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December 13, 2008

if we don't name it, how can we suffer its effects?

Finally someone has directly addressed the most pressing aspect of the ongoing econopocalypse -- it's needs a snappy name, stat.

They've got some good suggestions (and a poll! who doesn't love a poll?), but I would be remiss not to add my own:

Depression XTREME!!
Totally Not The Failure of Free Market Capitalism
Depression 2000!!
The Suck
Depression FITNESS WATER!!
The Great Apple Barrel Run of '09
RandomHouseBertelmannDepression AG
That Thing That's One Worse Than 'Recession' But I Forget What It's Called
The DepressionATOR!!
The Singularity

See, we all grew up watching David Letterman and now feel compelled to keep making lists.  Some call them "listicles", but I think that's when the entire content of your post is a list.  In fact, I'm sure someone somewhere is composing a listicle of names used for lists by people too precious to be caught admitting it's just a list.

Also, the Depression: ka-yikes.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:51 AM

December 12, 2008

bettie page

Trying to think of the Worthwhile Thing to write about the passing of Bettie Page.  Also: failing.  She seemed like a nice enough lady, and on behalf of young men all over I can vouch that she was present in the minds of young men in a way that is not polite to discuss in mixed company.  Sure, she was a pretty (and sometimes nekkid) lady, but she also made dirty look someone... not dirty.  Which sure did advance the cause of a wholesome dirty, but I feel squeamish about writing that as a nice thing to say at one's passing.  So yes, from all the biographical info I've consumed, she was in addition a very nice lady.

More importantly, "Tom Courtenay" by Yo La Tengo just came on, and that's exactly how I feel about Bettie passing away.  The lyrics don't mesh exactly up, but how it sounds?  Plaintive?  That thing.

Posted by mrbrent at 2:35 PM

we need more news

Further evidence of the vicious news drought we're living through:

Last night, I spent an hour and change driving/stuck in traffic, so I caught about a half-hour of each of 101WINS and ESPN Radio.  A little bland, maybe, but information nonetheless.

This morning, the newsstand next to the subway was again out of NYTimes, so I dropped two quarters for the least offensive tabloid, the NY Daily News.  Reading it on the train, I quickly was overcome with déjà vu, as there was little but the celebrity gossip that I hadn't heard on the radio twelve hours ago.

And this isn't about the abbreviated news cycle caused by the ubiquity of the Internet -- I was nowhere near the Internet!  This was exclusively dead tree/AM radio media!

How are we supposed to last out the recession if our journalists can't find enough news to keep us distracted?

Posted by mrbrent at 12:32 PM

senate gop playing chicken with depression

I'm not sure how clear it is in the mainstream coverage what exactly happened in the failure of the bridge loan package to the automobile industry in the US Senate yesterday.  The opposition of the Senate GOP seems to be portrayed as a stand against government intervention, a reluctance to put the Congress in the car-making business.  (And I'm trying to use less snarky language than usual, just to paint this fairly, and because I'm on the fence on the issue of bailouts in general.)  But I think that spin misses the point -- Senate Republicans were not trying to make a principled, political stand at the behest of their constituents.  They were only willing to play ball if they could drive a stake through the heard of organized labor.

Explained in more detail by a source unearthed by Josh Marshall explains:

[GOP senators] were invited, repeatedly, to participate in more than a week of negotiations with a Republican White House.  They declined.

They were asked to provide an alternative bill.  They refused.

Finally, one of their members - Senator Corker of Tennessee - participated in a day-long negotiation with Senate Democrats, the UAW, and bondholders.  Everyone made major concessions...   But when Senator Corker took the deal back to the Republican Conference, they argued for two hours and ultimately rejected it.

Why?  Because they wanted the federal government to forcibly reduce the wages of American workers within the next 12 months.

I'm respectful of the Republican Party's longtime commitment to exploit the worker class at every opportunity -- without bad guys there are no good guys -- but is this maybe the best time to be doing that?  I think to everyone to the left of Michael Savage would agree that tying any discussion of how to shorten the current recession to a punishment of labor unions is dangerously spurious.

Of course, this can be looked at as terrifying instead of spurious, as some, including Hale "Bonddad" Stewart (and others that I can't find the links to because I'm a moron), are surmising that the GOP is actively trying to cause a Great Depression.  Why?  Two reasons: first, better to burn the entire economy down than let creeping socialism inhabit it, and second, to create a Worst Thing Ever that can be hung around the necks of the Democratic Party.

Way over our heads and beyond our ability to do anything about it.  TGIF!

Posted by mrbrent at 10:08 AM

December 11, 2008

if blago resigns, then it will be harder for him to bribe people

From an AP story on the upbeatitude of Gov. Rod Blagojevich, the authors (who will remain nameless for pity's sake) include this paragraph discussing GovRod's reasons for not quitting like every living person wishes he would:
A resignation might make him appear guilty.  The office also gives him a certain amount of clout, which can help him raise money for his defense.

Isn't the money-raising clout of the governor the substance of the charges against him?

Put another way, is that not a breathtakingly stupid sentence to include, unqualified, in a straight news story?

Posted by mrbrent at 5:10 PM

speed bumps

So in the nabe in which we live, called variously "Flatbush", "Ditmas Park West" and/or "Sure We'd Love To Come To Your Dinner Party But", we have a little traffic problem.  It's not a crushing traffic problem, but it's bad enough for me to get steamed -- too much speeding down residential streets, plus a good bit of ignoring stop signs.  This is not so much a direct threat to me, as I'm conscientious about looking both ways and spry enough to dodge.  It's a menace to the good number of seniors, children and dogs of the neighborhood, who are less mindful and agile.

A solution employed by the nicer blocks up closer to Prospect Park is that of speed bumps.  They work, because bad drivers may need to get somewhere so fast that they can run a few people over, but they are reluctant to damage their rides.  The drawback to the speed bumps is that the noise generated by each passing car (kah-THUMP, kah-THUMP) tends to annoy the people that actually live and sleep on the street.  So then other communities (like ours) are not so jazzed by the prospect of 24-hour noise generators being stationed outside their homes.

But finally, a solution to the solution: collapsible speed bumps.  Basically, if you drive over it slow, it will flatten, and if you drive over it fast, it will remain a bump.  Accordingly, it remains a threat to the speeders, and not to reasonable people who abide by laws and are not trying to kill our old people/pets/children.  And the noise factor to residents is drastically reduced (assuming that the bad-driver asshole are a small percentage of motorists).

I say we buy five, now.

Posted by mrbrent at 4:22 PM

mpaa hearts your hard drive

First example of the usefulness of the transparency of the Obama Administration (as compared to the the dark secrecy of the Bush Administration that Sen. John Kerry described as "secret meetings with polluters") -- the policy recommendations of the Motion Picture Association of America have been made public, so that, instead of the government rolling over and waiting to have its belly rubbed, amateurs like me can witness the "Come here boy" and then keep watch for the "Good puppy dog!"

Why would the MPAA's lobbying be of any interest?  Well, in the dramatis personae of the ongoing fight over copyright restrictions and reform, the MPAA is playing the role "Boss Darth Potter", and would very much like to see intellectual property on legal par with personal property, and then would like to own alll of it so it could throw all you DVD rippers and other pirates in jail forever.

So then, the MPAA's big idea:

In the section on Internet piracy, the MPAA understandably claims that such piracy is a top priority, and it wants to see "inter-industry cooperation" in the matter.  Fair enough, but what sort of cooperation is envisioned.  "MPAA views recent efforts by the Governments of France and the United Kingdom to protect content on-line and facilitate inter-industry cooperation as useful models," says the document.

The reference is to the hugely controversial "graduated response" plans that the music industry, in particular, has pushed hard for in Europe.

A central element of the "graduated response" plans is that ISPs would monitor and police users, implementing a "three strikes" enforcement scheme.  So then the MPAA is asking the incoming administration to impel the providers of your Internet access to monitor your usage and then cut you off if you file-share.

You may think to yourself that you do not fileshare (well, maybe one or two of you) and why should you care?  It's wrong because "spying" is generally a bad thing w/r/t democracies.  Whatever your position on file-sharing (a long discussion), even if you take the side that file-sharing equals theft of an individuals iPod and expensive family heirloom jewelry, there are certain limits to how far law enforcement can go to prevent/solve such a crime -- i.e., they cannot knock down the door of every apartment in a building and search for the criminals unless they have judicial justification.  And if my ISP is going to take notes on the ones and zeros going in and out of my computing machine, I'd like to see their warrant, please.

The MPAA should save money on their IP law squad and lobbyists and maybe concern themselves with whether they're going to have an industry left to defend in five years.

[Via RobboMills]

Posted by mrbrent at 10:02 AM

December 10, 2008

why blago? why not hot rod?

I spent a quick second searching through the actual text of the complaint against Governor Rod Blagojevich, because I noticed something when scanning the paper this morning -- when Gov. Blagojevich was attempting the most glaring and ridiculous this side of Boss Tweed, he was thinking of something more than just the immediate gain of his personal self and family.

That's right, twice -- as in, more than just one time -- in the transcripts of his taped conversations "the people" of Illinois are referenced in the context of his constituents.  The first time, his chief of staff explains that, along with greasing the sale of the Cubs by the Tribune Company, the administration's ability to "do good things for people" would be jeopardized if the Tribune Company's newspaper editorialized for Blagojevich's impeachment.  And the second time, the Governor suggests that what he's looking for in exchange for naming the next junior senator is some "good stuff for the people of Illinois" along with some stuff good for him.

So you see, Blagojevich's team was at least glancingly trying to include the citizens of Illinois as fellow recipients of whatever bribes and kickbacks they were contemplating.  Isn't that he was elected for?  (Twice!?!)

Further, everyone pointing out the Governor's fondness for profanity?  The word "fuck" appears only eighteen times in the 78 pages.  So he may well be as bad at swearing as he is at getting away with immoderate amounts of State-House graft.  I swear more than that when someone at the office asks me to do something.  Even in mixed company!

And finally (just to fit everything in before he resigns/is impeached/checks into the hoosegow), people make fun of the governor's hair -- fake or not?  Being funny-haired myself, I say we instead make fun of his first name.  Wait.  I have a funny first name as well.

Posted by mrbrent at 12:15 PM


This is a new one for me -- I watched a television series last night because it's co-created by a dude whose blog I follow.  Turns out John Rogers is as talented at TV-producing as he is at blog-posting, so let me highly recommend "Leverage".

It's a modest little caper scenario, a band of colorful thieves who take down corporations that down-tread the common man, and it's topped by Timothy Hutton (very well cast -- whom age has given a queasy confidence that fits the role).  And I'm a fan after the first episode -- basically, it's like the first Soderbergh "Ocean's 11", without the profligacy of plot/budget and also without all the winking.

There's an identifiable style I'm noticing on the television (or is it that I'm watching TV again after years?), which is bright, snappy and tightly structured and composed.  Whatever everyone calls this style (see also "Chuck" and "Burn Notice"), "Leverage" is, so far, a topline example of it.

So, John Rogers, if that is in fact your name: nice job.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:21 AM

December 9, 2008

boy, that governor was some kinda corrupt, huh?

The Yahoo! Headline Box sums up a couple thousand words of breaking Chicago news coverage into a pithy few:
• Ill. Gov. Blagojevich could still appoint Senate seat from jail

Blago's bald and feckless corruption?  Captured!  The odd circumstance of the vacancy created by Obama's election occasioning the Governor's arrest!  Nailed!  And absurdity?  Present!

In the words of Baron Von Raschke, "Dat is all da people need to know."

Posted by mrbrent at 1:38 PM

the bush admin pushback against history

The LA Times has solved the mystery of why discussion of the legacy of George Bush's eight years in the Oval Office has been popping up, as if people were somehow sick of news of economic collapse and the cratering of every industry ever.

The repetition of this meme is pure coincidence -- the kind of coincidence invoked by a so-called talking points memo sent out by the administration to help jog the memories of government officials who might have forgotten that the Bush Administration is so accomplished that you can't hardly keep yourself from talking about it in front of a live mike:

Titled "Speech Topper on the Bush Record," the talking points state that Bush "kept the American people safe" after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, lifted the economy after 2001 through tax cuts, curbed AIDS in Africa and maintained "the honor and the dignity of his office."

Is there a person alive that actually thinks that George W. Bush conducted himself with honor and/or dignity?  Well, probably so, but these people intentionally confuse "honor" and "dignity" with "self-serving" and "buffoon-y", people for whom facts are like rainbows to be barely noticed and quickly ignored.

I realize that if I were responsible, I would list all of the president's dishonors and ignominies.  Let's just let the fact that he's issued a memo detailing how really very good he has been should suffice for now.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:55 AM

obama: natural born

Just because the Supreme Court of the United States has declined to hear an appeal concerning President-Elect Obama's citizenship does not mean that you Barack-Deniers should cease your tireless efforts!  Remember, there could be up to eight more years of a Liberal/Democrat/Fascist/Muslim/Communist administration!  Only through your continued work, and your carefully worded public statements written by the invisible robot living in your teeth, can this crisis be made entertaining.

While I'm here, I do respect and admire the umami of rightwing tinfoil hat scenarios as compared to leftwing tinfoil hat scenarios, which toil around in the dirt of public records, corporate filings, looking for discrete synchronicities that can be blown into connections.  The rightwing conspiracies read like C grade sci fi novels, starting with point A (Barack Obama exists) and then spinning through insane propositions and landing on an idiocy masked as an absurdity (Barack Obama is the last Cylon).

The rightwing's are much more fun, though I suspect the leftwing's are more danceable.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:07 AM

December 8, 2008

stephen harper: playing freeze-tag with canadian government

At the risk of pissing off those Canadian friends of mine who are closet Tories (you know who you are), please keep in mind last weeks' goings on with our Friendly Neighbors to the North:  Basically, someone hit them on the head and they passed out and woke up thinking that they are Italy.

The entire Canadian government got hung up in Robert's Rules of Order as the Prime Minister, under threat of a "no confidence vote" (which around these parts we call, "Good morning, world"), decided that if he was very very still no one would see him there and then he could keep on being the Prime Minister.

And this would be a more complete, funnier recap from Jim Newell:

This is more or less the deal: PM Stephen Harper’s Conservatives won October’s elections with a 46% plurality of seats, so he needed to ally with one of four insanely liberal/separatist minority parties to build a majority coalition and “formal legitimacy,” the liberal parties asked for various hippie progressive reforms in return for their allegiance, the Conservatives responded by offering more newer wingnut ideas instead, the liberal parties decided they did not want to eat this particular bag of dicks and banded together to churn out a proposal whereby they would seize the government as a majority coalition, albeit unelected.  A Parliamentary vote -— which is somehow allowed to decide this -— was expected to decide in their favor on Dec. 8.

But then the figurehead colonial governor of Canada, who was appointed by the QUEEN OF ENGLAND, decided yesterday morning to suspend the government until January 26.

Which seems like a very special episode of "Arrested Development", and makes me sad that I never transferred to the University of Toronto like I threatened all those years ago.

I know this story is four days old and therefore much like a rotary phone, but I'm trying to distract myself from the Bonfire of the Newspaper Industry -- with the word "prorogue".

Posted by mrbrent at 3:45 PM

bill kristol: reliably bad

Is that really the best that William Kristol can do?  Yeah, everyone's been jumping on Bill for phoning these in to the NYTimes Op-Ed page, but really?  "The Charge of the Light Brigade"?  I don't know many high school paper editors that would let that see print.

"Theirs is but to do and die"?  Does he write these with one hand while watching "Lipstick Jungle" and eating a bowl of Fritos?  He should donate whatever the Grey Lady is paying him to a literacy project.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:03 AM