Saturday, July 31, 2010

Neutered Arizona Immigration Law, Immigrants in Continued Mexican Standoff

by David Wolinsky from Indecision Forever

Even though the Arizona immigration law's most controversial parts were found unconstitutional yesterday in a temporary injunction by Federal Judge Susan Bolton, the "less contentious" parts of the law are in effect today. Other states like Utah are expected to adopt the tweaked version of the law, but neither side of the dust-up in Arizona is backing down.

University of Missouri-Kansas City law professor Kris Kobach, who not only helped write the law but has worked to train Arizona police officers in immigration law, presumably clad in an American flag sweatshirt and matching bandana, was quoted as saying

"It's a temporary setback. The bottom line is that every lawyer in Judge Bolton's court knows this is just the first pitch in a very long baseball game."

Interesting choice of words. And who on the Arizona Diamondbacks will be throwing out that pitch? Could it be Esmerling Vásquez or Jordan Noberto from the Dominican Republic? Or maybe Juan Gutiérrez from Venezuela?

And what about all the American pitchers who won't get the chance to throw out that first pitch because it's being thrown out by one these immigrants who're willing to throw it out earlier, faster, harder and for less money?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

On Glenn Beck's Side (for once)

Barry Ritholtz thinks Glenn Beck is scheming:

I disagree.

I think Glenn Beck is making money in a more honest and transparent way than how most of us pay our bills. When I read over Jess Bachman's chart (above), I couldn't help but think of Thank You for Smoking.
Not only does protagonist come up with an internal advertizing campaign like Beck's (but for cigarrettes instead of for gold), "Now, what we need is a smoking role model, a real winner. . . .

Indiana Jones meets Jerry Maguire. . . . Right, on two packs a day. . . ." featuring Brad Pitt and Catherine Zeta-Jones smoking healthy cigarettes in the nude in the future in space, but he also iterates and reiterates what he calls "the Yuppie Nuremberg defense": some variation of "Everyone's got a mortgage to pay."

Our economic system is such that, for a person to make a living doing whatever-it-is-Glenn-Beck-does, one must sell something. To make money doing anything, one must sell something. I put affiliate links all over this post in hopes that you, you personally, will click one, buy the product, and we will get a cut. Also, maybe the movie covers are illustrative.

Side note: I have never been able to wrap my head around how the system is supposed to work: everyone sells things and makes a profit. Where is the source of all this money? How can it be a zero-sum game? I understand on the individual level how things work, but I have trouble imagining the big picture. Maybe Bachman could make an illustration of that for me?

Back to business: Remember Judge Doom's dream in
Who Framed Roger Rabbit?? Billboards everywhere came true! I realize that the film takes place years before it was written, filmed, or released, but even in the era in which the film takes place, the economy was moving towards its current configuration. Brad Pitt and Catherine Zeta-Jones may not be smoking Sector Sixes nude in space, but they have to hock products for a living too. If you catch

Twelve Monkeys or Se7en or Meet Joe Black or Burn After Reading or Inglourious Basterds on a network station, your film will be interspersed with "commercial breaks" filled with filmed advertisments. These ads imply and deny implying mutual support of the real and/or fictional people involved with the film that is bookending them. You might even see an ad where Catherine Zeta-Jones explicitly states mutual support of a beauty product. Even in theaters and on most dvds, commercials precede the feature. Many, perhaps most, films include embedded product placement.

Compare the fund-raising practices of Brad Pitt and Catherine Zeta-Jones to those of Glenn Beck. Beck is just about as transparent as possible. Goldline advertizes during both his radio and television shows. Beck promotes Glodline during both his radio and television shows. Beck even appears in Goldline advertizements. Beck is just short of explicitly saying, "I make money for Goldline, and Goldline makes money for me."

Beck is a weasel who is probably eventually going to laugh himself to death, but his arrangement with Goldline is hardly secretive or dishonest.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

I was a writer for 3 years, then I pretty much gave it up. . . . How do I get my spark back?

Sara Benincasa suggests:

Thankfully, I made a chapter delivery schedule with my editor, so I know I have a deadline. Maybe you need a deadline, too, even if it’s for your own blog.

I diagree.
Dear Writer-for-3-Years,
You definitely need a deadline. That's the only way most things ever find their way onto Fear Goggles.

USA Type-B

Scott Adams proposes sub-countries. They sound like states within the US, except starting from the ground up.

If one of these gets started for real, let me know and count me in.

Friday, July 23, 2010

In His Diary, Ben Stein Wishes for the End of Wishful Thinking

Zaid Jilani and Dennis DiClaudio are on Ben Stein’s case.

They are on his case for the entry he made in his American Speculator Diary this Monday. Specifically, they are on his case for writing and publishing this paragraph:

The people who have been laid off and cannot find work are generally people with poor work habits and poor personalities. I say “generally” because there are exceptions. But in general, as I survey the ranks of those who are unemployed, I see people who have overbearing and unpleasant personalities and/or who do not know how to do a day’s work. They are people who create either little utility or negative utility on the job. Again, there are powerful exceptions and I know some, but when employers are looking to lay off, they lay off the least productive or the most negative. To assure that a worker is not one of them, he should learn how to work and how to get along -- not always easy.
Personally, I am not particularly offended by this paragraph. In fact, I agree with the sentiment. In a misanthropic way I do think that Stein is correct. I tend to agree that “the people who have been laid off and cannot find work are generally people with poor work habits and poor personalities.” However, I also think that the people who have not been laid off and can find work are generally people with poor work habits and poor personalities. I suspect that Jilani and DiClaudio inferred that Stein is implying that the people who have not been laid off and that can find work have better work habits and personalities than the unemployed and underemployed. However, he does not make this claim, nor do I think that he would stand by such a claim.

Well, maybe he would.

Stein is a vocal advocate for Intelligent Design Creationism, so I know he is not afraid to stand behind offensive and crazy ideas. Along with his IDC support, his recent diary entry fills me with sad irony.

The man, known to refuse to wear shoes that are not sneakers says, “This brings to mind an idea I have long had: that high schools and colleges should have a course on "how to get along" and "how to do a day’s work." This would include showing up in clean clothes, smelling well, having had a good breakfast, dressed in a businesslike way, calling the other employees "sir" or "ma'am" and not talking back.”

The man uses the egalitarian generality “men and women” in one paragraph then writes with alarming discriminatory sexism in the next paragraph, “women selling their bodies, men turning to drugs.”

But the most ironic and unfortunate of Stein’s crazytalk in his diary entry is in the aforementioned (aforequoted?) paragraph. The title of his diary entry is “The End of Wishful Thinking,” and its primary thesis (yes, Stein has theses in his published diary) is that “people who add and subtract and see life plain, these people rarely get in desperate trouble.” However, many if not most of the minor theses of this diary article, e.g., “productive workers with real skills and real ability to get along are also sometimes unemployed, but they will be the last fired and the first hired,” are silverlined generalizations. I assert, at the risk of offending Jilani and DiClaudio, that a person’s get-along-ability and do-a-day’s-work-ability are real, important, powerful factors in that person’s employment status. However, despite what a wishful thinking economist Ben Stein might tell you, these two important factors are not the only two important factors. Experience, education, who a person knows, gender, race, age, and family prestige are a few other factors that have a comparable level of importance to Stein’s two factors.

In Stein’s defense, his two factors do play an important role. Ironically, Stein’s factors (and the others I listed) work in the same way as Darwinian evolution which Stein claims to disbelieve.

Ben Stein, as pixies in Butch Hartman's The Fairly Oddparents
Most of Stein’s claims in this diary article contain grains of truth, but most of the claims are oversimplified generalities stylized as Undeniable Truths. I do not know if Stein is playing some kind of rhetorical game here or if he “is . . . as much like . . . [his] friends of decades standing . . . [who] lacked prudence and lived in a dream world . . . as [he] often think[s he is].” He often thinks he is like these friends of his, and perhaps rightly so. That good hard-working people are rewarded and evil lazy people are punished is sometimes, but not always true. Accepting such a maxim as fact is wishful thinking.

I guess Ben is having one of those dreams that appears as though the dream world is the waking world.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Quintana Roo

We're back. The wedding was awesome. The honeymoon was awesome. We stayed at Hotel Catalonia Playa Maroma on Riviera Maya just north of Playa del Carmen in Quintana Roo, Mexico. I would like to share a couple tidbits from the trip:

Getting Mexican pesos was a waste of resources. Everywhere we went and everything we did accepted Visa, Mastercard, European euros and American dollars. I doubt that this state of affairs is true throughout Mexico, Quintana Roo is so touristy, I'm not surprised at their lenient currency expectations.

The food at the resort was wonderful. They provided an international buffet, a Mexican restaurant, an Italian restaurant, an American restaurant, a Spanish restaurant, a creperie, and two bars. Sarah and I were each stricken with "Montezuma's revenge" or "tourista syndrome", but the food was worth that price.

The food was not the only thing international at the resort. Each menu was available in Spanish, English, French, and Italian. I got the impressive impression that most of the staff was proficient in all four languages.

On the day that Montezuma's revenge struck me, we went to see the ruins at Tulum. We took the "Xtreme" tour, which included a swim in a cenote (supposedly the only cenote in all of Mexico that people are permitted to swim in), three zip-lines, one rappel down a tower, and a Mayan lunch. Besides Sarah and me, three other couples who got married in outdoor ceremonies on the tenth of July, a father-son team, and a mother-two-sons team travelled with our guide, Sergio. The other newlyweds were from California, Colorado, and Texas (we're from Indiana in case you didn't know), five of them are teachers, and the sixth a lawyer. The main reason I am even writing about my honeymoon on here is something one of the brides said. I don't know which bride was speaking since I was focused on keeping my insides inside, but one of them was complaining that some of the parents of her students don't speak English very well. She went on to complain that a lot of people in Mexico do not speak English well or at all.

In Mexico.

Where the national language is Spanish and the cultural history is indigenous American, Spanish, and French.

She was complaining that they don't speak English.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Vacation, 2010

This Saturday, Sarah and I will be getting married. Zach will be presiding, Jerry will read the first reading, and Drew will read the second.

Immediately following the ceremony will be a reception. The following day, Sarah and I will leave for Playa del Carmen, Mexico, our first vacation since we went to Panama City Beach, Florida in March of 2007.

We have had a few long (i.e., 3-day) weekends here and there (e.g., this most recent Independnce Day weekend), but we have not had more than a single day to relax in years.

Granted, we have moved and changed jobs several times, and we are getting married, but the point is that we can use the break.

Personally, I have never been outside of the United States before. I'll be back in a couple weeks, hopefully better-rested and with more worldly perspective.

"Lara Logan's Guide to Being a Good Journalist" from Indecision Forever

by Sara Benincasa

Lara Logan is a human vuvuzela.
Oh, don’t you remember Lara Logan, the South African-bred CBS News reporter/self-appointed U.S. Army spokesBarbie who got herself knocked the fuck up by some random married military contractor? And don’t you remember Michael Hastings, the Jann Wenner indentured servant who broke the story on Stanley McChrystal talking shit on Your American President? Turns out Lara totally thinks Michael is the worst for reporting stuff that reflects badly on the military. This is because she is a really and truly distinguished journalist and not just another mainstream media reporter in the tank for the military.
Lara got all pissy because Michael reported some stuff Stanley and his boyfriends said because, ewww, it made the military look bad.  Part of her evidence for why her opinion is fact is that she has hung around them and they have not told her secrets, ever, which cannot possibly mean that this is because they regard her as some combination of a Bobblehead and blow-up doll. Lara Logan has never heard of chauvinistic military culture. Also, no one has told her that she is dumb.
Apparently, Lara Logan learned in advanced elementary J-school that journalists are only supposed to report stuff that people in power will think is awesome. This is how you make friends and also become a famous person on television news.
And she is correct, of course, because the only way to ethically participate in the American military as a journalist is to make super-besties with the military and, obviously, the civilians who work for the military. And then to have their children, out of your womb. That is how God intended love and journalism to work. Duhhhhhhhhhh.
What does Lara Logan’s personal life have to do with her opinion on Michael Hastings? Probably nothing, except that she’s spent the better part of the past few years ethically and journalistically fucking a dude who works for the very military she claims to be able to cover in a balanced fashion.  This raises the question: Why did Michael Hastings not fuck General Stanley McChrystal? Let's hope that Lara Logan gets to the bottom of this, preferably in another very special 60 Minutes piece in which she blithely pimps military propaganda and has shiny hair. Then Andy Rooney can masturbate, live, on-camera. Imagine those eyebrows furrowed in lustful concentration. Now try to eat lunch. You’re welcome.

Video of Lara Logan screeding live for CNN's cameras after the jump.