Many Americans are aware of some of President Obama's professional pursuits prior to arriving in Washington – lawyer, state legislator, community organizer (which is like being the mayor of Wasilla, Alaska but without the crippling depression, paint huffing, and incest), and more. What you may not know is that Mr. Obama is also an accomplished architect, contractor, and home builder. The man can design your dream house from scratch, draw up the blueprints, and turn it into a three dimensional masterpiece in a matter of weeks. While his current responsibilities leave him with precious little spare time, our President still manages to sneak away from the White House to turn someone's dream home into reality on rare occasions. Imagine how excited I was to have the opportunity to be one of his few customers. For posterity, I recorded the conversation (yes, with his consent).

BO: "Hello, Ed. Thanks again for meeting with me today. Before we get started I want to reiterate our uncompromising vision: that every American live in a good home, one that is affordable, comfortable, and environmentally responsible. At Obama General Contracting, Inc. we are committed to making this a reality for every American."

Ed: "Tell me a bit about how you achieve those goals."

BO: "Certainly. Well, for starters we use recycled lumber and brick. We design the layout of the home and its windows to minimize the need for artificial lighting and heating/cooling. On that note, we install geothermal heat pumps to regulate temperatures without fossil fuels or electricity. Then we triple-insulate the walls (including insulated windows) to minimize energy loss and install the most water- and power-efficient appliances on the market. Oh, and if our customers are OK with it, we also put auxiliary solar panels on the roof instead of tiles. It won't power the whole house, but it helps. We do this all within the budget of each individual."

Ed: "Hmm. Sounds impressive, but there are a few changes I'd like to see. Can you work with me to meet my unique needs?"

BO: "Of course! I value nothing more than a harmonious working relationship between builder and client."

Ed: "Super. OK. First of all, instead of the geothermal heat thingy I'd like an antiquated and preferably dangerous 19th century steam boiler system. I plan to power it by burning styrofoam cups, open buckets of used motor oil, and a sampling of endangered hardwoods from around the world. Second, I don't want any windows. For interior lighting I want dozens of whale blubber lamps throughout the house, but I also want one giant lightbulb installed on the roof so that I can continue to waste the same amount of electricity I'd use if I had electric lighting."

BO: "…uh…what?"

Ed: "Stick with me here. I'll also need an enormous chamber dug beneath the house so I can have giant pieces of glaciers trucked in during the summer for cooling. Oh, and no insulation. I've been reading a lot of Murray Rothbard and I've come to the conclusion that the unimpeded free market should decide how much it costs to heat and cool my home. History has shown that attempts at regulation are inevitably inefficient, not to mention statist."

BO: "I…um…I don't think I can build you this house. It's…not exactly what I'm comfortable doing."

Ed: "What? I didn't even get to the best parts yet – the toilets full of children's tears, the radium fireplace, the automated sentry gun that fires hundreds of hollow point bullets when the doorbell is pressed, the Holocaust-themed décor, the massive compressor that will allow me to periodically vent weaponized anthrax into the surrounding neighborhood…"

BO: "…Is this a joke? If you're serious about any of this, two words: no way."

Ed: "Well if you want to build a house you're gonna have to meet me halfway! It's not like you have any other clients at the moment. And besides, you love compromises, right? Working together? Forging agreement?"

BO: "I…I guess so. Let's, uh, see if we can compromise on a few of the more 'unusual' details."

Ed: "Here's what I'm thinking as a compromise: you build exactly what I asked for and leave out all that fruity shit you mentioned at the start. Remember, either you build me a house or you don't build one at all."

BO: *sigh*

"Even if I agreed to do it, this monstrosity would cost millions of dollars. I don't think you can afford it, frankly. So doesn't it make sense to work on a few of these details?"

Ed: "Yeah, here's the thing: I'm not paying a penny over $100,000 for this house."

BO: "Are you nuts? The cost of materials alone will be in the millions."

Ed: "Not my problem. Raise the prices on all of your other lots to make up what you'll lose here. I'm your most important client."

(At this point the President sat lifelessly with his head in his hands for approximately 10 minutes in resigned silence.)

BO: "OK."

Ed: "OK what?"

BO: "OK I'll do everything you asked and I'll meet your price. I can't believe I'm doing this, but…(writes up details of the proposed transaction)…here you go. I need your signature here and here."

Ed: "…nah, I don't think so. You didn't really do enough to meet me halfway. But just wait until everyone sees this monstrosity you offered to build me. You really screwed up here, sir, and you deserve all of the criticism you're about to get."



From a 1970s Peace Corps manual (via outstanding travel writer Robert Young Pelton), "How to survive an anaconda attack."

1. Do not run. The snake is faster than you are.
2. Lie flat on the ground, put your arms tight against your sides and your legs tight against each other.
3. Tuck your chin in.
4. The snake will being to nudge and climb over your body.
5. Do not panic.
6. The snake will begin to swallow your feet first.
7. You must lie perfectly still. This will take a long time.
8. When the snake has reached your knees, reach down, take your knife, slide it into the side of the snake's mouth between the edge of its mouth and your leg. Quickly rip upward, severing the snake's head.
9. Be sure you have your knife.
10. Be sure your knife is sharp.

You're welcome. For further information please consult the documentary Anaconda starring Ice Cube and Tebagging legend Jon Voight.


For reasons that I assume relate directly to a large ad buy, CNN decided to let some hack from "CareerBuilder.com" answer the question that's on every young person's mind: "Why are internships so important?" Yes, please tell us, Ms. Beth Braccio Hering of CareerBuilder.com. Why are internships so important? God knows all my students are killing each other to get them. It's mildly horrifying to see the zeal with which they fight for the privilege of working for free, but let's stick to the original question.

You're a recent college graduate with a killer cover letter, a stellar grade point average and glowing recommendations.

But if one important item is missing from your résumé, good luck trying to get a position at The McTigue Financial Group in Chicago.

You need an internship.


The good news for those fortunate enough to earn a spot: One in four become a full-time financial representative after graduation.

Yes, the problem is clearly that you have no worked gratis for one of Ms. Hering's paying clients. Both she and CareerBuilder.com are disinterested third parties here. They're merely trying to help you. And to let you know that 1 in 4 of these lucky boys and girls will attain a dream career as a "financial representative" if all goes well. Fingers crossed!

The state of the economy also is changing the nature of work given to interns. "In this economic downturn, employers are relying increasingly on interns to shore up areas where full-time hiring has been cut," Benca notes.

Oh yeah, they want to shore the hell out of those areas. They're quite eager to replace paid employees with college kids who can be convinced to work for nothing.

So you're working for someone else for free. What's in it for you?

Benefits for you

Besides getting a foot in the door with a potential employer and looking good on a résumé, internships have other advantages:

• The opportunity to "test drive" a career (Would I be happier in marketing or advertising? Am I more comfortable working with patients or in a lab?)

• Chances to network

• Establishing relationships with mentors

• Possible college credit or certification

• An introduction to the field's culture and etiquette (Are clients addressed by their first name? Are jeans appropriate for Casual Friday?)

• Accumulating new skills

• Gaining a "real world" perspective on an occupation (How much overtime do employees really work? How much time is spent behind a desk versus in the field?)

In the fantasy world inhabited by the minions who get paid to believe in the purity of this system, interning is a really sweet deal! All you have to do is move to one of the most expensive cities in the country – preferably NY or DC, possibly LA – and live for three or four months working ~45 hours weekly without getting a paycheck. Is it too late for me to sign up? This sounds awesome. What's in it for the "employer"?

Employers do not create internships just to be nice to students and others interested in a certain career. While an interview or a company test can add to what an employer knows about a person, an internship helps an employer evaluate how an individual would fare in the actual workplace.

Like The McTigue Group, many companies develop an internship pool and hire from that group. As Benca notes, "Not only are they seeing potential employees with experience, it is experience within their company."

Ah, I see. They do it to identify and court young talent. It's like the Yankees giving a free tryout to some talented minor leaguers. It is at once benevolent and efficient. I'm going to double-check the article but I think the author forgot to mention the thousands of hours of clerical work interns end up doing without unnecessary complications like salary, benefits, or labor laws.

In reality, getting free labor out of gullible (not to mention desperate and terrified of unemployment) undergrads is only part of the rationale behind the Intern Economy and this well-rehearsed bullshit about how much it benefits students. More importantly, this system is a brutally efficient class barrier. An internship is a necessary precursor to getting a job. Having Mom and Dad cough up several thousand dollars to support you while you live in an expensive city (and do some high-class partying, er, "networking", with your fellow children of the Investor Class) is a necessary precursor to interning for free. Hmm.

In one of the best episodes of the short-lived masterpiece Fawlty Towers, Basil (John Cleese) is eager to attract a more upper-class clientele to his flophouse. So he puts an ad in the local paper for a Gourmet Night at the hotel restaurant…closing with the phrase "NO RIFF-RAFF." Would that employers could cut to the chase and be so explicit in reality. They can't, but the Intern Economy gets the job done all the same. Internships have always been reserved for those whose parents or uncles know a guy who has a summer place on the Cape next to one of the managing editors of the Times or whatever, but now that the expectation of working for free has been drummed into the heads of an entire generation the process is more efficient than ever at weeding out the ones who don't come from money.

Far be it from me to question the sincerity of someone from CareerBuilder.com, but I am not clear on why employers would eliminate 75% of college students by making the internships unpaid if their goal really is to find the best candidates for future employment. What about the potential stars who have to, you know, work and earn money in the summer? That is a curious way to structure a process intended to identify the most promising potential hires for the future. That is, after all, the whole point of internships. Right?


I decided to simplify things a bit for 2010, dividing the races into two basic categories (uncompetitive and competitive) for starters. Given how meaningless predictions are this far in advance of the elections, there's no benefit to trying to be more parsimonious until more information is available. Information such as the names of the candidates in a lot of races. You know, things of minor importance like that.

Last time around we introduced the uncompetitive races. There are 18 of those and they will produce a net gain of 1 seat for the GOP (the Dorgan retirement in North Dakota will be a cakewalk for GOP Governor John Hoeven). That leaves a very symmetrical 18 races in the competitive category. There is a lot of variance in this group, from just a bit competitive to too close to call. They will sort themselves out as the election progresses. Here they are with preliminary predictions:

A couple of these are particularly likely to get interesting. The open seat in Ohio may end up being the closest call in this election. Portman is a strong GOP candidate but his party is still a damaged brand name in the state. Neither of the Democratic candidates are great. However, the nominee (probably Brunner) will have a real chance to win. This will come down to turnout and how well the bases are motivated.

All of the previous statements about Ohio are doubly true in Illinois. Those races are eerily similar – popular young GOP Congressman running against mediocre Democrats in states in which the playing field is tilted to the left at the moment. I will believe a Republican winning a statewide race in Illinois when I see it, though, and not a second sooner.

I think the Florida race could become a wild one. If Charlie Crist was the nominee he would waltz to victory. However, he is down 20-30 points to Teabagger icon Marco Rubio in the GOP primary. That's great for winning the nomination, but there is a legitimate possibility that he's too nutty to win the general election. Kendrick Meek is not a strong opponent. This election, however, is going to be less about Rubio vs. Meek and more about Rubio vs. Rubio. Can he convince people he is a normal, quasi-mainstream politician or will he Teabag his way into oblivion? Rubio has the early lead; let's see how he does with more exposure.

Pennsylvania will be very competitive, especially if Sestak unseats non-Democrat Arlen Specter for the Democratic nomination. Colorado seems to be trending Republican but the party (as is always the case) can't even find a decent nominee to run against weak incumbent Michael Bennet. I have Missouri going blue simply because I've learned over the years never to bet against a Carnahan in that state. Harry Reid and Blanche Lincoln are both in big trouble, but incumbency is a powerful thing. At the very least, I think those races will get a lot closer than they are at the moment.

Is anyone else getting disproportionately excited? No? I guess that's just me.


Jack Cafferty is the latest highly visible person to hop on the "Hillary Clinton to the Supreme Court?" bandwagon.

This is a terrible idea, not because she's incompetent or I don't like her (although both statements may be true). She's too old. Age and health matter and she's 62. These appointments have to be made with an eye toward maximizing their tenure. It's not a coincidence that Roberts, Alito, and Sotomayor were all between 50 and 55.

But oh man would it be great to see the pant-shitting if one of the Clintons received the call.


Two weeks ago I saw this story on the front page of CNN's website and, for reasons that are not clear to me in hindsight, I wasted five minutes of my life reading it. It is typical human interest fare about the escalating violence in Mexico, with drug cartels shooting each other and innocent bystanders in droves while the police are (apparently) powerless to maintain order. The CNN piece focuses not on the social, economic, and political causes of the escalating violence but on a pair of poster children – two bright college-aged men gunned down in the crossfire.

I guess that's more appealing than talking about the PRI, NAFTA, and the voracious appetite of yuppies and their children for illegal drugs in the United States.

What strikes me about this story is…well, here are a few non-consecutive quotes. Let's see if anything looks odd.

"The Mexican government expresses its most deeply felt condolences to the families," the Interior Ministry said in a release on its Web page.

Separated in death, the two young men seemed inseparable in life. A Facebook page that demands justice for the slayings shows more than 30 photos of the young men and offers a snapshot of lives fully lived even at a tender age.

Mercado, an athlete, is shown working out on the rings at a gymnastics club and winning a medal and a trophy in track and field competition, where he was a pole-vaulter. Another photo shows him kneeling between two German shepherds. He's wearing a cap, blue jeans and a T-shirt and has a bemused look on his face.

Arredondo seemed more the social one, with photos of him with his arm around a young woman at what seems to be a party. Another photo shows him posing with a World Cup trophy display.

At least two Facebook pages are devoted to them: "Rest in Peace Jorge Antonio Mercado Alonso and Javier Francisco Arredondo" has more than 12,600 fans; "Javier Arredondo and Jorge Mercado – JUSTICIA! JUSTICE!" has more than 4,700 members.

Combined with the last 1/4 of the story, which consists of quoting posts on a Facebook wall, this story creates the distinct impression that the "reporter's" research consisted of looking at Facebook for a couple of minutes. He also thoughtfully visited a government website and cut-and-pasted a quote from a Minister. Nice work, Scoop McGee.

We are seeing more and more of this lamentable practice. Newspaper and TV news stories about things reporters found on Facebook. Stories in which the sources are Facebook status updates (or Twitter posts). References to Facebook to support grand generalizations about social phenomena. Mentions of how many fans such-and-such organization or politician have on Facebook. In fact, just watch the news on TV and see how long it takes before Facebook is mentioned. You need not set aside a lot of time for this experiment.

A stunning 89% of journalists told a GWU survey in January that they do story research on blogs, twitter, Facebook, and lesser social networking sites. The hottest job in the media industry is apparently "social media coordinator." Wolf Blitzer (and everyone else on CNN, possibly under threat of execution) ends every segment with a painfully awkward reminder to viewers to check out his Tweets on CNN.com. The mainstream media have an apparent love affair on their hands.

Is this reporting? Five French journalists holed up in a farmhouse in February without telephones or general internet access – their only means of communication were Twitter and Facebook. This stunt/experiment showed both the power of social networking doodads to keep them relatively well informed while also emphasizing the severe limitations. It underscores the point that social media are just another set of tools for communication. In the hands of a lazy industry, however, they're becoming more of a crutch than a tool. Developing ideas for new stories, doing research, getting quotes, and double-checking sources all mean the same thing now: check Twitter, dick around on Facebook for a while. Given that today's reporters are little more than stenographers – "Fact checking? What's that?" – this really is the logical next step. An industry this lazy can't help but take the path of least resistance, so we have a lot more quotes from Facebook walls to which we can look forward in the coming years.


For a number of reasons my ability to write this evening is limited, so I will pick the low-hanging fruit of the Stevens retirement. A few things stand out.

First, I was particularly struck by the President's comment about "occupational diversity" on the Court. In the 1980s our political class abandoned the idea of appointing someone other than a career jurist to the high court. The only way to pronounce someone "qualified" was to see pictures of him (or rarely her) wearing robes. This is not only historically unprecedented but also quite silly. Seeing as how the SC does not operate like any other court, thus rendering any need to understand courtroom procedure moot, previous judicial experience is not mandated Constitutionally or practically. Unfortunately, the possible decision to appoint a non-jurist (most likely Solicitor General Elena Kagan) will give the right a ready-made talking point on which to harp. Seeing as how they do not trouble themselves with history or facts they will have no problem overlooking other appointees who had no previous judicial experience, including Clarence Thomas**, William Rehnquist (Asst. Attorney General), Lewis Powell (private practice), Earl Warren (Governor of California), Tom Clark (Attorney General), William O. Douglas (SEC chairman), Felix Frankfurter (law professor), Stanley F. Reed (Solicitor General), Harlan Fiske Stone (Attorney General), Louis Brandeis (private practice), and Charles Evans Hughes (Governor, Secretary of State) among dozens of others. I think some of those guys did alright.

Doing something other than being a judge at some point in one's professional life isn't a terrible idea and is probably a net benefit to the Court. There is no justification, legal or logical, for the recent "farm system" practice of mindlessly calling up the next player from the AAA team that the US District Court of Appeals has become. It might not be a coincidence that so many extraordinary justices were ones who skipped over Appeals and straight to the SC, much as a talented baseball prospect would skip AAA and go straight to the big leagues.

Second, the President would do well to keep in mind that it doesn't matter if he appoints Kagan, some bland Appellate judge, Bill Ayers, or Bill Clinton – the Senate Republicans are going to flip out, crap their collective pants, and start threatening filibusters. This has nothing to do with logic and everything to do with payback time for the health care stuff. Nothing short of letting Mitch McConnell hand-select the nominee will appease them. As usual, the only rational response (and one that no one has the balls to implement) is to call their bluff. Make them filibuster. Let's see if they have it in them to continuously hold the floor for three or four weeks, talking about nothing and rallying public support for their childish temper tantrum. A betting man would put good money on such a stunt backfiring and instead being perceived as obstructionism for its own sake, not to mention generally making Senate Republicans look like the asswipes that most of them are.

Both the President and the nominee have to walk across the flaming coals regardless, so the former might as well pick who he really wants. As usual, though, I expect his choice to be yet another vain effort in the quest for "bipartisanship."

** Thomas was the head of the EEOC for nearly a decade and was appointed to the US District Court of Appeals about 6 months before his SC appointment. So he had next-to-no experience as a jurist.


Sometimes I am so proud of my (graduate) alma mater.

The good folks over at Jezebel have brought some much needed attention to an op-ed in a student newspaper by Yale Reardon on the topic of "Rating Girls." That's an archived link, as the newspaper took it down for reasons that will rapidly become apparent. You know, that "How hot on a 1 to 10 scale" thing that bros do in movies and apparently in real life. Some of Mr. Reardon's literary gems:

2. A two is not much better than a one. She is god awful ugly as well. No matter how many drinks you have, she won’t look hotter or thinner. All of her friends are busted as well. Thankfully a two does not have any confidence either so spotting them out is rare.

4. Here is where it gets interesting. Even the coolest bro’s from time to time will slip up with a four. A four is always fat; there is no getting around that. If you happen to fall victim to a four, I feel you. This is the kind of girl that must be kicked out of your place at 5:00 am. If you happen to crash at her place, you get out of there no later than 4:00 am. A boiling hot shower is needed immediately after.

9. Now we are talking. A nine has her life handed to her. She dates only good-looking rich dudes. She can ignore any guy and he will come back to her. She doesn’t need a personality because her face & body make up for it. These make ideal girlfriends and will get you mad bro points out the wazoo.

Charming. I would bust out the IU fight song in a fit of pride if I knew it.

He states, "One of my favorite things to do with my friends is to argue about what number a girl is." Well, one of my favorite things to do with my friends is make fun of backward-capped assholes who travel in packs and talk about women this way. Subscribing to the truism that two wrongs rarely make a right but usually make a funny, here is a much more useful scale – a precise, scientific analysis of Bro characteristics with attendant ratings of Bro-ness.

1. This is the bottom of the barrel. Minimum of two Livestrong bracelets. Loud, obnoxious assholes who have to pay people to hang around them. As adults, all Ones will be convicted of exposing themselves at a playground.

2. A two is readily identified by his popped collars, garishly branded polo shirts, and crippling insecurity. Has never had consensual sex. His favorite band is the Beastie Boys. Conversation topics are limited to college football, college basketball, and beer. Usually named Chad or Nick.

3. While the Two is a meek, self-loathing creep, the Three is an aggressive predator. Attempts to put his junk in anything that stops in front of him, including stray dogs and mailboxes. Has a vanity license plate of his frat nickname, i.e. "Chugs" or "P-Dub." Refers to all women as "bitches." Insists that lots of people and objects were or are "asking for it" regularly.

4. A Four is a fat guy who has never been seen without his backwards baseball cap. Women occasionally pretend to be interested in talking to him in exchange for free drinks. Fours are the subject of all of the best binge drinking stories in their respective frats, and they will brag endlessly about their power-barfing prowess and willingness to urinate publicly even though the cop was totally like right there.

5. The Five mentions the amount of money his dad makes in every single casual conversation. Wants to get an MBA and take over his dad's dealership but can't pass Calc 102. Calls his professors "Bro" and offers them money to boost his grades at the end of the semester. Regularly and enthusiastically gives high fives.

6. Sixes go through an entire Value Size pack of tanning coupons in one week. Appear to be wearing blackface at first glance. They work out 6 days per week, but have bizarre, hunched posture because they only do bench presses and bicep curls. The average Six has at least four nicknames for his penis.

7. A Seven is convinced that he is hilarious but he mostly just repeats lines from Will Ferrell movies. Thinks you totally need to hear this comedian named Dane Cook. Wears one of those faux-handmade looking twine necklaces sold in giant bins at the checkout counter in Hollister. Routinely asks others to "Do (him) a solid."

8. An Eight is a hyper-masculine type who lives in constant fear of his Bros discovering how far in the closet he is. Constantly talks about how much he loves "poontang" and desperately hopes that none of the dudes in the house will look at the browsing history on his Mac G5.

9. Nines are the high-class white supremacists. When someone overhears him telling jokes about black people he will demand that they "Chill out." Has never spoken to a Latino person who was not serving him food or holding a rake. The odor of Tag Body Spray becomes overpowering at this point on the scale; self-contained breathing apparatuses may be required to interact with a Nine.

10. The Sistene Chapel of assholes. His speech has devolved to an incomprehensible mixture of "dude", "bro", and grunting. Total bro-mageddon. Bronito Mussolini. President Brobama. Emperor Hirohibro. Wolfgang Amadeus Brotzart. Brosama bin Laden. C-3pBro. Edgar Allan Bro. Drives a tricked-out Ford Brocus. Bro v Wade. The Broman Empire. Gin and tacbros.

Please print this chart and keep a copy on your person at all times for use as a field guide.


For the aspiring journalist who lacks the time to read all of this, the short and simple answer to the titular question: grab Sean Hannity's wang and go to town.

Right wing media figures fall into one of two categories these days – sociopaths and sycophants. The sociopaths write the books and host the shows. The sycophants kiss the sociopaths' asses to get invited on the shows and maybe, just maybe, get the shot to become sociopaths themselves. They prove their worth in the minors, doing a lot of 5th string blogging on semi-popular websites (World Nut Daily, Tucker's Folly, NRO, etc) and assiduously fawning over Beck, Malkin, Hannity, and the like. Ooh, ooh! Pick me! Pick me!

Do a side-by-side comparison of these two pieces: "Hannity's Victory: a must-read this year" by Jedediah Bila (whose previous writing credits consist of "conservatives4palin.com" and…) and "Conservative Victory" by Rebecca Hagelin. As the titles reveal, they are both about the new book Conservative Victory by charity fraud Sean Hannity. For a pair of "pro-family" advocates, these married women aren't shy about blowing Hannity in public. Less reviews than press releases, take a look at some of this fine journalism. First, Hagelin:

Sean says it best, (followed by extended quote)

Sean brilliantly connects the dots between…

Sean’s terrific book outlines specific steps… Here are a few of my favorite steps, please read “Conservative Victory” for all of them. (note: not a sentence)

A Conservative Victory is an American victory. I highly recommend Sean Hannity’s book as the way to get started on securing both.

Don't forget to come up for air, Rebecca! Anything to add, Jeddy?

When the going gets tough, it’s time for straight talk. It’s time to say what needs to be said, without all of the lofty rhetoric. That’s precisely what Sean Hannity does in Conservative Victory. Hannity’s style is approachable and no-nonsense, much like the down to earth, call it like he sees it energy he has brought to radio and television from the start. He discloses in his introduction that, “We are in desperate need for a new vision, and an effective strategy, to defeat Barack Obama and the American left before they rob from us everything our ancestors sacrificed to bequeath us, and all that our military has fought, bled, and died to preserve”

Can you even imagine writing shit like this for a living? To have your name attached to such embarrassing and blatant ass-kissing? Well, there's a healthy market for this kind of literary detritus. The only impediment to success is a gag reflex, apparently.