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September 20, 2008

wherein i stub my toe on the obvious re: tv commentators

I just realized (while watching the television, naturally) what it is about standard news coverage, whether the networks or the 24 hour cable purveyors, that so raises my blood pressure.  It's the freaking experts whose opinions are solicited to spice up whatever story is being reported.

Being a dude of a certain age, I have this ideal of what the news is.  And by being "of a certain age", I basically mean having been raised on Walter Cronkite as the nation's voice of moral authority, the movies from the 70s in which the muckraking reporter is fighting the valiant fight against the powers that be, etc.

Well, having been raised as such, I have ingrained this idea that the press is a force for good, the watchmen, holding public figures accountable for lies and misdeeds.  So when the experts are trotted out, and when what they say does not so much resemble expertise, it galls me, and makes me not pleasant company.  Because I think I am still expecting some kind of wisdom, or some kind of insight based on someone knowing more than I do, and I hardly ever get it.

And this is not just a case of the false equivalence of the he-said/she-said, liberal/conservative tone that we like to yell about.  This is a case of either side of this false equivalence being entirely subsumed by campaign functionaries who have memorized talking points that were issued earlier in the morning.  These experts might as well be labeled "paid shill of [x] campaign", but they are not.  They are trotted out as impartial, as men and women there to educate the public at large.  Good Christ, it sucks.

And I will say, believing what I do, that the conservatives are better at it, unleashing their platoon of eggheads and professors marching in lockstep, much better at lying while smiling than Tucker Bounds.  Maybe the fact that the guys I do agree with are not so good at the singularity of message is why I still agree with them.  But the fact that they flirt with it is not making me any less cynical at all.

This is mostly a testament to my naïvité, but then again, what isn't?

Posted by mrbrent at 3:38 PM

talk like a grown-up day

Another year, another God-damn "Talk Like a Pirate Day".  I nearly managed to make it through yesterday without hearing anything that would force me to remember that there is such a thing, but then slowly, one by one, all the general interest sites would make a glancing tired reference to it.

For the record, I don't hate it because I hate everything.  I hate it because it's Forced Whimsy.  It's direct predecessor is that one day we all wore our Raybans -- all day long! -- in our senior year of high school.  It's about appearing to have fun as opposed to actually having fun.

If you really want to talk like a freakin' pirate, then no one's stopping you.  Not yesterday, not today, not ever.  Now don't you have some Fawlty Towers DVDs to catch up on or something?

At least I managed to let it pass without comment on the day-of, so I wouldn't hurt the feelings of any of the piratetards.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:17 AM

September 19, 2008

the skills of tucker bounds: would atwater's ghost approve?

This is McCain Campaign Pinata and Pity-Party Veteran Tucker Bounds' response yesterday to Sen. Obama's reaction to Sen. McCain's scape-goating of SEC (FEC?) Chairman Christopher Cox:
In response, McCain campaign spokesman Tucker Bounds said, "When Barack Obama came to Washington, he chose to strengthen his ties to spiraling lenders like Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and their jet-set CEOs, not make change.  The American people cannot afford leadership that puts a higher premium on campaign contributions than protecting hardworking Americans."

As much as the ill-informed may believe that Obama is a "muslin", or that he picks his nose during the Pledge of Allegiance, even they would have a hard time swallowing that for the past couple years Obama has been secretly colluding with the heads of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  It's not just an overstatement.  It's a, "Come now, young man, you can't possibly expect me to believe that?"  Or, more appropriately, "I think that little fella thinks we're all dumb or something.  Drill Baby Drill!  Drill Baby Drill!"

Just seeing the name of Tucker Bounds in print, or the hang-dog face of Tucker Bounds on the television, is a Pavlovian signal to please disregard the next thirty minutes or so.  And then pity the sad little fella so tarnishing the life's work of Lee Atwater and Karl Rove.

Posted by mrbrent at 3:17 PM

todd palin: throbbing coward

I know that the grown-up response to First-Whatever of Alaska Todd Palin refusing to comply with a subpoena -- which was served in the course of an investigation over whether Gov. Palin was engaged in some improper personnel moves as governor -- is to point out that subpoena is in no way conditional.  Even if the investigation, or the grand jury, or the trial is bogus, it does not render the subpoena bogus.  A subpoena is just a command to appear for testimony, so if you want to challenge the validity of the investigation, you still gotta show up.

(This is a simplification of the legal issues, but I'm a simple guy.  Also, I'm ignoring the issue of the jurisdiction of the body issuing the subpoena, and whether anyone truly "has" to do anything.  All in the name of entertainment.)

But I feel that to engage this latest tactic of the expensive big city lawyers the McCain campaign sent up to Alaska (anyone see "Recount"?) would be to legitimize their efforts, to grant their point by arguing it and to surrender to their endless delay-of-game.

Instead, I suggest this response: Todd Palin is a coward.  This is of course a sidebar issue to that of his wife's law-breakin' governorship, the fact that he's aww scawed of a wittle bitty subpeona The facts that she is less than ethical and he is somewhat unmanned by cowardice may compliment each other, but they are only a little pertinent to each other.  Hey, I just looked up "pusillanimous" in the disctionary, and it means "Todd Palin"!  Not that being a gutless sissy, afraid of some guys asking him questions, would prevent someone from being a "First Dude", but it does make him a punk.  Or a bitch.  Both are appropriate.

I don't think that a person dressed in a chicken suit, with a yellow belly, perhaps, should follow Todd Palin around, saying, "First Dude!  Brock brock!"

I don not think that at all.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:03 AM

and the entertainment for your rally: the violin stylings of nero!

Aaaaannd Black Sunday is back off again.  After late gains yesterday, a whole buncha Federal maneuvering is positioning the market for a healthy rally.  In fact, Dow futures are already up 300 this morning.  I'm sure everyone on the subways feel more attractive, and schoolchildren every will be acing those pop quizzes today, thanks to the Fed's brave plan to give Wall Street whatever it wants if it just will stop with the cratering already.

And what are the long term implications of this on the Fed?  We'll probably have to wait until next week to find out, as I'm sure financial reporters will be busy with the pom-poms until then.

I mean, my understanding is the "financial crisis" is not that of the stock market tanking, it is that of a whole once-reliable sector whose foundation has rotted out thanks to the bad debt that it bought off of other sectors, thinking that they could monetize it.  So I'm not quite sure what showering investors with money-blowjobs is going to accomplish, other than chilling everyone the fuck out.

I wish Black Sunday would make up its freakin' mind.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:11 AM

September 18, 2008

michele bachmann: losing her touch

Ms Cuckoo-For-Cocoa-Puffs 2008, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), on the financial crisis that keeps happening and then not happening:
First we were told that Bear Stearns was too big to fail, then we were told that Freddie/Fannie were too big to fail, then we were told that AIG was too big to fail.  What’s next, Starbucks too big to fail?


Well I guess that's not that crazy at all.  For an opening monologue.  I mean, sure, it's trite and all, but it's not crazy insane person talk, like she usually manages.

Frankly, I expected better.  Maybe she was wearing a funny hat or something?

Posted by mrbrent at 4:58 PM

gop 08: nothing we tell you matters anyway

I don't wanna post this so much as to continue the deluge of anti-Palin material -- not that I intend to stand between that deluge and you, the reader -- but instead to repeat a good point made by a Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NB), responding to claims that Gov. Palin has foreign policy experience because Alaska lies across the Bering Straight from Russia:
Hagel took issue with that argument.  "I think they ought to be just honest about it and stop the nonsense about, 'I look out my window and I see Russia and so therefore I know something about Russia,'" he said.  "That kind of thing is insulting to the American people."

Um, yeah.  I not only agree, but I think that's about as obvious as a mountain range.  Which raises two issues:

First, why has the McCain campaign consistently repeated this as a qualification for his running mate?  The first time I heard it, it came from the mouth of Cindy McCain over Labor Day weekend.  And we thought it was a gaffe, as in, ohh, that one won't get repeated any time soon!  After which it has been repeated, as a matter of instinct, in speeches, interviews and embarrassing Tucker Bounds episodes.  is the McCain campaign so cock-sure of their post-modern "only the votes of the stupids can save us" strategy that they will risk open ridicule for the patent bullshit they run on?  Are they in the back of their Straight Talk Express, concocting ever-escalating feckless lies and non sequiturs to feed to the press next, like "McCain lead the successful invasion of Normandy" or "Palin possess the Arc of the Covenent"?

And second, why does it take a Republican senator to finally say it out loud?  Sure, the media is coming around a bit on the blind worship of McCain/Palin, even using the dreaded "L" word, but should the more legitimate allow a campaign to repeat a claim of proximity-equals-experience for three weeks without driving a stake through its heart?  And I don't mean by "calling bullshit" -- I mean by investigating and then reporting that being able to see Alaska have absolutely nothing to do with one's foreign policy experience, not in this plane of existence, no.

Ultimately, the McCain campaign is being run like an SNL skit, and the press is too gob-smacked to call anyone on it.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:03 AM

oh black sunday keep on rolling

It turns out that Black Sunday wasn't over with after all, as the Dow dropped four fifty, NASDAQ was hammered and Wendy's discontinued the Baconator.  Real people, little people -- you know, people with absolutely no direct interest in the stock market -- are starting to panic as uncertainty and bacon-grief sweep the Street.

I wonder yet if the finance bankers who devised the idea of securitizing debt have yet realized that "spreading around" risk isn't exactly the same thing as "eliminating" risk.  They're probably too busy finding a place in their mansions to stash all the million dollar bills and then acting sad when guys they went to college with are laid off from Lehman to think about it.

Also, which line item in the federal budget is the one for "buying insurance companies"?  I've never poured through the budget, but an expenditure of $85 billion should stick out, considering that the entire budget is only $2.7 trillion.  Also, can we really afford to buy many more of these insurance companies?  And does Dick Cheney get to keep them when he leaves office.

(Dick Cheney is currently vice president of the United States, under the president, George W. Bush.  Yeah, it's all coming back now, right?)

Well, the financial news this morning is optimistic, as western governments have opened the money spigot on the markets, which should lull investors into a nice, peaceful sleep, and then panic about an hour before the markets close.  Let's watch together.

(I'm just kidding about the Baconator, BTW, which has its own web page.  Never had one, and I probably never will, but I give props to whichever Executive Vice President of Marketing and Poisoning Americans thought of the name.)

Posted by mrbrent at 7:10 AM

September 17, 2008

if you have a spare moment in between panicking

Briefly (and the service provider here at dayjob central are experiencing a mild service discontinuity, that's why this is appearing hours after the timestamp), in all the hullabaloo over the election and Black Sundays and the continuing sadness of Tucker Bounds, I let a pretty important copyright story get away from me.

Basically, there is a bill that just passed committee in the House of Reps that will direct the Department of Justice to investigate/enforce civil copyright claims.  As in, instead of the MPAA wasting millions suing college students for their file sharing, the DoJ would be doing so, at taxpayer expense.

The legitimacy of these claims is not at issue here (even though they are clearly illegitmate).  The issue is that the government should not be in the business of protecting the intellectual property of private business interests.  Now, if there were such a thing as an enforcement effort protecting the public domain, that would be a whole nuther.  But intellectual property does not rise to the level of real property, no matter who says what, and owners of intellectual property (and that would include me and a whole lot of you) have ample recourse at law and in equity.

Full explanation, complete with info identifying the bill and Things You Can Do, available at this page, via Boing Boing.

Posted by mrbrent at 12:38 PM

fiorina's golden shovel

Tucker Bounds, this is the ghost of Christmas Yet To Come.

Yesterday, improbably-named Carly Fiorina, who is an "advisor" to the McCain campaign, yesterday decided that there ain't no hole deep enough, as she first said, on camera, that Gov. Sarah Palin would not be qualified to run a big company, and then back-tracked deeper by later adding that Sens. McCain and Obama wouldn't be qualified, either.

You'd think that most notable aspect of that would be the fact that Ms. Fiorina's career as CEO of Hewlett-Packard ended when she was forced out after driving the company into the side of a mountain.  One would think that this fact would be relevant to her judgment on the fitness of big business executives.  Or to be an advisor to a presidential campaign.  But the senator sure do like the ladies!

This is all pertinent to the Saddest Flack in the World Tucker Bounds because of the fact that it took about an hour and a half for the McCain campaign to withdraw Fiorina's smart-guy credentials:

"Carly will now disappear," this source said.  "Senator McCain was furious."  Asked to define "disappear," this source said, adding that she would be off TV for a while - but remain at the Republican National Committee and keep her role as head of the party's joint fundraising committee with the McCain campaign.

I think that the definition of "disappear" is pretty widely known, but it's nice to see another reporter strike a blow in the war against idiom.

May Tucker Bound's haplessness not become too egregious, lest we lose him for kicking-around purposes.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:36 AM

September 16, 2008

no more crisis to see here, for at least the next fifteen hours

Well, it's day two (two and a half?) of Black Monday, and the market closed up a hundred and forty points.  So, that's it?  Wow.  That was the shortest crisis ever.  I don't feel like I even got a chance to really experience it.  Aw, shucks.  I mean, hurrah.

And where was the president during all this?  I'd heard that he'd issued some statement that included words that he hadn't said out loud since he was getting his "MBA", but not a whole lot of attention has been paid to it.  I think that the press corps are setting up fake TV cameras and cardboard cut-outs of their correspondents in the White House so the president won't be able to tell that no one on the planet gives a single shit about what he thinks.  The press corps is nice like that.

Plus also I still haven't totally figured the whys and wherefores of this whole financial crisis thing.  I figure it's like a drought, except instead of rain, corporate behemoths like AIG and WAMU are waiting for money to fall out of the sky.  Either that or the living brain of J.P. Morgan has gotten sick of waiting in its dark Wall Street basement laboratory and wants the financial sector consolidated into one entity right now.  He will call this entity "The Living Brain of J.P. Morgan, Inc."  I could be wrong.

I aim to have a better handle on it by the next time that massive amounts of capital evaporate due to panicky investors stampeding to stop the bleeding of their portfolios.  Maybe tomorrow?

Posted by mrbrent at 4:26 PM

i decided to try being cranky again

A portion of the lead sentence of a Gothamist promo of a reading by a magazine writer who wrote a novel:
Every girl's nerd-crush (admit it), Chuck Klosterman (pictured)...

Now, despite my marital status of "very happily", I remain a big fan of girls, because they are soft and they smell good.  But if the best that girls can do for a nerd-crush is a fellow who writes like a gazed-navel being dragged across a chalk board, well, then, girls, I might be forced to move on.  Maybe I'll move on to "women", or to "the ladies".

I know, Klosterman is reputedly a sweet guy, has many fans, and certainly doesn't use the phrase "dayjob" as much as this guy typing right here.  Anyhow.  That's what we haters do and we can't help it; point on paucity of the choice of him for nerd-crush stands.

Though "a gazed-navel being dragged across a chalk board" sums me up pretty well, come to think of it.

Posted by mrbrent at 2:37 PM

tucker bounds: catch the wave

Not one hour after I put up the "Tucker Bounds is a something" post, Gawker's Ryan Tate posted a smorgasbord of video of Tucker Bounds being smacked around like a cat-toy by newsreaders.  Which is ironic, like rain on your wedding day.

If you have no time for Googling and you are not already familiar with Tucker Bounds, a brief explanation -- Tucker Bounds is a spokesperson for the McCain campaign.  As such, he says sentences full of untruths and spin so obvious it is squirmy.  Sentences like this, concerning McCain's somnambulist RNC acceptance speech:

“The changing image-screen was linked to the American thematics of the speech and the public school was simply part of it,” Mr. Bounds said, adding that during the speech, Mr. McCain “called for public education reforms that empower parents and students before bureaucrats and labor unions.”

Now, that sentiment would be mendacious and skin-crawly coming from anyone.  But somehow, Tucker Bounds is possessed of a certain unctuousness that makes him not only pitiable, but also the least credible man alive.

Which is why we will immortalize Tucker Bounds, as the saddest excuse for a flack that has ever walked the earth, and an exemplary example of the judgment of John McCain.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:08 AM

palin: fill the screen with lies

In a speech last night, candidate for some thing or other that she's eminently qualified for, Gov. Sarah Palin is quoted as saying this, referring to her speech at the RNC:
"There Ohio was right out in front, right in front of me," Palin said. "The teleprompter got messed up, I couldn’t follow it, and I just decided I’d just talk to the people in front of me. It was Ohio.”

I would not want to suggest that Palin might not be able to follow something -- I'm not enough a misogynist to do that -- but I would like to suggest, as set forth in the Jake Tapper item I pulled the above from, that it's a God-damn lie.

Not that fellow travelers are rushing to debunk the "I made up that speech off the top of my little head" whopper right now.  No, actually, it was debunked the day after she gave the speech.

She and her running mate -- old what's his name -- continually outperform when it comes to refusing to tell anything resembling the truth.  Remember back when liars would at least pretend like truth was the ideal and as such a lie should never ever transparently be a lie?

Ahhh, what a bunch of freakin' children we were.  Lying must be the new sexy or something.  Maybe that's why all those middle-aged Republican white guys want to "vote" her so bad.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:51 AM

September 15, 2008

tucker bounds: asshole?

Sorry, this is just a placeholder, a "note to self".  Content-lite, but, again, sorry:

Tucker Bounds may or not be an asshole, but is his salary enough that he can sleep at night, being the asshole that he may or may not be?

Still working on it.  But I'm curious if Tucker Bounds is an asshole, or just well-paid.  Or both.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:03 PM

reading a blog: how-to!

I'm not sure if this qualifies as stunningly obvious or indispensable, but, in my day-long fight to understand exactly what is happening down there on Wall Street, where everyone has a better haircut than I do, I've been consulting a live-blog by New York Times' chief financial correspondent Floyd Norris, which live-blog is prefaced with the following dollop of advice:
This blog will be updated during the day, with the newest items at the top to enable returning viewers to see what is new.  It can be best read from the bottom.

It does read not unlike "how to open and close a door", but I should also admit that I have had to explain the physical layout of the "blog" more than once.  It is non-traditional, for those of us old enough to have grown up reading books.

Leave it to the New York Times, to codify this, and to do so politely.  (i.e., it can be best read from the bottom, but hey! don't let us stop you from reading it upside-down if you wanna, crazy guggenheimer.)

Meanwhile: the Dow closed down over 500 points, which is supposed to be bad, whatever a "Dow" is.

Posted by mrbrent at 4:20 PM

john mccain, as wall street savior: puh-lease

Just to stay true to my partisan nature, remind me again how the McCain/Palin administration would deal with a financial crisis of this sort?  Would it be to accuse Barack Obama of inexperience, or to accuse Barack Obama of misogyny?

Ahhhhh'm just kidding.  Everyone know how John McCain would staight-talk his way into victory over the forces of capitalism -- find more taxes to cut.

Market opens in minutes, and I gotta go move the car.  Whee.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:17 AM

jesus, i just got hit in the head with a piece of sky

Looks like today is going to be highly novel, what with Wall Street performing its dramatization of an Agatha Christie:
...as tea was being served, the lights suddenly went out as the remaining guests gasped in astonishment!  An horrible thrashing echoed through the chambers, and a final gasp, no more than a sigh, exhaled in the darkness.  The lights returned with a flicker, and the guests, tea cups still to their lips, saucers still carefully held under the teacups.

Col. Bank of America let out a shout and stood, pointing to the corner of the room.  "There, next to the hearth!  Under the Ottoman!  Just past the chesterfield, and then a little to the left!"

It seemed to be a tangled heap of rags, but, as the guests examined closer, they discovered that the pile of rags was in fact both Contessa Merrill Lynch and Lehman Brothers, the mysterious stevdore!  And neither so much as breathed!

The guests eyed one another warily.  The murderer had struck again!

In the course of normal conversations, I've discovered that no one can really explain this financial crisis, or its causes, in any convincing fashion.  Well, except for one, but he's Canadian, so his views are tarnished by that peculiar mix of socialism and hardscrabble profiteering.  So we'll see if there isn't something out there written mostly in pictures so I can understand it.  Maybe something by that renowned expert Gov. Sarah Palin.

Now all there was to do was to wait for another message from there shadowy host, Generalissimo Alan Greenspan.

Wish me luck, and let's hope that we're not all wearing apple barrels by the end of the day.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:07 AM

September 14, 2008


Concerning the immediately subsequent post, yeah, I know that it's "hanged" and not "hung".  And I am quite familiar that DFW was very exacting in his grammar, as evinced not only in his prose, but also in an essay he wrote.  So maybe it would not be so tasteful to deliberately mangle my grammar in a post mourning a man who presumably was not in favor of mangling grammar.

Unless, of course, you take into account that I was deliberately mangling grammar in a post mourning a man who presumably was not in favor of mangling grammar, which man also took his own life.

And while we're there, I'm not so sure if the "go and do [x]" construct is super popular in grad schools either.

But the day is passing, and the news isn't feeling any better.  No, it don't feel better at all.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:40 AM

david foster wallace

David Foster Wallace hung himself.  I am known as a "fan", and I am, but not in the sense of tracking him down, visiting his high school, etc.  I have a friend back in Rochester with the coolest "stalking Salinger" story.  It's the best.  But yeah, I am a fan, and so the news that DFW has hung himself is pretty fucking terrible news.

I wish I had something pithy to write, but what do you say?  How do you truly understand a suicide while you're still breathing?  Not to get too romantic about it -- at all -- but there is some part of me that wishes, in the face of the suicide of some cultural big-leaguer that you have a particular respect for, that the big-leaguer taking his or her own life has a pretty fucking good reason to do so.

I would liked to have read more David Foster Wallace books.  I very much wish that he wouldn't have gone and did that.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:12 AM