Friday, March 27, 2009


Heh. Turns out the cwalken twitter feed was not actually Christopher Walken. Which is kind of disappointing. But more disappointing is that twitter has suspended the account. I probably would have kept checking it out anyway. Here's an "interview" with the guy who was writing it.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Obama continues to disappoint

Barry O apparently believes that marijuana legalization/decriminalization is a funny joke. Har har har. I doubt it is very amusing to people who are put in prison for possession. College students being denied financial aid because they got caught with a bag of pot aren't laughing. And as for terminal cancer and AIDS patients who are prevented from smoking some weed to make the last part of their lives somewhat less terrible... I doubt those folks see any comedic value here. Hah hah.

I wonder if Obama would have had a good laugh if he had been incarcerated back in his youth, when he has acknowledged experimenting with illegal drugs. That would have been hilarious, right? To have his career in law and politics derailed in his early twenties because of a drug conviction? Funny! Get it?

Oh, and remember how, just last week, Obama's attorney general came out and announced that the feds would no longer go after medical marijuana clinics which are legally operating under state law? I guess that was a practical joke, or maybe an attempt at satire. Ho ho! A real knee-slapper there.

Maybe if Obama and friends weren't so busy mocking and laughing about the mere possiblity of making meaningful changes to this country's disastrous drug policy, they might realize that providing hundreds of millions of dollars worth of cash, weapons, and military equipment to the Mexican government is not a plausible solution to the violent situation in that country. The violence is a result of: (1) drug cartels warring amongst themselves for the most lucrative distribution routes, and (2) between drug cartels and drug enforcement personnel. Both of these result from a single cause: marijuana (along with other drugs) is illegal. Make drugs legal and, virtually overnight, the black market will dry up and, presto!, no more drug violence.

So says The Economist. So says this Harvard scholar guy, writing at CNN. So say a hell of a lot of people who aren't stupid... and who aren't fucking comedians, either.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

lazy ass blogger

A few items to fill up the space while I'm not feeling like coming up with any original thoughts:

1. Brother IOZ had his car towed. Somewhat predictably (if you are a regular IOZ reader), he writes a post with the following tags: GLOBAL GULAG; POLICE STATE; TOTALITARIANISM. Worth a read, and, yes, he actually does manage to make the story of his car being towed into a plausible and astute commentary about the current relationship status of the invididual vs the state.

2. A couple of good BSG Series Finale posts. My own view: I thought it was great. I thought they had painted themselves into a corner in many respects, but they managed to pull off a pretty good ending. Not sure about the Starbuck thing, but the very last part with Angel Six and Angel Baltar was pretty cool. I probably have a lot more to say about this, but I don't feel like typing it all out right now.

3. Confessing in advance that I haven't read the article (this stuff is really just too depressing), but the headline (Obama to beef up Mexico border policy) pretty much says it all. We're plowing ahead with further militarization of our Mexican border (sure, that'll cut down on the violence!) because we just absolutely can't stand the fact that a significant percentage of our populace likes to smoke pot. Ridiculous.

4. Eighth grade girl strip-searched at school because she was reportedly holding two tabs of... wait for it... "prescription-strength ibuprofen". Her lawsuit against the school will be heard by the Supreme Court next month. I don't know what the outcome of this case should be, but I do know that those fucktards who did this should be placed into an occupation which has exactly nothing to do with overseeing the education, socialization, or discipline of children. But that probably applies to a lot of educators these days. The part of the story that made me smack my head against my desk was how the school's lawyers responded to the kid's assertion that she had an unblemished disciplinary record and was "a good kid":
“Her assertion should not be misread to infer that she never broke school rules,” the district said of Ms. Redding in a brief, “only that she was never caught.”
Amazing logic. You could do a lot with that kind of reasoning. Sounds kind of like a FAIL version of "these are not the droids you are looking for."

Monday, March 23, 2009

And now, little man, I give the watch to you.

Here I was thinking that no good could come from the irritating item of technology known as "Twitter" (the last thing I need is another mechanism for propelling my thoughts out into the world), but then I'm directed over to the greatness of the Christoper Walken Twitter feed. Samples:
A friend from out west mailed me a "Snuggie." A joke apparently. I don't get it. I look like a derelict Gumby in the thing. Funny, I guess.

There's a kid on a Pogo stick in front of my house. It's nearly midnight so let's assume he's been drinking. This should end well for him.

The Pope is in Africa "reaffirming the ban on condom use." His old stuff was funnier. I don't get this new material. Too edgy for my taste.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Religion... success(?)

It has been brought to my attention that the Pope -- due to his age at the time -- was not actually, technically a "Nazi", but rather a member of the Hitler Youth. So, obviously, I feel compelled to issue this correction. Therefore, when reading the post below, please substitute the term "Hitler Youth" in the place of each appearance of the word "Nazi".

Readers will, of course, be left to draw their own conclusions as to whether and to what degree this correction affects the point of the post as a whole.

In other news, I'm receiving information that the Pope's next official trip will be to the slums of Jakarta, where he will agitate against the use of modern sanitation practices implemented to restrain the spread of contagious diseases. Developing...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Religion fail, ctd.

In our continuing series describing a few small anecdotes which, though unimportant in themselves, when taken together, demonstrate how religion is destroying humanity, we must mention the Pope's recent trip to Africa. I don't intend to belabor this point, or to spend a lot of words on it, but rather, in one sentence, to boil it down to its essence, which is this:

The Pope, a former Nazi (yes, an actual, non-metaphorical Nazi), and currently the "infallible" leader of a religious organization with over one billion human members, traveled to Africa this week to encourage Africans not to use condoms to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, a deadly disease which currently infects more than 20 million Africans.

Roll that one around in your mind for awhile.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

It's not a question of enough, pal. It's a zero sum game, somebody wins, somebody loses.

In the midst of a nice Citi-led run up in bank stocks these last couple of days, there's been a big uproar over these AIG bonuses.

Let's first note that I'm not one to go all class-war-rich-v-poor on you. I've got no beef with people making ridiculous amounts of money: entrepreneurs, innovators, entertainers, athletes, capitalists, or even bankers. In fact, I'm all for it. The idea that hard-working and/or talented people are rewarded, and that even people of little talent often get rich for being in the right place at the right time, or for simply having -- purely by luck -- something that others are willing to pay a lot for, is one of the great things about America.

But then let's also note that the bonuses which are currently the subject of such righteous outrage are being paid to executives in the "Financial Products" division of AIG; the very same division that wrote billions upon billions of dollars worth of derivatives contracts that caused AIG to fail, and very nearly brought down the entire global financial system with it. These people were at the very epicenter of this whole mess.

Now, I will grant you that these folks were presented with some pretty perverse incentives: they were compensated on the basis of the revenue generated by sales of these derivatives, without any regard for the potential liabilities of such derivatives. (I can only imagine what the monumentally stupid people in AIG's risk management shop thought about this. But probably they didn't "think" about it in any way that could be considered meaningful.) But even given such perverse incentives, these derivatives traders cannot by any measure be considered productive or successful employees. In short, what they did was terrible -- catastrophic, in fact -- for their employer. And given this inescapable fact, they do not deserve bonuses, but more likely deserve to be sued for gross negligence or prosecuted for criminal fraud.

Ok, so hopefully we can all agree on that. The question then becomes whether tax dollars (the only kind of dollars AIG has or will have for the foreseeable future) should be used for the payment of these bonuses. The story we first got was that when Geithner heard about this, he immediately called up AIG's CEO and expressed his outrage and insisted (demanded!) that AIG suspend payment of the bonuses. Given what subsequently transpired, we can assume this was the Treasury Secretary's version of the Democratic Congress's "Sternly Worded Letter(TM)" so often in use during the Bush Administration.

If you'll recall, sending the Sternly Worded Letter is a ruse one will put into use when one becomes aware of a public circumstance that he or she believes is sure to outrage a significant segment of his or her constituency, but with respect to such circumstance he or she: (1) considers any meaningful action which might counteract it to be too much hard work, (2) actually has little or no disagreement with, (3) is personally benefited by, (4) is secretly personally implicated by, or (5) all of the above. So the preferred action is to take a public stance of stern outrage toward such circumstance, while taking little or no further action to impede it.

This describes Geithner's ploy in regard to the AIG bonuses. As we will see, it may also describe Obama's. In response to Geithner's "outraged" phone call (the substance of which was promptly leaked to the press), the AIG CEO sent him a letter stating that the bonuses were contractual obligations which could not be abrogated (for reasons I don't feel like typing out right now, this is a transparently idiotic excuse), and in any event they were being paid for the purposes of "retention" of valuable employees (neglecting, of course, to mention that many of them had already left the company, and astutely eliding any explanation as to why, of all the people in the world, one would want these particular employees to continue working for one's organization).

And so then Geithner, having made his outrage publicly known, meekly (though in a manner thoroughly evidencing his Outrage) acquiesed and turned immediately back to the project of funneling billions of dollars to his friends and colleagues in the financial services sector.

In other circumstances, this is where the story would end. But in the panicked and -- yes -- outraged America that we live in today, 2009, the public had finally has had enough of seeing guys in $8,000 suits, through the good auspices of (unwilling and largely un-consulted) taxpayers, being kept in the lifestyles to which they have become accustomed. And thus there was a great public outcry.

In response to such great public outcry, then, Obama took to the airwaves on Monday vowing that he would instruct the Treasury Department to do everything within its power, to "pursue every legal avenue", in order to block the payment of these bonuses. To my ears, he sounded very sincere about this.

But then later, sadly, some frowny-faced "administration officials" stepped forward to explain that the bonuses had already been paid on Friday and to opine that they "couldn't be extracted from their recipients without a legal fight that would cost the taxpayers even more." How very, very unfortunate. So, instead, "officials said the White House will focus on ensuring taxpayers recoup the cost of the bonuses and, going forward, executive compensation at AIG would be on a much tighter leash." Which means, I guess, that the Treasury will give AIG $165M so that AIG can then turn around and pay exactly the same amount back to the Treasury as a "recoupment" of these bonuses. See? Problem solved.

So we'll just go on down the road, "turn the page" as they say, and resolve to do better the next time around. And in the meantime, all of us poor schmucks out here in flyover country had a great opportunity to vent our displeasure at those who have made such an unfortunate mess of our economy. Ahhh. All better? Good.

Just one slight complication here, however. The meek frightened squirrel -- Congress -- appears to have found a nut, Democrats and Republicans alike. We now have many prominent Congressional Democrats screaming for an emergency tax bill which will, if successful, turn the AIG Financial Products shop into a flat, smoking abrasion in the earth's crust. Cleverly, they will tax these AIG execs at a 60% rate (in addition to the existing 35%) on all bonus money over $10,000. For their part, the Republicans are insisting that Geithner be hauled into the Capitol to be cross-examined on what he knew about the bonuses and when he knew it (apparently months ago!).

It promises to be quite the interesting story now, with Congresspersons of both parties vying to outdo each other in demagoguing this issue. Cynicism aside, my personal feeling is: (a) these bonuses should never have been paid, (b) Obama and Geithner made a huge political mistake by allowing them to be paid, and (c) whether or not it is, in the larger scheme of things, good policy to punish these AIG execs by taxing them into oblivion, it would make me very happy to see it done, because, well, fuck those assholes; there are a lot of people suffering in this economy right now, and no one deserves to do a bit of suffering more than the handful of sociopathic dickheads who had such a large hand in bringing the shitstorm down on everyone else.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Tab Dump

I have to say this in favor of my new(ish) computer: I can keep tons and tons of tabs open in multiple Firefox windows without noticeable sluggishness or crashing. Also, though I still have some non-trivial complaints about Vista, I've noticed I can go weeks without rebooting and don't encounter any problems.

But I really need to get rid of some of these open tabs:

1. A near-must-read absurdist rant from IOZ on how the economy got to where it is. And I'm not even going to try to excerpt it.

2. Yglesias slams Citi (among others) for agitating against a proposed law which will make it easier for employees to unionize. And, while I know nothing about this bill and have mixed feelings about unions, it is hard to argue with this bit of dicta:
First you manage your business so catastrophically badly that your company not only becomes worthless, but that it threatens to destroy the livelihoods of billions of people around the planet. Second, you get the taxpayer to keep you in business. And third, you turn around and warn that higher wages for workers might destroy the world economy!
These [bankers] haven’t shown themselves to be knowledgeable about anything other than enriching themselves and there’s no particular reason to take their opinions about ... unions or taxes or anything else especially seriously.
The thing is... people desperately want to believe in capitalism and free markets, but these people just have no shred of credibility whatsoever. Which, like it or not, gives folks like Yglesias the opportunity to argue forcefully (and, to some, convincingly) for positions like "we need more powerful unions and less powerful executives". Sigh.

3. Amazingly, Slash is not included among the right answers in this Sporcle game of the Top 100 Guitarists.

4. And while we're on Sporcle, this was one I did well on. Though admittedly it seems pretty easy even for non-lawyer types.

5. I've made a habit of checking out this blog from Scott Adams. I was never into Dilbert, but the guy has a lot of interesting stuff to say.

6. Here is The Hunt for the Worst Movie of All Time. Incredibly, neither Marie Antoinette or Inland Empire has yet appeared. They've picked a few candidates that I actually enjoyed (e.g., Across the Universe and Mr. Brooks), but it's worth reading just for the quality of the snark.

7. Meghan McCain: "I just don't understand" the economy. This type of honesty might have served her candidate father well... or at least better than trying to b.s. his way through the campaign on this subject. Back in the first year of law school it was always painfully obvious when a student hadn't done the reading the night before and was called on by the professor. The smarter ones always closed their books, put on their best shameface, looked the professor right in the eye, and said "Unfortunately, professor, I have not read that particular case." Which would be brutally embarrassing, but not nearly as bad as the alternative, which would -- inevitably -- be a scenario where the hapless student endured 5-10 minutes of being ruthlessly dragged over the coals in a savage cross-examination, only to finally be forced to admit it anyway in a desperate plea for mercy. The professors who didn't have the stomach for administering this type of suffering were simply not allowed to teach first year classes. Too bad political reporters don't fit this mold, or we might have a lot fewer clueless politicians driving this country off a cliff.


I watched W. last night. It had its moments. It was less ham-fisted than you might expect from an Oliver Stone political subject, and in spots I thought was actually showed some deep psychological insights. Overall, however, it was far from great, and I got bored during about the final 1/3 of the movie.

But the point of this post is to say this:

is to


is to

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

"I create nothing. I own. We make the rules, pal...

The news, war, peace, famine, upheaval, the price of a paper clip? We pick that rabbit out of the hat while everybody sits out there wondering how the hell we did it. Stick around pal, I've still got a lot to teach you."

Bernie Madoff will reportedly plead guilty this week to at least 11 felony counts in connection with his Ponzi scheme which defrauded victims of $50B+. Prosecutors say there has been no plea bargain. Good for them. Madoff faces 150 years in jail. Which sounds about right. While it remains to be seen whether and to what degree what Madoff did is different from what was done by AIG, Fannie, Freddie, Citi, Merrill, Lehman, et al, this guy is clearly a monster. He needs to go straight to prison and never be allowed to leave.

So... so far, so good. On the other hand, Madoff's lawyers are seeking a ruling which would allow Madoff's wife to keep $69M in assets held in her name, including a $7M Park Avenue penthouse, $17M in cash, and $45M in municipal bonds. They claim that these assets are "unrelated" to Madoff's fraud.

My guess is that Ms. Madoff will be portrayed as a victim and be allowed to keep some or all of these assets. This lady should get nothing. She should be put out on the street and allowed to earn her own keep or mooch off of her rich relatives and/or her remaining friends, as the case may be. I can't think of a single good reason to let her keep possession of these assets.

She's innocent? She knew nothing about this scheme? Highly improbable, but even if that were so, she didn't earn a dime of this money. And to the extent that she brought her own separate assets into the marriage, I'm guessing at some point she giddily ran all of these separate assets through Madoff's Magic Wealth Producing Vehicle, and then took them back out, along with a bunch of magic profits gained through her shrewd "investment", which she then used, in part, to buy her way onto a bunch of fancy charity boards and art appreciation societies. And lots and lots of furs, jewels, foie gras, and plastic surgery.

And if so, she ought to be paid back these separate assets (minus the magic profits) immediately after all other "investors" are made whole. Which will be never. You've had your fun. Now go live in Staten Island, bitch.

Religion Fail

Two brief examples of how religion is destroying humanity:

1. Catholic Church excommunicates doctors and mother for performing/authorizing a life-saving abortion on a 9 year old who became pregnant after being raped by her stepfather. "Life must always be protected" sez the archbishop. Right.

And the stepfather? Well, he had been molesting the girl since she was six, and "he is also suspected of abusing the girl's physically handicapped 14-year-old sister." The stepfather has not been excommunicated himself, and presumably can continue taking communion as long as he continues purchasing an adequate amount of Indulgences.

Does anyone still believe the Catholic Church has provided a net benefit to civilization over the course of its history?

2. I don't watch cable news. This is why:
So here you have Barack Obama going in and spending the money on embryonic stem cell research, and then some, fundamentally changing -- remember, those great progressive doctors are the ones who brought us Eugenics. It was the progressive movement and its science. Let’s put science truly in her place. If evolution is right, why don’t we just help out evolution? That was the idea. And sane people agreed with it! And it was from America. Progressive movement in America. Eugenics. In case you don't know what Eugenics led us to: the Final Solution. A master race! A perfect person. …. The stuff that we are facing is absolutely frightening.
That is Glenn Beck, who has a daily program on -- where else -- Fox News. Let's put aside the fact that stem cell research has nothing at all to do with creating a master race. I don't understand the religious opposition to it. Are the Christians saying that these stem cells have souls? Just like grown ups? Because if not, then what's the problem? But even if they do have souls, then don't those little souls get to skip the whole pain and drudgery of earthly life -- otherwise known as God's Boot Camp -- and go straight to heaven? Because life on earth is intentionally hard and cruel, and its only purpose is to prepare you for (or weed you out from) your heavenly reward. Surely they've not committed any sin that would condemn them to hell. Right? If you look at it that way, then these souls actually benefit from such lucky circumstances. On the other hand, perhaps Christians believe that these souls are condemned to hell, by virtue of never having been baptized. God subjects them to an eternity of fiery torture because they never had water sprinkled on their heads? I can hardly imagine a God who would do such a thing. And certainly that is not a God I would ever consider worshiping.

Friday, March 6, 2009


It takes a lot to get me to a movie theater these days. I don't like watching movies with a crowd of people. But I couldn't wait for Watchmen to come out on home video, so I went to an afternoon showing yesterday.

I've found that I'm not very good at writing movie reviews except with respect to movies that I really hate (e.g., Marie Antoinette, Inland Empire), so I'll just say: This movie kicks ass.

But some further thoughts of a more meta- nature are appropriate here.

I've never been one to get into comic books, but I was persuaded to read the Watchmen graphic novel a few months ago. It's the most well-regarded book in its genre, and it even made Time's list of the 100 greatest English novels (1923-present). I liked it a lot, and was -- along with all the fanboys -- really looking forward to seeing how it would turn out on film.

Since I saw the movie, I've been reading lots of reviews. While the response from critics has been all over the map in terms of how good or bad the movie is, there's one thing they all agree on: the movie is the most faithful to its source material of any movie of its kind. The term "slavishly devoted" has appeared in several of the reviews I've read.

A lot of reviewers have seen this as a major flaw, but in my mind anything other less than slavish devotion would have been an abomination. Furthermore, all the negative reviews I've seen (there are many) seem to miss the point of the movie (and of the comic) entirely. The focus of these reviews revolves around two main criticisms: the movie is (a) too dark, bleak, and unsettling, and (b) too violent.

As but one example, see the NYT review. On the first point, it denigrates the movie for its tone with, among others, the words: "dank", "grimy", "downcast", "gloomy", "world-weary", and "misanthropic". To which I say: duh, you idiot, it's a set in a fucking dystopia! Would this same criticism apply to Blade Runner? Or Soylent Green? Or Brazil? Or, for that matter, No Country for Old Men?

And too violent? Really? I guess The Dark Knight -- a superhero comic-book movie that received virtually unanimous acclaim -- has just the right amount of violence? This is just dumb.

That's not to say that there's nothing in Watchmen to criticize. The sex scene was IMO terrible. Some of the music choices were questionable. And a handful of the scenes -- in a 2.5 hour movie -- were a bit clunky. But this stuff is just nitpicking. Overall, this is an outstanding piece of work. Probably better in its way than The Dark Knight or the LOTR movies. And I just have to laugh when I see people comparing it to the Spiderman movies. There just is no comparison.

If you want to see well-considered review by someone who appears to understand what he's talking about, I recommend this one.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

I have nothing to say.

But I need a post to get that stupid Pandit's picture off the top of my blog. What an asshole.

Some very brief (and no doubt poorly considered) Barry-Green-style observations:

1. When was the last time there was any good economic news?
2. Mexico appears to be headed toward civil war -- yay, prohibition!
3. The recent Lost episodes are pretty good.
4. I've been watching Dollhouse (new Joss Whedon series). Fairly interesting so far. I'm sticking with it for now.
5. The Dallas Cowboys are a trainwreck. I'd be surprised if they were above .500 next year.
6. I've decided I hate basketball. Maybe I'll watch some of the NCAA tournament, but I don't care about the NBA whatsoever, and the college regular season is boring and virtually meaningless.
7. The movie Hamlet II: Not sure I can recommend it to anyone, because it is just bizzare and it contains a lot of singing, which I'm against, but I watched it and enjoyed it in spite of its drawbacks.
8. Body of Lies was entirely forgettable. Crowe was pretty good, DiCaprio was not, and the story was... well, I can't remember anything about the story. If you want a good Middle East spy movie, I recommend Syriana or Rendition.
9. I can drink a quart of [Brass] Monkey and still stand still.