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June 3, 2011

nyt: um, no

It has come to this: when reporting on the House Republicans, be it Speaker Boehner or Rep. Ryan or that pipsqueak from Virginia who thinks he's a young gun, honest reporters have resorted to the use of the parenthetical aside.

Take for example this story from the New York Times, about how the credit rating agency Moody's is hinting that it might downgrade the United States' credit rating unless the government lifts the debt ceiling.  Boring stuff, yes, but just know that a change in such credit rating would have billions of dollars of impact even if it didn't upset the entire apple cart that is the economy.  And the reason that the debt ceiling has not been raised is because one-third of the parties that must agree on this (the House, namely) has decided that the posture of the not-actual majority is advantageous because then they can pretend that the refusal to accommodate the House's extravagant blackmail demands can then be somehow depicted as irresponsibility.  (And besides, another financial crisis only helps them, the thinking goes, in terms of the next election.)

So then in this story, there is this passage:

The House speaker, John A. Boehner, said in a statement, “The White House needs to get serious right now about dealing with our deficit and debt.” He interpreted the Moody’s report as bolstering his contention that “a credible agreement means the spending cuts must exceed the debt-limit increase.”

Now I can guarantee that that's what Speaker Boehner contended.  But such a contention, that Moody's was making a specific suggestion, is pretty easily proven or disproven.  So the NYT, as it is not a cable newser, follows with this paragraph:

Moody’s, however, made no mention of how a deficit-reduction deal should be structured.

It's great that a news source is finally (dispassionately) taking gross misstatements and outright falsehood to the woodshed, but to have to reserve an entire paragraph to follow each quoted sentence from John Boehner is just awkward and destroys the flow.  Maybe footnotes would work better?  But on the other hand, there is a long-suffering quality to it that is kind of appealing.

I do not by this intend to imply that the Republicans in the Senate are innocent of this, of course — Rand Paul alone is possessed of such a white-knuckled belief in untrue things that he has enough mendacity for everyone.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:54 AM

June 2, 2011

house gop: eat and die

Compare and contrast:

First, take a look at this little German E. Coli outbreak:

Where has this strain come from?

Germany, specifically the north, is the geographical source. The source appears to be contaminated salad vegetables. Initially scientists thought cucumbers were the source of infection, however, this has not been confirmed. Other foods are now being investigated.

What is the scale of infection?

WHO figures show there have been 1,614 confirmed cases in Europe of which 16 have resulted in deaths. Of the cases, 1,115 have been EHEC and 499 HUS. However, latest figures on Thursday night showed 18 people had died

Now compare with this story of how House Republicans are planning to kill a new Food and Drug Administration effort to protect the food supply by defunding it, because, you know, regulations are bad and we need to right the ship! and the free market can protect our food supply perfectly fine.

You can pick out multiple instances of this collision between the imaginary scapegoat principles of Republicans and their callous disregard for the health and safety of the general public.  But at the same time, why are there not questions leveled at the responsible parties (like Rep. Jack Kingston, the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee) asking, "Why are you opposed to food safety?"  I just don't see a conscionable way to spin the answer to that.

Posted by mrbrent at 2:29 PM

the interrupting hockenberry

I've finally turned the corner on John Hockenberry.  All those posts complaining about The Takeaway, the NPR morning newser aimed at the "hip" demo?  I was complaining about Hockenberry, though I tried to be coy enough never to type his name in the interest of needlessly being mean over something silly.

He got on my last nerve.  But know I realize that "my last nerve" is actually something that can be summited, and there is something on the other side that is more like grudging affection.

Example: this morning, Hockenberry used is awkard interview powers for good and not evil, as he interjected an interview of an editor from Wired by co-host Celeste Headlee, concerning the Anthony Weiner story that is excruciating and sucking the air out of everything (paraphrase):

HEADLEE:  And yet it's kind of low-hanging fruit, if this is able to distract Congress from more serious work just by doing a simple thing of Tweeting publicly on a photo-sharing site. That seems like an easy way to dearil Congress.

EDITOR:  Well I'm not sure who there is to blame for that...

HOCKENBERRY:  Ourselves, this morning.

EDITOR:  ...but [bla bla bla]

The tone of Hockenberry's voice was something between contrite and withering.  It's as close to a FUCK YEAH moment as you're allowed to have on public radio.  And it's not an isolated incident.  John Hockenberry grows on you, like that girlfriend's uncle that at first you couldn't stand and then totally understood in a minor epiphanic moment.

If there's an apology in there on my part, I endorse it.

And if you need one more example of a prime offender of mistakenly believing that there is a hungry maw that must be fed news of Anthony Weiner's Yfrog being meddled with, consider the grown-ups at Mediaite.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:53 AM

June 1, 2011

anthony weiner was probably framed

The most disgusting thing about the Rep. Anthony Weiner imbroglio is the glee with which the cable nets are putting boot to ground on it.

Scandals are scandals; some are weathered and some are not.  But of all the newsworthy things that happen in the course of the day, whether the House vote on the debt ceiling or the NYT expose on Goldman throwing a pawn under the bus or tornadoes on the ground in Massachusetts or the looming default of Greece or the Supreme Court decision on the material witness rule of the DoJ or even for Christ's sake the retirement of the world's largest Irish center Shaquille O'Neal, the foaming of the mouth of the cable news networks says an awful lot about the state of their reporting, and none of it good.

There.  Said too much already.

Posted by mrbrent at 5:41 PM

distopian mornings

One of the things about living in NYC that I'm not sick of yet is on the mornings when you get up earlier than you intended and then hit the commute with time to spare, getting off in a neighborhood close but not necessarily convenient to your work neighborhood.  Then you walk around, gawk, and stick your head into every second place to see if something for breakfast is recommending itself.

I don't know how many places you can live and do this.  When I lived in Rochester I guess I could have, but I was traveling by car and it kind of made the venture feel more like running errands than a tiny adventure.

Keep in mind that part of the tiny adventure is pique, and sometimes even dismay.  Like, the Herald Square morning rush is filled with highly disciplined sidewalk navigators, but if I had a quarter for each time someone talking on their phone or changing their playlist staggered slowly in front of me, I would gladly give it all up to get away with knocking each of them over.  And if you are nostalgic for the Canada you never lived in (like me), do NOT go looking for the Tim Horton's, because you will find it nested in a mini-food-court with KFC, Taco Bell, Colombo Yogurt, Pizza Hut, and I think I forgetting something else?  Something burger?  It was the future that's here already, and it is grimy and bleak.  We are five minutes from Blade Runner.

But nice to stretch the legs nonetheless.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:48 AM

May 31, 2011

this is gloomy!

This is the story that will dominate the echo chamber for the afternoon: Study Finds Cancer Link To Cellphones:
The [Agency for Research on Cancer] is the cancer arm of the World Health Organization and the assessment now goes to WHO and national health agencies for possible guidance on cellphone use.

The group classified cellphones in category 2B, meaning they are possibly carcinogenic to humans. Other substances in that category include the pesticide DDT and gasoline engine exhaust.

First of all, well duh.  I'm sure that certain electronics manufacturers, service providers and chatty people would love to think that you could put a device next to your brain constantly receiving microwaves from line-of-sight transmitters and have no adverse affect, but there is no such thing as no adverse affect.  Our noggins weren't designed to to have heroic amounts of exotic EM radiation beamed through it any more than they were designed to hit a brick wall at thirty miles an hour.

But recent studies haven't shown much of a link, hence no alarm.  I'm no scientist, but I believe this passage from the story speaks to this:

Since many cancerous tumors take decades to develop, experts say it's impossible to conclude cellphones have no long-term health risks. The studies conducted so far haven't tracked people for longer than about a decade.

That is to say, if cell phone use (or anything, really) doesn't ramp up with the adverse effects until after twenty or thirty years of sustained use, then ten-year studies aren't going to to be of much value.

Again, I'm no scientist, etc. etc.  But just think about the amount of man-made electromagnetic radiation bouncing around our planet that was not there a century ago.  It's supposed to be absolutely without effect?

Posted by mrbrent at 1:16 PM

dhs and walmart: superpowers collide!

I was poking around for some non-important reason on the topic of terrorist tip hotlines and I found this press release from six months ago, from the Department of Homeland Security announcing an exciting new initiative for American safety!
Washington, D.C. - Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano today announced the expansion of the Department's national "If You See Something, Say Something" campaign to hundreds of Walmart stores across the country - launching a new partnership between DHS and Walmart to help the American public play an active role in ensuring the safety and security of our nation.

"Homeland security starts with hometown security, and each of us plays a critical role in keeping our country and communities safe," said Secretary Napolitano. "I applaud Walmart for joining the ‘If You See Something, Say Something' campaign. This partnership will help millions of shoppers across the nation identify and report indicators of terrorism, crime and other threats to law enforcement authorities."

I am deeply saddened that I missed this, way back in December, because only in such a country as America could ingrained exceptionalist paranoia (i.e., no inch of America is not worth being freedom-hated by the terrorists and then bombed) be so perfectly embodied.  In case you are not enough worried that your Walmart is a target, the authorities have partnered with Walmarts all across the country to remind you to watch out for suspicious people trying to blow up your Walmart.  It increases both the exceptionalism and the paranoia.

To see the phrase "millions of shoppers" in a DHS press release, to combine the appeal of "if you see something say something" with Walmart's everyday low prices — that day six months ago when this was announced should've been a holiday, like "America Day" or something.

Maybe WaWa or Sheetz would be a good next DHS partner?  How about Taco John's?

Posted by mrbrent at 7:49 AM