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January 21, 2012

obama in south carolina

Today is the South Carolina primary, which is pretty much SC's only tourism industry once you get away from the coast.  And it's all over the headlines, how Newt's surging and Mitt's flagging, and how SC is a truly red state looking to anoint the eventual nominee.

And of course it's a red state; you've heard the applause/boo lines from SC debates (food stamp president = YAY/Golden Rule diplomacy = BOO), and President Obama has no chance to carry the state this November.

But I heard a news story on the radio that gave Obama's approval rating in the state, and I thought I misheard, so I double-checked.  NBC/Marist has the president with approval of 40% of likely voters, and the most recent Winthrop Poll gives Obama an approval rating of 44.8% among SC registered voters, which is higher than that of the sitting Republican Go. Nikki Haley.  Neither one is over fifty percent, which some say is the bar set for reelecting a president, but for a black socialist/Muslim/freedom-hating president to poll that close to fifty in an election year is what i would call pretty awesome.

I find it highly implausible that Obama could ever carry that state, but if those are "Obama's terrible numbers" that pundits keep talking about, then I'm still looking for the terrible.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:54 AM

January 20, 2012

newt gingrich is a sociopath

I promise to leave politics behind for a post or two, but in light of the reaction to last night's debate (yeah see, the candidates debate, publicly, to give voters one or two chances to see them compared to other candidates), two quick thoughts:

First is, Newt Gingrich is a textbook sociopath.  There's not an aw-shucks in him, nor an ounce of cynicism.  He truly believes that what's good for Newt is what's good for the country, because he's here to save us.  I may be a bit late on this, but dudeman is certifiable, in the sense of they're-coming-to-take-me-away-ha-ha.

And second, Newt is in a pretty good position with regard to the nomination.  I don't think he's going to win, but I no longer think it impossible.

Thank God It's Friday.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:48 AM

January 19, 2012

rick perry as it happens

Hey, for once the five minutes I set myself aside coincides with actual breaking news, as Rick Perry drops out of the race, suggesting that the fifteen people that still want Rick Perry for president instead Newt Gingrich.

Rick Perry was fun to make fun of, but at least he can go back to Texas still never having lost an election, as he didn't make it past the preliminaries on this one.  Maybe a talk show on Fox, or at least public access in the Dallas/Fort Worth area?

And Newt: as far as he goes, you know that no good thing has ever happened to (such as an endorsement) that he did not fully deserve and fully anticipate, because THAT'S HOW DESTINY WORKS.

Speaking of Newt, there's a bit of last weekend's debate that I caught in an audio clip, and I found it very Newt:

Invoking the memory of former US president Andrew Jackson, whose face was sliced by a British officer's sword during the American War of Independence, Gingrich said Jackson knew what to do with America's enemies: "kill them."

Which is of course why the colonies successfully invaded and conquered the British Isles in 1783.  Ladies and gentlemen, the wit and wisdom of four-year Assistant Professor of History for West Georgia College, Newt Gingrich.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:06 AM

January 18, 2012

consider me 503: service unavailable

I do not have the technical facility to actually pull the plug on this site for the span of a day.  I suppose that I could look it up, but that's not how I'm spending my time these days.  Also I'm not so much inclined to refrain from posting, as any time I can get a post out of me for Titivil is a lucky time for me.

But the two Internet blacklist bills before the House and Senate — the Stop Internet Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act, respectively — are wrong-headed land-grabs by the behemoths of the entertainment industry (the MPAA and the RIAA, mostly).  Why are they wrong?  I defer to the Electronic Frontier Foundation:

As drafted, the legislation would grant the government and private parties unprecedented power to interfere with the Internet's underlying infrastructure. The government would be able to force ISPs and search engines to block users' attempts to reach certain websites' URLs. In response, third parties will woo average users to alternative servers that offer access to the entire Internet (not just the newly censored U.S. version), which will create new computer security vulnerabilities as the Internet grows increasingly balkanized.

Basically, the movie studios and the major record labels want independent police authority.  They want to have law enforcement at their beck and call, and they want IP infringement to be treated in the same way that physical crimes against persons are.  (Which is funny, because physical person is exactly what the corporations that comprise the studios and labels are not.)

The good news?  I think the entertainment industry has overplayed their hand.  (FD: the entertainment industry is where I make the bulk of my money.)  As unpacked by the Hollywood Reporter's Eriq Gardner, Big Entertainment basically bought this legislation without public comment, keeps citing crap justification like, "Overseas piracy is costing American jobs!" (uh, yeah, no), and basically has been heavy-breathing like Darth Vader.

So maybe this outcome will not be as dire as the outcomes to which we are accustomed.

And yes, consider this site dark for the day, even though it isn't, and even though I think I have another post before the end of the day.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:16 AM

January 17, 2012

gingrich and his foodtstamp president

While I managed to yet again miss a Republican presidential debate (sorting the sock drawer!) I heard whisper that Iago Newt Gingrich got some serious mileage out of calling our current president President Foodstamp, which is enough to raise a hackle or two.  Not that I would put it past South Carolina to lap that crypto-racist shit up — remember that SC is the state in which John McCain's 2000 campaign was derailed by rumors of a mixed-race illegitimate child.  You just need to know which button to push, and for that debate crowd in SC the shortcut to the home-town pop was the equivalent of talk of some Cadillac-driving welfare mom.

But what's even more awesome is this comment in a NYT story on the GOP's appeal to blacks in SC from a consultant named Chip Felkel, which comment pretty sums up the GOP's difficulties with issues of race:

“It would be nice if I thought black voters would give the Republicans more due as the party of Lincoln,” said Chip Felkel, a Republican consultant in Greenville, who is unaffiliated with any campaign.

Mr. Felkel runs a snazzy little marketing/consulting firm down there in South Carolina.  I wonder how much this firm charges to tell you that it's the fault of black voters that they don't so much like the GOP?

Posted by mrbrent at 9:54 AM

January 16, 2012


Here are some useless but interesting things about this Panera that I attend early mornings when I find myself in Bethlehem, PA (in order to gain access to the Internet):

First, it's actually located in this little elbow of natural splendors.  Even though it's fifty yards from an Interstate-sized highway, it's built overtop of a stream that goes by the name of Monocacy Creek, where the creek kind of meanders to the south on its way to the Lehigh River.  For some reason, this stretch of the creek is the home to a large family of ducks that paddle around, and a flock of geese that laze there when they're not pooping on the golf course adjacent.  This is much more fun to look at than the inside of a subway car.

Also, and I swear this is the first time this has happened (and I was here yesterday), but this particular Panera has instituted piped-in elevator music.  Most of it sounds like the kind of thing you hear on The Weather Channel when they're running the forecast loop and not some silly reality TV show, though I did hear something that sounded like a popular singer/songwriter of the day, which is what made me notice this mild annoyance in the first place.  Though there was that stretch of three months when I was nineteen when I decided that maybe there was something TOO this adult contemporary thing, so maybe I'm flashing back pretty hard.

I usually sit pretty close to the coffee station, and watching the traffic pile up around that is like watching the Major Deegan at rush hour.  Americans are bad at queueing, at all times.

The tagline for their Steel Cut Oatmeal on the display advertising is, "A Better for You Breakfast."  (Capitalization theirs.)  Does that need a hyphen?  Like, as opposed to breakfast for someone else?  Is it a play on the phrase Good for you?  Do they have something against the word for?  It's a bad tagline, and someone should be thrown into Monocacy Creek over it.

Dude I totally worked the chain retail/service jobs for a good couple post-college years, and watching the employees of this here Panera (or, Pantera as it is called in some quarters) it is impossible not to feel some quiet solidarity, to corner each one of them as they refill the coffee urns and tell them, "It gets better."  Not that those jobs were without the good times.  There was fun to be had.  But they were weirdly like high school without the learning, and it made you feel like you were an item on a production line and there was no way out.  I do though have to except this solidarity from the two employees on every shift who are over sixty.  That is some Great Recession shit that did not exist twenty years ago, and I'm not entirely sure that it does get better from that.

It's PANERA, not PANERA'S.  The apostrophe in brand- and trade-names is an artifact.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:28 AM

January 15, 2012

is barnes and noble reading writing on the wall?

Last night I stopped by the Barnes & Noble in Easton, PA, a last-minute gift acquisition foray for the final Christmas (obsv.) event of the season.

We walked in and something looked different.  It's about as big as your average non-NYC B&N, and it has the prerequisite Nook stations dominating the front of the store, just like the one I was at pre-Christmas in Williamsburg, VA.  But, it seemed like it had more room.  I've been to this particular store for eight or so years, and the aisles, between the rows of books, between the display tables and stand-ups, were wider.

It didn't fully hit me until I went back to the DVD/CD section, to browse and pick out something new and good for the bf of my step-sister-in-law, (both) of whom I'm quite fond.  Where there was once a modest but decent selection — three of for rows of bins, divided into pop/country/classical/etc.   now there was one side of a standing rack devoted to new releases, and one side of a standing rack devoted to everything else.  There was zero chance that I'd be able to pick anything out of that.

And then I looked around the rest of the store: the case was the same everywhere (other than periodicals, weirdly, and the toy section, which is a new, non-book section put in a couple years ago).  Just from experience working in bookstores for four or five post-college years, I'd say that the stock on the floor of that particular B&N has been reduced by fifteen to twenty-five percent.

There could be a bunch of reasons for that, but the only one that makes sense to me is that that store will not be there in a year.  The square footage of that place is fixed and not reducible, and the return structure of the book business is not exactly punishing when it comes to unsold stock — almost an incentive from distributors to overstock.  And considering the depth of the backlist that should be sitting on a shelf in case someone wants to buy it, the reason why you slash available product is so that when you pull the plug you have less product to fire-sale.

This is a realization that I hope is totally wrong-headed, but it seems to follow that book-buying (the physical books, the ones you can keep and lend to friends, or even resell) is on the verge of becoming a boutique experience.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:19 AM