Monday, September 29, 2014

People Are Accustomed to Getting Everything For Free


The horse is already out of the barn.

If you create things and expect to get paid, then, brother, this is not a good time to be in the process of making a living. The people who profit from cheap or free content are doing well. The makers of said content aren't. That's as simple as it gets.

Why highlight Philip Roth? He doesn't even write books anymore. You're talking about a dispute between legacy publishers, which is what Hatchette really is,  and Amazon. The time to fight Amazon was over a decade ago when they got into the business of undercutting the prices of publishers.

Amazon has thousands of non-mainstream writers who specialize in niche books that make some money (in some cases, more than you imagine for robot porn and things of that nature). They don't care if Roth is upset. They're not paying attention to anything other than how to get content--physical and downloaded products of any kind--into the hands of people. They only care about getting as many people hooked on free stuff as possible, which is why Amazon has Amazon Prime and other ways of getting content for free.

There are more and more books no one wants to read coming out. There are whole albums full of songs no one wants. There are movies no one goes to see. There's almost no way to make a living writing or making music or making visual art anymore. You can get paid making coffee for people and you can get paid stealing content. You can't do much else.

Politico Peddles Astrology Now


Can I just say that astrology is absolute bullshit and that any publication that dabbles in it should be discredited and ignored? As in, instantly?

As soon as you pull that trigger and start trying to use astrology to make money, you're dead to me as far as a viable news outlet. This is why I stopped looking at the Huffington/AOL post long ago--they were needlessly chasing that nutty astrology audience and there was no need to do so.

Astrology preys on the ignorance of people (hooray for Hollywood!) who don't know anything anyway. It's inconceivable (and I do know how to use that word) that we are still tolerating the presence of astrology in any discussion relating to anything other than making fun of astrologers. It's 2014! And have I told you lately that astrology is just bullshit dressed up for a walk on the town with his cousins crazy and nutzo? Good God. Wait, what?

Politico ran this piece about Chelsea Clinton's baby, and the insanity of the media complex in Washington D.C. is confirmed--they had the baby to help Hillary Clinton get elected President and the astrology behind this fact will give rise to a dozen or more hurried books about the Clintons.

"Politico asked astrologers to weigh in..."

Jeebus, save us from these fools.

Mitt Romney is Harold Stassen


Holy cow:
Mitt Romney has been adamant about not running for president again in 2016 for the better part of two years, but beginning late this summer, his answers have become more "probably not" than just a straight "no."
In August, the 2012 Republican nominee said he wasn’t running, but added that “circumstances can change.” And last week, Ann Romney said “we will see” when she was asked about a third run by her husband. On Wednesday, a Washington Examiner article titled “Romney 2016 is real” reported that the former Massachusetts governor is talking with family and advisers about the possibility.
The road from “I’m not doing it again” to “Circumstances can change” is paved with favorable polls, 2012 predictions that came true and public statements from supporters.
The Romney family has, literally, noting to do except run for the presidency. If not Mitt, then one of his sons. This will be the new cottage industry for wealthy Americans--start running for President in order to rake in the lucrative deals and donations.

Harold Stassen ran for president, endlessly, unable to deal with missing his chance. Romney has missed his chance more than once and he refuses to get off that treadmill.

Of both men, Hunter S. Thompson could say:
 "Others are not so lucky and are doomed, like Harold Stassen, to wallow for the rest of their lives in the backwaters of local politics, cheap crooks, and relentless humiliating failures."
Mitt Romney, aka "Romneyshambles," is exactly that. A relentlessly failing man who got rich destroying the work of others for profit.

We Have Been Conditioned to Respect Wealth


Paul Krugman has been on a tear lately. He has torn David Brooks into shreds and he is expanding on his usual portfolio, which is to explain why people are broke and can't get ahead anymore.

Luke Brinker adds:
It’s a persuasive analysis. Even though Americans appear to believe that the CEO-worker pay ratio is roughly where it stood in the 1960s, they still express indignation at the level of income inequality in the country — and want policymakers to do something about it. AJanuary poll by Gallup found that 67 percent of Americans were dissatisfied with the distribution of wealth and income in the U.S., while a February CNN poll found that 66 percent of Americans want the government to take action to narrow the income gap between rich and poor. But 68 percent favored such action in 1983, and that wasn’t enough to stop four decades of neoliberal economic policy. That sobering statistic stresses the importance of bringing the full extent of income and wealth inequality to light.
We have been taught to respect wealth and that we are wrong to "envy" or "condemn" the rich for being successful. A pervasive myth running from the Reagan Years until now is that anyone in America can be rich so, you know, don't hate on the players. 

Somehow, it became inserted into the national consciousness that the act of criticizing a rich person was akin to eating a bucket of communism and dressing up in socialist rags. Somehow, it became cool to accept the idea that the wealthy were actually deserving of their status, smarter than everyone else, and capable of guiding America to a shining new future. What we now know is that our elites are a tremendous failure, benefiting from nepotism and ignorance all at the same time.

The problem with our culture of inequality is that we don't understand the ramifications of not holding the wealthy accountable. They're ruining the country. They are confiscating vast amounts of wealth and pushing it into a pile that no one can touch. They're consuming the labor of others and they're not producing anything that resembles a societal benefit--witness the need for our government to beat the hell out of the Swiss for years just to get a hold of the untaxed holdings of America's elite.

It was no mean trick for the rich to convince us all that we could "join" them one day. It allowed millions of Americans to vote against their economic self-interest and to accept a super-wealthy class of Americans that would, ultimately, destroy the American middle class dream. Somewhere, a marketing idea took hold and it became impossible to hate the rich. Maybe it was TV or the movies, but we are desperate for something authentic right now. We are right on the edge of swinging back the other way, to a society that condemns greed and avarice.

Are we going to start to do something about inequality? Or will we be tricked into misunderstanding what it's all about? Don't look to the media to help.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Political Science is a Cherished Myth


“In a recent article on Vox, Ezra Klein declared that his generation of Washington journalists had discovered political science, and it is like the hottest thing on wheels. In the old days, he writes, journalists “dealt with political science episodically and condescendingly.” But now, Klein declares, “Washington is listening to political scientists, in large part because it’s stopped trusting itself.” Klein finds that political scientists give better answers to his questions than politicians themselves, because politicians are evasive but scientists are scientists, you know, they deal in “structural explanations” for political events. So the “young political journalists” who are roaring around town in their white lab coats frightening the local bourgeoisie “know a lot more about political science and how to use it” than their elders did.

Nothing kills the momentum of an idea faster than the calculations of politics. We have a country full of smart people with great ideas and our political process has effectively killed any possibility of solving the problems at hand. This is not a rant--this is where we are, circa 2014. We could be handed any number of innovative ideas that would make the lives of Americans easier and more productive and more fulfilling, and if they carried the taint of the right or the left on them, these ideas would be discounted immediately.

We reformed health care. Yes, we actually did it. But we did it in a modest way and we left, intact, much of the profit-driven corruption that makes actually delivering a health care benefit to people intolerably expensive. We believe in capitalism and we also believe that lobbyists can control things to an extent that render good ideas irrelevant if they conflict with the need to protect obscene profits.

Our country didn't die, our people stopped dying and going bankrupt, and the worst thing since slavery/Hitler/communism turned out to be a rather mild improvement in the lives of a few million Americans. The escalated rhetoric failed and the horror of SOCIALISM did not materialize in our presence and beat us with a crumbling concrete statue of Fidel Castro. I know that there were Republicans who believed that Fidel would be given control of America solely through the creation of a medical insurance exchange in Kentucky, but it didn't happen.

Political science is the intersection of guessing right and analyzing marketing plans to see who can convince more people to vote against their economic self-interests. It is the perfection of destroying any chance people will have to make an informed decision about their representation. It is the art of convincing people that the very same politicians who continually harm their well being are worth voting for, again and again.

As practiced in Washington D.C., and understood by Ezra Klein, et al, Political Science is an incumbent protection racket. Very, very few elected members of Congress are ever thrown out of office like bums. They are given jobs lobbying their friends if Gerrymandering or scandal removes them from their lifetime appointment to elected office. The pensions alone are a scandal regular folk would scream about if anyone would bother explaining how their own pensions are worth dust and or used coffee grounds. Thanks again, working American media conglomerates.

I hate writing about politics. I specifically refuse to write about politics here unless I absolutely have to. I do like history, though. I think history has more in common with science or an academic discipline than political science. And it is true--I studied it in the early 1990s and ended up with enough college credits (26) to qualify for a minor. But I chose to study the Humanities as a minor instead.

When I write about politics, I have to go wash my hands. That's how bad it is nowadays. I don't know how anyone got through the 1870s without running off to do something else; it was much worse then and this is really a down cycle for political discourse and study.

Political science is the chronic spasm of awfulness in American life. It's not even close to being an actual science--anyone can do it and blog about it and get it wrong on a regular basis. You're not even supposed to be right when you comment about politics anymore--you're supposed to back up your side and come up with new ways to lie about facts and reality. Get it out of here. The only thing that is more bloated and stinking right now would be professional football or high stakes East Coast gambling practices.

It's All About the Bridges

Something interesting happened for a truck driver on the Rock Creek Parkway this morning:
A semi-truck that became wedged under the overpass of the Whitehurst Freeway bridge on Rock Creek Parkway Friday is severely impacting traffic.
All northbound lanes of Rock Creek Parkway at Potomac Freeway SW, just north of Virginia Avenue, will remain closed for an undetermined amount of time.
Southbound traffic is open but will periodically go down to one lane as needed as officials work to extract the truck.
This is not exactly the fault of the thinking that led Robert Moses to deliberately build bridges that would keep buses--and, thus, the "poor"--from accessing infrastructure on Long Island, but it does look like a situation that cries out for infrastructure and investment.
The bridge in question is pictured below. Note how old it is.
The bridge in question went into service in 1964, which was the height of the Moses era. Now, it could very well be that the semi in question was "overly tall" in some way or operated in an unsafe manner. It could very well be a case where a smart kid could walk up and tell them to let the air out of the tires so that the truck can be "unstuck" from where it is. Or this could be another example of how we have failed to make the improvements we need.

Tell me we don't have a missed opportunity to make things right in here somewhere...

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Haters Gonna Hate You For Your iWatch


Something else to worry about:
With the potential mainstreaming of the smartwatch in the offing, we risk an epidemic of new rudeness. The problem represents an intensification of the blunder famously committed by George H.W. Bush at the presidential debate of Oct. 15, 1992: The president, checking the time, seemed impatient. Some watches lose time; that one helped him to lose four more years. And to glance at an Apple Watch during an important performance is even more objectionable: One is not just hinting that he wishes to be elsewhere in spacetime; he is actively disappearing into cyberspace. It is the height of rudeness to vanish from a conversation without having the courtesy to physically go away.
Meanwhile, there is the question of the Apple Watch’s reception among “watch guys,” hardcore connoisseurs. At Hodinkee—to which one turns for comparisons ofmanually wound dress watches selling for less than $15,000 and news about the Patek Philippe Supercomplication predicted to sell for 15 million Swiss francs at auction—the watch guys are ecstatic. “The streamlined look of the Apple Watch recalls the design vocabulary that Dieter Rams instilled in Braun and the futuristic look that Rado pioneered in the 1980’s,” they say.
 This is an amazing age, said Louis CK, and everyone is miserable because of...gadget envy?

If You Don't Believe in God, at Least Believe in Not Being a Pain in the Ass


Come now, what's this nonsense?
Air Force members once again have the option of omitting the phrase “so help me God” from their enlistment and appointment oaths. The service joins the other three military branches in making the phrase optional for its service members, a practice it had followed until last year when a legal review determined there could be no omissions of the phrase.
Continue reading
The Pentagon said today its General Counsel had determined that the Air Force cannot compel its airmen to include the phrase in its oaths. The Air Force says it will institute the change immediately, returning to a practice it had changed last year.
The issue had arisen in August when an unidentified airman at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada was denied re-enlistment after he refused to take a re-enlistment oath that ends with the phrase “so help me God.” The airman, who is an atheist, was told by superiors that, according to Air Force regulations, he must include the phrase so his re-enlistment could be processed.
Airman Snuffy sounds like a pain in the ass to me. He sounds like one of those millennials who won't eat their peas or vote for a Republican. Someone is going to have to tell the First Shirt about him and count how many times he goes off of the base to buy that synthetic marijuana or whatever it is.

If you don't believe in God, good for you. If you don't want to do what the Air Force tells you, don't re-enlist (assuming, of course, that this same Airman used the words "so help me God" when he enlisted in the first place).

None of the Founding Fathers believed in God (save that anti-Catholic bigot John Jay) because they were men of the Enlightenment. They knew about oaths and duty, and they knew that the masses were well in the thrall of organized religion and needed to be cowed and led by their ministers and pastors. The country they built separated Church from State to make it easier to keep people in line. Airman Snuffy thinks he is above all of that. Good for him. He can go home and detail cars.

Military service is not about your fee-fees or your beliefs. It is about putting the needs of the mission at hand before your own needs. Your relationship with the God who does not exist is your business. It is not the business of the United States Air Force to do anything except ask you to recite an oath so that, when you screw up, they can kick you out for violating that oath.

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Third Iraq War


This is what it looks like when the media and the government begin to work together in order to convince the American people that we need to be at war with someone or other in Iraq. Look at our body count! Surely, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel now that we've taken out over twenty of their random checkpoints.

Come on, root for war, suckers! We're winning the war against pickups! If you're driving around with a machine gun mounted in the back of a Toyota Tacoma, get ready for a Hellfire missile up your six, courtesy of a Wounded Warrior with sad feelings and a bum drone trigger finger. The most powerful and sophisticated military in the history of the world now blows up rusty trucks from thousands of miles away and calls it a "war." God help us if we ever had to fight someone smart enough to drive around with their weapons put away.

In the case of this thing that is called "ISIS" or the new Islamic caliphate so declared by a group of yahoos bouncing around in abandoned pickup trucks, we have our new enemy. He looks a lot like our old enemy--the Iraqi insurgent paid to put a crude bomb in the road where a vehicle carrying Americans is headed because their commander has been told to needlessly drive around and discover new ways to keep people in harm's way while doing nothing to convince said Iraqi insurgent to change sides and stop fighting. He who calls himself ISIS was once a Sunni serving in Saddam's army. He might have laid low during the American occupation or he might have run a few missions against Americans. Into the vacuum comes a man who will fight precisely because the money is right.

ISIS is bankrolled by someone. Same as it ever was.

Really, all we are talking about are the last remnants of our previous war, now out of work because the Americans stopped driving around in order to trip bombs and take casualties. Our methods of fighting the first Iraq war were brilliant--we'll catch you on your way home and incinerate you and your dumb buddies in trucks laden with stolen Kuwaiti merchandise. Our methods of fighting the second Iraq war centered around going to war with the army we had which meant hoping a Humvee festooned with vinyl doors would withstand the blast of an old Russian artillery shell. We're going to fight the third Iraq war with drones and blow up every pickup truck we see, and maybe that will finish the job.

Three separate and distinct wars and we haven't learned anything. The Iraqi people are not a nation, and they don't want to build it themselves. They don't want us there and they don't want peace or stability or democracy because those things are too hard. They want a strongman to preside over the torture and killing of whoever is on the outs and they want their own corrupt tribal system to protect them in their individual enclaves. They don't care about anyone who is not in their own tribe and they never will, no matter how hard an American who has never served in a uniform believes his own bullshit.

Ian Paisley 1926-2014


Ian Paisley was proof that there are other countries divided by fanatics and snowball throwers. His death leaves a hole in the politics of Northern Ireland which will have to be filled somehow.
Loyalist paramilitaries became increasingly hostile towards Paisley, particularly over his various "stunts" such as the establishment of a so-called third force in 1981 and later the establishment of the quasi-paramilitary Ulster Resistance four years later.
As well as leading the DUP in Westminster, Paisley got elected to the European parliament in 1979. He caused outrage among fellow MEPs when he interrupted an address by the late Pope John Paul II in Strasbourg in 1988.
Paisley also caused the normally mild-mannered John Major to lose his temper. In a TV documentary on the peace process Major recalled that he asked Paisley to leave Downing Street after the DUP leader continually accused the then prime minister of lying over secret talks between the IRA and the government.
From the IRA ceasefire of 1994 to the Good Friday agreement four years later, Paisley opposed any moves to bring Sinn Féin in from the cold as a way of ending violence. In that period Paisley depicted his unionist rival David Trimble as a traitor and a sell-out over the Ulster Unionist leader's willingness to enter government with Sinn Féin.
Eight years after the 1998 Good Friday accord however Paisley followed Trimble down the same path and agreed to set up a new power-sharing coalition that included his one-time mortal enemies. Asked why he had finally done the deal with his old foes, Paisley explained that the time was now right, now that he was on top and the number one force in unionism.
Anyway, the Irish can sort this all out. Once Scotland cuts the umbilical cord, I have a feeling Northern Ireland can finally do the same. That will be easier now with Paisley gone.

One of the last "respectable" terrorists of our age goes on his way, straight to hell, without a return trip.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Ron Fournier is a Self Licking Ice Cream Cone


How else to explain this man's obsession with whether or not the president is "leading" when, in fact, the President of the United States governs a country where the "loyal opposition" are, in no uncertain terms, crazy?

I get that they don't like the foreign policy choices and the mantra of "don't do stupid shit," but, really. You'd have had to have been asleep during 2001-09 to think there's something wrong with what Obama is doing. I seem to recall all kinds of bad things happening and it was never about whether or not Bush was leading. It was always "you're either with us or you're with the terrorists."

At least Obama doesn't cite 9/11 every time he pretends to not know we're killing terrorists by remote control.

Down to the Wire in Scotland


My guess is that the vote will be a "no" but it will be close enough to give Scottish independence a new life for decades to come. What is hurting Britain right now is not the thought of letting go of the Scots but the day to day reality of their own incompetent ruling class:
The leaders of the main UK parties have made a plea for a vote against Scottish independence, as they campaigned north of the border ahead of the referendum.
Prime Minister David Cameron said he would be "heartbroken" in the event of a "Yes" vote, while Labour leader Ed Miliband said the case for the Union came from the "head, heart and soul".
Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond said the leaders could not be trusted.
A new poll showed 47.6% of voters back "No", 42.4% "Yes", with 10% undecided.
The poll, by Survation for the Daily Record, was conducted before the Westminster party leaders announced their campaign visits.
Mr Cameron and Mr Miliband abandoned their usual Prime Minister's Questions session in the House of Commons to head north, after other recent opinion polls suggested the referendum race was now neck and neck.

The English speaking people of Britain are risk and change averse; they'll take the status quo over everything else if it looks smart enough in a suit. Who even knew that the Scottish flag was the Saltire? And won't they have to remove it from the British flag?

This is the end result of believing that someone has value only if their father was born in the right way with the right amount of money and social prestige. Societies that still function this way are largely corrupt and look like Saudi Arabia or Manhattan.

Let Scotland go. It should have been it's own version of Ireland a hundred years ago.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Why Are You There in the First Place?


This post and the one that follows are basically asking the same thing--why the hell would anyone who is an American go to North Korea on purpose? Or "blunder" into the country? If God sent you there, then you need to ask him to get you out of there.

Doesn't anyone listen to what the State Department says?

Honestly, why are we having this discussion at all? You don't go to North Korea. Period. End of Story.