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July 16, 2011

david roth on stadium food

I was not present yesterday, sipping spiked Arnold Palmers by a pool as all of my office co-workers frolicked in my boss' upstate backyard.  And as I'm one of those Luddites with a mobile phone that only makes phone calls, the news flow was dead to me.  Office co-workers don't talk about news with each other; they talk about funny bits from TV shows they like, and who did what the last time they all went out.  It was fun, and entirely unmediated, for once (but for the spiked Arnold Palmers).

But what I immediately would have relayed to you, had I been in front of a computer, is that this latest Awl piece by David Roth is a thing of beauty, a kind of speculative journalism of liminal place, about baseball stadiums:

Fieri’s concession stands—the full name was “Guy Fieri’s Ballpark Food With Balls By Guy Fieri”—were open for only a few months, and I never got to taste the food. As a condition of Fieri’s departure, several drums of Tex Wasabi Kickin’ Dippin-aise, Do U BBQ Dippin-aise and Rockin’ Horse-Ranch Dippin-aise were destroyed, and 5,000 Fieri bobbleheads, initially part of a planned fan giveaway, were sent back to the manufacturer, where they were reportedly altered slightly and sold as Shaggy 2 Dope bobbleheads at the 2010 Gathering of the Juggalos.

Also, it coins (or maybe solidifies?) the term underboob slideshow, which you will find yourself repeating.

It will make you look for something to snort out your nose, and it's a fine tonic to the atrocities the news flow has to offer.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:28 AM

July 14, 2011

debt circus

I got a day of forced rest yesterday, and in the course of it I realized that I should probably have some opinion about the circus that is the inability of Congress to agree on raising the debt ceiling.  So yes I have some opinion:

Really, should we be shocked that this process is so publicly messy?  After all, if you recall the seventy-four previous times the debt ceiling was raised, government shutdowns were rarely averted.  In fact, they were almost de rigueur.  Why should cooler heads prevail now?

But seriously, folks, I'd love to pox on both the houses, but the clown car that is the Republican caucus (in both the House and the Senate) is glaringly to blame, at some point believing that the only two skills needed for a successful negotiation are ultimatum and bad faith.  If the President is guilty of anything, he's guilty of overestimated the capacity for House Republicans to act like grown-ups.

Ultimately, this should be laid at the feet of the Koch Brothers and their fellow travelers.  Tracing it backwards: Speaker John Boehner can't control his Tea Party freshman, who insist that a US default is less important than some purity test that a man named "Grover" promulgates.  The reason that we have these idiot freshmen GOP representatives is because the Koch Brothers decided that the most effective way to win the war of ideas (their idea being an Ayn Rand-lite libertarianism) is to bankroll a sock puppet movement that ostensibly would be a populist movement but actually be just an inchoate but powerful blob of a bunch of entitled white people angry at entropy that would rail against whatever the Koch Brothers wanted (such as cutting corporate taxes, which is about as far away from grass roots as you can get).

(This is not to say that Eric Cantor is an idiot.  Eric Cantor is an idiot, even though he is not a freshman.)

This is a simplification, of course, but I'm throwing it out there: negotiations undone by idiots Boehner can't control that were created by the Kochs like Mary Shelly created the Frankenstein monster.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:02 AM

July 12, 2011

david brooks is the silent majority

Fabulous sentence out of context from this morning's David Brooks:
People in my camp form a silent majority.

You can like David Brooks or dislike him, but give the man this: he buries more embarrassing confessions in a month's worth of columns than an entire season of your average celebrity-rehab reality show.  There is nothing Brooks wants more than for the rest of America to wake up and tell Brooks what Brooks already knows, that he is right, that he has always been right, and, more importantly, he is the sole arbiter of consensus.  His opinions are not just the product of his reasoning, they are a priori truths, universally shared by all the people who are right-thinking (but quiet).  His columns are fanfic concerning the subject of David Brooks.  Of course every columnist has to have convictions to share, but only David Brooks makes the fact that he does have them dirty.

And to avoid being purely sarcastic and mean, here is a more reasoned response to some of the simplification contained in the column (concerning the different approaches to restarting the economy, with Brooks' silent-majority reasonableness being of course the favored option):

Stroking your chin and saying, well, I don’t believe in magical solutions because experience shows that raising growth is hard sounds serious, but it’s actually silly. It’s like saying that it’s really hard to extend the human lifespan, so it’s foolish to believe that an infection can be quickly cured with a dose of antibiotics.

Yes, that would be Paul Krugman, and how he avoids turning the blog portion of his NYT digital real estate into an endless array of "Actually no YOU'RE wrong" I have no idea.  Because that's what I would do!  And happily.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:22 AM

July 11, 2011

mortgage settlement nears

Versions of this story are making the rounds—various state attorneys general are said to be close with a settlement with the five largest mortgage providers over robo-signing and various other fraudulent undertakings with documenting mortgages (and the resulting foreclosures):
The deal with the mortgage companies would broadly absolve the firms of wrongdoing in exchange for penalties reaching $30 billion and assurances that the firms will adhere to better practices going forward.

The question I have is whether this blanket immunity will extend to civil actions.  Such as, if one of these five mortgage providers, say, fraudulently foreclosed on someone (whether outright or through defective title), will this negotiated immunity prevent the person who was foreclosed from seeking legal recourse?

Because if that is the case, then that would be extraordinarily unfair.  The government does have a motivation to lay off The Banks (i.e., because The Banks are holding a loaded gun to the head of the economy, and if you give in to The Banks, then maybe the economy will heat up, hiring will start, etc.), but to bargain away the rights of the little people as inducement for The Banks... Well, hopefully the little people might get a say in that, or at least be informed.

Guess I should probably look into that, shouldn't I?

Posted by mrbrent at 10:39 AM

paul ryan's choice of wines

I support this crowd-sourced muckraking of minutiae of the places where the public and the private lives of elected officials overlap.  The story here is that former America's sweetheart Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Destroying Medicaid) was spotted at a Beltway restaurant with pals drinking two $350 dollar bottles of wine.  The pals have since been identified (after refusals by Rep. Ryan to do so) as a free-marketeer UiC economics professor and the hedge fund manager that endowed the former's professorship.

What I don't like about this kind of story is the world that it leaves in its wake, peopled by witless fools, forever ruining everyone's evening walk, trying to out-gotcha the last guy.  It's not such a good thing for civility, of which I'm kind of a fan even though I cuss like a sailor, and which civility has seen better days, like back when logic was more important than volume.

But on the other hand, if there is going to be gotcha, then I want some of my own.  The genius of confronting Paul Ryan over an expensive meal is that it exposes the basic hypocrisy of the Beltway position, the casual extravagance of even modest members, the cozy relationships with all sorts of folk ready to buy congressman things.  All Rep. Ryan has to do is say, "It's my damn money, I'll spend it how I want."  Which of course he cannot do, because he is a Young Gun and a man of the people, etc. etc.

So, to sum up: I'm against incivility, but pro-polite hypocrisy confrontations.

Also: not so big on Mondays.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:37 AM

July 10, 2011

space shuttles on the awl

I have a new piece up at The Awl.  It contains a rather large factual error, which means that I am a big dummy that needs to be more careful, but otherwise I like it.

It's about the space shuttle program, and its underwhelming-ness.  Two things I wish I would have made more clear:

First, that the underwhelming is not the cause of underwhelmingness in general, but rather maybe a symptom of it.  As in, there is this general entropic degradation that is happening, and I think that's an objective phenomenon and not a subjective one.  The world is withering in discrete ways.  So to point a finger at the space shuttle program, that is not to say it's all the space shuttle program's fault, but rather that the space shuttle program is yet another symptom of things getting quietly shittier.

And second, I wish I would have added the things that are awesome about the program.  Well, not that, but more I do not wish to kill anyone's buzz.  The civil space program is much beloved, and there are not many things more jaw-dropping that an actual launch, a vehicle perched atop a building-sized canister of chemical explosives which are then blowed-up.  Do I wish that the shuttle program had been planned differently?  Of course.  But the hole in the mission of the shuttle program was not big enough to kill the fascination and delight that spaceships still bring to people.  (Just to put that on the record.)

But enough.  Thank you for your continued support.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:22 AM