The Talking Dog

August 21, 2012, Meta-kabuki

All hail the Grey Lady, for doing its part to keep the kabuki of a "political process" and "Presidential election" and "democracy" in this editorial lamenting the "extremist" Republican party platform agenda... hell, the first sentence even says:

Over the years, the major parties’ election-year platforms have been regarded as Kabuki theater scripts for convention week.

THAT is awesome: a piece advancing the political gestalt kabuki actually using the word kabuki. No...the only word is "awesome." The Times does its part to convince the few remaining "true believers" that "the eeeevil Republican extreeeemists" actually matter, because of their "extreeeeme" positions on... wait for it,,, abortion and gay marriage. Yes, it's a relatively easy play, given the mirth and merriment surrounding Congressman Todd "Legitimate Rape" Akin [who decided not to hang it up in the Missouri senate race]. But, come on! Other than this year's exercise to stick Obama with control of the Senate (which he'd rather not have, as it imples some level of "accountability" he'd rather pretend he didn't have)... what, exactly, is different here? The previous Republican platforms have taken very similar positions... every Republican candidate since Reagan has espoused a "pro-life" agenda, and gay-bashing has been a mainstay for quite a while as well.

Still... there is some urgency now, as the game seems to be more apparent to more and more... Occupy! took a lot of the mask off "the process." Hence, the Grey Lady needs to tell us that there is a difference that warrants not only our attention but our extreme emotional (and maybe financial) commitment to "our side," as if "the two parties" weren't in full agreement on expanding the wars and the war machine, holding and torturing prisoners at Guantanamo and wherever else we want, gutting social welfare programs (except for the already affluent), maintaining public segregation through public school de-funding, the war on dark skinned people, especially young men drugs, permitting rampant environmental destruction, subsidizing extractive and poisoning industries and undercutting anything remotely healthy or sustainable, and allowing the financial sector to dominate the rest of society... tax cuts for the rich... and I could go on and on, of course.

But I won't. Hey... credit where credit is due to the Times... kudos, Grey Lady.

August 19, 2012, It's about the fundamentals

Item: Pakistani authorities arrest an eleven year old girl for the "blasphemy" of burning the pages of a Koran. Seems that the girl was not only a Christian, but also had Downs syndrome; the "blasphemy" thing sparks controversy Pakistan-way, some politicians calling for its repeal have been gunned down. This sort of thing makes us look at how children are treated in the United States, where we see children arrested for, inter alia, spraying perfume on themselves, burping, doodling or throwing paper airplanes.

Item: George Will tells us "why doom hasn't materialized." You have to hand it to George Will: he merrily cashes his Establishment checks without a jot of concern as to the potential damage he might be causing should anyone pay attention to him (which, thankfully, no one does). We might actually get some entertainment value out of watching him dismiss the fact that the last twelve months were the warmest ever recorded in the United States, along with extreme drought, insane wildfires and dust bowl conditions, because "the world hasn't fallen apart yet." You see, it's either full-flown consumer culture business as usual, or Mad Max... there's no in between (and frankly, I'm sure Mr. Will would have a cheery word or two for Mad Max himself, about the fact that he can still find petrol for his motorcycle, for example, and hence, everything is A.O.K.!.)

Item: WTF? The Grey Lady gives us the run-down on Senator Chuck Schumer's seeming propensity to encourage marriages among his own staff. Naturally, the wedding announcements will almost certainly appear in the Grey Lady's Sunday Styles pages' wedding announcements, along with nuptials of others in the cultural elite (straight and gay alike, btw)... maybe George WIll is right: we'll know Apocalypse has arrived when the Times treats us to the wedding announcement of a dry cleaner and an industrial worker.

Needless to say... we're not there yet.

August 12, 2012, Howell Scrooge '12

Here's the thing: Barack Obama may be my classmate, and nominally the candidate of the party in which I'm (nominally) registered, but I don't see how any self-respecting progressive (or for that matter, human being) can support a President-- ANY President-- who holds meetings every Tuesday to decide which human beings the United States government should murder. Sorry.

So... imagine my disappointment when the possibility of voting for the (not so paradoxically) more liberal Mitt Romney evaporated in a heartbeat today, as old Thurston Howell III Romney (Willard to his friends) picked Paul Ryan for his running mate, not a boring old White guy like Rob Portman or Tim Pawlenty, or a not-at-all-boring fat White guy like Chris Christie or Latino guy like Marco Rubio, or perhaps a woman (Condi? Nikki? Gov. Susana Martinez?)... but instead Willard went for the current darling-of-conservatives-precisely-because-he-is-willing-to-put-their- policies-of-sadistic- economic- cruelty- and- austerity- up- front- and- center, Paul Ebenezer Scrooge Ryan... who is popular among the hard-ass right-wing set because he is up front about wanting to terminate old people old people (he's a "serious intellectual" and "policy wonk", you know), all in the name of the super-rich paying even less in taxes in a country that is already lowest in taxes among major industrial countries (and third lowest overall in the OECD, with only the paradisical nations of Mexico and Chile taxing their citizens at a lower overall rate than we do.)

I'm still of the view that perhaps something more troubling than just his boring-ness got in the way of a Rob Portman selection... or, perhaps, its simpler than that, and as with 2008, the financial elite Republican Establishment decided it wanted Barack Obama to win because he could and would advance its interests better than any Republican it wanted to shore up the conservative base with a candidate guaranteed to polarize all but die-hard right-wingers a tea-party darling.

Don't know. Don't care. Won't vote for either [financial sector owned and operated] "major party," quite possibly ever again.

[Slight update: WaPo's Matt Miller has more on "the talented Mr. Ryan." After a day's thought, I acknowledge that maybe a shake-up is less crazy than I thought... Romney had been losing on making this an "election about Obama"... so instead, he's going to make it an election about Scrooge McDuck and Mr. Burns... let's see how that works out... this being America, i.e., land of the free lunch and home of the knave dumbass, it might just work out pretty well...]

August 7, 2012, Cue food riots

Brother Dmitry lays out the various current conditions (particularly, widespread drought and crop loss), and diagnoses conditions of general unpleasantness (including food riots) in many parts of the planet.

While the United States is by no means on top of "the vulnerable" list, it is certainly not on the bottom. Particularly critical is the 50-million strong food stamp population (whether his fault or not, in sheer numbers, my classmate Barack really is the food stamp president), the irony is that the cost for the "SNAP" program was a comedically low $76 billion-- a preposterously low figure to keep the rubes here from rioting when compared to other budgetary figures for, say, prisons or "health care" or "national security" (supposedly to protect us from "them," from somewhere else.)

Nonetheless, in the opera buffa called our political process, this bulwark-against-the-peasants-rioting... may be under threat (and as Brother Dmitry observes, it will unquestionably not keep up with food prices if they rise or even explode in dollar terms). As Kunstler observes, "Take away the pizza pockets and the Pepsi and anything can happen."

Don't expect the powerful (that would be Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, et als.) to take steps to ease things for the peasants, either... savvy investors might consider manufacturers of tear gas, riot shields and that sort of thing.

August 6, 2012, Men are from Mars...

I believe the joke was, "they can put a man on the moon... so why can't we send all of them there?" It IS cool to see that the "Curiosity Rover" has evidently landed on the surface of Mars without crashing and burning (assuming we accept the NASA propaganda that it didn't-- or that the project even exists).

Thing is, I'm delighted to see the government spend money on anything that isn't either homicide, or a gratuitous subsidy to rich people who bribed members of Congress... so, a cool science project like this that would make any high school robotics program proud... just warms the heart. Will we get any useful scientific data out of this? Hopefully. Will this help in the eventual mission to get men to Mars? Dream on. We're pretty much out of liquid fuel here as it is; fantasize all you want about "dilithium crystals" or crap like that... the only stars we're going to travel to are "Star Chambers"... and the United States has already arrived at that point.

Is this a nice development for mankind? Sure-- why not? But maybe we should start to appreciate more "elemental things," like, say, Usain Bolt's achievements.

Just saying.

August 5, 2012, Sick Schmuck Kills Six Sikhs

Another day, another psychotic bastard opens fire on innocent people in America, today, in Wisconsin, where six Sikh worshipers were killed at a temple near Milwaukee, the gunman later killed by a police officer who was wounded in the shootout.

Gun control, bla bla bla. We are so far past the point where gun control will do any good [outside the few pockets of sanity that already have it] that I'm almost disgusted to have to utter those two words. Of course, life as we know it in New York City would actually be impossible without our city's quite strict gun control-- that many millions of people simply cannot live in close quarters with any moron being able to legally get their hands on a gun.

See here's the thing: as a society, of course, we are scared shitless of Black males having a gun, for for that matter, walking the streets at all (hence, here in New York, we have our unbelievably unconstitutional-- as if that matters-- "stop and frisk" policy)... but by and large (at least, as I understand it), the crimes committed by Black males tend to involve the drug trade, or gang violence, or other crimes committed against members of minority communities, often with illegally obtained weapons... the sort of horror shows just witnessed in Wisconsin (or recently in Aurora, Colorado) invariably involve White males who got their hands on guns legally... and not just "guns"-- but high powered military style weapons capable of quickly killing large numbers of people.

And the ultimate irony is that the stated fantasy reason for the inviolate nature of the Second Amendment is that "having guns in individual [read "White male"] hands is a bulwark against tyranny." The reality is that massive gun ownership simply adds "individual psychotics" to the list of things that threaten us, along with actual tyranny, be it of, for example, the government itself, or by its corporate owners and overlords in concert with government (see, e.g., "the Monsanto is above the law" proviso in the recent farm bill, pretty much deregulating genetically modified "food").

Things is bad out there. People, at a visceral level, know that until, oh, Jon Corzine, Jamie Dimon, Lloyd Blankfein and so many others of the current "above-the-law" financial class are held to account for their crimes (and make no mistake, crimes they are), and our nation-state itself stops committing mass murder itself in foreign locales... bad shit will keep happening. Indeed, in such craziness, it starts to seem normal to consider running amok with military assault weapons against one's fellow hapless schmucks.

Another day, another horror story. Like the crazy weather, the frequency of this sort of thing seems to be accelerating... don't get me wrong, it could well be closely related to the crazy weather (people do go crazy in prolonged heat). But this sort of thing-- in the present case, an apparent hate crime at that (Sikhs, after all, look different from the typical White male likely to commit a crime like this)... still has some shock value, but perilously, somehow seems more "normal" [here's an "interactive guide" to America's recent mass killings] in its own right.

America. Fuck yeah.

August 4, 2012, Suck it, losers

It seems London-based HSBC, one of the world's largest banks, helped launder, inter alia, Mexican drug lord money and... money for OBL and the 9-11 highjackers.

And while a bunch of largely innocent schmucks will presumably spend the rest of their rather unpleasant lives at Guantanamo or Bagram and untold thousands of Afghans, Pakistanis, Yemenis, Somalis, Iraqis, Bahrainis, Syrians and God knows who else will be maimed, tortured, or killed by the American war machine, supposedly to "protect us from the terrorists"... that our largest financial institutions [and recipients of billions of taxpayer funded bailouts]... are funding... well, just another day in the banking sector.

HSBC will doubtless pay a large fine representing perhaps hours... maybe even days worth... of the profits obtained from the "mis-selling."

Frankly, though, on this, my college classmate Barack Obama's birthday, why not take his advice on this, and simply "look forward, and not backward"? In other words-- why even bother with the token fines? Keep the money for executive bonuses... the peasants and rubes... well, they can just suck it.


August 4, 2012, The American Dream, in one

This, from Think Progress, nails it: private prisons spent just $45 million in bribes lobbying expenses, and netted over $5 billion just for detaining immigrants alone. Short answer to "what are WE all doing wrong?" is quite simple: playing by an outdated set of rules called "fairness" and what used to be known as "the rules" or "the law." Fuck that. Among the bribes lobbying are efforts to have legislatures pass harsher sentences to increase private prison profits. Ain't America grand?

America is now a simple game: unless you want to be left behind with the rubes and suckers of the 99%, you have to bribe the powerful and connected for your own advantage: "capitalism" that involves "competing" in "the market" is for suckers... capitalism that involves guaranteed profits by selling services that should only be done by government to government (at profit and mark-up)... is where it's at.

Yes, you are correct: this IS how banana republics operate.

And your point is?