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Monday, December 23, 2013

Don't Really Give a Duck

Couple of final thoughts on the stupid Duck Dynasty thing, and then I'm gonna let it go. This episode is moderately interesting to me, in the way that Paula Deen's and even George Zimmerman's transgressions were interesting -- that the events themselves were absolutely dwarfed by the cultural buttons that were pushed, and the quickness and stubbornness with which the usual barricades became populated.

A lot of these things simply revolve around "Red" America being unable or unwilling to cope with, or even get a handle on, the rapid advances taking place in the nation's culture at large (if there can truly be anything resembling an "overall" culture, in a nation with 320 million people, and countless points of origin). The world is leaving them behind, as those things tend to happen, and they can't stand it. It's not just because Black President, though that's certainly a catalyzing factor. It's the small coincidence that the same fuckers who shipped their jobs overseas and poison their water tables also happen to own the media channels that immerse them in swollen rivers of disinformation.

So you have large swaths of people who have been ripped off and burned for generations, and don't say shit, coming un-fucking-glued over whether Cracker Barrel will continue to sell cheap swag from their favorite teevee show. Hokay then. I don't think there's anything to reason with. It's all just spittle and foam.

If there's one thing about this nonsense that's important to reiterate, it's that this is not a free speech issue. Really? Yeah, really. Go back and read Phil Robertson's comments, comparing gays to people who fuck animals, or criminals, drunkards, adulterers. Check out some of Reverend Phil's previous episodes of this sort of jabber on YouTube; he didn't just start doing this when the GQ writer showed up on his doorstep.

Now replace "gays" with "blacks," or "Mexicans," or whatever you like. Wasn't that all that long ago that those groups were in those sorts of conversations. It becomes easier to consider the basic fact that this guy made some indisputably disrespectful comments about groups of people -- or, in the parlance of A&E or any network, customers. That's really all there is to this; again, if you think you have a First Amendment right to talk shit about your customers while you're on the job, I encourage you to give that a shot, and let us know how that works out for you.

Bottom line is that Phil Robertson has a right to speak his mind, and did so. The people he talked disrespectfully about have a right to say, "Hey, asshole, we resent you comparing us to criminals and goat-fuckers," and they did so. And Robertson's bosses at A&E have a right to discipline their employees, and they did so. The difference here is that the Robertsons clearly don't see themselves as "actors," perhaps because their backyard is the studio.

But that is what they are, actors in a sitcom, and just like Charlie Sheen got his ass taken down a notch when he got too big for his britches, started believing that he was the show and could tell anyone and everyone to go fuck themselves, that is what is happening here. There is a weird cultural sway the family holds over (again, we are talking about a fucking teevee show, and a lousy one at that, right?) their viewers, a very Face in the Crowd kind of vibe at the heart of it all, with Phil as Lonesome Rhodes. Nobody can tell him nuthin'.

Even the Song of the South Uncle Remus reminiscences of happy, godly blacks picking cotton in the Jim Crow South, when you think a half-second, are enormously offensive and ignorant -- and loaded with more conservative cultural assumptions. What Robertson is really invoking there is not directly a time when those people knew their place, but certainly a time before they were on welfare having a zillion kids. That's the underlying sentiment of comments like that, and we all know it.

That's why they call that sort of shit "dog-whistle" speech -- because it goes right past most people, because it wouldn't occur to them to catch something like that. But you can't tell me that someone who grew up in a place and time where blacks couldn't even enter a restaurant or drink from a water fountain doesn't know what he's fucking saying.

Obviously, the show inherently exploits stereotypes, and in so doing creates some cultural friction and even tension. That's at the heart of it -- to show these goofy hillbillies making beef jerky and blowing shit up in the swamp, then easing toward the more universal tropes of family and (for some) faith. See, these crazy good ol' boys really are just nice guys who love their families and Jesus, and not necessarily in that order. Their blood is red, just like ours. [rolling eyes]

Personally, I hate cheap, trite shit like that, and what little of the show I have seen felt like a consummate waste of time even by reality teevee standards. I suppose if I wanted to know how to field-dress a possum or convince people that I had a steel plate in my head, the show would be the place to start.

But sooner or later, especially since this is a nation that increasingly lives and breathes manufactured outrage, someone on one side or the other of these magnified cultural tensions eventually says something stupid, crosses a line most people have learned to recognize. And because the perpetually aggrieved and threatened side, by definition, always have their backs up, conjuring grave offenses if none can be legitimately be found, we play the game.

The media do their dance, and make no mistake, this will be fodder for many a race in the coming midterm season. The multi-billion dollar perpetual campaign industry depends on it. When already mis-/dis-/under-informed people rely on simplistic, shopworn tropes to circumscribe their "values" that they deploy in the voting booth (on the off chance that they get off their asses to do so in the first place), nothing good can come of it.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Stranger Than Fiction

Folks of a certain age will recall Reagan's apocryphal Cadillac-driving "welfare queen." Turns out, not only did she actually exist, but welfare fraud was the least of her transgressions. Very long article, but well worth the read.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Head Count and Upcoming Books

Couple of quick housekeeping things:
  1. Please do me a small favor, and leave a quick comment, even if it's anonymously, even if it's just one word. In checking stats, the site seems to be getting traffic from one of those "vampirestat" things.
  2. I'm finishing up a couple of Kindle books. Like last year, there will be a compilation of selected posts from this past year (with new foreword and introductory commentary for each piece), and a 99-cent mini-book of the "notable jerkoffs of 2013" type. I'm finalizing formatting, cover, and title for each, and plan to release them by January 1st.
There will be a third book, later in January, which I'll discuss in more detail soon. I don't do fundraisers, and I don't cyber-panhandle. The books are something I enjoy doing, and for folks who might wish to contribute, it's an opportunity to get further value.

Check out the Amazon Store at the top of the sidebar, if you're so inclined, and if you happen to purchase anything from any of the 4 (so far) pages, please let me know about your experience, good, bad, or indifferent.

So thanks in advance, have a safe and sane holiday season, and stay tuned for more snark here at The Hammer.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Get the Duck Out

And you thought the "War" on Christmas was bad, as far as imaginary grievances go. This is one of those pseudo-cultural eructations that gives me the urge to shoot out the teevee and the computer, and head for a nice cabin deep in the woods. This country has lost whatever it had left for a mind.

For the record, I don't much care one way or the other about what Phil Robertson had to say about anything, anymore that I would care about what Spongebob Squarepants or the bottle blonde from The Big Bang Theory had to say about anything. (But you should read the entire article for yourself, simply because it's an interesting story, and Drew Magary, originally "Big Daddy Drew" at Kissing Suzy Kolber, is a damn good writer.) What Magary noted in his follow-up to the now-infamous article is about what I would have assumed -- that the Robertsons are essentially decent folk, a bit different, but we're all a bit different in our own way, I suppose.

The difference is that most of us don't have an employee-employer relationship with a cable network. Remember way back when last weekend, where we talked about how everything you see on teevee, no matter how much you lurve it, no matter how much integrity you might think it has, exists mainly to sell you shit? That, in spades. Maybe the Robertsons seriously think that the show is just a harmless bit of fun, where they get to goof around, make sure the world knows how much they love them some Jebus, and soak the rubes for swag and hundred-dollar duck calls.

But A&E -- you know, the network that airs the show and has a vested interest in protecting the brand -- just wants to keep the gravy train on the tracks. So when the lead character of its hillbilly sitcom goes and starts speaking his mind in a way that might make sponsors nervous, it's a bidness problem, pure and simple.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Swamp Thing

So....religious hillbillies turn out to be exactly what they say they are, and people seem to be shocked, surprised, dismayed even.

Or, you know, it could just be another lame publicity ploy, bullshit to make the pop-culture machine churn. Gosh, can't imagine it might be that.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The New Model

I am most likely the worst holder of an MBA degree you can think of, since I routinely piss and moan about the multitudinous vicissitudes and perfidy of the rentier grifter class, the shameless scamboogery with which they run this nation for their own benefit and no one else's.

But I'm always on the lookout for newer, fresher revenue models to emulate. So I'm strangely in somewhat respectful awe of this here revenue model, the ease and guilelessness with which hack comic Byron Allen has become a hack tycoon. Keep an eye on his low-ball licensing and distribution model, because it's likely to be some variant that will eventually provide your satellite, cable, and internets content.

And why not? For every Vince Gilligan or David Benioff or Kurt Sutter, there are a hundred Byron Allens, giving the people what they really want. I've often said that the corporate news exists solely to get you to buy cheeseburgers and pills and trucks and tampons, but the fact is that all media exists for that purpose.

Every football game; every talk-radio blowhard; every true-crime spouse-kills-spouse dramatization stretching twenty minutes of story to two hours; every karaoke competition that stretches an hour of material to twenty weeks; every group of inbred southerners hicking it up for the cameras, opening storage sheds or teasing alligators or whatever the hell it is they do. All of it exists for the singular purpose of distracting you long enough to open your wallet for a Duck Dynasty chia pet or some such.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Tea and Simpering

No doubt the latest set of polls 'n' graphs on dwindling teabaggery will push all the usual buttons and pinch all the usual nerves. It will be discounted in the expected circles with disdain as lamestream mediot bullshit.

And in some concentrated areas, that may actually work, in the gnarly pockets of doofery and befuddlement that pepper the land like so much randomly blasted buckshot. There's no shortage of people who, if Obama declared that the sun would rise in the east tomorrow, would denounce the flashing neon commie conspiracy such a statement stood for. And they've made goddamn sure that their elected representatives act accordingly.

But they're now about to find out the hard way what sort of game this really is. When Frank Zappa famously said, "Politics is the entertainment branch of industry," he understated the case, if anything. At the very least, at risk of stating the painfully obvious, it is first and last a money game, run by people with lots of it, and they've run out of patience for these bumptious rubes who were easy enough to gull into slitting their own throats, but damned if they'd shut the fuck up and stop yammering for two seconds.

Really, the only time your average teabagger stops to take a breath, it seems to be just long enough to cash whatever check he gets from the eeeevil gubmint. Then off he goes again, denouncing anyone else who got a check.

When this aforementioned fiscal hypocrisy is the defining characteristic of your "movement," you can be sure that its fuel is of the fossil variety -- polluting its environment and rapidly depleting. And so now the adults in the Republican establishment, perhaps calling the 'baggers' bluff to go rogue and set up a third party, have forced poor ol' John BonerBoehner to sack up and shut this nonsense down.

Because it's starting to cost them money. The Koch Brothers didn't get obscenely wealthy with hopeless, unproductive charity contributions. And while their little foray into astroturf politics may have gleaned them some short-run benefit, even they have to see how it's starting to backfire.

Not that it will matter too much in the end. For one, the districts are so heavily gerrymandered that very few are actually contestable in any real sense, so for the most part there's not much effort; for another, even if, say, Democrats take half  -- or all -- of the 'bagger seats in the House next year, what are they gonna do? You think they'll take some populist tilt at Wall Street, make the banksters give back the stolen pelf? If so, I have a nice bridge on some pristine swampland for you.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Confessions of Commander Ga

Unsolicited book plug:  if you have not yet read The Orphan Master's Son, you really should. That's all there is to it. It's as close as you could find to a detailed look inside the cruel absurdity that underpins and overlays and permeates every atom of the Hermit Kingdom. (Another, lesser-known but just as informative work, academic in nature, is The Cleanest Race.)

So it is that Dennis Rodman's most notorious BFF, needing to prove himself against his inner circle, continues his purge by having his previous closest aide (and uncle) executed. No doubt Kim Jong Un found out the hard way that, by letting his higher-ups conduct negotiations with other, more developed and civilized nations (which, uh, is most of them), by definition they were getting a first-hand look at life outside the walls of the compound.

And that (despite the inexplicable lunacy of this jagoff; what free westerner in their right mind supports this wretched regime?) is really all the hilariously named "Democratic" "People's" "Republic" of Korea is -- a giant cult in a giant compound, ruthlessly herded and abused by a small cadre of people who know the truth, but profit from and insist on the lie.

Lots of Famous Songs Created in DPRK in 2013

Pyongyang, December 10 (KCNA) -- Lots of songs in praise of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) and the socialist motherland have been created in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea at a time when confidence in the WPK is growing deeper than ever before among the local people.

Among them is the song "Always under Party Flag", a paean for the WPK and one of the masterpieces in the era of supreme leader Kim Jong Un.

For its high ideological and artistic value, the song evokes strong emotions for the party flag among the people, leading them to harden their will to remain loyal to the WPK.

A song titled "The Leader and the General Are Always Together" was created on the occasion of the birth anniversary of President Kim Il Sung, the Day of the Sun (April 15). For its ideological, emotional and philosophical profundity, the song well represents the honor of the Korean people advancing toward a rosy future under the blessing of Generalissimos Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, eternal leaders of the DPRK.

"Ode to the Motherland" is also one of the masterpieces created in the era of Songun. The song arouses feelings of ardent love for the socialist motherland, making one recall with deep emotion the great feats Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il performed on behalf of the country and the people. With fresh and passionate rhythms, it reflects the strong will of the Korean army and people to glorify their homeland.

All people in the DPRK say that the song is as valuable as National Anthem.

And you can really twerk to it.

Monday, December 09, 2013

The Golden Rule

Can't deny that Obama gives a hell of a speech, when he chooses to do so. So what? Does anyone seriously think anything will come of this, that suddenly the industrialists and financiers and rentier scumbags that own fucking everything are suddenly going to have a come-to-Jesus moment on their lives of hoarding, grifting, and accumulation?

Please. This is like Lucy with the football for poor ol' Charlie Brown. Maybe the minimum wage gets bumped up fifty cents, or even a buck. That would almost give it the purchasing power it had in 1968, while gas and food typically go up what, four or five percent per year in some cases? Is that going to take even a nibble out of the 1% owning 40%, of 6 Wal-Mart heirs being worth over $100bn, just for picking the right parents?

Everyone talks a good game about the virtues of hard work, and the promise of economic justice and opportunity. But who gets rewarded? Spreadsheet-diddlers and influence peddlers. Wake me when the talk turns into walk. There is zero credibility, and zero chance that anything actually gets accomplished that will return even a smidgen of the stolen pelf to its rightful owners.

When any name politician finally screws up the nerve to tell Jamie Dimon and his ilk to go fuck themselves already, then you'll know that you're finally getting on the right track.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Cost-Benefit Analysis

Not to read too much into a typical tearjerker type of "news" article, but as we head into the morass of health-care "solutions," you are going to be seeing more and more of these sorts of things, even though they have been there all along.

All the fear-mongering about "death panels" ignores the obvious situation, one that anyone who has had the misfortune of falling into the system knows all too well -- there are already death panels, insofar as there are individuals and groups of people, faceless, distanced from the emotional impact of the situation. They're called insurance companies, HMOs, or in this case, doctors who have to make difficult decisions with scarce resources, and may even be providing less-than-optimal palliative care.

The dirty little secret about health care costs is not really much of a secret at all -- nearly half of all costs are expended on about 5% of the overall population, while half the population use little or no resources of the system at all. (This in itself is something of a potential future problem, as the success or failure of (sigh) health care reform is predicated to a huge extent on what is euphemistically known as "prevention and wellness," part of which is the usual eat-less-exercise-more exhortations, but part of which is getting at least semi-regular checkups. The thing about doctors is that no one visits them until they're already ill.)

Even without knowing all the gnat's-eyebrow statistical specifics, most of us intuitively understand that this is very much an 80-20 deal, that most of the costs and expenditures are being directed at a very small portion of the population. What that hammers out to is that the public ends up subsidizing very expensive procedures for a variety of conditions, some of them catastrophic, some of them chronic, some of them by-products of lifetimes of poor impulse control and decision making.

That is part and parcel of risk-pooling, of the vaunted social compact; we take care of those who need it now, with the understanding that it will eventually be our turn. Of course, as with Social Security, there are groups of people who statistically pay into the system, yet never collect what they put into it -- smokers, drinkers, African-Americans, and other demographics with relatively less-than-average life expectancy. And yet, at some point, somebody -- or somebody else -- has to foot the bill for all these great machines and techniques and doodads and optimized revenue models. We could always look into more efficient systems, but what's the fun in that?

As a kid, I read tons of sci-fi, and watched more than my share of Twilight Zone and such. So I have, let's say, an enhanced appreciation for the somewhat ironic notion that humanity's capacity for technological innovation consistently surpasses its ability to adapt its social systems to accommodate those improvements. We saw this in the recent Iraq War -- wounded military personnel sustained catastrophic injuries that would have killed them instantly even ten years earlier, so they came back to a dead economy with no jobs in the first place, but with the added obstacles of frequently having to relearn how to walk, or use prosthetic limbs, or deal with the psychological trauma of disfigurement, or just being in combat at all.

The comments section in the CNN article is as interesting as it is predictable -- polarized, diametrically opposed camps of "so sorry, gotta let the cripples die" hard-nosed realists and "every life is precious and invaluable" super-idealists. Of course every life has value, of course you want to save everyone. Most importantly, of course we all want to believe that cost is not a consideration, or at best a tertiary consideration. But -- and this seems particularly to be an issue in the organ-transplant arena, where there simply aren't an abundance of suitable matches to be had, thus a scarcity in viable resources -- it is a consideration all the same. If the heart-transplant surgeon has one heart to work with, and two suitable recipients, chances are (all other factors being more or less equal) they'll go with the more viable recipient -- that is, the one that has the best shot at living a longer, more healthy and complete life.

It's easy to slam the "who made these people God" card when it suits them, but when they need someone to remove their kid's brain tumor, that's exactly the sort of person they want nosing around in the hippocampus. In the meantime, these issues of cost and allocation are only going to get more pronounced. Aside from "eat less, exercise more, relieve stress, take up yoga," it's difficult to impart any real advice on how to prepare for it. Don't get sick. Get a better job so you can afford the higher premiums.

If we're not going to address the elephant in the room -- that maybe hosing a captive market with $77 gauze pads and usurious geographically-based pricing models, so that insurance/pharma/HMO CEOs can get the eight-figure salaries they're entitled to, as enshrined in the Bible and ratified in the Constitution, isn't the most efficient way to run a system -- then this is what you get, forever and ever amen. Is anyone surprised by any of this?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Animal Planet

Oh, awesome, another unsuspecting participant in the Asians' never-ending quest to achieve a fucking hard-on.

Shit Happens

So everyone's favorite media critic, Howie the Putz, finally made the natural jump to become Rupert Murdoch's latest dogsbody, and the results have been entirely predictable. Howie's latest water-carrying mission has been to oversee the further martyrfication (if it's not a word, maybe it should be) of the one and only Saint Sarah, arctic sorceress of the rube class.

I suppose it's entirely possible that Howie, like every other semi-lucid ringwraith sliming through the Faux News caverns, seriously thinks that every librul gives a shit who Martin Bashir is, and knows everything he says soon as it's said. Folks, let me put it this way -- until I saw on the Google News aggregator yesterday that MSNBC had fired Alec Baldwin, I was blissfully unaware that Baldwin had a show on MSNBC. And I like Alec Baldwin.

So you can imagine what my reaction might be to the revelation that Bashir indulged in a particularly esoteric and ugly analogy to express his disdain for Palin's buffoonery. Again, were it not for Howie the Putz, I'd have had no clue, nor would I have cared. Nor does it change anything; Bashir is an inconsequential figure on an already parched, ossified, basic-cable media moonscape, a peripheral figure in an increasingly peripheral industry. He probably figures that he has to say something "outrageous" once in a while just so people recall that he once interviewed Wacko Jacko up a tree.

But the thing is, Saint Sarah has chosen a rather peculiar literary windmill to tilt at this year, one that only the handful of retards who'll unironically purchase Duck the Halls for their dining and dancing pleasure could possibly appreciate. And so maybe she (and by association, her claque at Faux) understand that some sort of controversy needs to be ginned up, so's more product can get moved. Because Palin's audience presumes that libruls, like ethnic types, are monolithic in political scope and opinion, one circus geek in the bowels of MSNBC is taken to speak for all of that ilk.

But let's tease that out a bit. Yes, most people to the left of, say, Rush Limbaugh or Attila the Hun can probably agree that Palin, while mildly entertaining at first in her energetic, milfy burble, has long devolved into a shrill, corrosive figure on an already toxic political stage. She comes off nowadays like the stereotypical wife-from-hell, the sort that uses sexual favors as behavioral currency, and who then becomes almost stalker-y in her own behavior when you make it clear that you can go out and get a blowjob anyway, for a lot less headache. And, you know, most of us are just not going to be nagged into supporting, even tacitly, an unrepentant fucktard like Ted Cruz.

The thing is, Palin's "slavery" rap is not quite as awful as it's being portrayed. Don't get me wrong, it's still awful, and inappropriate, but that doesn't make it entirely untrue, at least in the abstract. Playing devil's advocate for a moment, I think even a diehard ACA supporter will acknowledge that the administration has fucked this thing up every which way to Sunday, from the buildup to the rollout.

Really, the first (and last) thing they emphasize in B-school is that success is when strategy and execution are in alignment. That is to say, a great strategy can be ruined by poor execution, and vice versa. You need both, and this ham-fisted medical miracle had neither. To me -- and I voted for Obama both times, and supported the ACA, certainly in concept as initially written and presented -- this is not only inexcusable, it's unacceptable.

How do you not have a fucking website ready to roll, three years after the law passed, in a world where a chimp can log onto any number of helpful websites and get their own shopping cart e-biz rolling, like literally Joe Biden, in a goddamned weekend? (Oh, and jeez, another fucking delay.) How is it that the only thing the ACA changes or creates is yet another layer of bureaucracy in an already baroque hierarchy, yet another team of IRS agents. How the fuck is it that a law, a program specifically designed to "fix" the health care system, does nothing about cost -- which is the entire problem with the system in question?

So while I still count picking on Sarah Palin's ridonkulous pronunciamentos as one of life's greatest pleasures, and while I certainly think she characteristically overstated her fecund simile, she's not entirely wrong. The ACA system would certainly be less inept if teabagging buffoons spent more time working with the president on improving it, and less time stunt-voting against it every few weeks, but the fact remains that it's still inexcusably baroque and incompetent as it stands.

Yet you and I and everyone else are bound to it now, inextricably, irrevocably. As I said years ago, this plan does not change how much things cost, merely how those costs get taken care of. And you now have another layer of IRS agents to make goddamned sure that the HMOs and Big Insurance and Big Pharma get theirs. Is it the road to smurfdom? Not necessarily, but it ain't freedom through moar and bettar health care, either. We talk about wage slavery and debt peonage here quite regularly, and while it's not a perfect fit, some of it jibes, some of it still rings true.

Yes, it's terrific that people who were refused coverage for their catastrophic conditions now cannot be refused coverage. Yes, over time, the economy of scale should lower costs and premiums (but, as we live in an era of rapacious, predatory pseudo-capitalism, there are no guarantees there). Yes, this was always meant as a toehold to be worked on and improved in good faith, by "both" parties, an iterative process as they say in the 'hood.

But we are in the right-here-right-now, folks, and right here, right now, it looks like a system predicated on providing -- no, mandating -- coverage for all, and preserving the existing profit margin by grinding it out of the healthy and young. And for every weaning broseph out there, getting shitfaced and driving and banging everything that moves and asking for medical trouble somewhere along the line, there's a kid who just went through the higher-edumacation sausage-grinding racket, who's making ten bucks an hour and living at home with his parents, paying interest on $200 textbooks for the next fifteen years, now being told that he has to pony up eight grand a year for insurance he doesn't need, so that Grandpa gets his Maalox.

As someone closer to the end than the beginning of the age curve, I understand that getting old ain't for pussies. But I also get why some kid who's already getting hosed by the system might be reluctant to jump head-first into this mess.

Mark it, book it, and put your next twenty paychecks on it -- this thing isn't remotely fixed until costs are addressed. Everything leading up to that is glad-handing bullshit.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Long Ride

For the half-century commemoration of the most recent presidential assassination, a dim memory even for those who were alive at the time, of course it's time to rehash all the wacky conspiracy theories, give the JFK truthers the ol' what-for. Fair enough.

Although the events of Dealey Plaza took place several years before I arrived on this crazy orb, with both parents being staunch Democrats, and one side of the family being Irish Catholic Texans, you can bet JFK was a huge deal in my family. As far as I ever heard in mealtime conversations over the years, the Warren Commission was more or less accepted as holy writ, done and done.

Although I certainly cop to looking for conspiracies and subterfuge in areas where perhaps none truly exist, I am somewhat more agnostic on JFK, in that while I don't believe we know the whole truth, I also don't subscribe to any pet theory. But I find the "authoritative" hand-patting and reassuring clucking at conspiracy theorists to be off-putting, and I think it has its roots in much the same mindset that my family's acceptance of the Warren Report had.

Typically, the would-be debunker "refutes" any and all theories by declaring that theorists suffer from some mysterious malaise that compels them to stitch together these silly, baroque counter-narratives, due to a basic inability to comprehend the randomness of the world and of catalyzing events. This is a trope of the debunker genre, to the extent that former Charles Manson prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi took over 1600 pages to verbally pummel the theorists, remind them of their dopey bullshit. This is the calling card of the debunker -- not only that shit happens randomly sometimes, but the implicit assertion, that a conspiracy couldn't happen, because we're America, because we're free, whatever.

For the most part this principle is actually true. I could never buy into the 9/11 truther guff for precisely that reason -- because with the number of people required to pull off something of that scope and scale, someone would have to blab.

Nonetheless, I would flip the calling card of the debunkers on them, and point out that the central flaw in their attempts is that very implication, that a conspiracy couldn't happen. The debunkers insist that the theorists "need" a story that satisfies their craving for "order," but conversely, it seems that the debunkers also have a "need" -- the need to point out that that sort of thing doesn't happen here, that we're too advanced and have strong institutions.

And that's simply not true, based just on the history that we empirically, irrefutably know. Any number of earlier civilizations have had many political assassinations, most of them inside jobs. We know that Roman emperors were routinely murdered, by close friends, by their Praetorian Guard, by any number of different means.

American history, particularly in the 20th century, is littered with any number of violent, secret activities. We know that we overthrew foreign governments, assassinated foreign leaders, started bullshit wars on false pretexts. From Operation Paperclip to Operation Ajax to Operation Northwoods, Americans in the highest echelons of power have actively conspired on some nefarious shit, time and again. Or that Prescott Bush, father and grandfather of presidents, conspired as a sitting US Senator to plot a coup to overthrow FDR.

So it's ridiculous to contend that a conspiracy to murder JFK couldn't have happened. There's no explanation for why the CIA followed Oswald around for years, from the Soviet Union to Mexico City to Miami to Dallas, and yet had no clue that he was about to change the world. There's no explanation for why, fifty years after the fact, there are still thousands of classified documents pertaining to the crime. In other words, if it's so bloody obvious that there's nothing to hide, then why do they persist in hiding it? Why did the US government itself find the likelihood of a conspiracy, if the idea is so stoopid?

The point is that nobody knows for absolute certainty what happened that fateful day. But the attraction of the debate has always been the meta-discussion, the implicit understanding that what is more important than who or how many people were involved in the assassination, is what it did to the mindset of the nation at large.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Slumpbuster

So the smart set is still trying to figure out how to monetize an inert economy. Maybe it's the usual revolving door of Geithners, Rubins, and Summerses back-and-forthing between the Treasury Department sinecures and Wall Street sinecures, trading roles between thief and enabler as easily as most people draw breath or take a dump. Or maybe it's the new boutique proposal of "eliminating poverty" by giving everyone a monthly stipend.

Or -- and this is just a thought, mind you -- people could start keeping their eyes on the ball, and seeing how substantial sectors of the American economy are just rackets designed to fleece masses of sheep. Health care is just the most obvious of these rackets, and the way you know that the Obama administration and its supporters are in on (or at least complaisant to) it is that in all the drama about broken promises and higher premiums, at no point has either side talked about the usurious costs the racket soaks its market with.

Throw in other rackets such as finance, higher education, the way tax and corporate policies have allowed the creation and maintenance of massive individual sums of wealth, at the financial expense of millions of wage slaves, siphoning ever more money from bottom to top, getting rid of the haves and leaving a handful of have-mores in their gated communities and insulated lives, surrounded by seas of ungrateful have-nots. Maybe doing something, anything, about any of those situations might change the conversation.

When people are seriously proposing that we should just get used to a semi-permanent economic slowdown, and that we should go ahead and pay people to do nothing, it sounds like a doctor deciding to treat gunshot wounds with band-aids.

 I mean, it's not that I have a huge problem with bread and circuses per se, it's that it seems like there used to at least be more bread.

A History of Violence

Well, looks like 'murka's favorite vigilante is at it again. No doubt Zimmerman's supporters believe with all sincerity that trouble just keeps finding poor George, no matter how hard he tries to just live his life, that he is now unfairly and irretrievably tainted by the shooting of Trayvon Martin.

The thing is, this sort of stuff was finding Zimmerman long before the world had heard of him or Martin. It is therefore no surprise that he now finds more of it. Zimmerman and his supporters will no doubt insist that all these charges of violence over the years against women -- by today's girlfriend (who what, didn't know who she was hooking up with here?), by his ex-wife earlier this summer, by a former girlfriend back in 2005 -- are bullshit. Who knows, maybe they are all bullshit. But it's funny how most people are able to go through life without ever getting these sorts of accusations lobbed at them, and multiple times at that.

Consider another infamous case -- also in Florida, natch -- where someone got away with something egregious. Since her unbelievable acquittal for, at the very least, hiding the body of her young daughter, if not killing her outright, have you heard anything at all about mother-of-the-year Casey Anthony? Nope, not a peep, not so much as a speeding ticket (which Zimmerman has gotten two of as well, just in the last couple months).

A distinguishing characteristic of assholes and idiots is that nothing is ever their fault -- the shit that piles up on their doorsteps is always someone else's doing. The bitch ex-wife. The asshole cop. The crazy neighbor. Eventually though, all but the most hardcore supporters (and again, I have trouble with the word in this context -- how can anyone support a person or issue in which they have no real personal stake?) see these people for what they really are -- their own worst enemies.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Unaccountable

Ho-hum, just another day in the police state:

A New Mexico man is suing police for allegedly "subjecting him to multiple digital penetrations and three enemas," among other "shockingly invasive medical procedures" -- all on an invalid warrant, all without finding any drugs -- his lawyers claim.

The lawsuit states that David Eckert, 54, spent more than 12 hours in custody last January at a police station and local hospital after being pulled over for a traffic violation. Yet he was never charged, nor did authorities find illicit substances on him.

Eckert was told he could go home after a third officer issued him a traffic citation. But before he did, Eckert voluntarily consented to a search of him and his vehicle, the affidavit states. A K-9 dog subsequently hit on a spot in the Dodge's driver's seat, though no drugs were found.

....

According to a police affidavit accompanying the lawsuit, a detective asked a different officer to pull over Eckert's 1998 brown Dodge pickup truck for not properly stopping at a stop sign.

After Eckert was pulled over, a Deming police officer said that he saw Eckert "was avoiding eye contact with me," his "left hand began to shake," and he stood "erect (with) his legs together," the affidavit stated.

....

Eckert was then put in "investigative detention" and transported around 2 p.m. to the Deming Police Department.

Sometime after that, a judge signed off a search warrant "to include but not limited to his anal cavity."

The next stop was Gila Regional Medical Center, where the lawsuit states "no drugs were found" in "an x-ray and two digital searches of his rectum by two different doctors." One doctor at this time found nothing unusual in his stool.

Three enemas were conducted on Eckert after 10:20 p.m. A chest X-ray followed, succeeded by a colonoscopy around 1:25 a.m.

After all this, "no drugs were found in or on Plaintiff's person," according to the lawsuit.

Apparently the stormtroopers in this shithole have a hard-on for cornholing random passersby with their dumb dog:

A second lawsuit was filed Friday against southern New Mexico authorities accused of illegally subjecting drug suspects to invasive body cavity searches. And the attorney who filed the cases says she has been getting calls from others saying they were detained after the uncertified drug-sniffing dog at the heart of both cases raised suspicions.

....

The lawsuit says Leo is neither adequately trained nor properly certified for narcotics searches. It says there are no state records showing he's properly certified under New Mexico law.

....

In addition to the two cases filed by Kennedy, the American Civil Liberties Union says it is preparing to sue the U.S. Customs and Border Protection on behalf of a woman who was crossing into El Paso in December and subjected to invasive searches after a drug dog alerted agents.

Attorney Laura Schauer Ives says the woman was strip-searched at the crossing, then taken to the hospital for vaginal and anal probes, a forced bowel movement, X-rays and scans. No drugs were found, the ACLU said, and the hospital is charging her thousands of dollars. Schauer Ives said the woman's medical records refer to her being brought in both by Border Patrol and customs agents. The group has had a Freedom of Information Request pending since April to identify the officers and which departments of CBP were involved.

And let's not forget poor Anthony Mitchell of Henderson, Nevada, who had his door kicked by the local gendarmerie for refusing to let them use his home to spy on his neighbor (thus violating the Third Amendment, where the Deming thugs are violating the Fourth Amendment).

You know, it might be something if our current preznit, who reputedly has some knowledge of Constitutional law, might direct his attorney general to do something useful with his time, rather than griefing potheads and guitar manufacturers.

I don't mean to go all Alex Jones on you here, but there are instances where the man has a point, and such instances appear to be increasing in frequency and intensity. As the saying goes, just because you're paranoid doesn't mean someone's not really out to get you. A street cop in Santa Rosa perforates an eighth-grader -- firing eight times, hitting him seven -- for swinging a toy gun too quickly. Things of that sort. Urban and even smaller local police forces routinely inherit heavy-duty SWAT and paramilitary gear now, and they seem more prone to use them, rather than ask questions, or fire a warning or wounding shot.

Look, everyone gets that law enforcement is dirty, dangerous work. When the preponderance of people that you meet and deal with in a given day are assholes and/or idiots, or just generally awful people, it's easy to see how one can eventually come to view most people as inherently bad or dangerous. This can make someone cynical at best, prone to escalate as a first option at worst.

And to all that I say, tough shit, Hopalong. No one forces anyone to be a cop. When you've become an unreasonable person, with deadly weapons, overwhelming force, and an institutional lack of accountability, you are no longer a public servant -- you're a liability, you need to fucking go, and now. There's no excuse whatsoever for any of this shit. There are plenty of good, hard-working police officers out there, and I'm sure they must be disgusted that these animals wear the same uniform, and act with ultimate impunity.

The thing is, as we continue our descent into a volatile, bankrupt, violent, paramilitarized banana republic, there isn't a goddamned thing any of us can do about it. Pray to whatever unjust deity you believe in that you don't get pulled over, I guess.

Mad Cow Disease, Political Version

From the "who the hell asked you anyway" file:

Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin sent out an apology for her criticism of Pope Francis, who she called “liberal” earlier this week.

“It was not my intention to be critical of Pope Francis,” Palin wrote on her Facebook page.  The former vice-presidential candidate said her comments were meant to remind “viewers that we need to do our own homework, and I hadn’t done mine yet on the Pope’s recent comments as reported by the media.”

She wrote that the media often mischaracterizes the comments of public figures and that she’d rather trust her “many Catholic friends and family” than reporters.

Again, who cares what she thinks about anything? Why is Jake Tapper, in letting her plug yet another unreadable book that she didn't really write, soliciting her opinion on the Pope if she's not Catholic (or hell, even if she was)?

I get the meta-implications of asking aloud why people keep asking about Palin, but really, why? To cater to the dwindling claque of teabag screamers? Because one of the multinational conglomerates that owns one of the broadcast networks also owns the company publishing Palin's tedious jabber, and they all have a handshake agreement to logroll each others' "books"?

Palin's comments, referencing herself and "viewers," regarding their need to do their own homework, are just too precious. Palin has yet to be true or correct about much of anything that she's ever said on any subject at all; worse yet, she and her followers have made a point of being completely unconcerned about that the entire time. Facts are and have always been orthogonal to their shamelessly emotional, rage-driven plaints. The idea that any of them are suddenly encumbered to actually know what the fuck they're talking about is just precious.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Back Spin

Newsmilf Lara Logan has had her journalistic moments in the past, for a corporate media implement. But she and her show screwed up royally in backing that crackpot's Benghazi yarn, which has had notable implications, The thing is, the political weasels who use tendentious reporting to bolster their biased claims don't care when said claims are proved empirically false. Their credibility is orthogonal to their veracity.

60 Minutes and Lara Logan, on the other hand, have nothing but their word on something. So when they broadcast as gospel the politically-charged jabber of a guy who admitted to falsifying his AAR (which I'm assuming is worthy of discharge or even court-martial for armed-forces personnel, and a firing offense for even half-assed PMC outfits -- if not, it should be), they're stupidly sticking their necks out for an unsubstantiated hunch.

Don't get me wrong -- I'd probably watch Logan read aloud from a phone book [slaps forehead; like typewriters and fax machines, phone books only exist on a technologically marginalized periphery anymore], while dry-humping the teevee. But my desire to make ferocious, sweaty monkey-sex with Lara Logan is an entirely separate matter from her role in propagating disinformation, intentionally or not. Hell, Dan Rather's career went knuckled straight into the crapper after the kerners went go on him questioning Fredo's stout defense of the Rio Grande back in the day.

It doesn't help matters that apparently this Davies character had a book deal going, since scuttled, with the same "publisher" that handles inbred hacks like Glenn Beck and Jerry Corsi. Gee, ulterior motive much, Chief? Thought so. Logan got played by this schmuck, badly. At least she's finally getting out in front of it and taking the hit.

The whole episode puts the bigger picture in the region in sharp relief, and may even provide some rationale for Logan's seeming willingness to be gulled by this guy, given her abuse by an Egyptian mob in the early days of the now-dormant "Arab Spring." It makes sense that these eructations of exceptional violence, spread to Libya, Syria, et al, would have additional import to Logan. She saw firsthand the simmering brutality of a mindless mob, and that same raw, chaotic power resonated in the events in Benghazi that fateful night.

Where have those heady days gone, that brash optimism of 2011, when these savages were supposed to finally get with the program and go with Democracy® and Freedom™ Incorporated? Gone in successive waves of longstanding internecine conflicts, accelerated by the (ahem) democratizing, in terms of more evenly distributing power and influence on micro-scales, technologies at hand. If not democratizing necessarily, then at least decentralizing, lessening the concentration of those things in the hands of very few. At this stage of the game, only force is concentrated. That is all that maintains the mechanical, operational aspects of the Westphalian nation-state construct.

What we've been observing this past decade, in the Maghreb, the Persian Gulf, in the Horn of Africa and sub-Saharan Africa, is not, in my humble opinion, past chaos allowed back out of their bottles, but the wave of the future in unstable areas. This is the coming anarchy Robert Kaplan presciently wrote about in the late '90s, before 9/11 Changed Everything, these are the global guerrillas John Robb has been warning about for years, disrupting and resecting massive, seething populations in Egypt, Nigeria, Congo, etc.

Advanced technologies have enabled disenfranchised peasants in third-world shitholes to seek something else, to disengage from their corrupt systems, from Qaddafi personality cults and American-propped kleptocracies alike. They all want something, whether money or raw power or a medievalist theocracy that treats women and children like farm animals. One thing they all have in common is that they want us the hell out of there.

Of course, we can't accommodate them on that; Africa is the last great outpost for a variety of rare-earth metals, vast oil deposits, and who knows what else. And the Chinese are beating us to it so far. And they're every bit as committed to hegemony as we are; indeed, the maintenance of political and economic empire, the ability to muster military force, is the central systemic feature at this point.

The real problem with Benghazi is not the tragic events of the embassy massacre, or the administration's inept response to it. There were plenty of embassy attacks and deaths around the world on Fredo's watch, and no one said shit. No, the problem with Benghazi is that no one seems to have a plan moving forward, no clear ideas for how a large, populous, strategically important but volatile nation -- which sits right next to another large, populous, strategically important but volatile nation -- can retain control of and capitalize on its natural assets for the good of its restive citizens.

When corporate media entities allow themselves to be utilized as patsies for an extremist faction of Congress to make mountains out of molehills, they play right into the hands of the people they should be most fearful and contemptuous of. But hey, whatever pays the bills.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Monetizing the Paradigm (A Word from Our Sponsor)

General housekeeping note:  you may notice at the top of the right sidebar a large banner link for the PTG (Purple Tiger Guitar) Amazon Store. If you play guitar, or want to learn how, I've spent the last six months knocking out five full books (plus a sampler for one of those) showing you how to do just that. So if you've got the urge, give it a click and check 'em out. If you have Amazon Prime, you can borrow any one of the books for free, and I frequently do free download weekends and Saturdays.

Not to mention that even the regular price for the books is never above $3.99, so no matter what, you're guaranteed some solid guitar chops for less than the price of a cup of coffee. Practice Power, my first book, has remained in the upper rankings since its release in May, and the newest effort, Pentatonic Licks & Sequences, is moving pretty well after just a week. The other books lean more toward classical music, but are definitely serious chop-builders, if you're into that sort of thing.

As far as Hammer books, we're going to replicate last year's success with Mockalypse and 12 in '12, and do another compilation / "assholes of 2013" set, with fresh commentary upfront in both books. We'll do some promotion on those after Thanksgiving, and they should be ready to roll in time for Christmas. They really are the gifts that keep on giving.

This is about as close as we get to a fundraiser, annual or otherwise, so if you're interested in any of these things, or just want to support the site, please consider grabbing one or more. Again, if you have Amazon Prime, you can borrow any of the books for free, and I still get paid. If you don't have Prime and would like to check it out, they are offering a 30-day free trial.

Finally, if you'd like to help, but just don't have the money, please consider checking out any of our sponsors on the page.

Great White North

It's somehow a bit heartening to see that, while many 'murkins count on their cousins in America's Hat to be sensible and intelligent in their political choices, the fact of the matter is that they can screw the pooch just as thoroughly as your average southern state.

So their Chris Farley impersonator of a mayor is a drug-addled boozehound, literally caught on video smoking crack? Hey, didn't hurt Marion Barry much, did it? So all three of his older siblings have had some sort of ties to drug trafficking over the years? Um, well, he's a fiscal conservative, and, uh, weren't the Kennedys bootleggers? And on and on.

Obviously, politics is full of scumbags and soulless hypocrites. But the IOKIYAR seems to be in fuller effect than before; when the Democrats have a John Edwards or Anthony Weiner, no matter how principled the individual is, he's done. But Republicans and conservatives just don't give a shit about appearances -- they talk a great game about "values" and the scourge of hard drugs, but when there's a Dave Vitter (and that wife of his) or a Rob Ford, it's exposed as a stone crock of horseshit, without fail.

This is why I have zero respect for self-righteous "values voters":  they never -- and I mean fucking never -- walk the talk. They don't even deserve to be engaged in honest argument at this point, they should simply be ignored like door-knocking proselytizers on your front porch, something to be scraped off the bottom of one's shoe.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Plus Ça Change

Just what you needed -- yet another paean to small-town foke givin' Teh Man the ol' whut-fer. Christ on a stale cracker, like anyone should fucking care that some backwater latrine whose population dropped from 668 in 2010 to 654 in 2012 (presumably from some combination of old age and common sense) seriously thinks that pointlessly erecting a Ten Commandments "monument" (pictured below) is some sort of heroic act of defiance to a brutal dictator.



I wrote extensively about this particular phenomenon several years ago, in the context of a book review, and near as I can tell, only the specific locations have changed, the predictable useless yahooisms have remained intact. Yes, Obama has only visited the state twice, once to speak at a memorial for a mining disaster (but fuck the MSHA and EPA, amirite peoples?), and later that same year (2010) for Senator Pork Robert Byrd's funeral. So there is, as they say, some resentment building in West Virginia, as they perceive a lack of sufficient response to their plaints.

It doesn't seem like anyone wants to break the cold, hard truth to the ruggedly independent Mountaineer State, so let me take a humble stab at it -- you people need to pull your heads out of your fucking asses, m'kay? There's no way to put a cherry on this turd cupcake, folks. When you have a state full of goddamned moochers, who sponge from the system far more than they contribute, who produce a single commodity whose vocational utility is rapidly diminishing (for a variety of reasons -- diversification of energy sources; mechanization of coal extraction; diminishment of "easy" extraction sites), who have disproportionately large populations of medical and welfare benefit recipients, there's not much point in doing meet-and-greets in Cooter's Gulch.

Not to mention the fact that barely one-half of one percent of Americans live in West Virginia, and it becomes quite easy to see why no one wants to bother with it. Great, you produce coal. Awesome. But since many of us can simply run down to Harbor Freight and get of the grid for under a couple grand, and there are other exploitable energy sources as well, it is incumbent upon the self-styled individualists to explain -- in greater detail than some weird fuck-you Ten Commandments monument, mind you -- why precisely the other 99.5% of the world's largest economy is supposed to give more than three-quarters of a fuck about your failure to prepare, anticipate, or adapt to the tectonic change that the entire planet saw coming two decades ago.

It's not my intent to indulge in gratuitous hillbilly-bashing, I swear. I do have compassion for people who have spent their entire working lives performing difficult, extremely dangerous labor, and are either spent from decades underground breathing toxic dust, or have enough to get by but have watched their towns and communities collapse around them. West Virginia has probably had more news stories about its pervasive drug problems than anything else, which is a shame, since anyone who has read up on the state and its abundant natural resources knows that it's a lovely place full of beauty and wonder, comparable to just about any other place in the country. (Yes, even my beloved California.)

But caves and geographic quirks are not enough, unfortunately, to turn a generational economic tide. The state's geographic and cultural insularity, as with many southern (and WV does pride itself on being the "most southern of the northern states, and the most northern of the southern states," among other directional superlatives), has finally caught up with it in that regard.

One branch of my family is a boisterous, insanely fun group of Irish Catholic Texans, so I know firsthand a little somethin'-somethin' about the suhthuhn culcha I routinely deride. Anyhoo, one defining redneck characteristic is the display of the confederate flag in some form, whether an actual flag or merely a bumper sticker. The redneck proudly informs dismayed passersby that his is a symbol of "pride" and "independence," as if it were up to one random simpleton to repurpose a highly objectionable emblem of rape, terror, murder, systematic subjugation. In our family, this fucking thing was regarded as nothing short of an American swastika.

But the reality of such a symbol, when one comes across it --and I did, this very afternoon, here in sunny NorCal -- is that its bearer is someone whom, as my East Texan great-grandmother would have put it, "cain't tell 'em nuthin'." No, indeed -- and that, ladies, fish, and gentlemen, is what you are seeing with your southern states, most of them (Texas and Florida notwithstanding, but even then only by economy of scale) unproductive moochers, culturally regressive, uncomfortable with the fairly major societal changes taking place, and not knowing what to do about any of it.

I wish I knew what to tell them, I wish there were easy answers for them. It would be nice to just be able to tell them to suck it up, take a few Khan Academy classes to get their shit together, and grow superhot peppers. [Ed. Someone has to give those hot-pepper guys a reality show. If people can watch other people open a goddamned storage shed, they can watch heat-seeking trenchermen grow two million Scoville unit peppers.]  But just as one cannot serve two masters, one also cannot be utterly dependent on gubmint largesse, and simultaneously expend precious scarce energy and resources railing against said gubmint. That's not politics, it's math.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Deadeye Dick

Just for a hot second, let's set aside the serious impracticality of grotesquely disparate levels of governance; that is, the notion that an almost literally uninhabited state has equal representation in the nation's highest governing body as a state with forty times as many people (and at least four cities with larger populations -- hell, LA's metro area has close to 20 million people, versus the less than 600K in the entire state of Wyoming). The Constitution might be in need of an overhaul, or at least a review, if enough high-profilers with IQs above 80 can be located and dragooned into such a noble project. But that's a subject for another post, perhaps by a different observer.

Consider instead the reasons and ramifications for Shooter Cheney's carpetbagging (perhaps teabagging as well, jury's out so far) daughter trying to muscle Mike Enzi out of his Senate seat. Whatever your political bent, 2014 is shaping up to be fun times already, n'est-ce pas? As Shooter hails from reliably traditional neocon stock, it's difficult at first blush to presume that Liz Cheney would fall too far from that particular tree.

And yet, if one attempts to read the, erm, tea leaves (see what I did there?), the signs are unmistakable. The Cheneys are, and have always been, political opportunists, first and foremost. (That's not a disparagement, by the way; anyone wanting to be successful in such a high-stakes money game had best be an opportunist above all else. There is simply too much money, power, and influence abounding to be left to the merely principled.)

So the fact that Rand Paul has so far endorsed Enzi means little, perhaps nothing at all. Paul is almost certainly positioning himself for a presidential run in 2016 or 2020, and so he is in the early alliance-building phase. Enzi will probably win, and if so, as the senator from the least-inhabited state, he'll no doubt appreciate Paul's early backing. If Liz Cheney should win, Paul will simply reach out (in the spirit of collegiality and party comity, of course) and patch things up accordingly. No sweat either way.

The more interesting possibility here -- as well as in Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Mississippi, where amazingly, those states' senators are all being primaried by insurgent teabilly candidates -- is that either the vote gets split and redounds to the Democratic candidates in some or all of those states. The chances of that happening in all five of the above mentioned states is not a betting man's parlay, but it's not too much to hope that perhaps three or even four of those states could roll D and expose the soft white underbelly of teabilly moocher flesh.

We'll find out in one year. Much money will be spent, and regardless of the outcome, very little will be accomplished as a result.

Gratuitous Pet Break

Pets are the best. That is all.

American Grandstand

It's never been news that there is a practically infinite supply of people who are not only willing to cut their own throats, but to vote for other, far wealthier people to do it to them. So it's no surprise that, while a polled majority seems to understand that the shutdown sideshow was entirely engineered by the short-bus teabilly contingent in the Outhouse of Representatives, a substantial (and of course disproportionately vocal) minority blames Obama 100% for this mess.

Certainly Obama deserves some blame -- for persisting in the delusion that these maroons could be dealt with as if they were normal human beings, and not delusional would-be revolutionaries. There is no negotiating with fanatics, and that is all these people are. They are not seeking any sort of "grand bargain," they are seeking only capitulation. There is no compromising with them.

Obama has failed to understand this, over and over again. If he is not urging the DCCC and DNC and anyone else who will listen to pour as much filthy money into unseating these psychopaths, then he is just continuing to fail, simple as that.

At the very least, this should be one of those episodes that highlights the remaining actual differences between the parties, that while -- since they both represent the "donor" class -- both are red in tooth and claw, the Democrats at least usually make a token effort to clean up some of the blood, pick out some of the chewed meat, before uttering whatever feckless burble they think the proles need to hear this week, before muttering "whatever" and turning on the teevee to watch nincompoops sort their sock drawers.

So when you have apologists for bullshit and psychobabble gleefully willing to wreck the world economy just to stand on their imaginary principles, you then have to focus on the fools who keep supporting them -- even though statistically, it's those very same fools who will bear the brunt of the proposals and policies of their fearless leaders.

The only reason we don't let them get exactly what they think they want, and good and hard, is that they'll drag most of the rest of us down with them. At this rate, they might anyway.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Assassination Nation

As entertaining as it is, Public Shaming can only post so many twitards on any given issue, an infinitesimally small sample size in a nation of 320 million. But when I see unrepentant fucktardery such as this, it's hard not to at least briefly wish for a hot second that this was the dictatorship these idiots so feverishly believe that it is. Because in such circumstances, the internal security forces would already have knocked down their doors, dragged them to some secret location, pulled out their fingernails and raped their closest relatives in front of them, and then put a fucking bullet in their miserable heads. I'm only half-joking here, maybe not even that much.

In complete seriousness, one assumes that at the very least, the Secret Service has contacted these brain-dead shitbirds and explained to them that they have committed a crime, and could (and should) be prosecuted for it. Venting is one thing; these motherless fucks are openly begging for some random lunatic to step up and murder the President. So they need to be put on notice, no questions asked.

In the meantime, it continues to be a thoroughly nauseating prospect to know there are people like this, people who drive, work, vote, have children and/or parents, etc. They're a fucking embarrassment to humanity, and a complete waste of oxygen, and further proof that karma doesn't exist.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Breaking Bad: Meta-Criticism, Binge-Watching, and O.G. Fans

[*here there be spoilers*]

As Breaking Bad, almost indisputably one of the best teevee shows ever, winds up as strongly as any series could hope for, it behooves us to do what everyone else is currently doing, and provide some deeper insight to the ongoing proceedings.

Having watched the show first-run from the very start, but not having Netflixed in between seasons, it's actually somewhat difficult to draw from memory specific threads from early episodes to these amazingly intense homestretch episodes. But catching a few episodes from the first two seasons in last week's marathon brought back many fine details and nuances -- the unrelenting madness of Tuco and the consequences of dealing with it; the gamesmanship between Walt and Fring; the professional (professorial?) distance Jesse always kept between Walt and himself; the way Hank seamlessly morphed from blustery jock-cop to determined bloodhound. You could go on and on and on.

But really, both eight-episode "halves" of the final season were constructed and paced nearly to perfection, culminating in the now-infamous third-to-last episode, whose title said it all, the same way its Sopranos episodic counterpart used a related poetic reference as an anticipatory framing device.

Feel free to correct my dumb ass, but I think the trend to instant meta-criticism came to fruition with The Sopranos. By the time that series neared its close, technology had enabled anyone with a connection to inform the rabble of their deeper insights of each episode. This persisted not only to the more obvious, narrative-driven salient points of the scene or episode, but to the apparent visual cues and MacGuffins contained therein.

With high-stakes series such as The Sopranos, The Wire, or (in this case) Breaking Bad, this makes sense, and it has only accelerated with the vaunted advent of social media. But it has also cemented the observer effect on such shows, as they navigate through their respective narratives, and ultimately determine the "right" way to eventually come to a satisfying conclusion.

The ability and popularity of binge-watching (and I've done that as well, especially with Showtime series such as Dexter, Homeland, and The Borgias) has a similar effect, I think, in that you no longer spend a week or even a day digesting the layers of the episode you just viewed; you move on to the next one, right away or tomorrow. You don't have to wait anymore. This too will affect the production and writing of future series, guaranteed. Another trend with these critically acclaimed series is the decisions by their creators to end strong, after five or seven seasons, resisting the urge to milk a premise to death, to a limp-dick end watched only by die-hards who sat it out for a sense of completion.

A big part of the magic of BB, the show and its finale, was that so many threads were pulled, and while so many were left to be resolved, the major threads were resolved, and in a way that didn't leave people on a ledge the way the Sopranos finale did. As with Sopranos or The Wire, there have always been clues in the episode titles, and Felina did not disappoint on that account. From the Marty Robbins reference to the blood (Fe), meth (Li), and tears (Na) chemical breakdown to the playing out of all the elements, the episode rang true to Walt's statement in the pilot about chemistry being the science of transformation. I defy you to find any dramatic work -- including Shakespeare -- where every single character transformed so tremendously, so catastrophically.

I'll probably Netflix the entire series over the winter, and I have no doubt that I'll catch any number of catalyzing scenes and events that more fully inform the final half-season. In the meantime, what transpired was nothing short of rare, true greatness, the kind of "dramatic Halley's comet" folks were lucky to catch once or twice in a lifetime.

Like the aforementioned shows as well as Game of Thrones and past treasures such as The Shield, these shows are obviously rare confluences of spectacular writing and strong ensembles, catalyzed by one or two "force of nature" type performers who are enabled by the overall strength of the cast. In an endless ocean of dross, these are things that give you a sliver of hope, and maybe even a reason to watch.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Dearth of a Nation

Scenes from Weernumberoneistan:


  • Of the nearly 200 homeowners who lost their properties in recent years, one in three had liens of less than $1,000.
  • More than half of the foreclosures were in the city’s two poorest wards, 7 and 8, where dozens of owners were forced to leave their homes just months before purchasers sold them. One foreclosed on a brick house near the Maryland border with a $287 lien and sold it less than eight weeks later for $129,000.
  • More than 40 houses were taken by companies whose representatives were caught breaking laws in other states to win liens.
  • Instead of stepping in, the D.C. tax office created more problems by selling nearly 1,900 liens by mistake in the past six years — even after owners paid their taxes — forcing unsuspecting families into legal battles that have lasted for years. One 64-year-old woman spent two years fighting to save her home in Northwest after the tax office erroneously charged her $8.61 in interest.

  • So you have indifferent gubmint bureaucracies and soul-dead paper-holders teaming up to prey on the poor and elderly, coupled with the paramilitarized oops brigade, in the service of a machine that uses human beings up like cord wood. Are we having fun yet?

    Stockholm Syndrome; Or, Serfs Up

    I swear to the Flying Spaghetti Monster that at first glance, I thought this was an Onion parody. Nope, just a grotesque, sloppy blowjob to the takers who pretend to be makers. Apparently the line forms to the right and extends around the world to orally gratify the fine upstanding rentier thieves. (Fantastic takedown of the article here as well.)

    And that's really what these assholes are -- they're bookmakers, racketeers. They don't produce, or even truly invest, in anything. They take bets and skim the vig, regardless of the outcome of said bets. They borrow money from the government interest-free, and lend it to the peons at three, or six, or ten percent. That's not industry, it's usury.

    It's bad enough that animals like Blankfein and Dimon are allowed to plunder at will in this wretched, Rubinized clusterfuck of an economy, this teetering wigwam of rackets and machinations, undue political influence and hyper-disparity. It's somehow even worse when someone is so lacking in self-awareness, or even basic human decency, that they can so shamelessly defend them, and shit on people who actually work for a living.

    As long as working-class mutts continue to be willing to be gulled into voting against their own rational self-interest, as long as they're content to be the proverbial chickens voting for Colonel Sanders, it's going to be like this. One holds out hope for the tumbrels and guillotines, for the thieves and their soulless propagandists, but it won't happen, not until things crash and get too far beyond repair, if then.

    As I've become fond of saying more and more lately, I hear Costa Rica is nice. Life is simply too short to waste in fighting the few who own everything, and their highly-aid dogsbodies. Somehow this bullshit system has bamboozled otherwise intelligent people into cutting their own throats, miring themselves in perpetual debt and wage slavery. At this rate, I'll probably spend the rest of my life paying interest on $200 textbooks, in exchange for a worthless degree.

    Maybe living in a hut on the beach, swimming, surfing, playing guitar, is the way forward from the worker's paradise we've created here, where people spend most of their time sending each other silly meme generators and tweeting racist babble. There's no better day than today, no better time than now. It's a worthwhile goal. Let's all check out, see how the masters' spreadsheet-diddling works out for them.

    Friday, September 20, 2013

    Unforced Error

    Jesus Christ, really? Smooth move, asshole.

    Yes, Amanda Carpenter's empty-headed twit-crowing hits the teatard trifecta of being pointless, obnoxious, and inaccurate, but whatever. It's Twitter, home of racists and inbreds. I mean, I should probably start a Twitter account either for this thing or the PTG site, but I'm afraid either one would contract sepsis simply by existing in the same virtual universe as some of these shitbirds. Hell, I'm embarrassed to physically exist on the same landmass as some of these motherless fucks.

    But every moment a sociopath like Carpenter spends fucking around on that freak show is a moment where her hand is away from a lever of power, since she's not converting, merely affirming. If she wants to faux-gloat to her choir, great, no need to concern-troll her by literally wishing death upon her children. I mean, I occasionally sweat Donald Trump's insufferable twitardery, and I'm serious when I say he's a douchebag and an asshole, but I don't really care enough to wish harm upon him or his family. Seems like being Donald Trump is probably punishment enough.

    It has to be frustrating to be a Democrat at just about any level, with the hyperbole and vitriol at the state and local levels, and the pure, unadulterated scamboogery in the House (which at this point might as well be renamed the Outhouse, because fuck them). But the way to do it -- and still bring Amanda Carpenter's kids into it, if one must -- is to muster some stats, which are in ample supply, and use them in a "more in sorrow than anger" type of screed. Won't fit into 140 measly characters? Even better, make it a multi-post. Done and done.

    These are the times that try the patience of sensible people, when serious business is afoot, idiocy runs amok, and the brains of otherwise intelligent folks are left ajar. Fucking get it together already, it's not that complicated. In fact, I stipulate that an effective strategy can be spelled out in three (3) simple points:

    1. Health care is a racket that victimizes the poor and enriches insurance companies, HMOs, and Big Pharma.
    2. The 20% of GDP we blow on health care is effectively a tax -- and we know how that word gets the teabozos' peckers wagging.
    3. There was an election last year -- I fucking swear it happened, it was in all the papers and everything -- and the guy pushing this mess won. When it went the other way under the previous regime, shit went down and people had to just suck it up. That's just how it is in a so-called dumbocracy. Act like it for once, for fuck's sake. Obama needs to just step up and say, "Fuck you, they voted and this is how it shook out. Eat shit and die." What, are they suddenly going to lose respect for him and start obstructing everything and being fucking children? Yeah, wouldn't want that to happen.


    I mean, I assume by default that at the federal level, both "parties" are more or less in cahoots, since they have the same donors and are really more alike than different from each other. But at the lower levels, there is actually some daylight between them, and it helps when the minions don't lose their goddamned minds over a smug tweet. Wait and see what kind of legs this thing gets, the CA Dems will have to dump this guy within a week and issue pleas that they didn't really mean it.

    Sunday, September 15, 2013

    Human Cockfighting

    Talk about burying the lede. As sad as the accidental death of Buckwild cast member Shain Gandee is, it's a fairly logical consequence of the various stunts he and his castmates were encouraged to do as part of the "show," though of course these were things they were doing in the first place

    As always, I'm more intrigued by how these sorts of antics constitute a program series, an associated group of episodes with with a cohesive narrative of plot and characterization, in the traditional Aristotelian sense. Yes, there are archetypes, even in cultural edema such as Storage Wars and Redneck Intervention. But at what point do otherwise sensible people take stock of their lives and ask, if only of themselves, not only why there is something on the teevee called Redneck Intervention but why the holy fuck they are watching it?

    Gandee's mother, deep in the article, actually makes some decent points about the escapism aspect of this nonsense. But even there, what are they escaping, and is this the best we can do? Is this all working people have available to them to avoid thinking about the wretched futility of their lives until the next slave shift, watching drunken hillbillies molest farm animals and each other?

    Thousands of years from now, when we're all just dust and distant memories, it will be interesting to see how future archaeologists perceive this metastasized cultural tumor of "reality" teevee.

    Bully

    The spate of teen-suicide-via-cyberbullying stories continues unabated, but becomes no less tragic with each passing instance. Implicit within each article is that Something Must Be Done, according to the judgment one finds on each of the persons involved -- the vicious classmates, the do-nothing school administrators, the hapless parents, the sad victims themselves. No winners there; no easy judgments to be made. The bottom line is that the whole tragic event is horrible, and didn't need to happen.

    Yes, kids are cruel. They have always been cruel, this is news to anyone? Technology has both enabled said cruelty, and allowed the torturers to distance themselves from their victims. Certainly Rebecca Sedwick's bullies should, in a just universe, feel the weight of their collective guilt every day for the rest of their miserable little lives.

    But obviously the teen years are a tremendously volatile time of life, rendered vivid and intense by social pressures and physical changes. The things that make one kid unable to handle a barrage of nasty electronic screeds are the same things that make other kids unspeakably insensitive to the turbulence every one of them endures. The hallmark of being a teenager is that one has zero perspective on mortality, or consequences, or impulse control.

    And Rebecca Sedwick's mother apparently did everything she could to rectify the bullying situations, to the extent of her knowledge. You could make the argument that perhaps a 12-year-old doesn't need a smartphone, but for many families there's a built-in safety issue there. There is a practical use, and you can only police so much, though of course you have to be alert against those who would urge someone else to kill themselves, as well as those who would take up such invitations. However, at some point you really do have to trust your kids, your instincts, the rest of the world. A life of hypervigilance and excessive paranoia is no life either.

    It would be nice if things always worked out, if there were always sensible solutions available, if kids on the edge understood that it really does get better, that high school is not the be-all/end-all by any means, and that a permanent solution to a temporary problem is exactly that. If only you could communicate that to every kid in school right now, happy or unhappy, bullied or bully, suicidal or on top of the world.

    Things change, more than any of them could ever know, whether they believe it or not. The roles frequently reverse, or at least change radically; the awkward, different kid getting picked on finally blooms, and realizes that high school is just bullshit anyway, and that life has much more to offer, while the bully frequently finds out the hard way that their few years playing King Shit of Turd Hill is about as good as it's gonna get for them.

    In the meantime, maybe schools do need to start making examples of bullies, whether "traditional" or electronic. Expel them, send them home, make their clueless parents have to deal with their sociopathic bullshit. You can't child-proof the world, but you can crack down on the assholes who inhabit it with impunity. Fuck them. It's easy to blame the technology, or negligence on someone's part, or "the culture," whatever that entails, but maybe it's just us. Maybe we're just fucking mean, and maybe we're just too tolerant of that meanness at a time in life that is far too volatile and impulsive to handle it.

    Money for Nothing

    So Larry Summers is out, and maybe Janet Yellen is in. I'll believe it when I see it, but it really doesn't matter much anyway. What's she going to do, stop giving interest-free money to the banks to lend to the peons?

    Since we have Asians to make our shit for us, our economy is predicated on a few people keeping everyone else in perpetual debt and wage slavery. There is nothing else; no Fed monetary policy change is going to affect that. The "jobless recovery" will continue to be defined by more min-wage mcjobs and more people forced to make money on the side just to survive. Green grass and high tides forever.

    The pernicious issue of wealth/income disparity could be solved tomorrow, either with some sort of (at least partial) debt jubilee, a bailout of the working class, or some combination. But that won't happen no matter who helms the Fed, whether it's Larry Summers, Janet Yellen, or Noam Chomsky. This machine operates under certain rules of political physics, and they are unalterable.

    Virus

    I'd like to share a revelation that I've had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species and I realized that you're not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You're a plague and we are the cure. -- Agent Smith

    Well, good thing that's settled then. Christ on a cracker, where do these fucking people come from? Normally actual scientists, who spend their lives studying logical thought and tested hypotheses, don't resort to this magical, providential thinking, which in this case boils down to "something will come along, because something always does."

    The world population is now estimated at 7.2 billion. But with current industrial technologies, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has estimated that the more than nine billion people expected by 2050 as the population nears its peak could be supported as long as necessary investments in infrastructure and conducive trade, anti-poverty and food security policies are in place.


    Oh, the food wing of a borderline-useless relief organization has estimated. Shit, no need to worry anymore, I guess. Nothing to see here, folks, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has estimated. The same people who spent five years thumbing their dicks while Syria's record drought morphed into a civil war. One does wonder where some people find pants large enough to contain their enormous balls. Because of course all of those "necessary investments in infrastructure and conducive trade, anti-poverty and food security policies" will be "in place" tout de fucking suite, n'est-ce pas? Sure, and if my aunt had balls, why, she'd be my uncle. Cool story, bro.

    Neither physics nor chemistry nor even biology is adequate to understand how it has been possible for one species to reshape both its own future and the destiny of an entire planet. This is the science of the Anthropocene. The idea that humans must live within the natural environmental limits of our planet denies the realities of our entire history, and most likely the future. Humans are niche creators. We transform ecosystems to sustain ourselves. This is what we do and have always done. Our planet’s human-carrying capacity emerges from the capabilities of our social systems and our technologies more than from any environmental limits.


    It's almost as if it was cribbed from some tech wing of the US Chamber of Commerce. We can have infinite energy, so long as we don't mind removing mountaintops, turning water tables into flammable vats of poisonous slurry, and the occasional bursting pipeline inundating some backwater with a few thousand barrels of crude. Hey, that's why we have media blackouts and airspace closures. What you don't know hurts someone else, amirite people?

    We "transform ecosystems" by damaging their long-term sustainability in a variety of ways, from pollution and desertification to more vicious and mendacious means, such as habitat destruction and poaching. Yes, the magic beans Monsanto is forcing us to buy may indeed make it possible for 20 billion people to stack on top of each other and feed heartily, in a world with smartphones but without tigers, or coastlines, or potable water. Awesome. Where do you sign up?

    There is so much more to the impending overpopulation catastrophe than merely being able to produce enough food for everyone to eat. The most overcrowded places are also the most poverty-stricken; surely this is not a coincidence.

    Which makes one wonder, what was even the impetus for this op-ed in the first place? What the hell is wrong with acknowledging that there are very serious environmental and sociopolitical ramifications inherent with overcrowding? Why do some persist in whistling past the graveyard and presuming that infinite growth is possible and/or desirable, without any serious environmental and quality-of-life impacts?

    How does better food tech help, for example, Bangladesh, where 160 million people are crammed into an area about the size of Iowa, that is mostly underwater, and will be almost completely submerged by 2100? Who gets to handle all the refugees, one of the other overcrowded backwaters surrounding it? Don't worry folks, the UNFAO has estimated. It's all good.

    Just as Paul Ehrlich might have jumped the gun a bit (at least as far as the Oceania and Eurasia nations are concerned), so might Malthus have presumed too much, so might we yet (depending on who "we" is, 1 in every 3 people lives in China or India, 1 in 2 in Asia, so....) innovate a way out of this. But maybe not; there are a multitude of serious issues looming in relation to overcrowding, and there is much work to be done just to alleviate the almost certain impact for many millions right now, not to mention those yet to be born.