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November 27, 2010

four different stupids before breakfast

My gosh, this is good.  Bob Harris, for Boing Boing, unpacks the Glenn Beck/Sarah Palin conversation (in which Palin pledged her support for North Korea) and comes up with a startling conclusion:
Beck's assertion -- with which Palin showed no disagreement whatsoever -- requires belief in no less than four different insane things -- and that's even if the [recent mysterious-but-explained California] contrail hadn't already been fully explained.

Sure, Beck/Palin are low-hanging fruit, but the point is that criticizing them is not necessarily a purely partisan act.  They believe in objectively, demonstrably insane things, and they are protected from being called out on this by false equivalency — i.e., "well I'm sure President Obama also believes in insane things."

In other words, truth hurts.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:35 AM

sports investment

In Eastern PA for the "holiday", I'm driving to Panera this morning, and the AM sports talk station is broadcasting an infomercial of sorts, as three guys that run a "sports information service" break down last week's games, brag about their "information" prowess and repeat their toll-free number repeatedly.  They are converted bookies, of course, selling betting tips instead of taking sports bets.  They are not seedy, though — "sports investment" is how they refer to the industry in which they toil, actually creating a new bubble in the flowchart of How Gamblers Lose Money.  Hopefully I can create a service that rates and recommends sports information services before some egghead figures out a way to securitize this Sunday's picks.

This is just the latest in my "I was driving to Panera/something on the radio" series, which documents our slow slide into an amiable, dull dystopia.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:25 AM

November 26, 2010

krugman on a modest proposal

The inescapable logic of Paul Krugman, concerning Ireland's Modest Proposal v2:
Before the bank bust, Ireland had little public debt.  But with taxpayers suddenly on the hook for gigantic bank losses, even as revenues plunged, the nation’s creditworthiness was put in doubt.  So Ireland tried to reassure the markets with a harsh program of spending cuts.

Step back for a minute and think about that.  These debts were incurred, not to pay for public programs, but by private wheeler-dealers seeking nothing but their own profit.  Yet ordinary Irish citizens are now bearing the burden of those debts.

Or to be more accurate, they’re bearing a burden much larger than the debt — because those spending cuts have caused a severe recession so that in addition to taking on the banks’ debts, the Irish are suffering from plunging incomes and high unemployment.

Of course, the concept that government austerity in order to assuage the EU and the third parties holding Ireland's paper would do anything but hurt the public welfare and inevitably reduce income received from the increasingly poorer citizenry is not difficult to understand.  Sadly, it kept butting up against the idea held by University of Chicago types that investor confidence is paramount to anything resembling the actual fiscal health of the flesh and blood people that populate the country.

And now that the consequence are upon them, the answer of the austerity chorus?  More austerity.  They literally think of people as just another statistic to manipulate in the interest of the Free Market.

"Punishing the populace for the bankers' sins," is how Krugman puts it, and it doesn't take a stretch of the imagination to see how it applies inside these shores.

Posted by mrbrent at 1:12 PM

black friday: korean peninsula

Sarah Palin Realpolitik notwithstanding, the Koreas did not take advantage of this holiday weekend to lay down arms and go stand in line at Best Buy at two in the morning.  No, in fact: more artillery target practice.

And now China is all like, "Yo Yankee imperialists, I'm really happy for you. Imma let you finish, but..."

I'm not saying that a shooting war is going to break out.  I'm just saying that a border dispute between two neighbors who never settled the war they fought fifty years ago, backstopped by a real close big brother and a not-so-close real big brother respectively is a very complex situation with a very high degree of difficulty.  And not one that you can win, per se, but only not lose.

And, to be facile, all the good stuff happens in the dead of our night because of the time zones, which means that the Internet (and television, I guess, if you like your news in two sentences) is the only way to keep up with it unless you want to read about it 36 hours after it happens.

Posted by mrbrent at 12:34 PM

November 25, 2010

the real meaning of turkey day

It would also be cynical of me to suggest that if we would like to celebrate Thanksgiving in fashion appropriate of the event we commemorate, we would drive to a city we've never been to, get invited to a stranger's for a meal, leave them some smallpox pie and then eventually move in to their house.

So I'm not.  Besides, the Pilgrims weren't even Americans, just some freakshow religious cultists who fled England to pursue their right to be cultists.  Genocide wasn't their bag at all.  That would be the Americans proper.

But you people, you I'm thankful for, right behind my family and my friends.  Well, to the extent that you are not comprised of family and/or friends.

Consume conspicuously and love your loved ones.

Posted by mrbrent at 12:02 PM

happy thinksgiving tom delay

What am I thankful for on this Thanksgiving morning?  I am thankful that Tom Delay has been found guilty of money laundering in Texas.  Delay hasn't been prominent in four or five years, which should be more than enough to be thankful for, but he was a douchebag GOP congressman from Texas who helped father the current Republican m.o. of mindless partisanship.  The Clinton impeachment was the kind of thing that got him out of bed in the morning.  And, as proven in a court of law, laundering illegal contributions and funneling them to fellow caucus members.  Hey, everyone's human, but Delay made a mini-career out of protesting his innocence, which makes him unrepentant — i.e., a criminal twice over.

Couldn't happen to a nicer guy.  Here's hoping that Hot Tub Tom gets to eat his turkey for the next couple years in the hoosegow.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:19 AM

November 24, 2010

obligatory tsa post

So I'm sittin' here listening to the Brian Lehrer show on WNYC and his topic is the TSA and the scanners and all that.  Like every other radio show and cable news outlet.  And he's taking calls.  Always a bad idea.  And the calls are split between the weeping "I was violated" and the indignant "Haven't we learned the lessons of 9-11!?!"

I guess I don't have a dog in this fight.  The TSA did make my wife strip down to her bra in a crowded terminal two weeks ago — that I have a HUGE problem with.  Sadly, it doesn't fall into the context of the current hoo ha, as it involves neither X-Ray Centerfolds or Massage/Happy Endings.  The TSA is like most everything else, a shitty job filled with people not inspired to care much about it, tasked to look busy enough to give the impression to idiot terrorists planning on charging the cockpit with a cigarette lighter and a bottle of hand lotion.

I guess ultimately I feel like we do not need to strip every single flier nude in the interest of security, because it is exactly that level of paranoia that means the terrorists have won.  And at the same time, some form of screening is going to be a fact of life, so let's try not to scream our heads off about it.

So that's like a shut up on both your houses, I guess.  For a better shut up concerning some of the ridiculous ways this issue is being framed, read this.

I just wish that this new talent the general public has discovered recently, obsessive outrage, could actually be turned on something useful.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:42 AM

November 23, 2010

miracle on 33rd street

The best thing I've read in a while is this op-ed written by Tom Scocca and Choire Sicha, sticking up for Penn Station.  It captures the majesty of the New York that actually exists, and argues that the Crappy that we've put up with in New York is as vital as the showpieces:
The city beneath our city is a delightfully ill-lighted, incomprehensibly organized, low-ceilinged, viewless labyrinth.  Harried people surge through its concourses and tunnels in perpendicular lines, mean salmon in puffy coats going always upstream.  Soldiers with combat weapons lurk outside the city’s most unhygienic group lavatories.  There is nowhere to sit.  The “talking kiosk” that serves the visually impaired has been heckling Long Island Rail Road customers with chirping for so long that we have begun to associate birdsong with the most terrible things.

And you know that you've been in New York too long when you understand that the above is intended with affection and not revulsion.

It's not only pitch perfect but also the kind of piece that makes me wish I wrote it.  I don't know if that constitutes praise or not, but I am going to read this two or three more times.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:53 AM

north korea: yikes

I may be placid about things other people are terrified of (terrorism, Palin's presidential chances), but when lunatic North Korea decides to get everyone's attention I get a little twitchy.

Obviously South Korea's not going to invade, but after a time some kind of response has to happen (even though the NPR disembodied voices reassure me that that is not the case).  If South Korea and North Korea want to throw dirt clods at each other for fun, it's no big deal.  But crazy insane North Korea has been making a show of its potential nuclear capability, so at what point does this go from a shootin' war to a smoking crater war?

Just, fuckin' yikes.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:31 AM

November 22, 2010

"you cannot say that dallas does not love you"

OK, check this out:
The denizens of Texas nut country did not kill Kennedy that day. But many celebrated openly and joyously after Lee Harvey Oswald did. Birchers and Klansmen gloated. Elementary-school students in the Dallas 'burbs broke into spontaneous applause.  In Amarillo, a reporter witnessed jubilation in the streets, with men whooping and tossing their hats in the air and one woman crying out, "Hey, great, JFK's croaked!"

It's from a Texas Observer article, as linked in a Daily Kos diary noting similarities to the Texas/Bircher movement during the Kennedy Administration, those that threw their hats in the air, and the current generation right-minded patriots who wish ill on our chief executive.

It's only a moderately useful comparison, given preaching-to-the-choir concerns and the general futility of the "you're hating me by calling me hatey!" response which could be reasonably expected, but it is extraordinarily useful as an illustration that answers the question of whether things now are crazier/more untenable than they ever have been: no, not really, same homicidal assholes, different hats.

History does like to gloss it over, but a portion of Americans are generally from the moral cloth that allows applauding the assassination of an American leader.

Posted by mrbrent at 1:18 PM