Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Reform Fucking Champions!

Chase Utley is possibly my favorite non-Cardinal because of that moment. Biden (who maybe could've had a successful career as a stand-up comic), apparently, just couldn't help himself at a historic moment either.

I think we will be giggling about this one for a while. Probably ranks up there with George Bush blurting out "need some wood?" in the 04 town hall debate against Kerry.

Personally, I am proud of Joe Fucking Biden standing up for the rights of long-suffering Profane-Americans. It is a lonely fucking fight. Won't someone think of the goddamn children?!?

* * * * *

I guess, as long as I felt compelled to log in to this neglected blog to comment on Joe Biden being a little excited, I should try to say something worthwhile about the actual HCR thing that hasn't already been said better elsewhere.

Um, well, er, I think Obama/Pelosi/Reid deserve lots of credit. I've given Reid in particular a lot of guff over the past few years for being overly polite & gentle with frauds and liars (and he has one more vote still to not screw up)....but overall I'm just astonished that this is happening in the first place. It's not hyperbole when the media folks say everybody since Truman has failed to get this done.

Plus, I also think that the Republicans are really setting themselves up to be hoist on their own petard when it turns out that those famous death panels are nonexistent. The Republican Party bluffed, threatening the Democrats with the worst rhetoric in the arsenal--Mike Steele is running around telling people this is the end of representative democracy, etc. They went all-in on this, and they fucking failed. Big time. They bet the grocery money that no one would get to find out that they were lying their ass off about the bill, cause they thought they could stampede the nervous Ds away from their own cause, and nobody cares about fact-checking the contents of a bill that was defeated. And why shouldn't the Rs try that? It's a tactic they've employed repeatedly and to great effect over the last 15 years.

Perhaps this is a sign that the Ds have figured out how to counter that tactic: by, you know, fighting back. By risking something. By not being apologetic about telling the honest truth.

And when the sky doesn't fall in tomorrow because of TEH SOCIALISM!!!, I suspect the voters are going to notice. The Party of No kept up too much intensity for too long for everybody to just magically forget in the fall that the Republicans explicitly said HCR = Armageddon.

CW still says the Ds lose seats this fall--and it could still be a lot, because of jobs, & the economy not having recovered for everybody that's not a bank, & the President's party usually loses seats in a midterm--but they probably just cut those losses in half.

Still a long time between now and November, though....

Friday, October 9, 2009

trying to do anything to keep my mind off the Cardinals

Here's two DK diaries that are worth a look.

30 Reasons why Obama deserves the Nobel Peace Prize

But he hasn't accomplished anything! Waah!

Personally, I suspect the award was as much for Obama's accomplishments as it was a middle finger from the rest of the world to Bush, Rush, & the Republican Mob. In Chris Rock's immortal words, "George Bush fucked up so bad he made it hard for a white man to run for President."

[EDIT: Best line I've read in response to the Nobel award comes from the State Dept: "Certainly from our standpoint, this gives us a sense of momentum -- when the United States has accolades tossed its way, rather than shoes." That's some grade-A sarcasm right there; coming from a gov't mouthpiece who would (under most circumstances) never say something nearly so snarky makes it even that much more impressive.]

The other item I wanted to link to is a priceless stemwinder from Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) about health care. The link has the Youtube clip of him speaking from the floor of Congress. It's only about 4 minutes long and is totally worth watching the whole thing, but I'll go ahead and give away how he ends it because it's just so goddamn good:

"[Americans] understand that if Barack Obama were somehow able to cure hunger in the world the Republicans would blame him for overpopulation. They understand that if Barack Obama could somehow bring about world peace they would blame him for destroying the defense industry. In fact, they understand that if Barack Obama has a BLT sandwhich tommorrow for lunch, they will try to ban bacon."


Seriously, this is exactly how the Ds need to be dealing with the Party of No. If they won't cooperate, stop compromising. It's tit-for-tat. If they are stubborn contrarians, stop asking their opinion. If they negotiate in bad faith, stop negotiating. If they are obstructionist, use the huge majorities the voters have handed you and shut them out of the process.

Case in point: during the early days of the Obama Administration, there was much discussion of Obama's overtures to Congressional Republican leadership. He was inviting them up to the White House for drinks after hours. Every other word out of his mouth was bipartisan this, bipartisan that. He bent over backwards to include the GOP's input on the stimulus bill.

How did they reward him? Every single Republican House member voted against the bill, even after winning concessions from Democrats.

Lesson: the Democrats are in a historic moment of strength. They do not need to play nice with the Republicans, who are "negotiating" from weakness. They are not interested in compromise; they are only interested in fending off the hate radio mob.


Speaking of which, kudos to Bryan Burwell of the STL Post-Dispatch for writing a no-bullshit column about the possibility of Limbaugh acquiring a minority stake in the Rams. Here's an excerpt:

Remember the seething anger and pained expression on the face of ESPN analyst Tom Jackson when he tried to express his feelings about what Limbaugh had said in the aftermath of the notorious Donovan McNabb disaster?

Remember the uncomfortable backtracking that had to be done when Limbaugh spouted off on his predictable anti-affirmative action screed and took McNabb down into the cesspool with him?

That's why I keep scratching my head and wondering why so many people foolishly believe that at some point Limbaugh's mouth won't cause another embarrassing situation for the Rams and the league. This isn't about conservative politics. If that's all you could say about him, it certainly doesn't disqualify him to be a potential NFL owner. In fact, that makes him highly qualified to join the club. He would fit right in with the rest of the exclusive boys club of ultra-wealthy, ultra-conservative white men who rule the ownership suites of most professional sports leagues.

But even if he fit in with his politics, let's hope he doesn't fit in with his polarizing, racist demagoguery. And yes, that is exactly what it is, no matter how many of his blindly loyal supporters want to put the "politically incorrect" party dress on it.

Rush Limbaugh getting a stake in the Rams is about the one thing that could make me stop being a Rams fan. And shame on Dave Checketts for allowing his name to get linked in the media with such an extremist. As much as I like Checketts for his work with the Blues, as long as Limbaugh is on board I hope his bid is passed over. I'd much rather see the team pull up stakes and go some place else than see it stay in St. Louis with such an asshole being associated with it.

It's heartening to see that many NFL players have also spoken out against Limbaugh, saying they would not play for St. Louis should he be involved in the sale of the team. People are not going to forget the McNabb controversy any time soon.

I just can't fathom how a guy like this could own part of a team that plays in heavily Democratic St. Louis, and not cause a huge PR problem for the team and the NFL with every lie-packed radio broadcast.

Youtube blogging

Is it electronic music? Is it rock? Is it jazz? Who knows, all I know is holy shit that's fast.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Sunday, August 9, 2009

the flip side of American History

Andrew Sullivan gets letters. (via)

A political and demographic re-alignment is happening before their eyes, and they are reaching back into their old bag of tricks of intimidation, violence, and apocalyptic fearmongering. You are British, Andrew. You love this country, and we love you for it. But you didn't grow up around these folks, and you don't realize what a permanent and potent part of the American political landscape they are.

They have always been with us, the people who believed in manifest destiny, who delighted in the slaughter of this land's original inhabitants, who cheered a nation into a civil war to support an economic system of slavery that didn't even benefit them. They are the people who bashed the unions and cheered on the anti-sedition laws, who joined the Pinkertons and the No Nothing Party[sic--see also], who beat up Catholic immigrants and occasionally torched the black part of town. They rode through the Southern pine forests at night, they banned non-European immigration, they burned John Rockefeller Jr. in effigy for proposing the Grand Tetons National Park.

These are the folks who drove Teddy Roosevelt out of the Republican Party and called his cousin Franklin a communist, shut their town's borders to the Okies and played the protectionist card right up til Pearl Harbor, when they suddenly had a new foreign enemy to hate. They are with us, the John Birchers, the anti-flouride and black helicopter nuts, the squirrly commie-hating hysterics who always loved the loyalty oath, the forced confession, the auto-de-fe. Those who await with baited breath the race war, the nuclear holocaust, the cultural jihad, the second coming, they make up much more of America then you would care to think.

You have to read the whole thing to get the full flavor. Sullivan, of course, is a unique character; a Brit living in the States, a gay man who's right of center, Orwell fanatic, etc. So I wonder what was going thru Sully's head as he was reading this.

Anyway, we always knew a certain swath of society was going to be really pissed if Obama actually made it to the White House. The birthers & teabaggers are going to make a bunch of terrible noise for a while, but I don't think they're going to do a hell of a lot to improve their position on this map.

Bonus birther madness:

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


No one had ever photographed Barack Obama and Albert Pujols in the same room together. I am now able to accept, finally, at this late date, that they are not in fact one and the same person.

Friday, July 3, 2009

poetry + new scanner = blogging


to grasp at the edges of an idea
to strip away
to fumble
to guess


frantic insight timeline
fundamental nature of (pronoun)

to eliminate the superfluous
to reduce
to shine light
to discover connections
to reveal structure
to destroy
to reveal changed horizons

burntblack hillscapes
devastated countryside
flattened peaks/risen valleys


verdant fields
panorama quite
lush and hopeful
lens flare
sunlit expanse

thru it all
the sly smile
the eye glint
the hand over mouth
inhibiting spoilers
deep breaths
the reliving

TO WAIT PATIENTLY ON THE MOUNTAINTOP_____________________________________________________

Sunday, June 14, 2009

what it looks like when elections are stolen outside of Florida

Check out this BBC report from Tehran during public riots/general strike/madness. A government minder of some sort starts to arrest the BBC crew. But the crowd intervenes, beats the apparatchik, and hustles the reporters out of there.

Been doing some crash reading about Iran's recent political history, and man is it ever complicated. But things are falling apart, the falcon cannot hear the falconer. I think most of the world is watching, on pins and needles.

With the clumsy theft of the election, another group of psychotic fundamentalist reactionaries (the Ahmadinejad supporters and the hardline ayatollahs; which latter group may actually be in the process of infighting) is teetering on the edge of being swallowed by a spontaneous popular uprising.

Of course, no government anywhere likes it when the population suddenly starts loudly reconsidering the social contract while gathering in the streets and squares en masse. But the Middle Eastern theocracies tend to be prone to not just boiling over with widespread populist outrage, but unfortunately also the harsh repression by government fanatics, sycophants, and brownshirts that fuels that outrage to begin with.

Anyway, this is the exact situation the following song refers to and was the first thing I thought of when I heard of the censorship and riots in the wake of the Ahmadinejad "landslide"....perhaps it will end peacefully, but from the looks of things (cutting electricity, closing newspapers, arresting opposition leaders, shutting down the phone system, unofficial martial law, etc) it won't. Good luck to the dissenters, you'll need it.

Chaos A.D.
tanks on the streets
confronting police
bleeding the plebs
raging crowd
burning cars
bloodshed starts
who'll be alive?

Chaos A.D.
army in siege
total alarm
I'm sick of this
inside this state
war is created
no man's land
what is this shit?


Chaos A.D.
disorder unleashed
starting to burn
starting to lynch
silence means death
stand on your feet
inner fear
your worst enemy


Thursday, May 28, 2009

new tortoise video

This is fucking cool. Instant classic.

I also found this (an mp3) via this website, which I must have bookmarked ages ago and forgot about. Anyway, that song is even further out there than the one in the video. (I got confused about where there were going with it a couple minutes in; as usual, with patience, badassery is revealed....)

It occurs to me I should read mp3 blogs more often....

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

youtube blogging

Bartok/Music for strings, percussion, & celesta

And here's a Youtube clip (no embed link, sorry) of Portishead playing about 2/3 of the new album. I was surprised that they could play this stuff straight off the album like this. I had always assumed their music was built more like most electronic music: nobody plays it first and it gets sort of assembled rather than composed and rehearsed. But I guess I was wrong. At least as far as this album goes, the music is much less dependent on control room tricks than it is on good old fashioned in-the-room noise-making.

Seems to me they created this stuff specifically to be played by musicians live. (Which approach I suspect bears some similarities to Radiohead's approach to In Rainbows.)

They really are a band, which is interesting because I never thought of them as having this rock band-like constitution, with drums, percussion, bass, guitar, keys. (Some instrument switching, but mostly fixed roles.) I wonder if this is how they were in the 90s heyday, although I never saw them live (apart from the PNYC video, but even that had a DJ and a full orchestra), so maybe this is how their stuff was always created and I just didn't realize it. Wouldn't surprise me....

Regardless, the video kicks major ass and the music is a total mindfuck. I got a lot out of watching exactly how they made this or that weird sound.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


Matt Taibbi in the Rolling Stone on AIG and the American plutocracy. Go read. Now. I'll wait. (via)

* * * * *

Two months into his term, this will probably be the single thing that determines Obama's legacy. Seems to me that he needs to fire Geithner immediately, and bring in some sort of Wall St. outsider. [EDIT 3/22: OK, after calming down and thinking and reading about Geithner some more, and watching Obama emphatically back Geithner on Leno, it's pretty clear that Obama probably can't fire Geithner, for obvious political reasons. Firing a Cabinet member this early into the Admin's term would be a huge media feeding frenzy and wouldn't necessarily make anything better. You have to go to war with the Treasury Secretary you have, and not the Treasury Secretary you might wish to have, etc etc.]

We are looking down the barrel of a French Revolution style economic and political clusterfuck, and Geithner doesn't seem to see the problem correctly. Obama needs to yank the administration of the bailout funds away from DoT and hand it to DoJ.

You rob a 7-11, you go to jail. You steal from every single American taxpayer? You're granted Too Big To Fail status and your buddies at DoT on your speed-dial will go to bat for you.

I'm not posting this to brag that I'm going to be the first one out with the barricades, rather to say that (like pretty much every American) I'm basically OK with other people making shit-tons of money as long as I can live my life undisturbed. And the French Revolution would definitely count as a disturbance. I mean, everybody who isn't already growing their own food is going to suffer in the event of some sort of national breakdown of order. Especially Richie Rich and his credit card. Can't eat plastic. That scenario would not be much fun to live through. I'd rather see the country able to emerge from the crisis more or less intact.

It's not the accumulation of wealth that's problematic per se, it's the concomitant accumulation of power (and its attendant privileges) that's the big problem. I don't hate people for being wealthy, but I certainly do hate the stupid self-righteous arrogant strutting-peacock fucks that have brought the mightiest country on earth to its knees. They have unbalanced the system and are throwing an epic temper tantrum over the country's natural desire to re-balance that system.

I think a lot of people could agree that if the situation gets much more 1930s-ish, the risk of things getting all 1790s-ish in a hurry becomes frightfully high. We are not terribly well equipped to deal with 1930s-style problems at the moment, thanks to the insane Bush-era tax-cuts-plus-two-wars policies that doubled the national debt in eight years, plus they kept cutting interest rates until they approached zero (which helped inflate the real estate bubble) and leaves Obama very little room to maneuver.

* * * * *

Speaking of the 1930s....keep an eye on that unemployment number. Americans, I think, can be kept more or less in line as long as we have something to do. But if unemployment shoots up, in a society that's still built on endless consumerism, eating regularly becomes concern #1 for a lot of people, and hungry people are angry people.

Here's the government's official estimate of the employment situation (warning: PDF). Look at the bottom chart on page 20. U-3 is what is usually reported in the press as "the" unemployment number, but U-6 may actually be closer to reality. (The seasonally adjusted U-3 number is what was recently reported in the press.) For an explanation of these terms, here is the relevant section of the Wikipedia article on unemployment.

Notice how much higher the U-6 number is relative to U-3. 14.8% is a hell of a lot scarier than 8.1%, which is already terrifying.

For comparison's sake (via Wikipedia), here is a nice graph that shows very clearly the sustained unemployment spike in the 30s. On the right side of the graph, we are just barely past the knee in the curve. Any bets on what level the current spike tops out at? Any bets on how long it lasts? (Not me, I don't gamble....)

It can't happen here
It can't happen here
I'm telling you, my dear
That it can't happen here
Because I been checkin' it out, baby
I checked it out a couple a times, hmmmmmmmm

And I'm telling you
It can't happen here
Oh darling, it's important that you believe me
(bop bop bop bop)
That it can't happen here

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

ladies and gentlemen, i give you the end of a movement

Limbaugh vs. Gingrich.

No points awarded for sumo wrestling metaphors. (Besides, circular firing squad references are so much funnier....)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

David Foster Wallace

Harper's sent DFW to first the Illinois State Fair and second a Caribbean cruise. The cruise piece is the title article in the collection "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again" and it's fucking hilarious, if kind of demanding....

Saturday, February 28, 2009

re: AIG

This NYT article (via Atrios) runs down the huge AIG debacle. The first paragraph mentions that losses at AIG are dwarfing pretty much every other company on Wall St., and it's because AIG was an insurance company and not a bank.

As a huge multinational insurance company, with a storied history and a reputation for being extremely well run, A.I.G. had one of the most precious prizes in all of business: an AAA rating, held by no more than a dozen or so companies in the United States. That meant ratings agencies believed its chance of defaulting was just about zero. It also meant it could borrow more cheaply than other companies with lower ratings.

To be sure, most of A.I.G. operated the way it always had, like a normal, regulated insurance company. (Its insurance divisions remain profitable today.) But one division, its “financial practices” unit in London, was filled with go-go financial wizards who devised new and clever ways of taking advantage of Wall Street’s insatiable appetite for mortgage-backed securities. Unlike many of the Wall Street investment banks, A.I.G. didn’t specialize in pooling subprime mortgages into securities. Instead, it sold credit-default swaps.

These exotic instruments acted as a form of insurance for the securities. In effect, A.I.G. was saying if, by some remote chance (ha!) those mortgage-backed securities suffered losses, the company would be on the hook for the losses. And because A.I.G. had that AAA rating, when it sprinkled its holy water over those mortgage-backed securities, suddenly they had AAA ratings too. That was the ratings arbitrage. “It was a way to exploit the triple A rating,” said Robert J. Arvanitis, a former A.I.G. executive who has since become a leading A.I.G. critic.

Why would Wall Street and the banks go for this? Because it shifted the risk of default from themselves to A.I.G., and the AAA rating made the securities much easier to market. What was in it for A.I.G.? Lucrative fees, naturally. But it also saw the fees as risk-free money; surely it would never have to actually pay up. Like everyone else on Wall Street, A.I.G. operated on the belief that the underlying assets — housing — could only go up in price.

That foolhardy belief, in turn, led A.I.G. to commit several other stupid mistakes. When a company insures against, say, floods or earthquakes, it has to put money in reserve in case a flood happens. That’s why, as a rule, insurance companies are usually overcapitalized, with low debt ratios. But because credit-default swaps were not regulated, and were not even categorized as a traditional insurance product, A.I.G. didn’t have to put anything aside for losses. And it didn’t. Its leverage was more akin to an investment bank than an insurance company. So when housing prices started falling, and losses started piling up, it had no way to pay them off. Not understanding the real risk, the company grievously mispriced it.

It gets worse. Hopefuly, some of these people end up in doing blue-collar jail sentences, but since we never seem to learn from our mistakes, we're apparently doomed to keep repeating them....

Thursday, February 26, 2009

liars and thieves

Chris Matthews rebuking Darrell Issa for the childish "Democrat Party" thing is not the most impressive thing about this video. (Although it is impressive. And I will be chuckling over "Republicanistical Party" for a while....)

Issa is best known is the guy who initiated the recall of Gray Davis and installed Arnold as Gov of CA. Issa, of course, wanted the gig for himself.

When Issa says the Bush-era deficits, "even including the war [singular instead of plural sic], " the annual deficit was below $400B, he is narrowly correct (except for 2004 and 2008, which were above $400B). However, the costs of the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan were never once budgeted for, as Congressman Issa is surely aware; they were paid for off-budget in supplemental appropriations bills, specifically for the purpose of making the reported budget numbers look better. Nothing more, nothing less. Everybody in D.C. knows this. Issa was in Congress when this was going on, and he certainly knows the difference between the annual budget and an appropriations (= spending) bill.

It should not surprise anyone that Barack Obama immediately ended this dishonest practice, and thus his annual budget numbers will be appalling by comparison to Bush's. But every single one of Bush's budgets contained vastly more spending than he claimed, so the comparison is not valid. This, also unsurprisingly, will not stop Obama & Congressional Democrats from being villified by the Know-Nothings on talk radio for one second.

Eventually, America will grow sick of being lied to all the time by people looking after their self-interest, and will hold these people accountable.