Saturday, October 31, 2009

Winamp Shuffle -- Halloween Edition

[I had the draft for this saved and my CPU fan went out, so here it is, a little late and a little back-dated.]

So the missus and I were going to do the Jon and Kate thing for Halloween, but then realized that there were better investments than a Dennis the Menace wig and Ed Hardy pajamas, such as a nice bottle of Ketel One. And we're having amazing weather out here in Gullyvornia right now, so it's hard to get in the mood to be all skeert and such like. But here's a few tunes that'll peel some folks back. Sorry, no Monster Mash here -- we want good and grim and creepy; not tongue-in-cheek, but not gratuitously stupid, so no Cannibal Corpse either.

Heir Apparent -- Opeth
MK Ultra -- Muse
Head Crusher -- Megadeth
Sign of Fear -- Primal Fear
I Don't Live Today -- Hendrix
False Start -- O.S.I.
Pet -- A Perfect Circle
Welcome Home -- Coheed and Cambria
Blackest Eyes -- Porcupine Tree
Fracture -- King Crimson
Diary of a Madman -- Ozzy

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Mutually Assured Distraction

Look, Lieberputz is indisputably a soulless, ratfucking bottom-feeder, a toady's toady whose own career (and his wife's) is squarely in the pocket of the insurance and pharmaceutical industries. It is in his family's vested interest to do whatever his corporate owners need him to do in order to ensure that they continue to make obscene profits at the expense of everyone's health and financial stability. This is an empirical fact.

The Democrats get an awful lot of mileage out of pretending to care. You think Lieberman cares about anything but himself? He barely even pretends to give half a shit anymore. This is situational ethics, son. Fuck your health-care crisis. Did he stutter?

So. We have a person whose popularity 'mongst Democrats and their ilk hovers somewhere around that of Richard Nixon or Richard Cheney. His popularity on the other side of the fence exists only in his capacity to obstruct and frustrate any timid semblance of decency the Democrats happen to toddle out from time to time in order to keep up appearances. Polls consistently show a substantial margin of favor for health-care reform in general, and the public option in particular.

Yet Lieberman keeps his committee seats, and continues to caucus with Democrats, and has yet to face a single repercussion for behavior which would have gotten him drummed out of the Republican party long ago. The big threat here is that he might join some potential Republitard filibuster, along with the usual corporate shills like Baucus, Landrieu, Bayh, etc. So what? Let them filibuster; make them go to the trouble. I mean, big fucking deal -- the key to being an effective grifter is to say as little as possible; forcing these assholes to speak at length and somewhat extemporaneously is not what they really want to do. Yet the bluff is never called, they don't even try.

A party that was serious about what it set out to do could and would very easily disempower a floater like Lieberman. The fact that they consistently refuse to do so points to the value he adds for the Democrats as a convenient receptacle for their faux shock and outrage. It absolves them from actually having to do anything. Remember, Barry O campaigned to help Lieberman retain that seat -- you know, over the actual Democratic Party candidate. No good deed goes unpunished and all. But then, this is all just an elaborate good-cop/bad-cop game the parties play.

Eventually some bullshit compromise will be worked and trotted out to the particpants' own fanfare, but at no point in this entire process would it have made any significant difference, because all the proposed options address only where the money comes from, not why things cost as much as they do, which is obviously the real problem. The economy of scale of the public option would knock premium rates down, which of course is why the insurance companies will never allow it as such.

But the sheer cost of services, and the clear incentives the service providers have to avoid providing the services they have already been paid for, none of that will change. It was never even up for debate. Only the source of payment will change; instead of workers hoping like hell to hang on to a job that has a halfway decent insurance plan, it'll all just come out of the front end of everyone's paycheck. But insurance company CEOs will still bank eight-figure salaries and bonuses, and keep Joe and Hadassah Lieberman on the payroll. This is the captive market they've been praying for.

I suppose at some point some of the folks who actually are catastrophically affected by the actions of these people might take commensurate action, but hell, so far, they can't even get it together enough to turn this guy out of office. Don't hold your breath waiting around for Hopenchange to fix it -- you can't afford the emergency room visit.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Untrue At Any Speed

You know, I have no doubt that Cousin Rusty is generous and pleasant with family members and household pets, but that doesn't make him any less of a fucking liar, and proud of it. Limbaugh is to American political discourse what NAMBLA is to child care, a ceaseless churner of swill for retards and rage-monkeys. Since they know their audience doesn't care about facts in the first place, it was only a matter of time before these clowns started using satire blogs and The Onion as source material.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

You Go, Girls!

Which is more hi-larious -- show ponies who have never pretended to read a book now each pretending to write one, or the squarest, most establishment dingbats on the planet trying to convince everyone that they're rebels? Then again, it's been my experience that the churchier broads put out just as easily as the women they look down on.

Can't wait for the Palin Oprahfest -- never put it past a bien pensant limo lib to give the people who despise them every possible opportunity to rehabilitate their image. Don't know if Oprah has some deal going with Harper Collins, but they have donated her book club picks to libraries in the past (as have other publishers). In the vertically integrated, incestuous worlds of publishing and broadcasting, it's nearly impossible to tell -- or even need -- an explicit quid pro quo.

Regardless, I think it's terrific that Going RugRogue is already 70% off. By the time it's released, it'll already be in the cutout bin with Becktard's latest iteration of Mein Kampf. (I recommend Letterman have his stagehands read excerpts from it, the way they used to do with Oprah transcripts.) And it could be interesting to see how Prejean managed to milk 256 pages out of her seven minutes in the sun, without at least 200 pages of bikini shots for her "readers" to skeet across. Big print and wide margins are a given, as Kanye West amply demonstrates.

Legitimate Journamalism Updates

Vickie Lynn Hogan -- still dead.

Gosselins -- still narcissistic assholes wrecking their kids' lives.

Balloon Boy -- still not an actual story.

450 articles on Sun Microsystems laying off 10% of its workforce (3,000 jobs), 900 articles on the public health option, and 3,000 on a goddamned balloon hoax. I'm pretty sure this is what we have TMZ and fucking People Magazine for. Say what you will about cranky, unethical bloggerses, but the ones that are competing with Entertainment Tonight are not pretending to be holy keepers of the journamalistic flame.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Foxes and Henhouses

"There's a fox among the chickens, and a killer in the hounds." -- Iron Maiden, Back in the Village

Oh noez! Legitimate media personages agree that Obama should just grab his ankles and take whatever Rupert Murdoch's flying monkeys slap together. Instead of pointing out that a lie is a lie, he should shout, "Thank you sir, may I have another?"

Talk about professional courtesy. Ruth Marcus sez:

Where the White House has gone way overboard is in its decision to treat Fox as an outright enemy and to go public with the assault. Imagine the outcry if the Bush administration had pulled a similar hissy fit with MSNBC. “Opinion journalism masquerading as news,” White House communications director Anita Dunn declared of Fox.

Fox is an outright enemy -- it is cheerfully, consistently unencumbered with even the pretense of factuality or intellectual honesty. Its most prominent cartoon characters spent the summer promoting these noxious "teabagger" rallies, acting as if misspelled placards bearing swastikas and incoherent slogans were some sort of patriotic call to arms. It gives Glenn Beck a nightly sandwich board to wear and a sidewalk to prowl around on, weeping and ventriloquizing the voices in his coke-damaged brain stem.

There are so many to choose from, but I think my favorite summer clip was Beck's notorious Fox and Friends (The Today Show for retards, which is redundant) appearance, in which he sagely opined that Obama -- a black man with a white mother, raised in Hawaii by his white grandparents, mind you -- had a deep-seated hatred for white people, then seconds later said Obama was not, in fact, a racist, and shame on anyone who thought that was what the Beckster meant. It was a perfect example of Fox's knack for pure doublespeak, where words and ideas have practically no meaning, but are merely chosen for their power to incite and antagonize. You could almost literally take anything Beck has said, rearrange the words and phrases in random order, and get the same basic level of factuality.

Thus Obama hates white people, but seconds later is not a racist. Thus the teabaggers are a cross-section -- indeed, a veritable majority -- of reg'lar Americans, but are monochromatic by sheer coincidence. Thus the signs the 'baggers carry, which impute diametrically-opposed ideologies to the same person, are taken as gospel, rather than a cry for help scrawled by people who don't know the difference between socialism and fascism. Thus the Fox Nation is a seething, teeming, vigorous majority of hearty, strong-willed, long-suffering rugged individualists. It's just one of life's silly quirks that such folk are somehow kept down by a bunch of arugula-sucking elite faggots who think they're better'n yew.

I mean, Jesus H. Christ. For a movement of self-proclaimed tough guys, this is the thinnest-skinned bunch of perpetually-aggrieved ninnies around.

So now that the Post has showed its objective belly on this, it's the Times' turn:

At Commentary today, Peter Wehner writes “The White House’s effort to target a news organization like Fox is vaguely Nixonian.”

Uh, yeah. That would be this Peter Wehner:

Bush speechwriter Peter Wehner worked for William Kristol when he was chief of staff to then-Education Secretary William J. Bennett.


William Bennett is not shy in praising his former aide: 'I've met a lot of people, famous and not famous. He is the single most impressive human being I've ever met.' But Mr. Bennett says the real secret of the Bush speechwriters' recent success is that they've found the president's own voice, that they've given voice to his thoughts: 'Pete has been my brain. I'm not embarrassed to admit it.'

Well, if he's got Sportin' Life Bennett's vote, hell, he's alright by me. Once again, in this quest for the appearance of "objectivity", as it is technically defined, the "legitimate" media continue to legitimize people who, if one is intellectually honest, should be marginalized. This has less to do with politics and ideological sparring than the refs wish to believe, but then, they have a vested interest in keeping the games going and the rubes tuning in to the slap-fighting.

I just finished the Business Communications class in my grad studies, and one thing that was cool about the class was that the instructor tried to use current events and media coverage to illustrate ways that businesses communicate. The media in general were a notable subtheme throughout, given the tectonic changes over just the last decade. Obviously it's been a major theme of this blog all along, and over the course of five years now, I sometimes feel as if the media inadvertently go out of their way to prove my most polemic comments true and correct.

The idea (bolstered in class) that convention has bestowed some ineffable legitimacy on "professional" journalists that is somehow beyond mere bloggerses is one of the more pernicious assumptions, I think. And again, the corporate media, as they reel from the body blows their revenue model has taken, continue to undermine their own legitimacy. Fox isn't the only major "news" org that's fucked -- MSNBC is more prison docs than news or commentary, CNN spends half its time reading its viewers' tweets and the other half embalming Larry King for the next softball interview, and the networks have spent the last week getting their chains yanked by some reality-show loser with poor parenting skills and a weather balloon.

The fact of the matter is, they're scared to death of the immediacy of the blogs' content model, and their way of keeping up with it is to find one story per week that no one in their right mind could possibly give a fuck about and beat it into the ground until everyone knows about it whether they like it or not. Any blogger with that low a level of accountability or intellectual rigor would be rightfully scorned; in the MSM it's SOP.

They don't even have the good grace to be embarrassed that Stewart and Colbert -- you know, the fake news guys on the comedy cable network -- run circles around them in fact-checking, interviewing, and story relevance. Stewart and Colbert call ridiculous people ridiculous, instead of blowing them every Sunday morning on their serious chat shows.

This whole Fox thing began a few weeks ago when the administration pointedly decided to leave Chris "Borrows Dad's Hair Lacquer" Wallace out of their Sunday morning zone-flooding to pimp their upcoming health-care failure. Wallace got butt-hurt and Fox turned up the heat, which was entirely expected.

What makes less sense, until you recall that most of the people in this profession are gutless turds who seriously think they're doing the world a favor with their useless moral equivalences, is the non-Fox journamalists rushing to criticize Obama for his temerity, rather than Fox for its incessant calumnies. If they applied half that rigor to themselves and their colleagues, we might not be stuck with reality-show morons and celebritards and balloon hoaxes every fucking week.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Cracker Barrel

This story gets me kinda stabby, and not in a good way. Haven't these scumbags died off yet?

A white Justice of the Peace in Louisiana who refused to issue a marriage license to an interracial couple says he has no plans to resign, the Associated Press reports.

Keith Bardwell's comments to reporters follows calls for his ouster by Louisiana Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal and Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu.

"Everybody hates me," he tells reporters. "Really. I don't know why. I treat people, I figure, equal. I have one problem with mixed marriages and that is the offspring."

[emphasis mine]

Hey, cocksmoker -- this word "equal"? I don't think it means what you think it means. But the takeaway is how he refers to the, y'know, children of interracial couples. "Offspring". They're another species, as far as this clown's concerned.

The article doesn't really say, but "justice of the peace" usually is one of those pick-up-fifty-bucks-on-the-weekend type of gigs, like being a notary public. Since it doesn't sound like Bardwell is an actual employee of the state or a parish, probably the worst they can do is revoke his license. So fucking revoke it already; there is almost certainly an ethical standard he's supposed to abide by, even in Louisiana, and he freely admits that it's his call.

Even better is the cousin-fucking galoot, some piece of shit with a confederate flag avatar, natch, in the comments what calls itself "AngryRepublican2". Here's what it had to say:

Good for JP Bardwell! It's refreshing to see someone stick up for their beliefs and not cower under the threat of the PC police. If only we as a people had resisted all the "civil rights" nonsense in the 1960s we'd not even be discussing this topic -- the states and local governments would have been left to decide these matters on their own, without socialist federal government intervening. I pray this is the start of a trend back to more common sense government.

Also, shame on Jindal. He used to be a true conservative but apparently has now fallen under the Obama trance. Landrieu wandered off into the Marxist swamp years ago.

Constitutional retardation aside, I sincerely hope this asshole's 18-year-old granddaughter gets deflowered and knocked up by Flo Rida for a BangBus video.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

Perhaps you recall Paul Sullivan's mewling plaint a couple weeks ago about how the rich are barely able to eke their way through life these days. Well, he's back, posturing and pouting at the response he received, as if he truly expected something else. "Gosh, thanks for opening my eyes, Paul! I mean, I got laid off from my job six months ago and haven't been able to find anything, and my ARM just went haywire so I'll probably be living under a bridge by Christmas. But just knowing that somewhere out there is a hard-luck family in Greenwich that might have to keep a more watchful eye on how the trust funds are distributed, that has to hedge their commercial real estate investments because taxes might go up a few points, that's just wrong." Is that what people were supposed to say after wading through that self-serving piffle?

Apparently so, and certainly Steve has already conjured up a perfectly good roaring-populist response, so I won't go there right now. There are a few things worth pointing out, such as the individuals whom Sullivan chose to interview for his follow-up:

Eric Dammann, a Manhattan psychoanalyst

Brad Klontz, a financial psychologist in Hawaii and a co-author of the forthcoming book, “Mind Over Money: Overcoming the Money Disorders That Threaten Our Financial Health”

Robert Clarfeld, president of the wealth management firm Clarfeld Financial Advisors

William Woodson, managing director at the Family Wealth Management group at Credit Suisse

Lyle LaMothe, head of wealth management in the United States at Merrill Lynch Wealth Management

Quite a topical cross-section, no? To put it in Simpsons terms, this is like profiling Homer's mindset by interviewing Mr. Burns, Smithers, Rich Texan, and Rainier Wolfcastle. And of course Sullivan, and the bookmaking lackeys he interviews, would rather blame the victims for their unhealthy outlook than admit the possibility that there's a deeper cause for resentment here.

There are millions of people who work at least as hard as the wealthy, and not even get by, much less get ahead. But that's part of life, and most of them, unfortunately, accept that lot. What the peons resent is the lack of accountability on the part of the banksters and their henchmen, the refusal to accept any responsibility for what they've done, and what they expect everyone else to pay for. They played with other people's money (OPM), made stupid bets with it that didn't even work on paper, and then got more OPM to cover those losses and more OPM to play with again. And no new jobs are coming of it, and all they're doing now is re-inflating the previous bubble.

The line from my last column that prompted the most responses was about how the wealthy weren’t sleeping well either. The vitriol in the e-mail showed just how deep the anger against the rich is.

Yet put simply, this is not healthy. After all, if you’re wealthy and no one likes you, you still have lots of money. But if you spend your free time obsessing about the rich, you could end up in worse shape emotionally, personally and financially.

Ah, no. You're the one writing tedious mash notes about the rich, sporto. It just never occurred to you that, in a country where 1% of the population already controls over 40% of the assets, that a majority of the people out there who hear nothing but a giant swirling sound creeping up on their lives don't give a shit about a bunch of trust-fund babies and hedge-fund profiteers.

These swells expect to be absolved because they fund symphonies and scholarships, but the symphonies are basically for themselves, and scholarships just underline the fact that higher education (not to mention textbook publication) is increasingly a scam on par with the health-care system. The implicit threat is that they'll take their ball and go home if the plebes don't give them sufficient respect, and they're bound to do it anyway, if only to preserve their toehold in the vertically-integrated economic strata. The main thing is that they prove to everyone else that they feel no guilt about their XKR, even if it was earned merely by percentage-point diddling and spreadsheet manipulation.

When Paul Sullivan bothers to talk to someone who makes less than $100K/year, then maybe the bewildered herd will take him seriously. I think we all get that (apologies to Upton Sinclair) it is in his interest not to understand that rather obvious idea. But he is being deliberately obtuse if he can't see why his toadying and cheerleading is received with hostility.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Bland Ambition

One ridiculous idea in the field of human behavior is that everyone has something to teach us, either as an example or a cautionary tale. There are many places within a one-mile radius of wherever you happen to be at this very moment that should make you realize that most people are neither exemplary nor cautionary, unless you yourself happen to be somewhat rudderless in composition. A related idea that is more ludicrous by several orders of magnitude is that the self-inflicted tribulations of famous and semi-famous people have some instructive value for the plebes.

Did anyone really need Roman Polanski to tell them that it's a bad idea for a 42-year-old man to molest a seventh-grader? Did you need a nasty, controlling hausfrau with a Dennis-the-Menace haircut and her henpecked, doughy, would-be partyboy husband to remind you that people should actually like each other before they squeeze out a litter of children together? Did we need David Letterman to remind us that a boss who bangs his subordinates is asking for trouble, even if the affection is genuinely mutual? Seriously, what kind of moron has these stories inflicted on them, incessantly for a week or so at a time, and actually draws life lessons from them?

Mackenzie Phillips, John Edwards, Michael Jackson -- all these people, many with actual money and power, all unable to successfully manage their lives, all unable to exercise the sort of impulse control and self-discipline most of us had figured out by our early twenties. This is because money, power, and fame are things that insulate their owners from their bad decisions, and absorb the consequences a bit more easily. Drugs don't exactly help, but everything in moderation, y'know.

Not that hard to figure out, and also not that applicable or transferrable to the lives of ordinary peons, who make many of those same dumb decisions themselves without getting to write a book about it afterward to recoup some of the money they lost up their noses or to their exes or mistresses.

Only an emotionally-retarded asshole would look at famous (or formerly famous, or fleetingly famous, or reality-show-Jesus-H.-Christ-aren't-their-fifteen-minutes-up-already famous) people and draw any conclusion beyond, "What a schmuck." Or even give a shit in the first place.

But you can see that Americans (and many other nationalities, to be fair, but we are drenched in mindless pop culture) are profoundly deficient in the ability to self-actualize. Since most people don't achieve much beyond procreating and holding down a job, it used to be that we were encouraged to express ourselves through our selection of possessions, men through their vehicles, women through their clothes. Now that the credit tap has been turned off, it is a bit more difficult to get people to affirm their individuality by one-upping their neighbors and buying more shit they don't need with more money they don't have. And it's not like those folks will suddenly start going to the library or spending time with their kids.

So what do you distract them with, how do you dangle the false promise of self-actualization? By saturating the media climate with a strange, creepy, celebrity-worshipping cult, one that not only encourages people to live vicariously through repeated no-names, but one that completely redefines what it is to be "famous". It surpasses even the old bit about someone being famous for being well-known.

What, for example, is a Kardashian? How is it that three rather ordinary-looking valley girls, whose skills consist entirely of shopping and balling athletes and rappers, become so well-known even to people who have never seen any of their shows? One of the girls has a big ass and a sex tape. Their father was best known for defending a violent killer, and their stepfather looks perpetually startled. Their mother is nuts. That's about it.

What is a Gosselin, and how is their tedious Magnificent Bickersons epic any different than that couple in just about every neighborhood that has a screaming match out on their front lawn every three weeks or so? (I know, I know -- it's all about the kids. Betcha 95% of the people who watch that show can't name more than two of 'em.) Why are the most popular teevee shows -- our most common cultural touchstones, sadly -- about people, famous and not, being judged by the clinically insane over whether they can dance or not? This all sounds like something even Paddy Chayefsky and Neil Postman would have laughed off as being too farfetched.

People like their soap operas, I suppose, and chacun a son goût and all that. But let's not pretend it's anything deeper than what it is -- a subculture of preening narcissism and nihilism, borne from the sheer lack of any meaningful cultural discussion. It's a perverse dynamic where it's not only okay that nothing matters, but the less it matters or has meaning, the better. It's prurience and titillation for people who don't have the guts to just get a subscription to Penthouse already.

If we can psychoanalyze a society by its most prevalent cultural artifacts, then apparently we are very bored and sad and lonely, and possessing the mindset of a marginally-literate eleven-year-old with ADD. I'm not sure who else would be willing to spend their precious, all-too-brief time on this here wondrous planet watching Tom DeLay do the cha-cha with one of the old Facts of Life cast-members.

Free Speech for the Dumb

Is there anything quite as tedious and tendentious as these ludicrous, intellectually louche "arguments" that defend the indefensible under the guise of protecting free speech?

This is not the only deeply offensive speech protected by the Constitution. Nazis are allowed to march, and racists are allowed to spew racism. If legislatures have the power to disapprove certain categories of unpopular speech, a lot of expression could become illegal.

Christ. Not the old "first they came for the dogfighters and the chick-squishers, and I was not a dogfighter or chick-squisher" cliché. Look, first of all, Nazis are allowed to march and racists are allowed to spew as long as no one gets hurt. It's not that complicated.

These idiots keep looking around for a line to draw, and it's right fucking there. Dogfighting is illegal, animal abuse is illegal. This is not a "free speech" issue, it's a "causing harm to others in clear violation of the law" issue. The laws are pretty clear about those things, just as they are about kiddie porn. No court is going to confuse a PETA jeremiad with a crush video. Obscenity guidelines typically revolve around prohibiting content that is overtly salacious or prurient. And as obnoxious as PETA's exhibitionism can be, there's a huge and obvious gap between their tactics and those of these twisted assholes.

(And seriously, the bastards who get their jollies from watching the unwilling and helpless be raped and abused, tortured and killed, they need to have their fevered brains splattered across the nearest wall, right along with the actual perpetrators. Just be done with it. Trust me, no one will ever miss them.)

I'm not sure what the self-styled First Amendment absolutists see in tilting at this particular windmill, that our civic lives and freedoms will be unnecessarily circumscribed by preventing these vile people from doing these vile things. Sometimes the theorists need to get out of their ivory towers and take a stretch in the real world, and think about the unnecessary damage that gets committed under their rhetorical umbrellas. I'm betting most of them were upset about Michael Vick, and Robert Stevens and these crush creeps should be no different.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Family Values

If you're like me -- and of course you are, you poor sap -- you've been wondering how the wealthy have been managing in the current economic climate. I bet you assumed that the poor dears have had their domestics and estates foreclosed upon, and are now huddling beneath very nicely appointed bridges outside Greenwich, Connecticut. Pretty close, bro-ham, pretty damned close. Here but for the grace of Leona Helmsley go you and me, podna:

IT turns out the other half — or at least the tiny slice who live at the top of the wealth pyramid — are not sleeping any better than the rest of America.

At a closed-door meeting of advisers to family offices — which serve families who typically are worth more than $500 million — I learned that the super-rich are just as concerned about the future as everyone else.


Before you start laughing up your sleeve, be advised that this is not a good thing. When the super-rich get cold feet, the rest of America gets swine flu. They are, after all, the people who might finance new companies that create jobs, make big investments to support existing companies and spread their wealth throughout the economy.

According to a study the Family Office Exchange plans to release this month, the super-rich are most worried about what they do not know. Some 45 percent of the 108 ultrahigh-net-worth families surveyed in August ranked the economy and financial markets as their No. 1 concern. They were most concerned about government intervention in the financial markets and a commercial real estate bust.

Sooo....let's see, the implicit threat here is that if the eeevil gubmint gets some bright utilitarian idea to do the greatest amount of good for the greatest number of people, maybe help protect taxpayers from having to foot the bill from future financial malfeeance, they'll take their ball and go home. On the other hand, if a way can be found to further socialize the costs of leveraged tranches and wastrel descendants of wealth accumulators, that would be just about a dozen kinds of awesome.

In the past, family businesses and family wealth were commingled. If the business was struggling, the patriarch would often finance shortfalls. “Now the kids are upset about where the money is going,” said Holly Isdale, managing director at Bessemer. “Intrafamily dynamics are playing a bigger part in decisions.”

If the family put in place a strict estate plan, the children may legally own a good portion of what the patriarch made. And now they have choices to make that may go against his wishes. “These families have recognized that autopilot is not a good strategy,” said Amelia Renkert-Thomas, a lawyer with Withers Bergman.

The other risk to super-rich families is government action and increased regulation. They suspect it is coming but do not know how it will affect them. The result is that they are increasingly anxious about the future while still shell-shocked from the past year.

The article mentions this several times, but never elaborates on it. It's obvious why Wall Street predators don't want to be regulated, but why investors? Don't they want to be protected from being rolled by boutique bookmaking schemes and spreadsheet grifts?

Of course not, because the regulations wouldn't really protect them all that much. They would prevent them from getting the low-risk (since the gubmint foots the bill when it goes south) high-reward venture they all think they're entitled to. The gamblers and their bookies basically look at the other 95% of the country -- the world, for that matter -- the way Roman Polanski looks at a girl scout troop.

(Yeah yeah, cheap shot, don't get me started. And fuck the Hollywood assholes for their new Free Mumia petition. I don't think there's much utility in turning the world on its side to nab a 76-year-old creep who apparently has not repeated his transgression. But the guy got a seventh-grader drunk and high in a hot tub and buttfucked her on a couch. Just because he's a talented guy who got a seventh-grader drunk and high in a hot tub and buttfucked her on a couch doesn't buy him a pass, except in LaLa Land. Sheesh, must these tone-deaf idiots go out of their way to prove the Big Hollywood doofuses' points for them?)

Anyway. Back to the other clueless assholes.

One thing the group convened by Bessemer agreed on is that their clients were hesitant to buy commercial real estate. They fear that the value of it could collapse with greater ferocity than the housing market.

The logic behind this is that with everyone cutting back — companies laying off workers, consumers watching what they buy — there is less demand for office and retail space. If leases expire and are not renewed, building owners will have trouble making their loan payments. That, in turn, will affect the investors who bought the bonds secured by this debt.

Even those real estate owners who are doing well could be hurt. “A lot of this debt is short term and it needs to be refinanced, but there is no market for that,” Ms. Isdale said. Next year and 2011 are expected to be the worst, Ms. McCarthy said.

Yeah, just watch. This will be the next bailout, this commercial real estate collapse. It cannot be repeated often enough -- these people do not believe in the traditional risk/reward scenario sketched out by traditional capitalist economists, the basic Scottish Enlightenment principles invoked by Adam Smith, that work and product define the right and the utilitarian good for producers to retain control of their means of production.

But nothing's produced here, the reward only accrues to the bettor when the wager is won, and the costs are socialized when the wager is lost. And the implicit threat that these swells just won't invest and revamp the economy if they don't succeed, or if we don't intervene to keep them from failing, becomes less and less of a threat if they're pulling their money out and hoarding it anyway.

The bailout would have worked -- and by worked, I mean jumpstarted the economy so a sufficient amount of consumers and business could be re-engaged in it in a relatively short period of time -- just by giving every household a low five-figure check, say $10-20K. Some people would have pissed it away sure, put it up their noses or bought sacks of magic beans. But most rational people would have saved some, paid down some debt, and/or bought toys, all of which would have rejuvenated the most impacted economic sectors and helped lower the perilous national debt-to-income ratio.

Hell, some of us might have even made sure to donate to politicians, so that we might have a seat at the table, and actually have an opportunity to participate in the decisions that affect our lives. That would have been something. Instead we're supposed to give a shit because old-money douchebags are taking a hit in the trust fund. This let-'em-eat-cake schtick is getting old real fast.

Loved To Death

The Olympics are an overrated, overcommercialized event anyway, but the fact of the matter is that the wingnuts are precisely what they insisted they despised just a couple years ago. Anyone who criticized the Cheney junta, no matter how well justified, got their words twisted into some variation of "wanting America to fail", though that was obviously not the case.

But these fuckers, they quite openly admit that their fondest wish is for Obama to fail. I submit that this is true regardless of the specific issue at hand. They would rather have more foreclosures and more job losses than an economic recovery, because that would make Obama look bad. They would love to rope-a-dope the Democrats into getting stuck in some sort of military action in Iran, because it would endanger American soldiers, and kill many thousands of Iranian civilians, and thus make Obama look bad. It's not a stretch to assume that they'd love another 9/11, because....well, you know.

They love them some America. Just ask them, they can't tell you too quickly or frequently. The shrill, wheedling insistence of their plaints should be a dead giveaway as to their general mindset. They just hate American citizens, clearly, since not only do they openly wish for the indisputably elected leader of the majority to fail miserably, they gladly accept the very real consequences that failure would have for millions of people, for average families across the country. That's the cost of doing business, the price they have to pay to get more suckers on their demagoguery wagon.

The thing is, like Bobo, these guys are just in it for the money, for the most part. They just cash the checks and don't bother with the notion that there really are morons out there who take them seriously and believe their schticky agitprop. It's troubling to consider the potential consequences of this ever more reflexive dynamic, this lurch toward violent rhetoric and toxic imagery. Nothing good can come of it.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Epic Flail

The only thing funnier than Bobo Brooks is two Bobos, and this week finds Our Pastel Hero in rare form, as he once again attempts to limn the American Character by spelunking its stanky nether regions. Let's ponder the nuggets o' wisdom he finds therein.

Anguished Missive the First forges the well-trod iron path of the ivory-tower historian, squaring the usual tropes of classical historical theories and the misgivings of the founding fathers against the current cultural dynamic.

“Human nature, in no form of it, could ever bear prosperity,” John Adams wrote in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, warning against the coming corruption of his country.

Yet despite its amazing wealth, the United States has generally remained immune to this cycle. American living standards surpassed European living standards as early as 1740. But in the U.S., affluence did not lead to indulgence and decline.

That’s because despite the country’s notorious materialism, there has always been a countervailing stream of sound economic values. The early settlers believed in Calvinist restraint. The pioneers volunteered for brutal hardship during their treks out west. Waves of immigrant parents worked hard and practiced self-denial so their children could succeed. Government was limited and did not protect people from the consequences of their actions, thus enforcing discipline and restraint.

Fair enough, except that the fact was that every hardlined pioneer began their trek with the hope of getting rich (aside from your garden variety Great Awakening god-bothering loons), and the government's reach was limited by the size of the country and the constraints of the day. The moment any territory showed a sign of being a profitable venture, it was duly annexed; the idea that there was some underlying libertarian motif is silly. This is a fairly prosaic reduction of human nature, a rhetorical momentum-gathering device.

When economic values did erode, the ruling establishment tried to restore balance. After the Gilded Age, Theodore Roosevelt (who ventured west to counteract the softness of his upbringing) led a crackdown on financial self-indulgence. The Protestant establishment had many failings, but it was not decadent. The old WASPs were notoriously cheap, sent their children to Spartan boarding schools, and insisted on financial sobriety.

Well, the WASPs thought they could take it with them or something, and conflated ritual abuse with familial bonding. "Decadent" does not necessarily require the usual connotation of "hedonistic sybarite" when "unconscionable hoarding" will do just as well. What the leisure class lacked in public displays of sexual excitement was more than made up for in indefensible greed.

I've made the point many times that people in general and Americans in particular have perverse relationships with food, money, and sex. They binge and purge on those things, and feel guilty about it later, engaging in other destructive behaviors as a result, instead of just enjoying all those things in moderation. I don't mean it as a moral injunction, merely to point out how wasteful and dumb it can be at times for a great many individuals. But genetically uptight worshippers of Establishment mores such as Bobo almost always view these issues through the prism of the Sixties.

It is considered practically a given amongst such moral guardians that the sex-and-drug libertines of the Woodstock era eroded some great moral bulwark that had been erected up to that point. They seem to think that people weren't getting high and/or having indiscriminate sex until 1967, rather than that they were simply a bit more circumspect about those things until then. It drove them crazy that those damned kids didn't have the decency to feel guilty and ashamed about what they were doing, invoking Mencken's classic observation of a puritan being someone who was inconsolable that somewhere out there, someone might be having a good time.

Over the past few years, however, there clearly has been an erosion in the country’s financial values. This erosion has happened at a time when the country’s cultural monitors were busy with other things. They were off fighting a culture war about prayer in schools, “Piss Christ” and the theory of evolution. They were arguing about sex and the separation of church and state, oblivious to the large erosion of economic values happening under their feet.

Yes, and? It's not as if they weren't actively encouraged to indulge in those distractions by the very same self-styled moral guardians -- that is, Bobo's own Republicans and movement conservatives -- who were fleecing them, and not trying very hard to disguise it. They chose to focus on the perils of sexual licentiousness, because to call attention to financial licentiousness or consumerist depravity would have been bad for business.

The dangers of societal permissiveness are more grave and more profound than whether someone gets or gives a blowjob outside the sacred circle of marriage. Time and again, Bobo fails utterly to even perceive this, much less understand the role his own party has played in their own downfall.

Over the years, I have asked many politicians what happens when Limbaugh and his colleagues attack. The story is always the same. Hundreds of calls come in. The receptionists are miserable. But the numbers back home do not move. There is no effect on the favorability rating or the re-election prospects. In the media world, he is a giant. In the real world, he’s not.

But this is not merely a story of weakness. It is a story of resilience. For no matter how often their hollowness is exposed, the jocks still reweave the myth of their own power. They still ride the airwaves claiming to speak for millions. They still confuse listeners with voters. And they are aided in this endeavor by their enablers. They are enabled by cynical Democrats, who love to claim that Rush Limbaugh controls the G.O.P. They are enabled by lazy pundits who find it easier to argue with showmen than with people whose opinions are based on knowledge. They are enabled by the slightly educated snobs who believe that Glenn Beck really is the voice of Middle America.

This is the insularity of the sinecured pundit -- they genuinely do not get that the studied cynicism that they have purveyed for well over a generation has stuck with people who not only don't know any better, but are proud of that fact, make a point of staying in that zone and taking up permanent residence. I recall once linking/excerpting something by Gertude Himmelfarb wherein she tacitly admitted that the whole "America is Jebus' Favrit Nation" schtick was just something to keep the rabble in line, that neither she nor her claque in the opinion-mongering movementarian smart set really believed in the Judeo-Christian deity, so much as they recognized the political utility of encouraging mindless fervor from that crowd.

But that's where cynicism can really bite you in the ass, ideologically. When you have deliberately cultivated this deep-but-narrow swath of morons to do your bidding, not only do you ultimately push out anyone with an IQ over 90, but you force yourself to cater more and more to this political golem of boobism you've constructed. The Republicans heartily encouraged a climate of proudly anti-intellectual licentiousness, made it an issue of freedom and liberty to consume as much as possible, to be gluttonous and dull-witted, to self-actualize by spending every fucking night watching random idiots sort their sock drawers on reality shows, to be heedless of the consequences, and to characterize anyone who raised an eyebrow as practically a traitor.

A true moralizer would have taken issue with the notion that excess, waste, sloth, greed, and ignorance were anything short of reprehensible; the conservatard attitude was that to even suggest that such things were shameful was un-American. So activities such as smoking, eating to obesity, and watching hillbillies drive in circles all day were not just silly pastimes with obvious externalities, they were expressions of freedom. Turn on, tune in, drop out indeed.

They could at any point have made an effort to engage sensible, reasonable people and encourage a climate of intellectual rigor and honesty, and deliberately chose to go in the exact opposite direction. They may not have really meant it as such, but they have no right to be surprised that the people who were dumb enough to fall for that nonsense chose to take it literally and make it a way of life.

It's unclear by Bobo's weak tilt at "slightly educated snobs" whether he means the usual bien pensant limo-lib suspects, or effete snipe-hunting twaddlers like himself. It doesn't matter -- utlimately it's all a bunch of half-assed attempts to chicken-egg the current toxic stupidity back to some First Principle. Again, though, you can't just pump people full of dumbass juice for 20-30 years, and then suddenly climb some high horse of moral rigor because of the lack of prudence that you helped drum into their paper-thin crania.

So the myth returns. Just months after the election and the humiliation, everyone is again convinced that Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity and the rest possess real power. And the saddest thing is that even Republican politicians come to believe it. They mistake media for reality. They pre-emptively surrender to armies that don’t exist.

They pay more attention to Rush’s imaginary millions than to the real voters down the street. The Republican Party is unpopular because it’s more interested in pleasing Rush’s ghosts than actual people. The party is leaderless right now because nobody has the guts to step outside the rigid parameters enforced by the radio jocks and create a new party identity. The party is losing because it has adopted a radio entertainer’s niche-building strategy, while abandoning the politician’s coalition-building strategy.

The rise of Beck, Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and the rest has correlated almost perfectly with the decline of the G.O.P. But it’s not because the talk jocks have real power. It’s because they have illusory power, because Republicans hear the media mythology and fall for it every time.

Yes, poor Republicans, always getting rooked by the "media mythology". Why, it's sad when you think about it, because despite being obstructionist at every turn, despite heckling and taunting Obama even when he comes up with a halfway decent idea, despite having spent the last year doing absolutely nothing other than being a reverse rubber stamp because that's all they have left, they really just want what's best for the country. They've been trying their durndest, only to be thwarted at every turn and taken advantage for their well-meaning naïveté.

Bobo really has lost touch with his party. He seems to think they're trying to return to some sort of Dick Lugaresque vision of moderate, principled, somewhat informed conservatism. He doesn't get that the sideshow has taken it over, that it's just a giant clown car powered by Palin and Bachmann and the screams of small children. The Republican party stands for nothing other than fucking Barack Obama over at all costs, and empowering every dipshit and yahoo with whatever scare tactic their astroturf elves can conjure up.

Whatever Bill Buckley may have meant for the movement in his heart of hearts, his ideological descendants continue to regress, devolved to knuckle-dragging oafs whose sole mission is to stand athwart common sense and decency and scream "Death panels!"