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October 29, 2010

david brooks is a friday thing

David Brooks!  This'll only take a couple seconds.

In today's installment Brooks "imagines" what a politician and/or political party should do in the future.  This is what Brooks does when he runs out of ideas, or needs to file something in advance so he can spend a week in one of his mansions unmolested by deadlines.  Concern trolling might be a term for it, but really what it is is auto-fanfic wherein President David Brooks lays out his carefully considered plans for the future.  It's awkward like a flabby man showing off his imagined sixpack, but at least it's predictable: it's not how many times the word 'center' appears but how many.

And as far as more than we want to know about President Brooks goes, check describes the kind of person President Brooks will need to be:

[He] is a fervent believer in the old-fashioned bourgeois virtues: order, self-discipline, punctuality and personal responsibility.

I'm glad that he included punctuality, but where's the personal hygiene?  And penmanship?

Posted by mrbrent at 9:59 AM

October 28, 2010

might be the last straw?

So there's this story that just broke on the Internet not half an hour ago about how some dude afraid to use his name had a grown-up sleepover with a dim-witted candidate for Senate in the State of Delaware.  It's noxious, so I ain't gonna link it.  It'll get plenty of ink, I'm sure.

But maybe this is a point we need to get to: an overshare so malicious, a linkbait so transparent, that we are forced to have an adult conversation about what we will and will not post online, or, better yet, whether the reputational consequences will eventually outweigh the extra couple ten thousand uniques.

The story about Brett Favre's awkward attempts at infidelity were pretty newsless intrinsically, somehow ickier than picking through a celebrity's garbage.  But this is even worse.  As low of an opinion I have of Christine O'Donnell and her qualifications for office, this is cheap and unmerited.  I'm about a rabid progressive as you can be, but embarrassing a candidate for having a private life is something that people I detest do, and I don't want to become the people I detest.

So count me in with this.

(This also reminds me about something I was thinking about this morning while sitting in traffic: the great thing about being the author of such a heinous post is that you're guaranteed another post with boffo traffic wherein you renounce your former sleazy ways.)

Posted by mrbrent at 2:32 PM

October 27, 2010

canadians are amassing on the northern border

Head's been swimming all day with just the one lone fact that Sharron Angle has a reasonable shot to be elected to anything.  Comptroller, Secretary, State Flower, that would be something enough.  Senator?  Even from Nevada, which is kind of a half-state.  The brittle sheen of her eyes makes Michelle Bachmann look like she has a doctorate in I'm Not Insane.  And yet, and yet.

But this is something else entirely, like the old joke where someone is cured of the headache by having their foot stomped on.  But apparently the people who are crazy and stupid even though we are not supposed to call them that lest we depress them are starting an exciting new movement revolving around the premise that the Rand-Stomping Incident was staged by Canadian provocateurs.

I know that the Reasonable Middle says that you're not supposed to engage the crazy people derisively, because it only inflames them more, but what are we supposed to do?  Rub their bellies like alligators?  Just give them the till before someone gets hurt?

Better: how can we protect ourselves from the Canadians?

Posted by mrbrent at 7:20 PM

landicane!

OMG the weather.  You might have noticed some uncharacteristic warmth and humidity in the past few, at least around NYC.  Yeah, I know, I know, "Who's sarcastic about global warming now?"

But the really interesting thing about climate change is not that things will slowly get warmer, because that change is a slow in the grand scheme of things, generations-long.  But the volatile weather, that will be really noticeable.  And the unseasonableness I'm sitting in right now is caused by what they're called a "landicane" sitting over the central U.S.:

Around 5:00 pm on Tuesday afternoon, an automatic sensor in Big Fork, Minnesota recorded a pressure of 28.20 inches of mercury (954.9 millibars).  Not only was that the lowest atmospheric pressure reading recorded in Minnesota, it is also the lowest non-hurricane pressure known to have occurred in the lower 48 states.

Now that is some novelty.  Obviously, the name is derived from the fact that a freaking weather system greatly resembling a freaking hurricane about as big as Alaska spinning funnel clouds off the spiral like a video game.

And weather is unpredictable, bad things happen, etc.  But a landicane?  I like my weather porn as much as the next guy, but I've not heard of one outside of a Bruce Sterling novel.

Kind of cool.  Kind of terrifying.

Posted by mrbrent at 6:43 PM

i got to stop reading financial stuff

Here's an excerpt from an online conversation between Moe Tkacik and Mike Riggs of the Daily Caller.  I love that these are springing up, these little approximations of video without the variable of on-the-spot chosen words — frankness without "um"s.  But what they touch on in this bit is the Big Meaning of That Foreclosure Thing than happened it seems like so long ago:
RIGG$: I know a lot of people think the biggest problem is people losing their homes.  I think the biggest problem is that the system for documenting ownership (private property rights!!11!) has been undermined.
If you’re going to say #1 is a bigger problem than #2, give me both barrels.

MOE: Well no the biggest problem is actually that it’s sort of like there’s this termite-type ‘actor’ in the American economy known as the servicers, who benefit only to the detriment of every other kind of “good faith” actor in the economy and the ultimate degradation of society.
But for the past two to three years, those termites have been the single unstoppable force driving the housing market.
Everything else is at a kind of delusional standstill.

RIGG$: But servicers now stand to get fucked, do they not?

MOE: I would agree with you that the system for documenting ownership being undermined is a pretty significant detail.  But it’s not actually about documenting ownership.  It’s about how money gets “earned” anymore in this country, and how that generally relies on systemic fraud.
Do they stand to get fucked? Not nearly on par with the people they’ve fucked.
On both sides of the “ownership” charade.

So on a practical level, you have mostly an avalanche of legitimately defaulted mortgages that were either improperly recorded or prosecuted.  For folk like Riggs, the "people getting thrown out of their homes" argument is no biggie, since nearly all of these people could be argued to have deserved to get thrown out of their homes.

But on the conceptual level that Tkacik talks about, the flaunting of the rule of law by the banks is very very alarming, because when we non-banks fudge some paperwork on a loan application or in a legal proceeding, we get screwed.  We do not get excused for being right in the first place.

And her point about servicers being termites is worth a couple of exclamation points, because it seems increasingly that entire sectors of the financial services industry are unnecessary layers of transaction that exist only to suck money off the top of the deal.  And if that is the case, well, shouldn't more people be aware of it?  Like pension funds, municipalities, and the other marks who get taken for a ride?

Posted by mrbrent at 10:08 AM

October 26, 2010

rich people things

And one of the writers published by the Awl who is relentlessly good is Chris Lehmann.  His pieces definitely fall into the "too long; didn't read" category, which is increasingly a reason to read something, I'm finding (try Instapaper for time management issues).  Lehmann's column is "Rich People Things" — a focus on economics and industry and, well, rich people things, even when they intersect with poor people things, as does his most recent column, about how America's cluelessness about wealth inequality is akin to having a bucket full of dirty mop water stuck on your foot:
In other words, the lodestar Reaganite faith of government —shredding, tax-squelching economic policy continues to tantalize the U.S. public in roughly the same fashion that the dogma of the divine right of kings kept generations of Old World peasants from revolting —even though Ronald Reagan himself continued both to hike government spending and raise taxes.  (Also, it turns out that whole Excalibur thing was pretty much a put-on, as well.)

That's as good an explanation of the seeming hypnosis of the body politic into ignoring looming plutocracy as I've seen, and is a very small portion of the piece.  Lehmann also has a collection of his Rich People Things essays out, available for purchase, which I intend to do.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:21 AM

October 25, 2010

unabashed plug

So I am now in possession of a new little machine, a netbook as they call it, which is not news anywhere in the world but for the fact I've been working off the machine I bought in 2000 for the past, how many years is that?

And now that I have a machine that runs an actual extant OS, I made the switch from the MS crapware to OpenOffice.  And as I downloaded it, they asked very nicely to contribute in any way possible.  And being the broke-ass jerk I am, with his first non-Windows Me OS since way back then, I am contributing with the endorsement: I haven't actually used it yet, but it's been recommended a number of times.  Free yourself from the yoke, and DL the OpenOffice now, to attend to your word processing and document management needs.

"Yes, grandpa, we did, back in the Bush Administration."  Well, yes, but maybe some of you haven't.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:56 PM

the awl

This is for the friends and family outside of the peculiar media echo chamber that is New York City, or at least the digital simulacrum thereof — NYT's tireless media writer David Carr files a nice short piece explaining what the Awl is and what makes it so special.

Basically, they're in it for publishing the good work and not for crashing servers with pictures of Justin Beiber in a bikini.  If you need to stretch for a magazine/newspaper comparison (and there's no harm in that), just remember your three favorite magazines and mash them up all together.  There is timeliness and there is smart solid writing.  They rock.  Also they've published me in the past, which would make me a homer of sorts, but for the fact that I was a die-hard fan long before any of my stuff saw print.

So, what's the Awl again?  Well, it's the thing you use to punch holes in your belt once you've lost all that weight, duh.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:45 AM