« July 29, 2012 - August 4, 2012 | Main | August 12, 2012 - August 18, 2012 »

August 10, 2012

ta-nehisi coates in the times

If you only have brief time to spend reading awesome things on the Internet today (as do I), I recommend this Op-Ed for the NYT by guest (!) Ta-Nehisi Coates.  Coates discusses Mitt Romney's "Culture does matter" comment that arose in defense of his speech in Israel last week, and it winds softly into a sweet contemplation of cultural dining habits that makes you forget that you're reading an op-ed.

Until the final two paragraphs, of course.

It's deft and it's pertinent and it's right, and if I could write something like that then I'd take myself out for dinner and a movie.  Again, highly recommended.

Posted by mrbrent at 3:25 PM

August 8, 2012


All modern presidential campaigns are an exercise in phrase-coining to a certain extent, going back to the slogans that we all learned in high school and have no idea what they mean ("Tippecanoe and Tyler Too!"), but the current cycle has been leaning a little too hard on the device.

You could start with Obamacare, I guess, and its descendant Romneycare (ginned up by then-Romney foe Tim Pawlenty), as those are both words that don't actually exist that intend to turn the surname of the candidate into some sort of slur.  Which is now an arms race that is no boon to the election, or to the English language in general.

And the bulk of the weaponization has happened in the past month.  Last week, in order to explain why the Romney tax plan is short on actual details, an aide explained that the economic expansion caused by the plan would render those details moot.  This expansion he called The Romney Boom.  That is a phrase that is at once retro, in the sense of a mid-20th Century campaign, and stultifying.

The president is not beyond this as well, as over the weekend he told a crowd of donors that, given Mitt Romney's tax plan, "It's like Robin Hood in reverse. It's Romney Hood!"  Groan.

And yesterday, and it didn't get much play, Romney tried to parry by going off on something he calls Oba-baloney, which doesn't really play by the rules at all, now does it?  The fourth letter of Obama is not a B, therefore we have a very very awkward deployment if not a total fail.

Which is why I'm imploring both campaigns to just quit it, cut it out.  It's juvenile, and it would be juvenile even if it were done well.  It's an absurdity that's distracting from the other absurdities of the campaign.  It needs to end.

(Though I'm reserving the right to use Romney Boom, though not in any way flattering.)

Posted by mrbrent at 9:58 AM

August 7, 2012

the "fiscal cliff"

The New York Times led with something so preposterous yesterday that I cannot let it pass without a quick swipe.  The headline sums up the premise nicely — "Fear of 'Fiscal Cliff' Has Industry Pulling Back" — and it alleges that business interests are "losing confidence" because of the DC gridlock that has prevented any meaningful action on anything, but specifically the so-called "fiscal cliff" (i.e., mandatory spending cuts, even to the military) that will happen should the caucuses fail to reach across the aisle.

Big business would have you believe that concerns about this fiscal cliff, this "uncertainty" (which includes of course letting the Bush tax cuts expire on $250,000 and over) is having a chilling effect.  Says Timothy H. Powers, CEO of Hubbell Inc., a manufacturer of electronics:

“The fiscal cliff is the primary driver of uncertainty, and a person in my position is going to make a decision to postpone hiring and investments,” Mr. Powers said. “We can see it in our order patterns, and customers are delaying. We don’t have to get to the edge of the cliff before the damage is done.”

OK, fine, I don't want to call the man a liar.  But sorry, the economic chill is derived from the fact that ain't nobody buying anything.  Businesses don't expand because Oh Goody! they got a tax cut; businesses expand because they are beyond capacity because so many people are buying all the good stuff.  We're in a contraction, we're slashing municipal budgets, and those that are lucky enough to be employed are eagerly accepting pay freezes.  Consumer demand is a thing of the past, like emo.

The bleating of industry concerning the fiscal cliff is just University of Chicago voodoo.  Yeah, it'd be great for the impasse in Washington to end, some kind of return to comity, but don't let it distract you from the fact that the war on labor, the war on fair compensation, is self-perpetuating, and the effects of it should not be mistaken as a call to arms to Slash Taxes Once And For All!

Posted by mrbrent at 10:23 AM

August 6, 2012

mta: driving with two feet

This may be a bit parochial in interest, but if you live in a city with a vibrant public transportation system, as I do, and have been using said public transportation for, say, more than ten years, have you noticed that the ability of public transit employees to actually drive these vehicles is degrading.  Like, to the point where it now seems dangerously bad.  Needless acceleration and deceleration, jerking stops, taking the curves a little steep — time was in NYC, and this is not just a function of my nostalgia, you could carry a cup of coffee with no top on it and nine times out of ten it would not spill.

Useless analogy: I have a relative who shall remain nameless who was taught to drive with two feet.  In case you have avoided the necessity of having to operate a motor vehicle, unless you are driving a standard transmission, you only use one foot, your right foot, to depress both the accelerator and the brakes (but never at the same time!).  So the relative, they generally tailgate and zip towards the next traffic light and slam on the brakes right before collision.  And the few minor traffic mishaps this relative has had, I'm convinced that they happened because they got startled and pressed the brakes and the accelerator at the same time.

I feel like the men and women of the NY MTA are now driving with two feet.  I wish they would stop doing that, because I'm tempted to take this impression and spin it out into a general "Nobody cares anymore" thesis that would depress everyone, including me.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:53 AM