Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Romney Gets His Hate On

So we all know Romney made some nasty comments about them freeloaders who don't pay no federal income taxes. What we don't know is why his own party is now claiming distress that he did.

If you've been paying attention for the last thirty years, you know welfare recipients are the biggest target for the GOP besides brown people and non-existent commies. But see, that was all implied rather than outright stated. Romney, desparate for the approval of the hateful subomegaloids who make up the Republican base, just echoed their own utterly wrong gripes about the tax-and-spend government. And the freaks will never forgive him for it.

Understand this "They don't pay taxes!" thing is transparent bullshit. It's disproved by just two words - "sales tax" - but it gets at the shallow sense of fairness entertained by most Americans. If we're talking gross, then rich idiots are certainly paying more in taxes simply because any percentage of their income is going to be substantial.

Which is as it should be. Now, percentage-wise, Wall Street fools pay substantially less than you do, you sucker. But as few Americans demonstrate the ability to understand the distinction, this 47% meme persists all across message boards and blogs.

And Romney, looking for some means to appeal to his own indifferent base, latched on to this brainwave. The punditry are crying doom but remember there are far fewer of them than mathematically retarded spite-voters. That spite might still carry the election for Romney, if he can stick by his own nonsense.

Y'know, if he doesn't flip-flop...

Monday, September 17, 2012

Shadows and Dust

"Soon you'll be ashes or bones. A mere name at most - and even that is just a sound, an echo. The things we want in life are empty, stale, trivial." ~ The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, Book V.

If there is one single theme to Alejandro Amenabar's Agora it's that religion doesn't matter. Not that it's violent or regressive or makes you stupid - though it's certainly all those things - but that the thousands of years of fretting over who has the better pantheon counts for exactly nothing.

He illustrates this point through the character of Hypatia - a Roman woman, nominally pagan but utterly indifferent to the whole fiasco. She's much more concerned with astronomy and philosophy and how gravity works. As 4th Century Alexandria goes balls-out crazy all around her, she continues to calmly track the orbits of the "five wanderers," the known planets of the time, determined to learn how they move regardless of why.

"Look! Stuff falls! What's up with that!?"

 This is a damned good film. Most that go for these Big Ideas have lackluster production. The ones that really nail the production - which this film does, transporting you back to classical Alexandria - have lackluster plots more to the tune of Gladiator or 300.

Agora doesn't just have Big Ideas and gorgeous production, it carries things off with a compelling and character driven drama. Even halfway through the film, where events jump several years into the future, the narrative flow doesn't suffer. In fact, the sudden shift reinforces the theme of religious indifference - while the Christians have become the big player, so much so that former pagans have converted for political gain, Hypatia is still giddily pursuing her research into how the universe functions. Her joy of discovery is infectious and viewing these events well after the works of Copernicus, Galileo, and Kepler, we the audience are very much aware of the significance of her findings.

Which Amenabar contrasts with the rising tide of Christians and their ruthless, power-seeking bishop. While no religion is ever singled out - all being portrayed as brutal and vindictive - the long aerial tracking shots and frequent views from orbit make them all look so small and inconsequential.

Because they are. As I said, the theme is crystal clear that these constant battles over theology count for nothing in the vast emptiness of space. Hypatia tries to understand that emptiness, refuses to care about the petty tribal feuds around her and, well, you can kinda guess what happens...

Spoiler: Everybody dies.

Friday, September 14, 2012

A Culture of Failure

One thing I've always wondered about Mitt Romney is "Why?" Not just why he says the things he does or why an established moderate like him would want to represent a histrionic doomsday cult - but why in the hell should I ever vote for him?

"Stop laughing at me! You're all fired!"

The most common reason I here is "Because Obama!" Not being a slack-jawed racist, that doesn't do much to convince me. Yes, Obama is far from progressive and his economic policies are as tepid as it gets, but that's not a surprise if you were paying attention in 2008. I was, so I voted for Cynthia McKinney.

At least he's been damned good on defense, which is about all we can hope for from a president anymore. But, as John Dolan's most preferred pen name pointed out this week, being good at war doesn't count nearly as much in America as being loud about it.

Democrats of the post-war period have been universally better than their Republican counterparts when it comes to managing our imperial forces - with the notable exception of Mister Peanut in '79. But there continues in this culture a brainwave that Democrats are actually weak on defense while the GOP is the serious war party. This delusion is probably one of the reasons Democrats kick so much ass - always having to prove themselves and all - but it's much more reflective of an even more frequent brainwave in America.

Rewarding failure.

And as near as I can tell, that's the only reason Mitt has for pursuing the presidency. His latest pants-soiling move over the embassy attacks is just another in a long line of screw-ups for the Mormonbot - from his utter lack of charisma across two campaigns all the way back to his vulture days at Bain, making tons of money regardless of how well companies performed or how much he delivered to his own investors. Mitt's life has been one of grand rewards for not doing a damned thing and that's the real American way.

We've even seen it once already in the White House. George W. Bush the family screw-up, a chronic failure but one with connections to keep propelling him upwards. Others - Patreus, McChrystal, Trump, that petty tyrant boss of yours - all terrible at their chosen professions and all succeeding because results stopped mattering in this country long ago.

And that's why Mitt can still win. Even alienating half his own party and the State Department, even cravenly politicizing a national tragedy, he's still just enough of a loser to be president.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Because Libertarians are Still Terrible

Our sister blag Atlas Shirked is back in business!

And appropriately enough, it IS September while this is being written and while Daffy Braggart is having a good mope over her boytoy getting nicked in the last chapter.

This of course being in addition to the good mope she was having over the closing - not failure! - of her precious Gort Line to Nowhere. She'd been so caught up in this round of lachyrmonous nombrilisme, she'd barely had time to fret over such plot points as the Gort doodle she'd found a few other chapters ago or the mass exodus of Great Men.

What she considered Great Men - hedge fund and private equity managers, heirs to oil companies who'd never worked a day in their lives, and all the many bosses who survived on nothing but the sweat and toil of underpaid others. Her heart bled for them most of all, or would if she had the time. And a heart.

"Oh Niels," she wailed. "You won't leave me too?"

"I'm in this chapter?" asked Niels.

To Daffy's champagne and quaalude addled mind, it seemed as if some Destroyer was moving across the land, erasing all the Greatness. And she was sure this horrible personification of Gotterdamurung was the same author of the brilliant engine dismissed by so many as a crayon drawing simply because that's exactly what it was.

Hey, I didn't make up this screwy logic of hers.

In a scene missing from the previous chapter - or the one before it, I can't keep track of this mess anymore - Daffy had discovered a brilliant engineer by the name of Quisling and tasked him with making some tangible product out of the crude doodle. She knew he was a brilliant engineer because he'd said so and had been working as a custodian when she found him. Only a genius would take a job so far below their actual abilities, so as to spite the world for not fawning all over them.

"I will pay you whatever you like!" Daffy had offered upon showing the Gort drawing to Quisling.

"I'll do it for free," he'd said in a sleezy con-artist's voice - which Daffy really should have been familiar with by now in her life. "And by 'free' I mean 'your sweet ass.'"

"Okey dokey!"

Now, sitting on a pack of frozen peas to relieve the burning sensation, Daffy looked at Quisling's latest report and wondered how much longer the project would take...

Continue reading Chapter 12 of Atlas Shirked!

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Last Great American

Growing up in Virginia, I've had my fill of the Civil War. From the moment you can read in this place, they drill into you all the myths of the South - that they fought bravely, that Lee was a brilliant soldier and a wonderful human being, that it wasn't entirely about slavery. Which is all bullshit. But as the majority of Americans still concerned with the Civil War are Confederate apologists, you don't often hear contrary rhetoric.

Unless you read The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant.

Grant thankfully doesn't cover his whole life. Just his youth, the Mexican War, and the main event. His life between the wars is glossed over, though it's quite clear civilian life didn't agree with him. Grant without a war to fight would have been just another embittered drunk and there's never been any shortage of those in Michigan.

Grant got to escape that obscurity because there was a war on and he's the best damn soldier this country's ever had. From mounting a cannon in a church steeple down in Mexico to his drive through the Western Theater culminating in the conquest of Vicksburg, Grant's career was one of astounding success driven by that distinctly American blend of audaciousness and pragmatism. While his battle plans were hardly complex - he agreed with Sherman's assessment, "These complex arrangements nearly always fail..." - he always pursued them with a grit and determination unequaled by the celebrated Southern commanders.

It really shocked the Good Ol' Boys how driven and unclouded by sentiment Grant proved to be, as illustrated in a letter exchange between him and General S.B. Buckner over the latter's surrender of Fort Donelson. Buckner indulged in Southern Sentimentality, going on at length on the honor of all the gentlemen involved and respect and yadda yadda. You can look it up 'cause I'm not quoting that damned traitor. Grant's response though deserves to be quoted in full -

Yours of this date, proposing armistice and appointment of Commissioners to settle terms of capitulation, is just received. No terms except an unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted. I propose to move immediately upon your works.

"And give me your lunch money."

Ya ever heard the phrase "I don't make threats, only promises?" Grant may be the only individual who could ever make that claim legitimately. He wasn't boasting to Buckner, wasn't puffing up his own ego. Simply stating the facts.

Will, that's what elevated Grant so far above his Confederate counterparts. A stolid, Roman will to get the job done. The determination so celebrated as an integral part of the American character, which is in such short supply these days.

And he's succinct. Too many American writers of the 19th century tried to out Victorian the Victorians, ballooning up their books with the same tedious overwriting of Dickens and still practiced in the Romance market. Grant gets to the point, giving only those details necessary to understand the scene. For someone who's waded through purple prose more times than I'd like to remember it's refreshing.

But he's not flat either. Though infrequent, Grant has a cuttingly sardonic wit for all those previously mentioned revisionists, trying to tart up the Southern Cause as something romantic - "IFS defeated the Confederates at Shiloh. There is little doubt that we would have been disgracefully beaten IF all the shells and bullets fired by us had passed harmlessly over the enemy and IF all of theirs had taken effect."

Grant has no patience for these confabulators and rightly so. He recognized - and frequently states - that the whole war hinged on the issue of slavery and that it wasn't even worth debating. It was evil and indefensible, which is likely why so many of the suckers who fought for the South did so for "liberty" and "state's rights." Their rhetoric, as recounted by Grant, is nearly indistinguishable from the noise coming out of the Modern Right since a black guy became president.

Which is a shame, 'cause we sure don't have a Grant to put them in their place this time.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Convention Coverage is for Assholes

You probably know more about the conventions than I do and that makes me better than you. All I know is Ryan lied his greasy head off and the whole country still has Bubba Fever twelve years later. Now here's a Romney voter demonstrating the GOP attitude towards women -

Yes, this was a filler post.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

End of Line

Neil Armstrong once offered his services as mission commander on any future flights to Mars. Now he's dead.

Meanwhile, China has set up it's own orbital habitat because the ISS just isn't cool enough for them anymore. It fits a growing pattern - China outpacing the US in real developments. Some months back, the GOP Psyops Division was dancing a funky chicken over the contraction of the American solar industry in contrast to an opposite Chinese expansion. 'Cause solar power is a commie plot, see. Just more dirty hippy crap promoted by those dirty hippy Democrats.

Anyone who genuinely cares about America's future was rightly horrified. The direction the global economy is going is renewables and it doesn't care if you think that's gay. This wasn't Obama's failure so much as America losing another very important battle with China.

We keep losing these battles and, much like all our other lost battles, we just don't want to examine why. Doing so would strip a lot of popular bullshit from the discourse - about how individuals are better at achieving things than groups or how private enterprise is more efficient and less bureaucratic than government. All the self-congratulatory nonsense we soak in to avoid the truth that our chosen way to the live - the business way - has utterly failed us and America.

And space travel is really the greatest piece of evidence that the business way just doesn't work. Human spaceflight is the one thing we can point to as a species and be proud of without any of the usual caveats - war and tribal hatreds - that mar our other achievements. Nothing else in the universe has managed anything similar that we know of and it's ultimately imperative to our very survival.

But there's no profit in it. There can't be. It's a huge investment for the intangible results of pride and incremental increases in understanding the cosmos. You can't put that on an earnings report, you can't chop it into collateralized debt obligations, and you sure as shit can't do it half-assed.

So this is how the American Century ends. Not with a bang or a whimper but with a bunch of self-satisfied mediocrities snickering at their own collective failure, imagining it all to be part of the usual horse-race politics.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Bankster Bailouts, Euro-Style

Greece is fine.

Well, maybe not fine but if talking just their own internal spending, Greece is as fiscally conservative already as you can get while still actually requiring fiscal policy. Any tighter and they'd have social spending on par with Somalia.

But add in their debt to French and German banks and they look rightly fucked. "Look" being the operative word, as this is a textbook example of odious debt. That's debt incurred by a government without the consent of its people, from lenders operating under bad faith.

There's plenty of legal gymnastics either side can do - What constitutes the people's will? What constitutes bad faith? - but it doesn't take a huge step to say the French and German banks holding the biggest hunk of Greek debt either made loans they knew Greece could never pay back... or they're really dumb.

Let's take a trip back in Greek history - recent history, so all you amateur fascists looking to spank it to the Spartans look elsewhere. No, we're only going as far back as the 2004 Olympics in Athens, which the Greek government financed through loans from banks all over the responsible, hard-working part of Europe. Greece was already in terrible fiscal shape but it was part of the Eurozone and therefore had a whole continent to cover it - much as the United States has covered Florida all through the foreclosure crisis.

Except the Eurozone - not the same thing as the European Union - is even more Rand-y than the American GOP. When the mental midgets of Wall Street crashed the global economy and wiped out everyone's equity, the ECB didn't want to hear about "unemployment" this or "social contract" that. It saw debts in it's books that Greece owed to French and German banksters and by gum, you pays yer debts!

Greece's debt issue could be resolved in one pen stroke if the ECB recognized it as odious. But that would mean a big hit to their primary concern - Continental Banksters. Much like the SEC protects Wall Street gangsters, the ECB is deflecting the rightful public outrage at bailing out incompetent banks by laundering the money through Greece's "debt." Yes, I've said this before. It bears repeating because everyone still tries to look smart by blathering, "If we don't fix the deficit, we'll be just like Greece!"

We're already like Greece. We're just too craven to admit it.