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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

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.