Saturday, May 16, 2015

I’m Already Sick Of Elon Musk

Once upon a time, there was a planet drowning in bullshit and fraud. Then, one day, Elon Musk came along at saved it all with lithium batteries, or so his press agents said.

I know very little about Elon Musk and care even less. Is he the one who sky dives and rides around in a hot air balloon over the Himalayas, dreaming about space flight, or is that the other asshole? I forget. So many tedious billionaires, so little time. I do know that this bold capitalist wheedled one fine deal with Big Guvmn't in Nevada to build his "gigafactory" outside Reno:

$725 million in sales tax abatements over 20 years, which is equal to about 80 percent of the total sales tax revenue state government receives in a year.

$332 million in real and personal property tax abatements over 10 years—an amount equaling two and a half times the amount of property tax revenue Washoe County receives in a year.

$195 million in transferable tax credits, which other Nevada companies will be able to buy from Tesla in order to reduce their own tax liabilities to the state.

$27 million in payroll tax abatements over 10 years.

$8 million in electricity rate discounts over eight years.
Basically, Tesla is operating tax free for ten years and gets a discount on the electric bill. That’s the invisible hand of capitalism in action.

That’s the way our world works and there’s no use complaining about it. You and I would take the same deal, but just don’t give me all this jive about free markets, pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, and welfare moochers and looters. The government picks winners and losers, and it’s done so since Alexander Hamilton ran the treasury, so let’s drop all of the Milton Friedman, University of Chicago free market bullshit.

And please stop telling me that Elon Musk is some kind of visionary. Is he is bad as the Wall Street parasites who are eating our colons from the inside out? No. He’s actually making something. But just because he builds electric cars doesn’t mean he’s Leonardo da Vinci. Stop telling me all of his quirks and personality flaws are symptoms of genius. He seems to me like a full-fledged creature of the modern age: a media savvy techno geek with a Gordon Gekko attitude. Forgive me if I don’t get wet.

What bothers me is the notion that change only comes through actions of billionaire businessmen. The rest of us are conditioned to sit back and wait, passively, until some slick sharpy with money decides we should do something different. Then it’s American Exceptionalism time, baby!They will create jobs and carry the rest of us to a new paradise.

It’s a version of the aristocratic principle: nothing can be done until one of our betters decides it is profitable to do it. Collective action is not necessary. The John Galts will take care of everything and see us through, even if they have to destroy unions and lower living standards to do it, which Elon Musk, hero of late stage crony capitalism, will do.

The very idea that we get everything from the generosity of individual billionaires is a serious revision of American history. Enlightened rich men did not end slavery or Jim Crow, or give women the vote, or give workers a forty hour week, a pension, and a minimum wage. These were gained from the bottom up. The notion that everything comes from entrepreneurs is a dangerous fallacy.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Some Bullshit Happening Somewhere

This is pure genius, network news broadcasts in a nutshell:

Sunday, May 10, 2015

My All Time Favorite Movie Lines

Now that I have your attention …

Just kidding. It’s Sunday and politics have become a great big bore to me. I remain as firm as ever in my conviction that Jeb Bush will be the next president of the United States. I am not happy about this. I don’t want it to happen. I am just acknowledging reality. There will be a third Bush, America. It is written. We are sinners and this is our punishment.

And so what? Is he going to do anything substantively different than what President Hillary Clinton would do? Yeah, he’ll nominate some primitive, hanging judge prick conservative for the Supreme Court, some scowling, dehydrated, ass-puckered “strict constructionist” type who pines for the glory days of the eighteenth century; Clinton will nominate a solid liberal. He’ll oppose gay marriage; Clinton will support it. He’ll tell the rubes they should be able to wear sidearms to Disneyland; she’ll favor background checks, but only after carefully affirming her commitment to our Second Amendment rights. Viva effing democracy.

I won’t bore you with any more Hillary bashing, apart from saying that her phony baloney populism is an insult to anything with a fore-brain and opposable thumbs. I think she has genuine liberal sentiments, but ambition trumps sentiments in politics, and she’s running for president of the United States, not president of Sweden or Denmark, and we don’t truck with too much liberalism. Not one minute after she she snookers us libs into voting for her, she’ll be off to brunch with Lawrence Summers and Lloyd Blankfein, and they won’t be eating hot dogs and spare ribs like the folks. They will, however, be having Very Serious Discussions about raising the retirement age and cutting those wicked entitlements. They will be drafting her inevitable speech about “fiscal responsibility” that we’re all going to have to endure. Just watch.

I can hear it in my nightmares. I can hear it in my daymares. I can see it, smell it, feel it and sense it as if it’s a tangible, living presence hovering over my shoulder getting ready to pounce, the Ghost of Establishment Politician’s Past come to smother me with smugness, condescension and hypocrisy.

But that’s moot. She is going to stumble and implode, allowing Jeb to squeak into the White House. Hearken unto my words, brothers and sisters, the third Bush cometh. Plan accordingly. He’s already cutting backstairs deals with Ralph Reed types to garner wingnut support. The media is already doing puff pieces about him; stay tuned for the companion series about his Venezuelan wife, his abiding Catholic faith, and his deep commitment to education reform. The country club that runs our increasingly dingy nation wants him in there and that’s that. The fix is in, suckers.

(They wouldn’t mind Hillary either, mind you, but the Chris Matthews, Howard Fineman, Maureen Dowd Axis of Vapidity can’t abide older ladies with wrinkles. I’m willing to bet that a plurality of voters can’t either. And don’t go throwing poll numbers at me. They mean nothing — NO THING — at this point in the election cycle. They just give nerdy Beltway types something to natter about on slow news days.)

Enough. No more politics!

As promised, some good (bad?) movie lines.

Apollo 13. The lunar module is orbiting around the dark side of the moon. The crew has lost radio contact with earth, and they’ve had to cut the power down to conserve energy. It’s dark and cold. The situation is dire. One of the men then says to the Tom Hanks character, “It hurts when I urinate, Jack.” It cracks me up every time. The idea of chaude-pisse is more terrifying to me than being stranded in space.

Titanic, quite possibly one of the stupidest movies ever made. Worse, perhaps, than Shakespeare in Love, which is saying a lot — I couldn’t stomach ten minutes of that abomination, and this was on an eleven hour flight! I went back to the drink cart while the stewardesses were napping, made myself  a few Stoly drivers and watched Greenland pass by instead (alas, Iceland was covered by clouds. Maybe next time). Anyway, Leonardo and Kate are gamboling about on deck, giddy with new found love, when they hear the iceberg slash through the hull. Leonardo gravely informs his mistress, “This is bad.”

Planet of the Apes. One the best movies ever made, based on a novel by a great French author/satirist named Pierre Boulle, who also wrote The Bridge Over the River Kwai. Mention that bit of trivia to impress your friends, but it probably won’t help you get a girl into bed. What can I say? We live in an imperfect world.

Okay, we’re at the very end, when everyone is on the beach. Charleton Heston mounds his horse with the lovely, lovely Nova. Dr. Zira comments that she didn’t think humans were capable of monogamy, and Charleton Heston replies, “On this planet, it’s easy.”

Anything from Network, but especially Arthur Jenson’s (Ned Beaty’s) “The world is a business” speech. It’s one of the most astute descriptions about how the world really works ever made.

That’s all I can think of off the top of my head.

Just for the hell of it:

Sunday, May 3, 2015

You Go, America!

Golly, this sure makes me proud.


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Inside Team Hillary

Spring is in the air, and a young man’s thought turn to love.

Wait. Let me update that for the times: Spring is in the air, and a jaded middle-age man’s thoughts turn to … the upcoming Bush Clinton election farce. Egads, just when you thought hemorrhoids and heartburn were gone for good …

The words “orgy” and “indigestion” don’t often fit in the same sentence, but when I contemplate Bush v. Clinton they merge together as naturally as peas and carrots, or warm beer and a headache, or bunions and toe jam. I just can’t get over it.

We’ve got climate change and peak oil and wealth inequality and the death of the middle class. We’ve got major tectonic problems grinding below the surface, and the best that American democracy can come up with is … Bush v. Clinton? Burp. Scratch your balls and go back to sleep, Mr. America, there is nothing to see here.

I keep thinking Millard Fillmore or James Buchanan, or Stanley Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain, or any of the other dull gray epic failures of oligarchic democracy who preceded great disasters. They bumbled and dawdled and stooped and stuttered, like Mr. Magoo, while the ground split beneath their feet and dropped them into a void, and their only thought on the way down was, Where’s my hat?

There is a really obscene joke being played on us, people. Here are your hand-picked machine candidates, now do your civic duty and vote! The only interesting thing will be watching how both of these rich, inside baseball, orthodox establishment clones turn themselves into pretzels running against “Washington” and the “status quo” A public that accepts this deserves to get them, and, to paraphrase the great H.L.M., deserves to get them good and hard.

I’m getting chuckles watching Hillary’s populist “road trip.” Who thought that one up, I wonder? Has someone at Team Hillary recently watched Animal House? Did they take a fucking poll?

“Polls show people connect with the term ‘road trip’ more than’bus tour’. It resonates with them. I recommend we use that.”

“What do you think, John?”

“It has a hip quality that may appeal to younger voters.”

“What about African-Americans?”

“I have the numbers right here. African-Americans between 18-24 prefer ‘road trip’ to ‘bus tour’ by sixty percent. The numbers go down as you move up the age brackets, but most African-Americans show a clear preference for road trip. Bus tour is too old, too white. However, bus tour does edge out road trip by a small margin among African-Americans seniors between 65-75.”

“Hmm. Maybe I could say road trip to younger voters but bus tour to older groups?”

“It’s the safest play, Hill.”

“By the way, does it look more natural when I hold the corn dog in my left or right hand?”

“We don’t have the numbers on that yet, but we expect some preliminary figures by this afternoon.”

“Good, let’s keep on that.”
“Excuse me, Hillary? Rahm Emanuel’s on the line.”  

“Pardon me, everyone, I need to take this. Hi Rahm. Congratulations on your victory. Wait, Rahm, you’re getting emotional. Rahm, stab the table with a steak knife and pretend it’s one of your enemies. That always makes you feel better. No, Rahm, I won’t forget that progressives are retards. You know I had to say those nice things about Elizabeth Warren because I need her right now, We’ll discard her later, I promise. Yes, I’ll try to squeeze you in the cabinet somewhere. No, Blankfein gets Treasury whenever he wants the job, you know that. I agree that Jamie Dimon has better hair, but polls show that people trust bald-headed avuncular types in that kind of a position. It projects more maturity and gravitas. I know you’re fond of Jamie Dimon, but.… what? Huh? Well I don’t know, Rahm, why don’t you just come right out and ask him? Maybe he feels exactly the same way about you.

I’ve gotta run now, I have an important meeting coming up. What? Now? Okay, Rahm, but we’ll have to make it a quickie, I’m in a bit of a rush. Are you laying down? Okay, here goes: Rahm Emanual is bigger, badder and meaner than Karl Rove. Rahm Emanuel is bigger, badder and meaner than Karl Rove. Rahm Emanuel is bigger, badder, and meaner than Karl Rove. Did that work, Hon? Okay, cheers, love!”

Hillary hangs up and quickly scans the room. “Where’s my image consultant? She was supposed to coach me on how to be likable but she’s already five minutes late. If there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s unpunctuality! This tea is cold, John, get me another cup.”

I can’t believe we’re really going to do this. President Jeb, here we come.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The White Man’s Burden

Check out these photos of Donald Trump's kids on safari. I think it’s guillotine time, my friends. Well, okay, just make them wear name tags and work at Wal-Mart. I didn’t think people did this shit anymore, but apparently rich people are different.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Evil Teachers

I chuckle when I hear about what what fat and lazy parasites public school teachers are. I chuckle all the way to the mailbox, where I send my modest earnings to Chase Manhattan and Citibank, and thence to the campaign coffers of Republican politicians, who make profitable careers out of telling the public what a leech I am.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Your Daily Chandlerism

I’ve never read anything by Raymond Chandler, but I’m a big fan of Chandlerisms. Here are a few choice examples:
”She smelled the way the Taj Mahal looks by moonlight.” 
“I’m an occasional drinker.The kind of guy who goes out for a beer and wakes up in Singapore with a full beard.”
“If you don’t leave, I’ll get somebody who will.” 
“She gave me a smile I could feel in my hip pocket.”
“I felt like an amputated leg.”
“Then her hands dropped and jerked at something and the robe she was wearing came open and underneath it she was as naked as September Morn but a darn sight less coy.”
There are many, many more.

This Is What Guillotines Are For

Some mornings I wake up and think, fuck it, break out the guillotines. We’re all going to hell anyway, we might as well get some gratification on the way down. I just stumbled across an excerpt from Elizabeth Warren’s book A Fighting Chance, in which she describes the following exchange she had with the Second Biggest Prick in the Known Universe Jamie Dimon*
When the conversation turned to financial regulation and Dimon began complaining about all the burdensome rules his bank had to follow, I finally interrupted. I was polite, but definite. No, I didn’t think the biggest banks were overregulated. In fact, I couldn’t believe he was complaining about regulatory constraints less than a year after his bank had lost billions in the infamous London Whale high-risk trading episode. I said I thought the banks were still taking on too much risk and that they seemed to believe the taxpayers would bail them out -- again -- if something went wrong.
Just a side note, Jamie Dimon reputedly has a sign in his office that says “No Whiners.” He is the epitome of the faux tough guy master of the universe Wall Street dickwad, an image which is undermined by the fact that he is the biggest whiner in the whole tribe, and he goes by the name Jamie, Jamie. What kind of a grown man calls himself Jamie? Jamie was the fat little mama’s boy who never got picked for a team at recess. “No fair, guys, we had Jamie on our team last time. It’s your turn!” Jamie sucked up to the teacher at ratted out the other boys.  Anyway,  let’s cut straight to the good part:

Our exchange heated up quickly. By the time we got to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, we weren’t quite shouting, but we were definitely raising our voices. At this point -- early in 2013 -- Rich Cordray was still serving as director of the consumer agency under a recess appointment; he hadn’t yet been confirmed by the Senate, which meant that the agency was vulnerable to legal challenges over its work. Dimon told me what he thought it would take to get Congress to confirm a director, terms that included gutting the agency’s power to regulate banks like his. By this point I was furious. Dodd-Frank had created default provisions that would automatically go into effect if there was no confirmed director, and his bank was almost certainly not in compliance with the those rules. I told him that if that happened, “I think you guys are breaking the law.”
Suddenly Dimon got quiet. He leaned back and slowly smiled. “So hit me with a fine. We can afford it.”
Let’s face it, this is who guillotines were made for.

*Who’s number one? Dick Cheney, of course.


Saturday, March 21, 2015

America’s Brief Reign

In retrospect, it will seem completely natural that America’s period of worldwide dominance only lasted a short time. It is intellectually unfit to rule the world. It just doesn’t pack the gear to handle the job. Just as Sparta couldn’t rule Greece after the Peloponnesian War, so America couldn’t rule the world after the Soviet Union went down. We just aren’t cut out for it.

Think about it: America’s moment as the super power du jour spans the lifetime of the baby boomers. That’s it. In history that’s the blink of an eye.

We talk up a storm and build gaudy monuments, but in reality we’re just trashy used car salesmen experiencing a chance, temporary monopoly, and we cant’t even handle that. We went from Jonas Salk to Rush Limbaugh in the time takes for hair to go gray. We went from the Marshall Plan to quantitative easing and Wall Street bailouts in my mother's lifetime.

She was born in postwar middle class splendor; she’s ending her days in a mobile home on social security.

(She grew up in Manhattan Beach, California, where I lived as a child; it was a beachy, middle class place. Now it is an exclusive rich suburb, home to obscenely affluent fuckwads like Sharon Stone and Tiger Woods, and a legion of sniffy plastic yuppies. Last time I was there, they were all racing out to buy mini-coopers, because they were just oh so fucking hip and trendy at the time, don’t ya know? God, that fucking place always makes me feel like I need a shower.)

(Although I did meet Chuck Woolery in the produce department at Ralph’s once, and I’m a better man for it.)

Shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in one generation.

American exceptionalism will be a term that refers to the speed of our decline, not any special quality within us.