Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Deep Thought

The lesson is not that The Saga of Shirley Sherrod is yet another tedious "teachable moment" about this country's race issues. There's really no lesson to be had at all, just a confirmation -- a quick round of creatively-edited, sub-performance-art tubthumping by a conservatard blogger and a few Faux News yard apes, and this administration reflexively punts on first down.

Were Breitbart or Fox, like the health-care and financial industries, to launch legions of barbed-tail lobbyist minions to extract humiliating concessions from Obama or famed tough guy Krav Maga Rahm, Breitbart would by now probably have his own Big Babywood basic-cable nutwork, and Rupert Murdoch would have the Lincoln Bedroom renamed after himself. And Obamanauts would proclaim it as a shrewd incremental advance.

I get what Al Sharpton said, that when you win the White House and both houses of Congress, you don't get into pissing matches with a bunch of poltroons dressed up like Paul Revere and carrying misspelled signs comparing Obama to Stalin. That's fine and/or dandy.

But you do, on occasion, have to remind the more obnoxious hecklers that you fucking won, and you have the stage and the mike. I got heckled once as a musician, and I made goddamned sure that motherfucker left the floor with his tail between his legs. These guys cringe before anyone even throws a real punch at them. Frankly, it's just ugly to watch.

You can get away with being wrong, you can get away with screwing up, you can get away with launching your copious monkey-butter across a zaftig Jewish princess' gob whilst discussing troop deployments in Bosnia. But you can almost never get away with being a total fucking pussy, especially when no jobs have been created.

There is a real pattern of this chickenshit behavior developing, and it is going to backfire if they don't deal with it. Carefully deliberated mediation impresses no one, all people see is someone with a knife at a gunfight.

Jack Tatum

Jack Tatum was the first football player I learned to recognize when I was a kid. He was the reason I became a football fan in general, and a Raiders fan in particular. I met him briefly at a Raider game in Oakland about ten years ago, and got to tell him that. He was quiet and polite, graciously accepting my compliment, talking briefly, moving on to the next fan in the stands as the game was about to start.

Tatum and George Atkinson were, during that sweet spot in the mid-'70s, the nastiest, hardest-hitting safety duo in the league. Fearless and ferocious, they literally terrorized opposing wide receivers forcing opposing offenses to alter their usual passing game plans.

Tatum never seemed quite the same after paralyzing Darryl Stingley, understandably so. That event tragically underscored just how dangerous the "game" really is, large men in peak physical condition deliberately hurtling at each other with force and impact comparable to an automobile accident, sixty times in three hours.

Certainly Tatum had hit other players harder, before and after Stingley, and to see many of the hits Tatum laid on people, it was actually surprising he hadn't hurt himself catastrophically. One step earlier or later, and Stingley just gets the wind knocked out of him. But the hit broke the way that it did, and Stingley and Tatum carried their respective burdens from that split-second for three decades after.

RIP, Assassin.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Pop Star

So Kathleen Parker, perhaps aspiring to be the WaPo MoDo, not realizing that the one is quite enough, vaingloriously and tediously attempts to cast performance artist Sarah Palin as some sort of postmodern feminist icon. Ahahahaha. Oh wait, she's (somewhat) serious.

This is, I believe, the selfsame Kathleen Parker who, not so long ago, ired thousands of knuckle-dragging cyber-troglodytes with her heretical analysis of Saint Sarah as being slightly out of her depth.

Apparently that was then, and this is now, and Parker's sage analysis has -- well, what's the opposite of deepened? Shallowed?

For what it's worth, I get a kick out of Sarah. May I call her Sarah?

She and I apparently share a certain genetic predisposition to annoy all the right people. These would be the folks who take themselves and their ideologies a tad too seriously. Thus when I was promoting my book, "Save the Males," I wore an aggressively feminine suit -- pink with a bow in back -- just to irritate hard-line feminists, who, without bothering to read the book, would hate it on sight.

I happen to hate bows, but it was worth it.

Likewise, Sarah knows just what drives us all nuts and, instead of changing her tune, she turns up the volume -- and triples down. Don't like her little red shoes? She'll add a red leather jacket. Got gloss?

Oh, sisters really are doing it tofor themselves, aren't they? Here's the thing, and even Parker should be able to grok this simple observation -- there is a substantial difference between a columnist peddling a book under the guise of comfortably suburban pseudo-contrarian claptrap, and a former vice-presidential candidate hitting the rubber-chicken circuit and angering rubes with a St. Vitus' dance of choregraphed winks and glances at her scrawled palm, lying every step of the way. Parker and Palin are both trying to sell easily-replicated compendia of smartassery, true, but Palin is also catering -- no, deliberately antagonizing -- the addled assumptions of fairly large swaths of aggrieved morons, with the clear purpose of disrupting what's left of our political process.

This would be one thing if the country weren't on the verge of implosion, but this breathy sister-bonding with a noisome dingbat while serious people are trying to figure out serious solutions to serious problems, it's just bullshit. Palin appears to be not a whit more informed or astute about the world around her or the mechanics of US government than she was when Parker rightly called her out. Yet now Parker feels some lame kinship with Palin's increasingly tiresome narcissism.

This woman is not to be feared or loathed. She is to be taken with a grain of humor and a dash of admiration. A different version of Madonna, she's a public relations machine who manipulates public perception with well-timed and, recently, sophisticated messaging.

Again, Parker writes as if she should be talking about Lady Gaga or Lindsay Lohan, rather than someone who actively aspires to have an impact on the political process. Frankly, I'd rather have Madonna in high political office than Sarah Palin, and I can't fucking stand Madonna. The "grain of humor and a dash of admiration" was done with about 18 months ago; Palin is little more than a reality-teevee stunt-cast at this point.

So why the fuck are we hearing all goddamned week about her hypocrite daughter's impending crossbow wedding, like we should care that she put her legs behind her ears for a drunken hockey oaf and let him knock her up again? Happens every day around the world, the only difference here is that Levi is slightly smarter than we gave him credit for, insofar as he reads the papers enough to know that his future maw-in-law made $12 mil last year.

The genius of Sarah's message, whatever it is, is that it doesn't matter what it is. Of course Americans want their country back. We'd prefer that China not own us. Most don't like unfunded federal mandates, takeovers or bailouts. Except when it benefits us directly.

Reread that, because those five sentences are, inadvertenly one fears, the truest part of the entire column. The moment it doesn't matter what someone says, just so long as they say something, that person is just a parody of themselves with a brain-dead fan club -- in other words, Lady Gaga once again. So break the rest of it down -- "Americans want their country back" from whom? We had an election, you fucktards, it was in the papers and everything. And why does China own us, exactly, can our new pop goddess enlighten us? Does she know fuck-all about how the working class has been bled dry for 35 years, and now since the top 10% own 70% of the assets, they can pretty much trade with each other and write the rest of us off? Seriously, I've asked this many times, and I'll do it once again -- if anyone knows of any specific instance where Palin has proposed even one (1) actual serious policy, foreign or domestic, financial, job-creating, energy, whatever -- please do speak up. I think we'd all be very surprised.

In the meantime, Parker cuts to the heart of the teabaggers' deal, whether she knows it or not. Everyone gets bent over the idea of handouts, until some of the pelf lands in their hands. This is the core of the "get the gubmint out of my Medicare" morons' deal, which is why they need to die off all the sooner, since no one should expend energy trying to explain this shit to them.

Well, who's to argue with a lotta women comin' together? It's the sisterhood, baby. Wear pink and put a bow on it.

Sarah's long-term plans are anybody's guess. Anyone who thinks she won't run for president because she's making too much money on the celebrity circuit is missing a big point. You make money as a presidential candidate, too. If you win, you're president. If you lose, you're rich.

And don't tell her she can't. If you do, she's just gonna get feistier and cuter. Next thing you know she'll be a dadgum lioness givin' heck to those media hyenas, just the way they can't stand it.

Yes, she's showed us all, hasn't she? She really has, you know; where else can you lie through your fucking teeth, make millions, have thousands of morons adoring you at every stop, and even have formerly cogent media commentators fawning over your wardrobe and your bullshit attitude? But it's just good fun watching supposedly professional journamalists write these wretched screeds, like they're auditioning for a job at Entertainment Weekly.

It's not a coincidence that Bristol and Levi announced their immaculate engagement to some cheesy gossip rag, you know. Considering the "legitimate" media we've got, I'd guess we're about 10-20 years out from electing a Kardashian to national office, since neither the people nor the media can tell the difference any longer. Idiocracy will turn out to have been an eerily prescient documentary.

I'm so goddamned sick of all these people, the assholes yanking the world's chain with their prima-donna bullshit, and the highly-paid media monkeys writing brainless odes to them, instead of something useful. How do we get rid of them? They are ruining what's left of the country, but maybe we really want it that way.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Well, You Can't Have That....

Joe Bageant throws down only every so often these days, but that's understandable, and more importantly, every one has been a gem. I think he correctly susses the (probably) incurable malaise America is undergoing right now, and for at least the immediate future.

Along with the usual enviromental and classist issues, it's really a crisis of the spirit, to the extent that I can buy into that concept and remain a good atheist. Perhaps a secular version of "spirit" could be "passion", and when you see the things the majority of Americans appear to be passionate about, it makes sense.

One would like to believe it's just a media-created perception, but in even a notionally free-market milieu, there has to be some truth to it. Our pockets are being picked, our futures mortgaged, our lives and landscapes plundered by a precious few who already have too bloody much, yet never quite enough. Yet too many of us express our passions via modes that are undeserving of any passion at all.

We know things that were never worth knowing, about people not worth acknowledging, a comically dramatized echo chamber of interchangeable scripted "reality" shows. So many fat fucks pointlessly driving fat vehicles, carrying nothing to nowhere, back and forth, back and forth, spending money they don't really have on shit they don't really want.

Self-actualization, when it occurs at all, is done through the choice of vehicle, or hooting at hillbillies driving billboards in circles all afternoon, that sort of thing. There seems to be no sense of moderation in any of these pursuits; it's one thing to enjoy kitsch and trash and occasional indulgences, but it's important to find some balance to those things, especially since so many of them rely on dwindling shares of resources.

Bageant seems to have found that balance in simplicity, a genuine sense of community, the beauty of a moment. Speaking strictly for myself, I probably have an unhealthy attachment to my books, music, and guitars, but that's it. And even then, I recall being a teenager in Southern California, 25 years or so ago, spending the day surfing with friends and building a bonfire, meeting college girls and drinking beer and playing Beach Boys songs into the night. I remember thinking at the time, on one of those summer nights, that I could do that every day for the next hundred years.

It seems simplistic, counterintuitive, and may even be wrong, but sometimes you can observe the actions of others -- or even yourself -- and think that they can't possibly truly want to do what they're doing. But maybe we're all just too distracted anymore to think about what we really want to do, or it gets dismissed as too much trouble, or not enough time/money, even if some of the best things in life really are free (for now).

Deep World Cup Thought

Vuvuzelas are the African version of ThunderStix -- noisy, cheap, obnoxious toys that give supposedly grown adults an excuse to act like retards for a couple hours straight.

Unless, of course, a stadium that sounds like a ginormous nest of farting hornets somehow enhances your experience of viewing a sport that, while interesting at times, is viewed by most Americans on a par with, say, the metric system. The constant flopping and poor reffing is bad enough, but yeah, the fuckin' toy plastic horns don't help win converts.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Inside the Playbook

If you're a football fan who enjoys the mechanics of the game as much as the personalities, and you don't know about Matt Bowen's ongoing series of play and coverage breakdowns for the National Football Post, you're missing out. Really good, detailed analysis of what every player is doing on the field; great stuff for us fans in the off-season drought. I'm only slightly embarrassed to say that I've applied some of this to my very occasional Madden 2010 games, but if I can ride JaCarcass Russell to a 77-21 Super Bowl win, I must have learned something.

Return On Investment

Goldman Sachs executive/Obama economic policy advisor uses CDS payout to add to the indoor heated pool at his Hamptons spread.

I know The Krugster means well, and he is a Nobel laureate and all, but it's almost as if someone needs to break the news to him:

For the last few months, I and others have watched, with amazement and horror, the emergence of a consensus in policy circles in favor of immediate fiscal austerity. That is, somehow it has become conventional wisdom that now is the time to slash spending, despite the fact that the world’s major economies remain deeply depressed.

This conventional wisdom isn’t based on either evidence or careful analysis. Instead, it rests on what we might charitably call sheer speculation, and less charitably call figments of the policy elite’s imagination — specifically, on belief in what I’ve come to think of as the invisible bond vigilante and the confidence fairy.

Uh-huh, and the bond vigilante and the confidence fairy usually convene at that off-ramp from the Suck It Expressway to Go Fuck Yourself Boulevard, near the tent city. (See what I did there?)

I don't think Krugman really needs to be told that this all falls under the general rubric of "it's not a flaw, it's a feature", but sometimes you wonder. Any investor, whether it's someone like Warren Buffett who generally invests in tangible assets, or some bookmaking hedge-fund scumbag, cares only about getting a return. If they thought more profit could be generated by encouraging and laundering more stimulus pelf, they'd gladly sign on to it, so the fact that they're not interested is more troubling than even Krugman characterizes it.

One aspect of this is that institutional investors really do seem to have allowed themselves to dumb down considerably. This may be attributed to a variety of reasons: the lack of accountability and proliferation of politically purchased moral hazard; the preponderance of automated spreadsheet algorithms doing most of the day-to-day trading, rather than people investing in ideas and things; the indifference to the inevitable consequences (see reason #1).

What you have here is a very small cadre of highly privileged -- yet not necessarily competent or qualified -- people controlling an increasing share of the nation's aggregate wealth. Worse yet, since they know that the peons will bailout their careless fuckups, they have almost zero incentive to maintain even modest standards of intellectual or moral rigor in their profession.

So you have what you have -- a fat, bloated carapace of a nation being hollowed out by financial parasitism. I don't think anyone envisions or desires perfect economic equality; it is impossible and unenforceable. However, when your level of income disparity is behind such workers' paradises as Vietnam and Yemen, and is actually closer to Zimbabwe than to those two, you have a real problem. Take a look down the whole list; the US is basically neck-and-neck with banana republics and sub-Saharan despotates.

It seems that, between their pension fund shell games, their shameless greed, and their credit-default-swap shenanigans, they may have reached that magical equilibrium where they don't need the masses to perpetuate their scam. Therefore any "stimulus" or "infrastructure" spending is a waste for them; they would make more money taking put options on Paraguay's World Cup chances. I think Krugman suffers from the same problem Obama does -- the belief that if you make rational appeals to people's better angels, truth and reason eventually will out.

This would be true if we had an economic elite that cared about creating things, instead of merely owning shit. But once you get past the public philanthropy of the likes of Buffett and Bill Gates, whaddaya got? A sub-class of people whose vocation is the acquisition -- and, more importantly, valuation -- of phantom wealth, paper profits. Keep in mind what the mechanics of the "financial reform" bill have been about -- the ability to peddle worthless securities to credulous institutional investors (a huge mode of control in leveraging pension funds, and thus the working-class chumps who depend on them to, you know, survive); the ability to leverage bad bets at asset ratios of over 30:1; the ability to basically force the next two generations of taxpayers to negotiate at gunpoint, to pay for someone else's deliberate mal-fee-ance.

These things are not "mistakes" nor "accidents". These are all very easily foreseen consequences of decisions made with indifference, if not outright malice, aforethought. And now that their bad bets have been paid off for them, and the ROI is in Asia rather than Oceania and Europe, they couldn't possibly give less of a shit what happens to displaced workers and the foreclosed homeless.

This is a very important, fundamental point that seems to escape many commentators, who dance around the issue and wonder that the Masters of the Universe don't get the ramifications of what they're doing or proposing. I assure you, they get it all too well, they know precisely what they are doing, and what the results will be. Every time I see the Dow average go up, I automatically assume that it happened on the backs of the peons, that unemployment or foreclosures or family murder/suicides are experiencing an uptick. More often than not, that appears to be the case. Wall Street seems to routinely profit, exult even, in the misery of the masses.

The sooner people start disabusing themselves of the weird, wild notion that the top 10%, which controls 70% of the nation's wealth, has any sort of moral or practical stake in the bottom half's 2.5% piece of the pie -- beyond how to use government leverage to forcibly extract that -- the more clear the picture will be for them. In the meantime, the middle class, the most consistent element of political stability, is decimated, paving the way for the corporate robber barons and their idiot demagogue apologists.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Unforced Errors

Per usual these days, I'm a tad late on the draw, but it bears even belated mention -- former heartbeat-away-from-the-preznitency-candidate Shitferbrains is not only tremendously, impassably dumb for a supposed Raygun acolyte, but irredeemably fucking lazy:

"This is Reagan country," the former Alaska governor told the cheering crowd, invoking the name of a fellow conservative icon, "and perhaps it was destiny that the man who went to California's Eureka College would become so woven within and interlinked to the Golden State."

Well, yes, if not for the fact Reagan, who Palin has frequently quoted and for whom she has repeatedly expressed admiration, actually attended Eureka College in Eureka, Ill., near Peoria, from 1928 to 1932. The 40th president didn't actually move to California, a state with which he'd become synonymous through both film and politics, until 1937.

Christ almighty, this would have taken what, fifteen seconds to check on Teh Googul? It's starting to make more sense, why Palin generally repeats the same tired schtick over and over again -- any of these pale attempts at an out-of-the-box homily inevitably plops on the podium, writhing, begging to be put out of its misery.

Not to mention the fact that Saint Reagan, no matter what these illiterate retards insist on yammering, would have to run as a Democrat these days. The teabaggers would have their three-cornered hats in full spin at Reagan's genial willingness to at least engage the opposition, even if he had no intention of actually listening to them.

I'm not sure what kind of asshole pays five hundred bucks to listen to Palin shrieking her bumptious schtick and made-up-as-she-goes-along factoids (portmenteau word of "facts" and "hemorrhoids"). As Johnny Carson once supposedly said, I've heard cats fuck with more harmony. The attendees would have been much better off just donating their damned money and taking in a bad movie.