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April 3, 2010

coreys drive my opinions

Choire Sicha went a long way in convincing me that I do not want an iPad:
And if I wanted to have a gigantic iPhone that doesn't make phone calls, and basically looks like a thumbprint and hand grease analyzer, well I'm sure that SAMSUNG makes a product that suits my needs.

And then Cory Doctorow pushed me over the edge:

Gadgets come and gadgets go.  The iPad you buy today will be e-waste in a year or two (less, if you decide not to pay to have the battery changed for you).  The real issue isn't the capabilities of the piece of plastic you unwrap today, but the technical and social infrastructure that accompanies it.

If you want to live in the creative universe where anyone with a cool idea can make it and give it to you to run on your hardware, the iPad isn't for you.

If you want to live in the fair world where you get to keep (or give away) the stuff you buy, the iPad isn't for you.

Never been an Apple guy even though I've always thought that they make beautiful objects.  I've been distrustful of layers of mediation between the user and the actual technology (cars: manual transmission, please), and the cult that grew up around their products is off-putting to say the least.  This is not to say that there will not be an iPad in the household, as there is more than me in the household, and I will surely play with it and think it's neat.  But getting one for myself seems like drinking Kool-aid, a flavor of which that is not delicious at all.

Posted by mrbrent at 2:07 PM

April 2, 2010

quayle: i'm back, still stupid

Hey, Dan Quayle's back!  And he has some very important ideas concerning Tea Parties and the like.  Here's one:
A close look at the tea party membership will find many of those independents who went for Obama but now regret it.

That's an interesting proposition.  So these screamy indignants, with their racist signs and their abiding suspicion that the president was not born in this country, "went for" Obama?  I guess I'd need to see some documentation on that to buy it.  How about this:

Though nearly three-quarters of tea party supporters identify themselves as Republicans, according to a recent Quinnipiac University poll, 40 percent of them are open to voting for a third-party candidate of their own.

That's Quayle, a couple of paragraphs later.  So now we know where these apostate Obama supporters came from: the one-quarter of TPiers who are not self-identified Republicans.  It may sound crazy, but it's not.  It's merely stupid.

Quayle goes on to allege that Ross Perot cost him a second term (was it Perot that said, "Read my lips, no new taxes?"  I forget), and generally gives a big fat sloppy kiss to TPiers in general, who sound a lot more noble, wise and just when described by Quayle (or David Brooks).  It's very edifying, if you like the idea of pre-pleading with your captors just in case.

Funny — I think the overall opinion of Dan Quayle as a dumbass was softened somewhat by eight years of a presidency by a man that many held to be dumber than Dan Quayle, by a man who was certainly more gaffe-prone that Quayle.  I guess Quayle is not content to let his dumb-assery rest quietly in the dust-bin of history.

Posted by mrbrent at 12:12 PM

good morning 4.2.10

So I made it through the first of April without any rise of the machines nonsense, which was a relief, and after a commute of agonizing over whether to pick up breakfast and deciding not to, I arrive at the office to find a fridge full of hors d'oeuvres from a cocktail party last night.

Which means I was correct in not getting breakfast, as I will be spending the day in Boarder House Reach heaven.  And now, the sun seems to be shining harder, and the news seems newsier.

This Friday is a go.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:06 AM

April 1, 2010

april 1 2010

I have a significant feeling that any April foolishness today will take the form of machines vs. me.  Already the server at work is pranking the entire company, and it seems like every cache in Internetland is on a time delay.  Remind me not to try to operate any motor vehicles.

Hey, has there been a Hollywood actioner that used April Fool's Day as the inciting action?  Like a combination of "War Of The Worlds" and, I dunno, "The Siege"?  Like maybe an evil Adrian Pasdar blows up the New York Public Library but no one believes it because it's April 1 and heroic rookie Fed Shia LaBeouf has to race against time (and his crippling stutter) to convince influential web gossip writer Elizabeth Moss to evacuate the Central Park Boathouse before Pasdar (and his lead heavy Charles Barkley) release the nerve toxin.  Has there been a movie like that?

Sorry.  Just killing time until that bitch goddess technology snaps at me again.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:13 AM

March 31, 2010

big pharma: making money off breast cancer

Just to contextualize yesterday's news of pushback against patents on human genes, please read this excerpt from a Jim Dwyer NYT column:
After receiving patents on the genes, Myriad permitted researchers to test anonymous specimens. However, if individual women wanted to learn if they carried the mutations that raised risks for breast and ovarian cancer, Myriad insisted that only its labs test them, at a cost of $3,000, according to Dr. Harry Ostrer, director of molecular genetics at NYU Langone Medical Center. In Canada, where the patent is not honored, the test is available for under $1,000, Judge Sweet noted.

So you can see, there are some stirring real-world implications to this conflict.  While I'm sure Myriad would like to be able to corner the market on that specific genetic test for breast cancer, this preference is clearly in opposition to the general welfare, of women particularly, in this case.

And seeing that I have a mom and a sister and a wife, I'm gonna have to side against Big Pharma on this one.

Posted by mrbrent at 1:18 PM

why i shouldn't troll the rightwing

For no other reason than my own stupidity, I listened to a little bit of Glenn Beck's radio program.  So many folks get so much mileage out of reading The Corner or monitoring Rushbo for his latest "some of my best friends are black but..." that I figured, hey, maybe something worth talking about will come across.

It was a guest host, so no crying.  But the guest host smells a rat in the arrests of the Crazy Jesus Militia, thinks that maybe the authorities are trying to stifle dissent.  Which led to a caller from Connecticut who apparently had a thesaurus in his lap who thought that the arrests of the Crazy Jesus Militia were like "Minority Report" because everything they're accused of they didn't do yet!  And so we should defend them vigorously, or at least right-thinking people should do so.  And then the guest host didn't say anything like, "Well, criminal conspiracy is actually a crime, as is planning a murder," or, "We're all entitled to our opinion but I don't want anyone to think that I or Glenn Beck agree with you."  He thanked the caller for the call, and then talked more about that rat he smells.

So yeah I have something to talk about but am plunged into depression.  I need to get my dander up or my Wednesday is sunk.

Meanwhile, Choire Sicha had an analogous experience with NYC tabloid commenters.

Ahh, people.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:54 AM

March 30, 2010

gene patenting setback

It's not a topic that I'm totally up-to-speed on, like bees or sausage gravy, but the patenting of human genes is one of the topics that I've been meaning to immerse myself in.  Because, just on the face of it, it's a little bit alarming.  Decoding the genome, well, that's alarming too — but the idea that the genes uncovered by such decoding could be subject to patent, could in a sense be owned by the discoverer, is an idea a bit too dystopian to be comfortable with.  And a little bit outside of the practice of science, as Newton didn't exactly try to own gravity, and Einstein didn't try to prevent anyone else from working with relativity without cutting him a royalty.  And these are human genomes we're talking about, which will presumably have some impact on medicine, which would kind of place them in the public interest?

So it was unexpected good news to read that a District Judge invalidated some Big Pharma biotech patents, on the grounds of, "You patented what?"  Of course this is one little tiny decision, which will no doubt be reheard and kicked down to DC eventually, to a Supreme Court potentially friendlier to the free-market business interest in being able to own a naturally-occurring substance contained in that very same helix you are using as you read this, on a microscopic level.  But it least it's an actual fight now, and not just some science nerds muttering.

But we have hit the point where science fiction is colliding more robustly with the present, revealing that our corps of writers and futurists have not prepared us to deal with the legal ramifications of the jet packs and the rocket cars.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:11 AM

tv weathermen!

This may be jumping some intermediate logical gulfs directly into the final one, but I say it's time to declare TV weathermen as a definable subset of Tea Partiers.

I submit this as Exhibit A — a story of how TV weathermen are huffing and puffing because climatologists won't be nice to them, so therefore climate change is hogwarsh!

Think about it.  The Tea Partiers and TV weathermen share some basic traits, like self-importance, righteousness, irrelevance and off-the-rack suits.  Both groups of people are obviously experts in whatever field they declare, whether civic tax structure, climate change or heating/ventiliation/air-conditioning maintenance and repair.  So if they have not met yet, they should, because they would get along famously, if you know what I mean.

I know that the TV weathermen are sensitive, so in case they think I'm making fun of them, I give them a link to this beautiful song, just for them.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:24 AM

March 29, 2010

eric cantor: retard found!

So now Eric Cantor has an actual arrest of someone threatening him, instead of a stray bullet through a window of an rarely used room in an office outside his district.  I guess now he's not a feckless hypocrite!  Sure, blaming Democrats for the wave of vandalism and threats that befell them in the wake of the passage of health care reform might've seemed feckless, but now that a man saying he'd kill Cantor is in custody, he is in fact full of feck.

But actually, it turns out that the crazy threatener has not exclusively threatened Cantor.  That link goes to TPM, which is cautious in the journalistic sense.  But it is Wonkette's Ken Layne that really captures the moment:

Anyway, nice digging, Eric!  Hope you paid your staffers overtime for combing fucking YouTube all weekend looking for a retarded person who mentioned your name.

Eric Cantor is a piece of shit, and absolutely without feck after all.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:40 PM

benen on the safety net and its malcontents

Now this is just heartbreaking — Steve Benen points out a family, dual unemployed, trying to scrape together cash to deal with the wife's breast cancer, that nevertheless is quoted as virulently opposed to health care reform:
The point isn't to mock the Townsends or to question their judgment.  The point is to appreciate the power of conservative political rhetoric in 2010.  Many of those who stand to benefit from a stronger safety net have been led to believe they want a weaker one.  Many of those who'll finally be able to get better care under a health care system that's been screwing them over have been convinced that they won't, or can't, benefit from reform.

Tricking people into voting against their own self-interest has been the primary accomplishment of the Republican Party of the past thirty years.  It just kills me when the self-interest being voted against is literally life-or-death.

Posted by mrbrent at 2:23 PM

tribulation force failure

Perhaps the most charming thing about lawless Christian militia groups, drowning in blinding eschatological fervor, is the utter banality of their insidious plots:
The Hutaree members allegedly "planned to kill an unidentified member of local law enforcement and then attack the law enforcement officers who gather in Michigan for the funeral.  According to the plan, the Hutaree would attack law enforcement vehicles during the funeral procession with Improvised Explosive Devices with Explosively Formed Projectiles, which, according to the indictment, constitute weapons of mass destruction."

Nothing wrong with some dudes getting together because they share a belief that some spooky ghost man is gonna call the faithful to heaven, leaving some other of the faithful behind so that they can deal with years of bad stuff before the second coming of this other spooky ghost man.  With that belief shared, the dudes probably have a lot to talk about, especially since they happened to also share an enthusiasm for firearms.

So they're armed, they're trained, they have lots in common including a Messianic urge to Make A Difference, and the best they can come up with is, "Kill some cops, and then kill more cops at the funerals?"  That's not a plan to save the world, that's a Disgruntled Local Revenge Fantasy.  That's a little more F-Troop than it is Tribulation Force.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:32 AM

March 28, 2010

sarah palin hurts my ears

I'm as bored with Sarah Palin as everyone, but if she's gonna America's Sweetheart herself into leading the armed insurrection, can someone do something about her voice?  No, not her normal voice, but that contorted screech that rips itself from her throat when she's addressing her hordes.  It's like fingernails pulling my fillings down a chalkboard while they're still in my mouth.

The by-product of my unused acting training is that I know that one's voice does not have to sound like that.  A few quick lessons and she'll be purring like Kathleen Turner and not braying like a donkey with tea bags on its ears.

Though maybe her hellish caterwaul is the secret of her mind-control appeal — a dogwhistle for the dumb-asses.  We wouldn't want to deprive her of that.

Didn't she get a communications degree from one of the eight colleges she went to?  For fuck's sake.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:21 PM

lehmann in the baffler

Go read Chris Lehmann's piece in the Baffler for a nice Sunday read.  It's all about the right's war against the New Deal.  Its long and well-researched, which is why it's in the Baffler and not Newsweek.  Which is to say, of course, that it should be in Newsweek.

Lehmann draws an early comparison of New Deal denialism to Creationists, which is particularly apt — both arguments are basically reiterations of, "The world is actually flat," and not in the Tom Friedman sense.  And it is the jaw-dropping stupidity of campaigning against the social safety nets effected by the New Deal that flummoxes the great majority of the thinking classes so.  For the past six months, "The New Deal failed," has been repeated all over the place, by the Jim DeMints of the world and the cable news channels that favor them, and it doesn't seem like many are taking the time to push back on that.  In a way, it's brilliant — an argument-changer.  If only it weren't a fantasy it might gain some traction.

So much, in other words, for the talking point that now commands such universal assent on the right: “The New Deal didn’t work.”  And yet there it sits, a grand unexamined fallacy that the movement invokes as though, with just enough repetition, it could banish not just the possibility of emergency government intervention in a failing economy, but invalidate the entire seven-decade legacy of the New Deal.

Lehmann actually does the heavy lifting, clearly and assiduously laying the facts out: the New Deal worked, unless by "worked" you mean "perpetuate insane wealth inequity and a means-less and inescapable worker class".

Posted by mrbrent at 2:05 PM