I need some new idiots. Allow me to explain.
A while back I opened a new bookmark sub-folder for blogs. Called it “idiots.” It was useful in that it reminded me not to take the contents within seriously. I had a strict set of standards: The idiots had to be fun idiots, not depressing ones. I wasn’t interested in screechers, unless they were amusing, campy screechers. I started with seven or eight idiots, and one by one they have disappointed me and I deleted them from the feeds. I’m down to four. Four can’t sustain a coffee-break web-surf, although god knows, Rod Dreher tries. But even he has backed down on the entertaining hand-wringing hysteria of last fall, when the Wall Street meltdown had him running to Costco for 25-pound bags of rice and fretting how unprepared we were for food riots. Now he’s back to wearily shaking his head and disapproving of his fellow conservatives. If he can’t find a slut to kick around soon, I may be dropping him, too. Even Lileks is a bore these days, although it’s amusing to see how capably he’s motoring through the financial crisis at his newspaper, keeping his sunny side up, up. He’s made himself a TV star, he’s back to filing pointless columns about his difficulties with customer service, he’s — ohmigosh — “fisking” George Will for two million words. You need a fresher schtick to stay in my idiots folder.
So send me some idiots to check out. No, on second thought, don’t. If I relentlessly culled all my bookmarks down to the ones I actually visit, I’d be down to the Lolcats, Gawker, Jezebel, Roger Ebert and a handful of others, and I probably should. Cull, that is. I have enough ways to be distracted while working. And at the moment, I have enough work I don’t need the distractions. And Roy still does an excellent job as sort of an Idiot’s Digest.
Also, I have some fiction ideas I’d like to explore this summer, although I know I’ve said that before.
Besides, it’s time I spent more time in the analog world, and maybe admitting I can’t read the entire Internet every day is a good start. This, for example, was published in January, and I had to learn about it from freakin’ Facebook on Monday.
Also, I don’t want to end up like Kevin Smith:
As you mentioned, Zack and Miri didn’t do as well as expected. How did you take that?
I kind of dropped out of society. I just kind of wrapped myself in a weed-infused cocoon … a coma, if you will. And it was great. It was really, really wonderful, man. I don’t want to be one of those people who’s all, “Let me tell you about legalization!” But, my God, I don’t think I’ve ever been happier in my life. And after years and years of … you know, I used to literally fight with people online. I would waste days online, talking to total strangers, some of them probably children. I was a joke.
Don’t become a joke: New motto.
The line in Obama’s Correspondent’s Dinner routine that made me laugh loudest was the poke he took at Michael Steele — in the heezy, yo! Dana Milbank, not so funny, but an amusing wrapup of the GOP’s gaffe-a-palooza.
Speaking of Roy, he has an amuse bouche up now, about reaction to Ted Kennedy’s improved health. A few of the usual bitingly funny lines are therein.
Admit it: The guy who rescued the wee ducklings is your new hero. And yes, I know there are those who say the ducklings would have been fine without the rescue, but we wouldn’t have the cute video, otherwise.
And now I’m going to make some calls, then go ride my bike for a long time. I plan to pass by an open field near the Milk River, where there will be crowds of Canada geese goslings (Canada goslings?). They will be nearly as cute as the ducks, but their parents are bigger and meaner. I won’t pass too close.
jeff borden said on May 20, 2009 at 10:10 am
I have found Andrew Breitbart’s blog “Big Hollywood” my favorite looney tunes batshit insane blog. Peopled with angry, bitter wannabes and neverwases, each day these silly little people parse the output of Hollywood for liberal bias if they are not earnestly discussing the deeply conservative ideas informing “Transformers.”
What they know of the business of entertainment would fit neatly under a penny with plenty of room left over for Jonah Goldberg’s world view. And the jealousy towards those who have eclipsed them in every way except resentment oozes from the screen of my laptop.
It’s a hoot.
coozledad said on May 20, 2009 at 10:23 am
Reading conservative blogs reminds me that in some ways, Lacan had a point. After awhile, the phallocentric constructs start to merge together so you almost can’t tell which screwball is running with the talking points. Unless it’s Jeff Goldstein, who always writes like a self-conscious underfucked undergraduate.
Even reading the stuff through a digest, like Roy’s, makes me want to wear a beret and and a striped shirt and learn French.
Dorothy said on May 20, 2009 at 10:28 am
I don’t knit, but I crochet. And I’ve tried to learn to knit. But I’m too slow at it. That does not prevent me from enjoying Stephanie Pearl-McPhee’s blog, though: http://www.yarnharlot.ca/blog/ She’s a fabulous knitter.
I can’t recall if we’ve discussed her on here before, but she is a very good writer, and even if she’s just talking about something she’s knitted, she’s entertaining as hell. Scroll down on that page and just read the May 15 entry called “In which I try not to complain.” I’m sure you all know she created the word “Kinnearing”, right?? http://telegraphjournal.canadaeast.com/rss/article/601590
Danny said on May 20, 2009 at 11:23 am
Californians staged a real tea party yesterday in the special election. Let the belt tightening begin.
jeff borden said on May 20, 2009 at 11:28 am
California is going to be the first state to default. This is not very good news for anyone and will have a ripple effect that is going to touch the other 49 states as the costs of borrowing will skyrocket. The anti-tax loons in the Golden State will get their Armageddon, but we’ll all wind up paying for it.
Who knew Howard Jarvis would set the state on this path 25 years ago?
coozledad said on May 20, 2009 at 11:29 am
The Folsom Street Fair was yesterday?
Danny said on May 20, 2009 at 11:38 am
Ha, anti-tax loons.
Jeff, we pay some of the highest taxes in the country here in CA. So no, the reason we have a budget crisis is that we have had a group of unreasonable and ineffective legislators who have not been willing or able to do their jobs. And this has gone on for decades.
jeff borden said on May 20, 2009 at 11:57 am
I live in Cook County, Illinois. We have the highest tax rate in the country, bar none, higher than New York City or San Francisco or Honolulu. It’s also likely the most corrupt county in urban America. Believe me, I know taxes and corruption and ineptitude and inertia. Like any sentient human, I hate waste and mal-, mis- and non-feasance, but I also concur with Oliver Wendell Holmes, who said paying taxes was his downpayment on civilization.
I’m no expert on California politics, but isn’t it true that a very, very small number of politicians in Sacramento can prevent action from being taken by the vast majority? What I have read suggests there are a handful of Grover Norquist-worshipping rightwingers whose intransigence has brought the Golden State to the tipping point.
Again, you can cite chapter and verse on waste in California. But there is a very real likelihood the state will crash and burn financially, and that will be felt by all of us. Meanwhile, I’m reading about potentially massive layoffs of teachers, police, highway workers, health agency staffers, etc. at a time when the national economy is still wheezing.
Is it really possible California can cut enough to cover that massive deficit?
Sue said on May 20, 2009 at 12:14 pm
I don’t read idiot blogs but I appreciate those who blog about them for my amusement.
I can recommend a non-idiot blog: http://suburbankamikaze.com/
It’s funny and well written; not surprisingly, she’s a journalist. And on the same wavelength as Nancy, apparently; Sunday she wrote about credit cards.
Not sure if SK is for you? Consider, as an example of excellent writing from a wonderfully twisted mind, reason number 9 in the classic “25 Reasons Why You May Not Reach Your Silver Anniversary (http://www.suburbankamikaze.com/suburban_kamikaze/2007/09/25-reasons-why-.html):
“PMS coincides with Williams-Sonoma cutlery sale at least twice a year.”
I understood that one completely. Unfortunately, so did my husband.
Danny said on May 20, 2009 at 12:19 pm
I’m always skeptical of the teachers, police and fire fighters being cut. They usually float this out every year, presumably as a scare tactic to get a bond measure to pass or something of the like.
Cuts are inevitable, but an alternate to cuts would be a renegotiation of salaries, pensions and benefits. It’s happening to everyone in the private sector, so it makes little sense that the public sector should be immune.
Regarding cuts, I’ve been searching for the story, but unable to find it. Anyway, the gist of it was that CA has added an average of 40 plus employees per day for something like the last 15 years. And the standard deviation wasn’t high, so this increase has been steady even in so-called budget crisis years. So a lot of crying of wolf has been going on for too long. Now the wolf (or bear, as it relates to the economy and CA) is really here and they need to make up for lost time.
kayak woman said on May 20, 2009 at 12:42 pm
That duck rescue story is really cute but it is a year or so old. It went around last summer too.
jeff borden said on May 20, 2009 at 12:46 pm
Illinois also is confronting a sizable budget gap, but nothing on the level of California. Most of this is due to the very predictable growth in pensions and entitlements, leading our new reformist governor to suggest an increase in the state income tax. I would not oppose such a tax because I tend to view income taxes as fairer than, say, sales or property tax hikes, which disproportionately hit the poor and those on fixed incomes.
Chicago deals with its budget woes by selling off municipal services to private vendors in the name of both efficiency and revenue generation. This sometimes works well –the leasing of a poorly used toll road called the Chicago Skyway was a grand slam– but not always as the debacle of our privatization of parking meters underscores. Part of me sees value in privatization, but other parts of me seethe with anger that assets bought and paid for with taxpayer dollars are now controlled by private entities. The city also keeps finding new ways to screw us over with red light cameras and teams of “traffic aides,” who swarm the residential neighborhoods looking for cars with outdated city permits and the like. Plus, all you need now is two or three parking tickets to get the Denver boot.
I’m not sure I wouldn’t rather pay a higher tax than be nibbled to death by these ever-increasing fees.
Danny said on May 20, 2009 at 1:10 pm
Jeff, here is a link to the voting results. It looks like all of the 5 tax increase proposals were rejected by a margin of around 30% (~35% YES, ~65% NO). The last measure which was to limit elected official salary increases in years of budget deficits passed by a margin of almost 50% (~74% YES, ~26% NO). Wow, what a landslide. Exit polls indicated that the margins were large across almost all voting demographics.
yeah, I’m with you on the nibbling part, but I really tend not to like privatization of roads.
Catherine said on May 20, 2009 at 1:27 pm
Jeff B asks: Who knew Howard Jarvis would set the state on this path 25 years ago?
Um, everyone I know.
Wish I could find the citation, but anyway: there’s interesting analysis of CA funding for public education. Dollar-wise, it looks like a big number, but percentage-wise, it has for decades been among the lowest. Pretty nicely correlated with the state’s NAEP results (44 states higher than CA in math, 6 states lower — yay, we’re not Mississippi!). So, let’s not blame education for CA’s budget problems.
Dorothy said on May 20, 2009 at 1:39 pm
Hey my cousin won in Pennsylvania yesterday! He’s Kevin McCarthy in this article:
Danny said on May 20, 2009 at 2:00 pm
Catherine, this article says that advocates of increased education spending often site the controversial 46th in nation (spending per student) figure, but that the federal government figures it based upon the national teachers’ union and ranks California as 29th in per student spending. And spending is NOT the whole story on performance. A very large illegal immigrant population burdens the system with non-english speaking students who have around a 50% dropout rate. That is a big factor in performance statistics.
brian stouder said on May 20, 2009 at 2:18 pm
Dorothy – congratulations to your cousin! And now – just like with Andrew Mellon’s dad, you can always refer to your cousin as “the Judge”
Dexter said on May 20, 2009 at 2:28 pm
Kevin Smith and his weed-cocoon…the guy’s 38 years old, and he says it is “great” to stay all fucked up for a long period of time , unplug the world, and just, just…well, I’ll just say this: this sordid story reminds me of a line from “Waitin’ ‘Round To Die” by Townes Van Zant:
Sometimes I don’t know where this dirty road is taking me
Sometimes I can’t even see the reason why
I guess I keep on gamblin’, lots of booze and lots of ramblin’
It’s easier than just a-waitin’ ’round to die”
Except that Smith just IS waitin’ ’round to die.
Fat Ass Smith needs a bicycle and a place to gawk at goslings.
Catherine said on May 20, 2009 at 2:34 pm
Danny, I’m not talking about the per-student spending figure. I probably wasn’t clear, but the study I read was about % of state GDP spent on public education. California has historically been able to get away with spending less of its GDP on education than other states because its per capita GDP is higher, so the difference in real dollars is not as obvious. Again, don’t blame teacher salaries, or public education in general, for CA’s budget problems.
And, I think you may be conflating several factors when you say, “A very large illegal immigrant population burdens the system with non-english speaking students…” All immigrants are not undocumented. Some immigrants do speak English. And, quite a few non-English speaking students are NOT immigrants. In fact, a recent Pew study estimates that only 5% of CA’s students are undocumented.
I think it helps to tease these factors out if you’re actually trying to address these kids’ issues & affect the dropout rate.
Danny said on May 20, 2009 at 2:48 pm
Catherine, just to be clear, I never made the statements that would be the contrary to yours below:
“All immigrants are not undocumented. Some immigrants do speak English. And, quite a few non-English speaking students are NOT immigrants.”
And I don’t know about the Pew study you cite, but other studies put the figure at much higher in the areas that are seeing the 50% dropout rate and two of my best friends are teachers and another is a nurse who oversees the school region from Chula Vista down to the border. They all say that the school system is not really interested in putting a fine point to the figure (for funding reasons) and that they certainly don’t ask immigration status of the students or their parents as they probably would get sued if they did.
Catherine said on May 20, 2009 at 3:12 pm
Yes, the Pew numbers are necessarily an estimate. Here’s the link, I’m not so good w/ the html so didn’t include it previously:
And the dropout rate doesn’t really cost the state anything in education dollars… no student = no ADA… It’s more a matter of the social costs of dropouts, yes?
Sue said on May 20, 2009 at 3:13 pm
Will California become the AIG of financially-troubled states? Too big, too essential to the rest of the country to be allowed to fail?
Danny said on May 20, 2009 at 3:22 pm
And the dropout rate doesn’t really cost the state anything in education dollars… no student = no ADA… It’s more a matter of the social costs of dropouts, yes?
Right, and so back to my point that the spending figures aren’t as strongly tied to the performance figures that you stated. The high dropout rate is. If you have a high dropout rate, you’ll have low performance statistics.
Catherine said on May 20, 2009 at 3:44 pm
Cart before the horse. Low performance leads to dropout not the other way around.
Jolene said on May 20, 2009 at 4:01 pm
The dropout rate you cite is actually pretty typical for black and Hispanic students nationwide. In some places, it’s worse. Detroit, for instance, has a dropout rate of about 75%, which, as Catherine suggests, is both cause and consequence of lots of other problems.
moe99 said on May 20, 2009 at 4:42 pm
Kayak woman–the article about the Spokane banker who rescued the ducklings this spring mentioned that it was the second time. Since it was the first time I had seen it, I was charmed.
Sue said on May 20, 2009 at 4:47 pm
Now I have to go find my copy of “Make Way for Ducklings” and read it, minus children, but so what? Along with “Blueberries for Sal”, while I’m at it.
Catherine said on May 20, 2009 at 5:01 pm
Blueberries for Sal is my all-time #1 favorite picture book. MWFD is up there too. That line of ducks walking to the pond made me think, “Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Oack, Pack and Quack.”
Sue said on May 20, 2009 at 5:17 pm
Mmmmm, I want my children to be little again. No, wait (shakes herself)… no, I don’t. Ok, I’m alright again.
moe99 said on May 20, 2009 at 6:27 pm
Don’t forget The Lonely Doll. I wanted a wardrobe like that! The spankings administered by the papa bear really date it however.
Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on May 20, 2009 at 8:39 pm
When i get a bit jaded with humanity and its ability to inflict inhumanity on each other, for some reason i roll through my overlong bookmark scroll and click this — http://eddiesrailroad.blogspot.com
I’m not a big rail nut, and i get to the Chicago area too rarely, but it isn’t that. There’s just something about the persistent, non-obsessive, but comprehensive passion of this guy for trains and train stuff that just makes me happy to read through every month or so.
There are a number of theologically motivated blogs that probably wouldn’t do much for many around here, but i’m partial to Michael Spencer, the Internet Monk (and his group blog at Boar’s Head Tavern), and Brant Hansen at Kamp Krusty (yes, it looks odd, and is actually even odder than that).
LA mary said on May 20, 2009 at 9:10 pm
Hey Danny, you voted for Arnold, didn’t you? And you criticized me for opposing his first round of ballot measures that he spent millions getting on the ballot?
Anyway, Catherine is right about immigrants in relation to education. I won’t go into how many kids I know who are immigrants and they speak English and they’re documented and they are either good students or not. Just like kids who are not immigrants.
I will say that at least LAUSD could lose a few hundred of the pencil pushers rather than teachers. I’ve been to the downtown LA headquarters a few times, and there’s an awful lot of people looking like they don’t have much to do. I don’t know if it made the news in your parts, but a few years ago someone noticed that not only was everyone in one department from the same foreign country, most of them were related to each other. This is like, thirty employees all in one office. Housecleaning could start right there.
LA mary said on May 20, 2009 at 9:15 pm
Since you like Jezebel, did you see this clip?
whitebeard said on May 20, 2009 at 9:29 pm
Thank you, Jeff TMMO, for Eddie’s railroad blog. have to sign off , power blinking on and off. It is Connecticut Light & Power, also called Candle Light & Prayers
brian stouder said on May 20, 2009 at 10:04 pm
Mary – interesting clip. The charms of ol’ Craig Ferguson – other than his accent – are utterly lost upon me.
Two items of Old Business; here is a map of the (marvelous!) Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, showing walking distances. I think the girls and I racked up at least 4 miles – if you include the parking lot distances
And second – I meant to respond to (and whole heartedly agree with) Jeff Bordon’s comments about the Arthur Penn movie Bonnie and Clyde.
When I first saw that movie, I was quite struck by that same jarring change of pitch he describes – where the movie shifts from a somewhat jolly romp with dusty car chases and lots of ratt-a-tat-tat, into a graphic and bloody war of attrition, right down to the unforgiving end.
I wouldn’t have seen it in a theater (I was 6 in 1967, when it was released); do you suppose an edited version made it onto TV by 1973 or ’74? Whatever effect the edited version had, watching the uncut theatrical version (probably somewhere in the ’80’s, from the video store) was all new – and really, just about sickening.
Also, back in the day, I remember a paperback book with a black cover and that gag picture of Bonnie pointing a long gun at Clyde on the cover; it was all about them – and from what I skimmed, it was (rightly) harsh in its assessment of those people.
But it also had photos, including pics of the real Bonnie and Clyde after their deaths. They were apparently morgue shots, only of their faces; Bonnie looked OK, but Clyde’s face was covered with blood.
(come to think of it – I’d NEVER have such a book laying around our house…our kids would never sleep again!)
Danny said on May 20, 2009 at 10:25 pm
Mary, Catherine was trying to argue that poor performance was tied to lack of spending on education and that now it was going to get worse, but that figure on spending is disputable and there are other factors affecting performance. Now if you two are saying that the load of illegal immigrants here aren’t a burden on the system and that this particular demographic is not falling through the educational cracks, then I got a bridge to sell you.
But to your second point, yeah, there needs to be some house cleaning. Because the employment growth rate in state government should have been tied to the population growth rate and salaries and benefits increases to inflation. If that’d been the case, we’d have a surplus right now.
Oh, and Ahnuld’s first round of props a few years back were when he was acting fiscally conservative. If he had made a stronger case, they may have passed. Instead, he backed off and made a deal with the legislature. And now we see how that all worked out.
Catherine said on May 20, 2009 at 11:11 pm
Danny, I think you are making the opposite point from what you intend. CA is either spending more educating immigrants, which would indeed be a burden, or it is not spending more on immigrants and they are falling through the cracks. But you are trying to have it both ways: immigrants cost more to educate AND they are falling through the cracks.
Leaving aside your erroneous conflating of immigrant with undocumented and non-English speaking, both of these things cannot be true. In fact, many students are falling through the cracks, but the state is not spending significantly more money on those students. If they were, the outcomes might be different, and the future social costs avoided. But to accomplish that, we’d have to spend more on education. Here’s a link (sorry for the long URL) to a recent study that concludes, “The current distribution of spending per pupil across California districts is not well-correlated with factors that increase costs and decrease performance, such as students living in poverty or English learners.”
My point is, and has always been, don’t blame education spending, particularly on “illegal immigrants” for CA’s budget problems.
joodyb said on May 20, 2009 at 11:11 pm
re idiots, i know i am just a snark slut, but Gawker (and NN.C) make me LOL daily.
Dexter said on May 21, 2009 at 12:19 am
I enjoyed the blogspot train blog you linked; here’s another you will surely enjoy. After you view the Harley-Davidson video, play around on artistmac’s site … he has hundreds of short videos on transportation in Chicago, and many videos of Chicago life. He’s quite a good chronicle master.
My faves are his early videos as he takes his 77 Caprice Classic out on the Dan Ryan, and also I loved his visit to Kenosha where he videographed a Green Hornet rolling streetcar.
Danny said on May 21, 2009 at 12:37 am
Catherine, you have an imagination of conflation. I never made the point that education or illegal immigrants are responsible for budget woes. I responded to your statement that spending on education is inadequate and that this is the reason for poor performance (presumably you were going with the 46th in nation figure on spending aligning with the 44th in performance) with the counter-argument that the federal figure ranks CA at about 30th in nation in spending and that the poor performance is for other reasons. So, to paraphrase you, my point is, and has always been, don’t blame LACK OF education spending for poor performance.
The budget issue is separate.
Catherine said on May 21, 2009 at 1:25 am
Danny, in your comment at #10, you appear to state that bloated state spending on teachers is part of the budget problem. If I misinterpreted it, mea culpa.
And, as I explained in #19, your presumption of the basis of my argument was not accurate. You’ve got to weight the data properly, as a % of GDP.
Studies show that teacher quality is the #1 predictor of student performance. Schools that are closing the performance gap with poor or minority students have one thing in common — highly qualified teachers. If you think you can get quality without paying for it, I’ve got a bridge for you.
Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on May 21, 2009 at 8:25 am
Megan McArdle in her Atlantic Monthly blog – http://is.gd/BETP – does not make me feel good about either the situation in California, or what’s likely to happen next in Ohio, let alone Michigan.
I wish all teachers could get 15% pay raises tomorrow, and i begrudge garbage collectors nothing in benefits, let alone police and fire. All i know is: if you have collect over a third of my household’s gross income to pay for the common weal, than the commonwealth is either overspending or misspending from the public purse.
More to the point, we literally have public buildings (yes, the 1886 building where my office is) that are falling apart, dams and bridges and roads and stormsewers that we are daily told have decades of deferred maintenance coming due in, among other things, bricks hitting the pavement outside the door i use.
And what i hear/read Danny saying is, in Cali, add literally millions of illegal immigrant children to the same sort of misgovernment and expenditures, and you get to cut to first in line for bankruptcy. And i think Megan is exactly right – CA declaring will immediately cost me money in OH, so there’s not a bit of schadenfreude to be had in this prospect. But tax increases alone (which are inevitable at this point) will not solve the problem.