Sunday, September 27, 2009

He's a Loser, Baby

Super fun series about all-world twisted fuck Glenn Beck. Just affirms your faith in 'murkins all over again. No surprise that Beck is the sort of creep who taunted his former close friend on the air about the friend's wife having a miscarriage; no surprise that Beck is a borderline personality who traded coping mechanisms from coke and pot to magic underwear. It makes sense that this animal has a fan club of weirdos, and it certainly makes sense that the morning zoo assholes of the '90s devolved into the wingnut radio assholes that pollute the airwaves of this benighted decade. It even makes sense that Beck would have a #1 bestseller by plagiarizing a classic title, poaching a misused sentiment to spoon-feed his nonsense to a bunch of retards who have neither the guts nor brains to actually read Thomas Paine.

A piece of shit like Beck himself would say that talk radio would have been better off had Beck given into his suicidal impulses of the early '90s, but that misses the point. There's never any shortage of narcissistic sociopaths waiting for their chance to scuttle out of the woodwork to inflict their neuroses on reactionary morons, just as there's always another maggot on a corpse. I mean, he's a rotten soul, and I wish nothing but the worst for him, but even if he retired tomorrow there'd just be another one, because scumbags like Beck reflect the issues of their audiences, who function only by projecting their own failures at thinking and comprehending onto whichever interchangeable radio rage monkey is handy.

Beck is to political commentary what Kanye West is to music, which is to say that his very presence and popularity are as much symptoms of a diseased and dying system as they are factors in its problems. They give their fans what they want, and if that's all they want, then they deserve every bit of it.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Monetheism and Its Discontents

Here's an interesting, if earnest, discursion into the boutique rationales of Why It All Collapsed Around Our Ears. Digging up contrarian theorists from bygone days is no doubt a rewarding pastime for many these days, and not without its merits. Lucky timing, seeing as how Michael Moore is set to launch his latest broadside at The Man.

It's probably not a surprise that I'm mostly a fan of Moore's bumptious populism, though some of the street-theater antics can be tedious and self-serving at times. But I respect that he's trying to make a dry subject entertaining and draw more people into the salient arguments; however, at this point his audiences, as with Chomsky, are largely self-selecting.

As with most Moore efforts, I'm inclined to presume that Capitalism: A Love Story will have plenty of valid points to make, all of which will quickly be swept away in the tide of reflexive nattering and rigorous fact-parsing performed by individuals who save exactly such tasks for exactly these occasions. This does not mean that I think Moore is never wrong; rather, for every time he's wrong or injudicious in his remarks, there are several dozen other instances that he's absolutely correct.

There's a helluva lot more wrong, in terms of editorial emphasis and intellectual honesty for starters, in any given nightly network news broadcast. Certainly the niching (in cable and blogs) of the distribution of information and analysis echoes in tone and context any of Moore's rhetorical shortcomings; the problem for the ankle-biters may be that Moore's soapbox is larger than theirs. Also, he's fat.

Anyway. Since I haven't seen the movie and won't till it hits Netflix (I love documentaries, but the theater experience seems remarkably ill-suited for viewing them), I'm not going to go out on an intellectual limb and praise or damn the effort. (This seems to be an increasingly uncommon stance to take, to be unwilling to inflict an opinion about something without actually having experienced it, but there ya go.) My quibble -- and it may in fact be addressed somewhere in the film, we'll see -- is in the title. The subject discussed in the movie, and in the linked Globe article, is nominally "capitalism", but it is not in fact actual capitalism. This is not the usual difference without a distinction; it's the very heart of the matter.

Every generation naturally thinks (or more accurately, intuits as part of its collective self-actualization) that it bears witness to unique occurrences in history. Sometimes that actually happens, but more often than not, they are variations on past events rendered on a greater order of magnitude by technological advances. This is especially true of the economic collapse. It is not a failure of capitalism itself, at least as that term has been understood for several centuries now. I hate to sound like some ivory-tower Hayekian or something, but capitalism is much less likely to fail people than the other way around.

And that is precisely what happened over the last couple years. It bears no resemblance to the capitalism that Adam Smith wrote about, nor David Ricardo, nor Hayek, nor even Milton Friedman, though certainly Friedman was as sound a proponent of pure muscle and gall as the dismal science has ever seen.

But capitalism, at its heart, is about finding and creating efficiencies in production, operations, financial capacity and mobility (presumably culminating in an orgasmic celebration of Ayn Rand copulating with a throbbing dollar sign). A product is made, and its desirability in the marketplace determines its value, price, and cost, all of which are run through various operational processes to find the most efficient methods of production, pricing, and distribution.

What we've borne witness to was no unique moment -- it was a small, insular group of spreadsheet bookies, armed with an arcane formula none of them understood, and a withering sense of entitlement that more than offset their distaste for accountability. It's organized crime, dressed up with the trappings of legitimacy and the furbelows of institutional opacity.

The difference is that thieves and grifters didn't always have Excel to help them commit their crimes more quickly and efficiently, and on a much grander scale. Bank robbery is for pikers; the man who can fuck over the entire planet and make them pay for it besides is someone to be reckoned with. Neither Adam Smith nor Hyman Minsky could have predicted the stranglehold such people have on the financial engine of the world, and they sure as hell wouldn't have recognized it as capitalism.

One of my many pet peeves is the oft-misquoted Bible verse regarding money, which in fact states that it is the love of money that is the root of all evil. Again, it is not capitalism that fails people, it is the other way around. It is the painstaking worship of money for its very own sake, for the cause of sheer accumulation and nothing else, for the studied indifference to the greater utilitarian good in the service of greater pyramidal asset/income disparities. It's people who buy enough influence to tell you to your face that they deserve all your money, and you should be grateful for the privilege of mortgaging your grandchildren's futures to cover their gambling losses, and they're gonna do it again, and there ain't a fuckin' thing you can do about it, podna.

But of all things, what it most certainly is not is capitalism, any more than what passes for conservatism these days has anything to do with, as Russell Kirk called actual conservatism, the negation of ideology. This abuse of capitalism is, as with modern conservatardery, the opposite of the actual meaning of the word.

It discourages actual production of tangible goods, and embraces a baroque system of triple-cross-wagering which even its own practitioners do not fully comprehend. It's leveraged tranches and credit default swaps and infesting the political process. It's scumbags betting on the actuarial viability of bundled life insurance policies, where the sooner you die, the more money they make. It drives prices up on captive markets with spec trading, in order to manipulate profit-hoarding. It's parasitism on a violated corpse. It's not an economy, it's a necronomy.

Worst of all, what these people do bastardizes the pragmatism of true capitalism's risk-reward scenario by removing the intellectual underpinnings of rational self-interest -- after all, if you're not actually risking anything of your own, you'll throw money on every Nigerian prince scam that comes your way, because there's literally no reason for you not to.

Substitute "accountability" for the much-abused "capitalism", and some of these critiques might find themselves on a sounder track. It's as much a political problem as it is an economic one.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Westward Ho

It's been at least a few weeks since our good friend Kanye West has gone the extra mile to remind everyone what a complete douchebag he is. Seriously, I'd rather be trapped in a chlamydia sandwich with Paris Hilton and Kate Gosselin than be in the same state as this fucking clown:

At the beginning of the evening, Kanye West stormed the stage just after the first award, for Best Female Video. Taylor Swift won the award, and during her acceptance speech, West abruptly cut the teen singer off, grabbing the mic and protesting in support of Beyoncé, who was also nominated.

"I'm sorry, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time," he proclaimed as B looked on from the crowd, stunned.

Soon afterward, West was escorted from the building.

You know you're a jerkoff when Heidi Montag comes off as a voice of reason compared to you. Somebody needs to beat him unconscious and lock him in a dumpster. In an industry littered with talentless, self-absorbed assholes, Kanye routinely distinguishes himself from the pack. It's as if he has some sort of compulsion to constantly prove that he can be an even bigger dickhead than previously assumed. Texting "2mrw" for "tomorrow" just seals the deal. Where's Mark David Chapman when you could really use him?

At some point, this worthless turd-burglar will be asking people if they want fries with that, and that day cannot come too soon. Hell, without AutoTune, that day would have come years ago.

No More Excuses

Same as it ever was -- the Republicans never fail to disappoint with ever newer and more innovative ways to pollute the "debate" with their clownish bullying and strutting, and the Democrats never fail to drop to their knees and suppress their gag reflexes. The latest case in point is inbred mouth-breather Joe Wilson, who has heroically decided not to give in to Democratic demands to apologize to President Hopenchange again. And really, that is the most sensible response Wilson could have.

Consider: the Democratic Party has a sizable majority in both houses of Congress, they have the White House, they won less than a year ago with a significant mandate. Hopenchange gets heckled at what both sides pretend was an important policy speech on a contentious issue. A party with half a clue how to use the electoral majority possessed by the Democrats would have taken care of business with a shithead like Wilson -- wordlessly accepted Wilson's "apology", dropped the subject, and promptly found someone to run against him next year with triple whatever funds Wilson pulls together, and made goddamned sure that nothing this scumbag brings to committee in the meantime makes it out. Instead they set Wilson up for further grandstanding for his retard constituency by asking for another apology. Eight years of political wedgies and being forced to eat garbage by the Cheney crew taught these people nothing.

The most galling part of all this is that Wilson is correct, just not for the rabble-rousing reasons he asserted. But Obama is in fact a liar and a sellout; he campaigned on a platform of idealistic principles that were actually fairly pragmatic and viable in scope, and sold them out at the first opportunity. He promised to take on the vipers in the financial sector who heedlessly wrecked the economy, and first chance he got he gave them a fresh new stack of chips to play with. How's that recovery workin' for ya, folks? Executive bonuses for epic failure continue unabated, and even the pathetic regulatory oversight will remain unchanged. The casino managers have gone right back to doing what they were doing, and you can't really blame them. Again, they've been given absolutely no reason not to.

The health care reform scam is just as unforgivable; after Hopenchange spent the entire summer last year promising to make the public option a cornerstone of his reform plan, he and the rest of his party chose to do what they always do, and punted on first down. This is going end up being at least as big of a naked grift as the bailout has been -- medical costs will be as unconscionable as ever, and corporate waste and bonuses will be unaffected. The only change will be that, instead of getting soaked when you're unlucky enough to actually have to use the system, it'll just be taken out of everyone's front end. It would have been bad enough, but at least understandable, if somehow Hopenchange and his minions had fought the good fight but still come up short. But they didn't even try. They're every bit as gutless and craven as their buffoonish opponents think they are.

The financial and health-care industries have certainly gotten what they paid for. You can't say that both parties don't do their damndest to make sure their corporate owners get a right proper return on investment. Getting value is important, as every good shopper knows, and the most important value in Washington is "once bought, stays bought".

The question has to be asked, at least rhetorically: what exactly would have been different if John McCain and Sarah Palin had been elected? Sure, the symbolism would have been substantial; it would have told the rest of the world that Americans were every bit as dumb and mean as eight years of Bush/Cheney had led them to believe. But operationally, what would have been different? Maybe a more belligerent tone with Iran, but not much more than that; our Chinese creditors would probably not find an additional American military adventure in their backyard to be all that good for business.

There was an awful lot of talk at the beginning of the year, how messages had been sent and received, how they were ready and eager to fight the stupidity that had infested the government, how Rahm Emanuel was a tough-guy back-room enforcer who doesn't take shit from nobody, how an insurmountable electoral majority was going to provide the impetus for saving this country from its past excesses, blah blah fucking blah. It worked out as these cheap promises and dickless half-measures always do. Plus ça change and all.

I don't know what the solution is; short of bringing back the guillotine, I doubt there is one. It just cannot be noted often enough how despicable all of these people truly are. They're vile, through and through. They're a goddamned disgrace. They need to go. Either vote them all out at the next opportunity, or refuse to vote at all. That's a start.