Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Four More (Grueling) Years

As predicted here last Friday, it appears that Hurricane Sandy was the "black swan" event that stopped Mittmentum and caused the presidential election to revert back from a dead heat and the possibility of a long drawn out recount battle in one or more battleground states to a relatively easy Obama victory. Thus was the incumbent awarded a second term he most decidedly does NOT deserve. Despite its many discontents, in the end America voted for the status quo because the alternative was even more unthinkable. It ought to go without saying, but this is NOT how a representative democracy is supposed to work.

I could go on and on about how the country is now going to get four more years of the same old shit, but I'm tired of writing about all of that. Instead, I'll just highlight my greatest personal disappointment from this election. Stephenson County, Illinois, my home county and as I have written about numerous times on this blog the setting of Bain Capital's horrendous decision to close down the local Sensata plant and move all of the jobs to China, went comfortably for Romney despite having a front row seat to witness what his brand of vulture capitalism is all about. If seeing your friends, relatives and neighbors stripped of their jobs while enduring the additional humiliation of having to train their Chinese replacements isn't enough to wake people the fuck up, then there is no hope for this country.

On a personal note, I am taking another break from blogging. I'm burned out and just cannot keep writing about this stuff right now. Maybe I'll be back to comment on the impending "fiscal cliff" battle in Washington, though I'll note that just last week the craven Speaker of the House indicated that he's amenable to passing a so-called "bridge" bill during the congressional lame duck session that will push back the looming deadlines into next year. And thus does the can get kicked down the road yet again with no possibility of any real solutions being offered. Just like the last four grueling years.

Bonus: "It's the same old song and dance"

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

"Garbage In, Garbage Out"

I'm not voting today. Not exactly an earth shattering pronouncement given my stated views on this blog, I know. If you are thinking about voting today, please do me a favor and watch this first if you haven't seen it before. It was true when George said just over a decade ago, and it is even more true today.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Another Disaster "Saves" Obama

Just how lucky can one smug asshole be? Four years ago, President Hopey-Changey was propelled into office in large measure by the financial market crash, which finally discredited eight grueling years of Bushonomics. Then, after a whole presidential term of repeatedly pissing on the heads of his liberal and progressive base and telling them it was raining, to say nothing of not doing a damn thing to punish the big banks and Wall Street who crashed the economy in the first place, yet another miraculous disaster has appeared and stopped Mittmentum dead in its tracks and, if the way the polls are now swinging is any indication, is likely going to win President Sellout a second term that he most decidedly does NOT deserve.

More amazingly, just last week Obama's people were setting Hurricane Sandy up as a convenient excuse as to why they might lose the election that would deflect blame from their hero's own culpability and complacency. The storm was going to disrupt balloting in key Obama states, so they said, and essentially blow the Republican challenger across the finish line to an undeserved victory. In such a manner, just like after the 2000 debacle with Ralph Nader, do the Democrats try to deflect attention from the fact that it is their me-too, corporatist sellout politics which causes many of the potential voters to stay home on election day, resulting in defeat often being snatched from the jaws of victory.

But something funny happened on the way to the disaster at the polls. Governor 47%-er shot himself in the foot in the worst way by blasting FEMA and threatening to privatize it just in time to see Obama use the agency the way it is supposed to be used to mitigate the disastrous effects of Hurricane Sandy. Because you see, that is the one remaining area where Democrats and Republicans do actually differ. When they get elected president, Democrats tend to appoint technocrats to important positions like the head of FEMA whereas Republicans appoint unqualified cronies like the infamous "Brownie." Just this past weekend, I saw a really stupid online "news" article claiming that Sandy would be "Obama's Katrina." I had to laugh, for as much as I loathe the man the one thing I knew he wouldn't do is hang out at his ranch clearing brush for meaningless photo-ops, leaving the disaster response to the fired head of the Arabian Horse Association while America's most important city drowned in its own hubris.

But what it really comes down to is a simple fact about the American body politic that the Republicans are constantly forgetting to their peril: most everyone says they are against "big government" until they really need it. Heck, even crazy old Ayn Rand went on Social Security during her declining years, the mere fact of which ought to have totally discredited every word she ever wrote for any person who has more than two brain cells to rub together. So buck up, Democrats, Sandy has likely saved your sorry asses so that you can spend four more years slowly legitimizing every horrible policy of the Chimpy Bush years. You win and the country loses, just not as quickly as it would have lost under President Romney.

Bonus: How many times can a man turn his head and pretend that he just doesn't see?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween's Scariest Number: 76,000,000

It was one year ago today, perversely on Halloween, that it was officially announced that World Population had broken the 7 billion barrier for the first time. So today I thought I would check back exactly one year later to see how many more people have been added since then. According to, which calculates population growth based upon world wide census data, the total annual increase in population since last Halloween is around 76 million.

We keep hearing in the media that population growth rates are gradually dropping around the world and that the total numbers will cap off at around 9 billion by midcentury. This seems unlikely, for even if the growth rate does continue to incrementally decline enough to keep the increase in raw numbers fairly stable (around 75 million per year) over the next few decades, the world would see its 8 billionth living human in the year 2026 and its 9 billionth by around 2040. By 2050, we would be closing in on the 10 billion mark. If the growth rate itself stabilizes and stops declining at any point in the next few years, 10 billion by midcentury is virtually assured. Sometimes, mathematics can really be a bitch.

Of course, this hypothetical game of playing with the numbers assumes that there will be sufficient energy, water and food resources to sustain several billion additional people. Given that the signs are already there that we are approaching the limits of the total resources the world can produce on an annual basis, and that furthermore the amount of resources produced annually is very likely to go into decline as soon as this current decade, at some point continued population growth is going to slam headlong into the brick wall of natural limits.

I gather that none of this is likely to be news to anyone who reads this blog regularly. It is just something to contemplate the next time some optimistic media report claims that human population growth is going to be curtailed at a sustainable level at some point in the coming decades.

Bonus: "Cause everyday is's everyday"

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Chicago River Flood of 1992 May Give Some Idea of What New York City is Facing

The incredible video above showing a flooded New York City subway station gives at least a little bit of an indicator as to what the city is facing as it struggles to recover from Hurricane Sandy, and also puts the lie to the ridiculous initial media claims that the subway would be up and running "in a few days." So far, most of the media attention has been on the above ground damage the city has suffered, but the flood wall being overtopped last night and a tremendous amount of seawater inundating the subterranean portions of the city is going to have countless damaging effects that will be very costly and likely take a very long time to repair.

For me, it brings back memories of the great underground Chicago flood of 1992, which was not caused by a weather disaster, but human incompetence. I was still living in the city that year when some construction workers managed to pierce an underground wall holding back the Chicago River. As a result, the Loop was completely shut down during the middle of a workday and cleanup took many weeks to complete. I was part of the evacuation that day, and still remember days later walking by buildings that had hoses from water pumps running out into the street dumping the flood waters into the sewer system. It was one of the most surreal events that I've lived through.

Here's Wikipedia with a recap of what Chicago went through:

The water flooded into the basements of several Loop office buildings and retail stores and an underground shopping district. The city quickly evacuated the Loop and financial district in fear that electrical wires could short out. Electrical power and natural gas went down or were shut off as a precaution in much of the area. Trading at both the Chicago Board of Trade Building and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange ended in mid-morning as water seeped into their basements. At its height, some buildings had 40 feet (12 m) of water in their lower levels. However, at the street level there was no water to be seen, as it was all underground.

At first, the source of the water was unclear. WMAQ reporter Larry Langford, who was that station's overnight crime reporter and was known to cover all overnight police and fire activity for that station, reported that city crews were in the process of shutting down large water mains to see if the flow could be stopped.

Langford was monitoring police scanners and overheard security crews from Chicago's Merchandise Mart report that they had several feet of water in the basement and were seeing fish in the water. Langford drove to the Merchandise Mart, which is located near the Kinzie Street Bridge, and reported on WMAQ that he saw water swirling near a piling in a manner that resembled water going down the drain of a bathtub. The swirl had a generous amount of small debris spinning in it. His exact words on WMAQ were:

"I have found something very interesting in the Chicago River on the east side of the Kinzie Bridge. I see swirling water that looks like a giant drain ... I would say it looks like the source of the water could be the river itself, and I am hearing reports that fish are swimming in the basement of the Mart just feet from the swirl! I do not see any emergency crews near this spinning swirl, but I think they may want to take a look. In fact, I think someone should wake up the Mayor!"

Within minutes of that report hitting the airwaves, a battery of city trucks, police and fire vehicles converged on the bridge. Langford was the first to figure out the source of the leak.[citation needed] Langford retired from WMAQ in 2000 after that station converted to sports radio station WSCR and became the director of media affairs for the Chicago Fire Department.


It took three days before the flood was cleaned up enough to allow business to begin to resume and cost the city an estimated $1.95 billion. Some buildings remained closed for a few weeks. Parking was banned downtown during the cleanup and some subway routes were temporarily closed or rerouted.
And remember, Chicago was dealing with no above ground infrastructure damage and the water from the river was freshwater, not the far more corrosive seawater that has flooded Manhattan. Also note that the cost of the cleanup was nearly $2 billion. Extrapolate that number out and the initial media reports that Hurricane Sandy's damage will cost around $20 billion to repair look pretty laughable. Instead, it's likely to be many times that amount in New York City alone.

The Atlantic Wire's Mocking of Hurricane Sandy Warnings Comes Back to Bite Them

I've taken my shots at dipshit Atlantic Wire blogger Jen Doll before, but she really outdid herself in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. This morning, as New York City was awakened to the grim spectacle of severe damage from the storm, including flooded subways, collapsed building facades, crippled construction cranes, an evacuated hospital, exploded transmitters, a spectacular waterfront fire and at least a dozen casualties, Ms. Doll decided to focus on what was really important: New Yorkers who won't be denied their Starbucks under any circumstances:
Before the store closed Monday afternoon, there was a "daylong stream of customers that packed the store, standing shoulder to shoulder and waiting at least 10 minutes to order." One self-described Starbucks fanatic walked 20 blocks to find an open store. Another had her driver bring her to the shop. The threat of all of the Starbucks closing was, to some, more terrifying than the threat of Sandy:

“I didn’t know they were all going to close. I started panicking,” Hernandez said with a chuckle.

“It was scary not having Starbucks,” said Owings, who orders tea, not coffee.
Said another: “I’m really happy these guys are open. I can’t get a pumpkin spice latte anywhere else."

Some people really need to, um, buy a coffeemaker.
But wait, if you think that was bad, consider Ms. Doll's snarky last sentence in light of her long post last Thursday mocking Hurricane Sandy preparations called, I shit you not, "How to Feel About Snoreastercane." This is just a snippet of the sheer stupidity:
Batten down the hatches, have you heard? There's a weather situation a'brewing, one with the best of all possible weather situation names. (Disclaimer: Should Snor'eastercane Sandy actually hurt people, which we really hope she doesn't, we will disavow any and everything in this post. Her name is Sandy! She's a snor'eastercane. What could she have to hate about?) But what's a snor'eastercane, you ask? Allow us to tell you everything we know about Snor'eastercane Sandy, including how you should feel about her possible presence in the East Coast just in time for Halloween. Remember how much fun Snowtober Saul was? (I'm still holding a grudge that we didn't go with Snoctober.)

Snor'eastercane Sandy, so dubbed by the Wall Street Journal ("Sandy," of course, comes from those folks who name storms) is an "unlikely meteorological scenario: a hurricane blending with an inland snowstorm just in time for Halloween." Hurricane Sandy, a hurricane not yet a snor'easter, is currently approaching the Bahamas. Don't worry, weather in New York City and the East Coast will be pretty great for the rest of the week. "For next week, however, it’s starting to seem like not a question of if but where this giant 'snor’eastercane' might strike," writes Eric Holthaus. "Regardless of the exact landfall location on the East Coast, impacts will be felt from Florida to Maine." He gives "two-out-of-three odds that Greater New York experiences significant impacts from this storm"—by that he means primarily "storm surge, wind and heavy rains" (and maybe snow). She could cost billions. Keep a watch on her here; via the AP's Seth Borenstein, scientists predict a 70 percent chance she'll hit the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic (otherwise, she might just snor'eastercane herself out at sea). There will also be a full moon, meaning TIDES and WEREWOLVES. Keep an eye out.

There are as many feelings about Sandy and her snor'easterncane status as one might have about various types of pie, mincemeat (gross) to pumpkin (yes, please) to pecan (good, but so bad for you) to meat (terrifying, maybe delicious?). In hopes of heightening your sense of preparedness for his weather situation, we have analyzed the various types of ways in which you may prepare, mentally, physically, emotionally, and otherwise for this upcoming gambit with Ole Man/Lady Weather.
And I'm sorry, but her lame disclaimer doesn't get her off the hook. And what's up with using the first person plural "we" to describer herself, anyway? Doesn't she know that Any Rand wrote an entire novel (Anthem) in which the characters all referred to themselves in the plural in order to mock collectivism?

There's a longstanding cliche in this country that people hate the so-called "New York Media" because it's so liberal. Personally, I think it is more because a lot of people who work in the media capital of the world are fucking blithering idiots.

Bonus: Dedicated to Atlantic Wire blogger Jen Doll

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Truth About Climate Change? It's All in a Name

The power is still on here in my little corner of NOVA. If we make it through the night, we might just be among the lucky ones. The DC area as a whole has fared quite well as "only" a couple of hundred thousand people have lost electricity to this point with the worst of the winds expected to start to die down in a few hours. I guess the power companies around here actually learned something from last summer's massive derecho.

Anyway, in between being glued to the incredible updates coming out of NYC and surrounding areas tonight, I idly checked the National Hurricane Center's list of retired Atlantic basin hurricane names in the assumption that Sandy will be soon joining it. In looking at the list, something suddenly struck me. As you know, the annual hurricane names list goes in alphabetical order, so the further down the alphabet, the later the number of that year's storm. The list began in 1954, but prior to 1995, Hurricane Janet, a "J" storm, was the furthest down the alphabet to be retired.

Amazingly, since 1995, by my count Sandy will be the 17th storm to be retired whose name begins with a letter later than "J," including notorious blowouts like Katrina, Rita and Wilma. That means that not only are their more total hurricanes and more destructive hurricanes than there used to be, but they are coming later in the season than ever before. And yet I will bet you right now that the giant black eye Sandy just delivered to DC, NYC and most points in between still won't be enough to break the total political inertia on combatting climate change.

Bonus: "Rock you like a hurricane"

The New York Stock Exchange is Reportedly Under Three Feet of Water

The good news for me is that I haven't lost power yet. The silver lining news is that according to The Weather Channel's live blog, the New York Stock Exchange has been inundated with floodwaters.

From other reports, New York City sounds like it is in chaos. Sandy actually turned out to be WORSE than expected. Tomorrow is going to be interesting.

Update: Disregard. TWC is now saying that the first report about the NYSE was erroneous. As usual, the little people suffer while Wall Street gets off the hook.

Bonus: "New York City's killing me"

Hurricane Sandy NOVA Update

Well, the power just flickered on and off here and the winds are really picking up. If the electricity goes out as I expect I'll be offline for an indefinite period. I took a quick drive around the area about an hour ago while it was still light enough to see any potential road hazards. No flooding here yet and not much in the way of downed trees. I imagine that will change overnight.

Good luck to everyone who is riding this thing out. Hopefully, property will be the only loss. It can be replaced, after all.

Bonus: By reader request

But if you want to go retro and cheesy

No Gas in NOVA

The worst of Sandy is supposed to strike us here in Northern Virginia within the next 12 hours. So far, we've had steady rain since about midnight and right now it's a bit breezy. Apparently, the storm strengthened overnight, with the pressure dropping even further. Pretty much the whole area is shut down mode.

Interestingly, my wife got caught in an actual gas line yesterday evening when going to top off one of our cars. The station was one of the few that was still open around here and had gasoline to sell. Most of the others were out of fuel and closed. And that was with the worst of the storm nearly 24 hours away.

No matter how this plays out, it does appear that most people in the region are taking the storm seriously. More updates later, if the power stays on. Be safe everyone.

Bonus: Pressure drop

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Storm Warning

During the next 72 hours or so, the DC area is expected to get hit by Hurricane Sandy, a storm of unprecedented strength, fury and duration. As for me, I'm not terribly worried. I don't live near the coast, nor in any kind of a flood zone. I figure the worst that will happen is we lose power for a few days again, but that wouldn't be the first time that's happened even this year.

Because I don't expect it to affect me that much, my interest in this storm is more academic. I've been living in the national capital region for just over two decades now, which, of course, is also the home of most of the folks who have the power to actually do something to address the building crisis that is climate change. Amazingly, the DC-area has experienced more extreme weather events in the past three years than it did in my first 17 years of living here:
1). In February 2010, the area was hit by two massive Nor'easters in rapid succession which coupled with a third such storm the previous December to set a seasonal snowfall record. The three massive snow storms in just two months' time matched the total of three such storms to hit this area between 1993 and 2009.

2). In August 2011, Hurricane Irene struck the region before moving on to create catastrophic damage in Vermont and upstate New York.

3). In September 2011, Northern Virginia was hit with a record breaking one day rainstorm that caused a 1000-year flash flood in some areas.

4). In October 2011, almost exactly one year ago, the area was struck by the same massive Nor'easter that dumped over two feet of snow on portions of New England, though it was mostly rain here.

5). In March 2012, at the tail end of a record breaking warm winter, the DC area experienced the same freaky early summer type weather that blanketed much of the Midwest.

6). In June 2012, towards the end of one of the hottest Junes on record, the DC area was struck with a powerful derecho that knocked out power to over 3.7 million homes.
And yet climate change has been hardly mentioned at all during the presidential campaign and Congress will not even seriously consider any legislation that might be aimed at attempting to address it. If I were of a religious bent, I would almost be inclined to say that God is punishing the nation's capital for its sins of inaction. I know that may sound silly, but what the fuck, wingnut conservatives are always dragging His name into their political arguments so why can't I?

If nothing else, this storm is going to serve as a massive distraction from the horrible presidential election for a few days. Who said I don't know how to find silver linings?

Bonus: "Sandy, the angels have lost their desire for us...I spoke to 'em just last night and they said they won't set themselves on fire for us anymore"

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Might We See a Replay of Election 2000?

Sorry I didn’t post at all this past week, but I’ve been having a very difficult time coming up with anything new to say and I didn’t really start this blog just so I could repeat myself endlessly ad naseum. I did start to write a couple of posts, but ended up discarding them in frustration. The whole world, and the American political landscape in particular, seems stuck in an unfunny version of the movie, Groundhog Day, and we observers from the reality based community are like Bill Murray, forced to wake up each morning to the same cheesy classic pop song knowing that this day will be exactly the same as countless days before it. In other words, our civilization remains completely fucked but absolutely everyone in a position to do anything about it will continue to not only foil the consideration of any possible solutions, but will continue to refuse to acknowledge that the problem even exists.

Anyway, I got inspired to write this post by a couple of articles that Dave Cohen linked to over at Decline of the Empire yesterday fretting over the possibility that we might see a replay of Election 2000, which wasn’t decided by the Supreme Court in favor of Chimpy Bush until almost Christmastime that year. Here is the money quote that actually comes from New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd:
While I was watching Mitt Romney make up fantasy positions in the foreign policy debate, I had a fantasy of my own. And given the electoral isthmus the two men are wrestling on, it doesn't seem like such a wild one. There is growing buzz that the dead heat could slide into a deadlock.

If Mr. Romney does suspend voter disbelief enough to tie President Barack Obama, with each getting 269 Electoral College votes, the Republican-controlled House would determine the president — and give it to Mitt. And the (presumably) Democratic-controlled Senate would determine the vice president — and give it to Joe Biden.
Personally, I think it is more likely that we’d see a “too close to call” scenario play out in Ohio and possibly other states and a resulting replay of the excruciating Florida recount fiasco from 12 years ago. And all I can say about that possibility is I sure as fuck HOPE so.

Consider what this nation’s “leaders” are facing between Election Day and the end of the year even if the presidential race is decided cleanly. I’m talking of course about the so called fiscal cliff, which just to recap includes:
1). The need raise the federal government’s debt ceiling yet again.

2). Sequestration, which is an automatic 10% cut in most federal programs, unless Congress and the President agree to an alternative deficit reduction plan.

3). The (long overdue) expiration of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.

4). The expiration of Obama’s insane payroll tax holiday that is gutting the finances of Social Security.
Even in “normal” times, any one of these four issues would tie official Washington up in knots for weeks if not months. Instead, it will all play out in about seven weeks with a lame duck Congress and a possibly lame duck president, or if we are really lucky, ON TOP of the same post-election chaos involving the presidency that we saw back in 2000.

Get your popcorn, folks, because this is going to be the most entertaining spectacle to hit DC since “the bitch” set up former Mayor Marion Barry. Oh, and if we are all REALLY, REALLY lucky, it will take place amidst a region struggling to overcome a devastating blow to its infrastructure from Hurricane Sandy.

If I seem a little glib about all of this, it’s because after so many years of watching our "leaders" get crazier and more detached from reality, while the citizens of the country sit around passively with their thumbs up their asses in a teevee benumbed stupor, I’ve decided that what this Spoiled Rotten Nation really needs is a two-by-four smashed across the forehead. Sadly, even that will likely not wake most of the idiots up, but maybe if the economy takes a big enough hit there might start to be some dawning realization that business as usual, circa 2007, is dead as a doornail and is never coming back. If as a result, for example, even one high school senior decides NOT to mortgage his or her future getting an entirely worthless college education, it will have been worth it.

Bonus: The storm's a coming

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Ha-Ha! Obama’s Drug War Betrayal Might Cost Him the Election

From David Sirota at Salon Magazine…oh please, oh please, oh please:
Candidate Obama did explicitly promise to restrain the Justice Department from prosecuting medical marijuana offenses in medical marijuana states, and President Obama has nonetheless overseen an intense Justice Department crackdown on medical marijuana in those states, directly contradicting his pledge.

Though the national media has made the unilateral decision to ignore the massive and destructive Drug War, Johnson and his supporters clearly see the issue as a perfect opening for maximum local — and by virtue of the Electoral College, national — impact. They can make a full-throated libertarian case against the Drug War in a state whose politics are uniquely aligned to convert that argument into an election-winning game-changer for the Republican presidential nominee.

Is this a brilliant GOP conspiracy theory? In other words, is the libertarian candidate deliberately trying to help Romney, as Obama partisans will no doubt grouse? Almost certainly not, as Johnson is no fan of Romney, to say the least. He has run a consistently honest and principled campaign that has been equal — and equally harsh — in itscriticism of both parties. For that, despite being on most state ballots, he has been mercilessly shut out of the national debate by America’s bipartisan Political-Media-Industrial Complex. But apparently not shut out enough to potentially shift the outcome of the entire 2012 election.

No, if Obamaphiles have any grievance over the Johnson Effect in Colorado, it should be with their candidate. He was the one who needlessly betrayed his own position on the failed drug war, a position that almost certainly got him votes in 2008 from disaffected Republicans and libertarians. He probably made the same calculation as the national media: He probably believed few care about the Drug War or his drug policy reversals, and that the brazen reversals might even win him votes by making him look “tough.”

But, then, every now and again, such cynical calculations can end up being epic miscalculations, especially when it comes to lying to a motivated subset of voters. In that sense, nobody should be surprised that having been betrayed, many of those Democratic-leaning voters who supported Obama in 2008 specifically because of his position on the Drug War may look for an alternative in 2012. The only thing surprising is that thanks to Colorado’s perfect storm, there’s now a very real chance that the alternative could end up changing the entire course of history.
I’m not the biggest fan in the world of Gary Johnson, and interestingly his positions as plotted by political barely place him on the libertarian end of the political scale, but I swear if I could I would move to Colorado, register and vote for him if I thought it would help the election play out the way Sirota supposes. Might the Democratic Party then finally get the message that “sellout politics” is a long term loser? Probably not. Instead they will no doubt try to tar and feather Johnson as 2012's version of Ralph Nader. But it is nice to fantasize about.

Bonus: "Ball-less, soulless, spiritless, corporate little bitches, suckers of Satan's cock...each and every one of them"

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Saturday Night Music Video: "Shaky Ground" by Uncle Tupelo

Okay, time to get back to some more tunes from my You Tube channel (in other words, excellent songs by great artists who are criminally underappreciated in the era of American Idol). This is a simple little acoustic number from 20 years ago by Alternative Country trailblazers Uncle Tupelo, in which singer-songwriter Jay Farrar uses his world weary voice to convey the utter despair of the working class.
The memory of the miner
Who dragged himself to work
And worked himself to death
Working for someone else

We follow each other around
On shaky ground

University of Phoenix to Close 115 Campuses

image: no they can't

One of the reasons I cut back my posting here at TDS is that I got so tired of wallowing in such a relentless heap of bad news. Everywhere I looked, the good guys and little folk were getting their asses kicked while the big boys and the greedy scumbags were continuing to prosper. So it is with very great pleasure that I link to following Bloomberg story about the notorious federal student loan-subsidized scam artists, The University Phoenix, finding themselves in deep financial trouble:
Apollo Group Inc. said Tuesday that its fiscal fourth-quarter net income tumbled 60 percent, hurt by higher costs and declining enrollment at the University of Phoenix. To cope, the for-profit education company plans to close 115 of the university's mostly smaller locations, a move that will affect 13,000 students.

Shares in the Phoenix-based company tumbled nearly 9 percent in after-hours trading.

The closings include 25 main campuses and 90 smaller satellite learning centers. At least one location in 30 states is slated to be shuttered.

The roughly 4 percent of Apollo students affected by the closures will be given the option of transferring to online programs or moving their course work to other sites, said University of Phoenix President Bill Pepicello.

If no other center is nearby, the company will continue courses at other space near the closed facility until students complete their degrees, he added.

The university is in the process of notifying students.

University of Phoenix currently has about 328,000 students, down from a peak of more than 400,000. Following the closures, it will be left with 112 locations in 36 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

The announcement comes as enrollments overall in the for-profit sector are declining after years of rapid growth, even as enrollment in other sectors of higher education rises. Recent federal figures showed enrollment in for-profits fell 2.9 percent in 2011. The sector has faced tighter regulations and more pressure to enroll students who have a better chance of graduating.
Not to mention the possibility that maybe, just maybe, the students are finally catching on that the diplomas they have been saddling themselves with massive amounts of non-dischargeable student loan debt to obtain aren't fit to use as toilet paper. In this economy, with even law school graduates from reputable universities having a very difficult time securing decent employment, what chance does someone with a sheepskin from one of these scummy diploma mills going to have?

So yes, finally one of my many prayers have been answered and the big hand of fate has clenched into a fist to smite one of the countless predators preying upon the downtrodden and the desperate. Heck, if this keeps up I might just have to reevaluate this whole atheist thing I've had going.

Bonus: "By the time my head gets to Phoenix, you'll be on your way to school"

Friday, October 19, 2012

Newsweek RIP

In a rather stunning development, it was announced yesterday that Newsweek magazine will cease publishing in hard copy at the end of this year:
In a momentous (though not totally unforeseen) development, Newsweek editor Tina Brown announced this morning that the magazine will move to an all-digital format and shutter the print edition just shy of its 80th birthday. In a post on the magazine's website—which Brown folded into in 2010—she unveiled the new online-only plan for an once-iconic magazine that first began publishing in February of 1933. The magazine will be renamed Newsweek Global, focus on paid subscriptions, and ramp up the importance of e-reader and tablet editions. The last paper issue will be published on December 31.

Brown's post was a modified version of an internal email that also warns employees about anticipated layoffs and restructuring.

The eventual fate of the Newsweek brand appeared inevitable after the merger with The Daily Beast in 2010, which even included the loss of its URL. The entire concept of weekly news magazines has become outdated, as has the economics of print media in general. IAC chairman Barry Diller (who owns half the company) even hinted that this might happen the summer, though he quickly backpedaled on the idea that the print side would shut down completely. However, Brown's strategy seemed to continually push the Newsweek half of Newsweek/Daily Beast to the back burner—when she wasn't cooking up desperate, attention-seeking covers. It was becoming harder and harder to imagine a world in which the magazine might thrive again, but perhaps few expected the end to come soon or so abruptly. Brown writes that she's looking ahead to the "the 80th anniversary of Newsweek next year," but now that day will be more like a funeral.
Notice how the article above tries to write this off as inevitable “progress” when in fact it is anything but. It isn’t just that Newsweek will no longer offer a dead tree edition, but that one of America’s most trusted news sources had already been virtually destroyed as a reliable source of information through the efforts of the utterly vacuous Tina Brown. First she dumbed down the content in pursuit of the lowest common denominator, and then she further degraded the brand with those “desperate, attention-seeking covers.” Perhaps that was not the wisest strategy at a time when virtually every other news media outlet was essentially doing the same thing. Why would any reader plunk down the cash for a copy of Newsweek just so they can read the same sort of shallow coverage and frivolous celebrity worship they can get anywhere else?

The merging of Newsweek into The Daily Beast is particularly regrettable. That website is one of the very worst on the Internet for the way it mixes stories of real importance with the utterly inane and presents it all with ads and pictures of celebrities splattered across every page. While writing this story, I did a quick check of The Daily Beast’s front page, and just by a selection of the posted headlines you can tell how horrible it is:
Sex Lies and Videotape? Meet the Zumba Madame

Deja Hair: Russian Pols Gnarly 80s Style

9 Craziest Bits from Hogan’s Sex Scandal

Campaign Likes Mitt Aggressive

“Tattoo Guy’ Brought Down Lance

Tagg Romney Wanted to Punch Obama

Ashton’s Relationship Frustrates Demi

Will Mitt Sell Mormon Underwear?

Angelina Jolie: We Are All Malala

11 Biggest Celeb Memoir Flops

Can Single Ladies Save Obama?
All of the above garbage was mixed in almost at random with stories about Syria, the attempted bombing of the Federal Reserve and some more substantive stuff on the presidential campaign. This manner of presenting the news could not be more insidious, for it implies to the reader that all of that sheer fluff is of at least equal importance to the genuine news stories. This same phenomenon is happening all over the Internet, of course. Just the other day, I was reading a crime report on local news website. Halfway down the page, the text was interrupted by a big picture of actress Megan Fox showing off her shoulder tattoo with the headline “Celebrity Ink” and a link to a story that I would assume was of zero news value (obviously, I didn’t click on the link). It’s as if every news source has become the National Enquirer. No wonder hardly anybody in this stupid country has any attention span left anymore.

So while I won’t particularly miss Newsweek, at least not the hollow shell of a real news outlet that Newsweek had become in recent years, I do very much lament the relentless ongoing trend of our national media becoming ever more superficial and content free. That is the real importance of this story, not whether a few trees are saved next year when it ceases publication.

Bonus: "Kick 'em when they're up...kick 'em when they're down"

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Watching Dead

This past Sunday night I did something that was quite rare for me—I went along with the crowd and participated in the same activity as probably the greatest percentage of my fellow countrymen were at that particular moment. Specifically, I watched the Season 3 premier of everybody’s favorite zombie splatterfest, The Walking Dead. Amazingly, not only was it the highest rated cable teevee show, EVAH, but it even beat out the ratings of all three major networks during its time slot, to include an NFL game being broadcast on NBC.

I say amazingly because although I myself have been a bit a of a zombie aficionado ever since the first time I caught the original George Romero classic, Dawn of the Dead, on VHS back when I was in college, I never would have expected the zombie genre to (ahem) rise up and become anything more than fodder for B-movies and short story horror anthologies. It is one thing for a guy like me who grew up a horror fiction geek to (double ahem) eat this stuff up, but when my wife tells me as she did yesterday that most of her girlfriends were discussing the show on Facebook I feel safe in assuming that we are witnessing the emergence of a genuine cultural phenomenon.

If you haven’t yet watched the show, the one thing that cannot be said is that it’s a sanitized version of a zombie apocalypse. There are plenty of gruesome close ups of guts and gore of the type that not too long ago were restricted to R-rated movies. Sunday night’s premier was in fact one of the more violent episodes, climaxing with an in your face shot of one of the living survivors having his leg gruesomely amputated with a hatchet in an attempt to save him from the virus that causes the dead to rise.

Oh sure, you can gripe about some of the tiny details that the show gets wrong like, for example, the living survivors’ seemingly magical ability to execute perfect zombie head shots with their sidearms without ever missing, even at a distance and while running. Ever done a headshot drill at the firing range? I have, and let me tell you it isn’t easy to do even at close range while stationary, not under duress and with the target not rushing towards you determined to rip your guts out. Another quibble is how cavalier the survivors are about getting zombie gore all over them while fighting with swords and blunt weapons, even though the contamination of one little scratch on their skin could be a potential death sentence in that situation. And don’t get me started about Herschel’s “magic shotgun” in the last episode of Season 2. I know the man is a Christian and all, but the number of rounds that came out of that thing without reloading puts the old “loaves and the fishes” story to shame.

Nevertheless, these are mere quibbles. I came here to praise or at least analyze The Walking Dead, not to (ahem again) bury it. Take it from me, the show is worth your time if you are into good zombie stories, or if you just want to scratch your head for awhile and try to figure out just what the heck is going on with our culture.

We’re a nation that has become so good at lying to itself that most people are unable to recognize what the truth even is anymore. The Hologram of the American media spends 24/7 blowing sunshine up the skirts of the masses in an effort to convince them that everything is hunky-dory and that they should get their fat asses out to the mall and consume, consume, consume. Nearly everything in our popular culture, from “reality” television shows, to American Idol-ized music, to endless superhero action movies and dimwitted romantic comedies, to trashy “young adult” novels, are not only relentlessly aimed at the lowest common denominator, but almost completely crowd out any works of artistic quality with the seemingly specific aim of desensitizing those portions of the brain that engage in critical thinking and decision making.

The underlying message is quite simple: work, work, work so you can spend, spend, spend and we will all live in a more prosperous tomorrow with even more electronic gadgets to ruin our attention spans and keep us fat, dumb and if not happy at least not out rioting in the streets demanding change. And if you can’t afford it right now, the banksters will keep right on lending you the money so you can have your instant gratification while being tied by your debts even tighter to a system that is slowly destroying your health, your security and your future. Not that you’ll ever notice, because you are too busy worrying about the supposedly fierce rivalry between the utterly vacuous Mariah Carey and the even more vacuous Nicki Minaj, and if you start feeling depressed about all of this there are plenty of pills we can dope you up with to help you accept your lot in this disposable society.

Yet despite this gargantuan effort to anesthetize the masses, end of the world and dystopian visions have never been hotter as a form of mass entertainment. It all reached a crescendo this past year when The Hunger Games displaced Harry Potter and Twilight as the movie (and book series) the teenyboppers just HAD to see. Nowadays, there’s a version of the apocalypse for every audience and world view, from the Rapture fantasies of the Left Behind series to Colson Whitehead’s literary zombie novel for New Yorker readers, Zone One. And countless millions of people are no doubt holding their collective breath to see if the ancient Mayan doomsday prophecy comes true this December.

So why, in the face of all the propagandizing efforts to the contrary, have Americans become so obsessed with the end of the world? Could it be that many people sense deep down in their bones that we are teetering on the precipice of an epic civilization ending disaster even if they won’t consciously admit it? Perhaps so. You would have to have the emotional intelligence quotient of a slab of granite not to feel that SOMETHING has certainly gone wrong with our decadent and depraved society.

Interestingly, the marketers have caught on to the appeal of the apocalypse phenomenon. The Walking Dead premier itself had about six commercial breaks for all manner of useless products interrupting its one hour broadcast, which creates quite a jarring viewing experience especially since, as Romero recognized 33 years ago, zombies are the perfect metaphor for the mindless consumer. There was even a contest you could enter to win the brand spanking new Hyundai the living characters were driving during the episode. Nice to know that when the world ends, a Korean automobile plant will apparently be the only safe haven available anywhere in the world.

No doubt most people watching the show imagined themselves in the place of Rick and his plucky band of survivors, with no awareness that in the real world their behavior is much closer to the deadly horde, consuming all in their path in a desperate attempt to maintain their unsustainable lifestyles. The only difference is that there is not an elite group of puppet masters in the form of the oligarchs controlling the actions of the undead. All in all, I don’t know what is worse, that we so easily buy into a predatory system that is slowly killing us, or that we do so to enrich the very jackals who manipulate us into going along with it. But hey, on next week's show, Rick and the gang will surely finish clearing out that prison, and then maybe they at least will “safe,” if only for a little while.

Bonus: "I learned everything from George Romero"

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

So Just How Far am I Outside the Political Mainstream?

With the U.S. presidential election coming up, I thought I would revisit the website political and take their little test again like I did back in 2008 to see how my views match up with those of the presidential candidates. First of all, a little background: though the test is not perfect (for example, I wish one of the standard answer options was "neither agree nor disagree"), it is interesting because it purports to give you an idea where your politics lie not only on the traditional "liberal-conservative" scale but also an "authoritarian-libertarian" cross scale.

As you can see by the chart above plotting the positions of those running for president this year, there is very little distance between President Hopey-Changey and Governor 47%-er--just as I've been writing on this blog ad naseum for about a year-and-a-half now. And what should surprise exactly no one is that both of them are at the extreme conservative and authoritarian ends of the two scales. Not a shocker for the two men who aspire to lead a global empire which enforces it hegemony through the use of brute force and globalized neoliberal economic exploitation.

So where do I stack up against the two main assholes running for president? Well, see for yourself:

Holy crap. I'm so far from the political mainstream that Green Party candidate Jill Stein looks like a jackbooted thug in comparison. Interestingly, from what I remember about my results from taking this test during the 2008 campaign I have moved both leftward and downward several notches since then. From what I gather by how the questions are asked, my position on the scale is reflective of someone who believes that government should smash the power of corporations while leaving individuals to live their lives in peace--probably not the most practical of positions. Now I know why it feels like my head is going to explode whenever anyone--Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative--starts talking politics around me.

Bonus: Fucking aye, sing it, Eric

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Saturday Night Music Video: "Busting Up a Starbucks" by Mike Doughty

Here's a song that seems as if it were written specifically to be posted here at TDS. Most "message" songs don't work very well because the songwriter is so intent on making a statement that they forget to accompany it with a tune worth hearing. Not so here. Not only does Mike Doughty perfectly articulate what I'd like to do to a location of one of America's most omnipresent, soul destroying retail chains, but he remembers that his first duty as an artist is to fucking ROCK.


The Most Ironic Nobel Peace Prize Yet?

Remember back in 2009 when Obama was awarded his "Affirmative Action Nobel Peace Prize" in the hopes that he would reduce America's warlike belligerance around the world, only to have President Hopey-Changey wipe his ass on the medal before ordering the Afghanistan surge and stepping up drone missile bombings of innocent civilians? Well, that hideously misguided decision looks like the paragon of wisdom next to this year's choice:
The European Union won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, a choice that celebrates Europe’s post-World War II economic and political integration but comes as the 27-nation body confronts widespread criticism over its handling of a massive debt crisis that is by far the biggest challenge of its existence.

The award honored the struggle in Europe to not only hold the union together in the wake of the debt crisis, but also to deepen integration across a vast swath of the region stretching from the isles of Greece to the Scottish Highlands, from the ports of Portugal to northern Finland.
To say this was a less than popular move is a bit of an understatement:
The choice elicited audible gasps from a roomful of journalists who attended the announcement in Oslo. The union has been accused of being slow and overly bureaucratic, and of foisting onto its heavily indebted members a crushing austerity that has crippled domestic economies and sparked social unrest in nations such as Greece and Spain.

“Twenty years ago, this prize would have been sycophantic, but maybe more justified. Today it is downright out of touch,” said Martin Callanan, a Conservative British politician and chairman of the European Conservative and Reformists Party in the European Parliament. “The E.U.’s policies have exacerbated the fallout of the financial crisis and led to social unrest that we haven’t seen for a generation.”

The peace prize decision fed into complaints that the Norwegian Nobel Committee increasingly has strayed from the award’s original ideals — including when it honored President Obama in 2009, just months after he took office. Some critics said the prize is venturing deeper into the realm of political theater.

“It’s just laughable,” Svetlana Gannushkina, a longtime Russian human rights activist whom Norwegian parliamentarians said they had nominated for the award, told Interfax. “The award has been depersonalized to such an extent . . . The Nobel Committee could have defended the principles of peace and democracy if it had awarded the prize to those who have worked in this sphere for many years and now need support.”
The blockheads really don't get it, do they. Europe in 2012 is poised about where it was in around 1932 or so. The economies of many of its member nations are in free fall, the political "leadership" is weak and divided and ugly nationalism and xenophobia are starting starting to rear their ugly heads again.

If what the global economy is experiencing were just a run-of-the-mill post World War Two recession, one could maybe shrug what's happening in Europe off as being of no long term consequence. But it's not. Not only is the global economy on the precipice of a major economic catastrophe, but Europe is particularly fucked because what oil reserves it does possess are rapidly depleting and will likely run out completely within the next couple of decades just as the Export Land Model (rising demand combined with falling production in oil exporting nations) makes oil virtually unavailable on the world markets. Combine that with a population that is largely accustomed to living a middle class lifestyle with a generous social safety net and you have the recipe for a continent-wide conflagration that could well dwarf even World War Two in its destructiveness.

My prediction is that 100 years from now historians, assuming there still are any, will be able to only shake their heads in wonder and disbelief that the Nobel committee awarded its 2012 Peace Prize to the very entity which was just about to fly apart and experience perhaps the mother of all resource wars.

Bonus: "I put my trust in you..."

Friday, October 12, 2012

Harper's Magazine Blogger Advocates for Compulsory Voting

So let's say you are the supposedly "liberal" party in a two-party system that has been completely captured by the billionaires and big business interests. What's more, let's say that the country this is taking place in is seeing the disparity in incomes between the rich and everybody else skyrockting to levels not seen since the Gilded Age. And yet, for some mysterious reason you still seem to have difficulties get your base (i.e., the non-rich) to turn out on election day. What do you do? Do you craft policy positions that might appeal to them so that they have a reason to get out of the house on election day? Of course not. Someone on the right might call you mean names like "socialist" or "communist," and many of those rich scumbags you grovel to for campaign donations might decide to start giving their money to the other guys.

Wait, I've got an idea. If you can't get 'em to go to the polls with your positions, pass laws that FORCE them to vote. Everybody (well, at least your side) wins! Here is blogger Simon Liem of Harper's Magazine with the wacky proposal:
Presidential-election voting peaked in the twentieth century in 1960, when nearly two-thirds of eligible voters came out to the polls, and reached its nadir in 1996, when just over half did. The most recent two presidential elections were better, with each turning out over 60 percent, but the most recent midterm elections managed only 40. Given that it has become a struggle to get half of Americans to the polls, it’s quite incredible that anyone would do anything to discourage voting.

This has become a particular problem for Democrats, who, if they were wise, would be targeting nonvoters with more than just get-out-the-vote drives. In August, a USA Today/Suffolk University poll showed that unregistered voters, if they had to choose, would pick Obama over Romney at a rate of nearly two to one, while registered voters who said they weren’t sure if they would cast a ballot also heavily favored Obama. The pool of 90 to 95 million nonvoters represent a significant missed opportunity for Democrats, one they might someday capitalize on by pushing to aggressively reform voting laws around the country, a strategic goal that happens to coincide with increased participation in the democratic process. Allowing same-day registration and a variety of acceptable identifications at the voting booths helped Minnesota achieve the highest turnout of any state in the 2008 presidential election, at 77 percent, while Democrats in California have passed laws that allow for online registration in the upcoming election, resulting in promising early numbers. But to really push people to the polls would require much more.

The most obvious and effective reform would be a compulsory voting system. While such a move would invoke the rage of tea partiers and those who see compulsory anything as inimical to the American notion of freedom, the concept isn’t foreign to U.S. politics. In the seventeenth century, several American colonies required eligible voters to participate in elections. (In Virginia, the fine for not voting was at one point two hundred pounds of tobacco, while Georgia wrote into its first constitution a fine of five pounds for anyone who absented himself from an election without valid reason.) More recently, many delegates to Massachusetts 1917 constitutional convention supported amending the state’s constitution to permit compulsory voting. Turnout had been backsliding in the United States from its highest historic participation rates in the late nineteenth century, and was heading for its all-time low in the 1920 presidential elections. One of the Massachusetts delegates argued that “when these men find it obligatory on them to go and vote they are going to give this question thought, and they will study it over, and they will talk it over in the market-places and in the grocery stores and with the folks at home, and the result is they get more light and are better able to vote.” Another complained that 28 percent of registered voters had not voted in state elections that year, and that primaries regularly drew less than one-quarter of voters—turnouts that would be nothing short of miraculous today. The trends were troubling enough for drafters of the constitution to add the amendment permitting the government to require voting, though no law has yet been passed to test it.
But wait, there's more:
It would be in the Democrats’ interest to push in that direction—and at relatively low cost, as reform would first have to happen slowly on a state level, where, if other systems are any example, the success and popularity of compulsory voting would serve as a model that could spread through the country. The biggest challenges would most likely be legal ones—because, as Bassetti points out, the lack of a federal constitutional right to vote makes standards flexible and essentially subject to the whims of state courts.
First of all, let me start out my response to this lunacy by pointing out the obvious: it ain't ever going to fucking happen. I really would like to ask Simon Liem what country he thinks he is living in if he also thinks that such a proposal, once made by any Democratic politician of any prominence, would not cause such a right wing backlash and media shit storm as to be immediately dead on arrival.

But more importantly, this is an incredibly stupid fucking idea because it basically acknowledges that the Democratic Party has no hope of ever appealing to non-voters because it is so utterly compromised by being totally in bed with the same corporate interests as the Republicans. And if that is the case, why should we force people to go to the polls to vote for the same old shit they are going to get no matter who wins? That's the same type of crap they used to pull in the old Soviet Union. And I have news for you Simon, if you force me to go to the polls, I'm not going to punch the button for your great Democratic savior, but instead write in "Mickey Mouse," "Wydon Jablomie," "Fuck Bill Clinton" or some other such nonsense.

The appearance of this bit of lunacy in Harper's the very day after one of their other bloggers implored his fellow liberals and progressives to help "push Obama over the finish line" despite President Hopey-Changey's apparent disinterest in being reelected just shows how desperate Democratic partisans are becoming. They know damn well their party is hopelessly compromised and should be abandoned altogether, but they just can't bring themselves to admit it. Just another sad example of how partisanship is yet another form of brain damage.

Bonus: "Got to keep the loonies on the path"

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Nation of Idiot Savants

I was attending a sporting event with my wife not too long ago. It was a nice day, the sun was shining, a light breeze was blowing and the crowd was amped. We were looking forward to a good time, and one might have been had but for the appearance of a group of the worst sort of omnipresent invasive species: the loud, obnoxious, idiot American sports fan.

Let me paint you a picture. There were four of these dopes--white, middle aged, overweight, slovenly dressed and clutching cans of pisswater lite beer in their chubby digits--and they unfortunately had the four seats right behind us. And they were of the type I have seen all too frequently at ballgames in recent years, meaning that they spent the whole game when not texting or yapping on their cell phones talking loudly as if the whole section around them was breathlessly waiting to hear every pearl of wisdom that fell from their lips.

Though they were drinking, they were not intoxicated, which would have at least been an excuse for acting like such louts. They were also not being belligerent towards other fans, which might have at least given the rest of us the blessing of seeing them get kicked out of the stadium. They were instead just determined to prove to everyone around them what absolute fucking morons they were. Seinfeld may have been the "show about nothing," but Jerry, Elaine, George and Kramer sitting around the local diner were a gathering of nobel laureates compared to these four fucktards.

For example, at one point one of the morons, who as he repeated over and over and nauseum, was a Baltimore Orioles fan, started going on and on about he always gets dirty looks from other fans whenever he is in a stadium outside of the state of Maryland and upholds the Baltimore tradition of yelling out "Oh" for "Orioles" during the "Oh" portion of the national anthem. After several minutes of him and the other morons agreeing that buying a ticket means he can do whatever he wants once he's inside the park, he summed things up by saying "After all, I'm from Baltimore, where we WROTE the national anthem in 1776." Bad enough that the dumb fuck insists on persisting with his boorish behavior despite knowing it is not appreciated by other fans, but despite being from Francis Scott Key's hometown he didn't even know that THE FUCKING STAR SPANGLED BANNER WAS WRITTEN IN 1814. And yet this was something he apparently feels PASSIONATELY about.

That same moron then went on to describe how just this year he had finished his goal of visiting every major league ballpark around the country and his buddies were describing their own progress in doing the same. Not that any of them really seemed to have much of a clue what was going on down on the field, or even fucking CARE for that matter--spending what would have to be tens of thousands of dollars attending Major League Baseball games appeared to be just something to occupy their time that they could then brag about with their friends.

As we were leaving the stadium that day, my wife and I were reflecting on how the experience was diminished by the presence of the louts behind us, and I said that what amazed me was that someone that fucking stupid could somehow make enough money to be able to afford to fly around the country attending professional sporting events. And that's when it hit me...that guy and his three buddies must each have some particular talent or skill that makes them highly marketable in a certain job field (I have no idea what, for despite all of their inane blather during the couple of hours we had to endure their presence none of them ever mentioned what they did for a living).

Multiply those four assholes by tens of millions and a picture starts to emerge of just how America has gotten into its current predicament. We've become a nation made up largely of idiots savants, people who are good enough at one particular thing to make a decent living but have no fucking clue about virtually anything else. It certainly goes a long way to explain, for example, how our most recent presidential election campaign has managed to devolve into the utterly banal and trivial spectacle that it has without the citizenry rising up in arms about it. My four buddies never once talked about politics that afternoon (thank Christ) but I guarantee you that you could search far and wide and have a difficult time finding four less informed potential voters.

Thinking about it some more, calling America a nation of idiot savants is actually an insult to real idiot savants who would never pretend that they understand or have any competence in anything beyond their narrow range of superior talent. Americans, on the other hand, because they were blessed with a particular ability, but more importantly were lucky enough to have been born atop the largest pile of natural resources ever bestowed upon an individual nation, in their hubris have come to believe that they possess superior knowledge and opinions about EVERYTHING, even often while simultaneously proclaiming their pride in their own fucking ignorance. That's how, to use a particularly regrettable example, Jenny McCarthy could come to believe that she alone knows more about what causes autism than the entire medical establishment because she's got big tits and horny American men are willing to pay her big bucks to see her take her fucking clothes off.

This whole country would be so much better off if more people would recognize that they are not as smart as they think they are and if they would at least try to do their basic duty as citizens and become informed as to what's really going on in the world. Oh, who am I kidding? There is a classic line in the World War One novel, A Long Long Way, by Sebastian Barry that perfectly sums up the real problem: "The curse of the world is people thinking thoughts which are only thoughts that have been given to them." The oligarchs in America have made it so damn easy for the ignorant fools not to ever have to think an original thought. People like my four buddies will keep bumbling along through their comfortable lives, until one day they wake up in shock and awe, wondering how suddenly it all got taken away from them and who could possibly be responsible without ever once looking in the fucking mirror.

Bonus: "I think I'm dumb...or maybe just happy"

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Does Obama Really Want Out?

Over the past few weeks, I have written several times that I anticipated that short of a major stock mark crash or widespread unrest in the Middle East causing a rapid oil price spike that Obama was a shoo-in for reelection. There was, however, one factor that I'll admit I failed to consider: that maybe President Hopey-Changey does not WANT to be the puppet-in-chief for four more years. The very idea, unthinkable before Obama's disastrous debate performance last week, was put forth yesterday by blogger Kevin Baker of Harper's Magazine:
The whole rationale for the continuing existence of the conservative, Democratic Party leadership to which Mr. Obama belongs is that they, and only they, can save us—save our Social Security and Medicare, prevent us from invading Iran, and keep the Supreme Court at least where it is now.

We were so scared and bewildered we continued buying into this rationale even as President Obama betrayed pretty much everything he ran on, hired back all the old Clinton hands who did so much to help cause the world financial panic in the first place, and turned over all of our names and addresses to the desiccated mummies still running the Democratic Party.

We put up with it all, thanks to the growing conviction that he really would win again and save us all from the lunatic, nihilist Republicans.

We put up with it even though he solemnly promised absolutely nothing for his second term, save that he would once again try to make us work more years for less money and fewer benefits, in exchange for a budget deal.

Then Barack Obama came apart before a national television audience and, in an hour and a half, changed the entire public image of both men. Overnight, Romney went from national punch line to Pew-poll front-runner.

The diehards who posit that Obama is just setting Romney up for the next debate are fooling themselves. The idol really is smashed, and I suspect for good. Far from playing three-dimensional chess, the most logical explanation for the president’s Denver daze, as I wrote after the debate, is that he simply wants out.
If Baker is right, and I suspect that he is, it may be the most ominous signal yet for those of us in the "reality based community" that our fear that an economic collapse of the U.S. is going to come sooner rather than later might be justified. Sure, being the oligarch's hand picked "good cop," placed in office to prevent populist retribution against the big banks and Wall Street for crashing the economy, to say nothing of preventing Bush administration officials from being prosecuted for starting two disastrous but highly profitable wars, while betraying the hopes and dreams of the millions of voters who put you in office has to be highly stressful. But Obama didn't rise to the top of the political heap, stepping over two of the biggest names in U.S. politics along the way, by being a shrinking violet. If he wants out, it is likely because he KNOWS some bad shit is going to be coming down sometime in the next four years and he doesn't want to be the fall guy when it happens.

Way back on May 20, 2011, I wrote a post called "Why the Hell Does ANYONE Want to be President in 2012?" in which I wondered about the sanity of those who were then scrambling to win the highest figurehead office in the land at such a perilous moment in our history. Well, now we have an indicator that maybe, just maybe, Obama is not quite as obtuse to what is really going on as he has always appeared to be.

Sadly, even though there is a good chance that Baker may be right, he himself still has no clue regarding the real implications:
I predict we’ll see further evidence that Obama’s heart isn’t in it. But we liberals are going to have to pull him through. We’re going to have to do it because the only alternative is too awful to contemplate, and there’s no time to replace him. We are going to have to push, and haul, and shove him back into the White House . . . even though the first thing he’s going to do once he gets there is to try his best to screw us over again. We have to save our own Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid. We have to save the environment from catastrophic climate change. We have to prevent a disastrous invasion of Iran.

If we can do this, then we will have demonstrated to ourselves and to the nation that we no longer need our keepers, all these very practical, very moderate individuals who keep insisting that they alone can save us, even as they once again betray us.

If only we can save ourselves, there’s no telling what we can do next.

And yes. We. Can. Even if he can’t.
Sorry, Kevin, but if the oligarchs who really run this country want those things, they are going to get them sooner or later whether Obama wins reelection or not. Obama was placed in office by the Democratic Party's "keepers" to put a smiley face on the very policies you so dread, and to keep the liberals and progressives in line and not storming out on to the street. In that, other than the brief blip that was Occupy Wall Street, Obama was a total success. I originally thought that the ratfuckers would want to keep him around for another four years to try and keep the lid on popular anger, but maybe they are also thinking that if the shit goes sideways in the next four years they'll need a hatchet man to handle things rather than a snake oil salesman. It certainly is the way the infamous Vampire Squid seems to be betting. And whenever Goldman Sachs puts its own money on the line, it behooves all of us to pay close attention to how they are betting.

So does changing my outlook on the election mean that I am also going to reassess my stated determination not to participate? Not at all. Fact is, I am actually rooting for a Romney victory. I've had it with all the hypocritical bullshit from the past four years. In particular I'm sick of liberals and progressives who dropped their support for the antiwar movement because all of the sudden it was their own guy ordering the slaughter of innocent civilians in the Middle East and South Asia. I'm also sick and tired of upper middle class twits, the same ones whose tastes the "liberal" side of the "liberal" media slavishly cater to, pretending but not really giving a fuck about the millions on the lower rungs of the ladder who have lost their jobs since the beginning of the the Great Recession. As long as their 401(k) balances have fully recovered, they really wouldn't care if Ben Bernanke were caught pulling a Jerry Sandusky in his office at the Federal Reserve.

On the flip side, I'm also sick to fucking death of idiots who keep voting for charlatans like Romney because he panders to their dumbass cultural values. I know most people don't pay a lot of attention to politics, but two basic facts about Governor 47%-er ought to have worked their way through the haze into the lizard brains of even the most dimwitted voters: the man got rich(er) by offshoring American jobs and pays half the fucking tax rate on his ill gotten gains as people who have to actually work for a living. If you are not a millionaire of a billionaire and, knowing that, you vote for him anyway, well, fuck you, you are soon to get what you (ahem) so richly deserve.

Willard Mitt Romney is the perfect candidate for Spoiled Rotten Nation, and for him to be elected prez-nit at this moment in time would be the culmination of more than 30 years of the denizens of this decadent and depraved society abandoning even their basic responsibilities as citizens living in a supposed representative democracy by turning their brains off and allowing the sociopaths who desire nothing more than to utterly destroy their livelihoods, security and futures to do their thinking for them. I, for one, welcome our new Wall Street overlord, if only so this stupid fucking country can stop pretending and finally get to where we are so damn determined to go.

Bonus: Dedicated to President Hopey-Changey

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Hideous Liberal "News" Outlet Snidely Dismisses the Results of Venezuela's Election

There is probably no website that better encapsulates the sheer venality and arrogance of America's supposedly "liberal" media establishment than the Atlantic Wire. Every day the Wire bombards its mostly liberal and progressive readership with the headlines its editors think are important, which could be anything from the civil war in Syria to economic collapse in Greece to the latest antics of Lindsey Lohan and Amanda Byrnes. Mixing real news with the utterly trivial as if each has equal importance is bad enough. But even worse is the site's routine asskissing of the rich and powerful and total conformity to the accepted conventional media "wisdom."

Case in point: yesterday the Wire ran the following headline in reporting the results of Venezuela's presidential election: "Of Course, Hugo Chavez Wins Another Term." Note the snide inference that the election results were not legitimate.

And yet, unlike the norm in most supposedly authoritarian countries, the election was actually pretty close:
In an election that was expected to deliver a record level of voter turnout on Sunday, the socialist leader garnered 54 percent of the vote, while his challenger centrist state governor Henrique Capriles got 45 percent.
Funny, but America has had presidential elections in which the final spread between the wo major party candidates was greater than 9%. So what was it that generated the insinuation that Hugo Chavez winning the race was a sham?
Fate was always on Chavez's side, though. Armed with Venezuela's war chest of oil money, he's spent the last few months launching massive giveaway programs that gave Chinese-made appliances to tens of thousands of poor Venezuelan families and promised the construction of 200,000 homes for the country's poor. "Since late last year, Chavez has been spending money like there's no tomorrow, and it's worked," one political analyst told The Los Angeles Times. "Most polls show his approval ratings are up 10 points since then." The government is on track to run a $60-billion deficit this year, by the way.
Gee, that horrible Chavez. What an inhuman monster he is for taking Venezuela's oil profits and instead of allowing a tiny group of politically connected corrupt billionaires to steal it all deciding to give it back to the people. And don't get me started about the absurdity of chastising Chavez for running a $60 billion budget defict when our own is around $1.4 trillion.

There are three things about the way the Wire reported this story that are notable. The first is the idea of a "liberal" news organ looking down its nose at a world leader who is not completely captured by the elite interests of his own country. Heaven forbid that the left wing party in Venezuela isn't beholden to the wealthy and the corporations the way the Democratic Party is in the U.S.--those silly third worlders and their quaint notions that having a real democracy means that the full political spectrum and not just the right of center should be represented.

The second thing that is notabale is that amazingly, only 5% less than a majority of Venezuelans actually voted against their nation's power structure. Compare that to the United States, where next month it is virtually guaranteed that at least 99% of the voters will cast their ballots for one of two oligarch-approved candidates whose positions are virtually identical on every issue of real importance. And yet the Wire has the audacity to insinuate that it is the Venezuelans who live in a sham democracy and not Americans.

And lastly there is the casual manner in which the Wire's headline reinforces the idea that America's reflexive anti-Chavez foreign policy makes any sense whatsoever and should be supported without question whatever your place may be on the political spectrum. It is one thing when some Fox News pundit rails against Chavez or cretinous teevee preacher Pat Robertson calls for his assassination, but it is another matter entirely when such propagandizing garbage is published in mainstream media outlets. What this tells you is that the establishment has decided that Chavez is an enemy of America (even though he continues to allow his county's oil to be sold to the U.S.) and dissenting voices which may question why there is so much demonization aimed at a leader who, whatever his faults, is far from being an evil dictator will simply not be tolerated. Certainly, by expressing such positions one is shutting themselves off from any hopes of ever advancing or having one's voice heard by more than a tiny minority of readers on the Internet.

Sadly, the American media has reached the point where it has no more credibility than did Pravda in the old Soviet Union. The difference is that I would bet that many of Russians KNEW that the information they were getting was pure bullshit, whereas you cannot say the same thing about the average American today.

Bonus: "The powers that be...They like a tough game...No rules"

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Crying Games

The crybaby brigade was out in full force late last week, making excuses for the presidential candidates while catering to the prejudices of America's two great (and hopelessly deluded) political tribes. It all started Wednesday night after Willard "unexpectedly" came out strong in his "debate" with President Hopey-Changey. Why oh why, many partisan Democrats were asking, didn't Obama come out swinging and put Governor 47%-er on the ropes early? This should have been like taking candy from a baby, but somehow Obama "blew it."

My favorite "explanation" for Obama's performance comes from George Jackoff Lakoff, author of The Little Blue Book: The Essential Guide to Thinking and Talking Democratic (just shoot me now), over at the Huffington Post:
You don't win a presidential debate by being a policy wonk. Obama violated all the basics of presidential debating. The best defense is a good offense. You have to set the terms of the debate and press those terms. Obama failed. Here are those basics:

State your moral values. Contrast them with your opponent's.

Project empathy and enthusiasm. Connect.

Communicate clearly and simply. Be authentic. Say just what you believe.

Project trust.

Present an authentic view of yourself that the public can identify with and be proud of.

Obama did none of this. Instead he talked about policy details.

He needed to come on strong from the first sentence.

Democracy is based on citizens caring about and taking responsibility for both themselves as for the well-being of all. Government is the instrument that citizens use to guarantee protection and empowerment for all. We all, together, provide what is needed for a decent life. Individual accomplishment rests on what other Americans have provided and keep providing.

Building the economy requires public investment -- in public infrastructure, education, research, and much more.

Success is much more than money. It is your contribution to America as a whole -- whether it is teaching, raising children, providing food, healing the sick, making useful products, guaranteeing our rights and our safety, or running businesses that make life better. America needs us all. And we all depend on each other. Personal responsibility is necessary.
Lakoff continues on in this vein for a couple more paragraphs, but this was about all I could stand.

Notice what is missing from Lakoff's analysis of what Obama did wrong? Not once does, sorry, Lakoff say that Obama needed to CLEARLY ARTICULATE HOW HIS POSITIONS ARE DIFFERENT FROM ROMNEY. And why didn't he do that? Because THERE IS NO FUCKING DIFFERENCE, which leaves sellout hack mouthpieces like Lakoff struggling with all of their might to convince their dimwitted readers that there is in fact a difference but it just wasn't clearly articulated.

Obama fumbled the debate for a very basic reason: he ain't got SHIT to say. He has a lead and he's trying to run out the clock. After all, what's Romney going to do, point out how President Sellout has broken nearly every one of his 2008 campaign promises and for four years has been treating his liberal and progressive base like the whiny little bitches that they are? Of course fucking not.

On the flip side, there was the conservative freak out on Friday when, despite the monthly jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Lying Statistic showing only 115,000 jobs being created in September, the unemployment rate "magically" dropped by .3% just in time for the home stretch in the campaign. It wasn't more than a few hours after the jobs report was released that the Fox News brigade, led by cretinous old former GE CEO Jack Welch, was out in full force trying convince their drooling troglodyte audience that it was some big conspiracy on the part of federal government drones to get Obama reelected.

So was the BLS report manipulated? Of COURSE it fucking was, just like every other monthly jobs report going back to three years ago when this "zombie recovery" started. But it isn't about trying to get Obama reelected, it's about trying to keep the fucking economy from resuming its collapse. Everything our fearless "leaders" have been doing since the fall or 2008, from the TARP law to QE3 has been a massive con job attempting to induce the average consumer idiot to keep spending. Jack Welch is smart enough to know that, which means he is either a liar or he's gone senile.

All in all, it was just another couple of excruciating days in Campaign Stupid. Thank your own personal deity that we only have about four more weeks of this bullshit to endure before it is mercifully all over.

Bonus: "I still cry...just like a baby"