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May 15, 2009

sad answer to orphan questions 5.15.09

Somewhere out there, there is a soul (or souls) that searches, a couple times a month for the past year or two, the phrase "matt taibbi shirtless".  How do I know?  I know because that phrase brings someone here two or three times a month.

Well, to answer your question, person, Matt Taibbi is indeed shirtless, at such times as he is not wearing a shirt.  Showering, I guess, or at the beach.  Some dudes take their shirts off when mowing the lawn, so maybe then.

I hope that answers your question, person.  Unless the person searching this phrase is Taibbi himself, in which case, I'm not sure what the question is anymore.

Posted by mrbrent at 5:47 PM

soon pot pies will require a waiver

No, not a Frito-Lay moment (though the bag of Ruffles I carelessly bought for lunch/snack do now have pictures of potatoes conspicuous on the packaging -- why is that again?), but it is another story to kill your appetite, as the NYT finds news hidden in the frozen food aisle.

The thrust of the article is how giant food manufacturers are elaborating their instructions so that the end-user will be partially responsible for food safety issues.  As in, they recommend that families cook the food for lengths of time and to temperatures that are sometimes counter-intuitive and sometimes just impossible:

But attempts by The New York Times to follow the directions on several brands of frozen meals, including ConAgra’s Banquet pot pies, failed to achieve the required 165-degree temperature.  Some spots in the pies heated to only 140 degrees even as parts of the crust were burnt.

But the real bit of news to take with you today is that the corporate behemoths that manufacture the our mass-produced food are no longer able to ensure that the foods that they sell are safe to eat:

Increasingly, the corporations that supply Americans with processed foods are unable to guarantee the safety of their ingredients.  In this [salmanella-y pot pies] case, ConAgra could not pinpoint which of the more than 25 ingredients in its pies was carrying salmonella.  Other companies do not even know who is supplying their ingredients, let alone if those suppliers are screening the items for microbes and other potential dangers, interviews and documents show.

Modern times.

Posted by mrbrent at 1:45 PM

no, i'm not sick of writing about dick cheney, why do you ask?

The storyline that the purpose of the water-boarding was to manufacture evidence of a Osama/Saddam Axis of Evil are growing a lot less speculative, as investigative reporter Robert Windrem runs it to ground for the Daily Beast:
Two U.S. intelligence officers confirm that Vice President Cheney’s office suggested waterboarding an Iraqi prisoner, a former intelligence official for Saddam Hussein, who was suspected to have knowledge of a Saddam-al Qaeda connection.

Reporting!  And remember that the road from "Iraqi prisoner" to "enemy combatant" is a very long one, and while the Geneva Conventions were not very popular with the last administration, they were at least adhered to during out invasion of Iraq.  So if we did actually water-board any POWs, then we committed war crimes.  Just sayin'.

This is another one of those "duh" moments -- the idea that torture was to "stop the next 9-11" was so seductive that we all forgot that that's not what torture's for.  Torture has never been about finding the truth, no matter how many character actors kiefer Sutherland shoots in the knee.  Torture is for breaking the torturee, for inducing him to behave in a manner that the torturer proscribes, like "sign the confession".  Like Jesse Ventura said:

I’ll put it to you this way: You give me a waterboard, Dick Cheney and one hour, and I’ll have him confess to the Sharon Tate murders.

Now that I think of it, where was Dick Cheney on the night of August 9, 1969?

Posted by mrbrent at 10:20 AM

May 14, 2009

geeks are old

Purely for the comments, check this out -- Cory Doctorow links a blog post (currently drowned by traffic) from Ralph Koster opining that the perfect year to be born in and grow up to be a geek is 1971.  Which is followed by a fascinating string of other geeks nominating their own birth years, filled with anecdotes/memories.

For the record: being born in 1969 means I got everything Koster says plus two extra years of syndicated TV and wisdom.  Plus also, my sister was born in 1971 and she didn't grow up a geek at all -- clearly, a fault of 1971.

Posted by mrbrent at 5:01 PM

"al-Libi revealed these contacts only to get the torture to stop"

Speculating on the ways that our ethical transgressions in intelligence gathering is the fault of a congresswoman with absolutely no policy-making or -implementing authority is fun and all, and I'm sure a largish swath of the Internet will focus on it, but for my money (what little of it is left), it is much more fun to read the words of Lawrence B. Wilkerson, who was chief-of-staff at State under Colin Powell (and who we have noted previously).

Wilkerson is out on the trail in response to Cheney's play for the superstardom that eluded him for all those years in shadowy corridors of power.  And I find Wilkerson to be a writer not without a little snap, but this is a cold splash of water:

First, more Americans were killed by terrorists on Cheney's watch than on any other leader's watch in US history.  So his constant claim that no Americans were killed in the "seven and a half years" after 9/11 of his vice presidency takes on a new texture when one considers that fact.  And it is a fact.

That paragraph you would not want to fuck with, as kicking your ass would merely be the natural result of your fucking with the paragraph and not a volitional act on the part of the paragraph.  It is a paragraph containing a fact, and it is not wrapping itself in the flag or the Constitution or anything else.

And then it gets worse.  It's tempting, again, to post the whole thing, but questions Wilkerson raise include, "Why were there no enhanced interrogation techniques performed during the second term of the Bush Administration?" and "Were the first round of water-boardings in 2002 mostly concerned with producing a smoking gun in Iraq?"

It reads like the effort of an educated man to cut the bullshit and speak plainly for God-damned once, for this one God-damn time, because between the sanctimonious distortions of history and the panties-in-a-twist shrillness the man is about fucking ready to jump out the fucking window.  I'm paraphrasing, of course.

But I like it, me.

Posted by mrbrent at 12:53 PM

lindsey graham wants results

Lindsey Graham, inexplicable senator from the state of South Carolina, on water-boarding (which is still a trending topic -- a testament to the power of the attack of conscience):
"One of the reasons these techniques have been used for about 500 years is that they work," Mr. Graham said.

Ah yes, good point.  In an interrogation, if your goal is to obtain information from somebody who knows something they don't want to tell you, how well a technique works is an aspect to consider.  In which case, I suggest that we employ the "ripping out the fingernail" technique, followed by the "removing fingers one-at-a-time with tin snips" technique, both of which are proven winners in overcoming reluctance to share.  And, gosh, if the reluctance is just too persistent, then the "raping/murdering family members in ascending order of age" technique just might be called for.  I don't know if that one's been around for 500 years, but it's very popular amongst those who value results.

Oh sure I feel a little cheap in setting up a slippery slope like that, but on the other hand, it's not exactly a complicated slippery slope.  It's a plain-as-the-nose-on-Sen.-Graham's-chinless-face slippery slope.

But I guess you really only can complain about a slippery slope if the slippery slope has laid utter waste to your argument.

But I really would like to hear more about the efficacy of water-boarding, anyway.

[Edited to remove "chinless" crack, which was gratuitous.  Also, I was confusing Graham's chin with McConnell's, so inaccurate as well.]

Posted by mrbrent at 7:59 AM

titivil: not crashing your browser since 2004

I'm thinking about incorporating some tags into the site, now that tags are celebrating their tenth anniversary.  Not that I'd ever want to change the design of this sucker, oh no.  That would take talent, or at the very least, effort -- what was fine for 2004 is fine for now too.

But let's see how this works.  I hope I don't hate it.

[LATER:]  Ah, I see I'll need to recode the mainpage to make the tags visible.  Already I'm learning.  This is the most fun I've had all morning.

Posted by mrbrent at 7:05 AM

May 13, 2009

sam seder's new friend ken pittman

This video brought me much joy last night, including actual laughs-out-loud, and I am not much of a LOLer, in the real world or online.  But LOL I did, scaring dog/cat/wife.

It is a clip of Sam Seder, who is a talented broadcaster that deserves a show, calling in to a Boston right-wing radio show.  That should be enough info to decide if you'd like to spend a couple minutes watching.  (The longer version involves the Boston talk show host ambushing Janeane Garofalo over some tea-bagging comment, and Seder calling to mock said host for paltry anti-Garofalo turn-out/cowardly stalky behavior.)

You may remember back when we were shorter and lived near the water that the Seder/Garofalo show on the then-young Air America was stumbly but charming, as their left-wing rancor was a breath of fresh air in a nation that was more concerned with arguing over whether President Bush was a great man or a very great man.

I dunno if 2003 is long enough ago to reminisce about, but here I am doing it, like a fool.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:17 AM

yahoo! redesign

I wish that Yahoo! would warn us when they're going to drop a redesign in our laps.  It's early in the workday, and I'm just trying to click over and see what America thinks is news, not shoot coffee out my nose.

I don't know if the redesign is universal (these things are sometimes rolled out by browser, is that not the case?), but if you haven't, you will recognize it when you see it: it is like the Yahoo! mainpage you are familiar with, but colder and more Facebooky.  In fact, with the reformatted subdirectory links and their full-sized preview pop-ups, and the newly prominent Recent Searches perched in the upper corner, it seems that there is one single design somewhere down the road that all of the general interest websites will arrive at at the same time.  At which point Skynet will become self-aware.

The Regularly-Shaped Container of Headline Content does still exist, so I am thanking you-know-who for small favors.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:16 AM

May 12, 2009

mean people suck

In a FishbowlNY item on a couple of debuting websites this sentence appears:
Between the Stimulist and Double X, "Snark is Out" is quickly becoming the recession's maxim.

Um, no it's not.

In fact, optimism and niceness aren't "in" either.  It's a big old world, and we all have our little voices that we cling to in these ventures and there's actually room for all of them.

And nothing against reasoned, incisive writing with a decided lack of snark: without it, there would be little to be snarky about.  (And without snark, whither sobriety?)

Mostly, why yoke these two websites with a manufactured cause?  So they're earnest -- it's not like they've embarked on a campaign against sarcasm and feelings-hurting.  And mean people.  More stuff to read, good for all of us.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:24 AM

john yoo: available for weddings

Hmm.  I kinda thought that this story would escape wide notice, but I see it made the rounds to the usual suspects (until Carrie Prejean pushed it out of the headlines).  Anyhow, torture memo author and lawyer whose skills are generally questioned landed a gig as a columnist with the Philadelphia Inquirer.  Philly journalist Will Bunch questioned why the paper would do such a thing, and was not happy with the response:
This is exactly the kind of "on one hand, on the other hand" cowardly practice that has become a cancer destroying the moral DNA of America's newsrooms. "On one hand, torture is not only immoral but a violation of international and even U.S. law, but on the other hand, check out our 'provocative' new columnist, John Yoo, who can't travel to Europe because he might be arrested for war crimes!" ... For a much-honored newspaper like the Inquirer to pay someone like Yoo to write a regular column is surely the exclamation point on a dark period in which most of my profession flunked its greatest moral test.

And that was managed with nary a cuss word, which is more than I can pull off.

It goes to show that placing oneself at the center of a whirlwind of scandal and unwise, morally-bankrupt legal work-product is not without its potential rewards.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:20 AM

the beauty of getting a dog

Dude must've thought I was choking on my tongue or something.  On the morning walk of the little dog, a fella whose face I recognized as "neighbor" stopped me and asked, "What's the beauty of having a dog?", because his girl is all wanting a dog I guess, which I answered with shrugs and cheek-puffings, coughs and stutters.  Not my fault!  It was negative a million o'clock in the morning, and I wear headphones on the morning walk for a reason.

But, now that I'm awake and better-spoken, this is the answer I should have given:  Taking in a dog is a mountain of work and will require alterations to your lifestyle.  Whether you become a crate-training hard-ass or a pampering baby-talker, you will no longer be driving: the dog will be, when it needs a walk or to be fed or just wants attention (which happens A LOT).  So you be right to be skeptical of getting a dog just because your girl, who may or may not have thought through the implications and responsibilities, wants one.  In fact you would be justified in decided to never ever get a dog, because it's not far from having a kid -- close enough, in fact, that you wonder if it's not a little bit odd, comparing yourself, the new dog owner, with parents of human children.

So what's the beauty of having a dog?  The dog, most usually.  I have no idea how smart my little dog is, but I know she's emotional, and she sure is very easy to anthropomorhpisize.  Possibly it's something paternal in me, but getting a dog is like a lot of other things in life, as much as it is a total pain in the ass and rewarding in ways that transcend the human tendency to "awwww" at cute mammals.  It's a counter-intuitive endeavor to enter into, but, once in, it's a barn door that you cannot un-open.

Now I just have to find the dude to give him the better answer than, "Mmrgh."

Posted by mrbrent at 7:34 AM

May 11, 2009

sausage gravy 2009

Synchronicity!  Yesterday I helped out at a brunch by whipping up some sausage gravy (for eating with some biscuits, natch) and now there is a picture of sausage gravy and biscuits splashed on the Yahoo! mainpage with the alarming headline "Saltiest Foods In America".

Whoa whoa whoa.

The article in question is measuring the salt content of restaurant foods, and the sausage gravy and biscuits that is apparently so salty is that peddled by Arby's.  Arby's food being salty is not so hard to believe.  But to speak in defense of sausage gravy and biscuits, let me just say that when I make the sausage gravy, the sausage gravy is not a salty endeavor at all.  There's about a pinch and a half added during the gravy-making process, and then whatever salt already contained in the sausage being used.  That's it.  Sausage does not need much of a boost with salt, so the pork and pepper and sage may play freely.

So is sausage gravy a natural salt-delivery vehicle?  Maybe at Arby's it is, but there you go.

Also, you should not be eating Arby's breakfasts on a regular basis any more than you should be eating Dortios "Tacos At Midnight" flavor.  It may be unpatriotic not to support our American fast food industries, but, so be it -- it's hard, being a communist.

Posted by mrbrent at 4:50 PM

the bloggess! twitter!

When did the number of items one includes in list written for comedic purposes increase from five or seven all the way up to twenty-five?  Cuz twenty-five is a whole lot, and it's kind of impossible to get to twenty-five without a throwaway "there is no number 14", which we all do so there's nothing to be ashamed of, except for the fact that we all do it.  I guess we have a new candidate for number of completion.

Meanwhile, here's a twenty-five point list that has the dual purpose of serving as a link to a writer that I like (The Blogess -- mysterious) and as a link discussing the phenomena that is Twitter, which I have totally succumbed to.  I think that Twitter is a lot like flyfishing in that flyfisherman can spend many hours with other flyfishermen talking about flyfishing, to the detriment of non-flyfisherman.

The advice that could be distilled from that I am totally ignoring.

Posted by mrbrent at 1:26 PM

man that dick cheney is a wily old codger

Combing the transcript of Dick Cheney on "Face The Nation" yesterday, I am struck by Cheney's style of speech -- it's really quite extraordinary.  His batting average for complete sentences is above-average, especially when compared to speakers with whom he would agree, like Sean Hannity, whose sentences are prevented by snorts, or Glenn Beck, by tears and pantomime.  Cheney is methodical and difficult to distract with tangents.  He talks like a textbook -- clearly, calmly and bloodlessly.

Why am I combing through the transcript?  Because: dude, it's a Cheney transcript.  It's like free money.  Here's Cheney on why there's room for moderates in the GOP if they'd just stop moderating:

I think there is room for moderates in the Republican Party.  I think partly it’s a semantic problem.  I don’t think the party ought to move dramatically to the left, for example, in order to try to redefine its base.

See, it's a semantic problem, like when people like Colin Powell say that they are uncomfortable with the direction of the Republican Party, what they are actually, semantically saying is that they are closet sleeper Democrats who were lying back when they said that they loved this country.  I know that seems like a big jump, but it's not that big if you have it explained to you by Dick Cheney, plodding down a sentence like a thresher working down a row of wheat.

And why is Cheney ambulatory and on camera?  Because nothing can stop him from defending the torture of shitbag terrorists!

The fact of the matter is, these techniques that we’re talking about are used on our own people.  We -- in a program that in effect trains our people with respect to capture and evasion and so forth and escape, a lot of them go through these same exact procedures.  Now...

Right, sure, that program that gives our military a small example of the bad guy tactics that the bad guys might use if the capture a good guy -- that program that, in fact, most people cite as a reason that torture should not be permitted, because torture is held as an example of what the bad guys do in our military training.  Which will not discourage Cheney from blandly stating the bald opposite.

Calmly and diligently and palely diabolical.

Give the man a radio show already so that his defense may be broadcast continuously.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:19 AM

May 10, 2009

the ghost of hobbes disagrees

I shared this elsewhere, but I deem this, hours later, worth more than 144 characters, just to throw the conspiracy numerologists off the trail.

In my neighborhood, up on the street of gold and honey they call Cortelyou Road (or, the 'next Williamsburg'), there is a cell phone establishment with a professional-looking sign (i.e., third party-created) that reads:


It's come to that, has it?

Posted by mrbrent at 10:17 PM