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August 6, 2010

flimflam sauce

You should read Krugman all the time.  Not because you agree with him, but he does a good job distilling arcane macroecnomics into something silly English majors like me can understand.  (Plus also you agree with him.)

Like today, not only does he take a bat to the "Roadmap For America" of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wunderkind), explaining how it's a pile of hooey that exaggerates its savings while cutting taxes for the wealthiest one percent by half, he also coins the phrase "flimflam sauce".

Surely you've bumped your nose on some iteration of the meme "awesome sauce" by now.  And surely awkward little flimflam sauce is the awesomest sauce there is.  And we would not have it without the efforts of Paul Krugman.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:44 AM

August 5, 2010

letterman says bad things

David Letterman, while interviewing Rachel Maddow, asks a question concerning Andrew Breitbart, his website operations and the Shirley Sherrod affair in general:
How much time was wasted by this asshole fucking around?

Not that deep of a sentiment, and largely shared by those of us that do not believe that conspiracy is the only engine that runs the world, and therefore any action we have not authored is the conspiracy of someone us.  But coming out of the mouth of David Letterman, it seems extra special, as he is a judiciously polite man, and generally stays out of anything but the most superficial of politics.  Remember his pique at John McCain over dissembling over canceled appearances?  That was not an ideological position, but rather a judgment of McCain's behavior.  As is this judgment of Breitbart (who, apparently, is an asshole).

Obviously, there are some sentiments spoken that only mean something if you are David Letterman.

Posted by mrbrent at 3:23 PM

there's an obit magazine?

This is useful, if you are the frustrated ambitious sort — a brisk rundown of artist's whose careers took off after they were under dirt:
Consider John Kennedy Toole, whose picaresque novel, A Confederacy of Dunces, won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1981 -- 12 years after he committed suicide.  His mom found the novel in a drawer years after his death and took it to writer Walker Percy. Percy loved it and shepherded it through the publishing process.

It may come as a surprise to realize that some of those whose fame we take for granted today died in obscurity.  Consider Franz Kafka, whose edgy, witty, much-revered works, such as The Trial and The Metamorphosis, are now considered essential 20th-century literature.  When he died at age 40 in 1924, only a few friends even knew he’d been writing.  He considered himself a failure, an irony his characters would have appreciated.

Glaring omission: Edgar Allen Poe.  Not that his career didn't take off until after, but he sure did a terrible job of enjoying what success he did have before he gave himself the most famous grave in Baltimore.

OK, it's not useful, it's morbid.  But sometimes you need to kick yourself inna ass, no matter how many years you've outlived Jesus by.

[Via The Morning News.]

Posted by mrbrent at 1:19 PM

judge walker's ruling

These are all over the media landscape, but this DailyKos diary is a convenient, exhaustive reading of the Prop 8 decision, which is truly an awesome piece of good news.

And it's a perfect backfire — the gay marriage issue was demagogued up during the 04 elections to solidify the voting of social conservatives.  The thing is: it was cynical, it was an effort to lead the ill-mannered to the polls and then start working on the dogwhistle for the next cycle.  But no!  Haters gotta hate, and emboldened by some success, they decided that they were gonna do something and end this gay marriage once and for all.  And they even convinced the state of California — fucking California, not Alabama — to vote gay marriage out of existence.  The only problem is that no matter how popular disenfranchising gays and lesbians is, it is wrong, and it will not stand to legal scrutiny.

And it is only the fact that efforts to combat gay marriage were so diligent that compelled Judge Walker to so assiduously rip the argument against gay marriage to shreds in Perry Vs. Schwarzenegger.  And these are legit shreds.  He constructed a ruling that will be very difficult to overrule without some ridiculous assertion that "homosexuality is a choice" or some other bigoted nonsense that even Justice Thomas could put forward with a straight face.  The phrase Judge Walker uses is "no rational basis".  That is a very big hammer he's using to kill that fly.

Ultimately, Prop 8 proponents won't give up, and probably will come back and fight even harder to take rights away from Americans.  And they will swear up and down that there is in fact a "rational basis" for their argument.  And there is.  They are bad people, or at least good people who have yet to realize they are pursuing a bad thing.

This country has a long history of people's rights, and either protecting them or taking them away.  Those that protect them pretty much always win.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:28 AM

August 4, 2010

dorothy rabinowitz is very scared

I was vaguely curious how those staunchly opposed to the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque" (nice bit of framing, that) would respond to our Mayor's rousing and heart-felt speech.  It's only natural, I suppose that the Wall Street Journal would be happy to comply.  Here's the lede:
Americans may have lacked for much in the course of their history, but never instruction in social values.  The question today is whether Americans of any era have ever confronted the bombardment of hectoring and sermonizing now directed at those whose views are deemed insufficiently enlightened — an offense regularly followed by accusations that the offenders have violated the most sacred principles of our democracy.

Dorothy Rabinowitz, the author, is rubber, and we are glue.  The hectoring and sermonizing?  One speech by the mayor and a bushel of blog posts.  She manages a "politically correct", and long passages sneering at "liberal piety".  Very much put-upon, Robinowitz is, what with people calling her what she is.

The most frustrating aspect of the debate is that there is not a debate.  Both sides agree: proponents say that to oppose the Cordoba initiative would be an unacceptable instance of religious intolerance, and opponents oppose it in the name of religious intolerance.

I will say this: if it is the case that Dorothy Rabinowitz works here in the five boroughs, then she is one terrible New Yorker.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:44 AM

reinventing the door

There's this thing I call "Reinventing the Door".  It doesn't necessarily have to involve a door, but that's the seed concept — take something ubiquitous, like say a door, and try to come up with an improvement on the design/technology.  This differs from "Reinventing the Wheel" in that it is intended as ultimately useful even after seeming inane.  Like, come to find out there is a better door, that will make the old door we've been using for centuries look like a musty stack of Life magazines.

This is an example of Reinventing the Door:

TAMANA, Japan — Two pedals, inches apart, one for gas and the other for brakes. For years, a Japanese inventor has argued that this most basic of car designs is dangerously flawed.

[Matsuyuki] Naruse, 74, is one of a handful of people who have designed combined brake-accelerator pedals in an effort to prevent accidents caused by unintended acceleration, which has come under a spotlight since charges that some Toyota vehicles accelerate without warning.

While the current arrangement of accelerator/brake has worked plenty fine for decades, think about it: how many accidents are caused by a reflexive stamping down on the wrong pedal?  This is of specific interest to me as I have a family member who drives with both feet, which I am convinced is not only not so good for the maintenance of the vehicle but CRAZY DANGEROUS.

Keep the eyes peeled for more examples.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:26 AM

August 3, 2010

proud new yorker

You will see this blogged to hell, but what they are saying is true: the unlikeliest author of the final word on the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque" is our mayor, Michael Bloomberg, who is not exactly known for his soaring rhetoric or his heart-swelling moments of eloquence.  In fact, exactly the opposite.  But he was channeling something today, something perfect and good:
On Sept. 11, 2001, thousands of first responders heroically rushed to the scene and saved tens of thousands of lives.  More than 400 of those first responders did not make it out alive.  In rushing into those burning buildings, not one of them asked, 'What God do you pray to?' (Bloomberg's voice cracks here a little as he gets choked up.) 'What beliefs do you hold?'

The attack was an act of war, and our first responders defended not only our city, but our country and our constitution.  We do not honor their lives by denying the very constitutional rights they died protecting.  We honor their lives by defending those rights and the freedoms that the terrorists attacked.

Opponents of the Cordoba Initiative may be decent people and good citizens, but they are giving in to baser instincts, maybe fear, or maybe an ignorance that makes them susceptible to those that are still trying to score political points off of 9-11.  The place where the Cordoba Initiative is not welcomed is not America, it is Saudi Arabia.

Hizzoner made this guy a little prouder to be a New Yorker than usual.

Posted by mrbrent at 3:34 PM

paul d. ryan

The NYT ran a brief hagiography of Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R-WI) this morning.  You might have heard of Rep. Ryan — he is about the only House Republican to offer anything like a suggestion when it comes to the economy, a document/Power Point titled a "Roadmap For America", full of usual cut taxes/shrink social services panaceas.

Seems like a nice enough guy, a guy that I wouldn't agree with but could chat amiably with at a pig roast.  But check this excerpt from a presentation he gave to some folks in his district:

“Do you want this welfare state, which puts us down this tipping point, advances this culture of dependency, moves us away from the America idea toward more of a Western European social democracy welfare state?  Do you want that which invites a debt crisis?  Or the alternative party is offering you an opportunity society on top of a safety net where we reclaim these ideals and principles that founded this country.  That’s what we owe you.  And if we get back in office and we shrink from that challenge, shame on us.”

Seems harmless enough, if not almost erudite, slipping in some pretty advanced grammatical construction, and it refrains from the ad hominem that other members of his caucus go for.

But on second read, it is almost entirely content-free.  It's loaded with some jargon buzzwords, but none of it really means anything.  "Opportunity society"?  It's the kind of thing the crowd agrees with and then can't remember what it agreed with.  It is in line with Tea Party rhetoric, in that it is just inchoate crazy person talk, albeit dressed up nice.  Assume that there was a Ronald Reagan reference in the paragraphs preceding and following and you've damn near got a tent revival.

Obviously many elected officials turn into mumbling robots that speak entirely in talking points when faced with real live constituents.  But it's right before the midterms, which means that the GOP is a reality show and anyone whose hat is anywhere near the ring is fair game.  So, Rep. Paul D. Ryan: smart I guess, but very good at tap dancing.

Posted by mrbrent at 2:38 PM

anthony weiner: at long last, sir...

I've had the weekend to think about it.

There was some leftish skepticism of Rep. Anthony Weiner's terrifyingly beautiful performance on the floor of the House last week — he's just positioning himself to run for mayor of NYC being the primary complaint.  I understand a healthy amount of skepticism, but I think that in this case it is unwarranted.  Rep. Weiner's outburst was not awesome because it was inherently an unpolitical act.  It was awesome because it was filled with bona fide and specific righteousness.  There was no TAKE THIS COUNTRY BACK or NO MORE WARS or other such untethered anxiety.  Rep. Weiner's rant was specific in the injury done and the motive behind the injury and the identity of the injured party.  It was a political act inasmuch as it was perpetrated on the floor of the House, but the fact that it's a political act does not detract from it's "At long last sir have you no shame?" appeal.

And the argument is made on the other side that it was Democratic tactics that forced the GOP to respond with a purely political tactic, but I call bullshit on that, even though it's true in a sense.  The Democratic tactics were in response to the GOP's purely political decision to obstruct Congress, which was in response to the Democratic majority's political decision to pass legislation, etc.  Flap of a butterfly's wing, my friend.  And what is more purely political than trying to defuse a genuine rallying moment by calling it cynical?

It was an exhilarating moment, and the reluctance to be exhilarated is the result of have been laid siege to by a party whose only governing interest is winning office for a generation.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:08 AM

August 2, 2010

the pond

Man, not only is there an International Spy Museum that I haven't been to, but here's an AP piece on a US intelligence agency that I've managed never to have heard of.  "The Pond", as it was known informally, was set up by the State Department during WWII to counter-balance the OSS, which was not exactly secure from the other of the Allies.  The Pond arranged an international network of sources and operatives, including a French serial killer (beat that hook), and was ultimately decommissioned on account of its founder's aiding and abetting of Sen. Joseph McCarthy.

So we see that off-the-books shadowy unsupervised intel is hardly a recent development.  Why, it's a burst of info so good that it's hard to believe that it came from the AP.

[Via Ellis.]

Posted by mrbrent at 12:56 PM

who awl did that?

As nice as it was to see the story of Target indirectly funding an anti-gay candidate in Target's home state of Minnesota make the big time, there is a glaring omission contained therein.  TPM gets the matter of the story right -- Target takes advantage of Citizens United ruling, gives Chamber of Commerce lobbying group "MN Forward" one hundred fifty large, MN Forward backs GOP gubanatorial candidate Tom Emmer who is not so down with the GLBT brothers and sisters, Target is called to account, Target hedges, Target faces backlash.

What TPM fails to mention is the fact that Abe Sauer, writing for the Awl, has been on this story forever and a day.  The first national mention of the situation is Sauer's July 21 column, which explicitly asks that the reader consider how exactly Target should be treated by its consumer public.  And he has stayed on the story since then like ugly on yo mamma.  He has, dare I say, reported it harder, and may well be singularly responsible for the backlash.

Maybe my quick research is too cursory to be accurate.  But even if I'm overstating, Abe Sauer and the Awl deserve attribution, as they have been in front of this story.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:14 AM

August 1, 2010

international spy museum, mandals

Maybe this is a scandal, maybe this is not:
Rapper Cam'ron once asked of Jay Z: "How is the King of New York rockin' sandals with jeans?"  Well, Jay Z fan President Barack Obama followed in his footsteps and wore sandals with jeans to DC's International Spy Museum.  Mandals!

OK, a little light entertainment, men's-style style.  But more importantly:

OMG there's an International Spy Museum?  And I've never been to it?

Not only do I need a field trip to the International Spy Museum STAT, also every city in America needs an International Spy Museum.  In fact, each Interstate rest stops should have International Spy Museum kiosk.

Now how am I supposed to have a Sunday?

Posted by mrbrent at 9:21 AM