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March 24, 2006

big business would prefer robots

Here's an interesting little news from Wonkette.  This post, as you can see, is an anonymous tip that a departing Bush official may have resigned because of the increasing diminishment of the number of sandwiches in his picnic basket, if you will.  Bradley Belt is the dude's name, and he was the Executive Director of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.  The tipster alleges crazification, and Wonkette implies that maybe the fact that the PBGC is running a $23 billion deficit is a contributing factor.

However, Wonkette failed to highlight the significance of this deficit.  The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation is the federal organization that insures the pension obligations of the our nations corporations and other business concerns.  And if you click through to the source article, you get a pretty clear explanation of how a boring sounding agency like the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. could run up a twenty-three billion dollar tab:

Bankrupt steel and airline companies that have transferred pension responsibilities to the PBGC have been a major factor in the agency's swollen debt.

Which actually is a bit deceptive, as this "transferal" is also commonly referred to as "dumping", as the company refuses to meet the obligations it promised to its workers, resulting in the reduction of pension benefits.  Of course, the stockholders and management of the dumping company also take pro-rated cuts in their dividends and compensation packages.  Ha ha, only kidding!

Maybe the increasing obligations of the PBGC didn't so much drive Bradley Belt bonkers.  Maybe instead he lost his stomach to be party to the economic violence perpetrated on our middle class.  Maybe he grew a conscience.

Posted by mrbrent at 1:01 PM

the en see doubla aays

Last night was not worth staying up for.  My bracket -- shredded.  Misted.  Hurtled into the earth like a building-sized jart.

There are people who do not know the brackets.  These are the people I need to spend more time with.

No, writing about this does not count as "productivity", not hardly.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:38 AM

March 23, 2006

another good idea brought to you by the bush admin

Sometimes you scan the Yahoo! Headline Box and then your eyes pop out of your head as you get a nasty case of the yikes"
• U.S. hires Chinese company to scan for nukes

Yeah, that's "scan for nukes" as in operate a program at a US port in the Bahamas to detect fissile materials and the like.

That'll play good in the sticks, let me tell you.  The United Arab Emirates are a bunch of scary, well, Arabs, oddly enough.  Falling into the protective and comforting arms of Red China (as China is still thought of by "the sticks") shouldn't lose anyone an ounce of sleep.

Shitstorm: commence!

Posted by mrbrent at 6:23 PM

i didn't see any acme jokes, i don't think

You may have heard that a coyote was captured in NY's Central Park yesterday.  If you did not hear about it, you were probably wondering why every media outlet in the world was making some version of a Road Runner/Wile E. Coyote joke.  For the record, thanks for all the coyote jokes, media outlets.  It's nice to see the brain you share with each other is nominally functional.

On the bright side, who knew that a coyote could be so freaking cute?

Posted by mrbrent at 12:07 PM

March 22, 2006

o'reilly's ad hominem tank runs low

Is there such a thing as the Anti-Howard Beale moment?  Because, if there is, it will surely be perpetrated by Bill O'Reilly, whose paranoid detachment is a wonder in this day and age of interventions and prophylactic mental health care.

Maybe the Anti-Howard Beale moment was on his radio show a few weeks back, when he threatened a caller with a visit by "Fox Security" because the caller had invoked the name of Olbermann (O'Reilly's bête noir).  Though maybe O'Reilly knows something we don't, as this caller did eventually receive a message that can be reasonably construed as threatening.  Maybe this wasn't O'Reilly throwing up his hands and screaming, "I'm as whack-a-doo as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore," as much as it was O'Reilly actually having a private police force.  And he's not afraid to use it.

Now comes O'Reilly's crusade against the Dayton Daily News.  Apparently, a man accused of sexual child abuse was able to plead down to house arrest because of prosecutorial error.  Ohio conservatives, and O'Reilly, began to agitate for the presiding judge to be run out of town on the proverbial rail.  The Daily News then editorialized that, regardless of the merits of the complaints against the judge, their is a formal process of complaint and investigation that should be followed.  Oh, and they mentioned O'Reilly's legal troubles.

To which O'Reilly responded by calling the Dayton Daily News "the most friendly (newspaper) to child rapists" in America.

Unfortunately, as explained by the Dayton Daily News, this claim was preceded by an O'Reilly producer threatening "bully pulpit" action unless the Daily News issued an apology for "personal attacks".

So, basically, O'Reilly determines how friendly a newspaper is or is not based on how willing such newspaper is to be bullied by O'Reilly.  And I hate to actually type this, as it seems kind of base-line duh, but citing an individual's legal history does not now, nor will it ever, constitute a personal attack.  Boo hoo.  Again, this might not be the Anti-Howard-Beale moment we're waiting for, but the forecast looks good.

Also, nice reasoned job on the part of the Dayton Daily News, I must say.

[Dayton link via Romanesko]

Posted by mrbrent at 1:59 PM

helen thomas is better than you are

Helen Thomas will not stop.  She is old enough to have retired two times over.  She does not have time for obfuscation.  She will not be out-maneuvered rhetorically.  She does not care if you are the President of the United States or the paperboy.  You have the truth in you, somewhere, so cough it up!  The follow-up questions of Helen Thomas are tiny strikes of lightning, and the darkening of the sky is actually the glint in the eyes of Helen Thomas as she disproves of your tap-dancing evasions.  Cough up truth now!

Yes, that means you, Wolf Blitzer.

BLITZER:  Tell our viewers, who, as I said earlier, have grown up with you, Helen, what you're up to nowadays, how you feel, what your goals are right now.

THOMAS:  My goals are to seek the truth, wherever it leads me. And I do think that's the goal of journalists, and I think we fell down on the job.

BLITZER:  The news media in general? That we weren't watching?

THOMAS: Come back. All is forgiven.

Helen Thomas has looked into your soul, Wolf Blitzer.  The truth is still in you.  It is not too late.  Cough up the truth and come back to Helen Thomas, you fool Wolf Blitzer!

Helen Thomas does not care about your post 9-11 mentality.  Helen Thomas is not a sissy.  Helen Thomas knows shorthand. [SCANT MINUTES LATER: published a portion of Helen Thomas' upcoming book.  A portion:

All this took me back to the days immediately following the unraveling of the Watergate scandal.  The White House press corps realized it had fallen asleep at the switch--not that all the investigative reporting could have been done by those on the so-called "body watch," which travels everywhere with the President and has no time to dig for facts.  But looking back, they knew they had missed many clues on the Watergate scandal and were determined to become much more skeptical of what was being dished out to them at the daily briefings.  And, indeed, they were.  The White House press room became a lion's den.

Helen Thomas is not about nostalgia, even though she remembers your grandparents when they were children.  Helen Thomas merely remembers the days when journalists got it done.  Helen Thomas gets it.]

Posted by mrbrent at 10:24 AM

March 21, 2006

al gore 08

I make no secret that I am a big fan of Al Gore.  His wooden delivery and his weird lisp never scared me off him.  Not even his dumb campaigning in '00 could convince me that Al Gore was anything but a genuinely smart man with populist leanings.  (I have this weird genetic defect -- I am unswayable by the manufactured CW opinion of the press corps.)  It was pretty obvious to me that Gore was running on an issue-platform at the time.  In retrospect, he might have been the last major candidate to do so.

I even got a chance to meet him once, which I of course squandered.  A pal of mine who move and shakes in the liberal fund-raising world got me in to an event benefiting the Ohio Democratic Party back in '04.  Gore was the speaker, and his speech was indeed a barn-burner -- relaxed, direct, unapologetically partisan, resolutely not afraid to criticize.  But before his speech, my pal grabs me by the elbow and says, "Come meet Al Gore."  Which I did, but, unfortunately, my nerves and two martinis collided and, as Al Gore asked my name, I promptly forgot it.  And then I pretty much lost the ability to speak.  It was not dissimilar to Ralphie in Santa's lap in "A Christmas Story", though I was not sitting in Al Gore's lap at the time.

I am of the opinion that Al Gore should run for President.  I won't even make any "he already won once" jokes.  I think he is the best man for the job.  Go read this American Prospect profile of Gore, and then agree with me.

Al Gore is a man who understands the concept of "disintermediation".  Being able to grasp the concept of disintermediation should be a job requirement of the post of Commander-in-Chief.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:29 AM

March 20, 2006

yeah, more Iraq

Does the Yahoo! Regularly Updated Headline Box/Zeitgeist Machine actually realize the implications of what it throws up?
• Bush asks U.S. to look past Iraq bloodshed

Dude, that's how I would put it.  All that's missing is the adverb, "cynically," or the modifying phrase, "hoping that solicitude would rhetorically trump reason."

But I'm a nice guy.  For the record, whenever I spew vitriol on the embarrassment to our nation that is Bush's Iraq policy, I'm already looking past the bloodshed.  He'd be better off asking the people he works for to look past the failure.

Posted by mrbrent at 6:01 PM

rumsfeld, nazis, further

Yesterday (or, to you, the end-user, "two posts down") I bloviated on Donald Rumsfeld's rhetorical "Oh no you dint".  Which has since generated further thoughts and response.

Listening to the radio this morning, Rachel Maddow made a pretty good point that the "Hitler/Nazi" metaphor is the last resort of the losing side of an argument, the proponent whose cupboard of rationale is bare.  The Hail Mary pass of rhetoric, if you will.  It is a very good point, but one that I must reject, as I jiu jitsu'ed the Nazi metaphor back at 'em in my post, and my rationale cupboard is just bursting with enough rationale to feed a family of six for weeks, baby.

But Rachel's right -- the reasoned response to anyone dragging out Hitler/Nazi comparisons should be, "Shut Up."  Because the comparison-dragger has just conceded defeat.

And Kev (an actual historian) writes in to say:

There is a good enough argument to say that the allies DID let the Nazis run Germany following the war.  There were very few other Germans around with the experience of running government, so a "de-nazification" programme was cobbled together to get the local gauleiters to denounce their party membership, and thus be left to get on with running the country.  And despite the hunger and bankrupycy, they did a pretty good job.

Maybe Mr Rumsfeld prefers the scenario in post-war Sicily, where the Americans reintroduced the Mafia, considered to be an ally, after the criminal families had been eradicated by Mussolini (his one true success as a politician).

I think that the realities of "turning over" a government are discrete and do not lend themselves well to such clubbering analogy as the Secretary of Defense wielded so unwieldily.  Government is a much greater percentage civil service than it is ideology.

Maybe we're nitpicking on one sentence from a man who's left us with so, so many bad sentences.  In the spirit of kindness, let's nudge the offending passage into a sentence that is accurate and honest:

Turning our backs on postwar Iraq today would be the modern equivalent of some historical event that does not exist, but since I'm typing this for the Washington Post, let me just say that handing postwar Germany back to the Nazis would've been a bad idea, and hopefully the presence of two unrelated situations in one sentence will somehow -- screw it, you're getting sleeeeepy, very sleeeeepy.

That shit's the pony in my slavery.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:24 AM

March 19, 2006

sorry tourists

The Yahoo! Container of Headlines apparently shares my feelings with regard to pesky tourists:
• Race to blast tourists into space is on

Though, to be honest, I would settle for tourists learning how not to obstruct sidewalk traffic here in NY.

Whichever is easiest.

Posted by mrbrent at 2:16 PM

donald rumsfeld, moron

A long time ago, I had another website.  It was an ancillary website to a variety show a friend of mine and I produced -- "Dog & Pony".  This would be back when the term "blog" was being coined and then instantly reviled.  It was then I began to share my thoughts in the "electronic-everywhere" medium, which I still have a hard time wrapping my mind around.  I even had a U.S. Federal District Judge as a regular visitor!  It's true.

One of the most frustrating things about the old site was this one little feature I posted.  (Yep, posted little features back then, like a dummy.)  It was a sarcastic ode to Donald Rumsfeld, complete with photos.  (Well-meaning geniuses have archived this page here.)  I thought it was a funny little time-waster, but the problem was that it got linked by a series of honestly Conservative warbloggers who revered Rumsfeld like he was the second coming of General George Douglas Washington MacArthur instead of a political-connected crony with an unerring eye for failure.  The 101st Fighting Keyboardists were stealing my bandwidth, and making me feel dirty at the same time.  It still bothers me that I inadvertently put joy into their miserable lives.

Well, to them that ever mistook my gentle parody with adulation, I would like to share this quote from the Secretary of Defense from his editorial in this morning's Washington Post:

Turning our backs on postwar Iraq today would be the modern equivalent of handing postwar Germany back to the Nazis.

This is indeed the dumbest fucking thing I have ever heard out of the mouth of a man who is no stranger to saying dumb fucking things.  Metaphor is fun, and I hear tell that it's a crackerjack way to persuade people, but this one in particular does not pass the "over-strained credulity" test.

I have only your basic liberal arts college knowledge of history, and I can not think of one single way -- not even one tricky, truth saving way -- that our occupation of post-war Germany can be compared with our invasion of Iraq.  The religious sectarianism in Iraq is different, the strategic implications for the region are absolutely different, the nature of the conflict preceding the occupation is different, the nebulous nature of the Iraqi "enemy" is historically unique (unless you count Orwell as history), the American profiteering in the Iraq War was considered treasonous during the German occupation, the U.S. financing of the respective situations do not resemble each other at all.  I'm probably missing a lot; I'm not so smart geopolitically.

It is rhetorical bullying, worse than the "the terrorist have won" sort.  The subtext is, "A vote against us is a vote for the Nazis," which is both laughable and despicable.  It is craven and cowardly.  All that's left is to compare those of us that never supported the war and disapprove of its consequences to rapists or child-molesters.

And I would like to remind you that Rumsfeld is the Secretary of Defense who overruled seasoned military advice in shaping the invasion of Iraq -- a nation that had been under sanction for ten years and that had no standing air force to speak of.  This conflict has cost coming up on 2,500 American fatalities, 14,000 casualties and untold thousands of Iraqi civilian fatalities, as well as the dismantling of the Iraqi infrastructure and the auctioning of Iraqi resources to American interests.  It is a misstep, and a tragedy of the "history will not forget" variety -- and perpetrated with our money and in our names.  It belongs to Donald Rumsfeld.  If this man can sleep at night then his soul died years ago, and all the millions he will make from kindly military-industrial purveyors when he steps down will never, ever buy his soul back.

If Rumsfeld wants to construct some analogy referencing the National Socialists of mid-20th Century Germany, he would be advised to examine closely the propaganda the Bush Administration spews forth, and the small esteem given by the Bush Justice Department to the freedoms that the Constitution gives us.

It just demonstrates the Administration's favorite rhetorical weapon -- accusing their detractors of sins they know that the Administration itself is guilty of.

Three years of opposition can be tiring, but there are plenty of fully-caffeinated brands of coffee that have all the flavor of decaf.

Posted by mrbrent at 1:26 PM