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March 14, 2009

more glenn beck forever

While wasting good Saturday time looking for news of how Glenn Beck's Branding Opportunity Tupperware Parties of Fear went yesterday afternoon, I stumbled across an item on how well Beck is fitting in on FoxNews, having bestowed upon him the magical repeat hour, so that those fans of his too busy defending liberty during his initial hour don't have to learn how to use a DVR in order to receive his mystical wisdom.

As natural as it would be to wish ill on a man who I believe does great harm, I'm actually thrilled -- perhaps the only person better suited than Rush Limbaugh to represent the conservative cause right into the ground like a freaking dart is Glenn Beck, who, while sharing the pompous righteousness of fellow millionaire Limbaugh, also brings to the table an aggressive know-nothingism and an alarming stupidity.  Until such time as people with ideological leanings different than mine relent from embracing moronic hypocrites as movement leaders, then the more stupid the better.  I think Beck should have his own channel, so that he can broadcast around the clock.

In fact, if there is anyone that could be upset by this news, it would be Sean Hannity, because Beck is clearly gunning for his spot.  And Beck might just out-bluster Hannity into oblivion. Posted by mrbrent at 11:24 AM

what's good for GM is good for copyright

Hello secret copyright treaty!  News broke this week that the Obama Administration goes one step further than the previous administration concerning a terrible international copyright treaty:
Last September, the Bush administration defended the unusual secrecy over an anti-counterfeiting treaty being negotiated by the U.S. government, which some liberal groups worry could criminalize some peer-to-peer file sharing that infringes copyrights.

Now President Obama's White House has tightened the cloak of government secrecy still further, saying in a letter this week that a discussion draft of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement and related materials are "classified in the interest of national security pursuant to Executive Order 12958."

That's bad!

And now Knowledge Ecology International has read some small print, uncovering a list of representatives of the nation's private businesses who have apparently the security clearance to be privy to this secret copyright treaty -- including such renowned defense contractors as the RIAA, the MPAA, Time Warner, Eli Lilly, Anheuser-Busch Companies and General Motors.  That's worse!

I'm conflicted, because of that pledge I signed all those years ago that stipulated that I would support liberal causes/dope-smoking at all times, no matter the cost to truth, liberty and God-/country-love.

But to say out loud for public benefit: if there is an illusion that accrued good will of the Obama Administration, and the personal popularity of the president, will induce anyone educated on the matter to not scream bloody murder over a copyright putsch, then the cities and towns all over the country are filled with dictionaries, and "illision" is under "I".

I would like a little daylight, first and right-now, and a little public input second.  And I'm happy to be persistent on this.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:44 AM

March 13, 2009

bon voyage, "enemy combatant"

It's an odd thing to bury on a Friday night, but the Obama administration has decided to shitcan the turn-of-phrase "enemy combatant", which is one of those things that I have a hard time quantifying how happy it makes me because I don't think I ever thought it would happen.  But it is a good thing and it is a strong thing; good guys don't parse, and good guys don't need to bend the rules in order to defeat you.  And I'd like to go back to thinking us a good guy.

Shorter: language matters.

Well, maybe not an odd thing to bury at all -- perhaps monkeying with the rhetoric so carefully fashioned will incense some quarters.  Actually, isn't that a form of treason against liberty, cutting bait on the 1984-isms?  Or at least, wouldn't that qualify as hugging terrorism?

As uncomfortable it is to have incensed quarters, maybe they'll learn a little something about themselves.

Posted by mrbrent at 7:04 PM

iyi 3.13.09

It's always a big gee-whiz moment, when you're sitting far from home but still firing up the old Movable Type, and typing in some words, like the travel was insignificant, like the digital shadow your life throws is entirely portable.

I guess goes without saying that I don't get out very much.  (And also that I'll give you a dollar to show me the non-portable shadow, duh.)

But thanks to the Beautiful Wife for owning a computer that one can bring with one's self without a handtruck, and thanks to that border guard from last night who nearly had me convinced that I had a criminal record by virtue of repetition of the question.

Hopefully nothing terribly novel happens until I'm back behind the desk.

Posted by mrbrent at 12:52 PM

March 12, 2009

and then they came for the newspapers

I understand that there's all kinds of other interesting news out there, but I read this on the train and now that is where my head is at.  It's about how the newspaper industry is like that fellow that lives down the hall -- he's getting up there (wait, he's gotta be in his 80s?), and even though he's been perfectly well, even burly, all those years you've known him, he's lost a lot of weight, and is even starting to use a walker.  And you've always liked this guy, but, you know, that's how things go.  Now you're just waiting for the day with the bad news.

The article also has an excellent graphic which plots out on a map all the wonderful regional/city newspapers that your children will never get to read.

The decline of the industry has been grist for snark for years now, but so it's not exactly news.  But still.  Fuck.

Posted by mrbrent at 12:16 PM

March 11, 2009

sterling on limbaugh

Bruce Sterling on Rush Limbaugh-baiting:
If [Limbaugh]'s fed enough ego-candy, there's a pretty good chance Limbaugh is gonna freak out.  He's never been a major player, he's a jumped-up dope-addict blowhard; the Right can't get next to him and they can't get away from him.  All they can do is complain that Obama is beating them with their own firebrand.

And the other excellent point that Sterling makes it that Limbaugh is the perfect target on which to hang the sins of an entire party because he will feed and water himself -- he only stands to gain, in increased listeners, from notoriety, so there is zero chance that he will ever relent and edge back towards the shadows for the good of the cause (as Michael Moore did, I think).  Eventually even his faint protestations that he's being used to distract the public-at-large will fade as he realizes how much he has to gain from distracting the public-at-large.  Check his tonnage and tell me he's someone with a great deal of self-control.

I wish someone would've thought of it years ago, come to think.

Posted by mrbrent at 3:36 PM

twitter improved my life for the better!

By now you're read or seen one of the hundreds of articles or news segments that detail what "Twitter" is all about to those of you too old or too busy with an actually fulfilling life to know what that is.  Or care!

Well, I'm one of those who spends some time on the Twitter.  It's true!  I may seem the Luddite, but in fact my Luddism only extends to using hardware that is years out of date to run current software.  So I'm not one of the fools foot-shuffling on the public sidewalk because he's preoccupied with Twittering on his iPhone.  I'm the fool that rushes home to log on to his nine year old Vaio to see if he missed anything particularly witty.

Now, I could explain Twitter to the skeptical by saying that I use is as a kind of social background noise.  I don't get alerted with every Tweet, but I do check it fairly often, and think that the updated accumulation of the micropublishing of my friends (new and old) gives me some comfort from the cold crush of creeping years and burgeoning responsibility.  But, that wouldn't really make you want to hop on Twitter at all; it would just make myself look pathetic.  So try this instead:

Twitter is the venue in which I first learned that the Levi/Johnston engagement may be off.  I don't know if I could measure the value of that in dollars.

Posted by mrbrent at 1:38 PM

i forget: what was that about usury in the bible?

Yeah sure Sen. Bernie Sanders is a socialist and therefore every idea out of his head is perfidious and free-market-hating, but I would not be unhappy to see reforms like this happen:
Sen. Bernie Sanders will introduce legislation this week to cap interest rates charged by credit card companies that now slap consumers with rates of up to 30 percent.  "This is money that comes right out of their hides and it hurts," Sanders told The Burlington Free Press.  His legislation would impose 15 percent interest rate ceiling.  It also would limit fees.  "We are going to introduce a national usury law which will prohibit any financial institution from charging these outrageous rates," he told Thom Hartmann’s nationally-syndicated radio show.  "These loan sharks wear three-piece suits, but they’re not much different than those guys who break people’s knee caps."

It sounds funny, but remember that Sanders is the senator of the Soviet Republic of Vermont, which might explain why he talks so weird, comparing bankers with loan sharks.

I don't necessarily believe that there has to be legislative prohibition practices, as long as the banks demonstrate that they can police their own behavior.  Oops!  Too late.  Regulation is just a means to an end, and I'm no more of a fan of "regulation" than I am of "stop signs".  When children can't play together nicely, they get policed by parental types.  And a default APR of 33% is not just not-nice-playing, it's also morally indefensible (unless you consider greed a moral defense).

And ain't no one gonna go broke off of a fifteen (or even twenty) percent APR.  Period.  Whether that's self-imposed or otherwise.

So maybe we can take the socialist edge off this concept that predatory business practice will be ended one way or the other by talking about it a lot, in the open.

[Via this DailyKos diary.]

Posted by mrbrent at 10:57 AM

March 10, 2009

glenn beck will father-coughlin you up

So I'm checking this list of meet-ups -- because, you see, proud radio host Glenn Beck, who may or may not be a doughy windbag millionaire, is holding a bunch of TV-watchin' parties on Friday, so that people can watch Beck's show together, confident in the knowledge that it is only in numbers that they will be safe from the coming Mexican invasion, and I think I can pass for one of those guys if it means safety from the Brown Tide -- but it looks like the closet place to go is the Irish Pub in Philadelphia.  I love a good Irish pub as much as the next guy, but is Philadelphia far enough away from Mexico to truly safe?  I mean, isn't Philadelphia a port?  What if they have boats?

Beck has named this little promotion "We Surround Them", and I'm happy to say that I couldn't think of something more sinister sounding if I tried.  Since the changing of administrations, all of a sudden anti-authoritarianism is back "in".  Beck is nothing if not adaptable.

The ultimate irony is that Beck is one of those talking heads that you will hear described by some meat-'n'-potatoes sort as, "Well, he's not one of them fatcats -- he makes some sense."  Wrong, and wrong.

Posted by mrbrent at 5:06 PM

terrorists to the bone

God I'm going in fits and starts today.  I just trashed a couple hundred words that I wrote on that special sound of accused 9-11 suspects so not being brought to justice just yet before I hit the "Dude Don't Write That Wall".  Because my tendency is to root for the nose-thumbers, but then reason swoops in and I realize that these are some particular nose-thumbers that I'm rooting against.  And I'm not even rooting for them but noting their undermining of the extra-judicial trials with a bunch of terrorist rhetoric 101, but then I get worried that orthodoxy requires not even directing attention to them in case attention is all they're looking for.

But do imagine, for just a second, that these shitbirds had been apprehended and then subject to the U.S. judicial system like every shitbird that's ever rolled a drunk or knocked over a liquor store, instead of like supervillains whose unchained glance might topple liberty.  Not only would the shitbirds be subject to the small but persistent humiliation of being a two-bit shitbird just like everybody else, but also we would have had a criminal case that moved expeditiously to a resolution, preventing said shitbirds from having a fine old time issuing statements that score points on the government that interrogated them to the point of torture, rendering them untryable.  I mean, "terrorists to the bone"?  That's a big ole twirly-bird, right there.  Even the confession contained in the statement is a mockery of a confession.

Urgh.  I'm just going to sit here and wait for my senses to return.

Posted by mrbrent at 3:14 PM

unlikeliest best story ever

I was wrong.  I saw a couple links from folk who's opinions I respect and was utterly skeptical.  It's a story from the Washington Post about people who forget and leave their kids in cars, and then the kids die.

I skimmed it and then clicked away, kind of aghast -- why would one write about such a thing?  Am I supposed to believe that there's some creeping menace in people leaving kids in cars?

But today I read the whole thing, and it is superlative, and absolutely worth your time if you are a fan of the medium.  Really, it's astonishing how well-constructed, reported and written it is.  It is brutal and harrowing, but it also kicks all kinds of ass.

Yes, it comes off like an Onion article to start, but it's excellent work.  The writer's name is Gene Weingarten, so it is to Weingarten I apologize for dismissing so candidly.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:43 AM

newsflash: mastermind police foil evil phish plan

Good morning from the Yahoo! Regularly-Shaped Polygon Containing Aggregated News Headlines of General Interest:
• Police confiscate $1.5 million in illegal drugs from Phish fans

Kind of a surprise that it took the cops that long to figure out where all the drugs were.

Also: boy howdy that's a whole lot of drugs.  Or at least it used to be.  A couple hits of blotter can't cost that much now, can they?

Posted by mrbrent at 9:28 AM

March 9, 2009

the chilling effect of liability

This is a nice article in this morning NYT exploring the effects the Bush Administration torture memos have had on its authors.  Namely, nobody has any fun anymore, as critics open up on easy targets and bar associations ponder sanction against them for being bad bad lawyers.

And not everyone thinks that's fair.  Here, a supporter of the attorneys trots out the defense of executive privilege and similar mechanisms, with a straight face:

But John C. Eastman, the dean of the Chapman University law school and a friend of [torture memo author John] Yoo who invited him to teach there this semester, argued that it was deeply unfair to single out the Bush lawyers for the advice they gave under intense pressure after the 2001 terrorist attacks.  "It’s unfortunate, and quite frankly it’s dangerous," because it could make officials risk averse, Mr. Eastman said, blaming partisan politics.

Ah.  This is actually a step up from the "executive privilege" defense (i.e., if people can know what I'm about to tell the president, then I won't feel free to tell the president what I want to), because this is not about freedom from transparency, it's about freedom from responsibility.  It's claiming that, if White House counsels will actually be held accountable for their actions, well, then, they are going to be afraid to act at all.

Which may be true, and which is why Mexican drug cartels are strongly opposed to legal penalty for drug dealing, because it interferes with their willingness to deal drugs.

In other words: there should absolutely be risk aversion to breaking the law.  Duh.  And if you construe your professional obligations to advising your client to break the law, then yes that is your own personal ass hanging in the breeze.  Next time, try not advising your client to break the law.

(Predicted strawman response: "It's not against the law if you're doing it to defend the nation from terrorism."  Hey!  You're the dumbest strawman ever!)

Posted by mrbrent at 1:45 PM

yeah, I'll make fun of a 14 yr old -- why do you ask?

There is an unwritten rule that if you are an adolescent boy that forsakes the normal teenage life of chasing girls and huffing glue for a life of the memorization and public recitation of Republican dogma, then you will become famous.  However, the condition to this is that it is not enough for you, the thirteen year-old, to repeat "porkulus" over and over again: you also have to dress like a L'il William Buckley.  And if you can somehow master the dead-eyed patrician stare of quiet disapproval, then you can have a column in the National Review.

We used to call this the "Alex Keaton Syndrome" back in the day, but, whatever you want to call it now, isn't it the cutest thing ever?  Somebody give the little fella a bow tie, or an ascot.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:31 AM

March 8, 2009

interesting times

OK, here are some lines of thought that are my background noise today, that I haven't yet fully compiled but am finding intriguing.  Bullet points!:

•  Detroit as the canary in the coalmine -- now that the difficulties Detroit faced are shared by pretty much the entire Rust Belt, who'd laughing now?  (Also, if you have an entire city predicated on a dead industry, what do you do then?  B/c, some places, the best they could manage is casinos!, which is a future I don't want none of.)

•  You remember from earlier this week where ABC helped perpetuate a misunderstanding about how taxes work?  I heard the misunderstanding repeated yesterday by people I actually know, so please spread the word.

•  I'm finding video mashup work like this more fun than I have in years (since around the time of this example).

•  Maybe the most interesting is the bit of investigating that TPM has done with regard to the AIG bailout as affected by the odious 2005 bankruptcy bill that was signed into law.  Basically, the law fine-printed that certain derivative counter-parties are statutorily first priority in the event of a bankruptcy, ahead of everything else.  These would be the same counter-parties that are getting the billions of dollars that is being handed out to AIG.  I could be stretching, but this has the smack of a "Follow the money" moment, because it implies that the giant anvils that fell on our economic system were not entirely unanticipated back during the boom days -- in fact, parties in the know were quietly building anvil-proof umbrellas.  That'd be a world-shaking story, right?

•  Finally, the ongoing transmogrification of Wall Streeters into populists who aren't going to take it anymore, well, that's a whole nuther book for someone to write right there.

One of the bigger reasons that I haven't hashed anything out worth a longer post is because the emergence of Ayn Rand/"Atlas Shrugged" into the zeitgeist is too freaking irresistible as far as the making-fun goes.  Remember those old radio promotions, where if you won you'd get a minute in a bank vault full of dollar bills of various denominations and whatever you could grab you could keep?  It's like that for me.  So I'm spending valuable time wondering who takes out the garbage at Galt's Gulch, why couldn't they have found an Atlas that was better at naming things, etc.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:47 AM