Category Archives: News and Politics

Links to Things

Some links, without much in the way of commentary:

  • Scott McCloud on criticism.

  • Cory Doctorow on science fiction’s relationship to the present.

    For some years now, science fiction has been in the grips of a conceit called the “Singularity”—the moment at which human and machine intelligence merge, creating a break with history beyond which the future cannot be predicted, because the post-humans who live there will be utterly unrecognizable to us in their emotions and motivations. Read one way, it’s a sober prediction of the curve of history spiking infinity-ward in the near future (and many futurists will solemnly assure you that this is the case); read another way, it’s just the anxiety of a generation of winners in the technology wars, now confronted by a new generation whose fluidity with technology is so awe-inspiring that it appears we have been out-evolved by our own progeny.

  • Technology journalists from 1984 on the first Macintosh.

    The Macintosh uses an experimental pointing device called a ”˜mouse’. There is no evidence that people want to use these things. I dont want one of these new fangled devices.

  • Dresden Codak, on the ancestry of Michael Crichton.

  • Frank Rich on the meaning of the “balloon boy” incident.

    Richard Heene is the inevitable product of this reigning culture, where “news,” “reality” television and reality itself are hopelessly scrambled and the warp-speed imperatives of cable-Internet competition allow no time for fact checking. […] None of this absolves Heene of blame for the damage he may have inflicted on the children he grotesquely used as a supporting cast in his schemes. But stupid he’s not. He knew how easy it would be to float “balloon boy” when the demarcation between truth and fiction has been obliterated.

A New Standard in Calm

Shouty People

Comics aside, I can no longer pay attention to the health care “debate.” I’m too sad and too tired and it’s hard to pretend there’s an honest debate going on when one side comes to the table from a place of unhinged lunacy, total disconnection from the real world, or just plain depraved indifference.

I knew I’d had enough after a New York Times article about the “calmer, more reasoned voices” of Bob and Susan Collier. (Go. Read it. Then come back.) “The cameras may linger on those at the extremes,” pontificates the Times, “but it is the parade of respectful questioners, those expressing discomfiting fears and legitimate concerns, that may ultimately have more impact.”

Bob Collier drove an hour to tell his representative that a public health plan “may mean the end of our country as we know it.”

Continue reading A New Standard in Calm

Comics for Health Care!

I’ve linked to these in blog comments elsewhere, but haven’t yet done so on my own blog.

First, Kevin Huizenga discovered Superman plugging universal health care in a 1952 issue of The Adventures of Bob Hope. (Isn’t it amazing that there was once a comic called The Adventures of Bob Hope? Today, Bob Hope would be a gritty, morally questionable comedian whose kid sidekick died violently at the hands of Dorothy Lamour, and he’d get killed off by an evil Bob Hope from an alternate universe and be replaced by Bing Crosby and then come back to life as a zombie.)

Second, here’s a pro-health-care Steve Canyon strip from… I can’t quite read the copyright… it looks like 1949. Steve Canyon was cold war propaganda and Milton Caniff wasn’t exactly a hippie. So it’s interesting that, in extolling the virtues of the Free World, Caniff is proudest of exactly the things modern conservatives decry as “socialism.”


One of the odder unintended consequences of the mortgage crisis: noise pollution.

Firefighters in Arizona have found themselves answering hundreds of false alarms at foreclosed and abandoned houses… and, unless they see smoke or have the owner’s permission, they can’t legally enter the houses to shut the damn things off.

At first they tried to track down the mortgage holders. Many were out of state banks. In the labyrinthine world of the modern mortgage industry it was impossible to find anyone to take responsibility–the same problem that allows some people to stay in their foreclosed homes by challenging the foreclosing bank to “produce the note.”

Until the alarms’ batteries die, days later, the neighbors are stuck listening to the shrieking of empty houses.


I Want to See This Movie

The Conservative Political Action Conference is one of the biggest deals in Republican politics, and one of this year’s biggest stars isn’t old enough to drive. So this weekend New York Times ran a story on precocious 14 year old pundit Jonathan Krohn. Two stories, in fact. There’s the story about how the conservative movement, desperate for heroes, inexplicably latched onto a fourteen year old boy. And there’s the story Jonathan’s parents are living.

Jonathan said he became a political enthusiast at 8, after hearing about a Democratic filibuster on judicial nominations. “I thought, ”˜Who goes to work saying, ”˜I’m going to filibuster today?’ ” he said.

Mr. Krohn, looking bleary-eyed by recent events, muttered, “And now he can filibuster with the best of them.”

Mr. and Mrs. Krohn–themselves conservative, though apparently not crazy-conservative–are in a weird place. They’ve got a son who’s going through this politically-obsessed phase, arguing with a new convert’s zeal. Not that unusual; the stereotype is the new liberal who wonders whether ANYBODY cares about SAVING THE WHALES, MAN, but in real life you get this with conservatives, too.

Now, surreally, other adults have started taking their kid seriously. He’s speaking at conferences and getting interviewed on the radio and palling around with Bill Bennett. This isn’t supposed to happen in real life. This is the plot of a movie. A comedy. A gonzo political satire, probably from the late sixties or early seventies, crossed with a Wes Anderson film.

His voice rising to a wobbly squeak, he grabs any opening to press the cause. “Barack Obama is the most left-wing president in my lifetime,” he said.

Mr. Krohn buried his face in his hands. “Oh, Jonathan,” he sighed.

My mental image of Mr. Krohn precisely resembles Walter Matthau.

Dear Atlas: Please Shrug!

>A 63-year-old attorney based in Lafayette, La., who asked not to be named, told that she plans to cut back on her business to get her annual income under the quarter million mark should the Obama tax plan be passed by Congress and become law.

>”We are going to try to figure out how to make our income $249,999.00,” she said.

–ABC News, [Upper-Income Taxpayers Look for Ways to Sidestep Obama Tax-Hike Plan] [abc]

Now, some people, reading this, will nod sagely. “How true!” they will say. “We, the sage nodding people, must cut our incomes as well!” But the vast majority of you will blink and say “Huh?”–or some variation on “Huh?”, such as “Wha?” or “Buh?”–because you do your own taxes and you know damn well *it doesn’t work like that*. When you jump into a higher tax bracket, the higher rate applies *only to the money you earn past that point*.

Imagine, for one moment, the perfect, impregnable obliviousness necessary to make it through college, through law school, through decades in the legal profession, and not know this. This woman’s skull must have grown from some very high-grade premium lead, the kind Lex Luthor uses for the boxes he keeps his chunks of Kryptonite in. Take your new information, encode it in the tiniest sub-atomic particle you can smash a thing down to–it hasn’t a prayer of penetrating.

This is why I’m begging you, please: if you know any of these people–these big-money blockheads, the high-rolling bowling ball brains of our economy–please, *please don’t enlighten them*.

The less the Anonymous Lawyers of the world work the better off we are. These are not the people we need to have running the world. For every one of these airheads who cuts back or steps aside, someone else–someone *smarter*–is ready to take their place. The sooner they do, the sooner the rest of us can get on with rebuilding the country.

(Found via [Hullabaloo] [digby].)