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March 9, 2012

please, david brooks, support the nationals

So today's David Brooks lay unfolded in front of me, and... wait, he's writing about the Mets?  The New York Baseball Mets?  And about how he likes them, even though they've sucked for four years and are scheduled for more newer sucking?

Well now, I too like the Mets, and am actually looking forward to a couple more years of the Mets not being too good, as it's good for keeping the fair-weather fans away and the ticket prices down.  Is it possible that there's an aspect of David Brooks that is... agreeable?  Is it possible that in at least one way, David Brooks and I (not quite the anti-David Brooks but very much an I-Don't-Much-Approve-of-What-David-Brooks-Thinks kind of guy) are connected, that we are, in a small sense, brothers?

I mean, sure, he's yammering on about social sciences and what they can tell us about sports fandom, but that's what he does.  It's harmless.  Why, I remember that when I found out that the packets of soy sauce you get with your takeout are entirely soy-free, I didn't shut up about it for like two months.  Stifle the yawn, and embrace your new comrade.  He's a bit stuffy (yet punctual!), but a fellow unable to quit the Mets is sure the sort of fellow that..

Oh wait.

Yeah, he managed to take a gratuitous shot at hippies in the course of his op-ed:

There’s a core American debate between “On the Road” and “It’s a Wonderful Life.” “On the Road” suggests that happiness is to be found through freedom, wandering and autonomy. “It’s a Wonderful Life” suggests that happiness is found in the lifelong attachments that precede choice. It suggests that restraints can actually be blessings because they lead to connections that are deeper than temporary self-interest.

The happiness research suggests that “It’s a Wonderful Life” is correct and “On the Road” is an illusion.


OK, now feeling icky about being a Mets fan.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:55 AM

March 8, 2012

charles pierce on the laboratories of democracy

There's a Charles Pierce post on his Esquire blog that is titled, "This Week in The Laboratories of Democracy."  It's a topic he returns to with some regularity: the legislative activities of our nation's statehouses.  Today's edition is filled with some pretty grisly stuff (especially considering that today is International Women's Day) — Texas evaporating women's health care over concerns that health care is the gateway drug to abortion, and Arizona attempting to shield doctors from liability for withholding health information that might lead a prospective mother to abort.  Oh, there's some other stuff in there, but you get the drift.

But the reason that he uses the expression "laboratory of democracy," see, is the real important part.  These lunatic statehouses, bent on imposing their twisted agenda through legislative force (and without repercussion), are the true legacy of the 2010 midterms.  Certainly gaining the House of Representatives was a big deal for the Republican party, but all they've managed to do is hamstring themselves with bickering and obstructionism.  In the state houses, where many of the states (Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana) saw a sudden GOP supermajority, fringe Republicans were getting some dirt under their fingernails.

And the point that Pierce makes (in a post that I remember but for the life of me cannot find), is that these state representatives and governors are the true future of the Republican Party, and not the freshman of the 112th U.S. Congress.  That it's these state reps and senators that will be grooming themselves for federal and national campaigns coming up.  And each of these state capitals, these laboratories of democracy, the new majorities are basically having at the social safety net with crowbars.  Voting rights, labor unions, immigration are women's health are all being artlessly disassembled by these "Tea Party" statehouses.  It's nothing but a culture war, and it's entirely divorced from anything resembling a "small government" movement that these officials might give public lip service to.

What Pierce is implying is that, as infuriating as it is to have to refight social issues that were settled generations ago, expect a lot more of it.  This is not a sentiment that cheers me.

Posted by mrbrent at 2:12 PM

what is titivil again?

Yesterday I got into it a little bit on Twitter.  Well, not so much "got into it" — I was a snarky jerk, and then the object of the snark took a sideways shot at me, and then I left it at that.

What was it about?  Someone pointed out that a certain post on a DC-based media gossip site, FishBowlDC, was a little bit offensive, as it pointed out that as there was "no evidence that [Sandra] Fluke was promiscuous," what would be a better word than "slut" to describe her?  It's a bullshit sentiment, as the potential promiscuity of Fluke is a non-issue (which is why Rush Limbaugh is rightly reviled), but the sentiment is in the form a poll, which is second only to slideshows as far as the accepted SEO protocols of 2007 go, so posted it is.

And the shot at me from the DC-based media gossip site goes like this (in the form of a response to someone else about whether the post would be deleted):

If your friend @titivil takes out the "tit" in his handle, we'll consider removing (not really, but it sounds nice).

Which serves as a reminder for a little station ID.  The word "titivil" has nothing to do with boobs or gazongas or vast tracts of land or evens tits.  A titivil is a specific rank of devil, from back when the ranking of devils was a legitimate concern, that snatches up the carelessly spoken words during the recitations of the Mass and carries these words down to Hell, to be held against the account of the speaker.  Nothing about breasts in there.

Now, I do understand that the letters T I T appear in that sequence in the word.  Unavoidable.  It happens.  As it does with the word "tit," meaning bird of a certain family, related to chickadees and titmice (there it is again!).  Here are some other words that have T I T in them.


It's only a partial list.

Now, I don't go back to explaining what "titivil" means as much as I should because, first of all, there's a link up there to a lengthy explanation, and second of all, confusion over whether there is some puerile aspect to the word is something I expect from junior high school students and that's about it.  (Also, there's this thing called the Internet, which comes equipped with a variety of search functionalities, etc.)

But whatever.  The DC-based media gossip post, about "slut" word-choice alternatives?  Still a shitty post.  Puerile, even.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:23 AM

March 6, 2012

asteroid news!

Here's some news!  It's about an asteroid, with the not very deft name 2011 AG5.  News about asteroids aren't exactly surging to the top of any trending topics lists, but this news specifically, from Phil Plait a/k/a Bad Astronomy, contains this sentence:
An asteroid expert at NASA says waiting until next year for more observations is not a problem, but another asteroid expert is saying that waiting that long is a bad idea: we should start analyzing a possible deflection campaign for this rock now.

"Deflection campaign" is of course the term of art of reaching an asteroid somewhere in its solar orbit and affecting this orbit, hopefully before the asteroid smashes into the planet like a galactic jart.

2011 AG5 is only as big as a football stadium, and the year wherein the small chance of 2011 AG5 edging too close to the gravity well is not until 2040.  If you like the hard science, Plait goes into it, as well as the intricate response of the sky-watching community with regard to what action, if any, should be taken.

But while you were worrying about your career, or balancing that checkbook, or wondering whatever happened to that fast food franchise they had when you were a kid (Sisters Chicken and Biscuits!), there are dudes who are spending billable hours wondering about things like asteroids and extinction events and how to stop those things without Bruce Willis.  Isn't that neat?

Posted by mrbrent at 3:58 PM

newt's tuesday not so super?

This being Super Tuesday and all (apparently a sufficient number of primary elections is the bar set for the Superness of a day), why not spend a last thought on Newt Gingrich?

It's not a definite that he's dropping out of the race anytime soon — there is some speculation that his campaign is fueled mostly by spite, which could keep him in as long as Romney still has teeth in which to be kicked, but isn't that why we're fond of Newt?  He's not only not a traditional politician, he may be sui generis, allowing his megalomania and self-regard to drag him into tactics and ploys that no sane modern electioneer would dare.  Humility?  Why, Newt Gingrich has a near volcanic humility, shaped by his experience as a visionary academic, a seething, pulsating humility that could lay waste to towns were it not for Newt's equally visionary/volcanic/seething self-control.  In fact, humility is not Newt's best quality at all, and yet it is still far greater than the humility of your run-of-the-mill planet-saving genius.  Just ask him!

And if Newt finally has to give it up, if he runs out of billionaires like Sheldon Adelson to fund this little exercise in pique and ego, then we won't get fun moments like this one, from a recent Gingrich super-PAC ad, in which a putative conservative radio show caller discusses his preference:

The only choice is Mr. Gingrich. “Could you imagine what he’ll do to Obama in a debate?” he says, echoing a line often cited by Mr. Gingrich’s supporters. “He’ll take him and all his crazy liberal ideas apart. I’d pay to see that on pay-per-view.”

Who else but Newt Gingrich could predicate his argument for the White House on his ability to punch the buttons of debate audience members?  Who else could inflate his confidence into a fetish over something as ultimately irrelevant as his debating skills?

Newt Gingrich, that's who.  I'm crossing my fingers.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:34 AM

March 5, 2012

good morning 3.5.12

Walking the dog this morning, I was bouncing between the two radio stations I listen to more than usual.  On the one hand, you get slammed with enough reporting on Syria and I start to feel a little bit down too low for a Monday morning, so edge the dial a bit, and then I get wall-to-wall coverage of bounties in the National Football League, which is exactly the kind of Inside-Baseball (so to speak) scandal that takes any joy out of watching the game, kind of like "North Dallas Forty" without the joie de vive leaving only the crushing tragedy of the whole thing.

And then it's to the subway and the reading of the NYT in which the fake election of Vladimir Putin (tears running down his face? fer feck's sake) and a bunch of Republican presidential candidates trying to out war-with-Iran each other.  (Which is kind of a silly strategy, to dare the president into invading Iran, because, what if he does? then what?)

I know that picking your news sources to restrict your news diet to only news you want to hear is not a sound practice for the modern citizen, but I think for the rest of the day I'm going to stick with websites that specialize in listicles and celebrity bikini shots.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:32 AM

March 4, 2012

rush limbaugh

At least as Rush Limbaugh throws himself through the (very large) window, calling a college student testifying in support of contraception a slut, he's raising very valid issues.

OK, I'm kiddin'.  There's not a valid issue to be seen.  Limbaugh pretends that this is the issue of the government paying for promiscuity, which is not so much a mischaracterization, but a totally made-up scenario that has no bearing to anything.  This is not about the government paying for anything, but what health insurance policies should pay for.  And it's controversial because GOVERNMENT SAID! and all that, but it's only common sense that private insurance should cover various circumstances: i.e., there should be no exclusion for, say, heart disease, or hypertension.

And yes the Santorums of the world will tell you, "Pregnancy is not a disease!"  Oooh, a logical argument!  It's sure not, but it certainly is a medical condition, one that that have implications on the health of the pregnant.  And if unwanted pregnancy is not a phenomenon we'd like to not see anymore, well, then I'm Warren Jeffs.

And of course there's the Viagra argument, as in, unless all the old men with the insurance-covered Viagra prescriptions are using it only for jerking off or admiring their newly potent erections, then shut up.

But whatever, Rush Limbaugh has never been anything other than a "just enough rope" figure, once he gained enough political power to force candidates to cower before him.  He's a talented broadcaster and a quick wit, but also a greedy misogynist asshole, always happy to kick down instead of only kicking up.  And finally he made the critical error of believing his own hype.

And now he's radioactive.  Couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:56 AM