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Open thread: Predictions for 2014

Flooded field in crystal ball

Okay, I predict that the Dems will really fuck something up — but you already knew that. What do you see happening in 2014?

Are we really in the Matrix?

What if we are really in a “Matrix”-like simulation? (via Pando Daily)

By Adam L. Penenberg On December 30, 2013 Even in a “lost year for tech” there have been great gains, as John Gruber at Daring Fireball points out. For one, smartphones have become commodities, and more than 1.5 billion people worldwide tote full…

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Ship of fools

More World Party:

Put the message in the box

World Party:

She’s the one

World Party:

New Orleans

There’s a scene in the last season of “30 Rock” where Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) says, “The DVR’s at 98 percent, but I’m just never in the mood to watch Treme.” She finally watches those episodes and tells her boss, “It gets good if you stick with it.”

Enough people didn’t stick with it, and so we say goodbye to another gorgeous, sad, ambitious, memorable and sometimes maddeningly slow HBO series.

The series finale is called “… To Miss New Orleans,” after the old Louis Armstrong song, “Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans?” (The song was used to open the first episode, titled “Do You Know What It Means”.)

One of the first things you learn when you watch “Treme” is that the city’s music culture really is the main character — whether it’s traditional New Orleans jazz, hip-hop, bounce, blues, zydeco, or roots music. It’s all in there, and it’s the thread that pulls the stories all together.
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Why the drug war is a joke


I kept forgetting to post this. It’s Matt Taibbi’s take on the HSBC settlement (naturally, with no criminal charges!) and what it all means. Go read it all:

If you’ve ever been arrested on a drug charge, if you’ve ever spent even a day in jail for having a stem of marijuana in your pocket or “drug paraphernalia” in your gym bag, Assistant Attorney General and longtime Bill Clinton pal Lanny Breuer has a message for you: Bite me.

Breuer this week signed off on a settlement deal with the British banking giant HSBC that is the ultimate insult to every ordinary person who’s ever had his life altered by a narcotics charge. Despite the fact that HSBC admitted to laundering billions of dollars for Colombian and Mexican drug cartels (among others) and violating a host of important banking laws (from the Bank Secrecy Act to the Trading With the Enemy Act), Breuer and his Justice Department elected not to pursue criminal prosecutions of the bank, opting instead for a “record” financial settlement of $1.9 billion, which as one analyst noted is about five weeks of income for the bank.

The banks’ laundering transactions were so brazen that the NSA probably could have spotted them from space. Breuer admitted that drug dealers would sometimes come to HSBC’s Mexican branches and “deposit hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, in a single day, into a single account, using boxes designed to fit the precise dimensions of the teller windows.”

This bears repeating: in order to more efficiently move as much illegal money as possible into the “legitimate” banking institution HSBC, drug dealers specifically designed boxes to fit through the bank’s teller windows. Tony Montana’s henchmen marching dufflebags of cash into the fictional “American City Bank” in Miami was actually more subtle than what the cartels were doing when they washed their cash through one of Britain’s most storied financial institutions.

The ill logic of the lower classes

Lone marsh tree

It’s the Ninth Day After the Solstice, and I’m back at the shack after checking up on my house, which stopped feeling homey after a tree fell on it last year. Some of my old neighbors are doing OK, judging by the number of houses with Christmas decorations. Some of the those who weren’t doing OK have died. Others — the ones who, because of joblessness or a catastrophe, couldn’t make their mortgage payments — have simply disappeared.

On my way back to the swamp I ran into one of the disappeared — a big, blustery guy who used to remind me of a circus strong man, probably because of the striped tank tops he wore in the summer. Today he was wearing dark glasses and a ratty coat with a big hood, and he seemed about four inches shorter, but I recognized him and said hello as we crossed paths on the sidewalk. He returned my hello but didn’t stop walking. I got the impression he was homeless but I can’t be sure, because I didn’t stop walking either.

When I got back here I asked the swamp rabbit, an amateur shrink as well as a closet bibliophile, why my former neighbor and I had shied away from one another. He spit into the Tinicum swamp and said, “Your ex-neighbor feels like a bum. He’d feel even more like a bum talking to you, because you knew him when he had a house. And I reckon you didn’t want him to know you feel like a bum, too.”

I reminded the rabbit that I’m a fiction writer, not a bum. He asked me what the difference was. It was noon, but he already smelled like he’d finished off a bottle.

I said, “You’ve got a lot of nerve, all you do is drink Wild Turkey and spit in the swamp.”

“Think about it,” he replied. “It ain’t just them hyper-capitalists and their lap dogs in Congress that blame the poors for being poor. The poors blame themselves. They don’t even raise hell when food stamps get cut and unemployment benefits get killed after six months. If they do raise hell, it’s agin each other.”

“You don’t understand the fear, you dumb rodent. Things only get worse when people rock the boat. Demand better wages and you just get fired and disappear. The New Deal is done, the rich have the whip hand until things change again.”

I read him the tail end of a column by Paul Krugman:

Too many Americans currently live in a climate of economic fear. There are many steps that we can take to end that state of affairs, but the most important is to put jobs back on the agenda.

The rabbit twitched his nose and chuckled. “Whose agenda? Jobs are on your agenda if you’re jobless, but they ain’t if you’re in the owner class. The owners don’t need more workers, they’re making bigger profits without them. Who’s gonna make them hire, especially when they know the poors are busy blamin’ themselves for being poor?”

I threw one of his empty bottles at him. I hate it when the varmint makes more sense than that guy in The New York Times.

Best news bloopers of 2013

Really funny, some not suitable for work!


As you may know, they beat the Cowboys last night to win the NFC East title. While I may hate football, I hate the Cowboys, too. Everyone around here hates the Cowboys (and the Mets, and the Rangers).

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