Sunday, March 29, 2015

Top Ten Pet Peeves About Literary Agents

     Yeah, I know I'm a bad blogger, No Cheetos. Specifically, I'm a bad political blogger and I honestly do feel guilty about disappointing what few faithful readers I have by not providing content on a regular basis that would, however inadequately, justify the donations I've been receiving for the last six years. And I will get to Ted Cruz, Mike Pence and his piece of shit anti-LGBT law and so forth in good time.
     But the annual round of submissions of Tatterdemalion to literary agents, something I hadn't done in a year, has built up a lot of resentment in me. This has been steadily building since I'd made the rounds of literally hundreds of agency websites since late last month when I'd begun the querying process. And these pet peeves of mine aren't just mine and inspired merely by frustration. Others have said the same things I have, including this guy who'd passed on a story about another writer who'd punked 100 literary agents with Kurt Vonnegut, Jr's work and got rejected by all 100 of them.
     So these are my top ten pet peeves regarding literary agents, accumulated both over the last 19 years and the last month.


  • 1) Discover Norton

  •      One of the most immediately apparent differences between British literary agents and their US counterparts, aside from openly soliciting the first 30-50 pages of your manuscript, is their willingness to accept email attachments. Email clients such as Yahoo, which had really taken a nose dive in quality and dependability over the last year and a half, often truncate emails. This can be especially galling and embarrassing when US agents insist on your pasting everything in the body of the email and it gets cut off in mid sentence or right after the salutation.
         Antivirus software exists. Use it, make friends with it and stop acting as if every author in the English-speaking world is out to give your precious laptop a virus. Automatically deleting unread legitimate submissions based on a paranoia bespeaks of a mindset I wouldn't want in someone working for me.


  • 2) And yes, you would work for me if I choose to hire you.

  •      In the generation since publishers made literary agents a necessary evil and primary gatekeepers, they've gotten so arch and bloated with arrogance it's a miracle these people, for want of a better word, can still find people to have sex with them. Among the manifestations of this hubris and arrogance is the more than suggested perception that they run the show. You do not.
         Because in the real world, the person who makes no more than penultimate decisions and makes 15% of the money that's earned is the hired help. The employee. Stop assuming we're naifs who don't know anything about the business. Until you were shoehorned into the publishing process 30 or so years ago, authors like me approached publishers directly, negotiated their contracts and managed their own careers. Our intelligence and pragmatism hasn't atrophied just because you were artificially glued onto what used to be a streamlined process. Again, for clarity's sake, You are the employee, the hired help. You work for us, not vice versa. Know your role and act accordingly.


  • 3) Your website sucks.

  •      In virtually 100% of the literary agency websites I've been to, I have had to lean forward and strain my eyes to read pale grey font against a white background. I've even seen yellow font against white. For people who are obsessed with legibility and proper formatting in snailmail submissions, you sure care little over whether or not people can read your ghost fonts. Do all you agents farm out website design to the same sadistic prick?
         Also, minimalism make work effectively in Japanese art but not in modern day website design. You want submission guidelines obeyed? Tell us what the fuck they are. Give us something to go on other than your street address and a phone number you forbid us from calling. To give you guys an idea of what I'm talking about, go to former Simon & Schuster senior editor-turned literary agent Bob Mecoy's website to see what I mean (Oh, that Bic pen pointed directly at my left eye doesn't look menacing at all, Bobbo). Or this monolithic, virtually noninteractive piece of shit by William Morris Endeavor that just screams, "Fuck off and (sniff) die."


  • 4) Here, let me get some KY so you can jerk yourself off better.

  •      For people who say over and over again that they want just a brief covering letter consisting of no more than 300 words (and reasonably expecting us to make them fall impetuously and madly in love with our book during this absurd literary speed dating), you assholes sure love to talk about yourselves on your bios. More than once, I've seen agent bios that went far, far beyond the 300 or so words they allot us in droning on about where they were from ("It all started in a little log cabin in the woods of the Pacific Northwest..."), where they went to school, where they worked, what properties they sold, their marital status, their hobbies, how many kids they have, their cockapoodle's name, etc. I am not kidding about this. They actually think we give a fuck about this shit.
         We don't. We're looking for business partners and so are you. So act like it. I personally don't give a fuck who's on your client list, what properties you've sold, blah blah because it has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with my particular property. So please stop making your literary agency's website look like a cheap dating site for avaricious sociopaths.


  • 5) Yes, we can and will turn away business so fuck off and die.

  •      However evil and collusive the deal made behind the backs of authors between you and publishers, the one decent provision was that it was supposed to continue giving authors a primary outlet for their work. The thought of sending something to a group of people so stupid as to universally reject a classic by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr is scary enough but it was what it was. Now, more and more literary agencies, starting with the bloated William Morris Endeavor Agency in Hollywood, are slamming the gates in our faces while telling us they cannot possibly take on new clients, read work that hasn't been invited or referred by another client or read submissions by unpublished writers.
         Inserting you as the primary gatekeeper blocking the path to publication was bad enough but now you've gotten so arrogant and bloated with hubris you're acting just like the publishers a generation ago and look your nose down on people who've been kept from being published largely because of you and your ignorant ilk. Do your fucking job because it's not as if the current crop of bestselling authors will live forever. Your short-sighted strategy just produces an Old Boy network where only cool or connected kids get entry into the tree house. Oh, and if you're not taking on new clients or reading submissions, kindly say so before you waste anybody else's time.


  • 6) "Make Me Fall in Love With You. You Have 30 Seconds."

  •      As previously stated, one of the most obvious immediate differences between UK and US agents is the former's willingness to actually read some of the work being "plumped." Almost all Brits not only insist on email attachments guaranteeing viability and completedness of sample material but also actually insist on reading the material and making an informed decision. But more and more US agents choose to cut corners either out of sheer laziness or whining about their workload. These same assholes who feel the need to write their autobiographies on a business website insist we cannot cut corners, obey their every idiosyncratic edict, synopsize our work, give them a CV, our credentials and qualifications for writing the book, our marketing platform, since it's fallacious to assume massive publishing houses with publicity professionals to actually, you know, publicize their products, tell them what books similar to ours have been successfully been published in the past, why we want them to be our agent and... Oh yeah, do it in ten words or less.
         This is why I call this absurdity and crime against literacy "literary speed dating."
         And please stop telling us you have to be wildly, madly, impetuously, helplessly, hopelessly, heads over heels in puppy love before you can sell my book. You don't sell books for the "love of the game" or some such romantic, high-minded bullshit. As you and publishers keep telling us, publishing's a business, period. Please stop trying to make it sound like a process out of the Harlequin crap you help trowel out every month.


  • 7) "Oh, you have a pet peeve list, too?"
  •      Oh, yes. PLEASE do tell me how much you hate us and your job.
         One of the things that gets my blood boiling at 1300 degrees Fahrenheit is when arch, arrogant douchebags waste time telling us what they hate seeing from the less conscientious of us when they should be reading sample material or selling properties. When I read pet peeve lists such as this, I get two takeaways: They hate writers and look upon us as cumbersome little door knockers with whom they'd rather not deal and they're infallible.
         If you were so damned infallible, then please tell me why 90-95% of the adult fiction you rep never finds a home (a fact admitted on at least one agency website) and why am I writing my own pet peeve list? When I go to a fast food place or a gas station, I wouldn't want to hear constant pissing and moaning from the cashier about why they hate their job and their pet peeves regarding customers. Why should you be given that same latitude? Sure, you have legit gripes. I'm not saying you don't. But I don't care to hear them. And none of them apply to me or other conscientious, talented authors like me. You don't like your job? Wait tables or pump gas. Go the way of Harriet Wasserman, please.


  • 8) "I Have the Right to Remain Silent."

  •      No, you don't.
         On virtually 100% of the agency websites I've had to endure these past few months, there's inevitably a little codecil that essentially says, "If you haven't heard from us after X weeks, please accept that as proof we wish you'll fuck off and die", or words to that effect. Citing, again, 300+ submissions a week and limited time, literary agencies are cutting more and more corners while not allowing us to do the same. Some of them even go with an email form, which just invites spam filters, because they're too lazy to read emails from people they've already decided cannot put cha-ching in their pockets.
         I've already gone into some of the ways that literary agencies cheat and cut corners while expecting everyone in the business to be hunky dorey about it. But here's a list of how they do this: They want only queries first, not even a synopsis, and had better be more concise than their masturbatory ego trips. Some, hilariously, even ask for just the first page of your novel, reasonably expecting it'll hook them enough to want to lunge at the phone and call you before some other agent does. They have flunkies send off the form rejections because they can't spend the five seconds it would take to disrespect your personalized letter. You don't like "Dear Agent" letters? Well, we don't appreciate "Dear Author" letters or those without any salutation. Show some fucking professionalism, reciprocation and common courtesy. As with you, guys like me who routinely send off 200-300 proposals also work with large numbers. Only I do this in my spare time. You do this for a living. Again, do your fucking job and fuck your bullshit, one-sided self-dealt rules. Hire more agents. Hire more interns. Do what you have to do but ignoring conscientious authors is a big No no and makes authors not want to submit to you again.


  • 9) "I'm a Mommy First and an Agent Second."

  •      Stop saying on your websites you don't read much less rep books about children in danger or about serial killers. That's half of everything Stephen King and John Grisham ever wrote and virtually everything written by Jonathan Kellerman and Andrew Vachss. Are you telling me you'd turn them down on the incredible chance they'd actually knock on your door looking for representation?
         I'm not looking for a mommy or someone who winces over harmless written words. For better or worse, I'm looking for a literary agent to sell my book to the highest and best bidder. Again, be a fucking professional and act like it. Oh, and since you keep telling me this business is so subjective, I refer you again to the 90-95% failure rate on your part. Considering how often you fail, which wouldn't fly for a second in the real world, perhaps what's called for is some objectivity. Stop pretending as if your reading tastes reflect, or are reflected by, the reading tastes of an entire nation. Readers let their acumen guide their choices. Yours are run by monetary motives and you're still wrong almost 100% of the time.


  • 10) To Quoth the Writer, Get the Fuck Over Yourself.

  •     Not a single literary classic in planetary history was ever sold by a literary agent. Virtually 100% of the turkeys sold to and published by legacy publishers were. Just because you were handed a protection racket by lazy, scumbag publishing executives 30 years ago doesn't make you all that. We are the people who write the books off of which you and your bedfellows in the Big Five publishing houses profit handsomely while paying us dog shit. Not one person ever bought a fucking book at a Barnes & Noble or anywhere else because of who the publisher or the literary agent who sold it was.
         It's arrogant scumbags like you that are the primary reason for self-publishing's explosion over the last 7-8 years. Self-publishing's more than a pragmatic decision for those of us going that route. It's also a necessary and inevitable reaction to being treated like dog shit under your heels because in your ignorant, lazy snap decisions you don't think we can put jingle in your silk trousers or further your career ambitions.
         And don't even get me started on Argo Navis...

    Friday, March 27, 2015

    Death in the Family

     
         For those two or three of you who've been wondering where I've been since I last posted, here's the 411:
         Mrs. JP's Mom in Vero Beach had been battling cancer for the last several years and on the 24th we got word from the family and the hospice nurse that the end was near and it could be a matter of days if not hours. This alarmed me into buying her a plane ticket back to Florida for $208 and I got her down there less than 24 hours after buying the ticket.
         I just got word a couple of hours ago that Mrs. JP's Mom passed away sometime between last night and this morning. It doesn't look as if the family, which treats me as if I don't exist, will contribute a penny toward getting her home. I just had to spend yet another $141 for a return flight on April 3rd. Any other day involved air fares that went up to over a grand, for a coach seat.
         Keep in mind, this is our rent and bill money I'm spending so my fiancee could spend some time with her mother in her final moments. A couple of people have pledged to help defray the expenses but not knowing how much that'll be, I'm afraid I'll have to pass the hat and ask you guys for your help.
         An addendum to this little drama:
         Four or five miles from TF Green Airport in Warwick, RI, my muffler fell off and was dragging behind me on the highway for 50 miles before I got pulled over by a Mass state trooper. So I had to get the muffler replaced just a few hours after I got Mrs. JP off on a plane and that cost me $237. I can post the bill, if you don't believe me.
         So all told, I'm out $686 since I sent off Mrs. JP on the 25th. That's well over a month's rent. So we are really, truly hurting. And even if you can't help, please pass the word because since Tuesday I've been spending money like a horny sailor on a Manila liberty, minus the good time.

    Addendum: I had to take the car back in the shop so they could finish the job since they couldn't get a crucial piece to hold up the back end of the muffler. After they did it, I was told I'd have to pay them another $27 since they hadn't billed me for the piece. So, all told, the muffler job cost me $264.

    Monday, March 23, 2015

    #TedCruzCampaignSlogans

     
          Last night, Joe McCarthy 2.0 Ted Cruz announced from Liberty University that he was running for the presidency. One of my followers alerted me by DM of the twitterbomb hashtag #TedCruzCampaignSlogans and to get my jokes lined up by 8 pm. It quickly got to the fifth spot in US trends and by today, it's reached #1. What follows below are some of my own noteworthy contributions.

    Sunday, March 22, 2015

    Good Times at Pottersville #27


    Tuesday, March 17, 2015

    Good Times at Pottersvlle, 3/17/15


    Saturday, March 14, 2015

    Good Times at Pottersville, 3/14/15

    (More funnies on this subject here.)

    Thursday, March 12, 2015

    Bad Moments in Postal History, #439

         Early last December I'd sent off my Christmas cards to dozens of my followers and contributors. This was one of them and it was returned to me just minutes ago by the postal (dis)service. Note what they did to it. Then note the motto at the top of the envelope it came in.
         The digit pointing to my name and address might as well have been the middle finger. The cocksuckers didn't even reimburse me for the stamp.

    Treasonous Little Freaks


     
    (By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari.)
          Among his many memorable phrases and bon mots, Hunter S. Thompson, the Godfather of liberal political blogging, once called George W. Bush a "treasonous little freak." HST had lived just long enough to see his old nemesis Richard Nixon, through that shifting Overton Window,  posthumously become a liberal through some political prestidigitation of the Far Right during the Bush II reign of error. The years 2001-2009 could arguably be called the "Gilded Dark Ages." It was a period of almost pornographic wealth for Wall Street and war profiteers and tightly-controlled anarchy in which even the slightest criticism of our fictional president (to quote Michael Moore) was considered tantamount to treason, with many seriously suggesting the ultimate penalty of death.
         One can only imagine what Dr. Thompson would've written about the nest of vipers known as the 114th Congress and its immediate predecessor. As good as I like to think I am, I'm 110% confident that America's greatest gonzo journalist would've slung words of pure vitriol on a par with hydrofluoric acid while biting countless cigarette holders in two.
         And the Republicans that are now running Congress thanks to tens of millions of lazy and uninformed voters and nonvoters, have proved once again that the proverbial barrel is deeper than anyone thought, with an infinite number of false bottoms. The letter to Iran written and signed by 47 Republicans in advance of a nuclear nonproliferation deal at the same time the GOP invited Netanyahu to address Congress is perhaps the greatest act of treason since Benedict Arnold.
         The suspicious thisclose timing between the two ought not be dismissed, either.
         Both acts of treason were designed to discredit and undermine President Obama, whose mini Cold War with Netanyahu's Israel has been long noted. The president had pointedly skipped the Prime Minister's speech last week and, before that, had already declined to meet with him during Netanyahu's visit to Washington this month. Considering America's sick fetish for protecting Israeli interests to the point of fighting proxy wars for them, defending genocide and illegal colonization of the West Bank and condemning Palestinians to live like second-class citizens at best in their own homeland, this is unprecedented. And this snubbing of the Zionist state of Israel could not go unanswered by Republicans.
         So these so-called statesmen decided to draft a letter in advance of the President's negotiations with Iran promising the lifting of sanctions in exchange for nuclear nonproliferation was drafted, signed off and sent to Iran's leadership.

    Don't Listen to the Muslim Usurper. Listen to Those Who Want to Nuke You Out of Existence
         This letter to Iran makes absolutely no sense from any viewpoint except if one considers racist-motivated treason an acceptable form of statecraft. One doesn't have to be a Juan Cole to know Iran is a very conservative Muslim nation in which there is no separation between church and state, in which their president is a mere figurehead posing as a more secular leader. Authority is everything in Iran's government and to oppose the Ayatollahs is to oppose Allah. So what is this message supposed to convey to Iran's leadership?
         "Loyal but principled opposition" aside, it shows the ruling party of our Legislative branch is at more than just stark odds with the leader of the Executive: It's working to undermine whatever effort made by our president to make the world a safer, more peaceful place. And this particular act of treason is far from the first made by a radical Republican Party that makes the ones in Nixon's time look like a Swedish hippie commune.
         They have lambasted the current president while he was abroad, a huge no-no in American politics. They have hamstrung him even when he adopts their ideas and initiatives. They have voted, at last count, 56 times to deny Americans quality, affordable health care even through the tepid ACA and GOP governors have cruelly blocked Medicaid expansion in their states for purely political purposes.
         The right wing has called him virtually every name in the book, had briefly floated the idea of not letting him fly on Air Force One, permission to deliver the State of the Union Address to Congress, vilified him for speaking to schoolchildren in spite of every President doing so and have threatened to secede from the union. One waits for the GOP to accuse Mr. Obama of cheating during the annual Easter Egg Roll and accusing the turkey he pardons every November of being an ISIS terrorist.
         It is, in short, the longest temper tantrum in the history of American politics.
         And it's embarrassing us to the point of the GOP even showing division in its once pig iron-tight ranks in light of this PR disaster. It has empowered the Iranian ayatollahs, unified the Democrats (which happens as often as a James Sensenbrenner diet) and has given the Republican brand a bigger black eye than ever.
         Most damaging, it shows that our government cannot be trusted either now or in the future as the GOP made note of the fact the President will be gone in less than two years while they will be around possibly for decades, that the next president could wipe out any agreement with Iran with one stroke of the pen and invalidated by a future Congress. If that was the message the Republican Party wished to convey, that they will stab Iran in the back as readily as it will our own president, then it's the only way this letter has succeeded.

    Wednesday, March 11, 2015

    Public Service Announcement

     
         I made mention of something yesterday among my many, many problems of late. Perhaps the most aggravating one was the virus to which I'd alluded. This is called "downloaditkeep", one of the most pernicious and stubborn viruses you'll ever see anywhere.
         Technically, it's not as harmful to your hard drive as, say, your classic Trojan virus but it can still lead you to attack sites. You'll know it by these signs:
         Your usually fast computer will suddenly start up slowly.
         Your desktop and even your operating system won't load.
         If you have Ad Block Plus as I do, it will bypass it virtually everywhere you go. Popup ads will suddenly start obscenely jiggling, sometimes you won't be able to block the images, much less the frames.
         Virtually every random word will be turned into a hyperlink leading you to a spam or attack site.
         Apparently, this piece of shit is as common as the dreaded Conficker virus I had a few years ago. I'd done simultaneous scans with Malwarebytes and Sophos Virus Removal Tool and it never finds it. I did a Norton scan today and it also did not find much less eradicate it.
         A lot of well-meaning but inevitably wrong nerds tell you to do the same thing: Open your Control Panel, go to "Programs and Features" and there your nemesis will be in plain sight, helpfully waiting to be uninstalled by you.
         No, it won't be there.
         Then a couple of hours ago, I went to a website and finally found a guy who knew what he was talking about. So what I'll do for you here is reproduce his instructions for removing Downloaditkeep from Mozilla Firefox, assuming you use that browser. Follow these instructions to the letter and they will work.

    For Mozilla Firefox
    1. Open Mozilla Firefox.
    2. Then navigate on top menu and click on Tools. It will show a drop-down list. Choose Add-ons to open the configuration window.
    3. Then click on Extensions. It will display the list of installed programs.
    4. Find the Ads by DownloadItKeep extension. Click on the remove button to uninstall it.
    5. To close the current window click on the X of Add-ons Manager tab.
    6. Then go to the address bar, type about:config. Then click on ‘I’ll be careful, I promise!’ if it show a warning “This might void your warranty!”.
    7. Then type the infection name in the search box. It will show the items which are modified by the infection. Right click on the modified preference and click on Reset to restore the original settings.
    8. Now you may close the window and restart the window.
          That should get rid of the problem. You won't have to risk downloading software from a third party or anything like that.

          Now let's get back to our regularly scheduled wingnuttery...

    Tuesday, March 10, 2015

    Greetings From the Weeds

    Hi, guys:
         I'm writing you from the weeds of the internet since I haven't had time to post in about two weeks. And if you're still monitoring my progress and/or care to know why, here are some reasons:
         I've just finished the final edit for Tatterdemalion, my historical thriller. Over the last week and a half, I've been researching appropriate literary agencies to whom to send this book in the hope that maybe, just maybe, more than half the time I'll get an apathetic form rejection letter sent to me from some barely-literate 22 year-old flunky right out of Smith or Oberlin. This sounds more exhaustive than you may think. I have to check to see if they're still in business, rep my genre, my subgenre, study submission guidelines, whether or not they even take submissions, if they do so by email, etc.
         I know most of the literary agencies out there but it still requires a shitload of research. In fact, I'd guess it takes at least an hour of that just to send out one book proposal. In the last week and a half, I've sent out 208. So do the math and chew on THAT.
         Anyway, since the line edit's finished, I'll upload the final version of my novel to my publisher's server first thing tomorrow and put it up for market regardless of what agents say (or don't say). And I'd be free and clear you'd think, right?
         Well, not exactly. I've been hit with a virus that puts up obscenely jiggling ads no matter where I go and Ad Block Plus has been rendered worthless. Just before this, Microsoft began stalking me (Yes, Bill Gates and not some proxy pretending to be in partnership with MS) has been literally stalking me on my own laptop and insisting that my OS is "counterfeit" and needs to be made legit before they shut down my own computer (Yes, those corporate douchebags can and have done that). Trying to rectify the situation has proved fruitless. They don't and won't care the OS I'm now using on my new/used Acer laptop ($200, purchased on Valentine's Day) was installed by the last asshole who owned it.
         Plus, the car's brakes went out not too long ago, costing me over $250, with another brake job looming ahead and the exhaust system's next, which means more headaches down the road. Adding to our financial woes are the last two sky-high gas bills that have practically put us in the poorhouse.
         And  the coup de grace, our biggest benefactor is retiring next month and will have to leave us high and dry. It'll be a struggle to come up with the rent much less the other $350 we'll need just to keep our heads above water.
         I know this is a lot to ask and is audacious since I haven't even posted for two weeks. But life's been thick as a brick and we just can't catch a break. Plus, Mrs. JP's 85 year-old Mom is seriously ailing and my better half is making some strident noises that she wants to go home before the old girl succumbs and each trip to Vero Beach costs us at minimum $400 (Don't forget, we live in central Mass).
         So if you have any spare change or a buck or two in the sugar jar, please consider making a donation to P'ville. As soon as I get these issues hammered out, I'll be back to blogging (for those of you who still follow me). But our backs are so hard up against the wall we can almost see the other side.

    Wednesday, February 25, 2015

    Ice Station Pottersville

         I believe I put this picture up last month but it's worth recycling. This is our 17 year-old car, Old Betsy, after we got the first of many, many snowstorms (the day after we got two and a half feet). I'm reusing this picture because it's perfectly emblematic of our financial difficulties of late. Not only has this particularly brutal winter been harsh on our gas heating bill (the next-to-last one was nearly $80), but the car itself has been problematic. Around the time of the first blizzard I had to have the brake lines on the driver side replaced, a job costing me over $250. The mechanic warned me the corroded brake lines on the passenger side will follow suit and indeed, the brakes are still feeling spongey.
         Not only that but annual car expenses such as the inspection sticker and excise taxes both came due at about the same time, which was another $80 out of my pocket. Since we're getting daily temperatures here in central Massachusetts well below freezing (with some nights dipping down to below zero, requiring I leave the heat on), that means our next gas bill won't be any picnic, either.
         To add to our burden, my old Lenovo laptop was getting so abominably slow, I had to bite the bullet and a buy a used Acer that I found on Craigslist that cost us another $200.
         I know I haven't been posting at all for the past week and, again, I apologize for that. But what little spare time I have after my daily and regular chores and so forth is being devoted to finishing the final line edit for Tatterdemalion.
         So if you see this and have some cha-ching to spare, please consider putting whatever you can spare in the Paypal kitty because we're having an awful rough time of it, a situation that won't improve once our one major benefactor retires in April. I hate to be a pain in the ass but once I get this line edit knocked out and re-sent to a literary agency in New York, I'll be able to free more time for the political blogging that you all rightly expect from me.
         But we really, desperately need help to get through this winter, especially if my brakes go out on me again and I have another $250+ repair bill to look forward to.

    Tuesday, February 17, 2015

    Security at a Price

    (Tip o' the tinfoil hat to reader CC.)
         (This is what crimps Al Franken's bunny ears and has his diaper all bunched up of late: The government and giant corporations spying on us after vacuuming up much of our income in the form of taxes and increasingly high fees and charges. This is more or less an exact copy of an email I'd sent to a faithful reader after he'd sent me this Daily Kos link and after you read it and of Senator Franken's Senate investigation, you'll never look at "smart TVs" the same way ever again.)
         This neither surprises nor shocks me. It's all too disturbingly easy to believe that these tech companies, as with the internet behemoths, gladly feed biometric and voice data to the NSA and whoever pays the highest price for it. And they DO get paid by the government. We pay them increasingly high rates for our cable, house and cell phones and internet and they rake in untold millions more by spying on us and selling the metadata and so forth to Uncle Sam. That's why, when I write a check to Verizon for my house phone, I've taken to writing "NSA spying" on the memo line on the check just to let them know I know about their scummy activities.
         I can see spying on terrorist and possible terrorist actors in the name of national security. I have absolutely no problem with that whatsoever. What I have a problem with is our government that vacuums up wholesale our private data without any disclosure, the corporations with which we do business doing it for a price, creating shifting rationales and packs of lies big enough to choke a T Rex to justify doing so and being disturbingly comfortable with turning our nation into a subtler version of Orwell's totalitarian police state. Then we go after the whistle blowers like Daniel Ellsberg, Assange, Wikileaks, Sibel Edmonds, Susan Lindauer, Chelsea Manning and Ed Snowden as if THEY committed crimes more egregious than our government has already committed and is still committing.
         And what's most disturbing of all is how many companies, media sources and private citizens are perfectly OK with this because we've been conned into believing that security is paramount above all else even at the expense of our 1st and 4th amendment rights that have long since been turned into conditional fucking privileges that, as far as I can see, will never even be earned or given back.
         And I think back on what Ben Franklin said about this: "Those who are willing to forgo liberty for security deserve neither."

    Friday, February 13, 2015

    Good Times at Pottersville, 2/13/15


    Monday, February 9, 2015

    Top 12 Assclowns of the GOP 2016 Presidential Field

         As the rest of Obama's lame duck presidency reaches its twilight, so begins the usual Pamplona of assclownery (or what some charitably refer to as the Republicans' jockeying for their party's attention in the next general election). As has been the case since time immemorial, the crop of conservatives is a massive political sideshow that would do PT Barnum proud. So, taking a page from my own Assclowns of the Week, crank up the Krazy Konservative Kalliope as I present your top 12 GOP Assclowns (plus one dishonorable mention) in the 2016 Republican presidential field.

    12) Ted Cruz
         Like his running buddy Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz is just two years into an unrelieved comical farce of an incumbency before setting his crossed eyes on the bigger prize of the presidency. One boggles at the statements that would be made by Cruz's father Rafael as he continues tacking like an ancient mariner on the campaign trail to escape the men with the ice cream suits and butterfly nets.

         Once shut down the government with a Dr. Seuss book. Climate change denialist who was then last month made the chairman of a Senate science subcommittee overseeing NASA's budget. Is so painfully, burningly stupid, once compared net neutrality to ObamaCare on Twitter. Is so nakedly, brazenly power-hungry and egotistical, even the senior members of his party can't stand him.

    11) Bobby Jindal
         LA Governor Bobby Jindal (R-Exorcist) made waves this past week for an unofficial portrait painted by one of his constituents that essentially made him look like a Special Needs Rick Santorum. It was a portrait that seems to lack a certain something, namely pigment, according to some seditious liberal naysayer who had the effrontery to point this out. Undeterred, one of Jindal's flaks fired back on Twitter and called the guy who brought up this fact a "race baiter" before showing us what the real official portrait looked like.

         Oh, yeah, Kyle, much better. No Michael Jackson action going on there
         A typical Republican, Jindal's busy sneering at Obama and Hillary and basically sticking his nose where it doesn't belong while his own state's economy is in the shitter and looking at a budgetary shortfall of over a billion and a half dollars. As Jindal's the worst thing to hit Louisiana since Katrina, we can comfortably count on the rest of the nation's resurgent racism to ensure the only way he'll ever see the inside of the White House is in a tour group.

    10) Mike Huckabee
         One of eight former or current GOP governors to make the grade, Huckabee makes the #10 spot just for the sheer stratospheric level of delusion that America would ever want him to be our Commander in Chief. Is such an uptight prick, once wrote an article at 17 condemning dancing and everyone who ever attended a dance or was part of "a choom gang." Essentially, as with his overall presidential ambitions, Huckabee's trying to light a fire with wet logs that go back to the 50's, tackling non-starters such as gay marriage, Beyonce and, yes, dancing. Perhaps it's true that he's just trying to drum up attention for his new book, "I Am a Slow Motion Puffer Fish". But Huckabee seems bound and determined to drag the GOP back into the 17th century at a time when the Republicans aren't willing to go back beyond the 18th. Jesus tap dancing Christ, this bloated god bag makes Ronald Reagan look like a fucking futurist.

    9) Chris Cristie
         The Ralph Kramden of American politics, New Jersey Governor Chris Cristie (R-Gridlock) has elevated loathing and detestation of the 99%, educators  and his many critics to an art form. With either blissful ignorance or sheer vindictiveness, presided over the biggest traffic jam in the history of the GWB, one brought about by his own aides; spent over $1,000,000 of New Jersey taxpayer money to hire a legal firm to clear him of wrongdoing in another scandal; currently the subject of a massive FBI investigation; has so thoroughly butt-fucked New Jersey's economy that he reneged on $2.4 billion in pension payouts and essentially stole it; stole another billion dollars from New Jersey's public schools to hand to the 1% while firing nearly 4500 teachers; waddled to a Koch brothers retreat to which, of course, the press wasn't invited, and, purely by coincidence, immediately afterward pulled New Jersey out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Easily the most corrupt non-national politician since Huey Long.
         Was re-elected by a landslide, with a third of "Democrats" voting for him.

    8) Rick Perry
         Texas Governor Rick Perry demonstrates how he deals with lobbyists and special interest groups.
         Ricky Retardo's new glasses make him look smarter than he really is in three ways but he'll be damned if he can remember the third one. Indisputably the stupidest Governor in American history, quite a feat in the state of Texas. Makes predecessor George W. Bush look like Adlai Stevenson by conspicuous relief. Once threatened Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's life. Threatened to secede from the Union over Obama's stimulus package despite lacking constitutional authority to do so. Once bragged about killing a coyote for looking at him. Thinks indictment for abusing the power of his office qualifies him to be President. Indisputably the stupidest Governor in American history. Oh, did I say that already? Well, it bears repeating.
    7) Scott Walker
         The cock puppet of Charles and David Koch, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker first burst on the scene like a rancid ass boil by stripping almost all public unions of collective bargaining rights. Once removed all doubt who he really works for by taking a call from a blogger posing as David Koch. During the call, Walker openly floated the idea of dispatching agent provocateurs to break up the protests in Madison. Nonetheless, cranial hypothermia and a shitload of right wing out of state money saw Walker victorious after being just the third Governor in American history to face a recall election. Proudly mired in countless Republican scandals, including the Wisconsin Club for Growth (which obviously doesn't include jobs) and John Doe and has an infallible instinct for hiring future jailbirds. Unquestionably, this cross-eyed goober is one of the worst and stupidest Governors in US history, which is a great reason for Republicans to want to place in his hands the national Treasury and our nuclear launch codes.

    6) Marco Rubio
         A first year senator, the GOP gave Marco Rubio one job and one job only: To rebut the President's State of the Union Address with the Republican point of view. What the nation got, instead, was a Charlie McCarthy/Edgar Bergen monologue minus the ventriloquist. Such a political and intellectual flyweight, he gives Ricky Ricardo gravitas. Ted Cruz-lite wanted an embargo on Cuba and whined when he didn't get it. Biggest contribution to American culture is in preparing for the granddaddy of all comb-overs. Cynically uses his Latino roots for partisan advantage except, unlike Mitt Romney, is actually Latino. Admits that, while "I'm not a scientist, man," proceeds to tell scientists where they're wrong on climate change and other scientiffy things. Florida could vote in a 30 year-old pink flamingo on Rick Scott's lawn and no one would notice.

    5) Ben Carson
    Dr. Ben Carson speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland, March 8, 2014. 
    "Yooouuu... dirty welfare recipient..."
         Of all the lunatics on this list, Ben Carson is perhaps the most dangerous because right wingers take him the most seriously. As proof of this, just recently Carson was placed on the SPLC's "Extremist Watch List" mainly for his virulent opposition to gay marriage.
         Here are some more facts about Ben Carson that show his breathtaking hypocrisy, courtesy of Lee Branen and sourced at Wonkette:
         Oh, but Benny has a reason for why he and Mom rose from their impoverished status after suckling on the evil libr'al welfare teat: They don't make moochers like they used to. You see, back in Carson's day, people weren't boasting about being on public assistance and benefiting from Affirmative Action like they are now.
         Recently trashed the Founding Fathers by comparing them to ISIS and says God told him to tell us about His flat tax rate (999 a la Herman Cain?). Claims liberals are the real Nazis. Has to remind Republicans to not think of him as crazy. As with liberals and Obama, is desperately loved by Teabaggers and other white supremacists to prove how post racial they are. While watching Django Unchained, probably cried when Stephen got his ass blown back to Africa.

    4) Michele Bachmann
         Yes, the Girl With the 1000 Mile Stare is gone but not forgotten. Even including Steve King and Slipknot, is the craziest thing to ever come out of Iowa. Came in 6th in 2011 Iowa GOP caucus despite buying most of the straw poll votes (still getting less than 30% of the votes). In 2009, encouraged supporters to slit their wrists if ObamaCare was ratified. Hid in the bushes while spying on a pro gay rights rally (while closeted husband Marcus was getting phone numbers for "research purposes"). Vacuums in high heels. Takes revisionist American history to stratospheric levels. Her grasp on science is just as firm. Is more passionately opposed to census takers than Hannibal Lecter. Also passionate about fluoridated water and light bulbs that never go off over her pointy head. Anti-vaxxer and allround right wing nut bag who voted to shut down the government that gave her and Marcus hundreds of thousands in subsidies for their Wisconsin farm.
         Despite having less on the ball than your typical basement-dwelling conspiracy theorist churning out mimeographed newsletters, gerrymandering made her a four term representative of the 6th district, making that part of Minnesota the Land of 1000 Idiots.

    3) Rick Santorum
         Despite Pope Frothy the First getting kicked out of the Senate after just one term and proving his electile dysfunction during the last two presidential elections, the other Ricky Retardo sallies froth forth for his third unsuccessful bid from his metaphorical balcony at St. Peter's Square. I shit you not, this Papist peckerhead used to be a registered lobbyist for Vince McMahon and the former WWF. Senator Man on Dog once equated gay marriage with beastiality and that the additional number of gay couples getting married in the 37 states in which gay marriage is legal will result in fewer marriages. More likely than not has a poster of Savonarola in his bedroom.

    2) Jeb Bush
         Currently, the presumptive frontrunner in the GOP Pamplona of assclowns, the chowerheaded scion of George and Barbara Bush proves that red is the new purple. That is, the hind leg-chewing radical right wing faction still vainly trying to churn Ron Paul's withered penis into tumescence thinks that Jeb Bush is a Goddamned moderate (once called "a progressive" by Glenn Beck). A decade ago, he once tried to shove a feeding tube down Terri Schiavo's throat until stopped by a Florida court. In 2000, commissioned Katherine Harris to purge tens of thousands of voters from the rolls with the help of ChoicePoint, essentially stealing the presidency for his idiot older brother. Rear-ended the Florida public school system by expanding charter school vouchers. Even his own mother doesn't want him in the White House.

    1) Sarah Palin
           The ultimate political cock tease, Sarah Palin's been flirting with a presidential run since she renamed the McCain-Palin campaign the "Palin-McCain campaign." Was such a horrible running mate, the McCain camp actually floated the idea of not letting her be sworn in as VP if their man won. Recent speech at Teabagger shindig in Iowa proved that without her teleprompter and notes on her hand, her head is full of right wing bumper stickers put through a garbage disposal. In fact, that speech was so horrible, even Republicans broke their necks running for the exits. Trying to encompass this woman's stupidity and ignorance in a couple of paragraphs is like trying to stuff 100 pounds of bologna into a two pound bag. In just six short years, sent women's rights back to the days of the Sumerians and Annunaki.

    Dishonorable mention: Mitt Romney
          As of press time, this flat-eyed sociopath's officially out of the race, having come full circle from what he'd said five months ago that his "time had come and gone." But knowing "Where the Wind Blows" Willard, that could change faster than it took for Seamus to piss and shit on the Romney vacation mobile. Only qualification to be Chief Executive is that he's the perfect hybrid between a game show host and white America's perception of what a president should look like. Only appeal to right wing voters was the simple fact he wasn't Obama. Republican voters reported in exit polls that voting for Romney gave them an aftertaste like sucking on a plastic golf tee. Cynically tried to pass for Mexican even though he's about as Mexican as Taco Bell. Once claimed Dad marched with Dr. King despite no evidence proving it. Barely restrained harpy wife Ann claimed they were "living on the edge" despite being able to cash in stocks. Claims he was a job creator despite sending over 100,000 American jobs to the Third World. Once viciously attacked a gay fellow student over his hair. Next thing you know, this polymer-based android will be claiming he actually has traces of human DNA.

    All Time Classics

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