Gone To Since 1984

And now, they're coming for your Social Security money - they want your fucking retirement money - they want it back - so they can give it to their criminal friends on Wall Street. And you know something? They'll get it. They'll get it all from you sooner or later. Because they own this fucking place. It's a Big Club: and you're not in it.

George Carlin

  • July 10, 2012 5:54 pm

    VanRy’s Express

    Turns out Lemkin|5 came a few days too soon; here we have a bit of follow up that reaches all the way back to dickity-nine. You no doubt fondly recall the sad tale of Kimber VanRy, the man who received a $25 summons for just sitting there, drinking his own beer, on his own stoop, all safely enclosed behind his own gate there in Brooklyn.

    Well, they’re at it again. The New York Times (again) reports that this time it’s Andrew Rausa and a few friends that were sitting on a similarly figured stoop behind bars; each received a summons. Even one friend who “was holding a red plastic cup filled with soda” received a $25 summons. This is hardly surprising, in that they made the cardinal mistake of pointing out the inherent foolishness and likely illegality of this sort of enforcement. Gentlemen, to the iPhone:

    Holding his phone, Mr. Rausa approached the officer and said that because he was sitting on a private stoop behind a gate, he was not breaking the law.

    “I don’t care what the law says, you’re getting a summons,” the officer said before rolling up his window, according to Mr. Rausa.

    Frankly, he’s lucky he didn’t get his face used as a door opener for a few hours while the cops made their rounds. At the very least, a savage in situ beat-down would have ensued in various parts of town. Even in the absence of all that, a simmering rage gradually built over the $25 fines:

    “We had an ‘I am Spartacus’ moment,” he recalled. “They were like, ‘No way, we’re going to fight this. This is injustice.’”


    “My issue is not some yuppie, I-think-I’m-above-the-law-issue, it’s the fact that I brought to the attention of the police officer that he was not in the right and he was not receptive at all,” Mr. Rausa said.

    File that last sentence under “least surprising thing ever reported by The Times of New York.” I’m not even entirely sure Mr. Rausa is still speaking English at that moment. But he’s right about the legality part. And that’s something, isn’t it? Rest assured we’ll be watching for the outcome of this one. If CourtTV hadn’t long ago switched its programming to only Bahrani hard-R independent films, we could all expect extensive coverage. But we can’t. So it goes.

    Regarding the mechanics of the piece itself: what beers were they drinking? How many? Crown tops or twist? Where did you learn your trade, Vivian Yee? Clearly not from Clyde Haberman, who I trust is still with us. But, in partial recompense, Vivian does offer up some spicy VanRy where-are-they-now:

    Since contesting his summons [and having it dismissed on a technicality], Mr. VanRy has moved from Prospect Heights to a brownstone in Windsor Terrace, but he hasn’t stopped enjoying his beers outside

    Thank FSM for that. And godspeed to you, Andrew Rausa. A parched nation looks to you as you defend our freedom to drink a beer quietly whilst safely ensconced on our own property.

  • March 17, 2011 4:46 pm

    Dear New York Times, (Four things)

    Your paywall is going up on March 28th. Fair enough. I see non-print-subscribers will need to pay somewhere between $15 and $35 per month to access more than a few articles.
    We can agree not to bicker over the inherent stupidity of having tiers like “web” vs. “tablet.” That sort of foolishness is left as an exercise for you, the apparent fool. But I will say: charge for the app but then make it the best way anyone can imagine for accessing the single-priced, dumb pipes version of your content.
    That said, what I don’t see is that I, the potential online subscriber, will be getting much of anything in return for my hard earned dollars (other than baseline access, of course).

    So here’s a short list of what I, the paying subscriber, expect from you:
    1) Access to all articles as a single page by default. If I am mentally unstable enough to request articles be broken into several pages by default, then so be it; however, it is therefore sadly unlikely I am able to hold a job and pay for a subscription. But if you’re going to persist in this multipage CPM crap, then I, the subscriber, should get to choose whether or not I have to take part in it now that I’m paying for the privilege.

    2) No content-obstructive ads, ever. I realize ads are a fact of life for you, me, and us, and I respect that they have to be there (just like they are in the physical paper, whether or not I subscribe to it). However, the physical paper does not suddenly and irrevocably wrap my head with a mandatory, inescapable, full page ad that then lingers for some length of time each time I pass one while reading the physical Times. Neither should the electronic version of that article. You are a content company, start respecting both your content and the prospective buyer of said content.

    3) Mobile ads should furthermore be minimizeable. Pixels are precious on an iPhone or other small screened devices. If you are going to tier out “mobile” versions for special and exrtra cost over “web” versions, then you have to let me minimize the ad. I have seen your ad. Now let me drop it down or scroll it up so I can have a few more lines of text per page. In fact, since you love tiers so much, mobile is the one space where I should be able to purchase an entirely ad-free version for some additional fee. Those pixels are worth that much to me. At least give me the option to pay for them.

    4) Finally: a subscriber should have access to full text RSS feeds of everything you publish.

    That this is very little to ask is self-evident. That none of it will be granted is similarly self-evident. That none of these key, user favoring absences will be cited when the paywall fails to attract much in the way of a revenue stream is probably also all-too-self-evident. So it goes.

  • March 1, 2011 1:11 pm

    "…how much more concrete could our current situation be? Republicans — and, unfortunately, some Democrats too — are pushing for an economic austerity plan that will keep unemployment high and the job market loose. The result is downward pressure on wages, which keeps middle-class incomes stagnant and corporate profits high. This benefits the executive and investor class, and while it’s a shortsighted benefit, it’s a benefit nonetheless. And it’s not thanks to globalization or returns to education or anything like that. It’s due to a deliberate political decision that favors the rich at the expense of everyone else."

    Kevin Drum
    If only we had a particularly skilled orator in high office somewhere who could use some sort of bully pulpit to explain this concept in simple terms once or twice a day from now until the thought finally sinks in and takes root. Meh: So it goes.

  • November 11, 2010 12:22 pm

(photograph made by jersey walz.)
happy would-have-been 88th birthday to kurt vonnegut, jr. 
we are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be.

Two more KV quotes:

Like so many Americans, she was trying to construct a life that made
sense from things she found in gift shops.

People need good lies. There are too many bad ones.
View high resolution


    (photograph made by jersey walz.)

    happy would-have-been 88th birthday to kurt vonnegut, jr. 

    we are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be.

    Two more KV quotes:

    Like so many Americans, she was trying to construct a life that made sense from things she found in gift shops.


    People need good lies. There are too many bad ones.

  • August 9, 2010 2:12 pm

    Summer of Dick

    This post contains Moby-Dick related spoilers, I suppose, but they’re getting on towards 200 years old and are as such almost indistinguishable from common knowledge. Read on at own risk.

    For unclear reasons, this summer I decided to read Moby-Dick, or The Whale by the very late Herman Melville. Like many of its 19th century compatriots, it’s (at times) beautifully written and but so also drifts off into long tangents on the whaling industry as it was in the mid 1800s, the nature of whales, the etymology of the term whale, a comparison and literary criticism of different stories about whales, and, of course, an entire taxonomic system devoted to the phylogeny of the fishy leviathan. I suspect that, boiled down to its essence (having been sent through the try-works we’d find it to be the story of Ishamel taking a rather floridly symbolic whaling voyage under the command of one Ahab) it’d be utterly required reading of everyone; instead, Billy Budd seems to be the Melvillian placeholder in the canon. As it is, I’d say Moby-Dick stands as one of those books everyone thinks they probably should read, but ultimately doesn’t. Anyhwo, it can be taken in several ways, amongst them as pure and timeless allegory informing the human condition.
    So let’s consider these passages, which come late in the book, when the Pequod has (actually, finally) engaged Moby-Dick; Ahab and some of the crew are off on the only remaining smaller boat (that actually does the harpooning of the whale), everybody else is standing off a bit onboard the Pequod (Tashtego and several others are high up in the rigging performing various jobs)… suddenly Ahab realizes that the whale is going to attack the Pequod, and the summary costs of all his recent decisions are made painfully clear to him, that his occasional efforts to (more or less) leave his crew (and, specifically, his first mate Starbuck) out of it while he, Ahab, goes off to seemingly certain (and preordained) death will be for naught:

    Ahab staggered; his hand smote his forehead. I grow blind; hands! stretch out before me that I may yet grope my way. Is’t night? The whale! The ship! cried the cringing oarsmen. Oars! oars Slope downwards to thy depths, O sea, that ere it be for ever too late, Ahab may slide this last, last time upon his mark; I see: the ship! the ship! Dash on, my men! Will ye not save my ship? But as the oarsmen violently forced their boat through the sledge-hammering seas, the before whale-smitten bow-ends of two planks burst through, and in an instant almost, the temporarily disabled boat lay nearly level with the waves; its half-wading, splashing crew, trying hard to stop the gap and bale out the pouring water. Meantime, for that one beholding instant, Tashtego’s mast-head hammer remained suspended in his hand; and the red flag, half-wrapping him as with a plaid, then streamed itself straight out from him, as his own forward-flowing heart; while Starbuck and Stubb, standing upon the bowsprit beneath, caught sight of the down-coming monster just as soon as he. The whale, the whale! Up helm, up helm! Oh, all ye sweet powers of air, now hug me close! Let not Starbuck die, if die he must, in a woman’s fainting fit. Up helm, I say —ye fools, the jaw! the jaw! Is this the end of all my bursting prayers? all my life-long fidelities?

    The whale strikes the Pequod and damages it beyond repair; it is rapidly sinking. Remarkably, Ahab takes all this in, realizes what he’s caused, but almost immediately returns to his own agenda. We’ve seen this several times in the book. To Ahab, the actual whaling mission of the Pequod is an unfortunate distraction. Many, many times, Starbuck implores him to simply do the whaling: if we happen upon Moby-Dick, so be it, but first the whaling should be prosecuted as quickly as possible such that we can get home sooner. Ahab repeatedly shows no interest in such a course, often obstructing or directly undermining the whaling side of the operation. The Pequod sinks:

    Through the breach, they heard the waters pour, as mountain torrents down a flume. […] Diving beneath the settling ship, the whale ran quivering along its keel; but turning under water, swiftly shot to the surface again, far off the other bow, but within a few yards of Ahab’s boat, where, for a time, he lay quiescent. I turn my body from the sun. What ho, Tashtego! Let me hear thy hammer.


    The ship? Great God, where is the ship? Soon they through dim, bewildering mediums saw her sidelong fading phantom, as in the gaseous Fata Morgana; only the uppermost masts out of water; while fixed by infatuation, or fidelity, or fate, to their once lofty perches, the pagan harpooneers still maintained their sinking lookouts on the sea. And now, concentric circles seized the lone boat itself, and all its crew, and each floating oar, and every lance-pole, and spinning, animate and inanimate, all round and round in one vortex, carried the smallest chip of the Pequod out of sight. But as the last whelmings intermixingly poured themselves over the sunken head of the Indian [Tashtego] at the mainmast, leaving a few inches of the erect spar yet visible, together with long streaming yards of the flag, which calmly undulated, with ironical coincidings, over the destroying billows they almost touched; —at that instant, a red arm and a hammer hovered backwardly uplifted in the open air, in the act of nailing the flag faster and yet faster to the subsiding spar. A sky-hawk that tauntingly had followed the main-truck downwards from its natural home among the stars, pecking at the flag, and incommoding Tashtego there; this bird now chanced to intercept its broad fluttering wing between the hammer and the wood; and simultaneously feeling that etherial thrill, the submerged savage beneath, in his death-gasp, kept his hammer frozen there; and so the bird of heaven, with archangelic shrieks, and his imperial beak thrust upwards, and his whole captive form folded in the flag of Ahab, went down with his ship, which, like Satan, would not sink to hell till she had dragged a living part of heaven along with her, and helmeted herself with it. Now small fowls flew screaming over the yet yawning gulf; a sullen white surf beat against its steep sides; then all collapsed, and the great shroud of the sea rolled on as it rolled five thousand years ago.

    Let’s just say that, had I read the above a few days previous, it would have been the context of this post’s closing sentence.
    As it is, let’s just (busy, busy, busy) tack that conclusion onto last summer’s:

    And when he came back to, he was flat on his back on the beach in the freezing sand, and it was raining out of a low sky, and the tide was way out.

  • February 22, 2010 4:52 pm

    Starve the Beast

    Paul Krugman notes that the GOP has collectively been working for around three decades to bring on the catastrophic nexus, “preparing the ground” for the moment at which they can cut wildly popular programs like Medicare and Social Security in the name of “fiscal responsibility.” Unfortunately, with that day all but at hand, the GOP finds itself unwilling to pull the trigger and say these long-held beliefs publicly:

    At this point, then, Republicans insist that the deficit must be eliminated, but they’re not willing either to raise taxes or to support cuts in any major government programs. And they’re not willing to participate in serious bipartisan discussions, either, because that might force them to explain their plan — and there isn’t any plan, except to regain power.

    Absolutely right. And but Krugman goes on to note in today’s column that the state of the California health insurance system generally and the recent Anthem move to raise rates by ~30% specifically put to lie everything the GOP is saying about national health insurance reforms:

    some claim that health costs would fall dramatically if only insurance companies were allowed to sell policies across state lines. But California is already a huge market, with much more insurance competition than in other states; unfortunately, insurers compete mainly by trying to excel in the art of denying coverage to those who need it most. And competition hasn’t averted a death spiral. So why would creating a national market make things better?

    More broadly, conservatives would have you believe that health insurance suffers from too much government interference. In fact, the real point of the push to allow interstate sales is that it would set off a race to the bottom, effectively eliminating state regulation. But California’s individual insurance market is already notable for its lack of regulation, certainly as compared with states like New York — yet the market is collapsing anyway.

    Finally, there have been calls for minimalist health reform that would ban discrimination on the basis of pre-existing conditions and stop there. It’s a popular idea, but as every health economist knows, it’s also nonsense. For a ban on medical discrimination would lead to higher premiums for the healthy, and would, therefore, cause more and bigger death spirals.

    So California’s woes show that conservative prescriptions for health reform just won’t work.

    To which we say: yep, even though Krugman starts with a straw-man in there. Some? How about “GOP leaders in the House and Senate say” or any other construction there? Some? That’s Bush league usage.

    But, I think the synthesis of these two articles is what actually provides the way forward. We’ve said it before: Democrats can’t bring themselves to move good policy and the GOP categorically can’t resist bad policy, so combine the two. Spend a few years “preparing the ground” just as the GOP did on forcing government into the present fiscal situation in hopes of eviscerating the New Deal once and for all. Make it such that, when the inevitable happens, the end result will require the desired policy solution.
    This means that you just pass into law the super-popular and death-spiral inducing community rating and tack on whatever meaningless and ineffective tort and state-lines “reform” the GOP wants to make that poison pill pass. Both sides celebrate. Then wait five years. Even conservatives agree that:

    the country will face a choice: allow the numbers of uninsured to continue shooting up, or enroll more and more people directly in taxpayer-funded government insurance plans.

    At the collapse of health insurance in this country, the GOP will be forced to roll out Medicare for all; after all, there will be no functional private insurance industry left to protect. Even the very rich will be priced out. Nothing gets the GOP’s attention more quickly than a situation like that.
    Just think of the day that Single Payer is finally signed into law by President Palin. Likewise, the new Democratic majority will return to a Senate free from the filibuster as, everyone knows, that will be the first thing to go once the GOP is back in charge over there.

    Somewhere, off in the distance, a dog barked.

  • September 28, 2009 9:41 am

    How to Write With Style, by Kurt Vonnegut


    Newspaper reporters and technical writers are trained to reveal almost nothing about themselves in their writings.

    This is most of our current problem in the MSM. But, the linked article certainly serves as instruction as to why KV is top three to Lemkin, and, really, should serve as a guideline to anybody writing, well, anything (summarized, but read the whole thing):

    1. Find a subject you care about

    2. Do not ramble, though

    3. Keep it simple

    4. Have guts to cut

    5. Sound like yourself

    6. Say what you mean

    7. Pity the readers