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August 7, 2009

good morning 8.7.09

Yup, I'm still on vacation, on this county-sized island off the coast of a blue state, and I've come around to agree with most of America: a vacation is not a ploy to distract from your deeper purpose, but rather freakin' awesome.  Yesterday I met a dude running a place called Dinghy Dogs.  We discursed for a moderate amount of time, on the quality of a Dinghy Dog, and hot dogs in general.  As a way to test his sensibility and honesty, I asked him what he thought of Nathan's Famous.  He judiciously offered that they were mediocre (they are!), but that hot dogs were much like sex in as much as how not-bad the bad is.  So today, I will have a Dinghy Dog, Brian.

I didn't read the newspaper yesterday, but watched a little cable news, and am now under the impression that every stupid person in America (that'd be twenty-something percent of the electorate, or what we call "staring way way uphill at even a plurality") is mistaking planned events of Democratic Reps/Senators as a pig-hollering contest, and then sometimes forgetting their meds and then thinking, "Why not reenact what put me behind bars the last time?"  This may not be accurate, but it's the impression I got.  (From one network -- from another, it seems that our president is some kind of Kenya-churian candidate?)

It was a quiet and contemplative nightcap after watching that, because who'd want to live in a place where policy was determined by the biggest bullies?  I do have some faith that no Western country will let it self devolve into that, but the stupid people do seem pretty determined, having finally found a hobby that gives them the same feeling of winning an election without having to win an election -- just shout down some old people, a little pushing and shoving, and now THEY'RE IMPORTANT.

Though, on the bright side, at least we know where things are at.  And good morning!

Posted by mrbrent at 8:13 AM

August 5, 2009

joshua bolten and north korea

As far as the very moving efforts to release two journalists from North Korea go, predictably, Joshua Bolten's protests are feeble indeed:
While the United States is properly concerned whenever its citizens are abused or held hostage, efforts to protect them should not create potentially greater risks for other Americans in the future.  Yet that is exactly the consequence of visits by former presidents or other dignitaries as a form of political ransom to obtain their release. Iran and other autocracies are presumably closely watching the scenario in North Korea. With three American hikers freshly in Tehran's captivity, will Clinton be packing his bags again for another act of obeisance?  And, looking ahead, what American hostages will not be sufficiently important to merit the presidential treatment?

First off, there may be precedent of overriding national interest in sacrificing the lives of two innocent civilians, but actually, wouldn't it be a better world if that didn't have to happen?  North Korea did not get missiles withdrawn from their borders, sanctions lifted or any other material benefit.  They got a photo-op and a signed 8 x 10 glossy -- and a chance to back out of an embarrassing situation while saving face.  No geopolitical capital was spent, and no bargaining leverage was lost.  North Korea is free to go on acting like it took the brown acid, and now we have established back channels to talk them off the roof.  The only prestige North Korea got was the opportunity to look like fanboys at a Felicia Day convention.

And second, to offer this argument in light of the overwhelming emotion of the return of the two women, off the plane, hugging their families, could be a brave act, or it could just make Bolten look like a jerk, desperately defending an ideology that didn't work in the first place.  Look like?

What it was was the death of Bolten's idiotic "we don't negotiate with bad actors" policy, which was the antithesis of how diplomacy works, and evidence of the lily-livered-ness of the hawks, terrified of having a conversation.

It is because of people like Bolten that I shaved my mustache off.

Posted by mrbrent at 6:47 PM

i know no sam sifton

So I'm on this vacation on wife's orders to relax, but this is what I do to relax, dammit.  But my early morning's Internet was spoiled by the breaker we tripped by just turning on a microwave, and the breaker box turned out to be in the tenant's apartment, so I read a book like some kind of Viking.

And now, during siesta, I spent a goodly bunch of time reading all the reaction to Sam Sifton being named the next restaurant reviewer for the New York Times -- because it's 2009, and wifi comes free with purchase of a 20 oz bottle of Haterade, and anonymity has taught a new generation how to be mean without consequence.  And it's been gripping!  I won't link that, but this is Sifton's brief Q&A on the matter.

I actually do think that the position has relevancy, because of the plague of Internet foodies and not despite.  Not to serve as a goalie for the NY restaurant scene, but to serve as adult supervision on the practice of writing about food.  And to lead the charge against spuriousness, in a sense.  Sifton is unequivocally the right man for the job, and all the neener neener is nothing more than that.

Posted by mrbrent at 6:10 PM

August 4, 2009

riotous stupid people

As to the disruption of Democratic Town Halls and the like by GOP rude people, I think that this has nailed it best so far:
I'm surprised that it's your Republican pal that has to make this point:  The precedent on the anti-health care protests isn't Bush's Social Security town hall meetings.  The real precedent is the "Brooks Brothers riot" during the 2000 recount.  The point is to create disorder, but get the media to cast blame on the underlying issue and NOT the protesters.

That is to say, expect some broken windows if their current traction starts to fail.

To remove myself from the urgency of the situation (i.e., the need for health care reform at the decided expense of insurance companies), it is an excellent opportunity to study stupid people in action -- mindless of historical precedent of such thuggery, spurred into stupid action by nothing more than the need to be right, at the expense of their own welfare.

Sadly, what might solve the situation would be the application of Designated Free Speech Zones, which have worked so well in the recent past, but that's not how we roll.  It's a bitch, having principles, but I prefer it to the alternative.

Posted by mrbrent at 1:34 PM

olbermann, o'reilly flash (in pan) of controversy

W/r/t the immediately subsequent post, nope, I watched neither of Olbermann or Bill O'Reilly on the television last night.  Instead I took the Mets game out for a twirl (though she left me high and dry).  But I did watch the clip in which Olbermann addresses the issue, which is good stuff, if you like Olbermann: basically, he was party to no deal, and O'Reilly is a clowny-clown ass uncomfortable around black people.  And also that the wall between editorial and ownership should be inviolate, but everybody here knows that already.

And this Gawker recap runs down O'Reilly's reaction:

UPDATE: Bill O'Reilly made no mention of Stelter's report on his show tonight.

Which would be O'Reilly's version of speaking-truth-to-power.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:01 AM

August 3, 2009

ge and news corp resolve differences

Tonight will be a good night to watch Keith Olbermann's Countdown, on account of this story that broke over the weekend, about how the corporate parents of both Countdown and Bill O'Reilly's program had a little sitdown and called a truce between the shows.  Because, you see, each show called the other show names, a lot, and they wanted to cut down on the name-calling--

But wait no that's not the case.  Actually:

According to the NYT, both CEOs agreed that the dispute was bad for the interests of the corporate parents, and thus agreed to order their news employees to cease attacking each other's news organizations and employees.

Generally speaking, the owners-dictating-content is a bigger story than the resolution of a feud between two television personalities, and the sort of story that falls within the usual interest of one of said personalities.  It's hard to think that Olbermann can (or will) take that one for a ball.

I guess this would make it also a good night to watch O'Reilly and see if he addresses the situation, but really there is no such thing as a good night to watch O'Reilly, unless you're researching factless untethered bullying.

Posted by mrbrent at 2:13 PM

good morning 8.3.09

Trying to figure out what was the worst thing about the morning -- having to haul my ass outta bed to make the bus back to NYC?  To have to share intimate bus space with the Terrible Family, each of whom (even 10 year old little Timmy T.) outweighed me any where from five to a hundred fifty pounds, who complained loudly about not being able to feed their child coffee on the bus, who had apparently never seen "Wall-E" or at least didn't get it, who were, well, terrible?

Or was it running out of things to read in the NYT and then giving the Ross Douthat a try, which included the sentence, "The Republicans have their mistresses, but [whatever else the sentence said]."  Oh that's right, the Republican integrity problem is entirely infidelity-based, and even when the scandal involves a lobbyist or a US Attorney or a defense contractor, the Republican got in trouble because he fucked someone when he shouldn't'a, and not because cash changes hands.  Sorry, Douthat, even Bill Kristol tried harder than that.

I know, garden variety bile, and hating on fat-people/Douthat is for children.  But good morning anyway.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:47 AM

August 2, 2009

rise again and do what? lose again?

You may have heard of the poll detailing the surprisingly large percentage of self-described Republicans that do not believe the President was born in Hawaii.  Of the many reactions to is, I'm going to link to this post about it (and the geographical distribution of the survey), because it includes this paragraph:
In studying the history of the late 1860’s I would come across reports of “Johnny Reb” guerrilla soldiers who had some how never gotten the word that the Civil War was over and their side had lost.  To a man they would chant “The South shall rise again!”

I don't necessarily think that it's a slam dunk correlation with the Birthers -- Birthers are proud nativists, but a large degree more delusional, and with grievances imagined.  But I do think it delicious slander.

(The poll in question, pursuant to which 28% of Republicans and 23% of Southerners are non-believers of the president's American origins.)

Posted by mrbrent at 9:50 AM

balk's minutes of the beer summit

Today's Frank Rich, on the Beer Summit/Beerestroika/Worst Pub Crawl Ever is pretty good.  But Alex Balk's minutes of the meeting (in play form) is not only funnier, it's also more incisive:
OBAMA:  [Glaring at BIDEN]  Okay, listen, I want you all to shut the fuck up.  Officer Crowley, I want to apologize for saying you acted stupidly.  It was a poor choice of words which, no matter how accurate and perhaps even understated, got me into so much trouble with all the idiots in the press and every entitled white man who hated my guts in the first place but never had a way to say it without sounding racist that here I am, wasting valuable time on a Thursday evening sitting around with the American political version of Dorothy’s companions from The Wizard of Oz.  Heart, brain, nerve: each of you needs one of those three.  Can you guess who you are?

Read both, if you have the time. This might not be the first exposure to the unintended consequences of Beltway coverage that the administration has experienced, but it's certainly the most vivid, and even though there was a mug of beer apiece, there will be hangover.  And I maintain that, whether or not it was useful, it was a graceful gesture for a White House that has not seen so many in the past few.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:17 AM