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March 30, 2012

santorum and carelessly spoken word

The story that Rick Santorum may have nearly/almost/halfway said the n-word when describing our president is slowly seeping its way into the news.  Maybe by the time you read this it will be all the way into the news!  Wait, let's check HuffPost: no, not there yet.  So like I said, seeping.

I have no opinion on what the man may or may not have almost-said.  And I guess as a matter of principle, is it fair to condemn a speaker for the word half-spoken, or then started and quickly stopped?  It's impossible to know, really.  Maybe he was going to say, "night-table," or, "nights in white satin."

And it's all kind of silly in a sense — I'm sure certain websites are arguing over whose time-stamp was earliest in case the story actually breaks wide.  But here's the important thing about this: when you first heard this story, you did not think it impossible.  You thought it a surprise, maybe, an enormous mistake, definitely, but it did not strike you as outside of the realm of impossibility.

So there's that.

Posted by mrbrent at 12:06 PM

david brooks self-identifying

So David Brooks starts out kind of harmlessly this morning, telling the story of this Iraq vet turned Republican politician in California by the name of Nathan Fletcher.  He is a, yes, moderate, but not just a moderate, but a moderate with super powers (you know, like David Brooks) — judicious, sage, clean-cut and prompt.&mbsp; Why, he even speaks to fellows on the other side of the aisle!  It's a bit dry, kind of a pro forma David Brooksian Mary Sue, but its straightforward.

And we're three-quarters through the column, a little late, and Brooks introduces the complication!  Fletcher is running for mayor of San Diego, on a platform with planks made almost entirely out of David Brooks.  But no, the GOP machine in San Diego has thrown its weight behind a different candidate, more traditionally Republican and clearly less awesome than Fletcher because he is less like David Brooks.  So Fletcher straightened the pleat in his pants, shot his cuffs and announced that he's leaving the Republican party and running as an independent.  It's one big sad face for David Brooks, just in time to wrap the thing up.

So how does he choose to leave us?  With hypotheticals:

But he represents a nationally important test case. Can the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, who were trained to be ruthlessly pragmatic, find a home in either political party? Can center-right moderates find a home in the G.O.P., even in coastal California? As the two parties become more insular, is it possible to mount an independent alternative?

(Emphasis mine, naturally.)  Not that Fletcher's tension has anything to do with his military service, but I guess that won't stop David Brooks with self-identifying in the most heroic manner possible.

But to answer such a needless and cynical question: David Brooks, meet Allan West.  Allan West, Brooks.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:40 AM

March 29, 2012

what is titivil again again?

You know, that time a month ago, when that actual blog employee was conflating my handle with the slang for breasts?  It's still got me rankled a little bit.

But I am greatly relieved to learn this morning (through a deft little bit of mis-typing) that boobs are not the only thing that can be unfairly conflated with my handle: titi monkeys!  Dude check it out:

The titis, or titi monkeys, are the New World monkeys of the genus Callicebus. They are the only extant members of the Callicebinae subfamily, which also contains the extinct genera Xenothrix, Antillothrix, Paralouatta, Carlocebus, Lagonimico, and possibly also Tremacebus.

Titis live in South America, from Colombia to Brazil, Peru and north Paraguay.

They are also endangered and unbearably cute, as you will see in the photo accompanying this story about a titi monkey smuggler.

So then, even though a titivil is an actual thing (depending on matters of faith), if you must accuse me of boorishly fashioning the word after some other thing, that other thing is a titi monkey.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:08 AM

March 28, 2012

freeloaders

Further to crazy people who say crazy things to reporters and vote for Republicans, I just so happened to stumble across a Baseline Scenario post which confirms that the "freeloader" portion of crazy lady's comments is not something that she just made up on the spot, but rather a central tenet of Tea Partyin' dogma — entitlement programs are fine and dandy, unless they happen to be directed at someone who is not you:
Imagine Alice works from twenty-five to fifty-five making $30,000 per year, more than double the minimum wage. Then she loses her job and goes on Medicaid—a classic “welfare” program. Then imagine Beatrice, who works from twenty-five to sixty-five making $30,000 per year. (For simplicity, let’s assume each person goes on benefits in 2012, and those $30,000 are constant 2012 dollars.) Then she retires and goes on Medicare—an entitlement she has “earned,” according to Tea Party logic. Assume that each person paid $1,000 in federal income taxes each year. Who’s the freeloader?

Come to think of it, this desire not for betterment of circumstance but rather for the punishment of the class a step below you on the ladder is nothing new.  It was very popular twenty years ago when the catch phrase was "welfare queen," and it's even present in the certified braniac Objectivism of Paul Ryan's "makers vs. takers."  But that sure doesn't make it any less unseemly.

I'm no angel (fer shore), but to see so many Americans interpreting the social safety net as something being taken away from them — it's just small-minded and mean-spirited.  And I don't know why anyone would be righteous about being either of those things.

Posted by mrbrent at 4:14 PM

wherefore the health care reform hate?

The question arose during the morning walking of the dog, which is turning into the "big idea" time in between playing goalie between her and chicken bones helpful neighbors leave laying on the sidewalk.  So, all the heat and light that is the opposition to the Affordable Care Act: why on earth?  What exactly is the complaint?  I know that a mandate is something that can be controversial, and I guess that a federal panel overseeing aspects of the program could spook the States Righters, but seriously, what's the beef?  Is this "the people" rising up to protect the rights of private insurance companies to screw people over capriciously?  It seems to me, from the opposite side, that this frenzy is just another facet of the blind slobbering hatred of the president that is borne of conservative hurt-feelings over a thwarted election and compounded by laughably ill-concealed racism.

And then I read this short NYT article, entitled "On Street, Crowd Gives Louder Side of Health Law Argument," which I hoped would answer the question for me.  And it did!  Kinda:

Linda Ensor, a former newspaper editor from Summerville, S.C., and an opponent of the law who came to the rally with her local Tea Party chapter, also felt nostalgic for the past.

“This is not the America we grew up in,” she said, holding a handmade sign that read, “Give us back our America.” Among the changes she lamented were teachings about global warming in school textbooks, large amounts of new government regulations — and the pledging of allegiance, she said, to the earth, not America.

Mr. Obama has encouraged outsourcing, Ms. Ensor asserted, going so far as “doing away with light bulbs, so now they all come from China.”

She added: “We have a president who genuinely does not believe in America.”

The atmosphere at the protest was “electrifying,” Ms. Ensor said. “Listen to this,” she said, smiling in sunglasses and a blue T-shirt, as a crowd of opponents of the law chanted into microphones behind her. “This is America. Not those cheapskates with handouts who don’t work.”

The answer is that the ACA does not believe in America.  Or something like that.

And now we all feel icky enough to last the entire day.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:35 AM

March 27, 2012

hedge funds

Here's an interesting bit of data to consider (brought to attention by Kevin Depew): since 1998, only 3% of hedge fund profits have gone to investors.

The info is from this blog post by quant Eric Falkenstein, breaking down someone else's research concerning hedge fund revenues over time.  And if you look at the charts Falkenstein whipped up, you see that the vast majority of hedge fund revenues have been retained by the hedge funds (and their managers).

And if you check the chart below it, you see that this distribution is not static over time.  In fact, most years it's a lot more equal between the parties.  But in 2008 (which is so long ago that it's hard to remember, right?), one of the two years that showed any loss at all, there was an ENORMOUS loss, absorbed entirely by individual investors.  Which loss was big enough to wipe out the payouts to investors in other years, down to 3% of the aggregate.

This research is basically hearsay, considering the levels of heard-it-froms, but it still paints an interesting picture: hedge funds are mechanisms with shared benefits and unilateral risk of investors.  It's a heads-I-win tails-you-lose proposition for hedge fund managers.

Maybe the lesson to be learned is that as much fun as it is to talk about how the twisted ethics of the market enable it to suck equity out of the world and sit on it, maybe we should be talking about how certain investors are little better than rubes in from the sticks to play a weekend's worth of Blackjack in Vegas.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:02 AM

March 26, 2012

newt gingrich: appalling

It should be a national imperative to keep Newt Gingrich in politics.  A blazing asteroid plunging into Earth could not change the fact that he will not be the candidate, and for that, we all weep.  But he is a petard-hoisting machine, the id of a party that would love to have him but for the fact that he's Newt Gingrinch.

The topic of the day is Treyvon Martin, of course, and our president included in his remarks concerning this that if he were to have had a boy, he would look like Treyvon.&mbsp; Demonstrably true, right?  And maybe a cheap tug at the heart-string, but still demonstrably true.

Newt Gingrich does not agree.  Newt Gingrich thinks that is is disgraceful for the president to share this sentiment:

Is the president suggesting that if it had been a white who had been shot, that would be OK because it didn’t look like him. That’s just nonsense dividing this country up. It is a tragedy this young man was shot. It would have been a tragedy if he had been Puerto Rican or Cuban or if he had been white or if he had been Asian American of if he’d been a Native American. At some point, we ought to talk about being Americans. When things go wrong to an American, it is sad for all Americans. Trying to turn it into a racial issue is fundamentally wrong. I really find it appalling.

Now, we all know Newt, he's been around for decades, and he's certainly not new to the game of the reverse race card — "For high-lighting the racist elements of this event, you, sir, are a racist!"  By now it has hardened into conservative cant, the kneejerk response.

And as to the racist element, whether or not George Zimmerman is some racist in thought or in deed, he spotted a kid he thought suspicious purely on the grounds that he was black, which led to the confrontation with led to the shooting.  So by all means let's talk about being Americans, specifically black Americans who sometimes get disproportionately targeted for stop 'n' frisks and occasionally wasted by over-zealous neighborhood watchmen.

But really: appalling?  That's ridiculous.  You know what's appalling?  A man who was four-year assistant professor of history 35 years ago who doesn't know better than to avoid a dangling preposition.

Rick Santorum better start practicing if he's gonna pick up the slack of "appalling" once Gingrich runs out of money.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:16 AM