Translate

Monday, March 31, 2008

Life's a Pitch and Then You Cry

Life outside the bubble.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Walmartyrs

The current non-political outrage of the week involves this poor family whose story sounds like a country song:

Debbie Shank breaks down in tears every time she's told that her 18-year-old son, Jeremy, was killed in Iraq.

The 52-year-old mother of three attended her son's funeral, but she continues to ask how he's doing. When her family reminds her that he's dead, she weeps as if hearing the news for the first time.

....

The family's situation is so dire that last year Jim Shank divorced Debbie, so she could receive more money from Medicaid.

Jim Shank, 54, is recovering from prostate cancer, works two jobs and struggles to pay the bills. He's afraid he won't be able to send their youngest son to college and pay for his and Debbie's care.


And, as you've probably already heard, Wal-Mart is seeking reimbursement for medical expenses incurred on the employee health plan.

Two years after the accident, Shank and her husband, Jim, were awarded about $1 million in a lawsuit against the trucking company involved in the crash. After legal fees were paid, $417,000 was placed in a trust to pay for Debbie Shank's long-term care.

Wal-Mart had paid out about $470,000 for Shank's medical expenses and later sued for the same amount. However, the court ruled it can only recoup what is left in the family's trust.

The Shanks didn't notice in the fine print of Wal-Mart's health plan policy that the company has the right to recoup medical expenses if an employee collects damages in a lawsuit.

....

The family's attorney, Maurice Graham, said he informed Wal-Mart about the settlement and believed the Shanks would be allowed to keep the money.

"We assumed after three years, they [Wal-Mart] had made a decision to let Debbie Shank use this money for what it was intended to," Graham said.


Okay, here's the thing. As awful as this story is, and as heartless as Wal-Mart is coming off (and believe me, we'll get to that), this is simply a case of a trusting family being taken to the cleaners by an incompetent -- if not outright unscrupulous -- lawyer.

Let's see if we have this straight: this assclown took 58.3% of the settlement, and for his services, he assumed that Wal-Mart was just going to good-faith their recoupment of this health-plan clause? And this clause, which is pretty standard stuff, went completely unnoticed? What exactly does it take to get a license to practice law in Mizurrah, a pulse and a stack of self-printed cards?

Seriously, what exactly did this guy do for these people for a 58.3% cut? It looks like he failed to read her health plan clauses and assumed that Wal-Mart was some sort of benevolent creature. A third-grader could have done that for free.

"The recovery that Debbie Shank made was recovery for future lost earnings, for her pain and suffering," Graham said.

"She'll never be able to work again. Never have a relationship with her husband or children again. The damage she recovered was for much more than just medical expenses."


And all he could get for all that was a million, more than half of which went in his pocket? Again, what is up with this Lionel Hutz crap, and why hasn't Jim Shank gone out and found another attorney to grind it out of his ass? I honestly can't see what this guy did to earn his keep. And I've never heard of a contingency lawyer taking over 40%, and even then only in lawsuits with higher payoffs.

Anyway, it seems pretty clear that Wal-Mart is well within their legal rights, and their duties to their stockholders. But come on, people, what's legal is not always what's ethical:

In 2007, the retail giant reported net sales in the third quarter of $90 billion.

Legal or not, CNN asked Wal-Mart why the company pursued the money.

Wal-Mart spokesman John Simley, who called Debbie Shank's case "unbelievably sad," replied in a statement: "Wal-Mart's plan is bound by very specific rules. ... We wish it could be more flexible in Mrs. Shank's case since her circumstances are clearly extraordinary, but this is done out of fairness to all associates who contribute to, and benefit from, the plan."


That's a crock of shit. Plans can be and are contingent upon external factors at times. Simley is really just saying that if they do a favor for the Shanks, they'll have to throw everyone a bone. I don't think that's true; these are obviously extraordinary circumstances, and considering that CEO Lee Scott makes enough to recoup that $470K in a very short week, perhaps Wal-Mart might reconsider its intractable stance.

Or not. I've never gotten the impression that the throngs of Martards have it in them to put their principles where their mouths are, and shop elsewhere. Something shiny will come along within the week, by which time Debbie Shank will have been reminded of her situation another half-dozen times, but be forgotten herself in the shuffle.

[Update: If you want to donate a few bucks to the Shanks, Wal-Mart Watch has set up a fund here. And again, while a write-in campaign might make people feel a bit better temporarily, and might even get Wal-Mart to give the Shanks a much-needed break, if people are truly morally disgusted, stop shopping there. It's better for you anyway; as the Rude Pundit points out, they are fundamentally unpleasant and oppressive in a lot of ways.

The only times I've ever been there is when we had a cat with a propensity for urinary tract infections, and for the last couple years of the cat's life, Wal-Mart was literally the only place in northern CA to carry the Purina UTI food. Since the cat died in 2006, there's been no need, and frankly, trudging through narrow, over-stocked aisles with people who can't afford the cheap shit they're buying is not my idea of a good time. I'd rather pay a little more and buy less stuff locally. I have too much stuff anyway. I think most of us do.

Also, I have been picking on the Shanks' lawyer, Maurice Graham, and Rude Pundit links to an interesting interview with Graham, which fleshes out a great deal of the story. The trucker was probably driving too fast, and Debbie Shank pulled out in front of him (going to yard sales, I read elsewhere), thus the liability was shared, and the trucking company was some podunk outfit that had the bare minimum required insurance, thus the measly payout. Accident reconstruction experts were required to properly assign liability, and no doubt that is recouped in the lawyer's fees, part of that 58.3% cut.

I still question Graham's assumption that Wal-Mart would just let the case go, but he's right in that it's strange how they waited around three years to initiate action. So I'll retract my unkind assertions about Graham earning his keep. It looks like he did what he could with a pretty bad hand to begin with. And it sucks that at the end of a series of incredibly horrible occurrences, the Shanks are basically at the mercy of Wal-Mart deigning to lift their corporate thumb. It might be interesting to see how this sort of situation is dealt with in a universal health care system, and how the costs would be subsumed in such a system (for example, the Shanks had to buy a wheelchair-accessible house). Just a sad story all the way around.]

A Friend In Greed

Shorter Richard Cougar Melloncamp Scaife:

I still think she's a lesbian vampire who had an affair with Vince Foster before she killed him with her rapier talons, but we might be able to play ball with Hillary Clinton, just as soon as we ratfuck Barack Obama.

Money

Awful nice of Comrade Bob Mugabe to do his part to make the good ol' American dollar look pretty damned good by comparison:

With inflation estimated at 200,000 percent -- easily the highest in the world -- Zimbabwe's currency is barely worth the paper it's printed on. (The largest Zimbabwean note, 10 million dollars, can't buy more than a couple of sodas.) Foreign currency runs this economy now, mainly the U.S. dollar and the South African rand, nearly all of it traded on the black market.

The government of longtime President Robert Mugabe, who faces a critical reelection test on March 29, has pegged the exchange rate at $1 to 30,000 Zimbabwean dollars. But the currency is losing value at such head-spinning speed that on the streets of Harare, one U.S. greenback will soon fetch about 2,000 times that.


I don't even want to try converting all that to euros, or loonies for that matter. Guess that "land reform" thing is doing about as well as expected. Where they've tried actual "parecon" schemes in South America, they sound like they've actually worked, and people finally have a tangible share in what they do. Mugabe just let every bozo with a machete take whatever wasn't nailed down, turning what was at least a decent economy under the predations of Ian Smith into just another sub-Saharan subsistence regime.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

I Can Haz Dummycrats?

For what it's worth, it seems highly doubtful that these numbers will hold -- or are even fundamentally true.

Clinton supporters appear to be somewhat more reactive than Obama supporters. Twenty-eight percent of the former indicate that if Clinton is not the nominee -- and Obama is -- they would support McCain. That compares to 19% of Obama supporters who would support McCain if Obama is not the nominee -- and Clinton is.


But allowing for the likelihood that there is at least some truth to this, it behooves every faithful Dem with their god-bothering Thanksralph! plaint these past seven-plus years to keep each other in check now. Because scarcely a month after announcing his tilt at the windmill, Nader is all but forgotten. He will not remotely be a factor in any state. But even a vote for Nader would at least be a direct expression of principle. I have no idea what the hell a Clinton or Obama supporter going for McCain is thinking about anything. It is literally the dumbest fucking thing they could do, politically, intellectually.

The perfidious dipshits who plan on stamping their wittle feet if they don't get their preferred nom are invited to kindly go fuck themselves for a good long time. Anybody who claims to hate this war, to be tired of the malicious incompetence and indifference of the current junta, to desire improvement in practically every quality-of-life factor, cannot be an actual Democrat and then decide to vote for John McCain. Period. No exceptions. You have abdicated your responsibility to pay attention, and thus your right to be part of a rational debate.

McCain has made it clear that he is Bush without the MBA, Cheney with a couple of borscht-belt zingers. And to his credit, he has been quite upfront about all that. So there's no excuse for any of this "McCain Democrat" horseshit. It couldn't be any clearer. I cringe at the idea of another eight or even four years of the Clintons and their tedious games of triangulation and gutless parodies of idealism. And as well-intentioned as Obama appears to be, he needs to acquire some brawling skills if he's going to survive the big boys' game.

And really, neither Democrat is going to "fix" or "change" all that much, because Americans haven't quite hit rock-bottom enough to get their heads out of their asses. They still think someone can come along and return things to what they were. Eight years of magical thinking and brain-dead stupidity can have that collective effect.

But neither Clinton nor Obama, whatever their respective weaknesses, is nearly as likely to continue digging this hole and servicing the clump of superstitious goons that holds this country in political and intellectual stasis, whereas McCain has made it abundantly clear that he'd be perfectly happy to do exactly that. You want Fred Thompson on the Supreme Court and Chuck Norris for Secretary of Defense, Arnold Schwarzenegger as Secretary of State, then McCain's probably your guy. Cartoon people for a cartoon agenda.

Otherwise, these self-indulgent idiots need to grow the fuck up and pay attention to what each candidate actually stands for, not what you wish they stood for. The problem with democracy, American democracy in particular, is that too many individuals are under the impression their vote is some sort of idealized affirmation of how they see themselves, rather than a response to how things are, and how issues can be addressed.

Fuck Fred Phelps, Part 47,893

It's bad enough when some small-town asshole snaps and clubs his wife and young children to death like it ain't no thing:

Funeral services have been scheduled for this weekend for the six members of the Sueppel family, killed in a murder-suicide by the father, who had been facing embezzlement charges.

....

Steven Sueppel apparently beat his family to death with a baseball bat late Sunday or early Monday before driving the family minivan into a concrete pillar along Interstate 80 and killing himself.


But then the pond scum known as the Westboro BastardBaptist Church crawl out from under their rock to capitalize on this ugly situation.

The Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., known for picketing funerals in protest of homosexuality, said in a news release that "God sent the shooter" to the Sueppel home as punishment for Iowa's sins, and that it would picket their funeral in a "respectful, lawful" manner.

Iowa City Police Sgt. Troy Kelsay said he thinks the group is attracted to the event because of Iowa City's "liberal stance" toward homosexuals and the media attention surrounding the Sueppel deaths, and that police would work to limit any intrusion upon the funeral. The best response is to ignore the group, Kelsay said.


Actually, I think the best response would be to wait until the next "service" in this cult of soulless freaks, bar the doors, and torch their outhouse of a "church". Failing that, hopefully every godless fag out there is counting the days 'til Ole Fred's overdue and hopefully excruciating death, when they commence with endless rounds of buttfucking and such on the old bastard's grave, until the grass is completely torn up and the dirt glazed and turned to mud with homo-chowder.

Hell, these inbred retards can't even get their fundamentalist hate right. There was no "shooter", assholes; the guy beat his children to death with a baseball bat, which means that the Phelps' evil, spiteful deity is as gratuitously cruel as they are.

Die already, you vile morons.

Five Years On

I don't know why the mediots persist in pestering Bush and his claque every time a "milestone" is "reached", implicitly saying that the 4000th troop killed is more or less notable than the 2197th, or that any of them are more or less valuable than a civilian child perforated by random fire. This is the business of death, and that business is wholly indiscriminate.

But to the matter at hand, Bush per usual displays an astounding capacity for the sort of magical thinking that has typically set American exceptionalists apart from most sentient bipeds:

President Bush today marked the fifth anniversary of the start of the Iraq war with the message: "The world is better, and the US is safer."

....

He also claimed that the surge into Iraq, launched last year, had been a success in reducing attacks against US troops, restoring order, and opening the door to "a major strategic victory in the broader war" on extremism.


This is true only to the extent that the residents of the occupied country allow it to be so, and everyone, including Bush, knows this. The rest is simply wishful thinking, a vain attempt at saving face long after that face is gone.

There is no way a person can rationally defend Bush's preamble, and tellingly, Bush himself declines to do so, preferring instead to wallow in the more obvious refrains of "Saddam was an asshole!" that has spiced his stubbed-toe oratory almost since day one.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Blackout

I've been thinking about the big Obama speech since he made it. I thought about it in the context in which most white people perceive what they believe to be the "black experience", and I've thought about it in the context in which I observed what I presumed to be that same experience, spending childhood summers in places such as Compton and Bellflower and Phoenix, sometimes being literally the only white kid for ten or fifteen blocks.

Obama's speech cannot and should not be regarded in any other context but this: the media's interpretation of his speech is complete and utter bullshit, engineered to contrive contention and controversy out of the fairly mundane (yet incendiary if you ask the media rubes) rhetoric of Rev. Wright, especially when contrasted to the widely distributed "you brought this on yourselves" chunder from Falwell and Robertson immediately after 9/11. Funny how nobody bum-rushed the stage to repudiate those jowly motherfuckers. Indeed, the current Republican nominee repudiated his own words to give the commencement address at Falwell's clown college.

Now, Obama's primary mistake may simply lie in the fact that he chose to address Americans as if they were adults on this subject, which many of them most assuredly are not. People laughed at the irascible Archie Bunker back in the day, but what many fail to acknowledge is that a good chunk of 'murka really is Archie Bunker -- unrepentant in their ignorance and bigotry, although more than willing to go through the usual motions to demonstrate that they like the "good ones". This is concurrent with their insistent opinions on wimmins and queers; they know at least one of each that they can put up with, but are still for some reason apprehensive about giving all of them fundamental rights. Funny, that.

You're not really going to win with such people, because they aren't looking to be convinced. Still, Obama needed to stop the artificially induced bleeding, and after mulling over the text for a week, I still think he did very well. But what a certain part of the audience expected, to confirm their prejudices and apprehensions, was for him to give the entire speech in "izzle" talk, and perhaps sport a gold toof and a medallion or two. Maybe Obama can assuage their nonsensical fears by wearing a giant clock around his neck next time, so's everyone knows exactly what time it is.

It's times like these when I remember that motherfuckers get exactly the kind of gubmint they deserve, because they lack the testicular fortitude to stand up on their hind legs and expect -- no, demand -- something better.

Crash Test Dummies

Every year there's at least one of these goofy-ass looks at how the Wonderlic test affects NFL draft prospects.

Look, if you told me I had to take the SAT cold tomorrow morning, I wouldn't come close to getting the 1270 I got in high school. If, however, you gave me a few weeks to study and take some practice tests and such, I might surpass that score.

Ryan Clady knew this Wonderlic test was coming. He had plenty of time to take practice tests and get himself ready. That 13 indicates that he did not put in the necessary study time. If he didn't study for this, what else won't he study for?


You know, I not only didn't study for my SAT, I refused to study for it. Can't really explain why, something along the line that studying is for pussies. And I was pretty hungover when I actually took the test. I got a 1300, fourth-highest in my school, sixty points from the top score in the school. So much for studying; the three guys who scored above me studied for fucking months, and they were all pretty damned smart to begin with.

And there are plenty of sites where you can take the Wonderlic, which is also used as a corporate evaluation tool. I decided to see what all the hoo-ha was about some time ago, and got a 42 (out of a possible 50). Not terribly difficult. Suck on that, Dan Marino!

And yet. Forgetting that the Wonderlic, being a logic test (essentially a poor man's IQ test, which themselves are no great shakes), cannot by definition be truly "studied" for the way conventional tests can, the fact is that these tests do not sufficiently measure a person's ability to throw or carry an oblong pleather ball downfield, nor block nor tackle.

The best way to test a person's ability to do those things is to -- bear with me here -- put them on the field and have them do those things. It's not that complicated. I know a lot about football, and I can sport the test scores, and I'm not a small guy. But there was never a time where I would have been anything but useless on a football field. I just don't have the knack for it.

Tests in general are overrated; people are either test-takers or they're not. Spelling bees are a prime example of this syndrome. Bad spelling is an annoyance, to be sure, but spelling in and of itself is not a terribly marketable skill. This is not a sour-grapes thing; I was a two-time California state finalist, and three-time regional champion. It's just that it is a correlative rather than causative skill. There are plenty of very intelligent people who can't spell for shit.

Same with the Wonderlic. Offensive linemen (centers in particular), believe it or not, are generally the most intelligent people on a football team. But football intelligence is not the same as the associative and spatial intelligence sought out in conventional IQ tests.

And still, twenty years out of school, I say the same thing -- studying is for sucks. Either you know the material or you don't; either you read what you were supposed to read or you didn't. The idea that cramming is some sort of substitute for actual understanding of the material is itself a cheat.

Belle of the Balls

For the amount of money the Jaguars shelled out for Jerry Porter, one would expect him to be as happy as he appears to be. And yet, as any attentive Raiders fan knows, this guy was a tremendously under-utilized player, and a consummate Raider. Shit, he expressed his displeasure with management by parking in Al Davis' reserved spot. That alone should have netted him a substantial raise.

“This is me. I smile a lot. I’m happy to be here, too,” Porter said. “It’s good to be back to expecting to win instead of hoping to win. When you have to play this team, you better bring your hard hat because it’s going to be a slugfest. I don’t know anybody who wouldn’t want to be on a team like that.”


For some reason, since the Raiders have been on their laughable half-decade (and counting) slump, I have watched some of the "cat" teams as seconds, especially Jacksonville and Carolina. And I was rooting for the Jags this post-season; one of the brief highlights while my family was holed up in a hotel room during the massive storm at the beginning of this year was watching the Jaguars squeak by the Steelers in the playoffs.

So while I've picked on Randy Moss for his perfidy as a player and teammate, the opposite stands for Jerry Porter. He's a guy who has several great seasons ahead of him, and has managed to land with a team that can make the most of that. The Jaguars have a very good team, and an excellent QB in David Garrard, and Porter may actually help them win the division finally.

Week In Review

It's hard to complain sometimes. Drinking profusely, doing yardwork in truly fantastic weather, and exploring the new and severely tightened job market have all conspired to make this a glorious week.

Coupled with all that, having to dick around with my hooptie of a computer has strangely allowed me to get several drafts in the can, yet not get 'round to actually posting them. Shit happens, hence the extra quiet on the ugly front. And some (probably all) have already expired their shelf-life; this is, after all, a quick man's game. So I'm currently in the process of flipping coins to trash a few, post others, and intersperse sage football observations in the mix. This is, sadly, the way I roll.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Nerds of a Feather

30 Rock is a pretty solid show with a lot of genuinely funny moments, and I dig Tina Fey, and not just in the "no no, leave the glasses on" milfhunter sense. But here, as amusing as all the butt-hurt commenters are, she is a bit out of line, not in the general comparative sense but because their styles as writers and performers seem so similar. They both utilize self-effacing, nebbishy humor, and seem to have each become nerd sex symbols in the process. For someone who appears to be fairly organized and intelligent, Fey's comment shows a surprising lack of self-awareness.

And basically, if you took Weekend Update and made it, well, funnier, you'd have many of The Daily Show's strongest elements. A good chunk of WU's schtick consists of the same lukewarm choir-preaching to a self-selecting audience, just as Fey murmurs about TDS. Indeed, WU and TV Funhouse have frequently been the only watchable things about the show, especially in its current heavily-padded incarnation. (This is actually somewhat surprising, since there are very good performers in the cast, but there's generally not much for them to work with.)

If anything, TDS and Colbert have generally strived for an "all killer, no filler" approach, with decent results most of the time. That alone places it well past SNL since at least the Phil Hartman days. Again, though, this is not nearly the big deal the kids are making out of it. Before you know it, Fey will be on to plug Baby Mama, Stewart will give her a gentle nudge, she'll kiss his ass, and all will be right with the world. I mean, if Jon can put up with Billy Kristol's shameless horseshit, Tina Fey's off-the-cuff comment should be nothing.

Things We Like

I fuckin' looooves me some Time Bandits like Rosie O'Donnell loves a fifth Devil Dog. Awesome movie.

Dancin' Fools

I've said this many times before, but as contemptuous as I am of the whole "reality" teevee thing, some aspects in particular are simply confounding, such as the dancing thing. Okay, first, if you have the word "stars" in your title, this should at the very least mean people who, if they were not on your show, would be doing something else. I did see Steve Guttenberg on a Law & Order a couple weeks ago; other than that, not so much. Hell, I've been on game shows and I can't dance either. Do I qualify?

But really it's the idea that watching people who used to be moderately famous try to dance -- and get critiqued by people no one's ever heard of -- would be entertaining for more than five minutes. (No doubt this is in the usual context of reality tropes that I have gleaned second- and third-hand: pregnant pauses, protracted explanations, contrived diversions, anything to stretch ten minutes of actual material into forty, plus commercials.) It sounds like something that the kids find on the YouTube and talk about for a couple weeks, like the fat kid working on his Jedi moves in the garage.

But once the novelty's over, you're watching the guy from Police Academy dance, which must be only slightly more exciting than watching him take a dump. And we're several years into this, um, phenomenon, which says as much about the viewing audience as it does about the laziness of the network programmers. To each their own and all, and I'm certainly not insisting on the elitist rigors of Mawsterpiece Theatre. But I work ten hours a day at a job I tolerate just like everyone else. And when I turn to the nutworks at 9PM and my choices are people dancing, people losing weight, and people doing whatever the fuck it is they do on Big Brother, I start to wonder more and more why it is I pay sixty bucks a month for satellite service when I could just boost my Netflix to the top level and pocket the difference. If it weren't for football and Daily Show/Colbert Report, I'd probably do just that.

Used to be that the minimum requirements for entertainment were that people were doing something that you probably couldn't do yourself -- act, write, tell stories, do stunts, direct, etc. This is like holding something sparkly in front of a mirror and staring at it for several years.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Sex Tape Thing

A Kristin Davis sex tape? Really? This would have nothing to do with her movie (a movie no one aside of urban cougars, fag hags, and gay men will see, but will nonetheless determine the viability of future HBO franchise movies, no doubt) coming out shortly, would it?

Ah well, a hummer's a hummer, n'est-ce pas?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Does A Bear Shit in the Economy?

The bailout has begun:

Q: Why would the Fed [guarantee $30 billion worth of Bear Stearns' nearly worthless assets]?

A: Experts say the risks of inaction were far greater. With investors backing away from anything linked to the U.S. mortgage market, the Fed aims to prevent the value of those investments from plunging even further, which could cause widespread fallout among big banks. "The problem is that unless the major financial (companies) are kept solvent, the economy will suffer (so much) that everybody's livelihood will be affected," said Peter Walliston, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

Q. Does this mean my tax dollars are being used to bail out Wall Street?

A. Not exactly. The Fed has vast resources on its own, thanks to its ability to sell Treasury securities that investors consider extremely safe. Still, some fear the mortgage crisis that engulfed Bear Stearns will soon spread to other companies and ultimately test the Fed's resources, especially after the central bank last week said it would lend up to $200 billion in exchange for mortgage investments.

Q. Might taxpayers ultimately be on the hook?

A. Potentially. The Federal Reserve's actions could augur much broader government action to stabilize the mortgage market. Calls are growing in Congress for government-funded efforts to help borrowers refinance out of troubled loans.


You know, there's a much shorter answer to all these questions: Because they can. What the fuck are you gonna do about it, bunky -- turn off Dancing with People Who Used to be Sorta Well-Known and register your disapproval somehow? Not bloody likely.

I don't know if it's a more standardized reference in financial circles, but I like the "shadow financial system" descriptive Roubini employs:

All these institutions look similar to banks because they are highly leveraged and borrow short and in liquid ways and invest or lend long and in illiquid ways. This shadow financial system is, like banks, subject not only to credit and market risk but also to rollover or liquidity risk, i.e. the risk deriving from having a large stock of short term liabilities (relative to liquid assets) that may not roll over if creditors decide to withdraw their credits to these institutions.

Unlike banks this shadow financial system does not have access to the lender of last resort support of the central bank as these are not depository institutions regulated by the central banks. What we are now observing – with the case of Bear Stearns and the recent disaster among SIVs, conduits, run on a number of hedge funds and money market funds is a generalized liquidity run on this shadow financial system.


Although "casino running on borrowed money" is also pretty accurate.

Finally, First Draft has an excellent takedown of the billionaire welfare queens.

Let me ask those questions, those questions we ask of every beneficiary of the smallest drop of government assistance. Let me ask why this is the ONLY scenario in which our parsimonious bullshit about personal responsibility, about choices and consequences, about "survival of the fittest" and other forms of sicko math, need not fucking apply.

Let me ask just how the unholy fuck it is that we can quibble every single day for hours over lunches that would feed a small village for a week about the ten dollars a year we give to some social program and how it's going to waste because somebody fed us an anecdote about somebody somewhere faking their need. Let me ask just how the bloody fucking blue hell we can get all worked up over how the homeless people downtown don't deserve our pennies because one of them said something rude to us on the way out of a store, and how they're just gonna spend our 65 cents on booze and then pee on the stoop. Let me ask how on earth we can take all the time it takes to think up all the ways we think up to sit in judgement on every individual case we hear about, about how that person just didn't work harder, didn't suffer enough, didn't earn "our" money, didn't deserve "our" charity, didn't bleed in front of us enough, and all the while, all the fucking while, we give it away by the millions and never ask where it goes. All the while.


And the minute the majority of rubes out there finally disabuse themselves of this notion that each of them will somehow get a cut of all this phantom finance and percentage-point diddling, maybe then we can cut these grifters loose once and for all. Not that waiting until we were $2 trillion deep into two endless wars wasn't bad enough. Maybe it does take going under to encourage fools to finally learn to swim, and let the weasels drown.

Last Throe Update

Looks like the welcoming committee came out for Big Time's surprise visit:

A female suicide bomber apparently targeting Shiite worshippers killed at least 33 people and wounded at least 50 in Karbala on Monday, according to an Interior Ministry official.

....

Also Monday, two American soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb north of Baghdad, officials said.

The incident occurred about 12:20 p.m. as the soldiers were "conducting a route-clearance combat operation north of Baghdad," according to a news release.

The names of the soldiers were not immediately released.

Meanwhile, U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney arrived in the Iraqi capital Monday on an unannounced visit.

Cheney told reporters that the five years in Iraq since the war's start has been "well worth the effort."


I'm sure Cheney's financial advisor would be happy to confirm that.

The Straight Talk Express also paid a surprise visit, because nothing says "success" like having to skulk in unannounced.

McCain traveled there with Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, and Joseph Lieberman, I-Connecticut, both of whom serve on the Armed Services Committee with McCain, the committee's ranking member.


You have to give these people credit -- at least you know exactly where they stand. There is no room for any confusion on this, and the harmonic convergence of Cheney and the Straight Talk posse says it all. Any bullshit about disaffected apostate Democrats not clearly understanding that POST openly promises more of the same should be slapped down instantly. Your wittle feelings about Clinton or Obama, distasteful as either or both may seem at times, do not matter. Either you want to prolong the current regime's efforts, or you don't. It's that simple.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Conspiracy Guy Notes and Errata

Regardless of topic, Rigorous Intuition is never dull, and the same is true of its chat fora, this one discussing an interesting, appropriately ominous article in the Financial Times:

John Lipsky, the IMF's first deputy managing director, said: "We must keep all options on the table, including the potential use of public funds to safeguard the financial system."

The statement by the senior IMF official marks the second radical policy intervention from the IMF this year. It had previously called on governments to consider using fiscal policy to offset the impact of the credit crisis on growth.

Mr Lipsky said: "I fully recognise an appropriate role for public sector intervention after market solutions have been exhausted."

He urged policymakers to "think the unthinkable" and prepare now for what they would do if the worst case scenarios materialised and "low probability but high impact events" threatened to jeopardise global financial stability.

He warned of the risk that a "global financial decelerator" could take hold, in which rising defaults and margin calls from lenders triggered forced asset sales, driving down the value of collateral and forcing further forced sales.


The speculation as to what such a catalyzing event could be is reasonable enough, I suppose. It would not take much to kick over a war with Iran; an Iranian-backed Sadrist strapped with a dirty bomb penetrating the Green Zone would be pretext enough. And Poor Ol' Straight Talk has already begun establishing rhetorical turf in the brief border incursions between Venezuela, Ecuador, and Colombia recently. Venezuela being the third-largest oil exporter to the U.S., if Chàvez suddenly gets any bright ideas about turning off the tap, or even just screwing up production with his nationalization programs, his Bolivarian dream may be brought unceremoniously to heel.

But whatever. We can all nurse our pet theories till the cows come home. What I find interesting is the notion that, in the face of such a catalyzing event, Le Dauphin and his éminence grise would have an excuse to suspend elections and retain power, which presumes that they are looking for such an excuse. Folks, I think this is making rhetorical toothpicks out of logs, as it were; you can be quite certain that, should a Democrat happen to accede to the figurehead position come November, he or she will assiduously continue most of the operational prerogatives currently in play. Obama (and perhaps Clinton) is surely less predisposed to mindlessly attack another country, but with the required pretext, he would have little choice.

There is no need whatsoever to suspend or postpone elections. Indeed, maintaining their due course is critical to continuing the notion that they matter in any substantial way, other than elites sending signals amongst themselves. Plus, without the election industry, consultants would have to return to their former occupations, and there's only so many hobos to blow.

Why on earth would Bush want a third term anyway? He's done his bit; he'll spend a couple years scooping up money on the rubber-chicken circuit with Benito Giuliani and then amble off to Crawford -- or perhaps Paraguay.

Good Intentions

I have to say I'm with IOZ on this one. One assumes as a given that most people, regardless of ideology, are touched by the ongoing genocide in Darfur. It's a rational response to insist that Something Be Done. But what? How? Most importantly, by whom? UN peacekeeping forces have been remarkably ineffective in a wide variety of areas, standing idly by while butchers did their thing in Srebrenica and Rwanda. So you can propose a UN force in southern Sudan, sure, but don't be surprised if they fail to stanch the flow of blood. And that's if the Chinese and Russians don't overrule such a move, which is highly unlikely.

Because Americans like simple solutions to problems, and simple explanations for them as well, it is easier to look at Darfur as a simple dichotomous conflict between Arab Muslims and black animist Christians. But this is like calling the Grand Canyon a big hole; it explains nothing of the specifics. It makes more sense to look at this as a violent expropriation of restive lands from a minority ethnic group. Perhaps if the janjaweed gave their victims smallpox-laden blankets the historical parallel would become more evident.

So. There are issues of land use, water, oil and economics underlying the more obvious faultlines of ethnic strife. Global warming is probably directly contributing to the increasing Saharification in the region. You have an international organization that is far more adept at accentuating the petty grievances of its members than in pooling their resources for meaningful police action. And you have a cohort of people who, because of media coverage and frequently in religious kinship, have taken this issue under their collective wing and heightened their insistence for its necessary resolution.

But nobody seems to be proposing exactly how this is to be done. The U.S. could not intervene unilaterally, even if it had a compelling rational self-interest there, even if its military wasn't overstretched elsewhere, even if the Chinese wouldn't mind greatly our interference. The logistics alone of putting and keeping a force of any meaningful size in the region would be prohibitive. And that's just to stop the carnage. Who repatriates the refugees, in a country we know absolutely nothing about, and whose own government is actively oppressing and murdering these people? You can't just go down to the county clerk's office and look up everyone's property deed and give it all back to the rightful owners.

Humanitarian interventions, for all their stated good intentions, rarely work as advertised. Unnoticed in its recent self-declaration of independence is that Kosovo is little more than a way-station for organized crime, with a giant U.S. base (Camp, uh, Bondsteel) in the center. No water, no electricity, a seething young unemployed population, and lots of heroin and girls moving through. And the usual "rebuilding" contracts are handed out with the usual institutional opacity to the usual profiteers.

And that's a small, easily accessible, more ethnically similar region. Imagine trying to deal with all those problems and more in a much more inhospitable, inaccessible, culturally hostile, and geographically large region. I'm not exactly a Kaplan devotee, and his name seems to be mud in most bien pensant librul circles, but the guy knows the places and the people firsthand, and predicted many aspects of the current dynamic over a decade ago.

We have our hands full as it is, and Africa is an intractable problem, much of it post-colonial but much of it self-perpetuating too; when multitudes of individuals all over the continent take several wives and have dozens of uneducated, unemployed children in disease-ridden shitholes, demographic disaster is to be expected at some point. And China's massive ratcheting up of its own oil demand, and the attendant geopolitical contingencies, is an entirely predictable consequence of globalizing labor and finance to the degree we have with them. Hell, some circles of U.S. policymaking are still haggling over whether or not to hand out condoms in Africa. Talk about not being on the same page; some of these fools aren't even in the same library as cold, hard reality.

Certainly that doesn't mean Darfur should be ignored, nor should Congo's horrific ongoing slaughter (which is currently double Darfur's and has involved most of its bordering neighbors). But well-intentioned people can and should realize that the direct approach, while more fulfilling, is practically unworkable for a variety of reasons.

Yet there are clear economic interests which can be addressed through diplomatic back channels; a partnering arrangement with the Chinese could be proposed and undertaken, giving them the prestige they seek and allowing us to have a righteous hand in all this. Still, only the Chinese are going to be able to effectively lean on the Sudanese government. We can work with them, but not without them.

The other tack may be to address the acquisition of arms by the Sudanese government and the militias. Are these official government procurements, or are they clandestine large-scale arms dealers, such as Viktor Bout, animals for whom killing is a business, and business is always good?

There should be a way to proceed with the lessons of Kosovo (anticipating localized consequences of humanitarian intervention) and Iraq (knowing something about the place and people you plan on occupying; preparing for fourth- and fifth-generation tactics) intact, but blundering in on another misguided mission of self-righteousness is fortunately not even on the table.

Margin Call

Ready to take the plunge?

U.S. stocks plunged for the third day this week after Bear Stearns Cos. required a bailout from the Federal Reserve and JPMorgan Chase & Co. to avoid collapse.

Bear Stearns, the second-largest underwriter of U.S. mortgage bonds, tumbled the most ever after the brokerage said it ran short of cash, spurring concern other banks lack funding.


Every ten years something like this happens, where a financial Ponzi scheme eventually collapses under its own weight, and the taxpayers are forced to bail it out. After a while, you have to assume that it's deliberate, that the Masters of the Universe have figured out the perfect grift -- innovate creative loopholes in the financial regulation system, devise arcane derivatives (really, just high-falutin' bookmaking, basically figuring the point spread for Jets-Giants) from them, run them and take profits until they collapse, since it's all invented wealth spiralling out of nothing to begin with, and then take further profits on the inevitable bailout.

The key is pegging so many interdependent financial and economic interests on these things that they become too big to be allowed to go under. After the bailout, someone promises to Do Something About It, stern looks are cast, abject apologies are offered, patchwork legislation is hastily devised, applied, and summarily circumvented as the process begins anew. Springtime on Wall Street!

And all without actually having created a single thing of tangible value. It's all IOUs that have value only as long as everyone agrees to believe that they have value, but there is no actual intrinsic worth to these CDOs and SIVs and such. They are merely finding a viable point spread in the diddling of percentages and fractions. They are shuffling gigantic wads of scrip back and forth, nothing more.

This is what happens when all of this phantom wealth, paid for with thin air, is bet on thin air. Think about it -- Carlyle Group's mortgage holdings were about $670 million in actual shareholder funds, but had over $20 billion leveraged, and now collapsing because the bond insurers will go broke underwriting these worthless scraps of paper. Bear Stearns is taking on water for precisely the same reason: they massively, irresponsibly overextended themselves way out on the margin.

These are economic deformities, malfunctions of the market that should not be resuscitated and allowed to perpetuate on the public dole. It's a second- or even third-order scam that ultimately comes out of our pockets. But then, as the saying goes, when you rob Peter to pay Paul, you can generally count on having Paul's support.

The problem is, as we are finding out yet again, we are both Peter and Paul.

Romancing the Stoned

Just when you think Bush can't get any more sociopathically indifferent to the realities of war -- his war -- he goes and ups (or is it lowers?) the ante:

"I must say, I'm a little envious," Bush said. "If I were slightly younger and not employed here, I think it would be a fantastic experience to be on the front lines of helping this young democracy succeed."

"It must be exciting for you ... in some ways romantic, in some ways, you know, confronting danger. You're really making history, and thanks," Bush said.


Funny how when he was "slightly younger", and had that very opportunity to bring Freedom's Gift™ to Charlie, Bush scrambled for a bullshit gig defending the Tortilla Curtain politely declined and went to Yale. Apparently branding Deke pledges and running his mouth to his professors was where his "front line" concerns were.

I honestly wonder sometimes just what is wrong with this person. All snark aside, there's just something very fundamental missing. The utter lack of genuine empathy, the complete incompetence -- no, dereliction -- at interpreting plain empirical data, the inability to avoid stock sales pitches instead of saying something meaningful (e.g., his habit of saying "in other words" in roughly the same manner as a teenage girl prefaces every phrase with "like" or "you know").

Coming from a family where people actually served in combat, I have heard a few (very few, since most veterans actually don't like regaling civilians with them) war stories over the years -- WW2, Vietnam, Korea. Not one was ever told as if it were "romantic". That Sands of Iwo Jima shit never comes from actual combat veterans, only the chickenhawks who live vicariously through them. It's truly pathological. He walks past mirrors buck naked, and sees only full regalia.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Race to the Bottom

Bigger dipshit: Geraldine Ferraro or Jeremiah Wright? Discuss.

It's as if these idiots decided to make John Hagee look good.

So Like Us

I suppose I hadn't really thought about it, but it makes sense that Bobo might regard himself as the Jane Goodall of the political primate set. Since he is neither Type A nor an alpha male, his observations are by necessity too generalized to be useful, too broad-brushed to be insightful.

I can buy that a certain level of emotional stuntedness comes with that higher ground, when it comes to business and politics. For a well-groomed corporate running dog, everything is a commodity, including -- hell, especially -- other people. They are there to be conquered, after a fashion. They're either in competition with you, or they work for you.

And pols by definition have to gladhand every sentient body who approaches them. That's the gig; it's probably not habit so much as second nature with most of them. They only deal with people they want something from, and everyone who talks to them wants something from them.

And this is not a revelation either, but elite call girls make elite money to go home and to be discreet, something mistresses cannot typically be relied upon to do.

Still, what I don't buy is that, given the necessary differences in personality between "them" and "us" (and again Bobo, though he goes to the same parties and drinks from the same poisoned well, proffers this bemused detachment as if he had been dropped in on all this from another planet; klaatu barada appletini, indeed), that there is a necessarily higher preponderance of unseemly behavior in that crowd.

If anything, a good chunk of the reg'lar folks most of us encounter in our daily lives are as emotionally stunted as Larry Craig or Eliot Spitzer. Maybe their "wide stance" simply takes a more socially acceptable, economically opportunistic form; instead of hustling random cock in a public bathroom, they have jacked up their F-350 a couple feet, and race about as if they actually had somewhere to be. There's more than one way to overcompensate for shortcomings. It's all about what people can afford, and what they think will impress the neighbors.

That's what the "more in sorrow than in moralistic anger" tone elides, that people are on the run from themselves, and if they could afford to, they might very well become the party pig that thinks every woman is there to fuck him. I mean, nobody in their right mind actually wants to line up outside of Wal-Mart the day after Thanksgiving to save thirty bucks on a DVD player. They've just conditioned themselves to understand that that's the best they can hope for.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Eliot Mess

It's generally a good thing for a preening, sanctimonious asshole to get their comeuppance, regardless of party. Spitzer is certainly no exception to that rule; from the day he floated into the state house on the wafting clouds of his own crusading righteousness, ethics have been a real problem. Perhaps a nice motivational speaking tour with Benito Giuliani is in the cards, the balding douchebag version of "Dumb and Dumber". I mean really, how fuckin' stupid and full of yourself do you have to be to get caught up in stupid shit like this, especially when your entire schtick is about what an ethical guy you are?

But what's equally interesting about all this is the circumstances of the investigation, and the direction the prosecution could take. Seriously, federal wiretaps on an internet escort service? Invoking the Mann Act when both participants are adults and met up at a mutually-agreed place? It's not as if Spitzer was driving a 15-year-old girl across state lines. And they rarely go after the clients or the girls in these cases -- it's always about the money and the people at the top. So this does have more than a whiff of Don Siegelman about it.

Obviously, the people who are most jubilant about Spitzer's downfall are the bookies and thieves in the casino sector.

Cheers went up on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange Monday in response to news that New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer might resign over his alleged involvement with a prostitute.

It's hard to think of a man who engendered more hatred on Wall Street - or more qualified admiration from investor advocates - than Spitzer.


And then they went out and celebrated in the usual way -- cooking up some new liquidity-put scam over a few rounds of Ketel One and a couple grams of Bolivian marching powder, followed by a not-too-discreet circle-jerk out in the parking lot.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Mean Girls

The cool thing about politics is that there are tacks to take and excuses to make for virtually any occasion. Thus that rising gorge felt by a fair chunk of the electorate (not just the "Obamatons", as if every political candidate didn't have a devoted claque of drooling movement acolytes at its core) at the freewheeling manipulations and calumniations of the Clinton Machine is actually a failure on the part of the nauseated to grow sufficient hide.

Lawd, you'd think it was Judgment at Nuremberg, with all this lofty, Oscar-caliber emoting.


Yeah, it's as if they were gettin' all weepy 'n' shit the day before New Hampshire, feeling picked on by self-aggrandizing opponents. Shit happens, not that every Republican transgression has ritualistically been treated with such emoting as well. It's not a coincidence that toxic people inspire emetic reactions, regardless of professed affiliation. Maybe when Clinton finally decides which party she is actually running against (or, for that matter, for), we can dispense with the more emotive niceties, because at least people will know precisely where they -- and she -- stand.

The value in voting for Clinton in the end, after all the lies and smears from her and at her have wafted and settled, is that once and for all she can be hung with great care around their necks. It's a win-win; if she loses in the general election to McCain, the math can show that too many "Democrats" defected to the Straight Talk Express, thus perhaps at least temporarily diverting the tedium of the Thanksralph!ers, whilst they scramble for yet another excuse for their inability to field a decent candidate.

And if she wins? Well, it's no stretch to assume she'll turn out to be exactly what she appears to be -- smack dab in between Straight Talk and Holy Joe on the dial, a smooth corporate shill who will emote "your" pain as insurance and pharmaceutical companies underwrite a reshuffled health-care plan, and various rooms of the White House are rented out to googoo-eyed quasi-celebs. Certainly the oratory will be more astute, but so will the permanent campaigning and professional leg-humping. "Let's look to '12 together and continue the good vibrations" would likely be the theme of governance.

And if I'm wrong by more than a matter of degrees, I'll gladly admit it, which will differentiate me from the folks who will desperately cling to the toeholds of correct grammar and less brazen (but no less effective) corporate glad-handing.

Oh, that's right, I forgot -- she'll bring the troops home and defuse tensions with Iran. Which is why she voted for Kyl-Lieberman, months after she insisted incessantly that she had learned her lesson about being rolled by these idjits.

Secret Treaties

Edroso profiles yet another in the endless line of dish-it-out-but-can't-take-it conservapros, people who are otherwise largely unemployable, yet whinge aloud about why they put themselves through All This.

You have to almost figure that, somewhere in the hundreds of obfuscatory signing statements Fredo has signed over the years, one might have established a propaganda mini-arm (a meta-carpal, if you will, and you just might) for these folks. A Hire the Handicapped, They're Fun to Watch Department, full of cushy sinecures for sloppy thinkers, each bizarrely convinced that they work and live on a bed of nails.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

My Biznitch Is Da Shiznit

I must have missed something with this Charlotte Allen thing. I mean, I read the essay or whatever it was, and came away largely disinterested, thinking that this sort of thing was more amusing back when Sam Kinison, Andrew Dice Clay, and 2Live Crew were doing it.

But that's about it. I don't get the outrage. Someone in the media wrote something ineffably stupid and pointless. Alert the med....ah, it seems kinda par for the course. Even my wife (who has no interest in any of the shows or movies mentioned, for the record) read it and was mildly amused, but not put off by any of it. Silly people write silly things, and silly newspapers publish them. So it goes.

Look, the real story is that, when it comes to undermining women, nobody does it like other women. Look at your garden-variety pro-life rally. Roughly 10:1 female, right? Sure, the organizers and media reps for the activist groups are male (if only technically), but all the foot soldiers are wimmins.

It may be sexist to say so, but so be it. It's the truth. Men certainly do their part to push women around, keep them down, disempower them, blah blah blah, but in free modern societies, it takes another woman to actually cobble together an "article" out of hoary borscht belt schtick. And get paid for it, no less! The marvels of capitalism are wondrous and manifold.

The other problem here is one that obviously permeated political writing long ago -- the idea that anything that whiffs "provocative" is worth printing. Hell, didn't that she-toad Coulter call for the disenfranchisement of her own (former, I assume) gender last summer? And one half of the commentariat goes batshit about it while the other half says, "oh, that Ann". Either way, she gets paid and she gets the attention she craves.

WaPo has figured out by now what riles people up, and they're happy to print it, and point to the surging click-through traffic from angry cyberprotesters. Allen's schtick seems to be that of the bourgeois contrarian, picking out this or that hornet's nest to whack, regardless of its accuracy or even coherence of point. Perhaps the Post and its readers might be better served if standards for publishing, rather than the content itself, were addressed.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Flipping Off Hummers

Via Gawker.

Monster's Balls

Maybe they should just have a once-and-for-all press conference, the Clinton campaign, to make it clear that any criticism is really unconscionable persecution. The hounding of the First Family and all. Christ, you know I've tried to be a good German here and voice my endorsement of the Democratic candidate, no matter how personally unpalatable. But right now, only Barack Hussein Obama seems to properly fit the bill of an actual Democrat. I'm not sure I own a pair of Vise-Grip™s big enough to hold my nose sufficiently to endorse the Clintonistas' full-bodied bullshit.

She's allowed to lob cheap rhetorical scuds at will, but any response in kind and you're Ken Starr. How fucking rich (and I don't mean Marc Rich, not yet). Turns out her staff stroked Canadian diplomats with reassurances that all that anti-NAFTA rhetoric was just syrup for the rubes in Ohio. Turns out that, good Democrat that she is, she'd rather have John "Like Fredo, only crazier" McCain win than Obama. (Can I get a Thanksralph?) And give me a break with the universal health care; what comes out my pocket on the job will now just come out of my taxes. The same people will still get paid the same money for the same quality of care.

Oh, but she's been "tested" and "vetted", right? Already her campaign has been awash with shady ties and furtive dealings, not terribly unlike her husband's tenure as chief executive. Sure, the Gingrichites managed to inflate every molehill into a proverbial mountain they could climb, but with each came its own tiresome soap opera, the litany of half-evasions and dog-ate-my-homework excuses and smug triangulations.

Now, none of this is to say that Clinton is not smart and capable, and an objectively "better" candidate than McCain. She is. But not to the scope and degree her fanclub thinks. She has been strident and conservative in her support of Israel vis-à-vis Iran; she has never missed an opportunity to at least rhetorically (and frequently in practice) genuflect to the mossback wing, as if they will ever regard her with anything but sheer contempt. Say what you will about the conservatards, but at least they know better than to play those stupid games.

From flag-burning amendments to video-game legislation, HRC has been at the forefront of symbolic me-too bandwagoneering. She stands for absolutely nothing, and there is no guarantee whatsoever that she won't continue those very practices when it comes time to change tack in foreign policy or select a Supreme Court Justice. It's still worth taking the chance, but that value steadily dwindles as she squanders her credibility, showing little more than a dedicated willingness to fuck up her own party's chances if need be. It would be helpful if just one (1) intrepid mediabot would just ask her point blank whom she would prefer to win this election if she doesn't get the nom. Seriously.

Because as it stands right now, I honestly can't tell, which makes me wonder why we peons are supposed to be more dedicated to the Party's success than she is. I'm not a Democrat, assholes, I'm a goddamned independent, and as such, maybe it's time they started doing a little better job of convincing me that they're on my side, rather than just expecting me to be on theirs.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Draw the Line

I recall when this case first came up, and it still nauseates me. This has to be the worst case of Stockholm syndrome ever:

A San Jose woman who watched as her boyfriend allegedly beat and stomped her 6-year-old son to death was sentenced today to a year in county jail after the defense argued she had been forced into submission by months of physical and emotional abuse.



So that's the going rate now for watching your psycho asshole boyfriend stomp your kid to death, then driving with all the way to Phoenix (at least a full day's drive from San Jose) to plant the kid. One year. Of course, if she has half a soul remaining, she'll be haunted by the image of poor Oscar Jr. looking at her, waiting for help that never came. Live with it the rest of your sorry life, bitch.

I dunno. I keep hearing how overcrowded the prisons and the planet are. Given the encroaching powers of the state to begin with, I honestly fail to understand why Corona should not be executed (since, let's be honest, trying to rehabilitate a person who stomps a six-year-old kid to death is a waste of everyone's time) and Jimenez not be sterilized (since an idiot who stays with a person such as Corona, even after he murdered her son right in front of her, is the very definition of an unfit parent).

Seriously. Why the hell not, just in utilitarian terms? Why do we keep trying to find "humane" ways to work around the inhumanity of killers and morons, only to find out again and again that no good deed goes unpunished?

Character Issues

What Marshall said. Look, if that fat fuck Russert can piss away time pompously "reading into the record" unsolicited praise from someone Obama has never met and has openly and repeatedly repudiated (instead of talking about jobs and trade and foreclosures in, you know, Cleveland), why can no one find the sack enough to ask Straight Talk about this fucking weirdo Hagee? Especially since Hagee is probably only a news cycle away from being photographed either with his cock in a purse dog, or someone else's cock lodged in one of his orifices.

I've said this before, but like most things, it bears repeating: I personally became fed-up with Straight Talk after he not only let the Bushies get clean away with calumniating his "black love child" (that would be his daughter Michelle, whom he adopted from one of Mother Teresa's orphanages in Bangladesh), but continued to snuggle up ever closer to these fuckers. And now he's finally one of them, formally invited to kiss Fredo's ring yesterday, breaking him in a way even Charlie hadn't.

Say what you will about the Clintons, but there's no way in hell they would ever let anyone get away with that sort of smear at their daughter. There's an awful lot of empty talk about "character" and such, and I am really at a loss to figure out what sort of man allows his child to be treated so shabbily. By his fucking friends, no less. Politics ain't beanbag, but it ain't that, either.

Chapter and Verse

Esteemed reader thedevilzone points to this interesting poll which might tend to undermine certain catechisms of the Gospel According to Thanksralph!!1!1:

McCain leads both Obama and Clinton in potential general-election match ups with either candidate in the all-important swing state of FloridaAmerica's Syphilletic Wang, according to a Mason-Dixon poll out today.

McCain leads Obama 47%-37% and Clinton 49%-40%. The Arizona senator leads the Democrats across the board. About 80% of Republicans are behind McCain. Only 66% of Democrats are behind Obama and 72% are backing Clinton in one-one-one match-ups with McCain. Currently, 17% of Democrats indicate that in a match up with Obama, they'd support McCain; 16% say so in a match up with Clinton. Seventeen percent of Dems also say they are undecided in a match up with Obama; 13% say so with regard to McCain-Clinton.


Obviously, there are a few questions about the poll results, not even taking methodology (which varies by company) into account. It's March, the Donkles are looking more and more like they're headed to a contentious, brokered convention, and Floridiansinbred Wangeroos have their skidmarked overalls in a wad over how their efforts to move up their primary got tossed.

The primary system is an evil joke anyway, a chorus of "everybody louder than everybody else" assholes all jockeying to Be Special, or they'll boil your bunny or something. (Well, it's Florida, so they'll probably sodomize the poor creature first.) But obviously there's so much more money in protracting this tedious charade, so it's only going to get worse with each quadrennial circle-jerk.

At any rate, should this not belie the heartfelt calls-to-arms with which Teh N8rites are besieged? Of course not, since common sense is anything but, and the N8r h8r premises are based on faulty assumptions (particularly that Nader voters were even going to vote at all, much less vote specifically Democratic). They slap down the "where ya gonna go" faction while genuflecting -- or saying nothing at all -- to the most perfidious of electoral slivers, the "swing" voter.

A "swing" voter in this particular election is either a liar or a fool, and probably a lot of both. Look, the Democratic candidates, whatever their faults, have been very clear that they are repudiating this administration and everything about it. (Whether their actions can be predicted to match their lofty rhetoric is a different point.) McCain has quite openly embraced the current regime, will not only change nothing but promises to continue it, and since he admittedly knows squat about economic policy, is basically going to be Fredo without that coveted Harvard Em Bee Ay.

There is no "swing", there's just self-indulgent assholes who find Hillary Clinton off-putting, and think the ballot box is there to validate their fucking feewings, and thus once again find an excuse to cast their vote out of spite.

Special family fun bonus: because I always enjoy incoherent caterwauling, I thought I'd highlight this gem from the comments at that link (1:26 PM):

To act as if MACAIN would send soldiers like himself off to die and abandon them whatever the history of the dems and repubs being misled by BUSH is against reason .HE WAS IN A NORTH VIETNAMESE PRISON CAMP he knows what its all about sacrifice .OBAMMA says he will attack PACKISTAN AFGANISTAN AND REENTER IRAQ all with out ever fighting in a war rather easy to talk the talk when never knowing the consequnces of your actions little man go to the back of the class and let a hero work things out.MACAIN will surely get dems votes as well as his share of disgusted dems OBAMMA will not get the repubs in the general they stick together look how they still support BUSH 63%



Indeed. One hopes that if "OBAMMA" defeats "MACAIN", cooler heads will prevail and he can be trusted not to attack, um, "PACKISTAN" (which is apparently next to "DUFFELBAGISTAN"). I mean, I guess it's better for illiterate yokels to loudly transcribe the voices in their heads; at least they're taking a break from impregnating their cousins. But if they're to going to invent their own factoids, can it at least not read like a bar scene from My Name Is Earl?

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Rollin' Wit' Da Homiez

This will never stop being funny, for so many reasons. White people unironically co-opting black street slang; publishers so eager to get another bullshit "memoir" on the racks that they get gulled by a halfwitted valley girl with a contrived soap-opera in her back pocket; the "memoir" racket itself, an ostensibly high-falutin pastiche of Springer lifestyles shrink-wrapped with the requisite frisson of either redemption or nihilism.

It ain't about the people who slap this shit together and pass it off as autobiography because the fiction market is oversaturated. Nor is it about some contrived distinctions one way or t'other over "reality", as if a "reality" teevee besotted nation could tell the difference. It's about the people who buy into this shit for the same reason they watch Behind the Music.

Let's not get all existential -- or even surprised -- over this, folks. As I've said before, this is why they call it show bidness and not show friends. Probably the only commercial artistic field more over-inflated than the publishing world is the "art" world itself, where some asshole can make a pile of pants with some broad erasing a book, and some other asshole will wonder how to "save" it. I don't have enough cranial capacity to properly roll my eyes at that happy horseshit.

Believe dis, yo -- when I finally writes my membwars an' shit, muthafucka's gonna hafta come in a plain brown wrappa, an' I don' mean Fitty Cint.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Dogs of War

His parents must be so proud. And for the folks out there who will try to excuse this sickening conduct with the "but they're enduring extremes of stress and boredom, blah blah blah", get bent. For precisely the same reason that it would be wrong to broad-brush the 99% of service personnel who find this disgusting, so is it wrong to excuse or even try to explain away the sociopathic behavior of a few. They're all enduring essentially the same conditions; even the "fobbits" have to deal with mortars lobbed over the fortress walls.

And you know, nobody made this asshole join up. He volunteered. He can't not have known what he was getting into; it's been in all the papers and everything. Newsflash for all you kids out there: Iraq is excruciatingly hot in the summer, merely miserable the rest of the year, and incredibly dangerous throughout. Everybody there hates us and speaks an utterly incomprehensible moonman language. If you think those conditions might drive you to sociopathic behavior, then do us all a fucking favor and stay home.

I'm sure we'll hear about this hump again some time in the future; while correlation is not causation, a great many killers get their start abusing animals, since they're cowards at heart.

[Update: Naturally, there is also pre-emptively defensive speculation (not going to link it) that the puppy was actually a stuffed animal, the yelps were added in, that it was "just" a sick "prank". Okely-dokely then. I suppose anything's possible at this point, but seems like a stretch. We'll see. Regardless, even if it proves to be exactly what it looks like, people will always concoct moronic excuses for indefensible behavior.]

Monday, March 03, 2008

They Ask Questions

Russia bothers to hold elections for many of the same reasons we bother to hold elections -- to consolidate power and legitimize predation; to apportion favors back to corporations who underwrite both sides; to debase the commentary into endless horserace coverage; to whip up incoherent nationalism at useful intervals. The Russians are just less circumspect about such things. They don't waste time with feelgood bullshit about "change"; change comes at the end of either a gun or a bottle of vodka.