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August 3, 2007

who knew roads and bridges were disposable?

Yeah, it's one thing to sit around and make jokes about our crumbling infrastructure and how we're in for a two-decade traffic jam when we try to find a city where there's fresh drinking water and the sewers work, but it's another thing entirely to do what true American problem-solvers do: point fingers.

So, instead of me trying to fabricate who's at fault this time (landing, as usual, on Tom Delay or Grover Norquist), please browse this very useful explanation, as told to Wonkette by an actual unnamed lobbyist.  The answer?  Time Magazine's Person of the Year, 2006.  Though "greed" is also an acceptable answer.

It's too twisty and windy to summarize (i.e., the summary would contain exactly as many words as the content being summarized), but at least it's got some Beltway chicanery for the pullquote:

The current transportation funding mechanism is called SAFETEA-LU, which stands for “Safe Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users,” but the “Lu” is actually former Transportation Committee Chairman Don Young’s wife’s name, so he made his staff come up with a fucking acronym that used that because that’s how stupid and parochial transportation policy is.

Plus also there's a glancing mention of Delay -- at least he's still relevant!

I suspect this unnamed lobbyist supplying the succinct-as-possible (not being ironical, no) explanation may in fact be Thomas Pynchon.  But then again the greater possibility may be that Thomas Pynchon is some kind of hivemind that provides accurate but but confusing glimpses of the world as it really is.

Either way, enjoy your weekend motoring.

Posted by mrbrent at 4:16 PM

all bridges will be frisked and searched

Even if you are not patriotic enough to buy into the clear and present danger of the international terrorism of steam and structural engineering, maybe you still feel a twinge of concern or two when personally crossing one of our fine American bridges.  Well, National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Mark Rosenker would like for you to close your eyes and think of the greater glory of France:
[Rosnker] said it's too early for officials to know if the accident could have been avoided. "They [bridges] are built not to fall down. This is an anomaly and we're going to try to find out why this is an anomaly and prevent that anomaly from ever happening again" said in an appearance on ABC's "Good Morning America" Friday.

That's awful nice of the Chairman, distilling the phenomenology of bridge failure ("it broke") for the GMA viewers at home.  Even the fact that bridges are not built to fall down alone is about as concern-allaying as you could hope for, if you were a congenital idiot, being spoken to by another congenital idiot.  Though those that were worried that the 35W bridge was actually designed to keel over on an appointed day must be sleeping the night through now.

Also, if Chairman Rosenker has questions about why the 35W collapse was an anomaly, then perhaps he should go back to his earlier point about how falling down is not one of the intended uses of a bridge, and then consult a dictionary.  Sadly, the Chairman is not the only public speaker suffering from syntax-shock.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:26 AM

August 2, 2007

it's not the disaster we're mocking, it's people

In light of yesterday's events in Minneapolis, everybody please welcome steam's powerful new ally in domestic terrorism -- structural engineering.  This is a particularly alarming development, as there are structures everywhere, and many of them have been engineered.

The serious among you might raise the point that these are not hostile acts by notions that hate our freedom, but rather infrastructure failures emblematic of our government's decades of neglect.  Further, that if attention is not turned to this problem, our nation will be crippled by incidents -- a road here, a water system there, an power grid elsewhere -- that will slowly strangle commerce and saddle the economy with billions of dollars of emergency costs.

Fortunately we are not serious people, and we agree that these alarmists suffer from a pre 9-11 mentality (maybe, June or July of 2001).  The only way to stop these forces from destroying our way of life is to invade somebody.  Maybe somebody small.  We've had trouble with the average-sized invasions.  How big is Samoa?

Also, we must begin suborning the potential partners of steam and structural engineering -- get there first, sign 'em up.  Imagine, for example, if gravity joins their nefarious plots?  Or friction?

Posted by mrbrent at 10:42 AM

August 1, 2007

the new deepthroat will see you now

I do love me an anonymous source.  I'm too young to have direct memories of Deep Throat (though DT never was referred to until after Woodward/Bernstein wrote the book, right? I guess there was no Gawker then), but I hear word of someone alleging to have direct, inside knowledge of something, I haul ass over.  It's like the buzz you got the first time you read Bouton's "Ball Four", with the additional jolt of Bouton being an unnamed whistle blower sharing info at great personal risk.  I even wasted an afternoon or two cruising the John Titor threads years back.

More recently (and less tinfoil-hattily), a DailyKos diarist has sniffed out a commenter on certain TPMMuckraker posts who seems to have a concise and direct knowledge of certain intelligence operations that may or may not be perpetuated by various and sundry federal agencies.  Of course, in the grand tradition of anonymous whistleblowers, much of the information proffered is veiled in hypotheticals and vague leading questions -- which is just delicious!

Mueller appears to be referring to a sub-contracted effort which indirectly supports the [National Security Council] with a special domestic security unit.  These units engage in direct engagement with state-side personnel and civilians.  Contractors, law enforcement, and intelligence personnel are assigned under non-direct-NSC-[National Security Agency] units, but are hidden inside commercial entities.  The groups appear capable of moving quickly, with no direct supervision, but act as internal security forces, completely outside FISA oversight.

This may not be exciting as Robert Olen Butler's private emails, but allegations of shadowy domestic intelligence organizations suborning business interest cooperation are enough to keep me interested for the time being.  I have not had the chance to much more than skim through this, but any additional excuses to keep me off Deadspin are always welcome.

Posted by mrbrent at 12:01 PM

July 31, 2007

i am no big, but i could take goldberg, hungover and trepanned

Roy Edroso contemplates how the funny works, when forced into a tiny square hole of ideology:
On the whole [Jonah] Goldberg seems to think liberal humor is creaky and preachy ("going after televangelists and preachers is so old"), while attacks on "political correctness" are as fresh as springtime.

When I hear of some consrevative comic that avoids the fifteen year-old "Feminazi" schtick, then I will revisit the argument of "Why Conservatives Like Bruce Tinsley Especially Are Not Actually Remotely Funny, But Rather Smugly Filled With Hate".  Not that I'm not filled with hate -- I hate Bruce Tinsley, because his drunken driving will probably hurt someone more talented than himself.

But enough of me.  Go read Alicublog.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:14 PM

your advertising robots are learning slowly

Hey, I just noticed something really creepy!  I was surfing around, and landed on a website.  (This one, if you must know, which is really indispensable.)  I got to the bottom of the page, where there was an advertisement, as you increasingly see these days in the digital tubes of the Internets.

It was an advertisement for a retailer that sells books and the like.  And the specific books that were being advertised were not at all thematically linked to the subject matter of the host website.  In fact, the books advertised were generated by the last searches I did on this retail website.

Now, I'm passing familiar with the technology that would enable this little bit of targeted marketing, but I gotta say, the shit is creepy.  I'm on a consumer advocate website, and a little bit of Flash is pimping Jerzy Kosinski novels to me -- the dissonance is quite jarring.  Also jarring is the fact that I was searching Kosinski novels for work, and not for pleasure.  So not only is my websurfing being stalked by a robot that keeps track of what I might want to buy, but the robot is dumb, and shoves books I do not want to purchase in my face.  Ah, sweet mystery of life!

And imagine someone reading this in decade's time, wondering how sweetly naive this Titivil fellow was, as adverts are beamed directly onto their retinas.

Posted by mrbrent at 1:53 PM

July 30, 2007

glenn beck is father coughlin's idiot nephew

Glenn Beck is just great.  Some of the right-wing ideologues go to great lengths to mask their inherent ill-will behind rhetorical flourishes and semiotic ingenuity.  Beck just spews forth with the bile.  The more polished of the thinkers can tell you what exactly is American about yearning for immigration reform; Beck just thinks he wants to say that he plain don't like the brown people and all their enchiladas.

As a most recent example, Beck, like other not-so-progressive commentators, is mistrustful of Vice President Al Gore and his efforts heighten awareness of a potential planetary peril.  The more refined versions of the arguments against efforts to combat/ameliorate climate change run something along the lines of, "The science isn't proven, we cannot hinder our prosperity, and what's so wrong with change? bla bla bla."  Done well, it's almost convincing.  Glenn Beck is not so refined:

[Y[ou know, Al Gore's not going to be rounding up Jews and exterminating them.  It is the same tactic, however.  The goal is different.  The goal is globalization.  The goal is global carbon tax.  The goal is the United Nations running the world.  That is the goal.  Back in the 1930s, the goal was get rid of all of the Jews and have one global government.

Beck's problem with the concept of climate change is that Al Gore is too Hitler-y. 

It's about as defensible as accusations of being a space alien -- a charge that can only be dignified by a response.  It's true that Gore, and other advocates of a muscular response to climate change, are advocating a global response, but then again, it's a global problem.  As history advances, the species needs to bootstrap its problem-solving capabilities to a planetary level (especially as we understand threats that are also on a planetary level).  This may sound like sci-fi (and maybe this is what is so scary to gibbering fools like Glenn Beck), but, now that we're a few centuries away from believing that some sort of god-creature eats the sun every night around sunset, there are problems that affect all the species, all over the earth, the consequences of which are more distant and discrete.

To wit, Glenn Beck is still all flat-earth, and he thinks Al Gore, with his PowerPoint, is some kind of witch.

Also, it's illuminating how much can be discern about a body from their accusations.  A cringing, superstitious Beck suspects something is not right about the poindexters and their concerns about how hot is outside.  Does he accuse them of paternalism, or undue excitability?  No.  Rather, in the total absence of supporting evidence, he accuses them of a dark conspiracy with the ultimate goal of forcing all the God-fearers to believe only and exactly what is proscribed to be believed.

Glenn Beck, with his suspicions of the non-Christian, and his doughy embrace of homogeneity, has forgotten that one about the pot and the kettle.

Posted by mrbrent at 3:55 PM

dreams are usually only interesting while you're dreaming

I try to avoid writing about dreams I may or may not have had -- mostly because I'm not so much a hippie.  Also, I have certain concerns about the quality of time spent by the prospective reader, etc., as intersected by my pervasive self-deprecation.  But!  I had a dream last night that meets the criteria for "funny" and "entertaining", so, then.

So, I'm in the vagued-out apartment with the vagued-out people with whom I'm sharing this apartment.  It's on the third floor.  In the course of whatever fractured narrative that's occurring, I look out the window, down to the sidewalk.  There is a dwarfish older fella, directly beneath me, waving his arms and twitching.  He's talking, barely stopping to breath, and he's wearing what looks like a monk's robe, made of butcher paper.  It is Robin Williams.  I call to the vagued-out roommates, and they come see.  We decide that we should call the authorities, before Robin Williams terminally annoys a passer-by.

Basically, I had a dream that could be titled, "Hey, Robin Williams, get off my lawn!"

Okay.  Enough of that.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:33 AM