Sunday, August 30, 2009

Bonfire of the Inanities

This Malcolm Gladwell beignet from about a month ago (link via Mike Lombardi's column in NFP, of all things), is as much a profile of a man who's made a reputation overlooking Ockham's Razor in favor trendy aphorisms, than of the mentality of the Masters of the Universe. The "I'm good at this, therefore I'd be good at that" excuse is especially hilarious. "Gee, I won the Super Bowl on Madden 10. Maybe I should be playing or coaching actual football." Only people who don't worry about accountability for their actions have this mentality.

Look, this is not that complicated. Which is more relevant -- obscure and tendentious psych models that may or may not draw valid parallels between upper-echelon finance weasels and the fops who botched Gallipoli, or the more obvious notion that terminal fuckfaces like Jimmy Cayne, John Thain, Lloyd Blankfein, et al, do what they do because there's no reason for them not to?

Seriously, economists and their literary catamites prattle on about incentives and disincentives and such. Very well, then. At what point has any disincentive occurred -- or hell, even been seriously proposed -- to discourage the recklessness of Jimmy Cayne and his bridge buddies, retroactively or pre-emptively? It's other people's money they played with, it's other people's money they lost, and it's other people's money that constitutes the ginormous stack of chips they've been given to play with again. No penalties, no consequences, probably not even any truly meaningful regulatory changes. Can't say they're not getting what they paid for.

It doesn't take a handful of pop-behavioral psychology theories to understand why they keep doing what they do. For all his earnest semantics, Gladwell seems ill-equipped to answer the negative corollary to "why do they do it" -- what's do discourage them from doing it again? Cayne's a loudmouth chump, a pushy rentier capitalist who'll never be forced to pay his karmic freight, certainly not by the government they just doubled down on. This has nothing to do with Gallipoli, it's just a jerkoff who's never been given a reason not to be a fuckin' jerkoff. I've said it before, and not to frighten the Palin Power retards, but "socialism" is when the government runs the banks -- what do you call it when it's the other way around?

Because I'm petty and pedantic, and because I think people like Jimmy Cayne should be dunked in maple syrup and dropped on Grizzly Island, here's a bonus bon mot from the Weasel of Wall Street:

When Cayne told Greenberg that he was a bridge player, Cayne tells Cohan, “you could see the electric light bulb.”

As opposed to what, a mechanical light bulb, an origami lightbulb, a fucking drawing of a lightbulb? Is there a non-electric lightbulb we have heretofore been uninformed (you know, kept in the dark) about?

Maybe a derivative of a lightbulb, where one person actually manufactures and markets the damned thing, while Jimmy Cayne and his parasite bookie friends run their little off-track betting parlors with everyone else's money, betting on esoteric features such as how long the lightbulb takes to sell, how many hours it'll work, what percentage of milfs will buy it at Home Depot, etc. Certainly every lightbulb on Wall Street has been powered for quite some time by the bullshit these assclowns have been selling. Beats working.

Stay Classy, Mike Huckabee

In case we hadn't figured it out by now, I think it tells us everything we need to know about the soulless planarians who rally under conservatard and/or Republitard banners, that if you heard about a nameless someone mentioning that, under Obamacare, Ted Kennedy would have been told to "go home to take pain pills and die" during his last year of life, most of us would have rattled through at least a dozen or so names before guessing the correct, um, person -- Mike Huckabee.

As it happens, Huckabee made his remarks shortly after he derided Democrats for using Kennedy's death to make the pitch that "Congress must hurry and pass the health care reform bill and do it in his memory,"

"That not only defies good taste," said Huckabee, "it defies logic."

How the hell would he know about either of those things? Good thing Huckabee and his fellow partiers have been vigilant against crass politicization of Kennedy's passing. Good thing also that, per usual, the nearly filibuster-proof Democrats will just pin their legs behind their ears and take it.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


"I'm not sure you can get AIDS by burning down your house, but I get your point." -- Sen. J. Billington Bulworth, D-CA

"It's morally wrong to allow a sucker to keep his money." -- W.C. Fields

Sigh. The problem is not that Glenn Beck might be a "traitor" or a "racist", the problem is that getting political commentary from him is about as bright as getting medical advice from a randomly picked reality-show contestant, or financial advice from someone who sleeps under a bridge. The problem is that Beck merely ventriloquizes the ignorant rage of a certain swath of people, many of whom actually have good reason to be angry, but never seem quite able to point it in a coherent direction.

Giving voice to proudly moronic boobism is an ancient and profitable American pastime, but organizing against it whilst the coffers are being looted by government-associated goons is like sending the SWAT team to bust a stumblebum juggling lemons, while the bank down the street is getting robbed. There's a practically infinite supply of metaphors and similes for this scenario -- oh, and the health care system's still a joke and the economy still sucks, and Saint Barry ain't fixin' either one. But by gawd Geico's been put on notice.

The problem is that one side's brilliant idea of political action is to strap on an AR-15 for a health-care rally, and the other side's is to boycott Whole Foods and Glenn Beck. Might as well market Bill O'Reilly toilet paper while they're at it.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

On the Other Hand

Previous rant aside, I am absolutely loving the MBA thing. Everything about it is all kinds of awesome -- the curriculum, the campus, the locale, the students, the library, the ginormous new rec center. Most importantly, the idea of keeping the ball rolling. I've felt for a long time that a major cause of cancer is stress, but I'm starting to believe that another one is inertia. I actually do pretty well at avoiding both in my life. It's been a pretty sparse month for posting, but it sure as hell hasn't been dull. Between work, school, family, etc., it's a blast.

Future Schlock

Really interesting post and discussion over at The Oil Drum, just to get the ol' futurism juices flowing (ewwwwww). I have no value judgments as to whether it's true or plausible, fair or foul, moral or indefensible, or merely the natural by-product of getting one's swerve on whilst reading World War Z and watching Children of Men. But it's certainly provocative.

I would, in fact, submit that many of us are living out a similar scenario, to a much smaller scale and degree, obviously. And if we're not, perhaps we should consider doing so. But think about it -- half the world lives on a dollar a day, which means that pretty much every American and European at the very least is subconsciously protecting their nut. Just making a token effort at the notional advantages of upward mobility is a form of socioeconomic self-stratification.

And for every case where that may be a "bad" or "unfair" thing to do, you can make an equally (or perhaps even more) valid case for it being the most rational thing to do. Let's say, just to pick a random example, that you are an idealistic sort of person, or at least would like to be. You endured the last eight years of Cheneyism, and the previous eight years of Republican witch-hunts and Clintonian triangulations and debaucheries. You may even be old enough to recall the predations of Reaganbush. You are battle-scarred and war-weary, in the political sense. You realize that they're all full of shit, and that said realization is every bit as much a part of growing up as realizing the truth about Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.

So when you cast your sacred lot not just against the least-offensive douchebag, but actually for someone who finally tickles that funny bone of idealism a bit, someone who not only promises Hopenchange, but more importantly accountability, it will harsh your mellow even more to find out that you have once again been rolled. Worse yet, you see that stupid people have somehow managed to become stupider, and more vitriolic.

Suddenly we're in a bad movie where idiots are strapping themselves with assault rifles to attend health-care rallies, and recipients of government largesse have decided it is their sacred mission to disrupt said debates with moronic invocations against the same government beast that keeps them alive. (It is almost a mathematical axiom that these idiots also have the highest percentage of family members who are on some other part of the dole, because they're too fucking dumb and/or lazy to go to Planned Parenthood.) The media's role is to give the screamers a radically outsized voice in the debate, and the governing party's role is waver and cater to that stupidity. Maybe when they get that eightieth Senate seat, they'll come through with all that Change they promised.

So really, faced with all that, friends 'n' neighbors, why wouldn't anyone who had the means set about backing slowly away from the toxic retardation of their fellow citizens and the dickless incrementalism of their elected representatives? Doesn't necessarily mean heading for the rammed-earth bunker in the hills with the raincatchers and solar panels and a few Saigas (though there are days where that sounds better and better), but it does mean judiciously assessing the situation and planning accordingly. You cannot get out of a debt-leverage financial crisis by leveraging more debt; you cannot have an equitable recovery by only bailing out the few hundred people who caused the problem in the first place. That's not politics, that's just arithmetic. What they're doing is not going to "work", except in the short term, and except for their own immediate interests.

The important thing is the basic realization that nobody, not Barack Obama, and certainly not the vipers at Goldman Sachs, give a shit what happens to you. The Republicans, vile as they are and unencumbered by facts or intellectual honesty, are at least more honest about their sociopathy. But in the meantime, I dunno. Be idealistic about individuals, but cynical about people. Be skeptical of people who promise to "help", or at least be aware of what's in it for them. Stop watching the network news, and stop voting (except, of course, when the Republitards offer up their inevitable Sarah Palin/Lonesome Rhodes ticket in 2012) -- the best way to disempower liars is to ignore them. That goes for the health-care nazi protesters as well; those animals need to kindly fuck off and die already.

It's been a while since I've had a good, solid rant on, and damn it feels good to be a gangsta. But I do seriously think that we do not necessarily have to be wealthy to have our own "separate peace". We just have to pay attention and plan ahead, live within our means, keep our skills sharp and keep learning new ones, be nice to those in our lives (and on our teevee screens) who deserve it and rid ourselves of those who just bring toxic baggage with them. Be our own mercenaries, basically, rather than worrying about the bloated plutocrats who think they should rent some to save their own sorry hides from the seething masses they helped perpetuate.

Deep Preseason Thoughts

If I had the time to play fantasy football this year, I would just make sure to load up on as many running backs that will play against the Raiders this season as possible. They have no run D. They're vulnerable against power sweeps around the edge; they get burnt on gap blocks up the middle. They gave up over 250 yards against Frank Gore and a bunch of scrubs.

I like #7 pick Darrius Heyward-Bey a little more than most of the analysts; he's blazing fast, has a good attitude, and seems to genuinely care about working on his hands. He's going to draw double coverage in opposing secondaries every time he's on the field. Compare and contrast with #10 pick Michael Crabtree, who is still holding out for #7 money (seriously), and who, when he finally does end his holdout/tantrum, will join a 49er team coached by a, let's say, fairly intense Mike Singletary. (Yes, I know Tom Cable beats up his assistants, but compared to Singletary, the Cable Guy is a freakin' teddy bear.)

Best case scenario, DHB will have an average of 3-5 receptions per game, and only a few of those will be actual game-changers. And the pass defense looks solid, though those safeties are going to get burnt at least once or twice a game.

But the most gaping hole on the team -- the run defense -- went completely unaddressed in the offseason. Of the line rotation of Tommy Kelly, Terdell Sands, and Gerard Warren, only Warren plays notably well, but is too old to be an every-down run stopper. Kelly is way overpaid and gets a lot of offside penalties, and Sands, at 6'7" and 300 lbs., routinely gets beaten by smaller o-linemen because he's useless and doesn't understand the principle of leverage. Sands must have pictures of Cable and/or Al Davis with a dead girl or a live farm animal, because there's no other reason to keep him, especially after he punched punter Shane Lechler -- by far the team's most consistent player during their six years of suck -- on the plane ride back from a victory in Denver last season.

The Raiders have two more preseason games to get their shit dialed in, because so far, LaDainian Thompson and Darren Sproles are just licking their chops at the prospect of September 14th. Even with all those rushing yards, the Niners only won by one point because they're still trying to figure out who's going to be their quarterback (and Alex Smith deserves credit for two excellent tackles, one of which saved an interception return from becoming a touchdown). The Chargers don't have that problem. It could get ugly early.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

....And the Horse You Rode In On

Oh, this is fuckin' rich. Mere hours pass after America's favorite crazy-ass ex-governor starts yammering some fever dream about "death panels" and shit, and she has the balls to call for moderation. That particular farm animal is long down the road, honey. You and your goober-rousing friends have taken what should have merely been a tedious dog-and-pony show to legitimize the Democrats' latest exercise in circular-firing-squad futility, and turned it into an ongoing series of town-hall putsches, punctuated by the addled bleats of ignorant goat-fuckers, mindlessly goaded into action by the most transparent scam this side of Nigerian royalty.

The more I see this crap, the more I resent it, but not because of its obvious lack of legitimacy as genuine grassroots activism, not because they resort to ever more vile tactics and rhetoric, not even because its participants are uniformly unencumbered by even basic facts. It's because if they had half a clue and a sense of proportion, they could be channeling that weird energy into at least a slightly more productive direction -- for example, menacing Goldman Sachs employees until they either give back the money they've stolen or jump out their office windows.

The world is crumbling around them, and they've allowed a scumbag HMO meat-puppet like Dick Armey to deploy a cyber-army of flying lobbyist monkeys, and bamboozle them into thinking that the most constructive thing they can do while they're indefinitely between jobs is to show up half-cocked to harass Arlen Specter with a misspelled swastika placard and a bunch of poorly remembered slogans and catchphrases. Chickens voting for Colonel Sanders indeed.

The health-care "plan" is surely an industry-written crock of shit, but not for the reasons these bozos think it is; indeed, if they were even close to being right, from the looks of most of them they would have been converted into soylent green for the FEMA concentration camps already. It's certainly their right as 'murkins to be losers and morons, and proud of same, but they've abandoned their last semblance of dignity in the process as they shamble toward their inevitable dream ticket of Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

The Winamp Shuffle

Calling to You -- Robert Plant
Dun Ringill -- Jethro Tull
Flathead -- Fratellis
Longing for Fire -- Scorpions
Purgatory -- Iron Maiden
Wait -- Zo2
My Mathematical Mind -- Spoon
Fuck Her Gently -- Tenacious D
Day of the Eagle -- Robin Trower
Faultline -- Yngwie Malmsteen

Bonus: Cypress Grove -- Clutch

My Daily Misanthropy

I've said it before and I'll say it yet again -- there are days when I actually wish their paranoid fantasies were true, if only because it would definitionally mean less of their whinging, cringing, tedious bullshit. They string words together without bothering to learn the meaning, and they rail against imaginary nazis while studiously ignoring the real ones among and around them. If this isn't a group that needs to be curbed from further inbreeding, I don't know what would qualify.

But more to the point -- they quite deserve the miserable health-care/employment/education/infrastructure they so avidly desire, which is the one we all currently have. I am tired of reading anecdotes about so-and-so's sister/aunt/senile grampa who collects SSI and Medicare, hasn't held (or even looked for) a job in fifteen years, and goes to teabagger parties to rail against The Man. Do us all a favor and fucking pull the plug on yourselves already. Or whatever. Go John Galt, get off the grid, do what y'all keep threatening to do. It'll work out better for everyone.

But the day someone, say, uses their infant's stroller to hold up some offensively ignorant "protest" sign that doesn't remotely mean what they think it means, they definitely deserve to have their goofball dreams come to pass. See you in the concentration camp!

Sunday, August 02, 2009


Belated congratulations are in order, I suppose, for the media's comparative restraint on Obama's silly-ass beer summit. What an epic circle-jerk that whole thing was. One would have ordinarily expected much more fulminating about the president's choice of beer, one of those usual can't-win-for-losing deals like mustard or cheese. Pick something "regular" and you're fake, or trying too hard; pick something that actually has some taste and quality and the yew-thank-yer-better'n-me yahoos start climbing the walls. But he had a Budweiser, currently produced by a Belgian company. I doubt Obama is much of a beer-drinker to begin with, but does anyone really think he drinks Bud? (Of course, I'm sure the "birthers" are cracking wise with malt-liquor jokes; we'd expect nothing less from them.)

Maybe it's a California thing, but Budweiser is typically imbibed by hicks and migrant workers around here. Sure, Bud Light has more universal appeal, and is great for keg stands and frat parties, but that's a different animal. It's just strange how even the simple choice of a preferred beer conveys a perception of status for some people. Speaking for myself, I like microbrews, I like something with some craft and quality to it, I like dark, heavy beers sometimes, and there's always someone who'll make a face when I grab a Sierra Nevada Porter, while they choke down some Natural Light swill, fuckin' swamp water that's already been passed through a hobo. Keystone Light. I mean, that's gotta be like ass-eating Kate Gosselin or something, you know? You could lick envelopes and postage stamps with more character and taste than some of these beers.

I dunno. If he wanted to go for symbolism, I think Obama could have gotten some real mileage out of a more adventurous choice of brew, instead of playing it safe. It's nice to have a premier brewery in our backyard up here in the NorCal, but Sierra Nevada really does run a quality operation from the top down, and have been forerunners in everything Obama purports to stand for -- ethical business practices; paying workers a decent wage and treating them very well (they have an extremely low turnover rate, and job openings there are highly competitive); exceptional employee benefits and health care; green business practices (everything from solar panels in the parking lot to innovative wastewater treatment systems) -- they actually walk the talk.

They've even gotten in on the locavore movement, and are about to release a new ale made entirely from locally-grown hops and barley. And they're not a "microbrewery" (with the snide connotation of elitism the faux populists so enjoy) by any means -- in 2005 they were the tenth-largest brewery in the country, and with Anheuser Busch owned by the Belgians and Miller owned in part by the Canadians, at this point SNBC is the second-largest "craft" brewer (behind only Boston Beer Company, who still use Stroh's facilities to crank out Samuel Adams), and certainly one of the top five American-owned-and-operated breweries.

For a guy who rode into town with promises of creative thinking and solutions, he seems not to think outside the bottle much. After hanging out with Goldman Sachs scumbags for so long, it might be a refreshing palate-cleanser to check out a business with some ethical practices.

Confirmation Bias

I know, I do go on and on about perfidious corporate news entities and dickless Democrats who never miss an opportunity to screw their own party (and national) interests over, hypocritically bleating about "special interests" when they're in thrall to them. But damn, they prove my case for me with such regularity.