« June 28, 2009 - July 4, 2009 | Main | July 12, 2009 - July 18, 2009 »

July 10, 2009

good morning 7.10.09

It may just be me, but I am noticing, at least over here on the Eastern Seaboard and inland, meaningless business jargon is creeping into the lexicon of men and women who do not perpetrate "business" at all.  I'm hearing "impact" as a verb from housewives, I'm hearing "org chart" being applied to nuclear families, and "hedge" and "leverage" being peppered like they were the newest bestest swear words.

Tom Frank wrote about this phenomenon a decade ago, in the context of the business culture of MBA programs and the business publishing industry insinuating itself into our lives as a "counterculture".  It's odd that I'm noticing otherwise normal folk talking like ibankers now and not way back then.  Nothing attracts Americans like failure -- i.e., buy low, sell high.

This could also be colored by the fact that, when not in NYC, I do a lot of overhearing at a Paneras Bread in Eastern PA.  Maybe its the venue that brings on these airs of captains of industry.

Also, I've noticed that Paneras Bread has changed their coffee mugs, and I suspect that it's smaller than the old mugs by an ounce and a fraction.

Anyhow.  Good morning.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:51 AM

July 9, 2009

demint: count me out of the revolution

The interesting thing about this bit of rote craziness from Sen. Jim DeMint is not so much the content of the comment -- standard "the death of liberty is nigh" shrillness with a dash of comparison to Weimar Germany -- but rather DeMint's inadvertent confession in the aftermath:
DeMint worried that it was the “eleventh hour” for freedom, but he disputed a question from a man who wondered if America was ripe for another revolution.  “The reason I’m convinced we can do this in a civilized way is that I’ve seen, on a number of issues, that when people get informed and want to change their government, the government will change.”

So then, the situation is not so bad that a revolution is required, but if DeMint can score points with the disaffected by yammering about it, well then, right on.  So then basically DeMint is whipping up the MacGyver Junior Corps of Part-Time Minute Men, with their lawn chairs and their tea bags, into a frenzy of righteousness and aversion to taxes, for the purpose of a cheap home-town pop.

Leadership!

Posted by mrbrent at 12:50 PM

your majesty, the cia is revolting

Please excuse me if I'm not so surprised to learn that the CIA has been lying to Congress.  They're the CIA -- controlling the flow of information is a significant portion of their professional skill set.  And the most old fashioned way to control information is to lie.  So if the question, "Hey, are you guys doing anything that you shouldn't?" is enough to crack the CIA's will to obscure certain truths, then it's probably time to go get another CIA.

Plus also I'm cynical.  So much so that I'm wondering what exactly Leon Panetta is lying about when he admits to the CIA's lying -- is it possible that the CIA actually told the truth and Panetta is covering for their incompetence?

And I'm old, which is neither here nor there, but I can't go ten minutes without bringing it up again.

(There are some grown-up issues buried in there too, such as the validity of "black ops", the usefulness/uselessness of oversight thereof -- hopefully a grown-up will feel like talking about that.)

Posted by mrbrent at 8:29 AM

July 8, 2009

go pope go

Posting about dingbats who will only be interviewed by reporters who pretend to fish is easy.  What's badass? Posting about the Pope is badass.  And the Pope, for the first time I can remember, has issued an encyclical that I agree with:
[Pope Benedict XVI] also called for “greater social responsibility” on the part of business. “Once profit becomes the exclusive goal, if it is produced by improper means and without the common good as its ultimate end, it risks destroying wealth and creating poverty,” Benedict wrote in his new encyclical, which the Vatican released on Tuesday.

It's hard to write about the Pope, at least this Pope, mostly because he looks like a Drew Friedman illustration.  But if he's gonna put some of that Papal money where his Papal mouth is, as far as the disparity between the rich and the poor and the increasing dominance of business entities and their pet CEOs that some might mistake for hegemony, then count me in.  (Plus I've been obsessed with the idea of encyclicals, which are also badass, since I was a kid.)

So carry Goldman Sachs' water all you want, annoyed captains of industry, but by all means do not look behind you, else you'll be staring down the business end of a Pope.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:19 AM

July 7, 2009

circumspection!

This will be my first/last comment on the sad/Zeitgeist!/insane Michael Jackson memorial coverage of this afternoon -- it ate up all the Internet, but the Internet survived.

My reticence is caused by the fact that it was mad polarizing, so instead of stepping on everyone's feet, I will step on none.  It is a strange cultural moment to live through, and to you all, the lovers and the haters, let's make tomorrow a better day than today, like always.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:22 PM

moe tkacik at trueslant

This is the post that I post once every three or four months wherein I find where Moe Tkacik is publishing and share that link with all of you.  She is now at TrueSlant, which I had never heard of until last week.  I don't know if that's good or bad.

Tkacik is still on the beat of the financial apocalypse that happened so long ago that we ask our grandparents what it was like to be outraged because the government allocated a trillion dollars or so to bail out financial services firms whose greed was only exceeded by their stupidity.  Well, let's walk that back -- if they so stupid, then how come they so bailed out?  So who's stupid then?  This would be Tkacik contextualizing the endeavor:

Which [i.e., a brilliant mind not being able to bear reading about financial meltdown] underscores a serious* problem: if the brilliant minds who actually understand this stuff can’t actually bear reading about it anymore, where does that leave the General Reading Public on the eve of the ten-month anniversary of its first concerted efforts to slog through jargony updates on credit derivatives and jumbo option ARMs?  (Bitchy.)  What to do when there is still so much unbelievable arrogance, unconscionable obliviousness layered atop epic criminality to be lavished over and yet you just can’t summon the outrage anymore?

Come on now, you need a new windmill, just like me, right?

It's all as good as Tkacik usually is, though not exactly cheerful.

Posted by mrbrent at 12:53 PM

good morning 7.7.09

Something about the morning has left me less than inspired.  I can't put my finger on it.

Is it because on GMA this morning Sarah Palin said that the "department of law at the White House" would protect her from baseless allegations if she ran for national office?

Is it because the Mets will be welcoming the MLB-leading Dodgers this evening, though I wonder if "welcoming" is exactly the right word?

Is it because the city of Los Angeles is currently being invaded and we are powerless to do anything but watch against our will as it happens live on every available broadcast medium?

Ahhh, I don't know.  I do know that the coffee ain't gonna make itself.  In the meantime: you think your homeland is a punchline?  Not any more -- you've been usurped by Finland.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:52 AM

July 6, 2009

john keel

It's been a little thick with obituaries out there in the real world, but this is one that might fly below the radar -- John Keel has passed away.

Keel is mostly known for writing "The Mothman Prophecies", which is somewhat of a seminal work in the Fortean field.  In the late 60s a spate of odd sightings clustered around Point Pleasant, WV.  Keel, a writer recently devoting himself to writing about UFOs and similar oddities, investigated, and the book is the story of that investigation.  What sets Keel apart, in my mind, from his contemporaries is that he brought a newspaperman's rigor to the field, expending shoe leather, interviewing people.  I enjoyed his work, and he will be missed.

Ultimately, the lesson I'm taking from the past week or two is that people grow old, if they're lucky, and then eventually pass away, whether they're lucky or not.  Actually, I think I already knew that.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:58 AM

ross douthat: generating linkbacks

Another thing I'll miss about Sarah Palin (or continue to enjoy, my money says) is how commentators will leap to her defense as a matter of ideological reflex.  Sometimes this is done reluctantly, as carried off by Bill Bennett on his radio show this morning (i.e., "certainly you can conceive of a family issue that would require that you leave office? right?"), and other times forcefully.  Well, let's say, in the case of Bill Kristol, forcefully.

Meanwhile, Ross Douthat in his relatively new slot of loyal opposition on the NYT editorial page files an op-ed that reluctantly concedes the diminishing prospects of Sarah Palin while vigorously supporting the Palin brand, bemoaning the rough treatment that she received at the hands of the "elites" and deeming her rise as something for average Americans to look to for inspiration:

Palin’s popularity has as much to do with class as it does with ideology.  In this sense, she really is the perfect foil for Barack Obama.  Our president represents the meritocratic ideal — that anyone, from any background, can grow up to attend Columbia and Harvard Law School and become a great American success story.  But Sarah Palin represents the democratic ideal — that anyone can grow up to be a great success story without graduating from Columbia and Harvard.

Hairsplitting!  I'd say that the anyone-ness in that old aphorism is more about biography than it is about qualification, and the point of it is not that one gains the White House in the same way one wins at Powerball.  The message is that one may some day end up being president, even without benefit of caste and cash and connections, if one works hard enough.  And the path to this greater success usually has stops along the way -- for example, an education at Ivy League schools.  Or not.  Maybe a correspondence GED and great entrepreneurial success.  And if Sarah Palin is a clear example of hard work, then I'm Don Knotts.

Plus also, Obama's success unambiguously suggests that old aphorism about anyone growing up to be president, no matter where he went to school.  To suggest that his education trumps his circumstance (which in turn elevates the inspirational qualities of Palin) is to sanitize the "Anyone Can Grow Up To Be President" aphorism for consumption by people who only aspire to unmerited achievement.  Again, the movie "Being There", or the movie "Dave", would be useful places for these people to look, though both of the unmerited achievers lack the unfettered megalomania that Palin carries around like a split infinitive.

(And for a more wide-ranging round-up of reaction, check Roy Edroso's Running Scared post).

Posted by mrbrent at 9:09 AM

goodbye joe jrs

This -- the closing of Joe Jr. -- is unbearably sad.  Joe Jr. is (was) a coffee shop/diner on the corner of Sixth Ave. and W. 12th St.  It was nondescript in a pleasing way, and its authenticity was effortless.  And no matter how many haute burger joints may open, the cheeseburger deluxe was as good my platonic ideal of a cheeseburger deluxe.

We went there in college, which was right around the corner.  We'd grab a booth, order what we could afford and not feel like displaced suburban high school students stranded on Monster Island.  We didn't go a lot -- we found cheaper alternatives, like not eating -- but enough to acknowledge it as a landmark and to establish is as the airlock into the big cities rarefied atmosphere.  Also, we always pronounced it as "Joe Junior's" -- I don't know if this was a tic amongst friends, but the fact that the apostrophe-s was silent was as awesome as anything.

It was a damn fine corner diner and one of the last of the breed.  The city is worse off without it.

Posted by mrbrent at 7:38 AM