GINANDTACOS 2007 COCKSUCKER OF THE YEAR: JOE LIEBERMAN

Posted in Rants on December 31st, 2007 by Ed

Perfection is a beautiful thing, and the northeastern US seems to be have had a run of it in 2007. They gave us the World Champion Red Sox, the 16-0 Patriots, and the most flawless 12 months of being a cocksucker ever turned in by a public figure. Congratulations, Joe Lieberman. You are the Tom Brady of being a duplicitous, self-important ass clown. It is rare, in the short history of this award, that a year's winner should be so clear-cut. But aside from a brief challenge from General Saint David Petraeus, it was Holy Joe all the way in 07.

Mr. Lieberman's intense hunger for Satan's cock was in no way confined to this calendar year, of course. His transition from mild irritant to full-blown asshole began with his primary defeat in 2006, an event that gave America the phenomenon known as Independent Democrat Joe Lieberman. Then, proving that God truy loathes America, the midterm elections made this condescending waste of flesh the deciding vote in an evenly-split Senate. Oh my, how Joe loved that. The Democratic leadership didn't simply have to put up with his continued presence – they had to suck up to him and bend to his every whim.

Lieberman's cloying, pedantic "bipartisanship" prattle goes a long way towards showing just how far to the right the axis of American political discourse has tilted. Like other "sensible" and "serious" "moderates" like David Brooks, Lieberman's message appears to be "I am a Democrat who just happens to agree with the far right on almost everything, and this proves that I am a better person because I'm so 'open minded' and unrestrained by ideology." Truly did Holy Joe use 2007 to put on a display of collaborationism that would make the Vichy regime – and perhaps even the eponymous Quisling himself – nauseous.

When he wasn't busy endorsing neocon Republican presidential candidates who are too far to the right for their own damn party, Joe was "busy" chairing the Senate Committee on Homeland Security. Since taking that post he has found it necessary to launch exactly zero investigations into the dozens of examples of ineptitude, omissions, and outright criminality of his pals in the White House. He's such a loyal bobblehead for the far right that Bill Kristol thinks he should be the GOP nominee for VP next year. Now that's an endorsement that every self-respecting "independent" and "Democrat" accepts with pride. When he wasn't busy bragging about how goddamn fabulous everything is going in Iraq he was rhetorically cheerleading for the next war of aggression in the Middle East. When he wasn't busy making sure the troops don't get a break between tours of duty in His war, he was attacking the leader of his own party for talking about withdrawl even in the abstract. He found time to host fund raisers for a vulnerable Republican Senator in the upcoming election, but no time to do any actual research about how His strategy is working in Iraq other than to call Petraeus' critics guilty of treason.

Joe Lieberman is what he is. He is the Senator from AIPAC, not Connecticut. He is a strident neoconservative, not an "independent." He is a Republican, not a Democrat. And he is a smug, ingratiating cocksucker, not a noble, above-the-fray Bipartisan. While the DNC is probably hoping that either Holy Joe falls off a tall ladder or that the Party's Senate lead increases enough to make him irrelevant, I see no problem in hoping for both.

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COME WITH ME

Posted in No Politics Friday on December 28th, 2007 by Ed

So on the heels of the Led Zeppelin reunion show last week – a spectacle so mercenary and horrific that it doesn't merit comment – all I can think about is this:

I vividly recall seeing this live on SNL as it happened, praying fervently for a rogue asteroid the size of Mount Everest to strike the Earth.

THE MANY HORRORS OF LEFTIST THINKING

Posted in Rants on December 27th, 2007 by Ed

I happen to be one of a small and ever-shrinking number of Americans with something called "paid vacation." Granted, as an instructor at a public university I do not technically have paid vacation (it is never called that) but I do not have to work for three weeks in December. Or a week for Spring Break. Or three months of summer – although I usually get pressed into service for that one. This is the ultimate "benefit." It is why I and many other graduate students continue to endure the endless politicking, ass-kissing, back-stabbing, and generalized intellectual grab-ass that define academia. It is why I will not make a lot of money in my life, nor will I enjoy much freedom of movement (we go where the jobs are). And I decided, after several years in a grisly, relatively well-paid Real World job, that it is worth it.

I don't like working. If you do, I humbly submit that there is something wrong with you. Sure, there's the odd person here or there who enjoys their profession. At the very least you might enjoy your job more than the available alternatives. But do you really like working? If you didn't have to do it, would you? Frankly I'd find a lot more fulfilling ways to spend my time even if I had a fantasy fun job. I suppose this makes me "lazy" and responsible for our economy's inability to compete with the Chinese. I could not possibly care less. We were not put on this Earth to make widgets.

Sometime after, oh, 1980 the consensus in America apparently became that vacation is a vestigial anachronism of Second Wave post-war regulated capitalism (along with things like unions, pensions, and government regulation). It would shock most Americans to learn how different Things are in our neck of the woods when compared to other advanced industrial democracies. Take a serious gander at how we stack up against Europe. Whereas almost every nation in Western Europe mandates at least 20 paid vacation days per annum (that's an entire month of workdays) we here in the Land of Whose Lifestyle the World is So Envious mandate none. As a result, most of us receive exactly that. Even the Japanese, whose mythologized "kamikaze" work ethic was postulated as the explanation for why their industry kicked our ass so badly over the past 20 years, legally mandate 2 weeks.

vacation_time_chart.jpg

"But! But!" says your inner Hannity, "Look at how much less productive their economies are! Look at how horrendously high their taxes are!" True. Very true. However, if that was your first reaction I have to wonder…who are you? Is your life really so joyless and your acquisitiveness so severe that you'd willingly trade the 30 paid days off they enjoy in France for the right to pay 30% in federal income tax rather than 45%? How miserable is your home life, and how limited or nonexistent are your interests (outside of shopping) that you would rather make a little more money than have time to enjoy it?

I'd like you to sound off in the comments for a very informal poll. What do you get in the way of paid vacation? And let's not forget holidays. Does your December holiday time consist of getting the 25th off and heading back to work the morning of the 26th? Of all the things that depress me about the direction in which we're headed, I think the worst is that the glories of Third Wave capitalism have instilled in our population the idea that having Memorial Day, the 4th of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas off from work is good enough. I wonder how many people actually console themselves at the end of another 50-hour week by saying "This is all worth it when I see our GDP." More likely they're drowning their sorrows in the delusion that they'll "make it" in some sort of Horatio Alger ascension to Independent Wealth. Then every day will be a vacation! Good luck with that.

SOCIAL DECLARATIONS OF WAR

Posted in Uncategorized on December 24th, 2007 by Ed

Just remember, we are not cebrating Christmas at the moment. I've been reading the works of brilliant 21st Century logician and philosophe John Gibson, who rightly points out that "the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought." Left-wing America has declared War on Christmas.

Much like other socio-cultural "wars" such as the Wars on Poverty, Drugs, Illiteracy, and Terror, the War on Christmas has been phenomenally successful. Why, this year I could hardly find any mention of the former holiday. I actually forgot that it exists, so total has been the liberal victory over the Pagan-turned-Christian celebration.

Rather than wish you a Merry Christmas or happy holidays, I suppose that given this blog's demographic it would be more logical to offer you congratulations for so successfully destroying a once-major holiday. Excellent work, Comrades! Now let's get back to work so that we may be equally victorious over the Family and Freedom! Next time this year I expect to be seeing busts of Trotsky in every town square.

DEPP MAKES MOVIE. HOT TOPIC REJOICES.

Posted in No Politics Friday on December 21st, 2007 by Ed

So who is the actor/actress everyone else seems to like but whom you loathe?

There is a gentleman in town whom I hate (shocking, I know) and I decided I hated him when, 20 seconds into our first conversation, he started lecturing me about the immense acting talents of Johnny Depp. I really missed the meeting at which America decided that he is not horrible. Given that he hasn't been in a good film in almost 15 years (Ed Wood, 1994) you'd think the public would have soured on him. Nope.

Is it just me or does he only appear in movies that double as Hot Topic marketing wet dreams? Honest to god, every damn movie involves mountains of pancake makeup, dark eyeliner, a ridiculous accent, and some sort of period or "dark" aesthetic. Here, take a look. From Hell. Sleepy Hollow. Chocolat. Finding Neverland. Corpse Bride. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. And how can we forget that amazing Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy – doubtlessly the finest films ever made about a theme park ride. Remember when he received an Oscar nomination for that role? And Finding Neverland? Yeah, good times. Mall goths everywhere crossed their black-nail-polished fingers for him.

I understand why people like empty, insipid entertainment. I just can't handle it when we start putting bows on turds and talking about how great the films and actors are. If you want to waste your time watching Pirates of the Caribbean 3, fine. If you think I'm going to sit here and listen to you talk about how great it and its leading man are, I cannot strongly enough disabuse you of that notion.

So, really. Fuck that guy. Who's yours?

FRONT LOADING

Posted in Rants on December 20th, 2007 by Ed

Hi class! Today I'm going to talk about one of the concepts I like to emphasize when teaching about presidential elections. You will be tested on this material at the end of the post. OK, not really, but it's the kind of dinner party knowledge that will make you feel smart.

You may have noticed that the 2008 primary calendar is radically different than any previous election. The Iowa Caucus, traditionally held in late February, is now practically crammed into New Years Day's pants. That's right, it's January frickin' 3rd. The New Hampshire primary is just a few days later (Jan. 5). Super Tuesday (mid- to late-March, traditionally) is now…February 5. Twenty-two states will hold primaries on that date, meaning, in essence, that you'll know the nominees before February is a week old.

So, what the hell? The explanation is a phenomenon called Front Loading. States are in a race to make their primaries earlier and earlier every year. Why? Well, first of all there are economic benefits. Not a whole lot goes on in Iowa and New Hampshire. Sorry to burst your bubble. But the caucus/primary are easily the biggest economic event (and attention-getter) in their respective states. Thousands of reporters and campaign workers flood the states with money over several months. It's like hosting a Super Bowl, if the Super Bowl lasted 90 days. States also want their primaries to actually mean something. The early "kingmaker" primaries exert tremendous influence over the nominations, as the candidates who do well early gain money, attention, and momentum to sweep through subsequent primaries. Later primaries? Not so much. Some states (Michigan and Florida) are even willing to violate party rules (and endure candidate boycotts) to get in on the early action.

There are also a few new (party-approved) additions to the pre-Super Tuesday calendar: Nevada and South Carolina. Why? Well, the Democratic Party in particular has had a lot of trouble over the years with the tremendous influence of Iowa and NH. With what sort of voters do Democrats do well? Young people, city folk, and African-Americans. And…Iowa and NH are made up almost entirely of white, rural old people. So Howard Dean, god bless him, (no, really, he's the best thing to happen to the party in 50 years in his role as the chair) decided it might help to include a state whose population is almost entirely urban (Nevada) and one with a very large non-white population (SC). The goal is simple – find a way to stop the Democrats from nominating one uninspiring, unelectable candidate after another. Ever wonder why the Democratic voters always seem so overwhelmingly unenthusiastic about their nominees? Probably because a bunch of rural Iowans picked him.

That's great, you say, but who the hell cares? These calendar games all have a dramatic impact on the kind of person who will be able to succeed. The candidates need to do more in a shorter timeframe (4 weeks from Iowa to Super Tuesday) than ever before, which means they need more money than ever before. This game has always been slanted in favor of the most well-funded candidates (W showed up to the primaries in 2000 with $47 million – McCain was his closest competitor at $5 million) but now it's getting ridiculously so. Only a few of this massive field of candidates can afford the daunting task of campaigning simultaneously in the handful of ultra-crucial "early" states…and then a whopping 22 states on the same day. That's practically like a general election. The insignificant candidates (Richardson, Huckabee, Biden, etc) are trying to do one thing and one thing only right now: stay alive until Iowa/NH and hope for a miracle. If they can catch lightning in a bottle and do well in those, they will suddenly be seen as a "frontrunner" and money will pour in. If they don't do well, they're going to wither on the vine very quickly. As best I can tell, at the moment only Hillary, Rudy, Obama, and Romney (thanks to his personal fortune) can afford the kind of logistical outlay that this insanely front-loaded schedule requires.

So that's your nominee pool. The only way anyone else (Edwards, Huckabee) will seriously get in the race is to put all of their eggs in the Iowa basket and hope for a miracle. It worked for Bill Clinton. Mike Huckabee, I knew Bill Clinton. And you're no Bill Clinton.

ECONOMIC CRACK

Posted in Rants on December 19th, 2007 by Ed

It passed without much comment last week when Congress and Our Leader announced their subprime bailout scheme to plug the sinking ship that is our nation's housing market. Government stepping in to take on the burden of individuals' and the lending industry's poor judgment? Now that's a solid dose of fiscal conservatism if I've ever seen one! The stench of patronage on this bill is enough to make the eyes of the Keating Five water uncontrollably.

Let's disregard for one moment the fact that this effort to "help people stay in their homes" is mostly a handjob for the lending industry. It main impact, as best I can tell, is to pay in full the banking industry's most horrible loans and then shift the same onto the taxpayer-funded Federal Housing Administration. As far as helping actual homeowners, it bails out only the most reckless, underqualified borrowers – and not many of them at that. This is an outstanding lesson in positive reinforcement of negative behavior – the less money you make and the bigger the loan you signed without reading it first, the more likely Uncle Sam is to bail you out. The same holds true for the banks, of course. The more reckless and unscrupulous their lending practices, the better the odds that they can benefit from this fraud. By expanding the FHA's reach to mortgages as high as $700,000 the message is clear: screw the working class, we need to protect high-income suburbanites with shitty credit and zero understanding of how to live within their means. If you are struggling but can technically still afford your mortgage when the rates rise (i.e. the monthly payments are not larger than your paycheck) this legislation does absolutely nothing to help you.

Why does legislation like this pass? The sad truth is that this is inevitable because the Greatest Story Never Told wonder-economy of the Bush era is so heavily dependent on A) unsustainable levels of consumer spending and B) mountains of credit to make the unsustainable appear attainable. With record levels of household credit card debt (and enormous mortgages paying for ridiculously overpriced housing) there are no options left to keep John Q. Public going on weekly mall shopping binges. The only ways to keep consumers spending like mad for the holidays (and beyond) are to relieve their debt burden or have an economy that generates meaningful increases in real wages. I'll let you guess which one of those is more likely.

Like every other aspect of the Bush economy – the constant tax cuts, to name one – this bailout amounts to economic crack cocaine. It will provide a tiny bump, the effect will wear off almost immediately, and then we'll need to do another hit. The myth of a flourishing economy is not a high we can sustain. We can create the illusion only in brief spurts, with long, confidence-killing valleys of doubt and reality interspersed.

SIMPLE DECLARATIVE SENTENCES: A KEN BURNS FILM

Posted in Rants on December 18th, 2007 by Ed

I can't tell if this is a rant or a review, but let's talk for a moment about Ken Burns' latest production: The War.

On the plus side, and completely irrelevant to my point here, this is a legitimately decent series. It's enjoyable. It gets most of the history right (if not complete). It bears all the trademarks of Burns' inimitable yet often poorly-imitated style. It doesn't lapse into "Greatest Generation" fellatio. And, of course, it tells a riveting story. My guess is that its biggest sin is not being The Civil War. Burns' career offers us a very powerful example of why creative people should never start out with a masterpiece. The public has reacted poorly to nearly everything he's done since that series because, well, it's just not as good as the original Ken Burns Masterpiece. That's unfortunate, because some of it has been pretty good (Lewis & Clark, Mark Twain, Frank Lloyd Wright, Unforgivable Blackness). Of course let's not deny that some of it has been excruiciatingly bad as well. Baseball, I'm looking in your direction.**

Here's the real problem with The War: Burns is a good documentarian, which is to say that he lets his subjects tell the story. It's in their own words. So in that respect he is entirely at the mercy of his subjects to make the product vivid and compelling. Comparing The War to The Civil War is a great side-by-side exercise illustrating just how differently Americans express themselves a century apart. Modern (which is to say 20th Century) America simply isn't anywhere near as eloquent as mid-19th Century America. That's not really Ken Burns' fault, but it dramatically impacts the narrative quality.

Now, I know better than to criticize "The Greatest Generation" so let's clarify that it isn't really the fault of any individual depicted in the series. It's just the way our society has changed. The uneducated slaves in The Civil War manage to express themselves with more depth and eloquence than 99% of the subjects in The War. We live in a time and place in which compound sentences are de facto evidence of effeminate bookishness and, by extension, treasonous America-hating. The fact that the subjects in the more recent film are exponentially better-educated than their 19th Century counterparts can't overcome the fact that anti-intellectualism grew at an even faster rate during the interim.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe there's just a sample bias at work here (the only 19th Century letters to survive were the really good ones). But the cynical part of me looks at how much we've declined since World War II and finds the dumbing-down theory persuasive. When you're watching The War, bear in mind that it's not Ken Burns' problem that the Average Joe uses a 500-word vocabulary to express himself in simple, declarative, 7-word sentences. At this rate, the Ken Burns Jr. production of World War III is going to feature mostly grunting and pointing.

**The series would have been better received if it stuck with its original title: 15 Hours About the Yankees.

WHEN YOU RIDE ALONE, YOU RIDE WITH JESUS

Posted in Rants on December 17th, 2007 by Ed

canown.jpgThose who know me well know that I'm unsettlingly enthralled by old American war propaganda. I don't know what happened to my "Loose Lips Sink Ships" t-shirt, but I do know I miss it. Not only do I find it visually appealing and quaint but it quickly communicates an awful lot about how much we've changed as a nation.

While it's dangerous to read too much into mass cultural phenomena, feel free to browse around an excellent archive like Northwestern's online library of WWII posters and try to imagine a contemporary equivalent. I am certainly no less than the 10,000th person to mention this, but is it possible to overstate the extent to which the concept of "sacrifice" has been completely eliminated from the neocon war mentality? Honest to God, sit back and try to picture a commercial in which the government asks Hannity's listeners to drive less. Or eat less. Or work 16 hours per day. It's incomprehensible from two perspectives: we can conceive of neither a government that would do it nor a population that would accept it.

The idea that the white middle class will not be asked to make the slightest sacrifice is the foundation of selling neocon war to the public. They don't need to sacrifice life or limb (we have plenty of poor people, black people, and poor black people for that) and they certainly don't need to make any lifestyle changes. In fact, we encourage them to keep buying new Chevy Tahoes; consumer debt-fueled purchasing makes the piper play! So far from asking the public to make sacrifices, we take great pains to emphasize that they can keep living the most wasteful and inefficient lifestyle in recorded history. Eat crap, live 2 hours away from work without public transit, drive land barges, buy disposable everything….remember, you're an AMERICAN. Profligate consumption is your birthright.

rationing.bmpAfter all, it's not like this war is costing us $275 million per day. So how has Our Leader managed to avoid even the slightest hint of asking his loyal drones to make sacrifices for this phenomenally expensive joyride? Why, the same way people like him "rationalize" their way out of everything: the Market will pay for it. See, we'll just spend far, far into the red today and in the future our economy will be such an unstoppable force that it will pay for the war many times over (as long as we don't chicken out and let those tax cuts expire! And let's make sure we stay on Congress about that AMT!) This lame cop-out is to political debate what "It was all just a dream!" is to fiction writing. It is the laziest, most baseless statement of magical faith short of "Jesus will save us." The past seven years have seen an explosion of this type of "logic." The stock market is going to save Social Security. Tax cuts will give everyone healthcare. Casinos will fund our schools. Outsourcing will create job growth. Name any dilemma and rest well assured that some Market Fantasy – erectile dysfunction aids for Libertarians, in essence – will fix it. I don't suppose it would make the slightest sense to expect a war to be treated any differently. Just sit back and amuse yourself with the image of how your favorite member of the I Love the War, As You Can Tell By the Number of Yellow Ribbons On My Explorer crowd would react if Our Leader told them they had to start rationing meat and carpooling.

Feel free to amuse me with your best guesses. I'm thinking it would look something like a hybrid of a John Birch Society meeting and that scene in Scanners where the dude's head explodes.

NPF LITE

Posted in No Politics Friday on December 14th, 2007 by Ed

I've spent the last several hours grading final exams. My brain is pudding.

While I was on the topic of very loud, very public bouts of hand-wringing, the reaction to the long-awaited "Mitchell Report" about steroids in baseball is slaying me. In the midst of hours of debate over important questions like "Is Roger Clemens still a Hall of Famer??" the whole world is conveniently missing more pressing points, namely the fact that that entire industry is getting a pass on a decade-plus of Federal drug law violations.

Mailing Schedule 1 drugs across state lines….hmm, lots of people in prison for that. Possession with intent to distribute (numerous stories of players giving other players illegal drugs)….hmm, I think there are a lot of people in prison for that too. I like baseball. But I'd really appreciate it if just one of these pricks could put the situation in the proper context and admit how f'n lucky they are to be discussing things as trivial as baseball records and honors instead of "So how much time is Clemens going to spend in Federal Pound-Me-in-the-Ass Prison?"

It reminds me vaguely of the old Catholic Church pedophilia scandal, when the organization apparently thought "Don't worry, we'll handle the investigation in-house" was good enough for Federal prosecutors. These multimillionaire athletes are so goddamn lucky to begin with, and here the entire sport has been given a blanket pass on the kinds of things poor people go to prison for every day. They can't even take the free pass gracefully – with an apology and humble pie. No, they have the balls to get indignant, continue issuing denials, and demand all the honors they believe they are due. You'd think that the privilege of being able to conduct their own toothless investigation of two decades of felony drug crimes would produce a collective "We really dodged a bullet" sigh of relief. You'd be wrong.