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October 3, 2008

My much more observant-than-I-am wife points out what could be the moment from the veep debate that we keep with us in our hearts and keep forever -- namely, that point, right before she shouts out to the third graders, when Gov. Palin said this, directed towards Sen. Biden:
I know education you are passionate about with your wife being a teacher for 30 years, and god bless her.  Her reward is in heaven, right?

Wife is of the opinion that the "reward in heaven" digression is cruel, given the fact that Sen. Biden already has a wife in heaven that he seems to have been quite fond of.  Considering that the fact that the Senator's loss is common knowledge, yeah, that could be considered cruel.

I would add that, even if Sen. Biden's wife had not passed away, it's still a freaking macabre thing to say.  What rational person casually discusses the mortal fate of third parties like that?  It almost comes off as a threat, like, "What an nice teaching wife you have -- shame if something happened to her."

Whatever.  Gov. Palin is a crazy insane person.  As much as she generates content, I look forward to the day when I have to struggle to remember her.

[Transcript from NYT.]

Posted by mrbrent at 3:13 PM

gwen ifill was terrible, and other stuff

After some quiet time on the commute, let's wrap this up.

First, last night's debate as an event itself, as the unit of entertainment that so many of us were looking forward to, was perhaps the biggest failure of the evening.  It did not contain any spectacular gaffes on either side, and, more importantly, it had no back-and-forths at all.  Topics were raised, danced around and then thrown out of the window of a moving car to get along to the next one.  (Have you ever seen Joe Biden talk so fast in your life?)  And for this, and for the general pale bloodless tenor of the evening, I blame Gwen Ifill, who was just terrible.  Maybe she was constrained by the agreed-upon format of 90 second answers, but she came across as trying to set the world record for number of questions asked in a debate.  She seemed bored, and she seemed disengaged.  You could've replaced her with a 2XL and the outcome would not have been any different.

Second, Gov. Palin should be commended for one of the finest acts of memorization I've seen in years.  She never once had to deviate from the GOP boilerplate over a long ninety minutes -- it's like she's reading text, but in her mind!  If this whole Vice President thing doesn't work out for her, maybe there'll be some kind of professional memorizer gig she can pick up, like at a state fair or a freak show.

Lastly, if the McCain campaign is dead-set on the two candidates constantly bragging about how maverick-y they are, I am whole-heartedly for that.  There is a clot of maybe five or ten percent of Americans who are so stupid that they need to hear the word "maverick" repeated over and over again in order for them to remember that the person saying the word, or this person's running mate, allegedly has the qualities of a maverick and is therefore a better candidate.  And what the campaign is forgetting is that the votes of this fistfull of dummies are already wrapped up.  For the rest of us, there is no surer sign that someone is not a maverick than incessant claims that oneself is a maverick.  And to do so multiple times is like trying to get your hand out of a bear trap by whacking it with a hammer.

So, yes, please, more of that, more of Gov. Palin referring to "a team of mavericks" or "a couple of mavericks" and then winking or twitching and grinning with the cold dead eyes of someone who has no investment in what they are saying.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:05 AM

geez, i reek of veep debate

Flash judgment: how was the veep debate?  Well, Gov. Palin did not perform as embarrassingly as she did when cornered by the savage Katie Couric.  But she did demonstrate that it is not just her inability to speak and her flashes of stunning ignorance that make her unfit.

Though momentarily distracted by the sight of an alleged grown-up unleashing a flurry of "darn"s and "heck"s, Palin loses.  Her gotchas were flat, her Republican talking points were retro, and her winking was juvenile at best and desperate at worst.

It's too bad that she didn't have a clear Palin Moment, because now Sen. McCain won't have any excuses to hide behind when he angrily denies that his running mate was easily lapped by Sen. Joe Biden.

This is of course a flash judgment, and may change as the day progresses.

But my, people were ready for a party last night, weren't they?

Posted by mrbrent at 7:04 AM

October 2, 2008

this is me, sliding down the dinosaur's tail

Alright.  It's five of the clock, and it's my birthday.  My beautiful wife is busy with all kinds of actor-type activities, so I am gonna go play some pool, watch some veep debate and generally be the handsomest man in the whole wide bar.

Thanks for reading, you guys, easily the most smart and attractive blog-audience a man could wish for, even an old cooter like me.

Posted by mrbrent at 5:00 PM

thomas frank on blaming the poors

Further to Michele Bachmann's ridiculous/hilarious claim that the prime culprit in our financial self-Pearl-Harboring is the poors, Thomas Frank filed a column that would beg to differ.

On the face of it, blaming the poors is not the most left-field theory possible -- enough so that Conservatives less crazy that Rep. Bachmann have said it as well.  The reasoning goes that the massive economic growth was fueled by the securitization of consumer debt, and it was default of this consumer debt that eroded the assets of the banks.  Therefore it was the consumers -- the poors, really -- who caused this by swindling their way into loans they had no intention to pay off, much as they are constantly having children with anyone they meet to steal our fine fine welfare dollars.  It's a convenient lie, and it's tailored for the conservatives and their fans, whose commitment to reality is trumped by their belief that charity is a moral failure.

But no, it wasn't the subprime borrowers, or the foreclosed, or however you want to paint them.  (Conservatives like "the minorities".)  The consumers were pawns from the get-go, once the businessfolk realized that debt, even bad debt, could be turned into easy free money through transmogrifying it into a financial instrument that some sucker somewhere wanted to pay a lot of money for, then there was no earthly force that could've stopped the lenders from airdropping loans into neighborhoods all over America.  It was the greedheads what caused this, just like always.

And besides, much like the Boehner/"crybaby" tactic, is the "blame the poors" tactic one that they would want to see fully unpacked?

Just imagine the flights of fancy that the theory of borrower malevolence and Wall Street victimization requires conservatives to take: All these no-account folks, you see, got together and forced investment banks to engineer subprime mortgages into highly leveraged securities.  Then they tricked all manner of hedge funds and pension funds and financial institutions into buying these lousy products.  Just for good measure, these struggling homeowners then persuaded bond-rating agencies to misrepresent the risk associated with these securities.

Is our financial industry truly prepared to claim that they got took like a punk in a dark alley?

And actually, you don't even have to be Thomas Frank to realize that the speculative bubble that just popped and took our economy with it could hardly have been caused by homeowners with their evil borrowing -- you just have to be reasonable and only a little well-read.

Posted by mrbrent at 1:18 PM

nothing will prevent palin supporters from liking her, not even palin herself

While everyone else is concerned with lowering expectations of the performance of either Sen. Biden or Gov. Palin in advance of tonight's debate, let me lower a much more important set of expectations -- yours.

Now I've watched the footage of Gov. Palin debating other Alaskans (!), and, yeah, it's a far sight better than her interviews with Katie Couric, in which each answer was entirely devoid of linguistic calories, but she wasn't exactly floating like a butterfly or stinging like a bee.  She managed to stick to the subject/verb structure that her recent interviews have so sorely lacked, but she still was evasive and rote (kind of like her RNC speech, which i still insist was mechanical and boring), and she still dabbled with spinning qualifying phrases out into infinity.

So, good news: no matter who says what, she will not disappoint those of us who view her as the hardest-working mean girl on the tenth-grade debate team.  She might tone down her accent, she might get a few digs in, but she is, and will always be, the person so ill-equipped to speak English that she can't even hate on the press correctly.

Bad news?  No matter how bad she does, there will still be the crazified remnant that will claim that her ignorance is an asset, that they want to vote for a "real person".  And if she does as bad as she does when talking to Katie Couric, then these insane people will feel sorry for her because all of us liberal elites and our clear sexism against this success story, and their resolve will be doubled by pity.  As put by Ryan Tate:

But keep in mind that the worse Palin looks now, the better she'll likely appear, to some key voters, tomorrow morning.

I might disagree with "key voters", but only because I refuse to accept that a nation will be run by whoever better caters to the insipid.

But, all things being equal, I cannot wait for the debate.

Posted by mrbrent at 7:53 AM

October 1, 2008

yeah it's my birthday

So every morning the little dog wakes me up somewhere between six and seven AM, and then we go for a walk.  Our apartment is on the fifth floor, with an elevator, but I prefer to walk down.  And sometime last autumn, the little dog developed a strange tic -- before heading down any flight of stairs, she would pause at the top and kind of listen and smell for the general status of the floor.  I'd be four steps down, waiting, as she'd cock her head and get a faraway look in her eye.  When she'd settled whatever question about the floor that she was posing, then she'd acquiesce and descend.

That used to burn my ass -- every morning, half-awake, waiting for freaking dog to make up her mind.

But just know I realized that taking an assessment before taking that first step down a flight of stairs is maybe the least dumb thing my little dog does, and in fact is a wise action, much preferable to falling down a flight of stairs.

But!  I'm half-awake, which makes me cloying, apparently.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:30 PM

why only hate on alex pareene when there's so many of us?

As easy as it is to haterize on Gawker -- well, it must be easy, because I do it all the time -- this here is another excellent Alex Pareene post wherein the hatemail generated by the posting of Gov. Sarah Palin's Yahoo! account is parsed and analyzed:
It's a fact of life on the Internet that when you are mentioned (and linked to) unfavorably by certain high traffic right-wing bloggers, you promptly start receiving some of the most remarkable hate mail you've ever seen.  It begins immediately, peaks overnight, and continues usually for about 72 hours or so.  Then everyone forgets about it or gets bored and only a few wackos send you the odd death threat for another week or two.

Doesn't that sound like fun?

The post also includes more excellent examples of the specific hatemail generated by attracting the attention of the barely-literate but committed hordes of Rushbo/Hannity Proud Americans, which only makes me wish that I could get some.  Because, after a long day, a bit of, "Thanks for your offer to 'settle this', but I'm not so a-frightened of that, because you and 'a dictionary' need to settle your score first," would make me a whole lot more happy than following the Bailout, or the Rescue, or the slow erosion of my ability of keeping my family in human/pet food.

Plus also those people are why we are jealous of other nations, but we all already know that.  Well, "we" meaning all of us minus the knuckleheads.

Yeah, I called you knuckleheads!  It means, "people who do unnatural things to their mothers."  Email is over there in the sidebar.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:58 AM

actually, just wait to watch all this stuff on olbermann

A brief moment of media commentary -- I was scanning the headlines, which, in the course of any online day, offers a variety of clips and video for your computer-enjoyment.  I ordinarily will skip them, and figure that if I still want to see them when I get home, then there's an overriding need, and it's all cool.  But I actually clicked through on this one, out of, I dunno, fascination with Angry McCain Smash, and I thought to myself, "Well, that one'll be on MSNBC tonight."

Which then led to, "Well duh."  Which is to say, in the same way that mid-market newspapers troll the wire services, and in the same way that Gawker trolls the New York Times, the Olbermann/Maddow axis of the MSNBC broadcast day is fueled at least partially by clips that wash up on the shores of the web.  And it follows that the lead time, at least for political video, for starting at self-published, then going straight through viral to nationally-broadcast is about six or eight hours.

Which is unprecedented, I'd say?  And maybe related to the other durations of modern life whose length are shortening, like attention span and news cycles.  It seems the day that a news item simultaneously happens, blows wide and is forgotten in not that far away.

(This is most likely obvious to just about anyone else but me.  It's not easy being an artefact.)

Posted by mrbrent at 9:48 AM

mccain: say 'owa tagoo siam'

The McCain campaign has now taken to spitting out ads that are produced like the ads for studio movies rushed into release without press screenings -- the out-of-context misquote.

Sen. McCain has somehow devised an engine that runs only on dishonesty, and with this engine, he'll rule the world!  Which he would gladly give up if he could get to be president just once, just for a little while.

He was working on the engine that runs on pandering, but he found that pandering works good enough all by itself.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:22 AM

September 30, 2008

warren ellis -- chef?

I keep looking for little bits that are not necessarily about politics or economics or the Persistent and Undeniable Comedy of the GOP Ticket that would be diverting and worth your time.  This was always intended to be more general-service-y than exclusively ranty, it's just that in these dark days, etc., etc.

So then this is Warren Ellis cooking.  Food -- Sweet Potato and Garlic Mash with Onion Marmalade.  I haven't made it yet, but I do some cooking around the home, and it seems feasible (and delicious) to me.  And I've spent some time wading around the cookbooks, and his (prose) take on it is logical and a lot less daunting than a list of ingredients and bullet point instructions.

Ellis is a writer you should be reading.  I've typed that sentence more than once.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:52 PM

a michele bachmann cornucopia

I thought that earlier today I'd be posting on Certified Crazy-Ass Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) because of her response to Minority Leader John Boehner's reason for tanking the bail-out (to wit, a speech by Speaker Pelosi hurt House GOP's feelings):
I want to assure you that was not the case. We are not babies who suck our thumbs. We have very principled reasons for voting no.

Which is a bold defense, but then again a defense against an accusation leveled not by an opponent, but the leader of her caucus.  So: Bachmann: John Boehner is a thumb-sucker!  Not crazy in the sense of whack-a-doo, but incestual cannibalism is worth note.

But, watching Olbermann just now, I see that Bachmann managed to turn a routine C-SPAN couple-minutes on the House floor into blaming the fiscal crisis on the blacks daring to buy their own homes.  She perpetrated this last week, and since then there's been back-and-forth with the Black Congressional Caucus, wherein she basically sez, "I didn't really mean it, plus also my point stands," so we'll see how this ends up.  As a member of the House, she's up for reelection, and apparently had a debate last night.  That bears some looking into.

Until then, when Palin gets yanked for terminal unelectabilty, I feel that Michele Bachmann is tanned, rested and ready to step up to the plate.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:52 PM

It may be questionable that the world needs any more Sarah Palin material, but in the event that it does, this Palin interview-response generator is the best Palin-related robot I've seen yet.  Just a taste, a single sentence:
It is for no more politics as usual, the cronyism that has been allowed to be ushered in. and make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right next to our state.

I'm not up to the tech that makes the robot go go go, but I can just picture the words above coming out of the mouth of the Governor of Alaska, behind which lurks the brain of the Governor of Alaska, which, they say, can field dress a moose.

Posted by mrbrent at 12:47 PM


So yeah, like I wasn't already over my head, but yesterday's utterly shocking in a predictable kind of way legislative revolt against free money for millionaires handed out by a drunken and blindfolded Henry Paulson, and the resulting rush on mattresses under which everyone will put all the money that they yanked out of the stock market, is, um.  I don't totally get it.  And if I tried, it would change aggressively and then I'd left holding an understanding of yesterday's crisis, which is totally different from today's and then tomorrow's.

So, finally the sentence, "Can somebody please explain this to me?" can be invoked in a non-ironic manner.

Meanwhile, this is Ana Marie Cox's reaction (well, one of them):

Why isn't the catastrophe more hilarious?  I mean, really, shouldn't we be generating Chaplinesque shit?  Please, SOMEONE MAKE THIS LESS GRIM!

Well, the headline of this morning's El Diario is "COLLAPSO!" -- that's kind of funny.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:41 AM

September 29, 2008

go house gop go

Well, I guess I don't need to read and understand the bailout bill after all.

Posted by mrbrent at 6:40 PM

sarah palin talks funny

As happy as I am to see Gov. Sarah Palin transition from America's Political Sweetheart to the "GilliGANN!!" of The McCain Campaign, I am utterly transfixed by all interview footage of the Governor, as each clip is an encapsulation of the history of incomprehensibility.

Colloquialism!  Non-sequitur!  Backtracking!  Contextual gnip-gnop!  Lately, a response from Palin has been a slog through a vortex of diminishing sentence fragments, as she knows instinctively that she should be making sense but does not have the ability to connect the ideas that she furiously memorized with anything resembling coherent speech.  I'd like to be able to accuse her of more complex rhetorical strategies.  Maybe there were some intended, but they got lost in the slo-mo train crash of index-carded talking points in her head.

So then, when the powers-that-be are suggesting that America needs more Sarah Palin, I agree unreservedly.  Her gibberish strangely soothes me.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:26 AM

starting the day with a specious comparison

The Mets losing the pennant race was something I expected.  Paul Newman passing away was something I did not.  So at least the impulse to act like a shrieking child because of another late season collapse was prevented by a day and a half of thinking about Paul Newman, about how I can't remember a bad thing he was ever in and how I don't think I ever heard a bad word about him, except for maybe, "What a shitty capitalist he is, giving away all that money."nbsp; "Cool Hand Luke" was the only movie my dad made me sit down and watch when I was a kid.  The only one.  That makes my dad a bad-ass.

So yes, I would like "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" and "The Sting" for Christmas.  And "The Verdict".

And the Mets?  They get to play again next season, which is their own little blessing/curse.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:15 AM