NPF: 31

Posted in No Politics Friday on October 30th, 2009 by Ed

I am now 31 years old. Feast on my Livejournal-style musings.

Thirty-one years is a long time; I am no longer a young person by any stretch of the imagination. Birthdays prompt an annual life review, and the results are not pretty. It is shocking how little I've accomplished with 31 years (namely nothing). And I think the key to maintaining sanity into adulthood is being able to understand and accept that your life is not what you hoped it would be when you were younger.

In the meaningless standardized test sense of intelligence I suppose I am not dumb, and possibly even a little bright. Add to that the fact that I tend to be a hard worker and I always expected that I might accomplish something. That brainpower and determination equal success (and the former, frankly, is optional) is deeply ingrained in American culture. Alas, there is more to it than that. It also takes talent, and having talent is like having a right arm. Either you have it or you don't. There's not really a gray area. Try as we might – and I spend a lot of mental energy on it these days – there's no way to circumvent that requirement.

The reason I'm a 31 year old academic temp is not that I'm dumb or lazy. It is because the job listings don't say "We want someone smart" or "We're looking for a hard worker." They want someone who is good at political science. That I am not. I can work harder and get better, but there is a fundamental limit to what I can accomplish. Loving and working hard at being an academic won't make me a good one any more than loving and working hard at basketball would make me an NBA player.

I think this blog is essentially the same story. I've been plugging away at this thing for six years. Six years! A thousand words per night, five nights per week, for six years. But aside from attracting some wonderful readers who I deeply appreciate, it hasn't really amounted to anything. Nobody higher up the food chain the world of political blogging knows this thing exists. The offers to take my non-talents to a more prominent forum have not exactly overwhelmed me. Yet such a thing happening was not beyond the realm of possibility, given the evidence from a natural experiment.

Some of you may recall that this used to be a two-man blog. The other guy (You remember, right? I don't think he wants his name appearing in such low-brow discourse anymore) decided to branch out. His blog basically did squat for a couple years because he wasn't taking it seriously. When he decided to put some effort into it and post regularly, six months later he's rubbing shoulders with people in the White House and writing for the Atlantic, not to mention getting exposed all over the interwebs. Why? It certainly isn't luck. And it is not necessarily that he is more diligent or intelligent, although it may very well be the case that he is both of those things. No, the difference is that he has real talent. He's good at this.

Why I have devoted the last six years of my life to two things for which I have no aptitude – academia and political commentary – is not entirely clear through the sharp lens of hindsight. "Do what you love" is common enough and valid enough advice, but I guess I have hit the point in my life at which that isn't enough. It would be nice to actually accomplish something rather than waking up every morning and doing these things solely for my own edification. Maybe in five or ten years I will evolve into a new life stage in which doing things for our own happiness is enough. Fingers crossed.

Until then, there is little else to do except keep plugging away in an effort to reach the goals I chose without considering the poor odds that I could attain them. Thanks for reading. I mean that in both the macro sense – i.e., thanks for reading all along – and in the micro sense of having been patient enough to slog through a Dear Diary post. Back to our regularly scheduled programming on Monday. Why? Because if doing what I enjoy and putting my best effort into it is the most I can accomplish in this world, that's what I'm going to do. Even if the bar is a low one I suppose there is something to be said for clearing it rather than walking away.

I don't think I like birthdays anymore.

Regards,
31 year-old Ed

CHECK. MATE.

Posted in Rants on October 29th, 2009 by Ed

It starts innocently enough. Wingnut columnist living in his mother's basement and cranks out column entitled "Right Wing Women Rock," which we assume is a paean to Awesome, Strong Conservative Princesses like, I don't know, Sarah Palin. Ann Coulter. Etc. You know the drill. This column practically writes itself. But Ian Robinson wrote it anyway.

Could be our slogan: Come for the culture war … stay for the chicks. Right-wing women rock.

That is the worst slogan I have ever seen, including Taco Bell's infamous "Taco Bell: It'll Make You Shit!tm" ad campaign.

Not for us the sturdy, honest calves of the New Democrat/Green Party female, honed on eco-tourist rainforest hikes. Those legs are often on unfortunate display, extending from a knee-length tweed skirt as hairy as the legs themselves, and end in a pair of Birkenstocks.

Ah, so this isn't about "right wing women" rocking so much as it is an excuse to trot out the tired stereotypes of hairy, acid-dropping left wing floozies. Great.

I have yet to see a pair of Birkenstock women's shoes that didn't look like part of the required uniform for police SWAT teams. Sensible shoes are one thing … quite another to don a pair that look like they're meant for rappelling down the sides of buildings with a Heckler & Koch sniper rifle slung over your shoulder.

Now it's about shoes. I'm fucking confused.

The primary reason our womenfolk are at war with the looming spectre of the nanny state is because you can't buy Jimmy Choos in a socialist paradise. The only sensible footwear you'll find in a right-wing woman's closet are the Nike cross-trainers that go with her gym membership. Everything else has a three-inch heel. Minimum.

It could not be more painfully obvious that Ian Robinson has never spoken to an actual woman without first giving his credit card number, and thus he is basing this entirely on what he imagines a real live woman would be like as he gazes at his Megan McArdle 8×10 and furiously touches himself.

Left-wing drabs recycle. Right-wing women shop — and the government measures how much they shop every month to find out whether we're still in a recession. Basically, the world economy depends on right-wing women buying shoes.

OK. Is this a joke?

You never hear a right-wing woman break out statistics pointing out that only 25% of elected offices in Canada are held by women, and then whining about it.

This may be a cultural difference, because America's "right wing women" have created a very profitable industry based on whining!

No. A right-wing woman wants to get elected, she runs for office. If she wins, great. If she loses … well, there's always more shoe shopping.

No, seriously, is this a fucking joke?

A right-wing woman hits the gym, swings past Sobey's and has dinner on the table by the time you get home … while her left-wing counterpart is still stuck in traffic listening to Sarah McLachlan on her iPod and feeling morally superior about her carrot choices. And when that plate of food is put in front of you by the right-wing hottie you had the good sense to marry, it will be 100% tofu-free. If you're lucky, she just remembered to buy steak and forgot about the carrot entirely.

We are so far into Ian Robinson's lonely night jerk-off fantasies I feel like this should be accessible only to people over 18. Seriously, if you listen very carefully you can actually hear him pounding away on his sad little crank.

Right-wing women have traditional families, so they want to raise them themselves … or at the very least by a nanny they've vetted, rather than abdicating that responsibility to the state. They know that the good life costs money … so they're not sure why the average Canadian is handing — on average! — half their income to smarmy government apparatchiks who spend it mostly on stupid crap.

Haw haw! The gub'mint is stupid! If only we let Ian Robinson's dominatrix fantasy idealized woman run the country! She'd balance the budget and have a steaming hot dinner on the table by 6:00!

Because most of them have careers and work hard, they understand the value of a dollar, allowing you a steak lifestyle on a hamburger income … and they know they can spend their family's money more intelligently than some faceless bureaucrat with a passion for public art or totalitarian city planning.

So what exactly do men do in this world, Ian, other than (presumably) work a little and get like nine BJs per day from their Cato Institute Goddess-Wife?

If they can tell their kid he can't have the newest Xbox upgrade and make it stick … if they can make a husband understand it makes more sense to put money in an RRSP than going to the Super Bowl with the guys every year … if they can pull all that off, then fixing health care shouldn't be too big a stretch.

See? Forget elections, let's just ask mommies.

Well, not all women who have children and families. Just the ones who read, obey, and slavishly adhere to the stereotypes of white male conservative columnists. The good thing, though, is that I don't see this column getting any worse.

And in case you're not convinced, to indicate the utter superiority of the right-wing woman over the left-wing variant … just turn on The View. The left has Joy Behar and Whoopi Goldberg. We've got Elisabeth Hasselbeck.

Checkmate.

For fuck's sake.

This is wrong on so many levels I know not where to begin. Let's start by stooping to Ian's level. Not that it's even remotely relevant to anything, but Elisabeth Hasselbeck looks like an old catcher's mitt. If you're going to make the idiotic argument that her appearance is somehow relevant – to anything – at least pick someone whose leathery face doesn't bear the scars of a thousand cosmetic surgeries (which I guess all women will be getting to please men in IanWorld!). Second, of what relevance is the comparison of a 30 year old to two 60 year olds on the same show? I mean, if we reeeeally thought about it we could probably find a few examples of liberal celebrities who are just a bit more attractive than any of Fox's puppet/newscaster/martial aid drones – not to mention an aged Whoopi Goldberg. Third, let's summarize Ian Robinson's argument on the superiority of Right Wing Women:

1. They are infinitely more attractive than Ian Robinson's comically stupid and fratboy-like mental image of a "left wing woman," who can barely be tolerated what with all the leg hair, the foul odor, and the inane prattling about carrots.

2. They have more shoes and they are all uncomfortable heels, ergo they are better at…something.

3. Ian Robinson has never met a woman. His employer apparently thinks it is appropriate in light of this fact to allow him to vent his rage at all the "left wing women" who rejected his crude, sexist come-ons over the past few decades.

4. They are frugal to accommodate their prodigious shoe shopping and steak-dinner-providing, thus they should be asked to solve all of the country's problems.

5. Elisabeth Hasselbeck is hotter than 60 year old Whoopi Goldberg, hence Ian rests the living shit out of his case.

Well, makes sense to me! Can I be a Professional Newspaper Writer too?

(pre-posted at the Putz)

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MONA CHAREN GETS THE FJM TREATMENT AND A BADLY NEEDED BOTTLE OF MOISTURIZER

Posted in Rants on October 28th, 2009 by Ed

Leather puppet Mona Charen is one of the most consistent and reliable contributors over at Intellectual Chernobyl, possibly because she began writing opinion columns shortly after the advent of the written word. She is the savings bond of right-wing stupid – never flashy and with limited upside, but a good choice for a safe, predictable return. Someone like Doug Giles is a lottery ticket, occasionally delivering a bonanza but more often proving worthless. Mona is like your grandmother. Your insane, not terribly bright grandmother who somehow and to your great displeasure has internet access. Let us peel back the layers of the onion of retardedness that is "Government by Holiday Inn Express." Clever title, and a not-so-subtle way of reassuring us that, yes, Mona Charen does own a television. Possibly with rabbit ears.

You've seen those commercials in which an airline pilot, or surgeon, or nuclear engineer is giving expert advice only to acknowledge eventually to his nonplussed listeners that while he is not actually a fill-in-the-blank, he did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.

You know it's A) bound to be hilarious and B) aimed at an audience over 70 if you have to explain the joke in advance. This isn't exactly an obscure reference, Mona. You're not quoting Ecclesiastes or the lost plays of Shakespeare here. It's a commercial that everyone with a TV has seen. Thanks for explaining it anyway, though. Many writers would confuse us by attempting to speak in metaphor, but why make readers do all that heavy lifting?

Do you ever get the feeling that we are getting Holiday Inn Express government?

ZOMG! I TOTALLY SAW WHAT YOU DID THERE! I WASN'T SURE AFTER I SAW THE TITLE AND THE FIRST SENTENCE BUT I THINK I GET IT!

Does anything they say make basic economic sense?

The best judge of that is clearly the woman best known for being Nancy Reagan's speechwriter. Someone with a degree in English from the 1960s. Someone who was an editorial assistant at the National Review. Anyone springing to mind, Mona?

President Obama and the Democratic Party propose to save money (or what they call "bend the cost curve") on health care spending. They will spend less, they say, but also cover more people — the 47 million or 30 million uninsured (Obama has used both numbers). This will be accomplished without reducing care for anyone and without raising taxes on anyone except the rich. In fact, care will be improved.

Their ignorance of all things economic is as obvious as it is all-encompassing.

Sounds great. But do these people know what they're doing? They mouth the words "choice" and "competition" but only, ironically, in praise of a "public option."

How in the hell is that ironic? Do you even know what irony is? More importantly, do you even understand a public option? It's an option. One option in – let me choose my words carefully – "competition" with other options.

The concept of encouraging choice and competition in the health insurance market — say by permitting interstate sales — is off the table.

That is "off the table" in the same sense that phrenology is off the table in medical schools. It is off the table because it is stupid, based on a woefully naive and unrealistic premise, and it makes no sense.

The Wall Street Journal provided a handy chart of "Uncle Sam's Cost Overruns." In 1965, when Medicaid was enacted, the House Ways and Means Committee estimated that first year costs would amount to about $238 million. The actual price was $1 billion. The program now costs $251 billion annually and is climbing fast. The record is similar for Medicare. In 1965, Congress predicted that by 1990, Medicare would be costing $12 billion. The actual cost — $90 billion. As Peter Orszag, director of the Office of Management and Budget has admitted, "If costs per enrollee in Medicare and Medicaid grow at the same rate over the next four decades as they have over the past four, those two programs will increase from 5 percent of GDP today to 20 percent by 2050."

I wonder how she managed to forget the war that was supposed to last "six days, six weeks. I doubt six months" and pay for itself. You know, the one that actually cost $700,000,000,000. That's seven hundred billion dollars, Mona. Compare that to the costs of Medicare you've cited here, bearing in mind that unlike the money we're pissing into Iraq, Medicare actually, I don't know, helps the people who paid for it.

It's not necessary to dwell on the risible claim that they will cut half a trillion in waste from the Medicare budget. If they know where that waste is, why aren't they cutting it now?

I think Congress is working on some sort of "health care" legislation right now. The GOP did crap out the Medicare Modernization Act in 2003, which they cleverly passed and then immediately told everyone it would cost $150 billion more than they told Congress! And. And! Eight months after that, they doubled the projected cost to $1.2 trillion. Boy, those Democrats have no credibility when they talk about cost cutting.

Where, on the books, are the federal waste-cutting initiatives?

Well, Republicans like to pass them to make rubes and syndicated columnists slap their fins together with glee. And then they totally ignore them and spend money like drunken sailors on shore leave.

The administration has also highlighted two other ideas that will supposedly provide tremendous cost savings. Both have been in the news lately. Starting during the campaign, President Obama touted digital medical records to reduce errors, improve care, and cut costs.

That charlatan! Everyone knows paper is the way of the future.

More than $19 billion of stimulus funds were earmarked for it. But when the Washington Post examined the matter, they discovered that digital records not only fail to produce the promised benefits, they actually reduce efficiency and cause errors. The digital systems currently available give physicians too much information. Pages upon pages of digital information document every conceivable ailment a patient might have. Doctors have difficulty wading through all of the unnecessary data to reach the critical information. One emergency room physician at a hospital that had adopted a digital system complained, "It's been a complete nightmare. I can't see my patients because I'm at a screen entering data . … Physician productivity and satisfaction have fallen off a cliff."

Well based on your double-blind, peer reviewed survey of this one guy, I'd say it's a resounding failure! Gosh, we should really take seriously the whining of doctors and nurses who hate having to be re-trained or learn a new system once they get set in their ways. I mean, they love change. They embrace it.

Some hospitals have adopted digital systems only to abandon them.

I bought a Model T when it came out. It sucked. Good thing we all abandoned cars. That was a stupid idea.

Another silver bullet the administration has peddled is preventive care.

Ha ha ha! What a bunch of nutbars! Put away the leeches and plague masks, Doctor Quack!

Everyone knows that a timely PSA test will detect prostate cancer at an early and treatable phase thus saving the patient's life and saving money, right? Not exactly. The test is obviously worthwhile for that individual. But testing all men for prostate cancer — an overwhelming majority of whom will never get the disease — is expensive.

Read that. Read that again and again until it sinks in. Why are we wasting money testing people for prostate cancer? Most of them won't even get it! So why test them? We could save a lot of money this way – I mean, let's just take all the people who are never going to get sick and allow them to stop paying for insurance?

If more and more of us are tested for more and more diseases — even accounting for some illnesses found early — health spending will rise, not fall.

Tell us more, John Maynard Keynes.

By the way, this has absolutely nothing to do with the kind of "preventive medicine" they're talking about, which entails reducing the variable risk factors for diseases. You know, more quackery.

Further complicating the picture, the National Cancer Society has announced that the benefits of cancer screenings, particularly for breast and prostate cancers, have been oversold. They aren't saving very many lives, but they are causing needless tests and surgeries.

This is why the Republicans are so popular. Health care costs too much because of all of you fuckin' pansies won't stop getting tested for diseases you don't even have! This wouldn't be such a mess if you weren't running to your doctor every couple of months whining like little bitches, "Oh doctor, I need a mammogram" or "I'm over 40, I think I should get a regular prostate exam."

The Baucus bill — even before being melded with House versions — weighed in at 1,502 pages of new taxes, fees, and mandates.

Hmm, about that Medicare Modernization Act once again…the summary of which is 148 pages long.

Every single page proclaims something that is dubious — that the Democrats know what they are doing.

Well, "know what they are doing" is kind of a relative concept in a two party system. No one thinks they're rocket scientists. In fact, most voters probably just think they're less idiotic than the GOP. This is a zero-sum game. We get one or the other. And the "other" in this instance might be a viable alternative if it, you know, proposed something. Anything. Anything other than "No" and "Let the market solve it!" Keep plugging away though, Mona. You're really starting to gain traction. This groundswell of teabagging support has really eroded the popularity of a public option and the President, not to mention boosting the GOP's place in the public's heart to historic highs.

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PROBLEMS READING TEXT

Posted in Quick Hits on October 27th, 2009 by Ed

A couple people have complained about difficulty reading the site lately, but I haven't changed anything in over a year. What browser are you using? I use firefox and have not noticed any changes.

UPDATE: People still use Internet Explorer? Do you still send telegrams too? Fire up the victrola for a barn dance now and then? I kid, I kid. I'll look into it, as the problem appears to be browser-specific.

INCENTIVES

Posted in Rants on October 27th, 2009 by Ed

If you visit this site regularly, you know that I try to keep you up to date on the latest in pant-shitting. And sweet Jesus, are we going to see some pant-shitting if Congress goes ahead with its current plan to mandate the purchase of health insurance – although said plan has been changing by the minute for weeks, dependent entirely on barometric pressure, the alignment of the Galilean moons, and what Harry Reid, Max Baucus, and Olympia Snowe have for lunch. My sensitive instruments may be destroyed while attempting to capture the deafening, simultaneous, and nationwide pant-shitting that will ensue. All responsible people should be stocking up on underwear to weather the coming shortages safely.

Admitting my amateur status as a game theoretician, there are three basic problems with insurance. First, people are always looking for ways to shirk. They want a best-of-all-worlds scenario in which they don't pay for it until they need it, and then they want to pay in and reap the benefits once they get sick or injured. Of course this defeats the entire purpose of insurance – paying x every month to eliminate the risk of having to pay 500x if something terrible happens. If legislation mandates that affordable coverage must be made available regardless of preexisting conditions, what stops an individual from gaming the system like this? So that's one argument for mandatory coverage.

Second, insurance is only affordable because it pools risk. If a few thousand people pay x every month, only a few hundred will incur medical expenses equal to or greater than x during that time, and only a few dozen (if that) will incur really outrageous medical expenses. Why do the healthy people pay in, then? Well, nobody knows when they'll be hit by a drunk driver or wake up with a cancerous growth on their stomach. So they pay some reasonable amount x because they are risk averse. But let's say all of the healthy people say "Eh, screw this. I'm just paying for hypochondriacs and old people" and opt out. Purging the lowest-risk individuals – "creaming" the population – means that only people with medium or larger medical expenses are left. Therefore the price quickly escalates from the somewhat reasonable x to a much more onerous figure. The price of insurance, in short, is very sensitive to sampling. If a truly random mix of healthy and sick people is taken, the costs can be bearable. If the sample is biased toward people who run up huge medical bills, it becomes unaffordable for everyone.

Third – and this is the part that will baffle the mouthbreathers – it is both justifiable and "fair" to force people to buy insurance because if they don't, the rest of us have to pay their tab anyway. FJM victim Terry Jeffery tries to be cute in this piece on Intellectual Chernobyl entitled "Can Obama and Congress Order You to Buy Broccoli?" It is the typical slippery slope combined with retarded that we have come to expect from the right. Here's the difference. If you don't buy broccoli, nobody cares. If you don't buy health insurance and get into a car accident, you run up a $300,000 ER tab that the hospital has to write off – i.e., they pass it on to the people who do pay. Oddly enough the "personal responsibility" and "freedom of choice" crowd ends up in the same ER as the rest of us when some major crisis befalls them. And lo and behold their hoards of Ron Paul silver dollars and night shift at the screen door factory aren't quite enough to cover the costs. If the hospital attempted to collect it would be a heartless evil corporation – or Jews, blaming things on Jews is still popular – trying to trample on the rights of freedom-loving individuals. But who are we kidding, they have no assets worth pursuing anyway. Personal responsibility ends when their ability to pay does.

Do I think there are constitutional questions about Congress's ability to mandate the purchase of health insurance? Yes, although the state-level precedent of mandatory auto insurance offers at least some precedent. Legal questions aside, though, from a rational perspective mandatory coverage is the only logical choice. If people are allowed to shirk, they will shirk. Many of us don't have much money to work with and many of us who do are cheap sons of bitches. Mandating one half of the equation – that coverage be made available to anyone regardless of preexisting conditions – without also mandating coverage is setting the system up for a disaster so obviously inevitable that we'd literally be better off with no reform at all.

BOYCOTT

Posted in Rants on October 26th, 2009 by Ed

I've given the Obama administration's no-appearing-on-Fox-News policy a lot of thought, which is the amount that I believe it deserves. Rather than go with the knee jerk reaction – "Yeah, fuck 'em!" – I think there are some legitimate questions about any political figure declaring what is and is not news. Fortunately the facts are on the President's side in this case.

WK Wolfrum has a good write up of what is a quintessential Fox story (albeit one from the utterly viewerless Fox Business Network rather than Fox News). The FBN Happy Hour decides to have a chat about the SEC and rather than interviewing someone from, oh, I don't know, the SEC, they interview Overstock.com CEO Pat Byrne. That is enough of a WTF on its own. But the entire segment – Byrne predictably trashing the SEC and throwing around baseless accusations of bribery and hearsay from "a friend" – passes without noting the fact that, you know, Byrne and Overstock.com have just been subpoenaed as part of an SEC investigation into the company's continued "restatement" of its past numbers. Could anything be a better snapshot of the kind of production and journalistic "ethics" behind Murdoch's empire? The most logical person to invite on the air to talk about the SEC is a guy who is on the verge of having the SEC break it off in his ass. And why bother mentioning that Byrne just might not be an objective, disinterested observer?

Never mind the hundreds of examples of complete abandonment of anything resembling standard journalistic practices at Fox over the years. Remember when they underwrote, endorsed, and provided dozens of hours of free advertising to the "movement" they were supposed to be covering?

Yeah, see, here's the thing. Journalists cover protests. They don't hop on the bandwagon and relentlessly promote them as their own network-sponsored events starring your favorite on-air personalities. And how many segments over the years have been word-for-word recitations of lobbyist talking points helpfully provided to the network daily by the RNC and its ideological fellow travelers? Too many to count, although this example of Steve Douchebag Doocy reciting a Heritage Foundation press release literally word-for-word is priceless.

Look, Fox is what it is. It's a business and Rupert Murdoch has a right to try to make a profit. He airs whatever programming he thinks people want to see. On the mainstream Fox network, that means NFL football, raunchy cartoons, idiotic reality shows, and generally the lowest-browed, most juvenile, and crassest programming around. On Fox News and FBN it means far right wing propaganda that tells a substantial portion of America what it wants to hear. It is "news" only for people uninterested in facts and having their preconceived notions about reality challenged. They have largely turned the network over to the talking heads – BillO, Beck, Hannity, etc. – and those individuals explicitly admit that they are not hosting "news" shows. They are paid to provide commentary and they deliver. That armies of mouthbreathers treat Beck as a source of serious news is only partially his fault.

Fox Network, Fox News Channel, and Fox Business Network are identical. They provide a single product: entertainment. If some of that comes in the guise of "news" or "reporting," that doesn't obligate the rest of the world to play along with their farce. The White House should provide Fox News all of the press privileges entitled to an organization of its size and viewership. But why should the President or anyone around him feel obligated to participate directly, above and beyond giving Fox access equivalent to what it gives other networks, in programming that amounts to little more than entertainment. Fox is entitled to air whatever kind of programming they choose, but calling it "news" is not all that is required to make it news.

Every day the President, like all presidents, makes decisions about access that benefit some media outlets and hurt others. He does exclusive interviews with the Washington Post but not the Akron Beacon-Journal. That he chooses not to act out the role of the guy suspended over the dunk tank at the carnival while Fox's entertainers take shot after shot at him to the great delight of a fanatically hostile viewership utterly uninterested in anything he has to say is unsurprising. The President of the United States is under no obligation to be to Fox News what the deadbeat babydaddys are to Maury Povich and Jerry Springer – the reliable ratings booster dragged on stage periodically to be humiliated, booed, and lectured at great length by people of dubious intelligence.

NPF: ENDGAME

Posted in No Politics Friday on October 23rd, 2009 by Ed

I am convinced that when this reaches 1,000,000 views our world is going to come to an end:

Then again, I may be overstating things given how long humanity has managed to stagger along with the heavy weight of Brokencyde chained to its collective neck:

It's so hard to pick a single favorite part from that video, but my money might be on the guy lip syncing the screaming parts right into that girl's face.

When that gets 2.5 million views it is safe to say that we are in trouble as a species.

WHEN YOU PUT IT THAT WAY…

Posted in Rants on October 22nd, 2009 by Ed

So everyone has the co-worker or family member who constantly spouts right wing propaganda, believes anything Glenn Beck tells them, and incessantly clutters your inbox with ridiculous, poorly written emails about the legitimacy of the current President's birth. The next time you are cornered at the water cooler with this person and they happen to be ranting about socialized healthcare, please ask them a simple question: If you got fired tomorrow or if the boss decided to stop providing insurance benefits, what would you do?

I'd be willing to bet Uncle Larry and the woman in the next cubicle who thinks the Earth is 6,000 years old have never thought of this. You are likely to get one of three responses. The first possibility is stunned silence, the kind that might be expected of people who stumble through life blithely assuming that they are immune to the disasters that befall others. Second, you will get some ridiculous talking points about personal responsibility – "I'd find another job with benefits" or "I'd buy my own." These statements won't just make Horatio Alger pitch a tent from beyond the grave. They will also reveal how little your acquaintance knows about what insurance costs and how plentiful good jobs are. Third, he or she will insist that they are too smart to allow this to happen to them; having been Smart and Talented Enough to get a job with excellent security and benefits, they confidently believe that outsourcing or no-benefit jobs apply only to the economic opportunities of lesser people.

In short, the answer is likely to be extremely unsatisfying. But at the very least forcing them to think is likely to induce them to bring the conversation to a rapid conclusion before they scurry off to listen to Hannity's America. Isn't that the most important goal here?

(note: I got this idea from another site, but I'll be damned if I can remember which one. Sorry to whomever I am short-changing)

HOW TO WRITE YOUR OWN MEGAN McARDLE PIECE

Posted in Rants on October 21st, 2009 by Ed

It sure would be nice to be Megan McArdle, wouldn't it? What could beat having Dad's money buy you an MBA from the University of Chicago and then, unable to land a real job, securing a gig as some sort of expert on economics, business, and finance for a major publication! And once you wrap up this high paying, high visibility position in which important people will treat you like an authority, here's the best part: you don't have to do any research! You're so brilliant that you can just write whatever flies off the top of your head – or better yet, just repeat what lobbyists or other bobbleheads say!

If you're thinking "That sounds like a great deal, where do I sign?" the answer is right the fuck here. I don't know if you know this about us Polacks, but we are codebreakers. We broke Enigma before the British took credit for it. And now after millions of man-hours of labor I have cracked the McArdle code. It's a formula. And once you master it, you too will be a Famous Very Serious Libertarian Expert!! Ready your note-taking pens and thank me later. A McColumn is broken into three simple parts – an introduction, the presentation of "facts," and the moral of the story. Since you are a beginner I will start you out with plenty of examples to choose from in the McColumn Template.

THE INTRO: "The other day I was talking with (one of my friends / a cabdriver / a stranger at the airport / the Yeti) about (insert current event or issue – just use whatever all the other columnists are talking about!) and I'm (confused / angry) by the reaction from (the liberal media / other people who aren't as smart as me). Since when did (insert Straw Man unrelated to the chosen issue – something like "Our 1st Amendment rights" – or an finance topic you don't fully understand but is in bold on the Cato Institute website) become such a radical idea?"

THE FACTS: "(insert economic concept here) is (insert incorrect definition). For example, (insert hypothetical like 'Suppose X makes $Y and is taxed at a 10% rate' rather than looking up the actual facts and figures relevant to the subject). If we (insert hated liberal proposal here), then (insert outcome that in no way is a logical or necessary consequent of said proposal). What sense does that make? Why not (Cato talking point) instead? According to (insert for-profit "think tank" / industry trade association / lobbyist group / Glenn Reynolds), if we (what our corporate betters want us to do) instead then (the entire economy will be fixed overnight / the world will be a better place / the skies will rain gold doubloons / your farts will smell like warm vanilla potpourri). (Insert incorrectly cited, erroneous, fabricated, misinterpreted, or misleading statistics and half-truths). So (innocently ask why we as a nation – nay, as a species – cannot pursue this clearly superior course of action)?"

THE MORAL: "(Expression of frustration that people just. don't. get it.). I mean, (recognition of the reader's skepticism of industry-supplied talking points as economic wisdom – you know, show your target demographic that you're hip, young, and jaded too!). I get that, but (recognition that the reader has been brainwashed to believe that conservative – er, "libertarian" – solutions are uncool). Nothing could be further from the truth! Of course, it will never happen because (Obama is a socialist dictator / more liberal brainwashing / repeat talking points one last time for the fanboys with minimal reading comprehension skills). (Pithy, sarcastic, high school newspaper editorial-caliber "closer" to remind readers one final time that you're way different than the rest of the financial talking heads out there. Different, and therefore more trustworthy, because you're a jaded skeptic too!)."

It's just that simple! Keep in mind that the point is to regurgitate the talking points in a package that Hip Young Folks will find appealing. Readers are used to seeing "suits" and stodgy old corporate types shilling this kind of message. But when they hear them from a totally Independent, non-partisan Expert and Journalist it will have a lot more credibility. And that's what this is all about: credibility. You're selling credibility. If you think it's impossible to shill and be credible at the same time, maybe this line of work isn't for you.

POST SCRIPT: Per one of my astute commenters, a Real McColumn must also include the author following up in the comment section when readers start pointing out your butchery or total disregard of the facts. Keep it simple here! You don't want to start taxing those neurons trying to "support your argument" with "facts." Remember, credibility is all about how pretty you look, how confident you sound, and how many big words you use! So choose one of the following: "You're misunderstanding my argument / Read (insert link to lobbyist press release or CBO report that you badly distorted) / Just because I got the facts wrong doesn't mean I'm not right / You're banned."

I'M GOING FOR THE 'SEXUAL PREDATOR' LOOK

Posted in Rants on October 20th, 2009 by Ed

The internet is a weird place, with the constant taking and publishing of photos of oneself fueling our society's love of exhibitionism, narcissism, and voyeurism. There is no personal space anymore and some people seem very happy about that. Take Twitter, for instance. Does anyone really need to hear what I think every minute of the day? Of course not. But the utter lack of anything interesting to say hasn't stopped millions of people from hopping on the bandwagon. Twitter and Facebook simultaneously service our need to feel important / interesting and the voyeuristic tendencies of what is fast becoming a nation of creepy, asocial shut-ins.

Meghan McCain created a controversy by posting a revealing photo of herself on her Twitter account. I could care less what she chooses to do, but her effort to play it off as unintentional is pretty stupid. Could one share this picture with the world and say with a straight face, "Boobs? Why, I hardly noticed!"

Yeah, no. "Girl who takes a lot of pictures that 'accidentally' show massive amounts of boobage" is a stock character in everyone's online social circle at this point. Big deal. Great. Do what you want, Meghan. Wear what you want. Show what you want, or don't. People who complain should promptly be told to kiss your ass. But why pretend like this is anything other than what it is: one of 100 million Americans who get a cheap thrill out of exposing themselves (in this case quite literally) on the internet. McCain indulged her exhibitionist tendencies and her Twitter "followers" indulged the kind of creepy, lurking outside the window voyeurism that is Twitter's implicit raison d'ĂȘtre.

This guy, on the other hand, could keep an army of psychiatrists busy. (via S,N!)

Taking into account the cesspool of personality disorders and barely restrained sociopaths that is the internet, this guy is the most obvious candidate to become a serial rapist I have ever seen. To wit:

We control the way we portray ourselves in this bizarre medium; this is the photo he wants you to see. Someone said "Hey Ben, you look like a sexual predator who may also bomb a Federal courthouse someday" and his response was, "Yep, that's what I'm going for." As his screed makes it perfectly clear that he has never spoken to a woman without first giving his credit card number or being maced immediately afterward, his choice to embrace this makes sense. His ranting reveals his belief that Ms. McCain is more popular because she has big boobs, which is a natural compensatory response for a person who realizes that his own lack of talent and terrifying personality shortcomings are consigning him to a life of insignificance.

Is Ms. McCain, as Ben claims, an attention whore? Of course. Who broadcasts his or her life on the internet without being one? We write blogs or maintain Twitter accounts because we want people to pay attention to us. If taking pictures of one's chest, which just happens to look like one was struck in the upper back by a pair of large rockets, furthers the efforts to get more people to pay attention, great. If it attracts a bunch of faux-puritans seething with fake righteous indignation at her "sluttiness," that's the downside. Both outcomes are possible in this bizarre world we've created, one in which we invite possibly deranged strangers to peer into our lives and in which we compete with one another for the bragging rights concomitant with attracting the greater number of voyeurs followers.