More Of This Please

Posted January 5, 2015 by Tom
Categories: bad behavior, Politics, Republican follies

Tags: , ,

Via TPM, this from White House spokesman Josh Earnest:

“Mr. Scalise reportedly described himself as David Duke without the baggage. So it’ll be up to Republicans to decide what that says about their conference.”

There’s an old political story — I’ve heard it told about LBJ — about the candidate who tells his campaign manager to spread a rumor that their opponent enjoys the carnal knowledge of barnyard animals.

“I can’t call him a pig-f**ker!” the staffer replies. “No one will believe it.”

“Sure,” says LBJ (oh heck. Go with it).  “But make him deny it.”*

Darwin_Domestic_102

The beauty here is that there is no phantom pig in the room at all.  There’s no possible denial, just, at best a bit of weaseling:  “I didn’t know; I didn’t mean it; I’m sorry if anyone was offended.”

Republicans are who they are, the people their actions define them to be.  The Democrats’ job is to make sure they own it.  To that end, Mr Earnest, keep stuff like this coming:

“It is the responsibility of members of the House Republican conference to choose their leaders,” Earnest said. “Who they choose to serve in their leadership says a lot about who they are, what their values are and what the priorities of the conference should be.”

*The line works best when you really bear down on “deeeennnnyyyy”

Image:  Charles Darwin, Head of Japan or Masked Pig, Copied from Mr. Bartlett’s paper in Proc. Zoolog. Soc. 1861, p. 263.illustration in The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication, Vol. I, Ch. 3 1868.

Living Large In Football’s Minor League

Posted December 29, 2014 by Tom
Categories: money, Stupidity, The Way We Live Now, Who thought that was a good idea?

Tags: ,

Perhaps the most dog-bites-man headline of this last weekend of regular season NFL play came atop stories on Jim Harbaugh’s move from the San Francisco 49ers to the University of Michigan.  Nearly all of those stories, before and after the news became official, mentioned Harbaugh’s expected salary:  $8,000,000/year, a sum that would make him the highest paid coach in the history of college football, though the latest reports suggest that even that staggering figure is low.

Henri_Rousseau_-_The_Football_Players

Just for the perverse pain of it, I decided to do a few sums.  The University of Michigan charges slightly lower instate tuition for its 1st and 2nd year undergraduates than it does for juniors and seniors.  The average of the two comes to $14,336.  Taking the original $8 million number for  Harbaugh’s salary, that translates into 558 tuition-free rides for Michigan kids.

University of Michigan faculty salaries in 2013 range from an average of roughly $88,000 for assistant professors to an average number around $149,000.  Picking a figure more or less in the middle, and adding in an allowance for benefits, Harbaugh’s reported salary would cover the cost of about 50 faculty — with, among other things, the benefit to the university and society of the research such an addition to the Wolverines capacity to study science, medicine, engineering, social science and the humanities might provide.

To add yet one more comparison:  even in an age of administrative bloat, Harbaugh’s compensation comes to more than the pay given Michigan’s top 16 executives, or all 20 of its deans.

Apples and oranges, football boosters might reply, and they’re right.  NCAA Division 1 football, at least within a major conference, has revenue streams not available to a mere Dean of Engineering or the College of Literature, Science and the Arts.  It’s plausible to me that between TV contracts, merchandise and the rest, the University of Michigan may indeed make a profit on its football operation.  (I’m not sure, though.  I’ve spent enough time in and around the film industry to know that before you simply accept that claim, you have to see the real books on anything as rich in opportunities for financial legerdemain as a big time entertainment business.)*

But even if , as is certainly true, the king’s ransom Jim Harbaugh will now collect doesn’t rob the rest of the university, and would in any event be simply unavailable to any other initiative at the University of Michigan, still, it seems to me useful to pay attention to the scale of that salary against the costs of what are, after all, the core of what a university does.  That would be to educate young adults and to create knowledge valuable in both a practical and liberal sense of value.  Michigan remains a great university, and I’ll be bursting with pride when my nephew graduates in Ann Arbor next year.  And, of course, Michigan is hardly the only football-mad school; it’s just the latest to hit the headlines with a monstrous expression of what it as a microcosm of society prices and hence prizes most richly.

In the end, I guess this whole post is a “get offa my lawn you kids” kind of plaint.  As a society we are so committed to a primitive market view of human relations that I can hear myself telling me that this is simply what the bourse will bear for a top name in a small, big-money field.  There’s a lot of ways to parse that thought for bullshit, of course, but just the fact that I frame it that way before catching myself shows how thoroughly the Reagan revolution has defined our categories of thought.  I will say, though, that the history of decline-and-falls is littered with examples of the already-rich alienating yet more resources from things that actually build the wealth and power of a society.

Oh well.

*I don’t know how to factor in the question of alumni fund raising, because I know of no way to calculate the crowding out problem: how much cash raised for athletics either fosters or crowds out possible support for academics.  If anyone has any insight on this — pop it into the comments, please.

Image:  Henri Rousseau, The Football Players1908  And yeah, I know. Not that football.  But I couldn’t resist such gaily prancing young sportsmen.  Could you?

Merry F**king Christmas, Suckas. (MOTU FU Edition)

Posted December 25, 2014 by Tom
Categories: bad behavior, Decline and Fall

Tags: ,

Bah humbug, y’all.

Or:  here is my reminder that our betters, the MOTU, and their eager servants in the political class never, ever rest from their quest to enrich (themselves) and immiserate (anyone it takes).

Fresh on the heels of the GOP’s decision in the omnibus funding bill to gut one more of the laughingly minor restrictions on bankster crime, we get this Christmas Day report from our friends at The New York Times:

“Turn your car title into holiday cash,” TitleMax, a large title lender, declares in a recent television commercial, showing a Christmas stocking overflowing with money.

More than 1.1 million households in the United States used auto title loans in 2013, according to a survey by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation — the first time the agency has included the loans in its annual survey.

Title loans are becoming an increasingly prevalent form of high-cost, short-term credit in subprime finance, as regulators in a number of states crack down on payday loans.

For many borrowers, title loans, also sometimes known as motor-vehicle equity lines of credit or title pawns, are having ruinous financial consequences, causing owners to lose their vehicles and plunging them further into debt.

In the case with which Times reporters Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Michael Corkery open their piece, a borrower took a $1,000 loan that carried a 171% annual interest rate.  That’s not a typo.  Unsurprisingly, she lost her car and remains about $1,000 in debt on that one transaction.  At that, she got off … well, better than some:

A review by The New York Times of more than three dozen loan agreements found that after factoring in various fees, the effective interest rates ranged from nearly 80 percent to more than 500 percent. While some loans come with terms of 30 days, many borrowers, unable to pay the full loan and interest payments, say that they are forced to renew the loans at the end of each month, incurring a new round of fees.

This isn’t really a banking business (obviously); it’s closer to a combo pawn shop and loan sharking business:

…lenders make the loan based on an assessment of a used car’s resale value, not on a borrower’s ability to repay that money, many people find that they are struggling to keep up almost as soon as they drive off with the cash.

As a result, roughly one in every six borrowers who take out title loans have their cars repossessed, according to an analysis of 561 title loans by the Center for Responsible Lending, a nonprofit in Durham, N.C.

And, of course, something that offers so much easy money to be grabbed from those least likely to find any kind of resource is attracting the finest members of our community:

Jesus_driving_the_merchants_from_the_Temple

The high interest rates on the loans have enticed an influx of Wall Street money. Private equity firms are investing in lenders, and some big banks are ramping up their auto lending to people with blemished credit.

What about regulation? Hah! Vampire squid and masters of the universe laugh at your regulation:

for every state where there has been a crackdown, there are more where the industry has mobilized to beat back regulations.

In Wisconsin, it took the title loan industry only one year to reverse a ban on the loans that had been put in place in 2010. In New Hampshire in 2008, state legislators enacted a law that put a 36 percent ceiling on the rates that title lenders could charge. Four years later, though, lobbyists for the industry won a repeal of the law.

America! F**K Yeah!

It’s ruinously expensive to be poor in this exceptional country.  It’s too damn easy to profit on the bitter hardship of others here.  I’m betting that most of those doing so have today talked pretty about the meaning of Christmas.  If so, let me leave them with Albert Einstein’s injunction, issued almost exactly 100 years ago:

“Honor your master Jesus Christ not only in words and songs but rather, foremost, by your deeds.”*

*Albert Einstein, “My Opinion on the War.

Image: Rembrandt van Rijn, Jesus driving the money-changers from the Temple, 1635.

What Does The Fox Say? (Zombie Goebbels Is Taking Notes Edition)

Posted December 22, 2014 by Tom
Categories: deceit, future of journalism, Massive Fail, MSM nonsense

Tags:

No, I don’t think that title is hyperbole.

Via Talking Points Memo, here’s how a Fox affiliate “informs” its viewers:

A Fox affiliate in Baltimore aired a segment on Sunday showing footage from a “Justice For All” demonstration in Washington, D.C. in which it edited a chant to sound like protestors were shouting “kill a cop.”

“At this rally in Washington, D.C. protestors chanted, ‘we won’t stop, we can’t stop, so kill a cop,'” the WBFF broadcast said.

But the full footage, flagged by Gawker on Monday via C-SPAN, revealed that the chant was “we won’t stop, we can’t stop, ’til killer cops are in cell blocks.”

On being caught lying on the air, this is how the station responded:

We aired part of a protest covered by CSPAN that appeared to have protesters chanting “kill a cop”. We spoke to the person in the video today and she told us that is not what she was chanting. Indeed, Tawanda Jones, says she was chanting, “We won’t stop ‘til killer cops are in cell blocks”. We invited Tawanda to appear on Fox45 News at 5:00 and Fox45 News at Ten tonight for an interview so we can discuss the video and the recent violence in New York City. She has kindly accepted and we will bring you that tonight.

This is, of course, a double-dip of the bullshit.  You can listen to the raw and edited clips at TPM.  When you do so, you’ll see that there’s nothing but a lie in the phrase “appeared to have protesters chanting “kill a cop”.”

The Fox affiliate in Baltimore edited audio to create a statement no one said, one certain to inflame anger.  Most important, as the GOP-led bullshit hailstorm around “anti-cop rhetoric” begins to founder on the fact that people like DiBasio, Holder and Obama didn’t utter any, audio like this provides an answer to folks like me and many here.

We say “show us this anti-cop stuff.”  Give us links that plausibly tie those of us who argue that cops have been shown to be able to use excess force with impunity to the deaths of those two officers in Brooklyn.

They say, “let’s go to the videotape.”  Which they manufacture.

Fox 45 Baltimore is a local broadcast station.  As such, it is subject to licensing by the FCC.  Once upon a time, it might have been possible to mount at least a vaguely threatening challenge to its license renewal for sh*t like this.  The Reagan Revolution, aided by the GOP Congress under a Bill Clinton who did not wield a veto pen, has made that essentially impossible, while ensuring that broadcast TV will ever-increasingly belong to our oligarchs.

The FCC’s vision of the public interest standard ­ and how to achieve diverse programming — underwent a significant transformation in the 1980s. As new media industries arose and a new set of FCC Commissioners took office, the FCC made a major policy shift by adopting a marketplace approach to public interest goals. In essence, the FCC held that competition would adequately serve public needs, and that federally mandated obligations were both too vague to be enforced properly and too threatening of broadcasters’ First Amendment rights.(17) Many citizen groups argued that the new policy was tantamount to abandoning the public interest mandate entirely.

Pursuant to its marketplace approach, the FCC embarked upon a sweeping program of deregulation by eliminating a number of long-standing rules designed to promote program diversity, localism, and compliance with public interest standards. These rules included requirements to maintain program logs, limit advertising time, air minimum amounts of public affairs programming, and formally ascertain community needs.(18) The license renewal process — historically, the time at which a station’s public interest performance is formally evaluated — was shortened and made virtually automatic through a so-called “postcard renewal” process.(19) The FCC also abolished the Fairness Doctrine, which had long functioned as the centerpiece of the public interest standard.(20)

In 1996, Congress expanded the deregulatory approach of the 1980s with its enactment of the Telecommunications Act.(21) Among other things, the Act extended the length of broadcast licenses from five years to eight years, and instituted new license renewal procedures that made it more difficult for competitors to compete for an existing broadcast license. These changes affected the ability of citizens and would-be license applicants to critique (at license renewal time) a broadcaster’s implementation of public interest obligations. The 1996 Act also lifted limits on the number of stations that a single company could own, a rule that historically had been used to promote greater diversity in programming.

The results? Unsurprising:

The range of programming has expanded as the number of broadcasting stations and other media has proliferated over the past twenty years. Yet market forces have not necessarily generated the kinds of quality, non-commercial programming that Congress, the FCC and others envisioned.

In any event, it’s not clear to me that one false report would have cost anyone a license even in the good old days (get offa my lawn!) — but this one is egregious.  It’s shouting “Fire!” in an uningnited croweded theater.  It’s gasoline on the bonfire.  It’ s vicious and abhorrent.

And you know the worst thing.  I’m not nearly as surprised as I wish I were.

Forget it, Jake, it’s Fox.

[no pic today — recovering from minor surgery and can only concentrate in intervals — doing the pic search is a bridge too far.  Sorry]

 

When You’re Right, You’re Right

Posted December 18, 2014 by Tom
Categories: Decline and Fall, Religious follies, ridicule

Tags: ,

No GG fanboi, me, I can’t find anything amiss with this statement:

Screen Shot 2014-12-18 at 3.12.59 PM

140 characters (+/-) of truth.

Then there’s this:

Screen Shot 2014-12-18 at 3.16.33 PM

I know.  Calling out Republican hypocrisy is akin to blaring Dog Bites Man above the fold, but still — I remain almost impressed by how thoroughly President Obama’s critics are so damn good at being utterly blind to the contradictions.

I’d say we should just point and laugh, but these feral children have real power.  Feh.

Fables of the Reconstruction: Tom Petty Edition

Posted December 10, 2014 by Tom
Categories: The Way We Live Now

Tags:

It’s been a while I know, and in the meantime real life has been so agonizingly real that the problems of three (or more) little kitchen appliances don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.

But it’s getting on for evening, and in our house the sun has definitely passed over the yardarm, so perhaps a little renovation schadenfreude might suit y’all just fine.

So here’s the current look:

IMG_1986

 

Those of you familiar with the renovation rhythm will recognize this phase.  We’re really in the end game.  The cabinets are in and … wait for it … almost all the trim has been fitted.  The appliances (all but one)  have been placed — not hooked up, mostly — but placed.  The painters are doing their thing, the electrician is scheduled and … you get the drill.

And yet, inevitably, what I blithely label an ending is not a matter of the number of actual days the different crafts have to do to complete the project.  It is, of course, the number of weeks it will take to get the guys in for the day here and the day there to do all the bits and pieces.

We’ve already been hammered by that.  The key, as everyone who’s done this kind of thing knows deep in the bone, is that first stumble off the neat center line of the project.  Or, to put it into the SNAFU military frame familiar to many here, every renovation reaffirms the eternal truth: no plan survives first contact with the enemy.   That enemy, in these cases, is, of course, the effrontery of wood and stone and flooring and all the other bits that don’t miraculously assemble themselves.

As late as November 5th or so, everyone involved thought we had a reasonable shot at a working kitchen by Thanksgiving.  Now, today, we got a sink plumbed, with the dispose-all to be hooked up Friday, maybe.  As for the rest…

It’ll come.  It’ll all happen.  We’ll likely have ovens on Friday too.  The stove will take longer, as we have a little code problem that will take a bit of carpentry to fix (don’t ask).  And….

Never mind.  Everyone who’s entered renovation hell knows this story, and it’s never an interesting one, no matter how often it can be retold.  This job will likely be actually done, no one coming back, everything in and working, by sometime in January.  Could be February — wouldn’t surprise me.  It’s a minimum of a 50% schedule fail on a four month job.  Par for the course.

When it’s all done, we’ll be able as a family to do what we truly love:   cook and cook and cook and cook for friends and friends and friends and friends.  If in the meantime y’all get a bit of vicarious pleasure at knowing that the eternal verities of construction remain true…so much the better.

Last — and I mean last:  we’ve been pretty good this going-on-for-half-a-year at cooking interesting, enjoyable meals on a hot plate, an electric frying pan, and a gas grill. But we’ve been beaten down.  Tonight was supposed to be spatchcocked chicken roasted on the grill, but it’s pissing down with a steady, penetrating drizzle and it’s cold and it’s late, and f**k it sideways.  We give up:  pizza is on its way.

And I’m not ashamed.

So there.

And really last (no I’m not joking) — the obligatory soundtrack to a post about attending on the arrival of Godot’s scullion:

Eric Garner’s Killer Won’t Be Indicted

Posted December 3, 2014 by Tom
Categories: quis custodiet ipsos custodes, Race

Tags:

Another grand jury somehow manages to avoid indicting a cop who put an unarmed man in an illegal chokehold and, ignoring his pleas (“I can’t breathe!”), strangled him to death.   Eric Garner’s crime was peddling untaxed cigarettes on the sidewalk.  He was a husband and the father of six.  And he was a black man.  I hope I may be forgiven for believing that last fact to be germane, both to the confrontation in which he died and the fact that his (white) killer, Officer Daniel Pantaleo, now escapes any scrutiny of law.

Hans_Memling_057

Another district attorney somehow managed to avoid gaining an indictment within a grand jury process he entirely controlled.  It is said that any competent prosecutor can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich, if that’s what’s desired on the day.  I hope I may be forgiven for believing that Staten Island DA Daniel M. Donovan Jr. had no intention of putting a cop on trial.  Never mind that Officer Pantaleo was captured on video tape performing an illegal act that led to the death of a human being who’s threat to society consisted of dodging local tobacco taxes, cancer stick by stick.

I got nothing.  This is not a justice system.  This is not policing in any form that I understand.  This is how law serves as cover for power when the forms but not the substance of civil society are all that is left.

I got nothing at all.

Image:  Hans Memling, Massacre of the Innocents at Bethlehem, (detail), 1480.

 

 


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