On Games For Windows Live

October 21st, 2014

Seeing that Dark Souls is finally being unshackled from Games For Windows Live (which means you might be able to finally do proper match making without third party mods) got me thinking, once again, about Games For Windows Live.

How is it possible that Microsoft invested that much money and effort and status in a service that no human soul wanted and that every user agreed was destined for the dust bin of history? How and why do companies with effectively infinite budgets conjure and deploy such terrible and ultimately doomed projects? I mean, yeah, I know. Windows ME. It’s not their first cock up. But it’s a stand alone cock up, which means it was conjured in a vacuum.

Sure, there were likely some/many people involved in it that tried to make it a good service. And there were probably many more that knew damn well they were creating a blighting turd. And I know how it is – the people at the top have staked their jobs on the success of a thing without understanding it, and the people in the trenches don’t have the clout to defy them.

But my question is WHY? Why does that structure exist? Why has it not evolved? Where is the economic Darwinism that should have killed off that sort of project management ages ago? If companies that invest money in OBVIOUSLY doomed endeavors (and I’m not talking about experiments or high hope projects, I’m talking about sad pieces of crap like GFWL) objectively piss money away, why has no corporate mechanism or culture evolved to prevent that?

Now, please understand. I’m not trying to stifle new ideas. Innovation is the life blood of most industries, especially the tech sector. A certain number of new ideas and projects will fail. Some will fail because they were inherently bad ideas, or because of poor management, or they were ahead of their time, or even just that the right talent wasn’t on board. But there are certain initiatives, often high visibility initiatives, that are unanimously identified as doomed from the moment they surface. How do they get to that point without any sort of counter-check in place?

And sure, it’s easy to point your finger at a bad idea in hindsight. And many good ideas (even great ideas) also meet resistance and criticism. Case in point? I’ve had a Steam account since launch (because Valve pretty much made it mandatory for Half-Life 2) and I remember the sketchiness of that service’s early days. I remember the angry blowback from a great many users and gamers. It was a project that was honestly ahead of its time, but whose goals seemed weird and poorly outlined. And while there were some technical hurdles, there was a fundamental way that Steam (even in its infancy) was different than Games For Windows Live.

The problems with Steam were that it failed to deliver on its intended vision, and mostly for technical reasons. Those reasons resolved themselves thanks to the old equation of Time Plus Money. And also some savvy stewardship from Valve. Contrast that to GFWL, and it’s easy to see what marks the latter as a bad idea. First of all, it was never able to overcome its own technical hurdles. That’s pretty inexcusable, honestly, considering that Microsoft has infinity dollars AND controls both the service an the platform it ran on.

But the technical problems were really just window dressing. The main problem with GFWL was that even if it had been technically flawless from day one and had flawlessly delivered its exact vision, it was a terrible vision that no one wanted. No gamer wanted to tie their PC experience to their console. No gamer wanted to only be able to be logged into one piece of hardware at a time. No gamer wanted their PC titles to be associated with a list of other players that were almost guaranteed to be on an incompatable platform.

I could go on and on for ways and days, documenting every detail of GFWL’s terribleness. I won’t bother, because Google exists. But the core point is that with Steam, the core user feedback was that we didn’t quite understand what Valve was trying to make, and it didn’t work right. The core point with GFWL was that we understood exactly what Microsoft was trying to make, and it was stupid. And it didn’t work right.

So I’m not trying to stifle innovation or experimentation. That’s the last thing I want. But there are indicators and markers for projects that are clear winners, projects that are in flux, and projects that are guaranteed losers. Failures before they ever go live. Straight up money sinks. So why are they so common (although not exclusive) to tech – and especially gaming? And if the worst offenders are so easily identified, why hasn’t the business culture (so interested in maximizing profits) developed any ways to deal with them?

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The Sins Of About Twelve Years Ago

June 17th, 2014

Welcome back, my friends, to the show that never ends. To the endless revolving quagmire of violence and loathing and doubt that is modern Iraq. It’s been a long time since America as a nation thought about Iraq – not nearly as long as it’s been since we finally brought our troops home, mind you – and yet here we are again, just a few years later, staring into the eyes of so very many concerned souls with so many dire predictions and warnings about a murderous madman raining terror down on a countryside so barren and undesirable that if it didn’t happen to be (more or less) on top of one of the planet’s largest reconstituted dinosaur sludge reserves, every patriot to the last would be happy to whistle past the graveyard and ignore it like so many other violent regions of Not First World Hell.

But sadly, oil. So sadly, Iraq. And predictably, the media. The folks over at CNN are trying their damnedest not to let their huge, throbbing erections show above the ten-panel split screen shots as they put on their super serious stiff upper lip faces and somberly prognosticate doom and turmoil in 1080p. You have to bet there is glee in the upper offices of America’s Most Self Satirizing News Outlet. Not even the haunting presence of Wolf Blitzer’s beard can bilk a missing plane indefinitely. But a war? Military action? Shit, that’s where CNN shines. Sure, you’ve got your Foxes and your MSNBCs and all the other little one hour a day chumps over on broadcast, but when America wants to tune in to some completely bullshit military analysis and watch a bunch of blow-dried pricks play soldier with a microphone, there’s only one place to go. THIS IS CNN!

And if that were the worst of it, I’d probably just hold my head in my hands for a moment and move on.

But I can’t do that, dear readers. I simply cannot bring myself to it. Because yesterday I saw a news clip, filmed in 2014, of Paul Wolfowitz sloshing around advice on how America should handle the new crisis in Iraq. Paul. Mother. Fucking. Wolfowitz. The same Paul Wolfowitz (then Project For The New American Century member) that spent years in the 90s trying to convince Clinton to invade Iraq. The same Paul Wolfowitz (now Deputy Secretary of Defense) who said we’d need a token army to maintain Iraqi peace after the invasion. The same Paul Wolfowitz (still Deputy Secretary of Defense) who told Congress that the reconstruction of Iraq would be immediately self funding due to oil profits. Yeah, that same Paul Wolfowitz (now currently not in prison for reasons that evade me) thinks he’s a fucking expert on a nation that he clearly knows dick about.

They’re bringing on Bill Kristol, too. Here’s a little reader challenge for you, sort of a fun internet game to play. Go find any clip of Bill Kristol talking, or read any article he’s ever published or contributed to. Now find one thing – one single bloody thing – he was correct about. He spent the first decade of this millennium with pom-poms in hand, cheering on every sort of needless, reckless, bullshit military adventure that the human mind could conjure. And he’s never right. Ever. About anything. I don’t even need to provide examples like with Paul Wolfowitz (still currently not in prison) because it is impossible not to find.

Yep, the neo-cons are getting the band back together to root for a third jaunt into Iraq in the last quarter of a century. And all the while they’re happy to suggest that this is all Obama’s fault for bringing the troops home (just like he said he would, just like the public wanted, and just like Bush agreed to before leaving office). One could argue that it’s actually the fault of the myopic morons who invaded without any sort of contingency plan. Or really without any knowledge besides the lessons they didn’t learn by all getting their Vietnam deferments. And I was about to do just that, when I saw Karl Rove come on television and say that bringing up the mistakes (and I use that word loosely) of the previous administration just plain isn’t fair because it’s old news. No al-Qaeda link? No WMDs? No liberator’s greeting? No fair, man.

No dice, Turd Blossom. You fuckers broke it. It’s been broken ever since. And now you’re going to turn around and tell us it’s our fault it’s broken, but you know how to fix it. And son of a bitch, but it sure sounds like the same military adventurism as last time. The same Team America: World Police bullshit you’ve always been selling. The same stark, absolutes-only game of Risk you’ve always fancied yourself as players in. Well fuck you. As soon as you lot opened your mouths to say anything other than, “Sorry we fucked that whole region up,” or, “How in the hell have we not been convicted of war crimes?” you opened yourselves back up to every criticism that has been rightfully levied against you. Your very recent record of colossally terrible insights into this exact problem – the very lack of insight that led to this problem – is not only fair game, but absolutely necessary. You maybe could have squeaked by if you’d kept your heads low, but your hubris got the best of you. Well now we’re going to take the past twelve years and smash your fucking teeth out with them, you war mongering no nothing fucks.

Now, the irony is that as bad as this ISIS situation is, it might not be the crisis of epic proportions that the media is making it out to be. . . if you can believe such a thing. Surely, it’s a splinter faction of al-Qaeda, but its primary beef is WITH al-Qaeda right now. And the lack of resistance it has met, thus far, is more due to geographic and cultural factors than anything else. It’s that tricky Sunni versus Shi’a dynamic that none of the masterminds behind Iraq 2: Electric Boogaloo were ever able to wrap their heads around. Yes, they are very well armed. And yes, they are very well funded. And yes, they are doing very terrible things (near our oil, mercy me). But the Sunni controlled ISIS is currently rolling through Sunni-dominated northern Iraq. When they hit Shi’a controlled Iraq (also known as Baghdad and everything south of it) that tune is going to change. Which is why Shi’a dominated Iran is so hot to sweep in from the north and pincer their asses.

And yes, America broke this already broken situation. We broke it and made it far, far worse than it already was. But maybe the best course of action isn’t half a million pairs of boots on the ground. Maybe we need to start fucking with other people’s countries just a little bit less. And maybe the absolute last people on the planet who should be giving advice on Iraq are the ones that completely fucked the pooch in the first place. I’m not saying I have all the answers. I’m saying that sons of bitches like Paul Wolfowitz and Lindsey Graham and John Bolton (and if he even dares to read his head, Dick Cheney) have NONE of them. The fact that they are even booked on television to speak with any sort of authority should not be tolerated by anyone, and will not be fucking tolerated by me. They should be drowned in the shame of their own sins as often and as publicly as possible until they realize how lucky they are to even have the option of crawling off to rot under rocks of their own choosing.

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The Right To Get Droned

April 22nd, 2014

By now, most of you have heard of Cliven Bundy – the ranger out in Nevada who decided twenty years ago that federal laws and grazing fees don’t apply to his particular cattle. You see, his livestock are eating the grass on someone else’s land. Specifically government land. And when that happens, you are supposed to pay a fee for access to that land. It’s a reasonable (and uncontroversial) form of capitalism, since you’re doing nothing to maintain the land, and you do not own it, yet you are extracting a resource from it. He claims he doesn’t recognize the federal government as existing (usually while waving an American flag) and has gone to court multiple times to avoid paying the grazing fees. Repeatedly, the courts have struck his arguments down.

It got to the point where the federal government seized his cattle, in an effort to make him pay the $1 million in fines and fees he owed. Now, just to be clear, when he was costing the government money, that was FREEDOM! But when the government was costing him money, that was tyranny. Yes, some people believe that his decision to break the law makes him a patriot because something something New World Order Agenda 21 FEMA camps. I’m not going to get into a debate on this topic because it’s too stupid to rationally process. If I took a crowbar to every parking meter where I parked my car, I’d wind up in jail. If I decided to open a warehouse or a storefront inside the local park without getting any sort of approval, I’d get shut down. Every other rancher manages to obey the law, and Cliven Bundy isn’t some special little snowflake.

Things spun rapidly and stupidly out of control, and they somehow wound up having a stand-off between a bunch of local militias (who rushed to the defense of the man breaking the law) and the U.S. government. Once again, remember, they seized his cattle for repeated and willful violation of the law. Not because they were jack-booted Nazi thugs or whatever. So you had armed soldiers on one side of the stand-off, and a bunch of guys who decided to play army with live ammo on the other. In the end, the government backed off (for now). Then the ass backwards version of this story hit Facebook (because if you are getting your news from Facebook there is something wrong with you) and it somehow became a symbol of resistance to oppression and the power of the second amendment.

You all need to stop. Seriously. Just stop. And please understand, I’m not making a statement in favor of or against the second amendment. I actually have a lot of mixed feelings about the issue of gun control versus gun rights, but that’s not what is at issue here. The presence of civilian firepower in an armed stand-off only works because our government is NOT the monster that most of those people think it to be. If it was, there’d be a smoldering fucking crater where those militia members had set up camp, and a drone pilot in an undisclosed bunker would be getting a bronze star right now. The stand-off worked because the government has a vested interest in not murdering its own citizens. An infinite number of Bushmasters are useless against GPS guided ordinance.

Oh, and speaking of monsters, one of the militia spokesmen said they had “stratergized” putting the women in front of the armed militia members, so the television cameras could record them being shot by the government troops. See, that’s the type of world this guy thinks he lives in. He believes that the United States government will gun down a row of unarmed civilians, on camera, over some cattle. If the government this guy wets the bed over at night actually existed, his family would be sifting through rubble and ash looking for bone shards right now. We can all be glad that it doesn’t – even if it means we have to suffer a gaggle of wanna-be John Waynes.

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22 Replies

February 6th, 2014

So, over the past day or so, this link has been making the rounds. It is a series of photographs of self described creationists who, in response to the debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham over creationism, intelligent design, evolution, and science in general, thought it’d be amusing to make one of those, “We’re real people and our words are important!” picture feeds where they all hold up pieces of paper with witty phrases on them. There were a lot of these going around when Occupy was at its height, and I guess they’re still a thing.

Anyway, the questions are insipidly thick, and generally either contain some sort of pithy bumper-sticker worthy turn of phrase or a gross, almost criminal misunderstanding of basic scientific principle. A few of the true gems contain both! Now, when I say basic? I’m not saying that they don’t quite grasp the intricacies of unified field theory. I’m saying that I don’t think they know what the word “science” means. At first, I thought I should just leave it alone. It’s just a bunch of people expressing their opinions on the internet, and fuck knows I believe in the right to do that.

But the more I thought about it, the more annoyed I got. Because these were smarmy, self satisfied, stupid questions being asked in a format that allows for no genuine response or explanation. And they were “ordinary folks” asking questions of a celebrity. Quite frankly, Bill Nye is too classy a guy to individually tear these inane messages apart. I, on the other hand, am pretty much a huge prick. I’m also just another “ordinary guy” on the internet. Hell, without Buzzfeed pimping my replies, I’m practically the underdog! So when you stick your head in front of a camera and decide you want to run down a chunk of your fifteen minutes being a smug asshole? Well, that makes you fair game.

22 Replies

Click For Imgur Gallery

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On Ballots And Bravado

January 31st, 2014

A recent essay over at Politico has attempted to make a case against early voting. It’s essentialy nine paragraphs of C rate concern trolling that both completely misses the point of early voting and manages to make no concrete argument against it.

Before I tear their into their actual arguments, I’d like to take a moment to address the authors of this essay. Not just to point out that they are, by default, highly partisan, but to suggest that they completely lack the perspective and personal knowledge necessary to hold an informed opinion on the topic. I’m going to take a wild guess and say that John McGinnis and Eugene Kontorovich, both professors of law at Northwestern University, have never waited half a day in the cold to vote. Or been told by their boss that even though they can take off the first Tuesday after the first Monday of November (by law), they really “better not” if they want their jobs to be there when they come back. I suspect that they show up at a very well maintained grade school or church in their local town, talk to a nice lady (probably named Delores), and are in-and-out of that booth in thirty seconds flat.

And since their political affiliations do matter? I’m also going to take another wild guess and say that John McGinnis and Eugene Kontorovich don’t give one rat fuck about “voter cohesion” or the spirited debate that takes place before an election. That nothing in the last 46 days of an election has ever made either one of them think, “Hmmm, I’d better vote for a Democrat”. That John McGinnis, the author of The Origin of Conservatism and frequent contributor to The Wall Street Journal and National Review, knows who he is going to vote for before the names even show up on the ballot. I doubt that the guy who went from fretting about the filibustering of judicial nominees in 2005 to cheering the filibustering of them in 2010 finds himself paralyzed by indecision on election day. I’m taking a similar guess about Eugene Kontorovich, a libertarian blogger for The Volokh Conspiracy, even though I don’t know as much about him because he doesn’t even have the common sense to have his intern or his TA or his nephew make a Wikipedia page for him.

Their other arguments are the most basic sort of destroyable tripe. There’s some slippery slope prattle in there (presumably it will allow the degenerate electorate to start voting for box turtles or something) as well as the false appeal to noble tradition (go ahead and ask a black guy born before 1944 for more information about the conservative reverence of said tradition).

But more to the point, the entire essay exists in a completely bullshit fantasy world where democracy happens the way it does in fifth grade civics books. I’ve heard citizens engaging in debate about the best options for the country. It usually ends with, “Well, fuck you!” Go scroll your Facebook feed back to November of 2012 for more recent data on that subject. The example they point to (in case you hadn’t figured out that they are old white guys yet) is the Kennedy/Nixon debates. They make no mention, of course, of how politics, the media, the public’s relationship the government, or the amount of information available has changed since then. They seem incredibly concerned about debate performance in a world where debate performance counts for less and less. They also chose, without even a hint of irony, an election that took place before the Voting Rights Act.

Additionally, they seem to imagine a world where early voting has become mandatory or, at least, the preffered way to vote. As if undecided voters (also known as the middle third) will be unwilling to wait until election day to make up their minds. Either that or they really believe that die-hard liberals and conservatives are going to jump ship and vote for the opposing party. Now, you may see that in local elections – my very blue state has a very red governor, for example – but even in that extreme example, most Jerseyans made up their mind about Christie and Buono shortly after asking, “Who the fuck is Barbara Buono?” and those poll numbers didn’t change in the months leading up to the election.

But my biggest problem with the article is that it doesn’t even attempt to address the issue that early voting seeks to correct. They poo-poo one solution, and then sort of shurg their shoulders and say that they’re really sorry some folks can’t get to vote, but hey. . . fuck em. That’s the price we must pay in order to have some mythical voter cohesion thing happen, and so people will still give a shit about whatever op-ed they publish the last week of October. They barely acknowledge that the current system sucks, and then offer zero solutions to fix it. Moving election day to a weekend? Not on the table. Making election day a national holiday? Nary a mention. Setting a minimum mandatory ratio of voting machines and polling places per registered voter (or even probable voter)? Notably absent.

Just the same old shitty status quo that just so happens to favor their preferred party’s election outcomes (not that that ever comes up in their article). Just two more hacks, hacking away while pretending not to be hacks. But I’ll tell you what. When  John McGinnis and Eugene Kontorovich spend a few election days freezing their toes off in the bad(est) part of Detroit for six hours to cast a ballot? When they work three part time jobs in two different counties, neither of which they can afford to even live in, and have to navigate the crumbling remnants of a never great in the first place mass transit system to get to their polling place? When they have to wait until thirty seconds before they go to vote to have some jackoff in a tri-corn hat with nothing better to do challenging every voter that isn’t sufficiently melanin-deficient? I’d be delighted to hear what they have to say about early voting, and voting rights in general.

Until then they can fuck right off to hell.

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Words Matter (And So Do Four Hour Traffic Jams)

January 8th, 2014

“What I’ve seen today for the first time is unacceptable.” – Chris Christie

At first, I thought that was just a ham-fisted way to mention that he’s never heard of the gleefully routine pettiness of his high level staff and associates. It’s an awfully laid out sentence in what should have been a manicured press release. My initial reaction was to adjust it for him.

What I’ve seen today (for the first time) is unacceptable.

But you really can’t have a parenthetical statement in the opening line of a press release, either. It seems too meandering. So then I thought that he could at least have handled it with some commas.

What I’ve seen today, for the first time, is unacceptable.

That’s still pretty shit, though. In fact, it’s damn near Yodaspeak. So I meditated on that sentence some more, realizing that the smart move was to not try to cram in the “but guys, I’m blameless” buffer into that statement. Yet they want it in there because, since that’s the line that will be quoted, the press will do their work of driving the narrative that Christie had no idea about the lane closures. I spent a long time thinking on it before realizing the truth. It’s not an awkward sentence. It’s a Freudian slip.

What I’ve seen today, for the first time is unacceptable.

“Yeah, I knew my little stooges were doing this shit. That’s how we roll, after all. The voters wanted to elect Tony Soprano, and they got what they voted for. Hell, I’m probably the one who came up with this crap in the first place. But now that we’ve been caught? That shit is suddenly an outrage. Before they had us dead to rights, I didn’t care. But for the first time, I now find it unacceptable.”

Language, kids. Language always gives you away.

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Portrait Of A Villain

July 17th, 2013

If you want to call for a boycott of the new issue of Rolling Stone because of the cover, obviously, that’s your right. Go ahead. Knock yourself out. But honestly, you’re kind of missing the point. I didn’t initially see it as glamorizing Tsarnaev, and I only see it that way now through the lens of other people’s opinions. The cover also refers to him as a monster and a radical islamist, for what it’s worth.

So, what picture should they have used? A mugshot, perhaps? That’d be the mugshot we’ve seen a billion times. Maybe a picture of him in custody, or at his arrest. I suppose those are all valid options. But they don’t fit the story, and they don’t have the impact that the actual photo does. The point of the article is to ask how an otherwise normal, well adjusted kid turns into a terrorist and a murderer – which is a bit of an uncomfortable question. We don’t like to do that here in America, because it makes it slightly harder to decide who the bad guys are.

I mean, are we really so thick that we need a scary picture on the cover of the magazine to identify him as the Boston Bomber? Should they have red-stamped “EVIL DUDE” on his forehead, just to make sure everyone could keep up? Maybe Rolling Stone should have written “This Photo Is Supposed To Be Ironic” somewhere as a caption.

In truth, I think the public reaction to that photograph says a lot more about how we, as a people, view celebrity, media, and popular culture than it does about Rolling Stone. What people are saying when they complain about that photo is that they made Tsarnaev seem pretty, and he doesn’t deserve to be pretty. He’s a villain, and he needs to be shown with a sneer on his face, lit from underneath like a camp counselor’s horror story. The photo makes someone we’ve all decided is “the other” look not just like one of us, but like someone our media might idolize.

Perhaps it makes parents uncomfortable because it’s a face they might see on a poster on their kids’ wall, and thus they have rolled out the fainting couches. Look, if you can’t explain to your children that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is different from Justin Bieber (which should be a bonus for you, because now you’ve found someone more awful than Justin Bieber), maybe the problem is your shitty parenting.

And as for the people who are upset that Rolling Stone did not, instead, feature an article about the people who died during the bombing? Arguing from an emotional appeal is weasel work at best, so cut the shit. That’s not the topic of the article. What you’re asking is for a completely different thing than was delivered. Besides which, most of you didn’t give two shits about those families’ stories until the internet told you you were supposed to be angry about it again.

So like I said, if you want to boycott the magazine, that’s fine. But cast off the lie that you’re protesting in outrage, and own up to the fact that the photo just plain makes you uncomfortable. Rolling Stone featured a real life antagonist in the same context that we reverently reserve for the semi-talented collection of carnival barkers, circus clowns, stage acts, and jackals that comprise our lauded and finely cultivated celebrity population. Those are people to be breathlessly lionized on their rise to stardom and ruthlessly derided during their fall from grace.

We can’t handle the idea that Tsarnaev is a person (a very bad person, if you like, but still a person) and might have had reasons (again, very bad reasons) for his actions. We refuse to interface with him, or even the concept of him, in that way. It’s why that photo is so jarring, so stark, and perhaps, so necessary.

 

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Tyrants, Tin Pots and Timidity

June 2nd, 2011

First off. . . holy hell, has Osama bin Laden really been dead for a whole month? I guess time flies when you’re having fun.

Or maybe I should start calling him Usama bin Laden again? Fox News certainly has, and I found that a bit odd. I mean, for years the government (especially the FBI and the CIA) referred to him as Usama bin Laden, and often truncated that to just “UBL” for short. And then after 9/11, we all just agreed to call him Osama, though it would take another year or two for us to decide how to spell al-Qaeda. But now, immediately after his death, Fox (and only Fox) went back to Usama.

I actually prefer the FBI’s spelling, since in my mind he will always by UBL. But I have to wonder why Fox, the network that practically invented and most definitely mainstreamed the classic Obama/Osama verbal swap, is suddenly going with the alternate spelling. Maybe they were afraid their frothing blowhards and fanatically unserious Serious People wouldn’t be able to get through a whole story without conflating the names a dozen times. Perhaps changing the spelling and pronunciation was a way to make it easier for the Life Support Systems For Hair (Shep Smith excluded) that dominate their broadcast day.

So, mental time capsuling and grammatical conspiracy theories not withstanding, I suppose it’s time to spend a few embarrassing and loathsome minutes talking about the 2012 GOP field. And before you suggest that words like embarrassing or loathsome are poisoning the well, I might direct you to the Pew Poll recently conducted that asked respondents to come up with a single word that best described their impression of the candidates running for the Republican nomination.

First, let me get the personal grievances out of the way. I’d say that the most embarrassing thing on this list is that “not good” is two words, but the fact that some people chose the word “republican” to describe Republican candidates for President should tell you most of what you need to know about our electorate. I am a bit unclear on why “disappointed” is flagged as a neutral comment, other than perhaps as a balancing concession (and it should be noted that “disappointed” is the most popular of all the supposedly neutral responses).

So nit-picking not withstanding, this is where we are, folks. Most of the flakes, fakers and phonies have finally worn out their media welcomes. Donald Trump, who in his own head would never want to run for the office of the President because he is convinced that the office of The Donald is already a step or two above god, has finally gone back to being a hack-ass reality television star. Mitch Daniels, who was the most serious candidate that no one knew about, had the common sense to not run. Chris Christie, who ran for Governor for the specific purpose of building an asinine conservative-friendly executive record and assured us the other month that he could easily beat Obama, is also not going to run.

Newt Gingrich entered the race, promptly set his own hair on fire by telling the truth (which didn’t make sense because that’s clearly not Newt’s strong suit), and then invited the entire D.C. punditocracy to take turns putting that fire out by punching him in the head. He is a victim of the nasty, backstabbing culture he helped create in Washington, and his abject failures couldn’t have happened to a slimier guy. What’s sad is that in this weak field, his complete implosion still doesn’t put him completely out of the running.

Herman Cain is the new Donald Trump. That’s all.

Michele Bachman is the old Michele Bachman. That’s also all.

And of course, there is Sarah Palin. There is always Sarah Palin, isn’t there? Hell, I’ve typed that name so many times that the keystrokes themselves almost feel familiar, and there’s a good chance that if you’re reading my blog right now, it’s because of Sarah Palin in the first place. Apparently she’s on some kind of supporter funded vacation that is in no way a campaign tour, despite having strumpeted her Totally Not A Tour Bus up in so much jingoistic schlock that the exhaust fumes actually spell out Joe McCarthy in cartoon bubble letters when the engine starts up.

I’ve never believed she actually has the drive or the determination to run for President, at least not on a major party ticket. I’m open to the possibility of her running as a Tea Party candidate spoiler, but I think even she realizes that if she Nader’ed a Presidential election she’d lose some of her loyal followers. So no, I don’t thinks he will run for President, and while I’m perfectly happy to be wrong (dear god, let that woman run), I don’t think I am.

I think she’d run for Vice President again, though. Because I think she thinks she could beat Biden this time around. And she’s always more than happy to let someone else do a bunch of work for her while she smiles and takes all the publicity. Just ask the organizers of Rolling Thunder. She also loves having someone else to blame for her failures. And I think that a guy like, say, Mitt Romney, who has a decent chance at winning the primary only because everyone else’s chances also suck, would happily hitch his hopes to the horrific harpy if he thought it would put him in the White House. So don’t be stunned if, a  year from now, we’re all looking at Romney/Palin stickers. It really wouldn’t be much different than the McCain/Palin stickers. Or the McCain/Palin campaign, really.

And Romney is finally positioning himself, playing on the only aspects of his personality that appeal to his base. Basically his campaign boils down to “I’m A Really Rich Guy And I Have Presidenting Hair“. Which, when you think about it, is twice as much as Reagan had to run on. Of course, Romney will never be Reagan, no matter how much he’s going to have to sniff The Gipper’s crap and declare it to be chocolate over the next year or so. And Romney is maneuverable, absurdly flexible, and actually much smarter than the dolt he plays on television. So no, I don’t think RomneyCare or his infinite flip-floppery will keep him from the nomination. It’s much more likely that his religion will. That and he’s a creepy little freak.

And finally Tim Pawlenty. Tim Pawlenty. Maybe if I just type his name over and over I’ll remember anything about him. Other than the fact that he calls himself T-Paw with a straight face (hell, the guy probably has sex with a straight face) and is so bad at attack politics that he practically called himself a doofus without meaning to. Actually, the best thing he has to run on is that no one really remembers anything about him. Maybe that’s his plan, hoping that voters will get into the ballot box and be so disgusted with everyone else that they’ll vote for that Tim Paw-Something guy that they’ve heard mentioned on television.

But in spite of his charisma deficiency, it’s important to note that Tim Pawlenty (jeez, I can’t even spell his name without forgetting what I’m typing) is a short sighted bullet point generating idiot. And to prove my point, here are his brilliant thoughts on how to reform (and by reform I mean eradicate) Medicare. “It will include something called performance pay. We will begin to move providers from getting paid not just for the volume of procedures they crank out, but whether people are actually getting healthier and getting better.”

Now, any of you out there that are actual medical professionals are probably extracting your fists from your computer monitors right now, but I’ll explain the problem for those of you that aren’t already frothing at the mouth. The very reason that Medicare is both so expensive and so necessary is that it universally covers people at an age where no other insurance carrier would want them enrolled. At an age when medical costs skyrocket and when injuries and illnesses become more common, more dangerous, and infinitely more complex.

Any system that “rewards success” by its very nature punishes failure. A “performance pay” Medicare system would force providers to question what impact certain procedures and even certain patients will have on their success rate. That sure does sound a whole freaking lot like “putting government bureaucrats between people and their doctors” to me. Which, of course, is incredibly bad.

Unless a Republican does it.

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Theater Of Victory

May 2nd, 2011

I knew, deep down, that not a whole day would go by before the death of Osama bin Laden became incorporated into the bullshit kabuki theater that is American politics. It crossed my mind less than an hour after I heard the news, because that’s where my brain lives. But I was willing to just let the whole thing skate and wait for the right to politicize the shit out of it. Somehow, they still think they own 9/11 and all of its political proceeds. I expect a cease and desist order from Rudy Giuliani just for mentioning the date in print.

And while there are times that I wish Obama was a more confrontational politician, it’s times like these that I’m glad he relies so heavily on the rope-a-dope. It helps, of course, that his political rivals long since rode the train all the way to Dope City. His speech about the death of bin Laden was so politically neutral, so meticulously groomed. And the reaction from the foaming-mouth right was so immediate and vulgar.

They are already demanding to see the body, or photographs of the body, or some other evidence other than the word of the President and the entire United States military that bin Laden is dead. I imagine in about six months they’ll be asking for his Long Form Death Certificate and then analyzing the resulting PDF with the sort of scrutiny normally reserved for the Zapruder film and all of the technical knowledge of, well. . . a typical teabagger, actually. Sorry fellas, but you are the stereotype now.

Call me cagey, but I now wonder if the release of Obama’s Long Form Birth Certificate wasn’t a carefully timed political maneuver, designed to draw attention to the stark contrast between the GOP’s focus and Obama’s own. And it’d be crass, if the entire birther issue weren’t more than just unscheduled racism and character assassination in the first place.

And what a contrast it is, too. It’s a subconscious gut check about each group’s priorities, and as political theater (if that’s what it really is) it works wonderfully. Plus, Obama gets to be casual and take none of the actual credit for the contrast, which leaves the right’s feverish wailing that he is taking credit for the kill (and not even in a flight suit, for frig’s sake) sounding all the more hollow. Like I said, the guy knows how to work the rope-a-dope.

As for the Republicans who are now howling that he didn’t give George Bush enough credit for helping to hunt down bin Laden? You guys probably want to let that one slide. Just let it go. I know you have the built-in burning fury to piss and moan on everything that your side doesn’t get the credit for, but this one is a losing battle.

Because I will bury your asses with 2002 videos of George W. Bush feeling “not that concerned” about bin Laden’s whereabouts, followed swiftly by reminders of the CIA closing down the unit dedicated to hunting bin Laden in 2006.

I guess rope-a-dope isn’t my style. I prefer the one-two punch.

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A Hell of a Run

May 2nd, 2011

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