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May 17, 2013

If you're keeping up with your news diet (listen to your doctor, please, keeping up with your news diet is very important), then you know that Washington is Mired in Scandal, and the Obama Administration is At The Crossroads, and Will He Regain His Footing?  So since this is a universally talked-about thing, let's talk about it.

And I'd really rather not, for reasons that will become evident, but there seems to be a mass delusion concerning the scandals, so let's maybe point it out and the deluded might find a mirror sometime quick before they reach morbid levels of mortification.

The scandals themselves: obviously, your mileage may vary on this, but whether you find them trivial or criminal, you have to agree on one thing: they're very recent.  The Benghazi whatever is months old, sure, but the IRS/Tea Party kerfuffle is one week old, and the DoJ seizure of AP emails broke last Monday.  This matters in one way, namely that the duration of this Mired In Scandal in no way merits the word "mired," or "beset," or "dogged," or any other verb you might read in your local thinkpiece.

Basically, the Beltway media was so primed for this to happen to a second term president, one rabidly hated by the opposition, that the Mired In Scandal analyses were virtually pre-filed, like an obit of an old famous person.  (Charlie Pierce really nails this phenomena, BTW.)  To wit, a whole bunch of reporters are bored with reporting about legislative agendas and governance (and in many cases, bored with reporting at all) and would rather worry a manufactured scandal like a dog chewing a bone.

For example, did you hear that the budget deficit is actually shrinking rapidly?  I didn't think so.

But of course the press rooms are not purely to blame.  (Well, BuzzFeed is, but that's a whole 'nuther.)  You also have the various facets of the Republican Party, all of whose existence is predicated not on any policy goal but rather the destruction of the majority party.  These sad men would call for impeachment of President Obama for an improper ball drop on the sixth hole.  And as you know they all get their news from the same two sources (the Fox/Drudge Axis), and as such are terribly easy to whip into a frenzy.

It's all they have, this dingbat quest for what they think of as righteousness but really is nothing more than the tantrum of a two-year old from whom the blankie is taken.

But the good news is this: the GOP will not be able to resist overreach on this.  It's a monkey trap, a bright shiny thing in a hole, and the Republican Caucus will get their hand stuck in there as surely as the sun will rise tomorrow, further solidifying that they are the party of nothing but vicious trivialities.  Oh, it'll be ugly all right, and the GOP will grin the grin of an idiot as they pursue this endlessly, and wonder why they're going stag to the prom in the 2014 elections.

Or at least I can hope.

(And breaking good news, as CBS calls out the Republican distortion machine.  Maybe a reason for additional hearings?)

Posted by mrbrent at 9:44 AM

May 16, 2013

irs pile of hooey

Let's get a few things straight.  First of all, certain administrations actually used the IRS for political retribution, as opposed to having low-level employees choose words poorly.  Second, come to find out the IRS also slow-walked the non-profit applications of a couple of liberal groups, and (unlike the Tea Party groups) actually denied one of the Lefties.  And further, well, let's let the New Republic's Noah Scheiber say it:
Democrats can't say it; Barack Obama can't say it; and the IRS certainly can't say it, so here goes: The only real sin the IRS committed in its ostensible targeting of conservatives is the sin of political incorrectness--that is, of not pretending it needed to vet all the new groups that wanted tax-exempt status, even though it mostly just needed to vet right-wing groups.

Now, maybe the scrutiny should not be on the small, Tea Party groups, who don't really raise/spend that much money, but rather Karl Rove's American Crossroads GPS and the other gargantuan 501(c)(4) orgs that through a couple hundred million dollars around during the last election.

And the really puzzling aspect of this is that the IRS is supposed to give 501(c)(4) orgs scrutiny, especially if they seem to be political.  It's a tax exempt status, which can be a big deal if a lot of money is involved, and it's a status you are supposed to lose if you engage in electioneering.  IRS is not supposed to be doling these out like free condoms on a college campus.

It's just a laughable pile of hooey.

I hate to go into Full Oppo Mode, but nothing darkens my week more than the damn Republican Party prancing around the Beltway because Scandale!  The entirety of the legislative agenda of the GOP of the 113th Congress of the United States of America is Impeach the President.  It's really hard not to hate the feckless bastards.

But yes: Pile Of Hooey.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:03 AM

May 14, 2013


No, it's not just you!  The news cycle of last week, and of the week we're climbing uphill into, is much more novel than usual.

I do not know why this is the case, as there is no reliable gauge of novelty that I'm aware of, nor any serious research into novelty and its causes.  I blame Mercury.  But if you are someone easily affected by novelty, then you might want to stay away from the associated media industries for a few weeks.  Because it is NOT SLOW NEWS DAYS OUT THERE.  And I'm not just referring to Beltway gossip, no.  Business news, environmental news, the EU splintering, China emulating the Japan of the 1980s, Japan a sudden haven for investment, NBA playoffs, NHL playoffs, the TV industry collapsing... there's not a single House Subcommittee in there, and yet still nowhere to turn without out being distracted by something fascinating/terrifying.

Oh, and Russia just detained an American spy.  Oof.

Stop everything; read a book.  Let's keep tomorrow tomorrow.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:14 AM

May 13, 2013

time travel won't work oh noes

I have no idea why I clicked on this link concerning the paucity of time travelers running around.  I am a geek; of course I clicked on it.  But while I was maybe looking for a little John Titor, instead I got my mind blown a little bit.

Oh sure, everyone's aware of the This Tree Wasn't Here A Thousand Years From Now problem of time travel — wherein one goes back in time and manifests into some solid object that occupies the same space from the future, which is ouchy if not lethal.  That's why you have to be careful!  Every thirteen year old thinking about time travel has figured this out.

But duh, that's just the tip of the iceberg, which iceberg is about as big as the moon.  The TTWHATYFM problem is based on positional constancy, the fact that if you can travel time, you will end up in the same physical location that you were occupying before you traveled.  But if you're going to rely on positional constancy, then there's NO WAY you can travel through time, because the freaking planet is hurtling around our sun which is at the same time rotating in a weird lumpy orbit around the solar system which is also speeding through space away from wherever the Big Bang was supposed to have happened.

So if you go back, say a thousand years, the problem you will face is not that you might materialize inside of a tree, but rather you will appear in space light years from the nearest solar system.

God, Young Brent, how could you be so short-sighted as not to have figured that out?

Looks like we're gonna need a wormhole.

Posted by mrbrent at 1:17 PM

May 12, 2013

are we all autistic?

Necessary background: years and years ago, when writing was easy and of failure I was unafraid, I had a theory that I like to bray loudly about, considering the issue of normalcy and psychology.  My theory was that normalcy was being whittled away into the strike zone of a midget.  Years ago, normalcy was inclusive and left room for variation, and now (rather, then, the 90s), aspects of normalcy were being deemed deviant for whatever purposes (Big Pharma, cough cough) to the extent that no person could consider themselves normal, but rather a unique constellation of deviances.

That was then.  Cute and entirely unsupported by fact, that was.

So my correlative 21st Century probably-not-truism is this: as our understanding of cognition increases, and as we figure out that "autistic" and "not-autistic" are not binary states, we will come to realize that that our individual cognitive profiles are actually comprised of a menu of "autistic" traits, and people what we now consider "autistic" are actually just people with more intense degrees of varying traits.  In other words, in the long run, are we all autistic?

Again, no more science in that one than for the first one, and if I had time I swear to God I'd pursue it.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:18 AM