Friday, July 18, 2014

We Just Disagree

The settlers are dicks. So are Hamas. This nonsense will continue until the Palestinians get that they are basically the Washington Generals playing the Harlem Globetrotters, over and over and over again, destined never to win. There will always be these radicalized events that escalate into official violence, and when neither side is willing to give in on its most egregious tactics, you're going to get what you got, which is one side with a missile defense system that actually works against the constant barrage of rockets, and another side whose death-cult propaganda allows for their kids to be martyred. In turn, the rest of the Arab Middle East uses the plight of the Palestinians for their own propaganda purposes, while studiously refusing to take any of them as refugees.

A frequent tactic of modern religious believers -- evangelicals in particular -- is to contrast death counts between believers and atheists, comparing the hundreds of years of religious wars against the 20th century totalitarian systems that murdered millions of people for the sake of atheist ideologies. It would be easy enough to characterize this most recent spate of violence in Israel as a Jews vs. Muslims religious cage match, or the ISIS insurgency as Sunni vs. Shi'a internecine bickering.

The root of these issues are really just the usual old things -- power, control, water, territory. Religion is part of it, sure, as are culture and history, and the inability to drop a fucking grudge. But it always comes back to monkey killing monkey over pieces of the ground.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Return of the Ladies' Man

Speaking of dipshits who don't know when their fifteen minutes is up, remember Todd Akin? He's the knuckle-dragger in one of those flyover states who botched a fair chance at unseating Claire McCaskill, until he tried to play amateur gynecologist on teevee, and the wimmins were not amused.

After an apology that fooled nobody, Akin scuttled back into the woodwork, presumably distributing aspirins for sluts to keep between their knees. While nature may abhor a moron, America clearly loves them, and so of course Akin is back, with a book no less, one in which he retracts his bullshit apology, no doubt much to the relief of his true believers.

Here's Akin's assessment of how ladyparts can magically shut down their capacity to conceive:
“My comment about a woman’s body shutting the pregnancy down was directed to the impact of stress on fertilization. This is something fertility doctors debate and discuss. Doubt me? Google ‘stress and infertility,’ and you will find a library of research on the subject.”
We all make jokes about morons such as Akin pretending to be ob-gyns, but the serious fact about conservatives in general, and Akin in particular, is that this is their stock in trade, taking fairly obvious scientific distinctions -- in this case, fertility studies correlating "stress and infertility" in the context of infertile couples trying various methods in order to conceive -- and implanting (see what I did there?) them with their own biases. Conflating such studies with scientifically and statistically unverifiable -- that is to say, a steaming load of shit Akin pulled straight out of his own ass -- conjecture about rape victims biologically self-aborting, speaks volumes about the inability of these people to understand the difference between empirical data and tarted-up religious dogma.

What this really is all about, as Akin himself has made clear, is his obsession with abortion.
Akin later says during his time as a state legislator, he wished he could have done more to “end this evil,” referring to abortion, which in his view “easily trumps slavery as the greatest moral evil in American history.”
There's kind of an art to this sort of thing, if you think about it, to not only be completely hyperbolic over something that has actually been decreasing over the last twenty years, but to brazenly assert that it is a much bigger transgression than the centuries of rape, oppression, torture, murder, abuse, the sundering of families, the fucking buying and selling of human beings, forcing them to work until they drop, and keeping the profits, this should remove all doubt and permanently affix Todd Akin as an idiot and a scumbag.

But if you need just one more reason to convince you let it be his impassioned -- and completely incorrect -- defense of George "Felix Macacawitz, Junior" Allen:
In part, Akin uses the current political atmosphere and media to argue that trackers who follow candidates on the campaign trail are just looking for a candidate to slip up.

In that context, Akin defends former Virginia Gov. George Allen’s comments in 2006, when he called a tracker of Indian descent “macaca.” Allen would go on to lose to Democrat Jim Webb. The incident is even credited with dashing Allen’s national political ambitions.

“He could not possibly have known that, in the Portuguese language at least, the word means ‘monkey.’ Allen is not Portuguese … and neither was his opponent,” Akin writes.
Well, for one, Allen's opponent was Jim Webb, not the Indian cameraman whom Allen called "macaca". Second, while Allen may not be Portuguese, neither in particular is that word. It's a generic term used by European colonials in Africa to denigrate their native subjects. And hey, ho, whaddya know -- Allen's mother was a French national born and raised in Tunisia! This was all duly researched, verified, and chronicled back in 2006, does Todd Akin not have access to the Google, or does he only use it to feverishly squint at "stress and infertility" findings?

Perhaps just as revealing as Akin's stubborn guff is the comments in the linked article. As it predictably devolves into what Akin supposedly means, when it is perfectly clear to anyone who can actually read, the real point gets lost in the shuffle. The real point is that Akin's implications are multiple, and all of them are indefensible.

Akin's use of the phrase "legitimate rape", coupled with other comments of his, insinuate pretty clearly that he believes, though he provides no evidence or proof, either that rape must be violent to be "legitimate", or that some number of reported rapes are exaggerated by the victims. In fact, he appears to believe both of those things to some extent, though again he indicates no evidentiary knowledge of either one.

The assertion of the female body having mechanisms to shut down pregnancy as a biological response to violent rape, is perhaps one of the dumbest things ever to be uttered by a supposedly sentient human being. It betrays a complete lack of knowledge of history, particularly the history of warfare, where rape has been routinely used as a tool of war and conquest. One of the primary reasons we got involved in the Balkans in the late '90s, in addition to the Srebrenica massacre, was the widespread allegations of mass rape by military personnel. Again, rape has historically been the norm for conquering troops, as the easiest and quickest way to change the demographics of a conquered region.

More specifically, the statistical incidence of pregnancies resulting from rape is significant, and would seem to belie Akin's assertion of biological shutdown mechanisms. One would think that if it were that simple, there would be fewer than 32,000+ pregnancies per year resulting from rape. Maybe the mechanisms are broken; whatever the case, if they are not 100% infallible, one must ask if women -- adult women with their own identity and agency and rights, mind you -- can be trusted with the responsibility over their own reproductive health.

I don't have much patience with "civil" commenters such as "Hank" in the Politico comments, disingenuous tools who lament the callous incivility of intellectually dishonest liberals in practically the same breath as they launch some tired shot at Bill Clinton. Fine, Clinton was a cad and a dick, and his treatment of women has been execrable. That has no effect on the fact that Todd Akin is either a vicious liar, or an impossibly stupid person who has no business anywhere near a position of responsibility.

But the real issue here, as always, is control over the sex lives of women. Let's put it out there right now -- if any of this touched on the sex lives of men, there would be no debate, real or contrived. That shit is settled. Nobody tells us where or when to put our cocks. But somehow this bullshit persists over what women can or can't do with their junk. I think the main difference is that there are actually other women who assist in these stupid battles, where you would never find a man who would participate in repressing -- or even affecting, even a little bit -- our right to do what the fuck we want.

It takes a dickhead like Todd Akin to crystallize these nonsensical attempts to control the reproductive activities of women, but it is only with the active or passive acquiescence of other women that any of this stuff gains any traction. We can't do it without you, ladies.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Mouth That Bored; Or, A Farce to Be Reckoned With

Life is uncertain, but July has come to mean two immutable facts of life -- one is the sweltering itch of swamp crack, and the other is Sarah Palin honking something stupid into a towel, knowing that her idiot fan club will worship it like it's the Shroud of Turin. Not content to rest on her mama-of-the-year credentials, Palin continues her tireless quest to become the go-to rainmaker and prognosticating mynah bird of the dim set.

It doesn't matter that, as inept as Obama has been on multiple fronts, no laws have been broken, and you'd think even a maroon like Palin would know that you need to be able to cite chapter and verse what part of the legal code has been transgressed. Chewed-on complaints and stale "battered wife" jabber won't cut it.

Then again, who knows? It's midterm season, which for the Goopers means keeping turnout low but passionate. They'll hold the House, and if they can take the Senate, they can easily ramp up the mischief factor, and may even find a way to stretch some penny-ante bullshit into impeachment. Unlikely, but all of this would have been deemed unlikely 5 or 6 years ago, when these hooting jerkoffs had gleefully plowed the country into a garbage scow.

Palin has even asserted that she could and should host her own talk show, or be on The View panel. And why not? People make fun of, say, Fox and Friends, and rightly so, but The View has had more than its share of mouth-breathing fools (including current F and F cupcake Elisabeth Hasselbeck, uncomfortably sandwiched between leering doofuses Steve Doocy and Not Steve Doocy) spouting some of the dopiest things imaginable.

It might be worth giving Palin a small platform in the dingbat ghetto, braying her nonsense at bored hausfraus who are just waiting for Dr. Oz to sift through their poop, just to get her out of the nation's ass already. On the one hand, she fits perfectly Dorothy Parker's classic observation that if you want to know what god thinks of money, just look at the sorts of people he gives it to; on the other, no matter how much filthy pelf she rakes in with her dumb jokes and dumber assertions, her kids will blow it all on magic beans and monster trucks.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Eat, Spray, Love

So apparently we are running out of ideas for useful, informative articles. Lest someone get the wrong idea, let's make something abundantly clear -- fist-fucking six dozen hot dogs down your gullet in ten minutes does not make you an athlete, it makes you something of an asshole. The fact that professional hockey took some years to get squared as to teams and rules does not equal the hard truth that "competitive eating" is more a joke than a real sport.

It's disgusting to compare the sheer gluttony of butt-chugging hot dogs to what Babe Ruth or Michael Jordan accomplished in their careers, even vicariously. Maybe it's because I was raised in a poor household where food was prepared to last 3-4 days at a time, but I am well conditioned to believe (secularly, anyway) that gluttony and waste are sins.

But as a sports fan as well, it's very difficult to reconcile the idiotic notion that trenchermen are "athletes" in the same sense that genetically blessed, superbly conditioned humans who do things that few other people can do, are athletes. Any asshole can chug water for a few weeks to extend their stomach, and allow themselves to gorge on dozens of hot dogs and tacos or whatever. That is not a skill, and athletics require some sort of skill. I am only mildly comforted by the thought that Joey Chestnut's dumps must be episodes of furious grunting and rectal brutality (much like Gary Busey's sex life).

I suppose complaining about nonsense like this is a lot like complaining about shitty music or hot weather -- like the poor, they will always be with us. But at least no one's trying to claim that Justin Bieber is Mozart, or that a 110° heat wave is actually a pleasant way to spend an afternoon.

Studies Show

I don't place much stock in "studies" and "findings" normally -- anyone who actually gets paid to do some of the shit these people do should instantly be suspect. Seriously, if your "job" involves keeping people awake and letting them shock themselves instead of sitting quietly and thinking, something's hinky. We all know how scientific method and testable hypotheses work, but a lot of this stuff is just make-work for grant funding.

And yet, there is something that resonates with this study, something we can quite clearly observe by going to just about any public place -- real or virtual, Costco or Facebook -- and just watching people, how they act and react. It's not a value judgment to postulate that people in general, and perhaps Americans in particular, are tethered -- addicted, even -- to external stimuli. It's tough for many people to just shut it off.

It's like that person in your office or family that is hooked on interpersonal drama, to the extent that they'll go out of their way to create said drama, if there's none to be found. They get some sort of adrenaline rush, something like that. I've never understood it, but we all know it's there.

It doesn't seem unreasonable to presume the same sort of thing going on here, that the more you force people to slave away just to get by, the more they start to live and perceive through their work families. Which is the other thing about all these studies -- what do you actually propose to do about your findings?

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Scott Brown's Legacy

Longtime readers of this here cereal box know that a persistent (if intermittent) theme here, in between all the f-bombs and fat-cat rants, is the idea of possible pasts. Playing the "what if" game is useful as a strategic, speculative pursuit, as it forces us to think about alternative outcomes.

More specifically, it's the notion that fate sometimes turns on a dime, that a seemingly small event can have a catalytic "butterfly" effect on its surroundings. One such example is the death in 2009 of Senator Ted Kennedy, as his passing took place at a critical point in "negotiations" over what would eventually become the Affordable Care Act.

Somehow, the Democrats managed to lose the seat that Kennedy had held for nearly half a century, due to a spectacularly inept and tone-deaf campaign by Martha Coakley. Coakley lost the seat -- and with it, the Democratic supermajority in the Senate to one Scott Brown, a photogenic, amiable doofus that the Republicans seem to grow on trees. Brown proved to be the linchpin in what became the now-standard GOP practice of might be called ABWOW -- Anything But What Obama Wants.

Only in a turgid industry like politics would pure, stupid obstructionism for its own sake be considered a strategy, but that and the constant threat of filibustering is all that has kept the Republicans going since 2009. Brown filled the Senate seat just long enough to force Obama to accept a ham-fisted, loophole-riddled sack of shit whose primary purpose is to hold doors in place on windy days.

Had Kennedy lived even a year longer, chances are that the supermajority could have forced through the public option, the single-payer system that is the standard in every other industrialized nation. Sure, your betters in the corner offices might not get the nine-figure salaries they so richly deserve, but the last five years of impossibly wealthy corporations and owners whinging over every fucking dime would not have happened.

Let's accept as a given that regulatory legislation written primarily by the industry it's designed to regulate is guaranteed to either be useless or more harmful than the situation it's intended to remedy. This was seen as a feature, rather than a flaw, by Brown and his cohort. And now we have what we have, which is another layer of bureaucracy in the IRS, a health-care racket whose pricing structure is exactly as much of a theft mechanism as it ever was, a baroque clusterfuck of industries bloated with lobbyists and marketers, gouging their captive markets and laughing all the way to the bank.

So now this week, we have one of the more bizarre eructations resulting from the ACA. Some dipshit craft store has decided -- based on its own ignorant interpretation of how certain birth-control options actually work -- that it cannot, in good conscience, be party to the IUD holocaust, or whatever it is these overbreeding, Christofascist weirdos call it.

Legalistic and moralistic angels-on-the-head-of-a-pin arguments aside, what sucks about this is that it gives license for any and every business, whether for reasons of mere penny-pinching or for some fanciful interpretation of Bronze Age legends, some bullshit excuse to duck out of something that could and should have been very simple and easy. No, now because someone "believes" something that is empirically not true, they can weasel out of it. Yeah, that's gonna work.

The public option would have worked, and well, because it would have disintermediated all the parasitic middlemen who drive up costs with marketing, admin, and sales. Ask yourself how well your grandmother's cancer was abated by fucking admin.

None of this had to happen. And now Brown is running for Jeanne Shaheen's seat in neighboring New Hampshire, because there is always more damage to do, more precious money to be made. People will die, and other people will go broke, because the health-care system in this country is an abomination, something that should be strapped into an electric chair and fried like an egg.

But as long as Scott Brown and his benefactors continue to make money and make a flawed process even worse, I guess it's okey-doke. I mean, hell, Jeanne Shaheen is just an Obama puppet, and he's evil. Some 80-year-old fart in Nashua said so, so it must be true. Cool, pops, pay for your own fucking bypass, then. Frankly, I have no interest in subsidizing these morons. Talk about doing the impossible for the ungrateful.

Whenever the post-mortem on this country and this species is written, whether it's five or fifty or 500 years from now, the thing our successors will note about us will be exactly what we noted about the previous civilizations we've unearthed, thinking that we've surpassed them with our intellect, might, and technology. That thing is the tendency to be our own worst enemies, to undermine our own rational self-interest for the sake of superficial qualities of glad-handing and smiling contempt. Your mastery of Candy Crush on your smart phone does not make up for not seeing what is right in front of you.

When Mitt Romney smiles, I see nothing but discomfort -- the inner pain of a man who regards the unrich as another species, and does not understand why the customs of this society compel the best and brightest to break bread with such people, to pretend that they like or even comprehend them. For every rich guy with a conscience, there are a hundred Mitt Romneys -- and because they sincerely regard their infestation of the political process as a bulwark against takeover by the rabble, they're the ones that actually run the show.

As always, people who willingly vote for politicians who can barely conceal their contempt get exactly what they deserve.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Primary Colors (Slight Return)

It's interesting how the two most prominent political outcomes this year so far have been so willfully misconstrued by the media dupes.

First you had Eric Cantor, whose district had been redrawn more rural and red than it had been. This turned out to be a disaster for Cantor, whose applecart got overturned by some Randian yabbo from a small private college. Could this be the resurgence of the teabaggers, or simply a case of a low-foreheadvote turnout, a challenger who had a decent ground game, and an incumbent who so took his victory for granted, he spent over $160k schmoozing in steakhouses instead of glad-handing the rubes in his district? Much discussion was had over the various possible causes, thus ensuring that many boner pills and insurance policies got sold.

More recently you had the primary runoff in America's most useless state, Mississippi, between ancient pork-chaser Thad Cochran and another in the endless procession of teahadis, Chris McDaniel. It's actually a damned shame McDaniel didn't win, because it would have been hilarious to watch him try to turn the pork off. No fuckin' way, champ, yours is a state that produces only two things:  jack and shit. If it weren't for the rest of the country supporting your welfare state, Mississippi would be nothing but a couple of football colleges and a Faulkner museum, surrounded by subsistence farmers.

So both these electoral outcomes were framed, as these things tend to be nowadays, as responses specifically to the teabaggers. (And yes, I refuse to call them by their preferred name, because it's stupid, because it doesn't mean what they think it means, and mostly because they won't stop acting like petulant assholes.) Cantor's defeat was a jumbled mess of analysis, but the upshot was that the insurgent won, which could only mean a repudiation of "establishment" mores. Cochran's squeaker victory, on the other hand, proved how establishment Republicans -- with a little help from Democratic "friends" -- could beat back this insurgent tide.

As you might imagine, I have a different interpretation than the people whose paychecks depend on peddling the conventional interpretation of things. Politics is an industry, pure and simple, from the pols themselves to the donors, the lobbyists, the cable news networks, the dipshit analysts who never get anything right but still keep their jobs, the massive amounts of commercial time sold, etc., etc. There's a lot of money involved here; there's a tremendous amount of energy and effort and pelf that goes into manufacturing all that consent.

This is really about incumbency. Industries rely on stability and predictability, being able to make solid projections and plan strategy accordingly, so as to optimize profit. So when politicians with incumbency ratings normally associated with third-world despots suddenly find themselves challenged or even defeated, the point-one-percenters who put them there get fidgety.

They don't care about chumps like David Brat or Chris McDaniel particularly -- they can either pay those guys to go along with the program, or make sure they get nothing done and then bankroll the next primary challenger. Everyone's a revolutionary until they start getting paid.

What the owners care about is the idea that the peons might start thinking that they actually have a choice in these things. Everything about the system is designed specifically to keep the peons out of the process, the obvious barriers to entry being cash in hand and net worth. So when some rabble-rouser comes along and disrupts the industry's stability and predictability, they don't like it. It makes them nervous.

And I'm really not sure why it does, or should, make anyone nervous. The incumbents aren't going anywhere, the percentage will still remain comically high. Business will proceed as usual. Rick Perry will have a few more unforced errors, which will embolden the faithful and enrage the unbelievers, but will only sway the backers insofar as it affects Perry's actual poll ratings, his ability to get elected and carry out their agenda.

Some other clown-shoes psychopath will step of the primordial ooze of the primary system and get the support of Perry and the rest of the moron claque, and the operational plan will continue apace. The Republican voters will continue to fabricate and exaggerate, and the Democratic voters will nag their doubters with threats of another 15 years of Nader-baiting, since we can all see what a slam-bang job they've done keeping abortion legal and the median wage stagnant for forty years now.

Font of Sorrows

It's fascinating to think that just about every major event that has taken place in the past century can be traced directly back to the actions of a gang of Serbian anarchists against a relatively minor Austrian noble. I've always been a big fan of alternative and speculative history, but when push comes to shove, there's nothing like the real thing.

#thanksobama #gavriloprincip

Deep Thoughts (World Cup Edition)

For the most part, I can take or leave soccer, though I used to check out English Premier League back when I had a pirate satellite card, and the World Cup matches are enjoyable enough. Still, sports in general, from the NCAA to the NFL to the Olympics to the World Cup and on and on, make me feel guilty anymore. The athletes are either indentured servants (as in the NCAA) or impossibly wealthy, playing in stadia built for asshole billionaires by gullible and/or captive taxpayers, with the empty promise of good jobs dangled before them like a hologram carrot.

As Brazil is, like it or not, an overpopulated Third World hellhole, its corrupt government has, in preparation for this year's World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics (but it will be winter there, as it is now -- discuss!), expended no small amounts of pelf and brute force, flash-building huge venues out in the Amazon jungle, and clearing slums with abandon. More things to feel complicit in, which is a shame. There's an abundance of valuable things to be learned from various sports, but money -- or more specifically, greed -- ruins everything.

We spectators, demanding our circuses if we can't have the bread to go with them, are accessories to all of it -- the indentured servitude of college athletes, the blown-out knees and CTE concussions of the NFL, the almost literal slavery of the cheerleaders, the fleecing of the taxpayers, the destruction of the cities that outbid everyone else for these white elephants. At least cities are finally starting to get wise to the Olympic racket, as the IOC and FIFA are in perpetual deadlock for most corrupt sports organization.

Also, too -- that fucking weirdo donkey-biter from Uruguay? Let him play, but with a Bane mask over his mouth. I don't know what that dude's problem is, but I'm surprised someone hasn't just turned and started swinging straight for his chompers. Let's see how well you gum your opponents, asshole.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Primary Colors

It's difficult to decide exactly what is the most tedious aspect of Blind Lemon Clinton's will-she-or-won't-she pas de dunce:

  • the sheer inevitability of her candidacy (and really, the "my turn" campaign is usually a Republican thing);
  • the shameless crying of poor mouth, at a country still reeling from an economic setback caused in great part by, um, the repeal of Glass-Steagall;
  • the promise that Preznit Hillary will sell out the working class almost as quickly as your garden-variety Koch-sucker;
  • the predictable scramble by the overpaid talking heads to provide their breathless analyses of loose cocktail party chatter;
  • the continued use of "commentary" from proven shitbirds like Newt Gingrich, whose peanut-gallery bullshit will be exactly the sort of thing that nudges nauseated fence-sitters -- who will by then be exploring real estate in Croatia at the prospect of being "given" a "choice" between Clinton and yet another Bush -- over to Clinton, so we can get pretty much what we were going to get in the first place.

Oh, just run already, dear, it'll be a historic moment and all that. Not because of the woman thing -- hell, even a woman-hating country like Pakistan has had a female president already -- but because the bottom is falling out of this country, the foundation is giving way. The transnational merchant princes won, in no small part thanks to Hillary's husband Rubinizing the economy and leaving it the exclusive province of the sociopathic spreadsheet diddlers.

Perhaps the Clintons genuinely thought that the rising tide would lift all boats, that massive productivity gains and ease of financial regulations and securitization would create enough wealth for all. And it did, to a point. But left in the hands of a greedy few, for whom the word "enough" has no definition, even crumbs stopped falling from the table. Obama hasn't had the testicular fortitude or the juice to do anything about any of this, and will most likely be rendered as lame a duck after the midterms as Saint Billy Jeff was.

Say what you will about the teahadis -- FSM knows I've said my share -- but one important part of their argument that actually resonates is that their country has been taken away from them, and no one in Warshington gives a shit about them. Of course, their country has been taken away from them by the bottomless rackets that run this country, and own the media, so as to convince them that it was gays and illegals that did it, but whatever. The core is true enough.

So it will be a(n) historic moment, no doubt. The next president will get to preside over the continuing implosion of a once-vibrant republic, a society that actually gave a shit whether its children could read or count, communities that understood the nature of community and mutual good, businesses that actually paid their employees enough to survive on, to purchase the things they made or sold.

For a time I thought there might be some catalyzing domestic incident that expressed this discontent on a large scale, not necessarily violent, but something that would be apparent to all. It seemed like the Occupy Wall Street movement might be just the thing, but sure as shit, the corporate toadies rushed to their battlements to marginalize and defame these people, while the NYPD let every scumbag they could out of jail and set them loose in the park.

People are simply too atomized anymore, connected electronically, but not socially enough to translate into any meaningful action. The cops are paramilitarized to the teeth, and get away with pretty much anything anymore, so there's no percentage there either. There's not really anywhere to turn -- either you get lucky and generate enough multiple revenue streams to eke your way through what passes for a life, addled by pills and distracted by sports and reality shows, or get pulled under, quickly or slowly, the result is the same.

So here you go, Hillary, congratulations. How do you like it?