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August 30, 2007

taibbi: the profiteerization of iraq

What I'm about to recommend is a very long piece that I'm going to ask that you read anyway.  I know that when you get over 1,000 words, paper trumps your CRT, but to ask you to do that is to ask you to buy an issue of Rolling Stone, and I want you to continue to like me.

In case you have no intention of ever sitting still long enough to read it, then you are a bad person.  But if you had been thinking of the Iraqi Occupation as some kind of comedy of errors inspired by utter fuckwittedness in the chain of command (say, "Catch-22" meets Larry the Cable Guy), it's time to revise your opinion, says Matt Taibbi's feature story.  More like an unrelenting orgy of greed and incompetence, with nightly money-fights before turning in at night (say, Boss Tweed meets Gaddis' "J.R.").

Operation Iraqi Freedom, it turns out, was never a war against Saddam ­Hussein's Iraq.  It was an invasion of the federal budget, and no occupying force in history has ever been this efficient. George W. Bush's war in the Mesopotamian desert was an experiment of sorts, a crude first take at his vision of a fully privatized American government.  In Iraq the lines between essential government services and for-profit enterprises have been blurred to the point of absurdity -- to the point where wounded soldiers have to pay retail prices for fresh underwear, where modern-day chattel are imported from the Third World at slave wages to peel the potatoes we once assigned to grunts in KP, where private companies are guaranteed huge profits no matter how badly they fuck things up.

It's very much worth a read, especially if you have time to digest the whole thing and then ponder the relief efforts in NOLA, and how well they went, and maybe why.

Next time some suit starts lecturing you about "privatization", just filter the word out and insert "profiteerization".  Which is, historically, at the very least the next zip code over from treason.

Posted by mrbrent at 1:07 PM

david byrne to red hook: i shall return

Here's a bit of randomness linked in Gothamist which I found quite straightforward and charming:

Take one part David Byrne, two parts Mexican and Central American food, stir, and you geta very not-shrill rumination on gentrification.  It's always disarming when our music stars write coherently about subjects other than hookers, coke and "moving units".

And since this is a post ganked from Gothamist, I share this -- yesterday, a Gawker post characterized Gothamist as "the 1010Wins of the blogosphere".  It's a fair cop (I gave it a "Har!"), and I certainly don't want to carry water for Gothamist, but what does that then make Gawker?  K-Rock?  WABC?  Also, remember that 1010Wins is the most listened-to station in America, and that also "blogosphere" got put on the don't-say list some months ago.

But as long as we're here, let's you and him fight!

Posted by mrbrent at 12:38 PM

August 29, 2007


As today is the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina striking the Gulf Coast, you'll find a whole slew of stories in the medias.  We all need to hang our hat somewhere.  There's something about the earth revolving around the sun an additional time that makes all the ink-stained rev up their eloquence engines and get on with the commemorating.

For me, when the conversations concerning "what was your final straw" are occasioned, Katrina is the event that I argue pretty strenuously.  There's been some pretty heinous shit that we've all lived through, but this is the first time in modern history that I can think of where an industrialized society lost an entire city, like it was your TV's changer or something.  It's the only time I can think of where a government had four or five days to save the lives of those that were drowning in their attics, and couldn't (wouldn't?) do it.  We go forward with these inviolate axioms of what life in these United States will bring, and there's a half a city's worth of people now living somewhere not New Orleans who had the real big one ("the nation will protect you from nation-sized threats, like natural disasters") shattered and ground into dust.  And now it's two years down the road, and NOLA is still a shambles, in sections.  So yeah, last fucking straw.  Heckuva job, cocksuckers.

The only saving grace is at least there's nothing about this for Giuliani to take credit for.  (Though a Giuliani floating around the Ninth Ward like a thrice-married Churchill in water wings, desperately seeking press conferences, might have accomplished more than the President and FEMA put together.)

But I recommend just about all of the various opinion pieces on this anniversary, even the poorly-written ones -- purely on account of the subject matter, which needs not to be forgotten.  Swing a dead cat and you'll find one or two.

Posted by mrbrent at 3:29 PM

just how not-gay are you, senator?

It's truly a great day in history when a sitting United States Senator calls a press conference and bellows, "Let me be clear: I am not gay and never have been."  I'd like that as my ringtone, just in case any passers-by suspect that I am gay.  Or that I once was gay.  Because, even if I'm not gay right now, you know, there's the possibility that in my troubled youth I might have been the gayest gay in gayland.

What you don't get from the video is before Senator Craig and his wife (see?  not gay) walk before the cameras -- Sen. Craig was all nervous, and his wife told him that the trick was to imagine the assembled reporters in their underwear, calling him gay.

At the very least, Sen. Craig's assiduously not-gay-ness has brought to the forefront a very serious and important discussion -- just why are we wasting cop man-hours on busting consenting adults getting it on?

Posted by mrbrent at 10:29 AM

August 28, 2007

brendan tobin's "toxic tales of williamsburg"

If you are a fan of comic book art, or satire, or anything good and decent in this world, then there is a show up that I'm whole-heartedly recommending to those living in/visiting NYC -- Brendan Tobin's "Toxic Tales of Williamsburg".  The show consists of the covers of an imagined anthology comic book (Toxic Tales of Williamsburg, natch), done up in the Mighty Marvel style of the early 70s.  It's spot on, plus also there are elements of that thing they call "satire", of which I am told I am a fan.

It's hanging at the Abbey Bar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, at 536 Driggs Avenue between N7th & N8th (which is my local, full disclosure), and will be up until the end of September.

Or, just go to Tobin's website for a sneak peek and other miscellaneous well-rendered items.

Posted by mrbrent at 4:41 PM

yes, i know, it's from portfolio

It's nearly Labor Day weekend, which means that it's time for your random and awkward pieces on Burning Man.  As the dirty hippies are just now traveling to the playa, coverage is limited to who is going, like this piece, which is short profile of Wall Street executives who are planning to attend.  And it's just super!
And the business folks who go (albeit anonymously, in the spirit of the event) say they get something out of this nonhierarchical, open-society environment.  “When I return, I think I’m a far better executive, in terms of innovation and creativity,” says the senior executive.  “And each year that I come back, I’m better for it.  I think my team and my company are better for it.  I stay creative and expose myself to new ideas.”

Get that dude a glowstick, stat -- his team and his company need some bettering, and he needs to get to exposing himself!

Actually, exactly four of such Wall-Streeters are quoted, which is a plurality?  A quorum?  I'm not sure, but evidently it's enough to write a story about.

(For the record, yes, I been there -- '95 and '96.  I'm still swirling the taste of my authenticity around in my mouth.)

[Via HuffPost.]

Posted by mrbrent at 10:39 AM

August 27, 2007

gonzales: god hates a quitter

I had read a rumor of this over the weekend, but I didn't give it much credence, as the Attorney General, all through the Congressional investigations over his misconduct not only as AG but also as White House Counsel, and his casually mendacious testimonies thereto, has repeatedly insisted that he would stay on until the end of Bush's term.

Which insistence, I'm happy to report, was yet another of Alberto Gonzales' lies.  I take no more joy than the next guy in the serial resignation of the officials of the White House, torn eternally between corruption and ineptitude (which is admittedly a measurable amount of joy), but I do think that the position of the Attorney General, and the Justice Department in general, has an express responsibility to not just appear impartial, but to actually be impartial, and Gonzales is perhaps one of the least impartial toadie water-carriers I can think of.  Karl Rove is certainly partisan, but his position, that of "political director" or however it is couched, is a position that is given to manipulations of the electorate and other partisanry.  The AG is supposed to be policing that, inasmuch as this is not the Soviet Union, and law enforcement should not be in the ruling party's pocket.

His failings are too many to briefly summarize, and his resignation is no reason to sweep them under the carpet.  So, I guess, it's just good to see him back in the spotlight, where he belongs.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:10 AM