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October 2, 2009

john ensign taken down

Another example of why you need the newspaper industry to keep on keeping on -- because they have the tools and the talent to investigate the shit out any old thing they want to.

Say, for example, a senator from an obscure Western state has a little problem schtupping only his wife and the extraneous schtupping implicates further ethical misdeeds?  Yeah, that might play in the seantor's hometown, and might get mentioned for a day or two of the national television news cycle.  But then a newspaper gets a hold of it and then, when you least expect it -- four thousand freaking words, and there is nothing left in that story but the scorched earth where the story used to stand.  And any hopes that the senator had that this one fine kettle of fish might go unnoticed?  Well, those fish were delicious.

Hell, I didn't read it all the way through -- it will not improve or tarnish what I already think of Sen. John Ensign.  Plus also it's long.  I just think it's a fascinating super power that these newspapers have, and the NYT has been using it more and more often recently (see, for example, the thousands of words they have published on distracted driving, or the concussion risks of professional sports).

Sigh.  I wish I was a newspaper.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:15 AM

October 1, 2009

jim kalb is a bad apologizer

The follow-up question that by all rights should have been asked in this bit of reporting is this:

"Well, Mayor, ceding the point that you regret that the letter you wrote, calling a citizen a piece of shit and volunteering not to piss on him if he's afire, was publicized -- do you see any direct relationship between having written a letter and the publicity that ensues after its receipt?"

It just seems that in this age of the non-apology apology, the sense that if these offensive actions could stay under the covers then there would be no problem, what we have here is a fundamental misunderstanding of the basic law of the causation.  Which misunderstanding may provide cover for the garden-variety asshole, but it is scant cover indeed and usually more damning assholery than the assholery being apologized for.

[Via.]

Posted by mrbrent at 11:41 AM

thomas friedman sez simmer down

And on the other hand, while I personally might be in favor of all the hateful hateful speech and sentiment being shared with the non-crazified 77% of the country, not everyone agrees with me.  Like (oddly), Tom Friedman:
Others have already remarked on this analogy, but I want to add my voice because the parallels to Israel then and America today turn my stomach: I have no problem with any of the substantive criticism of President Obama from the right or left.  But something very dangerous is happening.  Criticism from the far right has begun tipping over into delegitimation and creating the same kind of climate here that existed in Israel on the eve of the Rabin assassination.

This is not Friedman's normal beat, as it does not involve a conversation with a cab driver in Bangalore or chummy drinks with a head of state.  But I do acknowledge that the unintended effect of the airing of our laundry is that it very well could lead to loonies who do something about it.  In fact, it's kind of already started, right?  But ultimately I think it's a risk you have to take in order to combat this on an intellectual idea -- good people will never be disabused of these notions until they are given full voice in public.

But is it getting scary out there?  Well, scary enough for Thomas Friedman, so yeah.

Friedman goes on to make a greater point concerning how political opposition has curdled into a nihilistic denial of the intrinsic worthiness of the opponent -- another good point for another post!  But do enjoy reading Friedman for once.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:08 AM

September 30, 2009

newsmax: jk, dudes

I don't know if it's a super big deal that NewsMax kinda sorta published an article that predicted an overthrow of the Obama administration by the military.  Obviously the Secret Service will be interested in the author, but they are tasked to track down threats that don't amount much more than innuendo or implication -- they hew to the overabundance of caution and I understand why.

But at some point are there not First Amendment implications?  Until we actually arrive at the fire-in-a-crowded-theater point, there's nothing legally wrong with writing or publishing such an article, or even a juvenile FB poll.  It's despicable and moronic and not a little bit over-dramatic, but not illegal.  Until, of course, it clears the bar of constituting an actual threat on the president's life.

But don't forget the cleansing power of daylight -- perhaps the cure for this rampant, laughable posturing by wackos, from the Kill Obama types to the casual, clowny haters like Glenn Beck, is a bigger microphone, so that the general public can evaluate the mental states of the speakers and decide for themselves.

In the meantime (and isn't it always in the meantime?), I always wondered if James Elroy was exaggerating in his depiction of the naked aggression towards Kennedy before he was shot (and the jubilation that happened after).  If this is history repeating itself (tonally, at least), it's hard to say that Elroy was.

Oh, and do read the original piece.  It's an excellent example of what happens when a person can only see the world in terms of conspiracies, good ones and bad ones.  It's cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs.

Posted by mrbrent at 12:56 PM

good morning 9.30.09

Two omens for the day on this good morning:

First, the NYT Dining In/Out section ran a short feature on the appeal of pepperoni rolls in a region of West Virginia, specifically encompassing the cities of Clarksburg, Buckhannon and Fairmont.  Dual odd things: I may be one of a dozen people in this zip code that have ever heard of Buckhannon and Fairmont, which is where some kinfolk of mine reside, and where we were sent for minding by an aunt a couple weeks now again.  Also, I never did have a pepperoni roll during those visits!!  I'm kicking myself in the childhood.

Second, opting to take the bus from the subway resulted in door-to-door freakin' service, as the driver announced that he had to alter his route because of a broke-down bus somewhere ahead.  I got dropped off fifteen yards from the front door of the office.  That does not happen in everyday life.

What does this all mean?  No idea.  But I might try to avoid walking under any horseshoes, and, you know, measure twice, cut once.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:09 AM

September 29, 2009

start nbc nostalgia engine now

I forget who it was, but over the weekend someone raised the question of which of the television networks will be the first to fold.

"Well," I started, "I don't know if the networks are going to go away, really.  Terrestrial broadcast television will certainly whittle away to nothingness, but that's because our entertainment is becoming delivery-neutral, as you can pick and choose any of the different ways you can watch something.  And with the breakneck conglomeration of the entertainment companies, like Disney owning ABC and Universal owning NBC, it's kind of already here."

"CBS," they said, rejecting my premise out of hand.

Well, I stick to my premise, but if we're going to play like that, I see your CBS and I raise you one NBC.

Posted by mrbrent at 5:42 PM

we'd like to see him try, i guess

I don't know if all the other New Yorkers are finding this, but in the small swath I cut across two of the five boroughs, there is absolutely no hysteria whatsoever over Najibullah Zazi or the "beauty school bomber" or whatever the NYPost decides to call him.  Picture it: today, a man who had actually hatched a plot to detonate explosive in public places was formally charged with the same, and ain't nobody stockpiling duct tape or Tamiflu or leaving for conspicuously long weekends.  Six or seven years ago, all that was needed to trigger mass hysteria was a forwarded email that starts something like, "My best friend's cousin's father-in-law has a golfing buddy who works for the FBI..."  I am noticing a conspicuous absence of racing pulses, sweaty upper lips, public transportation anxiety -- all those things that were endemic for the first two years after two skyscrapers were knocked out of our skyline.

And the wonder of it all is that this seems to be an actual legit arrest, and not some idiot asshole suborned into a "plot" by an unscrupulous informant with weed and fortified wine.  Zazi was (allegedly) not wondering when he'd get a uniform -- he was fixing to blow shit up until he got tipped off that the Feds were on to him.  And I'm chill about the thing, and I have not been the chill type in the past.

It's like it's 2000 all over again.  Which may be a reason for 9-12 types to hate us for our apostasy, but it's nice to see the city's nerve return.

(To be fair, I can think of one friend who freaked out a little, but I will not name her out of magnanimity.  I mean, him or her.)

Posted by mrbrent at 12:55 PM

"sweet scam" -- that's a good one

Two things are fascinating about the ongoing efforts of the high fructose corn syrup industry to push back against the general ickyness of HFCS:  First, they have made so much money that they can support an entire arm of the advertising industry with their regularly retooled advertising campaigns.  Second, there is nothing that they can do to change my mind on HFCS, because they do protest too much, and because my mouth can tell the difference.

There was a new full-page ad in the NYT today, much like the last one, but this time with a different online outreach, and with a different innocuously-named non-profit that funds the venture -- the Center For Consumer Freedom, which is a food/beverage/tobacco lobbying organization that has supported in the past such things as payday loans, high mercury levels in fish and obesity.

Which really is all you need to know if you're at all tempted to counter-argument on the merits: the buyer of the ad has previously supported payday loans, mercury levels in fish and obesity -- not company I'd want my sweetener to keep.

But nice try, HFCS capos, and please keep my copywriter friends in business.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:24 AM

good morning 9.29.09

I'm swiping this from a friend's thinking-out-loud, but if there is concern that the lessons of the most recent financial collapse have not yet sunk in, then maybe we should just reinstate Glass-Steagall?  Or, better yet, chant, "Bring Back Glass-Steagall!!" at sporting events or while waiting for the bus.  Maybe re-prohibiting banks from dabbling in the investment business would discourage dumb behavior.  Actually, it would prohibit dumb behavior, which would be more fun, as the banks are clearly demonstrating that if you keep them in business with tens of billions of taxpayer money, they will thank you and then proceed as they had before, unhindered.

But it's just a quick thought and we're not allowed to talk about what caused the last collapse, right?  We're supposed to sit around unemployed and applaud the rebounding of the stock market.

It's the morning and I'm thinking less clearly than usual.  What caused the collapse, as everyone knows, was overregulation, and the conversation has moved on anyway.

So please let's not bring back that swell of populism that was peaking about seven months ago -- we have jobs, and weekends in which to relax, and no time for muddle-headed timewasters.  Just do what the banks want and nobody gets hurt.

Good morning, Soylent Green!

Posted by mrbrent at 8:00 AM

September 28, 2009

all right let's go there

Here's some small news that tragically inaccurate interrupter Rep. Joe Wilson still enjoys his fifteen minutes back in South Carolina:
Wilson handed out "Let's Go Joe" stickers, while club members circled around and showered him with support.  Many noted the array of signs for him at recent rallies and at the TEA Party March on Washington on Sept. 12.

I know that the race discussion (argument?) is weeks old and now off the radar, but it's difficult to imagine Wilson's well-wishers not saying things like, "You shore did tell that boy a thing or two," which is why people like me keep talking about race being an issue.  And of course there is no evidence of any boy-saying down there in SC, but if you have a certain knowledge of how the world works, it is not specious to say that it is nearly implausible that that sentiment does not exist, if not voiced in front of a reporter's notebook.

That's just anecdotal on my part -- having been born south of the Mason-Dixon Line and having relatives who certainly have a racial dislike of Obama.  And it's also not to say that all who disapprove of the administration do so because the president is a black man.  But South Carolina?  Rock-starring some idiot because he broke House protocol on national television?  There is a certain amount of walking and talking like a duck going on.

Whether I'm right or wrong in applying Glenn-Beck logic to the situation and "feeling like" something is true: no amount of personal fame that befalls Rep. Wilson will make what the president was saying when he was interrupted a lie.

Posted by mrbrent at 6:16 PM

good afternoon, i guess, 9.28.09

From now on there will only be placeholder posts!  And I will change the name of the blog to "Placeholder", or something belying my willingness to cling to bad writing habits, like "Placeholdy".

I just got off the road and was filled with small amounts of guilt all morning for being tardy, both w/r/t this little bit of digital real estate and my job, which I have a more reciprocal relationship with.  And then I get to the desk and they tell me that no one is here because it is Yom Kippur, and I work in an industry that largely observes Yom Kippur (and should probably do so more vigorously).

And now here I am, doing whatever for whatever's sake.  And I see that Roman Polanski is a trending topic?  Does this mean that we now have to explain who Roman Polanski is to everyone?

Maybe "Placeholdings".

Posted by mrbrent at 3:23 PM