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July 4, 2009

sarah palin and metaphor

Here are two interesting contortions from Palin's speech yesterday.

First, the basketball metaphor.  I got the sense that she was particularly proud of that, given that her spokesperson repeated it in its full fractured-syntax to Anderson Cooper later that night.  I'll do the favor of not reprinting it word for word: basically, she referred to her negative publicity as a "full-court press" from the media, and then referred to herself repeatedly as a "point guard" driving the court and then passing the ball "for victory".

I do recall that she played a little ball in college, but, then again, she played a little ball in college.  She may be under the impression that her collegiate athletic career is the secret to her appeal.  This is maybe why Jack Kemp (rest his soul) started every other sentence with "under center".  But as a casual sports fan that does indulge in the sports talk radio from time to time, Palin's phrasing of the basketball analogy was, like her speech, awkward as shit, and if you didn't already know her life's story you'd swear that she'd never played or watched basketball ever in her life.  And you can argue the qualities of point guards, but I can think of one thing successful point guards rarely do in the middle of a game (um, resign).

And then this, her kicker:

In the words of General MacArthur said, "We are not retreating. We are advancing in another direction."

I'm having a hard time quickly finding the story behind this quote, but I do have a basic knowledge of WWII, and MacArthur's most famous retreat was when he failed to hold the Philippines against an overwhelming assault from the Japanese.  "Advancing in another direction," might be a cute way to think of it, especially considering MacArthur's eventual return, but I can think of a whole lot of servicemen that didn't finish the Bataan Death March that might disagree, or at least take issue with a batshit politician comparing her exit from the governorship to the evacuation of the Philippines.

Oh, there are more memorable things from Palin's speech, which will be taught in school someday as an example of how to break all the rules of public speaking at the same time, but the above are my two favorite.  For now.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:53 AM

sarah palin: stupid people are pumped

I'm going to move this reaction up to the front right now, instead of waiting a week or two: while Sarah Palin's speech concerning her resignation was easily the least coherent example of writing/speaking that of that scale that I can remember, and while the logic behind the decision welcomes assailing, I worry that somehow her position will be strengthened among her base -- stupid people.

Much like Palin's appeal during the election, back when she was an avowed know-nothing who believed that being treated fairly by the press meant never ever being asked a question by them, I fear that her standing will be buttressed by her sudden, nonsensical and pouty decision of yesterday, at least among stupid people.

As the weekend progresses, you might try to ask a stupid person that you meet in the mall, "How can you continue to support Sarah Palin when every reason she gave for resigning (i.e., not quitting, mean people, being a point guard) would lead any court to believe that she's not competent to stand trial?"  But I already know the answer: "I'm sorry, what's that?  I wasn't paying attention, because I was too busy being a fan of Sarah Palin."

Because the appeal of Sarah Palin to stupid people is elemental: she is one of them.  She doesn't talk down to them, she doesn't try to simplify policy into digestible short sentences.  She doesn't bother to know policy.  She's attractive, she winks and she is emblematic of a future in which being stupid is not an impediment to success.  And most importantly, she doesn't make stupid people feel dumb, which is the leading complaint of stupid people ("You just think I'm stupid!").  It is also an impossible bond to break, between the stupid people and Palin, because it requires for the stupid person to stop being stupid.

There's obviously more to talk about concerning Palin's speech.  Sadly.  As much as she is a boon to comedians, I'd rather she become irrelevant, at least to the national conversation.  But as she is the ultimate empty political calories, a demagogue who plans to rule by her megalomania, she is topical.

BTW, if there's any concern that I am "making fun" of stupid people, then be assured that I am not making fun -- I'm calling people stupid, which, I don't think is a funny thing to be.  But if the stupid people disagree with that assessment, then they can do what Sarah Palin does when she gets made fun of: quit.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:25 AM

July 3, 2009

taibbi goldman sachs continues

Rolling Stone finally realized that the ganked versions of Matt Taibbi's Goldman Sachs article were attracting eyeballs that could be pointed at RS, and have finally put the article online.  So you may now read it without guilt.

And in Taibbi's own little online presence (oddly, not hosted by RS), he prints Goldman's response to his article and then writes about that, too, and also addresses a basket full of other more grown-up critical response -- that his reporting is one-sided, leading the charge.  His defense:

I’m aware that some people feel that it’s a journalist’s responsibility to “give both sides of the story” and be “even-handed” and “objective.”  A person who believes that will naturally find serious flaws with any article like the one I wrote about Goldman.  I personally don’t subscribe to that point of view.  My feeling is that companies like Goldman Sachs have a virtual monopoly on mainstream-news public relations; for every one reporter like me, or like far more knowledgeable critics like Tyler Durden, there are a thousand hacks out there willing to pimp Goldman’s viewpoint on things in the front pages and ledes of the major news organizations...

Goldman has its alumni pushing its views from the pulpit of the U.S. Treasury, the NYSE, the World Bank, and numerous other important posts; it also has former players fronting major TV shows.  They have the ear of the president if they want it.  Given all of this, I personally think it’s absurd to talk about the need for “balance” in every single magazine and news article.  I understand that some people feel differently, but that’s my take on things.

I'd add that one only complains to the ref when one doesn't like the call.  Reporting is not supposed to be even-handed; it is supposed to be accurate.  Goldman was given a chance to respond on the record and they chose not to.

And my favorite reaction is Choire Sicha's, who really captures the enormity of the events being discussed and the suffocating anxiety that one might not ever be smart/learned enough to talk about these matters -- hey, I know that feeling!

Posted by mrbrent at 9:35 AM

July 2, 2009

mark sanford: oddly fascinating

In light of the breathy bodice-ripper that is the slow unraveling of Gov. Mark Sanford, here's something:

In the past decades of scandal after scandal concerning America's public figures and the places that they should not take off their pants but do anyway, I don't recall seeing in print mention that marriage, while a sacred institution, etc., is ultimately the business of the wife and the husband.  Like, it is conceivable that there is a marriage in which an "arrangement" is made, for the good of the kids or the careers or what have you.  Even with my humble Appalachian roots I have been privy to marriages like this, where the love isn't entirely gone but the ardor is, and exigencies dictate that non-traditional measures be taken.  I'm not condoning it, but grown-ups are grown-ups and it really ain't none of my business.  And the elephant in the room for me w/r/t some of the instances of cheating that we've all tut-tutted about is that, well, maybe that's the marriage they have, dude.  And who are we, a bunch of Puritans, to gripe about the concessions that adults make for their mutual good?  Especially when it's not really any of our beeswax?

I'm not saying that the Sanford marriage is like that -- I didn't know who Mark Sanford was until he made a big deal about refusing to accept stimulus money.  But if it is like that, there's not a thing wrong with it, unless you hew to certain precepts concerning adultery and Godlessness.  And those hewers are definitely Sanford's base, which might be the problem.

Also, let me join the small chorus giving Sanford props for being honest.  Sure, it's definitely a TMI sort of honesty, but there's not a focus-grouped sentence in there.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:34 AM

July 1, 2009

i would like their money too

If any of you powerful Washington lobbyists out there are anxious to get some lobbying done but cannot afford the rates asked by the Washington Post, then please won't you consider spending some of that good lobbying money on me.  All of my friends are talented, and one or two of them are actually important!  So then the quo for your quid would be a concerted whining campaign from my circle of tastemakers (which circle may be reduced to just me if exigencies require) in favor of whatever insidious cause you support -- all with nary an ethical quandary.

And really, all I'm talking about is a nice dinner and maybe a couple of them Yuppie foodstamps so I can buy myself something to remember you by -- that's like just the car service to get the senators to the airport before you fly them to Aruba or someplace else exotic and filled with luxury and ladies of the evening.  A significant savings.

Plus I am excellent dinner company, unless you start talking about how right Glenn Beck is.  Who knows, maybe I'll talk about Doritos.

(Ah yes, one of those constructions wherein the speaker offers himself up as a substitute for a situation that the speaker is clearly not qualified, creating an incongruence between expectation and reality -- that is how the sausage gets made.)

Posted by mrbrent at 8:55 PM

doritos flavor whatsit!

I can't help myself.  I was upstate over the weekend and in some gas station saw an even newer snack food innovation brought to us by Doritos -- "Flavor Shots!!!"  So yeah I bought it, but was reluctant until today to actually eat them, like a fanboy with the mint copy of the comic book he's afraid to read.

But I got hungry, so, here you go.

Primarily, the bag consists of a bunch of normal nacho cheese flavored chips, the same angry red as usual.  But also in the bag there is a "flavor packet" -- additional flavor dust, double-wrapped.  This specific packet is labeled "Blazin' Buffalo Rush", which I take to be a reference to buffalo wings and not actual buffalo.  And the packet is an unwieldy little cuss -- you have to fish around in the bag to get it and then figure out how to open it (scissors).  Have handy-wipes handy.

If you're like me, you experienced a period of Dorito experimentation somewhere between elementary school and high school -- Doritos on sandwiches, dipped in Pepsi -- and this new "Flavor Shot!" concept harkens back to that, deliberately, I'd say.  And the taste?  The nacho cheese and the buffalo flavors have a little fistfight in your mouth.  Disgusting, but in an interesting way, like, "Hey, this is disgusting -- try it."

Snack food technology speeds along, just like everything else.  Soon Doritos will be delivered in little jetpacks.  And apples and cheese will still be taking the bus, just like ham'n'eggers like you and me.

Posted by mrbrent at 5:07 PM

politco: annoying

By the way, in composing the immediately previous post, discussing a story published by the website Politico (no link! keep reading), I noticed that when I cut and pasted a portion of the story for the blockquote -- a small portion of the story, absolutely within the realm of fair use -- when I pasted the selection, a sentence appeared after the paste with the URL to the Politico page and a mild exhortation to read more there.

It's easy enough to delete, but it's a pain in the ass, and it's an insult -- I'm gonna cut/paste without attribution and a link?  And if I were that type of dude, is some whiny message automatically added to my clipboard going to change my mind?

So, duh, we'll avoid linking Politico directly.  Though no surprise that Politico is the first one out of the gate on this, is it?

Posted by mrbrent at 10:38 AM

bill kristol: ex-quayle chief of staff

That I'd read a story on the civil war that's broken out amongst the campaign advisors of the McCain campaign is no big shock.  (And I think we can stop saying "Shadenfreude" for a few years -- it's getting played out, even though, like most German words, it is precise and singular in meaning.)  I need things to fill my eyes with, and tales of internecine GOP warfare is both instructional and edifying.

In this instance, the schism is caused by the Vanity Fair article on Sarah Palin, which I'm going to have to read to see if the undertones are more "Pygmalion" or "Being There" starring Tracy Flick, and its full of excellent crunchy bits concerning the machines that drove the campaign and pretty open war waged between Steve Schmidt and Bill Kristol.  Who doesn't love a good chair fight?

But, the most useful thing to take from this story is a reminder of the employment history of Bill Kristol -- a Neocon thinker of whom I'm not very fond.  As phrased by Schmidt:

"After all, [Kristol's] management of [former Vice President] Dan Quayle’s public image as his chief of staff is still something that takes your breath away," Schmidt continued.

"Former Quayle chief of staff" is a whole lot more fun to type every time Kristol comes up than "Neocon thinker of whom I'm not too fond" -- excellent.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:27 AM

June 30, 2009

samantha peale at mcnally jackson

Tonight you should join us at McNally Jackson in the proud neighborhood of SoHo for my friend Samantha Peale's reading of her excellent debut novel "The American Painter Emma Dial".  If you are not the type to go to readings, then this is your big chance to dip your toe in.

And if you are busy or outside the greater metropolitan NYC area, then you should just buy her book and read it.  It really is an exceptional work -- a spare and taut reminder that the coming of age is not necessarily dependent on a certain age.  (Not that I need that reminder over here, no, not at all.  Heh.)

Posted by mrbrent at 1:04 PM

June 29, 2009

taibbi on goldman

I hate to recommend something that might have been obtained in a non-traditional fashion, but go read Matt Taibbi's latest feature for Rolling Stone, which is not available online and has been accordingly been put up by a soul looking out for the information that wants to be free.

The article is about Goldman Sachs and its long story.  And while I may be off the reservation when I ask rhetorical questions about the provenance of Goldman Sachs, Taibbi is one of those writers that is actually a reporter and more able to be held to account when he writes a paragraph like:

The bank's unprecedented reach and power have enabled it to turn all of America into a giant pump-and-dump scam, manipulating whole economic sectors for years at a time, moving the dice game as this or that market collapses, and all the time gorging itself on the unseen costs that are breaking families everywhere - high gas prices, rising consumer-credit rates, half-eaten pension funds, mass layoffs, future taxes to pay off bailouts.  All that money that you're losing, it's going somewhere, and in both a literal and a figurative sense, Goldman Sachs is where it's going: The bank is a huge, highly sophisticated engine for converting the useful, deployed wealth of society into the least useful, most wasteful and insoluble substance on Earth - pure profit for rich individuals.

That's just one of a couple hundred -- as useful as ever, if you can get past the rage/vitriol.  (Which rage/vitriol I share and endorse but understand is an acquired taste.)  And if you feel bad about reading a scanned copy, I suppose you could also go buy Rolling Stone as well.  For nostalgia's sake.

Posted by mrbrent at 2:19 PM


God, these days drag sometimes.  Soon I'll start posting about even more inane things than usual, like the weather or the Mets.

But here's a brief distraction that's getting me through the early afternoon -- I've lost count of how many times I've referenced this song.  And I'm not one for the live footage, usually, either.

And it's got a dirty word in it, so don't play it around your grandma or your baby sister.

Posted by mrbrent at 1:15 PM


Hey now, it's a little early in the administration for this stuff, if you ask, me, but I'm naive, and I don't have invisible robots in my teeth.  As reported by At-Largely:
Apparently, some glue-sniffing types are hoping that our own military will be inspired by the Honduras coup to overthrow our own president in order to save democracy.  I kid you not.  I have been reading the comments at several blogs and they are mind-blowing.

And they are!  I'm not gonna reprint them here, but they read like those parts of a James Ellroy novel (like "The Cold Six Thousand") that you hope he's making up.

The crazy-making thing is that I can't think of an act by the Obama Administration that crossed some crazy-person line.  No guns have been taken away, no forced gender assignment, no dissolution of the dollar.  It's like the coup-hopers have two emotional states: gloating triumph, and outrage.  I'm sure it doesn't boil down to a psychological simplicity -- there's plenty else wrong in there -- but it's an interesting aspect.  From the moment that Obama won, then it was time to foment unrest, because no electoral victory by an opponent of crazy people will ever be considered legitimate.

Plus there's the whole thing with the president being black, which must be a total freak-out to the black helicopter crowd, let alone the garden variety racists who don't think there's gonna be a highway that runs from Canada to Mexico filled with NWO snipers, shooting white people.

Still: good times!  These treason advocacy organizations and/or individuals could use a little more light of day, I say.

Posted by mrbrent at 7:31 AM

June 28, 2009

i am a bad person 6.28.09

Briefly, and this might speak to how I spent my weekend, but when the bride and the groom are having their first dance, or feeding each other the cake?  The grimy phalanx of wedding-goers with their iPhones held high, kneeling an arm's length from the action, become a bigger story than the action that is being multiply, psychotically, photographed (or whatever that word will become when there are no more cameras only phones).

Is that how you want to remember meaningful events?  As an aggressive self-documenter?  ("...and here's where I snapped them dancing, and, oh! here's where I snapped their first kiss!")

Obviously, these wedding-goers are not bad people, but they are exhibiting a behavior that could lead one to believe that they are bad people.  Or at least shallow.  No, that's not fair -- why not either live that shit and have excellent memories, or just become a photographer and have excellent documentation of other people living excellent shit?

Of course, this makes me a bad person.  But Jess & Erin, you hit those vows like champions, like grinning champions.  I was proud to be there, and congratulations.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:56 PM