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August 14, 2009

on brownshirts

This is something I've been working towards writing plainly while dancing around it.  Turns out that it you just serve it forth then you don't need to dance:
Here's the thing about that last one: the people intentionally disrupting town hall events and trying to turn them into anarchic carnivals of rage and possible violence are literally, actually guilty of "Brownshirt tactics."

Both the Nazis and Mussolini had Brownshirts and Blackshirts, their violent followers (many of whom were angry, disenfranchised-feeling war vets resentful of elites), attack socialists and union leaders, often on behalf of capitalists unhappy with leftist governments.  Brownshirts marched through socialist strongholds in order to provoke attacks, and then they ginned up more support by holding up those who were attacked as martyrs.  Does that sound familiar?

That would be Alex Pareene explaining it all for you.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with dancing, either.  (Especially when everyone else seems to really be putting their backs into it the past couple days.)

Posted by mrbrent at 4:55 PM

comets will save us

I'm familiar with a handful of the big-thinking ideas to combat global warming -- giant floating umbrellas to reflect UV radiation, factories to process carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere -- but this one is news to me:
Scientists have found an unusual way to prevent our planet overheating: move it to a cooler spot.

All you have to do is hurtle a few comets at Earth, and its orbit will be altered. Our world will then be sent spinning into a safer, colder part of the solar system.

This does not involve slamming the comets into the planet to nudge it out of orbit, happily.  That plan might work too, but I doubt the biosphere is resilient enough.  Just nudging them close enough and letting gravity do its work.

This is why the future is fun sometimes.  We do not have jetpacks and we do not have flying cars (as we are often reminded), but we do have eggheads who will save us from Galactus by playing grab-ass with a couple of comets.

That is excellent.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:28 AM

zach petrick: you are hereby shouted-out to

If you missed them yesterday, there are two things that you must read.  They both concern the brouhaha/hubbub/ferfluffle surrounding a small but vocal, questionably table-mannered portion of the population that fear that if you take a dollar's worth of business from the health care companies then a zombie Panzer division will roll into the Wal-Mart parking lot.  Now me, I'm dismissive of these folk (see previous sentence), but these two fine pieces actually attempt to take the protesters seriously, and make some headway understanding them.

First is this examination of Katy the Plumber Abrams by Jezebel's Anna N.  Abrams was the topic of much derision around the house because she's just so durned mad about she don't know what!  But this piece shows some sympathy and tries to draw something useful out of Abrams nascent celebrity.  Now, some of the luster is taken off that rose with the news that Abrams is not the disinterested outraged sort that she would have you believe, but rather an avowed drinker of Glenn Beck's kool-aid.  But still, nice piece.

And second is this spot of on-location reporting at a North Dakota tea party by Abe Sauer for the The Awl.  It is compassionate and it is not condescending, and it arrives to a sensible conclusion that is difficult to come to when you're busy calling everyone stupid all the time.  Most highly recommended.  (And hit the comments on that one to witness the secret origin of Zach Petrick, superstar-to-be.)

Posted by mrbrent at 9:37 AM

August 13, 2009

first they came for the wanna-be assassins

With regard to news stories like this, I anxiously await the neck-veined defense that goes something like, "The Nazis of the Obama Administration are trampling on our Constitutional rights to threaten the lives of the President!!!"  That would be ridiculous, but ridiculous no longer means untenable, when people take to the streets over the looming possibility of toilet paper rationing.

I'm not sure when it was that the rightwing learned to hide behind a veil of civil liberties when committing their most egregious acts, but I'm pretty sure it was in the past decade or so.  From what I've read the jackboots were much more stoic and manly about the crimes they perpetrated back in the day.

And yeah, the more likely defense is that there is a difference between calling for the death of someone and planning for the death of someone, but tell that to the Secret Service, not me.  There might have been a progressive with a similar sign concerning a different president back before the invasion of Iraq, but I assure you that no breath was wasted defending them when they attracted the attention of authorities -- moral equivalence denied.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:21 AM

the cheney administration revealed

Dick Cheney coffee break!

The Washington Post sniffs around the progress of his autobiography and comes up with the reportable fact that Cheney is miffed at former President Bush for not following the rules of Dick Cheney during the second term.  Dunno if this is news or not -- seems to have been implicit in the past six months of Dick Cheney public appearances, as he seemed to try to will the country back into subservience.

But, buried in the story:

But there is a sting in Cheney's critique, because he views concessions to public sentiment as moral weakness.

For a while I bought into the idea that Cheney had some funny idears, but at least he was ideologically consistent.  That may still be the case, but at the same time it's important to realize that he is also a man that views the world in terms of moral strength/weakness.  He may not have been expressly "Left Behind" Bible-thumping and disdaining the non-devout, but he clearly saw one path to righteousness -- the Dick Cheney path -- and all other paths as paths of weakness.  And this rigid obsession left no room for the qualities that we generally associate with the wise -- introspection and self-correction.

This is probably as close an admission to Cheney's messianic belief that he alone could lead the country into the new century as we'll get, at least, until his book comes out.

And remember this is from a man who found his way to the vice presidency because he was head of the ad hoc committee to find a vice presidential candidate.  He installed himself.  And now he's cheesed because the man who was in Cheney's eyes Cheney's charge eventually started to listen to other people's advice.  Because George Bush stopped sitting in his lap.

I thought the news that Cheney wanted to deploy troops domestically to arrest (hapless) terrorism suspects was pretty bone-chilling in the sense of we-almost-went-there, but with this news, the willies are a lot more markedly distinct.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:14 AM

August 12, 2009

chris matthews should swear more often

Hey look, a Travis Bickle for our times!  This would of course be the asshole with the sidearm (which, as everyone breathlessly pointed out, was legal!) outside the New Hampshire Town Hall the president appeared at yesterday.  The armed fella, by the name of Yosemite Sam Timothy McVeigh William Kostric, appeared on the Chris Matthews program, whereupon America got to see how exciting it is to watch psychopath dry.

Let's stop pretending to be clinically removed and just give the fuckers a TV show already.  A reality show, of course, something where the Birthers and the Deathers and the Black Helicopter Types and a couple NeoNazis and Paula Abdul are all stuck in the same place, like a cave or a treehouse, and have to learn how to live together.  We can call it "The Right Angle" or "Mixed Nuts" or "Who Wants To Ice The President".  And imagine the hilarity that ensues when the contestants are forced to agree on which non-caucasian ethnicity is the most un-American (um, Leninists?) and the arguments over which Amendment's rights are infringed by being asked to do the dishes.

And for the season finale they can blow up a post office or something.

(Bet you a nickel this show is actually in development somewhere.)

Posted by mrbrent at 8:05 AM

August 11, 2009

health care reform, robots

And on the lighter side, this SNL spoof ad from 1995 has finally come true.

That's the meat of the argument of the disruptors, isn't it?  I'm scared of a insane thing that is beyond reason?  And now the president is on the television, telling people -- making perfectly clear to people -- that no, robots will not come and spirit off our elderly.

Which was the point of the whole exercise -- the insurance industry generated a frenzy of manufactured fear in hopes that health care would be derailed because the president would be too busy telling people that the robots wont' spirit off our elderly to get anything passed?

Posted by mrbrent at 1:54 PM

deathers on the tv

I can't tell if the live coverage of the Town Halls (see Spector, Arlen) is a turning point or a long slow lingering look at the precipice.

On the one hand, I'm of the opinion that daylight is generally cleansing, and exposing the "antics" of the Deathers, as they are now being called in some corners, would bring the reasonable people among us to the conclusion that the Deathers are an embarrassment to the species, at least in terms of manners if not sanity.

But then, on the other hand, you have to stop and wonder if the Deathers are more pervasive than I'd like to believe.  My default position is that these folk are garden-variety stupid people (and I do take some heat for that around the house -- maybe gullible people is the better term), but what if their numbers are increasing and not fixed at the crazified 27%.

What if the attention turns this hiccup into some kind of revival movement for the casually disaffected?  Because, you know, human history isn't exactly stuffed with moments demonstrating the wisdom of crowds.

Well, Obama is on stage in New Hampshire now.  Maybe he'll be able to talk some sense.  Or maybe sense is like a spark for the bucket of oily rags that is the Deathers.

Posted by mrbrent at 12:35 PM

good morning 8.11.09

Take a break from all the other things you're anxious about and be anxious about this instead -- that portion of the economy that is shaped by working for a living and not the profits of rich people is in some pretty scary shape, says NYT's Bob Herbert:
But behind the official numbers is a scary story that illustrates the single biggest challenge facing the United States today.  The American economy does not seem able to provide enough jobs — and nowhere near enough good jobs — to maintain the standard of living that most Americans have come to expect.

The country has lost a crippling 6.7 million jobs since the Great Recession began in December 2007.  No one is predicting a recovery in the foreseeable future powerful enough to replace the millions of jobs that have vanished in this historic downturn.

This is the secret reason why I hold the financial services sector in disdain: as it grows and eats up more and more of the GDP, it will make a handful of people very wealthy, but it will not provide the solid employment of a manufacturing sector, which gave us the middle class in the first place.  And I don't think that Wal-Mart is going to enable a whole lot of people to put their kids through college, even with their low low prices.  We got three hundred million people and the best thing we make right now is debt, so we got a couple of paradigms to shift unless we want to move into H.G. Wells territory.

Talking about this is not as much fun as chasing Goldman Sachs around with a wiffle bat, but it's morning, so it's not about fun.  It's about the ominous shadow of the future, and what will happen to me if my employer ever realizes I'm not all that (probably something involving a nametag).

So good morning!

Posted by mrbrent at 9:02 AM

August 10, 2009

krugman and stross: together again

I'm saving this for later reading (or printing out, more likely), but author Charles Stross and Nobel Prize winning economist/columnist Paul Krugman had a conversation at WorldCon in Montreal.  Considering that Stross is casually obsessed with economics in his work, it should be fascinating.  For you young'uns, "conversation" is where two people talk with and not at each other -- it tastes like sunshine on a rainy day.

And if you're one of those unlimited bandwith/leisure time types, the audio of the conversation is here, at only 13Mb.

Posted by mrbrent at 1:48 PM

thomas gladney does not know the meaning of "malingering"

It is absolutely fair to single out the fact that a conservative Town Hall disruptor does not have health insurance from this story.  In fact, it reads on its face as a hoax perpetrated by a health care reform supporter.  But a side effect of having a poorly developed sense of irony (other than making you not funny) is a difficulty in discerning why one would not want to publicize one's lack of health insurance while rioting in support of health insurers.  (i.e., unless you always wanted to be a laughing stock).

But for me, the best part is that the "activist" Thomas Gladney (if that is in fact his name) showed up to a rally, get this, "bandaged and in a wheelchair".  After a scuffle outside a Town Hall event?  I hope they didn't skimp on the medical tape -- nothing says "beat up" like a bad Halloween costume.  Used to be you'd only see that shit in situation comedies.

I heard some vaguely serious talk on some NPR show over the weekend which left me tempted to give credence to the fears of those being manipulated by the lobbying money.  And then something like this happens, and you realize that clown college must be turning applicants away in droves.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:28 AM

August 9, 2009

nice things

First instinct was for some kind of "Normal Operations Resume" post, but then ration won over as there are no such thing, really.  But it's back to working and not looking for the best beach to sit on, starting now.

Things I learned that I will forget by tomorrow:

I avoid the foodie posts, but if you are in a town in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts called Oak Bluffs and you like hot dogs, you would do well to stop in to a place called Dinghy Dogs, on the docks where the tourists drink at the bars overlooking the harbor.  I'd say ask for Brian, but chances are he's the one working.  I'm not going to say that one hot dog is the best hot dog you'll ever have, because it's not.  In fact, I don't believe such a thing exists, and anyone that says that it does is lying.  But it's a damn good hot dog, and Brian cares deeply about his product and will walk through the sourcing of the natural-cased dogs and the onions and everything else.  So, have two.

Moving south, the town of New London, Connecticut, is the first town I've visiting that I would call vibrant.  It might be the night I was there, but it was the highest art/industry per capita of any town I've ever been in.  I don't know if I'll ever move there, but I do look forward to going back to visit.

And finally, one town over, the Book Barn in Niantic is the best used book store I've shopped at in a decade -- selection- and price-wise.  And we were at the store on Main Street in town.  They have a whole complex of related stores a mile down the road that we skipped past having already spent an hour of our driving-home time at the store in town.  Frank even let us pick out a cardboard box to haul away our haul in, which was right nice of him, right before he sealed the deal with the story about how the tears on Frank Sinatra's pillow left the shape of Ava Gardner.

So, welcome back, me, and thank you New England.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:21 PM