Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Idi Amin's Briefs Rodeo: Yer Fracking Dead

Note: every week, news aggregators address hundreds of worthwhile stories or opinions that never catch on, either because they lack an obvious follow-up or because sites that live off ad revenue would rather bang high-traffic drums over and over. Idi Amin's Briefs Rodeo provides a summary of good stuff you might have missed. He has a Bachelor's degree in political science, the rank of Field Marshal and was the last ruler of a free Uganda. He has not eaten anyone since 1980.

Wake up to Five-Hour Energy from Glorious Leaders' Natural Gas Plan
of Explosive Prosperity

Former Governor Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) desperately wants you to pay attention to him. Come on, he's doing all sorts of neat stuff! He's mangling history and likening the National Labor Relations Board to the Soviet Union. He's simultaneously calling Obama a "champion of class warfare" and advocating class warfare, by calling for the elimination of the capital gains tax, the estate tax, interest income taxes and dividend taxes.

That's not all. Pawlenty proposes a flat tax rate of 10% for everybody earning under $100,000 and 25% for everybody earning above that. He claims these tax cuts for the wealthy on an unprecedented scale would lead to 5% growth of the economy over ten years — despite the fact that 5% growth of the economy over ten years has never been done. Ever. Do you care about him yet? Really—no? You're still doing that thing where you stand alone in your driveway shooting free throws and saying to yourself, "If this goes in, it means that Melissa likes me"? Jeez—uh, okay, how about this: he casually mentions a "Google Test" that says if you can find a service being offered by the internet, it should be done by private industry and not government. Some astute people observe that this covers "everything ever."

That Pawlenty is thoroughly unexciting despite his best attempts has been satirized on The Daily Show and Colbert Report for the past few months. However, the media's portrait of him as a non-entity because of his boringness rather than as the sort of person who can destroy the social composition of America via his radical views allows the Republican narrative to slip even further to the right without consequence, so you probably should care about him.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Remembering Amy Winehouse

Note: The talented and troubled English soul singer Amy Winehouse died this weekend at the age of 27. To help us understand the cultural and personal impact of losing such a talented person so prematurely, we the good people of Et tu, Mr. Destructo? turn to noted family man, Christian and tireless workaholic Bil Keane, creator of the comic strip The Family Circus.

Who Thinks Dying Young Is a Neat
Thing to Do? Not Me.

One time I told my dad that heaven must be getting pretty crowded, because everyone who dies sure is special and got hugged by someone sometime, and my mom always said that getting a hug is like someone handing you a ticket to feeling happy.

Then again, now that I think about it, it must be getting crowded just getting to heaven! Climbing old Jacob's ladder with so many people has got to be pretty darn difficult with folks in front of you stoppin' halfway to look at how small everyone down here on earth is.

Friday, July 15, 2011

I Don't Wanna: Congress Edition

Note: unlike many guest pieces on Et tu, Mr. Destructo? today's article comes from a real, live person: the mysterious Mr. Awesome, who is not a pundit and fears nothing. Since he last wrote, about the actual contents of the Health Care Reform bills and the gutlessness of Robert Samuelson, he has graduated law school and embarked on a career of doing whatever he wants, all the time.

Mitch McConnell Fails the Willful Suspension of Disbelief

I wrote words about the debt ceiling fracas. Then, Mitch McConnell (R-Mme. Tussaud) changed the game. He raised his New Deal on the debt ceiling. He washed my words away. He made a proposal that was so deficient, so profoundly crap, that people can't even take it seriously.

Look at this stupidity. He would surrender the debt ceiling power to the President, entirely, until the coming election. He would retain to Congress the power to raise a series of utterly irrelevant sideshow votes running up to the election. Finally, the President would have to establish "hypothetical cuts" he "would" make, when the debt ceiling is raised.

Hypothetical cuts someone "would" make have the approximate force in law as a really strong, good-faith belief in the virtue of hugs. And it's "when," the debt ceiling is raised, not "if," because Congress would need a veto majority to stop him. Mitch's budget reduction caveats and retained Congressional authorities are obviously and transparently meaningless, at law.

This deal forfeits to the President the entirety of actual government power over this issue, but it reserves to Congress the ability to have extra-special whingeing jam sessions all along, until the election. Then the deal ends, and Congress resumes its Art. I sec. 8 authorities, and we trundle along to the next political maneuver.

That is literally the breadth and extent of Mitch's debt ceiling resolution. Congress will leave the room, but glance back inside peevishly, muttering and stamping their little feet and clenching their fists into big fat pearly balls. Mitch would have Congress officially reserve to itself the right and obligation to be useless and loud. And that's all he has to say.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Understanding 'The Sharia Threat'

Despite their 2010 mid-term success, the Republican National Committee will probably not spend 2012 banging the socialism drum again to the same degree. Sure, their mid-term victories supposedly "stopped Obama," but the administration's policy juggernaut also raced forth with all the horsepower of a kid riding a big-wheel with one of those plastic handbrakes jammed in the "on" position.

Scaring people with socialism again will be a tougher sell because it's a retread and because the specter of taxing wealthy people to create government jobs for a stagnant economy isn't so spooky in states that have suffered over 10% unemployment and staggering underemployment. A safety net won't so easily represent doom to those still falling. Thankfully, based on the rousing success of "THEY'RE COMING TO THE GROUND ZERO MOSK," the latest lurking horror to send you screaming for the Party of Reagan is "Sharia." Don't take my word for it. Take theirs.


(This INFOGRAPHIC is an addendum to "Understanding 'The Shariah Threat.'")

Those looking for a fuller explanation of Sharia can turn to the normally terrible Wikipedia — home of facts like this one — for a surprisingly decent rundown of what it means. Cynics will note that, politically, Sharia is Michelle Bachmann's favorite new argument, one that ignores history and the terms of the Bill of Rights to paint a unique existential threat that is to be categorically feared. That she is willing to demonize Sharia as fundamentalist Islam's lurking, hateful agenda, crafted by a bunch of men to tell women what they can't do and seeking to criminalize private behavior on the basis of abstract morality — and, further, that no manner of violence is prohibited to defend this morality — should at no point remind you of her fundamentalist Christianity, which is something totally different.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Jonathan Swift Ate Caylee Anthony Because He Was Really Fat

I rarely relish an opportunity to not know something, but the Casey Anthony trial furnished me with the dual concepts of something horrible and something easily ignored. Despite Facebook's best baiting attempts, the topic never mattered.

Yesterday, though, a smart guy I know wrote a smart thing about crass jokes and emotional crassness relating to the trial. He was right. The guy who makes the dead baby joke and runs to the comfort of "too soon?" just after making it knows that the joke is always too soon. He relies on the simple step of conceptual proximity to seem daring, when in fact he's anything but. The fact is that "too soon?" is the shuddering refrain of the coward and the idiot, the self-promoting worry that buries actual human concern, promotes the speaker as "interesting" and pushes real dialogue and real understanding far away from the discourse.

Click here to keep reading on

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Kim Jong-il: The Burning Hammer

Note: unlike many guest pieces on Et tu, Mr. Destructo? today's article comes from a real, live person: Dear Leader Kim Jong-il, Supreme Leader of North Korea and General Secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea, who evades foreign intelligence agencies by pretending to work the finance beat for the press in another Asian country. He last appeared to debunk entertaining myths about the DPRK employed by journalists who are much lazier than he is. He joins us to talk about the aftermath of the recent Japanese earthquake.

Plate Tectonics, Radiation Join in Glorious Struggle to Destroy U.S. Lapdog

This may be the closest thing to living with ghosts.

Reality has shifted, and it's no longer a shock to hear creaks or groans in the walls or to have some poltergeist open doors and knock over pictures. The surprise is gone, but the mystery and unease continues. What motivates these spirits? When will they jolt into action again, and will they be violent?

This is life in Japan after March 11, when an unseen force ripped open the earth, pushing the entire country westward about nine feet, knocking the planet three inches off its axis and shortening days by 1.8 microseconds. As life returns to normal in Tokyo, there's the sense that it's going to be a different kind of normal.

Tremors that would have been unsettling before are becoming routine. Beneath that, there are countless little quakes. They seem to keep the modern skyscrapers where we live and work — all built on on springs and shock absorbers — in constant motion, like a basketball kept twirling on the finger of a Harlem Globetrotter with the occasional flick of his hand.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Profiles in Florida: Dale Chihuly

Despite having the oldest continuously occupied settlement in the United States, Florida is culturally very young. Eddie Izzard has a joke about coming from England ("where the history is") to Miami Beach and hearing someone intone, "We've restored this hotel to the way it was over fifty years ago." Aside from enjoying the natural beauty, filling up your day with local activities can be tough. Every time there's a thunderstorm, you see the same desperate look take over the faces of tourists, "What now? Do you think there's an indoor pool somewhere?"

Florida reacts to this absence of signature culture in two obvious ways, one of which you're probably familiar with: total contempt. Certainly plenty of people love cheap beer, NASCAR and Confederate history on their own merits, but a lot of pro-southern xenophobic culture-war stuff stems from basic insecurity. If you lack global sophistication, it's less embarrassing to say you were never interested in it anyway. Fuck you, I didn't even want to be in your club. The other reaction is less obvious, but once you learn to look for it, it leaps out at you. Culture-wise, a lot of Florida tries way too hard.

You can see it in little things, like a stretch along I-75 where a full-sized painted Air Force jet rises out of the ground on a giant metal pole. It tries to soar, but it's awkwardly damned to remain stuck to the earth like someone just javelined its butt up from the ground. The area has no connection to the aerospace industry whatsoever, a pretty tall order considering Florida is home to America's largest Air Force Base, four other Air Force bases and 11 Naval bases.

You can hear the strain of cultural effort in the cheery insistence of St. Petersburg residents who tell you that, aside from the beaches, they have the Salvador Dali museum. It's dedicated to a Spanish artist who lived in New York City and never in Florida itself. A woman from St. Pete once enthused at me, "We have a Holocaust museum!" Okay. She seemed like the sort of person who would assign a class to make dioramas of mass graves and encourage them to "really get creative."