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June 24, 2006

another sweet moment of snark-belayed

Walking the little dog this morning I noticed something I hadn't noticed before.  On my street in Brooklyn, NY, there is a storefront Knights of Columbus.  That there would be a Knights of Columbus on my street would come as a shock to no one who knows my street -- we get the free-range marching bands on certain saint's days, and we get a big, noisy, smelly two-week long festival in the summer.  In fact, the Knights of Columbus is situated right at the central location for the Feast, as they call it.

It's fascinating.  Really.

Anyhoo, in one of the dusty old windows of this Knights of Columbus is a hand-painted sign (on posterboard) that reads, simply, "We mourn our loss."

The provenance of this sign is a mystery to no one, especially if you've heard a policy speech from the President lately.  However, I dare you to ponder "We mourn our loss" for a minute or two and not get taken by the contextual possibilities of the phrase.  Is it a dumb answer to a dumb question?  A declaration of the obvious made dogma?  A misapplication of the first person plural?

Lesson to learn: you take a loss, you better remember to mourn it, boobie.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:54 AM

June 23, 2006

again with me and the class war

I would like to briefly to step into the issue of CEO compensation.  Only briefly.  It's Friday, and I want to leave myself enough time to wipe the CEO compensation off my shoe.

The shorthand version is this: the compensation of dudes that "run" the corporations that "run" your life has increased at a rate that outpaces most other rates in the natural world, including the rate of increase of your compensation.  People like you and me think that this is happening because CEOs are greedy and realized that they can get away with rigging the game so that they walk away with hundreds of millions of dollars.  People not like you and me, like Ann Coulter and Peter Braunstein, believe in a sort of "corporate exceptionalism" -- the skills required to successfully navigate a life-sucking business entity can only be rewarded with shipping containers full of twenty dollar bills.

That's kind of where we stand now.  Us: please stop raping our economy for personal gain.  Them: not loving corporations is akin to not loving freedom, you Commies.  Probably this little schism of opinion won't move much in our lifetimes, as the moral superiority of our argument is pretty easily thwarted by the casual gullibility of an American public that wetdreams of getting something for nothing.

So, just as a reminder, some new facts emerged yesterday.  Namely, "Chief executive officers in the United States earned 262 times the pay of an average worker in 2005."  Math stopped being my strong point years ago, but, by my reckoning, in order for the average U.S. worker to make what the average CEO makes, he would have to work for 262 years.

I know, nobody said life was fair, but nobody said we couldn't have a class war, either.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:45 AM

June 22, 2006

first they came for your guns, then they came for your tissue samples

I've always given the National Rifle Association short shrift.  A buddy in high school signed me up as a member as a joke.  I accordingly glanced over their shrill literature, shrugged and sent all their donation envelopes back empty.  I got no problem with the firearms; I just get all itchy around the redneck hyperbole.

Now, years later, I have a very deep concern about the NRA.

Frankly, I'm worried that they might crazy me to death.

I'm tellin' ya, if it's not the UN invading to take away your rifle, it's the invisible robot in your teeth telling you that Jesus wants chicken wings.  NOW.

Posted by mrbrent at 12:49 PM

world to bush: cringe

It's time to say this about the President for the couple hundredth time:  The man is either dangerously stupid or dangerously deluded, and I can't decide which is worse.

Yesterday in Vienna, the President took some questions from the gathered US and EU press, including this one:

To President Bush, you've got Iran's nuclear program, you've got North Korea, yet, most Europeans consider the United States the biggest threat to global stability.  Do you have any regrets about that?

Hmm, not a friendly question, but a fair one.  And not, you'll notice, a directly accusatory question, but a reference to an aggressive bit of data -- the President is not being asked, "Why are you a global threat?" but instead, "Why are you perceived a global threat?"

The President's considered response?

That's absurd.  The United States is -- we'll defend ourselves, but at the same time, we're actively working with our partners to spread peace and democracy.  So whoever says that is -- it's an absurd statement.

No, Mr President, it's not absurd.  In fact, it's so not absurd that a journalist responded later with a little smack inna face, with facts:

And to the President, Mr. President, you said this is "absurd," but you might be aware that in Europe the image of America is still falling, and dramatically in some areas.  Let me give you some numbers. In Austria, in this country only 14 percent of the people believe that the United States, what they are doing is good for peace; 64 percent think that it is bad.  In the United Kingdom, your ally, there are more citizens who believe that the United States policy under your leadership is helping to destabilize the world than Iran.

If the President's indignation is feigned in light of his neocon laissez faire world domination fantasies, then that is bad.  And if the President actually believes that the rest of the world has no reason to fear us, to fear us invading them, or instigating regional tensions, or accidentally detonating the world, then he is the dumbest man in a country full of aggressively dumb people.  Which is also bad.  As I said before, neither option is cheering.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:41 AM

ok, then, let's do have a class war

Maybe you guys can help me.  I'm pretty sure I left the middle class laying around here somewhere, and now I can't seem to find it.

It looks like, well, uh -- it looks like the middle class. You must have some recollection of it.  Upward mobility, job security.  Folks better off than their parents.  You know.  Benefits.  No, I'm not kidding.  Lots of benefits, like health and pension.  Whatever.  You know what the middle class looks like.

See, I was chatting with a pal last night, and he brought up the middle class, out of nowhere -- as a punchline, actually, and it got me to reminiscing.  So I thought I'd dig out the middle class for old time's sake.  But I'll be damned if I could find it.

So if you guys could keep your eyes peeled, I'd be in your debt.

Actually, some wiseass suggested that if I was looking for the middle class I should check behind the counter of McDonald's, or in the break room at Wal-Mart.  I think she was joking.  Though I'm bad with jokes.

[Tip of hat to a Krugman column, discussed here.]

Posted by mrbrent at 10:38 AM

i am an e-andy rooney

I just noticed yet another quirk of the digital age.

Whenever I check my e-mail, I always sneak over to the spam folder, where Google helpfully stows all e-mails that the Google robots deem spam, and scan down.  You know, in case some important communication accidentally got stashed there -- some message that inadvertently mentions "beateous virginns" or just happens to speak to my unknown proclivity for replica Rolexes.  A note from Mom, maybe, or from my parole officer.

Of course, I have not once found a legit e-mail in the spam folder.  Also, in the years of receiving actual mail (made of paper), I have never, ever sifted through the junk mail to ensure that someone from Discover wasn't actually sending me a personal note.

And yet, there I am, mucking in the spam folder.

It seems that living amidst all these ones and zeroes have made me anxious.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:45 AM

June 20, 2006

billionaire do-gooding

You could say that Mark Cuban is having a bad week.  Billionaire Cuban, who among other things owns the Dallas Mavericks, has had to watch his team get beat by a mostly unlikable Miami Heat three games in a row, causing Cubanesque eruptions of bile and misery.  This of course has renewed the debate that has rocked the house of Titivil -- Mark Cuban: Enlightened Capitalist Hero or Loudmouth Moneybags Boor?

Me, I like Cuban (I think I've committed to that in print before), and the Cuban-haterizers got a problem with that.  Well, Cuban-Haterizers, if you were to examine Cuban's blog, buried in this post you will find a little news:

[Cuban's entertainment concern] HDNet is talking to Dan Rather and we hope to do a deal where he produces a show that uncovers news. Information with a payoff...

You may think you know what Dan Rather and HDNet will do together.  But you dont [sic].  You have no idea.  I will tell you that there wont be any corporate considerations. No earnings per share issues. No worries about advertisers and what they might think.

Cuban may be a billionaire and a bit too much of a distraction for NBA purists, but this billionaire is trying to spend his money on returning Dan Rather to where he belongs -- reporting.  And I realize that it's accepted to mock Dan Rather for his foibles, but the dude is a newsman.  Let him continue to be that.

Combine Cuban's Rather negotiations with Cuban's funding of a white collar crime investigation website, and what you have is a do-gooder with many, many dollars to throw at do-gooding.  So please govern your opinions accordingly.

Plus also go Mavs.

Posted by mrbrent at 1:03 PM

June 19, 2006

forecast: soupy

Attention, whiners of Northeast America!  Today it will be very, very hot and humid outside.

You know what to do; get to it.

Remember also that your careers are stalled, and your teeth ache.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:40 AM