« September 6, 2009 - September 12, 2009 | Main | September 20, 2009 - September 26, 2009 »

September 19, 2009

roy blount walks into a bar

Everyone will be very upset by this, and with good reason.  Generally speaking, any correlation between DC and/or federal governance and a monkey has already proven to not as sneaky as the speaker thinks.  The crypto-racists are going to have to be much more cryptic if they don't want us figuring out what they say.

And to amplify Steve Benen's point, I think the more interesting element of Rep. Roy Blount's colorful anecdote is the analogy suggested -- being a member of the GOP caucus in the House is like being colonial British soldiers playing golf in India where monkeys move the golf balls on the course.  It may be the perfect analogy in that it has so many moving parts and yet works on absolutely no level.  Legislating is not like playing golf, or like occupying India, or like chasing monkeys, and on from there.

Maybe it's actually supposed to make conscious sense.  Blount is running for the Senate in MO, so maybe someone will get a chance to ask.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:31 AM

September 18, 2009

middleman just wants to get paid

Contained in this Gail Collins op-ed is the most elegant explanation of the aims of the student loan bill currently making its way through Congress:
Let us stop here and recall how the current loan system works:

1) Federal government provides private banks with capital.

2) Federal government pays private banks a subsidy to lend that capital to students.

3) Federal government guarantees said loans so the banks don’t have any risk.

And now, the proposed reform:

1) The federal government makes the loans.

Wow.  You really do wonder why nobody came up with this idea before.

I don't know if this is the silver bullet to the "privatization is patriotic" argument, but I do think it irrefutable -- the middleman is just there to get paid, and the more people gotta get paid, the less money is left over.

It's also snappy!  We can use more snappy.

Posted by mrbrent at 3:15 PM

accidental clobberin' time

Finally, an example of Obama-hatin' symbolic overreach meets an appropriate response: a gentleman who was in Eastern Europe during WWII encounters Hitlerfied Obama pics and gets a little clobberin' time on the insane people.  Not that I advocate clobberin' time as a grown-up coping mechanism -- I don't! -- but when clobberin' time accidentally happens in the right place and the right time you can't help but be happy.

Sadly, it was LaRouche-ites that the gentleman reacted so strongly to, and not Tea-Baggers or Beckistanians.  But, it must bring dancing and singing to the LaRouche-ites that they are no longer the most unhinged and disreputable political sect in the nation.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:31 AM

September 17, 2009

good morning 9.18.09

Sorry to obsess about the coming race war, which happens once the oppressed Caucasians get mad as hell and won't take it anymore, but I'm just finding it fascinating.  I think maybe the thing that I thought that I'd be less likely to live to see other than a black president being elected was a return to pre-Civil Rights Act racial instability.  And if Rush Limbaugh is advocating segregated busing, I think we are most of the way there.

After stewing in another evening's worth of the television news, I did realize that the right wing objection to being labeled racists is completely misunderstood.  When they say something like, "Not all criticism of the President is de facto racist," what they actually mean is, "Racism is merely one of the fires that fuel our criticism of the president."  And the reason that their noses are so out of joint is that if call them racists, then that underplays so many other terrible things about them.

Maybe they would be more comfortable with calling them "racists, among other things".

Yeah, I'm casting a wide net -- delete "right wing" and insert "certain objectionable portion of the right wing that have pushed the discourse to the point that whether a poster of the president with a bone in his nose is only debatably racist" and you get a more precise description of who I'm talking about.

Good morning.  I'm cranky.  Are you cranky?

Posted by mrbrent at 10:09 AM

welcome back, polarized racial anxiety

Do you remember this one?  It was a while ago -- fifteen years? -- but there was a rumor that got around pretty good and people were freaking out.  It went something like this: if you are driving your car at night and you pass another car, which car does not have the headlights on, DO NOT blink your headlights at them like you ordinarily would out of a sense of neighborly goodness, because the Crips -- or the Bloods, who knew the difference -- were initiating new members by making them drive around after dark with the headlines off, and the first car to blink headlights out of a sense of neighborly goodness, well, the initiates were to kill the driver and occupants of the blinking car.  This was before email, so we had to use our mouths to share this.  And it wasn't so far after the Rodney King incident and the riots that happened after the trial, so there was a certain menace in the air, especially if you were from an other-than-urban background.

Needless to say, it was a hoax.  Or if not a hoax, at least an inaccuracy of indeterminate provenance.  Nobody got shot, and there was no underground black criminal conspiracy to kill white people.  But there was some anxiety, and I'm sure that there was not a whole lot of headlight-blinking while that rumor was extant.

So do you remember that?  Whether you do or not: it's the new now.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:08 AM

good morning 9.17.09

I am trying hard for this to be a good morning, but I watched enough of the news on the telly last night that it gave me some powerful nightmares (race-baiting? are you fucking kidding?), and then on the morning walk of the little dog I realized that litter is growing into an issue that bums me out.  Over on Coney Island Avenue, the sidewalks look like Times Square at 1am on the first of January, and a quarter of the trash actually contains food particles, so that the walk becomes a drag, figuratively and literally, and my little dog and I become increasingly wary of each other, as she becomes convinced I am capricious and stingy, and I that she is a hobo.

But really it is a such a huge signifier of, I dunno, societal or community unease -- how can you feel at all good in the squalor?  And on the other hand, why create this mess, what about everyone else?

Ha ha!  I'm old!

Good morning!  And get off my lawn!

Posted by mrbrent at 8:13 AM

September 16, 2009

scalia: drinking maybe?

Dude, Justice Antonin Scalia is everything that Robert Bork was going to be were he to be confirmed -- Scalia has stretched textualism to the point where he is divining the moods of the Framers as they were framin':
Justice Antonin Scalia has defended the court's accommodation of religion in the public sphere in recent rulings, saying the founding fathers would want it that way.

And it wouldn't be a news story about Scalia talking crazy at a non-SCOTUS event without the irrelevant anecdote:

Scalia said he was at a judges' conference in Rome during the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, when a foreign judge told him he wished his country's leader could invoke God during a national emergency as President Bush did.

Ha ha, er... good one, Judge.

I'm sorry to briefly wax legal, but I've always had respect for Scalia even though I do not agree with his jurisprudence -- he is (was?) rigorous and consistent.  But whatever way the Framers wanted it should be reflected in the document they drafted, especially if you are a justice fighting the good fight for textualism.

Tighten it up, Justice Scalia.

[Via Ted Mann]

Posted by mrbrent at 3:31 PM

political blackmail

I think I've got it all figured out: the current behavior of the mobilized anti-Obama forces (if you're not familiar with the phenomena, then you are lucky -- have some recent links anyway) is nothing but a form of blackmail -- "Let us elect who we want, or we will behave like obstreperous insane people on crank who will moralize you to death with one hand while the other hand gets the lynching party started, until you are so weary of trying even to understand us that you will promise to never ever vote again."  I would never accuse the types susceptible to this sort of thuggery of introspection, but what is the long term goal if not childish ante-raising?  Well, except for the ultra-crazified that believe that these are all slow steps leading to an insurrection, of course, but what about the purported grown-ups that are pulling the strings on this, like Richard "Dick" Armey?  Can he believe that he can riot himself into taking back Congress?

OK, maybe I don't have it all figured out, but if any of you are wondering if this is all part of some long stasis in political discourse that has only mildly mutated over the years -- um, no.  We are in a totally novel (and embarrassing) place, and I don't know or know of anyone who is able to wrap their head around the entirety of it.  And as for charges that there is some equivalency between today's proud morons and all the folk upset by the Bush Administration: that's a God-damn lie, and a facile one at that.

So yeah, anyone gets a handle on this, lemme know.  But it is fascinating, in a repulsive way.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:54 AM

good morning 9.16.09

Oh my goodness the days are just packed.  There are a baker's dozen of interesting things to write about and I have exactly enough time to tell you that I tried, really tried, to read Maureen Dowd this morning but was instead transfixed by a full-page ad (this would be in the NYT A section, naturally) for some kind of educational promotion with the headline:
17 Rock Stars of Education!
And the subhead:
They're Rock Stars! Not music Rock Stars.... They're Education Rock stars!

And why would I want to put any more information in my head during that specific subway ride instead of savoring such randomly-capitalized broke-loose-from-a-time-capsule copy?  Why not let the so-bad-it's-good sit on my lap there for a stop or two and start out the day right?

So no, couldn't finish the MoDo.  Good morning to that.

(The event publicized above is being put on by the Learning Annex, which definitely speaks to the quality of their learnin'.)

Posted by mrbrent at 10:43 AM

September 15, 2009

the battle for swayze

When you're a hammer, everything looks like a nail, as they say, so it is no shock that a rightwing "media watchdog" would find evidence of liberal bias in an obit for Patrick Swayze:
[T]oday's Adam Bernstein obituary for Patrick Swayze begins obviously by noting his big hits "Ghost" and "Dirty Dancing," but doesn't get to "Red Dawn" until paragraph 23.  Even then, Bernstein wrongly suggests he had a supporting role. [...]

As classless as it is to argue about the political significance of the recently deceased, it is also mystifying that someone is scrambling to make a lesser conservative saint out of Swayze.  It's not like he's Chuck Norris, or the dumb Baldwin brother.

And on top of that, what about "The Outsiders"?  As a dude with a little sister who was a certain age in 1983, I'd say that Swayze's contribution to the walls of a generation of little girls in the form of ripped-out pages from TeenBeat might outweigh his position as a star in a constellation of terrible films beloved by people allergic to entertainment.

Posted by mrbrent at 2:04 PM

ayn rand: hearts violent sociopaths

Here, have a long, studied examination that loops the current tea-party/birther phenomena back to Ayn Rand, which is I think where we came in, right?
It is especially fascinating to see the so-called "average, everyday folks" at the tea party rallies embracing Rand's thinking and literature.  After all, Rand's view of the common man and woman--presumably the very Joe Six Packs and Hockey Moms recently enthralled by her--was decidedly grotesque.  So, for instance, in her original version of her work,We the Living, Rand had her chief protagonist proclaim: "What are your masses...but mud to be ground underfoot, fuel to be burned for those who deserve it?"

My antipathy of Ayn Rand is a casual, trendy nothing compared to that of the author, Tim Wise -- who in the hundreds of words slips in gems like:

And so, interestingly, the right is increasingly cleaving to the words and philosophy of a woman who was not only, in all likelihood, mentally disturbed, but the functional equivalent of those who fell in love with say, Charles Manson or Ted Bundy, even after their crimes were exposed.

And the best I can do is call the Randian/Gulchian whoevers "dingbats". 

(Hopefully Mr. Wise will forgive me for distilling his thoughtful work into punchlines.)

Posted by mrbrent at 10:04 AM

good morning 9.15.09

Today is Primary Day in NYC, which is a Day Made Only for Litterers.  Each precincts has campaigners handing out voting info sheets -- sometimes modest postcards with the candidate's name/face, sometimes glossy brochures with professional layout and design, all bright and shiny and explicit about which lever to pull.  If you're lucky enough to live in a district with a wealthy candidate, there are also larger cardstock placards placed under the wipers of each car on the block.  And what do all these dead trees have in common?  They will end up on the sidewalk and then the gutter.  And litter wins the day again!

I reckon I was supposed to be voting somewhere in all this, but I forget if I'm registered Democratic (in which case I should've) or Independent (in which case i couldn't).  But it's impossible not to be cheered by the tens of your fellow NYers voting, or the goopy pulpy mess that will clog each storm drain when the next rains come.

Maybe I'll start voting in primaries again once our electoral system catches up with that of Gabon, in which case we will all be wealthy enough to buy all the good mornings we want.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:50 AM

September 14, 2009

gentle fun with twitter stalkers

Today: busy and uninspired.  It's going around.

But because I hate it when anyone goes home empty-handed, I will share with you this link, which I obtained from a fellow following my Twitter feed.  If you can be bothered to click through, you will see that it is a list of seven things that a psychic won't tell you.  I took it at first as a standard-issue charismatic Christian "woe betide" piece, but it's actually a little more than that, with a magical-realism bent to it and a curious grammatical construction or two:

When you turn your energy over to others and especially the dead, it is a setback for society.  God only allots so much energy per day for each of us.  How you use it depends on the future of this planet.  When a people constantly feel depressed, hopeless, with doom and gloom, it drags the energy of the planet down creating almost a self fulfilling prophecy of dire predictions.

It's not exactly going to stop me from (or inspire me to, for that matter) getting my palm red at the county fair, but what a curious little theist moonbeam tapestry.

So: dude, I personally gave at the office, if you know what I mean, but thanks for the follow.

Posted by mrbrent at 4:53 PM

the saloon: the show was a success

Now this is something I'm not used to -- this nice fella reviewed the Saturday Night Saloon that happened two nights ago at which I had a short play (or episode one of a normal length play) premiere, and he even got around to mentioning our little shoe.  I will take "enjoyable romp" in the spirit it was intended.

The entire evening was an enormous success BTW, with audience waiting in the stairwell for some unfortunate to take off and make room for one more, and I want to give desperate props to Dustin Chinn, for not only nearly winning the evening (but only for the cast in my piece, who win while reading phonebooks), but for also lending me a literal shopping bag fulla manga so that I can catch up with the cool kids.

Next show, 10/10/09.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:35 AM

9-12 equivalency

Further to 9-12 (and 9-11, I guess), it's worth it to take a second and read this piece from Time Magazine's James Poniewozik, as he takes exception with the nostalgia for the attacks on the Twin Towers that seems to be fueling those we would call "tea-baggers":
You'll excuse me if I don't feel warm nostalgia for the lingering smell of burnt airplane fuel, and metal, and bodies.

Well, of course there's more, but nice sentence, right?  His piece is titled "Don't Tell Me What 9/12 Means, Glenn Beck", and that fact, and the fact that that Poniewozik is a television critic filing on his "Tuned In" blog, pretty much explains why I heart it so.

Though I do want to take exception with one passage:

None of us have a unique claim on the meaning of 9/11, or 9/12.  The fact that I was in New York on 9/11 does not make my views about anything that's happened since more valid than anyone else's.  (If you were in Montana on 9/11, your views are just as legitimate as mine.)  Millions of us were here, and we drew millions of different lessons from that day.

That's a nice thing to say -- it's equanimious, and it's an olive branch to those who would vociferously disagree (by comparing something to Ted Kennedy's grave).  But it's just a scrim of civility that's masking the truth of the matter -- while there is no denying personal experience of such an horrific event, there are discrete aspects of experience that will defy equivalency.  Maybe NYers and Montanans reacted in comparable ways on the enormity of the attack, but NYers were (or at least a lot of us were) witness to some direct stimuli that Montanans were not.

To wit, the lessons that NYers learned that make me comfortable telling Montanans (well, Glenn Beck, really) to shut up is the lesson of running from tumbling skyscrapers.  That would be a shut-up with a fuck-you for no charge.

Which is why Poniewozik's piece is good -- he manages to be nice and cuss-word free.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:47 AM

September 13, 2009


And how could you not watch?  When eleventy-five million people flood the capitol for Glenn Beck's magic revitalizing electrotonic sideshow and 9-12 party, of course you're going to tune in.  Because finally the silent majority had decided that even though they don't vote or poll in majority, they are going to keep the poster board/Sharpie industries going no matter what.

And I didn't even realize that the clever name of this Gathering of the Juggalos actually meant something more than the day every was supposed to show up (like writing a note on the nation's wrist in ballpoint) until I read this -- basically the event is called "9-12" because Glenn Beck wants us go back to what it was like on the day after 9-11, when everyone was too inflamed with grief and horror to oppose the batshit domestic and foreign policy of a sockpuppet administration bent on privatized foreign adventurism and throwing a few more poors on the barbie so that the nation's wealth could be hoarded like baseball cards, policies that flew in the face of both conservatism and liberalism.  I think there's something about "unity" in there too, but you have to give Glenn Beck a credit card number before he'll explain it to you.

But, and we are admittedly tired of mass protests, after the three or four protests during the Bush Administration when the numbers actually broke seven digits, who will ever forget the call-and-response chant that rang through the streets of DC yesterday -- the Twelfthers hypnotic and prescient call to action and statement of purpose:




U-S-A!  U-S-A!

If that's not a reason to finally cancel free elections like these brave patriots insist, then I don't know what.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:27 PM