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April 30, 2011

mitt romney: there's unfortunate and then there's unfortunate

I may be overly optimistic, but what I would want in a presidential candidate, regardless of my affiliation, is a man/woman that will not accidentally say that he/she wants to hang the president (who at this time happens to be black).

I'm not saying that Mitt Romney actually wants to hang Obama.  In fact, I'd bet an awful lot that he does not.  But in the litany of unfortunate turns of phrase, that might be the most unfortunate, so I'm not questioning the presidentiality of Romney as much as I am wondering how fucking stupid he is.

It's not an obvious and clumsy dogwhistle a la Donald Trump, but it will be a hard thing to recover from.  (Though maybe he will now recapture some of the support that The Donald has recently been enjoying, in that Birther kind of way?)

Posted by mrbrent at 4:39 PM

amis on hitchens

This is about as nice a thing as you'll find on the Internet this weekend.  It made the rounds during the week, but now you might have a second, as I did, to read the whole thing.

It's an appreciation of Christopher Hitchens written by Martin Amis, and it is very very moving:

Most of us shakily preside over a chaos of vestigial prejudices and pieties, of semi-subliminal inhibitions, taboos and herd instincts, some of them ancient, some of them spryly contemporary (like moral relativism and the ardent xenophilia which, in Europe at least, always excludes Israelis). To speak and write without fear or favour (to hear no internal drumbeat): such voices are invaluable.

Amis is a troublesome and divisive figure, both in his work and in his public profile.  I'm a fan, but I understand those who are not.  And I guess the same can be said for Hitchens in a greater degree, but as far as he goes, I don't know of anyone with whom I disagree wildly who I respect more for the sheer avalanche of his wit.  True, they're old and well-documented pals, but it's a great testament to the both of them.  Like likes like.

And ultimately, it's the nicest love letter from a friend to a friend, and I have some friends that I love, so it hits me pretty hard and dead-on.

Posted by mrbrent at 12:53 PM

April 29, 2011

royal wedding!

For the record (and mostly for my record): I worked for the better part of two weeks on a story about the Royal Wedding, about the hype and how strange it was for a decidedly anti-monarchist nation to go bananas for a wedding fueled entirely by monarchs.  It was gonna be a good one!  But after tracking done some examples of bananas-Americans and looking more closely into it, we came to the realization that the amount of bananas-Americans in fact did not justify the hype (at least on this side of the Atlantic Ocean).  And that became a little more difficult of a premise to support, plus also doesn't really say all that much different than 45% of all Tweets from the last week.

It's no fun to pull the plug like that, but, hey, it's no fun shaving, either.  So there.

And I did watch a smidgeon of the RW — beautiful wife and some friends had a slumber party, and I hauled my ass out of bed at 5:30a to swing by for a quick breakfast and the first Royal Kiss.  Two thoughts: first, the million or so people staggering around London sure did look like they were having a good time, which takes the edge off my cynicism a bit.  A bit!  Because, second, the happiest person in the world about the RW has got to be PM David Cameron, considering that a month ago the streets of London were filled with protesters.  His New Austerity may be dragging the UK to new Thatcherite depths, but Cameron got a free pass for a week or two.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:09 AM

April 28, 2011

john yoo is still craven

I don't know how he does it, but John Yoo, putatively some sort of lawyer, the dude who argued so forcefully for executive privilege (torture! rendition! murder!) as water-carrier for the Bush administration, is working hard to be the most craven man alive.  True, he's putatively some sort of lawyer to begin with, but I work with lawyers every day and I'm here to tell you, what they say about them is only partly right.

Yoo co-authored an Op-Ed for Rupert Murdoch which rails against a possible executive order from the president forcing government contractors to disclose political contributions.  Kind of a natural position for a conservative to take, protecting the rights of business.  But in doing so, Yoo manages to draw false equivalencies to not only the Civil Rights era, but also to opponents of Proposition 8 in California.  This is the inverse of Godwin's Law: any attempt to dress the enormous business interests of this nation in the clothes of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. should disqualify one from every being taken seriously by anyone ever.

Since Yoo is loathsome, I have no problem spoiling his kicker:

Civil libertarians and liberals have so far been mum in the face of Mr. Obama's executive order. They're likely justifying their silence on the basis that businesses—not unions—will suffer. But if the president succeeds in reducing the free-speech rights of business today, it will be far easier to limit the same rights of other Americans tomorrow.

Imagine the outcry we'll hear from self-described First Amendment supporters when every professor applying for a government research grant has to disclose his political donations.

First, I would not cry out.  In fact, I think transparency is a wonderful thing, and generally if you make a donation that you don't want anyone to know about then you should not be making that donation.  Not to mention that the disclosure of contributions is more of an anti-graft measure than a punish-oil-companies measure.  Contractors should not have the ability to brazenly buy contracts.  Period.

Second, regardless of Citizens United v. FEC, if we are going to talk about the First Amendment rights of businesses, then businesses should also be forced to register for the draft on their 18th birthday.  Because who knows when it might be time for them to make the ultimate sacrifice for their country?

And the cravenness of Yoo, the utter lack of any principle other than, "Will this get me more speaking gigs?" is that while stringing together a highly offensive series of arguments, he glosses over the fact that this possible regulation will be achieved by executive order, which executive orders Yoo kinda wrote the book on when the topic was waterboarding brown people.  The phrase for this is Intellectual Cowardice, though don't read too much into my use of the word Intellectual.

The co-author, David Marston, I do not know of, but by virtue of this byline we will consider him a douchebag by association.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:26 AM

April 27, 2011

what i'm missing by not watching cable news

So what I missed this morning by starting my commute a little bit later than usual and ignoring the news for the first couple moments at the desk is the Internet being Set On Fire by the White House releasing an actual long-form birth certificate and then dueling press conferences by the president and the Donald.

I've not watched or read of any of this, but rather am notified of it by my Twitter feed, which is like a little seismograph of current events and novelty in general.  Which Twitter feed was just won by @Fatmanatee with this one:

can we agree that 24/7 cable news was a terrible idea?

Yes we can!  But the foolishness of wall-to-wall Trump is only slightly more foolish than a president forced to ask a favor from the State Department of Hawaii to release his birth certificate two years into his term because stupid and willfully deceitful people have sublimated their racism into a theory that at the time Barack Obama, a child of mixed race parents, was born in 1961 he was given a fake birth certificate so that he could eventually become president.

Trump's an embarrassment (and an embarrassment that America welcomes into their living room), but the Birther thing is just fucking sad.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:56 AM

April 26, 2011

polling the willfuly stupid

I'm listening to To The Point on the NPR, and they're running a piece on Birtherism and its implications, even though that story is not one that is useful to report, but still: it's in the headlines, and so, and so.

And one of the guests, I forget which, raised the point that even though the Birther issue polls unreasonably well at certain times, the pollees are not necessarily verifying a Birther belief but rather expressing their general displeasure with the concept of a President Barack Obama.

I've thought this myself, and I agree.  But I think that this speaks worse to the issue: to have a bunch of people think that the president wasn't born in Hawaii even though that's provably so is just the expression of stupid people.  Kinda scary.  But to have people answer that they believe in a demonstrably untrue thing just because of the depths of their antipathy?  They're not stupid, just hateful douchebags.

It also questions the efficacy of polls in the first place, with the idea that preferences would sway responses of fact.

But ultimately, I'm finding that the stupid people that I don't like are actually not stupid but willfully deceitful.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:48 PM

way ta go, port authority

This is an apology, of a sort, and a small vindication.  Coming back from Philadelphia after a little Easter dinner, we were trapped in a two hour back-up at the Outerbridge Crossing, which is the southern-most means to get from New Jersey into the five boroughs of NYC.  It's not ordinarily a high-traffic route, even though it's a sneaky way to get from Jersey and points south to Brooklyn and the rest of Long Island.  I commemorated the frustration experienced by questioning our future as a species, because, goodness, how hard is it to merge down to two lanes?

And then the come-to-find-out moment is that no, it was not poorly-skilled, selfish drivers that caused this.  It was in fact the fault of the Port Authority, the agency that runs certain crossings, who only had one cash lane open, resulting in a two-hour bottleneck that lasted for the entirety of Easter.

So, I apologize to humanity for slander (though when it comes to basic civility while driving humanity has a long way to go).  And Port Authority?  Way ta go, assholes.

Posted by mrbrent at 12:32 PM

April 25, 2011

ross douthat goes to hell

This is a little nothing in the grand scheme of things, it's worth three of your minutes, as NYT columnist (Conservative Lite!) Ross Douthat goes all Cotton Mather on your ass:
Doing away with hell, then, is a natural way for pastors and theologians to make their God seem more humane. The problem is that this move also threatens to make human life less fully human.

Atheists have license to scoff at damnation, but to believe in God and not in hell is ultimately to disbelieve in the reality of human choices. If there’s no possibility of saying no to paradise then none of our no’s have any real meaning either. They’re like home runs or strikeouts in a children’s game where nobody’s keeping score.

This is only stupid on the surface!  I mean, for a grown man to bemoan the propensity of the faithful to elide the terribleness of an afterlife option, that's just silly.  It's an argument that might not seem out of place in your Bible Study Group, but the reason that they have Bible Study Groups is to keep that sort of talk in the closed environment and out of the view of people like me who make fun of such things like literal interpretations of sacred texts.

But in the closed confines of a theological conversation, then this is a valid question to ask — and then not such a stupid thing to bring up, just a shockingly shallow and cynical thing to bring up.  Just to imply that faith is the result of staring into a barrel of a loaded gun?  Eff that, man, and not on my behalf but on the behalves of the people I respect that are with some faith or the other.  Any faith that is born of some kind of bargain (such as I'm afraid of dying and don't want to go to Hell and therefore will take Jesus Christ as my own personal savior) is a cheap flimsy faith that's not worth the anxiety it's written on.

And the implication that the only consequence to our action is some bad thing that some Spooky Ghost Man will do to you once you're dead?  That's just juvenile.

I would hate to see the rest of the columns that Douthat has filed in advance in case he wants to take a sick day.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:43 AM

good morning 4.25.11

It was an action-packed weekend and this work week looks no less hectic and--

Aha!  I just tricked you into thinking that it is 2003 again, what with bloggers talking about their weekends and future boring plans!

But it is not 2003.  It is 2011, and you are older than you want to be.  Older, in fact, than you ever planned on being, and yet you are far too fatigued to panic b/c yesterday was Easter, and you were forced to eat honey-glazed ham.

Hey wow, I'm making sense like I used to back in 2003.  I will however produce content for this site, while I'm producing all the other content I need to produce.

And if I made you a spiedie sammy on Saturday, I certainly hope you enjoyed it and thanks for your support.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:15 AM