Tuesday, August 25, 2009

That's Uncouth, Ted Kennedy! (UPDATE)

Such gall to absent yourself from the Senate due to a brain tumor. Your absence is forcing the Republicans to act like obstructionist asses. If only you were there, you could use your incredible credibility with movement conservatives to smooth the way for a practical, humane, and effective reform of the health care funding system. But no, you have to be off enjoying your terminal cancer. Jerk.

Update: Ted Kennedy's untimely death has finally given the media an opening to ask questions about the moral validity of a health system that discriminates on the basis of ability to pay. All it took was the passing of a powerful, long-serving Washington insider for the average Beltway journalist to be able to relate to this issue.

Update: Movement conservatives have recognized the solemnity of the occasion and refrained from politicizing it in any way (b/w/o Digby). Surely universal and affordable health coverage is right around the corner.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Stupid Texas

My wife and I have cultivated a saying that we use to describe any local annoyance we've encountered in a year-plus of employment-related exile in North Texas. That saying is "stupid Texas."

Before telling me to take my Yankee ass back to L.A./Chicago/Boston-whatever you do don't throw me in that briar patch--hear me out. There is a special sort of forethought-be-damned, full-speed ahead spirit among the people here that is truly unique. There is also a notable affinity for grandiosity in matters transportational and sartorial. Exaggerated by spiteful Yankees or the work of city-slicker transplants from elsewhere? Not entirely.

When this spirit is constrained by communal standards (that is, by the presence of "haters"), it amounts to a colorful kind of charm. When it isn't, the results can be harmful or fatal both to those involved (warning: loud animated intro--duh) and to innocent bystanders (warning: may cause vomiting).

Thankfully, most often "Stupid Texas" stops well short of bloodshed and occasionally tempts the observer toward uncouth displays of schadenfreude. Particularly when the beloved local sporting franchise resumes play for the year hoping to erase the stench of the worst game ever played in the history of football (warning: link to Gregg Easterbrook who here proves the broken clock principle--when narrated on a play-by-play basis the horror/awesomeness of the 'boys' performance is incredible) by opening a new stadium, nay, no mere stadium but a gleaming monument to man's triumph over the limits of physics and good sense. Particularly when the crowning glory of that stadium, the largest television in the world, is predictably dinged by punts.

Did I mention that the Cowboys' last game of consequence was the worst game ever played by one team in the history of football?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Inaugural Members of the Hall of Uncouth

I was recently thinking that if my blog had a Hall of Uncouth, this guy would be in it, on the basis of covering finance from a hater's point of view:

The recently-crowned head of international financial embarrassment AIG, Robert Benmosche, has launched a campaign to “restore morale” to his beleaguered employees, who are apparently a) cracking under the strain of public anger and b) having performance anxiety that may be linked to a fear that they will never again be allowed to make obscene and undeserved bonuses, so long as the taxpayer is writing their checks.

This is very sad, no doubt, and must be a terrible burden for anyone working on Wall Street to have to bear. So into the breach steps Benmosche, who became CEO of the firm last month. His new public mantra is that what happened to AIG isn’t the fault of AIG, but rather the fault of the government regulators who allowed AIG to destroy itself and iceberg the hull of the American economy. This is how he put it:

“It’s time the people in Congress stopped talking about you as the problem, because you’re the solution,” he said. “It’s not your fault, it’s their fault, it’s the regulators’ fault.”

In reporting this story Bloomberg, following this quote, did not immediately add a phrase like, “Benmosche after uttering this appalling horseshit quickly stepped sideways so as to avoid the lightning bolt that rained down from the heavens, frying to a crisp two senior executives and the company’s communications chief, Christine Pretto.”

It also occurred to me that someone who refuses to patiently and mildly indulge any species of paranoid rambling is also quite uncouth. Notably this guy. One more time for fun:

Ladies and gents, your inaugural class of the Hall of Uncouth. Congratulations to Matt Taibbi and Barney Frank, the first of many

Shocked! Shocked!

It is incredibly uncouth to say "I told you so."


First, let me say something about haters. Haters are the killjoys who insist that a rule for everyone is also a rule for you, precious. Haters are the uncouth jerks who point out self-serving bullshit rather than letting it slide by. Haters point out the self-serving way in which many people like to attribute their successes to their own talents and other people's failures to their own deficiencies while ignoring the social structures in which those successes and failures unfold. Haters are the defenders of sense in our society, and thus of the Republic itself. Hail Haters!

It's virtually guaranteed that when you encounter a complaint about someone being a hater, or jealous, or "butt-hurt" (to use the parlance of our times), or any reference to "pussification" or "the nanny state" you will also encounter an effort to shovel fifty pounds of horseshit into a twenty-five pound sack. I could spend all day looking for examples of this on the grand stage of politics, and soon I'm sure I will. But it's also important to see how this plays out in the humble context of everyday life. For an example, let's turn our attention to the heartland burg of Greenwood, Indiana.

Now, young Greenwood resident Chris Mickle appears by all accounts to be a fine young man with a healthy love for some good ol' smashmouth football. But as a 13-year-old sixth grader, he's too old for youth league and ineligible for junior high football. I've got nothing bad to say about Chris, and it is a bit sad that he will be a man without a team this fall. The problem here is what ensues when parents seek to displace one fact-based explanation for the situation-Chris is older than league rules allow-with an ego-based one--my kid is too good, so they hatin'. Of course, the remedies suggested by each explanation differ dramatically. The first analysis suggests that Chris might sit out a year of football, occupy his time with studies, exercise and drills and store up his frustrations to unleash in a frenzy of seventh-grade grid mayhem. That strategy pays off in a year. Unfortunately, the strategy suggested by the "stop hatin'" analysis--bitch and moan about haters to anyone who will listen-- pays off right now.

As a congenital hater, I've just got to ask that we consider a question: why do youth football leagues have age limits? Perhaps because 13 year old boys are, on average, quite a bit bigger and stronger than their twelve year-old peers? When your kid is a 150 pound sixth grader, perhaps you ought not to be so proud of his achievements on the field against kids some of whom are less than half his size. After all, the purpose of this league is for kids to learn how to play football and hopefully have some fun. Not to enable any specific kid to kick ass.

That's apparently the line that some parents took. This point was lost on some others however, because a good number of the people involved appear to be concerned that this boy's status as too-old-for-bantams-not-educated-enough-for-junior-high might derail the guaranteed NFL career he's got coming. And one local news reporter who caught wind of this controversy was there to sort it all out:

Some parents on an opposing team wanted Mickle kicked off his team. They got their way, based on the boy's age. He's 12 days too old to play on a 6th grade team, 6News' Rick Hightower reported.

Yes, some haters will even rely on rules and regulations to get their hatery way. Thank goodness 6News' Rick Hightower was there to call 'em out, and to finally give voice to those bedeviled by the haters.

"All the coaches teach the kids to go out and ... give it 110 percent," said John Mickel, Chris' father. "He does that and is good at it and they want him to back off."
Yes, if by "back off" you mean "adhere to league rules." The thing to note here is the casual move that disconnects the kid's above-limit age from his status as the monster of the tween gridiron, thereby preserving the delusion that some kind of honor attaches to physically dominating younger and smaller boys. This reminds me of the time, after my undermanned Babe Ruth league team of fourteen year-olds yet again lost by the ten-run mercy rule, that four of us riding home in the coach's car engaged in a staring contest with the other team's catcher. The staring contest happened because the catcher saw us see him climb into the driver's seat of his beater Camaro and prepare to drive off in a hail of dust and a blaze of hair metal. We waited it out for a while before the irate drivers stacked up behind us started honking and we had to drive off. I'm not sure if the word hater had been invented yet, but if we had complained to the league I'm sure that some synonym would have been deployed against us. Back to Greenwood:

"The father of a 67-pound boy who gets hit in practice by Mickel, who weights 150 pounds, said football is a contact sport that will result in children hitting each other -- something he contends all parents should realize before they sign children up for football."

This is a man who gladly, proudly, and self-righteously sends his own son to get tackled by a boy more than twice his weight who, to reiterate, is playing in the league improperly. If this behavior happened outside the context of athletics, it could be described as bullying. And as disturbing as it is for the parent of our bully-analogue to honor the behavior, it defies comprehension for the parent of the bullied-analogue to defend the situation with equal vigor. The only logic I can find at work is the belief that interfering with this state of affairs would abet some sort of national pussification. Whatever this father might be (and the words "ignoramus" and "neglect" are bouncing around my skull), he is certainly NOT a hater. Whatever you do, don't read the comments section of this story, because they make this dad look like one of the sharper tools in the shed.

I suppose football will be good training for adult life in 'Murka-sticking up for bigger, stronger people who also manipulate the system to whale on you. Anything else would be hatin'. More upstanding family-values football fans rejecting haterism here.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Matt Taibbi: Hater

Matt had the gall to go on Morning Joe and present facts that disturbed Maria Bartiromo's lizard brain reflex knowledge that American health care is the best in the world.

Aren't you listening, Matt? The UK's National Health Service doesn't pay for two cancer drugs! It's like an elderly death farm over there! This hater wouldn't even stop his cruel onslaught of facts when Maria put her hand up! Matt Taibbi is uncouth.

One-Word Answers to Begged Questions

From the Times letters to the editor today:

To the Editor:

Alternate Plan as Health Option Muddies Debate” (front page, Aug. 18) provided an interesting discussion of the “co-op option” as a potential factor in the reform of our health care system in the light of what appear to be bleak prospects for the “public option.”

Is it reasonable to imagine that there is a third valid approach — that of the establishment of one or more new private-sector, for-profit health insurance companies — that would offer quality coverage at premiums lower than the present average?


For all you logical fallacy fans, let me anticipate your complaint that the writer is merely making an awkward rhetorical construction. I’m counting this as “begging the question” because the writer, despite his demure language and humble request for permission to exercise the innate mental faculties of a human being, so clearly presumes the uncertain premise that this third approach exists, is valid, and will accomplish what he asks permission to imagine it accomplishing. After all, he’s delighted to tell you all about it.

Bonus action:

If invited, the general public might be motivated to provide a sizable portion of the capital in hope that the net result would be successful competition in that business sector, which would bring down the cost of health insurance across the nation.

This solution would, to quote Homer, truly be a wonderful, magical animal—producing the bacon of lower premiums, the ham of covering the uninsured, and the pork chops of being private and for-profit. In other words, such a plan would be a pig. And hoping for this to work is like hoping for that pig to fly.

So who is this fuggin' guy, anyway?

Peter Raudenbush
Falls Church, Va., Aug. 18, 2009

Well, as we say here (or will from here on out), Okay There, Guy. That's well and good. But if you think that pig's gonna fly, there's a really groovy cat I think you should meet: Peter Raudenbush of Falls Church, Virginia, circa last month:
Congress is considering several health-care reform plans, but I favor a plan that will support the basic requirements of this administration: coverage for everyone, guaranteed choice in health-care providers and a public plan for those who cannot afford the cost of commercial plans, all paid for without adding to the budget deficit.
So why am I being so uncouth as to rake a guy I've never met over the coals? Aside from the fact that he submitted letters for publication in two of the nation's leading newspapers a month apart contradicting himself? Neither one of these Peter Raudenbush characters is any sort of teabagger. In fact, their ancestor Peter Raudenbush January 1, 2009 gave fifty bucks to Obama's transition fund, and a still more distant ancestor, Peter Raudenbush 2008 made a donation to the Obama campaign.

No, the problem I have with Peter is that his letters to the editor follow a trajectory of influence. They parallel Obama's path from endorsing a public option as a great way to kick those insurance companies in the pants and force them to cut costs to talking about the public option with all the conviction of Ted Haggard endorsing straightness.
Rahm Emanuel Anonymous White House Staffers are already eagerly painting the public option, itself a compromise position from single-payer, as a hobby horse for hippie lunatics who want to screw up the great thing they've got going (and by "great thing" I mean insurance industry campaign cash and a policy difference with Pelosi that will combine to make Rahm the Speaker if the half-assed reforms he champions make Obama a one-termer. You gotta have the angles covered). Perhaps I'm jumping the gun on the death of the public option. But it doesn't ease my mind to see that well-intentioned people like my pal Peter Raudenbush are capable of making themselves believe totally improbable things about health insurance reform to avoid the conclusion that public funding of health care is not only nice but vital.

Sorry to be uncouth.