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October 25, 2008

parsing the rousing of the rabble

I try to keep my distance from the background refrain of, "Our tax dollars are baling out Wall Street!!!"  Not that I don't think it's true; it's true at least at the heart of it.  But it is non-specific in a very talk-radio way, inasmuch as I don't think many who plant this phrase at the center of their rant have a very clear understanding of the ways that tax dollars are bailing out Wall Street, or even of the ways that everything went to hell so quickly that this solution became tenable.  I don't think that I fully understand it, though I think I've studied up to have a better understanding, if not a better understanding of the elements I need to learn more about.

(Also, it's fair to say that there might be nothing wrong with our tax dollars bailing out Wall Street.  Circumstantially, the argument can certainly be made, even if this argument does gloss over some fundamental weaknesses in the economies of all the citizenry.  But Wall Street vs. you, me and our families is an ideological argument that probably won't be settled in our lifetimes.)

So in this respect, it's heartening when a reporter (Joe Nocera of the New York Times) actually does some heavy lifting, reporting-wise, and files a piece that goes a long way to illustrate one of the dangers of bailing out Wall Street with taxpayer money -- that recipients of the bail-out might not use the money for its intended purpose.  Mr Nocera gained access to a JPMorgan Chase employee conference call:

“Twenty-five billion dollars is obviously going to help the folks who are struggling more than Chase,” [unnamed JPmorgan exec] began.  “What we do think it will help us do is perhaps be a little bit more active on the acquisition side or opportunistic side for some banks who are still struggling.  And I would not assume that we are done on the acquisition side just because of the Washington Mutual and Bear Stearns mergers.  I think there are going to be some great opportunities for us to grow in this environment, and I think we have an opportunity to use that $25 billion in that way and obviously depending on whether recession turns into depression or what happens in the future, you know, we have that as a backstop.”

Again, my understanding of the intricacies of all this is incomplete, but I can confidently say that the purpose of these capital infusions into financial institutions was not to bankroll a moderately healthy institutions predating on failed or failing regional banks.

So then, I guess that a refrain of, "Our tax dollars are funding a JPMorgan Chase monopoly!!!" is one whose validity is ratified by its specificity.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:45 AM

October 24, 2008

ashley todd: not so good with interrogations

Well, might as well take this bit of terribleness to its logical conclusion.

Sorry folks -- election night race war cancelled due to lack of veracity.  Better luck next time, College Republican teenagers!  And hey, John Moody, isn't something supposed to be forever linked to race-baiting now?  Or was that just a bit of throwaway logic from the Dumbest Fucking Thing Ever Written?

Finally, am I crazy or was Ashley Todd's fifteen minutes actually only fifteen minutes long?

Posted by mrbrent at 1:43 PM

john moody: writes dumb things

I hate to give more attention to Ashley Todd's bid to win the election for the GOP via race war, but as many times as you think to yourself, "That's the dumbest fucking thing I've ever read," occasionally you come across something that actually is the dumbest fucking thing you've ever read, and then what to you do?  Naturally, you post it.

So while the rest of the universe is treating Ms. Todd and her backwards B as a diversion or sideshow-freak distraction, the Executive Vice President of Fox News, John Moody, is of the opinion that this is the Most Important Election Changing Moment Ever.  A relevant excerpt:

That does not mean that [Sen. Obama] has erased the mutual distrust between black and white Americans, and this incident could become a watershed event in the 11 days before the election.

If Ms. Todd’s allegations are proven accurate, some voters may revisit their support for Senator Obama, not because they are racists (with due respect to Rep. John Murtha), but because they suddenly feel they do not know enough about the Democratic nominee.

If the incident turns out to be a hoax, Senator McCain’s quest for the presidency is over, forever linked to race-baiting.

For Pittsburgh, a city that has done so much to shape American history over the centuries, another moment of truth is at hand.

Funny.  After the tire-slashings and "terrorist!" and "kill him", I feel like I know God-damn plenty about Sen. McCain.

Whatever.  John Moody, your post -- equal parts loaded argument, fallacy and wishful thinking -- is the Dumbest Fucking Thing Ever Written, at least for today.

[Via Wonkette, a website that I like that's staying in business.]

Posted by mrbrent at 12:25 PM

ashley todd: you picked the wrong news day

As much fun as it would be to write about some poor girl whose attempts to undermine the Obama campaign are a little bit, as they say, left-handed, it looks like about eight or nine things went wrong with the global economy while we were all sleeping, and this is never a sentence you want to see in a news story right before you head for the subway:
The New York Stock Exchange will open for trading today, said Richard Adamonis, New York-based spokesman for the exchange.

Wait, doesn't the NYSE open for trading every day?  Unless, they're...  Oh.

Does anyone remember how to panic, or are we all past that now?  Or should we just stick our fingers in our ears and mock and deride Ashley Todd?

Posted by mrbrent at 9:23 AM

October 23, 2008

ron howard wears wigs for democracy

I try not to fall for the viral videos too often -- there are better places than here to hear about them, places that will actually embed (!!) the video -- but this video by Ron Howard sure did brighten my day, and I recommend it.  And Andy Griffith!  You go, Andy Griffith, with your uncountable years on this planet.

Further, I now forgive Howard for his last four or five motion pictures.

Posted by mrbrent at 4:29 PM

i didn't think i'd be writing about facebook, no

A very cool idea from an interesting thinkpiece, concerning the unwanted aggregation of history on your social networking page, as evidenced by unwanted friend build-up:
And maybe that's the answer: A Facebook app we'll call the Fade Utility.  Untended Friends would gradually display a sepia cast on the picture, a blurring of the neglected profile—perhaps a coffee stain might appear on it or an unrelated phone number or grocery list.  The individual's status updates might fade and get smaller.  The user may then choose to notice and reach out to the person in some meaningful way—no pokes!  Or they might pretend not to notice. Without making a choice, they could simply let that person go.  Would that really be so awful?

For me, the permanence of the "Facebook Friend" is definitely a novel aspect of the application, as I've had 20-odd years of the concept of a "friend" that has some fluidity to it.  They come, they go, they move away, they steal your girlfriend and you never talk to them again, etc.  And now, if you have dabbled in the Facebook (or similar services), you have a static list, unchanging, that shows no decay over time unless you take your own personal hatchet to it.  Novelty!

It's a nice little piece, not all as lyric as the above, and I like it very much.  It's written by a fellow named Scott Brown.  Nice job, Scott Brown.

Posted by mrbrent at 1:52 PM

cox/carlson: like a tv show, on your computer

This flies under the radar, but I find it worth fifteen minutes each week.  Tucker Carlson and Ana Marie Cox have a weekly gig with the Washington Post, in which they field, via email or IM or telepathy or whatever, questions pertinent to the election from viewers/readers/surfers at home.  I think it's obvious from the number of times that I quote/link her that I'm back to being a fan of Ms. Cox, and not just because we obviously share an ancestor somewhere.  And as far as Mr. Carlson goes, I am actually a fan of his -- I rarely agree with him, but I feel he's well-spoken (see this one from The Daily Beast and mischievous, and I am in possession of an anecdote concerning Mr. Carlson that makes me a fan.

There's no link (or at least there's no link I could find) to the archive of past discussions, but this is this week's, and, in the interest of fairness, here is a pullquote from Ana, on variouis kinds of crazy talk:

Regarding the McCarthyte language from the McCain camp...  I have to say, No. 1: Michelle Bachmann is clearly an idiot more so than a fascist, though the two can and are often linked.  Palin's language is a little more troubling, since -- contrary to some of my colleagues -- I don't think she's an idiot.  I think she is very canny and sensitive to what kind of language works and what doesn't.   At least with the crowds she's talking to.

And here is a pullquote from Tucker, re: the political future of McCain should he lose:

I once read that on his deathbed, Winston Churchill remarked that every political career is in the end a failure.  I don't know if he actually said that, but if not he should have because it's true.  It's basically a pretty sad and disappointing business.

Keep in mind, the chats are not full of "gotchas!" and zingers, but rather sober opinion/commentary from two folk whose opinions and commentary are informed and... sober.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:00 AM

October 22, 2008

al qaida endorses

When I saw the news this morning of some functionary of some Al Qaida messageboard stating the obvious in that a McCain administration would be a whole lot better for recruiting/as easy to manipulate as the Bush Administration, I kind of felt that I might not want to be touching that one, no.  It was four years ago when I met a good friend for a beer the Friday before the 2004 election, and pretty much all we could do is talk about the effect the bin Laden tape was going to have in four days.  And we all know how that one turned out.

So, I was kind of hoping that the story might get pushed out of the headlines by something less queasy, like Palin's wardrobe or the weather or something like that, but no chance of that -- in typical Steve Schmidt fashion, the campaign chose to deflect attention to it by whining and crying to reporters like little baby humans about how the newspapers didn't ask Al Qaida what they thought about the Democratic candidate.

So let's talk about it then.  Spencer Ackerman, who was on the conference call:

What was absent from the call, oddly enough, was any discussion about why Al Qaeda might want McCain to win.  And there the case is simple enough.  Al Qaeda prefers an indefinite U.S. occupation of Iraq and a bellicose U.S. all across the Muslim world to radicalize Muslims to its terrorist cause and drain the U.S. of its financial wealth -— what Osama bin Laden calls his “bleed to bankruptcy” strategy.  Hence, the reason why, as the CIA eventually concluded, Bin Laden tried to help George W. Bush’s reelection in 2004 by releasing a late-October tape.  McCain pledges basic continuity with Bush on the Iraq war.  As [McCain senior foriegn policy advisor Randy] Scheunemann put it, “John McCain will spend what it takes to win.”

Which might be why an Al Qaida sympathizer might want to think such things, duh.

As no fun as it is to talk about Al Qaida again, at some point I hope that whoever is in the White House will have the bigness of spirit to realize that the Islamic terrorist movements are only interested in blowing things up to the extent that Western powers can be goaded into overreaching in the Middle East.  I know, it's hard to admit that the evildoers actually have real-time policy objectives other than "perpetrate evil", but it's kind of why a lot of people would prefer to see an actually grown-up leading the country.

And speaking of learning lessons from the past, nice response from the McCain campaign on this.  Nothing reads better on the TV than panic.  And again, for the sake of the election, please keep it up.

Posted by mrbrent at 1:11 PM

yay! more red v. blue comedy arguments!

Urgh.  I suppose it was inevitable, but it's time again for the xth iteration of the "Are Democrats funnier than Republicans?" argument, as phrased by Defamer.  This time around, questions of talent are ignored in favor of the quality of the source material -- that is, recently, Republicans are easier to make fun of that Democrats:
Instead, we think we can explain the rise in liberal satire very simply: Republicans have occupied the White House for the last eight years, and when comedy aims to bring somebody down, there's no farther fall than from the top.

May be so -- authority figures do tend to be subject to a poke and prod here and there.  But, I can't take seriously any conversation of comedy as a function of political leanings that totally ignores the fact that Republicans/conservatives will always be challenged at making funny because greed and self-regard are just not funny.  A cavalcade of jokes about "welfare moms" or "feminazi" or "elite liberal intellectual recidivist goat-fuckers" or the other characters that people the stylings of the Rush Limbaughs and the Glann Becks and all the other pasty white guys that are held up as examples of right-wing comedy, is like attending a tailgate in an active sewer -- the hot dogs are delicious, but... that's not relish, is it?

Sorry -- there is no equivalence.  Republican comedy is someone calling you an asshole while they pick your pocket, and then mugging to the camera while waiting for the rimshot.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:48 AM

October 21, 2008

ken layne is good

Also from last week's Friday newsdump is this rather excellent, rather long piece from Wonkette's Ken Layne, who I'm liking more and more.  The post is ostensibly a line-by-line critique of a Peggy Noonan column, but even if you don't care so much about Ms. Noonan (liek me!) you get paragraph after paragraph of dense smarty prose like this:
Perhaps Peggy thinks she can steer the weak-minded mouth breathers with this shiny bit of Reagan Glimmer, this phantom Gipper bullshit.   She, like her New York martini-sipping liberal christ-fucker Christopher Buckley, naively believes the “Republican Base” dillweeds actually read the columns.  Ha!  They use two swollen, cheetos-stained fingers to get the Internets on the Home Page, which is Free Republic or Lucianne.com or whatever they heard about on the AM.  And then, their lips move slowly as they try to comprehend the day’s jihad, complete as always with the direct link to that empty comment box, and then they excitedly CTRL-V whatever ALL-CAPS bullshit from their AOL forwarded lunacy of the moment, and maybe get fancy with some misspelled freestyle of the “EXAKUTE HIMS” variety, with the John 3:16 verse (in pink Comics Sans) in the sig.  Bekky helped set that up on the ‘puter before she was beaten to death in the break room at BIG LOTS!, by her husband, who had just got back from his fourth tour in Iraq, missing his right eye and three ounces of brain.

That's eight kinds of good, and it goes all kinds of places that give me the second thoughts right before I backspace-backspace-backspace.

And while we're here, his post from this afternoon on a report detailing an increase in the rich/poor gap, is also good, and ends thusly:

At some point, these people are going to put down the remote and pick up their guns and start hunting rich people.  And they’re not going to get anywhere close to Bill Gates or Warren Buffett, so you’re going to look like a pretty good target, sitting there at the Starbucks with your $3 coffee and your MacBook and new Prius in the parking lot.

See?  Service journalism!

Posted by mrbrent at 3:15 PM

ufo stories for our times

Tinfoil hat!  Tinfoil hat!

On the second page of the New York Times International section appears a short item which tells of a retired jet pilot, waxing sentimental about that time back in 1957 when he was ordered to open fire on a massive UFO:

LONDON - An American fighter pilot flying from an English air base at the height of the cold war was ordered to open fire on a massive unidentified object that had lighted up his radar screen, according to an account published on Monday by Britain’s National Archives.

The pilot said that he had been ordered to fire a full salvo of rockets at the U.F.O., which was moving erratically over the North Sea, but that at the last minute the object picked up great speed and disappeared from his radar.  The account was not verified by military authorities.

UFO stories are a dime a dozen, not only on the Internet, but back before, when we had to read books and stuff for information.  But!  When a UFO story creeps into the New York Freakin' Times, then there's a crack in whatever buttress that keeps extranormalcy stable, and all of a sudden there's a lot more room in our heads for those things that once we considered inconceivable.

Which is a good thing, everybody: self-congratulate!

Posted by mrbrent at 12:21 PM

michele bachmann, it's not you, it's me

It's sad, really, when you think of it.  I think that Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and I had something really special.  She'd say some offensive thing, or commit some act of lunacy, and then I'd try as hard as I could to write something funny about it, hopefully including the word "batshit" each time.

And I really felt there was a flow between us.  She'd supply the crazy, and then I'd turn it into words.  That's it.  We were like a crazy/word engine, chugging away, into the slow dark night, leaving behind the world of reasonable people, of public servants who have a lick of sense.

But then, right before the weekend, she had a very public Joe McCarthy moment on Chris Matthews' little television concern, wherein she very much hoped that the media would do a "penetrating expose" into which members of Congress are pro-America, and which are anti-America.  Which, even though it happened on a Friday night, got all kinds of exposure, linked everywhere, everyone talking about it.  Her opponent (who I wish well, but please don't take the crazy lady from us) raised a skajillion dollars off of the incident.  Hell, now there's even a public campaign to have her censured by the House.  It's like amateur hour out there.

Which is why I must say goodbye to the Crazy Lady Representative from the Land of Lakes -- which lakes must at least be partly crazy-making -- I must say goodbye, farewell, adieu, seeya!  When it was just to two of us, well, that was something.  Not that the whole rest of the Internet gets to have her too...  I'm just not wired that way.

So make excellent fun of Michele Bachmann, rest of the Internet -- she surely deserves.  I'll just be over here, sitting, waiting for the next special crazy lady to come and shower us with malaprops and unwittingly fascist sentiment.

(BTW, will someone please write that Bachmann is perpetually startled or has had her eyelids surgically removed?  Her pupils are so constricted that they rattle around in her wide-open eyes like a couple of dried peas in a skillet.  Her vacant crazy gaze bespeaks an almost platonic insanity, so idealized that it might reach through the TV screen and grab onto your shoulder and clutch it for an uncomfortably long time.  Write this now please! . V. v. important!)

Posted by mrbrent at 8:50 AM

October 20, 2008

creepy gnome 2.0

Too much politics lately.  I will type this sentence no less than three times a week for the next fifteen days.  And then I will type that next sentence at least twice more.  Now we are sleepy.

Then thank God for the Creepy Gnome, who has stayed creepy all these months, and who has returned to creep us to distraction, with his funny hat, and his terrifying of Argentinian teens.

(I could not stream the video, thanks to stupid browser, but I could ff sequentially, and I have seen enough to verify: one creepy gnome.)

[Via the Boing Boing.]

Posted by mrbrent at 12:03 PM

the powell endorsement

I had another weekend entirely without web access, which is supposed to be therapeutic, n'est pas, Collins? but was not therapeutic at all and left me cranky.  But I did get to watch that bit of the television weekend wherein Gen. Colin Powell endorsed Sen. Obama, and boy did I think it was nifty.  Gen. Powell laid out a thoughtful and well-spoken argument, and I think a lot of us were thinking that the General was saying exactly what is in our heads, but better than we could.

And then came the speculation, from the talking heads and around the TV, on how the GOP would respond, with the consensus being that there would be some amount of racial attacks, i.e., it's just a case of a brother sticking up for another brother.  Which is a fair guess, given Republican's sensitivity to issues of race.

But I disagree.  That line is too easy.  It only took Rush Limbaugh a couple hours to get an email out that raises the bar for Limbaugh's brush with racism.  The higher degree of difficulty, the truly Rovian tactic, is to downplay the Powell endorsement by blaming him for the Iraq War.  It not only has no shred of truth -- as generally Secretaries of State are not the architects of military action -- but it kills two birds with one stone for the GOP.  Unpopular war?  Powell did it, and he's been a Democrat all along!

Just like the current line of GOP reasoning on the financial crisis: Barack Obama made Fannie and Freddie overloan to the poors, which brought the economy down around our ears, no matter how hard the Republicans tried to prevent it.  It is demonstrably false, and it hangs the crisis, the logical conclusion of thirty years of conservative-prodded deregulation, around the opponent's neck.

And then it will hit the Far Right echo chamber, and then the next time I visit Pennsylvania some diner at Applebee's will offer up how Colin Powell caused 9-11.

And the really fun thing is that, if Obama wins the election, these grand assaults on reason will only intensify.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:02 AM