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June 19, 2009

pumas are back, and i hope I don't have them

I hadn't really spent any time wondering what happened to the PUMAs from the last election.  And why hadn't I?  You remember them, right, the insane people who were going to fight Hillary Clinton's fight well past the point of Clinton's support and sanity?  They were a totally interesting phenomenon and well worth a look back.

And it turns out different than you'd expect -- I'd have gambled that they all segued quietly into Birthers and are arming themselves for the day when Obama comes for their guns.  Not so!  No, actually they are devoting themselves to a much more subtle cause: getting David Letterman fired.  It's still insane, just not insane predictably.

Credit where credit is due: those PUMAs are like moths to the crazy.

Posted by mrbrent at 4:16 PM

i am a bad person 6.19.09

Here's another reason why I am a bad person.

You know how people -- an old friend from high school, a relative -- after having a child and rearing it to a certain age (two?), will spring for a professional photographer to snap a couple of rolls of photos of the child in the environs of this photographer's professional studio, usually with a background that consists of a big white sheet of something that hangs loosely and then covers the floor the subject stands/sits on, thus taking away any kind of horizon or reference.  The resulting pictures are favored currency out there in the hills and the valleys and the plains.  I know this.  I have a mother-in-law, and she has a refrigerator door.

But when I see these pictures, I don't think to myself, "Oh how cute."  Instead, I think "OMG that poor child is trapped alone in a white windowless room with only an over-sized children's block to keep him company like it's an early 70s sci-fi movie and why is he smiling how can he keep from weeping from the terror and isolation is it like some toddler version of Stockholm Syndrome WHO COULD HATE THEIR OWN CHILD SO MUCH?"

I am also a bad person because I opened the bag of Cheetohs and it's not even 11a yet.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:32 AM

the coalition of the willing?

Naming things is hard, but also super fun.  This is why some bands only get together for one gig -- if they break up and start over, then they get to think of a new name.  I was never in a band, but I've been in a couple of sketch comedy groups, so I've been through the process.  You need two whole days, a legal pad and a good supply of the stimulant/intoxicant of your choice.  And then you just write down names.  Whatever comes to mind, just write it down.  And when you've filled the legal pad, then it's finally time to argue!

I only bring this up because of a Washington Post story of a bipartisan group of senators who want to get their shit together on health care, which reports that they have named themselves The Coalition of the Willing.  Which is horrible -- even if you're one of the SURGE WORKED!!! clenched-jaw types, The Coalition of the Willing was always a sad little apology of a nickname, too busy feeling sorry for itself to have any muscle.

Imagine if you were a comedy writer: this would be a pretty good opportunity to think up even worse nicknames to purport that they were considering.  Like the Dirty Dozen, or The Romulan Star Empire, or The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.  Why, if you were a comedy writer, or at least someone with a healthy sense of humor, that is exactly what you would do.

Best of luck, though, to Alfred Hitchcock's The Three Investigators -- we 'd be "willing" to have some healthcare reform around these parts.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:30 AM

June 18, 2009

eric cantor is scared of bats

Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), who is in the GOP House Leadership structure (the "whip"!) and who looks more like he was cast for a TV show about a young, dim ideologue freshman congressman over his head than he does an actual congressman, issued a statement after a couple of House votes over closing the detention facilities in Guantanamo Bay, which reads, in part:
Closing the terrorist detention facility at Guantanamo Bay is a complex issue, and Congress should not rush to action in order to appease those far outside the mainstream.  Our top priority must be to ensure the safety and security of the American people, and to close Guantanamo without any idea of where to put the world’s most dangerous terrorists is ludicrous.

The rest of the statement deals with other things that Cantor is terrified of, including heights, public nudity, failure, mammals larger than German Shepherds, intimacy, and bats -- all of which should be removed from American soil because it is the will of the American people that we should cower and hide before tall things/the bats rend the very cloth of liberty in twain.

You know, another garden variety Republican press release.

[Via Glenn Greenwald.]

Posted by mrbrent at 2:55 PM

bill keller

I've decided that Bill Keller, the executive editor of the New York Times, is one of those polarizing things that reveals something otherwise unknowable about people.  (Well, the kind of people that know who Bill Keller is, that is.  You know who you are.)

Keller went to Iran for the elections, visiting the Tehran bureau, and when the story blew up, he thought that he'd lend a hand with some of the work -- he has won a Pulitzer for his reporting, after all.  And a few pieces ran in the NYT with his byline.  Personally, I thought they were super -- I love newspapers and I love the prose that gets churned out by a newspaperman under a deadline.  Meanwhile, consensus around the Internet, which is the arbiter of all things of value, is that Keller parachuting into Iraq was gaudy and his analysis poor.

My hypothesis is that both sides already have an idea of what is "Bill Keller", and no matter what the flesh and blood Bill Keller does, we will interpret such results and proceeds in line with our previous judgment of "Bill Keller".  For me, Bill Keller will always make work that reminds me how integral those old and dying newspapers are to me, and for others, Keller is everything loser about the old media or the "MSM" and his prose is turgid and more than 140 characters.  We are two types of people, like Beatles people vs. Stones people.

This has nothing to do with anything important, other than for me to sneak around the back and assert that the dislike of Bill Keller is not just a value judgment, it's a character flaw.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:48 AM

June 17, 2009

cave creek: our soft juicy parts are right here, wal-mart

Today the NYT ran a story about the folksy people of a folksy town in the folksy state of Arizona, so folksy in fact that they settle a tied election for city councilman by drawing for the high card, just like folksy folk do!  See, in Cave Creek, "the state’s Western heritage comes storming through the saloon doors to remind one and all just what this place was like not so long ago."  In fact, one of the candidate's cutting the deck is a young law student, a preservationist who moved to Cave Creek to keep his horse in his backyard.

Which is why these two paragraphs, buried in the end of the article, raised my eyebrows:

A couple of hours after the tie-breaker, another crowd, larger and more impassioned, came to Town Hall to hear how the Council would decide on plans for a Wal-Mart.

No card cutting was needed.  The Council voted 6 to 1 to change the town’s general plan, which guides growth, in a way that would allow for the store, and then 7 to 0 for the rezoning needed for the project.

To me, some locals talking out of one side of their mouth about being an Old-West Society for Creative Anachronism and then changing their zoning laws so that ol' Wal-Mart can hitch its wagon on a couple hundred pristine acres is a much bigger hook, a much bigger story, than a small, colorful, folksy town where elections are decided with a game of chance.

Because ol' Wal-Mart and its rapacious community-destroying is about the exact opposite of a homey village dedicated to preserving the old ways, so that makes it ironic.  Irony is still news sometimes: "Cave Creek Ironically Commits Suicide".

Posted by mrbrent at 3:52 PM

politico is shouty

Yesterday Sen John Ensign (R-NV) admitted that he had been involved in one of them extramarital affairs, and   Politico broke the news that the admission was instigated by a blackmail situation involving the other woman:
Political insiders in the Senate and in Nevada told POLITICO that Ensign began an affair with a staffer several months after he separated from his wife.  When Ensign reconciled with his wife, the sources said, he gave the aide a severance package and parted ways.

Sometime later, a Nevada source said, Ensign met with the husband of the woman involved and had what this source described as a positive encounter.  Sources said that the man subsequently asked Ensign for a substantial sum of money - at which point Ensign decided to make the affair public.

Yeah, we all love dirty laundry, but, come on now.

First, in this day and age is there a career-making currency in scooping yet another scandal involving the pants of a politician and what gets kept in said pants?  It is newsworthy (and especially in the context of Sen. Ensign, a born-again Christian who has spoken on this topic before), but will our appetite for this die down someday?  Not that we should turn into Europe where such affairs are less sensational, but I can envision a future in which mad sifting through the garbage of our politicians' lives is replaced by more of a tsk-tsk.  Wait, that would be less sensational.  Less winked at, I guess.

Second, must Politico refer to themselves in all caps?  Is it not accepted yet that all caps equals SHOUTING?  Isn't rampant link-whoring uncouth enough for Politico?

And finally, as partisan as I am, I do feel a small amount of pity that the current incompetence of the GOP extends to cheating publicly on one's wife.  There are teabags to be waved, Senator.

I'm sure there are fourth and fifth points.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:15 AM

a thousand fluffy pillows

North Korea continues down the primrose path of bellicosity, which path is paved with the few sandwiches short of the picnic, as it has threatened to respond to provocations "a thousand-fold".

I recommend that South Korea, or a Japanese naval vessel if South Korea is not feeling mischievous, should launch a single fluffy pillow at North Korea, just to see if they will respond by launching a thousand fluffy pillows across the DMZ.  Sure, it's an old gag, the "acting overly literal", but the nation is run by Ernie Kovacs' 95 year old evil twin, and he certainly loves a good gag.

And after: the paper bag full of dog poo, set on fire.

These recommendations will surely ruin my chances for a job at the State Department... or will they?

Posted by mrbrent at 7:47 AM

June 16, 2009

warblogging iran

Not to be a sour-puss, but this Balloon Juice post tracks exactly with what I've been thinking but unwilling to say out loud for fear of the wrath of a kajillion freedom- and revolution-loving Twitter users to fall upon my ears like little 140 character meteors made entirely of hatred.
I’m trying to follow the Iran situation, but I just can’t handle the American blogger coverage.  It just reminds me too much of the warblogging circa 2003...  Everything is so breathless and over-the-top that it seems less like a dangerous and precarious situation in the Middle East than it does a good old-fashioned American blogger wank.

And to be clear, the bloggers referred are the of the 101st Fighting Keyboard variety, and not the Boing Boingers setting up proxies for use by Iranian protesters.

Further, again at risk of etc. etc., I think it very important to keep in mind that the protests in Iran are for a very specific thing (i.e., fair elections), and it is easy to get swept up into projecting a whole litany of other things that they might be protesting for (i.e., gender equality, religious tolerance) that might be tangential aims of a portions of the protester but by no means a uniform declared goal.

And further further, I'm only cranky because these misgivings are detracting from the experience of watching history unfold -- i.e., it's not a game, and it's not being performed for our edification or to confirm some universal truth we hold.  Real people, real consequences.  I will continue to quietly hope for the best outcome, as my hacking skills are not really at all there.

Finally, please read this should you feel impelled to act.

Posted by mrbrent at 2:36 PM

wisdom of fake-karl marx

In this morning's newsletter from The Awl, the correspondent notices a bit of forwarded email wisdom taped up in a cubicle of the New York Stock Exchange consisting of the following:
"Owners of capital will stimulate the working class to buy more and more of expensive goods, houses and technology, pushing them to take more and more expensive credits, until their debt becomes unbearable.  The unpaid debt will lead to bankruptcy of banks, which will have to be nationalized, and the State will have to take the road which will eventually lead to communism."

Karl Marx, Das Kapital, 1867

Maybe you received this before from your dad, or from one of your friend's detestable i-banker boyfriends -- curse that Karl Marx, no matter how dead he is!

The correspondent, however, looked into it and determined the provenance of the quote -- namely, someone's ass.  Take that, friend's stupid asshole wealthy boyfriend!

The bottom line is that you should read The Awl, and then subscribe to their newsletter if you would like to receive awesome things like that.  Of course, eventually they will sell the email list to The Observer and then you will feel used up and discarded, but what's the harm/difference in that?

Posted by mrbrent at 10:20 AM

let's try obtuse for a bit

Oh my goodness I'm having some pretty complex thoughts concerning Iran.  Not concerning Iran and the fraudulent elections thereof and the ongoing protests therein per se, but rather the swell of support that surrounds it.

Let's do it this way: COMPARE! this excellent photo of a protesters shielding a riot cop from the angry mob, which made me weep like a baby at my desk for the triumph of the good things that it embodies,

Then CONTRAST! with this exhortation for a progressive domestic political website to turn itself green, for the purpose of, well, you can click through for that fellow's reasoning, and a well-placed typo.

I absolutely support the efforts of the protesters to secure the legitimacy of the vote that was promised them, and I hope that that sovereign state elects to do the right thing, acknowledging that this sovereign state has no obligation, or need, to care one way or the other about what I think.  But if my attention was money, then the protesters would be wealthy and could buy their own regime.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:07 AM

June 15, 2009

i don't know what it is about mark mckinnon that makes me care

As long as we're not going to talk about the Palin/Letterman kerfluffle anymore, let's leave with the worst possible commentary on it -- Mark McKinnon, surprising no one.  From his ongoing Daily Beast series in which he handicaps something scheduled to occur in a million years, after a long paragraph explaining why he believes that Palin acquitted herself well during the contretemps, he doubles back to go into why she should not have called Letterman a short-eyes (!!) and instead ignored him:
And [Letterman] deserves to be ignored.  He is a mean, petty, bitter guy.  Over the years working with candidates, I’ve dealt with late night shows a lot.  And there is a definite spectrum.  On one side you have Jay Leno who treated guests with total professionalism and respect.  Jay would always come to the green room and personally meet the guest and make sure they were comfortable and at ease.  Always brought flowers for female guests or companions. Letterman, on the other hand, was consistently rude.  He acts like he’s doing you a big favor have you on the show.  He never greets the guests before the show.  Likes putting the freeze on them (the green room is frigid and spare) so you walk out cold and he always has the advantage.

So then, aside from the fact that Letterman beat McKinnon one too many times at tennis or whatever, by not ignoring Letterman Palin acquitted herself well how exactly?

But at the end of the day on this one, score one for Palin.  She looks like a good and righteous mom defending her kids and Letterman looks like the cruel punk that he is.

Ah, so Palin is crafty because Letterman is a jerk.  Or, even worse, because Letterman's ass-kissing skills can't hold a candle to those of Jay Leno.

I don't think there's anything wrong with thinking some public figure rubs you the wrong way.  For example, the aggressive and willful stupidity of Sarah Palin, combined with her cynical manipulation of "political correctness" and her state of total scruple-receivership rub me the wrong way sometimes.  But that doesn't make her wrong.

Plus also, I've never been to Palin's green room -- I bet that's quite a spread and temperature controlled.

Posted by mrbrent at 3:55 PM

iran roundup

My beautiful wife, who has been swamped with working, starting asking me Saturday night about what was going on in Iran.  To my dismay, my answers to the questions were halting and less than informative.  My fault entirely: though I am paying attention, I am not synthesizing the newsbits into a narrative that I can answer questions on.  For example, Q: "Have they let the journalists back in yet?"  A: "Um, I'm not sure if they were really kicked out, I just saw a story that they were asked to leave."  I am inspiring no confidence in my command of the facts.

Which is why I give credit where credit is due and say that this Gawker roundup of Iran news, laid out in sequential bullet points that even an oaf like me can understand and memorize, is very useful in getting one's self up to speed.  It is not edgy or witty and that is where it succeeds.

Just in case you're looking for a quick thumbnail of events to help you better enjoy the crackerjack work being done.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:41 AM

good morning 6.15.09

Walking the dog this morning I was stopped on the street by the type of person who says, "Lemme ask you a question," twice in thirty seconds.  A slight guy, close-shaved head, an indeterminate ethnicity that is very common around Coney Island Avenue (Dominican?  Yemeni  Should I ask?), probably early 30s

Initially I couldn't hear him, as I wear clunky-looking radio headphones.  And after I removed my headphones from my ears in such a fashion as to that I didn't want to be having a conversation with a stranger at 7 am unless... well, at all, I heard what he had been asking: "How's the dog?"  And then he gestured at my little dog with his lit cigarette, which somehow pissed me off further.

"How's my dog?"

"Yeah, how's your dog?"

I looked at him, honestly trying to figure out if he was insane or not, but if by looking at him I could convince him that I didn't want to have a conversation, then boo-ya for me.

It didn't work.  As I told him that my little dog was fine, was walked behind him, to get past him and continue on our way, he started with first, "Lemme ask you a question," so we stopped.  Then he launched into what I assume was going to be a philosophical exercise, establishing whether and how long I lived in the neighborhood, if I "rented-out", the second, "Lemme ask you a question," and then how would I feel if I owned a house and my neighbor refinished his driveway which stole some of my land?

If it was the second, "Lemme ask you a question," that informed me that the conversation would not proceed to a normal conclusion, it was the land-stealing reference that moved me to pull the ripcord: "I'd feel pretty bad," I said, already turning away from him, "but you have a nice day."

I'm happy to engage the stranger-grabbing political activist, even about this, just not first thing in the morning, and not in front of my little dog.  I hope the little guy found someone more receptive, maybe even someone that wanted to argue about it.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:13 AM

June 14, 2009

foreign policy!

So while all the world is watching Iran and hoping for the best (see below), North Korea is warning that they might be forced to start a nuclear war.  Which is, of course, the only war that North Korea has absolutely no chance of winning, whether militarily or politically.

I'm not saying that North Korea represents no threat - obviously it does, and the region, while not unstable, has a web of alliances that could strain geopolitics to a certain extent.  Unless of course they detonate one of their bathtub nukes on civilians, in which case they won't have no friends.  It is difficult to take them serious while they are holding a rubber chicken and wearing a funny hat.

(Iran: I like everyone else am watching, but I do feel that: (i) ain't nothing we can do but watch, as we don't have the right to influence a whole lot of influence over the internal affairs of an unfriendly state; and (ii) I hope that something tangible comes from this, especially if innocents are being killed by the state.  The first point I've seen in print; the second point I feel is implicit, but maybe drowned out by the excitement of the enterprise.)

But yeah, North Korea.  They might want to think about election riots too, sometime soon.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:08 PM

erick erickson, rubber, glue

I've long held the notion that, as far as the more outlandish ad hominem hurled, firebrand conservatives have the unfortunate habit of accusing those with whom they disagree ("liberals") of made-up sins that only make sense in the context of sins that the speaker is actually guilty of.

For example, the "ACORN steals elections" charge is very popular, and "ACORN" is as common as a comma in the speech of some of your right-wing demagogues.  But there is no there there -- ACORN was guilty of hiring folk that padded registration rolls with fake names because they were paying a fee per person registered.  Mickey Mouse may certainly qualify as a fraudulent registration, but there is zero chance that Mr. Mouse is going to actually vote, and it's pretty hard to steal an election without the voting part.  Well, not entirely -- if you find a way to prevent entire classes to of people from voting, whether by poll tax or by onerous voter ID legislation (one archaic and one current tactic of the GOP), then the candidates that would be supported by these suppressed voters will get fewer votes.  And there we have a stolen election.

Given that there is zero evidence of Democratic election-stealing (in the past 40 years), I make the logical jump that the accusation falls so easily from the lips because of shame.  Accuse your opponent of that which you are guilty, and they you tar your opponent and distract from your own guilt.

Which is why I've had a hard time getting this out of my head -- Washington Monthly's Hilzoy notes (and discusses at length, intelligently) RedState Exalted Grand Poobah Erik Erickson leveling a base and untethered accusation:

You only thought leftists got excited when American soldiers got killed.  As I've written before, leftists celebrate each and every death of each and every American solider because they view the loss of life as a vindication of their belief that they are right.

After I moved past about a day's worth of, "Fuck you Erickson, you lying sack of shit," I gave it more thought -- Erickson is in it for the controversy, but he seems not to be a stupid guy.  And having been at play in the fields of the progressives for years, I honestly cannot think of a single instance, in writing or conversation, of a liberal cheering a US casualty.  I can think of a couple examples of someone citing the bad progress of the war to sway independents of the foolishness of the enterprise, but never anyone applauding the death of a US soldier.  So what on earth gives Erickson the impression that this is so?

And I think that's it's another case of projection.  Erickson would be more than happy to cheer the death of someone representing an opposing point of view -- say an abortion doctor -- so he assumes that liberals would be guilty of the same crime.  And by voicing this, he justifies his own blood-thirst.

Ultimately, Erickson is fueled by the "vindication of [his] belief that [he is] right."  And this impels him to write ridiculous libel, and be convinced that is true.

Speaking for myself, I'm in this for a finer world, and I love nothing more than finding out that a belief is misguided.  It's called "learning".  And I'm one of those soft-fuzzy liberals that actually care about the deaths of those that could be considered bad guys, like, say, the Taliban.  I would much rather educate them than kill them.  Of course, sometimes that doesn't work.  But the charge that I would ever be gladdened by the death of a US soldier -- I can't think of much more offensive than that.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:37 AM