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August 20, 2010

ted leo's long sentence

Ted Leo: he's getting into musical theater, as he announces in this blog post, the value of which is largely Leo's thumbnail autobiography, which is about a vivid picture of paying the rent as a post-punk musician as I can recall:
So in about 1997, after ten turbulent years of being in serious bands (I’d had less serious ones before that) that took me everywhere from the old crumbling ABC No-Rio downtown, which I walked out of alive, to meetings in major label offices uptown, which I walked out of almost dead, and around the rest of the world (that, duh – we like to make metaphors about all lying in between those two extremes, but actually often pays no attention whatsoever to such cosmopolitan conceits) in between, I decided that I’d waited long enough – I was already getting “old” (or so I felt at the time), and I was already done with the games that one finds oneself playing when one wakes up to realize that there might be an opportunity to straight up make a few bucks doing what you’ve been doing for love (and lying to yourself about the fact that you don’t care at ALL about the money side of the “love/money” axis) because enough people actually care about “what you do” that they’re willing to support your doing it with their dollars at the door and in the record stores on the beautiful side of it, and because some other people see a salable commodity in you on the uglier side of it – and which, to be fair, also has its beautiful side, in that it usually also dovetails with those persons’ genuine appreciation for music, including the music YOU make, and their genuine desire to help you keep making it by funding your projects; and so I put it all aside, recorded some backing tracks on my own, picked up my guitar and my reel-to-reel four track, hit the road, and pretty much never looked back.

That's not only awesome, that is perhaps the longest sentence I've ever seen.

And good luck to Leo.  I'm a fan of both him and theater, so it has the smell of something that could be very very good and worth everyone's time.

Posted by mrbrent at 2:31 PM

tearjerk dailkos diaries

My immunity to the single-purpose tearjerk DailyKos diary is growing with each passing day.  There's sadness everywhere!  I have my own sad stories, as do my friends, and it's all you can do to not spent the majority of each day mourning something or other.  So: I am sad to hear of your misfortune, but I distrust your motives splashing your misfortune all over a very partisan forum like DailyKos (or RedState, for that matter).

Of course, the reason we have rules is to make exceptions more flavorful.  This is a sad story of a gentleman, a Baby Boomer and lifelong factory worker, trying to make ends meet after our manufacturing economy has left us:

His employment ended at the age of 55 in Reno Nevada.  By the age of 57 he had been unemployed for over two years. Benefits ran out over a year ago.  Food stamps were all he could qualify for.  He kept his condo payments up to date by playing blackjack.  He was a consistent winner of small bets that allowed him to keep the phone turned on, the light bill paid and the condo payment made.  He was barely hanging on when his luck ran out.

Story doesn't end well, but there's some good nobility in there, which just makes it worse.

It's a pointed reminder of what we're talking about when we talk about the ways the economy has shifted, and the actual human toll that is hidden underneath all the jargon.  When we say "shift to a service economy", we are talking about an entire generation abandoned right before they hit retirement age, and when I talk about the financial services sector sucking capital out of the rest of the economy, I mean sucking until ordinary, formerly employed people don't have a whole lot of options left because it makes more sense for some asshole thinks his efforts defrauding school districts and pension funds are worth a forty million dollar bonus.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:56 AM

August 19, 2010

news corp.'s one million dollars

At the risk of continued stridency and the resulting off-putting, this story broke this week, about how News Corp., the owner of Fox News and its ancillary foolishness, donated a million dollars to the Republican Governor's Association.

I'm no dummy, or at least I'm less of a dummy than I used to be, so the fact that corporations donate money to curry government favor is not so shocking.  In fact, I'm coming around to the thinking that that's the American way!  (Also, I'm filled with despair.)

But if you think for one second that, if the news broke that the New York Times Company gave a million dollars to the Democratic Governors Association that Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin wouldn't be leading an armed horde of idiots with teabags on their ears down Eighth Avenue, then you are mistaken.

The sad thing is that influence is purchased by entities whose means dwarf the means of actual flesh and blood citizens.  But the obscene thing is that double standards aren't even blinked at anymore.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:36 AM

zaitchik on conspiracy theories

Start your Thirsty Thursday right with this convenient rundown of the Top 10 Right-Wing Conspiracy Theories, as collected by Alexander Zaitchik.  It is very comprehensive and filled with all the fluoride and HAARP you'll need for the rest of the summer.  Plus, you'll never ever have to read another right-wing political thriller ever again, as oddly these ten conspiracies dovetail nicely with all possible plot permutations.

Please note that more than one of these conspiracy theories have a distinct "on the far right/on the far left" flavor.  Ah sweet mystery of life!

And don't forget the unspoken Eleventh Right-Wing Conspiracy — Liberal Fascists Persist in Calling Conspiracies "Theories".

Posted by mrbrent at 9:47 AM

August 18, 2010

dr laura bumped her head on the constitution

So Dr. Laura said some bad things and some advertisers got leery so she went on Larry King last night to announce that we won't have her to kick around anymore, that's she's leaving radio for the Internet in order to "regain her first amendment rights".  That's dumb.

Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequence.  And if we want to get technical about it — I know, the Constitution belongs to "the people", and them that drink tea, but let's pretend it's a legal document for a second — the text of the First Amendment (pertinent to speech) runs like this:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

It doesn't say that you have the freedom to say whatever you damn well please.  It says that the government will not stop you from saying whatever you damn well please.

Dr. Laura should either know what she's talking about or shut up, which I believe is exactly the problem that exacerbated the situation to this point.  But she has all kinds of remedies available to her — a claim of tortious interference, a defamation suit, going the hell away.  The options are nearly endless.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:54 AM

linda mcmahon

I actually don't have a strong opinion on Linda McMahon's campaign for Chris Dodd's Senate seat other than I vaguely hope she loses.  She is running the "outsider millionaire" campaign so popular these days, with scary vague mumbling about fiscal responsibility and less of the social-issue dogwhistle than your average movement conservative, which is not so much offensive as it is boring.  But she's running on the Republican ticket, so presumably she'll caucus with the GOP, so boo go Linda.  We'll see what happens, I guess.

But she said a ridiculous thing which requires addressing.  Another pro wrestler died young last week, a former employee of World Wrestling Entertainment, which is the company that Linda used to run before she announced for Senate.  So naturally, her opponents are trying to use her past associations as ammunition against her, as the last thing you'd think about the WWE is "senatorial".  (Ricky Steamboat excluded, of course.)  But it is McMahon's response to this premature death which is a little galling:

McMahon said WWE can no more be held accountable for deaths of performers "than a studio could have prevented Heath Ledger's death."  The actor was found dead of a drug overdose in early 2008.

"Who knows what causes people to have addictions and do what they do?" McMahon said.

That's specious bullshit.  Here's a thing that cause people to have addictions and do what they do: work in an unregulated field where physical appearance and grueling performance standards can capriciously lead to unemployment, as the workers are deemed "independent contractors" and pretty much without rights let alone benefits, leading to chemical assistance tacitly approved by the management.

I've been a fan of the pro wresting since I was a little kid, and the business is what it is and no one gets into it by accident.  For for a former exec to state that the employer is without responsibility to the addiction and bad luck that plague workers is a bald-faced lie.

And I think bald-faced lies are bad.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:50 AM

August 17, 2010

getting ugly out there

Speaking of what ails me: I am drowning in gloom.  Drownding, I tell you.  And none of it is for personal reasons but rather because, in the words of Ted Leo, we are a race of idiot children.

Or as Spencer Ackerman puts it, in his blog:

So I look around, at all the racial and ethnic hatred spewing forth from every corner, and I wonder where we can go from here.  Is there a path back from all this, or have we passed some kind of tipping point from which there is no return?  Will it all fade away after November, or have we lit the fuse and now stand helpless, perhaps even regretful, as we await the inevitable explosion?  This all seems like such a very, very bad idea.  As the rhetoric gets uglier, the hatred more explicit, it can only be a matter of time before somebody feels threatened enough to push back, and then somebody is going to die.  And at that moment, when, shocked into silence, we all hesitate and draw a collective breath and wonder if we should just stop and think, talk to each other, LISTEN to each other, will we have it within ourselves as Americans to back away?  Or will we, the most heavily armed nation in the world, reach for our weapons and go to war against ourselves?

Alarming, yes, but even more so if you consider the source.  Ackerman is a together cat, and he reports in the very specialized field of foreign policy, coolly and calmly.

But it is getting me down.  Much like the MAD anxiety I grew up, some of the hate bouncing back and forth right now is shit I thought was gone forever, at least on these shores.  It's almost like after a good century's worth of social progress, the discriminators, the selfish and the greedy have been lying dormant like locusts and are back and want to refight every fight they lost.  And the ferocity with which some of these vile beliefs are held is just mind-boggling.  I didn't think Americans were going to stop hating the Other anytime soon, I just didn't think that Other-hating Americans were going to stop doing so furtively out of guilt.

And now they have, like Father Coughlin is from the grave arisen.  And the future, she is not looking so bright at all.

Posted by mrbrent at 5:04 PM

This is always a nice antidote to what ails you.  Beloit College puts out a handy list of generalizations concerning the incoming class of freshman which serve not only to contextualize the relative age of the incoming class for the faculty, but also to drown you in nostalgia/freak your old ass out.  My faves from this year:
20. DNA fingerprinting and maps of the human genome have always existed.

28. They’ve never recognized that pointing to their wrists was a request for the time of day.

32. Czechoslovakia has never existed.

Ooh, and this is a good one.

68. They have never worried about a Russian missile strike on the U.S.

That may well explain the blitheness of today's college kids (noted here) the best: they have never known Cold War anxiety, they have never had a duck and cover drill, they did not grow up steeped in the Arms Race sudden pointless mortality like some of us did.

[Via Hamilton Nolan.]

Posted by mrbrent at 4:44 PM

foster kamer: dear rest of america

This is not so much about the Ground Zero "mosque" as it is about everything, everywhere — Foster Kamer writes a letter as a New Yorker to the rest of America:
Maybe we'll care what you have to say when you stop bothering us for directions in the subway on how to get to Ground Zero so you can go there and buy some dumb, tacky knickknack you can take home and give to friends to let them know that you spent money on a shake-a-snow where a few thousand people died.  Maybe then.  But probably not.  Shut up, go away, and also, stop lying, or at least tell your politicians to stop lying.  It might help you recognize the truth, which is that you're wrong, and you're attacking vital American freedoms by going against this Mosque.  The truth is that you're terrorists in you're own right.  You are striking against America by going against this mosque.  You are, in effect, almost as bad as the ones who killed people on 9/11.  Okay, not quite, not really, but kind of, because you're fighting against what 9/11 victims died for: religious freedom, which terrorists don't have and don't want anyone else to have.

Sure, it's a parochial, and it's another log on the "y'all just think you're smarter than we are" argument, but catharsis has its value when the country seems to have suddenly taken a heroic dose of crazy pills.  I am enormously jealous.  I've been meaning to write something like that since, oh, the day after I moved here.

Posted by mrbrent at 12:58 PM

August 16, 2010

surely it's missing an exclamation point

The following excerpt is from coverage of a little Tea Party rally held on the Arizona border (of Mexico, not Utah).
Cindy Kolb, a border activist who lives nearby, yelled out through the thick metal slates in the border fence, which had been decorated on the American side with tiny flags, “Hey, don’t come over here anymore.”

She added: “We don’t like illegals hiding under bushes when our kids wait for the school bus. This border needs to be secure.”

Not only are undocumented immigrants hiding under bushes, they are hiding under bushes near school bus stops, even though school is not open yet.  And they don't like it!!

I have absolutely no idea why people have a hard time taking Tea Partiers seriously.  And no, not saying that the lady is racist, or even xenophobic.  Only insane.

Posted by mrbrent at 3:49 PM

newt gingrich redux

Now, that's odd.  Having a long memory and such, I pretty much dismiss Newt Gingrich, although having engineered a pretty stunning political movement some years ago, as a man whose subsequent plummet from such dizzying heights was the definition of his relevance.  Not to mention the fact that he might have more skeletons in his closet than any potential presidential candidate I can think of.  So to read this Steve Kornacki War Room post, which (rightly?) fingers Gingrich as a primary author of the very depressing wave of racial/religious intolerance is, well, very depressing:
Whether the community center is ever built is now beside the point.  The fear campaign has served its purpose: The Republican base is frothing with anger over it and swing voters have moved decisively against it -- as have many Democratic voters. President Obama is paralyzed, unwilling to oppose it but terrified of the political backlash that might come from endorsing it.  The net effect is the appearance of presidential indecision and spinelessness.  In an election year that already favors them, Republicans now have one more emotionally-charged weapon to wield.

I mean it's a very good post, dissecting Newt the thinking-man's neocon vs. Newt the demagogue, but to think that any of the hysteria can be lain at the feet of Newt Gingrich, or that Gingrich has materially benefited from any of this, is worse than exasperating — the pudgy encancered-wife-divorcer done threw his career out the window a decade ago.  Are the knuckledraggers of the nation so desperate for a leader to carry the banner of hate/intolerance that they'll accept someone as obviously cynical (and no doubt contemptuous of the knuckledraggers) as Newt Gingrich?

Posted by mrbrent at 1:02 PM

good morning 8.16.10

Just caught a commuter bus from the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania to NYC.  It's a liberating experience, because usually when I make that trek I'm behind the wheel, so there's all kind of evidence of actual towns and neighborhoods that you can glimpse between the trees on I-78 that I never get to notice when driving.  Noticing is something I'm trying to practice — I had a small realization that the past couple years I haven't been noticing enough.  So yes, fun ride.

And while noticing some of the roadside advertising, it seems pretty clear that the marketing strategy of nearly every gasoline filling station concern in America right now is, "WE'RE NOT BP".  This would probably work pretty well if all that gushing oil didn't just disappear harmlessly.  But if they ever do find that oil, I will adopt "NOT BP" as the tagline of this very website.  (And watch the dollars roll in, naturally.)

It's not morning anymore, but have a good one anyway.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:07 AM

August 15, 2010

more ground zero mosque

I will agree with this paragraph from a NYT story on the consequences of President Obama entering the debate over the "mosque" to be built in lower Manhattan:
But [Obama's] “new beginning” has aroused nervousness in some, especially those who disagree with his counterterrorism policies, or those more comfortable with a vision of America as a white and largely Christian nation, and not the pluralistic melting pot Mr. Obama represents.

That may be the most polite description of racist knuckeheads I've ever seen.

And instead of more pro forma swear-words describing the fecklessness of the national figures who would politicize this to score points for the GOP, read this thinker from Josh Marshall, identifying the concern among the actual people:

So, for the sake of argument, set aside the shameless rabble-rousers (Gingrich, Palin, Giuliani, et al.) who may know better or more likely couldn't care less.  And do the same with the people who know so little of the facts of the situation that they probably think it's a pro-bin Laden outreach organization trying to take over the Trade Center complex itself.  Then we're left with folks who really do think this is sacred ground -- most of lower Manhattan apparently -- not 'hallowed' but 'sacred' (there's a difference), and sacred ground in such a sense that Muslims setting up shop there is just an inherent offense.

I think Josh is right, and wish there was a venue to actually talk about this without Next Gingrich seeing this as the opportunity to become the first thrice-married president.

I absolutely agree with the specialness, or otherness, of Ground Zero, and for a whole lot of reasons — it's the site where a lot of innocents died needlessly, it's the site of the events that pretty much negated the decade that was to follow, and I am a New Yorker with actual personal memories of the magnitude of that day.

Where I respectfully disagree is that the presence of anything remotely "Mooslim" in that zip code is somehow an insult.  Bin Laden manipulated Islam to achieve political goals (many of which he achieved).  To believe otherwise is as naive as believing that we joined the Allies in WW2 "for Christ".

To distill Al Qaeda into some cartoon war of religions is exactly what Al Qaeda wants.  Their lack of symmetric military power, let alone an actual nation state, means that they rely on perceived threat, and if they are perceived as a billion holy warriors and not a couple thousand committed guys in caves, then the better for them.

So in this case, tolerance is not only the right thing to do in line with the values that inform our Constitution, it's also the smart thing to do.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:16 AM


I'm going to quote this bit from Alex Balk, writing about The Awl and its rewards and challenges, out of pure respect for Balk (and Sicha and Cho) and what they do:
It will probably come as a surprise to those of you who view this site as a nonstop parade of links to the Awl, but I am not naturally a self-promoter, or, really, a promoter of any kind.  I don’t “do press,” I have a hard time talking about myself, and I tend to take compliments, be they effusive or backhanded, with a brief, embarrassed shrug before I quickly change the subject.

Which is Balk's lead-in to a great quantity of very gracious words.

And I just wrote and deleted about a thousand words on why The Awl is a nifty achievement, but then decided that too much effusing is sometimes a bad thing.  Suffice it to say that The Awl is a nifty achievement, in terms of overwhelming quality and in terms of turning the barn into a theater.

If you are not a fan you should be.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:20 AM