Posted by Brad @ 6:57 am on September 30th 2010

Music Video of the Week

Warren Haynes – One

Posted by Brad @ 4:11 pm on September 29th 2010

Ways to Not Prove the Shallowness and Over-Sexualization of the News

1. Try to seduce a news anchor.

2. Fail.

Posted by Brad @ 2:40 pm on September 29th 2010

Ways to Not Scare Off Voters in California

#1: Claim that a candidate for governor had an illegal immigrant working for her.

#2: Announce it this way.

Posted by Brad @ 6:10 pm on September 28th 2010

Music Video of the Awesome Personal Essay

This is for Cameron.

I can’t get over how awesome this Slate article is. It’s by Mick Foley, the wrestling icon, and it’s solely about how his love for the music of Tori Amos both inspired him to compete in barbed wire cage matches, and to do his part to combat sexual assault. And it kind of makes total sense to me.

Tori Amos – Winter

Posted by Brad @ 3:21 pm on September 28th 2010

Another Letter to Andrew Sullivan

In this post, Andrew relays an article by Radley Balko in which he relates the news I posted below, and slaps the only word he can think of on it: tyranny. Which is absolutely right.

To which Sullivan has the gall to append:

And where, one wonders, are the Tea Partiers on this? About where they were when it was done under Bush.

Gall not because it is unfair – I certainly wish there were more of a constituency for civil liberties on the right than there is, although worth noting that at least with the Paulian wing it remains alive and well – but because it is so…well myopic to his own failures on this matter. Sullivan, while he is great at publicizing these issues, and that counts for a lot, nevertheless has not really let it appreciably get in the way of his support for Obama. He does dutifully mention it, but it’s clear is energy is in fighting the right (who are not speaking about it) rather than, say, fighting the people doing the actual harm right now (who are speaking about it, and lying, and mainstreaming those lies).

Anyway, to his “where one wonders…” I add:

And where, one wonders, will you be in 2012, when it comes to Obama?

You’ve spent a lot of time in essence arguing that this kind of stuff, in the big picture, doesn’t matter because 1. His political opponents are SCARY! Booga boo!, and 2. Some sort of hair-brained and ambiguous notion that he is planning some long-term Master Strategy that the rest of us plebs don’t just understand yet. That we, instead, ought to ignore everything we’re seeing now (or not seeing) and just assume that he means well, has access to information and strategy that we don’t, and at the end of the day, for reasons as much personality-based as reality-based (he strikes you as honest; he strikes you as reasonable in a sea of unreason; you’d like to have a beer with him, etc.), just trust him. Oh sure you’ll add it to a list of “disappointments” that you’ll trot out just to show that you’re not in the tank, but it won’t affect your vote, your support, your soapbox, or your unconscious political strategy. Because really, in the grand scheme of things, you just plain like him.

Want to know where the Tea Partiers were on this under Bush? Exactly where you are now with this under Obama.

This is why it’s so hard to root this stuff out, once it’s entered the system. Because we’re only ever willing to truly hold accountable (in more than a mere lip service way) the people in politics we don’t like anyway.

We are the ones we’ve been waiting for?

Try this Andrew: you are a part of the problem.

Brad

For the record, although I’ve mentioned it elsewhere, unless there is a huge turnaround on these specific issues between now and 2012, I cannot in good conscience vote for or support Obama for reelection. I’ll either vote for the Republican in protest or, if they’re as repugnant as they may very well be and not even merit consideration as a protest vote, vote Libertarian, and give all the money I might have given in campaign contributions in another cycle to the ACLU.

Hey, does that make me a swing voter? (Dear CNN and Frank Lutz: I’m available for focus groups now!)

Posted by Brad @ 11:15 pm on September 26th 2010

The Nadir

President Obama is now explicitly arguing that the President has the right to sentence Americans to death with no due process or charges of any kind, and that a President’s decisions as to who will be killed and why he wants them dead are “state secrets,” and thus no court may adjudicate their legality, nobody may appeal his decisions, and nobody is allowed to know precisely why.

Any hyperbole I could muster pales in comparison to the mundane starkness of that fact.

I do not know if there is coming back from where we are now, at least not without being a fundamentally different society than what we mythologize ourselves as being.

Posted by Brad @ 2:24 pm on September 24th 2010

The Cameron-Clegg Rollback of UK Bureaucracy…

…continues apace, with a review, on David Cameron’s orders, of all the bodies of government having been completed, and now, the Telegraph has learned, the results are in. 177 bodies will be scrapped outright. 94 more are “on notice” of falling to the same fate. 4 have been privatized. 129 will be merged. 350 will remain mostly as-is.

Posted by Brad @ 2:19 pm on September 24th 2010

Muslims for Free Speech

One the most irritating things we hear about muslims from people who regularly apologize for bigotry against them is the question of apologies. Namely, muslims don’t do enough apologizing, refudiating, condemning, etc. etc. It’s irritating because I almost always get the impression that the speaker doesn’t know who, precisely, he’s talking about, or who, precisely, should be apologizing but has not (“You know…muslims”). It’s also irritating because I’m not usually certain what, exactly, they should be apologizing for (“You know…terrorism, and stuff.”). Nor is it clear to me what they would have to do to get that apology accepted (I suspect the answer is something along the lines of “stop being muslim”). And finally, it’s irritating because usually the speaker is just taking it as a given that muslims have NOT apologized, refudiated, or condemned – when, in fact, many, many, many have. The speaker usually just discounts this out of hand, and points out that they never see it on The TV or The Fox News, they only see flag burning and “celebrating 911”.

Really, it’s the sort of argument I always feel dumber for having engaged in. (similar, although on a much smaller scale: “Why doesn’t the Tea Party repudiate racism?”)

But, I do like to pass on those muslim apologies when I come across them. So hat tip to Reason for pointing to this impressive petition of North American Islamic leaders defending the rights of cartoonists and guys like Trey Parker and Matt Stone to speak how they wish. Just thought I’d pass it along.

We, the undersigned, unconditionally condemn any intimidation or threats of violence directed against any individual or group exercising the rights of freedom of religion and speech; even when that speech may be perceived as hurtful or reprehensible.

We are concerned and saddened by the recent wave of vitriolic anti-Muslim and anti-Islamic sentiment that is being expressed across our nation.

We are even more concerned and saddened by threats that have been made against individual writers, cartoonists, and others by a minority of Muslims. We see these as a greater offense against Islam than any cartoon, Qur’an burning, or other speech could ever be deemed.

We affirm the right of free speech for Molly Norris, Matt Stone, Trey Parker, and all others including ourselves.

Posted by Brad @ 10:52 am on September 24th 2010

The Definitive Rand Paul

GQ has a terrific profile of Rand Paul which is probably the best I’ve ever seen at capturing both him and the whole zeitgeist around him.

Posted by Brad @ 10:51 am on September 24th 2010

The Privatization of War

A milestone, as for the first time, U.S. contractor deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan exceed military deaths.

Posted by Jack @ 10:38 pm on September 23rd 2010

Lady Newsom (Peach Plum Pear Bad Romance remix)

I find this awesome. Totally amateur duet mash up of Joanna Newsom’s Peach Plum Pear and Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance. Near polar opposite sources blended seamlessly. It starts a bit rough, particularly the male vocals, but hang with it beyond 2:30, when the performers forget their “look at me and my cool hoodie” pretensions and find their rhythm, intermixing the songs beautifully as they cross the three minute mark.

Posted by Brad @ 3:07 pm on September 23rd 2010

Music Video of the Week

Back to school edition!

As you could probably guess, I adore Regina Spektor. I didn’t include her in my Best Albums of the Decade list, only because I wasn’t sure any single one of her albums standing alone made the cut (in retrospect, Soviet Kitsch really should have been on there), but if it were a Best Artists of the decade list, she’d undoubtedly been Top Ten. Here’s a great one.

Regina Spektor – On the Radio

Posted by Brad @ 10:00 am on September 23rd 2010

A Pledge to America

As they have in almost every cycle since 1994, the GOP has cobbled together a pledge…a contract, if you will…to America. You can read it here. I’ll liveblog my thoughts line-by-line in comments.

Posted by Brad @ 11:21 pm on September 22nd 2010

Florida to Stop Enforcing Gay Adoption Ban

Interesting.

Posted by Brad @ 2:54 pm on September 22nd 2010

The Beautiful Mob in Bell, California

If you haven’t heard the story of Bell, California – whose entire city government was arrested this week – you really should bone up. Reason has been covering it from the very beginning (breaking much of the story). But I’m particularly gladdened to see the spontaneous celebrations that bloomed around Town Hall the night the bastards went to jail.

To quote V for Vendetta:

Posted by James @ 6:39 pm on September 21st 2010

Uh Oh, Brad. You have serious competition.

You better get your game face on, mister man.

Seriously, dude.

Posted by Brad @ 6:38 pm on September 21st 2010

Music Video of the OK Go II

OK Go – White Knuckles

Posted by Brad @ 3:37 pm on September 21st 2010

The Bigotry of Martin Perez

Don’t know if you’ve been following the back-and-forth on the subject, but Ta-Nehisi Coates has, I think, the definitive take.

Andrew and Jack Shafer’s reminiscence over the legacy of Martin Peretz, and quasi-defense of his bigotry, motivated me to do some of my own reflecting. To the present business, there is no actual defense of the statement “Muslim life is cheap, particularly to Muslims.” African-Americans are overrepresented among both the perpetrators and victims of homicide. And yet had a writer for The New Republic, in the midst of asserting that blacks should not enjoy constitutional protection, argued that “Black life is cheap, particularly to blacks,” and then doubled down on the assertion, I don’t think we’d be having this debate–emphasis on “think.”

On close reading, neither Andrew nor Jack are offering a defense so much as they are changing the subject. The question at hand is something along the lines of, “Does Martin Peretz exhibit a pattern of bigotry?” Andrew and Jack, instead, are addressing a question along the lines of “Is Martin Peretz a great journalist?” With respect for both Andrew and Jack, this is obfuscation. Ty Cobb was both a great baseball player and a bigot. The notion that we must choose between the two, that one mitigates the other, that good people don’t do deplorable things, that deplorable people don’t do great things, emanates from our own inability to understand that bigotry is not strictly the preserve of orcs.

If Peretz is not a bigot, then the word has no meaning.

I, like I’m sure many here, always recoil a bit at the word bigotry. So let’s step off the semantic discussion here and take the point in its larger sense. It is amazing to me how the lesson of dehumanization does not, apparently, generalize. The editor of the New Republic would, I am sure, have absolutely no qualms in reacting to a person who made similar comments as he has about muslims in relation to, say, Jews or muslims. Hell, had Andrew Sullivan made such a sweeping generalization about “the Jews” as Perez regularly does about muslims, Perez would grant no quarter. For that matter, can you imagine the following sentence un-ironically being let pass through any major American publication were the subject not muslims?

We have higher standards of civilization than they do.

And even then, I sort of get what he’s saying, and there is, I think, a fair argument to be had there. But that’s not the argument Perez is making. And any argument that begins with the phrase “muslims are…” had better have enough self awareness to be, at least, smart and self-aware. When it devolves instead to fundamental, general, and apparently innate assumptions about the character of one sixth of the world’s population, you’re not much interested in drawing inferences and exploring nuance and culture so much as you’re interested in…well, bigotry.

Sadly, as Glenn Greenwald would be quick to point out, this isn’t just Perez’ problem. For as much as we bemoan “political correctness”, it is, generally speaking, perfectly acceptable in mainstream American culture to make generalizations like these about muslims or Arabs. Ask Helen Thomas or hell even Octavia Nasr if that goes both ways.

Posted by Brad @ 11:33 am on September 21st 2010

McCain’s Filibuster of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Repeal

By the by, the Senate has added a provision to the Defense Authorization Bill which would repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (odd that they didn’t seem to believe they could do that in the first year of Obama’s administration). John McCain, of course, has been a fair weather friend – or perhaps we shall call him frenemy – to DADT repeal, being one of the few Republicans that at least didn’t seem to foreclose on the possibility in the last decade and made himself seem open to the possibility. But like a lot about John McCain, his principles often appear less important than being the middle of something, and with nearly 60 votes, the President, the military brass, and 75% of Americans (and hell, a majority of the military), John McCain has decided that he can best put himself in the middle of the issue by filibustering it, which is what he is currently doing. McCain argues that he’s just doing it because it will hurt military readiness in wartime ™, and also that military brass are not sufficiently onboard. Unstated in that argument is the fact that the amendment under discussion offers two specific caveats – that repeal won’t come until the completion of the military study Obama commissioned (in December), and then only if that report comes back in its favor and the Pentagon signs off on it.

Anyway, we’ll see this afternoon if the Senate can get 60 votes to overturn the obstinate maverick. If not, we’ll have him to thank for the lack of repeal.

Posted by Brad @ 8:23 pm on September 20th 2010

Did You Hear?

Not only are we post-racial, did we cease our torture regime, and did we finally put the Iraq War to bed, but now, the recession is over as well.

Man, that Obama. Is there anything he can’t do?

Posted by Brad @ 2:05 pm on September 20th 2010

Cue Theme From Jaws

Remember that Republican earmark ban?

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor indicated in August that earmarks could make their way back but would be allowed based on “merit, not muscle.” He tried to clarify Wednesday, telling POLITICO that his party has “learned its lesson, and a new majority will spend its time and energy cutting spending, not increasing it, and that includes earmarks.”

House Minority Leader John Boehner is hedging, saying Republicans banned earmarks because of a broken process spurred by Democrats but that “whatever happens in November, the need for bipartisan reform will continue.”

Hear that guys? They learned their lesson. You can all go home now.

Posted by Brad @ 11:13 am on September 20th 2010

The Old Adventures of New Christine

Think Progress compiles a definitive dossier on the battiness of Christine O’Donnell, thus negating any need for me to throw up a new-found quote a few times a day.

Two thoughts, reading through all that:

1. My guess is a lot of that stuff is just par for the course for an unknown figure who decides to try to eek out a living as “evangelical social conservative talking head” and as such, I think, says a bit more about the media and a bit less about her, personally, than is probably generally assumed. I was friends with a guy a few years ago who followed almost precisely the same career track, except on the left. He founded his own “think tank”, which had a staff of, I believe, two (counting him), and used that as a credential to get himself invited on Scarborough Country, Hardball, etc. etc. He was able to get a pretty good thing going almost entirely because he, very consciously, played the “crazed wild-eyed liberal” part. He got one invite, and once producers saw that he was perfectly malleable and willing to be on-call every time a story or panel needed “balance”, he was suddenly in the queue as a go-to lefty. He would literally get a call like “we need you on at 6 PM to defend professors proselytizing about politics in their classrooms and trying to convert their students to liberalism.” “Well I don’t really believe in that.” “You want to get on or not?” “Fine. Give me an hour to bone up and I’ll be there”.

It would be more fair to call him (and, from the looks of it, O’Donnell during the Politically Incorrect years) as less akin to a political activist, and more akin to a professional wrestler (sans wrestling). It’s clear to me that, going on those shows, she knows what she’s doing, and she knows what part she’s playing and what the show’s staff want out of her for good TV. She knows she has to be outrageous to get an invite back. She is, in short, playing a part as much as she is honestly espousing an ideology.

2. That said, I do find it amusing that she’s now ducking all media and claiming that “they” want to focus on irrelevant and outdated personal stuff rather than the issues. I find this a bit rich, because really, this nutty social conservative wrestling character thing is the entirety of her bio. She was a cipher for evangelical nuttiness then, she’s a cipher for Tea Party anti-establishmentarianism now. And my second thought is that if these are the kind of people the Tea Party want to try to vaunt into the Senate, they’ll get exactly what they deserve. I do agree that her election was more about anti-establishmentarianism than any particular endorsement of social conservatism, but at some point, there HAS to exist a bar where simply being the insurgent, regardless of any of your other distinguishing characteristics, isn’t enough to win Tea Party support. Clearly, they’re not their yet, which is why I’m hoping O’Donnell blows up in their faces and they get the hint. Although I have a feeling the more likely outcome is simply to dig foxholes and put on the victim/oppressed hats, rally, and create another Sarah Palin clone, which is what exactly nobody needs.

Posted by Cameron @ 9:50 pm on September 18th 2010

Decent Article, Fantastic Photos

I haven’t seen photographic framing this dramatic in a long time. The subject: closeted military members. Jeff Sheng’s project is featured in today’s LA Times and is worth both a read and a click though to the photographs. A teaser:

For more be sure and check out his website. It looks like he has some books out but they don’t seem to be in print.

Posted by Brad @ 10:11 pm on September 17th 2010

O’Donnell at the Values Voters Summit

David Weigel perfectly encapsulates it, and a lot more. It’s almost a perfect encapsulation of what’s wrong with American politics today, the confluence of media, celebrity, and unrepetent ignorance and corruption.

One hundred hours ago, the Republican establishment and a large number of the conservative movement’s thinkers were in agreement. O’Donnell was an unacceptable candidate. She had falsely claimed to have a college degree in hand when she didn’t, falsely claimed to have won two counties against Joe Biden when she didn’t, sued one of the citadels of the movement — the Intercollegiate Studies Institute — and in that lawsuit, mentioned a Princeton program she was supposedly in that no one heard tell of ever again. She had paid her family and herself from campaign funds. Most unforgivably, she had converted the Delaware seat from a sure Republican gain to a sure Democratic hold.

The establishment pointed this out. The base decided to create a new reality. In this reality, O’Donnell was a maltreated, misunderstood Average American, a Christian attacked for her faith. Going after her was going after them. They responded to the negative coverage of her by crashing her website with more than $1 million of donations — this for a candidate, again, who has paid her mother from campaign funds, the kind of offense that lights up talk radio when it’s committed by Democrats.[…]

The reporters who’d come to cover the speech assumed that she wasn’t going to win the race. But, aha, what if she did? In a very short time, the Christine O’Donnell story had changed from one about a flawed candidate whose state party leaders considered unelectable and unfit for office to an Inspiring Story About An Underdog.

Posted by Brad @ 3:45 pm on September 17th 2010

Music Video of the Week

Man I would kill to find a live performance of this. One of my all-time favorite a capella songs. Just simple and elegant. Long live the Persuasions.

The Persuasions – Ripple

Posted by Brad @ 10:17 am on September 17th 2010

Quote of the Day: Manimal Edition

We here at The Crossed Pond are ever vigilant on the subject of human-animal hybrids. So it’s good to see that in Delaware we have found a candidate for the Senate who shares our concern, and the concerns of millions of Americans just like us. Christine O’Donnell, talking about cloning with Bill O’Reilly in 2007:

“They are — they are doing that here in the United States. American scientific companies are cross-breeding humans and animals and coming up with mice with fully functioning human brains. So they’re already into this experiment.”

Yesss…

Posted by Brad @ 10:06 am on September 17th 2010

Cheating

Most amusing sports controversy of the month: Derek Jeter pretends to get hit by a pitch.

For some reason, this has caused great consternation. Like steroids, I love how we prefer to think of professional athletics as some pure-as-the-driven-snow arena in which man vs. man compete and only some sliver of talent differential – or better yet, heart! – determines the outcome and not, you know, a competition where both sides are going to try to do everything they can to win.

Jeter, for his part, is unrepentant:

”He told me to go to first base,” Jeter said of Home plate umpire Lance Barksdale. “I’m not going to tell him I’m not going to first, you know. It’s part of the game. My job is to get on base. Fortunately for us it paid off at the time, but I’m sure it would have been a bigger story if we would have won that game.”

My first thought: boy, the people who are upset about this must have never seen a soccer match.

Bonus points: all the great professional athletes of the past now going on TV saying “s*$t yeah man, I cheated like a mofo in my days”.

Posted by Brad @ 10:20 am on September 16th 2010

A Reminder

For all the accolades I’ve given him for his handling of the Park51 issue, Michael Bloomberg is still an asshole.

Posted by Rojas @ 7:39 pm on September 15th 2010

They have learned nothing

Fannie Mae bankrupted itself and had to be bailed out of a massive hole by the taxpayers. Now, a couple of short years later, with mortgage defaults still running in the millions, they are again offering mortgages for little or no money down. The article linked cites an example of a man with a $32,000 annual income buying a hundred thousand dollar home for a down payment of 67 cents, because the unthinkable alternative would be to have to rent for several years.

The New York Times piece is, of course, full of laudatory quotes about how This Time Will Be Different, and offering up hope that first-time buyers will reinflate the housing market if offered the right (perverse) incentives. It closes with this whopper:

“One of the great and unsung tragedies of the whole crisis was the end of the subprime market.”

No, that was not in any sense a tragedy. Interest rates are what they are because the market has determined them to be an accurate measure of the likelihood of a buyer default. Subprime loans, from both the lender and the taker’s perspectives, are very often bad decisions which exist in simple defiance of market mathematics. Remember, we are not dealing with people who would otherwise be homeless here, but with people who would otherwise be renting housing.

If we are looking for a “great and unsung tragedy” here, it is certainly not the one the article cites. The tragedy lies in the fact that the political class has chosen not to allow us to absorb the chief lesson of the housing collapse, namely: that it is unwise to choose short-term pleasure at the expense of inevitable long term pain, and that it is smarter to defer purchases until you are actually able to afford them. The less intelligent segment of the electorate has demanded something for nothing, and as always the government has given it to them. Thus begins again the cycle wherein we live high on the hog until the inevitable crash.

Posted by Brad @ 2:55 pm on September 15th 2010

Although I Will Admit…

That seeing the O’Donnell-Rove-Palin-Romneypleaseincludemesomewhereinthisconversationprettyplease dogfight is fairly amusing, as is, to a lesser extent, the lipstick on a pigging going on at places like National Review (which is also turning into a bit of an under-the-surface dogfight).

It seems like the sides are: Sane conservatives who are concerned about crazy people like O’Donnell becoming ideological hindrances in the party. Sane conservatives who are concerned about crazy people like O’Donnell becoming political hindrances in the party. Cynical conservatives who want to score points off the latter two categories by publicly denouncing their concern. And a much smaller subset of actual, in the wild people supportive of O’Donnell, although I honestly haven’t found one yet in all the reax.

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