Monday, January 18, 2010


It's a bit late to worry about it now, but as 2009 came to a close, I considered the idea of doing some sort of de rigueur end-of-year (or, and I really have no interest in the pedantic "when does it really begin?" dispute, end-of-decade) list. Since The Beast seems to have gone out of commission, I mostly thought about poaching their always-excellent "50 Most Loathsome People" idea, perhaps shortening it to 20 or 25.

But in the end it seemed like it would have been as much a tedious reiteration as a recapitulation. Does anyone need to be reminded that Richard Bruce Cheney is a loathsome tool who needs to be frog-marched off every cable-news podium onto which he skulks; that Nadya Suleman is a parasitic head case who needs to be forcibly sterilized; that Joe Lieberman is an unprincipled ratfucker who should be thrown from a bridge into a vat full of pig parts and droppings; that Barack Obama turned out be just another dime-store politician after all, even with all the populist political winds at his back? They're all loathsome in their own special way, but it's nothing new to readers of this or any other blog. It's just a matter of breaking out the thesaurus and finding innovative ways of saying "You really suck" to people we already disparage on a routine basis. Who needs it?

That said, it is somewhat useful for everyone to take stock of what the last year or ten years or whatever held for them, their families, communities, etc. I think most of us, unless we happen to be oil futures speculators or hedge-fund thieves, would like a do-over on many things. And yet, what would "we" do with it, Kemosabe?

Probably the most salient point to really be driven home over the past decade is how brute stupid so many people really are, and how technology has tended to empower them in that, rather than to allow or encourage them to unscrew their heads from their sphincters. It has enabled them, counterintuitively I think, to wallow in it and become even dumber and meaner, just when that seemed impossible.

Blogs and chat fora at least had a fairly equitable chance of raising or lowering discourse; for every virtual room of tubthumping dipshits, you had decent odds of finding people who could argue substantively, and even with some measure of intellectual honesty and good faith. Even a blog maintained by a halfwit troglodyte at least requires some small bit of discipline and persistence. All you need with a Twitter account is a lack of self-awareness, the assumption that someone, somewhere, actually gives half a shit what you had for breakfast. (Me, I had the usual Sunday Special of tequila and Pop-Tarts. Don't knock it till you try it, preferably with your taste buds pre-coated from last night's bender of hydrocodone washed down with RBVs and purple drank.)

Knowing that yahooism reigns and having it confirmed in ever more ways with ever more frequency are two different things. You can grok the dilemma of understanding just how dumb the average American is, and that by definition it means that half the people aren't even that smart, and still have be almost a surprise just how high it turns out you had that "average" bar set. The rise of Twitter and the prevalence of cable news networks attempting to keep pace with that nonsense only drives home the sad fact that all this technology democratized the people's ability to speak their mind, only to demonstrate that most of them had nothing useful to say, nor the means to even comprehend it.

What kind of moron watches CNN to listen to the news reader recite viewers' tweetstwits? Is it more or less the same kind of doofus that still contributes money to a moral cretin such as Marion Robertson, or the farm animal that watched Sarah Palin on Glenn Beck's Playground o' Decompensation, or do new times call for new taxonomies of dangerous retards?

In the end, maybe that's what the Naughts were all about -- confirmation, not revelation. They confirmed that there are vast swaths of people that really will fall for or put up with anything, and some of them are college-edumacated Democrats. There's a difference between them and the unrepentant yahoos of the Palin/Beck set, but only in degree. No one seems able to quite explain this compelling reason why the Democrats must retain Ted Kennedy's Senate seat or regain California's goobernatorship, seeing what they've done this past year.

So the Democrats are spineless and flaccid, even with a supermajority, and the Republicans are openly gleeful at any prospect to profiteer and make war on the backs of the poor. (Not that the Democrats aren't fine with those prospects as well, they just have the good grace to not be as open about it.)

The latest class I'm taking has begun with a rather protracted discussion of ethics in general, and the corporation's need to be socially responsible in particular. Snapshots of overworked South Asians and Caribbeans slaving for six cents an hour amongst piles of $120 logo shirts proliferate next to scenes from the ritual death of the factory farm. Woven throughout is the plaint that the eeeevil corporation squeezes its profits out of the hides -- sometimes literally -- of the weak and powerless, abusing them mercilessly to find that extra one-tenth of a cent per unit in profit.

What's ignored is how deeply symbiotic this ugly scenario is. Every successful business has gotten that way by giving people what they want. Anyone who is still in the dark about where their clothes or their meat or their kitchen cleansers come from is either too stupid to breathe, or knows exactly what the deal is, and is just fine with it.

It's not exactly a secret that people tell themselves little lies to get through the day all the time. So will they bravely put up with abused chickens and exploited Pakistanis and unbelievably polluted rivers in China, in order to save a buck on the next Costco run? Hell yes, even at the expense of the jobs and communities they used to have. It has always been thus, but the past ten years seem to have compacted and accelerated that nasty dynamic.

Oppression and malfeeance, lies and chicanery, in whatever nefarious forms, simply cannot continue without the complicity of some portion of the victims of those tactics. For example, violent pro-life activism would not exist without the involvement or tacit approval of at least some women. Fox News and its ordured heap of screeching daemons could not thrive without the viewership of the bamboozled, the very people who are being tricked into voting against their own rational self-interest over and over again. The Democratic Party would be thumped without the support of dead-ender bien pensant libruls who will back them at any and all costs -- as they are about to find out the hard way later this year.


ingsopix said...

Look, sorry, I have to get technical just this _one time_. You're hearing it from a 4.0 Stanford MS Comp. Eng. I hate it too, but I just need to try once to kill the shit from these idiots.

'Nerds' who think the decade should start on 2011 are the stupid ones. Stupid stupid stupid stupid STUPID.

The reason I'm bothering to do this is that every year lately this has come up with subtexts like "we suspect these 2011 nerds are technically right, but we really don't get it, so..."

No. They _are_ nerds, but they are DUMB nerds. Rest assured. And never give their shit even a single line anymore, ok?.

See, REAL nerds (like me, I guess), the smart ones, know that most things are naturally numbered from 0. The way you number birthdays. You don't start at one, you get to one after a year. It's more correct, including in a mathematical, technical sense (<-and yes, that does matter. A lot.)

Numbering from 1 instead means that we use nonsense like the '3rd millenium' but the '21st century' (and I suppose 201st decade) whereas 2000 would sensibly be labeled millenium 2, century 20, decade 200 (get it?) Easy arithmetic.

_That_ would be a labeling change in the _right_ direction, though no doubt it's too late for that. The mistake is ingrained in our language, 'first' meaning both 'one' and 'beginning'. But trust me, the beginning is zero. It's truer. It's simpler. It Works Better.

It's like trying to convince a Roman that roman numerals are dumb. Even now some people think roman numerals are sophisticated. They're not, they're dumb; in no small part because they have _no decent concept of zero_ -- we needed the Arabs for that.

Zeroes are so simple they're hard. (It's mystical, to be honest.) The test of whether you'd be good at math is whether zeroes are easy or hard for you.

Look at a four digit counter. 10^4 = 10000 numbers. _From 0 to 9999_ -- there's a practical reason for this. Those _are_ the 'first' 10000 numbers. Only an idiot would try to make a counter go from 1 to 10000.

That whole year when you are 19, before you turn 20, should be labeled year 19, even the '19th' rather than '20th' year -- but it's probably too late for that too.

The zillions of subgenius programmers who know no math (esp. no modulo arithmetic, which is essential) number from one internally and then constantly have to add and subtract one - their code really _stinks_.


But look, there _was_ a year before the year called '1' -- just call _that_ year 0 (and the beginning of AD.) It's _not_ a hard concept, not even really a change. Scholars say Jesus was born in 4BC anyway, before Herod died, so no christopaths need get their knickers in a twist (no wait, that's just what they do, oh well...)

Then we'd have 10 years in each decade before 2010 all the way back, and 2010 can start the new decade (as everyone except a complete idiot knows already anyway.)

Well, thanks for listening.

domact said...

Short messages, Democrats. THIS is the slogan we need to see hammered on TV:

Quickly, what have Republicans done for You in the last 30 years?

The spots could go on to embellish with important things Dems have done historically, and the great damage R's have done, and video of that high-up Repuglican who blustered and stumbled and couldn't answer that question on TV either, but first, people just need to be asking themselves that question.

Anonymous said...

I just saw something tonight I'd never seen in politics. I saw an American President became a lame duck after his first year in office. WASF

cavjam said...

Two points -

First, I doubt Heywood has used a thesaurus more than a handful of times. There's too much joy in not using one.

Second, legally binding purpose of a corporation is the maximization of profits. Whether that focus is short term or long depends on the nature of ownership. Ethical considerations may, probably will, be healthy for the corp.'s long term profitability; but with so much stock ownership in the hands of institutions concerned with the present quarter, ethics doesn't have much utility for corporations.

Oh, and there was no year zero. Zero is a numeral, not a number. The end of the first decade was the end of year ten. Extrapolate from there.

Yes, I realize that makes three points. Just call the first one point zero.

Anonymous said...

just to be clear: points 0, 1, and 2 are three points; (you just don't use 3 to name or label any of them, if you have any sense.)

'Zero is a numeral, not a number' is about the dumbest thing I've ever heard anyone say (including Palin).

cavjam said...

'Zero is a numeral, not a number' is about the dumbest thing I've ever heard anyone say (including Palin).

Um, zero is a numeral denoting lack of number. Sorry to piss in your teacup.

Anonymous said...

Numbers are members of a set with some operations/propertied like addition defined over them. Real numbers contain rationals contain integers contain natural numbers, and the Peano postulates on natural numbers _begins_ by defining zero. Go look up some elementary undergraduate math, you twit.