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Monday, October 31, 2011

Booty Call

Yeah, it's a real shock that Long Dong SilverHerman Cain turns out to be a sexual serial harasser. (Right, alleged, falsely accused and unfairly maligned. Like Arnold Schwarzenegger.)

The real curiosity here is that, while Cain has been surging -- throbbing, if you will (and you might) -- in the (ahem) polls for the last month, this just now comes out. Accusations and settlements from fifteen years ago taking a month to see light, in the age of 30-second Google hunts.

If you didn't know better, you might narrow it down to one of two rather unseemly assumptions: one, that our intrepid corporate media would take weeks to find its own collective ass in a dark room with both hands and a flashlight; or two, that whoever's been bankrolling this dog-and-pony show from behind the scenes finally decided to pull the blessed plug.

Either Rick Perry suddenly discovered oppo research, in between hits of ecstasy and paint thinner in New Hampshire, or the Koch Brothers finally decided to drop 185 pounds of dead weight. They're obscenely wealthy for a reason, and at least part of that reason is that they realize that there's not much percentage in bankrolling certifiably batshit candidates.

Expect Jon Huntsman to receive an anonymous manila envelope stuffed with photos of either Perry or Romney in a compromising position with: a dead girl, a live boy, a terrified farm animal, or each other. Such a moral dilemma!

Mystery Meat

"I don't mind the taste!"

I am definitely not a food snob, and while I eat very little fast food in recent years (In-N-Out maybe once every couple of months), I certainly ate more than my fill of Carl's Jr. burgers back in the day.

But despite originally hailing from Los Angeles, McDonald's was always verboten growing up. It wasn't because it was fast food, or completely non-nutritious. It was because the food tasted like an unholy blend of cardboard and ass, flash-frozen and then thawed out under a heat lamp. The burgers are nasty, and the fries are pure grease and salt. It should not be mistaken for actual food, it is suicide by slower means. This is not exactly news, even to frequent customers.

So I have been to Mickey D's literally maybe a half-dozen times in my entire life. One of those times I tried a McRib, currently being overpimped on its 112th farewell tour.

I don't recall the exact circumstances which led me to try this bestial thing, probably peer pressure, possibly the occasionally profane amounts of drugs ingested in my twenties. Whatever the case, clearly there was impaired judgment involved.

As I recall, it tasted exactly what you would expect something concoted to offset the chicken shortage caused by McNugget sales to taste like -- a slab of pressed goo, slathered in sauce that must have had 10W40 as one of its main ingredients.

Now, it's not a secret that Americans, more than just about any other nationality, are accustomed to associating an utterly inane concept like "convenience" (as opposed to, say, nutrition, taste, quality, sustenance, or even actual hunger) with "food". And sentimentality may be one of the common touchstones of all cuisines, the ability to conjure up a rustic kitchen, whether grandmother's or anyone's, with well-placed manipulation of the olfactory senses.

But the marketing of this mystery slab ("Think smaller, and more legs.") is very perplexing. Maybe not as much as the grotesque glutton factories that continue to litter the landscape, but bizarre nonetheless.

I hold dear as a simple longstanding empirical axiom that Americans are enormously weird about, and have very dysfunctional relationships with, money, sex, and food. I think there are some people out there (and many of the comments in that first link seem to confirm the idea) that want to take the McRib out behind the middle school and get it pregnant.

Which, come to think of it, might help explain that nasty sauce.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Clownocracy

When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. -- Hunter S. Thompson

On the one hand, it may be a bit of an overreach for the FBI to classify Juggalos as a gang, in the same sense that violent street/prison/biker gangs comport themselves.

Most crimes committed by Juggalos are sporadic, disorganized, individualistic, and often involve simple assault, personal drug use and possession, petty theft, and vandalism. However, open source reporting suggests that a small number of Juggalos are forming more organized subsets and engaging in more gang-like criminal activity, such as felony assaults, thefts, robberies, and drug sales. Social networking websites are a popular conveyance for Juggalo sub-culture to communicate and expand.

....

Juggalos’ disorganization and lack of structure within their groups, coupled with their transient nature, makes it difficult to classify them and identify their members and migration patterns. Many criminal Juggalo sub-sets are comprised of transient or homeless individuals, according to law enforcement reporting. Most Juggalo criminal groups are not motivated to migrate based upon traditional needs of a gang.


Coverage of the recent Gathering suggests that the majority of these goofballs would have trouble navigating their way out of their parents' basements, much less organize for anything more complicated than a pothead fuckfest in a remote holler:

As I walk through a tent area in the early evening, an excited Juggalo runs up to a group of guys in front of us. He has a can of beer in each hand, a cigarette on his lip, and some news: "We've got three Juggalettes giving free hand jobs in a tent up here!"

....

One Juggalo, an immense man with a red beard and a slightly lazy eye, parks himself on the side of the infamous Drug Bridge (more on that later) with a multipurpose cardboard sign: On one side, he offers "Got Neden?" stickers for sale; on the other, he's written, "Its my birthday show me your tits." In the corner, somebody has penned, "Baby mama Approved."


On the other hand, as collapse proceeds apace, gangs -- yes, even the hydrocephalic mouth-breathing Juggalo set -- constitute perhaps the purest and most original form of tribal loyalty. They know that the government has nothing for them. They know that what education they did get didn't prepare them for much, and to pursue it further would simply cost them far more money and time than they have, with no guarantees other than onerous debt.

The Dow is temporarily back "up", the Euros have bought themselves just a bit more time, like a doomed drowning victim trapped in a sinking car, instinctively sucking precious last gulps of air as the water rises inexorably, buying one more second, bargaining with inevitability.

Of course, nothing is truly inevitable, history does not have to be as deterministic as we make it out to be. It all comes down to what we decide to accept as our lot in life, if a system that quite literally depends upon and encourages eternal debt peonage for the masses, and a perverse socialized-risk gambling scheme for the very top, is mathematically sustainable.

It's human nature to confuse the ability to prolong with the ability to genuinely sustain, and that is where we are now. People still think things will right themselves, that something will come along and turn it all around, because something always does. As a planet of increasingly finite resources becomes more and more overpopulated, the futility of this sort of thinking still might not become apparent to its strongest adherents.

Providentiary thinking is magical in scope, and relieves its practitioners of the burden of empirical verification. A nation of Rick Perrys praying for rain does not a plan make. For now, the smart set of the commentariat is content to poke fun at the DFH protesting The Man, and to encourage us to self-actualize through the entertainment choices of following the exploits of celebritards and whores.

I think the effectiveness of that strategy is going to dwindle, as the economic corpses pile up in the parks and free speech zones worldwide. When even Friedman is coming around -- as if the globalization agenda he's been pimping for the last fifteen years had nothing to do with the philosophical underpinnings of the transnational merchant princes running our lives -- you know it's the real deal.

The Oakland OWS protest violence was just the beginning. Some catalyzing "black swan" event is on the near horizon, but really, unless the system itself is forced to tectonically change, it's all rearranging deck chairs on a sinking economy. For the masses, anyway; as ever, the wealthy will take it with them.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Mitt Happens

When it comes to describing the Republican preznitential primary process so far, with its increasingly bizarre and inane "debates", and the string of three-week candidate crushes going back to Donald Fucking Trump's transparent publicity stunt, words begin more and more to fail. The usual metaphor of rubber-necking at the scene of a particularly grisly road accident doesn't cut it anymore.

It's more like trying to figure out the wave of torture-porn movies in the middle of the last decade, as sadistic schlock-meisters set out to limn the agonies of the human condition by trying to out-spatter the likes of Eli Roth. When your bar is already set low from the outset, you are absolutely guaranteed to GIGO your way through things.

So it is with this protracted sideshow, which ostensibly has the goal of presenting a viable replacement for Barack Hussein OsamaObama who, some continue to insist, emerged fully realized from his mother's womb in a turban, waving a scimitar in one hand and clutching the Qu'ran and Das Kapital in the other, ululating "Death to Amreeka!" at the top of his tiny little lungs.

Of course, this negates the facts that Obama is actually the one who found and killed bin Laden after a decade on the run, turned a militant American-born cleric in Yemen -- whose stated goal was to radicalize American Muslims and create more Fort Hood massacres -- into a greasy spot on a donkey path, and assisted in bring down Moammar Qaddafi, a truly nasty character, without risking a single American life. When it comes to foreign policy, Barack Obama is as hawkish as they think they are.

Economic policy is even easier -- he's on retainer to the Wall Street thieves and grifters, to every bit the extent that one would expect from any of his Republican challengers (excepting, perhaps, Ron Paul). It is remotely possible that a McCain White House would have dropped the corporate tax rate to zero (which for many corporations it essentially is), but while Johnny Mac had to dance with them who brung him in '08, it's safe to wager that he is still rational and lucid enough to read a balance sheet.

So this summer has been merely a tedious exercise in trotting out an increasingly moronic series of candidates, in order to pander to what is apparently the most regressive, knuckle-dragging political base in a couple of generations. Seriously -- reasonable people from both sides can discuss at length the manifest failures of the Obama administration, but what sort of window-licking fuckwit actually thinks that Herman Cain would be anything but a disaster in any elected post higher than dog-catcher?

Oh sure, Cain would open the doors to the Koch brothers, let them and their subsidiaries pull favors and run riot over the regulatory agencies and labor unions (what remains of those entities, anyway). The magic of The Invisible Hand Making The Tide Rise For All Boats and such like. Because that's been working out so fucking well, hasn't it?

But Cain is interesting not in the sense of what he's revealed about himself -- a bumptious, ignorant tool who literally thinks that poor people should blame themselves first and foremost, and whose main actual idea is a 2000-mile fence to electrocute Mexicans -- but about the people who would actually vote for someone so comical and nonsensical.

And we won't even get into Cain's much-vaunted campaign video, which more than anything seems to allude to off-camera accessories such as a van with tinted portholes and a sex dungeon cluttered with missing hitchhikers.

Now, all of this has been an attempt by the Republitard base to avoid endorsing the Stormin' Mormon, Romney. Perhaps it's Romney's religion, or the way he keeps changing his positions day-to-day, or the fact that virtually nothing out of his cakehole is believable in the sense that you think he might actually believe what he's saying. But the bottom line is that the base hates him, but he has money and name recognition, so he's the perennial #2 in this dog show.

The fact of the matter is, when compared with the rest of the doofuses on the scorecard, Romney is not only the most competent and accomplished of the bunch, he is the only one of the front-runners that might be sufficiently competent to actually do the job. Romney's problem is the opposite of the rest of them -- he is actually an intelligent guy.

Romney, unlike Cain, understands why it's important for the president of the United States to know who the fucking dictator of Uzbekistan is, that there are important logistical capabilities for the US military about to be transferred there, and that Islam Karimov is a Saddam Hussein-grade brute who has literally boiled dissidents alive. He understands how economics and finance works. Romney, unlike Trump (who obviously was never an actual candidate, merely pimping his piece-of-shit teevee show), Bachmann, Perry, and Cain, is not an idiot.

He is, however, an unctuous, insincere turd who made his bones gutting manufacturing companies and sending American jobs overseas, instantly making him easy money for the Democrats to run against. And the Goopers know it. And the rest of their dance-card is a cluster of shit-scary goons and apocalyptos, people who, if they were really sincere in their belief in the dominionist claptrap about Christ coming back to scorch the earth and cleanse it of sinners week after next, should be spending their last days in style, having fun, not jockeying for the blue ribbon like a fattened pig at a county fair.

People have danced around Romney's (and to a lesser degree, because of the much lower name recognition, Huntsman's) religion, not wanting to appear bigoted, but treading dangerously close to ofay "some of my best friends are" territory. This is understandable; every religion is goofy to outsiders. Certainly in the years of running this blog, and before that on chat boards, I've never shied away from taking cheap shots at whatever religion crossed my sights, and Mormonism was definitely in there somewhere.

Perhaps counterintuitively, though, I would say this about Mormonism in general, and the many Mormons I have personally known, in particular: They're nice people. They place an emphasis on work ethic, and on individual self-sufficiency, but in the context of strengthening family and community. And not just the usual empty "fambly valyews" guff (though there was a video company in Utah whose specialty was bowdlerizing mainstream releases for "safer viewing"), but most of them seem to actually like their families, and make the effort to spend time with them.

Again, as an atheist, as far as I'm concerned every religion has wacky, far-fetched, completely fantastical belief systems and mythos underpinning them. Magic underwear is funny, there's just no getting around that. And certainly the Mormon church, just like the Catholic church, has many institutional wrongs to atone for. (Although, unlike the Catholic church, which took half a millennium just to acknowledge that it might have screwed the pooch on the whole Galileo thing, and that bit of nastiness with the Inquisition, the LDS church does update its dogma and amend its more racist undertones a bit more quickly.)

But institutional wrongs do not necessarily and always fully incriminate individual believers. Every Christian is not individually responsible for the Ku Klux Klan; every Muslim is not responsible for Osama bin Laden. And whether atheists like it or not, someone who professes to a mainstream religion is going to hold high office, at least for the near future. When enough people come around to the idea that you can be a very moral person without the burden of a particular established superstition, that will change. Till then, here's what you have to choose from. And Mormonism, as peculiar as its backstories are, as transparently scammy as its origins and its founder were, is merely the young child in a very old, far more established crowd of scams and fantasies; it is neither more nor less empirically valid than any of them.

I still think that in the end, Huntsman, if he can keep his powder dry, and just enough money coming in to keep breathing, gets this by attrition. The rest of them peaked too early and fell too hard; Perry, alone among them, has enough money and charisma and favors from his home state to rebound some, but it ain't gonna happen. The whole "if you like Dubya, you'll love Perry" schtick is exactly where it's at, and when was the last time you heard anyone admitting to missing George W. Bush?

And Huntsman, alone in the entire group of intellectual reprobates and buffoons, still has the ability to appeal to anyone outside that base. This will be a test for the far-right wing of the Corporate party, to decide if it still wants to be taken somewhat seriously by rational people, or it wants to continue its devolution into the "crazy aunt in the attic" wing of a hollowed-out corporatocracy.

Either way, metric fucktons of cash will be thrown around, and you, Tonstant Weader, won't see a red cent of it. Might be a good time to bone up on political consultancy.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Erin Go Blah

OK, so it is duly noted that money bunny Erin Burnett should never be mistaken for a friend of the masses. I mean, at the risk of belaboring the blitheringly obvious, she has never been that person. If she were, she would not have the job she has.

Burnett's pedigree -- worked for Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, and is set to marry a Citigroup exec -- is exactly the curricula vitae one would expect for someone in her job. Same with Jim Cramer. It should not be a blindside surprise that Burnett comes across as a smug, overprivileged twit, functionally ignorant of how people outside of Manhattan get by in life. That is not an accident, that is a job requirement.

Look, the financial system itself is simply a polite fiction that people have agreed to agree on, to passively accept. Americans of all wealth quintiles, whether they have investments or not, have some awareness of how the DJIA works, insofar as it is "good" when it increases, "bad" when it decreases. But that's about the extent of it; even people who work in the financial services industry display little specific acumen as to why -- or more importantly, for whom -- those indicators necessarily mean those things. For the most part, it is about as scientific and empirical as astrology, or the reading of chicken entrails. Again, this is by design; the industry has a vested interest in protecting the arcana of their vested interests, and the mechanics therein.

This is where the cheerleading sector comes in, the CNBC money bunnies and balding galoots, the Burnetts and Cramers and Maria Bartiromos. The women present a veneer of knowledge and a frisson of sexuality, not-so-subtle reminders that money equates power and both will get you more ass than you can handle. The men present either the appearance of gravitas and expertise, or in the case of Cramer, the illusion of expertise coupled with a shameless buffoonery one normally associates with the local morning zoo radio drive-time show.

But they're all there for the same reason, in the end -- to make you believe that they know what they're talking about, that Wall Street's interests coincide and overlap with the interests of people outside of Wall Street. They are there to elide the increasingly obvious notion that Wall Street financiers simply regard the rest of the country and the rest of the planet as a dead-brain milch cow to be periodically cleaned out.

Don't ever tell yourself differently, folks. I am not exaggerating even a little bit when I tell you, Mr. and Mrs. Joe Six-Pack, that nobody in that industry, from Erin Burnett on up to Jamie Dimon, gives a red-hot monkey-fuck whether you live or die, whether you can find a job, whether you live in a fucking cardboard box while they pick out $10K leather couches for their East Side penthouses.

They do not care, nor do they care about the banana-republic levels of income and wealth disparity, and the only emotion they feel when you resent this indifference and chicanery is antagonism and open hostility. There is not a moment in the lives of these people where they wonder why the peons don't have more, because that would interfere with them wondering why they themselves do not have more.

If the financial services system is a racket -- and Jesus H. Tapdancing Christ, how can any sentient being at this point not understand that that is exactly what it is? -- then financial "journalists" are the procurers and whores of that racket, shamelessly exhorting and pimping anything and everything, whether they know better or not. They are the kids on the street corner in Goodfellas, running bets on the rigged numbers game to Tuddy and Paulie at the neighborhood pizzeria. They are Crazy Vince selling you the ShamWow and the pajama jeans on your midnight teevee, call within the next 20 minutes and get a 30% discount, tonight only.

Because one thing they do know is that the system is predicated on belief, like Tinkerbell. If people start understanding the flawed mechanics of that system, the shenanigans and outright thievery and graft that so much of it is built on, they might get wise and stop believing, and Tinkerbell dies.

Getting upset with a financial journo for doing what they've been conditioned and groomed for years to do is like getting upset with, say, Pat Robertson for saying something completely stupid and hypocritical. Like religion, modern de-leveraged and de-securitized finance is simply an ungainly belief system, but one that is necessary for its believers to maintain. They are balls-deep up in this biznitch, and if people stop buying what they're selling, they might no longer be able to have thousand-dollar meals at Cipriani's, or send their kids to $50K private kindergartens. Can't you feel the pain of the 1%ers, you heartless motherfuckers?

But there's nothing stopping anyone outside the bubble from taking a look at this shit, watching someone like Burnett waltzing down to the OWSers to fuck with people who are up to their eyeballs in debt and can't get a job because Burnett's cocksucker bosses might lose a quarter-point on their stock bonuses, and saying, "Wait a minute. How the fuck do credit default swaps and collateralized debt obligations and MERS benefit me in any way, directly or indirectly?" I mean, who you gonna believe -- Erin Burnett and Jim Cramer, or your own lyin' eyes?

The answer, of course, is that those alphabet-soup financial devices don't benefit you at all -- if anything, their only net effect on the average 'merkin is more debt and pain. That's where Erin Burnett comes in, to convince you that that pain you feel in your ass is not Lloyd Blankfein's tiny, barbed cock, but the invisible hand of the marketplace giving you a nice prostate massage.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

American Spring

It's a wonderful, terrible thing to watch the Occupy Wall Street protests. The belated but increasing corporate media coverage, as well as the prospects for the protests themselves, present some possible dilemmas.

First, the media. One could go back a couple years, and compare and contrast coverage of the teabaggers versus that of the OWSers. While some media observers surely did point out the incoherence and logical inconsistencies of the 'baggers and their proclaimed goals, just as many covered them almost reverently, as if they took the be-Rascalled tri-corner hats as a new wave of founding fathers, righteously battling an oppressive, indeed despotic, regime. Vituperative cranks hollering at hapless aldermen at local town hall meetings, and protest signs announcing that the bearers were unarmed "this time", were simply manifestations of this new breed of self-actualizing, totally-not-astroturfed codger.

The Occupiers, otoh, were portrayed (at least initially, and even still in many instances) as having no goals or leaders or stated political outcomes as such. And that's true, as far as it goes, but there's an actual reason for that, one which the media fails to comprehend so far.

The simplest way to put it is the old Upton Sinclair chestnut that it is impossible for someone to understand something when their paycheck depends on their not understanding it. But it is also ingrained, institutionalized in the corporate media DNA, to "properly" limn the narrative of a political story by long-established principles and benchmarks -- appointed spokespersons, bullet-point goals and negotiating tactics, etc.

It does not occur to your average corporate media bear that the OWS folks have quite clearly stated what they are pissed about -- a system that is rigged against the majority, that insists on practical impossibilities: that you can't get a decent job without going into hock for a degree, preferably a graduate degree; that the best time to look for a job is when you already have one, because apparently prospective employers smell rotting meat when an unemployed job-seeker walks in for an interview; that cutting taxes for corporations and financial insitutions is an imperative for job creation and growth, even though taxes have been at historic lows for a decade, and job creation has run at a net negative, while corporations outsource jobs and offshore revenues.

And that's not even touching on the too-big-too-fail banks sitting on reserves, refusing to lend or help jumpstart a moribund economy, continuing with the crooked derivatives that got them into trouble in the first place, pushing people out of their homes with retroactively falsified MERS and bullshit tranched promissory notes that no longer have identifiable holders because they've been sliced and diced and resold so often, etc.

It's a goddamn racket, folks, from A to Z. They don't even bother trying to conceal it anymore, one of the ancillary benefits of owning the political system outright, both the center-right and the far-right wings of the Corporate Party. That is what the OWSers are protesting, their complete economic and political disenfranchisement from a hollowed-out system. And they -- and by they, I mean the media and their owners -- know full fucking well what these people are fed up about, why they're risking being truncheoned and pepper-sprayed in their "free speech" cordons by chickenshit cops.

No doubt Lloyd and Jamie and the rest of the banksters are hoping for an early, frigid winter, the better to shut the rabble down forthwith, lest any substantial portion of the populace actually start believing this populist guff and daring to stand on their hind legs and be men. That simply would not stand, especially since the proles do have plenty of weaponry.

Wall Street is never willingly going to give in or even haggle with people -- literally everyone who is not on Wall Street -- they hold in such deep, unabiding contempt. Make no mistake, America -- Wall Street fucking hates you, considers you nothing more than sheep to be repeatedly fleeced, financial Soylent Green.

But it should be admitted and observed that, since in the conventional sense OWS does not have achievable, realistic outcomes to aim for -- the banksters are not going to voluntarily renegotiate their bloodsucking; unless OWS gets some measure of big, committed donors for candidates, they are not going to make a dent in what passes for a political system.

Certainly this doesn't mean their efforts aren't valid, worthy, even necessary -- they absolutely are, first as catharsis, then as curative, if possible. But "success", however one defines it for OWS, would seem to be automatically fraught with at least two noteworthy dangers: the inevitable attempt by someone from within the corrupt political system to co-opt them, or a (not necessarily inevitable, but not at all unlikely either) violently catalyzing event, a cop going full thug on a defenseless coed and provoking a riot, a lone nut in the crowd going after a bankster in person, that sort of black-swan game-changer that you just can't predict but resets the entire perception of the situation.

But those things are all different from a positive outcome, obviously a subjective, difficult-to-define thing to begin with. One dynamic is impossible to walk back from, though -- the spectacle of working-class people being told by millionaires that other working class people are the enemy, and worse yet, actually believing it, instead of their own lyin' eyes. I know Jay Gould wasn't bullshitting when he said he'd pay half the working class to kill the other half, but I still balk at the prospect of the first half actually falling for such a transparent ruse.

If the teabaggers actually believe their own stated precepts, and aren't simply a group of angry cranks that simply can't stand any government spending that doesn't benefit themselves, then they do have common cause with the OWS crowd. And for their own sake, they may want to find that common ground sooner rather than later, since the Koch brothers will sell their dumb asses down the river first chance.

Maybe the biggest takeaway of all is the quintessentially American notion of loudly supporting rebels and protesters in other countries, but denouncing the selfsame breed here as morons at best, traitors at worst.