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March 26, 2010

nyt whiffs on domestic terrorism

This NYT headline strikes me as more than a little specious:
Accusations Fly Between Parties Over Threats and Vandalism
Urm, as I read it, and I mean as I read the actual story actually printed, that is only very tenuously accurate.  So a bunch of yahoos bust up some Democratic offices, leave death threats, try to burn a Virginia representative alive in his home, which leads the Democrats asking that the GOP maybe not inflame their base so.  I guess that counts as an accusation.

But to fulfill the false equivalency, they report what constitutes the Republican accusation:

But some Republicans accused Democrats of using the issue for political gain.

That's a pretty fucking weak-ass accusation by any measure.  And it's not the job of the NYT to be a smart-ass loudmouth like me, but I would like to think that there is some sort of laugh test that can be applied to the clown-ass statements from elected officials that, if not passed, requires comment.

And ultimately, is the story the "accusations" flying, or the threats and the vandalism?

Posted by mrbrent at 2:33 PM

men at work

So we were out after seeing a particularly excellent Vampire Cowboy production of "Alice In Slasherland" (which you should go see, if you can still get a ticket), and while we were watching Kansas St./Xavier this song came on and I knew what it was immediately even though I hadn't heard it in twenty-five years easy.  It was "It's A Mistake" by Men At Work, and it was good.

So then this morning I looked up the video, for the purposes of maybe sharing, at which point I was reminded that "It's A Mistake" was one of those 80s Russians-loving-children-too songs, which makes the video a little bit jarring if you are too seeped in now.  But you gotta remember that in the early 80s the last duck-and-cover drills were being conducted in public schools and the teachers, having lived through the heart of the Cold War, all had some pretty indelible opinions on nuclear war that they were more than happy to share with us kids.  So the video's a little bit goofy, yeah, but it was a goofy time and I swear to God that 75% of music videos at that time were pantomimes of the song lyrics.

The big lessons for me from this: "Cargo" is an entirely under-appreciated album.

Posted by mrbrent at 2:12 AM

March 25, 2010


OK, maybe this is a gimme.  I forget which law enforcement arm is tasked with protecting members of Congress, but with regards to the fuckwits who have been faxing nooses to members , I have a hot tip:

Just knock on the doors of the twenty-five people who still use fax machines.  Or maybe just save time and leave a message on their pagers.

Not to tell anyone how to do their job, of course.

Posted by mrbrent at 6:00 PM

new nullifiers

E.J. Dionne succinctly explains the underlying principles and historical precedents behind the efforts of state attorney generals suing the federal government to prohibit the implementation of health care reform on a state level:
The Republican attorney general's move reveals how far into the past America's New Nullifiers want to push the nation.  They don't just want to abandon a seven-plus-decade understanding of the Constitution's interstate commerce clause that has allowed the federal government to regulate a modern, national economy.  They also want to resurrect states' rights doctrines discredited by President Andrew Jackson during the Nullification Crisis of the 1830s and buried by the Civil War.

The Nullification Crisis referenced was the state of South Carolina objecting to a tariff thought to benefit Northern farmers, which objection was met by President Jackson issuing an oh-no-you-don't proclamation, and Congress passing the Force Act, which kind of an oh-no-you-don't-we-dare-you.

So basically, to unpack this even further, what the Virginia Attorney General (who is getting poster-boyed over this and the spelling of whose name I will need to memorize) and the other, less publicity-hog AGs are trying to do is refight the Civil War.  It might not be intentional, but do you think the GOP braintrust actually meant to create a Tea Party movement?

Posted by mrbrent at 10:59 AM

March 24, 2010

student loans are what?

This is all anecdotal, so forgive me.

But while cooking I caught a healthy portion of some public radio and found out, to my delight, that the student loan reform (whereby the government loans directly instead of guaranteeing loans made by private banks, who keep all the profit) was packaged with the health care reform bill.  That's good news!

But then the program went into the "panel" portion, where someone for the student loan reform would speak, followed by someone against, etc., etc.  And the arguments made by the againsts were like, "Students won't have the freedom to choose from free market options," and, "Liabilities held by private loaners were kept off the national debt."  And what I was waiting for, and what didn't happen, was for someone to respond, "What the FUCK are you talking about?"

I don't know if that's a failure of the program and its host, or a failure of the speakers for, but what the FUCK were they talking about, what patent sophistry was that shit?  Most importantly, how much yammering could the againsts have managed if someone, anyone, would say, "What the FUCK are you talking about?  You are bought and paid for by the private financial services industry, who was given billions in free money when they got the student loan business?  What rational argument can you make other than that your paymasters would like to keep their free fucking money?"

I know it's not the world we live in, and that even public radio must indulge in the false equivalencies that all the other news outlets march lockstep with.  But if the president can pass health care reform, maybe we can set our sights on a healthy round of What The FUCK Are You Talking Abouts.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:02 PM

hcr: fun's over

OK guys, it was fun while it lasted, but maybe we should think about repealing that big socialist health care reform bill?

I mean, is there anything that could more clearly demonstrate the undivided will of the people, whose consent is the very nature of our governance, than sporadic but increasing instances of domestic terrorism?

Is there nothing that could convince us of the error of our ways, imposing our pinko wills through the insidious mechanism of majority vote, than a bunch of property damage conducted under cover of night?

Surely you were bullied as I was, as a child, because you like me are not a good American.  Shouldn't we just give them our lunch money and take our swirlies like the sissies we are?

Well, "them" — not sure who "they" are, because they didn't exactly sign their names.  Which is a sign of strength and not cowardice!  Right?

Posted by mrbrent at 5:19 PM

ask ken layne

Hey, Ken Layne has an advice column!  And this entry speaks to me specifically and personally.  Some poor soul asks Layne a question about how the poor soul is a paralegal and no longer wants to be a paralegal and wants to write.  (It was not me, I swear.)  And Layne's answer is comforting, a retroactive justification:
There is just not a hell of a lot of use for any of us, not here, not in America.  You want to write?  Fine, write.  Write volumes, write sci-fi masterpieces, literary spectaculars, ironic memoirs and footnoted post-post-modern 600-page monstrosities.  But do something else for money, for sanity — Sarah Palin got all the remaining advance money, anyway.  A writer may be a small step above the person who codes websites or makes “interactive apps” or causes the iPhone to fart when you walk by a cripple, but that’s not enough to die with dignity.  And we all need more dignity.

That poor paralegal kid who asked that question is totally gonna be a writer now.  Way ta go, Layne.

Posted by mrbrent at 2:46 PM

gop concern trolling

Josh Marshall is usually more circumspect than this.  With regards to the GOP pushback to all things health care reform by ominously warning the listener that Things Will Go Poorly In November, Marshall takes off the gloves and speaks in the imperative voice:
Make the arguments on substance.  Not about how the bill filing wasn't filled out with a No. 2 pencil or whatever other nonsense.  They may not realize this: but the Republicans can't run on how bad Reform is going to be for the Dems politically.  That's very meta, to put it mildly.  You can't be so transparently cynical with your riffs that they don't even make sense on their own terms.  They need to run on repeal.  So, enough.  The terms of the 2010 election are set.  Stop puffing and threatening, shut up and bring it on.

OK, he careens wildly in and out of the imperative voice, but you get the idea.

I'm sure that the consensus to warm Democrats on diminishing electoral prospects was the result of the work product of highly-paid consultants, intended to frighten the less progressive members of the majority into thinking twice.  It's the equivalent of the time out to ice the kicker, I guess.  But there really is a vast logical disconnect — wouldn't the GOP hope and pray that the Democratic Party would damage their reelection chances?  Isn't that the sole plank of their campaign at this point?

And for what it's worth, "concern troll" is one of those neologisms that I find extraordinarily useful.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:44 AM

March 23, 2010

welcome to your new gilded age

Jerome a Paris notes that the Economist is having a face-slap moment, as research reveals that the recovery isn't as widely popular as people-who-read-the-Economist would have hoped, at least amongst those of us on the have-not side of the income inequation.  Yes, the economy is growing, but sadly wages are falling, which means that the benefit derived is not going to any of us ham'n'eggers:
So, in other words, profit growth is now larger in absolute terms than value creation. I've been writing about "wealth capture not being wealth creation" and here we have figures that unambiguously show that at least one third of current profit growth is pure parasitism, coming from changing how the pie is shared rather than from a growing pie.

"But, but, that's how free market capitalism works.  And if you don't like it, improve yourself and go suck your own portion of equity out of the world."  I'm projecting of course.  Actually, the jury is out on whether the Economist is shocked that such a thing could happen or shocked that kayfabe has been blown.

Posted by mrbrent at 1:57 PM

more high fructose corn syrup

Here is another research article demonstrating the unfitness of high fructose corn syrup as an ingredient in every food you ever eat ever:
In addition to causing significant weight gain in lab animals, long-term consumption of high-fructose corn syrup also led to abnormal increases in body fat, especially in the abdomen, and a rise in circulating blood fats called triglycerides.  The researchers say the work sheds light on the factors contributing to obesity trends in the United States.

This may come as a shock, but I think that, anecdotally, you don't have to be Jamie Oliver to notice that Americans are appreciably fatter now than they were when you were a kid.  Not that people weren't fat then — I was born in West Virginia, where stout was just a by-product of age and a ridiculous appetite was spit in the eye of poverty.  But they did not have mobility chairs back then, and remaining ambulatory was considered good moral hygiene.

And it was the latter decades of the last century in which HFCS began to replace actual sugar as a sweetener, eventually becoming ubiquitous.  Coincidence?  Cause and effect?  Whichever: I'm on record being suspicious of HFCS, and this latest research is not making me feel any better.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:08 AM

March 22, 2010

maud newton attracting the ire of palin

Stop what you're doing right now and go read Maud Newton in the Awl, wherein she does the heavy lifting and unpacks Sarah Palin's theological tendencies.  You may think you've read about all you can stomach about Palin, but this breaks new ground:
Viewed in light of all the End-Times mumbo-jumbo, Palin's retirement makes a certain amount of (addled) sense. Why settle for a mere governorship when you are meant to be Pre-Tribulation Queen of the Righteous as the United States government falls?

I've spent some time in the crazypants section of charismatic Christianity.  Not as much as Maud, but both as an impressionable years ago, and more recently writing a little thing based on "Left Behind", which is nothing more than a terrible thriller designed to sell millions to True Believers who are convinced that the End Times are now and hedging their spiritual bets as they stock up on supplies in case they don't make the Rapture cut.

So Maud is totally dead on, and the piece should be linked everywhere, so that the casual Tea Partier can get a whiff of the eschatological cuckoo-for-cocoa-puffs that Palin is steeped in.

Posted by mrbrent at 7:55 PM


Not sure if it's time for a final word yet, but the bloom of last night's action in the House (nicely described by Balk) is not yet gone.

There are a number of reasons that I don't like the bill passed.  In fact I wrote a thousand words or so last night, long-hand, including the personal anecdote involving the loved one who passed away with no help from insurance, etc. etc., but I decided that that is an Ace I'm gonna keep in the hole for now.

For all its flaws, I am happiest because of the amount of malicious, cynical and hypocritical political capital expended to prevent its passage.  Those efforts failed.  And now, as a by-product of this, there is a Bonus Army of fucking idiots staggering around, aggressively embracing ignorance, demanding something that not even they know.  Why, it's positively Frankenstienien!

So have some then, assholes that fecklessly fought this, and when assholes wearing teabags on their ears start killing innocent people — that's at your feet too.

Posted by mrbrent at 7:23 PM

actually, that is against the law

This is absolutely worth talking about — conservative basement-dweller tweets about killing the president, and then backpedals furiously as he realizes that calling for killing of the president is actually a crime in this nation.

I'm all for freedom of speech, though I am cognizant of the distinction between speech being protected from government interference and the freedom to say whatever you damn please.  Because you're not free to say whatever damn please.  You can't yell FIRE in a crowded theater, and, come to find out, you can't call for the assassination of the president, or the vice president, and some other folk.

But that's all what it is.  I doubt the dude was planning on it.  I mean, he tweeted it, so he's kind of a goofball to start.  The charges may or may not stand.  Mostly, dude should be dragged into court because he's saying stupid foolish things that are not based on reality.  That tree of liberty that needs to be watered?  It's supposed to be the "blood of tyrants", and not the blood of a president that you didn't vote for and now you're ANGRY.

Fortunately, it's not the job of the Secret Service to discern the philosophical foundation of crackpots.  Enjoy your fifteen minutes, @Solly_Forell.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:43 AM

March 21, 2010

health care reform

Fuck yeah.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:52 PM

westerberg on chilton

I went and saw a play last night with my best friend.  (Radiohole's latest, which you should always go see, though today is the last show of this run.)  And naturally the conversation turned to Alex Chilton at some point — she planted the Alex Chilton in my head way back before I ever paid it any attention, on account of this boyfriend she had back in high school, who was a Chilton FREAK and probably still is to this day.  And I got windy like I do when we're hanging out.  "Chilton was like John Lennon for us, for Gen-Xers, or for that specific subset of Gen-Xers we are.  Slack motherfuckers, let's call us," I said.  And we agreed, but then what does that make Paul Westerberg, we wondered?  I said that it makes him the Alex Chilton.  She said it makes him the Paul Westerberg.

But anyway, somehow the NYTimes got this: Paul Westerberg on Alex Chilton's passing.

Last word.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:19 AM