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December 10, 2010

gop: millionaire tax cuts over 9-11 heroes

My God, now that I think of it, the Senate couldn't have had a more shameful day that they did yesterday if they tried.  And not to put lipstick on this pig: it's au courant to whine about the Democratic leadership, but it was the Republicans who put the brakes on the DREAM Act, then the Zadroga 9-11 Bill, and then DADT Repeal.

So they're now on the record as being anti-gays and anti-immigrants (which shouldn't hurt their base too much), but also the responders who where pulling bodies from the twisted wreckage of the Twin Towers and ended up paying for it with their fucking lives.  That should be hurting them with the base an awful fucking lot.


This is not to say that the DREAM Act and DADT Repeal are any less important — I am firmly behind both.  But not only am I a NYer with a particular relationship to 9-11 (as NYers here at that time generally have), I've also lived through nine years of being beaten around the neck and shoulders by Republicans using 9-11 as a flag they can wrap themselves in or some moral/patriotic high ground they can seize.

Apparently 9-11 is only useful for talking out of one side of the mouth.  Fuck them up and down for making humans look bad.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:17 PM

we have been invaded by aliens

Novelist Charles Stross offers his thesis on why the prospect of self-governance and the futility involved therewith exists.
We are now living in a global state that has been structured for the benefit of non-human entities with non-human goals.  They have enormous media reach, which they use to distract attention from threats to their own survival.  They also have an enormous ability to support litigation against public participation, except in the very limited circumstances where such action is forbidden.  Individual atomized humans are thus either co-opted by these entities (you can live very nicely as a CEO or a politician, as long as you don't bite the feeding hand) or steamrollered if they try to resist.

Make sure to click through for the kicker!

Posted by mrbrent at 11:10 AM

December 9, 2010

philistine vulgarity is good

OK, new favorite take on Wikileaks, from Marine/writer Roberto Arguedas.  I've always been a fan of prose of a military man, as you can use it to carve your name into a tree with it.  And his take is calm, cool and collected:
The contents of the leaks are not the main issue; in fact, they are at most an interesting bonus and occasionally a dangerous distraction. No less a personage than Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, no admirer of Wikileaks, has stated that the practical impact of the leaks in terms of security and compromised diplomacy is negligible. He goes on to make the point that countries don't do business with the US on the basis of ideals but rather as a result of self interest. Your mileage may vary, but I believe it's safe to take his word as an intelligence veteran charged directly with national defense over the flatulent posturing of elected leaders whose need for a good target to harangue often takes precedence over the facts of the matter.

He wrote it a couple days ago, so it does not address the new novelty of a bunch of kids DDoSing websites instead of burning down the Starbucks, but since he has a new blog, maybe he'll get to that too.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:58 AM

oh yeah the tax cuts

In between obsessing about Wikileaks and other Brave New World issues I was wadding up pieces of toilet paper and stuffing it into my ears because the wails coming from DailyKos and other liberal bastions were just deafening, man.

You see, the president made a deal with Republicans concerning tax structures and employment benefit extensions and some other things.  The tax extensions of course will disproportionately benefit the wealthy, and it is these tax cuts for the wealthy that were the legislation that the GOP would not budge on.  So the president made a deal.

Which of course resulted in much rending of shirts and many GBCW and an awful lot of teary memories of canvasing for Obama back in O8 and how could he!?!

Now I too am opposed to the tax cuts for millionaires — I don't see how they make sense in times of budget shortfalls, and I especially don't see how millionaires need tax cuts.  But at the same time, the president is the president of the country and not the president of me.  If the Republicans would like to hold legislation hostage for a tax cut for millionaires and then crow about how they achieved these tax cuts for millionaires, then I see that as a small failure but a big opportunity.  As Steve Benen says, why a circular firing squad, sads?

Having said that, Republicans aren't just being wildly irresponsible, they're opening themselves up to some potentially devastating criticism.  We're talking about a party that is literally refusing to do anything other than fight tooth and nail to protect unpopular tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires, at the expense of middle-class families. These cuts, as President Obama put it yesterday, represent the GOP's "holy grail," prioritized above all -- so much so that they've become "hostage takers," a provocative line that happens to be true.

I get being a single issue person.  I get feeling betrayed when a politician acts against your single issue.  But I just don't like the crying out loud.  Presidents do expedient things.  To run a dyed in the wool liberal in a primary challenge against the president would be about as smart as nominated Christine O'Donnell — point made, election lost.

Or, you know what?  Start a splinter party, make some placards, super.  Just ease up on the waterworks, which are a large part of the reason that "Middle Americans" or whatever you want to call them don't trust you.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:09 AM

wikileaks is you

I'm still crystallizing this, but the really fascinating thing about the Wikileaks contretemps (aside from the diplomatic revelations which steadily start to get scary and from the cyberwar currently being waged by non-state actors, all of which being legitimately fascinating) is that it seems like there's no corner of the way we live now that can't be somehow reflected or refracted by Wikileaks/CableGate.  Realpolitik?  Check.  Relationship between the individual and the corporation and the state?  Yes.  Quiet storm monkey business and the limits thereof?  There.  This morning I stubbed my toe on a story about how reading the actual Wikileaks site could hinder your employment prospects, but the scary nugget buried therein was actually that merely reading Wikileaks could be against the law, depending on how you read the statute.  Ka-yikes.

It's like it's about nothing and everything at all.  This could just be a mild existential crisis I'm having right now, but I suspect that actually it's one that I picked up from not washing my hands enough.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:14 AM

December 8, 2010

let's have a cyberwar

Some mild hysteria this morning over the cyberwar aspects of the unfolding Wikileaks controversy, as conveniently-named Anonymous targets the websites of entities that had targeted Wikileaks.  It's a brilliant case of Let's You and Him Fight, as I am generally pro-Wikileaks and anti-pressuring the vendors of Wikileaks to drop them just because, but also anti-DoS chicanery.  But unintended consequences are a bitch, and I certainly have given a thought about my use of MasterCard/PayPal in the future.

The paranoia over concerted online attacks, though, is something.  Well, it may be something to me because I got a good dose of it on a certain radio program I should probably shut up about, as the host baited the guests into comparing Operation Payback with armed insurgencies and ultimately wondered if the Internet would be safe for normal people while this was going on.

So in the spirit of calming anyone scared that a DoS attack might make something fall on your head on the Internet, here is a post concerning just what an actual cyberwar would look like:

The good news, then, is that modern cyberwar isn't especially bloody, or lethal.  It's the annoying tactics of DDOS-ing script kiddies, writ large and backed by millions of dollars.

The bad news? We're woefully underprepared for it, even as it happens.

See?  So don't worry/be very afraid.

Posted by mrbrent at 12:11 PM

sorkin on palin

One thing good about the past two years is that we've all had our chances for serial takedowns of Sarah Palin.  This is largely because, even though she is very good at quitting, she refuses to go away.  But we all get a chance to write mean things and congratulate each other for the malice and the disdain.

Even so, sometimes one comes down the pike that is truly off-the-charts, and on this occasion it is written by Aaron Sorkin, who takes umbrage at Palin's pathologically self-promotional television program, specifically an episode in which she slaughters a Caribou.  His problem is not that she is hunting, and not even that she is hunting for no reason other than to film a television show, but that she is preemptively self-righteous about it:

"Unless you've never worn leather shoes, sat upon a leather chair or eaten meat, save your condemnation."

You're right, Sarah, we'll all just go fuck ourselves now.

And this one will particularly hurt in the morning, and cuts through to the core issue of Palin's odiousness:

So I don't think I will save my condemnation, you phony pioneer girl.  (I'm in film and television, Cruella, and there was an insert close-up of your manicure while you were roughing it in God's country.  I know exactly how many feet off camera your hair and make-up trailer was.)

She's a very post-modern little Frankenstein, leveraging her burgeoning popularity into presidential whispers into piles of cash.  Also: fueled entirely by hypocrisy.

Posted by mrbrent at 7:58 AM

john lennon

I never imagined that this occasion would occasion itself, but exactly thirty years ago from tonight, I had a dream:

I was in a school bus, which school bus didn't ordinarily go past the high school on the way to the junior high, but did this one time.  The flag in front of the high school was at half mast.  I asked the dream person next to me, "Why is the flag at half mast?"  "Didn't you hear?" dream kid asks, "They shot John Lennon."

I was not two years into my slow discovery of the thing that was the Beatles, and I had the vinyl "Double Fantasy" at home — I was well aware of who John Lennon was, his importance, his legacy, etc.

Friends have suggested that I must have heard the news in my sleep and incorporated it into my dream.  Maybe.  Or maybe not.

But if there was ever a guy who shouldn't have got killed, it was probably John Lennon.

Posted by mrbrent at 12:04 AM

December 7, 2010

wikileaks day i foget which

I'm still sticking with this, by novelist Charles Stross, as the view of Julian Assange that most mirrors mine (so far):
Assange has a model of how the abduction of governance by common interest groups — such as corporations and right wing political factions — works in the current age.  His goal is to impair the ability of these groups to exert control over democratic institutions without the consent of the governed.  By forcing these authoritarian institutions to apply ever-heavier burdens of secrecy to their internal communications, wikileaks aims to reduce their ability to coordinate and, thus, to exert control.

It's a little bit highfalutin, but we are definitely living in a period when we the little folks who do all the voting are having significant problems having our representative wishes be heard and effected.  And I'm not talking about the "take our country back!" movements, because that's just more special interest manipulation, getting some poor folks mad at some thing or other backing a party line.  More like, what kind of safety net do we expect from the government, and how do we raise funds for the state and how do they get spent?  And if you ignore the foreign diplomacy bent of the most recent cables, if something comes out that might culture-jam the oligarchy, then we get a little more of a fighting chance.

And the fact that Assange is currently in custody awaiting extradition for a sex charge (one that seems to be more designed to inflame the progressives that might support him than the national security types that would rather see him black-op'ed) means that it must be some pretty big toes on which he is stepping.

Posted by mrbrent at 2:17 PM

the new audience

Further to the immediately previous post concerning the "American conversation" and why that phrase should not be employed, please read Tom Scocca's post tying together another aspect of the New Audience movement:
So it's like a thing—Crowd [in] Control!—now.  Like, Internet, instant gratification, Twitter, real-time feedback.  People feeling empowered (entitled?) to demand change right away, and to get it.  (Tea Parties?)  (Or remember how Snakes on a Plane crowdsourced its own production? We Are All Snakes on a Plane Now!)  (Hey, the Tea Party uses those snake flags!)

So maybe this pathological need to have the audience prove that they actually are viewing/listening/reading by interacting is, on the other side, evincing itself as a new, more pushy version of the audience that is demanding to be involved?  I.e., there is a very good chance that this is a "movement" that I'm totally on the outside of and, worst of all, helpless to stop.

Additionally, the morning listen to "The Takeaway" confirmed that not only are they devoting tranches of the broadcast to listener opinion, they actually have an app for your iPhone that enables you to submit vid/pix/recordings directly to the program.  I feel bad to slag off on "TT" so often, as I'm generally for their mission and news/entertainment programming in general.  But maybe the goat of mine being gotten is the insistence to frame this news magazine as nothing but a moment of the aforementioned "American conversation", reducing the role of news professionals to that of chit chat.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:03 AM

December 6, 2010

weigh in below!

This is a bit from a HuffPost alert on how microblogging service Tumblr has been down for a long time:
As of Monday morning, the service is still not up and running.  How has the outage affected you?  (If at all?)  Weigh in below.

I'm not bringing that to your attention because of the Tumblr drought, even though such a long interruption is kind of out of place if not possibly suspicious at this point in digital history, and even though I miss the stupid Tumblr personally.

I'm bringing it up because that last bit, starting with the question and ending with the invitation to weigh in below, is something that has always struck me as wrong-headed, as far as adapting to the needs of the changing audience.  I guess the idea is that the new reader needs the opportunity to be engaged, or to engage, and that unless there is some form of engagement, be it a comment thread or a series of little buttons linked to various social media, then the hip new reader that must have the demo all the advertisers want, will go elsewhere.  (Like NPR's "The Takeaway", which I am on the record for loathing and which wastes five percent of its broadcast time calling for listeners to "tell us what you think" or, worse, playing/reading these thoughts.)

I guess I can't really speak for these new readers, because I'd be an old reader, I guess.  Maybe this is what they want?  But first of all, I think it's silly for news/entertainment media to try to compete with the dedicated social media.  Whatever human need that is filled by seeing what an old high school friend thinks about the Jets game, or what a person you've never met IRL is eating for lunch, is not need that can be filled by static content like a movie or a written article.  Different brain channels entirely.  And tricking those looking for digital solace from their alone-ness into reading your repost of an AP wire story... I just don't see that as something that will turn your failing old media concern around, or as something that will power your new media start-up into glory.

And mostly I just hate the result, in the same way that "man on the street" comments are largely a useless exercise and nothing like reporting at all.  Because what do I care what the man on the street thinks?  (Any more than the same man should care what I think.)  I care about the reporting, and I care about the news.  Snapshots of the crowd zeitgiest may be useful, I guess, but I mostly don't trust them because they are so easily manipulated by volume/access — a trending topic on Twitter is not a measure of what the world is talking about, it's a measure of what people with Internet access and too much time on their hands is talking about.

Again, it may be a useful thing to know the general thoughts of people with Internet access and too much time on their hands, but, again, if you want that you know where to find it, and the place you go will never be the bottom of a HuffPost page.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:07 AM

December 5, 2010

please run for president newt gingrich

Have you heard the news today oh boy?
Newt Gingrich launches The Americano, a new news and opinion website targeting Hispanic conservatives.

Why, that's not awkward at all.  Or tone-deaf, even.

Posted by mrbrent at 6:16 PM