Saturday, January 31, 2009

Health to Pay

Not to indulge in useless contrarianism, but I disagree that Steyn wants anyone to get syphilis. Even as a polemic, it's somewhat dotty. Steyn just doesn't care one way or the other, and it's a convenient axe to grind, since Pelosi (per usual) allowed herself to be rope-a-doped into wasting valuable face time defending it.

These are obviously tough times, and it is difficult to defend the notion of tax dollars being spent to combat the results of poor impulse control. This does not make Steyn right in his assertions, simply selective, since we've been spending six times that amount in Iraq every week for years now, and Steyn couldn't care less. If anything, Steyn's blithe comparison of funding neighborhood initiatives with Saddam gassing Kurds is more obnoxious.

There are a great many physical conditions and diseases which are preventable -- STDs, AIDS, lung cancer, heart disease, obesity -- that the government does not regularly intercede in. On the one hand, it's a free society; everyone gets to go to hell in their own way. On the other hand, these are all quite easily preventable, and they cost the taxpayers and the private sector an enormous amount in health-care costs, and they can be addressed with various modes of positive intercession; for example, rather than simply sin-taxing everything that's "bad" for you, the revenue from said tax could be used to subsidize gym memberships.

Some corporations have even instituted wellness goals with bonuses and payouts for meeting certain quantifiable benchmarks (weight, body mass index, blood pressure, cholesterol). A large-scale system could conceivably be set up along those lines, which of course creates yet another level of bureaucracy, but again may mitigate some of the damage that our horrific excuse of a health-care industry has wrought. It is a system more geared to throwing money at catastrophic conditions, or enabling crazy indigents to breed like state-supported rabbits, than utilizing common-sense preventive methodologies to not only prolong life, but enhance the overall quality of it.

I realize that imputing sexual puritanism to the incessant finger-wagging of these people is easier to do, but Steyn's cobbling of half-thoughts and poached riffs is a broader indicator of just how dead even their own vision of "conservatism" really is. Guys like Steyn aren't even trying anymore; they're just rolling a dead hobo in an alley, hoping one more penny will fall out.

Permanent Vacation

As of yesterday, I've been laid off for six weeks now. And I gotta tell ya, aside from worrying about whether or not I'll be able to find a decent job again, I feel great. Money, or more accurately the lack of it, is the only thing that ever gets me worried. Fortunately, I've never concerned myself with the accumulation of it. My policy of just getting by remains intact.

Ordinarily, you figure that when you lose your job, you have to trim the fat in your budget, as it were. Some of the personal-finance gurus on the teevee are especially hilarious; they find suckers who live beyond their means to begin with, and find all sorts of fat to trim, idiots with massive credit-card debt and entertainment budgets. Hell, I can take a ludicrous budget like that and pick it apart, give me a book contract and some teevee appearances.

Our only extravagances are satellite teevee (95% of which we could do without anyway; an à la carte subscription system is long overdue), internets service (actually not much of a luxury anymore, since the majority of job postings and hunting is done online now), Netflix (a whopping twelve bucks a month), and food (eating healthy costs more than not eating healthy). So, not much to trim, which means it becomes a creative exercise in financial juggling. So far, so good.

So money is kinda jacked, but money is always jacked for nearly everyone. But on the personal happiness index, it's pretty good. Instead of getting up at five and getting home at six, I've been able to see my daughter when she leaves for school and gets back home, and even go on a couple field trips with her. I have time to exercise now, and have already lost ten pounds and put two inches back on my arms (chicks really do dig the gun show). I grab a guitar and play as often as possible, several hours a day, rather than the hour every week or so of aimless plunking. I have time to read actual books again, and have knocked out over half a dozen since Christmas. The weather has been amazing, and an opportunity to get out and walk and do yardwork. The long-postponed honey-do list is getting systematically tackled. Days suddenly seem full of things to do and enjoy and accomplish, rather than squeezing in a couple of necessary chores on the weekend, in anticipation of another soul-sucking week of commuting and tedium.

All these things are vital to peace of mind, obviously, which may be the most overlooked element in being successful at finding a job you actually want. It's hard to sell yourself, especially in a glutted market, when you can't get centered. This is even more true if, like me, you're the sort of person who tends to overcommit to your work, and become too much of a "team player", to where everyone just takes their problems to you because they know you'll take care of it.

And so many of us are experiencing the same thing, and there's some solidarity in that, that we all want and need to get working again, hopefully at something fulfilling and enjoyable, hopefully sooner rather than later. It's okay -- in fact, it's necessary -- to remain skeptical and at least cautiously pessimistic about how things are shaking out across the country. I think we're all angry as hell about how the big picture is going, and we should be angrier, if anything. But these times may also serve to help us refocus on the small pictures, and rethink what's important in life.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Palin Around

Never one to miss an opportunity to keep quiet, or to shake the government tree for her welfare state, La Palin has decided to attend some glad-handing insider dinner specifically to meet Obama.

Which will put her two degrees from noted terrist Bill Ayers. Scary.

Dead City

As if its miserable football weren't metaphor enough for its overall condition, Detroit is a sad case of a formerly great American city come apart at the seams, in virtually every way imaginable. From their inability to regroup after losing their industrial base (as opposed to, for example, Pittsburgh), to the loss of every citizen who had means to leave and the destitution of those who didn't, to terminal corruption and chronic mismanagement, Detroit seems to be in a death spiral. Do you try to save the patient with the usual means of financial and civic triage, or do you try another, more comprehensive strategy to rebuild or restructure?

And can it serve as a cautionary metaphor for the country?


Who's got more gall: the thieving bastards using our money to give each other failure bonuses , or the moron getting in vitro even though she's got, um, six kids already and lives with her parents? Discuss.

What they have in common is we get to foot the bill for all of them. Awesome.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Super Bowl Shovel

Well, we all know that the conference championship games are usually the best ones in the entire playoffs (although the Super Bowls have been much better the last few years), and I actually missed them both for the first time in I don't know how many years, being out of town that day. Had I bothered to make predictions, I would have wanted Baltimore to win but been realistic enough to take the Steelers, and ditto for Arizona and Philly respectively, which would have been another .500 week for picks. So much for that.

So I guess it's cool that the Cardinals have finally gotten off that Super Bowl schneid, but despite NBC's best attempts to pimp the hype, the economy has sucked all the oxygen out of the room. Super Bowl weekend, the secular version of Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter all rolled into one, is being overshadowed the way the most recent holiday shopping season was.

Not for lack of backstories, either; not only 'cause Kurt Warner and Ben Rongrastname make sure we all know they loves 'em some Jeebus, but Arizona coach (and former Pittsburgh OC) Ken Whisenhunt is more likely than not to do what Jon Gruden did to the Raiders six years ago, and use what he knows about his former quarterback against him. Whatever Whis said to his team after their embarrassment in Bahston in the penultimate regular-season game, it has especially motivated the Cards' D, and their improved line pressure and speedy secondary should give Roethlisberger some headaches.

On the other hand, Dick LeBeau really is the Secretary of Defense. The aggressive "fire zone" schemes, the discplined play of the front seven, the ability to turn an undrafted player like James Harrison into a bona-fide star -- that's all LeBeau and his defensive schemes and player mentoring. Larry Fitzgerald has had an outstanding playoff season, but Arizona's ability to win is likely to hinge on whether Anquan Boldin is healthy enough to get open when Fitzgerald is double-covered, and whether Warner has the time in the pocket to trust Boldin as an option.

Either way, it should be a decent, evenly-matched game, and may simply come down to a last-second Jeff Reed field goal. Everyone should have as much fun as Reed is having this week.

Final score (with bonus financial prediction):

Steelers 20, Cardinals 17

Dow -250 on Monday.

La Résistance

Per usual, Roy is spot-on here. The stimulus plan thus far, whether attributed to Obama or Fredo, sucks balls. There's no two ways about it. The idea, however, that any Republican has mustered anything at all aside from notional opposition is hilarious.

On the one hand, I'm tempted to hand it to them as being estimable players of parliamentary games. They seem to know, where people such as Harry Reid seem not to, where and how to tilt at their chosen windmills -- that is, under the watchful gaze of the bonehead media, whose job as they understand it is simply to deliver rather than debunk.

The Republicans are used to running on pure muscle and gall, making up for a current lack of the former with an inexhaustible supply of the latter, and they know that only media humps would be scared of a guy named "Boner". And Obama still has to learn the art of the smackdown, that since he won, there is no upside to be gained in negotiating with losers and morons. Bush didn't know much, but he knew that at least.

But this may actually be a case of the last vestiges of post-Gingrichite holdouts overplaying a non-existent hand, hoping that your opponent overplays his hand first, and you're there to claim victory. It's what they have to do; they have no other cards to play.

Yet this is a case where the situation is essentially catastrophic in nature, and actually getting worse, and their master plan is simply to be barriers to implementation, hoping to appeal to yahoos who are more worried about providing condoms and birth-control pills to people who can't afford to have children in the first place, than about their own jobs and homes. Anyone with such priorities deserves to lose their job and house, which is why no one really has that luxury these days.

So good luck with that, guys. Let us know how that works out for you next year. Because either the stimulus plan will "work", to the extent it can address systemic problems in a short-run situation, and the obstructionists will be left entirely on the outside looking in, or it won't, which is still no guarantee that their non-plan would suddenly look better by comparison. No one is going to say, "Gee, if only we'd given the financial sector more tax cuts, this thing would have turned around by now!"

The finance weasels got their fucking bailout, and they're goddamned lucky we haven't strung them up. It's not really a good time to be humping anyone's leg for more and better tax cuts.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Rush to Pudgement

Now that Billy Kristol has quit wasting everyone's time at the Times, the genius move is to replace him with Rush Limbaugh. What a great idea, if you live in a bizarro world without a coherent philosophy.

To wit, the Times should pick Rush Limbaugh or a comparable full spectrum heartland conservative who defended Palin. Someone who would shock the Upper East Side, not reinforce its worldview in subtle ways. If not Rush, then Steyn or Lileks or someone with the intestinal fortitude for a fight.

It's a tad muddled whether Ruffini is implying that Limbaugh is in any way a "heartland conservative" (which, you know, would be even more ludicrous than these folks usually are) or that such a political unicorn would be an adequate substitute for Limbaugh. It's the end of that weird sentence that is truly the most puzzling. Why is "defended Palin" a criterion for the gig, why would such a thing be a qual to flash, seriously? She is well on her way to her rightful place as a footnote, a distant memory of a demagogic sideshow. This betrays a whole host of obvious issues -- lack of actual seriousness and intellectual honesty among them -- but usually these guys tend to be a little more circumspect about overloading the clown car when they are constructing Serious Proposals.

Of course, Ruffini finishes up with the obvious -- that they really just want someone who will piss libruls off, give 'em a weekly titty-twister whilst throwing red meat to the goobers. The thing is, I know my share of Limbaugh listeners (at least in the past; strangely, most of them don't seem to be bothering with him much lately), and none of them read, and they sure as hell don't read the New York Times, not even when it's Twittered and RSS'ed. I don't think the angry codger market that Limbaugh caters to from his beach mansion is up for all these nifty tech gadgets.

Nor would Limbaugh even want the gig if it were offered. Why would he? He's a shill, a carny, an obscenely well-paid lackey. His schtick is passing out affirmations to the easily fooled, not engaging in open debate. He's not a writer; he's in his comfort zone with a handful of notes and press clippings, practicing his basso profundo, riffing on whatever he pulls out of his ass. He famously works without a script, so why would he suddenly want to start writing them, so the fanboyz can feel better about their incoherence and epic failures?

Their selling point is that they think that Limpballs is on Obama's shit list, not recognizing Obama's use of Fatboy's name simply as a signifier, a shorthand to indicate that Obama rightly wasn't going to have patience with dealing with that mess right now. If the opposition has a legitimate counter-argument or proposal, they could present it without the effusive lies and loaded rhetoric Limbaugh and his ilk truck in. Simple enough.

And Limbaugh has already back-waddled from his earlier assertions that he wanted Obama to fail, lamely demurring that since the country's fortunes are tied to Obama's, of course he wants Obama to succeed, but simply believes that the policies are doomed to fail. This is a difference without much of a distinction, especially since none of these talk-show bloviators nor their minority-party counterparts in Congress have produced anything besides the usual ankle-biting routine.

What they seem blissfully ignorant of is how consistently all of the Times' columnists are regularly slapped around by liberals and centrists. Friedman and Dowd get as much abuse from us as Kristol or Bobo get. Krugman, Rich, and Bob Herbert are relatively unscathed, but that's because they manage to avoid the pundit trap of not knowing what the hell they're talking about.

Some of the commenters' suggestions are equally hilariousinteresting: Pantload, Pornmumu, Coulter, et al. It's as if they don't realize that these are names that they recognize precisely because they have been able to avoid the pratfalls of meritocracy. The current epitome of conservatard punditry would have to be Rove's gig at the Wall Street Urinal -- months of defending the abysmal, catastrophic record of the chump he helped install.

There hasn't been anything conservative about these people in a long time. They're reactionaries, antidisestablishmentarians, counter-reformationists, whatever. But there is no longer any internal logic to their laundry list of imaginary grievances, pud-pulling jeremiads for the most unqualified candidate for higher office since Dan Quayle. I honestly can't think of anybody that would please these meatheads and not turn the op-ed page into an even bigger joke. But as far as an actual not-liberal writer who can present ideas coherently, they could do worse than Niall Ferguson. Or they could just even it up with addition by subtraction and send MoDo on permanent assignment.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Dear Prudence

Today's dueling banjos of Ben Stein and Frank Rich plunk familiar melodies in dreary counterpoint. The theme, of course, is economic pain and the feeling thereof. Stein sings the not-terribly-sympathetic blues for the usual reckless nouveau riche asshole fallen on hard times somehow, someway:

She lives in a lovely home in a stylish inland enclave. It has an interest-only mortgage of about $2.2 million that requires a payment of $12,000 a month, very roughly. It was last appraised at $2.7 million, but who knows if it’s now worth anything remotely close to that price.

The woman, whom I’ve known since she was a teenager, has no job or other remunerative employment. She has a former husband, an entrepreneur whose business has suffered recently. He pays her $20,000 a month, of which roughly half is alimony and half child support. The alimony is scheduled to stop this summer.

She has a wealthy beau who pays her credit card bills and other incidentals, but she is thinking of telling him she is through with him. She has no savings and has refinanced her home repeatedly, always adding to indebtedness and then putting the money into a shop she owns that has never come close to earning a dime. Now she is up all night worrying about money. “Terrified,” as she put it. She wanted me to tell her what to do.

Gee, I dunno -- brush up on job skills, figure out where the remaining $10k/month after the alimony stops might get you another place, decide whether you want to be a kept woman with some rich guy paying for your shit or not. Christ almighty, this is not an existential dilemma, except for these narcissistic assholes who think they're entitled to all their toys and privileges just because they're so damned special. But it is a decision to be made, and to paraphrase some smart guy, her choice not to make a decision in a more timely manner still qualifies as a choice.

We know why most people have no savings and have continuously refi'd their homes to make ends meet -- because they are not paid enough money at their jobs to get them by, much less ahead, because income disparity is a sport in this country. But if you're paying an interest-only mortgage on a $2.2 mil house, and not putting away a dime of your household income, you're a fuckin' moron. Maybe you can take it in the shorts and live in a measly one million dollar house, live within your means, sock away part of the difference. If she thinks she's terrified now, wait till she sees what the other 99% of the country have already been going through, how they live day-to-day. Since her life has been a lark anyway, perhaps she can continue down that road and make some serious cash, instead of dumping it into her money-pit boutique.

I'm not sure why we're supposed to feel much sympathy for people who lived as if they thought gravity would never apply to them, and to his credit, I don't think Stein sympathizes much beyond the normal bounds of friendship. Still. This is a person who, despite what she thinks, has options beyond the literal destitution that faces a lot of Americans right now. It's just that she may have to work for her living, and live within her means, which is actually easier to do when your income is earned rather than merely glommed or absorbed. Better to eke by on macaroni & cheese on your own than to fuck some guy with a platinum card 'cause he takes you to Le Dome.

But what's really kind of hilarious is Stein's pale hints to his son, who sounds like a bit of a layabout:

These gloomy thoughts have been compounded by the holiday newsletters I have been getting from old pals and classmates. I have been getting them for about 45 years. This season, for the first time I can recall, the talk in the newsletters is not the usual tales of world-beating triumph by genius children, but of jobs lost, homes in jeopardy, children whose jobs have vanished and who are on the road looking for work.

And all of this is compounded again because my handsome son, age 21, a student, has just married a lovely young woman, 20. You may have seen on television the pudgy, aging face of their sole means of support.


I wish I could teach that work ethic to those close to me. I wish I could teach them that money is a scarce good, worth fighting for and protecting. But I very much fear that my son, more up-to-date than I am in almost every way, is more of a modern-day American than I am. To hustle and scuffle for a deal is something he cannot even imagine. To not be able to eat at any restaurant he feels like eating at is just not on his wavelength. Of course, that’s my fault. (I have learned that everything bad that happens anywhere is my fault.) And I hope to be able to leave him well enough provided for to ease his eventual transition into some form of self-sufficiency.

I guess the rich really are different from the rest of us, because in my family, you don't get married until you have some means of supporting yourselves, unless of course you knock her up and have to do the right thing. But it's funny that Stein, who began his career in the Nixon administration, and has pontificated on "conservative" values ever since then to the passive mass of rubes, has himself apparently raised an overprivileged veal. Young Vealstein is capable of getting Daddy to put him through finishing school and pay his way through life until he lands a sweet gig as Jonah Goldberg's intern, but apparently unable to fathom the very idea that his own father and grandfather made their careers propounding -- that there is no free lunch, that all your toys and treats are not entitlements, but must be earned.

It's hard to find much besides disdain and embarrassment for people whose raisin-detree is preaching the values of hard work and thrift to the peons, yet are completely incapable of passing those things on to their own progeny. Rules, as always, are for little people, the better to keep them from waking up and crashing the gates.

Stein's "kids today" plaints fall on deaf ears here. I started working when I was thirteen, pushing around a roto-tiller bigger than myself in 100º heat for three bucks an hour. I give far less than a fuck about Junior's Blackberry and cell privileges, or if he has to work a night job to get through school. You just know Stein's inclination is to use his connections to get the kid a gig at one of the winger welfare clinics, but like his profligate female friend, Stein has to decide whether he wants his kid to actually contribute something of value to society, or just be a puling, useless pud who never has to earn an honest living.

Now, Rich's countermelody initially sounds the usual anti-fat-cat tocsin as if he assumes Obama is serious about doing something meaningful about it all.

On Tuesday the new president pointedly widened his indictment beyond the sins of his predecessor. He spoke of those at the economic pinnacle who embraced greed and irresponsibility as well as the rest of us who collaborated in our “collective failure to make hard choices.” He branded as sub-American those who “prefer leisure over work or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame.” And he wasn’t just asking Paris Hilton “to set aside childish things.”

Ahem. I don't recall Obama even asking "Paris Hilton" to set aside childish things. Instead, he seemed to be referring to it in the collective sense, as if we were all in this together. And we're not; I have no interest in bailing out bookies. The problem is, unless there is proportionate accountability -- that is, rather than spreading the pain and making sure everyone gets a fat dose, real accountability is doled out according to the level of venality or stupidity that caused the problem -- Obama's homilies are a meaningless rhetorical wave.

The millions of Americans who played by the rules, worked hard, paid their bills, lived within their means, kept their eye on the ball, should not be asked to pay for John Thain's $1400 wastebasket. Thain should either be pushing ass out of prison for the next few years, or figuring out how to live out of that fucking wastebasket, rather than simply having to recalc his net worth from eight figures to seven and figuring out how to get by on such a pittance, while the rest of us bail out his worthless ass. I hear a lot of complaining about them, but so far, no substantial proposals for what to do about them. These people are thieves; fuck 'em.

It's not entirely unfair to bring up a useless cipher like Paris Hilton (whose hotel chain, let's recall, was snapped up by the Blackstone Group before the latter's insolvency), a person whose very presence is a reasonable indicator of the malignant narcissism of the culture overall. There's a broad streak of self-regard, without any self-awareness, undergirding popular culture and perception. That does need to change, and it appears that it will, much to the unwitting chagrin of people like Ben Stein's hapless acquaintance, unsure of life on the outside without weekly mani/pedi visits and therapeutic shopping sessions on her sugar daddy's titanium card.

This is the moral and intellectual paradigm, this rigorous asceticism that Stein and his ilk have been tediously preaching about ever since their Atlas Shrugged circle jerks back in college. Well, some of us knew these things already without being lectured by hypocrites, without going through life expecting everyone else to pick up the tab when it came due. It's their soggy biscuit; let them choke on it.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

News You Can Lose

CNN continues its reign as the gold standard of....well, thinking that something is newsworthy just because they say it is, and inventing a "headline" out of thin air around it.

What about the jacket "rule" makes it "major"? Was it an actual written "rule" with established scopes and procedures for punitive or corrective action, or was it simply that Fredo felt more dignified wearin' a jacket that matched his preznitential shit-kickers, whilst wiping his ass with the Constitution, since playin' dress-up was always higher on his priority list than actually doing his damned job? How exactly was this "major" "rule" "scrapped"; did "Obama" formally sign some sort of executive order rescinding this "major rule", or is it just a fuckin' picture, signifying nothing at all of portent? Maybe each office-holder gets to set his own preferences. Imagine that.

You'd think that while John King was "contributing" to this happy horseshit, he'd have bothered with finding at least one of those things out, before crafting that moronic headline. You know, maybe flesh it beyond that big second paragraph, earn that cool byline. Maybe he had to wear a jacket to get paid to spelunk his own ass. Christ I can't stand these people.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

King for a Day

I don't recall the last one of these inauguration things I actually watched, and I've never sat all the way through one, what with all the ceremonial invocations and doodads. And the media commentary is about as ludicrous as Aretha Franklin's hat. But the sheer size of the throng is certainly impressive. Here's hoping that they and/or Obama mean it. There really is a lot of potential there, between Obama and the legions who believe, and one wishes for real success, even as reality tempers one's expectations.

Decent speech, some veiled repudiations at Fredo's all-encompassing incompetence and institutionalized corruption; mad props to throwing "non-believers" at the end of the "who Americans are" list. Right behind Hindus, yay us. Thanks for that shout out, especially after "Doctor" (of what, gravy?) Warren's presumptuous circumscription of what God is responsible for, and whom He loves.

Look, asshole, if God loved everyone and everything He made, He wouldn't let kids starve while Bernie Madoff holes up in his fuckin' penthouse; He wouldn't let His rats be skinned for Lynne Cheney's coat. Etc., etc. There are at least as many reasons not to believe as there are to believe, and a substantial one is the unfathomable success of sideshow carnies like George W. Bush or Rick Warren. If God loves His children, why does He make them so gullible?

Apparently the financial wizards heard the stuff about accountability (Dow down 200 right after Obama's speech ended), and are afraid he actually means it. One can only hope. It really does all start and end with holding people accountable for what they've done.

And enough with the fawning, credulous commentary over what a gracious exiter Bush has been. Good fucking riddance; the man has been a menace, who treated the country and the world like New Orleans for eight full years. I don't expect them to kick him in the ass on the way out the door, but they don't have to kiss it either. The man leaves under a cloud, largely of his own creation. He deserves nothing but contempt; the least we can ask is that he be ignored. There are few better arguments for the eventual demise of corporate media organizations than listening to them prattle on so.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Behavioral Therapy

It's been a while since we've taken a run at -- or hell, bothered to read -- our old buddy Bobo, but he rarely fails to disappoint. Here he attempts to circumscribe theoretical behavior of theoretical actors in a theoretical world. It's almost charming to watch.

Markets tend toward efficiency. People respond in pretty straightforward ways to incentives. The invisible hand forms a spontaneous, dynamic order. Economic behavior can be accurately predicted through elegant models.

This view explains a lot, but not the current financial crisis — how so many people could be so stupid, incompetent and self-destructive all at once. The crisis has delivered a blow to classical economics and taken a body of psychological work that was at the edge of public policy thought and brought it front and center.

In this new body of thought, you get a very different picture of human nature. Reason is not like a rider atop a horse. Instead, each person’s mind contains a panoply of instincts, strategies, intuitions, emotions, memories and habits, which vie for supremacy. An irregular, idiosyncratic and largely unconscious process determines which of these internal players gets to control behavior at any instant. Context — which stimulus triggers which response — matters a lot.

This mental chaos explains how people can respond so quickly and intuitively to so many different circumstances. But it also entails a decision-making process that is more complicated and messy than previously thought.

Nothing like overthinking the obvious. All these airy-fairy sentiments about "market efficiency" and "rational actors" and all that shit, it all goes out the window the second the players realize that if and when they screw the pooch, they can make everyone else pay for it. If that's not incentive enough to be completely reckless and dishonest, I don't know what is.

Put more precisely, there is no disincentive to bad behavior -- worst case scenario, a couple of Bernie Madoff types lose most of their pelf, do a couple years in a tennis-court "prison", and come out and recoup a few mil in speaking fees, pretending to have come to Jeebus, à la Michael Milken. Gee, we should all be penalized so heavily for our misbehavior.

I think we're looking at an unforeseen end stage of globalization, personally. Mobilization of capital is one thing -- was the prospective strength of the globalization movement, in fact -- but where it affects America specifically is that bailout economics necessitates that the mobility of now largely nonexistent, mostly overseas capital must be preserved at the direct expense of keeping our manufacturing base outsourced.

The capital has been exposed as fictitious and baseless, yet the means of producing real capital have not been reinstituted, because it has been deemed more important to preserve the baroque pseudo-system of "producing" the fictitious version. I can't even make a lame joke about it; that is simply not the behavior of a rational market with rational actors, that's a casino. You don't have to be Adam Smith to figure that one out.

We cannot simply continue to do each other's laundry, as the saying goes, if we can no longer afford to pay for the service. For example, if, say, the New York Times finally figures out it can train a chimp to come up with Bobo's inanities, why would it continue to pay Bobo for the privilege? Why do you think Billy Kristol is going? Shit, Bill Keller could flip quarters at random street-corner crackheads and get at least as much accuracy.

I realize these people actually get paid to thumb their dicks in print, which must be pretty cool, but Christ they can be thick.

Global Warming. Catch It!

I feel for you folks east of the Rockies. It's been like April here all week -- mid-70s, low wind, the only reminder that it's nominally winter being the moderately cool (40-45º) nights. Today's been even better -- yardwork all morning, hang outside and read all afternoon, barbecue some chicken and andouille skewers in a while, wash it down with Red Hook Winter Brew.

Come summer, when wildfire season hits like a ton of bricks, compounded by drought from three dry winters, it'll get ugly. But I conserve water and keep my field mowed, as do most of the people in this area, so all we can do is ride the wave. It's just weird to think about friends and relatives in Iowa and Missouri and such, and there's about a hundred-degree discrepancy right now.

They Write Letters

Quite a collection of letter writers to the Times Mag this fine weekend, responding to this article (which, among other things, I covered here). I'd say the Columbia Business School prof comes closest to the heart of the matter here, even going so far as to accurately limn the signature sociopathy inherent in these people.

The question was never whether their risk-management formulas "worked", or what the confidence levels were, blah blah blah. Anyone who works with numbers knows that you can manipulate them sufficiently to say what you want them to say; you don't have to be a stats geek to understand that.

Everybody knows that this is a specifically human (investment banker, anyway) based problem, rather than faulty mathematical models. I think we all get that already. The question is what we are doing with all the reptiles who caused all these problems. Instead of being punished -- or hell, even just keeping them away from money in the future -- they are being put back in play with other people's money. Awesome. How can this brilliant plan not work?

The problem is that it is just universally accepted, contra the most basic stated principles of capitalism, that the risk penalty -- that is, the cost of guessing wrong or an overreliance on arcane equations rather than actual value -- gets dumped on people who had nothing to do with any of it. And the people who profited from their corrupt decision-making process not only aren't guillotined or strung up from the nearest lamppost, but are rewarded for their actions with continued solvency.

Say what you want about how China does things, but over there these animals would have been lined up against a wall several months ago, and their families sent a bill for the bullets, just as a friendly reminder. This is not an ideological nor a philosophical nor an economic dilemma -- it's simply a crime in progress. It's not that complicated. Perhaps sawed-off shotguns and ski masks and sacks with dollar signs embroidered on the side would clarify this.

Rather than another coddling pencil-pusher at the Fed and the SEC, we need some Vic Mackey types.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Farewell Redress

"Nobody panics when things go according to plan. Even if the plan is horrifying." -- Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight

"They got the guns, but we got the numbers." -- The Doors

[Graphic via Vanity Fair.]

Perhaps you have heard about Oscar Grant, the New Year's partier who was shot -- while zip-tied and face-down on a Bart platform -- by a transit cop, touching off a series of riots in Oakland. As you might expect, these "riots" had initiated as peaceful protests, and even in the early overestimations of their severity, don't remotely approach real riots in the past.

As the Grant case has been covered in detail by the Bay Area media right from the start, I've paid pretty close attention to the whole story, and it sure as hell appears that, at the very least, both the transit cop and BART exacerbated the situation by acting in bad faith. BART confiscated one witness' video of the shooting at the scene, apparently thinking it had the only copy, until another video was leaked to a news station, thus foiling what would almost certainly have turned into an attempt at institutional opacity. Meanwhile, the cop resigned rather than talk to internal affairs. For the past seven or so years, we have immersed the country in the rank waters of how innocent people have nothing to hide -- well, there ya go.

Columnist Jon Carroll, who lives in Oakland, puts all this in perspective, while rightly contrasting the causes and severity of riots in other countries. It's simple for us sensible people to agree that trashing nail salons and such is a rash response to a sad situation, but it's also unfortunately true that sometimes that is what it takes for officials to take at least one appendage from the vicinity of their exposed asses and actually do their jobs.

All of which brings me to Captain Fuckup and his inevitable attempt to whitewash his miserable reign of error. I don't even want to think about how much time, how many words I've expended in various fora and blogs over the past ten(!) years, since this clown foisted himself on an unsuspecting nation. I assume most rational people have long tempered their assessments and opinions of him lest they attract the Secret Service. Such is the catastrophic damage Bush and his claque of merry bastards have wrought upon the nation and the world; such is his and their arrogant refusal even to acknowledge the fundamentals of it all, much less own what they've done.

Bare minimum, the man does not deserve another good day, or another good night's sleep for the rest of his life. Ancient curses were always more creative; may he and his be cursed with awareness and misfortune for the next ten generations, something along that line. Or, you know, a comical set of tragic mishaps involving daisy cutters and willy pete. Some people are incredibly lucky that karma does not exist, at least for them.

Bush didn't merely fiddle while the world burned; fiddling, after all, requires opposable thumbs, some measurable level of actual dexterity. This was simply an endless bumble, an incoherent, artless monkeyfuck of a tenure. And he's proud of it, every damned bit of it, a sociopathic level of indifference.

And why not? He and Cheney probably did just fine throughout all this. Did they lose a loved one in the wars they started, in the hurricane they ignored? Have their stock portfolios plunged the way everyone else's did; do you really think their pension funds took nearly as much of a haircut as yours has? Of course not. They, and the corrupt rentier faux-capitalists who purchase access to them, made out just fine, selling short on the margin, letting someone else carry the costs, in finance and in life.

And people just want to "move on", whatever the hell that means. We're not moving on from shit, bunky -- Iraq is stabilizing to the extent that Iran can co-opt it; Afghanistan is ugly and likely to get much uglier; the economy is a series of storms and rising waters, not lifting all boats so much as surrounding most houses. But at least the thieves got their no-questions-asked golden parachutes.

And no one riots about any of those things, they just trudge on, perhaps wishfully thinking that "things" will be "different" "now", without bothering to define those terms consistently. I can't imagine too many people, outside of hardcore political wonks, will actually watch Fredo's little goodbye speech; I certainly don't have any stomach for the emetic properties of such a thing. Nobody with half a brain has given a shit about anything he's had to say for years now. But one would think it'd be game for more open and impassioned repudiation somewhere along the line.

Not that they'd sit up and take notice, much less care. They don't unless they're compelled to, and no one's really compelling them.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Stranger Than Fiction

I think it's great that our short-bus media experts use the ludicrous narratives and crude revenge fantasies of 24 to circumscribe their positions on foreign policy in general, and torture in particular. Why not? After all, the country overall has been run like a particularly tragic episode of Silver Spoons the entire time.

Maybe it's just an especially ham-fisted attempt at network product cross-promotion, something to natter on about between American Idolt updates.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Red Sea Pedestrians

To defend his tendentiously unconditional defense of Israel's actions in Gaza (or really, wherever) Kunstler theorizes that the most ardent declamations of the disproportionality of Israel's responses are actually financially motivated, since everyone blames the Jews that run Goldman Sachs or whatever for ruining the economy. (Yeah, I couldn't quite follow that one either.)

Here's the thing that neither the Zionists nor the Jew-baiters seem to get: the interest that the average politically-aware American has in Israel's periodic travails is generally humanitarian rather than partisan. And proportionality, contra the hawks, does count for something, especially when there's no formal declaration of war. But "rooting" for "peace" does not mean siding with one side over the other, because the current and past actions by both sides indicate deep patterns of bad-faith negotiations and deliberately unworkable compromises, which are not the same thing as peace. Both the jihadis and the Lubavitchers need to be repudiated and marginalized in that debate, otherwise the situation will never get resolved -- which, considering the nihilist, apocalyptic bent of both those groups, may be the point.

Either way, most non-Jewish Americans do not really have much skin in this game, aside from the Left Behind crowd. Israel is indeed the most humane and secular government in the region, but its settlement and security policies, aside from being unnecessarily punitive and brutal, are simply untenable in the long term. You can only herd people into ghettos and poach their land and water for so long, without smallpox blankets or something. Really, it is possible to look dispassionately at this intractable situation, one that has needlessly, habitually been ramped up by both sides, and simply come away with no real dog in the fight, except to desire that fewer children be smithereened, whether accidentally or deliberately. This is not that complicated.

Cherry-picking a bunch of nasty e-mails and crafting a broader scope of opinion out of them is about as disingenuous as saying that action figure/brain surgeon "Joe" the "Plumber" is an actual journamalist:

"I'll be honest with you. I don't think journalists should be anywhere allowed war. I mean, you guys report where our troops are at. You report what's happening day to day. You make a big deal out of it. I-I think it's asinine. You know, I liked back in World War I and World War II when you'd go to the theater and you'd see your troops on, you know, the screen and everyone would be real excited and happy for'em. Now everyone's got an opinion and wants to downer--and down soldiers. You know, American soldiers or Israeli soldiers. I think media should be abolished from, uh, you know, reporting. You know, war is hell. And if you're gonna sit there and say, 'Well look at this atrocity,' well you don't know the whole story behind it half the time, so I think the media should have no business in it."

It's like he broke into Sarah Palin's stash of stupid pills, begging to be fisked. Starting with, oh I dunno, that the guy who reported "where our troops are at" was Geraldo Rivera at Faux News, that motion pictures were not nearly well developed enough during World War I to be an effective propaganda system, that Sam Shit-for-Brains himself is in Israel pretending to be a member of the media that he claims to despise.

Sounds like this clown is about as good a reporter as he is a plumber.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Divisional Predictions

Okay, let's try another round of these guesseshighly accurate predictions:

Baltimore @ Tennessee: Kerry Collins' resurgence this season has been a good story, but this will be a defensive struggle, and after last week's beatdown in Miami, the Ravens' D has KFC (Collins' middle name is Michael, but one of the Raiders' fan blogs bestowed the "KFC" moniker on him all the same) in their sights. Holy shit, did you see Ed Reed's Willie Mays interception of Pennington?

Ravens 16, Titans 10.

Arizona @ Carolina:
The Cards managed to get out of their own way to bring Atlanta's Cinderella season to an end last week, but they don't travel well (0-5 on the East Coast this season, most of them blowout losses) and they don't do bad weather (40º and possible rain in Charlotte today). If Arizona's running game and defense perform as well as they did last week, and if they can shut down Carolina's excellent running attack, and if Kurt Warner can exploit the Panthers' mediocre secondary with his three 1,000-yard receivers (Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, and Steve Breaston), the Cards have a chance. And if my aunt had balls, she'd be my uncle.

Panthers 30, Cardinals 20.

Philadelphia @ New York:
Philly has played with a real sense of purpose the past month, peaking at the proverbial right time. Their ferocious defense and McNabb's reversal of his mid-season slump might be enough to keep monster-truck RB Brandon Jacobs off the field and out of the end zone. The Giants have faltered lately, going 2-3 since Plaxico Burress' distractions, and Jacobs' injuries. But they always seem to bring just enough to get by, and are motivated by Philly's embarrassment of them last month. This will probably be the best game to watch this weekend.

Giants 23, Eagles 17.

San Diego @ Pittsburgh:
It's axiomatic by now -- the deeper the Chargers go into the playoffs, the less likely they'll have LaDainian Tomlinson, who will sit this one out with (ouch) a muscle separation from the pubic bone, aka sore mangina. Mini-Me backup Darren Sproles was outstanding last week, but that was at home against a mediocre Colts defense. Punter Mike Scifres was the real star of last week's game, especially at the end, pinning the Colts against their own end zone. Ask the Raiders -- when your punter is your most consistent player, your team needs some help. LT Marcus McNeill got away with skull-fucking Indy DE Dwight Freeney all afternoon last week, but that shit won't fly in Pittsburgh, who has done more with less (on offense at least) than just about any team still in it. Dick LeBeau ought to be Secretary of Defense. Philip Rivers is going to meet Heinz Field in a variety of prone positions. Good times.

Steelers 17, Chargers 6.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Ponzi Package

It would be easy enough to characterize his opinion piece as an opaque hint toward the need for better and more pliant sexbots, but the fact is that Spitzer has a valid point. Since Obama has not yet formally acceded to office, the smart thing to do has been to hold fire on passing premature judgment. But so far, the proposals are pretty underwhelming, and that includes Thursday's hortatory speech on the imperative nature of Our Crisis.

Obama talks about "responsibility", yet so far has utterly failed to hold the "responsible" parties even rhetorically accountable. Handing a blank check to the very same dumbasses and spreadsheet bookies who lost the money in the first place is not a logical acknowledgement of "responsibility", sorry. The bailout has been ongoing for a full quarter now, and all that has happened is that the official rate of unemployment has ticked up a full point, and instead of recirculating that bailout cashola back into the economy, the banks appear to have used it to shore up liquidity and reserves. That's the best guess anyway, since apparently they don't owe anyone a fucking explanation.

Maybe I'm just a simple caveman, but I'll be damned if I can figure out how this is better for this smoke-and-mirrors economy we have, than simply handing every taxpayer a check for ten or twenty grand. Seriously. Even the infrastructural makework projects in the upcoming proposal are simply bandaids on a deep wound, temporary fix-its for systemic problems.

When oil prices skyrocketed last summer due to panicky future speculation (not unlike the current market itself), as with all price spikes, industry solons fingered their rosaries and recited the usual catechisms about fungibility. Expecting any other response would be like expecting a carny to tell you that half the bolts are loose on the Tilt-A-Whirl, or that the ring toss is fixed. And indeed, the availability of oil is fungible, though obviously subject to all the various geopolitical risk premiums we've all heard about since Fredo decided to bungle into Baghdad lo these many years ago.

But risk premiums aside, the fact is that the summer spike was due to bookie-generated activity -- the spreadsheet monkeys saw other spreadsheet monkeys jumping in to buy futures at whatever ridiculous price they could get, and engaged in a spate of lemming-like behavior. They panicked each other into thinking that the price would continue to ascend practically indefinitely. This is what happens when greedy assholes are allowed to play with other people's money. Not a huge secret there.

And at no point (at least not a publicly admitted one) is the likelihood of peak availability in the face of ramped-up demand acknowledged. Just imagine what the prices would have been in such an instance. What we've seen over the past four months or so in the financial market is an eerie parallel to the oil dynamic -- the heavily leveraged speculation on a commodity that may or may not even be there in the first place. Basically what you had, it turns out, was people basing their valuations on risk management formulas, in many cases without accompanying contextual data.

In other words, to use Junior's most idiotic go-to phrase, these clowns would fire up the Excel sheets, dial in their VaR quants right after closing, and use those numbers to decide what over-leveraged, over-valued, over-bundled securitized derivative to unload. Clearly this was independent of actual company or valuation data, at least on the front end, or they wouldn't have gotten so overextended in the first place. So you end up with a cascading series of panic short-selling on the CDOs and SIVs and credit default swaps and all the other phantom-valued, hyper-leveraged derivative junk.

Friends 'n' neighbors, I'm not an economist, nor do I play one on the teevee, but this makes about as much sense as cashing in every asset you own, and using it all as collateral to borrow ten times that amount from a loan-shark, to bet on the Super Bowl a month in advance. Except you've also decided to base your ultimate decision on which quarterback finished the season with the highest rating. This year, Philip Rivers finished with the highest rating. Go hock your house and car for collateral on a much bigger personal loan, and bet it all on San Diego winning the Super Bowl, and see what that gets you. That is essentially what these fucktards have done, and they've been able to do it because they, unlike you, are secure in the knowledge that no matter how careless and ridiculous they are with their little bets, we'll bail them out, and thank them for the opportunity.

This is no way to run a railroad, and when wealth ultimately turns out to be largely fictitious, except for those at the very top end of the pyramid, the debt-based economy becomes less and less viable. I'm not quite ready to buy into the bucolic low-consumption resilient community scenarios just yet, because human nature is what it is. But the scenarios these folks portray, however post-apocalyptic or even exaggerated from some points of view, at least have the benefit of sounding less implausible or irresponsible than the conventional ones that are being foisted upon us by our agents of change. I don't see a Mad Max scenario developing, but it's more likely than AIG doing a fucking thing to replenish a single job that the finance industry's shameless excesses have cost. Prove me wrong, you thieving Wall Street cocksuckers.

Since Bernie Madoff's big bust, the boutique references have revolved around the nature of Ponzi schemes. It is unclear as to what part of the supposedly conventional system of finance we operate under does not qualify as a Ponzi scheme. Why should it take $800 bn to create 3 million jobs, which would be over a quarter-million per; why not just disperse the money directly instead of through a bureaucracy, or a grasping industry that has overextended itself?

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Jernamalism Skool

Some things are as impossible to parody as they are to get irritated about. Coulter is always going to be a liar and a shit-stirrer, at least as long as it's profitable, and the teevee shows are willing to have her little circus act on. Plus ça change and all. At some point her crowd -- or even her wingnut welfare sponsors -- may tire of her writing the same book over and over. They may even realize that they no longer have the luxury of being morons, that there's not much percentage in it these days.

I suppose Sam the Mascot's upcoming impassioned missives from the Holy Land (now with more holes!) will be entertaining enough. But obviously he, like Coulter and the rest of that lot, are performing for a crowd that not only holds the majority of their countrymen in contempt, but more importantly holds even the basic methodologies for gathering and processing actual information in an equal measure of deep contempt and ignorance.

The idea that maybe both Israel and Palestine are wrong never crosses their minds. It never occurs to them that having sympathy for overbreeding maniacs who turn their children into suicide bombers is as difficult as having sympathy for people who herd and corral other people into shitholes like rats, for generations, poach their land and water, and then wonder why they're nuts. If you don't believe in sacred sand, then you don't really have much of a dog in this fight, except insofar as realizing that neither side really wants peace in its conventional definition. It's not that difficult to figure out.

Enjoy the dancing monkeys, don't forget to tip your waitress.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Small Favors

Call me a cynic, but I don't buy this for a second

Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor and brother of President Bush, has decided not to run for the U.S. Senate, ending weeks of speculation that he would preserve a Bush family power center in the nation's capital.


Bush said he intends to focus on his growing real estate business and on devoting time to his family. He spent much of today calling friends and supporters to give them the news.

There ya go. A Bush turning down a shot at power has other irons in the fire. Who the hell has a "growing real estate business" in this grotesque monkeyfuck of an economy, which specifically cratered around overvalued and overbuilt housing? It's not hard to imagine the Moonies or the Saudis leaving the key under the welcome mat for Jeb to bankroll some venture op to snap up foreclosed and distressed properties for pennies on the dollar. I honestly can't imagine any other way to make a sufficient amount of money in the real estate biz right now, that would make someone turn down a better-than-average shot at a Senate seat.

It must be something to be able to make a large buck while roughly 90% of the population is curled up the fetal position. "Advising" Lehman Brothers is pretty funny, though. That's about as helpful on a résumé as being an anger-management coach for O.J. Simpson.

Jeb, being the smart(er) one of the brood, most likely just has the timing to keep his powder dry for now, say the usual conciliatory homilies about Obama (while bitching about the "unfair" treatment his incompetent brother received during his reign of error), and keep an eye on the economy. Either Obama does and says the right things to start turning this listing barge around, in which case Jeb makes money anyway in his new venture, or the economy continues to tank, giving Jeb ample cover to change his mind and run "for the good of the state".

If the Democrats are smart (and clearly, from their inability to get on the same page, to their ridiculous handling of Illinois' Tainted Guv fiasco, they aren't) they'll start developing some talent in America's Wang right now. I suppose it depends on which demo they want to concentrate on -- snake-handling crackers, retired Jews, whatever -- but considering Obama was able to win the state in part by galvanizing and flipping the next generation of Miami Cubans, they might want to go that route.

But they should figure something out, because one way or another, Jeb will be back eventually.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Dynasty of Fail

Maybe it's time someone pulled Poppy Bush aside and explained to him that the country has better things to do these days -- thanks to the epic incompetence of his eldest son -- than employ the rest of his idiot brood. Isn't that what the Moonies are for?

The fucking balls on this guy, really. Between the headlong rush into feckless war and incoherent dithering during disasters -- financial Katrinas as well as meteorological -- there's a decent case to be made that nobody named Bush should ever hold public office again, even if they aren't related to these chumps, just to be safe. This cheap attempt to burnish a non-existent legacy is pathetic. Yes, we have not been attacked on US soil by terrorists since 9/11. But that's because Junior made it unnecessary for them to do so.

And sooner than any of the legacy-strokers seem to realize, the perception will become more realistic. Energy security and financial security are national security, and on those measures we have been attacked, and we are unsafe and unstable because of it. Except this time around, the entire nation is New Orleans. All we need now is for Ma to tour a squatter camp or an empty commercial lot and remark how well things have turned out for those people, since they don't pay rent on their cardboard box, and commercial space is so much cheaper, since no one has money to buy anything anymore.

So yeah, maybe we could take a break from this insufferable clan of swells for a while, what say? Heckuva job, Poppy.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Wild Card Weekend

Here's your one-stop guide to baseless NFL playoff predictions. As always, wager safely.

  • Atlanta @ Arizona: Kurt Warner has had an impressive reboot this year, and Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin are the most dangerous receiving pair in the league. Too bad they have neither a running game nor a defense to work with. Their December disappearing act highlights the fact that the Cards are merely the best team in the worst division -- maybe not even that, had the 49ers not waited till Thanksgiving to get it together.

    The Falcons, on the other hand, have had a turnaround on a par with that of Miami, perhaps even more so, considering that no one knew who the hell Tom Dimitroff was when he inherited a horrifically dysfunctional organization, Matt Ryan seemed a stretch at #3, and Mike Smith was plucked out of Jacksonville's staff to fill Bobby Petrino's hastily departed seat. Smith has the team peaking and playing hard in all phases, Michael Turner is the best free-agency acquisition of the season, and Kurt Warner will get to know John Abraham today.

    Falcons 38, Cardinals 20.

  • Indianapolis @ San Diego: I've said it before, and I'll say it yet again -- the Chargers are easily the most overrated team in the league. The defense has played about as well as can be expected without the disruptive Shawne Merriman plaguing opposing quarterbacks. The offense has overachieved down the homestretch, setting the stage for LT's annual playoff fade. Much has been made of San Diego winning out after a 4-8 start, but none of their last four victories (Oakland; Kansas City; Tampa Bay; Denver) came against a playoff team, or even a good team.

    The Colts certainly have their holes, but Manning has earned his MVP award, carrying a team with no running game and a suspect defense to nine straight victories after a bad start. Indy rested most of their starters in last week's 23-0 sleeper over #1 seed Tennessee, and Manning surely used all that extra time to figure out ways to get a fast start and use San Diego's lack of line pressure against them. San Diego most likely shot their wad against Denver last week. Norv Turner is about to get pwn3d. Again.

    Colts 34, Chargers 17.

  • Baltimore @ Miami: Two solid teams, each with a compelling comeback story. The Fins have turned around last year's 1-15 disaster with a combination of Chad Pennington's leadership, Tony Sparano's willingness to innovate with the now-popular "wildcat" offense, and Bill Parcells' uncanny management acumen. The defense has quietly improved as well, turning chronic loudmouth Joey Porter into a bona-fide sack machine.

    While it pales compared to Atlanta and Miami, the Ravens' own turnaround, with a rookie head coach and rookie QB, is still noteworthy. As it is, Joe Flacco has made the job his with impressive decision-making and very few turnovers. The defense is as nasty as ever, and will probably be the difference in the final outcome.

    Ravens 17, Dolphins 13.

  • Philadelphia @ Minnesota: Two chronically underachieving squads vie for the privilege to be playoff fodder for either the Giants (if the Eagles win) or the Panthers (if the Vikings win). Still, both teams have played hard down the stretch, though Adrian Peterson has suddenly gotten a case of the drops. Philly's D seems geared toward making Tarvaris Jackson's day about as long as they made Tony Romo's last week, while the Vikes' defensive line should shut down the Eagles' already inconsistent commitment to an actual run game. Can't they both lose?

    Eagles 20, Vikings 14.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Predictions for 2009

Let's peer into the HotB crystal ball (sponsored by Patrón) and see what fresh outrages await us over the coming twelve months:

  • January: Obama is inaugurated to a flurry of kazoos and hurled lingerie, for which an unrepentant Sean Hannity is unceremoniously escorted out. Rick Warren writes another unreadable book, chronicling his nightmare in the lions' den of mild rebukes from diffident gay activists. Democratic congressional supermajority continues to allow itself to be pushed around by inbred Republican douchebags and Joe Lieberman, promises "real change" in 2010.

  • February: Unemployment hits 12.5%, Dow soars to 11,000 on "good news". Working-class Americans finally start getting the impression that the people who pull the levers in this country fucking despise them, then go back to discussing new roster of American Idol contestants. The CPAC convention is brought to a rollicking conclusion by a pantsless yet judge-sober Fred Thompson. Jack Black's Academy Award acceptance speech is punctuated with incoherent epithets regarding Florida's perpetually tanned governor, leading one Variety columnist to dub Black the "anti-Crist". Hi-yoooo!

  • March: Dick Cheney goes on canned hunting trip with George W. Bush and Harry Whittington, comes back alone with telltale scratches and a bag of dead flightless birds. Americans are unsure how to react. Intellectual one-tire fryer Jonah Goldberg blegs for Funyun recipes and research tips, announces plans for his next epic tome, Progressive Communism: From Planned Parenthood to Toys 'R' Us, to be released in 2012 or 2014, or whenever he finishes his spec script for An American Carol 2: Dipshit Boogaloo.

  • April: D-list blogger Heywood J. pens his gripping memoir, Blog Like Me, a harrowing account of his experiences in the seamy, bloated underbelly of intartubez discourse. After an endorsement by Oprah's Book Club -- during which Mr. J. drunkenly frugs Ms. Winfrey's couch pillows while proclaiming his unholy lust for Maria Sharapova -- the "memoir" is revealed to have been heavily embellished, plagiarized, and completely fabricated. The movie deal falls through, doing irreparable damage to the careers of Will Smith and Guillermo del Toro.

  • May: A compromise on the 2008 California budget is finalized at long last, just in time to begin negotiations for the 2009 budget. The compromise is a seductive combination of sales-tax increases, job- and benefit-cutting measures, and IOUs for magic beans. Amazingly, California continues to grow in population. In a tragic yet hilarious mishap, Howie Mandel gets a pinky finger snapped off in a suitcase while taping Deal or No Deal. Jeff Zucker and Ben Silverman, determined to lawn-dart NBC, hand over the network's 8:00-9:00PM bloc for the entire week to DoND, prompting Tina Fey to take 30 Rock over to Showtime.

  • June: Consumer confidence continues to plummet, except for fast food, QVC paste jewelry, and Shamwows. An AIG executive is hunted down by a lynch mob and strung up by his golden parachute. Verne Troyer comes back to beat Lorenzo Lamas in a very special Dancing with the Stars finale. Box-office records are set by hotly-anticipated Hills movie, in which Heidi and Spencer pretend to get married again, this time in a three-way in Lauren Conrad's hot tub, officiated (and filmed) by Rev. Justin Bobby.

  • July: Stephen Colbert declares to run against knuckle-dragging troglodyte Jim DeMint for South Carolina Senate seat in 2010. Rest of nation considers genuine merits of the idea, while South Carolinians, unemployed and intoxicated as ever, overwhelmingly endorse DeMint after he swamps them with mailers insinuating that Colbert was born in Kenya and adopted by a tribe of heroin-snorting rhesus monkeys. India and Pakistan nuke each other out of comical (in retrospect) misunderstanding; Americans are forced to make their own soccer balls, answer their own tech support calls, and find India and Pakistan (or where they used to be) on a map.

  • August: Obama takes vacation in Hawaii, much to Cokie Roberts' chagrin, as she takes a break from her usual buffet lunch at Myrtle Beach Stuckey's to decry Obama's elitist choice of an exotic, non-American place to spend his free time. Obama responds by telling Roberts to "go clear some fuckin' brush". Reg'lar 'murkins come up with snappy synonyms for "staycation", pretending weekend husk of government cheese is a bowl of ballpark nachos.

  • September: In opening quarter of first regular-season game, Randy Moss tears his ACL and is out for the season, causing a rash of Masshole suicides. After failing to qualify for the next season of Dancing with the Stars, Moss turns up in the reunion tour of the All Sports Band, with predictably hilarious results. Kelsey Grammer ponders his career choices, has another drink. Lindsay Lohan continues to be Hollywood's go-to gal for some cheap 'n' nasty.

  • October: The esteemed nomination process for the (ahem) Rock and Roll Hall of Fame takes a hit when, in despair over his inability to decide between Men Without Hats and The Human League, Jann Wenner nearly chokes while fellating his life-size nude statue of Lester Bangs. Ultimately Wenner takes the Solomonic path and nominates both groups, throwing in Orchestral ManchowderManœuvres in the Dark and the Village People for good measure. After completing ten pages of his AAC2 spec script, Jonah Goldberg decides to switch projects to start The Legacy Elf: Quest of the Sinecured Winger, a fantasy allegory of Goldberg's career. Goldberg will scrap this project, twenty pages and eight months later, because of Brad Pitt's stubborn refusal to return Goldberg's calls.

  • November: Bristol "Jamie Lynn" Palin and Levi "Fuckin' Redneck" Johnston complete their set of Irish twins a full month before the informal deadline. Grandma -- that is, the grandma not doing time for oxy -- praises yet another blessed event through gritted teeth, reiterating that the kids are still just a few credits short of their GEDs, but are on the cusp of getting them. Meanwhile, having pissed through the $300k from the pics of the first bundle of joy, Bristol and Levi are surprised to find that the pics for this one (to be named "F. Troop Zamboni Johnston", nicknamed "Agarn") are about as in demand as those for Bronx Mowgli Wentz. The kids then devote their energies to finishing their high-school educations before their 20th birthdays, and checking cereal boxes for new name ideas.

  • December: Cease-fire formally declared in War on Christmas, leading to an Armistice Day for Dec. 12. The truce is quickly forgotten, as a wave of copycat Santa Claus spree-killers dominates news outlets during holiday season, because nothing says Christmas like messy divorces, impending destitution, and home-made flamethrowers. Nation convinces itself that 2010 will be better, and that Lucy will finally let Charlie Brown kick that football.