Monday, July 30, 2012

Are We SURE the Obama Campaign Didn't Pay for that Idaho Billboard?

Now THAT is a beautiful bit of trolling. I have no idea who or what the Ralph Smeed Foundation is, in fact like most people I had never heard of the organization before they generated national headlines and yet another stupid media controversy by paying for the billboard pictured above. Nevertheless, whoever they are they did such a masterful job of once again getting idiot liberals and progressives to misdirect their ire that it made me wonder (and only half in jest) if the Obama campaign wasn't secretly behind the whole thing.

Because here is the question I have for the members of my former political tribe who are frothing at the mouth about this latest "outrage": what exactly are you upset about? Yes, the message is crass and insensitive coming so soon after the recent Aurora shootings. But that doesn't mean it isn't fundamentally correct. Putting aside the "in your face" nature of the billboard, what it is really saying is that Americans only get upset when it is other Americans who are killed for no good reason by a marauding sociopath. Shoot up innocent movie theater patrons in suburban Denver = national outrage. Drop a drone missile on an innocent wedding party in Afghanistan or Pakistan = "(Yawn) Hey, honey, what time is American Idol on, anyway?"

The reaction to this story on liberal op-ed website Think Progress was particularly galling. Check out some of the comments:
Scott Merrick · Top Commenter · Vancouver, British Columbia
Proving yet again that there is no bigger liar than a Republican/right winger. They KNOW Bush/Cheney started that war, as well as Iraq (which they conveniently do not mention in this revolting billboard), so not only are they dishonest, their pathological hatred is also fully on display.

Margie Robinson · Top Commenter · University of Georgia
Thanks for this, Scott, because it's 100% true: "Proving yet again that there is no bigger liar than a Republican/right winger. They KNOW Bush/Cheney started that war, as well as Iraq (which they conveniently do not mention in this revolting billboard), so not only are they dishonest, their pathological hatred is also fully on display."

Mark Duwe · Top Commenter · Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis
This nutjob could have donated the money he spent on this billboard to the Aurora Victim's Fund, if he really wanted to do something positive, but clearly, he doesn't.
(Bill's note: because paying for an advertising campaign advocating the end of an insane war isn't doing anything "positive" at all)

Anna Soull · Top Commenter · Toronto, Ontario
I have never witnessed the citizens of the USA attack a President in such a demeaning, hateful way as I have witnessed their public disrespect of President Obama. In previous decades any such deep, personal, slanderous attacks against the President of the country would have resulted in criminal charges against the culprits. I wish that Republicans would actually use some sort of political argument in their race for the Presidency rather than a personal attack on the man who is trying to steady the sinking ship of a country he got for his Presidency.
(Bill's note: Yep, Anna, and I'm sure you never referred to Bush as a war criminal. And if you didn't, you should have)

Rob Willhelm · Top Commenter
My concern is not with the sign itself but I definitely concern myself with the millions of supposed "Americans" who believe this crap, complemented by their total contempt for the fair and open democratic processes that finds Obama as the President of the United States, thus representing the greatest threat to my beloved country.

Scott Douglass · Top Commenter
I somehow don't think the people in Aurora "volunteered" for what they got. This person is an opportunist looking for their 15 minutes of fame. With any luck, the sign will fall on him as he's standing there admiring his 'handy-work'.
(Bill's note: notice how this idiot is only thinking of American soldiers and has no concern whatsoever for the civilian casualties of Obama's wars?)

Jackie Rawlings · Top Commenter
This is just one of the many examples of how insane our country has become with the current insane Law Makers and their King Mitt.
(Bill's note: yep, Jackie, this country is insane all right...and if you support Obama depite his war crimes, you are every bit as much of the problem as the conservatives you claim to loathe)

Aaron Keith Fewell · University of Louisville
This is so disheartening. While I'm a Democrat, I like to think I can look at things objectively and I work to see where people are coming from with their logic. But there is a growing faction of "movement conservatives" who have no logic...their strategy is simple, win on hatred, play on people's weaknesses. With each year, it becomes more outlandish. There was McCain heavily hinting at Obama as a terrorist at a rally and then he seemed shocked when he asked "Who is the real Barack Obama" and one of his mindless followers screamed "A terrorist". You can't practice the strategy of hatred and encourage it and then wash your hands of its effects.

Robin Potter
This is outrageous. I do not agree with the war, but come on, Obama did not start this war. I believe he is trying to end it and although, I am very sad about any deaths( American AND Afghans AND Iraqi"s) but I hardly see that we can lay this at THIS presidents feet.
(Bill's note: holy shit, nearly four years and one huge troop surge later, Afghanistan is STILL Bush's war. The cognitive dissonance is strong with this one)

Margaret Ann Williams · Works at The Dow Chemical Company
this is about as absurd as I've seen, such a shame that they would spend money to advertise such ignorance.
(Bill's note: yeah, and it's also a goddamn shame that the Guantanamo Gulag is still open despite the campaign promises of that lying sack of shit in the White House)
And so it continues on in this vein for nearly 100 more grueling comments. I didn't even have to selectively choose among them to make my point here. Sadly, the Ralph Smeed Foundation could not have done a better job of getting the delusional Obamabots fired up, and thereby more likely to go to the polls and vote for President Sellout again this November, thus helping to legitimize President Hopey-Changey's aggressively warmongering foreign policies, if that had been their intention all along.

There was a time in this sad, sorry ass country about 45 years ago when the American left brought down a Democratic president for waging aggressive war and slaughtering innocents abroad. ("Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?" Remember THAT one, fuckers? What...because it isn't YOUR ass on the line anymore it no longer matters? Is THAT it?) And thus has the American left has been reduced to reflexively supporting a President who does exactly the same thing because, hey, you know, at least he isn't George Bush, Dick Cheney or Mitt Romney.

Bonus: "Your flag decal won't get you into heaven anymore...they're already overcrowded from your dirty little war"

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Why I Don't Care About the Chick-fil-A Controversy

I was really trying to avoid writing about this latest stupid media-manufactured controversy, but since it apparently refuses to go away I felt compelled to say something. I just love how liberals and progressives in this country are so smug about how conservatives and reactionaries often whip up "fake outrage" about a particular issue to get their supporters all fired up, and then they constantly turn around and allow themselves get easily trolled by an opposition that is well versed in what buttons it needs to push to provoke a reaction. Pavlov could not have trained his dog any better.

The latest kerfuffle started when Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy stated during an interview, "We are very much supportive of the family--the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that." Right on cue, pandering politicians like New York and Chicago Mayors Michael Bloomberg and Rahm Emmanuel jumped into the fray, hoping to deflect people's attention from how their policies help fuck over the working and middle classes by demonstrating their "strong" support for gay rights. Because when it comes to massive distractions, few issues are a bigger winner for the non-Republican scum who hold high office throughout the land. Sadly, as a "leftist" officeholder you can get away with pushing through pretty much any old corporation-enriching government policy just so long as you prove your "Kum-ba-yah" credentials to your wine-sipping, brie-nibbling, NPR-listening, Daily Show-watching core supporters.

The whole brouhaha makes me tired for one very simple reason: I hated Chick-fil-A long before that horrible company's president made his idiotic and bigoted statement. Let's examine for a moment what Chick-fil-A really is: a predatory corporation which sells shitty, unhealthy food that greatly contributes to obesity and death from more than 1500 ugly ass stores blighting the lanscape from coast to coast while paying its employees shit wages and having the balls to claim the moral high ground because it gives those same beleaguered employees Sundays off so they can go to church. The fact that the company's president doesn't support gay marriage is just the cherry on a gigantic corporate shit sundae.

Calling for a boycott of Chick-fil-A is particularly stupid. Fact is, if you are a liberal or progressive who really cares about social injustice, public health or the environment you shouldn't have been patronizing this shitty company to begin with, and all a boycott does is create a backlash that will make the reactionaries and conservatives more likely to go to Chick-fil-A for a crappy chicken sandwich instead of, say, Boston Market. In other words, a boycott will change nothing. Oh, and to those libertarians who are defending Chic-fil-A's right to be a bunch of homophobic assholes let me just say: fuck you. To paraphrase George Carlin, only in a nation of unenlightened half-wits would such a terrible company be able to thrive in the first place.

In the end, pointless arguments about Chick-fil-A's gay marriage stance actually serve to subtly legitimize it's horrible business model because in essence liberals and progressives are reduced to saying that it is all right to be a planet-raping, poison-dispensing, low wage-paying fast food chain just so long as you are nice to gay people. And once again through such meaningless distractions, the energy of the American left gets wasted on sheer wankery guaranteed to ensure that there will be no genuine social change in this country.

Bonus: "The clouds will part and the sky cracks open, and god himself will reach his fucking arm through, just to push you down, just to hold you down"

Friday, July 27, 2012

"Saving the World" Versus "Saving the Economy"

If it seems like I spend a lot more time on this blog bashing liberals and progressives than I do reactionaries and conservatives, it's because I do. The latter I consider to be a lost cause, while liberals and progressives are supposedly open minded enough to "know better." Sadly, they rarely do, even if most of them have convinced themselves that they do.

This hit home for me again as I was reading a recent news story from USA Today entitled, "Americans put off having babies amid poor economy." Here's an excerpt:
Twenty-somethings who postponed having babies because of the poor economy are still hesitant to jump in to parenthood — an unexpected consequence that has dropped the USA's birthrate to its lowest point in 25 years.

The fertility rate is not expected to rebound for at least two years and could affect birthrates for years to come, according to Demographic Intelligence, a Charlottesville, Va., company that produces quarterly birth forecasts for consumer products and pharmaceutical giants such as Pfizer and Procter & Gamble.

Marketers track fertility trends closely because they affect sales of thousands of products from diapers, cribs and minivans to baby bottles, toys and children's pain relievers.

As the economy tanked, the average number of births per woman fell 12% from a peak of 2.12 in 2007. Demographic Intelligence projects the rate to hit 1.87 this year and 1.86 next year — the lowest since 1987.

The less-educated and Hispanics have experienced the biggest birthrate decline while the share of U.S. births to college-educated, non-Hispanic whites and Asian Americans has grown.

"What that tells you is that births have clearly been affected by the economy," says Sam Sturgeon, president of Demographic Intelligence. "And like any recession, it doesn't hit all people equally, and it hit some people much harder than others."

The effect of this economic slump on birthrates has been more rapid and long-lasting than any downturn since the Great Depression.

"Usually consumer sentiment bounces back a little quicker," Sturgeon says. "People are a bit in a wait-and-see pattern. … There's a sense of hesitancy, of 'What does better look like? How will we know?' — especially for those of prime child-bearing age. … The key word would be uncertainty, a lot of uncertainty. "

Many young adults are unemployed, carrying big student loan debt and often forced to move back in with their parents — factors that may make them think twice about starting a family.

"The more you delay it, the more you delay the possibility of a second or third child," says Stephanie Coontz, director of research and public education at the Council on Contemporary Families. "This is probably a long-term trend that is exacerbated by the recession but also by the general hollowing out of middle-class jobs. There's a growing sense that college is prohibitively expensive, and yet your kids can't make it without a college degree," so many women may decide to have just one child.
I know that I have put my history as a former progressive well behind me because my immediate reaction was that this was the first good news I've heard in quite some time. Overpopulation is one of those issues that every thinking person realizes is a major crisis facing humanity, yet few ever want to discuss in polite company. More to the point, however, is that the raw number of human beings on the planet is only part of the problem. Author Mark Herstgaard, in his book, Earth Odyssey, observed that from a resource consumption standpoint, a child born into an American family will on average during the course of its lifetime consume approximately ten times as many resources and cause about ten times as much environmental destruction as a child born into a third world, subsistence level existence. Ergo, the effect of any decline in population in the U.S. is multiplied by ten times as far as a beneficial effect on the environment compared to the same reduction in poor third world countries.

Therefore, if you are a liberal or progressive who is supposedly concerned about environmental destruction, climate change and resource depletion, you should welcome this news. But no, instead what we get from many of those from my former political tribe, especially those who call themselves economists such as Paul Krugman, is a lot of Keynesian-on-steroids nonsense about how the U.S. should double down on its insane levels of deficit spending in order to jump start our economy.

Assuming for a moment that we are not approaching the natural limits to economic growth, what would a return to a robust economy really look like? That's easy: more mindless consumption, more idiots trampling themselves at Walmart on Thanksgiving evening to save 20% on a loss-leader toaster oven, more SUVs on the road burning precious fossil fuels and expelling carbon into the atmosphere, more exurban McMansions and strip malls blighting the landscape, more garbage, more pollution, more poisons in the water and in the air, more species driven into extinction, and faster consumption of our remaining nonrenewable resources. In short, supporting a return to economic growth while claiming to be concerned about the environment is an insane position. Yet, I'll bet if you were to poll liberals and progressives as to whether they agree with the public policy positions of Bill McKibben and Paul Krugman an overwhelming majority would say yes to both.

My position, which I've stated here many times before, is that our society needs to start powering down voluntarily based upon the idea of shared sacrifice. That means giving up cars in favor of public transportation, giving up the American Dream of a single family home with a white picket fence in the yard, giving up on countless trips to the mall to buy more shit you don't need and giving up on taking a fancy vacations every year while still having money to save for retirement and also send the kids to college. In short, it means lowering the expectations of ever greater material comfort in exchange for a slower, simpler more personally enriching life based upon family, friends and community instead of continually buying the latest electronic gadget or running out like a lemming to the Multipleplex at midnight to see the latest stupid Batman movie.

But feel free to ignore my opinion on this subject because the sad fact is IT AIN'T EVER GONNA HAPPEN. As proof, I offer up the very next sentence from the USA Today article:
"We have to think through our policies," she says. "We've got to provide better support systems for working mothers as well as fathers."
Because we CAN'T POSSIBLY give up on the idea of growing our population, growing our economy and the growing destruction wrought upon the planet's environment. Perish the thought.

Bonus: From my You Tube channel: Sorry, liberals and progressives, but you can't always get what you want, and you probably won't get what you need, either

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Miami Will Wallow in Shit After Horrible Baseball Stadium Deal

image: just that hideous abomination pictured above alone cost the taxpayers of Miami a cool $3 million.
Back on December 4th in my post, "SEC Investigating Dirty Baseball Stadium Deal in Miami," I highlighted a story of how officials of Miami-Dade County got fleeced by the ownership of the Miami Marlins, and may have been bribed to get them to approve a new taxpayer funded stadium:
The Marlins pushed the limits on exactly how much a team can hold its city hostage. They cried poverty and threatened to move unless they got a new stadium while refusing to disclose their financial records – records that were later leaked and showed a team swimming in tens of millions of dollars in profits and funneled millions more to a corporation run by team owner Jeffrey Loria.

Miami-Dade County commissioners nevertheless voted 9-4 in favor of taking out loans that will cost the county $2.4 billion over 40 years to help build the stadium in Little Havana, about two miles west of the city. Critics across south Florida panned the deal, which gives the Marlins all stadium-related revenue and imbued the team with a new attitude entering this offseason.
That story was bad enough, but now comes word that while the Miami-Dade County commissioners were showering taxpayer money on scumbag billionaire Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria, a dire crisis was building up elsewhere in the county. From the Miami Herald:
Miami-Dade County’s three main water treatment plants and nearly 14,000 miles of pipelines are so outdated it would take more than $1.1 billion just to replace the “most deteriorated, vulnerable sections” of the system, a newly released internal study shows.

Corrosion is so pervasive in the county’s water and sewage-treatment plants, and pipes that move water and sewage, that initial repairs could take from three to eight years, the five-month study found.

Each day 300 million gallons of waste and 459 million gallons of drinking water pass through the county’s system — the 10th largest water-and-sewer utility in the nation.

“The infrastructure we have out there is aged,” said John Renfrow, director of the water and sewer department. “Many of the pipes with leaks out there were built at the same time. It reminds me of an apartment where all the lights are put in at the same time, and you know how all the lights go out at the same time.”

Federal regulators told the county two months ago that it must perform repairs and upgrades. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Justice, along with the state Department of Environmental Protection, are expected to take another four months discussing with Miami-Dade how to fix and pay for a system that Renfrow said is “being held together by chewing gum.”

The study, requested by Commissioner Barbara Jordan, shows the majority of the initial fixes — about $736 million of immediate work — is needed for sewer lines. Water lines would take another $364 million to repair.

The county’s main water treatment in Hialeah, and two sewage plants, on Virginia Key and in South Miami-Dade, are 56, 45 and 87 years old, respectively.

Fixing wire and concrete erosion in pipes would cost about $10 million, and fixing water mains, tanks and pumps would cost another $129.4 million, the study estimated.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but obviously Miami-Dade County had better things to do with its money than build a fucking baseball stadium.

But hey, I guess at least the citizens of Miami now have a great baseball team to cheer for while they hold their noses because of all their stopped up toilets, right? Wrong, Natch. Here's Yahoo Sports with that tale of woe:
Here is how the con worked.

The Florida Marlins owners whined, and they brayed, and they swore up and down that they couldn't afford the new stadium necessary to raise their payroll from embarrassing levels and compete annually. And they got it, the vast majority on the taxpayer's teat no less, this gleaming new gem from which they would fatten their pockets by taking all of the ticket and concession and parking and advertising sales, every last cent, no matter how unseemly that felt.

To allay fears, they changed their name to the Miami Marlins, their colors to a rainbow vomiting, their image to reflect the city, hot enough that the New Yorker would profile them and Showtime would broadcast a documentary on them and free agents Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell would take the money. People actually bought into the thing, recognized them as a real team and not just some affiliate run by a couple of swindlers who had already screwed Montreal and were primed to do the same to another city.

It wasn't ever going to end any other way. You knew that. You knew. When Jeffrey Loria and David Samson are involved, it can't end any other way, because they know no different. Loria is the owner of the Marlins, Samson the president, and they're turning the Miami Marlins into a chop shop. Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante were traded first this week, to the Tigers. Then Hanley Ramirez, who until this year Loria regarded as the franchise, to the Dodgers. Next could be Josh Johnson, their homegrown ace.

That would be $32.75 million shed within a week, bringing the Marlins from their $100 million dream back to the bottom quarter of payrolls in baseball.

And Miami is stuck with $2.4 billion in stadium debt service for that.

This would be falling-down funny if it weren't so very sad. Two charlatans, ripping off a major American city and laughing all the way to the bank.
In other words, the Marlins are still a shitty baseball team that is once again dumping its star players via trades in order to save money.

So how long do you suppose it will be before we start hearing rumblings about Miami-Dade County possibly having to declare bankruptcy because it can no longer afford to maintain its basic services? Meanwhile, instead of occupying a prison cell as they should, scumbag Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria and Team President David Sampson will be sitting pretty in the owner's box of the cushy new baseball stadium they built with money kindly donated by the taxpayers of a community that no longer can even afford working toilets.

God bless America.

Bonus: "Aw, Shit Man"

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Ignoramus Americans Like the Supreme Court Less, Which Means Nothing

Once in awhile, I run into a piece on a mainstream website that perfectly sums up my position on a particular issue. So without further ado, here is Hamilton Nolan from Gawker:
How did the recent ruling on Obamacare change the American public's opinion on the Supreme Court? Well, the public approval rate of the Supreme Court went down. Who cares?

The average American cannot tell you how many justices are on the Supreme Court, much less intelligently interpret the vagaries of Consitutional law and accurately assess how well it is being applied, in a philosophically coherent manner. Most Americans get the bulk of their education about the legal system from the popular Fox television series Cops.

Sure, there may be a vague—and accurate—public sense that the Supreme Court is dangerously politicized for such an unaccountable body. But the fact that the latest high-profile ruling featured a justice going against his party's preference should be an encouraging sign for anyone with that concern. The fact that public opinion simply marched in lockstep with the yammerings of cable news pundits makes it all the more clear that asking the average American about the Supreme Court is as worthwhile as asking a two-year-old how to pick up that hot girl at the bar: sure, they'll you something, but it won't be worth a shit.

I suppose the members of the Supreme Court can simply pose next to a popular professional athlete when they're ready for their approval numbers to rise again.
My hat is off to you, sir.

Bonus: Courtroom scenes we'd like to see

Friday, July 20, 2012

There Are No Superheroes, Just a Decadent and Depraved Culture

Mass shootings have become so common in America in recent years that most of the time they no longer even generate screaming national headlines—instead often fading into the media background noise along with all of the other horrible shit happening these days. If you are an aspiring mass shooter, you’ve got to come up with something truly creative to really get noticed. Show us something we haven’t seen before, you know, like attacking a crowded theater during the midnight premiere of the latest $200 million mindless comic book movie.

Today’s mass shooting tragedy in Aurora, Colorado—incidentally located not too far from the scene of the horrific 1999 slaughter at Columbine High School—was spectacular enough to get our collective attention. Once again, grisly images of bloodied bodies, including children, being littered across a typical suburban landscape have been seared upon our collective conscience, momentarily shaking us out of our media-induced stupor, if only long enough to merely condemn the killer as an asocial monster. And once again, as soon as the initial shock has faded we will collectively go right back to sleep without asking any of the larger questions about just why it is that so many of our fellow citizens “suddenly” turn rabid and try to kill as many others possible.

No doubt that in the aftermath of the shootings, before the blood and gore has even been scrubbed from the crime scene and the bodies of the dead buried in their graves, we will hear the same tired old bromides from both sides of the political spectrum. Liberals will insinuate that we need more gun control, though few Democratic office holders will say so too openly out of fear of offending the gun lobby. Many conservatives, meanwhile, will trot out the even more ridiculous line that the shootings just show that everyone should be packing heat and ready to defend themselves, even though most people are so incompetent that if all of the patrons in that theater had opened fire at once they would likely ALL have ended up dead in the resulting melee.

I’m sorry to disappoint the members of my former political tribe, but easy access to guns really isn’t the problem. Owing to its frontier heritage, America has always been a gun culture, and yet the epidemic of mass shootings is a relatively recent phenomenon. What’s changed is not the available weaponry but a the emergence of a decadent and depraved culture that has left countless millions of people alienated and disaffected with little hope that their shitty lives will ever get any better.

After World War Two, thanks greatly to the rise of television, America became the perfect consumer society just as it was also building soulless artificial suburban communities farther and farther from central cities. Whereas previously most people never strayed more than handful of miles from the place of their birth, meaning that they were always surrounded by a strong support network of friends and family members, suddenly in the pursuit of ever higher paying jobs in order to be able to afford the “good life” being sold to them on their television screens it became the norm to move hundreds or even thousands of miles away to places where they did not know anybody.

Instead of living in a modest homestead with maybe three generations under the same roof, they now occupy oversized McMansions on leafy cul-de-sacs where they barely even know the names of any of their neighbors. Burdened by ever higher levels of debt as they try to keep up with the Joneses despite stagnating salaries, they work ever longer hours with ever less vacation time to try to keep from falling off of a gigantic economic treadmill that seems to move a little bit faster every year.

Rather than having one parent stay home to raise the children, both have to work to afford their expensive lifestyles, meaning that the children get dumped off to day care, often before they are even old enough to walk. When the kids are old enough, instead of being sent to a small local schoolhouse they instead find themselves shipped every morning to gigantic education warehouses where the more socially awkward among them are relentlessly bullied by their peers. And when the kids do finally get to college they find themselves being buried under a gigantic mount of student loan debt before they even have a chance to get started in life. Oh, and just for shits and giggles (and Hollywood's profit margin) we'll make it so much of our popular culture consists of mindlessly hyperviolent movies, video games and teevee shows like The Dark Knight Rises, and get people so amped up to see them that they will stupidly rush out like lemmings to wait in long lines at the ridiculous hour of midnight to see the latest spectacle that will be available in their homes on Netflix within six months.

And now, in this age of permanent economic contraction, having completely bought in to an “American way of life” that has been sold to them relentlessly ever since they were little children, people are staring slackjawed as all of it is slowly being taken away from them by a greedy and predatory elite who have always felt that the rise of the middle class was only made possible in the first place by stealing what was rightfully theirs. At this point, the wonder is not that there are those who go off in a mindless rage and begin randomly killing everyone around them, but that it doesn’t actually happen more often.

Bonus: "Keep everyone afraid, and then they'll consume"

Thursday, July 19, 2012

When Huma Met Hillary

Poor Michelle Bachmann. She REALLY doesn't understand the way the world works. Because, you see, Mooslim-bashing (and gay-bashing, and librul-baching, and feminazi-bashing, and athiest-bashing) is perfectly acceptable as a tactic for scaring up votes and keeping the little people divided against each other if you are a wingnut Republican. You've just got to be sure that the Mooslim you are bashing isn't part of the in crowd.

Now even that tanned clown John Boehner and political hatchet man Ed Rollins are getting in on the act, ganging up on Bachmann for her recent two-bit McCarthyite antics. Here is Atlantic Wire with the details:
Speaker of the House John Boehner has become the latest high-profile Republican to denounce Michele Bachmann's "pretty dangerous" accusations that Huma Abedin, Hillary Clinton's deputy chief of staff and Anthony Weiner's wife, has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. "From everything that I do know of [Abedin], she has a sterling character and I think accusations like this being thrown around are pretty dangerous," Boehner told reporters during his briefing today. (There's that word again, hmmm ... sterling) As Senator John McCain did yesterday, Boehner is doing his part in taking down accusations put forth by Rep. Michele Bachmann and other conservative congresspersons which allege that Abedin, among others working in the U.S. government, have ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. Bachmann and Rep. Trent Franks (R-Arizona), Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), Thomas Rooney (R-Fla.) and Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.) put those accusations in letters which were sent to five federal agencies, reports The Huffington Post's Amanda Terkel and Jennifer Bendery.

Boehner said he hadn't yet seen the letters, according to Politico, but his admonishment of Bachmann's crew is notable in that he joins the ranks of high profile Republicans-- denouncing the "dangerous" accusations. Since McCain's fiery defense yesterday, senators like Florida's Marco Rubio and Massachusetts' Scott Brown have voiced their displeasure with Bachmann, but the most scathing seems to be Bachmann's former campaign chairman Ed Rollins, who has come out with a "Shame on You" op-ed on Fox News' s website on Wednesday. Here's Rollins's parting shot:

As a member of Congress, with a seat on the House Intelligence Committee, Mrs. Bachmann you know better. Shame on you, Michele! You should stand on the floor of the House and apologize to Huma Abedin and to Secretary Clinton and to the millions of hard working, loyal, Muslim Americans for your wild and unsubstantiated charges. As a devoted Christian, you need to ask forgiveness for this grievous lack of judgment and reckless behavior.
Gee, the whole spectacle of the right wing eating its own to protect poor Huma is almost enough to bring a tear to a good, diversity-loving liberal's eye. I mean, she is the very embodiment of the American Dream: daughter of immigrants, educated in the finest schools and has become very successful based upon her talents and work ethic. Heck, she's even a Muslim who married someone JEWISH. She's a wine-sipping, brie-eating, NPR-listening, Prius-driving, Daily Show-watcher's wet dream. You just HAVE to admire her, am I right?


Let's examine for a moment who Huma Abedin is. First of all, she is a prominent Congressman's wife, and even though that Congressman had to resign his seat over a sex scandal, he's still part of the exclusive club of business, political, academic and media "leaders" who run this country on behalf the billionaire elites. According to Wikipedia, Huma herself first began working as an intern for Hillary Clinton in 1996 when the latter was First Lady. She rode Clinton coat tails, first as a Senate staffer and now as the Deputy Chief of Staff to the Secretary of State.

That means Huma has been with her boss the whole time while the latter voted to authorize the Iraq War, was a consistant supporter of the Iraq War while in the Senate, and then was the Obama administration's most passionate advocate for the Afghanistan surge after she became Secretary of State. Yet if Huma has had any qualms whatsoever about her boss's consistent belligerency towards her fellow Muslims, she has kept it well hidden. So well, in fact, that (again, according to Wikipedia), Hillary Clinton said about Huma on the eve of her wedding to Anthony Weiner: "I only have one daughter. But if I had a second daughter, it would [be] Huma."

Huma Abedin is in fact a perfect tool of the empire. As a minority female, she is the Democratic Condoleeza Rice, a useful idiot that even the likes of wrinkled up old warmonger John McCain and the blithering John Boehner can hide behind when they try to convince people that America really is all about diversity and not run by a tiny cabal of rich, evil old white fuckers who rule the world with an iron fist. The agenda here should be very apparent to anyone who is paying attention. As I've said repeatedly on this blog, whenever you see Republicans and Democrats agreeing about something, THAT is when you should keep a tight hold on your wallet.

Though she is far too stupid to ever realize it, Michelle Bachmann has now been shown her real place in the hierarchy of the American elites. She may have thought she was a true insider, but what she didn't realize is that she is instead another Rod Blagojevich, a sideshow clown whose batshit insane antics merely serve as a holographic distraction for the idiot masses. The reactions of McCain, Rollins, Boehner and other conservatives to Bachmann's over-the-line demagoguery against Huma were a shot across the bow, and if she persists in wandering off the reservation of the elite consensus, she might just find herself sharing a fate similar to that of the original Tail Gunner Joe.

Bonus: I'll bet Passover in the Weiner household was never anything like this

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Hate Lies Waiting

I know that I am a cynical son-of-a-bitch (no, Bill, say it isn’t so!), and very little that I read or hear surprises me anymore. But I’ll admit that this story from the Washington Post about a DC police officer assigned to Michelle Obama’s protection detail actually shocked me:
A D.C. police officer who worked as a motorcycle escort for White House officials and other dignitaries was moved to administrative duty Wednesday after he allegedly was overheard making threatening comments toward Michelle Obama, according to several police officials.

The police department’s Internal Affairs Division is investigating the alleged comments and notified the U.S. Secret Service Wednesday, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to give details of the investigation.

The motorman allegedly made the comments Wednesday morning as several officers from the Special Operations Division discussed threats against the Obamas. It was not immediately clear where the alleged conversation took place or exactly how many officers took part in the conversation.

During that conversation, the officials said, the officer allegedly said he would shoot the First Lady and then used his phone to retrieve a picture of the firearm he said he would use. It was not immediately clear what type of firearm was allegedly shown.

An officer overheard the alleged threat and reported it to a police lieutenant at the Division, who immediately notified superiors, the officials said.
No matter what you may think of Obama, and regular readers know that I personally despise the man for the way he has consolidated and legitimized all of the horrible things that Bush wrought upon America during his eight year reign of error, what this incident portends could not possibly be more disturbing. This was not some unemployed loser ranting and raving to his fellow Klansmen and skinheads in some deep, dark Internet chat room. I don’t know which aspect of this story is more unsettling, that a police officer assigned to protect the first lady was harboring apparently serious thoughts about killing her or that he actually felt he had a receptive audience among his fellow officers and was comfortable enough to openly share those thoughts.

What this story really indicates is that in our public discourse we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg in terms of the amount of seething hatred and resentment being harbored by many of our fellow citizens. The Pretty Hate Machine has not only been injecting pure bile into our collective consciousness for the past 30 years, but it has been gradually becoming more blatant in its utter disdain for anyone who is perceived as the “other.” And it’s not just racism, although it along with sexism and homophobia are always the key ingredients in the volatile bile cocktail served up by the malevolent charlatans who pump out the propaganda.

The body politic in America is becoming like a forest undergoing a severe drought, slowly drying out and just waiting for the spark which will set off the inevitable conflagration. All signs in the economy are now pointing towards another market crash, though just how far away that event might be remains unclear. When it happens, and when unemployment begins to skyrocket again as a result, it seems pretty clear that the undercurrents of hatred thrumming just below the surface are likely to explode out into the open and threaten to consume us all.

Bonus: "Listening to some bullet head and that madness that he's saying"

Pretty Hate Machine (Full Version)

I hope I am not dating myself too badly by using this reference, but the other day I was thinking as I often do about the deplorable level of public discourse in America when a phrase suddenly flashed into my consciousness like a branding iron searing the hide of prized steer: Pretty Hate Machine. With all apologies to Trent Reznor for borrowing the title of his debut Nine Inch Nails album, it’s a pretty good metaphor for the ugly mood prevalent among the citizenry of an empire that has now begun its terminal decline.

The cause of this epiphany was the latest media attack against Sandra Fluke, the earnest young law student who had the temerity to appear before a Congress that is rapidly losing its sanity and speak a few truths about the importance of birth control to the health and well being of young women in our society. The controversy caused afterward when drug addled old cretin Rush Limbaugh repeatedly called Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute” on the air had finally died down when Fox News host Monica Crowley stirred it up again by making a blatantly homophobic tweet joking about the innocuous announcement that Fluke had become engaged to be married.

There was a quaint time just a couple of decades ago when such hateful “humor” was confined the to the radio broadcasts of Limbaugh and a handful of other extreme right wing shouters. As Crowley’s attack on Fluke demonstrates, however, such venomous attacks have now become mainstream. Crowley knows well her troglodyte audience, and she recognized that insinuating Fluke is a lesbian would titillate them and enflame their hatred. For Crowley, the boost in ratings and audience popularity was worth far more than any momentary discomfort she may have felt when she subsequently had to issue her lame “apology” to Fluke.

Make no mistake—the ugliness of the vitriol directed at Fluke also carries with it a not-so-subtle message. Namely, if you are an average citizen who is thinking of standing up in a public forum to object to one of the many great injustices currently being perpetrated in this country, you should expect to be attacked by the army of denizens who make up the Pretty Hate Machine. They will relentlessly scrutinize every detail of your life that they can dig up. Anything that can be used to embarrass you in the media or serve as a distraction to help discredit your message will be amplified and magnified repeatedly until millions of your fellow citizens begin spitting in venomous anger at the very mention of your name. Their hatred toward you will burn white hot even though they have never met you nor know anything about you other than what their preferred demagogue tells them.

The attacks will not even stop upon your death, especially if those who run the machine consider your demise to be politically inexpedient to their agenda. Poor Trayvon Martin’s body had barely cooled off after George Zimmerman shot him before the Pretty Hate Machine was already gearing up the attacks as if he and not Zimmerman had been the one carrying the gun that fateful night. Thus a teenage kid walking alone bearing nothing more threatening to life and limb than a bottle of Snapple and a pack of Skittles was transformed for millions of fearful white Americans into a marauding thug and gangbanger who would no doubt have broken into every home in the neighborhood, raped all of the white women and stolen their jewelry and valuables had “heroic” George Zimmerman not stopped him with that bullet just in a nick of time.

The awful absurdity of this right wing media attack upon the victim reached a crescendo when sleazeball extraordinaire Geraldo Rivera basically insinuated that Martin was asking to be shot because he was wearing a hoodie, conveniently forgetting that there were photographs on the Internet of Rivera himself donning that very same article of clothing. Rivera, too, later said he was sorry for his remarks, but in this context the apology is all but irrelevant once the intended damage has been inflicted.

Truth be damned, the Pretty Hate Machine must be fed—and in the case of Trayvon Martin it has done its job very well. Enough of the public has been whipped into a froth at the very thought of Zimmerman even being arrested and forced to account for his crime that there is now no realistic chance that, for example, Florida’s insane “Stand Your Ground” gun law will ever be repealed. The attacks on the unfortunate Martin have worked so well in whipping up anger and hatred in a certain segment of the population that they even caused a Miami Fire Department official named Brian Beckmann to post the following message on his Facebook page:
“Listening to Prosecutor Corey blow herself and her staff for five minutes before pre-passing judgment on George Zimmerman. The state seeks reelection again, truth aside. I and my coworkers could rewrite the book on whether our urban youths are victims of racist profiling or products of their failed, shitbag, ignorant, pathetic, welfare dependent excuses for parents, but like Mrs. Corey, we speak only the truth. They’re just misunderstood little church going angels and the ghetto hoodie look doesn’t have anything to do with why people wonder if they’re about to get jacked by a thug.”
Keep in mind that in addition to the fact that neither of Martin’s parents have ever been on welfare, those ugly words were not written by some dropout loser Ku Klux Klan member living in a backwoods trailer, but by a member of middle class working in a profession which presumably brings him into daily contact with blacks and other minorities. The hatred whipped up by the Martin case also appears to have had a reverse effect, as evidenced by several racially charged attacks by blacks apparently motivated in part by all of the publicity.

Another example of just how ugly the national mood has become even when the Pretty Hate Machine is not deliberately inflaming passions came just last week during the Stanley Cup playoffs after the Washington Capitals defeated the Boston Bruins in dramatic fashion. What should have been a great sports story to help momentarily take people’s minds off of their problems was instead marred by the reaction of a large number of fans to the fact that the winning goal was scored by Joel Ward, one of the few black athletes playing in the National Hockey League. Ward’s winning shot set off of a flurry of racist Twitter messages among angry Bruins fans, including dozens that actually used the n-word to describe him. Reading through the collected list of racist tweets made my blood run cold, so virulent was the raw hatred on display. It was almost like being transported back in time to 1960s Alabama.

The underlying reason why the Pretty Hate Machine has become so powerful at this moment in our history, of course, is because of the dire financial distress being felt by so many people across the nation. Nearly four years after the crash, tens of millions continue to struggle with the after effects. Even if they still have their jobs, they have often seen their wages frozen and their benefits cut back. Many who were laid off have only managed to find lower paying positions, and employers have taken great advantage of the fear workers feel at the possibility of being the next one let go.

Additionally, millions lost their homes to foreclosure and millions more are underwater on their mortgages, and both groups are also being crushed by enormous credit card debts. Pensions are rapidly vanishing and college students are graduating into the worst job market since World War Two even as they bear the burden of huge student loan debts. Add it all up, and you have the perfect recipe for creating the kinds of stresses and insecurities that lead to so much hatred and bile being spewed forth in the public arena.

So where is this awful trend heading? Well, if you believe as I do that the financial crisis is only just beginning and will soon become a whole lot worse, then you recognize that we are getting uncomfortably close to the danger zone in which these building tensions are likely to erupt. The deteriorating economic conditions in America, made all the worse by the greed and avarice of the predatory elites who own and operate the Pretty Hate Machine, have become like a forest suffering from a prolonged summer drought—just waiting for the inevitable spark that will set off a massive conflagration.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Amtrak’s $151 Billion Pipe Dream

I said last month that one of the main reasons I was going to reduce my blogging was that I was getting sick and tired of paying so much attention to the “yadda, yadda” of our delusional and largely meaningless national discourse. Today, however, I came across yet another example of the yadda, yadda that was SO delusional that I just had to make a comment on it. I’ll let Talking Points Memo tell you the details:
Amtrak, the government-owned national rail corporation, on Monday released an ambitious $151 billion plan to develop a high-speed rail line along the currently existing Northeast Corridor rail network by 2040.

The proposed high-speed rail line would travel at top speeds of 220 miles-per-hour in some sections and be able to deliver passengers from Washington, D.C. to Boston in a little over 3 hours.

Distances between other major Northeastern cities would be shortened even more markedly, with travel times between New York and Boston or New York and Washington, D.C. down to 94 minutes, and a little over a half-hour between New York and Philadelphia.

Compare that to the current fastest Amtrak trains along the route, those in the Acela Express line, which take three-and-a-half hours to get from Boston to New York and a little under three hours to get from Washington, D.C. to New York.

The new Amtrak plan included the following chart showing the estimated time saved as construction on the new plan proceeds over the next 28 years.
Reading that, the very first thing that leapt to mind was to wonder whether, given that they have to be aware that the U.S. is already nearly $16 trillion in debt and that any form of mass transportation project faces determined institutional opposition from a Republican Party that considers it to be “socialist,” the Amtrak executives who announced this proposal haven’t completely lost their marbles. The proposal itself is a big enough fantasy, but then they had to go ahead and make it even more out in space:
But the plan proposes that Amtrak spend the next 13 years making improvements and upgrades to the 457 miles of current rail infrastructure in the Northeast Corridor, which stretches from Washington, D.C. to Boston, before laying down the new track that would be necessary for a high speed rail line.

In fact, Amtrak’s detailed outline, titled “The Amtrak Vision for the Northeast Corridor: 2012 Update Report,” is itself an updated and consolidated version of two other rail plans released by the corporation back in 2010, one focused on improving existing infrastructure and the other onhigh-speed rail, which Amtrak at that time estimated would cost $117.5 billion.
So, Amtrak expects to spend thirteen years making “improvements” before it even STARTS construction? And worse yet, the proposed cost of the project has already ballooned by nearly one-third in just the past two years alone? Pardon me for asking, but what exactly are they smoking over there? I just hope they aren’t sharing it with the train operators.

Just when I thought Amtrak had gone completely off the rails, to use yet another in my long line of unfortunate metaphors, they did at least somewhat acknowledge reality:
Still, Amtrak noted that “public sector leadership and funding is essential during the early years.”
In other words, the odds of this plan ever being approved are somewhere between nada and a snowball’s chance in hell.

Bonus: Play a fucking train song

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Third World Comes to Scranton, Pennsylvania

The recent story about the salaries of municipal employees in the cash-strapped city of Scranton, Pennsylvania, being slashed to minimum wage has caused quite a stir in certain circle of the Internet. From what I’ve read on various websites, there were a lot of different reactions to this development, most of them based on either partisan politics or ideology. Predictably, liberals and progressives were bemoaning yet another assault on middle class wages and calling for massive tax hikes on the one percent to close the gigantic budget imbalances being experienced by states and municipalities all across the country. On the flip side were the conservatives and the libertarians, crowing that the “fat cat” government workers, and more importantly those evil public employee unions, were finally getting their comeuppance and being subjected to the “market forces” from which they had heretofore so impertinently felt themselves completely immune.

To both points of view I can only shake my head and say: yadda, yadda, yadda, whatever.

It’s amazing how few people seem to understand the real significance of this story. Is there a coordinated effort on the part of libertarian billionaires like the Koch brothers to smash the public employee unions and thus breach the last real bastion of stable middle class employment left in America? Undoubtedly. Do public employees and their unions have a completely unrealistic expectation of what pay and benefits are “owed” to them at a time when real economic growth is coming to an end and we are entering the age of contraction? Absolutely. But in the end, I would argue that those are relatively minor concerns for most people.

I think much of the comprehension problem starts with the insular lives most Americans lead. This is really not so surprising in a country where only about one-fifth of the population holds a passport, and even the overwhelming majority of those who do have them have never travelled anywhere more exotic than Canada, Europe or some Caribbean resort. So allow me as one who has actually visited the third world to enlighten the Nativists regarding one basic fact that they are failing to consider: you do not in any, way, shape or form want to live in country where the government employees, especially those at the state and municipal level with whom you have to interact on a regular basis to obtain many of your basic services, are not being paid a living wage.

Imagine for a moment residing in a place where the police do not more or less keep the peace, which they currently do in the United States despite the occasional abuse of power, but are in fact another armed gang roving the streets, extorting money not just from the bad guys but from honest citizens, either dealing drugs themselves or protecting the drug dealers and making perceived troublemakers permanently disappear. Imagine living in a place where you have to pay a bribe for every service, from getting your water turned on, to getting your garbage collected, to obtaining a driver’s license, to getting the police to respond to a burglary of your home, to getting that gigantic pothole in the street in front of your house fixed, to obtaining a birth certificate for your newborn child. Imagine living in a place where every favor, including your ability to obtain and hold down a job, is doled out in exchange for your vote by unaccountable political bosses who are little better than gangsters themselves and who have thugs on the payroll to make sure everyone in the neighborhood toes the line. This may sound like the stuff of a dystopian science fiction novel, but it is in fact the grim reality faced by probably a majority of the world’s population every day of their lives.

It was also typical of what residents of America’s larger cities faced back in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when there was no social safety net and political machines like Tammany Hall used patronage and favoritism to rule most city halls with an iron fist. Over the course of time many reforms were enacted that eventually crushed the power of the machines and stamped out the routine petty corruption that touched the lives of nearly every citizen, but perhaps the most important factor was the professionalization of government employment and the lifting of wages for municipal employees to the point where, say, taking small bribes from citizens in exchange for approving permits was no longer worth the risk of losing their jobs. If you think dealing with the DMV is bad now, just wait until the employees there are all toiling for minimum wage.

Once again, if you have read this blog with any regularity you know that I am not advocating that government workers be allowed to maintain their pay and benefits at a time when their private sector brethren are losing theirs. In fact, the recent failed Wisconsin recall election vote shows how easy it has become for billionaire elites to turn the resentments of one sector of workers against another and get them at each other’s throats. Personally, I am first and foremost a believer in the idea of SHARED sacrifice in this era of permanently declining available resources, even though I know there is no chance that such a concept will ever be adopted in this country as long as those same billionaires can engage in unrestricted political war against the very idea. All I’m saying is that those who might be tempted to dance in the streets in celebration of what is happening in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and will likely soon be happening in many localities, should not complain when in a few years they find themselves living in the crumbling and thoroughly corrupt hell that will constitute Third World America.

Bonus: Close enough for government work

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Empire Will Eat Itself

Yesterday was of course Independence Day in America. A day we celebrate in earnest even though many of us have no real fucking clue what it is that we are actually celebrating. It's a day when dozens of nimrods across this great land invariably blow off various body parts doing things with fireworks that they were never designed to do and challenging old Charles Darwin to take his best fucking shot.

If there is one single annual Fourth of July event that sums up just how badly America has gone astray, it would have to be the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest held every year at Coney Island. Not so much the contest itself, really. After all, Coney Island was was always a place of seedy entertainment. No, it's the fact that it has become a major televised spectacle and has helped launch a professional sports league called, I shit you not, Major League Eating. That America's whole economy has become based on mindless consumption is bad enough, but now we've gone and made a major spectator sport out of it and put it on fucking ESPN.

In that spirit, I thought I would share this enlightening story from Deadspin, which attempts to answer the age old question, what happens when these guys have to poop after the contest?
The Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest is a lot of things—patriotic, promotional, repellant—but above all, the contest is a study in misdirection. Like so many of Coney Island's storied card sharks and freak shows, the contest succeeds by distracting its audience, plying them with sideshows between and around the twenty minutes of actual competitive consumption. Mookie Wilson, Greg Louganis and Miss New York dived into a 15-foot apple pie, somebody pulled a pick-up truck with his hair, MarShon Brooks played HORSE against a randomly selected crowd member. The action was deliberately brisk, but it couldn't vanquish my reasonable, pressing question, the question that would be on anyone's mind.

What are the post-contest poops like?

Every competitor I spoke to or heard speak yesterday maintained that they would not be throwing up at any point, before, during, or after the contest. Forget the skill and determination required to eat 50 or 60 hot dogs in 10 minutes: the true test of wills comes after that, when the media descends on the eaters in the Coney Island heat—an atmosphere that can turn stomachs even before Nathan's stuffs them.

Some competitive eater code dictates that they may not, under any circumstance, admit to feeling even a little nauseated. But they have to be. An eater must walk around for the rest of the day full—literally full—of hot dogs (packed, as an oppositional pamphlet reminded us as we left, "with fat, sodium and cholesterol"), the water they dunked them in, and what Major League Eating euphemistically calls "detritus," which is to say, chewed-up hot dogs they mistakenly spat out, but then had to re-swallow because otherwise they would have been docked points or disqualified.

But let's say the competitors were being honest about not vomiting. If all those dogs don't come out one end, they have to come out the other. So I sought answers. Do they race to the bathroom right away? If not, how long would it be until the post-contest dump? How does that dump compare to a regular dump? Do toilets get clogged? Are they just in the bathroom the rest of the day?

I found someone who I thought had been on stage—he was a bit of a mess, as eaters often are post-competition—and jabbed a tape recorder in his face to ask about his next shit. Part of me wishes that he had been a bystander, as I briefly feared, if only because that would have made his unhesitating response ("Not fun!") pretty amazing. But the eater in question was actually Micah "Wing Kong" Collins, ranked thirteenth in the world by Major League Eating. He once ate 84 ounces of baked beans in 58 seconds. The man presumably knows from shits, and yet, when pressed, he said his post-hot-dog contest evacuation would probably only take 10 or 15 minutes, and would likely occur about three hours from the time of our chat. Pretty standard stuff.

Lee Vilinsky, a first-time competitor who received lusty boos for having the temerity to be from Canada, echoed Collins' sentiments. Though he wouldn't say when, exactly, he could expect to rid himself of the day's work, Vilinsky speculated that the result would be "Not pretty."

Patrick "Deep Dish" Bertoletti seemed like a good candidate to give me more detail. The third-place finisher at 51 hot dogs, Bertoletti, who ate in a Speedo, seemed like the answer to a poop enthusiast's prayers. "There's Porta-Potties back there, I think they might just explode, to be honest." Alas, he was joking—apparently those Porta-Potties generally go unused. Bertoletti said he'd need a good eight hours before he had really digested the 51 dogs, and he was disinclined to predict size or intensity that far into the future. Bertoletti claimed to have "tons more space" in his stomach, and explained that what separates Chestnut from his competition is the ability to eat until he's at true capacity without succumbing to tangential roadblocks, such as throat soreness, or fatigue. I was more interested in the poop, but hey, spare a thought for Bertoletti: he ate 51 hot dogs in 10 minutes and still lost by 17. He needed to vent.

Runner-up Tim "Eater X" Janus, eater of 52 hot dogs (and burper of 18.1 seconds) grew contemplative when asked about his next poop. After a pause, he shook his head and said only, "You gotta live with the consequences of your actions." (We bet the average American hears this a lot on July 4.)

With four interviews in the books and the crowd dispersing, I'd only learned what the poops wouldn't be like: not fun, not pretty, not immediate, not inconsequential. Would I get any positive comment on what it's like to crap out scores of hot dogs? A media scrum formed around the only remaining eater, winner Joey Chestnut, who answered questions like, "How did you eat so many hot dogs?" very professionally ("I used my mouth") despite the sweat pouring from his body, and the fact that he'd just eaten 68 hot dogs in 10 minutes. Chestnut was dismissed after a minute or two and the scrum dispersed, but he stopped for one last question on his way out. Suddenly sheepish, I asked, "Mr. Chestnut, what will your next bowel movement be like?" Resplendent in victory, sweatier than anyone I've ever seen before in my life, Chestnut thought for a moment and then said confidently: "Picture-worthy."
Even better than the article was this delightful little nugget from the reader comments:
As the friend of a girl that dates one of the top three finishers and having attended the Nathan's private after party every year I can tell you that they all puke it up 100% of the time. Every contest, no matter the food. The euphemism is "vacating."

I have come to know way more about this "sport" than I truly ever cared to--the training involves drinking gallons of water regularly to expand the stomach but with the immediate need to puke it back up before suffering from water poisoning. The eater my friend dates has been in the hospital because he was "training" but didn't puke it back up in time. Water poisoning is apparently pretty serious. I Wikipedia'ed it.

Anyhow, the real funny stories come at this Nathan's after party every year--these guys are complete social outcasts that all the sudden become "stars" one day a year and totally act like douchebags for a night. But not like actual douchebags, like what nerdy kids think douchebags should act like. One of them always ends up getting shitfaced and being kicked out, only to have a gaggle of weird-ass eating groupies (not really all that attractive, but still--actual fucking groupies) attend to him on the curb. Then he usually pukes more.

In conclusion: they all puke. A lot.
The Founding Fathers would be so proud.

Bonus: This video isn't even a parody anymore.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

This is Why I'm Not a Libertarian...

...because then I might be stupid, blind or ideologically rigid enough to write the bit of "wisdom" contained in the op-ed piece above. That image has apparently been bouncing around recently on the libertarian websites, and the several comments I could stomach reading seemed to view it with much enthusiasm. Putting aside for a moment the sheer lack of empathy or even basic human decency shown by the writer, he also seems to have little understanding of who the real welfare queens are in America today.

Let me put this in very simple terms so that even the most thickheaded Randian troglodyte like Billy Fleming could understand it: the real purpose of ALL government welfare programs in this country is to enrich corporate America.

I'll pause for a moment so the libertarians can let out their WHARRGARBL.

Okay, now I'm back and ready to explain my rather incendiary assertion. Let's start with the food stamp program, since it in particular seems to vex poor ol' Billy Fleming. The average monthly food stamp benefit per person for those unfortunate enough to be on the program is the princely sum of $133 a month. Ever tried to limit your monthly food budget to that amount? I haven't, but I can't imagine it would be a picnic, to use an unfortunate metaphor.

Stretching that thin dollar out to cover the whole month pretty much guarantees that the recipient will be forced to buy a lot of cheap, highly processed foods of low nutritional value. Fresh fruits and vegetables are expensive, Kraft Mac&Cheese is cheap. When you are living day to day hoping not to go hungry before the next monthly stipend arrives, you don't have the luxury of worrying about such things as the potential impact of eating garbage on your long term health prospects.

One of the great libertarian memes when slamming food stamp recipients is that they use the stamps to buy sodas and snack cakes. Well, OF COURSE they do. Have you checked the price of a liter of Coke versus the same amount fresh milk or orange juice lately? And as for the snack cakes, if you're going to have to eat shit anyway it might as well be SWEET shit, right?

The simple fact is that the food stamp program as currently constituted is NOT at all designed to help poor people who might starve to death without it. They merely serve as the delivery mechanism to transfer public funds to the American food industry under the guise of providing a social safety net. A sensibly run program would tightly restrict the kinds of items that could be purchased, and would not include crap that is little better than slow acting poison to the people who consume it. But heavily processed items full of deadly additives like high fructose corn syrup are the most profitable for the food industry, so you have a program that not only allows those items to be purchased but is insidiously designed to ensure that the recipients cannot afford to buy healthier alternatives.

This same dynamic applies to any of our social welfare programs. Medicare and Medicaid are merely a pass through providing government health care money to the hospital, pharmaceutical and related industries. Rental assistance payments go directly to private landlords, FHA insured mortgages backstop money being loaned to home buyers with risky credit, student loan guarantees allow for-profit colleges to thrive even though half of the students who borrow money to enroll in those schools end up defaulting on their loans--the list just goes on and on. What's more, it doesn't even include the REALLY big corporate welfare giveaways like defense war contracts and agriculture subsidies.

One big blind spot most libertarians seem to have is not recognizing that the big corporations are every bit as big a threat to individual liberties as big government. When a tiny set of corporate elite control production of everything you need to live your life, they've got you by the balls even if they don't formally control the means of official coercion. The second big libertarian blind spot is not recognizing that the big government they rail so passionately against no longer exists to serve anyone BUT the big corporations. Across the board, government policy making has become completely captive to the ability of elite private interests to make some kind of a buck from it--Obamacare being just the latest unfortunate example.

So go ahead, libertarians. Keep blaming the "parasites" and the "useless eaters" for sucking down your precious tax dollars. Keep making dumbass analogies comparing the food stamp program to feeding wild animals. And rest assured that your real overlords will be thanking you for your misguided support as they count up the billions of dollars they earn from strip mining the very programs that you are so impotently stomping your feet about.

Bonus: "So say goodbye it's Independence Day...It's Independence Day...All down the line"

Sunday, July 1, 2012

A Wild Weekend

As I'm sure everyone is aware by now, it was quite a wild weekend in the Washington, DC, area as we got hit with something called a derecho, which despite being a bit of a weather geek I will nevertheless admit was a term I had never heard of prior to now. Supposedly, "derecho" means a wide band of powerful thunderstorms that can travel over long distances. But it could just as easily mean, "nasty, global warming fueled weather phenomenon," as that is what it amounted to.

All that said, my wife and I got pretty lucky. About a month ago, we reserved a room at a bed & breakfast over on Maryland's eastern shore for this weekend and were safely on the other side of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge about twelve hours before Mr. Derecho took direct aim at the nation's capital. The storm's power was still pretty astonishing where we were, but fortunately it failed to knock out the electricity there. Incredibly, we returned home this morning about one hour after the juice got turned back on in our neighborhood.

The DC area as a whole, however, is still pretty shaken up. There are dozens of trees down all around my neighborhood, including one that clobbered my next door neighbor's back fence and deck. As of this evening, 60% of the residents and businesses in Montgomery County, Maryland, are still without power and it was announced that some may not get it back until next weekend.

Throughout it all, I was wondering what the smarmy family of Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma was doing, they who got such a kick out of building an igloo to mock Al Gore during the February 2010 blizzards. Al Gore may be a fraud, a hypocrite and an opportunist, but even a broken clock is right twice a day provided that the hour and minute hands haven't fallen off its face. I sincerely hope that Senator Inhofe's family were among those denizens of the nation's capital who had the unfortunate experience of having tree limbs crash down onto their cars or houses on Friday night.

Look, I'm no scientist, and I would never claim to have any special knowledge of matters climatological, but I would really like to know how anyone who is not on the payroll of the Koch brothers and who does not have their head planted firmly up their ass can look at the recent events in Colorado, Florida and now here in jolly old DC and NOT recognize that something very extreme and potentially very dangerous is happening with the weather. Just last August in the DC area, we had a 1,000 year flood from a series of thunderstorms that decided to camp out over the area and pour down rain for hours on end, and now less than a year later we've been struck by the equivalent of inland hurricane.

What the fuck does it take, a derecho-generated giant hailstone to land on the deniers' fucking heads? It's bad enough that the effects of peak oil and resource depletion are already causing stress to the systems we depend out to sustain our modern way of living, and events like this weekend serve as just a little preview of the chaos the planet likely has in store for us going forward even as we gradually lose our ability to deal with them.

Bonus: From my You Tube channel, a special song uploaded just for the derecho