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October 1, 2010

rest in peace, neil alan smith

It's usually Alex Balk's job to direct your attention that will leave you weeping uncontrollably at your desk, but this time around it was TPM's David Kurtz.

But do yourself a favor and read this obituary of Neil Alan Smith, who is a man that you never would have otherwise,  It's a monster homage to a quiet life, and a well-deserved backhand to those who believe that anonymity equals the license to be an unrepentant fucking asshole.

Posted by mrbrent at 12:49 PM

village voice is good

Count me in.

I just read this week's Village Voice pretty much cover to cover.  I can't remember the last time I've done that.

Of course as a geezer NYer, there were many many times I read that rag cover-to-cover.  Definitely during college, and then occasionally once the NY Press started kicking the VV's ass around the block in the mid-90s.  But that was a long time ago, and even the concept that a free weekly could offer anything like relevance and insight is creaky and dusty and has been long stuck on a shelf you can't remember which one.

Specifically the cover feature, "White America Has Lost Its Mind" by Steven Thrasher, is an excellent where-we-are-now round-up that I definitely recommend, especially to those who don't mind Matt Taibbi's politics but hate his sturm and drang.

Plus also, the VV is now so slender that it easily fits in your backpack — good news/bad news!

Posted by mrbrent at 12:04 PM

September 30, 2010

the qualifications of christine o'donnell

If you take the slow drip of embarrassments concerning GOP nominee for the senate race in Delaware, Christine O'Donnell, you can honestly and without exaggeration sum them up with one sentence:

Christine O'Donnell is spectacularly unqualified to hold public office.

Obviously I'm coming from a leftie viewpoint, but I don't intend that as an accusation.  I'm saying it's a fact.  The only sense that she is qualified to be a senator is that she's volunteering to be one, and I defy anyone that is from the opposite end of the spectrum to assert that there should be absolutely no metric of fitness to represent an entire state of the floor of the Senate.

Writers gotta file copy, and she certainly will keep them busy over the upcoming, but shouldn't the obvious be spoken by somebody with some kind of authority?

Posted by mrbrent at 2:01 PM

boo go mcdonald's

The Health Care Bill went into effect not a week ago, and already one of America's most beloved corporate entities is holding its breath and stamping its feet until Congress does something:
McDonald's Corp. may cut health insurance for nearly 30,000 hourly workers in the U.S. unless federal regulators waive a requirement of the new healthcare law.

The restaurant chain is at odds over the law's stipulation that "mini-med" insurance plans, which provide limited benefits, spend at least 80% of premium revenue on medical care, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing a company memo.

The cap was intended to keep insurance companies from hoovering up revenue and distributing it to executives in the form of compensation and benefits.  Controversial, if you're a free marketeer: "How dare the government dictate what my bottom line is?"

The short answer to that is of course that the government dared because the industry failed to police itself when it had the chance, and given that the specific industry is well inside the definition of public interest, self-policing is a privilege and not a right.

It's going to be a long couple of years, because between big business and the yelly crazified people there are not many friends for health care reform even as it becomes reality.

Oh, and the fact that the mini-med McDonald's offers refuses to meet the eight percent cap, and the fact that McDonald's is willing to put its good will on the line over it, is worth further inquiry of the journalistic variety.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:08 AM

September 28, 2010

we need more ufos

The USAF retired ICBM-jockey "UFOs interfered with nuke sites" press conference actually happened!  With video!

Nothing really revelatory to anyone that is mildly interested in the phenomena of Things We Don't Know What Are — frequent sightings over missile silos to the point that a protocol was established, occasional mysterious launch-disabling.  But the fact that it got at least a little bit of press coverage raises the bar a little bit.  And the dudes make a whole lot more convincing witnesses than your prototypical "I was driving alone in the middle of nowhere" wild-eyed crazy.

And this part is interesting:

One witness testified that he'd been told that the government had been in contact with aliens but that nobody knew what they wanted — the aliens had explained nothing, and given no signs of being interested in communicating further.

ETs are surly tweens.

Also keep in mind: the more credible, the greater the possibility of what they call "disinformation".  (Ha ha only kidding!)

Posted by mrbrent at 11:02 AM

carl paladino is a joke in your town

NY gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo "took off the gloves", as they say, by speaking demonstrably true things about his opponent, angry Republican billionaire of the people Carl Paladino, in front of microphones.  One such true (but poorly phrased) thing would be, "Carl Paladino’s Tea Party, I see as a party that has extremist views."

But then the Paladino campaign responded!

In a statement, Mr. Paladino’s campaign manager, Michael Caputo, said: “If Andrew Cuomo thinks the Tea Party movement has no place in New York, Carl knows more than 200,000 registered voters in New York who will disagree with Status Cuomo loudly on November 2.”

Whether or not Cuomo thinks Tea Partiers have no place in NY, let's keep in mind that, as of April of this year (careful, pdf!), there are eleven and a half million registered voters in the state of New York.  So that Elite Tea Party Shock Troop, Carl's Fightin' 200,000, is less than two percent of NY's electorate.  That might be enough to get elected Mayor of, say, Syracuse, or definitely Newburgh, but it is off the pace to win the governorship by an order of magnitude.

So, Paladino campaign manager, Michael Caputo: please be careful where you point those 200,000 Tea Party voters before you poke somebody's eye out.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:31 AM

September 27, 2010

colbert in the halls of power

I did not watch Stephen Colbert speaking in the hallowed august chamber of very serious seriousness whose card-carrying members include Reps. Steve King, Eric Cantor and Michele Bachmann.  I read the opening statement, in which he spoke about how he was invited after becoming interested in migrant farm workers' rights.  It didn't seem so controversial.  It wasn't in character, like his testimony, but I can't remember a day when a person interested in migrant farm workers and their welfare actually led the news.  Colbert's celebrity did that.

And of course there was all kinds of pushback, from conservatives because the worst of them are joyless know-nothings who would as soon set migrant farm workers on fire, and from media-types because some important-to-them line was crossed, leaving them look the more ragged in the aftermath.  Colbert actually cared about something that wasn't some natural disaster he was standing in.  Colbert was advocating, purely on the basis of it being the right thing to do.  How dare he.

If you're interested in all the reaction like I was, then I recommend (as usual) Roy Edroso writing for the Village Voice, who wades through all that and distills it into something convenient and portable, all cherry-picked but in living color:

"Does it seem just too big a coincidence that Stephen Colbert is testifying on Friday, the same day that Christopher Coates is scheduled to testify on the Black Panther case?"

Also coincidental: Colbert was giving testimony on a subsection of the underclass who get paid a fraction of what you do in order to pick the apples you eat, and Coates was testifying about a cryto-racist dogwhistle perversion of the Civil Rights division of the Justice Department.  Yeah, that's an actual quote from some leading light of the Whatever Movement and, "Ah sweet mystery of life," is something I find quite useful to say to myself, frequently.

Posted by mrbrent at 1:53 PM

carroll & carroll booksellers

A book store I loved: Carroll & Carroll Booksellers, in beautiful downtown Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania.  "There is no such city," you think to yourself, but there is indeed.  If ever you are driving majestic Interstate 80 from coast to coast, the eastern-most sizable town in PA is Stroudsburg.  It has a university, I hear, and has been relentlessly marketed as an affordable bedroom community for New Yorkers.  It may well be so, but at 80 miles away, that's a bear of a commute.  New Haven is equidistant, and Trenton, NJ is closer.  But it's nestled in the foothills of the Poconos, a rock's throw from the Delaware Water Gap, which is a breathtaking little view in daylight.

And the bookstore itself, tucked into a storefront on what passes for Main Street (actually called Main Street!), is not as big as you would like, but there are books stacked in every available space, though leaving comfortable room for your browsing pleasure.  It may be pure luck, but Carroll & Carroll decimated my wishlist of sci-fi paperbacks — holes in the collection were filled.  And sure I could've hit Amazon and done that with a few clicks, but Amazon does not smell as good and bookish as Carroll & Carroll.

As I checked out I grabbed a pamphlet advertising used and rare booksellers of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the (presumed) owner scolded me not to rely on it and to check the yellow pages wherever I go, because there are all kinds of stores not listed because they were scared away by whatever fees charged by the pamphlet.  "Too cheap," she sneered, while still doing them the favor of advising me to find them wherever they hide.  So let's call her crusty but charming, a Kenny Shopsin of the bookstore.

No they do not have a website, which is entirely in line with their scruffy charm.  But they are at 740 Main Street — easy on/easy off from I-80 Exit 307.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:43 AM