Monday, November 24, 2014

No Surprises

There can't possibly be anyone out there surprised by the Ferguson grand jury's finding. All the usual ofay assholes, the Giulianis of the teevee jabber industry, will flood the zone tomorrow and pontificate about how if those people just stopped acting up, white cops wouldn't have to put 'em down.

Yes, maybe Michael Brown should have been a little smarter about cops. Same goes for Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old shot by a Cleveland cop over the weekend. We were all young once, but some of us have forgotten that part of the deal with being a dumb kid is that you haven't yet learned that the world is at best indifferent to your fate, at worst out to get you, or just waiting for you to fuck up so it can pounce on you.

Children are made aware of sex at about the age they hit puberty, just so that they hopefully understand the potential consequences of irresponsibility and recklessness. What would be an ideal age to teach them that if they screw around with the law, a cop can shoot them like a dog in the street and not lose a wink of sleep over any of it?

I'm old enough to recall a simpler time, a time when shooting even known perps was considered a last resort for cops, or nearly so, a time when cops didn't just gun down a sixth-grader in a playground swing as the go-to option. I think that if Michael Brown or Tamir Rice or John Crawford or Akai Gurley or Eric Garner had been white, they'd all still be alive. I know that there are still parts of this country where thieving racists hold positions of some authority, and they get away with it until they're caught on camera, until there's no choice but to hold them at least a little bit accountable.

Then they get fired, maybe, sometimes. But the dead are still dead, and paranoid white people still side with overeager shooters, until it's their turn or their screw-up kid gets a visit from Johnny Law. Riot all you want, kiddies, it won't do you a goddamned bit of good. You get to hear yet another round of full-throated song from the proverbial rednecked peckerwood, that most pernicious and tiresome of the political aviary. That's about it.

For now, this is racial, but it's really socioeconomic at heart; only poor people get the full iron fist treatment. And because 'murka is full of gullible maroons who assure themselves that poor people are lazy idiots while they themselves are just temporarily embarrassed millionaires, the crackers assume that the police are always right, as long as it's someone else they're picking on.

Fortunately, in our post-scarcity utopia, when no one has a job because robots are flipping our burgers, delivering our goods, and yes, patrolling our streets, and what jobs are left are for (perhaps literally) peanuts, everyone will be fair game.

Saturday, November 22, 2014


One of the "advantages" of having mostly conservative (especially a few really conservative) Facebook friends is that you get direct links to some odd shit. We're talking about stuff that makes Whirled Nut Daily look like the Utne Reader.

One such outlet is something pulled out of (let's say) Jerry Corsi's gaping asshole, called (hilariously) Western Journalism. One such "article" (the entire site seems to be an incompetent mishmash of half-witted conspiracy theories and circus-freak clickbait) involves the hapless Duggar family, whom you may recall as the goofball Arkansas cultists whose sole claim to fame is doing what just about every human can do, just way too much of it.

Apparently some five-figured number of gay-rights supporters have e-signed an e-petition to cancel 19 Kids and Counting, not because the entire premise of the show can be gleaned from the title, and therefore every episode is interchangeable, but because they tried to start a stupid meme and got trolled by same-sex couples, and took those eeevil fotoz down. Oh noez!

So of course e-supporters from the "other" "side" of the e-divide sharpened their e-crayons, and proceeded to self-actualize by e-signing their e-petition exhorting TLC -- which, let's step back and recall for a hot moment, putatively stands for The Learning Channel -- to keep the show on the air.

Does it really need to be said that whether or not this dumb fucking show about these dumb fucking people (and really, take a look at the ricockulous clickbait items on the right sidebar at the HollywoodLife link -- "Jessa Duggar & Ben Seewald:  Why They Didn't Have First Wedding Kiss"; what sort of inbred maroon cares?) gets cancelled is entirely based upon whether it gets good ratings or not? And amazingly, it does. Someone actually tunes into this nonsense, for some reason.

Like Duck Dynasty, this sort of stuff is just the usual cultural self-affirmation, a reminder of a largely mythical time when those people knew their place, and Jebus brought the Constitution down from hebbin to explain to the Founding Fathers (in English, doncha know) what the deal was.

I really could not possibly care less whether or not 19 Kids gets kicked to the curb or not. It's not like religious fanatics haven't had shows cancelled that that they found offensive. There can't possibly be any more to this premise, than watching the grown kids conceive and start ludicrously large families of their own. The Duggars are a "traditional" family only in the most archaic sense of the word, a vestige of a time when life was short and there were acres of subsistence crops to tend to.

I think this "quiverfull" bullshit is just that, especially on a groaning, strained planet at the extent of its resources, vastly overpopulated as it is. If everyone decided, like these religious fanatics, that viral over-breeding was the thing to do, we'd have twenty billion people, instead of just seven billion. The idiocy is in thinking that something will come along and work out and enable that to happen, because something always comes along. And that's just not true; every tsunami and earthquake and hurricane that takes thousands of lives is the earth sneezing, attempting to expel the virus which has overrun it.

That's a bit polemic, but the core truth still holds; the planet is optimized for maybe 2 billion people tops. After that, the issue of finite resources tend to become an issue. Good luck when the majority of humanity, who live in poverty-ridden, over-populated places like China and India, catch up with the West in resource consumption. That is the endgame of thinking you can just have a couple dozen kids, turn your vagina into a clown car, and that there will be no environmental effects.

It's to be expected that in an enormous (and enormously diverse) nation there will be manifold buffooneries, each more puzzling and laughable than the next. What's tricky is figuring out whether the cultural buffooneries inform the political ones, or the other way around. Probably a bit of both.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Spanish Fly

So, uh, this Cosby thing, right? I can't recall offhand which one in the flurry of commenters said, as this story was breaking hard a week or so ago, something to the effect that it was having trouble sticking because most Americans, growing up in an era of Cosby as this benevolent icon, mugging for his teevee family and endorsements for pudding and Coke, just didn't want to live in a world where this man was a serial rapist.

It's why, obviously, such celebrity transgressors typically get the benefit of the doubt for so long. Cosby has epitomized the image of the jovial, avuncular figure for longer than many of us have been alive, and has in recent years become more well-known as the voice of what some have called "organic black conservatism," essentially a call for more conventional goals of responsibility for blacks, especially men.

Cosby's calls to the next generations for more and better bootstrapping both have a ring of truth that transcends race, gender, and even age, yet still do not exactly harmonize with the reality of the post-job nirvana American society has achieved in its globalized rutting frenzy. The urban and poor communities have been hardest hit by many of these episodes of outsourcing. Telling the kids to knuckle down, pull their shit together, scramble to get to college to rack up a lifetime of debt, yada yada, works for some, right up to the point the kid gets out and realizes the game was rigged all along, in a way that Grandpa Huxtable cannot possibly fathom, because it didn't exist back in the '80s -- it was conceived then.

These exhortations are relevant to the current discussion, because where normally time has a way of smoothing the rough edges of prickly characters, for Cosby it seems to have had the opposite effect -- where in the heyday of The Cosby Show (a show which I might have caught once or twice, if that, for the record, and even then probably just to check out Lisa Bonet) his public image seemed pretty bulletproof, Cosby over the last decade or so has become perceived as more of a curmudgeonly "you damned kids" sort. Of course that has no bearing on whether he is or isn't a serial rapist, but it does seem to have made him just a bit less unassailable.

Certainly there is no shortage of women who make bullshit accusations against men, famous or not, for a variety of reasons. Sometimes the men do hard time based on those lies. I think that women who fabricate rape allegations should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. I think that women who accuse anonymously and try to fuck up a famous man's life or career should not be surprised or indignant when the man contemplates using his resources to retaliate forcefully against her. I agree that their fabrications harm actual rape victims, raise the specter of doubt across the board.

Did Conor Oberst have a "power disparity"? Of course, and it's reasonable to speculate that many other women do not come forward against celebrity rapists precisely because of that fear. But in Oberst's case, he also had a lot to lose from the anonymous -- yet public! -- fabrications of "Joanie Faircloth". She probably should consider herself fortunate that she didn't choose to defame a more litigious person. Fuck libel, let's try obstruction of justice.

Few crimes have as peculiar a dynamic as rape. Until the relatively recent advent of reliable DNA analysis and forensics, it was one of the more difficult crimes to prove conclusively, by nature frequently devolving to "he said-she said" interpretations of whether the crime took place, and to what degree. It is probably the only crime where, even when the victim is an adult, their name remains anonymous (justifiably so), yet the alleged perpetrator's name is instantly emblazoned on every media outlet far and wide.

(Then there's the inconvenient probability that the US is the only country where more men are raped than women. Probably the only country where it's considered high-larious too, just so long as it's perpetrated by some giant buck on a trembling new fish. Git 'im, Bubba, hee hee! That shit happens every day, right now, not thirty or forty years ago, all across the country, with the complicity of the people employed by the taxpayers to prevent it. And no one says jack shit about it.)

If there's a single factor that leads me to lean slightly toward the "Cosby probably did it, or at least some of it" camp, it's the sheer number of accusations so far. One, perhaps two accusations, without any hard proof and the distance of time, make it much easier to dismiss as a cynical, baseless attempt to ruin a good man. But Cosby's accusers number in the mid-teens so far. As Ta-Nehisi Coates says, it's hard to believe so many individuals would agree to participate in a conspiracy of spite with no clear motive.

But let's play devil's advocate for a second:  thirteen of those accusers are (unnamed) women who were deposed and set to testify in Andrea Constand's 2006 civil suit against Cosby, which was settled, and so their stories were not heard. Apparently in all of their cases the statute of limitations had run out, so they couldn't go to the authorities to investigate and prosecute. But unless they were getting part of Constand's settlement, there should have been nothing stopping them from going public with their stories there and then.

Just as it's difficult to believe that over a dozen people would suddenly decide to take a swing at Bill Cosby, it's also difficult to believe that if all of those same individuals had been raped by Cosby, that they would just drop the whole thing. And Janice Dickinson coming forward doesn't exactly add any credibility. From everything I've had the misfortune of seeing or reading about Dickinson, she's just awful, probably playing up to the reality-teevee cameras, but a little too much and too willingly. She plays "crazier than a shithouse rat" just a little too well. I wouldn't give Charles Manson a parking ticket based on Janice Dickinson's word.

The media just piles on wherever they can, especially when there's even a whiff of fame; a prime example of this sort of thing is characterized by the execrable Don Lemon, who essentially asked one of Cosby's alleged victims why, when Cosby supposedly drugged her and stuck his cock in her mouth, she didn't just use her teeth to dissuade him from wanting a blowjob. In a just world, Don Lemon would be asking you if you would like fries with your burger, but I don't know anyone who lives in such a world.

I have very little doubt that Cosby, an admitted poon-hound, used his fame and status to entice and seduce aspiring starlets, and bang them every chance he could. It is probably at least as seedy and sordid as the most lurid Jackie Collins potboiler. And while there is an unsettling consistency to the known alleged incidents that have come forward, there is still no proof.

And you used to need proof to ruin someone's career. We used to at least pretend to look at all sides, all possibilities, all likelihoods, all the evidence, before rendering a verdict. Now it has to be filtered through an agenda, whether it's "Conor Oberst hurts all rape victims by protecting himself against a false accusation that could send him to prison or ruin his career" or some "men's rights" douchebag that instinctively wants to defend every date-rapey broseph.

Even before charges are filed there are frequently consequences for those accused of rape. Keep in mind that Cosby has not been charged with anything, and in fact, will probably never be charged with anything. Yet he has already lost two occupational opportunities.

This is a man whose last significant career choices took place over two decades ago; Cosby has been living off residuals, both financial and cultural. They seem to have run out on him. He's already been tried and found guilty in the court of media and public opinion.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

It's Not Even Past

Let's not put too fine a point on it -- if the events and actions and social dynamics in the south over the past 150 have taught us anything, it's that Billy the Torch didn't go nearly far enough. The fact that there are still no shortage of fools in that region who persist in mythologizing what was nothing more (or less) than a brutal, racist, genocidal machine, a society built on nothing but the extracted blood and unpaid toil and pain of others, only reinforces that fact.

People like Jack Bridwell suppress and avoid those truths because they are inconvenient, difficult to accept. Republican politics since 1964 has taken advantage of that revolting, absurdist mentality, and owned the entire region since then. That is not a coincidence.

Nationally, that strategy has translated into soft-focus gimmickry, mostly revolving around mythologizing an America that never was. The verb that pops up most consistently in their marketing materials is "restore"; they continuously promise to "restore" "America," whether that's "values," "greatness," whatever. I think the word they're really looking for is "instauration," which is very similar but not precisely the same.

Thursday, November 13, 2014


Just wondering what it might be like if this country had, say, a governmental agency that provided regulation and oversight on an untrustworthy and reckless financial industry. Even better might be if there was another governmental department that ensured that when financiers were caught doing awful things -- such as rigging currency and interest rates, money laundering for drug cartels, all the other things these fuckers have been caught doing over and over again -- that these crimes which literally affect everyone's lives and wallets would be prosecuted aggressively and appropriately.

When the next financial crash comes -- and rest assured, it will -- I hope Eric Holder understands his direct role in all of it, that his indifference and unwillingness to drop the hammer on these sociopaths only emboldens them. And I also hope that when it comes, and these thieves try to make us all pay for their bullshit again, that instead they are treated to tumbrels and guillotines.

Cross Purposes

I wasn't aware of this freaky asshole until just the other day, and right away you wish you didn't know about him. It's at least some consolation that his small congregation has lost more than 80% since 2007, so it's more like a black Westboro, an insular claque run by a closet-case nutjob and supported by family members and assorted dead-enders. The story and dynamic of James Manning and his silly circus draw some interesting parallels (at least to me) about cultural norms and expectations, and our responses to religiously inspired bouts of lunacy.

No doubt you are aware of the recent kerfuffle involving Bill Maher, Ben Affleck, and UC Berkeley. Maher had been invited to speak at Berkeley's December commencement, but was disinvited after he and Affleck (along with professional atheist author/provocateur Sam Harris) got into a shouting match over Islam on Maher's HBO show. The issue was that Maher had defamed Islam with his comments, which were certainly strident to say the least, and he got called out on it yet again just last week with Palestinian journalist Rula Jebreal.

(Gratuitous sexist editorial note:  Rula Jebreal is smokin' hot, and really sharp, which of course just makes her hotter. I don't agree with every single thing she says, but good grief, she's beautiful. Even if she is married to a Goldman Sachs heir.)

It takes some unpacking, and perhaps some extra attention -- along with the acknowledgement that Maher, in his bluster, is broad-brushing a bit with his portrayals of Islamic fanatics -- but the fact is that the core of Maher's contention is correct:  Liberals (meaning Western liberals, Americans and Europeans) don't do a very good job of acknowledging and decrying not just the video atrocities of the fanatics, but of the day-to-day oppression people endure under putatively Islamic regimes.

One thing I think Westerners don't quite get about Islamic societies is how interwoven religion and culture are. The most-cited "big distinctions" between Christianity and Islam are that Islam has not had a Reformation or Enlightenment type of large-scale adjustment, nor does it have a centralized authority or hierarchy. On the one hand, that latter factor allows for more dissenting voices; on the other, it makes it tougher to crack down on the violent wingnuts that spring up. But the church-state separation that we take for granted -- even if it is with a wink and a nod in the south -- is practically non-existent in the belt of Islamic countries.

Stretching west to east from Morocco to Indonesia, it's not exactly a continuum or spectrum, but at least in those two bookend countries one finds a more secularized, even liberalized (compared to some of the more infamous countries in between) co-existence of religion and government. Even poor Tunisia recently had a step in the right direction, and Jordan has long been a bastion of moderation in a sea of fanaticism. And it's not as if the greed for oil in the west hasn't played a huge part in stoking said fanaticism. There are no clean hands here.

But liberals, whatever their ecumenical aspirations, need to more forcefully acknowledge that they would not want to be female in most of these countries, would not want to be gay in these places. The things they complain about the most when it comes to American Christian goofballs -- which, while annoyingly routine, are not quite normative -- are commonplace and worse in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan. Your average Duggar-smacking limo-lib would not last two weeks in Yemen, or any country whose official name begins with "The Islamic Republic of". Bokay? That's just how it is, and false pieties about cultural imperialism and such like don't change that fact.

Either you believe that women should be allowed to drive, or not have the shit beaten out of them for going to the store alone, or not be buried up to their waists and have rocks thrown at them until they die for "adultery," or that homosexuals shouldn't be hung by cables from cranes, or you don't believe those things. Or hell, just that women need to spend their entire adult lives sweltering in a fucking beekeeper suit, because it's the seventh century or something. That's the stuff that goes on and on, every goddamned day, whether it gets reported in the corporate media or not.

I refuse to acknowledge the feasibility of societies that repress their people in such ways for such picayune things. I'm not gonna pretend that it's not bullshit, that more generations of the people who live in those countries need to just wait it out, and hope that their great-great-grandchildren won't be butchered for throwing away a Qu'ran or teaching girls to read. If we call bullshit on our homegrown loons, we have to do the same with those abroad.

Don't get me wrong. I do not in any way wish to impose western values and mores upon any of these societies, beyond the universally obvious ones of basic human rights. Western societies certainly have their flaws to answer for, but violent over-reaction to nonsense is not one of them. We do not riot and kill people for writing books, not even shitty books. (I don't mean that The Satanic Verses is shitty, I mean that we have an overabundance of crap in general.)

As far as I'm concerned -- and I believe that Maher has made himself clear that this is where he's coming from on this -- is that to the extent one needs to voice their support or disapproval of various comings and goings and deeds of seven billion fools heading in almost as many directions, there should be some consistency as to what sort of things (that is, actions) one disapproves of or supports. Again, soon as you start parsing whether it's "one of ours" doing something awful as opposed to "them," you've lost the thread. It's the action that's horrible; frequently it's the person committing the deed as well, but the focus should be on the deed itself. The world never runs short of morons and assholes doing and saying stupid things, change the things and you hopefully change the people doing them. Eyes on the ball, son.

Nor would I advocate for a complete abolition of religion. Sure, there are countless examples of it poisoning the proverbial well, substituting for critical thought and motivating violent action. But there are just as many examples of it providing comfort and solace to the desperate and hopeless. The religion itself -- whether Islam, Christianity, Scientology, whatever -- is not the problem, the problem is absolutism, the problem is seriously thinking that violence is the best solution to transgressing that absolutism.

To be sure, I have given the cafeteria believers a hard time, but certainly a more syncretic belief system, however much "outside" the club rules, is preferable to the lunacy that pervades the Wahhabist strains of what was once a scientifically and intellectually innovative system of thought. And as Jebreal points out in the Salon interview, liberal Americans who support Israel (and I'd count myself in that group) also need to be critical of Zionist actions that oppress Palestinian lives heedlessly and needlessly. It is what it is, as the kids are fond of saying, but the corollary is that it usually doesn't have to be the way it is.

The truth is that the most virulent adherents of all three Abrahamic religions routinely excuse or ignore their transgressions and vicissitudes, and even their more moderate co-religionists will squint and wince rather than protest. So it is with any belief system, or more precisely, any power bloc. Because that's really all any religion is.

Which brings us back to "Pastor" Manning, and more specifically the anti-gay tirades that his church and other black churches have indulged in over the years, and encouraged their congregants to vote on. Considering that much of the anti-gay-marriage rhetoric in general has echoed the arguments fifty years ago against blacks and whites marrying, it would seem that black organizations and black individuals have perhaps an emphasized responsibility to speak out forcefully against such discrimination. And to their credit, the NAACP, other black organizations and politicians, and individuals black Americans have said exactly that.

But you're never going to get 100%, for a variety of reasons, just as you're never going to get 100% of Muslims around the world protesting the actions of ISIS, or the Saudis, or the Iranian mullahs, or whoever. They have lives to live, and sometimes the best they can do is just to stay out of it, and at least not even tacitly endorse it.

And the more we drone-bomb "terrorist" areas, without troubling ourselves much to ensure that everyone -- or even anyone -- hit by the strike is actually a threat to us or anyone else, the more we radicalize the Muslims in the area who are already on the fence, and the more we risk alienating the moderate Muslims who live and work in western countries.

But people of whatever race, religion, sexuality, etc., who profess to uphold liberal ideals of basic human rights and social justice, have a principled obligation to decry all of those things. Is it racially or culturally "insensitive" to insist that human beings should be treated well and as equally as possible, that treating women like farm animals and using gays as scapegoats is unnecessary and regressive? So be it.

As for the campus groups that tried to remove Maher, and have removed speakers such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali, they need to keep in mind that freedom of speech is also a putatively liberal ideal, and that it is only important when it protects people we might not agree with. Intelligent adults should be able to hear things they don't agree with and take them into consideration, weigh them against their already-held principles. Only children and demagogues need to hear the soothing amen choir every single time.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Insane in the Membrane

It's no surprise that Bo Dietl is an ignorant, jingoist asshole, but I didn't realize that he'd lost his fucking mind. Someone might want to tell Bo about decaf.

Also, too -- people are still listening to Don Imus? I mean, I guess Paul Harvey's audience needed somewhere to mosey off to after that clown bought the farm, but shit. I almost feel like we should all chip in and get these angry codgers the Murder She Wrote and Matlock box sets.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Race to the Bottom

It's in the nature of partisan commentators, in the wake of an electoral blowout, to spend time attributing the loss of clearly better ideas and candidates to the calumnious nature of the opponent, the shameless excess of their bankrollers, and of course, racism. That's the job. And certainly there's an element of all those things in last week's smackdown of the Democrats.

It's not a coincidence that just about the only demographics Obama didn't win in his 2008 beatdown of Poor Ol' Straight Talk were men, old people, and southerners (and he barely won the white vote, 49-48). So guess who showed up to vote last Tuesday?

So rather than whinging yet again about the pernicious (and yes, all too real) influence of the vile Koch brothers, Democrats have to be honest with themselves about why they really lost:

  1. Barely a third of eligible voters showed up.
  2. The ones that did show up were the usual fucking maroons that can't wait to cut their own throats electorally.
  3. Every one of the Democratic candidates spent most of their time showing how Republican they secretly were. Way to mobilize your base, assholes.

Thomas Frank does have a valid point about how the Democratic party has, in general, become the voice of a technocratic, professional-managerial class. They apparently bought into the Clinton-era NAFTA-GATT-globalization gospel, the one that insisted that the Chinese and Indians would make our crap for five cents a week while we all sold each other ten-dollar coffees and optimized spreadsheets and such like.

It's like it never occurred to them that gutting American companies and outsourcing American jobs would actually result in a tiny, insatiable claque of pelf-grubbing weasels, with a slightly larger class of upwardly ambitious (if not actually mobile) supervisors, with the other 90% or so stuck at the bottom. Did these people not attend high school? Or did they know what would happen, and just didn't give a shit? It doesn't matter -- it boils down to incompetence or indifference (at best), and neither one helps.

If Sarah Palin has ever been accurate about anything she's said, it's about the whole hopey-changey thing working out. Yes, there are mitigating factors. Obama could not get the Republicans to work with him -- but part of that was because he didn't make them respect him. The stock market continues to chug along at record levels, but only about half of American households own stock at all (mostly 401(k) plans and pension funds), and the top 10% own 80% of the wealth. And the median wage is still where it was back in 1974.

Greed has ruined this country, and attempted to placate the masses by alternately telling them that poor people are poor because they're dumb and/or lazy, and that they (the peons) can join the rich man's club someday, if they just keep their noses to the grindstone and don't ask too many questions. But the 10%-owning-80% should be the clue, if Americans weren't so bad at math.

If you work in an office with nine other people, and someone brings in a dozen donuts, and one person takes ten of those donuts, leaving everyone else to portion out the other two donuts, what should the rest of the office think about that one asshole? Even if he's the one that bought and brought in the donuts, it's a fucking dick move, period.

That's what the economy is anymore, and neither Obama nor the next occupant can or will do anything about it. It's a waste of time to worry and wonder, as Frank does, about why Georgia, the state with the highest unemployment rates, just elected as governor a man who is proud of his career as an outsourcer. Sometimes people don't understand the obvious until they get one broken off in their ass. So Georgia, and Kansas, and Iowa, and the rest of them are about to find out what that's like.

Maybe the young Democratic voters get off their dead asses and vote next time; maybe the Democrats find better and bolder candidates next time. Maybe the peons, liberal and conservative, old and young, brown and white, get tired of this shell game being perpetrated on their lives, and the lives of their children and communities, and do something that actually makes a difference.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Cruz Control

Wasting no time in his eternal quest to be Asshole of the Year, every year, Canadian-born Goldman Sachs spouse Rafael Edward "Ted" Cruz, Jr. flexes his fake vox populi muscles, taking on those eeeevil regulators who ensure that anonymous dipshits like you 'n' me have the same access to the public internets as he, "Ted" Cruz, has.

This is an issue where Obama is right and Cruz is wrong, plain and simple. In fact, precisely because our telecom system is really just a profit-sucking oligopoly that thwarts competition and innovation, Americans already pay more money for worse performance. Jesus H. Christ, Moldova -- noted primarily for being the poorest, most repressive country on the European continent -- has better performance than the US, like a 50% higher download rate.

I resent this stuffy, squawky little prick, Cruz, with his shrill voice and strident tone, really more of a male Sarah Palin than anything, with his stupid square-peg-round-hole metaphors. How the fuck is net neutrality anything like "Obamacare," which, it should be noted, is more of a success than a failure so far, despite literally half of the entire Congress actively working to ensure its abject failure?

The thing to keep in mind is, if you look at the various worldwide markets for internet service, North America has one of the smallest markets in terms of population, and by far the highest amount of market penetration at 84.9 percent. Europe is next, at 68.3%, followed by the tiny Oceania/Australia market -- smaller than California! -- at barely two-thirds penetration. By way of comparison, the Asian market, estimated to be nearly 4 billion strong, has less than one-third penetration. Africa, whose market is nearly four times the size of North America's has just 21.3% penetration.

That means that just about everyone who wants internet access in the US has it already, while there are other far larger markets out there waiting to be exploited. But where Europe and Asia actually have a competitive environment and government involvement in ensuring affordable, high-quality services, the monopolistic conditions here guarantee the opposite outcome.

Internet access is no longer a luxury, you need it to search and apply for employment, to access news and information, any number of things. Squashing Net Neutrality cements the monopolistic practices already in place, makes a bad situation worse, and more usurious (with, again, even shittier service) for the people who can least afford it.

From radio to television to HDTV to the Internet, the telecom industry has been one of the greediest, sleaziest rackets on the face of this planet. The airwaves, according to the FCC Charter, belong to the people. At least in theory. This notion has yet to actually be put into practice.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Honor Among Thieves

The big problem with modern Democrats is that they learn all the wrong lessons, every time. As Matt Stoller points out, the current corporate-crony DLC model essentially aligned them very close to the Republicans on economic policy, and because they are political mercenaries, they have no incentive to change their operational principles.

So the lesson they'll learn from their electoral ass-kicking is not that they should have shown at least a little backbone, stood by the legitimate accomplishments of their president -- who, whatever else you want to say about the guy, did get elected twice, fair and square. No, what they'll take with them into the next round of the perpetual campaign system is that they weren't Republican enough.

It's estimated that over $110M was spent on the North Carolina Senate campaign between Kay Hagan and Thom Tillis alone. Especially since the "vulnerable" demographics who typically vote Democratic couldn't be bothered to show up, why and how exactly are Democratic candidates supposed to espouse policies that would benefit those groups? They'll never be part of the donor class, and half the time they don't even vote. It's a self-fulfilling dynamic.

But in an environment where the outgoing Attorney General might as well have been in cahoots with the thieving financial industry, it matters less and less. None of the losing Dem Senate candidates would have changed that; not one of them would have held the fort against predatory banks, or greedy oil companies wanting another pipeline, or kept another abortion clinic open, or anything any actual liberal cares about.

The ratchet-pawl system will continue apace, and the etiolated pseudo-libs will engage in the usual hippie-punching of any perceived dissenters who might be thinking about Elizabeth Warren. They will expend profound amounts of energy lecturing what's left of the left on the Importance Of Settling For Hillary, and nothing at all for their erstwhile compadres who, just as they abandoned Gore for Bush in 2000, will waste no time going for Jeb or Ted or Rand or whichever grinning psychopath runs against her.

And people like Al From will still get paid, because that's what they do.

Dingbat Logic

NewsCorpse has a nice rundown on Palin's latest delusional stab. Whether or not it's a good idea for Obama to personally back-channel communications with the Iranian mullahs, even a mouth-breathing dimwit like Palin should know by know that the ISIS thugs and the Iranians are deadly, bitter enemies -- in fact, the whole reason ISIS gained traction in Iraq is because the government, led by the Shiite (and thus an Iranian stooge for all intents and purposes) politically marginalized the Sunnis who comprise the ISIS movement.

And of course, to invoke Saint Reagan -- you know the guy who traded arms for hostages with those same Iranian mullahs -- should drive home the cold, hard fact that Palin is even dumber than you thought. She should stick to what she's good at, which seems to be crashing parties and pissing off her neighbors with her drunk, obnoxious brood.

Karma may be coming in the form of Palin's web channel (started by a lamestream media weasel, doncha know) derping along at low traffic levels, perhaps because her low-info demo actually has at least a couple of IQ points to rub together.

King for a Day, Fool for a Lifetime

If there is a creature more lacking in self-awareness than jerkoff emeritus Jorge Fredo Arbusto, I'll be damned if I know who it could be, though there's certainly no shortage of his fellow party members to give him a run for his money.

"....I think you have to earn your way into politics. I don’t think that anything is ever given to you."

Seriously, what the hell is wrong with this guy? His name is exactly what got him into politics; no one in their right mind would stake money behind a joker like him otherwise. Bush seems genuinely incapable of seeing what is so obvious to any honest observer -- that if he hadn't been the son of a president and the grandson of a senator (and the descendant of yet another president, Franklin Pierce), and born into considerable means that literally 99% of his fella 'murkins cannot even conceive of, he'd have been some dipshit floor manager at some random retailer, at best.

Shame on our complicit corporate media for giving this asshole a platform. But got into politics because of his last name, got into high office thanks to James Baker and the Supreme Court the first time, and Diebold the second time. He lawn-darted this country, setting off an expensive war that will take another generation to pay for, and is still going on in the region.

And he's got the fucking balls to sit there and whine to Bob Schieffer that poor ol' Jeb won't get a fair shake should he decide to run, because these days, people can say whatever they want without any consequences. What the hell would he know about being held accountable for things said and done? His entire life has been one of escaping the accountability that the rest of the world considers routine.

George Walker Bush should not be listened to on any subject whatsoever; in fact, the sooner he's ignored and forgotten, the better off we'll all be.

Rescue Dumb

I suppose it's a good thing that the Kenyan Moooslim got these two idiots out of North Korea, but at the same time, it would not have bothered me terribly if we hadn't. Traveling to North Korea -- for an American, anyway; people from other countries can and do travel there with no repercussions -- is a foolhardy idea.

Engaging in risky behavior is very much a part of the human experience, it's why some of us ride motorcycles, race cars, fly planes, climb mountains, become astronauts. But for the risk there should be some tangible reward -- automobile racing has led to numerous safety and efficiency improvements in all cars; air and space travel have led to countless innovations.

There is no point to going to North Korea and engaging in deliberately provocative behavior, with its notoriously paranoid and erratic regime, none whatsoever. Just as rescue teams have better things to do than endanger themselves to save morons who chose to climb a mountain in a snowstorm, diplomats have better things to do than grant concessions to psychotic despots in order to save fools who should have known better.

Somewhat (but not entirely) off-topic, this little nugget gave me a grin, though:

A recent United Nations report documented rape, torture, executions and forced labor in the North's network of prison camps, accusing the government of "widespread, systematic and gross" human rights violations.

Aha. Rape, torture, executions, and forced labor. Yeah, none of those things are commonplace here, in the most incarcerated society (both total and per capita) on the entire planet. The North Korean gulags may be hell on earth, but the disgusting, vicious American prison system is not so far behind.

Saturday, November 08, 2014


Not that it was at all unexpected, but I'm sorry to see that Wendy Davis lost her bid for the seat once occupied by the illustrious Jorge Fredo Arbusto, and then by the even more amazing Governor Good Hair. I think Davis would have been fine in an essentially powerless position, and more importantly, I happen to believe that we need more smart politicians with spectacular cans. Instead, the electorate in its infinite wisdom chose to simply throw in more enormous boobs.

Apocalypse How

Remember way back when, how ISIS was sneaking Ebola 'cross the Meskin border into Texas, and teahadi troll fucktards were calling for murdering the infected and napalming villages and such?

Funny how we haven't heard shit about ISIS or Ebola since The Most Important Election Evar. Strange how that works. (I still hope Todd Kincannon gets Ebola.)

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Another Bloody Election

On the one hand, it's easy to agree (however reluctantly) with The Pantload that the electoral process should and could be more than self-affirmation for celebrity airheads. On the other, one can be quite certain that Pantload is just fine with the usual salt-of-the-earth maroons cutting their own throats once again, because the Kenyan Moooslim is letting illegals with Ebola sneak across the Meskin border in order to distract from Benghazi.

But it was funny watching a bunch of chickenshit DINOs run like hell from their own party, and still lose. I'll give the teahadis their due -- at least they know what they fucking stand for, and by jebus stand for it. I'm still amazed that working people are dumb enough to vote for it, but it's not like halfwits such as Mark Pryor gave them much of an alternative. So this is what they wanted, and it's what they will get. Although I live in a blood-red county of the People's Republic of Cali, at least I don't live in some flyover dump that really takes the hit from the policies they just voted for.

Reap the whirlwind, assholes. You deserve nothing less.

[Update 11/7/14 6:30 PST:  This is one of the better analyses of the whole sordid thing that's I've seen.]

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

I did not mean that Conservatives are generally stupid; I meant, that stupid persons are generally Conservative. I believe that to be so obvious and undeniable a fact that I hardly think any honorable Gentleman will question it. -- John Stuart Mill

Hope this is what you wanted,
hope this is what you had in mind,
'cause this is what you're getting.
I hope you choke on it. -- Tool, Ticks and Leeches

For all you election junkies, this article is as exhaustive a breakdown of your proverbial "swing" states as one could hope to find. Ultimately, though, it is also as disheartening a read as one might suppose. Putatively Democratic candidates who can't run fast enough from -- or hell, directly against -- their duly elected president, because they're deathly afraid of pissing off their rube constituency.

Of course, it doesn't help to have the usual compliant and complaisant corporate media, who in the course of chasing their precious narrative would much rather talk about how Bruce Braley and his wife are kinda jerky about their neighbor's chickens, rather than how Joni Ernst is just another clown-car teahadi in a folksy drawl and a Tupperware saleswoman smile.

The real narrative to be understood here is how the teabaggers overstepped in 2010 and especially 2012, and that they're learned their lesson this time around. There are no clear loons like Todd Akin or Richard Mourdock, just pleasant jest-lahk-us types like Joni Ernst and Cory Gardner. The goofballs have cleaned up their act, while the supposed adult political party stands around holding their collective dicks and running from their erstwhile principles (which most of them would sell down the road in a heartbeat anyway).

It's long been a cliché that the massive sums of money dumped into the political process has been a corrosive influence on the process. But it's also altered the types of people who are willing to run for office, not only to subject themselves to cartoonish levels of scrutiny, but to sell themselves constantly to anyone and anything, because of the sheer amount of money it takes just to stay in office, even for an incumbent. An average of thousands of dollars per day need to be raised to retain a US Senate seat, and most House seats aren't cheap either.

An estimated $4 billion total was spent in the 2012 election. When we start thinking more closely about which industry specifically received most of that money, and proceed and engage accordingly, we might finally start getting better candidates, instead of the candidates we deserve.

Irresistible Force, Immovable Object

While worldwide overpopulation is an obvious concern as this century progresses, this article only captures part of the most likely effects and viable solutions. Even more than supplying various free methods of birth control in Third World countries, it's been demonstrated over and over again, virtually everywhere it's been observed, that educating and empowering women are by far the most important factors to reducing birth rates.

A corollary to that rule -- one that sounds good but turns out to be tremendously inconvenient in the medium to long run -- is that upward mobility for women and families will lock that lower birth rate into place. The thing is, most scientists agree that the majority of observable climate change issues are caused by the resource consumption rates of industrialized nations, and the two massive countries -- China and India, obviously -- who make our stuff for us.

The countries with the highest birth rates are the least developed, the least industrialized, and (most importantly) consume the fewest resources per capita. China and India contribute through the pollution generated by their massive manufacturing capacity, but the other end of that Faustian bargain was that these two gigantic countries would have a rising consumer class. In fact, even a 100% successful, completely benign project to lower the birth rates and improve quality of life in sub-Saharan Africa would simply result in even more people wanting to consume resources at the same rate as the US and Europe. And our level of consumption is simply not scalable on this planet.

Humans are really great at two things, both of which are in play here. The first thing, of course, is adaptability -- we don't have fur or fangs or claws, but we have opposable thumbs and the ability to reason and build. Those enable us to live in just about any climate -- and in just about any condition. Life in a Soweto shantytown, a Rocinha favela, or an unfinished skyscraper would be unthinkable and unacceptable to all but the very poorest American or European. We have each adapted, in seemingly different directions, but as the American suburbanites who got shoved out of their homes and into tent cities found out the hard way, people can find a way to adapt to just about any situation, pushed hard enough.

The second thing, more problematic, is providential thinking, the ongoing assumption that something will come along, because something always has. In the more mystical past, steeped in religion and unquestioned belief, priests of various cultures communed with their versions of god and assured that he/she/it would provide. These days, our modern priests -- futurists and technocrats -- place their faith in technology to solve everything, so that we can continue to consume blindly.

Various conclaves of power-brokers and shot-callers at Davos or the Bohemian Grove filter their talking points down to TED talks and corporate media, and eventually to the masses, who want nothing more than to be placated by what they need to hear. We'll get you cheap gas by fracking in someone else's backyard, poisoning someone else's aquifer, so you can drive your Excursion to the post office, alone. We'll truck your NAFTA berries 1500 miles to you in the middle of winter, so you don't have to think about eating seasonally or locally. We'll build enormous tunnels to move millions of acre-feet of water 500 miles away, so you can wash your cars and play golf.

Two other major factors are rapidly kicking in to affect all of these environmental issues:  longevity and productivity. Crazy, right? Those should be good things, and intrinsically they are. But when you have finite resources, they become problems. We can automate many processes and jobs, with no doubt many more to come. So what do we propose all these humans who are coming, with or without dedicated efforts at population control, going to do? How do they stay busy and productive during their prolonged lives? How many people will still be needed to work and produce, and for how long, to help maintain the systems that prolong those lives?

More importantly, as our Great Society continues its run toward economic stratification, who will those people be? As we return to a feudal system, albeit a technologically empowered, corporatized one, we can easily see how a permanent underclass gets utilized to do all the heavy lifting, and an upwardly ambitious supervisor class oversees them, chasing a non-existent carrot, all for the benefit of a much smaller leisure class. Same as it ever was, just with more toys and distractions, more extreme weather, and less wildlife.

Curbing population growth is still a worthy goal, don't get me wrong. But too many people, with their adaptability and providential thinking, would take any gains gleaned by such efforts as a license to consume and waste more, because they can, because the powers-that-be know just how to placate them.