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September 27, 2008

debate remorse

Hey!  Two more thoughts after the debates that are non-debate content specific:

First, we noticed last night that our expectations, or at least our hopes and dreams, were so amped up last night that even Sen. Obama doing very well and performing according to plan left us feeling that we got creamed.  It's not that our opinion of him is so high, but that our opinion of Sen. McCain is so low, such that anything less than McCain admitting that Obama was clearly the better candidate and McCain is too old for this shit anyway left us feeling that Obama underperformed.  Clearly, he didn't -- and I'm glad that the McCain as a bitter rude old bastard meme has some legs, but it was interesting to note (and then blather on about).

And second, as the day progresses and I'm asked how I thought the debates went, I find myself tempted not to answer honestly, but instead as I would answer if I were a flack were, if he were being asked in a public venue and the tone and content of his answer were part of a campaign strategy.  You know, to spin, which is not particularly in my nature, at all.  I don't know if that means that flack-speak and flack-motivation have entered our gene pool or that I need to spend some time not caring about this shit.  Probably both.

Posted by mrbrent at 3:11 PM

jeez, i got debate all over me

Two interesting/meta things about the debate:

First, I noticed that it was almost impossible to separate myself from how closely I've followed the election, and how closely I've followed politics in general, and watch the debate like a normal civilian with a putatively open mind.  Instead, I watched it like a critic, and like someone who was trying to second-guess how the normal civilian with a putatively open mind would be taking it all in.  And the next thought was that perhaps the amount of attention I've given the entire thing mixed with how intensely I care about the outcome of this thing makes me not the best person to prognosticate anything about normal open-minded civilian's impressions, and especially since I do spend a lot of time mocking normal open-minded civilians for being not very smart.  So it was difficult to bridge that gap and trust my own perceptions, which is I guess not any different from anything, when you think all spaced-out about it.

Second, you seriously do crash after that thing was over.  We watched a half-hour of pre-debate, the entire thing and then an hour of post-debate (BTW, Joe Biden? a fucking assassin), and then we were both exhausted and ready to call it a night (significantly earlier than we normally would).  And this morning, I feel like i have a presidential-election hangover -- I can't believe I watched the whole thing.  I maybe need to monitor my diet better (though someone made a tagine of chicken last night for the debate that hit the freaking spot).

But whatever to my micro-oversharing.  Snap judgment: Obama won, but McCain shockingly did not throw a chair at Obama or suspend his campaign again, so he gets a moral victory for not mucking everything up.  And the normal open-minded civilians will agree with me, unless they are not very smart, in which case they will think that McCain won, because he was at D-Day and because that other fella looks suspiciously like a black man.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:41 AM

September 26, 2008

the obama/old senile guy debate happens very soon

OK, so the connectivity issues at the place where I write all this of employ returned today, making it five years now that our digital access has been sporadic, which means that the one good idea I had today, along with the four bad ones that I would have written about instead, are DTR.

And now we're all nestled up in the apartment, making excellent food, waiting for the debate, in which (I persist) Obama will come off as cool -- cool enough to give grift, but not cool enough to spoil anything -- and McCain will come off as occasionally forgetting where he is, but getting at least one "good one" in so the NYPost will have something for front page tomorrow.  Unless he finds another Hail Mary to actually get out of the debate for real, in which case we'll all have something to talk about.

Was going to "liveblog" the entire thing, but then realized that all y'all will probably be too busy actually watching the debate, and boozing, to give many shits about that.

So let's all cross our fingers, and temper our expectations with the knowledge that someday, somewhere, Gov. Sarah Palin will be interviewed again, breaking the Geneva Conventions w/r/t the English language.

Cheers.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:23 PM

correction, and apologies to shit-house rats

Further to the immediately previous post, after further reading and coffee, I need to make one correction: according to reports, Sen. McCain did not so much blow up the bailout compromise as he did sit idly by as House Minority Leader John Bohner blowed up the compromise.  Rep. Boehner was the one gobsmacking, while Sen. McCain contributed by refusing to say where his supprt would go -- to the previous compromise, to Rep. Boehner's new proposal or to a long slow walk down the beach at sunset.  The senator's big sin was not to bushwhack the assemblage but rather to respond to questions of where his support would land with, "Iiiiii'm not gonna telllll youuuuuuu."  Oh, and to campaign like a crazy insane person.

I seen a number of instances where blame is being laid solely at the feet of Sen. McCain, but, after looking into it further, I feel it is unfair to impute anything like a plan or a unilateral action to the senator.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:48 AM

mccain and the shithouse rat: compare, contrast

I just wanna write out a summary of last night's events, not so much because I think that any of you need summarizing, but because the events were so implausible that I want to see them written in my own hand.

So yesterday, the day after the GOP candidate "suspends his campaign" so that he can solve the financial crisis unilaterally, his campaign functions like it has every other day, running ads, sending functionaries onto cable news, etc.  Which was galling at the time, but ended up not being the story.  The president, at the suggestion of the GOP candidate, called a meeting for the afternoon in which he and the candidates and congressional leaders would all sit around a big table and talk about the weather while their photographs were being taken.

Meanwhile, back in Washington, these same congressional leaders had been negotiating back and forth over a bailout proposal suggested by the Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson.  No one much liked the proposal for a variety of reasons, but they were negotiating and then yesterday afternoon, probably about the time the candidates were arriving in DC, they announced that they'd come to a loose agreement, between the House and the Senate, and between the two caucuses, and were looking forward to ironing out the last detail with Paulson and get that sucker signed.

So then this meeting happens.  Pictures are taken, opening statements are read and then the doors close so that they can get to business.  And now that there's the beginnings of a deal, there actually is something to talk about.  And we all are expecting some kind of ceremonial something, a show of support and maybe some subtle grandstanding from the candidates.  But then the doors open: deal's off.

And then as the reporters get to work, we find out that the deal's off because the GOP candidate, after sitting through the entire meeting, gobsmacked everyone by announcing that some GOP in the House won't go for it, so consider the deal harpooned.

So then, the short version is that the GOP candidate makes some showy play for "country first" about suspending his campaign in atime of crisis, and then totally backtracks by both not suspending campaigning and doing the opposite of solving the crisis, which would be "fuck up the solution to the crisis".

If there's some upside to this -- play nakedly to the cameras and politicize a bailout that everyone thinks is vital by exploding it from the inside -- I'm not sure what it is.  Anarchists don't really vote, and he's already got the feckless asshole vote wrapped up.

Posted by mrbrent at 7:25 AM

September 25, 2008

sarah palin: english, do you speak it?

This is a transcripted excerpt of part two of the Couric/Palin interview which will run tonight:
The logistics that we are already suggesting here, not having enough troops in the area right now.  The... things like the terrain even in Afghanistan and that border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, where, you know, we believe that -- Bin Laden is -- is hiding out right now and... and is still such a leader of this terrorist movement.  There... there are many more challenges there.  So, again, I believe that... a surge in Afghanistan also will lead us to victory there as it has proven to have done in Iraq.  And as I say, Katie, that we cannot afford to retreat, to withdraw in Iraq.  That's not gonna get us any better off in Afghanistan either.  And as our leaders are telling us in our military, we do need to ramp it up in Afghanistan, counting on our friends and allies to assist with us there because these terrorists who hate America, they hate what we stand for with the... the freedoms, the democracy, the... the women's rights, the tolerance, they hate what it is that we represent and our allies, too, and our friends, what they represent.  If we were... were to allow a stronghold to be captured by these terrorists then the world is in even greater peril than it is today.  We cannot afford to lose in Afghanistan.

Naturally, those are the words of Gov. Palin and not Katie Couric.

It's one thing to speak gibberish if at least the gibberish is intended to resemble the thoughts and words of a grown-up -- that's what we call "discourse".  But when the gibberish is a stuttering toxic lake of indiscriminate subjects and verbs buried under the crushing weight of orphan pronouns and a "Katie", it raises questions of the abilities of the speaker.

Of course it's not nice to make fun of someone's quirks or something that someone does not do as well as everyone else.  My parents raised me well, and I navigated elementary school with not so much damage in my wake.

But then when that someone is running for vice president, and when that something that someone does not do as well as everyone else is "making a lick of sense", then vaya con dios, manners.  Gov. Sarah Palin is challenged, and I wouldn't trust her to operate heavy machinery, let alone occupy the Naval Observatory for four years.

And if there is any, "Aw but she's only been running for national office for a month or two," out there is straw man land, I remind you that generally we do not give credence to mitigating factors in elections -- i.e., we do not cut candidates slack because they never went to a really good college, they are dyslexic or they are not even not really that smart in the first place.

Posted by mrbrent at 2:59 PM

mom always said: never debate during a fiscal crisis

This is a little bit ticky-tack, but I'm going in for it, as it is possessed of a certain simplicity of logic that I struggle with in my yelly loud things.

It is a photograph of the McCain campaign brain trust, clearly troubled by the severity of the financial crisis that forced them to heroically put the country first and suspend the campaign.

I hope that at the end of the day they got to relax a bit -- no man, even a man as odious as Steve Schmidt, should carry such worry and concern on his back.  Maybe had a cold one, and blamed the NYTimes when the hotel cable went on the fritz.

But yeah: Their haunted visages chill my very soul!

Posted by mrbrent at 1:36 PM

i'm suspending 'i'm suspending' jokes

So my hosting service suspended my site because of the financial crisis.

No, really!  A credit card expired or something, and my ISP locked my site with the "contact your sysadmin" message, pretty much simultaneously with Sen. McCain's bold leadership cravenest baldly political ploy yet.  So then, when I write, "my hosting service suspended my site", I'm actually not joking.  Or at least any joke that might be hiding in there is co-existent with the truth.

Because, man, I dunno about you guys, but for me it took exactly three hours for the "I'm suspending my [x] because of [y]" jokes to go sour.

Posted by mrbrent at 12:24 PM

September 24, 2008

the hen-house crisis

This is today's new favorite take on the Fiscal Whosawhatsis -- the Hen-House Crisis.

I figure it's to be read as satire, but it's hard to argue that satire and reality didn't merge somewhere back there, when no one was looking.

Me, I'm starting to get a little tired of the whole the Bailout and all that other stuff with all those rich guys arguing over exactly where to move all that money back and forth while the rest of us forage for potatoes.  I'm only human.  I did hear an interesting bit on the radio, with an expert explaining that if the the new entity created by the bailout could buy the bad debts in whole, instead of the security instruments that bundled bits and pieces of a lot of bad debts, then the entity could deal with the bad debt on a case by case basis, which could make the whole shitpile a little less shitty.

But then I remember that the point of the exercise is not to salvage the bad debt obligations of all the poor-judgmented consumers but rather to further profit off of dubious credit instruments that have functioned like a spigot of money, until they didn't anymore.  And how are all those hedge funds supposed to have nice days without the God-damn money-spigot?

And then I get tired again!  Which is why I like Todd Alcott's linked item much more than my words words words.

Posted by mrbrent at 1:26 PM

campbell brown: that's a boy's name!

And now the Internet will swarm CNN anchor Campbell Brown, possibly invoking Olbermann, Maddow or maybe even Howard Beale, as she becomes the new darling of the wired/progressive left.  Why?  Because.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.  In fact, there's nothing wrong with it at all.  Last night she called out the GOP campaign for refusing to allow their veep candidate to have an unrehearsed moment in front of the media -- effing finally.  So now DailyKos and HuffPost and a million little sites like this one will all post, and Campbell Brown will be elevated to Fellow Traveler.  And remember, she made her bones by being the first to slap L'il Sad Guy Tucker Bounds around like thing she was mad at, so we can consider this round of attention a coronation.

Again, I'm all for it.  Just noting the phenomena.

And we can sit back now as Steve Schmidt widens his beef with the New York Times to include everyone who reports news, for a living or otherwise.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:33 AM

September 23, 2008

corn refiners association: change agencies

Yesterday's New York Times had an interesting full-page ad in the front section -- A7 -- with the tagline, "Could it be another schmear campaign?" over a picture of a breakfast.

The ad, from the small print at the bottom, is the work of the Corn Refiners Association, who are presumably the primary lobbying/public outreach organization concerned with the promotion of High Fructose Corn Sugar.  And this ad is specifically that, promoting the CRA's website which is sick of all you haters out there and willing to speak HFCS truth to power!  I haven't really poked around the website, because there's not much I like about HFCS and try to avoid it whenever.

But, I bring this up because the copy (in its entirety) of the ad is utterly mystifying:

Lately, high fructose corn syrup has had its name dragged through the media.  Truth is, it's nutritionally the same as table sugar.  Has the same number of calories, too.  Even registered dietitians agree that you can keep enjoying the foods and beverages you love, just do it in moderation.  To get the facts, visit our website.  We welcome a healthy discussion.

First of all, "dragged through the media"?  That may well become an idiom some day, but it is not yet now.  Oh, maybe them copywriters are smarter than me, substituting "media" for "mud", in hopes that it will fight the messenger instead of the message, but let's leave that for the straight talk of the McCampaign.  Until the nefarious guilt-by-association tactic wins the meme-war, "dragged through the media" equals "was publicized", so please cry the river somewhere else.

Second, big congratulations for throwing off the chains of complete sentences.  Granted, only one and a half of them (of the six, or five and a half) are incomplete, but they glare, just like blacking out some of your front teeth to make the common folk feel like y'all got something in common.  As far as that goes, where are the folksy contractions?  Y'all fatcats cain't afford a apostrophe?

And lastly is this very scary and untethered sentence:

Even registered dietitians agree that you can keep enjoying the foods and beverages you love, just do it in moderation.

Okay, there's nothing else in the entire page that refers to any kind of medical condition a consumer might be possessed of that would require that disclaimer.  There was no, "Hey, diabetics!" or, "Leprosy got you down?"  Which then raises the question: what is there about your test-tube HFCS that should invoke "moderation"?  In fact, and I hope that this is not the thrust of the ad campaign -- oh wait, actually I do -- should I, with no known pre-existing medical conditions, be overly concerned about the moderation of my HFCS intake?  Which finally, rarely enters the realm of the question begged, which is, "What is so unhealthy about HFCS that I should entertain moderation at all?"

Because if you are some highly paid professionals engaged to defend the virtues of a substance that only hippies like me are suspicious of, and the best you can do is, "do it in moderation," well then I'd like your job, or at least your money.  The full-page ad costs somewhere between fifty and a hundred thousand dollars, your purpose is to get consumers to chug down the swill like it was vodka (or sugar, even), and the most enthusiasm you can muster is, "just do it in moderation"?  Dude, can I have your card?

It's just a happy confluence of an utterly incompetent image-repairing campaign and substance I, purely intuitively, believe you shouldn't be putting in your body.  Which means, surf's up.

BTW, technically "schmear" is New-Yawkish for the appropriate amount of cream cheese on one's bagel.  Following that, if there is either a brand of cream cheese or a brand of bagel out there that contains HFCS, as that doesn't seem like something that should be in either, I'd like to know now so that I can stop buying it/them.

Posted by mrbrent at 4:47 PM

yeah, i actually tried watching cnbc

Today's market forecast: financial-y.  Also, I'm reasonably certain that indexes will either be trending up or down, with some confusion as to the day's results around midday.

Two points worth bringing up with respect thereto.  First, this dailyKos diary is maybe the most lucid and understandable (by the likes of me) explanation of the Fiscalpalooza and Black What-Is-Today-Again that I've read yet.  It is markedly from the perspective of how deregulation has contributed to this, so it may not be as complete as others, but I like it just fine.

And, with alarm I direct your attention to this brief point, with links to longer versions, that the GOP can just sit back and let Democrats hammer out the bailout, and then either a) accuse them of partisanship if it does get done in time and I'm selling apples on the street in two weeks' time, or b) wait for it to go into effect, and then campaign against the socialist evil Bailout, which, they will say, was almost entirely an idea of the Democrats.

I know, it seems two-faced and not a little bit offensive to frame strategy over something as serious as the financial crisis in political terms, but that's one of the benefits of being craven.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:32 AM

IT awards: winning isn't everything, or some other humble old saw

So, last night my wife won an IT Award at this big ole ceremony that was surprisingly long!  The award was for Outstanding Acting Ensemble, which she and her friends from that play last spring won the shit out of.

When they were nominated, I have to admit being a little cynical -- the what awards?  there are more awards ceremonies than I'm aware of? -- but there wasn't any cynicism left when we got to the part where they were reading the nominees, and then I went into total cynicism receivership when they won and I started jumping up and down like I was on the Price Is Right.

So I congratulate my wife, and the rest of the cast, for their crushing victory.  I am very proud.  And also the producers, the Vampire Cowboys, who netted a whole other armful of awards -- it was like free money, except that you can't buy anything with it!

Also last night I ran into two old buddies old pals, which was certainly a nice extra for the evening, and a good enough occasion to shout at them.  I mean shout at them out.  Or something.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:14 AM

September 22, 2008

bailout: try again, you authors of this problem

Now that we are all amateur economists, I say that the consensus verdict on the "Bailout", as it is configured now, is that it is a load of hooey -- free money for speculators and similar failures at the expense of the taxpaying public.  This is on purely a conceptual level -- this is before the weekend, when the lobbyists got to work and the Administration confirmed that this would indeed be an MBAs-only type of bailout.  On the level of pure ideas, it is "women and children last", and it is a confusion of whether the Stock Market exists to support society or the other way around.

I'm not saying that action shouldn't be taken to stave off a total collapse of the economy.  I'm just wondering why we morlocks have to shoulder the burden while the greedhead bastard authors of this shitstorm jet off to an island and start working on another way to aggregate and retain everybody else's wealth.  Yes, I did hear how close to the very precipice we were last week, but the looming terribleness does not make me feel any better about a plan wherein I am thrown in front of the financial crisis to see if running me over will slow it down at all.

I'm sure that events will more fully unfold as the (trading) day progresses.  In the meantime, this is the best thing I've read on the situation so far, by Wonkette's Ken Layne:

It’s what America looks like, increasingly.  The roads are potholed, the bridges collapsing, metro trains crash and kill as dull-eyed engineers peck text messages, airlines have become Aeroflot, dams and levees busting apart, yearlong waits to get a passport, maimed soldiers sent back to the endless war again and again, and a book-banning big-government cipher from Siberia is briefly popular for being a nasty moron.

Anyway, we were going to write about the sovietization of America’s financial system, so let’s find a way back to the subject at hand …

Put that way, and the Black-Day-That-Ends-In-Y phenomena of last week start to feel like symptoms instead of causes.

Posted by mrbrent at 7:47 AM