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January 18, 2013

david brooks and the time-traveling straw man

And since we're back on the air I do not have to let this morning's David Brooks pass without mention, which would aggrieve me greatly, as I saw no other mention on this slow news day.

As we know, David Brooks is "an earnest, good-government type," and as such he devotes another column to the rancor between the parties, the gridlock that has characterized the last four years comprising Obama's first time.  David Brooks does not like rancor!  It is unhygienic, or somehow otherwise offensive to David Brooks' sense of David Brooks-ness.

After setting up the scenario, reading like a pastiche of the last two years of David Brooks complaining about the crisis of the Great National Moderation Deficit, David Brooks comes as close as David Brooks comes to throwing up his hands:

I may be earnest, but I'm not an idiot. I know there is little chance that today's partisan players are going to adopt this kind of incremental goo-goo approach. It's more likely that today's majority party is going to adopt a different strategy, which you might call Kill the Wounded. It's more likely that today's Democrats are going to tell themselves something like this:

And what follows is a florid seven-paragraph description of what will come to pass, framed as the words of a typical Democrat (let's think of him as Straw Man).  "We will destroy the Republicans!" is the gist of it.  Democrats will take liberties with the "narrative," govern purely for political purposes and fiendishly refuse to let the GOP do anything they want.  All that's missing is the "Bwoo ha ha ha ha ha."

Finished with this, David Brooks is out of space — time to bring it home:

This isn't the Washington I want to cover, but it's the most likely one. How will Republicans respond to this onslaught? I have no idea.

So David Brooks spends the near entirety of his column conjuring a worst case DC dystopia (and one that eerily resembles recent history, I might add), purely for the purpose of turning up his nose at it.

It didn't actually happen yet, David Brooks.  It couldn't have.  It's in the future.

Remember that David Brooks, a man who believes that the future is written solely to the extent that David Brooks can predict it, is a man who is teaching a course at Yale with the name "Humility."

Posted by mrbrent at 3:56 PM

and we're back?

Hi there.  This here website was hacked thirty-six hours ago or so, and this is a test post because my genius good buddy just got through messing around under the hood and he just gave me the keys.

So I'm gonna take her around the block, see how she handles.

Looking good.

Posted by mrbrent at 3:20 PM

January 15, 2013

nra crosses a whole bunches of lines at once

If you haven't already, at some point today you will hear about the latest awfulest thing ever perpetrated by the NRA.  This one is an ad campaign, one calling the president a hypocrite.  Here, I'll transcribe the text for you.  (Keep in mind the narrator in unseen and has one of those eminently mockable movie-trailer-deep-voices):
Are the president's kids more important then yours?

Then why is he skeptical about putting armed security in our schools?  When his kids are protected by armed guards at their school?

Mr. Obama demands the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes. But he's just another elitist hypocrite when it comes to a fair share of security.

Protection for their kids, and gun-free zones for ours.

The images are a bunch of illustrations — mpegs, basically — ending with the logo of the campaign, called "NRA: Stand and Fight".

The obvious terribleness of this is the mention of the children of the president.  It has long been an unspoken rule that POTUS' kids are off-limits, and it's a rule that's been adhered to because, come to find out, if you do mention the president's kids, you come off looking like quite the asshole.

Also there's that little thing where they try to trick the viewer into thinking that gun-free zones are bad things, which is not clever enough by half.  Think of it as a "never put salt in your eyes" moment.

Ultimately, I am all for the tack the NRA is taking, because of all the potential campaigns they could run, this is the dumbest.  Oh sure, it will inflame the passions of those that already hate the president, or those that derive actual sexual pleasure from assault rifle ownership.  But for the rest of the country?  Clownish buffoonery.

And now they've crossed the line into toxic degenerate venality, which will be the point when the good people on the fence start to hate them too.

Posted by mrbrent at 1:31 PM

walmart and vets

There's a small news story crossing the transom this morning, concerning how Walmart is very patriotically offering to hire a hundred thousand returning vets.  In the patriotic sense.

This on the face of it seems like a good thing.  It is after all a pet cause of the First Lady, and I'm sure that a large number of returning vets would be grateful for the opportunity.

However, this does not obviate the fact that Walmart is a bad employer and generally ill-intentioned.  Walmart's total workforce as of last July was 2.2 million.  And Walmart's not gonna be hiring all those vets all at once — instead, they're committing to hiring 20,000 vets a year over five years.  So Walmart is patriotically agreeing to allow vets to make up nearly one whole percent of the workforce on an annual basis.

And this enormous gift being given these returning vets is the chance to work for subsistence wages with no collective bargaining rights for a corporate monolith that destroys the fabric of communities as sure as cigarettes give you emphysema.  Hurry back from the armed conflict, fellas, and make sure you still have soul enough for Walmart to suck.

Like Walmart isn't already in the "hiring people" business.  This is a total crock.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:57 AM

January 14, 2013

pret a porter's insane labor practices

Further to Choire Sicha's post on the insanely delicious sandwiches available at British Pret A Manger's and unavailable at Prets here in the States, give this London Review of Books peek behind the scenes at the HR practices of the popular global quick-lunch chain:
To guard against the possibility of Pret workers allowing themselves to behave even for a moment as if they were ‘just here for the money’, the company maintains a panoptical regime of surveillance and assessment. Not only do workers watch each other, chivvying, cajoling, competing, high-fiving; they are also watched. Mystery shoppers visit every branch of Pret A Manger every week. If their reports are positive – more than 80 per cent of them are – the entire staff gets a bonus that week. Workers cited for ‘going the extra mile’ get a further £50 in cash, which they have to distribute among their colleagues. But if the mystery shopper happens to be served by someone momentarily off their game, who may be named and shamed in the report, no one gets rewarded. The bonus is significant, £1 per hour for the week’s work, upping the starting salary of £6.25 (just higher than the UK minimum wage of £6.19) by 16 per cent.

That sounds pretty terrifying to me and my six or seven of service industry employment post-college, but I'll wager that it's not that far off from a lot of high-concept places for the young to work — the kinds of places where customers are not customers but rather "clients" or "guests" or, I dunno, "johns."

But it's probably best not to think about how much that person pouring your latte half-caff skim or pressing your panini is getting paid, and how much the CEO is making off the back of their Orwellian-proscribed labor.  We live in a world where capitalism is infallible; no need to have the right-thinking point and stare at you.

Posted by mrbrent at 12:56 PM

the nra's firearm research ban

Just a friendly reminder: just because you catharsis'd your ass off watching the Globes last night while DVRing the premiere of "Girls" does not mean that you get to forget about the NRA and why they are bad people.

They are not bad people because they like guns.  Guns are a thing, a little machine, and the only object mentioned as a class in the United States Constitution.  And they are a lobbying organization opposed to infringement of rights real or imagined as set forth in such Constitution.  That doesn't make them bad.

What makes them bad it that long ago they got lost in the forest and accordingly can no longer discern trees.  They have arrived at a position that is opposed not just to gun control, but to any discussion thereof.  And with each success the NRA has, they are left groping for the next position that they can adopt, for the purposes of fund-raising and publicity, and now they are a Katamari of impossibly knuckle-dragging policy recommendations that wingnuts everywhere have adopted as dogma.

Example for the day: the NRA is directly responsible for the lack of extensive research into gun violence over the past generation.  For real!  In the 1990's, some studies were released that showed that armed households were less safe than unarmed households, that firearms are much more likely to be used in suicide/domestic violence than household protection, etc.  The NRA went bananas, as the findings contravened the NRA's axiom of More Guns More Safe.  So instead of trying to fight with more science, they instead used their stranglehold on the Congress to defund any organization that dared to attempt any such research.

The result: Nearly two decades later, with Washington mulling gun-violence prevention measures in the wake of last month’s Newtown, Conn. shooting, policymakers find themselves hampered by a lack of objective, scientific information on one of the country’s major public health threats—one which costs the country 31,000 lives and an estimated $100 billion per year. That has left today’s policymakers flying virtually blind.

Whether you're a Ban All Guns type or an Arm Every Citizen type, can you really argue that what is needed is a de facto ban on research?  What the NRA did is decide that, if they're not going to be entitled to their own facts, then nobody gets to have any facts.

That is yet another reason why they are bad people.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:23 AM