COURSE OF ACTION

Posted in Quick Hits on July 23rd, 2015 by Ed

I hadn't a clue that performing in blackface was still a thing, but some part of me knew that if anyone in the United States still performed in this shall we say "controversial" medium it would probably be a cop. Now the whole country knows that, yes, blackface is still a thing some people do and yes, the master of the art form is an ex-cop who was fired from the Baltimore PD for being too racist. Pause for a moment to consider how racist you have to be in order to be ruled Too Racist to be a Baltimore police officer.

Assuming you are not performing in a film or play in which re-creating the late 19th or early 20th Centuries involves the realistic depiction of a minstrel show, it is not complicated to determine whether or not donning blackface is a good idea. For anyone who might be confused I have assembled a handy flowchart. Consult it as often as necessary.

blackface

The academic part of me thinks I understand, or am capable of understanding, why people behave the way they do. I'm no sociologist or psychologist, but it doesn't take much to come up with a persuasive explanation of why people think this sort of thing is OK. At the most basic level, though, I have a difficult time fathoming how an adult human being would need to have it explained to him – in 2015 – that performing in blackface maybe isn't a great idea in the midst of a racially charged series of events involving the deaths of black men at the hands of cops.

Can anyone's lack of self-awareness be that complete? Or does he know but simply loves to troll? Given that the stated purpose of the event was to raise money for the indicted cops, trolling seems unlikely. That only leaves one option.

ROYAL RUMBLE

Posted in Quick Hits on July 15th, 2015 by Ed

One of the ego-killing aspects of academia is realizing that one's skills are not necessarily highly valued in other "industries." In my case the nearest I have to a marketable skill in the Real World is a good command of polling methodology and the psychology of survey response. I know my stuff in that area. Even so, it never fails to amaze me how much I don't know. For instance, I have no real clue (and I'm not alone here) how to poll usefully a 17-way race. Rarely is that necessary in American politics. Rarely, as 2016 is demonstrating, is different from Never.

I have to be very honest here regarding the Republican nomination: I haven't the slightest idea right now who's going to win. Look at these recent numbers via PollingReport.com:

Capture

As always it is advisable to be very leery of any poll in which "Don't Know" or "Unsure" is kicking the asses of the actual candidates. That's a reminder that a lot of people haven't started paying attention to this election yet (and who can blame them, being 15 months out). More amusingly, note that 13 (!!!) of the candidates are polling less than the margin of error of +/-5.3% in this poll. That means that despite the length of this list of options, only the top four have a level of support statistically distinguishable from zero with any confidence. The handful of candidates at 1% or zero are getting a very strong "Don't waste your time and money" signal here, although I'm sure they're busy telling themselves right now that all 30% of respondents who are Unsure will go for Bobby Jindal once the race heats up. Good luck with that.

There is an old saying in football that if you have three quarterbacks, you have no quarterback. That is, if your group of QBs does not have one person good enough to stand out above the others, what you really have is three pretty lousy players. Competition can be good for the parties, but looking over this list of knaves and has-beens gives me the sense that the saying applies here as well. If you have 17 candidates, you don't have a candidate. The fact that every one of these knuckleheads can look at the field and legitimately conclude "Hey, I could win this thing!" should be terrifying the GOP right now. With Joe Biden unlikely to run (and unlikely to do well were he to ill-advisedly choose to do so) the Democratic field is shaping up to be a classic two-way race not entirely unlike the 2008 nomination contest. It doesn't guarantee a general election victory but it certainly speaks to the strength of the frontrunning candidate in the Democratic field that not every Tom, Dick, and Harry in the party is saying "Why the hell not?" and throwing his hat in the ring.

NEEDS

Posted in Quick Hits on July 9th, 2015 by Ed

I'd like to thank Brother Kenneth Mehn, Order of Saint Augustine, who taught me about Maslow when I was a 14 year old high school freshman. What I'm saying is, this is partially his fault.

Maslow

PROSTRATING

Posted in Quick Hits on June 30th, 2015 by Ed

I have to throw myself at the feet of anyone who knows more about economics and international finance than I – what happens next now that Greece is defaulting on its loans?

I know that the current government is strongly anti-austerity, as is most of the population. I know that the Greek public wants to stay on the Euro somehow, although defaulting on the IMF loan and exiting the Eurozone should (on paper) make that impossible. The only situation I can recall from sort of recent history is the collapse of Argentina's currency and economy in the early 00s. However, in that case the debtor nation was not entwined in any international arrangement as complex, financially and politically, as the European Union.

It is well documented that when individuals end up in financial straits so dire that nothing they do will make it any better, defaulting becomes a more appealing option. "Fuck it, why not?" becomes a very appealing line of argument. If nothing helps, then in a sense nothing hurts either. To me it looks like Greece is heading toward a car accident and has decided its best strategy is to go limp and let the laws of physics take over.

So what happens next? With no political resolution possible and presumably no further deals with the IMF forthcoming, where does this put Greece six months from now?

THAT WORD, IT DOES NOT MEAN WHAT YOU THINK IT MEANS

Posted in Quick Hits on June 29th, 2015 by Ed

Here at Gin and Tacos we adhere to the highest standards of journalism and morality. This requires an immediate apology and forceful correction when we make mistakes, as any journalistic enterprise is bound to make from time to time in the relentless pursuit of the truth.

Last week we mocked Bristol Palin for a second pregnancy while taking large sums of money to advocate abstinence. It turns out, though, that this pregnancy was planned. According to Bristol. So, to clarify: While getting paid to advocate abstinence, she got pregnant by some random guy for a second time. But she planned it that way. Thanks for clearing that up. Gin and Tacos regrets the error.

Actually, wait. Does she know what "planned" means?

She announced that the pregnancy was planned. Two sentences later she states "things did not go as planned." Then she refers to having "made a mistake." It's all very Palin – she literally can't keep her story straight for one three-paragraph press release / blog post. I predict a bright future for her as a grifter / presidential candidate.

That family is just insistent on checking every single White Trash box, aren't they. They won't be satisfied until Todd dies of a rabid dog bite and Tagg is seen driving the streets of Wasilla in a 1972 GMC Caballero.

SUPERPOWERED

Posted in Quick Hits on June 25th, 2015 by Ed

I'm tired of repeating this every few months, so rather than go through the whole spiel again I'll content myself to point out that it's positively staggering what a hack Scalia is. This dissent reads like they outsourced it to the comment section on Glenn Beck's website. I'd say this is no surprise but it is, a little. Apparently the residual idealism lurking deep inside of me wants to believe that our nation is led by people with at least a shred of shame and dignity. As it stands I'm not even sure Scalia is a person anymore. He may be a clutch of fusty marmots in a cheap black robe. They can make anything look human with CGI now.

SHORT HISTORY OF A TROUBLESOME WORD

Posted in Quick Hits on June 23rd, 2015 by Ed

In the wake of the President's use of "the N-word" in an interview with Marc Maron, I'd like to take this opportunity to encourage you to read Randall Kennedy's excellent 2008 book "Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word." Its appearance in colloquial English was not only much earlier than I previously knew (I believe he traces it back to 1580-something) but originally it wasn't used in a derogatory way. Instead it was just a colloquialism or casual pronunciation of "negro", which is borrowed directly from the Spanish and Portuguese word for black. In most languages with some sort of familial ties to Latin words with "neg-" exist to refer to darkness or the color black. In any case, its journey from a stigma-free reference to skin color to the Word We Dare Not Name is an eventful and interesting one that Kennedy does a thorough job of taking the reader through.

ETERNAL MYSTERY

Posted in Quick Hits on June 20th, 2015 by Ed

So for about the last 10 versions, WordPress has lacked a functioning "schedule post" feature. I've tried various plugins and recommended fixes, yet the content I tried to schedule to post while I was beyond the realm of internet access for the past few days did not post. Any WP users out there want to recommend a solution?

This seems like such a basic function. They can't get it right, though. It used to work (many versions ago) and then it stopped. It appears to be flummoxing everyone for some reason.

Here's a picture.

denali

IRRATIONAL

Posted in Quick Hits on June 17th, 2015 by Ed

A few months ago I talked about how conservatives and their antics are not funny because they always telegraph their punchlines – even the unintentional ones. When you know something is coming, humor potential is unlikely to be fulfilled. So when right-wing Californians started whining about how unfair it is that they can't use an unlimited amount of water to tend to their multi-million dollar estates, it was mildly amusing at best. Not ha-ha funny.

"I’m a conservative, so this is strange, but I defend Barbra Streisand’s right to have a green lawn," said Yuhas, who hosts a radio talks show and also has a home in Los Angeles. "When we bought, we didn’t plan on getting a place that looks like we’re living in an African savanna."

"I call it the war on suburbia," Brett Barbre, of Orange County’s Yorba City, said.

"It angers me because people aren’t looking at the overall picture," Gay Butler, an interior designer who the Post apparently interviewed while she was out riding her show horse (!) said. "What are we supposed to do, just have dirt around our house on four acres?"

Alright, someone using the phrase "It angers me because people aren’t looking at the overall picture" to OPPOSE water conservation is funny. Ha-ha funny, even. And the best part is that she will eventually get what she wants; when all the water is gone, then no one will have to do any rationing!

Of all the deficiencies in the American character, the insistence that profligate consumption is our birthright may be the most destructive. The inability to accept the concept of scarcity – of anything, in any context, ever – guarantees that we will become attached to ways of living that can't be sustained. For example, people will demand large, verdant lawns while living in a goddamn desert. Not only do we insist on being able to use whatever we desire, we get angry when we can't waste resources as an ostentatious demonstration of wealth.

Seems like a strategy that will work out well in the long run.

SLIPPED MY MIND

Posted in Quick Hits on June 11th, 2015 by Ed

Granted, I'm not the world's biggest basketball fan but am I the only person who reads stories about using the quarter-billion dollars cut from the University of Wisconsin system to build a new arena in Milwaukee and says, "Oh my god, I totally forgot that the Milwaukee Bucks exist"? Do they still have Jack Sikma? Lew Alcindor?