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April 17, 2010

colleen o'donnell memorial golf tournament

Today is the day of the 3rd annual Colleen O'Donnell Memorial Golf Tournament.  If I was a better person I would have been posting about this earlier and you'd all be here with your golf clubs, but I am not.  And I hear that we already have more golfers than will fit on the course.

And the super good news is that the driving rain that was here last night has cleared up, leaving perfect Scottish golf weather — partly cloudy with a stiff chilling breeze.  Not that I'm golfing.  I'm on the stand around and look busy crew, of which I am the president and founding member.  But it will be a good day here in the Lehigh Valley, and fun will be had for a good cause (which is a combination of cancer research and a scholarship at the school at which Colleen, my sister-in-law, worked at).

So please take a moment to consider a charitable donation to the appropriate party, because if there is something that most of us can agree on it's that cancer research is a worthy endeavor.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:51 AM

April 16, 2010

i am naive about nys lottery

Here's a curiosity.  I'm at the deli last night, picking up a bag of chips and some carrots for the Little Dog, and the deli man is busy with some teens, so I take a contemplative moment and look the case of scratch-off lottery tickets offered for sale.  Maybe I'd like to buy one, pay a little poor-tax, support the NYS school system.

And I'm examining them, how much they cost, what the max payout is, and then I notice way up top there were these supersized scratch-offs, like menu-sized.  Whoa, those were some big suckers, I thought.  They were for like a million bucks a year for life (top prize), which is a whole lotta cabbage.  And then I looked again and noticed that they were selling for thirty freakin' dollars.

These scratch-off and the Lotto and the Mega-Millions have become acceptable.  Maybe gambling in general is acceptable now.  But does NY State really need the equivalent of a fifty dollar minimum craps game available in every deli in every marginal neighborhood?  At what point does NYS just start taking bets like a bookie, let anyone put any amount of money down and high card wins?

Not to be a prude — I love sin! — but is there not something wrong with a thirty dollar scratch-off?  Obviously, there's no practical difference between that and buying thirty $1 tickets, but the messaging is all screwy: "Come on, hopeless person, why not be a high roller?  The end of your sixty hour weeks as a fry guy at the Golden Arches is only a couple of $30 tickets away!"

Posted by mrbrent at 12:57 PM

the other 95%

I missed this yesterday, but apparently DC was beset by placard-makers of all persuasions, as the Tax Day Tea Party party was briefly invaded by fans of Obama.  The genius name concocted by these fans is "The Other 95%", which is supposed to connote the 95% of Americans whose income tax burden was decreased, though I like to think of as more a reference to the amount of people who are not incoherent and yelly and obstreperous.  And I know it's not fair using facts and stuff to make fun of the Tea Partiers, and that the name of the group does not include "America" or "Liberty" or even evoke some hazy historic event, but it's gotta be nice to get out the house, hand with friends, etc.

And they have a website, which I'm including because they seem earnest enough and they are not muddle-headed and gibberishy like the Coffee Party.

I don't know if this is what the future holds — a public conversation embodied in bands of roving protesters trying to out-protest each other — but if it is, then that would be pretty nifty, and maybe a goose to the tired zombie talking heads he-saiding/she-saiding on the TV news.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:57 AM

April 15, 2010

well, "radar love" duh

Of course I'm grateful for the NYT polling of Tea Partiers and the insightful distillation thereof — there's nothing we need more than a Tea Party Everyman (White! 45! Upper Middle Class!) that is statistically correct and guaranteed to muddy any conversation because of the lack of resemblance the TPE has to actual Tea Party Members.  Where once you were under the impression that Tea Partiers (remember back when they were Tea Baggers, before they figured out what that meant?) said unfocused and dumb things and liked making offensive signs with colored markers and taking days off from work more than anything, now you find out that you were wrong wrong wrong.  In fact, the sea of placards that wouldn't let your children sea, and the inability of a single TPier to communicate a single coherent thought on the newsers, those are just outliers.

Because there was a poll.  And the poll said that they were smart.

One small criticism: any poll that does not ask the question, "What is the best rock and roll song for driving alone late at night?" is not a poll that I put a lot of faith into.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:49 AM

April 14, 2010

hot dog!

Dunno if this craze has hit your hometown yet, but this is Robert Sietsema writing on the hot-dog-ification of cuisine here in NYC.  It sounds implausible but it's true!  Haute dogs abound, locally sourced, tricked out like Ladies Night.  And Sietsema does not approve:
The glamorization of what used to be the substratum of the restaurant industry, and the escalation of prices for what were once working-class food, is the true blowback of the economic downturn.  And we've swallowed it hook, line, and sausage.

And I agree!  The little suckers are delicious (but spendy), but they represent a prole-fetishization which strikes me as icky at the heart of it.  Sietsema calls it a "bait-and-switch" — the hots (and the pizzas and the burgers) signal a modesty and a retreat from conspicuous consumption, but by the time you've put that Berkshire-truffle-house made fennel mustard gut bomb down your gullet, you realize the punchline: that tube steak was no more down-to-earth than the first Beef Wellington you had at your first white-tablecloth joint.

Gimme a Mark's Texas Hot Sloppy Plate every time.

Posted by mrbrent at 4:16 PM

gary stein: sorry, but

To follow up on the Marine Corps sergeant who is the head of the American Armed Forces Tea Party for American Americans, sarge has elaborated on his sentiments concerning just who he's working for.  Namely, he has no intention of disobeying orders from superiors, because he apparently does not want to start the Dishonorably Discharged Armed Forces Tea Party anytime soon.

But Sarge (Gary Stein, his name is) is not happy to let contrition stand unmolested:

[J]ust because we have volunteered to serve our country in a camouflage uniform we do not strip away our rights as Americans to express our opinion on the polices of the current or future administrations.

Actually, it is exactly because he has volunteered to serve his country that he waived his right to express his opinion, at least while in uniform.  I mean, duh.  Them's the rules Sarge volunteered to be governed by, so please, Sarge, quit yer cryin'.

And did he volunteer to serve his country in only a camouflage uniform?  I didn't know you got to pick.

Posted by mrbrent at 12:42 PM

coates on the ghost of bobby lee

If there was any justice, this essay by Ta-Nehisi Coates would be just about the last word on the intent/effect of the Confederate history dogwhistle.

It first drives a stake through the heart of the notion that the Civil War had nothing to do with slavery, citing multiple states' declarations of secession which explicitly reject the notion that all men are created equal, and then gives the diagnosis:

It's understanding that you come from a place that was on the wrong side of the Gatling gun.  It's feeling not simply like one of history's losers, but that you had no right to win.  The work of the mature intellect is to reconcile oneself to the past without a retreat into fantasy -- in either direction.  Claiming to be the descendant of kings and queens is just as bad as claiming to be thankful for the slave trade.

And then Coates internalizes the problem of the sins of the forefathers, and the questions of identity as a function of a history you had no control over:

The dead, and the work they leave -- the good and bad -- is the work of humanity and thus says something of us all.  And in that manner, I must be humble and claim some of Lee, Jackson, and Forrest.

It's a lot more gentle than it would seem to be (especially since it's launched by the premise that the conception of Robert E. Lee as opposed to slavery is incorrect), and it is very big-hearted.  Unreservedly recommended.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:59 AM

April 13, 2010

pareene on breitbart

God I hope that Alex Pareene keeps up the good work when he lands at Salon, because the dude is good.  From a post today concerning Andrew Breitbart's dogged insistence that Tea Partiers never say racist things:
Why is Dave Weigel smearing the Tea Parties with his direct quotes of things he heard them saying at a rally where Andrew Breitbart proved conclusively with video science that none of them were racist?

That sentence does not seem like much, but torturing cogent observations into hilarity is not as easy as it looks, I'm hear to tell you.  And Pareene bats something like .425, which are the kind of numbers all you fantasy baseball team managers would trample your family for.

Also, Andrew Breitbart: doucehbag oaf.

Posted by mrbrent at 4:39 PM

the fourteenth banker

Here is a site I am adding to my RSS: The Fourteenth Banker.  It is a blog run by an anonymous gentleman working in the financial services industry, which gentleman is having a crisis of conscience concerning the mutation of said financial services industry from a service industry into a sentient rapacious monster devouring capital at all costs.  From the About page:
In response to the comments of folks in the Congress and oversight regimes, I have created this blog as a home for bankers who need to speak out and do not have a central clearinghouse or a safe place to do so.  Big banks now treat their employees like property, bought and owned.  Typically employees must subject themselves to all sorts of potential sanctions, forfeitures of compensation, clawbacks and even lawsuits if they speak in ways we often have thought were protected speech.  I am not talking about revealing confidential customer or proprietary information, I am talking about simply commenting on a company, management philosophy, making general observations or raising concerns.

Is this not a little venture that you should be supporting with your eyeballs?  It's all way over my head, of course, but I hope to have a handle on it by the time the history books are written.

There is also an interview with the anonymous author here at HuffPo, which is very interesting but jam-packed with content-interrupting advertisements and parsed out over four pages to maximize clicking, so consider yourself warned.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:11 AM

armed forces tea patriots

With regards to this story, concerning US military officers looking to get their Tea Party on, lets look closely at the legitimacy of their arguments.  The new organization, the American Armed Forces Tea Party Patriots of America, is a group of servicemen who don't believe that military service should take away from their right to act politically and heckle congressmen and drink some of that good good inchoate.  In fact, the Marine who is reputedly the organizer is of the belief that active servicemen and -women are in a unique place to serve the American Tea Party of America movement:
My oath was to the Constitution, not to the politicians, and that oath will be kept.  I won't "Just follow" orders.  There is at this time a debate within the ranks of the military regarding their oath.  Some mistakenly believe they must follow any order the President issues.  But many others do understand that their loyalty is to the Constitution and to the people...

And that Marine is correct!  While enlisted men swear an oath that includes an "obey orders" provision, commissioned officers swear an oath that does not include that provision.  And since that Marine is a sergeant, he don't gotta obey.

Sadly, though, the oath sarge took isn't the only thing governing his behavior.  As referenced here, political speech in uniform is forbidden by USMC and DoD regulation, as restated in this message from the Commandant of the Marine Corps.  Additionally, I would question the fitness of a man to wear the uniform if he is indicating that he intends to disobey orders.  Not that I have any sway, and not even that I want Sarge to get kicked out.  I just want Sarge to be more circumspect given his day job.

There's a number of reasons why the military should stay out of politics (even politics I agree with), but primarily it's a question of discipline.  It's the very nature of the job (and it's a volunteer job, I might add) to respect the chain of command, especially these days when we are actually engaged in actual wars.

And the Tea Party looks like a lot of fun — just to be so self-confident and to bask in the moral high ground of the silent majority would be a freakin' blast.  But if Sarge and his fellow travelers really want to roll their sleeves up and buy Palin-Bachmann 12 t-shirts, they need to do so as private citizens, which they are not, currently.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:42 AM

April 12, 2010

good on you huntington

As much trash I talk on Huntington, WV, and WV in general (in conversation and here), credit where credit is due.  You see, Jamie Oliver ran a little program in Huntington (which was filmed for a TV show, airing now) wherein he tried to convince the community at large (pun intended) to change their eating habits, and more specifically, the eating habits of their children.  I found this a difficult proposition, given prevailing habits and/or general obstinance.  And the first episode or two seemed to reflect this.

But the Atlantic posts that (and spoiler alert, I guess?) actually progress was made:

As support mounted, the town began to make Oliver's project its own.  The kitchen Oliver built downtown has since been renamed "Huntington's Kitchen," with local charity Ebenezer Medical Outreach in charge of teaching residents how to cook healthy meals there. Patrick O'Neal, the principal of the elementary school featured in the show, has lost 15 pounds and adopted Jamie's Base Sauce—which offers a hefty serving of vegetables—into his family's dinner regimen.

That is happy news, and means that my cynicism was maybe unwarranted — which, as a cynic, is a sentiment I rarely get to type.

Posted by mrbrent at 2:33 PM

the south keeps rising over and over again

This is the best thing about the controversy surrounding southern Republican governors' efforts to wink at their more regressive base by invoking the Confederacy (which issue will not go away thanks to the careless words of Haley Barbour):

For decades now, there has been no issue so radioactive that the GOP could not flirt with it and then escape popular condemnation.  It has been a temerity problem — the cries of the opposing party and that small portion of the press that might refuse to accept something like blaming 9-11 on gays or calling John Kerry a traitor were never loud enough to escape the gravitational pull of he-said/she-said equivalency.  But now that the right wants to refight the Civil War, they've found a topic that no reasonable person can let escape comment.

It's not like Brian Williams will be saying, "At long last have you no shame?" anytime soon, but the notion that celebrating the Confederacy is not somehow offensive to about thirteen percent of the population is too egregious to let past.

And sure so far the guilty parties are just a couple of southern white gentlemen, but does not exactly paint an attractive picture of the Party as a whole, not seven months before the next election.


Posted by mrbrent at 11:17 AM