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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Let 'em Eat Fake

Rather than dumping on Mrs. Munchin for down-punching a peasant on her Instagram feed, maybe we should thank her for her candor, at least in that she doesn't try to conceal her inflated sense of self-regard.

Of the many things I fail to apprehend about Today's Ute (or society at large, for that matter), it is the idea that anyone would "follow" someone like Louise Linton, or any of the Kardashians, etc., in their virtualized adventures. These are people who, as the old joke goes, are famous for being well-known; i.e., no one knows what they do because they don't actually do anything.

It's easy to understand why such useless, charisma-free z-list personalities would indulge the urge to turn every waking moment into a brand-building calisthenic, but it's incomprehensible why a rational, sentient human who presumably has their own life to lead would bother with this sort of nonsense.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Drumpferdämmerung; Or, Appetite for Distraction

After seven months that feels like an eternity, it is possible to hear a swirling sound, a rushing of water into a bottomless chasm. This toxic floater of an administration is on the verge of being flushed, and the world will be the better for it, if the clear majority of this country steps up and keeps its collective momentum. Who coulda seen it coming?

The media monkeys are welcome to chase their daily fixations for the time being, because it is important that our putative leader fails to clear even the lowest of ideological bars. The theater exile of porn/meth magnate Steve Bannon back to his propaganda post fools no one. The alcoholic slob is better able to do his real job back on the outside anyway, free from pesky oversight and pernicious leaks.

These people campaigned on being "outsiders" because that is how they function. Every breath they draw, everything they say and do, is designed to be an act of defiance. It makes sense that they would go back to focusing on how beleaguered they think they are (yes, with the Very White House, both houses of congress, and two-thirds of the state legislatures, so very persecuted). When your team is always girding for an epic battle against an implacable foe, it's much easier to distract from the sheer ineptitude that characterizes the team's operations.

But the numbers don't lie, no matter how much one's accounting ledgers resemble cookbooks. All the corporations populating the great dealmaker's bidness councils have scrambled over one another to flee, forcing all of them to be disbanded. Corporate events at the Maga-Lardo are being cancelled as well. People -- most importantly, people with money -- are leaving in droves.

Even Fatboy's best partner-in-crime, corporate-raider asshole Carl Icahn, probably the true eminence grise behind the gold-painted shitter, has joined the rest of the rats overboard, even after pocketing a half-billion clams in just a few months. Pretty good work if you can get it -- which you can't, unless you suck up to this fucking loser.

This has all happened in the last few days, while Emperor Snowflake has been on vacation. There's no other way to put it -- this is enormously fun to watch, the downward spiral of these fuckers. If you know of a  publicly-traded popcorn company, you may want to consider buying stock in it.

It's a mistake, though to ascribe this impending failure to toxic ideology. Clearly the US has no shortage of toxic people who are fine with having a white supremacist (more accurately, a brainless old bigot) in charge. No, this comes down to incompetence, pure and simple, and these people are so goddamned incompetent, their own voters oughta sue 'em for malpractice. And it's important to keep pointing this out. Emperor Snowflake is the epitome of the idiot who shoots himself in the foot repeatedly and sues the gun company.

Incompetence is also, incidentally, an ideal area for the Democrats to focus on in the midterms. The Russian treason being unearthed plank-by-plank by Mueller's team is part of the picture, and a significant one at that. And per Napoleon Bonaparte's sage advice, it's understandable that the Dems don't want to interfere with an enemy intent on destroying himself.

But if there's one lesson they should have learned from last year's debacle, it's the old (but true!) football advice that prevent defenses prevent you from winning. So the Democrats need to market their product better, and get better pitchmen. Who will be the face of the Democratic Party in four, eight, twelve years? What will they stand for, and what will people think they stand for? Narrative, logline, protagonist, sales pitch -- goddammit, storyboard that shit and find a fresh face to push it.

This is not complicated, and it's nothing against Chuck Schumer or Nancy Pelosi or DiFi, but those three names add up to over two hundred years in age, most of it spent pushing stones uphill in DC. A grateful nation appreciates those years of honorable service, but maybe it's time to hand the reins over to someone below retirement age. For Christ's sake, Feinstein appears to be running for re-election next year, when she will turn 85 about five months before the election. It's probably the safest Senate seat in the country; maybe it's time to hand it off to someone who can lead the party forward in a time that, whether or not Snowflake does the right thing and abdicates, is going to get weirder and worse before it gets better.

People have chosen their own realities and their own facts, and some of these bozos will back Snowflake no matter what the Everest of evidence against him looks like. Against all logic, they will presume it's all a conspiracy to a coup, and some of them will act accordingly. Bet on it.

In the meantime, though, the money is leaving, and that's critical -- especially when you consider that despite winning more than five times as many counties as Hillary, there's still a 2:1 disparity in economic output. This will be a much bigger decider than ideology or racism, of the midterms and 2020. Follow the money.

Don't Stop Believing

The carnage continues --  not only is it possible that Emperor Snowflake may be responsible for the breakup of Journey (and hey, how surprising is it not only that he has a "spiritual advisor," but that said "advisor" is willing to admit to that?), but his earthy rubes are "embarrassed" by him.

To which I would say to those rubes:  hey, the rest of us are embarrassed by you numbskulls, and I am truly sorry that I have only two middle fingers to wave in your general direction. As long as he's too stupid and weird to get anything meaningful done, he can stay for all I care, and the more it reminds these idiots that their dying towns are still dying, the better. Choke on it, assholes.

In Other News

Best wishes to Freddie de Boer, and to anyone enduring a similar struggle. It seems like mental illness is on the upswing in this country, or maybe we're just hearing more about it these days.

I seriously think that a lot of it has to do with how the US is run in general:  banana republic levels of wealth and income disparity; consumerism as an unofficial religion; superstition passing for science and knowledge; "reality" being whatever people feel it should be, a vacant, toxic emotionalism taking over for basic empiricism and a shared epistemology. We used to have those things, but as Carlin memorably put it, we traded them for jet skis and flat screens.

Anyone who allows themselves to care with any level of sincerity about those and other social issues sets themselves up for being driven up the wall by this country and many of its inhabitants -- those who are proud of their ignorance and stubbornness and rage, who want nothing more than to tell others to fuck off, just for the joy of doing so. We strive to be conscious and aware in our lives and outlook, all the while knowing that truly total consciousness and awareness would be emotionally crippling.

Good for de Boer for recognizing what he needs, and taking care of himself.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Blut und Scheisse

We can't honestly say we weren't warned, nor can we honestly claim to be surprised. This is who he's always been -- not just bigoted, but stubborn and vain past the point of rational self-interest. People are welcome and correct to focus on Clownstick's insistence on both-siding with nazis, the most slam-dunk of all political oppositions to take.

He's sunk so low in approval ratings, and the bar has been lowered so much for him, he literally would have gained credence and political capital just by beating on the white power assholes. And of course he couldn't do it -- every single time he tries to speak spontaneously, he reveals and projects exactly who he's always been. He's incapable of doing otherwise. I will never not be utterly baffled that so many people couldn't see that characteristic. It's not like he ever tried to hide it.

At some point there will be some sort of political reckoning, if for no other reason than that he's making it easier for his congressional compadres to distance themselves from his poisonous agenda and toxic personality. In the meantime, keep on diggin', fucko. By the time this is all over, even Fixed Noise won't have his fat back, and the world will be boycotting his name, and everything it's plastered on.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Promises Made, Promises Kept

I don't know if Charlottesville will turn out to be the Fort Sumter of the current "cold civil war," as all the kids are calling it, but things seem to be heating up, slowly, surely, inexorably. The joke has been that maybe Clownstick ran over an old gypsy woman, and she cursed him to live out all his peanut-gallery tweets at Obama. The truth is that Yeats was a prophet, and we are all living out his warning. Clownstick may be Orangemandias, faded glory that never was in the first place, but the Pepe-the-Frog Jew-baiting douchebags are the falcon to his falconer.

These racist assholes and their racist bullshit are being normalized right in front of us. They are not bothering to conceal it at all, you have to give them that. David Duke is a loathsome tool, but when he's right, he's right:
“This represents a turning point for the people of this country. We are determined to take our country back,” Duke said. “We are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That’s what we believed in. That’s why we voted for Donald Trump, because he said he’s going to take our country back.”
Yes indeedy. They got their panties all up in a wad every time the Black Lives Matter folks blocked traffic, but in the meantime, these small racist rallies have been going on all over the south, and you know what you have not heard of? Some random BLM activist pulling a Mr. Mercedes and running these losers down.

Plz Moar Tardz

Well, it's about that time again, time for the lamestream media's periodic ass-spelunking tour into dipshit country, to reinforce Emperor Snowflake's rapidly dwindling coterie of ball-lickers that somewhere out there, there's a derpelganger jes' lahk thaym:
Out on Colorado’s eastern plains, an agricultural region where voters went overwhelmingly for Mr. Trump, the response to the president’s remarks was one of support, with little fear of repercussions.

“He needs to step all over that little twerp,” said John Stout, 71, who sat with three retired friends over coffee at the Sinclair gas station in Wiggins, Colo., on Thursday. The other men nodded in agreement. “If it had been me up there,” Mr. Stout continued, “I’d have done it a lot quicker.”
Sure you would've, old man. Everyone's a fucking tough guy when they have no skin in the game. Why, I recall the last time I played a Civilization 4 campaign, I finally got bored and decided to finish off the last AI opponent -- Korea -- by nuking....wait for it....Pyongyang. Then I smoked a cigarette. [cough cough hack] So satisfying.
Mr. Stout said he did not fear for his safety, and hoped that [Fuckface Von Clownstick] would take action to “take out” the North Korean leader’s nuclear abilities.

“Hell yes,” he said. “And they can pinpoint it to where they are not killing a lot of innocent people. That will be the big goal there.”
The worst thing this country ever did -- and continues to do, through its estimable coven of city-mouse scriveners -- is ascribe some sort of earthy wisdom to random jabber, simply because it comes from the piehole of a fist-shaking codger in a dumpy shithole town.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Axiomatic

John Holbo over at Crooked Timber asks what is turning out to be the defining question of this wondrous new millennium:
What do I think the really important, consequential issues are for humanity for the next hundred years?  Climate change and environmental destruction generally; the threat of some catastrophic, global war and/or the use, somewhere, of weapons of mass destruction. I guess number three would be: inequality and the threat it poses for the stability of societies and political orders, long-term.
I would agree 100% with all of those. I would also note for the record that the primary cause for these issues is generally the same across the board:  overpopulation. We have reached the carrying capacity of our planet, for the lifestyle we wish to lead. If we don't mind living asshole-to-teakettle in urbanized stack flats, invest massively in desalination, irrigate every hectare of arable land with perfect seasonality and soil management, stop raising beef and pork, and eliminate every non-essential species over 100 pounds, then sure, we could probably stuff another few billion in. Why the fuck not?

To answer Holbo's question about whether to be pessimistic or optimistic about the next hundred years, I am extremely pessimistic about the near future (to 2040 or 2050), and very cautiously optimistic about the longer term (2050-2100). I'll sketch out some ideas further down, but the proverbial elevator pitch is one of my all-time favorites, which any regular reader here has seen many times (but like so many things, bears repeating):
People do not change until they realize that the cost of not changing is greater than the cost of changing.
I'd love to lie to you and say I coined that one myself, but it's been such a long time I honestly don't recall where I first encountered it. I'm pretty sure it was at The Oil Drum, but I couldn't tell you which writer; whether they poached it from some organizational theory seminar is anyone's guess. The main thing is that it's true and it applies so well to so many issues going on right now.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Clear and Present Danger

One thing should be starkly apparent to all, as tensions ramp up with the Hermit Kingdom:  civilized nations cannot sit idly while an erratic, impulsive man-baby with ridiculous hair, who surrounds himself with sycophants, and who believes his own hype and nothing else, has his tiny hands on the nuclear trigger.

Rock the Vote

Looks like Jester's got the answer:


It might get in the way of Supergeeeenyus Snowflake Von Clownstick's tireless efforts to write off the three million more people who legitimately voted for his opponent, but them's the breaks.

Consider:  since the founding of the republic, between stuffing and/or tossing ballot boxes, voter intimidation, literacy tests, poll taxes, crooked or "broken" machines, deliberately shorting busy districts in order to create three-hour lines to frustrate voters, and on and on, this nation has almost certainly never had a one-hundred-percent free and fair election in every part of the country. Some ward heeler or local factotum always has their thumb on the scale in some location(s).

That's a different matter than saying that the will of the people has always been thwarted, but obviously it would be very difficult to forensically go back and re-litigate all those past exercises in civic futility. All of which is to say that it would simply be interesting, to say the least, to get a truly untainted picture of What The People Really Want, to the extent that they actually know.

Friday, August 04, 2017

Poisoning the Well

Once in a great while, it's fun and even illuminating to reread books. Depending on how long it's been, you can get a lot out of it. I first read Stephen King's Needful Things back in the early '90s, half a lifetime ago. It was billed more or less as a horror version of Our Town, and that was essentially how I recalled it, until actually sitting down and rereading it over the last week.

(We here in Northern Cali are in the midst of a protracted heat wave; the number of days below 100 degrees in the daytime is maybe five since Memorial Day, so more than enough time to read. I think I knocked out seven full-length books in July, somewhere around 3,500 pages. It's too fucking hot to do much else.)

As intrigued as I am by King's explanation in the link that Needful Things is in some respects a satire of '80s excess, I came away with more specific impressions this time around. If I were to condense this 700-page doorstop (not an insult; it's a richly rewarding and fun read, but it's a big-ass book) into a logline or elevator pitch for someone who for some reason hasn't gotten around to reading the book, it would go something like this:
The devil comes to a small New England town, and turns the townsfolk against each other.
That's a radical oversimplification, though it gets the broad points across. The devil (pun intended) is in the details, and contextualized against our current real-world backdrop, can be fleshed out more interestingly.

The main theme of the book is cupidity, the sort of slavering covetousness that spurs otherwise rational humans to abandon good sense in order to pursue an object that they connect perhaps too deeply with, for whatever reason. In NT, these objects are at once mundane and yet important on an intimate level -- a mint-condition Sandy Koufax card; Elvis Presley's sunglasses; a splinter of wood from Noah's Ark.

So maybe now the elevator pitch is a bit more expansive. The "devil" understands his target audience, their vacant desires and what they will do to attain them. He hooks them and sets them in motion against each other. Desire and surrender and our willingness to see what we want to see are central to the trickster demon's nefarious plans. And when the objects of desire turn out to be junk -- the ratty card of an unknown player; a busted pair of cheap sunglasses; a rotted hunk of lumber infested with bugs -- the marks (at least the ones that manage to eventually see the objects for what they actually are) are appalled at themselves, at what they did for an empty promise.

Any sort of deceptive person -- a used-car salesman, a cheating relationship, a grifter or con-man, a politician -- cannot do what they do effectively without the complicity of the mark. The old saw about a grifter being someone who gets you to empty your pockets, but a con-man being someone who gets you to empty you pockets and then go home or to the bank and get the rest of your money to hand over, holds true here.

A good liar understands the value of pride and the need for respect that we all have, the intrinsic need to not be thought a dummy or a rube. Pride becomes the hook for the con-man to reel in his fish -- the fish cannot admit that he was dumb enough to fall for a shiny rubber lure, even as the barb hangs out his cheek and he is being reeled toward the boat.

Leland Gaunt's goal in Needful Things is ostensibly to collect souls, but it is really just to make mischief, the sheer joy in turning neighbor violently against neighbor. The discord is the reward, you might say. Some men just want to watch the world burn.

In a consumerist society, we are used to our thoughts and desires being monetized. It is so routine at this point it barely merits notice. But what if those thoughts and desires are escalated, taken to the next logical level? Someone who figured out how to weaponize those things would wield unspeakable power. That is how cults are built, and whether that cult leader is Alex Jones or Kim Jong Un or Fuckface Von Clownstick is irrelevant -- the principles are the same, and they work on the same type of people.

Perhaps worst of all is that when it comes to deprogramming brainwashed cult victims, the consequences can be almost as bad as leaving them in the cult. It's not they're going to thank you and jump across to "your side." By definition they are in need of something, usually something that jibes with their preferences thus far -- so when that something gets removed, there's a good chance they'll find something worse.

The symptom gets treated, but the disease -- ignorance in the broader sense, but specifically things such as living in a bubble with their own facts, racism or racist assumptions, a daily addiction to outrage du jour stories (again, without bothering to check whether there's any factual basis to them or not) -- persists and mutates.

Obviously, the root causes go back generations, but the more recent origins do stem from persistent systemic inequality, that most Americans did not get to share in the "recovery" anywhere near to the extent that their betters (who, after all, caused the collapse in the first place) enjoyed. Until that gets adequately addressed, we are simply heading deeper into an extended cycle of viciousness, regardless of whether the con-man gets impeached and removed.