« January 25, 2009 - January 31, 2009 | Main | February 8, 2009 - February 14, 2009 »

February 7, 2009

michael steele: something completely different

Whoa.  I was all transfixed by the spectacle of Michael Steele's campaign (and eventual victory) for the chairmanship of the RNC because I happened to be spending time in Maryland when he was running for the Senate in 2006, and I got the distinct impression that his campaigning skills were not up to his ambition.  Not quite up to the Alan Keyes level of doomed-campaign, but he certainly didn't win anything, which made me wonder what exactly he'd have to offer the Republican Party in a leadership capacity.

And now the Washington Post breaks a story that a man that used to work for Steele, while negotiating with the feds on an unrelated criminal charge, is alleging the kind of financial improprieties that might rise to the level of tanking one's career.  Which is great -- Schadenfreude is a word I'm growing more comfortable with these days.

But the more interesting is the paragraph that details how the WaPost got the story:

The U.S. attorney's office inadvertently sent the confidential document [detailing the allegations of the former Steele employee], a defense sentencing memorandum filed under seal, to The Washington Post after the newspaper requested the prosecution's sentencing memorandum.

It may just be the extraordinary good luck of the reporters working whatever lead they were following, but it also seems to me to be very strong evidence of Why Newspapers Are Vital, and how bloggers would never be able to fill the gap if they went away -- funded and hugely staffed organizations like newspapers cast really wide nets.

Also: Schadenfreude!  Schadenfreude!

Posted by mrbrent at 9:56 PM

criminals are a cowardly, advanced-tech, well-organized lot

Appreciate the scope of this crime -- a payroll service is hacked, and then a team withdraws $9 million from 130 ATMs in 49 cities, using fake payroll cards.  The withdrawals all start and stop within a half-hour period. 

That averages out to be a little less than $70,000 per ATM, in what one presumes would be twenty dollar bills, in thirty minutes.  The tech behind it can seem impressive to the average person -- hacking a network, manufacturing ATM cards -- but to me the logistics of the thing boggle my mind.  Remember the last time you held/saw a thousand bucks in $20s.  As I recall, it fills an envelope pretty snugly.  Now imagine that you had seventy of those, and that this amount of paper is being spit out at you in a public place, quickly.  You, of course, being one of a cadre of a hundred or so other like minded criminals in different places, all synching by your wristwatches (cellphones?) like you're the Dirty Twelve Dozen or something.

This sounds like John Rogers territory.  (He of "Leverage".)

And, as an extra bonus, in the news story an FBI agent commits one of my favorite mis-speaks of all time:

"Over 130 different ATM machines in 49 cities worldwide were accessed in a 30-minute period on November 8," Agent Rice said.  "So you can get an idea of the number of people involved in this and the scope of the operation."

Dude, I still to this day will say "ATM machine" as a joke, just to see who gets it.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:14 AM

February 6, 2009

pudgy millionaire glenn beck terrified of children

Glenn Beck's mouth is a shovel, and a miraculously good shovel at that.  Glenn Beck opens his mouth, and the digging starts and then doesn't stop for the couple moments after Glenn Beck stops talking that it takes to do the math to figure out that no, Glenn Beck is not joking.

This is Glenn Beck riffing on a line from an Al Gore speech, wherein Gore implies that the youth of America may know some things that their elders do not:

... The government and its friends are indoctrinating our children for the control of their minds, your freedom, and our choice and our future.  It must STOP! Because history -- when properly taught -- has already shown us where it leads.  This is what Nazi leader Josef Goebbels said about the Hitler Youth:
If such an art of active mass influence through propaganda is joined with the long-term systematic education of a nation, and if both are conducted in a unified and precise way, the relationship between the leadership and the nation will always remain close.

Well, what's next?  If Mom and Dad decide to keep the temperature above 72, should our 'Gore Youth' report Mom and Dad?  Should they also report groundings and spankings every time Daddy comes home to watch that evil Fox News?

Ahhh ha ha ha ha oh wait.  Nope, wasn't joking.  Just taking poorly-informed and ill-reasoned to whole new levels.

Also alarming is Glenn Beck's conversational knowledge of the works of Josef Geobbels.  Just sayin'.

Posted by mrbrent at 1:40 PM

carol carter invites you to transcend the bounds of civil discourse

Not many ways to add to or improve this post from Wonkette, as Ken Layne dissects FL Republican Carol Carter's autodefenestration by poorly-timed joke, resulting in a forced resignation and the like.  But first, her apology:
I have been asked to send this apology for my earlier e-mail. l; I am sorry that it was received in a negative manner.  I do hope that we are going to be allowed to keep our sense of humor.

Shades of "first-they-came-for-Carol-Carter".  But at least she's sorry that you humorless prudes took offense at it, right?

And then the offending joke that Carol Carter FWed to her friends and colleagues:

I’m confused

How can 2,000,000 blacks get into Washington, DC in 1 day in sub zero temps when 200,000 couldn’t get out of New Orleans in 85 degree temps with four days notice?

Carol Carter

Not much to say after that.  Other than to quote Layne, who describes the email as:

...a whimsical email to her loyal Republican colleagues around Tampa Bay about the very convenient ability of many black people to travel to Washington D.C. for Obama’s inauguration, despite the fact that many blacks drowned when Hurricane Katrina flooded New Orleans.

Personally, I don't think one should get fired for telling a joke, on account of certain free speech concerns.  But, that doesn't mean that I don't think that telling certain jokes makes you the kind of person good people wish ill on.  People like Carol Carter.  On whom I wish substantial amounts of ill.

And Ken Layne is as right on as he always is.  Right on.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:23 AM

maybe try decreasing hostile n. korea?

The Yahoo! Handy Headline Reference Box doesn't like adverbs so much:
• Analysis: Increasing hostile N. Korea could be issue for Obama

All right, which one of you yahoos is increasing hostile North Korea?  Now Kim Jung Il is gonna be all cranky for two or three years, and you think it's funny.

In thirty years, the -ly of an adverb will be as obsolete as our pinky toes, which will have fallen off as well.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:52 AM

that is, in the sense of "andy card is a tool"

This is a link to a photograph of President George W. Bush, in the Oval Office, not wearing a jacket.  Plus also a bunch of other presidents not named Obama also not wearing jackets in the Oval Office.

Which means that Andy Card can now try to argue that it wasn't just the tie and jacket he was talking about, it was more the solemnity and utter respect with which his boss drove this country into the side of a mountain, sniggering.

The tragedy of this, of course, is that we have not yet arrived at the moment when journalistic resources no longer need to be allocated towards calling bullshit on whatever any priggish functionary of the Bush Administration says.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:30 AM

February 5, 2009

tool time with andy card

And this is Bush Administration Chief of Staff Andrew Card, following Dick Cheney's lead on the time-honored tradition of refraining from criticism of the administrations that follow.

It may not be as vile as suggesting that the current administration invites a terrorist attack, but the banality of being outraged over Oval Office dresscode is overwhelming.

Andy Card is one righteously pissed off doofus all right.

Posted by mrbrent at 3:07 PM

do not accuse bill o'reilly of irony when there is no such thing

You know how sometimes Fox News personality/lump of humanity Bill O'Reilly will get all shouty and accuse perfidy of any critic so bold as to actually use actual O'Reilly quotes as evidence of some negative aspect of O'Reilly?  Well, Bill was on a morning news show, and waxed poetic on what constituted the real world:
But for President Obama to expect the nation and the Republican Party to accept a bill that (House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi and the far left put together that rewards unions, that spends billions on global warming research, that goes into all kinds of social engineering -- if Barack Obama thought the American people, who are really suffering, were going to take all of this and say, 'Oh, yeah!' he's not living in the real world.  So, it's partially his fault for not understanding the mood of the nation right now.

You can't really blame O'Reilly for confusing his fan base with the real world -- he is a millionaire many times over, and he's not exactly stopping by the grocery store on the way home for a quart of milk and some Old Bay seasoning, now is he?  Also, this "real world" he posits, in which average Americans believe exactly what O'Reilly tells them to believe, is a world in which O'Reilly is a sharp observer of current events, with a quick wit and incisive analytical skills, and not just a braying moron leading a unilateral cult of personality.

Which makes the accusations against the president w/r/t the real world a little bit ironical, yes?

Posted by mrbrent at 12:05 PM

the death of the public-fidget

Another deep thought that you didn't ask for:

IPods and other entire-music-library devices are slowly strangling the public-fidget to death.

On the train this morning, between 14th Street and 23rd Street there was a young woman standing, facing the doors, swinging a chain with some sort of charm or key on the end of it around her finger, centripetal force causing it to orbit faster and faster as the unwrapped portion of the chain shortened until pop! no more chain left.  And then she would unwind/rewind the chain in the opposite direction.

I realized that I couldn't remember that specific kind of time-killing public gesture -- flipping a coin, twirling a ring of keys -- in forever.  I looked around the train: a plague of earbuds, with the exception of the young woman with the chain.  And the iPodded were uniformly motionless, arms still, blissed out on information secret to the rest of us.

We are slowly unrecognizing ourselves.

Also: is it cold out or what?

Posted by mrbrent at 9:35 AM

February 4, 2009

glenn beck is the smartest person alive

It's not like he's making this stuff up.

Maybe you've all forgotten, but Glenn Beck was alive back then.  He was a roughneck on an oil rig off Galveston, and, on weekends, he sold programs at Knott's Berry Farms.  It was 1974, and even thought the Yom Kippur War was water under the bridge, OPEC got a bee in its bonnet and was taking it out on the more civilized nations of the earth.

Sure, it was hard, tripping pipe with a hurricane breathing down your neck, plus slinging novelties to hippies Saturday and Sunday, while the dollar was taking a beating thanks to a bunch of sandhuggers wearing tablecloths on their heads.  Then, on one of the two and a half hours Glenn Beck had off, as he was wiping his mouth after draining a frosty Coors Light, Mexico runs out of tamales or something and then fifteen minutes later both Texas and California are swarming with sombreros with something to prove.  Yeah, the National Guard and some highly committed Hell's Angels fought God's good fight, but then the Hefe of Mexico interrupts Walter Cronkite with the news that he had six or seven ICBMeleros aimed at Disney Land, Disney World and Graceland.  What were we supposed to do?  The Ruskies offered tactical assistance, but no way we were gonna be eating pierogies over rice and beans, not while an American like Glenn Beck was still bleeding the Red, White and Blue.

So yeah, for a couple years in the Seventies, Texas and California were annexed by Mexico.  It was only good luck that they were too hopped up on Mezcal to make a play for Arizona or New Mexico, otherwise who knows how new New Mexico would be today.  And if it weren't for Charles Bronson and Charlton Heston, both Texas and California might be filled with Taco Bells to this day.  Glenn Beck was there, and he feels like he'd like to say that it's the truth.

So, you think that what Glenn Beck is talking about is crazy?  No, you're crazy -- Glenn Beck is just trying to keep insane-person history from repeating itself.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:11 PM

whoa! dick cheney thinks *what*? stop presses!

There's not a whole lot of sport in begging to differ with former Shadow President Dick Cheney, but hey!  It's a Wednesday.

In the latest contribution to humanity from Politico, Cheney, while predicting that there will be another superfun party terrorist attack on US soil unless President Obama keeps his policies nice and Cheneyfied, is quoted as saying:

“When we get people who are more concerned about reading the rights to an Al Qaeda terrorist than they are with protecting the United States against people who are absolutely committed to do anything they can to kill Americans, then I worry,” Cheney said.

Well, Mr Not-Vice-President-Anymore, I worry when false dilemmas get thrown around like high fructose corn syrup.  There's nothing mutually exclusive about "reading rights" (see below) and worrying about protecting the United States and our Homeland and Freedom and Apple Pie Mother Babies.  Actually, you can do both, without even trying very hard, and the practice of either one does not detract from the practice of the other.  Now, Dick, in case you weren't aware, the false dilemma is used to make one side look better than the other by forcing an either/or decision between the two and describing the favored side of the argument attractively and the unfavored side of the argument negatively or even ridiculously.  See?  I know you're not one for the highfalutin (unless it pays), but even you, Mr Cheney, can lay down some serious rhetorical pipe!

And then there is the mischaracterization of "worrying about reading terrorists their rights", which is a very useful one -- I bet the stupids laugh out of the sides of their mouth about that one.  But you know what?  If the terrorists were treated like criminals like any other instead of secret-powered supervillians who can erode liberty with a mere glance unless you torture the shit out of them, then maybe we might actually get a freaking conviction of one of them in a court of law instead of an armful of extralegal detainees and an international community that laughs at you behind your back because of your rank hypocrisy.  In your no-law-will-prevent-us-from-protecting-our-homeland fervor, you leave no room for a resolution, Mr Cheney, other than continued law-breaking.  You leave no room for soft power.  What is a more discouraging message to wannabe Jihadists -- Ayman Al-Zawihiri in a secret torture/indefinite detention camp, or perp-walked into a Federal court like any other shitbird?  What's more terrifying to a soul already prepared for torment and martyrdom -- torture/martyrdom, or the everyday everyday?

For the hundredth time, when you treat a certain level of criminal like their worse than all the other criminals, when you yank away rights from them that other criminals have, then you are not showing strength, you are showing cowardice.

Plus also, he's Dick Cheney, so let's say that there's about a fifteen percent chance of his concern for the welfare of the nation being genuine and not subterfuge for some insidious plan.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:22 AM

February 3, 2009

i will not even google doug tennapel to see what other sad things he wrote

This is not the worst closing fusillade in the history of thinkpieces, but that doesn't mean that it's not gods-offendingly bad:
We’re the new rebellion against the majority juggernaut that doesn’t take kindly to dissent.  Make a fist and show them what happens when they tell you what to think, feel and believe.

If you want me to unite to your cause, then end abortion, give the people back the money they earned, fight terror, keep your hands off free speech on the radio and enable job creators to make more jobs.  Until then, screw your hope and screw your change.

The set-up is kinda worse, as it posits that Johnny Cash was the first punk rock, and, accordingly, Barack Obama is the new elevator music.  It's very high-school-literary-magazine, with all kinds of calls to action! and we will not comforms!, very dramatic.  Ultimately, it's the tragic story of a man trying to reconcile his political beliefs with the largely leftist roots of the music he loves.

And the list of iconic musicians/bands that might not agree with "Republicans are the new punk rock" is pretty long, but I'll save everyone time by typing "The Clash", who were more punk rock than me, Doug TenNapel and all the Republicans everywhere combined.  So screw my hope and screw my change?  Um, okay, I'll get right on that.

(Via someone RTing someone else.  In the end, I blame Maud.  And on the issue of punk rock, I will defer of course to NSSB, who is always talking about how he was there.)

Posted by mrbrent at 11:28 PM

sometimes, on these cold winter nights, i get all andy rooney

Opening the day's mail, I noted the usual number -- two to four -- of pieces addressed to me asking for a donation to a cause that I may or may not agree with, or wondering if I'd like to partake in some credit counseling services, or offering some attractive car insurance rates, and I'm wondering: shouldn't direct mail be just about dead yet?

I know that some non-profits I favor rely on it, and that it must remain efficacious to some extent, but do we need to kill all those trees for this?  Not to mention that some truly loathsome folk made their fortune by offering direct mail services.

And I love mail, because I know that in twenty years we'll be sitting around reminiscing about it.  But I have the technology, right here, at this ten year old computer, to send out a couple thousand emails in the next fifteen minutes, which makes me wonder if maybe some of these credit counseling services are being taken for a ride by direct mail concerns.

Wait.  That makes direct mail a good thing.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:20 PM

republicans, stupid tree, every branch

I've been noting with a combination of alarm and resignation the GOP's steely resolve to turn the stimulus package currently being discussed into a millstone to drown the current administration with by filling the airwaves with weaponized dumb.

I'd like to sleep safely with the belief that dumb is its own reward, but I've adjusted my expectations to reflect that of the three hundred million of us, at least a hundred million of us are susceptible to dumb, being already dumb themselves.

I haven't been as careful as I should have been, tucking away hyperlinks to edifying examples of dumb in action, but here are just a few:

First there is Sen. John Thune on the Senate floor describing how the stimulus package could be used to our first space elevator, which would help NASA, which would be bad because NASA believe that man descended from apes.  Apes!

Then there are the House Republicans, who want you to know that up to two percent of the stimulus package as stands in unacceptable, and how can you support the scoundrels across the aisle who refuse to count to a hundred.

And then there's the overview of the Republican Party, detailing how the "Immovable Object" strategy might not just derail any meaningful attempt to address a global economic meltdown, it just might also increase their political prospects by freeing them from having to stand for doing anything at all.

And finally Sen. Mitch McConnell, emboldened by the House GOP standing firm with their votes, deciding that the best jobs stimulus is no jobs stimulus.

The scariest thing about this is that these LCD tactics, which have up 'til now seemed slick and manipulative to me, are starting to appear the unintended result of actually stupid elected officials.

Posted by mrbrent at 6:21 PM

must still spread love for tgi friday's

Further to the immediately previous post, discussing TGI Friday's absurd claims of proximity in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania, a note from Nonstopshoebox:
I think you'll find that TGI Fridays' small print clearly states (p. 91, Clause 51, sub-section 9) that it is possible to reach the nearest restaurant within 30 seconds if equipped with a Harrier VTOL Jet.  No need to CRASH anything thankyou very much.  However, there may be some collateral damage to adjacent vehicles re: scorching.

Being an American, I had to look up "Harrier", because all I could remember of harriers is that they were maybe the aircraft that tragically lost the Falklands for the British?  But no -- just a fighter plane that can take off/land straight up and down, hence Vertical Take Off and Landing.  (Also, come to find out, no one won the Falklands.)  So my response to NSSB:

I think the point that I was making was more that a VTOL descent would take at least 20 seconds from a reasonable altitude, and even jumping out of a moving aircraft would eat up two or thee precious seconds before you hit the ground.

And NSSB's response:

OK, point taken, but what about someone fired, Wily Coyote style from a trebuchet, leaving a person-shaped hole in the diner roof.  Surely that would do it?  Come on, we can make this work!

Otherwise, we're going have to start messing with the space-time continuum, and I don't think any burger is worth that.

Well, whatever a trebuchet is, as long as it is a thing that flings, well, then, that might work.  And not only is their burger not worth that, it would be worth being trebuchet-ed to avoid having to have a burger served to you, at least at this specific TGI Friday's.

Posted by mrbrent at 3:11 PM

February 2, 2009

tgi fridays: your billboard lies

The Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania, where I may or may not be at any given time, has two modest freeways that cross between Easton and Bethlehem -- Rte 22 running east/west, and Rte 33 running north and south.  And if you are headed for Rte 33 from the west on Rte 22, you will see a big old billboard advertising a site of the restaurant chain TGI Friday's.  This billboard says, "30 Seconds Away!"

By driving, I know to get to this TGI Fridays you have to get onto Rte 33, head south two exits and then navigate a shopping center with a non-Euclidian geomtrical layout.  Five minutes, easy.

And, looking at a map, I judge the billboard and the TGI Friday's to be a little less than two miles apart, ignoring surface roads.  So, even if you were in an airplane doing four hundred miles an hour, you could maybe get there in 30 seconds, but only if you didn't bother landing and crashed the plane in the TGI Friday's parking lot.

I don't know if this is a new branding strategy, advertising glaring lies without any apparent irony, but I do know that TGI Friday's, in my experience, serves food that quickly brings "the microwave" to mind.  Or maybe it was the service?

Posted by mrbrent at 10:19 AM

February 1, 2009

giuliani: mr potter is stimulating bedford falls

In the middle of the packing of the go-bags and waiting for all the other economic shoes to drop, I am taking solace in the fact that, in light of the outcry over banking CEO compensation packages, discussion of income disparity is finally happening, in conversations and in the media.

It's a big deep topic, and certainly one that will be revisited, but let's start with perpetual bridesmaid Rudy Giuliani, who used his 9-11 superpowers to stick up for heroic executives and their seven figure annual pay, implying that those extra billions are actually a stimulus for the economy.  Because that money gets taxed, see, and then sometimes the recipients might buy a third apartment, or a second Benz. : So they're helping!

"Those bonuses, if they are reversed, are going to cause unemployment in New York," the self-described fiscal conservative said.

Of course, if you were to take those billions and pay it out to an entire workforce of ten thousand people instead of an executive cadre of thirty or forty, then it would still get taxed, still get spent.  In other words, and I don't know if Giuliani is missing the point or ignoring it, the complaint is not that banks are paying workers even in times of bailout -- the complaint is why is this bonus money so conspicuously out-of-proportion with common sense?  How can you defend paying an executive a bonus in the range of twenties and thirties of millions of dollars in any other way than saying, well, if they can get away with it, why shouldn't they?

The coming weeks will only bring more of this discussion, and if Giuliani is going to be the public face of the defense of excessive compensation, then I can live with that.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:12 AM

jeff friedman will get james wolcott, one day, just you watch

Aha!  Superstar paradigm-changing-forever rightwing media consortium closes blogging network, shipwrecking shining light of blogosphere, and James Wolcott is there!  And I could tell it was Wolcott right away, as he deftly dispensed with the obligatory reference to Schadenfreude in the lede, instead of the kicker, where I would have clumsily put it.  But I am overjoyed that someone as talented as Wolcott is indulging in a public dose of the SF, because I was starting to feel guilty for in going there myself, a lot.  So let's just assume that the contraction of Pajamas Media is caused more by operator error and less by a terrible business environment for media, for fun.

And the shining-light blogger's response (to the decision of Pajamas Media, not to being poleaxed by Wolcott)?

What this means is that as of April 1, I am officially out of work.  So save going to a pay model, this site will likely have to shut down.

Wow, for a rightwing badass, that seems to be an awful lot of crying out loud.  Or maybe that's a boat I'm missing -- the boat of prissily refusing to write in your little blog unless someone else is paying for it.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:29 AM