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March 20, 2010

surowiecki whiffs

So I tried to read James Surowiecki's column on populism with an open mind, considering his long career, but it didn't pan out.  I was directed to this brief entry by a mass market blog, which suggested the Surowiecki as an antidote to a Fox News story on voter panic at the disco.  So I clicked.  And I kept my credulity in check right up until I read, in the last graph, this:
(The movement that today’s populism most closely resembles is Ross Perot’s, which arose, similarly, during a downturn.)

About the only way that the Tea Party resembles the Perotistas is that they both claim to be outside the two-party system, and they both are peopled by bipeds.

I, like James, am old enough to remember Ross Perot and the invisible robot in his teeth that told him that he was going to get under the hood of government, and I distinctly don't remember Perot voters hanging tea bags off their ears and taking work off to scream nonsense that cannot be supported by rational thought at elected officials.  Perotistas were certainly interested in a protest vote, in upsetting the "status quo", but they were fifty percent less inchoate than the TP, and entirely without the paranoid know-nothingism and the crypto-racism that fuels the TPers.

The populist movements that most closely resemble the Tea Party are ones that we are forbidden to reference in conversation because it is not fair — movements that did bad things and are not remembered fondly.

It might not be the dumbest thing ever written by a writer on the Conde Nast payroll, but it is remarkably dumb.

Posted by mrbrent at 12:20 AM

March 19, 2010

tp is a useful acronym, yes?

Steve Benen points out a survey that was taken of Tea Partiers to determine their expertise in the issues that they care so deeply about as to raise their voices and feel very very entitled:
Indeed, it appears much of the Tea Party crowd is simply clueless about the issues they claim to care the most about, wildly exaggerating federal tax rates, how much a median family pays in taxes, and what's changed since President Obama took office.

Credit must be given for the pollster, going through all that work to verify something that is already known.  And the pollster was David Frum, who, as an ex-Bush speechwriter is hardly the very picture of Howard Zinnity.

But at least now when a TP claims that we Eastern liberal types just think those real Americans like the TP are just stupid — why, yes, yes we do.  And a bunch of guys are working on quantifying that.

Posted by mrbrent at 12:16 PM

hcr pushback: damn the motherless 11 year olds...

Here's a bit of hot fresh "Oh, world," for the Friday:
Marcelas Owens, whose mother got sick, lost her job, lost her health insurance and died, said Thursday he's taking the attacks from Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Michelle Malkin in stride.

"My mother always taught me they can have their own opinion but that doesn't mean they are right," Owens, who lives in Seattle, said in an interview.

Mr Owens is eleven years old.  In fact, Mr Owens is a motherless eleven year old.  Don't really give a shit about the whole "How dare they!" thing, mostly because it turns the argument away from the issue.  Which is basically that Mr Owens' mother died because private insurance companies find it profitable to not insure people like Mr Owens' mother.  Which is why I'll be happy if reform passes, but I won't truly be happy until each and every private insurance interest is put out of business, for good.

I guess I don't believe that you win an argument solely on the basis that you refrain from mocking motherless eleven year olds in the national media.  But what a bunch of fucking assholes.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:17 AM

March 18, 2010

global warming working

So when it's very cold, or it snows to excess, a chorus of, "There's your global warming!" arises, from everywhere from the line to buy a coffee all the way up to the United States Senate (like from noted scholar Jim Inhofe).  Because, you see, snow is not warm, and nor is, for that matter, cold.  And so how there be global warming if the temperature sometimes doesn't go up?

And then my question is, how is it that on days like this, when it is unseasonably warm, global warming triumphalists aren't piping up?  Obviously the answer is that people that accept the science that climate change is looming understand that daily variances in temperature are irrelevant to the entire question.

So it seems to me that this is emblematic of the hue and cry of the right — they are not interested in empiricism, they are interested in being right.  Somehow climate change has become not a possible threat to be evaluated, but a policy point that must be beat back to validate whatever constitutes the worldview of the right.

It makes me wonder if the old Bugs Bunny gag of

"Yes you are."
"No I'm not."
"Yes you are."
"No I'm not."
"Yes you are."
"Yes I am."
"No you're not."

...might work.

But nice day out here in NYC, hoo dog.

Posted by mrbrent at 1:11 PM

alex chilton and gibby haynes

From an otherwise noteworthy interview of exiting Harper's web editor Paul Ford, the best Alex Chilton anecdote of the day so far:
Paul:  My favorite tale is from Our Band Could Be Your Life, when [Chilton] shut down Gibby Haynes's rampage through the Netherlands:
Moments later a man entered the dressing room and asked if he could borrow a guitar.  “BORROW A GUITAR??!!!  WELL, WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU???!!! [Gibby Haynes of the Butthole Surfers] screamed, eyes flashing in delirious anticpation of forthcoming violence.  But the man was totally unfazed.

“I’m Alex Chilton,” the man answered calmly.

Haynes was flabbergasted.  After a long pause, he methodically opened the remaining guitar cases one by one and gestured at them as if to say, “Take anything you want.”

Also the best Gibby Haynes anecdote of the day so far.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:55 AM

alex chilton

Seems like everyone is playing the "Which Artist Turned Me On To Alex Chilton" game.  Me: The Replacements.  Obvious, I know, but that's me.

But Alex Chilton.  He taught our idols the kind of idol they wanted, or did not want, to be.  Fuck.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:52 AM

March 17, 2010

hiram monserrate's brave 4,000

And this is the last we get to write of Hiram Monserrate for the time being, as the widely-reviled, girlfriend-slashing douchebag failed to win back his State Senate seat in a special election yesterday.

Monserrate's comments were sadly non-inflammatory, but still delusional:

“We fought a hard-fought fight. It’s a testament to our community that we pulled 4,000 votes. What we showed here is that there’s an alternative to politics as usual in Queens.”

Monseratte is not just a man who slashed the face of his girlfriend, he is a man who dragged her to a hospital outside of his district after he did so, which is not the act of a non-douchebag.  And more importantly, he is a machine politician who treated his seat as a license to aggregate, repeatedly switching to the party of the highest bidder.  And once expelled, he campaigned like he was some kind of outsider that was going to bring a populist slant to Albany — something he never did back when he had the opportunity.  It was an obscenity.

Which is now happily in the rearview.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:13 AM

March 16, 2010

you can just shut the door on the shouty

Aside from the proliferation of signage at the Tea Party Down Whoo! event in DC today, this seems to be the most interesting thing that happened, as a group of kids disguised as Americans angry about their liberty being stolen played ding dong ditch in a congressional office building.  And then got all peeved when the offices being shouted at foiled the shouters by closing the door.

You can't just close the door on the American people, Congressman Liar!

Oh wait.  I guess you can.

Overall: disappointing, and I don't just mean the turnout.  More crazy please!  I'm bored.

Posted by mrbrent at 5:40 PM

tea party down whoo!

In case you have nothing better to look forward today, there's gonna be a big ole Tea Baggy protest against health care in Washington today:
This rally is being organized by the more establishment side of the tea party movement — or co-opted side, depending on your point of view.  The sponsors include the Tea Party Express, founded by Republican operatives in California, and FreedomWorks, the corporate-funded outfit run by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey.  Accordingly, the list of speakers is dominated by elected Republicans, albeit some of the more whacked members of the GOP caucus: Reps. Michele Bachmann, Marsha Blackburn, Joe Wilson, and Phil Gingrey.

Hey, I guess up there I was supposed to type "protest against health care reform".  What an inadvertently revelatory mistake.

Not that I would ever accuse them of a healthy imagination, but hopefully they do something more interesting that use their outside voice while the House GOP in attendance claim some grassroots legitimacy for having Dick Armey stage-manage a rally for them, so that we all have something to talk about during cocktail hour.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:18 AM

March 15, 2010

i need a transplant

If I was nifty with an iPhone (if I had an iPhone), I'd just link up the image, but, failing that, in the sidebar of "What's On Today" from the NYT TV listings:
10 P.M. (MTV) I NEED A TRANSPLANT  "True Life" follows a college student in search of a new kidney and a newlywed with leukemia in need of a bone-marrow transplant.

There's a time not long ago when that would be considered comedy writing.  But welcome to now.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:30 PM

glenn beck's eventual breakdown

It's nice enough that Alex Pareene draws a little more meat out of Howard Kurtz's piece on Glenn Beck and the shadow campaign of Fox News whispers against him.  Mostly because Pareene is a better read than Kurtz, and partly because any tugging at the mask of Beck is welcome:
Beck, though—this guy is only out for himself.  He inculcates in his audience not mere patriotic fervor, but a deep fear for Glenn Beck's personal safety.  The most important issue on Beck's program is not so much that the Democrats want to hurt America or keep you less safe or whatever (thought they do!), it's that shadowy, powerful forces will destroy Glenn Beck.

But really if you think about it, this may be one of the few times that a story can use fewer sentences to explain it instead of more.  Like, "Fox News plants story with Kurtz to cover ass in light of eventual Glenn Beck breakdown."  It's got a certain ring to it.

Posted by mrbrent at 2:30 PM

march modok madness

It is the Ides of March, and I'm remembering that I have not yet shilled March MODOK Madness, which is a once-a-year event in which visual artists of all stripes contribute depictions of and/or inspired by MODOK, who is a Marvel Comics villain that will probably not be in "Iron Man 2".

Take as an example of all the awesome this: page seven of Brendan Tobin's "The Maleficent MODOK" #1.  It's got that new car smell and I love it.  Pages one through six aren't so bad either.

And the other couple hundred iterations of MODOK are also great.  And if you are so inclined, you can make your own MODOK and the fellas will publish it.  How better to spend an Ides?

Posted by mrbrent at 11:10 AM

gm seeds

From an already-interesting NYT story from last week about a dramatic rise in seed prices, as caused by agribusiness cornering the market on genetic traits that they engineer into seedstock:
Today more than 90 percent of soybeans and more than 80 percent of the corn grown in this country are genetically engineered.

Not to say that genetically modified food is inherently bad.  But I would say that if something like a GM food takes a couple decades to develop its unintended adverse effect, then we're not at that point yet.  Also, as far as introducing GM crops into the environment, I'm reminded of Asian carp.

So how exactly how far away are we from the point when we try to remember what corn used to taste like?

And that is your scary thought for the day.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:56 AM