Role Players

Frank Deford on the inanity of holding sports players up as role models.  Pretty refreshing after all the bullshit about how Tiger Woods “let us down” by cheating on his wife.  Aside from a handful of rubes who think this charade actually has something to do with morality, does anybody really care about who Tiger Woods is fucking?  Of course not.  The PGA (or NFL or NBA, etc.), along with its corporate sponsors, pretends publicly to be shocked, shocked by such immoral behavior while privately worrying only about when they can get back to making money.  And Tiger Woods puts on a public display of penitence, in order to appease the PGA and its corporate sponsors, along with his own corporate sponsors, so he can get back to playing golf and making money (and probably screwing more porn stars).  And the media, dutifully performing its role as PR flack for whoever happens to be running whatever show they’re reporting on, just parrots this nonsense.

But anyhow, back to Deford and role models.  He asks a pretty good question that nobody ever seems to consider:

But why? Why, pray, of all people, are athletes, pretty much alone in our society, expected to be sweeter than the average angel? It is politicians and clergy and those maestros of finance on Wall Street who ought to be held to a higher standard. Why aren’t they ever called “role models?” Why can’t some tearful little impressionable tyke sob, “Say it ain’t so, Goldman Sachs, say it ain’t so” — and thus change the pecking order in our cultural mythology?

(Could it be that these other people are considered to be so thoroughly corrupt that even the most impressionable nitwit would laugh out loud at the suggestion of making them paragons of good behavior?)

Or, as that great critic of American cultural stupidity, George Carlin, put it:

“If your kid needs a role model and you ain’t it, you’re both fucked.”

Fuck Da Po-lice

I should probably start with a disclaimer.  I grew up in a lily-white suburb where my run-ins with cops were for the most part limited to the odd traffic stop and maybe the occasional bit of harassment for loitering at the 7-11 (with a couple of arrests for underage drinking thrown in to shake things up a little).  As a result, I tended to shy away from too-vehement denunciations of the police, and I always had to laugh at the comically absurd spectacle of some would-be suburban gangsta blasting NWA from his car speakers while rolling through the quaint burg where he lived with his parents in relative ease and comfort.

Still, I never really trusted cops.  Even now, as a responsible homeowner (and in spite of the fact that I now live in more of an off-white suburb that’s perilously close to the city), I instinctively recoil at the sight of anyone wearing a uniform and badge and carrying a gun.  As often as not, he (or she) strikes me as a petty tyrant, a bully, the kind of person who is attracted to the job simply because it gives him (or her) power over other people.  And so I’ll freely admit that when I stumble upon something like this, it tends to confirm my worst suspicions.

As you’d expect from a website devoted to the glorification of da police, the comments are legendary.  It’s hard to pick a winner, but if I had to choose one that summed up the overall attitude it would be this one from “Granite” (as in “as hard as” or “as dumb as”?):

“It amazes me when I continue to read stories of officers getting indicted on good shoots.”

Now, I realize “good shoot” is probably copspeak for legal shooting, but I don’t see how shooting an unarmed drunk guy with his pants down around his knees could possibly qualify as a “good shoot,” no matter how you define it.  I mean, is there anything that would qualify as a “bad shoot”—short of going up to a random person on the street and shooting them for no reason whatsoever?

Heroically Defending Our Freedoms

This is a perfect parody of the self-parodying rationalizations that the warmongers trot out whenever they’re faced with the task of explaining why the US government absolutely must kill lots of people in Iraq and Afghanistan (and Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen…), people who’ve done nothing to harm any of us over here in the land of the free, and who, for the most part, probably couldn’t give two shits about the United States–except for the fact that there are all of these guys running around in camo with American flag patches on their sleeves and shooting at them for some reason:

Literally tens of Americans were shocked this week to discover that the United States military likes to kill people. Unsettling news, yes, particularly for those of us who had assumed in good faith that one million Iraqis had accidentally slipped on a banana peel one morning and fallen into a pile of mislaid cruise missiles, but before we leap to all sorts of unsightly conclusions, calling Our Boys “mass-murderers” just because they happen to enjoy the occasional mass-murder, let’s remember that in the fog of war with the eggs and the omelettes and the War Is Hell, who can say what’s right and wrong, what’s good and evil, who’s an unarmed pregnant woman and who’s a ticking time bomb threatening to produce future foreigners? Our troops have a job to do, after all – defending our country from those countries who would defend their country from our country – and if we hounded and nit-picked them after every little massacre, gang rape or atrocity, they’d hardly get any killing done at all.

The Medium Lobster, Fafblog

You’re Either With Us Or You’re With the Teabaggers

It’s funny how short these people’s memories are.  Just a few years ago, anti-war liberals were being accused by the Bushistas of insufficient loyalty to the fatherland, and, if I recall, they didn’t like it too much.

The United States of Amnesia, indeed.

Via IOZ.

Why Regulations Are a Joke

This is sort of a companion piece to my teabagger post–more specifically, an expansion on my suggestion that maybe regulations themselves are part of the problem when dealing with corporate crimes.  I’ll let Kevin Carson explain (emphasis added):

Interestingly, an Alternet commentator on the Tea Party story wrote:  “I’m sure those people cheering every insane thing he [CEO Don Blankenship of Massey Energy] said at that rally will blame the government for failing to stop him, thus proving once again that it can’t do anything right.”

Well, yeah.  The mine safety and anti-pollution regulations, in this case, are a good illustration of why the corporate state replaced traditional tort liability standards under the common law with a regulatory state in the first place.

Now, you’d think tort liability for the full damages of wholesale devastation of the entire countryside, the poisoned water and coal dust, the deaths from gross negligence, and all the rest of it, would seriously undermine the profitability of mountaintop removal.  And you’d be right.

That’s exactly what the regulatory state was created to avoid.  Let’s look at a little history.  I can’t recommend strongly enough “The Transformation of American Law,” by Morton Horwitz.  According to Horwitz, the common law of tort liability was radically altered by state courts in the early to mid-19th century to make it more business-friendly.  Under the traditional standard of liability, an actor was responsible for harm that resulted from his actions — period.  Negligence was beside the point.  Courts added stricter standards of negligence and intent, in order to protect business from costly lawsuits for externalities they might impose on their neighbors.  The regulatory state subsequently imposed far weaker standards than the traditional common law; the main practical effect was to preempt what remained of tort liability.  A regulatory standard amounts to a license to commit torts below the threshold of that standard, and lawsuits against polluters and other malfeasors can be met with the defense that “we are fully in compliance with regulatory standards.”  In some cases, as with food libel laws or product disparagement laws, even voluntarily meeting a more stringent standard may be construed as disparagement of products that merely meet the regulatory standard.  For example, Monsanto has had mixed success in some jurisdictions suppressing the commercial free speech of those who advertise their milk as free from rBGH; and conventional beef producers have similarly managed in some cases to prevent competitors from testing for mad cow disease more frequently than the law mandates.

So a class action suit against a coal mining company for the public nuisance created by mountaintop removal could be thwarted by simply demonstrating that the operation met EPA regulatory standards, even if such operations caused serious harm to the property rights and quality of life of the surrounding community.

This is why I have to laugh whenever I hear some politician–or, worse yet, some d0-gooder “progressive”–braying about the need for more stringent regulations of this or that industry.  I mean, shit.  Who do you think is going to be in the room, campaign donation check in hand, when these things get written?

Back to Carson:

I think it’s fair to say that Mr. Blankenship is one of the most loathsome pigs ever to contaminate the Earth with his presence.  And the dumbed-down regulatory state — by offering wrist-slap fines worth a tiny fraction of the harm caused by his terrorism, as a substitute for free juries of his neighbors nailing his scrote to the wall for his crimes — has played a key role in enabling him.

Whole article here.

An Eternal Question

Why do educated people use bad words?

Who gives a fuck?

(Via Crispy.)

There’s a Teabagger Under My Bed

Over at True/Slant, Allison Kilkenny is worried about the teabaggers.  It’s not so much the would-be Travis Bickles or Rupert Pupkins who’ve made the news lately (and who may or may not have anything whatsoever to do with the tea party movement, but nevermind), although they are a cause for concern; no, the real worry is that the teabaggers “will convince and/or provide the federal government with the excuse to withdraw from the public at a time when the country badly needs government-provided services and regulation.”

But, as Kilkenny herself notes, the government is already not doing such a great job, teabaggers or no, of providing those badly needed services and regulations:

First, there actually aren’t enough independent regulators to cover all industries. Second, the criminals who get caught violating codes and breaking laws don’t get punished very seriously — if at all. Finally, there has been zero effort to seriously reform the worst-offending industries like the financial sector. Too Big To Fail and the complex derivatives, which created the Economic Armageddon, are both still in place — untouched by the government or regulators.

And she acknowledges that this has something to do with campaign contributions and the “revolving door” between jobs in the government and jobs in the industries being regulated.

At this point you might think that it would be at least worth considering the possibility that there’s something inherent in government regulation itself that’s the problem, and that the anti-government folks, misguided as a lot of them may be, might have a point.

But no. 

That could undermine the entire progressive myth about how the function of government is to protect the little guy from the rapacious capitalist fat cats (rather than being a tool used by the fat cats to keep the little guy in his place).  The more plausible scenario, apparently, is that a bunch of yahoos wearing fuzzy tricornered hats, who yearn for the freedom to “roam the woods, chopping their own firewood and stitching together clothing made from deer hide” are discouraging the government from doing its job and allowing the bankers and corporate CEOs to plunder and pollute with impunity.

I have an alternative theory: That people like Kilkenny, by focusing their ire at a bunch of nobodies who are aware, no matter how dimly, that the system does not exist to serve their interests, are helping to divert people’s attention from the government’s role in screwing them over.

If the President Does It, It’s Gotta Be OK

I’m pretty sure there’s no act of (U.S., that is) state violence that some “conservative” douchebag won’t excuse.  Then again, we are “at war” and this Awlaki character was a bad man:

Anwar al-Awlaki, a purportedly American-born Islamic cleric, who is now operating in Yemen, ministered to the 9/11 hijackers, inspired the Ft. Hood assassin, probably directed the would-be Christmas bomber, and is believed to be orchestrating and recruiting for violent jihad operations against the United States.

Other diabolical deeds Awlaki probably directed or is believed to have orchestrated: the earthquake in Haiti, the Holocaust, the assassination of JFK, and the crucifixion of Jesus.  (By the way, I like the attempt to casually brush aside Awlaki’s U.S. citizenship–’cause, you know, this is the only possible legitimate objection one could have here.)

Via Frog.

The National Pastime

Frank Deford taking a whack at the correlation between the size of a baseball team’s payroll and its chances of winning.  Now this particular dead horse has been beaten so often and so hard that it’s pretty much an unrecognizable lump of meat by now.  Deford, at least, does it with some style and wit.

But it’s not just the size of the payroll that matters; it’s also how it’s acquired.  Every team benefits from some amount of government largesse, but it turns out that one in particular (three guesses) is a bigger “welfare queen” than all the rest:

To sum up: The most successful, most opulent, and most hated baseball franchise in North America, widely known as “the Evil Empire,” receives an unprecedented amount of government giveaways in a time of recession and government budget-squeezes, with which it increases its already sizeable revenue advantage, partly by charging ticket prices that only the rich can afford. With all that dough safely pocketed, the team then shells out $423 million in free agent contracts for just three players, who help vault them back into the League Championship Series for the first time since 2004.

Back in the mid-1970s, when the Yankees were re-emerging from more than a decade of uncharacteristic mediocrity, a favorite negative stereotype on the political right was the “welfare queen,” living high off government largesse that had been intended for the genuinely poor. It’s an enduring puzzle in contemporary America that long after “welfare reform” restructured transfer payments to individuals, the corporate welfare queens—who by any estimation have been sucking more from the public teat than all welfare recipients combined—continue gobbling hundreds of billions each year, image largely unsullied.

So root, root, root against the home team tonight. It’s bad enough that they play in a fascist stadium; the real outrage is that you paid for it.

Whole article here.

Defending My Freedom to Write This Post

Here’s that WikiLeaks video, aptly titled “Collateral Murder,” that’s making the rounds.  I saw it on Scott Horton’s blog last night, and this morning NPR did a piece on it.  What’s striking about it, aside from the fact that it depicts several real people being mowed down by machine gun fire, is the casual, detached attitude of the soldiers doing the killing, the way they cheer each other on while they’re doing it and the way they talk about the actual human beings on the ground as if they were mere graphic images in a video game.

Of course, NPR, while acknowledging that the video is “troubling, riveting and sad,” did its best to downplay the sheer cold-bloodedness of it by portraying it as the regrettable kind of thing that happens in the “fog of war.”  The piece was also quick to point out, in the opening paragraph, that some weapons were found on the bodies, even though what the soldiers in the helicopter initially thought were guns turned out to be cameras (it’s hard to see when it’s so foggy, you know).

But the most despicable display of excuse-making comes from the soldiers themselves.  After the initial round of shooting, a van drives up to pick up one of the wounded men, and, after some back-and-forth on the radio to get permission to “engage” this deadly threat, the machine gun opens fire.  When ground soldiers arrive on the scene and discover two wounded children in the bullet-riddled van, one of the soldiers on the audio says, “Well, it’s their fault for bringing their kids into a battle.”  To which another responds: “That’s right.”

So there you have it.  Bottomless self-justification.  What exactly constitutes a battle, you ask?  Why, it’s anytime we happen to start shooting, anywhere, for whatever reason.

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