Saturday, September 29, 2012

Safe Bet

Ahahahaha. CNN commentator and noted handicapper Sportin' Life Bill Bennett takes a break from the slots to tell us all just why Teh Kneegrow is a bad bet:

Since Obama took office, median household income has declined more than $4,000. More people are on food stamps than ever before -- 46.7 million. The poverty rate is around 15%, the highest since 1993. The average retail price of gasoline has more than doubled under Obama, rising from $1.84 per gallon to more than $3.80 per gallon. In spite of this, he stopped the approval of the Keystone pipeline for further review.

First of all, the Keystone pipeline is explicitly designed to move oil to the Gulf for export. True story. It was in all the papers and everything. Building the Keystone tomorrow would not alter gasoline prices by a single red cent. Nor, for that matter, would another tax sop to the oil companies. You'd think a guy with a career firmly ensconced between the buttcheeks of predatory capitalism would understand intuitively how pricing works in a captive market.

Then again, I'm quite sure that he understands it perfectly well. He's just counting on you not to.

Obama inherited a bad economy, but his policies have made it even worse.

As we always say, any time a "news'" person attempts to provide quantitative economic analysis, to posit that something is doing "better" or "worse", the question is always:  for whom?  Cui bono? So in an economic climate where robber barons and banksters -- who are Sportin' Life's bread and butter, after all -- are doing just fine and/or dandy, what's with this sudden Hero of the Workin' Class, Joe the Columnist shit? Seriously, is there actually someone, an average schmuck of average means and circumstances, out there who reads this guff and concludes, "Yeah, Bill Bennett is on my side"? If so then perhaps, as always, such folks deserve exactly such as they end up getting, which is a swift kick in the balls.

This, though, is the (as they say in the 'hood) money shot:

Apart from the killing of Osama bin Laden, the death of Moammar Gaddafi and and [sic] the successful expansion of drone strikes, the foreign policy record of this administration has largely been one of capitulation, indecision and weakness.

Why, because he hasn't nuked Damascus and Tehran just yet? Pussy. Yeah, sure, other than getting the most-hunted terrorist on the entire planet for the past decade, what the hell has Hussein Obammy done for me lately? Really, after the colossal monkeyfuck of the Cheney regime, there should be a formal moratorium on any Republican saying anything about foreign policy matters for, I dunno, at least the next ten years. To very loosely paraphrase Jack Nicholson, you'd be better off just saying "thank you", and going on about your way, Fatboy.

As the say, read the whole thing, if for some reason you can't predict it word-for word ahead of time, and you need the entertainment value. It just goes on like that.

Ultimately, the takeaway from Bennett's tedious jabber is something he understands all too well.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Pot and Kettle

You know, just the mere facts that Turd Blossom not only still has gainful employment, but has the stones to call anyone else a liar, is all the proof you should ever need that the United States is not a meritocracy. If it were, an animal like Rove would be living under a freeway overpass praying nightly that some bath-salt junkie doesn't wander into camp and chew his fat face off, and George W. Bush would've topped out at being the best darn-diddly floor manager the Midland Best Buy ever did see. Yes, if only Obama could be as honest as poor ol' Scrooge McDuckMitt Romney. Good grief, Rove has the conscience and credibility of a pit viper.

A Simple Plan

Bibi prepares a trap for Ahmadinnerjacket.
I think we all get that Netanyahu apparently thinks US foreign policy is utterly at his disposal, and to some degree it is, with some justification. Israel is our friend and ally, beset and surrounded by mortal enemies (not, it should be pointed out, entirely without some mutual antagonism over the years), and it's not like any of the Arab League countries are rushing to help even a little bit with helping out the Palestinians, some of whom must undoubtedly prefer to move to, say, Jordan or Saudi than stay for another generation in a teeming Gaza refugee camp.

But whatever. Every president tries and fails to craft some sort of peace accord, it's part of the political dance. As far as Iran's lamentable attempts to manufacture a nuclear weapon, what never gets mentioned is that they may have practical reasons to do so that have nothing at all to do with Israel, despite Ahmadinejad's tedious bluster. Iran has three very large next-door neighbors (Russia, India, Pakistan) which have long been nuclear powers, seen the respect that gets accorded to them as a result, has a bitter enemy across the Strait of Hormuz that has also attempted to acquire nuclear tech in the past, and its neighbor to the west got shocked and awed precisely because it had not yet acquired nukes, and thus presented no deterrent.

Saturday, September 22, 2012


So by now you've noticed that the design here is completely different. Questions will naturally spring forth, like Paul Ryan from W. Mitt Romney's copious fivehead. For example, "Heywood," you might ask, "why the big change now, and not, say, six years ago?" Great question, imaginary person! Here are a few reasons why the blog design has remained static, and a few more as to why I'm making some changes now.

Why not before?
  • I'm a lazy bastard.
  • Only so many hours in the day.
  • Concentrating too much on writing, not enough on design.

Why now?
  • I've been in the process of building content with which to start up a new site, and I'd like to experiment a bit with some ideas before launching (new site will definitely be launching within the next month or so, and even though it will be a guitar site, I will post some sort of notice here at least once or twice).
  • I've been meaning to do some redesign work for quite some time, but have had neither the time nor expertise. But Blogger has rolled out some seriously cool design tools, and I've been learning as I go along, and I'm taking a long weekend, so let's give it a spin.
  • As I think I've indicated earlier in the year, I'm kind of in a minor dilemma with this blog. There are days when I'd like to keep it going, and days when I'm ready to walk away from it, just because there's only so many synonyms for "dumbass", and after nearly eight years, I think I've exhausted them all.

    But I don't think it'd be right to decide either way without giving things a fair shot, without using more of the tools and ideas at my disposal, trying some SEO tricks that I can tweak for the guitar blog, etc. I'd prefer to keep it going, if I can generate a reasonable amount of traffic. I don't need Atrios numbers, but I don't think a minimum of 100 hits a day after eight years is too much to expect.

Anyway, things are in flux right now, I have to go in and figure out a way to fix the blockquote formatting, rebuild the blogroll, play with the gadgets, experiment with design, yada yada, so expect more changes over the next few weeks at least.

In the meantime, please feel free to critique in the comments; I can't promise I'll respond to everything or give you what you want, but I will read and consider everything. Thanks in advance for your input, please be patient, and spread the word.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

House of Cards

Check out this excellent interview over at Naked Capitalism, on the manifold reasons why and how this "economy" is nothing more than institutionalized racketeering. The question below [all emphases mine] should especially be read carefully by laypeople really wanting to get a handle on how this grift works, without having to spend six years and six figures on a finance degree:

In Other News....

I find the apparent mediot fascination with "the royals", well, fascinating. Can someone explain this to me? How is it that, assuming that the free market does indeed respond to proletarian interests, so many people care about the comings and goings of pedigreed inbreds? How does it become an international incident when fuzzy photos emerge of the B-cups of one of the inbreds' wives, or of one of the inbreds partying in Vegas? How does anyone find the energy to give half a shit?

Seriously. I get why people are fans of actors, musicians, teevee shows, even sports teams. These are all people with specialized skills, actual talents. They do things that most people cannot do, and at a high level. But how is it that so many people are so enraptured by people who do nothing at all?

Crass Warfare

I don't usually do the "read it all" or "what they said" thing, but uh, what Angry Black Lady said.

You know, we've all got that conservative loudmouth brother-in-law type, whether it's a co-worker or cousin or whatever, who basically internalizes and regurgitates on demand whatever lie they heard most recently from their "news" source, whether it's Fixed Noise or Rash Limpballs or just their own friends and acquaintances.

And you realize pretty quickly on when they try to engage you with the latest nonsense some joker chain-emailed them, it's unfortunately a waste of time to try to counter their arguments with rational debating points. They are not looking for a debate, they're looking for affirmation of their preconceived prejudices, nothing more, nothing less. Any response or point that takes any longer (or even as long) as a typical teevee sound bite (say, six seconds) is going to go in one ear and out the other. They last about ten seconds at a stretch before they shake their wittle heads and mutter, "Whatever."

Okay, then. So what do you counter these passionate bozos with, that they might actually listen and pay attention? That Rmoney thinks half of all Americans are freeloading losers because of their voting preference -- at least, according to the comments he made at a fundraiser thrown by a orgy-throwing vulture capitalist scumbag? That he quite literally made his fortune gutting American companies and sending American jobs to Chinese labor camps? That not just Rmoney himself, but the people he quite explicitly represents, are in fact the only people who are significantly better off than they were four years ago, and they still fucking complain, still seethe with contempt at the the peons who don't know their place? That this modern aristocracy persists in referring to themselves as "job creators", yet after twelve years of the tax cuts they insisted on, have somehow managed not to create any jobs, but have hoarded over a trillion dollars in aggregate private-sector cash reserves? At what point do these schmucks actually pay attention to what's right in front of them, and believe their lyin' eyes once and for all?

You can give it your best shot, and at least make it somewhat interesting. One obvious problem is the high degree of built-in hypocrisy, the mindset of people who deeply resent what they perceive as a class of freeloading untermenschen, always with their hands out, but who have for the most part never themselves said "no" to any free gubmint money coming their way. On the one hand, you don't want to argue too much with a moron, because people might not be able to tell the difference, but on the other hand, that's precisely why their toxic stupidity manages to hang in there every damned time.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Stepping In Mitt

For a campaign that appears to run on endless amounts of hot and cold running derp, Money Boo Boo continues to find new and better ways to fail:

Romney's response to the incidents of the last 24 hours -- the storming of the American embassy in Cairo and the killing of the American ambassador and three others in Libya -- is widely being regarded as hasty and ham-handed. From his initial statement late Tuesday, which accused the Obama Administration of "sympathiz[ing] with those who waged the attacks," to his Wednesday morning press conference reinforcing that criticism, Romney, critics say, appeared overly eager to turn the tragedy into a political wedge, and insufficiently respectful of the gravity of the situation.
Even for a team famously refusing to be constrained by the rigors of mere fact-checkers, this is a pretty bad whiff. As awful as the events yesterday in Benghazi are, and as tempting as it might be to "there they go again" at the crowds protesting what appears to be a seriously half-assed production of internets provocateurs trying to stir up violent responses, the fact is (to use the always handy Rumsfeldism) we don't know what we don't know. It is entirely possible (even likely, considering the apparent sophistication of the deadly event) that a small cell of actual terrorist types hung in for cover with the protesters. No one knows much of anything yet, certainly not the guy who fired his foreign policy advisor for being a lustful cockmonster.

Plus there's that whole "water's edge" thingduring events such as this. It would have been an easy and even graceful move to just hit the "thoughts and prayers are with the families" note and move back to the economy, which is really (ironically enough) the one card Rmoney has to play in his hand. And he couldn't even do that one right.

Of course, we are talking about the same guy that poked the Russian bear just for shits and giggles:

MOSCOW - Russian President Vladimir Putin said today that Mitt Romney's characterization of Moscow as the United States' "number one geopolitical foe" has actually helped Russia.

The Russian leader said Romney's comments strengthened his resolve to oppose NATO's plan for a missile defense shield in Eastern Europe, a system Russia believes will degrade its nuclear deterrent. The U.S. insists the system is aimed at Iran, not Russia.

"I'm grateful to him (Romney) for formulating his stance so clearly because he has once again proven the correctness of our approach to missile defense problems," Putin told reporters, according to the Russian news agency RIA Novosti.

"The most important thing for us is that even if he doesn't win now, he or a person with similar views may come to power in four years. We must take that into consideration while dealing with security issues for a long perspective," he said, speaking after a meeting with Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic, according to Interfax news agency.
Mittford apparently thinks Boris and Natasha are still out to get Moose and Squirrel. Regardless, his recent comments on foreign policy, for a perpetually tumultuous part of the world, underscore the distinct impression one gets that he would just go ahead and appoint John Bolton and Elliot Abrams as Secretary of State and National Security Advisor, or vice versa. Maybe run everything past Netanyahu beforehand, that sort of thing.

More and more -- though the media, in their interest to keep things close, will undoubtedly weight it just like they did for GeeDub -- it looks like Rmoney will get his clock unceremoniously cleaned by Obama in the debates. Whatever misgivings one may have about Obama, and they're there, and for good reasons, one strength the guy has is that he really does seem to be unflappable. Nothing ruffles his feathers. And yet he manages to convey humanity, even while tamping down emotion. Mitt, on the other hand, makes the simple act of, say, drinking a glass of water looked forced and robotic. You can almost see the smoke coming out of his ears as he attempts to figure out the algorithm to Barry O's rope-a-dope stylings.

As dismal as this chapter of the perpetual campaign industry has been, and as anti-climactic as an Obama win will be with the possibility of both houses of Congress being GOP, it will at least be appreciated to watch these jagoffs lose. Romney and Ryan present the most tedious, regressive, been-there-done-that-tried-it-what-else-ya-got ideas. Doesn't matter whether it's foreign or domestic policy, the economy, labor relations, health care, the environment, women's right to control their own reproductive decisions, they're Rip Van Winkle, two guys who fell asleep while Herbert Hoover was in office, and can't figure out why the rest of the world moved on.

No wonder the only people falling for this schtick are angry old white farts. The world stopped for them too, about the time Pat Boone was schlepping Little Richard tunes for the preppy uptight white kids.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

What The Chuck

When the Islamocommiemoooslimkenyan usurps the Stormin' Mormon and re-ascends the Throne O' Doom, thereby heralding a thousand years of dorknessdarkness, don't say you weren't warned, America. Warned, I tells ya, by 72-year-old thespian and Whirled Nut Daily jokester Chuck Norris, his much younger wife, and way younger hair.

It's the next best thing to watching a fist-shaking codger tell an empty chair to get off his lawn.

Here Comes Money Boo Boo

Once again, Mittford "Buzz Killington" Rmoney is king of the unforced error, on this morning's Mitt the Press (see what I did there?):

In his interview airing Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press," Romney praised the Wednesday night speech by the Democratic ex-president, which ridiculed Romney and Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan on issues ranging from fiscal policy to Medicare.

"He did stand out in contrast with the other speakers; I think he really did elevate the Democrat convention in a lot of ways," Romney said. "And, frankly, the contrast may not have been as attractive as Barack Obama might have preferred if he were choosing who'd go before him and who'd go after."

Clinton's speech was regarded as one of the highlights of the Democratic convention; he formally nominated President Obama for a second term, and his folksy speech built up the current president while simultaneously taking Romney to task. But as Romney suggested, Clinton's speech drew as much interest as Obama's among political observers, and Romney seemed to suggest the former president even overshadowed the current one.

Think about that for a second. Rmoney just got showed up at his own coming-out party by an empty chair, gets barely a dead-cat bounce in the polls from it, and after a substantially more successful and well-received Democratic convention, the best he can do is try some passive-aggressive comparison between Cinton and Obama? It's a piss-poor, half-assed attempt to try to paint Obama as some hardcore lefty, and came off as such.

Especially considering the Republicans' own most recent White House occupants were nowhere to be found, it speaks volumes that the current ticket is left scrambling, preferring to find ways to tie themselves to Bill Clinton, somehow, some way, than to even bother mentioning He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, lest eight sordid years of monkeyfuckery be revisited.

Fun observations from the interview and panel discussion:
  • The "Juntos Con Romney" strategically hovering over Mittford's shoulder reminds me of the old "Juntos Pedemos" signs from the Jorge Arbusto years. Good times.
  • Good thing they got Sportin' Life Bill Bennett to explain values and shit. What's the over/under on him trying to pick the pulled pork out of his teeth with Julian Castro?
  • Apparently Chuck Todd is cutting his own hair these days.
Also too.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Chris Kluwe Is Shrill

The NFL has been consistently portrayed as one of the last bastions of resolutely anti-gay sentiment. Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe breaks that stereotype in a joyously profane barrage aimed squarely at some (as Kluwe correctly puts it) hypocritical old black Maryland pol, who implicitly threatened (or at least attempted to cow) the Baltimore Ravens organization after LB Brendon Ayanbadejo spoke out in favor of gay marriage. Got all that?

(As noted in Deadspin comments, Kluwe's tone and invective may render his message less effective, or even counterproductive, if his aim is to convince and persuade. That's entirely possible; however, as we know, it is a waste of time to deal with irrational people in a rational manner, by definition. So your next best tactic is to whip up enthusiasm on your own side, encourage the numbers to beat down Teh Stoopid. Sorry if that doesn't square with the personal beliefs of some, but that's really the way it is. The Bull Connors of the world are never swayed by quiet suasion and intellectual probity. Either you swing a bigger bat than they do, or you get smacked.)

If, as the saying goes, the only necessary for evil (or at least rank stupidity) to triumph is for good people to do nothing, then Ayanbadejo and Kluwe deserve a lot of credit for stepping up and using their public profiles for something good, as players are routinely expected and encouraged to do. Again, while people expect rednecks to spout these regressive attitudes, it is especially shameful for black politicians, and black churches, ministers, and congregations, to be so consistently and intensely against what is squarely a simple civil rights matter. More than the rest of us, they oughta know better.

Obama has certainly been more and more clear on his stance on this issue, culminating in his acceptance speech at the DNC the other night. Hopefully this forces some serious consideration among those folks who should have grown up on this a long, long time ago.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Mock the Vote

It's oddly reassuring to see that ignorance and bigotry is not the province of any particular race or creed, but can be found just about anywhere.

Many of the congregants in Wooden's Upper Room Church of God In Christ express conflicted feelings with the same phrase offered by Ieisha Hall: "I'm praying on it." The 37-year-old voted for Obama four years ago, in part because "as the mother of three sons, a big part of it for me was the history of" supporting the first black president.

"If God says so," Hall said she will leave her presidential ballot space blank rather than vote for Romney, even though he opposes same-sex marriage. "I know he does, but I just don't believe in Mormonism," Hall said, echoing a sentiment expressed by many congregants.

Do us all a big favor, lady, and stay home, then. A Vulture/Voucher victory will affect your life a hell of a lot more than, say, mine, or a lot of other folks. But you can congratulate yourself for your sanctimonious righteousness whilst your access to health becomes more expensive or non-existent, as your sons' ability to attend college gets curtailed, as your job, or your friends' or relatives' jobs, get outsourced or downsized so that Rmoney's stock port can go up an eighth of a tick.

There's nothing at all surprising about fools living down to their names, but still, like a train wreck, when you see it you have to look and wonder.

Somewhere deep in hell, Bull Connor is cackling his ass off. Is it really that much to ask that we have a nation where, if it doesn't break our arm or pick our pocket, we all agree to mind our goddamned business?

Saturday, September 01, 2012

The Angel of Debt

[Post title shamelessly swiped from Gillian Flynn's mystery novel Dark Places. But it might be fun to repurpose the phrase just for the Mittster. Just sayin'.]

So maybe the next time you need to explain for the umpteenth time to your idiot brother-in-law why his vote for Rmoney is the proverbial equivalent of a chicken voting for Colonel Sanders, you can smack him upside his fool head with this, by way of clarifying what Mittford actually did to "earn" his ginormous pile of pelf:

Here's how Romney would go about "liberating" a company: A private equity firm like Bain typically seeks out floundering businesses with good cash flows. It then puts down a relatively small amount of its own money and runs to a big bank like Goldman Sachs or Citigroup for the rest of the financing. (Most leveraged buyouts are financed with 60 to 90 percent borrowed cash.) The takeover firm then uses that borrowed money to buy a controlling stake in the target company, either with or without its consent. When an LBO is done without the consent of the target, it's called a hostile takeover; such thrilling acts of corporate piracy were made legend in the Eighties, most notably the 1988 attack by notorious corporate raiders Kohlberg Kravis Roberts against RJR Nabisco, a deal memorialized in the book Barbarians at the Gate.

Romney and Bain avoided the hostile approach, preferring to secure the cooperation of their takeover targets by buying off a company's management with lucrative bonuses. Once management is on board, the rest is just math. So if the target company is worth $500 million, Bain might put down $20 million of its own cash, then borrow $350 million from an investment bank to take over a controlling stake.

But here's the catch. When Bain borrows all of that money from the bank, it's the target company that ends up on the hook for all of the debt.

Now your troubled firm – let's say you make tricycles in Alabama – has been taken over by a bunch of slick Wall Street dudes who kicked in as little as five percent as a down payment. So in addition to whatever problems you had before, Tricycle Inc. now owes Goldman or Citigroup $350 million. With all that new debt service to pay, the company's bottom line is suddenly untenable: You almost have to start firing people immediately just to get your costs down to a manageable level.

"That interest," says Lynn Turner, former chief accountant of the Securities and Exchange Commission, "just sucks the profit out of the company."

Fortunately, the geniuses at Bain who now run the place are there to help tell you whom to fire. And for the service it performs cutting your company's costs to help you pay off the massive debt that it, Bain, saddled your company with in the first place, Bain naturally charges a management fee, typically millions of dollars a year. So Tricycle Inc. now has two gigantic new burdens it never had before Bain Capital stepped into the picture: tens of millions in annual debt service, and millions more in "management fees." Since the initial acquisition of Tricycle Inc. was probably greased by promising the company's upper management lucrative bonuses, all that pain inevitably comes out of just one place: the benefits and payroll of the hourly workforce.

Once all that debt is added, one of two things can happen. The company can fire workers and slash benefits to pay off all its new obligations to Goldman Sachs and Bain, leaving it ripe to be resold by Bain at a huge profit. Or it can go bankrupt – this happens after about seven percent of all private equity buyouts – leaving behind one or more shuttered factory towns. Either way, Bain wins. By power-sucking cash value from even the most rapidly dying firms, private equity raiders like Bain almost always get their cash out before a target goes belly up.

This business model wasn't really "helping," of course – and it wasn't new. Fans of mob movies will recognize what's known as the "bust-out," in which a gangster takes over a restaurant or sporting goods store and then monetizes his investment by running up giant debts on the company's credit line. (Think Paulie buying all those cases of Cutty Sark in Goodfellas.) When the note comes due, the mobster simply torches the restaurant and collects the insurance money. Reduced to their most basic level, the leveraged buyouts engineered by Romney followed exactly the same business model. "It's the bust-out," one Wall Street trader says with a laugh. "That's all it is."

As always, there's more, read the whole thing, yada yada. But that's really the trick -- while Rmoney may have slightly more insight into the workings of the bidness world than the average schmoe, what he really has is what a good arsonist has -- a lack of conscience. Anyone can light a fire, most of us are simply prevented from doing so by a fundamental moral code.

But this is a guy who, with a bunch of his punk prep-school friends, gang-tackled and sheared a fellow student; who, at Stanford, attended counter-demonstrations in support of the Vietnam War -- a war which, it must be noted, Mittford received four deferments, and ultimately went to France to try to talk the frogs into giving up wine. There's no character there.

That's really the kind of human being Willard Romney is. There is a rather perverse, vindictive part of me that sincerely wishes that, were the rest of us insulated from the very real damage he and his equally soulless running mate, that he would win, so that his supporters, and every RNC attendee (especially Clint Eastwood) could feel the full effect of the policies they would put forward.

There would be no more fitting punishment for these jackasses, than to see how bad it could really get, if for no better reason than to appreciate how good they really have it right now. Few things are more annoying than watching a bunch of spoiled, fat, pasty-white assholes rant about how Da Bruvva is keepin' 'em down. May each and every one of them, and their families, get every single thing they so fervidly wish for.

Except for All the Others

Love this pithy observation from The Vile Scribbler:

It's especially amusing in an election year—Americans of all political persuasions are constantly complaining that our political system is irredeemably broken in some way or another, yet it's still widely accepted that it should be exported to everyone else, through persuasion or force.

Especially since our glorious system is no longer what we collectively pretend it is.