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June 25, 2010

mac mcclelland

Mac McClellend has been knocking it out of the park, reporting for Mother Jones on the scene on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico.  When people (like me!) complain that the media needs to be "reporting it harder" as far as the veil of secrecy laid down by BP, McClellend is entirely excluded, whether she's reporting Louisiana cops enforcing BP media bans, relaying the observations of moles within the BP crew, or, most recently, the rise in domestic abuse and general misery among the families of unemployed fishermen.

Follow her on Twitter, read all of her stuff.  It's not happy-making, but she's got the (depressing) story.

Posted by mrbrent at 12:41 PM


So an apartment or two ago, we had a little cement backyard, which backyard was separated by a fence from the unused backyard of a looming church and a group home for some developmentally disabled fellas.  Everyone was generally good neighbors — I don't recall a complaint either direction for loud BBQs or any other shenanigans.  But there was this one time when the group home was having some kind of little event, a birthday party, I imagined, and at this event, in between the hot dogs and the cake, they gave all the fellas kazoos.  Which the fellas did not play like kazoos ("Dur dur dur de dur"), but instead like trumpets ("DWEEEEE!)  And play them they did, with barely pause for breath, for three hours.

To me, this is what the vuvzela sounds like.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:15 AM

June 24, 2010

the bad morning of darryl willis

Nice moment of mass media on this morning's The Takeaway, which is an NPR morning newsmagazine that is very heinous and filled with robot noises but yet I listen to it because it's better than Imus or Mike & Mike.  In a story about BP's new Alaska drilling host John Hockenberry interviewed BP's new regional claims manager for the Deepwater Horizon Spigot, Darryl Willis, who is not only not British, but from the region and black.

Now Hockenberry's interviewing kung fu normally ranges from awkward to doofy, with questions that presuppose answers and smirking devil's advocacy — all in the quest to give listeners the "takeaway" of the story.  But in this interview (and no audio of the segment is available on the site) was the verbal assault and battery of Willis.  Hockenberry pressed on why the public should trust BP, Willis would counter with, "I'm from the area and want to help."  Eventually no matter what question Hockenberry would ask Willis would answer with the "I'm local/want to help" that someone wrote down on a piece of paper for him.  Then Hockenberry dismissed with the foolishness by asking, and I paraphrase, "So if the Alaska drilling results in a spill, will BP roll out a public spokesman dressed like a lumberjack?" which was a very very fair touch, as they say.

And what is the takeaway?  Consider interviews with BP execs as journalistic batting practice, something you do if you need a little ego boost, if you need to feel like Woodward and/or Bernstein but for a moment.  I'm pretty sure Mr. Willis is not looking forward to the rest of his media tour, after having been savaged by "The Takeaway".

Posted by mrbrent at 10:15 AM

b/c street cred is something i'm unfamiliar with

So in the course of normal interaction within the social media, I coined a phrase.  Nothing I'd run to the trademark office over; if you read enough Warren Ellis, you start to automatically try to write in newly-coined phrases.

But now this phrase is being bandied by one of the smart sets here in NYC.

I super don't mind, but I wonder where I'm supposed to go to pick up my street cred.

(Yes, I'm whining, I know, though I think they call it something else these days.)

Posted by mrbrent at 9:57 AM

June 23, 2010

british corporate austerity

Big story in today's New York Times, front page and everything, about the UK and how the new coalition government is enacting a mad austerity budget that will have all us geezers flashing back to Thatcher and just what prosperity looked like back then.  Twenty-five percent cuts in government budgets nearly across the board!  VAT up to 20%!  You can almost smell the dole riots before they happen.

But buried in the story was this, perhaps the most austere measure of all:

At the same time, changes in income tax will remove nearly 900,000 of Britain’s poorest people from the income tax system altogether, and corporate taxes will also be reduced over a five-year period, to 24 percent from 28 percent.

Corporate taxes what?  Dude, even the NYT is trying to hide that factoid behind a bunch of poor people.  I'm sure that amidst all the belt-tightening and sacrifices being made in the name of fiscal responsibility, corporations and their big fucking tax cut will valiantly lead the way, like King Whoever in the Battle of Those Long-Dead Guys.

You get what you vote for, I guess, but at least it will distract from the jokes about British dentistry.

Posted by mrbrent at 1:47 PM

us moves ahead with extra time goal

I am only going to advocate skipping work to watch some World Cup because, from what I hear, the US match today was super-awesome, the ending that were it in a movie would be too cheesy to bear.

Just from what I hear.  I was out busy getting the mother-in-law's car repaired.  And now I'm back at my desk.

But if you have a chance to catch a match in realtime with other real people, or to have your mother-in-law's car repaired, I recommend it.

Posted by mrbrent at 1:07 PM

June 22, 2010

david brooks, personal responsibility, etc.

There is nothing like a little David Brooks to get you to decide to brook no more fools for the day.  This morning's column is the usual crap about the importance of the center-based majority: straw-man progressive has some wishes granted to him, so straw-man of course opts for a set of events — including an "economic crisis", always the top of the leftist wishlist — that are chosen in the context of cheerleading government, of demonstrating to a "grateful nation" government's efficacy, to the deliberate discredit of free-market capitalism.

So naturally this straw man more resembles a 1968 Trotskyite hippie than anything that actually exists in the world today.  Which would be par for the course for Brooks, but he constructs the column as one of his ridiculous hypotheticals, a morally-instructive fable peopled by characters (neutrally, of course) named "Faustus", representing the goggle-eyed liberal, and "Mephistopheles", representing both academia and the devil.

The awkwardness of this conceit is enough to make you wonder if Brooks is disingenuous or just a dolt.  Until you get to the sermon part:

Bitterly and too late, Dr. Faustus recognized that economic policies are about values.  If your policies undermine personal responsibility by separating the link between effort and reward, voters will punish you for it.

The only "personal responsibility" the easily manipulated middle gives a shit about is the responsibility to use well-messaged propaganda as an excuse to be greedy and intolerant, the responsibility to heed every dogwhistle about "personal responsibility" and the darker instincts that hide behind such a banal platitude.  And to ignore the shadows cast by the subset of "voters" Brooks refers to is either dumb or willfully obfuscatory.

Maybe the answer is that David Brooks is both disingenuous and just a dolt.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:57 AM

June 21, 2010

clearly i need to be watching more world cup

Here's the kind of scary that that is made of totally mundane cloth — local governments, on the state, county, city level, are looking at some pretty serious budget deficits.

The author goes so far as to describe the affected localities as "on the brink of system failure", and compiles a comprehensive list the breadth of the systems under the gun.  The author is listing the places affected to make the greater point that with so many cops/teachers/garbagemen being laid off, unemployment isn't going to get any better anytime soon.  Me, I'd like to make the greater point of the towering horror of a world filled with understaffed cops/teachers/garbagemen.

It's not overtly scary, like an invasion of sentient alien rats, or a new rhinovirus that makes you dumber.  It's a little bit mundane.  But if you think about it quietly a second, and wonder what it would be like if all those municipal services that we are so used to — garbage! water! law enforcement! — and then try to erase them from what you think of as the life we live now.  You are left with a lawless smelly place without potable water.  Which should cause a very precipitous sense of unease.

Posted by mrbrent at 2:25 PM

photoshopping in popular journalism

From an NYT article on how the diving of soccer players is ruining the World Cup as much as bad calls:
In his first game of the tournament, the German midfielder Mesut Özil tumbled as if gnomes hiding in the grass at Durban Stadium had tied his shoelaces together during his team’s opening game against Australia last week.

Writing sentences like that is what folk used to do before they became adept at Photoshop.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:58 AM

June 20, 2010

overton window rip-off

I hate to blow the reveal, but if you don't make it to the end of this piece mocking and deriding Glenn Beck's new novel, then you will leave without having received the truly important information:
So why -- except for the completely inverted politics -- does The Overton Window read so much like Circumference of Darkness? Because they were written by the same guy, a 52-year-old computer programmer named Jack Henderson.

He gets sole credit on Circumference.  (And why shouldn't he? He published it himself.)  On Overton, he gets thanked by Beck for "pouring his heart and soul into this project."

And, apparently, his leftover plot.

Not only is Beck's latest assault in the War To Enrich Glenn Beck ghost-written, it is ghost-written by a ghost-writer who plagiarized his own previous work.

And that is the Glenn Beck Guarantee of Quality.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:31 AM

happy father's day dad

I'm not a fan of these Hallmark holidays, where affection and gratitude for family members are singled out, one-by-one, to the extent that if you dare appreciate your mom on a Sunday not in May then you are deviating from the planned schedule of celebration days!!

But I am a fan of my old man, so lemme just say that my dad is one cool customer, and he made me who I am by equal parts example, instruction, and loose reins.  And his devotion to my mom, which I file under "example".

So do not forget to support your local greeting card industry today.  I hear that they make ones that play songs, and ones that even exist only electronically.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:22 AM