Saturday, June 27, 2009

Under the Rug

Mostly I like what Fareed Zakaria says and how he goes about saying it, but in this case I think Taibbi has it right.

Describing the misdeeds of Wall Street in the last decade by saying “few people acted… nobly” is sort of like saying that Stalin was “not always sociable” or O.J. Simpson was “not always committed to preserving life.” I mean, talk about a freaking understatement. Forgetting entirely the other insane lies in this passage (my favorite being the one about bureuacrats not taking cash for favors — I guess he means except for Bob Rubin taking $130 million or whatever from Citi after pushing through that merger), that “not so noble” bit is where Zakaria earns his money.

Because if you get into the actual gory details of what went on in those years, there’s just no way you come out of that story not wanting to see every banker on Wall Street strung up by his testicles. The crimes of this era were monstrous thieveries, committed against ordinary people in a highly systematic and organized fashion with the aid and compliance of a bought-off government, and the only way you can not perceive what happened as a profound indictment of capitalism is if you blow off the specifics entirely and try to hide the details in vague, airy words like “irresponsibility” and “excesses.”

Because the specifics matter. It’s one thing to say that Citi wasted some of the money taxpayers sent its way via the bailout; it’s another thing to say Citi wasted some of the taxpayers’ money by upholstering the pillows on the private jet Sandy Weill took to Mexico over Christmas vacation with Hermes scarves. It’s one thing to say Wall Street bankers felt pressure to chase profits; it’s another thing to say they achieved those profits by systematically robbing a whole generation of pensioners and working-class homeowners, under the noses of the politicians they bought with tens of millions in campaign contributions.

Zakaria works hard to tell the crisis story minus these outrageous details. Then he goes on to argue that, basically, nothing should be done.

This is exactly it, but I'll go out on a limb and specualte that it has less to do with partisan politics or intellectual laziness than most critics might assume. Recall that Zakaria was consistently scathing in his critiques of the Cheney administration, particularly in their inept foreign policy, which is Zakaria's specialty. Economically he's as in the tank for globalization as one could imagine, and rarely wavers from that path.

So the problem here is twofold: one, that as much as Zakaria loathed the machinations of the neocons, he acknowledges and appreciates the normalizing influence of the Obama team, even if most of the promised changes have been little more than rhetorical; two, if globalization is to continue, then the economy has to straighten itself out ASAP. In this he unsurprisingly echoes the stance of the Obama economic policy thus far.

One of the qualities I appreciated about Obama throughout the campaign was his ability to maintain a calm and collected demeanor, no matter what manner of smears and calumnies were thrown his way. It takes an inner strength to deal with self-styled clowns such as Tom Coburn or Jim DeMint, or constantly off-the-rez DINOs such as Ben Nelson or Mary Landrieu, and not just tell them all to go fuck themselves. Such a quality, people assumed, would be more well-suited to dealing with the tinpot assholes of the world than the ignorant bluster of Fredo, who famously could not be relied on to know the difference between Switzerland and Sweden half the time.

But in the economic arena, we are seeing the downside of that quality. It has been official government policy -- and thus, that of the corporate media -- to characterize the damage done to the economy as a series of "mistakes", presumably made in good faith by well-meaning people. Consistently these economic woes have been portrayed as some unforeseeable doom that befell us while everyone was just working hard and playing by the rules.

Folks, that is just a flat-out fucking lie, and we all know it. The financial spreadsheet wizards knew exactly what they were doing, knew what the risks were, and went ahead and pushed forward with the aid and complaisance of politicians and media monkeys, because they knew there was no disincentive to failure. They knew that no matter how badly they screwed that pooch, everyone else and their grandkids would pay for it. I couldn't care less that some of these fuckers lost their jobs; they weren't any good at them in the first place, and they're goddamned lucky they're not in jail.

This was theft, pure and simple, robbery, larceny on an impossibly grand scale. There was a brief spasm of manufactured catharsis, as people railed against executive bonuses which were unconscionable in good times, unforgivable in bad. Obama promised to reel those bonuses in then promptly reneged on that, larding his econ advisory team with ex-Goldman Sachs weasels and financial lobbyists, negating yet other campaign promises about transparency and lobbying.

It's not a mistake or a coincidence that Taibbi is about the only one who's bothered digging into this massive story, while everyone else is busy crying over people who stopped having any real cultural impact a quarter-century ago, or chasing sanctimonous bible-thumping politicians who get caught with their pants down. You and your children and your grandchildren have been stolen from, and nobody is doing a thing about it. That seems like a big story that everyone has a stake in. Why do you think your official media have chosen instead to follow each other's tweets and sniff their own asses?

One thing about a guy like Zakaria is that his rhetorical blandness actually excuses him somewhat from accusations of inappropriate partisanship or intellectual dishonesty. He's more of the pragmatist/realist type, understands that the alternative is infinitely worse, realizes that Obama will continue to forget about the change he promised and mandated, and push through more of the same, rebranded and retooled but fundamentally identical.

The bigger problem is that that sweeps away lingering, troubling questions about the economy, and the future of globalization. If we acknowledge that the economic slump is a correction, because its fundamentals had been hopelessly undermined, then we intuitively understand that priming the pump and going back to what we were doing before is just going to lead to another, probably greater, series of cascading disaster scenarios.

As for globalization, while it makes sense on paper, the fact of the matter is that the logical result of it means that billions of Chinese and Indians will utterly rape the planet in order to bring their standard of living up to ours, and/or deal with enormous, seething underclasses. Americans are but 5% of the world's population and look what we've done to get what we've got; globalization seems to avoid taking into account what the world would look like if the other 95% followed suit. That's not economic imperialism; that's just reality. Already China has been decimating the forests in the Russian Far East to keep up with our and their own demands, causing enormous dust storms and environmental consequences, oblivious to the future ramifications. It's only going to get worse.

The fact that we would rather let ourselves be robbed blind and laughed at to our faces, than simply dial it down a couple of notches and start working toward leaving future generations something better than an unholy mess, is simply mind-boggling.

King of Poop

I don't if you've heard yet, but Michael Jackson has died. (I swear I instantly assumed cause of death as "choked on small boy".) So the worldwide rituals of vicarious self-actualization commence (and jeebus, but how psychologically damaged are you when you dress up like Michael Jackson and moonwalk on the sidewalk of his childhood home?), and everybody acts like something could or should have been done.

Eeee-fucking-nough already with this Princess Di schtick. Between the daily Demerol injections and the anorexia and who knows what all else, it sounds like he was lucky to make it to 50. He was never going to live to old age, not like that. But as the shade of Elvis Presley can tell him, there are more ignominious ways to go, like on the dumper at 42, stuffed with pills and peanut-butter-and-bacon sandwiches.

Look, it's sad when anyone goes, but when it's from a lifetime of not taking care of oneself, a toxic blend of chronic hypochondria and mental instability, it's not exactly a shock. What's shocking is that the supposed tour he was promoting just a few months ago had supposedly sold out, presumably everywhere but America. What the hell were these people -- the promoters and the ticket-buyers -- thinking? It had simply been far too long since Jackson had performed or recorded or even written anything at all, and had shown no signs of woodshedding to regain any of those lost skills. It ain't exactly like riding a bike, no matter what they say; you really do start losing it if you stop using it. I guess if you're the sort of person who shells out money to go to a Spice Girls reunion show, none of that matters, in which case you deserve to get fleeced.

A set of Jackson shows would have made Britney Spears' latest go-round look like the Jersey leg of a Springsteen tour. Pop acts don't really bother much anymore with even the pretense of "touring" anyway; everybody knows they're just paying for swag, and to watch choreography more-or-less synched with a backing track. A lot of this was covered in my epic takedown of Jackson's nonsense several years ago, and in review, I wouldn't change a word of it, unfortunately.

In the end, the thing that always annoyed me about Jackson -- and in turn his weirdly sycophantic fans; I mean, who else has such goofy-ass ball-licker fans like that? -- was the insistence on wild self-aggrandizement at every opportunity. He was a talented guy who made some good music over the years, but he could never be content with that; he proclaimed himself the reigning monarch of pop music as if the Beatles or about a dozen other great pop bands had never existed; he awarded himself some retarded "musician of the millennium" plaque as if Beat It was a triumph of composition that shamed Bach's violin partitas or Beethoven's symphonies.

Jackson always acted as if he had some sort of divinely anointed sui generis status that was really just self-anointed. These antics seemed to be inversely proportional to the actual amount of work put out, which made the whole spectacle increasingly embarrassing. The constant need for superlatives and overwrought validation just got old, and betrayed an ever-thinner grasp of reality, and an ever-wider set of unresolved daddy issues.

And it had fuck-all to do with the making of actual music. Seems like it would have been a lot easier to just put down the llamas and the teenage boys once in a while, write a few songs and record them, and keep steadily adding to that body of work, rather than lamely trying to burnish his icon status by lavishing titles upon himself like some comical third-world despot. Perhaps he should have tried to rename the months of the year while he was at it, but only the diehards would have remembered that today is Tito 27th.

As far as I'm concerned, the measure of a musician's efforts are most accurately shown in the depth and breadth of his influence on other musicians. You can find lots of pop acts who flash their Beatles influences, and you can find country acts who have a little Elvis in their sound. There are countless guitarists who are influenced even by people who died very young, such as Jimi Hendrix and Randy Rhoads, both of whose actual catalogs are quite small in comparison to most. Most of your prog acts have some Rush or Dream Theater (themselves disciples of Rush) influences, and pretty much every metal act is just redoing some variation on what Black Sabbath did nearly forty years ago. (In fact, I would say that because metal genres in particular mutate and propagate so fast, they're probably about six or seven generations out from Sabbath at this point -- and you can still hear it, in the tritone riffs and doomy incantations.) The point is that if you're popular and influential, you won't have to tell people about it -- there'll be plenty of other performers who will take what they like from yours, add some of their own, and push it forward. It has always been thus, since Mozart learned from Haydn.

But the only person nominally in the music bidness I can think of who shows a little Michael is our good friend Kanye West, with his lack of self-awareness disguised as hyper-awareness, the clueless over-the-top my-shit-don't-stink spasms of toxic self-regard, and the lack of fun. Music, even heavy music, is supposed to be fun, escapist, make you forget about the rigors of day-to-day life, not a weird pissing contest with the rest of the universe where skill and technique and passion are thrown out as criteria, and replaced by whoever has the largest video budget and the most dancers and moves the most units.

So while it seems like I'm pissing on his grave, there is actually a Michael Jackson I miss, and it's the cherubic little kid with the huge voice and grin. Even with his psycho dad and his equally cowed brothers, that kid was still able to enjoy what he was doing when he was up there. I don't think Michael Jackson had really enjoyed himself for a long, long time, because all his energy had been expended trying to levitate the myth, and all his money and talent had been squandered on his bad personal habits. That's really the sad part. I genuinely miss that kid, but I think we've all missed him for about twenty years or so.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Like a Surgin'

It's basically become accepted as gospel that the "surge" "worked", to the extent that the details are no longer even discussed in any real depth. For some reason (more money for the locals; more operational planning by CENTCOM; more direct cooperation between troops and locals) our noble intentions just finally worked, because the relative level of violence had dialed down from "daily bloodbath" to "less frequent carnage".

But the bombings are back in vogue, which ordinarily would tend to belie the earlier suppositions. Yet it doesn't even register much of a blip on the public radar. Iraq is very '07; Americans are more concerned with whether Kate Gosselin will scavenge enough alimony money to keep that Dennis the Menace haircut of hers.

Certainly some of the things about the "surge" did "work", but the questions were never asked -- how, and for whom? The Iraqi militias who were slaughtering their neighbors may have temporarily ran out of people to kill, or chose to lay low for a while to reconsolidate their positions. But the need to attribute all gains -- or even the apparent stemming of losses -- to our own efforts can easily lead to unpleasant surprises when the shit starts rolling again all of a sudden.

Consider: 150 people smithereened in three separate events over the past three weeks, in a country with less than two-thirds the population of California. If you had three bombs go off in three weeks anywhere in the US -- even if nobody got hurt in any of them -- half the country would be pulling their hair out like they'd fallen in a bucket of swine flu, and the other half would be screaming for martial law.

It's all very strange, how Afghanistan was the forgotten war at first, and now Iraq has taken that spot. Primarily this is because we are unable to view any foreign-policy issue outside of the context of our own immediate interests. Iraq "succeeds" or "fails" only to the degree that they sufficiently reform themselves to our wishes, and that we can take credit or deflect blame. The main thing is, whatever happens from here on out is Not Our Fault, until things come around, in which case We Meant To Do That Shit, and the rest of you assholes betta recognize.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Going Postal

I've been wondering how long it would take Izvestiya-on-the-Potomac to get around to cornholing Froomkin; I'm actually somewhat surprised they didn't do it a year or so ago. I'm sure it really does have nothing much to do with partisan politics; the Post, more so than any other national paper, has an obvious vested interest in not ruffling the feathers of the people they cover, because they all go to the same parties.

Froomkin is fuckin'-a right on about the role of journalists in calling bullshit, but it's more and more impossible for a cowed corporate media entity to do, by its very nature. There's no grand conspiracy here, really; the individuals have had the urge to perform actual journalism bred out of them by the rigors of corporate culture, as David Gregory has demonstrated time and again. He'll be perfect for Press the Meat for the next thirty years if need be -- bland, pliant, presenting the absolute least resistance possible, does not take offense to being lied to blatantly nor being talked to as if he was in third grade.

Gregory will be more than happy to have John McCain and Newt Gingrich twice a month if that's what they want, and he'll take their shit and ask for more. He'll let Dick Cheney come out of the crypt periodically to lie through clenched jaw and gritted teeth, and it won't even occur to Gregory to present so much as an informed rebuttal or even a contrary opinion. He'll help hack politicians sell unreadable books that are stuffed with the worst, most tendentious, self-serving rhetoric. He's going to help a lot of people make a lot of money, for years to come. The beautiful thing is that no one has to formally ask him to do this, he just instinctively understands his role. Most of them do. It's what passes for objectivity these days.

Froomkin refused to play that game, and that's why he's gone, and he knows it. The only reason I'm not eliminating the Post from the sidebar is because it is occasionally useful as an example of the results of generations of journalistic inbreeding.

Let's Get It 'tarded

You know, this would explain a lot, but is essentially an insult to the developmentally disabled. Kanye West is clearly a talentless moron and a card-carrying asshole, but actual retardation would be too convenient of an excuse for his peculiar brand of off-putting hackery. And I don't think I was aware that Kanye had "written" a "book", but it would be understandable if I had heard and subsequently scrubbed my brain of the very thought of such a thing with a gallon or two of Jameson's. It's doubtful whether he can read a book; he certainly has no business writing one, or even pretending to write one.

I put “book” in sarcastic, douchey, Internet quotes because I don’t know if something is technically a book if it’s 52 occasionally blank pages with gems like “Get use to getting used!” taking up full pages.

God, what a fucking wanker. A guy who regularly goes out of his way to proclaim how much of a waste of time reading and education are, imparting his wisdom with a "book". That's rich. Maybe it's time to create a new epithet for the scummy breed of no-talent celebridouches -- your Kanye, your Pee Diddly, your Spencer Fucking Pratt. People who need to be put on a transatlantic flight with only half the necessary fuel to get across the ocean.

But consider, if you will (and you might), the notion of this sort of vanity publication. Ordinarily, your illiterate celebritard would go the usual route and hire a ghost writer to pen a regular-length "autobiography", which of course Kanye has already done. Hell, even his late moms got in on that act, explaining to any who might inexplicably care what it was like raising a self-absorbed assclown.

Yet here this dickhole needs a ghost writer for a fifty-two page publication, barely qualifying for "manifesto" or "pamphlet" status, certatinly not a "book". And even with said ghost writer his attempts at profundity are ridden with fundamental grammatical errors. Even the Amazon product description is clunky.

Kanye West teams up with co-author J. Sakiya Sandifer to make his literary debut with Thank You And You're Welcome, an entertaining volume of 'Kanye-isms'--the creative, humorous, and insightful philosophies and anecdotes used in creating his path to success. It captures the same wit, playful irony, and piercing insight found abundant in his lyrics.

"Found abundant"? Maybe found abundantly, or in abundance. Jesus Christ, even Who Moved My Cheese? had a fucking proofreader. Whether he knows it or not, Kanye really is being honest with his hapless audience, at least in the infamous one-page profundity excerpted above. Get used to being used indeed, Kanye fans, because every dollar you've ever put in Kanye's pocket might as well have gone to buying a Big Mac for a street person.

Which, when you really get down to it, is what Kanye West is -- a pimped-out panhandler, bamboozling millions of suckas out of their money, which they clearly didn't work nearly hard enough for. He can't write, can't sing, can't dance, can't act or would have done so by now just to see himself on a movie screen, and literally seems to have no marketable skill beyond self-promotion. I'm embarrassed for Paul McCartney for even allowing himself to be photographed sitting next to this fuckhead, but compared to Heather Mills, that's small potatoes.

Put it this way -- if everyone had the work ethic of Kanye West, if we all made careers out of fellating ourselves with autotune machines and beat-boxes and stale samples and called it a music career, dressed like slow-witted four-year-olds, and needed ghost writers to publish something that is the literary equivalent of a seventh-grade girl's diary, we would be unqualified for much beyond cleaning each other's gutters.

As always, that would explain a lot.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Psycho Asshole, Qu'est-ce Que C'est

Not to be a fanatic on the issue of animal rights, but I don't think it's a stretch to say that the sociopaths who thrill-kill strays and pets are a bare half-step above child molesters and pillowcase rapists. And I'll even go out on a limb and say that prison rape is wrong, m'kay, but this goddamned freak tests that principle, and gee, it'd be a real shame if he got buttfucked to death and torn open with a sharpened toothbrush in lockup.

Better yet, take him to the zoo and toss him in the tiger or lion pit. Seriously. The little fucker's even smirking in his arrest photo, because he thinks this shit is funny. People like this should just be ended; they are never worth the trouble to rehabilitate or warehouse. We keep hearing how the planet's overcrowded, and one way to stem that might be to start with this hump.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Deer Hunting With Jesus

I've read some of Joe Bageant's pieces at The Beast and a few of his blog items, and I like his writing quite a lot -- angrily funny, bitterly acerbic, and usually dead-on in his observations. And I'd been looking forward to checking out his backwoods missive for quite some time. Yet it comes up short in a few respects.

I get where Bageant is coming from, at least, and he's right about his most fundamental insights into the Appalachians' relationship with and outlook on their government and their country. Lower-class working people of every ethnicity have always been and always will be the fodder for the machinations of the people who really run the country, and in a country run by its top 1%, that's substantial leverage. And the mostly Scots-Irish inhabitants of these areas tend to be bound by externally imposed constraints -- poor education and lack of real opportunities being the most prevalent.

These are people who are stuck with the scut work of society, slaving in slaughterhouses and nursing homes, joining the military to get a shot at something better, being burned through like human cord wood at shit jobs in shit towns across the dying inland valleys and plains of this country. To add insult to injury, they have to compete with illegal immigrants for these jobs. Drugs, debt, and desperation all conspire to kill them off, bodies broken and hopelessly in debt, before they're even old enough to collect Social Security, providing an even greater eventual rate of return on the cheap labor they endure throughout their working lives. The housing and health-care markets are rigged against them from the very outset. They are not given much of a chance to escape their conditions, and it's not accidental.

It's where Bageant tries to tie these economic and demographic maladies to other sociocultural phenomena, and thence to political outcomes and desires, that the premise begins to lose some ground. The relative cultural and geographic isolation experienced by these folks transmutes into, to be charitable about it, intensely ugly and blatantly self defeating political choices. So in Bageant's return to his hometown of Winchester, Virginia, he presents family and friends and townsfolk as examples of where and why things went in that direction.

Occasional asides at the smugness of liberals and the fallowness of Democratic politicians share the stage with the cataloging of instances where Republicans catered to some of the more irrational conceits of the area to get votes, and screwed the inhabitants even harder, only to be rewarded by more votes. It goes awry mostly when Bageant frames the issues of religion and guns (which is redundant for this part of the country).

The gun culture of these areas is presented sympathetically, almost reverentially, mostly in the context of the hallowed family hunting trip. And in that light, it's entirely convincing; only the most die-hard gun-control advocate would have any issue with grandfathers, fathers, and sons bagging a couple deer to fill the family freezer for the winter, and doing some genuine bonding in the process.

But to the extent that the gun-control argument is even presented, it is largely decontextualized from more contemporary issues as random mass shooting sprees, politically-driven killings, and organized crime. It's as if evil, ancient, convicted felons weren't taking the guns they're not supposed to have and murdering people at random at the Holocaust Museum, or crazy assholes hadn't used Virginia's wink-and-a-nod gun laws to shoot up college campuses. The idea that Mexican drug cartels use U.S. gun shows to stock up on AR-15s and Tec-9s, to take back across the border and slaughter every cop and journalist in sight, is apparently superseded by Cletus' inviolable right to hoard assault rifles with which presumably to perforate beer cans out in the forest.

Ultimately the argument is presented that it is the responsibility -- and therefore the failure -- of Democratic and/or "liberal" politicians to reach out sufficiently, especially on the issues of guns and religion. But those are the areas in which the people are most intractable. Just as there is not much political headway to be made in easing gun restrictions that even the police can't abide, so too there's no political upside to be had in catering to people who think they are casting demons out of Camaro engine blocks (seriously). It's hard to compose a truly compelling argument as to how or where -- or even why -- ideological opponents should expend valuable political energy trying to counter this perpetually aggrieved, self-destructive intellectual boobism.

There is an effort to be made, and it should revolve strictly around issues of economic justice. This is where the visible policy failures are rendered most manifest. The usual trope is that Democrats have ceded sociocultural issues to Republicans because of some imputed sense of smugness and superiority. But that is not necessarily, empirically true, it's just a comfortable assumption. Republicans have learned to speak the lingo, to make it jibe with the closer issues of local politics, to infuse one with the other, from starting city council meetings with prayers and invocations to local developers working hand-in-hand with churches to make things happen at the local level.

But it's harder to square matters of policy and longer-range strategy to these sorts of weird cultural obsessions and expectations. Only a person not seriously concerned with operational issues, with the actual nuts and bolts of running a serious government, could find the time and energy to spend off in the weeds flirting with this god-bothering nonsense. That's about the only way to put it, because the corollary to that is that a serious, policy-engaged person would and should be uncomfortable with discussing issues that, frankly, should be personal and private in the first place.

We keep hearing that government should be run like a business, but every time it's actually attempted, the same people start crying because there aren't Ten Commandments monuments and fifty-foot crosses at every intersection. This nonsense is to the point that the more people whine about that sort of thing, the more you can reliably assume that they know fuck-all about the Ten Commandments or the Bible.

The challenge in engaging this lame cultural posturing is enhanced by the simple fact that, as we always say, countering irrational arguments with rational ones is a waste of time. People who are that deeply vested in positions that are unencumbered by facts or even coherence are never going to be swayed by the rhetorical opposite. They either hunker down in stubborn sophistry or move the goalposts. This has never not been the case throughout history. People do not suddenly leap from quackery and yahooism into sober empiricism, nor do they typically respond positively to overtures from people they have been conditioned to despise. Reaching out to them on their own terms just means you're a pussy, as far as they're concerned.

The simpler truth is that people do not change their behavior until they understand that the cost of not changing is greater than the cost of changing. Making the effort to get people to understand exactly how that is taking place in their lives is the only way that will happen. And that's a politically impossible thing to do, tell people that their debt peonage and wasteful consumerism and excessive resource dependencies are about to bite them square in the ass, even harder than they've become accustomed to.

Even then, there's the instinctive mistrust of say-everything/do-nothing political operators to overcome, and if the track record so far of Mister Hope 'n' Change is any indication, it's gonna be awhile. Putting the foxes in charge of the economic henhouse is not exactly a great way to build trust among your ideological opponents, and I do think six months (since the election, and hence the initiation of policy direction) is about long enough to get a sense of what's to come.

The honeymoon's over, and if one thing Obama has said is likely to turn out to be the most true and accurate, it's that we have to be the change we want -- in other words, get your shit together and figure out how much you want to engage with the machine, because the machine is sure as hell not going to fine-tune that for you. Or, continue to guzzle gas and shitty beer and nacho cheese and reality teevee and hillbillies driving in circles all day and wonder why your life is so irreversibly fucked. Must be everyone else's fault. It's always someone else's fault.

In the end, it's hard not to come away with the impression that much of this damage is self-imposed and self-inflicted. Yes, it sucks that people drop out of ninth grade and work in a slaughterhouse until their backs give out at forty-five, and wonder why they're dying broke and exhausted at fifty-five. I dunno, maybe if the government mandated free public education through the twelfth grade, maybe that would help?

I don't understand exactly how reaching out across some self-imposed cultural divide is supposed to make kids stay in school, or even stay awake in school. Or, as Frank Zappa put it in the liner notes of Freak Out, over two generations ago, go to the library and educate yourself if you've got any guts. Lashing out at everyone who thinks they're sooooo fuckin' smart hasn't worked too well. Perhaps it's time to try something different.

It's true in every dying shithole town: the smart kids found ways to learn something useful, saw what the town had to offer them for their trouble, and either got with the program or got the hell out. The rest just stayed and took what they could find. How is it everyone else's fault most of them chose to fester and stew in their own juices of self-selecting bitterness and imaginary resentments?

That's really the ironic part, how effectively they've been made to ignore the things they should be resenting, distracted with flag-waving and toys and cheap food and cheaper jingoism, while their pockets are being picked, their lives and opportunities are being carefully circumscribed, and their kids are sent off to die or be maimed in unnecessary wars. As a wise man once said, "Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life, son."

Still, all these discontents are mitigated by the genuine weight and passion of Bageant's writing, and the fact that, whether one agrees with the entire argument or not, it deserves to be heard and considered. It may be that Bageant himself has too high a personal stake in the outcome to balance the players and arguments sufficiently, and propose realistic, comprehensive solutions. The best place to start would be to hit the reset button on the health-care system and stop letting these bastards run people into bankruptcy and destitution for the simplest of things. Most of the cultural issues would take care of themselves. Sometimes the best way to meet people halfway is to simply quit fucking them over.

No Remorse

Not that I get the chance to watch Letterman much these days, but if he does apologize to this babbling dingbat, I'll be sure to never tune in again. He shouldn't have bothered responding as much as he has already. This is bullshit. Fuck her and the horse she rode in on. Sarah Palin spent the last six weeks of last year's campaign, traipsing around the country and lying through her teeth about her opponent. This is a person whose every word and gesture is anchored in sheer chutzpah.

Palin can whine all she wants about the "double standard" of Obama's ten- and eight-year-old daughters being off limits, but I think we all know how much that would have been out the window if a black candidate's 17-year-old daughter had gotten knocked up by some unemployed would-be rapper, the urban cliché version of Levi Johnston. The world is full of loudmouth punks going nowhere in life, in all colors and cultures. There are double standards all over the place, and she knows as well as everyone else.

Nobody owes her an explanation or an apology for anything. Had Palin handled herself with even a modicum of grace and sensibility during the campaign, people would have let her go and written her off. But her entire schtick revolves around stoking the most regressive, willfully ignorant base of yahooism this sad behemoth nation has to offer (more on them shortly).

Letterman's jokes were tacky, as many or most late-night monologues tend to be. Palin is reaping what she continues to sow. She is welcome -- indeed, encouraged -- to head out of the kitchen if it's getting too hot in there. But when you whip up the hypocritical "personal responsibility" and "fambly valyews" creeps, even while your two oldest kids are doing exactly the things you complain about the most, maybe it's time to do a little self-inventory, instead of constantly getting all butt-hurt over how mean everybody else is. They're pretty good at dishing it out; taking it, not so much.

[Update: Jesus H. Christ, these people are bunch of whiny loser douchebags. I would say that they should be fired, but apparently they don't have jobs. Love the talk-show asshole who's all bent because Letterman has "benefited" from this nonsense. Right, pal, like you haven't, not to mention Palin herself. Do these people ever have a moment of lucidity or self-awareness?]

I'm a Narcissistic, Talentless Asshole -- Take My Picture!

Possibly the only thing more irritating than incessant media coverage of useless people who are famous only for being well-known is when that same media complains about how "contrived" they are. Well, no fucking shit, Columbo, and the fact that these "professionals" cultivated the situation tells you everything about their skill level and usefulness. There's two reasons these retards are famous -- those minivans parked on Heidi's chest. So show 'em or fuck off already, Sweet Cheeks. [Update: Well, there ya go. I'm surprised it took her this long, but I guess she had to let that music career play out first. What's the over/under on Kate Gosselin getting in on that shark-jumping airbrush pictorial action, maybe a year?]

Frankly, I think it'd be doing the world a big favor if Spencer and Heidi got lost in the jungle before they have a chance to pollute the world with their twisted seed. Failing that, maybe the TMZ wannabes that clutter up the mediaverse could stand to take a big chug out of the STFU cup. Of course, that would necessitate them getting real jobs.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Holy Diva

La Palin is beginning to inch her way back into the spotlight, amid the circular firing squad that her party has devolved into:

Palin had originally been announced as the keynote speaker for the fundraiser, a dinner benefiting the Republican congressional campaign committees at the Washington Convention Center. But her office then said that she had never confirmed her attendance. Palin's office asked last week if she would speak at the dinner, and party leaders told her she could. Later, though, they rescinded the speaking invitation in deference to the man who had accepted the keynote slot in her place, former House speaker Newt Gingrich.

Without a speaking slot, Palin declined to commit to appearing until hours before the event. But after assurances she would be publicly introduced at the event, the former vice presidential nominee and her husband strode across the stage with Gingrich and his wife as the event started, getting applause from the crowd of more than 2,000 Republicans.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), chairman of the National Senatorial Campaign Committee, praised Palin for her "leadership." The brief mention of the Alaska governor drew more applause from the crowd. Palin herself did not speak at the event.

Well, no surprises anywhere there: Miss Thang got her feathers ruffled before finally agreeing to a free trip in exchange for sitting down and shutting up; John Cornyn earned his nickname of "dumbest guy in the Senate this side of Jim DeMint" by praising Palin's mythic "leadership" abilities, as if being able to trot out the same stock phrases and borscht-belt jibes in apparently random order now qualifies as some sort of skill to be emulated; and the morons in the crowd applaud the very mention of Her name, because they think The Goode Family is a documentary, and any chance to take a useless swipe at imaginary liberals is time well-spent for them. All that so she (and they) could sit there and listen to Newt's latest brilliant six-point solution to implement a five-point strategy to elucidate an eight-point values initiative loosely based on the cinematic career of Ronald Reagan.

Gingrich's keynote slot marked the latest step in the continuing reemergence of a man who was at the center of the party's historic takeover of Congress in 1994. He resigned from both the speakership and the House four years later, after Republicans had lost seats and Gingrich's backing had faded among House Republicans.

Away from Congress, Gingrich has tried to reshape his image from a partisan congressional leader to an influential public voice on issues such as health care and energy. He now constantly sends his former GOP colleagues on Capitol Hill e-mail missives about his ideas, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) dubbed him Monday night "one of the best idea men we've ever had."

The fact that a grade-A pinhead like Mitch McConnell thinks Newt's resurrection is brilliant idea-sharing and innovative politicking should tell you everything you need to know about these bozos' real prospects. Fatboy is apparently their ace in the hole at this point, at least until Jonah Goldberg doodles his next manifesto. The kindest thing you can say about Newt Gingrich is that, despite their many faults, at least people like Al Gore and Walter Mondale understood when it was time to get the fuck out and find something else to do. But as long as he keeps Palin offstage and rehearsing her burbled boilerplate for anxious rubes, it's a bargain.

Thank the Flying Spaghetti Monster that the Post happened to be there to capture this vital scene for posterity and-or entertainment value. I mean, if Newt and Sarah don't show up at a telethon for a bunch of congressional short-bus riders who campaign on the Ten Commandments even when they can only remember three themselves, who will?

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Unclear on the Concept

So the inimitable Charles Pierce has just released a book excoriating the morons that have gleefully infested the body politic (and always have, of course, but now are uniquely empowered by technology). Naturally some bozo with the enterprising handle of "Kcoruol" ('cuz dude it's, like, "Lourock", but backwards! Duuude!!1!) has his one-star review ready with teabags on, waiting for a good solid fisking:

This book is more a liberal's rant against conservatism than against the truely stupid in America. A majority of liberals in America actually thought SNL's Tina Fey was actually Sarah Palin. Most of America doesn't know which party controls congress. Most American's couldn't tell you the capital of America. The children of 3rd world countries are out performing American children in math and science. I was expecting something more along these lines. This book is empty rhetoric.

Sigh. It must be nice to damn a book as "empty rhetoric" in a single paragraph consisting of exactly that. This is exactly the sort of person Pierce is writing about. The word "truly" does not have an "e", though it would not be surprising to find out that most Americans think it does. Also, "Americans" in the plural sense does not have an apostrophe. It's true, you can look it up and everything, bro-ham.

And so forth. The utter lack of self-awareness is exactly what's gotten us to this point as a society, and again, the heart of what Pierce appears to be writing about. This is not a review; it's a pastiche of baseless, uncitable assertions. "A majority of liberals in America actually thought SNL's Tina Fey was actually Sarah Palin." Who told him that, Sean Hannity? Yes, and they also thought Chevy Chase really was Gerald Ford.

The fact that this dipshit really seems to believe this -- without, ironically, realizing that one of the Fey/Palin skits actually used a Palin interview transcript almost verbatim -- even more entertaining than his epic struggles with basic punctuation, spelling, and critical thinking. Maybe what Keep On Rockin' In The Lou World meant to say was that a majority of liberals thought that Fey would make a better vice-president than Palin, which would then have the added benefit of actually being plausible, as well as true.

The one sentence that has a nugget of truth is that children in lesser-developed nations are outperforming ours in math, science, and engineering. Maybe that's because the kids in those countries are not being schlepped to a "museum" that has a dinosaur wearing a saddle and preaches a hopelessly bastardized parody of science.

It happens to be true that "conservatism", in its current form, has perpetuated and rhetorically supported that sort of nonsense, and any true classic form of conservatism seems to have died by the end of the first Bush administration. So yes, it makes sense that a liberal might more easily recognize the ways that the Republican Party and movement conservatism have served to ventriloquize some ridiculous people and notions.

I confess, I am really intrigued by the concept that the "GOP rocks". Who among the Republican Party "rocks", and in what form might that "rocking" take? Not that the Democrats are any great shakes; they sure as hell do not "rock" with any adequacy nor conviction. But the Republicans we see and hear from, who pollute our airwaves and printing presses, oh my this is rich. Does Dick Cheney rock as he defends and endorses war based on lies and torture based on paranoia, or is it his swingin' feint toward the usual "states' rights" dodge on gay marriage? Does Newt Gingrich rock as he peddles another unreadable book cobbled together from another random assemblage of warmed-over Six Sigma prattle? Fred Thompson? Huckleberry Graham? John McCain? Fuck, these are the same people who used Won't Get Fooled Again not once, but twice as their campaign song, completely without irony. These people "rock" like an octogenarian polka band in dry-dock.

So that leaves their newest crush, little Miss Baked Alaska, and just because Palin scratches their little naughty librarian itch does not excuse her inane, nonsensical word-salad responses to the simplest of questions. If this is what qualifies as rockin' in that intemellectual quadrant, it's no wonder they haven't figured out how to use an apostrophe. I know, it's not exactly the Freeper site, it's just one yahoo in the Amazon review area, but every cockroach needs a good stomping.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Reality Bites, Occasionally Swallows

Here's a thought for the teevee talking assholes heads and their douchebag producers out there in cable land: why not just be done with it and give the Cheneys their very own show, after Nancy Grace or Morning Joe, or maybe they can give Richard Ramirez his own show while they're at it. Hell, these days cutting back to an hour a day of these fucking people would be a relief.