asian savers? Their bonuses are deserved because Wall Street gave us our lifestyle, albeit one that eventually drove us into the ground. But what's that got to do with them? Nothing. After all, they're just mere bankers and executives merely doing their jobs.

In Reality
Despite all truth, rewarding executives--no matter how deserving or innocent--whose company is on life support is seen by most people as outrageous at best and criminal at worst. The specific indictments are superfluous to name here. No matter how you look at it, AIG executives who helped themselves to the taxpayer's dime while the economy burns are morally indefensible.

But in reality, does Wall Street or AIG operate on an ethic of morality? If they did, then:
  • AIG would preemptively volunteer to forfeit their contracted bonuses;
  • AIG would graciously allow us to tax back their bonuses;
  • AIG would not have doled out bonuses at all;
  • AIG would not reward failure, not on the taxpayer's dime;
  • AIG would never have run a quasi-hedge fund that gambled our money away on bad bets;
  • Wall Street might not have destroyed itself and our economy along with it.
It is as if we expect our bankers and executives to do the moral thing, and getting really mad that they are not. The trouble is, there was never anything moral about this business in the first place. And we know it.

Wall Street plays the market, an institution that knows no moral bounds. Business ethics ring hollow because a free market economy is held to work on efficiency and not morality. More often than not, voluntary "moral" actions contradict market rules and drive the moralizing entrepreneur out of the game.

Can you recall any large shoe-making companies that refused to offshore its manufacturing to Chinese sweatshops? Probably not, since those companies would have disappeared long ago for their morals. Market competition is such that executives cannot submit to their moral discomfort, if such even exists.

As I have asserted elsewhere, this is an economic reality that Americans must own up to: moral detachment, and the productive exploitation of greed, is what drives a capitalist economy to its optimal output.

Immorality, as it were, is a good thing.

The Conclusion
In truth, bonuses are price tagged by the market, not individual intent. In reality, immorality is often rewarded by the market, not rebuked.

As such, moral truths and expectations have no basis in the capitalist reality which Americans subscribe to. To scream about the immorality of AIG bonuses, let alone expecting executives to forfeit them, basically amounts to a moral repudiation of free market principles.

Are Americans really prepared to take this stance? I'm not; not yet, anyway, until all is ruinous. We are not quite there yet, though our economy "stands on the edge of a knife. Stray but a little and it will fail, to the ruin of all. Yet hope remains while all in the Company is true." (from Tolkien)

When things are good, we love Wall Street. When things sour, we do not stay true to the very institutions that brought us riches with the world's envy. Instead we turn against them as if they were filth to begin with.

There is something profoundly misguided about populist anger at the immorality of AIG bonuses, to which an even stronger objection might be raised, namely that the populist anger is itself immoral.

If the AIG bonuses debacle, and the financial crisis at large, can help Americans reflect on our moral contradictions, the cost might well be worth it.
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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Sitting President Sits with Jay Leno: A Post-Partisan Act

Thursday night, Obama sits in with Jay Leno. Some see this as good, some bad, and most say risky at the least. These are all legit opinions except that they are all irrelevant. I argue that Obama's choice was a matter of necessity, if he is intent on proving his commitment to the promise of "changing" Washington.

Obama's appearance, unprecedented for a sitting president, gives him an unprecedented chance to vet his unprecedented promise: achieve a post-partisan Washington, somehow, by relegating partisan ideology to the back-burner in politics. Some promise, isn't it!

In reality, he faces a poisonously partisan Congress wherein neither parties are willing to yield their party lines. While not surprising, this impasse effectively voids Obama's promise of change. As Washington looks today, post-partisan politics will not appear any time soon, much less bipartisan agreement on anything of import.

But Obama still has his trump card: popularity. He must use it or fail his promise.

At this point, the only way Obama can move Washington toward a post-partisan future is by appealing directly to the people. If he cannot do this effectively, Congress will forever remain as we know it today: divided by ideology, and speaking of things as they ought to be rather than as they really are.

All this while reality burns.

In fact, Obama really does not have a choice but to go straight to the people. Democracy requires that Congress speaks the language of its electorate and none other. Even as president, Obama can talk post-partisan all he wants but it does not mean Congress will speak his language. The only way to "change" Congress, therefore, is to "change" the people.

After all, how can we expect our leaders to transcend partisanship when their own electorate cannot? Lots of Americans are fed up with our government, but they want to look for the cause of their malcontent in all but the most obvious place, which is the mirror.

Obama understands this, but he cannot say it. This is why he decided to take the unorthodox step of appearing with a talk show host. If appearing on Jay Leno lessens the stature of the presidency, it is because Obama thought it necessary to attain his goal. Necessity and pragmatism are, of course, the definition of a post-partisan act.

Tomorrow night on Jay Leno, Obama must defend himself by making a post-partisan case for why his agenda leans so heavily on classically liberal ends. He must convince Americans that there is a practical need for doing so, not because he is a liberal nut trying to remake the country in his own partisan image. And he must do this without a teleprompter, which is why I suspect he chose this venue.

Because spending is a liberal thing, Obama must face the people and convince us that spending is also a thing of necessity in today's anemic economy. Making this kind of argument directly to the people is what it takes to bring post-partisan politics to Congress.

The political situation in Congress today is more than mere partisan gamesmanship, but getting perilously close to political brinkmanship. Obama cannot be the man who "changes" Congress because he does not elect its members. Rather, it is the American people who sets the tone in Congress, an institution designed to speak the language of its electorate (too often does it work the other way around). Tomorrow night, if Obama can convince enough Americans that he is pursuing an imminently post-partisan agenda, not just a liberal one, it would be a small step toward a post-partisan Washington.

Jay Leno is a risky but necessary step, given the political climate today. This move is very courageous on Obama's part and has earned my respect. For my part, I will be watching very closely not at what he proposes, but in how he proposes it.

Therein lies the key to post-partisan success.
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