Saturday, January 25, 2014

Weekend Pimpology

I know you've all been waiting with bated breath for the compendium of 2013 posts, Lucky '13, to hit the Kindle Book store, and it will, definitely within the next week. Only so many hours in the day, and for some reason I continue to show up at my day job, even though I'm now getting cornholed on the health insurance I don't even use. Another $200/month I don't have, for something I don't use. Yes, this is certainly "reform" that will make my future life on a fucking sidewalk so much better. Awesome. Remind me again why I voted for this fucking guy, and how much worse the other guy would have been.

Anyhoo, until that magickal day when you can pick up Lucky '13 (which will kick off with a free download weekend), you can always grab the 2013 list of assholes, Baker's Dozen, for just 99 cents. If you have Amazon Prime, you can borrow it for free (and I still get paid).

Thanks for your support. Party on.

Risk / Reward

The meritocracy strikes again:
JPMorgan Chase, after a year marred by scandal and stiff regulatory penalties, has decided to award its chief executive, Jamie Dimon, $20 million in compensation for 2013, an amount that will further inflame the debate over the accountability of senior bank executives.

The award, announced in a company filing Friday, is 74 percent higher than the $11.5 million that Dimon earned in 2012. By approving a hefty raise, the bank's board is signaling that it remains firmly behind Dimon after 12 months in which JPMorgan suffered several bruising legal setbacks, including a record $13 billion settlement with the Justice Department over soured mortgage securities.

In justifying the $20 million package, which includes $18.5 million of JPMorgan stock as well as a base salary of $1.5 million, the board said that JPMorgan had advanced in many ways under Dimon. And to many on Wall Street, as well as some other long-serving chief executives, Dimon wholly deserves the raise. "I think he's worth more than that," Warren E. Buffett, the chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway, said. "Overall, I think the shareholders of JPMorgan and the American people should be happy that Jamie Dimon has been running the bank over this period."

Yes, peons, be grateful that your superiors have given the most visible member of their class an eight-figure sinecure of stock options, in exchange for paying record fines for hosing shareholders and banks. You would go to jail for such things, but in the other America, you get rewarded for risking other people's money.

Almost six years into Obama-dom, and the "sociamalism" drumbeat continues apace. Either that word no longer means what I thought it did, or he's pretty damned bad at it. If Obama's a socialist, then I'm Ron Jeremy.

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Evil of Banality

Easily one of the most disturbing docs I've seen in a long time. A brutal reminder of the absurd, mindless cruelty that lives in people. If you can make it through this thing without at least wondering if a massive die-off might be such a terrible thing after all, you're a better person than I am.

Not one of these evil bastards has even a shred of remorse for the massacres they and their death squads committed in Indonesia in 1965-66. The attempts to show Anwar Congo as haunted by his deeds fall short; Congo is clearly just dismayed that he has nightmares and can't rid himself of them. Tough shit, asshole -- if there were any such thing as karma in this universe, Congo and the rest of his cohort would be withering away from a slow, agonizing death from eyeball cancer.

Perhaps the most revealing part of the movie is how, when you get right down to it, the Indonesian death squads were not really political. Sure, they wanted to kill commies. But only because the commies wanted to get rid of the Hollywood gangster flicks these criminals enjoyed. Aside from the death squads and genocidal ambitions, it's really like watching a street crew from a mob movie, shaking down merchants for protection money, running for office so as to legitimize their theft, throwing their weight around, siphoning parasitically from the honest labors of others. The commies would have shut down the protection racket, where Suharto recognized that these paramilitary gangs had a constructive use for his own genocidal ambitions.

Movies like The Act of Killing inadvertently provide an explanation for why mainstream dreck packs houses; by the time you're done with this thing, even Grown Ups 3 or Transformers 6 or Tyler Perry's Tyler Perry Puts on a Dress -- Again would be an acceptable palate cleanser.

Fun for the whole family. See it at your own peril.

Rising Tides, Sinking Boats

It's virtually impossible to imagine anyone being surprised by the report that 85 individuals now possess as much as half of humanity. Now, there are qualifiers of sorts -- if you're even an average schmuck in the US or Europe, chances are that in terms of assets and income, you're ahead of a healthy chunk of folks who live on a dollar or two a day, and don't own a pot to piss in. The average American frequently forgets (or doesn't even know) that 1 in 3 people live in either China or India, and 1 in 2 -- half of all human beings -- live in Asia.

Still, as the Krugster points out in what has become more or less a weekly homily to be ignored by our betters (or bettors), inequality is increasing everywhere, here as much or more than anywhere else. This seems to be mathematically at odds with the supply-side mythos, the Reaganauts who spoke wistfully of "trickling down" and a "rising tide lifting all boats." There is only so much stuff even magnificently wealthy people can buy and own and use, so it gets hoarded or "invested," usually overseas in both cases so's to avoid paying even a percentage point or two on their precious.

I politely suggest that if you find yourself on the short end of the stick, your options are few and far between. You can bend over and take it for the rest of your life; you can talk about how much it sucks, as if Barry O or Elizabeth Warren will actually do anything about it. Sooner or later someone, or some group, will choose the violent insurrection option, but the problem there is that usually an ineffectual or flat-out wrong target is chosen. Political figures operate at the behest of their owners; they have little choice but to dance with them that brung 'em.

Which leaves identifying properly the operators of these collectively ruinous enterprises, the soulless bastards who would rather dump a kajillionty dollars into astroturf teabagger propaganda efforts, than to put the same money -- or even less -- into something that benefits someone other than themselves. The animals Krugman describes, the smug, vile pricks who want to be Leo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street, always get away with it, leaving their rented dogsbodies in DC to take the abuse and hyperbole, while they scuttle off to the Hamptons or the Bahamas and hoard their pelf.

Obviously, not every single wealthy person is a shiftless douche who inherited every dime they have. But many of them are, and act like it, or act like they're the only ones who have ever worked for anything, and everyone else is just some worthless combination of dumb and lazy. Worse yet, even among those that earned every cent they got with no help from anyone at any point in their lives, they mostly (Warren Buffett being a notable exception) persist in avoiding any and all taxes if they can help it.

As we always say, this is not politics, it's math. Increasing inequality by definition means reduced opportunities and mobility for everyone else. To the people who refuse to say anything bad about them because they hope to be them someday (just read the LA Times comments, if you can stomach it), all you can tell those folks is, good luck with that. They might as well spend their entire next paycheck on Powerball tickets, for all it'll get them.

So let's get after these assholes, once and for all. Properly identified, one then has the option of bringing out the tumbrels and guillotines, or better yet, developing ways to disintermediate them. Their worst nightmare, the unproductive rich, is for their rackets to no longer work, the idea that they might actually have to work for a living. Refuse to participate in their system. This is why Bitcoin is starting to attract so much scrutiny, as is Silk Road, Kim Dotcom, and other players and aspects of the parallel system. They can't stand the idea that one day, enough of us might come to the realization that we can do just fine without them, that we never really needed them in the first place.

Money and value are, after all, simply tacit agreements on what things are "worth" for trading. What would happen if enough people decided that they no longer agreed with that collective understanding? As the Orlov article points out, even a 10% hit would cripple them. It would cascade downstream -- but it already has been, and will only get worse anyway. Might as well have at least some control over our fates, right?

Sunday, January 19, 2014

NFL Championship Game Predictions

Busy weekend, so I didn't have time to check with any of the stat sites I normally rely on for close analysis of these two games. Also, too, since I dislike all four teams, I find myself not really caring much.

Still, it's a chance to guess somewhat correctly, so here goes. As always, caveat bettor.

AFC Championship Game -- New England (+5.5) at Denver:  If the NFL were the Catholic Church, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning would be living canonical saints. As much as I dislike both teams, I have to admit that both QBs have made careers out of making the teams around them better, with rigorous study and skill.

Yes, the Patsies pwned a marginally competent Indianapolis defense back in Boston last week, but Denver, to say the least, ain't Boston. Yes, the eventual Super Bowl champ Baltimore Ravens went into Denver for last year's conference championship and came out victorious -- but with some seriously lucky breaks. Don't see that happening this time around, but Brady and Manning will at least keep it interesting, and if you're betting spread, the Pats should beat the 5½-point spread, but that won't be quite enough. Omaha! Omaha!

Prediction:  Broncos 38, Patriots 35.

NFC Championship Game -- San Francisco (+3.5) at Seattle:  Given the Seahawks' fearsome 15-1 home record over the last two seasons, and the Niners' wild-card status making this an exhausting third playoff weekend in a row, it seems like the spread should be larger. Yet San Francisco is surging at the same time Seattle has hit a relative slump. Seattle's lone home loss came at the hands of an Arizona Cardinals team that narrowly missed the playoffs, and a then-winless Tampa Bay team took them to overtime during mid-season, so that home record may not be as bulletproof as the record implies.

In their last 5 games (4 regular season and last week's playoff game hosting the Saints), Seattle QB Russell Wilson has thrown 4 TD and 3 INTs, and been sacked 17 games. San Francisco's success has been contingent on aggressive defense and controlled QB play from Colin Kaepernick that minimizes mistakes and gives underrated RB Frank Gore time to wear down opposing defenses. Still, Seattle's own punishing D should be able to salvage this, and get them into their first Super Bowl since the 2006 season. But if there's an upset to be had today, it's here.

Prediction:  Seahawks 21, 49ers 20.

[Update 1/19 8:15 PST:  Well, finally go 100% for the day, though not without some help from the refs in Seattle. And what the fuck is up with Richard Sherman? Good player, might want to dial it down, at least until he actually has that ring. We'll have some Super Bowl predictionsguesses for you the day before game time. In the meantime, back to your regularly scheduled programming.]

Monday, January 13, 2014

Can't Win Them All

After eight years in a coma, the world's leading living dead man, Ariel Sharon, finally shuffled off this mortal coil. Stranger perhaps than the pre-loaded, fake-shocked encomia from the press are the contradictory assessments of the man from the polar opposites of the Israeli political scene.
Palestinian youths at the Khan Younis refugee camp burned Sharon’s photograph and handed out candy in celebration of his death. A leader of the Fatah Party in Ramallah called him a war criminal. A spokesman for the Islamist group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, said Sharon’s hands were “covered in Palestinian blood.”

Sharp-edged assessments of his legacy were not confined to Palestinians. A leftist historian recalled Sharon’s disastrous invasion of Lebanon in 1982. A human rights activist branded Sharon a symbol of impunity for the Sabra and Shatila massacres in Beirut that year. But some of the harshest words came from supporters of Israel’s settler movement.

Orit Struck, a member of the Israeli parliament, called Sharon “one of the great builders of the land of Israel, and its greatest destroyer.” She said she thanked God that Sharon was struck down by a stroke before he could return more land to the Palestinians.

So Sharon was, it seems, more or less equally despised by all. The Palestinians despise him for expanding Jewish settlements in Palestinian territories; the Palestinians and Lebanese hate him for invading Lebanon and tacitly encouraging the atrocities of Sabra and Shatila; and the Jewish settlers loathe Sharon for withdrawing from Gaza and evicting Jewish settlers. Maybe it's a "confederacy of dunces" thing, maybe it's just that no one can win in that corner of the world.
Maybe the next generation will be able to remove themselves from the transgressions and assumptions of the previous generations, but probably not. It's more a matter of Palestinians simply outbreeding Jews, aside from the Orthodox and the settlers, with whom mainstream Israelis have some issues to begin with.
Sharon probably did what he felt he had to do for the good of his beleaguered nation, at any particular time. That doesn't help; nothing does. When you have one group claiming to be an exalted chosen, and another group vowing to drive the first group into the sea, you're just not going to win. If both sides must hew to holy books, maybe they could each start with the Golden Rule, and have just an atom of empathy.

Sunday, January 12, 2014


Looks like ol' Team B Gates has decided to cash in his chips with the expected level of subtlety and acuity:
I was put off by the way the president closed the meeting. To his very closest advisers, he said, "For the record, and for those of you writing your memoirs, I am not making any decisions about Israel or Iran. Joe, you be my witness." I was offended by his suspicion that any of us would ever write about such sensitive matters.

Um, okay. Seriously, what's wrong with this guy?

Free Download

Here's your assignment, Hammerheads -- go grab my new mini-book, Baker's Dozen, free for the next 72 hours. Give it a quick read, drop a review on the Amazon page, tell a friend or a forum thread of like-minded individuals. This will take you all of 15-20 minutes total, won't cost you a dime, and you'll be doing a good deed.

Thanks for your support. Stay tuned -- next weekend I'll be pestering you to do the same things for the launch of our collection of posts from last year, Lucky '13.


"Democracy is the theory that the people know what they want, and deserve to get it, good and hard." -- H.L. Mencken

"Life is tough, but it's tougher if you're stupid." -- John Wayne, Sands of Iwo Jima

As they say, timing is everything:

As West Virginians were learning Thursday of a devastating chemical spill in the Elk River that has rendered water undrinkable for 300,000 people, the US House of Representatives was busy gutting federal hazardous-waste cleanup law.

The House passed the Reducing Excessive Deadline Obligations Act that would ultimately eliminate requirements for the Environmental Protection Agency to review and update hazardous-waste disposal regulations in a timely manner, and make it more difficult for the government to compel companies that deal with toxic substances to carry proper insurance for cleanups, pushing the cost on to taxpayers.

In addition, the bill would result in slower response time in the case of a disaster, requiring increased consultation with states before the federal government calls for cleanup of Superfund sites - where hazardous waste could affect people and the environment.


The legislation was passed by a vote of 225 to 188, mostly along party lines, with all but four Republicans supporting the bill and all but five Democrats opposing it. One of those Democrats crossing party lines to support the changes to environmental law was Rep. Nick Rahall of West Virginia.
Well then, what say we just leave them to their own devices. Sounds like they got it all under control, and they don't need no gubmint goons tellin' 'em how to run things.

Friends 'n' neighbors, I don't know about you, but I'm tired of the discredited notion that there is any merit in trying to convince people with facts and ideas that they might not want to keep voting against themselves. Maybe the best way is to let them do it -- and deal with the inevitable consequences.

You don't like regulations? Fine, enjoy your poisoned rivers and your collapsing mineshafts. You hate paying taxes? Cool, good luck cleaning up your mess, since you don't believe in the evil gubmint forcing those nice bidnessmen who did it to clean it up and make your families and homes and communities whole again. You think the minimum wage is wrong on sacred principle? Fine, get on out there and see how much the world values your back and your high-school diploma. There are plenty of people working their asses off in a variety of menial, physically exhausting jobs, barely getting by. Feel free to join them.

Maybe after reading and writing about this nonsense for so long, I've just hit a wall, and no longer have any empathy for people who refuse to read a book or think about things for a hot second. It's like having a dumb kid who insists on sticking his fingers in doorjambs, even though household pets can see how doors work. But it's rare for kids to smash their fingers in a door a second time, right?

So maybe it's time to settle this once and for all with a referendum, not a media noise meter -- do the majority of people want to have a basic safety net for when shit happens and life goes south, or do they want a Randian Wild West show, let the devil take the hindmost? The recent sci-fi novel The Beam has an interesting take on this electoral and cultural divergence, but I've only read the first few chapters so far. The basic premise is that, every six years, citizens get to vote on whether to be freelance entrepreneurs, living with the outcomes of the risks they take, or wards of the state, surviving on a measly but secure stipend.

I just don't have any patience for this Deer Hunting With Jesus shit anymore. The political climate is as toxic as the river these coal fucks just trashed, and the majority of people in that state have consistently voted to poison their environments and wreck their communities, for jobs that will kill them long before they're old enough to collect Social Security.

Cut bait. Let 'em reap their whirlwind already.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Health Care, Housekeeping, Cyber-panhandling, Notes and Errata

Here's something fun:  for my first paycheck this year, I got a nice surprise -- every two weeks now, I get about a hundred bucks more deducted for my basement-level health plan. Happy New Year, right? Considering I not only have decent health insurance, but am a member of a manager-level public-sector union, I can just imagine what others are dealing with.
The easy snark would be to drop some #thanksobamacare smackdown, but of course there's more to it than that. You'd think with a variety of corporate-owned media entities jabbering 24-7-365, someone would step up and talk about what "Obamacare" really is. But it doesn't seem like they have.
So let's be more clear about this, since the media (and indeed Obama himself) have failed to do so -- what we call "Obamacare" is really an amalgamclusterfuck of industry-written regulations, mandating health care not so much to insure people who can't get insurance, but to ensure that when indigent people visit the ER and skip out on their tab, someone (that's you 'n' me, bunky) covers the tab.
So I'm well aware of what I'm being forced to pay for now, something I rarely if ever use. If it wasn't this, it'd be something else -- the hallmark of bureaucracies in general and post-industrial societies in particular is that, since you have more people with less to do, but everyone needs to look like they're doing something, what remains of the American middle class has to get used having someone's fucking hand in their pocket at every turn.
Can't ask the .1%ers to pay a little extra taxes, since they're job creators, right? (Just not here.) And by definition you can't ask the indigent and unskilled to pay for it, since they're barely eking their way through life. (And yet, there are people who earn a better living than I do, advocating for the rights of the disenfranchised. Awesome. Where do I get one of those folks to advocate for me being nickel-and-dimed to death?)
But I don't have an extra $200 a month to throw at bullshit either. I drive a 20-year-old car to work. Already I'm going to spend the rest of my life paying down interest on $200 textbooks, for a degree that should have come in two-ply. And now this, so that some bloodsucker can optimize their fucking stock portfolio on everyone else's back.
Anyway, I don't really care to hit folks up for money, because I know things are tough all over. But here are a few ways you can help a brutha out, with very little (or no) money and time:
  1. Check out our sponsors. Whether or not you buy anything, it helps.
  2. If you have Amazon Prime, you can borrow any of my books for Kindle from Amazon for free, and I still get a royalty.
  3. Spread the word. Nothing is more valuable than word of mouth.
  4. My political books are all lower than $2.99 in price, so if you want to buy one, they're really not that costly, and never will be.
  5. If you play guitar, or would like to learn, check out my Amazon Store at the top of the right sidebar. If you buy through that portal, I get the royalty and the sales commission. Most of the guitar books are $2.99 or lower, though a couple of the longer ones are $3.99, and they all have enough material to keep just about anyone busy for months.
The new Hammer book, Baker's Dozen, is available for download, only 99 cents. Starting Sunday, the book will be available for free for 72 hours. It's the Assholes of 2013 list, essentially. Grab a copy for free, take 30 seconds and write a review, and tell a friend at one of the kewl-kid blogs. Easy enough, doesn't cost you a dime, and you're out maybe 15 minutes of your day.

I had hoped to release the 2013 collection, Lucky '13, at the same time, but due to a multitude of other commitments and projects, I'm still working on formatting and cover design. Should be ready to drop next weekend; considering I didn't get Mockalypse and 12 in '12 out until April, I can live with mid-January for these new ones.
As always, thanks for your support.

In Other News

Random observation from checking out my stats dashboard:  there have been more pageviews here with the keywords "arnold schwarzenegger in a gay pron" than for "arnold Schwarzenegger gay porn" (because of this classic post). Discuss.

NFL Divisional Playoff Predictions

New Orleans (+8) at Seattle:  As close to a dead lock as you'll find this weekend, this replay of the Week 13 matchup will probably not be as bad as the 34-7 throttling the Saints endured, but still won't be pretty. Seattle has the #1 pass (and #1 overall) defense in the league; while New Orleans' #2 pass D keeps them in this, they have been vulnerable to the run all year. Look for Marshawn Lynch to power through early and often. Seattle's infamously loud stadium will probably thump into Puget Sound seconds after the game concludes.

Prediction:  Seahawks 31, Saints 13.

Indianapolis (+7) at New England:  This is the only game of the four this weekend where the teams did not play each other during the regular season. My loathing for all thing Brady and Patsies is deep and abiding, and well-chronicled and archived, so I won't belabor it. Suffice to say, though, that Brady and his team have gotten it done despite an epically hard-luck season; after shelling out record cash for their all-world tandem of tight ends, Aaron Hernandez sits in jail awaiting trial on first-degree murder charges, and Rob Gronkowski, after going through four forearm surgeries and a back surgery last offseason, is out again, this time with a torn ACL and MCL.

After being that snakebitten, and having no true #1 WR or RB, somehow the Pats managed to go 12-4, although they played just four playoff-bound teams in the regular season (winning two, each by three points). However, New England closed strong in their final two games, and did not lose at home all season. After their astounding comeback last weekend, it would be nice to see the Colts power into Boston, kick ass and take names, but it's unrealistic to expect T.Y. Hilton to put up 224 yards every game, and Andrew Luck has no other big-play receivers to throw to. The Colts were streaky all season, beating good teams and then getting blown out by the Rams and Cardinals. Hate to say it, but take the Pats and the points.

Prediction:  Patriots 31, Colts 20.

San Francisco (-1) at Carolina:  Apparently the jury is still out on Cam Newton; nothing else explains the 49ers being favored here. Carolina beat San Francisco 10-9 back in Week 10, at Candlestick, and the Panthers' defense is second only to Seattle's in rushing and total yards. Since a 1-3 start, Carolina has only lost once, a 31-13 defeat in New Orleans, despite having the statistically toughest schedule (based on opponents' 2012 records) in the league. The Niners showed up and performed well in the frigid tundra of Green Bay last week, but a cross-country road trip to face a well-rested team might just be a bit much to ask.

Prediction:  Panthers 16, 49ers 13.

San Diego (+9.5) at Denver:  Not counting the SF-Carolina line, which I consider erroneous, this game is the most likely to be an upset. Odd fact: the other three teams still in the AFC Playoffs (Colts, Patriots, Chargers) are the three teams that beat the Broncos in the 2013 regular season. Of these, only San Diego beat the Broncos in Denver, just a few weeks ago. In that 27-20 victory, the Chargers were the only team all season to hold the record-setting Donks' offense below 400 yards.

Other odd facts:  San Diego OC Ken Whisenhunt was the Steelers' OC in 2005 when that #6 seeded team (as the Chargers are) barnstormed through three road games (including Denver, for the AFC Championship) to eventually win a Super Bowl; Peyton Manning has a 9-11 playoff record overall, and 8 one-and-done postseasons; since 1990, the #1 seed in the AFC has won just 2 (of 23) Super Bowls, and been knocked out in the first playoff game 10 times; Denver has a dead-even (zero) turnover differential, almost unheard-of for a 13-3 team. Manning fumbled a record (for him) ten times this season, losing six, including one against San Diego in Week 15. This one is ripe for the taking, if the Chargers want it badly enough.

Prediction:  Chargers 31, Denver 30.

[Update 1/12 10:00 PST:  So much for the Panthers' defense. The swagger that they rode through the first half got jujitsued against them in the second half by a couple of excruciatingly long, patient Niner drives, until Carolina finally started losing their shit, getting stupid penalties and blowing coverage and tackles. If San Francisco can keep up their current momentum, they can and should give Seattle a run for their money; only the weather and a little bit of luck prevented the Saints from catching up to the Seahawks yesterday.

As for the AFC matchups, obviously I was pulling for San Diego, but they couldn't quite close the deal, and they would have been chewed up and spit out in Boston next week anyway. It pains me to acknowledge this, but the AFC Championship Game matchup really will be between the two best teams in the conference, taking into consideration that there are only a few teams in the conference that are even solid, much less consistently good. We'll see how the week and the weather go, and predict accordingly next weekend for the Super Bowl matchup.]

Friday, January 10, 2014

Bridge(t) to Nowhere

Let's go ahead and stipulate that Chris Christie has demonstrated multiple times that he is probably not temperamentally suited for the White House, or even a Senate seat. He's an asshole who enjoys being an asshole; you don't even have to get into any cheap "throwing his weight around" shots to make such a point, there's no shortage of YouTube clips attesting to this.

That doesn't mean Christie's a bad governor or even a bad guy. His love for his state and its people seems palpable. In fact, Christie's passion for pretty much everything he talks about is his major selling point. He loves Springsteen more than you or I will ever love just about anything in life, and there's something to be said for that. And his ability and willingness to run athwart fellow goopers makes him more appealing to non-Republicans / conservatards.

No doubt Bridget Kelly, the senior aide whose unfortunate email commentary got her unceremoniously dumped, got a decent severance package out of it, presumably with a non-disclosure agreement of a year or three. There might even be some folks out there who genuinely believe that Christie was completely out of the loop on jamming up the GW Bridge going into Fort Lee.

In the end, it doesn't matter what anyone thinks about Christie, since he almost certainly will not be the GOP nominee in 2016. There is also a chance, lesser but still possible, that Hillary Clinton, who will turn 69 shortly before Election Day 2016, may not be the Democratic nominee. But the Republicans are going through an identity crisis, indeed something of an ideological implosion. The only thing keeping them alive in the House is a comical level of gerrymandering.

Christie is the media's current flavor of what a leading Republican candidate should "be" like -- a Republican governor of a Democratic state who polls high, likable for the most part, unafraid to buck party orthodoxy, gives "good head," in the journo sense that he's almost always going to be more quotable than the next guy. But he's also the crack-free version of Rob Ford, in a sense, because he is so insistent on never taking shit from anyone and always having the last word, it becomes a pattern, a defining characteristic.

Christie's bulk, fair or not, doesn't help him either -- in such a heavily driven media age, a short or fat person is simply not going to do well, and Christie is both those things. It's not just the "Secretary of Cake" jokes either; like aging cancer survivor John McCain in 2008, an obese candidate in his 50s is going to receive extra scrutiny as to his running mate, the implication being that succession planning is of utmost importance. Again, fairness is not a consideration here, it's just the way things are.

Even if Christie were to change his attitude and drop a hundred pounds tomorrow, the thing is that the media get tired of their pets after a while, and now that Christie's bumptious Everyman schtick has been found to have a vindictive, petty side, that's the tack they're going to take. His reputation may be shot before we hit midterms later this year, much less 2016.

The kneejerk conservatard response, as you might guess, is Benghazi. Because of course it is. In this instance, however, there may actually be a pebble of wisdom buried in their dross, in that it behooves Democrats and or liberals to just let this thing run its natural course, and leave it until they need it, as opposed to bringing it up at every cocktail party and neighborhood barbecue, as the 'baggers do with Benghazi. Somehow they have talked themselves into Benghazi as if it were Pearl Harbor or 9/11 (well, it did happen on September 11th), and cannot fathom why everyone is slowly backing away from them. It's one thing to make a molehill into a mountain, but quite another to build a cabin on said mountain and refuse to leave.

Also, too.

Diet of Worms

They flutter behind you, your possible pasts, right? Case in point:  one Dennis "The Worm" Rodman. He could have gone into coaching or front-office after finishing his playing career, and carved out a perfectly respectable name for himself, coasting on his NBA Hall of Fame pedigree and a hard-earned reputation as a fearless rebounder.

Instead he decided to embrace his inner weird, go on a bender with the likes of Madonna, and now he's a 52-year-old pineapple-headed buffoon, thinking he can undo generations of psychotic cultural programming in the world's most isolated nation with a basketball game. It's a noble thought, I guess, but so utterly negligent of the surrounding circumstances and context as to negate any good faith Rodman might have intended.

Because this is North Korea we're talking about, and no one really knows for sure the whole picture, there's also a reasonable argument to be made that the Switzerland-educated Kim Jong Un is, by NK standards, more "liberal" or at least comparatively more moderate than his father's and grandfather's henchmen, who make up the inner circle. At the very least this makes for a wide variety of analyses of the public purging and execution of Kim's uncle, Jang Song Thaek.

The thing is, serious analysis is irrelevant to Rodman being sponsored to coach a game in an indisputable dictatorship, a place of almost absurd levels of cruelty, poverty, famine, oppression. It doesn't put Rodman on a par with having lunch with Hitler, not quite, but it's pretty damned ugly, as ugly as Rodman playing Marilyn Monroe to Kim's JFK. This is how he'll be remembered, as a useful idiot to a powerful, murderous man-child. Just embarrassing.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Heightening the Contradictions

Let's cut right to it -- Arizona deserves Steven Seagal for a governor, just like California deserved Schwarzenegger. Stoking a second career as a slightly upscale Dog the Bounty Hunter and widow's peak advocate, Seagal accurately represents the long-standing, ongoing deep well of yahooism in Arizona state politics. This is, after all, the same state that, just in the last couple decades, had in its state house a corrupt used car salesman, a grown-ass man called "Fife," and, um, Jan Brewer.

So, yeah, I hope Seagal runs and wins. I hope he immediately appoints serial torturer, waster of taxpayer dollars, and modern day Boss Hogg Joe Arpaio as Attorney General. I think these are the sorts of moves that might clarify things for people.

The 'bagger Wolverines are remarkably consistent in their anger, because it keeps them warm. They get away with stunts like this because no one else is as angry as they are. They use volume and aggression to make up for lack of numbers. Old, angry retirees have only so many distractions. They count on the fact that everyone else either has a job, or trying to find one; they don't have time to fuck around with this Minuteman horseshit.

So maybe it's time someone else got angry, and maybe this would be just the thing to wake them up. Maybe when the entire state, and not just Maricopa County, has Shurf Joe and his unlicensed, unregulated posse of child molesters and reprobates crawling up their collective asses, pulling them over for no goddamned reason and popping taillights like Alex Karras in Porky's, then maybe you have some clarification as to exactly what the nature of your enemy is.

Some Folks Is Even Whiter Than Me: The Romneying

In which we are reminded yet again that only Democrats apologize, that no matter who they fuck or who they fuck over, Republicans, conservatives, and teabaggers never ever apologize for anything, however grievous the transgression. You could catch Mitch McConnell abusing puppies and farm animals, and Redneck 'murka would respond with a #StandWithMitch Facebook page. Because fuck you, pussy librul.

On the other hand, every slight from a "liberal" or a "Democrat," however picayune or imaginary, demands blood for blood. You will never hear Willard Mitt Rmoney apologize for calling 47% of Americans moochers and parasites. But some dingbat MSNBC commentator makes a ham-fisted funny, and lawd-a-mercy-Goshen-ta-Christmas, it's on, muthafuckaz.

Hopefully Harris-Perry has learned her lesson, and will reserve future insights and opinions for comparing homosexuality to murder and drunkenness, or talking about how happy blacks really were in the Jim Crow South, before welfare made them all wards of the state. You can say that kind of shit all the live-long day, and people will back you on it. How you like them apples, podna?

Also, too. Holy shit.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

NFL Wild Card Predictions

Have not bothered to write any football stuff this season yet, as my team, the hapless Oakland Raiders, have been mostly unwatchable and utterly wretched for more than a full decade now, and life is simply too short.

So now that the playoffs have begun, let's take a stab at some semi-educated picks. As always, no wagering.

Kansas City (-1.5) at Indianapolis:  Since the Colts just beat the Chefs down in Arrowhead two weeks ago, and this game is being played in Indy, your guess is as good as mine as to why KC is favored at all for this. Neither team had a particularly rough schedule this season, and the Colts went 6-2 at home (though it should be noted that one of those losses was a 38-8 ass-kicking at the hands of a thoroughly mediocre Rams team).

The line of thinking may be that the Colts' offense is hamstrung by a lousy running game and only one decent wide receiver; their #2 WR, Darrius Heyward-Bey, has had a number of critical drops, and Luck appears to have lost confidence in him. The Colts certainly had a strong first half of the season, beating likely Super Bowl opponents Seattle and Denver in Weeks 5 and 7 respectively. But since their Week 8 bye, the only team with a winning record the Colts have been able to beat are the aforementioned Chefs.

Andy Reid is a cagey strategist with solid playoff experience, and this should be closer than the previous meeting, but I think the Colts squeak this one out, unless they completely whiff on containing dangerous Chefs RB Jamaal Charles. There's always an upset or two in the course of the playoffs, and technically this qualifies as one of them.

Prediction:  Colts 21, Chiefs 17.

New Orleans (+3) at Philadelphia:  Another surprising spread; while I agree with Philly as the favorite, any time a slumping dome team heads into a surging outdoor team in the middle of a serious cold snap, you should be looking at a minimum spread of 6-7 points. Factor in that the Saints have one of the worst home-road offensive differentials among any of the playoff teams, while the Eagles appear to have mastered Chip Kelly's innovative offense, after a slow start. No doubt part of New Orleans' strategy is to match up all-world tight end Jimmy Graham against wounded duck (no pun intended) safety Patrick Chung, but the nasty (wind chill in the teens; possible snow) weather will equalize that approach.

Ordinarily this would be a old-school last-team-to-score-wins shootout, but again, the weather will probably mitigate that to some extent. Still, there's a lot of talent on both teams here, so it should be interesting. The over-under on how many times the broadcasters mention that Nick Foles and Drew Brees attended the same high school is 13.

Prediction:  Eagles 37, Saints 27.

San Diego (+7) at Cincinnati:  Sunday's AFC wild-card matchup is also a situation where the host traveled to the visitor's stadium during the regular season and defeated them. However, in their Week 13 17-10 victory in San Diego, the Bengals were more evenly matched with the Chargers than, say the Colts and Chefs were in Arrowhead. Both Cincinnati and San Diego had 19 first downs, and nearly identical times of possession.

But San Diego in December is not Cincinnati in January, and West Coast teams do not do well in snow, which is likely tomorrow in Cincy. Both teams tend to turn the ball over frequently, and QBs Andy Dalton and Philip Rivers are streaky and take risks. Chargers RB Ryan Mathews appears to have gotten past his earlier struggles with injury and ball security (giggity), but Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict, a first-round prospect who went undrafted because of personal issues (and the fact he attended Arizona State), is turning out to be the steal of the last few years, leading the team in tackles. Burfict will probably give Mathews nightmares as he tries to run uphill through the snow, both ways.

The Bengals' running game is not much better than the Chargers', but it's better enough to make a difference. Add in the snow, and it looks like a frustrating day for a San Diego team that punched respectably above its weight several times this season.

Prediction:  Bengals 20, Chargers 6.

San Francisco (-2.5) at Green Bay:  Easily the toughest game this weekend to prognosticate. The weather, the rivalry, trying to guess which Colin Kaepernick will show up, or how close to 100% Aaron Rodgers really is. But all of that, in the end, is hype, and the fact is that this is simply strength against weakness -- the 49ers' potent running game against the Packers' horrifically weak run defense. SF has more healthy players on both sides of the ball, and can merely dink-and-dunk to Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis, while punching Frank Gore up Green Bay's porous middle, made more vulnerable by LB Clay Matthews' season-ending thumb injury.

Rodgers has talented offensive weapons, to be sure, with powerful rookie RB Eddie Lacy figuring to be key to their ability to stay in the game. But the Niners' D are hungry ballers (again, giggity) who really just want to get back to Seattle to settle a contentious divisional rivalry. They don't have the weaknesses that Green Bay's defense does, and will concentrate on stuffing Lacy, forcing Rodgers to throw in what may be a record Arctic blast.

Somewhat perversely, said cold is the Packers' best hope; were it not for such conditions, this game would probably be a blowout.

Prediction:  49ers 16, Packers 13.

[Update 1/5 6:00 PM PST:  Well, I suppose this is why they actually play the games, and why I watch them. I figured I'd go 3-1 or 2-2 for the weekend, but had assumed the whiffs would be on the Indy and Green Bay games, if anything. Philly and Cincy seemed like locks, but primarily because of the weather, which turned out to be a non-factor in both games.

So now the Colts will head to Bahhhston, and San Diego to Denver in the AFC, and New Orleans to Seattle and San Francisco to Carolina in the NFC. Needless to say, I'll be rooting for the underdogs in the AFC, but it's a bit tougher to do so in the NFC; I would actually prefer to see a Seattle-Carolina matchup for that conference. We'll see; stay tuned for divisional predictions this Friday or Saturday before kickoff.]