Everything is terrible Archive


In case you missed it, the world has a new country

From MSNBC last Friday:

As one of the thousands of “lost boys of Sudan,” Mawut Mayen remembers eating mud, hiding from death squads and watching a friend die under an acacia tree after civil war invaded his life, destroyed his village and sent him on an extraordinary exodus from his war-torn homeland.

On Saturday, more than two decades later and half the world away, he will watch with equal measures of hope and trepidation as his homeland formally declares its independence from the north, becoming the Republic of South Sudan.

Don’t bother prepping your passports, however; it’s not exactly ready for tourists yet. Shit, it’s not even ready for citizens:

Lise Grande, who leads the U.N.’s humanitarian operations in South Sudan, told the Associated Press this week that the region is “one of the most underdeveloped on the planet.” Only 15 percent of the population can read. Most live on a $1 a day. Education and health facilities are sorely inadequate.

If you’re lacking in perspective on the situation — well, obviously you’ve got The Google and The Wik’pedia, but if you’re lacking in poetry on the situation, I can only urge the hell out of you to pick up a copy of What Is the What by Dave Eggers and settle in for 560 pages detailing one of the most grueling, astonishing, hilarious, and heartbreaking stories you’ll ever encounter.


A Brief Flicker of Good News for the Terminally Depressed: Pollution Control Edition

Sometimes, I admit, I grow incredibly tired of bad news, and occasionally this exhaustion grows to the extent that I wonder whether any effort to effect political change is even worth it. Our unmitigated march toward unseemly death is assured — on a macro, as well as a micro, scale — so why bother trying at all? What is there to fix, when all that “fixing” entails is engaging in a struggle in which you are doomed to lose, because the forces you are fighting are so disproportionately powerful?

Well, humbug to all that humbug, I declare. I’d rather die fighting than laying down. So it’s good to remember that occasionally we win battles, too, even if it only helps us just barely stay on our feet.

The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday issued new standards for power plants in 28 states that would sharply cut emissions of chemicals that have polluted forests, farms, lakes and streams across the Eastern United States for decades.

The agency said the regulations, which will take effect in 2012, would reduce emissions of compounds that cause soot, smog and acid rain from hundreds of power plants by millions of tons at an additional cost to utilities of less than $1 billion a year. The E.P.A. said the cleaner air would prevent as many as 34,000 premature deaths, 15,000 nonfatal heart attacks and hundreds of thousands of cases of asthma and other respiratory ailments every year.

In an infinite cycle of death and destruction, you should take a firm grasp of these small victories and you should hold them close to your heart, because otherwise there is nothing at all to be hopeful for.


Today in the American Economy

The jobs report is out. Hahaha, no I didn’t read it. But other people did, and it’s bad. Here’s Krugman’s initial reaction:

Ugh. That was a seriously ugly jobs report (pdf). Almost no job creation, with slow private-sector growth offset by falling public-sector employment; a falling employment-population ratio; and (I don’t know how many people have picked this up), an actual decline in wages, albeit a small one.

Unemployment leapt up to 9.2%, and yet, as Krugman noted yesterday, the President has basically ceded the responsibility of defining the terms of our national economic debate to Republicans, with their belt-tightening, and their bootstrap lifter-upper-ing, and their bullshit, bullshit, bullshit:

One striking example of this rightward shift came in last weekend’s presidential address, in which Mr. Obama had this to say about the economics of the budget: “Government has to start living within its means, just like families do. We have to cut the spending we can’t afford so we can put the economy on sounder footing, and give our businesses the confidence they need to grow and create jobs.”

That’s three of the right’s favorite economic fallacies in just two sentences. No, the government shouldn’t budget the way families do; on the contrary, trying to balance the budget in times of economic distress is a recipe for deepening the slump. Spending cuts right now wouldn’t “put the economy on sounder footing.” They would reduce growth and raise unemployment. And last but not least, businesses aren’t holding back because they lack confidence in government policies; they’re holding back because they don’t have enough customers — a problem that would be made worse, not better, by short-term spending cuts.

It’s impossible to run controlled macroeconomic experiments, so in place of them we look to history for parallels. Right now, we’re re-living something like a miniature version of the Great Depression — high unemployment, no private job creation, super-low inflation, and overall economic malaise. (And I know, I know, the parallels aren’t perfect — none are. So sue me.) The sad part is that, unlike our political elites of the 1930′s, today’s Galtian overlords have accepted our current national shittiness as the new normal, while one of our major political parties is actively trying everything it can think of to make things worse so that Michele “Crazy-Eyes” Bachmann can get elected and bring about the rapture in 2012, or something. So instead of at least getting cool infrastructure projects out of the widespread horror — your Hoover Dams, your hike-able national parks, etc etc — we twiddle thumbs as the country both literally and figuratively crumbles.

Have I said this all before? It bears repeating.

UPDATE FOR THE HELL OF IT: Also, what Felix Salmon said.

“Spend less money, create more jobs” is the kind of world one normally finds only in Woody Allen movies, and it’s a profoundly unserious stance for any politician to take. Spending cuts, whether they’re implemented by the public sector or the private sector, are never going to create jobs. And there’s simply no magical ju-jitsu whereby government spending cuts get reversed and amplified, becoming larger private-sector spending increases.

Boehner’s rhetoric, here, is a cynical play on our nation’s economic illiteracy. But the jobs crisis is far too big and too important to become a tactical political football. Now more than ever, it’s the job of government to come together and to do something constructive to create high-quality, long-term employment. Fast. Instead, the House majority is giving us aggressively harmful stupidity. Today’s a bad day in the annals of job statistics. But it’s equally bad in the annals of public service.



Sports Miscellania Terrible and Wonderful

Two incredibly contrasting feelings that I was forced to contend with back to back while perusing the Globe this morning.

First, the terrible: Fan dies after falling from stands at Rangers game.

A man attending a Texas Rangers game with his young son died after falling out of the stands and about 20 feet to the ground while trying to catch a baseball tossed his way Thursday night, the Rangers and Arlington fire officials said.

Christ. I mean, obviously there are more painful and drawn-out ways to die, but the cosmic, tragic irony of this accident is almost unbearable. A man and his boy at a baseball game, the epitome of a happy family outing, father/son bonding time, hot dogs and peanuts, cheering your favorite players, faux-booing your least favorite — a quintessential and iconic life experience. And then, wonder of wonders, the opportunity to catch an actual game ball and present it to your son, forever cementing your legacy as a hero in his eyes no matter what else you do with your life. And then an under-thrown ball, or a reflexive but unbalanced catch too near a railing, or both, or neither — and in the end, this heart-breaking scene:

“They had him on a stretcher. He said, ‘Please check on my son. My son was up there by himself.’ The people who carried him out reassured him. ‘Sir, we’ll get your son, we’ll make sure he’s OK,’” Ziegler said. “He had his arms swinging. He talked and was conscious. We assumed he was okay. But when you find out he’s not, it’s just tough.”


And then an emotional whiplash to the wonderful: Man with no arms throws out the first pitch


Now, granted, he probably doesn’t throw many strikes, but I think that’s kind of beside the point.


A Few Thoughts on Raising the Roof

1) The debt ceiling crisis is not a crisis. It is a hostage situation. There are two sides to the argument. In one scenario, we ensure the good standing of the United States as trustworthy and reliable economic actor. In the other scenario, we push the country off a cliff, pepper its writhing carcass with bullets, and shit on its mother’s grave. The Republicans are publicly advocating the latter course of action.

2) Because he is apparently much less politically astute than we gave him credit for three years ago, Barack Obama is caving to absurd Republican demands over and over again, which only emboldens them to make crazier ones.

3) The mainstream media, which should be running headlines like, “REPUBLICANS DOING EVERYTHING IN THEIR POWER TO SABOTAGE THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT FOR CYNICAL POLITICAL GAINS,” are treating this with kid gloves.

And finally,

4) A default would be terrible for our Galtian overlords; they certainly aren’t the ones pushing this debt ceiling nonsense. Who is? Why, the Tea Party, of course. On that note, esteemed Teabagger Michele Bachmann is surging in the polls.

I can’t wait to see what happens next!



In case anyone was getting complacent about the nuclear meltdown in Japan, Aljazeera is here to make us poop ourselves. Some excerpts for you to mutate meditate upon:

Even though the plant is now shut down, fission products such as uranium continue to generate heat, and therefore require cooling.

“The fuels are now a molten blob at the bottom of the reactor,” Gundersen added. “TEPCO announced they had a melt through. A melt down is when the fuel collapses to the bottom of the reactor, and a melt through means it has melted through some layers. That blob is incredibly radioactive, and now you have water on top of it. The water picks up enormous amounts of radiation, so you add more water and you are generating hundreds of thousands of tons of highly radioactive water.”


“The data I’m seeing shows that we are finding hot spots further away than we had from Chernobyl, and the amount of radiation in many of them was the amount that caused areas to be declared no-man’s-land for Chernobyl. We are seeing square kilometres being found 60 to 70 kilometres away from the reactor. You can’t clean all this up. We still have radioactive wild boar in Germany, 30 years after Chernobyl.”

I should probably reiterate that last point: They still have radioactive wild board in Germany three decades after a meltdown THAT TOOK PLACE IN ANOTHER COUNTRY.

Any other optimistic tidings to share with us, scientists?

In the US, physician Janette Sherman MD and epidemiologist Joseph Mangano published an essay shedding light on a 35 per cent spike in infant mortality in northwest cities that occurred after the Fukushima meltdown, and may well be the result of fallout from the stricken nuclear plant.

The eight cities included in the report are San Jose, Berkeley, San Francisco, Sacramento, Santa Cruz, Portland, Seattle, and Boise, and the time frame of the report included the ten weeks immediately following the disaster.

Stupendous! How about the clean-up? At least that’s gotta be well under way, right?

“Units one through three have nuclear waste on the floor, the melted core, that has plutonium in it, and that has to be removed from the environment for hundreds of thousands of years,” he said. “Somehow, robotically, they will have to go in there and manage to put it in a container and store it for infinity, and that technology doesn’t exist. Nobody knows how to pick up the molten core from the floor, there is no solution available now for picking that up from the floor.”

Oh, uh, well, fuck me.


Apocalyptic Lecture of the Week: This Time Courtesy of An Economic Historian

Richard D. Wolff is Professor of Economics Emeritus, University of Massachusetts, Amherst where he taught economics from 1973 to 2008. He is currently a Visiting Professor in the Graduate Program in International Affairs of the New School University, New York City. He also teaches classes regularly at the Brecht Forum in Manhattan.

Earlier he taught economics at Yale University (1967-1969) and at the City College of the City University of New York (1969-1973). In 1994, he was a Visiting Professor of Economics at the University of Paris (France), I (Sorbonne).

He does voices, somewhat annoyingly. Don’t let it ruin the lecture for you though.

Especially terrifying is his answer to a question about China, especially especially at about the 1:43:00 mark, especially especially especially when you listen to it while looking at pictures like this one.

Lecture’s from March of last year. Here’s something more recent (haven’t watched it yet, but I will. Let’s watch it together):


Bad News for Our Future Job Prospects

Maybe abandoning anonymity wasn’t the best idea after all, as I do enjoy the words “fuck,” “shit,” and “asshole” a bit too much. Turns out, there’s a new company that provides reports about prospective employees’ online activities, and they sound like a bunch of fucking shit-eating assholes.

[A]ccording to Drucker, his company has had little trouble uncovering dirt on people. He says a person Social Intelligence Corp. investigated online was found to have a threatening photo on a MySpace page showing the individual holding a gun and making an aggressive pose. One investigated person left inappropriate and profane comments on a blog entry and another posted a racist video clip on a message board.

Holding a gun and making an aggressive pose? Not illegal. Inappropriate and profane comments on a blog entry? Not illegal. Posting racist videos? Not illegal.

What can I say? 1) I’ve shot a gun a dozen or so times: It’s possible that there’s a picture of me holding a shotgun and looking vaguely “aggressive” on Teh Intertubes. 2) Half of what I write for this blog is inappropriate and profane. 3) And posting racist videos? IT CAN BE DONE TO CRITICIZE RACISM, RATHER THAN ENDORSE IT!

It’s bad enough that my credit sucks (because of unforeseen medical calamities!) and employers think that this matters. If they’re going to start trolling your fucking Facebook page for dirt, I’ve just about had it with the Internet.

Yes, I’m grumpy this morning.

(via everyone on the Internet, I forget who)


More Fun With Libertarians

To the more sober libertarians out there: the guy below is an extreme case, but not that extreme. Get into any argument with libertarians on the Internet and guys like him will find you. Please please please, rein them the fuck in. You’re the only ones who can do it, and they’re doing more harm to your ideology than any Marxist or liberal ever could (my main motivation for posting it).


Forcing people to do and give stuff they do not want to do and give is neither cooperative nor a social action. It’s anti-social. Socialists are just plum dumb; they think rape, theft, and murder are social cooperative actions.

You actually think that kind of bullshit is going to convince anyone to like you, let alone your paper-thin ideology?

Do you think it’s “ideology” that the Earth revolves around the Sun? Add to the list that you don’t know the difference between ideology and scientific empirical data methodology.

I think it’s ideological to think that your ideology’s claims are as sure as the claim that the earth revolves around the Sun.

There’s only two possible ways economic goods can move from person and place to differing person and place in the realm of scientific empirical human action, voluntarily through trade or involuntarily through violence. You think that’s an ideological claim, not an epistemological empirical scientific method demonstrable claim? Do you think “people want what they don’t want, people don’t want what they do want”?

It’s certainly empirically disprovable. Third way: Inheritance. And as far as money goes, fourth way: Willing submission to a system of taxation.

Inheritance is voluntary. It is fundamentally no different to give your offspring $1,000,000 than to give a hungry homeless person $1.

If it was voluntarily willing forthcoming, taxation wouldn’t be necessary. You should have no objection to paying taxes being optional then. Or must you close your eyes and pretend it is impossible that some people might not want to be taxed at all or taxed beyond a certain extent? This is why socialists are impervious to scientific empirical data.

Is it not rape if two men vote to have sex with one woman who votes no? Socialists are so deluded that they think gang rape is voluntary willing submission.

It’s voluntary, but it’s neither trade nor violence.

If we’re talking consent: You didn’t consent to being born into a situation of privilege either, just as those on the other end of the socio-economic ladder didn’t consent to not having the early childhood support necessary to generate the cognitive development necessary for them to be competitive as adults. Your construction of the consenting individual is abstract artifice and not actually reflective of human life.

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This Might Be the Stupidest Thing the New York Times Has Ever Published


Anthony D. Weiner’s letter of resignation was a matter-of-fact two sentences, informing the New York secretary of state, Cesar A. Perales, and Gov.Andrew M. Cuomo that come midnight Tuesday, he was stepping down. But his signature — an oversize looping squiggle, almost larger than the entire typed text of his statement — may offer some clues into his personality, at least according to handwriting experts.

Yes, we are going to go there.

“He’s out of bounds; he’s not within boundaries,” said Dianne Peterson, a handwriting expert based in Tennessee. “His emotional slant is that his head overrules his heart; his head is in control of his heart.”

Noting the “big hump” that constitutes the core of the signature, Ms. Peterson explained, “It represents a writer who wants to cover up, that they are protecting themselves through formality, ritual and control.”

You can go to the goddamn NYTimes website to look at the image of his signature if you’re so inclined; I’m not reproducing it here. This reminds me of working on my marijuana legalization story throughout the fall (You Californian bastards didn’t legalize it, and it never got written), when I spent a month and a half camping with crazy astrology-hippies in the forest, who were all certain that since I was a Scorpio, I dunno, I liked to get laid more than other people. And that I had all this other crazy Scorpio shit going on that I wasn’t aware of. It was crazy, is what I’m saying! As the top commenter at the post puts it, it isn’t a far leap from analyzing Anthony Weiner’s handwriting to calling a 1-900 number to have your horoscope read.

ooh! ooh! I can’t wait for the NY Times analysis of Anthony Weiner’s star chart! And the numerology surrounding his birth! Awesome!

Fuck everything about this, The New York Times.


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