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January 22, 2010

if saying makes it so

I know it's been forever since I yanked a headline off of Yahoo!'s mainpage to bring some aspect of said headline to the general attention, but check this shit:
Despite Brown's big win, should the GOP still be nervous?

Dude, how many narratives are the American people supposed to keep in their heads?  And if all the mainstream media cannot agree on a narrative, then the world will remain unknowable to all the men and women out there looking for a simple declarative sentence (or sentence fragment!) to tell them what's happening everywhere.

The excellent thing is that the linked story is Politico content, which means that Dick Cheney and three other guys with the middle name "the" just piled into a late model sedan and are on their way to visit Politico with baseball bats and bicycle chains.

We'll see if the sentiment has legs.  If it does, you'll be able to tell by the, by the...  Nope.  You won't be able to tell, as it'll still be GOP triumphalism and Democratic hand-wringing.

Posted by mrbrent at 1:02 PM

i read dailykos so you don't have to

Here is a thing I learned today.

So like every good progressive loudmouth I've been quick and happy to note that one of the points where things went wrong was when the Supreme Court granted "personhood" to corporations and subsequent business entities.  Which is an outrage!  Because they carry none of the liabilities that actual persons do (like going to jail!  Etc. etc.!

Of course I was not well-versed in the actual history of it — that's Howard Zinn's job.  Eventually I learned enough to mumble, "Fourteenth Amendment," when pressed and then look imperious.

But a DailyKos post points to a blog reminding everyone that the actual decision granting personhood to corporations?  It was not so much a decision as it was a zealous stenographer:

Bancroft Davis.  Former president of a railroad company.  As the court reporter for the U.S. Supreme Court, he gave railroad companies a great gift in 1886 when he added a comment to the high court's ruling in a case involving the taxation of railroad properties.  And in so doing, this one man gave all corporations a great gift by inventing the pseudolegal doctrine of corporate personhood. Out of thin air.

So you see, it is not the activist judges that we need to be wary of as much as it is the activist court reporters.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:55 AM

haiti telethon

No, I will not be watching the Haiti telethon tonight.  I have other plans.

Also, I kinda think that in the face of world-shaking tragedy, like an earthquake or a tsunami, telethons are silly.  Yes, they raise awareness, yes, they raise money, but also, yes, they insert the egos of a whole bunch of artists somewhere between the viewer and the cataclysm.  Not all the artists — let's say three quarters of them.  The other quarter are genuinely trying to harness their celebrity for good.  But the majority of them, do you realize what this could do for their careers?

Like that friend of a friend you have, with the small theater company, and how watching the rubble in Haiti made them just know they had to put up a little benefit show?  That's just a person looking for an excuse to put up a show.  They're not a bad person.  Just a person that thinks that doing something they love to do but rarely get an opportunity to do for charity is somehow heroic.

I woke up cranky again.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:28 AM

January 21, 2010

secret history of congress

So here's a thing I missed yesterday while watching Rachel Ray make four kinds of fish tacos — a secret history of the past fifteen years of Congress, in the form of a letter from an anonymous staffer to TPM:
Even there, in a Democratic [Clinton] Administration, we faced constant battles as anything remotely beneficial to the public or in keeping with our mission was forcibly outsourced by the Congress or investigated into near-paralysis.  The Republican Majority in the House had steadily eroded so that by the end of the Clinton years they had only a 5 seat cushion (223) in the House, but their strong majority in the Senate (55) kept them firmly in control.  Then, when Bush took over in the wake of the most disputable election imaginable, the political appointees flooded in and began reversing policies (including policies promulgated by previous Republican administrations) as if they were exercising the overwhelming mandate of the people.

It is long and comprehensive very worth a read, but the key point in the pullquote is the phrase "remotely beneficial".

That I believe is not a concept that should be alien to legislation, especially when referring to the public good.  In fact, neither should the concept of the public good.

Posted by mrbrent at 2:11 PM

we are vicious bastards

So health care reform is dead.  Or something.  Everyone's freaking out about it, so it must mean something.

But I was thinking this: I admire the Administration for making this a top priority.  It is an unfathomably difficult reform to undertake, but the rationale is unimpeachable: there are millions of people who are uninsured and therefor receive substandard health care.  It is borne of the idea that we are judged as a nation by how we treat the least fortunate of us.  The argument that reducing health care costs will benefit the economy is valid, but I see it as cover for the more altruistic motive.  Reform may well go down in flames, as the deck was stacked against it from the get-go, but it was the right thing to do.

And why cover the more altruistic motive?  Because altruistic motives do not sell in this America.  I don't know if they ever did.  But we are not a generous or kind people, and it did not take much propaganda from business/insurance interests to convince the average joe that providing for everyone would be a violation of such average joe's own personal rights.  What rights?  Dunno.  The right to be greedy, and the right to not give a shit.  Or maybe the right to have a permanent underclass that the average joe can despise.

The reward for doing the right thing these days is non-existent.  In fact, imagine if the central goal of the past twelve months was not health care for all, but punishing the financial services bastards that have been sucking equity out of the economy for decades.  I wonder where the polls would be then.  Maybe that's something that Americans could have got behind — vengeance.

Posted by mrbrent at 1:14 PM

scott brown

I managed to be around a television yesterday afternoon and then promptly lost a bet with myself, meaning that I had to watch President of the Universe Scott Brown give his first post-special-election press conference.

And you know what?  Scott Brown is one amiable doofus.  You know, the kind of guy you might want to play bridge with if you didn't mind playing a couple open hands first so that he can try to remember the rules.  But he remembered all the bullshit about "changing Washington" and "driving a truck" so how dumb can he be?

But as long as we've lowered the bar of political service to "amiable doofus" then clearly Scott Brown is your dude, and I don't see why we're even bothering with a presidential election in 2012.

Posted by mrbrent at 12:40 PM

January 20, 2010

alex balk's flaming bag of shit

And if you like me might spend the day moping about the MA special election, then let Alex Balk cheer your day:
Why?  You're holding a flaming bag of shit and you're asking me why I filled it full of shit and set it on fire?  I was you I'd be figuring out a way to extinguish it rather than doing some kind of, what do you call it, searching moral inventory on how the bag came to be full of shit and set ablaze.  Lemme tell you something, kid, I've been around a while: People don't care why the bag is full of shit and on fire. They just want you to put it out.  All these questions: Why did you fill the bag full of shit?  Why on earth would you set it on fire? Why am I not helping you put it out?  Nobody gives a fuck.  You're holding the bag.  You took it from me.  You put it out.

And he's right too.  Oh, the GOP might beg to differ and say that they just care about winnin' elections and gettin' paid, and I'd respond that it's the same fucking thing — they don't care about the actual job of governance, and when they screw it up, the do-gooders will come and fix it so that the GOP can screw it up again.

Also please note that Alex Balk apparently has a moral sensibility to offend.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:30 AM


This new irony mark that you may have heard about?  It goes something like this:
Anyone concerned that the irony of their email or text message might not be appreciated by its recipient can use the symbol to close their sentence, thereby avoiding awkward misunderstandings.

For the record: dumb fucking idea.  Irony, and its little brother sarcasm, is a learned skill, and only practice makes perfect.  To have to designate one's irony would be like carting around one's own little LAUGH sign for use in telling of jokes.  And sometimes the difficulty the recipient has in discerning the irony is the point.

Plus, irony has long been a literary tradition and everyone muddled through without an extraneous punctuation mark just fine.

Also keep in mind that the little fucker is exclusively for sale (no link to the wicked selling it), so it's not like they're waiting for a tidal wave of usage to sweep it into the common parlance.  They're looking to make a buck off the irony-challenged.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:04 AM

ma sen

The Massachusetts special election was called while I was driving, and I've avoided the radio/TV news and the Internet news since then.

It's depressing as shit, and not because of losing a supermajority in the Senate.  It's depressing because at this point in history the more viable candidate is the one is for blind nihilism and not for an actual legislative agenda.  I talk about how stupid people are all the time (because I believe it!) but part of me hopes I'm overstating and that I'll eventually be proven wrong.  Not so much.

And I'm not implying that a vote for Brown was a vote from a stupid person.  I'm saying it out loud.  I'm averring it, and I will send it to you on a postcard if you give me your address.

But mostly I feel like this election was not a referendum on the Obama Administration as much as it was on the legacy of Ted Kennedy, and I can't help but think that there are some hateful old fuckers up in the Commonwealth that have been waiting fifty years for this day.  For the record, these hypothetical old fuckers are stupid too.

It is sad, but in another sense: more rope.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:21 AM

January 19, 2010

the poe toaster

Aw man.  First The Awl has to go there over the fact that time passes and if you are lucky enough not to die the rearview mirror looks further and further back, and then I hear that for the first time since 1949, no roses and no bottle of cognac were left at the grave of Edgar Allen Poe on the anniversary of his death.

I find that incredibly depressing.  I mean, no need to talk about the scale of depressing in light of the unyielding churn of human events, but a world in which the Poe-Toasting tradition dies like this... it's like civilization loses a little something, or it's one less cool thing to tell your kids about, or one less twinkle in the eye.


Posted by mrbrent at 11:23 AM

good morning 1.19.10

Dude!  I had these dreams last night that were those wonderful, horrible dreams in which your dream life is marginally but materially better than your actual life, so you not only regret waking up but then spend the morning trying to not forget the dream while simultaneously feeling guilty for preferring a dream-version of your life to the one you're actually walking around in.

So I know there's all this stuff that I should be paying attention to but lemme just clear my head from this nostalgia for something that never was and/or shame.

So good morning, I guess.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:40 AM

January 18, 2010

dick ebersol's record

I think that the O'Brien/Leno mania has passed somewhat, thankfully (though I'm as guilty as anyone else), but I did want to link , which is a response to Dick Ebersol's attack on Conan from last week.  I thought Ebersol's comments a bit unseemly.  And the anonymous ex-NBC sports employee thought them hypocritical:
You want more? Since the start of 2000, NBC Sports under Ebersol's watch:

* Lost MLB rights
* Lost NBA rights
* Lost NASCAR rights
* Became shut out of broadcasting college Bowl games
* Hasn't broadcast a single college basketball game in a very long time

This does explain why Ebersol was so quick to carry NBC's water: it wasn't so much to defend the employer as it was as revenge for O'Brien's consistent references to the Olympics on NBC losing two hundred million dollars.

But whatever.  Them millionaires sure do know how to say mean things about each other.

Posted by mrbrent at 2:19 PM

happy mlk day

I think the most fitting way that I can personally observe MLK Day is to refrain from reading a single word of the book I am in the middle of, "Blood's A Rover" by James Ellroy.

It's not a bad book — in fact it's a very good book, so far — but given the plot and tone of the book, and given that the plot to assassinate MLK is backstory and the assassin is a character, I would feel incredible icky were I to pick up that book today.  I'm just superstitious like that.

But for the record, part of the reason I love Ellroy is because he writes books that make you feel like you did something wrong.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:59 AM

January 17, 2010

greenwald in a single tweet

Glenn Greenwald nails it with a single Tweet:
Answering own Q: RT @HowardKurtz Will "ask why media rarely care about Haiti, We'll also dissect Jay/Conan debacle & Palin"

I was going to use this as a segue into me personally being fatuous, all la-la-la-irony!  But looking it at like Greenwald puts it, or, more accurately, taking Howard Kurtz's words at face value, the fuck?  Reporting has never been a game in which the Vital Importance of a story is the paramount concern, but then again, think of the progeny of Upton Sinclair school of muckraking, who look at daylight as source of change.  Not that every news organization has to be like that, but how can an elder statesman (intentional exaggeration) like Howard Kurtz blithely put out a self-damning promo like that?  Shouldn't he be at least a little bit smarter than that?

We have our muckrakers today, of course, it's just that they're mostly unemployed (or at least "freelance") and wondering what a cubicle at TMZ might mean in terms of salary and benefits.

It's a long weekend — we can wring our hands a little and hope that some of the honest concern bleeds through into the workweek proper.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:02 AM

atm skimmer

In case you weren't feeling bad enough about everything else: immediately forgo your ATM habit, as what are known as "ATM skimmers" have become so sophisticated as to render them undetectable to the average you-or-me.

And here's a thing I didn't know but makes perfect sense: I had always thought that skimmers would scan your card, much like the actual ATM does.  But why go through all that trouble when all the information needed is printed on the card.  So the new skimmers are about as big as a tie clip, and good luck spotting a good one.  (Bad ones are still easy to find: look for a camera duct taped to the screen with a sign that says "MUNEY CARD HERE!!")

I suggest we either move to a barter economy, or panic.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:46 AM