Sunday, November 30, 2008


The cynic in me understands the sarcasm here, but I think a lot of people would look at this remark as a second- or even third-order misapprehension of what Rubin is saying. For one, Rubin didn't say "nobody could have predicted", he said that "nobody was prepared", which is a completely different thing. It's not that none of these tools couldn't predict that gravity works, it's just that they count on being exempt from most laws, physical and otherwise. That is, after all, what they rent politicians for.

Then there's this:

If the idea is just that you make money while the market goes up, and then when the market goes down the government steps in to rescue you, probably a lot of people could do the job.

Yes. That's exactly the idea. This is a business utterly without ethics, completely unencumbered by basic morals or the usual definitions of merit. Hell, this a business where loan bundlers and wholesalers were showing up in low-cut blouses and offering blowjobs to underwriters in order to move product everyone knew was bad. Was anybody unclear on this?

Lot of stories lately on how the outsourcing of food and food processing has become a real health risk for us, what with the melamine and all apparently used as a primary ingredient in your average Chinese food processing plant. This financial burger we're all being forced to take a bite out of was made from cattle fed on melamine and bone meal, soaked in antifreeze, breaded in asbestos dust, and left out in the sun for the weekend.

It's not that Rubin and his lackeys had no clue about any of this. It's that the smells of free money, decent coke, and easy pussy will do that to you after a certain number of years. They've been given no reason not to continue to do so.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Black Friday Blues

Ask about our killer deals on vacuum cleaners and DVDs -- or just break down the doors and eat our brains.

Guess the stampeding animals at that Wal-Mart forgot about the surveillance cameras:

Police were reviewing video from surveillance cameras in an attempt to identify who trampled to death a Wal-Mart worker after a crowd of post-Thanksgiving shoppers burst through the doors at a suburban store and knocked him down.

Criminal charges were possible, but identifying individual shoppers in Friday's video may prove difficult, said Detective Lt. Michael Fleming, a Nassau County police spokesman.

Other workers were trampled as they tried to rescue the man, and customers stepped over him and became irate when officials said the store was closing because of the death, police and witnesses said.

At least four other people, including a woman who was eight months pregnant, were taken to hospitals for observation or minor injuries. The store in Valley Stream on Long Island closed for several hours before reopening.

Police said about 2,000 people were gathered outside the Wal-Mart doors before its 5 a.m. opening at a mall about 20 miles east of Manhattan. The impatient crowd knocked the employee, identified by police as Jdimytai Damour, to the ground as he opened the doors, leaving a metal portion of the frame crumpled like an accordion.

"This crowd was out of control," Fleming said. He described the scene as "utter chaos," and said the store didn't have enough security.

Dozens of store employees trying to fight their way out to help Damour were also getting trampled by the crowd, Fleming said. Shoppers stepped over the man on the ground and streamed into the store.

It's just too bad one of the cops didn't have the presence of mind to start truncheoning and tasering all within reach. The store "didn't have enough security" because, you know, it never occurred to them that hordes of zombies would show up to literally break down the door and trample the workers, for a deal on a flat-screen.

It's easy to blame Wal-Mart for hyping this nonsense -- and what kind of moron needs to even be reminded about Black Friday anymore? -- but the blame rests squarely with these, eh, I don't know what they are. They're not human beings or people, that's for sure. May they spend this and every future Christmas on a frozen sidewalk. Razing the building with these lunatics inside might have been a good start.

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Douchebag Archipelago

On the one hand, the Burmese junta is an evil, malicious, paranoid force, like every brutal authoritarian thugocracy that has polluted the world before it.

On the other hand, we may finally have an answer to the thorn in everyone's fuckin' side known as Kanye West. I'm just sayin'.

Colbert Christmas

After mildly hacking on Christmas specials the other day -- not because they're bad, mind you, just that they're the same ones every year -- I gotta say, Colbert's new special is pretty cool. Elvis Costello was great in a classic Larry Sanders years ago, so he has a sense of humor about himself, and here he's really funny and a really good sport. John Legend shares a filthy song about nutmeg. You may even rethink some of your assumptions about Toby Keith, who lampoons the more jingoistic parts of his catalog with a number about the War on Christmas. Fun for kids of all ages.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanks But No Thanks

Here's what the current occupant of the nation's highest office did yesterday:

The importance of having two turkeys at the ready was proved yesterday, when disaster was narrowly averted in this, Bush's final turkey-pardoning moment. The Washington Post has learned that one of the turkeys came down with a cold the night before the pardoning ceremony!

"A little congested," a source involved in the closed-door turkey operation said.

Just like that, the chosen bird was demoted to vice turkey status, and no one would be the wiser.

"Number 2 became Number 1 in the middle of the night," said another source, who asked to be identified only as a member of the turkey-raising family.

And so it was that on a bright, chilly morning in the Rose Garden, President Bush was able to preside smoothly over his last turkey pardoning.


This year's national turkey and his alternate both kicked back on Pardon Eve at a suite in the Willard Hotel, a serious upgrade over the digs of their recent predecessors, who holed up at the charming, but fading -- and now closed -- Hotel Washington.

In contrast, the guy who will replace Bush at the White House decided to help people who will never quite afford the swanky digs at the Willard:

President-elect Barack Obama and his wife took their daughters to work at a food bank on the day before Thanksgiving, saying they wanted to show the girls the meaning of the holiday, especially when so many people are struggling.

Ten-year-old Malia and 7-year-old Sasha joined their parents to shake hands and give holiday wishes to hundreds of people who had been lined up for hours at the food bank on Chicago's South Side.

Sasha wore a pink stocking hat over her pigtails and Malia had on a purple striped hat as the family handed out wrapped chickens to the needy in the chilly outdoor courtyard. Those seeking food on Wednesday at St. Columbanus also received boxes with potatoes, oranges, fresh bread, peanut butter, canned goods, oatmeal, spaghetti and coffee.

The president-elect, dressed casually in a leather jacket, black scarf and khaki pants, was in a jovial mood, calling out "happy Thanksgiving" and telling everyone "you can call me Barack."

He told reporters that he wants the girls "to learn the importance of how fortunate they are, and to make sure they're giving back."

I've never been able to quite grok the turkey-pardoning thing anyway; in a world full of ridiculous and meaningless traditions, this is surely one of the more inscrutably tedious. But let's play the game for a moment -- the "tradition", such as it is, is meant to symbolize mercy, compassion, empathy. Which person is embodying those traits to a greater degree by his respective symbolic action?

And perhaps more importantly, when did Bush ever put those values of mercy, compassion, and empathy into action? He brought needless death and destruction to distant shores, and he diddled and fumbled while the economy of the world lawn-darted, and millions of his citizens lost their jobs, homes, businesses, futures. He departs with a seamless wake of failure and havoc, a man who was groomed from childhood by the best educational institutions this nation has to offer, but whose petulance and willfulness, incuriosity and ignorance, bequeath a legacy that will take a concerted effort by the US and the rest of the world to overcome.

And while Bush and Cheney have not exactly obstructed or impeded Obama's efforts to put together an economic team that can hit the ground running in January, they've also done nothing to facilitate the transition, nothing to help the process, nothing save extending meager unemployment benefits to even acknowledge that a lot of people out there are royally screwed, that it's a long two months until competent people even get a chance to implement a new, hopefully proactive plan of attack. They're just fucking around, like they always do and always have, playing with turkeys, Mister Man brushing up on his borscht-belt schtick.

Today also happens to be my wedding anniversary, so I do have plenty to be thankful for -- a happy marriage, a wonderful family, good health, and right now spectacular weather. And leaving a job (as of next week) that I had become disillusioned with anyway. But the large-scale thing that I (and I imagine most Americans) can also be thankful for is Bush's impending departure, the imminent and hopefully permanent removal from public life of a person who had a nasty and regressive impact on the lives of most Americans as well as millions around the world, a man under whose tenure only the lives of his haves and have-mores actually improved.

I think it's safe to say, even among a fair number of self-styled conservatives, that Bush is someone who never should have been there in the first place, someone who made the country and the world worse than he found it, who polarized and impoverished both the political debate and the economic stratification of this country. He will never have the self-awareness to be ashamed or embarrassed at what he's done. I think a lot of us are ashamed and embarrassed for his actions and inactions, as well as of and by them. That's a good thing; it means we might still have a drop of team spirit left in us. We still give a damn.

Were I a person of faith I'd put my trust in a just and vengeful god to mete out an appropriate fate for Bush and his minions, but since empirical reality mitigates that flight of fancy, I'll settle for him just going away, spending the rest of his days covering his nut on the wingnut rubber-chicken circuit. They deserve each other. All any of them care about is money anyway; may they all choke on it.

In the meantime, y'all have a great Thanksgiving weekend. Enjoy the Lions' historic run to an unprecedented 0-16 season -- unless, as Michael Silver posits, they can squeak past the inconsistent Saints. I dunno; I think we're looking at 0-16, and probably 2-14 next year for the hapless Lions, whose organizational culture makes the Raiders' look competent. They're that bad.

Update: Re the Titans-Lions blowout, nice move by the Titans who, at 3:39 left in the game and a 37-point lead, and most of their starters still in, challenge a measly (if athletic) 20-yard catch by Detroit WR Calvin Johnson that took the Lions to their own 40. The catch stood, but still -- stay classy, Jeff Fisher!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Shield

Tim Goodman, who has championed The Shield since day one, has a typically fine wrap-up on the series finale. Heavy stuff, but a fitting end to an excellent show. Pound for pound, probably the best ensemble cast this side of The Wire, and even then it's close. Chiklis was an absolute force of nature throughout, but there are a half-dozen actors in this cast deserving an Emmy nomination. Of course, that's also true of The Wire, and the fact is that they'll all be passed up for James Spader (and I like Spader, but guys like Chiklis and Wendell Pierce pwn his ass) or some shit, because the people who vote on awards shows are politically-motivated morons.

Some of the side plots were resolved a bit weakly, but it's a minor beef in an otherwise powerful ending. Some of the storylines actually could have kept going a bit, but unlike NYPD Blue or ER or some such, The Shield writers knew when it was time to go. And the show itself created a viability for basic cable content, a small oasis in a sea of infomercials, shopping netwroks, "reality" chum, and pseudo-celebrity ass-sniffing.

The FX channel has real potential in the biker drama Sons of Anarchy (created by Shield writer Kurt Sutter), but its comedy series (including, sadly, the formerly excellent It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia) are practically unwatchable, so there's a ways to go still toward building a real network.

But The Shield managed to breathe new life into a well-worn genre, taking a direction away from the tedious prodcedurals and shock-value lab-tech dramas. (I've seen exactly three episodes of CSI over the years, and every one of them had lurid descriptions of blood and semen spattered everywhere. Not to be a prude but, why is it on the networks that you can't say "asshole" at any hour, but you can describe in detail the qualities of various bodily fluids and violent crimes during the "family hours"?)

Monday, November 24, 2008


As our unprecedented financial swindle continues apace, a couple things. We're now approaching $3 trillion in bailout commitments, with no end in sight. The US population is just over 300 million. What makes more economic sense, and indeed justice, if your goal is to stimulate the economy -- to give every citizen $10k to inject back into the system, or to give a couple thousand people (who, you know, lost the damned money in the first place) tens of billions of dollars each to hold over the remnants of the working class?

Clearly this is not economic stimulus so much as political stimulus; Wall Street is getting exactly what it paid for, which is political representation at the expense of all others. Hell, Citi and AIG won't even alter their grotesque stadium sponsorship deals, they're certainly not going to save anyone's job.

The stadium naming sponsorship thing is especially galling. First the taxpayers get rolled into building a new stadium for the Mets, and the personal seat license commitments are out of the price range of most working-class folk. Now, to add insult to injury, the taxpayers are again being rolled so that these assholes can, among other things, pay for their goddamned stadium naming rights. Nothing like getting taken by the same grift twice. Henceforth, the Mets' new stadium is Douchebag Field.

I've idly commented a few times recently about stringing these bastards up from the nearest lamppost or street light, but I'm not so sure I'm even half-joking anymore. Again, if the money's there for the doling out, why not give it to people who are going to spend it, put it back into the economy right away, rather than a select few who will simply hold our own money over us for the next decade or two, until their next eventual regulatory end-run ends again in predictable disaster, and we are all forcibly dragooned into saving their worthless hides yet again. Why not just cut out the middleman? It's our money; why keep rewarding the bookies for making stupid bets with it?

Another, more ominous problem is that the bailouts are there to preserve the existing system, which because of increasing resource constraints is going to need to be seriously readjusted, if it doesn't collapse outright. Kunstler has been the proverbial voice in the wilderness on this subject for many moons, and he's starting to look fairly prescient in a lot of areas.

There is money to be made, jobs created, economies and communities to be rejuvenated, by serious, careful retooling of our infrastructure, manufacturing, and finance systems. Localized and regionalized economies have been ravaged by national and international economic policy. Globalized capital mobility has been nice, and a balanced form of it is still desirable. But it must be complemented by realistic, sustainable, and above all tangible means of support and process. Bundling doomed-to-fail mortgages and putting them on 33 Black is no way to run a modern economic system.

It's natural for political systems to attempt their own continued perpetuation by any and all means. The only thing missing from these bailout episodes is a ski mask, a gun, and an impossibly large sack festooned with a ginormous dollar sign. This ripoff is truly cartoonish in scope and scale; who else gets a blank check after losing tens of billions of dollars that they'll never recoup or payback, and laying off tens of thousands of people that they'll never rehire? Even a shabby skid-row hustler has more morals than these animals.

Any Given Sunday

I pick on my Raiduhs when they screw up, which is frequent, so I oughta give props to them for their performance yesterday. They finally got that donkey off their backs, to the point where Denver was out of it barely into the fourth quarter, defeat and frustration written all over their faces. There were a couple bonehead mistakes, and the refs apparently decided that Jay Cutler was exempt from being tackled, but for a change Oakland didn't let it get to them, didn't false-start their way out of every third-down conversion. Nicely done, ladies. If interim coach Tom the Cable Guy can pull them together for a respectable homestretch run, something to build on, he will probably be the only coach in the AFC Worst not to get fired at the end of the season.

Oakland was about the easiest one left on Denver's schedule; if the Donkeys manage to win the division it'll only be because the rest of it is so miserable. San Diego has to be the most overrated team in the league. LaDainian Tomlinson seems to be hurting more than he lets on, and once they fire Norv Turner in the off-season, the Chargers will be in disarray, possibly heading back to their original, long-forgotten stomping grounds in Los Angeles. Their brief window of dominating their division and contending their conference is already closing. They probably realize they shouldn't have dealt Michael Turner. And the rebuilding 1-10 Chefs aren't even on the radar, though I like Herm Edwards and figure he'll probably land somewhere else after this season.

Probably yesterday's single biggest game in term of setting the tone for the rest of the season involved the New Jersey Bretts heading to Nashville and exposing the league's last undefeated team as paper Titans. Tennessee has gotten this far with an easy schedule, solid defense, and careful game management with a strong running game; they are not equipped to play catch-up, and the Jets just whipped on them.

So of course people are already buzzing about an all-Jersey Super Bowl, since the Giants are dominating the NFC. It would make a pretty good storyline, if it happens, but Pittsburgh is quietly thumping its opponents, and seems unbeatable in that frozen bog they call home. And the Ravens, with a rookie QB and rookie head coach no less, have really found their stride, but may get bitten for playoff seeding by all those AFC East teams.

Much as been made of two solid veteran QBs reviving their careers, Kerry Collins with the Titans and Kurt Warner with the Arizona Cardinals, the latter having a career year with WR phenoms Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. (If only the Cards had a running game and a defensive secondary.) Both players have taken over from highly-touted top-10 draft picks, Vince Young and Matt Leinart respectively. I'll be damned if I've encountered even a mention of either Young or Leinart since being replaced, which is just weird. If nothing else, their respective teams have to be going nuts trying to figure out if or when they'll ever recoup the enormous amounts of money dumped into those two pockets. All the more reason for a rookie salary cap.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Losing Their Religion

As you could probably guess, I'm with IOZ on this profile which, while well-written and comprehensive enough, still comes up short. Certainly there are substantial differences, at least operationally, between the Mahdi Scouts and your garden-variety Jesus Camp freaks, the latter whom despite their best efforts do after all live in a modern society. The Mahdi Scouts are not piling into the ol' grocery schooner to schlep out to the megachurch to mouth hymns with the skeevy headset preacher.

On the other hand, there ain't a whole lot of separation between the Scouts and these little inbred creeps. Indoctrination is indoctrination, and fundamentalist whackjobbery is just that. You don't have to go all the way to Lebanon to find some preening assholes waiting for an excuse to do something stupid for no good reason. Except, of course, we haven't had to invade Idaho since Ruby Ridge.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Losing His Religion

Not sure if Henninger has some sort of bet with Goldberg over who can write the dumbest imaginable column, but it's a hell of a farting contest.

This year we celebrate the desacralized "holidays" amid what is for many unprecedented economic ruin -- fortunes halved, jobs lost, homes foreclosed. People wonder, What happened? One man's theory: A nation whose people can't say "Merry Christmas" is a nation capable of ruining its own economy.

One had better explain that.

Yes, one supposes one had better, though one doesn't really need to. One assumes that had this not been an election year, the War On Christmas goofballs would have come out of the woodwork a day or two after Halloween. Perhaps Henninger is attempting to paraphrase the old Chesterton saw that people who don't believe in something will believe just about anything. I suppose his continued employment is proof enough of that.

The path to 50% wealth reductions and the death of Wall Street was paved with good intentions, notably the notion that all should own a house, even if that required giving away the house to untutored borrowers with low-to-no-interest loans.

This good intention set off history's largest chain of moral hazard. The great unraveling began sometime between 2005 and 2007, when borrowers, lenders and securitizer shamans all found themselves operating in a zero-gravity environment, aloft on moral hazard.

For a professional scold, Henninger leaves this treacherous path from "good intentions" to "moral hazard" remarkably (if unsurprisingly) uncharted. To hear these bozos who blame the entire collapse on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac -- that is, the federal subsidizing of the working and lower-middle classes, as opposed to seven-figure Wall Street douchebags -- you would think that these poor, helpless bankers had been forced at gunpoint to grant no-money-down, no-questions-asked liar downs to people who couldn't calc out a simple debt-to-income ratio.

This sort of client vetting used to be the job of a person called an account manager, or a loan broker. It required awareness of the local market, the likelihood of regional overvaluation and imminent market corrections, and even somewhat rigorous oversight of the client's ability to pay the goddamned loan back in the first place.

Instead of doing those things, they sent people out -- again, apparently against their free will and rational self-interest -- to find suckers to sign on to these things, loaded with precipitous rate adjustments and payment schemes. The lure was the ability for those folks to then use their new house as an ATM to buy shit whose value would never be recouped. Vacations, new SUVs, whatever you need, baby. You've earned it.

Then the bad loans get bundled into a bunch of Excel hocus-pocus, and everyone shrugs their shoulders and wonders how this brilliant Ponzi scheme could have failed. Jesus H. Christ, it's actually surprising that it held out for as long as it did.

Anyway. Good intentions. Road to hell. Mad Max. Gotcha.

What really went missing through the subprime mortgage years were the three Rs: responsibility, restraint and remorse. They are the ballast that stabilizes two better-known Rs from the world of free markets: risk and reward.

Responsibility and restraint are moral sentiments. Remorse is a product of conscience. None of these grow on trees. Each must be learned, taught, passed down. And so we come back to the disappearance of "Merry Christmas."

It has been my view that the steady secularizing and insistent effort at dereligioning America has been dangerous. That danger flashed red in the fall into subprime personal behavior by borrowers and bankers, who after all are just people. Northerners and atheists who vilify Southern evangelicals are throwing out nurturers of useful virtue with the bathwater of obnoxious political opinions.

I'm almost on their side; Christmas would probably be more pleasant and meaningful if it were celebrated more like European countries do, with sacred cantatas and motets in impossibly old Romanesque cathedrals, ancient festivals of deeper cultural significance. But the culture of consumerism -- a culture, coincidentally enough, perpetuated in part by Henninger's own corporate bible and its clientele -- demands that we hang out in front of Wal-Mart for hours in the early post-Thanksgiving dawn, buy as much cheap shit as we can find, and culturally bond over the same Charlie Brown and Rudolph specials we've seen a thousand times.

And while Henninger has a reasonable point regarding the "R's", the first three were just as readily eschewed by the suits at the top as they were by the grasping rubes at the bottom. But only one of those groups is getting bailed out, the group who always, always finds ways to socialize the risks and pocket the rewards for themselves.

It has nothing to do with any spiritual belief, or lack of same, but rather it's symptomatic of a culture without an underlying ethos in general, secular or sacred. We've been conditioned for decades to buy stuff we don't need with money we don't have in order to die with the most toys or whatever, and now that everyone who hasn't yet filed for bankruptcy has gotten a clue and pulled back, now the problem is Not Enough Jeebus. Indeed, the megachurch mentality of reaping one's rewards while sucking up to an anglicized, idealized Jesus-like avatar, instead of letting virtue be its own reward, might have something to do with this as well.

Henninger and the rest of the Christmas Cops might do well to turn their stern gazes upon their own flock, who seem to have gotten the wrong idea about the ethical basis for their institutionalized superstitions.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

This Week In Stupid

Time flies when you're swimming on an endless, bottomless sea of ridiculousness, doesn't it? Let's start with everyone's favorite subject, what's left of our ravaged imaginary economy. Good thing our Harvard MBA preznit has been all up in this like John Holmes on a crank bender. There's your legacy, bub.

Perusing the local classifieds, it appears that one of our many Indian casinos has open positions for "floor supervisor" and "vault cashier". The description for the first position begins thusly:
Supervises assigned table games or assigned areas of the slot floor. Responsible for dealer and slot attendant procedural errors. Responsible for tracking table game players. Responsible for maintaining gaming table chip racks. Corrects errors made by dealers and slot attendants on gaming floor.
The vault cashier operates as follows:
Responsible for maintaining security and accountability of cash, chips, coin, and other negotiables. Provides constant flow of cash, chips, and coin to the Specialty Banks and to all cage cashiers. Must have above average money handling skills.

That all sounds a lot like what Hank Paulson does. How has our economic engine transformed from a thrumming powerhouse to a smoke-filled, clock-free warehouse patrolled by concierges and populated by the desperate and the grasping? (Actually, that comparison is not really fair to the casinos, which have plenty of things for people who don't even gamble, such as live entertainment, excellent buffets, and custom-design golf courses.) I think we all know how it got to this point, but the question deserves to be at least rhetorically asked of the next CEO skulking into Washington for his handout.

Via Edge of Chaos comes this heartwarming tale of how our current financial crisis came to be. Fun stuff.

Then came Meredith Whitney with news. Whitney was an obscure analyst of financial firms for Oppenheimer Securities who, on October 31, 2007, ceased to be obscure. On that day, she predicted that Citigroup had so mismanaged its affairs that it would need to slash its dividend or go bust. It’s never entirely clear on any given day what causes what in the stock market, but it was pretty obvious that on October 31, Meredith Whitney caused the market in financial stocks to crash. By the end of the trading day, a woman whom basically no one had ever heard of had shaved $369 billion off the value of financial firms in the market. Four days later, Citigroup’s C.E.O., Chuck Prince, resigned. In January, Citigroup slashed its dividend.

From that moment, Whitney became E.F. Hutton: When she spoke, people listened. Her message was clear. If you want to know what these Wall Street firms are really worth, take a hard look at the crappy assets they bought with huge sums of ­borrowed money, and imagine what they’d fetch in a fire sale. The vast assemblages of highly paid people inside the firms were essentially worth nothing. For better than a year now, Whitney has responded to the claims by bankers and brokers that they had put their problems behind them with this write-down or that capital raise with a claim of her own: You’re wrong. You’re still not facing up to how badly you have mismanaged your business.

Yes, the world's economy had been placed in the hands of a bunch of smug, fresh-faced dickheads who were being paid to play with other people's money. And Whitney (and Nouriel Roubini, and a few honorable others) refused to go along with it. These kids had no experience in making anything of value, or managing anything of merit; what they had were suspenders, slicked-back corporate-bullethead haircuts, multiple monitors with regression analysis spreadsheets with which to rig the guesses they made on the nothing they sold, and a sense of entitlement.

Folks, we handed the keys over to Patrick Bateman, and we were just cool with that, as long as Pat threw an occasional handful of his Monopoly money our way, in between rhapsodizing on the ineffability of Sussudio.

[Photo via The Beast.]

Yes. Jumping would be a fine start for them, though stringing them up from the nearest lamppost also sounds good.

Fully committed to her life's work of trying to be the biggest swinging dick in whatever room she happens to inhabit, Camille Paglia leavens her tepid endorsement of Obama's electoral victory with an incredibly unnecessary defense of Sarah Palin's lack of oratorical skills -- or for that matter, common sense, decency, an understanding of decorum (as her bizarre attempt to horn in on McCain's concession speech showed).

Liberal Democrats are going to wake up from their sadomasochistic, anti-Palin orgy with a very big hangover. The evil genie released during this sorry episode will not so easily go back into its bottle. A shocking level of irrational emotionalism and at times infantile rage was exposed at the heart of current Democratic ideology -- contradicting Democratic core principles of compassion, tolerance and independent thought. One would have to look back to the Eisenhower 1950s for parallels to this grotesque lock-step parade of bourgeois provincialism, shallow groupthink and blind prejudice.

I like Sarah Palin, and I've heartily enjoyed her arrival on the national stage. As a career classroom teacher, I can see how smart she is -- and quite frankly, I think the people who don't see it are the stupid ones, wrapped in the fuzzy mummy-gauze of their own worn-out partisan dogma. So she doesn't speak the King's English -- big whoop! There is a powerful clarity of consciousness in her eyes. She uses language with the jumps, breaks and rippling momentum of a be-bop saxophonist. I stand on what I said (as a staunch pro-choice advocate) in my last two columns -- that Palin as a pro-life wife, mother and ambitious professional represents the next big shift in feminism. Pro-life women will save feminism by expanding it, particularly into the more traditional Third World.

Weak writers are, by definition, weak thinkers, and Paglia certainly proves this rule here. What little sense her harrumphing makes is as woefully mischaracterized as any Limbaugh/Hannity/Coulter manifesto found aurally scrawled in the tearoom stalls of right-wing radio. It doesn't even qualify as misplaced contrarianism, it's just hopelessly muddled finger-wagging.

Palin's problems are multiple, but let's briefly round them up one at a time, one more time. The lack of "King's English" is not the issue with Palin's public speaking patterns -- the issue is that she uses stock phrases repetitively, without attention to meaning, content, or even rhythm. I don't think this is because she is stupid, per se. I think it is because she doesn't know the answer to what she is being asked, which is a different thing. She appears to not know a great many answers; this has been her most consistent trait.

We all watched incessant coverage of her for two interminable months. Can you honestly recall her ever making sense or telling the truth about anything? Most of the time -- and the many transcripts of her many speeches and few cherry-picked interviews all bear this out -- she was clearly just spinning her wheels, frantically trying to obfuscate what was already obvious. She was just in way over her head. This has not changed in the post-election media blitz (I do not think the word "exclusive" means what several media entities seem to think it means) one bit; she is as clueless and inarticulate as ever.

The idea that this stupefying level of inadequacy at communicating even basic ideas and plans for, y'know, governance, has its equivalent in be-bop saxophone music proves only that Paglia knows precious little about either of those subjects. The notion that Sarah Palin's aphasic oratory evokes Coltrane or Ornette Coleman or some such is almost offensive in its ridiculousness. What those musicians brought to the table was years of work, technique, theory, and deliberate intent, not her fumbling, stammering, burbling foolishness. The difference, Paglia would know if she were intellectually honest, is that the saxophonist knows what he is doing.

The U.S. Senate as a career option? What a claustrophobic, nitpicking comedown for an energetic Alaskan -- nothing but droning committees and incestuous back-scratching. No, Sarah Palin should stick to her governorship and just hit the rubber-chicken circuit, as Richard Nixon did in his long haul back from political limbo following his California gubernatorial defeat in 1962. Step by step, the mainstream media will come around, wipe its own mud out of its eyes, and see Palin for the populist phenomenon that she is.

Yes, that's just what we need -- another Nixon. Except Nixon had plenty of experience, and was observably intelligent, conversant in a wide variety of subjects. Nixon read and wrote books; Palin apparently unglues herself from Ice Truckers and Deadliest Catch just long enough to feather her nest and get knocked up again. I cannot recall a single instance where she appeared to know anything meaningful on the subject or issue she was talking about. Not one.

And that's really the worst aspect of Sarah Palin, as we found out in that long end-of-summer march -- her political astuteness obscured some of her free-floating ignorance. She understands quite well what her audience expects from her, in exactly the way Dubya did, which should be warning enough. What's worst about Palin is that when it comes to facts, she is either ignorant or a liar.

She postured as a reformer, but every one of her selling points was a lie. She supported the Bridge to Nowhere when it was expedient, and kept the money after squashing the project, thus ripping off the federal government. She left her hometown in debt after her glorious mayoralty, building a $20 million hockey rink, botching even the purchase of the land it was built on, and saddling the town with a tax increase to pay for it. She has had countless opportunities to reverse the impression she herself made that she knows nothing about the world outside her state, and hasn't just failed, she hasn't even tried. And on and on.

Having said all that, while I believe that unless she can make a run for Lisa Murkowski's seat, Palin will be forgotten in six months, I almost hope she sticks around for a while. She'll keep the knuckle-draggers in one place, while what remains of the actual party deserts and withers. The slackjaws will show up with their thunderstix and applaud her every lie, staring at her tits, mentally writing that Penthouse letter where they're at the library at closing time, perusing that copy of Guns & Ammo, when suddenly....

Newsweek grabs a spoon and digs into some stupid, granting what one presumes is valuable real estate to a bunch of certifiable lunatics. So much for journalistic legitimacy.

On Nov. 5, Todd Strandberg was at his desk, fielding E-mails from around the world. As the editor and founder of, his job is to track current events and link them to biblical prophecy in hopes of maintaining his status as "the eBay of prophecy," the best source online for predictions and calculations concerning the end of the world. Already Barack Obama had drawn the attention of apocalypse watchers after an anonymous e-mail circulated among conservative Christians in October implying that he was the Antichrist. Former "Saturday Night Live" ingénue Victoria Jackson fueled the fire when, according to news reports, she wrote on her Web site that Obama "bears traits that resemble the anti-Christ." Now Strandberg was receiving up-to-the-minute news from his constituents in Illinois. One of the winning lottery numbers in the president-elect's home state was 666— which, as everyone knows, is the sign of the Beast (also known as the Antichrist). "It is very eerie, and I take it for a sign as to who he really is," wrote one of Strandberg's correspondents.

Aaauuuuggghh, this is like a big-ass bongload of stupid, and it's just the opening paragraph. "The eBay of prophecy", what the hell does that mean? And why does anyone care what the SNL bubblehead from 20 years ago says about anything? As for the "666", get this -- yesterday on the home from work, I was behind a car whose license plate contained that very sequence of randomly determined numbers! Maybe that means that Arnold Schwarzenegger is the devil. Maybe I was behind the devil himself. Booga-booga!

There are 300 million people in this glorious mess of a country. By the law of averages, some of them are bound to be as stupid as a bag of rocks. That doesn't mean putatively respectable magazines need to give these cretins the time of day. Why not just interview a Pet Rock and have done with it? Better yet, convince these dopes that they have a rendezvous with the Hale-Bopp comet. I'll even chip in for the applesauce.

On to the gathering Joementum, this miserable backbiting prick who promises to remain a thorn in everyone's side for some time to come. Maybe Obama figures he should keep his friends close, and his enemies closer. Maybe he doesn't really care, because there's a million ways to marginalize Lieberman. Maybe a Democratic majority will be just as pussified and ineffectual as the Democratic minority was. Life under the Cheney regime has been pretty much a shit sandwich for most people, and maybe throwing a few sprinkles on top only makes it slightly less of a shit sandwich. Too early to tell, but people like Pelosi and Reid shouldn't give anyone comfort. Maybe this crew will just be more circumspect, less brazen in their transgressions. Meet the new boss.

I'm increasingly fascinated by these Prop. 8 protests going on. On the one hand, holding only Mormons to account is kinda chickenshit, but at least it's a start. The protests are unnecessary, though -- the initiative should never have gotten on the ballot in the first place in that form. Basically you're using a referendum to overturn a state supreme court -- and a mostly Republican group at that -- decision which affected the state constitution.

So we're using mob rule and push-button politicking to overturn established judiciary procedure. Cool. I bet I could take a petition around to rescind taxes, car registration, and all the other devious modes of revenue enhancement this state employs regularly, and get a million people to sign it in a week. Put that on the ballot? Probably not. By the same rationale, Prop. 8 will almost certainly be overturned.

Still, it's good to see people deciding not to let superstitious assholes treat them like third-class citizens. But it's not a Mormon or a black thing, so much as an issue of age, income, educational level, etc. Lots of factors, the only common ones being the belief in an invisible celestial protector, the surety of imposing its mores, and the inability to articulate their position beyond their personal "ick" factor. The older ones are dying off, but the younger ones are outbreeding the rest of us.

Finally, from the wacky world of sports: Seems Donovan McNabb, whose team played in the first tie NFL game in six years -- and, according to Ben Roethlisberger, half the players in the league -- didn't know that a regular-season game can end in a tie. (The ref repeats the overtime rules at the beginning of every OT period that occurs, if that helps any, genius.) But they know within five bucks how much a set of spinners for their Land Rover will run, and they know which clubs have the best groupies. Who says jocks are fame-addled meatheads?

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Man, A Plan, A Banana Hammock

So as my job winds down at the end of the month (don't worry, I have résumés out and interviews lined up, and a couple prospects that I'm enthused about), I'm thinking about novel ways to supplement my income via the intartubez. I'm not comfortable with simply hitting folks up for money in exchange for listening to me bellyache; I gotta give 'em something of value, something they can take with them.

As we all know, there are two predominating revenue models in the virtual world, which may be used exclusively or in conjunction to varying degrees -- the advertising model and the subscription model. Let's say my virtual product is a webcam featuring me sitting around in a speedo, playing guitar and drinking beer. It's what I do a good chunk of the day anyway, I might as well get paid for it.

The secret is to find unusual colors and patterns for the speedos, for example Wednesday could be plaid day and Saturday leopard print day. Then finding that sweet spot, that price-point equilibrium in each type of revenue model, for such a unique product/service. I mean, Elisabeth Hasselbeck presumably gets paid for whatever it is she does, there's gotta be a market for this kinda crap.

Sunday, November 09, 2008


Do people still read Robin Givhan, seriously? I would have thought her incisive profile of Hillary Clinton's sweater puppies would have, you know, sorta undermined whatever credibility people were giving her.

There's nothing wrong with the territory she's trying to mine. It's just that Givhan's not up to the task and the type of political journalism she's producing is not good.

Boy, is that an understatement. A more accurate way of putting it might be that Givhan's insights are borderline phrenology. I think there is something wrong with the territory she mines; it further trivializes that which is already dangerously trivial and superficial. It infantilizes the people who make policies that actually affect our lives, by injecting a ridiculous sensibility more appropriate for The Hills or some such.

The premise of emphasizing the importance of fashion choices of political figures (something that is not nearly as relevant as Givhan is paid to think) is inherently ludicrous, and it is only made more so by the frequently uncomfortable and unnecessary nature of her actual observations.

It's not that the sartorial choices of famous people are completely irrelevant (though you wonder about the sanity of people who mindlessly run out and throw money at whatever they just saw Sarah Palin or Michelle Obama wearing), it's that they are peripheral to what those people do. I'm not saying they should all run around with holes in their socks like Paul Wolfowitz, but one of the more obnoxious traits of the fashion industry in general is the way it perpetuates itself by contriving this dynamic of envy and jonesmanship.

Campaign Strategery

The Senate runoff in the great state of Jaw, I say Jawjuh, should be mighty entertaining. Seat-filler Saxby Chambliss' effort to keep his job promises to be a functional preview of the hobbled elephant's strategy next time around.

With the Senate race in Georgia headed for a run-off, Sen. Saxby Chambliss’ campaign has been in touch with a fleet of prominent Republicans -- including Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich, and Rudy Giuliani -- to have them campaign for the senator’s reelection over the next four weeks.

“We’re bringing in all the superstars,” said Michelle Grasso, the Chambliss campaign’s communications director. “We’re in the process of reaching out to everyone. And it’s not just us reaching out, people are contacting us to ask how they can be helpful.”

Yeah, I hear Joe (not really named Joe!) the Plumber (not really a plumber!) has offered to perform a benefit concert as well, but Chambliss' people aren't sure of the upside in watching Mr. Plumber fumble Toby Keith covers for half an hour.

But hey, look at what they're staking their immediate future on, whom they consider their stars right now -- Palin, Romney, Huckabee, Gingrich, Giuliani. The hapless Raiders have a deeper bench. Romney may have a future simply because he's loaded and the corporate wing likes him. Huckabee's amiable working-class populism is enough to sway some swing voters in the South, but they'd be swayed by a farm animal with a bell around its neck.

But the other three are done politically, though Palin has an outside chance of either poaching one of the Alaska senate seats or rehabilitating her image with a boudoir spread in Vanity Fair. They may pick up some coin on the wingnut rubber-chicken circuit, or the next Corner cruise. What fun that must be, to jostle for position with a bunch of blue-haired dowagers and ofay closet cases for a martini-side Newt lecture. All that and strip shuffleboard on the Lido deck. Where do I sign up?

One Republican operative with ties to Chambliss said that with the Democrats controlling at least 57 seats in the new Senate, any Republican who wants to be in the mix for 2012 will want to stop by Georgia.

“It’s the first move on the chessboard for 2012,” he said.

Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom said the former Massachusetts governor is happy to help any way he can.

He even offered to let ol' Sax borrow some lucky magic underwear, except Chambliss goes commando even on the Senate floor. I doubt Chambliss has lost a wink of sleep over what he and his did to Max Cleland, but I would hope that Jim Martin and whoever he can bring down to Cooter's Gulch might mix it into the equation.

But overall, the GOP strategy is nothing more than stoking fear of a Democratic majority. Um, assholes, that's what people voted for. "Yeah I drove you into a ditch, and yeah that other guy can get you out, but fairness demands that you let me drive some more" is not a strategy, it's a cry for help.

Security Risk

Let's not mince words: I think Joey Ratfuck is about as critical to the security of this nation as, say, Billy Joel is. I think Lieberputz needs to be sent to Nome to count caribou shit for the rest of his political life. I think Reid has already been far too gracious and magnanimous to this thankless, perfidious prick, and that it will only be perceived as spinelessness and capitulation.

Lieberman is little more than a Senate eruv, string serving as a purely symbolic fence, whose only function is to make superstitious ninnies feel better about themselves. But he is of utterly no use to the Democratic Party whatsoever, and there is nothing to negotiate with him. He can either do what he's told, and possibly get an occasional scrap from the table, or he is welcome to hop on the bus and be Mitch McConnell's bitch for the duration. He's out in '12 either way; it's his choice whether or not he wants it with tar and feathers.

It's not even about any wild interpretation of Israel policy, or our role in their interests (or vice-versa). There is absolutely nothing that Lieberman can do for Israel that isn't already on Rahm Emanuel's agenda. And he's been useless on actual homeland security issues.

So exactly what is Reid waiting for, a Minnesota recount and a final count of Alaska absentees? Isn't that what moderate Republicans like Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe are for, to fill those legislative chuckholes? Fuckin' exercise some party discipline already, people.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Chacun à Son Gout

Roy shares the sad tales of fallen-on-hard-times conservabloggers, most notably the infamous tough guy Kim du Toit, which (as Roy points out) sorta undermines du Toit's usual credo of self-reliance. What ensues is a rather sad episode of the missus blegging for financial assistance, because Kim has been unable to work or exercise for nearly a decade because of chronic gout.

So, in that spirit of self-reliance, Mrs. du Toit cashed in her IRA to take the family around the world, get lap-band surgery for their daughter, take care of some "critical" home repairs, and re-up on server fees. (Apparently getting one of them free blogs somewhere would be, um, cybersocialism or something, sponsored by The Man, who is now a black man. Uh-oh.)

I have just enough compassion to feel at least a little bad for anyone in financial desperation, even complete donut-heads who spend most of their time berating people for being lazy and/or stupid. But jeez, people, it seems that all the bleggingcyberpanhandling in the world won't help you buy a clue. I mean, I love the missus' optimism, carefully couched in perhaps subconscious phrases such as "It’s time for others to step up and allow Kim a chance to sit down" and "....but [Kim's] novel writing MIGHT yield a small return, as he passes the time pursuing gainful employment, or considers a run for public office....". Just priceless.

Shit, the man's had seven years to write that novel, perhaps about a simple gout-afflicted man with simple dreams of ridin' his Rascal out to the shootin' range, and entertaining his cyberbuddies with leers and jeers, presumably at steers and queers. You know, he's been sitting down. Whether posting (no links; they're recent posts) boudoir photos of the insanely hot Monica Bellucci, or using Obama's name (since he got voted in, what, four days ago and is apparently just moments away from mass gun confiscation and re-education camps) to allude to German compound nouns of a certain origin, du Toit has always struck me as the thinking man's Dale Gribble, though perhaps that assessment may have to be adjusted to Bill Dauterive.

As for running for public office, well, that one pretty much writes itself, don't it? One assumes the usual continuation of the "god/guns/guts" platform of self-styled self-reliant folk, but again, some self-awareness is in order. People hold down jobs with agonizing pain all the time, even worse than (rolls eyes) gout and obesity. And I expect that the du Toits, in their near-deacde of hardship, have accepted no gubmint aid whatsoever in helping them financially transcend Mister Man's travails. It's a matter of principle here, folks. He better not even have special parking card.

In all seriousness, if the du Toits really want to start getting their financial house in order, maybe they'd buy some breathing room for that (rolls eyes again) novel to get finished if they, say, compiled a semi-coherent pastiche of Kim's rants over the years, slapped a title and cover on it, got a boutique print deal, and sold marked-up autographed copies to their readers.

And, you know, stopped using their retirement funds to put their kids through college and take them to Europe, just to sit around and wonder how the bottom dropped out. That's the kind of shit that keeps people like Suze Orman in business.

Friday, November 07, 2008


I'm impressed with how quickly Palin is getting chucked under the Trash Talk Express. This must be some kind of record.

While publicly supporting Palin, McCain's top advisers privately fumed at what they regarded as her outrageous profligacy. One senior aide said that Nicolle Wallace had told Palin to buy three suits for the convention and hire a stylist. But instead, the vice presidential nominee began buying for herself and her family—clothes and accessories from top stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus. According to two knowledgeable sources, a vast majority of the clothes were bought by a wealthy donor, who was shocked when he got the bill. Palin also used low-level staffers to buy some of the clothes on their credit cards. The McCain campaign found out last week when the aides sought reimbursement. One aide estimated that she spent "tens of thousands" more than the reported $150,000, and that $20,000 to $40,000 went to buy clothes for her husband. Some articles of clothing have apparently been lost. An angry aide characterized the shopping spree as "Wasilla hillbillies looting Neiman Marcus from coast to coast," and said the truth will eventually come out when the Republican Party audits its books.

Of course Palin is denying everything, and protesting the use of anonymous sources that she can't directly respond to. She's right about that -- it's pretty chickenshit for these people to lob their scuds from the shadows. But they're also more likely than not to be telling the truth, and Palin's increasingly eager protests practically affirm that. Either way, like the article says, they audit the books -- somebody's full of shit, and it won't be long before we know who.

But the McCain people have fallen all over themselves to portray -- through Faux News, no less -- Palin as an even dumber snow bunny than previously thought. As always, cui bono? Is it a retributive move by Johnny Mac himself, payback for Palin's increasingly ambitious behavior in the final weeks of a doomed campaign? Is it a preventive purge of the yahoo wing by the money wing of the party? Or is it just the usual infighting among losers? Why not all of the above?

Already the countless post-mortems have enumerated most of the usual permutations on why Obama won and why McCain lost. But maybe it's simpler than they think. Maybe Obama won because he spent way more than McCain, and was also smart enough not to let Bob Shrum within a mile of the campaign. And maybe McCain lost because his campaign was practically designed to lose -- erratic, dysfunctional, no discernible message affirming the ticket and platform, no intelligible reason to choose a dimwit like Palin for a running mate, except to excite the vaunted base.

Ah yes, the base, the noble base. People who are actually motivated and empowered by being talked to like they're six years old, with cartoon characters like Bob the Builder and Handy Manny and all that. No policy, no facts or information, no goals or aspirations. Just the pretense of validation in an amazingly dumbed-down pablum. Well, there ya go, base people. Once your gal ceased to be useful and in fact became troublesome, they couldn't wait to tear her down. Gee, it's as if they were using her -- and, in turn, you and your fellow would-be unlicensed plumbers. Hilarious. As Chris Hitchens once said, and I never tire of repeating, some people never learn, but some people don't intend to.

So let the cries for orc blood ring loud and far, let Operation Moral Leper strike fear in the hearts of Beltway party wonks who think they're scraping off their loafers en route to the next gig. Let the usual marks assume their favorite positions, and ready themselves to be taken by the next snake-oil salesman, the next empty shill.

Hell, they can even have that rat Lieberman while they're at it. Reid sure as hell owes him no negotiation whatsoever. That would be unacceptable.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

America Drinks and Goes Home

It's going to take a while to digest everything, let it sink in, see how it all sorts out, but the initial impact of Obama's near-landslide election is undeniable. I'm not quite to the "skies are bluer, food tastes better, sex is more pleasurable" stage the true believers are, but it's a step in the right direction that I wasn't sure enough of my fella 'murkins really had in 'em.

Skepticism and cynicism frequently are what motivate and inform us, but it's nice to at least have the opportunity to start tempering that with a bit of cautious optimism. Also, for the first time in eight years, we'll have an English-speaking president. And I can start using that "p" word which I have studiously avoided so diligently.

Good job, America. After exhausting all the other options, you've finally come around to doing something resembling the right thing. And all y'all closet crackers and ignorant buffoons that have weighted down the country and the world with your drinkin' buddy, kindly go piss up the nearest rope for a few years. Go John Galt like you keep threatening, and do us all a favor. We'll send someone up to your Rocky Mountain fort to dig out your corpses at the next spring thaw.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

They Might Be Titans

Usually by this time of year we've done at least a few football posts, at least some thumbnail analyses and predictions. Election season, job hunting, and other factors have contributed to not getting around to it, but also it's just not as interesting this year.

Had I been in the mood to make predictions at the beginning of the season, I would have counted out the New England and Indianapolis perennials anyway, because the teams are getting long in the tooth, and running out of dependable veterans. A certain amount of turnover is expected every year, and is desirable from a fan's point of view. But I don't think anybody would have predicted the Tennessee Titans starting 8-0, especially with Kerry Collins at quarterback instead of Vince Young, who seems to be a head case trying to work his way out of the league.

Beyond that, it's such a free-for-all that anyone who thinks they know which teams will make the playoffs is nuts. A month ago the Cowboys looked like Giant-killers, but in the league's best division, they'll be lucky to get a wild-card slot. Lots of people liked Cleveland for this year too, but a rash of staph infections plaguing the team and a couple of numbskull players have squashed that. Mostly the balance of power has shifted from the AFC to the NFC, and the division leaders in the former conference are mostly by default. This year's Super Bowl matchup will probably be about as exciting as the World Series' was.

Salary cap parity and the general dilution of talent brought on by an excess of teams and a dearth of slots, as well as more injuries, have all taken a toll on the overall level of play. There are no dominant teams anymore; even the Patriots' undefeated regular season last year was an enormous fluke enabled by an easy schedule and one of the league's very few genuine concentrations of coaching and playing talent. But the removal of Tom Brady from the equation has exposed the team as a group of well-managed but aging, brittle players. That's all any team can afford anymore.

The collapse of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (which will result in a cap-free year in 2010, impacting small-market teams pretty severely), the void at the NFLPA left by Gene Upshaw's death, and even the trends Upshaw himself was largely responsible for, are going to change the game considerably over the next few years, I believe. The failure to put a rookie cap in place is already affecting quite a few teams, forcing them to spend outrageous piles of guaranteed money on untested rookies and low-ball proven veteran players.

The NFL has also become increasingly corporatized, which is disappointing for working-class fans. The league has cracked down on what it considers unseemly or buffoonish behavior, to what end is unclear. While touchdown celebrations can be obnoxious and tedious, the league's incessant nannying on the issue is even more so. These are grown men getting paid outrageous sums of money to play a very dangerous sport, usually for only a few years. Of course they're going to act absurdly at times; it's an enormously absurd situation. They're having fun while they can. But god forbid anything detract from people watching the same four commercials every few minutes, eating into the corporate bottom line.

The disparity of money and the glut of teams has also led to a dilution of individual talent and team coordination. Since I can no longer afford the Sunday Ticket package (and for what they charge these days, I'd have to make a lot more money to justify that sort of frivolous expense), most of what I watch is our local-market teams, both of which are frighteningly consistent in their sheer awfulness. So for the past few years, much of my football viewing has been interesting more from an overall management perspective, as well as game strategy. Team loyalty matters very little these days; I'm a Raiders fan more out of habit than anything.

But the grotesque Oakland assemblage is perhaps an ideal case for observing unfavorable traits of management and organizational culture. Typically Al Davis gets the blame for the team's performance, and not without reason. But he's not the one out there dropping balls and missing tackles. He's not the one failing to motivate the players to play as a team, although his constant meddling and undermining of coaching staff is certainly disruptive and has prevented any semblance of continuity.

What Davis is doing is throwing money away. Having finally bought out the McGah family's stake in the team, Davis sold a chunk of that share to outside investors, and went on one of the more incompetent spending sprees in recent memory. I don't recall the last time I saw so much money spent on so little actual free-agency talent, washed-out losers and malcontents getting top dollar, while star veterans chafe and languish.

And five consecutive years of high draft picks have affected the team's ability to afford other players. Instead of trading down yet another top-10 pick to get some decent linemen, Davis threw over $20 million guaranteed to get Darren McFadden at #4 overall, who has played all of three games out of eight so far. So McFadden hardly plays, $60 million QB Jamarcus Russell overthrows receivers with startling regularity, and there isn't a reliable receiver in the bunch to begin with.

Free-agent pickups Javon Walker and Ashley Lelie, wide receivers who are 6'4" and 6'3" respectively, are routinely pushed around by 5'10" corners, and fail to finish routes or get open for Russell. $70 million cornerback DeAngelo Hall was supposed to provide the team with the perfect bookend to Nnamdi Asomugha, whom opposing quarterbacks don't even throw at because of his coverage skills. Instead Hall is constantly thrown at, because his zone coverage is horrible and his man coverage isn't much better. The safeties are even worse, with big-money Super Bowl winner Gibril Wilson getting burned regularly, and #7 overall draft pick Michael Huff proving to be just as bad at strong safety as he was at free safety.

Consequently Oakland is being pounded at home right now by a rookie quarterback (and rookie head coach) for a mediocre Atlanta Falcons team, just like they got pounded by a rookie quarterback (and rookie head coach) last week in Baltimore. I seriously think there are at least a half-dozen college teams who would beat them -- badly -- in Oakland. They're that terrible -- no heart, no focus, no execution.

It's no longer a sports question, it's a management question: it's what happens when you have erratic management with no continuity, and your team consists of unprepared people who are not very good at what they do, and who do not give a shit whether or not they win. The business fails.

Kinda like politics, when you think about it.

The Party's Over

John Cole, like many other former Republicans and/or conservatives that have disembarked the Straight Talk Express, sounds sincere enough in his misgivings about the current state of that party/movement. But the problem isn't really that they're out of ideas. They have them, they're just all bad ideas, or ideas put forth on false premises, or the propagation of lies and rage.

Whatever illusions of Lockean or Burkean conservatism the movementarians might have once had in the wake of the Reagan Revolution, those avowed principles have long fallen by the wayside, replaced by strip-mall theosophy and the sort of ideological hackery one expects to find in the North Korean press. The problem is that the most popular promulgators of their compromised philosophy have overcommitted, both in their support for a manifestly failed administration and in their disdain for the cartoonish version of "liberalism" they railed against. They've painted themselves into corners with their comic-book sophistries and strawman arguments, and most of them can't walk it back now.

The people who, right or wrong, were at least operating by a tangible code of principles, have already left, mostly in disgust at what it's all become. I wish I knew what to tell them. On the one hand, when people who can articulate serious principles and goals give up on the vehicle for their cause, that vehicle is going to rapidly devolve into a political Pinto. It has already; one assumes that in the event of an Obama blowout, the internal bloodletting will commence en masse. On the other hand, I can't help but think that at least some of their misgivings revolve not around the depravity and immorality of their most vocal elements, but the failure of those tactics. If those tactics somehow unfortunately resonated with a sufficient amount of people, many of these folks would be fine with it.

The people who posture and preen as professional "conservatives" now are obviously not actual conservatives; they are authoritarians and/or ideological mercenaries, and while it is more of a natural progression than libertarian-minded conservatives would care to admit, it is still a dangerous progression. It has turned the party into the natural habitat of post-John Birch kooks, not-so-closeted racists, and Christianist (as opposed to simply Christian) weirdos, perpetuated by the toxic feedback loop of talk radio ranters and sideshow hucksters. It's an incoherent wad of cryptofascist rhetoric and buzzwords, with very little thought put into how their fever dreams would take hold in our material plane of existence.

They seem to genuinely not understand how overextended the country is, collectively and individually. They think the empire will go on forever, as all marketers for empire have throughout history. They appear to not comprehend the consequences of widening income disparity, of just how close the ordinary people they pretend to identify with are to living in the gutter.

Even in good times, most people live paycheck-to-paycheck, buying toys on a margin that has now been called out from under them. That is a consequence of chronic wage stagnation and widening income disparity -- the natural conclusion of their laissez-faire economic policies. There are no surprises here; these people are either monumentally stupid or breathtakingly cynical.

When the two-party system "works", to the extent that it can given its inherent defects, it does so because the two entities present reasonable counterbalances to each other. That is no longer the case. The Donk is certainly no paragon of steadfastness and competence, but compared to the carnies, draft dodgers, and closet cases on the other side, they're downright statesmanlike.

But it's obviously not healthy to have any one party dominating things for an extended period of time. Right now it's a necessity, because the Republicans have screwed the pooch so utterly, have failed to admit or hold responsible parties accountable, and cannot play well with others. Hopefully by 2012 or 2016 they will have learned how to use their indoor voice again. It's not as ideal as my preferred paradigm of lightly-armed, post-Westphalian, Hanseatic-style regional trading confederations, but it's the moment we're at in our political and cultural evolution.

What the Republicans have in the wake of an electoral thumping is an opportunity to get their shit together, to re-evalute their principles and their approach. But it starts with marginalizing the yahoos that have turned the party into a clown car.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Krusty's Last Stand

So the Straight Talk Express is going to wheeze into SNL tonight. Did they learn nothing from Klondike Barbie's appearance? I guess it qualifies as one of the last of a long line of campaign stunts. Some Joe the Plumber riffs should be in order. Hilarity has no choice to ensue. My friends, this promises to be hackery we can believe in.

Update: Well, it certainly could have been worse. Pretty much as expected, but I would note that if that McCain had popped his head out of the hole more than the race-baiting, red-baiting, chickenshit campaigner we've seen the past six months, he probably wouldn't be in such a hole. McCain can actually be funny and engaging when he wants to, though Tina Fey looks more and more like she needs for Palin to go the hell away ASAP. And Affleck's lampooning of Olbermann was awesome.

I would also note that the audience response J-Mac and the missus got was far more gracious than anything his crowd, with their monkey dolls and incoherent "Ayrab terrist" justifications, would muster for anyone other than Palin herself, much less the Obamas. It's a little thing, but it says a lot about the respective campaigns and the sorts of people each has motivated.

Dole and Dumber

It's great that Kay Hagan has refused to take Elizabeth Dole's snide, cheap lies. However, the issue being ignored here is the way atheists are being portrayed as some sort of subspecies, which I suppose is the sentiment of your average hick.

Really, it's a bit of a wonder they allow us to get married, although we go to courthouses rather than churches to do so. But still, you know, without that sacrament, my wife and I must not really be married in the eyes of these people. Nor can we use federal currency since it says "In God We Trust", just so everyone knows where we all stand.

Most of the time, I really don't give a shit, and am content to let these people persist in their tedious delusions. But there are times when their childish impositions test the patience of rational people. Maybe the Romans had a point.