Saturday, March 30, 2013

An Ecology, Not an Economy

Keeping with the ideal of spreading the word at a smaller scale, if you happen to have any sort of microbusiness type of project -- an ebook, a website, that sort of thing, feel free to name-drop and link to it in comments. You can also PM me at GMail and I'll check it out, give you some feedback, and plug it in a post if I like it.

Mockalypse Update

Just about done reformatting Mockalypse for Kindle. It should be posted at Amazon and ready for action before the end of the weekend (there is typically a 12-hour waiting period between when you submit the book file, and when it is published with its own page). The extended Assholes of 2012 post is also being published, as a $.99 Kindle Single, and retitled 12 in '12.

So far the Kindle Direct Publishing is very easy to use, so if you have some great stories itching to be published, and your doctor can't prescribe an ointment [Ed.:  Hi-yoooo!], I recommend giving it a shot. KDP Select is an exclusive deal, however, so the PDF file at the Mockalypse site is suspended indefinitely.

KDP allows for 5-day free promos, so once the page links are up and running, and I have the free promos up and tested, the links will be posted here. If you didn't grab a PDF download before, I hope you'll consider grabbing one or both of the Kindle files. Again, the free promo should run for five days (shooting for April 1-5), I will post details once everything's going, hopefully by Monday (an appropriate enough day for that sort of nonsense, coincidentally enough).

Even if you previously downloaded the Mockalypse PDF, I am requesting that you download both of the Kindle files. The download hits will generate ranking, which will turn into sales once the promo is over. Better yet, if you have the time, post a review -- be honest, do not feel like you have to be nice. If it sucks, say so, just be complete and say why it sucks. The main thing is getting some word of mouth. I will be spamming open threads on other blogs as opportunities arise, and I hope some of you will be kind enough have enough time on your hands to spread the word far and wide.

I have another couple of projects (which have nothing to do with anything here) underway and/or nearing completion, which I'll write about here in the upcoming weeks, as they become ready for prime time. I've quoted Doug Rushkoff before, about the goal for the modern microeconomy (P2P)being ecological in nature (especially with technological advancements spurring more innovation and better quality projects and products). This is where I think that theory gets tested, and the results will be interesting no matter what. Stay tuned.

Postcards from the Edge

A study in contrasts, insofar as the insular, single-minded propaganda machine of a totalitarian state (and no, I don't mean Entertainment Weekly, smartass) can have contrasts. Exhibit A, regarding the increased ankle-biting of Dennis Rodman's new buddy:

Kim Jong Un Convenes Operation Meeting, Finally Examines and Ratifies Plan for Firepower Strike
Pyongyang, March 29 (KCNA) -- The moves of the U.S. imperialists to violate the sovereignty of the DPRK and encroach upon its supreme interests have entered a grave phase.


He said he has judged the time has come to settle accounts with the U.S. imperialists in view of the prevailing situation.

If they make a reckless provocation with huge strategic forces, the KPA should mercilessly strike the U.S. mainland, their stronghold, their military bases in the operational theaters in the Pacific, including Hawaii and Guam, and those in south Korea, he said. He examined and finally ratified the plan of the Strategic Rocket Force for firepower strike.


He said the heroic service personnel of the KPA and all other people, their hearts burning with irrepressible resentment at the reckless war provocation moves of the U.S. imperialists, are now waiting for a final order of the WPK Central Committee, hardening their will to turn out in a do-or-die battle with the enemies.
And here we were given cause for hope from this rundown of flirty spring fashions, just two days prior:
Spring Costume Suitable to Koreans

Pyongyang, March 27 (KCNA) -- A change has taken place in the Korean people's costume with the advent of spring season.

Seen in streets of Pyongyang are women dressed in chima (skirt) and jogori (coat), an elegantly and beautifully looking traditional costume.

In this regard, KCNA met Pak Hyon Sik, director of the Clothing Institute under the Ministry of Foodstuff and Daily Necessities Industry.

Pak said:

People choose to wear in spring clothes convenient for movement, with their colors light bright and soft.

Anyhow, mode of spring costume should be taken to suit one's countenance and figure and one's age.

It is advisable for the people in the 20s or 30s to dress themselves freshly and vividly and the middle-aged to wear light-colored clothes. Chima and jogori is suitable to most of Korean women. The old persons' attire should be neat and comfortable.

My institute works hard to develop colorful clothes of various fashions conforming to the socialist way of life and sentiments of the Koreans.
Awesome. Can't wait for the swimsuit issue. Kerry and Hagel have their work cut out for them with this guy, don't they? Even the Russians and Chinese are at their wits' end with these goofballs. Kim the Third, steeped in generations of top-dog cultism, may be in danger of believing his own hype. He wants to get to the negotiating table, but for what? Didn't anyone steep him in the nuances of Kissingerian/Metternichian top-level diplomacy we typically approach these sorts of situations with, that since only Nixon could go to China there is no way a Democratic administration will risk looking like appeasers to a lunatic?

It's like an entire nation decided to make this their national anthem. The "Ministry of Foodstuff and Daily Necessities Industry", fuckin' seriously?

Then again, from the NK POV, they just watched us spend an entire decade waist-deep in the Big Muddy, not once but twice, spending ungodly amounts of blood and treasure trying to bring down loose collaborations of irregular militias. It's entirely likely that Kim and his generals think that with one of the world's largest armies, a nascent nuclear arsenal, and a healthy dose of weird (if not flat-out cray-zay), they might just be able to leverage whatever the hell it is they think they want out of us.

It's past time to get the rest of the neighborhood at the table, to have an intervention for the local meth addict.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Service with a Smile

I'm working on some Don Young "wetbacks" material, which requires waiting for TV Land to show a Chico and the Man marathon, or maybe some old Slowpoke Rodriguez cartoons, but in the meantime, count me in on Ed's rant here. I'm not really sure why specifically I have a hard-on for this sort of shithead behavior, since like Ed, I never had to go the food-service route for employment. But I've always had empathy for those who do that work; it's not easy and it's frequently unpleasant. And 20% is a lot easier to calculate in my head than 17%, or whatever the "official" rate is.

At least in my experience, it's bars much more often than restaurants where the "Chad" douchebags turn up. Obviously the "instant asshole, just add alcohol" syndrome is at work there, and being in a bar band I've seen people at their very worst. Hecklers are one thing; I once made an unfortunate heckler literally cry after about two minutes of verbal abuse. But I've also had knives pulled on me (guy thought I was trying to pick up his girlfriend; it was actually the other way around), a full beer can thrown and narrowly missing my head. Rock and roll, as they say, is a contact sport.

Fortunately, those toads are the exceptions and not the rule. Being a freelance musician is a little different from being a server -- you won't be there after the weekend, so no one has a stake in helping you out, so you have to be able to talk yourself out of a jam, and willing to fight if talk doesn't work. But in a restaurant, this is where a good floor manager is invaluable, a manager willing to tell the Chads of the world to go fuck themselves, and if they want to play grab-ass and abuse the help, then maybe Applebee's or some such would be more to their liking.

Really, though, for me the question is much less political than anthropological -- who are the parents who raise these fucking assholes, and what emotional trauma did they inflict on them? Most likely, the Chads were spoiled and cosseted, never told "no", and so became used to getting their way. They sharpened their bullying skills in high school, on cheerleaders and/or nerds, and got out into the real world perceiving it to be, as Martin Mull once noted, just like high school, but with money.

So be nice to your server, tip them 20-25%, thank them for their work. And be warmed by the knowledge that, as cool as the Chads think they are, the fact is that none of their friends can stand them. And they know it.

And if, by some mishap, you happen to be in the same group with a Chad at a restaurant or bar, sit well away from them and do not get what they get, because I promise you, there will be mystery fluids in that fucker's food and drink.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The New Map

As something of a geography/map nerd, I enjoyed this redrawn US map, into territories of equal population. Since our electoral college and senatorial/house system needs rethinking anyway, this might be a good place to start. (Obviously, it'll never happen, but it doesn't hurt to dream.)

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Hell Bent for Leather

It's easy to skim through Buzz KillingtonBissinger's GQ mise-en-scène, and chalk up his mid-life desires to be incarnated as a gaudy, overpriced Italian leather couch to the usual tedious gaggle of White People Problems. Which is exactly the sum total of it, including Bissinger's sexual and sartorial experimentations.

But since I view the world strictly through an economic prism these days, the ongoing contest between the haves and have-mores, and the occasional crumbs that might fall from their $13,900 ostrich leather jackets, are more interesting.

This morning, I had to negotiate with two (2) of my student-loan companies, because since despite earning the highly coveted EmmBeeAyy, I still have yet to find a job that pays more than subsistence level. (Fortunately, the third loan company I owe the bulk of my student loans to kindly gave me a seven-month deferment a couple months ago.)

The most frustrating part about being victimized by the rentier class is that, since I've only been able to make minimal interest payments -- payments that, incidentally, if I could get done with them I would have more discretionary income to put out into the local economy, rather than into the pockets of faceless finance weasels -- so far, I actually owe substantially more than I did a couple years ago.

With the salary that all the finance gurus (you know, the same ones that tell you you're a freespending dipshit if you don't have a year's worth of income socked away, along with regularly contributing to you 401k) insist I should be making, I could get completely paid out in probably 3-4 years. But those jobs don't exist, and the ones that do have people hanging onto them longer, because retirement is more risky, and when they do come online there's 200 people competing for them, and on and on.

Higher education:  Grab yer ankles, kids, this one's going to leave your ass red and raw for a good long time. Trust me on that one. Do yourself a favor -- drop out today and start writing "mommy porn" for bored suburban hausfraus. Use old Penthouse letters for source material.

So it is heartening to know, while I watch my life twist in the fucking wind, that there are pampered swells out there who can blow through six hundred grand in a couple years, in a futile attempt to fill an imaginary hole in their soul with animal skins dyed in loud colors. I mean, it's kinda funny to watch a grown-ass man in his mid-fifties turn into a shameless leather queen, instead of getting a red Porsche and finding a coed to bang, like the rest of us. But conspicuous, mindless consumption, especially in the service of self-actualization, is always going to be off-putting. Imagine something like this being written by or about, say, Sarah Palin -- or better yet, Karl Rove.

[Pro tip for the very end of the article:  Patrón is top-shelf stuff -- you don't need to adulterate it with lime and salt.]

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

99 Problems

I suppose if I'd been marginally competent at my avocation here, I'd have included this (barely) human skidmark somewhere on my Assholes list last year, probably in the top five. But the story resurfaced on 60 Minutes the other night, prompting the eternal question once again:

In a country where having so much as a pot bust will disqualify you from a student loan or public assistance, how the fuck does Wanetta Gibson not only get away with perjuring an innocent man into prison for five years, but also gets to keep the money she stole? It's not a "settlement", it's blood money, she stole it, and she needs to pay it back. After she does time for perjury, obstruction of justice, and being a total piece of shit.

The 60 Minutes piece's spin was on how Banks had moved past it all, had forgiven Gibson, and wasn't even interested in pursuing her for what she did. I humbly submit that that's no longer his decision -- Gibson ripped off the taxpayers, both for her bullshit "settlement", and for the cost of incarcerating Banks. She owes Banks, but she also owes us, and frankly, I'd like that money back, like ASAP.

In the wake of the Steubenville rape trial, folks here and there are plaintively asking what it is about "our" "culture" that objectifies women and makes rape "permissible" among males. You could just as well point at vagina-owners such as Wanetta Gibson or Casey Anthony or that whackjob that drowned her five kids in the bathtub, and ask what the hell is up with these here dingbats. The truth is that there is no simple "cultural" explanation, because it's a huge nation, and there's no single set of cultural mores that explain aberrant behavior. There's 320 million people in this country; by the law of averages, some of them are going to be fucking assholes, some male, some female. Trying to explain people like that is a waste of time, you just need to deal with them.

I have zero interest in pseudocultural explanations why the Steubenville losers did what they did, nor do I accept any collective responsibility for it; I'm just glad that those little assholes will get what's coming to them. Similarly, I couldn't care less what Gibson's rationale might be for implicating Banks in a rape that apparently never even occurred; all I know is that she ruined a man's life and career prospects, stole a shitload of money from a public entity that must sorely need it at this point in time, and she needs to pay for those things, just as anyone else should.

Asserting that she was a teenager at the time of her false accusation does not absolve her; Banks was a teenager as well, and he went to big-boy prison. I know people who had their tax returns garnished for years, in order for the state to recoup interest on welfare repayments, for just a couple of months of public assistance. But they're going to let Gibson just get away with this egregious shit? That is completely unacceptable. The only way a county or state entity walks away from a slam-dunk case like this, especially with that much money involved, is because someone fucked up the first time around.

Hopefully enough people in LA will be appalled by this to speak up about it. Maybe the fact that Banks is planning to sue the state of California will motivate them. Banks is certainly entitled to be compensated for his pain and suffering. He can go get his money from Wanetta Fucking Gibson, and hopefully it takes her every remaining day of her life to pay him back.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Moar Katz (and Dawg)

OK, kids, here are a couple more photos of our anipals:

In the above photo, Dexter the giant kitten catches up on some light reading.
The cat above is Chucky, about 12 or 13 years old.

Finally, the dog, Poppie, 13 years old and chugging along:

It occurs to me that aside from Dexter, we're basically running a rest home for elderly animals.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

1 Timothy 6:10

Yes, one could make the argument that in this instance, "Goliath" is "right". Cyprus was dumb enough to invest its gains in government bonds from its historic trading partner. Cue the muted trombone sound. But this leaves out the big picture, the much larger context, the cold hard fact that "right" or "wrong" don't matter here, never mattered.

Put more bluntly -- even if "Goliath" were in the "wrong", knew it and acknowledged it, and it were shouted from the rooftops from every possible commentator, reliable and otherwise, he would still do the exact same thing. This is what these people do.

As the late great Bill Hicks used to say, any questions?

Last Thoughts on CPAC

Here's a thought to warm the cockles of your hardened heart:  Is it just me, or does it really seem like this year's Gathering of the Smuggalos got much less coverage than in the past? In past years, the Arctic Sorceress' doofy stunts would get written up and commented upon for the ensuing week, but this year's scamboogery didn't even make it to the Monday morning yukfests.

In fact, the RNC autopsy got lots more coverage, in no small part because it actually had some intellectual honesty to it, for a change. Confronting the tragic (for them) facts that catering to angry old crackers is no longer enough to get you elected is a huge step for them. Not that the prospect of a Serial-Adulterer/Man-On-Dog ticket wouldn't have been all kinds of hilarious, but the possibility of a deliberately regressive and dysfunctional party starting to get its shit together is much better.

Of course the CPAC will continue on business as usual for at least the next few years while the money wing of the GOP figure out how to get the goofball base to tack center a bit. Besides, there's plenty of bullshit swag to sell to the rubes along with the hotel accomodations and $15 watered-down rum-and-cokes. Hell, I seriously thought for a hot second, after seeing Saint Sarah's stoopid Big Gulp schtick, about setting up a quick-and-dirty CafePress account, writing up a quick slogan, and moving some tee-shirts and bumper stickers on the wingnut fora. As the saying goes.

Anyway. It would be nice to look back and see this latest convention of cray-zay as the swan song of the loudest, most obnoxious and tendentious voices of the pseudo-populist right. We'll see. But at least the lamestream media finally stopped taking the dingbat's bait.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

High-Tech Mugging

Cyprus is an outlier, but it is also a test case and a bellwether. The extent of the story presented in the MSM is that of economically rigorous Germany imposing austerity measures on their more profligate southern brethren. There may even be an element of truth to all that.

But those are mere principles, and here we are talking about money, and who gets to take it from whom, by muscle and gall if need be, for the benefit of those who already have more than they could spend in a hundred lifetimes. The central banking system is mightily overextended, with unsecured derivative obligations estimated between $600 trillion and $1.5 quadrillion. (Read that again: the low estimate is over half a quadrillion U.S. dollars of debt.)

The financial brain surgeons were only just barely able to slap enough duct tape and baling wire on their little perpetual-motion machine to keep things going, the last time they monkey-fucked it. Since then, they've had their run of things, been essentially told by the Attorney General of the United States that they're above prosecution for their laughably obvious patterns of malfeasance and corruption.

And now the problem is bigger and badder, because European austerity hasn't worked (as predicted -- but then again, "hasn't worked" for whom?), and Cyprus may just be the thread that, when pulled, unravels the whole cheap web of lies and casino trickery. It will take a while; first in Europe, as Putin decides whether or not to yank the natural gas chain on his Euro customers next winter, then next year we'll see some form of economic malaise metastasize its way over here.

Inventory orders abroad are dropping, though supposedly domestic housing starts are on the uptick, which will be accompanied by rising interest rates. Couple that with the ongoing economic fearmongering over the impending Affordable Care Act, and the continuing racketization of America in general, and you have a pretty solid recipe for deep shit.

This isn't zombie apocalypse, asteroid-extinction massive event stuff, this is frog-in-a-pot-of-gradually-boiling water action. But let's not beat around the bush about exactly what this is -- a very small percentage of financially strong people in financially strong countries shaking down the weak and unrepresented, over smoke and mirrors and spreadsheet-generated meta-debt.

I'm not saying you need to pack your bunker and go-bag or move to Patagonia, but as always, divesting from the system as much as possible, becoming self-sufficient, will absolutely lessen the blow, whenever it occurs. Solar panels and rain catchers, greenhouse gardening, seasonality and locavorism. Get a 3D printer and learn how to use it. Get a gun or two, and learn how to use them, just in case; the next corrective economic slump will likely set off another spasm of desperate people doing desparate things. Even an empty shotgun will do -- who doesn't instinctively clench their sphincter at the sound of a shotgun being racked?

Getting out of debt is another animal altogether; it should be apparent by now that the few true beneficiaries of the upward wealth transfer system make their bones primarily through massive amounts of debt peonage and rentierism, getting you on a financial tenthook and keeping you there. I don't really have an answer for that. Either pay the absolute bare minimum to avoid getting everything repoed, or get rid of it all as soon as you can, if that's possible. Not really many other options, which is sort of the point from the creditors POV.

I think the main thing to realize is that there's not much point into going into full-on Doomsday Prepper mode, but there is benefit to understanding that the game is truly rigged, that it's a small club that runs things and you ain't in it, and that no politician of any stripe is ever going to fix it. Either there's a massive jubilee on all this imaginary debt the Masters of the Universe rolled up on our backs, or you sign on for multi-generational obligations and rentierism for all the techtoys you need in order to get by or to forget your daily drudgery.

Maybe there'll be some sort of mass riot or conflagration to force some rethought on all this before things turn completely sideways, but it's doubtful. People are too cowed, too willing to believe that something or someone will come along to set things right, not wanting to believe what is right in front of them -- that none of this is an accident, that it was all preventable, that in fact it's a feature, and not a flaw.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Kickstart to Mars

For my (measly amount of) money, if there's been one story this week that's worth its weight in news gold, it's not the selection of another sad old man to serve as the figurehead of a sad old institution. It's the (geek jargon alert) mainstreaming of crowdfunding, the taking in of over $3.5M in just three days ($2.4M of that in just the first twelve hours) to support the production of a movie based on a cult teevee show that lasted four seasons and ended in 2007. Folks, as far as I'm concerned, the only word for that is awesome.

And I agree with John Rogers, like, a kajillionty percent on the "questions" raised about this. I've never seen the show, and frankly couldn't care less if the movie even gets made or not. But I've already been researching Kickstarter for a few weeks now (*see below), and been impressed with both the principle and the process. In the case of the Veronica Mars movie, what you see is mutual investment, by fans and cast/crew, in making this thing happen. Take a look at the reward tier on the KS page. There are 100 slots available at $500, for which Kristen Bell will personally record an audio file for you to use as a voicemail or whatever. For $600 (50 slots), Bell will record a 20-second video message for you.

Think about that for a second. I don't know much about Kristen Bell, but I know who she is, and she seems to be a busy, working actress. And yet she (and other cast members) believe in the project enough to do extra things like this. It's not exactly digging ditches or scrubbing toilets, but you probably wouldn't be willing to record custom voicemail messages and videos for scores of strangers -- for free, at that -- if it wasn't something you really believed in.

So that's a nice thing, on both sides of the equation; fans love the show and the prospect of the movie to put up a lot of money for various cool things, and the actors love it enough to give something extra for the fans. Again, I've never seen an episode of Veronica Mars, but that's pretty damned great all the way around. This serves as a model for possibly resurrecting other niche or "cult" shows, as indicated in this article.

Will there be some point in the future, probably sooner rather than later, where megacorp assholes bigfoot their way onto Kickstarter and cynically use the fans to springboard some piece of shit? Sure; in fact, some claim that that's more or less what happened with Amanda Palmer's KS album project, which netted over $1.3M.

I don't have a dog in that fight either -- other than enjoying the Dresden Dolls' version of War Pigs, and knowing that she's married to Neil Gaiman, I am completely unfamiliar with Palmer and her music -- so I'm not offering an opinion there one way or the other. But in my anecdotal KS research, I have seen a great many project pages, from books to video games to albums, where creators gleaned two or four or (as in Palmer's case) ten times as much money as they were asking for. Many of these people are struggling artists, or at least ill-equipped to just spin on a dime and completely expand the scope of their project (which typically run 30-day campaigns) to match the donation intake, in order to keep querulous funders satisfied that it wasn't just a big carpetbag.

But I'm suggesting that these things point up a set of circumstances peculiar to the internets and its wondrous modes of instant and granular communications, what Douglas Rushkoff terms an ecology, rather than an economy. It's interactivity at almost the most individual level possible, being leveraged to do cool things that twenty (or even ten) years ago would have been cost-prohibitive to even consider.

*As you might infer, I've been researching KS in order to set up a page to generate capital and publicity for an upcoming ebook project, for another site I run. I'm hoping to have the reward tier and project page approved and ready to run a campaign through the month of April, so there will be updates posted here within the next week or two. There's no big hush-hush secret, this will be a guitar-oriented music book, but I am still working on a few visual things on the site before I start publicizing it. Stay tuned.

Back to School

Scenes from a Bawl

Fucking Big Gulps, how do they work?
The political Gathering of the Juggalos known as CPAC is underway, and two of its most emblematic buffoons are performing their respective dancing-monkey routines right on cue. First is La Donald, he of gold-plated terlets and the classic freeze-dried comb-forward, spouting his deep thoughts to a half-empty room of what appear to be a largely geriatric group.

Maybe there was complimentary Maalox at the breakfast buffet. But, you know, it's a convention, a party, and as such, Trump shoulda known better than to take the 8:45AM slot. Even morons like to get shitfaced and (try to) get laid at a convention. It was the first slot of the day, though, and our boy just couldn't help himself.

And of course it wouldn't be a par-tay without the Tila Tequila of conservatardery, the one and only Saint Sarah. Palin can't even get her "jokes" straight, but what would you expect from someone who once, for a notoriously cheap sight gag, actually wrote "energy" and "tax" on the palm of her hand. See, the Big Gulp works on many levels, who cares if they're just about the only thing stupid Nanny Bloomberg didn't regulate with his stupid nanny regulation, so shut up you guys!

Extra points to the butthurt common taters and conserva-tweeters at the usual sites. It is actually possible to be "liberal", and to both view Bloomberg overweening nannyism as borderline retarded, if not simply useless, and to see Palin for what she really is at this point -- a garden-variety jackass, reduced to split-second attention grabbers like sipping on a Big Gulp (way to stick it to The Man, Truth Teller!) and cracking wise about her own tits. (See, Todd got the guns, Sarah got the rack. Ahahahaha. I know, right? Fucking George Carlin must be spinning in his grave, going, "Why didn't I think of that one? It's fuckin' genius!")

But then again, these are people for whom buying a Chick-Fil-A sammich last summer was a brave political stance. They can close their eyes and pretend it's stil 2009-10, Palin's schtick is so well-preserved and unchanged. Surprised she didn't say something about "pallin' 'round with terrorists." For the believers, this is manna from heaven; for Palin, this is just a paid breather between reality shows, now that Fixed Noise cut off her allowance. They'll turn out in droves later in the year for her War On Xmas book, coming this 1998.

Someone needs to explain to these bozos (like it'd even be worth the time) that "humor" tends to work better when it's grounded in reality. Since no one has done anything to the Big Gulp, sacred avatar of 'murkin freedom and consumerist self-actualization, all that happened here is that someone took a drink of a sodypop (no word on whether it was Faygo or not, or if she sprayed the oldsters with it), and no one but Miss Thang's laughing-and-trying-a-bit-too-hard fan club really gives two shits. Enjoy your adipose deposits of sodium benzoate, laughtards.

Sarah! Sarah! I maded dis for youse!
No matter. These are figures of no consequence any longer, not getting it yet that the people who are actually listening to them are not allowed to leave the house with money, and that actual sentient beings have moved on. As with their musical Juggalo brethren, rather than hatred or fear or even contempt, it's best to simply regard them with a mixture of humor and bemusement. These are nothing more than tremendously silly people, some of whom still don't get that their fifteen minutes were up several years ago.

[Update:  The Guardian has a pretty good live blog of this hot mess. I didn't realize just how spot-on the comparison with the GotJ was. Jay-zus. If I'd been thinking, I would have printed up 5,000 cheap-ass tee-shirts with Big Gulps on them, and sold them for $40 each outside the, ahem, ballroom. You know, at the Gaylord.]

Yep. You really showed 'em, honey.
 [Sorry about the multiple edits and updates. This stuff really does keep writing itself.]

Principles and Empathy

I think it's swell that Rob Portman has boldly come out in support of his son -- though, it should be noted, he probably felt that way back when he was in serious contention to be Mitt Romney's veep candidate, yet did not see fit to step forward at that time. This is in keeping with a longstanding tradition of pols from both parties, to wait until there is no political risk whatsoever in embracing what sensible people can barely regard as a issue of any importance whatsoever, especially in a world where decent jobs are about as common as unicorns.

Doesn't make Portman a terrible person, and in fact, considering the CPAC clown show is in full swing this weekend, it may push him away from the mossback factions of the GOP. It may also, one hopes, force the party to finally push said mossbacks back out on the margins, where they belonged in the first place. Better late than never, they are finally getting the message that maybe their in-house weirdos, with their tragic obsessions and oddball diagnoses of buttfucking and ladyparts, are doing the brand way more harm than good.

The 'pubs are going through the usual post-electoral "why we lost" kabuki, figuring that if they present a less bloody maw to the minority voters they desperately need to retain any relevance (assuming they at some point decide to stop disenfranchising them, that is), they have a chance in 2016. They are only slightly behind the Democrats in that regard, though Obama does deserve credit for at least announcing his "evolution" on his position months before the election, plenty of time for the obsessives to turn to the usual mortifications of the flesh.

But Portman deserves no credit for his metamorphosis -- he "changed" because it became an issue that mattered to someone he cares about, which is as chickenshit as it gets. The ability to empathize with people, in the abstract sense, as opposed to specific persons whose situations we care about as friends or family members, is generally considered to be a primary difference between adults and children.

The Democrats, with their grueling, stolid incrementalism, are not a huge amount better in this regard, nor in terms of empathizing with the plight of the economically disaffected, at least in a way that actually makes a difference in their lives. Remember when Bill Clinton swore up and down that American workers "displaced" by NAFTA and GATT would be retrained, so that the American workforce could remain competitive and innovative and all that? Right. The economy got Rubinized, before it got Grammed, and the "retraining" was turned over to usurers and profiteers, dangling the sweet promise of credentialism in exchange for a decade or two of debt peonage.

That would be the same Bill Clinton who voted for the "Defense of Marriage Act" an Orwellian name for a legislative turd if ever there were one, because Compromise Is Necessary and he needed to Get Things Done. Since enabling the banksters with the repeal of Glass-Steagall, Clinton has gone on to make millions on the rubber-chicken circuit, and if his hagiographers have any say about it, will probably end up on the dime or Mount Rushmore at some point.

Whenever a politician claims to be doing something or adopting a position on grounds of moral principle, you can be certain that if that entered into the equation at any point, it was only after virtually all risk was eliminated. That's not brave or principled, nor does it require much in the way of empathy. It's simply an ethical convenience.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Who Are the Brain Police?

OK, Gilberto Valle is a disgusting bastard, and at the very least should not be a police officer. But you can read through the entire article, and still ot be completely sure of what exactly Valle is being charged with. (Conspiracy to commit kidnapping and murder, for the record.) If he had simply written a narrative around his sick fantasies, he'd either be a late-coming Hollywood torture-porn auteur, or a bestselling Kindle author.

This is not Minority Report, and we do not have people who can pre-cog with certainty the eventual commission of a crime, no matter how awful the potential. Without even any equipment being purchased, or any money to potential partners being exchanged, it's hard to justify completely wrecking someone's life -- and possibly putting them in prison for the rest of their life -- because of their twisted internet posts.

I'm not even going to invoke the slippery slope argument, but if you're going to bust Valle, then you need to bust everyone he talked to, everyone he "plotted" with, everyone lurking on these sick fetish sites. Which actually might not be a bad idea, not that they should be imprisoned for conspiracy for kidnapping or murder, but if a person or animal is being harmed for their "entertainment" purposes, then bust them for that.

This is a tough one. Valle's activities should make any decent person sick to their stomachs. But unless the participants in his fetish videos were actually harmed, he's not guilty of any crime, and it sets a dangerous precedent to prosecute him as such.

Survivor or Stockholm Syndrome?

I appreciate the response I've gotten so far to this post, both in comments and emails. It is clear that the modern workplace, for all of its gadgets and enhanced productivity, has devolved socially into a series of rote, semi-forced public rituals where everyone pretends to like each other, bookended with the daily routine of undermining each other, in the futile hope of retaining a precious toehold on dwindling health care benefits, in the proverbial jobless recovery. (Yeah, yeah, I heard -- numbers were up last week. Whoopdee-fuckin'-do. Wait for the inevitable "adjustment".)

I submit that it serves as a handy microcosm as well for society at large -- a bunch of frightened, cornered rats huddled in a corner, cheese moved overseas, nosing the weakest out in front whenever the cat comes calling, thankful only that this time it was someone else. What a wonderful way to go through life.

So I'd like to hear from all of you folks in comments, about your experiences in the workplace, good, bad, or indifferent, past or present. Maybe you got sick of the shit and found a way to leave the rat race and be self-employed -- by all means, please share that as well.

Dance of the Dead

In which the scion of a debauched political family who, like the Kennedys, refuse to just go away, makes the rounds on the Sunday morning circle jerk pretending that he's totally not interested in the job his dad and older idiot brother held, so stop you guys! So John Ellis Bush pretends to be annoyed that David "Thank you sir may I have another!" Gregory pesters him with the obvious, and we're all supposed to pretend that what this nation really needs is yet another Bush to royally fuck things up.

If any of these inbred asshole journamalists actually made it out of their cosseted surrounding once in a while, they might recognize the horror that most Americans usually have to pretend to do far more work for far less money.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Occasional Cat Blogging

Rumor has it that teh kidz enjoy crazy cat fotos, and I came across this one I took last week. The two curled-up black cats are both 18 years old (but not litter mates), while the stretched-out grey-and-white one is actually a kitten, who showed up on our lawn last September at maybe 3 months old, and lived in one of the trees for about a week until he trusted us enough. Now he weighs about 15 pounds(!) and has pretty much taken over the place.

[Update 3/10/13 2:19 PDT:  Well, looks like teh kittehz are popular. Very cool. One thing I've always liked about people on the internets is that most of them are bona-fide animal lovers. I'll start posting more photos here and there of our pets (we actually have six cats and one dog total, but the dog and one of the cats never come inside the house) for your enjoyment.

Just so you have some names to place with the fur, the two black cats are Shadow (top) and Cleo, the giant kitten is Dexter, and the fluffy orange/white one you can just see up on the arm of the couch is Maya.]

Schrödinger's Job

So recently I interviewed for a decent promotion at work, and after a couple weeks of twisting in the wind, waiting, wondering, it turns out that not only did I get passed up, but more insultingly, got passed up for someone who had distinguished themselves among their peers with their rather intense displays of anger and sheer disloyalty in the workplace. Ho hum. Perhaps Harry Truman had a point.

The mind goes through some unusual contortions through that interim period, between the interview and the communication of the final decision, win or lose. You are in a strange limbo, where you both succeeded and failed in getting the job. Even the phrase "win or lose" effectively demonstrates the zero-sumness of the game -- you either get the job or you don't -- but during that decision-making period, both things are true. In the era of the jobless recovery, this ranks as a post-modern form of self-induced psychological torture.

As annoying as such a situation -- which surely many of us have been in (or worse) at one time or another, as many modern workplaces are intrinsically humiliating -- can be, it can also be immensely clarifying. It's an opportunity to look at things and note dispassionately, "If decision-makers are this fucked in the head, why do I want to stick around and help them screw the pooch further for a couple bucks more per hour?" Large (100+) organizations that are systemically dysfunctional in nature cannot be fixed by just one or two people, no matter how noble their intentions or how broad-based their skill sets. It's a law of physics -- inertia of a large object can only be overcome with sufficient amounts of applied force.

This is especially true nowadays, with the constant threats of "downsizing" and "restructuring" looming over everyone's head. Fear is perhaps the ultimate demotivator, though you can only push people around so much before they decide to work just hard enough to not get fired. But the less people respect their leaders, and more importantly the word of those leaders, the less they are able to even continue going through the motions, day after miserable day. This is especially true when you can see the bigger picture and realize that it really doesn't have to be that way in the first place.

But ultimately this sort of thing happens to all of us, sooner or later, and when it does you go through the professional version of the Five Stages of Grief. The thing about the dysfunctional organization -- and, like Tolstoy's unhappy families, pretty much every dysfunctional organization is dysfunctional in its own way -- is that once you get past the anger, the feelings of betrayal and bitter recrimination, you realize, once again, that if they're that fucked up, you don't want it anyway. Sort of like getting dumped, the old "sour grapes" sentiment.

All that said, pride doesn't keep the lights on, doesn't help me get any traction on covering my wife's medical bills (because even with pretty good insurance, a simple bronchoscopic procedure a couple months ago ended up costing us about $5K out of pocket, because our medical system, as I've said ad nauseam, is a fucking racket), doesn't get me out of my 20-year-old hooptie and into maybe a ten-year-old hooptie (I live in the sticks, so bicycling everywhere is not an option, though I do ride when I can for recreation), doesn't pay the bills.

This is not a plea for your hard-earned cash money, because things are tough all over. But there are a couple things you can do for free that will help a brother out. One is word of mouth -- tell anyone and everyone you can think of who might be interested, to check this place out, check out Mockalypse (soon to be re-formatted for Kindle Direct Publishing!). The other is checking out anything and everything on this page, rumor has it some of the things here generate revenue.

Why We Can't Have Nice Things, Part 78,345

I know I've probably done a few too many "stupid culcha" posts as of late, and I'm teasing it out a bit more and more each time (hopefully), but these things are occasionally just fascinating (to me, anyway). The latest bit is this here; it is not that I have any supposition pro or con as to the qualitative merits of miniseries of bible stories produced by the guy who became a kajillionaire helping America watch people eat bugs for money, it's that so many of the commenters there seem to be so morally vested in its verisimilitude and theological probity. And they will brook no disagreement.

I humbly posit, as a generic logical viewpoint, that people who can get so butthurt one way or another about such a mundane basic cable artyfact, cannot possibly be of much use in just about anything. Maybe they can cook Hamburger Helper in a microwave, maybe they even remember not to leave in the foil and the fork when they cook it. But surely not much else; there's no one here that's going to we working at CERN in the near future.

Mediocrity is a continuum; it is possible but highly unlikely that, say, Neil deGrasse Tyson or Michio Kaku spend any time watching Honey Boo Boo or Duck Dynasty. The success and proliferation of these preposterous modes of "entertainment", like the mainstreaming of poorly-written fanfic, are due primarily to being impossibly cheap to produce in comparison to something that requires people of skill in writing or acting to produce.

But it is also that lowest common denominator crap is no longer rejected as such; the idea of "guilty pleasures" has been ironically embraced, something along that line. It's too easy and too lucrative to just take a huge dump and sell it as chocolate. I think I need to work on some fanfic, or rewrite an old fairy tale as a spec script for Disney. It's just easier to give up and go with the Ganges flow.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

The Best Health Care System in the World

Congrats to Heath Kufahl, who sunk a basketball from half-court at an OKC Thunder game to win $20K. The catch is that, instead of enjoying the windfall like he should be able to, he gets to spend it instead on what are euphemistically described as his wife's (who has stage 3 colon cancer) "mounting medical bills".

And whatever you do, pay no attention to that doodoohead Steve Brill's plaintive jeremiad on the racket we call our health care system. Why, it can be taken on good authority that the newspaper industry has a higher rate of profitability than the poor ol' country doctor at your local HMO. That must explain why newspapers are doing so well, whilst hospitals are just dying on the fucking vine, everywhere you look.

As I get older and closer to the eventual strike date we all face sooner or later, it gets more and more difficult to be sanguine or find the humor in this sort of obtuse skullfuckery. The facts are these:
  • The "health" "care" "system" is a racket, pure and simple. It is and has been a demonstrable collusion of the pharma, insurance, and HMO industries, all of which (especially insurance) are to some degree utilizing a business model which is predicated on not having to provide the services for which they've already been paid.
  • U.S. per capita medical spending is twice that of any other OECD country.
  • Health care costs are sapping productivity and fucking up the economy.
  • The opponents of "Obamacare" are right about one thing -- it changes nothing in terms of what things cost; in fact, it would be no surprise at all to see costs rise for certain procedures and/or demographic groups.
Take admin, marketing, lobbying, and middle-management spreadsheet-optimizers out of the mix, and you'd be surprised at how quickly costs would normalize. No honest observer could scrutinize the tripartite cartel of price-gouging and not come away realizing that a good chunk of health care costs are a complete waste, and that as 20% of the overall US GDP, that, combined with the amount of waste, fraud, and excess we already know is built into the defense procurement and financial services sectors, a substantial portion of the actual economy is just smoke and mirrors.

Game of Drones (Slight Return)

You have to give Rand Paul some credit here, for countering the chickenshit trend of recent years, and actually filibustering. Never mind that Paul and his grandstanding friends would probably have been a bit less likely to find his bedrock principles in the face of a Rmoney administration, the fact is that they went ahead and did it.

And sadly, the senatorial cohort did have something of a point; opinions are bound to vary by degrees as to the propriety of extrajudicial killbot assassination. But you can bet that at least some folks might have a change of tune were it, as noted above, we were talking about Rmoney and not Barry O.

It should be noted yet again that, in a long line of truly execrable attorneys general, Eric Holder is a piker. He's certainly no Ed Meese, or even a Thumbscrews Gonzalez. What he is is ineffectual and largely useless; he seems to think that, in a world where the Too Big to Jail claque probably wipe their asses with toilet paper printed with his visage, his priorities should be griefing stoners and finding John Yoo-type parsings of constitutional interpretations.

One might think that an administration headed by a consititutional scholar/lawyer might be more rather than less clear as to where the boundaries of Teh Dronz are actually drawn, if only to prevent the next certifiable retard/bloodthirsty henchman regime from exploiting its full potential, but this is naive, wishful thinking. It implies that there are more than incremental, cosmetic differences between the wings of The Party, and that the horse isn't already way down the road on the subject.

As dismal a place as the world is much of the time, it's certainly better without the likes of Osama bin Laden and Anwar al-Awlaki. The problem is that the precedent Obama and Holder are setting here, Rand Paul's theatrics notwithstanding, is identical to the one Nixon set when he intoned that it's not illegal when the president does it. Clear-cut supporters of this sort of obfuscatory, potentially despotic rhetoric need to keep that in mind on the off chance this nation loses its fucking mind one more time and hands things off to Jeb!/Rubio or Trump/Palin in 2016.

This is yet another of so many areas where technology has drastically outpaced the law's ability to keep up. But even if Holder had openly repudiated the use of drones and/or extrajudicial assassinations, secret courts, yada yada, it is still too little too late. The Fourth Amendment was gutted while people were obsessing over the Second. We accept infringements of personal liberties in pretty much everything already, from peeing in a cup to get a job that doesn't pay enough to live on, to getting treated like a criminal every time you want to travel by plane or buy allergy medication.

Frankly, the real problem with Holder is not that he's an apologist for the worst excesses of covert foreign policy and clandestine mission creep, it's that domestically, he's just like every other pinhead that staked their legacies by jamming up small fry while letting pelf-saturated thieves and scumbags ass-rape the economy over and over again. If anything, he's just another in a long line of examples from "both" "parties" of the evil of banality.

Maybe it's more reassuring to convince oneself about how much better Obama is than Rmoney would have been, and that's true enough for what it's worth, but let's face it -- the Dow hit a record high, and chances are you're not a dime better off.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Pope 'n' Change

"There is a limit to the admiration we may hold for a man who spends his waking hours poking the contents of chickens with a stick." -- Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume

No truth to the rumor that I am in the running to be the next Pope. It's not because I'm married and have a family, nor is it because I'm atheist, much less not Catholic to begin with.

It's because the church will never again, if their inbred cabal of bastards has any say in the matter, risk allowing someone ascend to the office who might actually walk the talk. They accidentally did that once with the unfortunate Albino Luciani, and that didn't turn out so well.

No, the cardinals want someone who will preserve the hierarchy, the bank, the high-end properties, and then go to overpopulated slums and tell the poorest people on the planet that their continued suffering and privation is actually redemptive, that to practice even simple birth control would condemn them for eternity. Perhaps the most charitable actions for some people would be to just leave them the hell alone.