Thursday, November 20, 2008

This Week In Stupid

Time flies when you're swimming on an endless, bottomless sea of ridiculousness, doesn't it? Let's start with everyone's favorite subject, what's left of our ravaged imaginary economy. Good thing our Harvard MBA preznit has been all up in this like John Holmes on a crank bender. There's your legacy, bub.

Perusing the local classifieds, it appears that one of our many Indian casinos has open positions for "floor supervisor" and "vault cashier". The description for the first position begins thusly:
Supervises assigned table games or assigned areas of the slot floor. Responsible for dealer and slot attendant procedural errors. Responsible for tracking table game players. Responsible for maintaining gaming table chip racks. Corrects errors made by dealers and slot attendants on gaming floor.
The vault cashier operates as follows:
Responsible for maintaining security and accountability of cash, chips, coin, and other negotiables. Provides constant flow of cash, chips, and coin to the Specialty Banks and to all cage cashiers. Must have above average money handling skills.

That all sounds a lot like what Hank Paulson does. How has our economic engine transformed from a thrumming powerhouse to a smoke-filled, clock-free warehouse patrolled by concierges and populated by the desperate and the grasping? (Actually, that comparison is not really fair to the casinos, which have plenty of things for people who don't even gamble, such as live entertainment, excellent buffets, and custom-design golf courses.) I think we all know how it got to this point, but the question deserves to be at least rhetorically asked of the next CEO skulking into Washington for his handout.

Via Edge of Chaos comes this heartwarming tale of how our current financial crisis came to be. Fun stuff.

Then came Meredith Whitney with news. Whitney was an obscure analyst of financial firms for Oppenheimer Securities who, on October 31, 2007, ceased to be obscure. On that day, she predicted that Citigroup had so mismanaged its affairs that it would need to slash its dividend or go bust. It’s never entirely clear on any given day what causes what in the stock market, but it was pretty obvious that on October 31, Meredith Whitney caused the market in financial stocks to crash. By the end of the trading day, a woman whom basically no one had ever heard of had shaved $369 billion off the value of financial firms in the market. Four days later, Citigroup’s C.E.O., Chuck Prince, resigned. In January, Citigroup slashed its dividend.

From that moment, Whitney became E.F. Hutton: When she spoke, people listened. Her message was clear. If you want to know what these Wall Street firms are really worth, take a hard look at the crappy assets they bought with huge sums of ­borrowed money, and imagine what they’d fetch in a fire sale. The vast assemblages of highly paid people inside the firms were essentially worth nothing. For better than a year now, Whitney has responded to the claims by bankers and brokers that they had put their problems behind them with this write-down or that capital raise with a claim of her own: You’re wrong. You’re still not facing up to how badly you have mismanaged your business.

Yes, the world's economy had been placed in the hands of a bunch of smug, fresh-faced dickheads who were being paid to play with other people's money. And Whitney (and Nouriel Roubini, and a few honorable others) refused to go along with it. These kids had no experience in making anything of value, or managing anything of merit; what they had were suspenders, slicked-back corporate-bullethead haircuts, multiple monitors with regression analysis spreadsheets with which to rig the guesses they made on the nothing they sold, and a sense of entitlement.

Folks, we handed the keys over to Patrick Bateman, and we were just cool with that, as long as Pat threw an occasional handful of his Monopoly money our way, in between rhapsodizing on the ineffability of Sussudio.

[Photo via The Beast.]

Yes. Jumping would be a fine start for them, though stringing them up from the nearest lamppost also sounds good.

Fully committed to her life's work of trying to be the biggest swinging dick in whatever room she happens to inhabit, Camille Paglia leavens her tepid endorsement of Obama's electoral victory with an incredibly unnecessary defense of Sarah Palin's lack of oratorical skills -- or for that matter, common sense, decency, an understanding of decorum (as her bizarre attempt to horn in on McCain's concession speech showed).

Liberal Democrats are going to wake up from their sadomasochistic, anti-Palin orgy with a very big hangover. The evil genie released during this sorry episode will not so easily go back into its bottle. A shocking level of irrational emotionalism and at times infantile rage was exposed at the heart of current Democratic ideology -- contradicting Democratic core principles of compassion, tolerance and independent thought. One would have to look back to the Eisenhower 1950s for parallels to this grotesque lock-step parade of bourgeois provincialism, shallow groupthink and blind prejudice.

I like Sarah Palin, and I've heartily enjoyed her arrival on the national stage. As a career classroom teacher, I can see how smart she is -- and quite frankly, I think the people who don't see it are the stupid ones, wrapped in the fuzzy mummy-gauze of their own worn-out partisan dogma. So she doesn't speak the King's English -- big whoop! There is a powerful clarity of consciousness in her eyes. She uses language with the jumps, breaks and rippling momentum of a be-bop saxophonist. I stand on what I said (as a staunch pro-choice advocate) in my last two columns -- that Palin as a pro-life wife, mother and ambitious professional represents the next big shift in feminism. Pro-life women will save feminism by expanding it, particularly into the more traditional Third World.

Weak writers are, by definition, weak thinkers, and Paglia certainly proves this rule here. What little sense her harrumphing makes is as woefully mischaracterized as any Limbaugh/Hannity/Coulter manifesto found aurally scrawled in the tearoom stalls of right-wing radio. It doesn't even qualify as misplaced contrarianism, it's just hopelessly muddled finger-wagging.

Palin's problems are multiple, but let's briefly round them up one at a time, one more time. The lack of "King's English" is not the issue with Palin's public speaking patterns -- the issue is that she uses stock phrases repetitively, without attention to meaning, content, or even rhythm. I don't think this is because she is stupid, per se. I think it is because she doesn't know the answer to what she is being asked, which is a different thing. She appears to not know a great many answers; this has been her most consistent trait.

We all watched incessant coverage of her for two interminable months. Can you honestly recall her ever making sense or telling the truth about anything? Most of the time -- and the many transcripts of her many speeches and few cherry-picked interviews all bear this out -- she was clearly just spinning her wheels, frantically trying to obfuscate what was already obvious. She was just in way over her head. This has not changed in the post-election media blitz (I do not think the word "exclusive" means what several media entities seem to think it means) one bit; she is as clueless and inarticulate as ever.

The idea that this stupefying level of inadequacy at communicating even basic ideas and plans for, y'know, governance, has its equivalent in be-bop saxophone music proves only that Paglia knows precious little about either of those subjects. The notion that Sarah Palin's aphasic oratory evokes Coltrane or Ornette Coleman or some such is almost offensive in its ridiculousness. What those musicians brought to the table was years of work, technique, theory, and deliberate intent, not her fumbling, stammering, burbling foolishness. The difference, Paglia would know if she were intellectually honest, is that the saxophonist knows what he is doing.

The U.S. Senate as a career option? What a claustrophobic, nitpicking comedown for an energetic Alaskan -- nothing but droning committees and incestuous back-scratching. No, Sarah Palin should stick to her governorship and just hit the rubber-chicken circuit, as Richard Nixon did in his long haul back from political limbo following his California gubernatorial defeat in 1962. Step by step, the mainstream media will come around, wipe its own mud out of its eyes, and see Palin for the populist phenomenon that she is.

Yes, that's just what we need -- another Nixon. Except Nixon had plenty of experience, and was observably intelligent, conversant in a wide variety of subjects. Nixon read and wrote books; Palin apparently unglues herself from Ice Truckers and Deadliest Catch just long enough to feather her nest and get knocked up again. I cannot recall a single instance where she appeared to know anything meaningful on the subject or issue she was talking about. Not one.

And that's really the worst aspect of Sarah Palin, as we found out in that long end-of-summer march -- her political astuteness obscured some of her free-floating ignorance. She understands quite well what her audience expects from her, in exactly the way Dubya did, which should be warning enough. What's worst about Palin is that when it comes to facts, she is either ignorant or a liar.

She postured as a reformer, but every one of her selling points was a lie. She supported the Bridge to Nowhere when it was expedient, and kept the money after squashing the project, thus ripping off the federal government. She left her hometown in debt after her glorious mayoralty, building a $20 million hockey rink, botching even the purchase of the land it was built on, and saddling the town with a tax increase to pay for it. She has had countless opportunities to reverse the impression she herself made that she knows nothing about the world outside her state, and hasn't just failed, she hasn't even tried. And on and on.

Having said all that, while I believe that unless she can make a run for Lisa Murkowski's seat, Palin will be forgotten in six months, I almost hope she sticks around for a while. She'll keep the knuckle-draggers in one place, while what remains of the actual party deserts and withers. The slackjaws will show up with their thunderstix and applaud her every lie, staring at her tits, mentally writing that Penthouse letter where they're at the library at closing time, perusing that copy of Guns & Ammo, when suddenly....

Newsweek grabs a spoon and digs into some stupid, granting what one presumes is valuable real estate to a bunch of certifiable lunatics. So much for journalistic legitimacy.

On Nov. 5, Todd Strandberg was at his desk, fielding E-mails from around the world. As the editor and founder of, his job is to track current events and link them to biblical prophecy in hopes of maintaining his status as "the eBay of prophecy," the best source online for predictions and calculations concerning the end of the world. Already Barack Obama had drawn the attention of apocalypse watchers after an anonymous e-mail circulated among conservative Christians in October implying that he was the Antichrist. Former "Saturday Night Live" ingénue Victoria Jackson fueled the fire when, according to news reports, she wrote on her Web site that Obama "bears traits that resemble the anti-Christ." Now Strandberg was receiving up-to-the-minute news from his constituents in Illinois. One of the winning lottery numbers in the president-elect's home state was 666— which, as everyone knows, is the sign of the Beast (also known as the Antichrist). "It is very eerie, and I take it for a sign as to who he really is," wrote one of Strandberg's correspondents.

Aaauuuuggghh, this is like a big-ass bongload of stupid, and it's just the opening paragraph. "The eBay of prophecy", what the hell does that mean? And why does anyone care what the SNL bubblehead from 20 years ago says about anything? As for the "666", get this -- yesterday on the home from work, I was behind a car whose license plate contained that very sequence of randomly determined numbers! Maybe that means that Arnold Schwarzenegger is the devil. Maybe I was behind the devil himself. Booga-booga!

There are 300 million people in this glorious mess of a country. By the law of averages, some of them are bound to be as stupid as a bag of rocks. That doesn't mean putatively respectable magazines need to give these cretins the time of day. Why not just interview a Pet Rock and have done with it? Better yet, convince these dopes that they have a rendezvous with the Hale-Bopp comet. I'll even chip in for the applesauce.

On to the gathering Joementum, this miserable backbiting prick who promises to remain a thorn in everyone's side for some time to come. Maybe Obama figures he should keep his friends close, and his enemies closer. Maybe he doesn't really care, because there's a million ways to marginalize Lieberman. Maybe a Democratic majority will be just as pussified and ineffectual as the Democratic minority was. Life under the Cheney regime has been pretty much a shit sandwich for most people, and maybe throwing a few sprinkles on top only makes it slightly less of a shit sandwich. Too early to tell, but people like Pelosi and Reid shouldn't give anyone comfort. Maybe this crew will just be more circumspect, less brazen in their transgressions. Meet the new boss.

I'm increasingly fascinated by these Prop. 8 protests going on. On the one hand, holding only Mormons to account is kinda chickenshit, but at least it's a start. The protests are unnecessary, though -- the initiative should never have gotten on the ballot in the first place in that form. Basically you're using a referendum to overturn a state supreme court -- and a mostly Republican group at that -- decision which affected the state constitution.

So we're using mob rule and push-button politicking to overturn established judiciary procedure. Cool. I bet I could take a petition around to rescind taxes, car registration, and all the other devious modes of revenue enhancement this state employs regularly, and get a million people to sign it in a week. Put that on the ballot? Probably not. By the same rationale, Prop. 8 will almost certainly be overturned.

Still, it's good to see people deciding not to let superstitious assholes treat them like third-class citizens. But it's not a Mormon or a black thing, so much as an issue of age, income, educational level, etc. Lots of factors, the only common ones being the belief in an invisible celestial protector, the surety of imposing its mores, and the inability to articulate their position beyond their personal "ick" factor. The older ones are dying off, but the younger ones are outbreeding the rest of us.

Finally, from the wacky world of sports: Seems Donovan McNabb, whose team played in the first tie NFL game in six years -- and, according to Ben Roethlisberger, half the players in the league -- didn't know that a regular-season game can end in a tie. (The ref repeats the overtime rules at the beginning of every OT period that occurs, if that helps any, genius.) But they know within five bucks how much a set of spinners for their Land Rover will run, and they know which clubs have the best groupies. Who says jocks are fame-addled meatheads?


daver said...

Apropos Sarah Palin, this quote from Voltaire this morning (via Garrison Keillor):

"To be successful, it's not enough to be stupid; you must also have good manners."

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