Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Only a Proven Loser can Keep the GOP from Losing

I'm having a good laugh about this talk of installing Paul Ryan as GOP candidate through a "brokered" convention. Ryan didn't even carry Wisconsin for Mitt Romney. All the arguments being made in favor of Ryan were made verbatim about Jeb before his campaign started, and we see how that is working out. There isn't real appetite for establishment candidates among Republican voters.

If something technical were done to deny Trump (or Cruz) the nomination the backlash against the GOP establishment would go nuclear, so Ryan would get harangued daily by populist GOP media (not to mention MSNBC, NYT, etc.), making his eventual defeat extra ignominious. Whomever gets the nomination loses to Hillary anyway, it is just a question of whether the establishment finds a way to feel good about their loser.

As for Ryan's new beard, as sociologist Jimmy the Greek noted, women don't trust candidates with facial hair. Ryan would probably make a decent personal trainer, but is out of his depth in any other field. He won't stop Trump from combing over the competition.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Mike Payne Makes His Important Voice Heard Yet Again

I appear on the 200th episode of JL Cauvin's Righteous Prick podcast. We lose our religion over politics and religion (and comedy).

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Sad Clowns are Unhappy Coincidences

"Life is a tragedy when see in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot." - Famous Silent Era Hack

The consensus on comedy is that comedy comes from pain. No comedian can escape an "in-depth" interview" without some probing into whatever tragedy allegedly energized his funny bone.

Many comedians are screw-ups and emotional cripples, but this is more correlation than causation. If tragedy spawns comedy, why didn’t Vietnam produce a generation of vet vaudeville? Did Japanese comedy experience a renaissance in the wake of Hiroshima? Most people become twitchy, uncommunicative disasters after tragedy. The trauma leads to PTSD, not SNL.

The sad clown image is merely another case of artists mythologizing their lives. Comedians are self-absorbed, perhaps second only to actors in that department, so it isn't surprising they promote and believe this narrative. Unfortunately, the broad acceptance of it has caused a proliferation of godawful therapy comics. Believing your sad sack essence inspires creativity is more comforting than admitting you're a perennial wet blanket. Needing catharsis doesn’t mean you have the ability to make whatever pain you have entertaining (just ask a shrink).

Blues music is also linked to sadness, and yes, some blues singers had horrible lives, but if Howlin' Wolf didn't have natural ability, no amount of Delta angst would have done the trick. Ironically, blues singers are probably asked less about the tragedy underlying their art than comics, and when a person without talent tries the blues, everyone trashes him. No one would ever claim that just because someone has pain he doesn't need musical talent to play the blue. It is symptomatic of how little appreciated comedy talent is that people actually think: "Oh, you had a rough year?. You should turn it into a one-man show!" If everyone who grew up in a dysfunctional, booze soaked home could suddenly sing the blues there would be no space for any other music - though karaoke nights would be a lot more entertaining (and less tragic).

Pain doesn't come with charisma or writing ability. No outside intervention or grief can turn a dud into a laugh riot. Being an architect is as much art as it is engineering, but because architects don’t normally behave like brain damaged children there is no prevailing myth about the crying architect.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Is Donald Trump the New Wendell Wilkie?

To the horror of many who buy into the sacrosanctness of elections, the Donald Trump phenomenon hasn't fizzled out. Although one might compare him to recent previous businessmen who ran - Herman Cain and Mitt Romney - I think a better comparison can be made to the 1940 Republican Presidential nominee Wendell Wilkie.


Both had business backgrounds (though there were no such things as Wilkie Ties, Wilkie Vodka, Wilkie Water)

Both not supported by establishment Republicans

Both were former Democrats

Both not particularly religious (Trump talks about being Presbyterian, but when you hear the word Trump, church doesn't come to mind...exact maybe confession...)

Both were big talkers who energized people, in sharp contrast to their stodgy competition (if third chins could talk, they'd be Jeb Bush)

Although both were "outsiders" who rode populist waves, both were obviously not salt of the earth people (Wilkie's nomination was said to come "right from the grass roots of every country club in America.")

Wilkie was running Roosevelt's third term, Trump is running against a potential third Bush or Clinton term.

Both had quite crazy hair.

Wilkie and Trump aren't a perfect match, of course. The worst strike against Wilkie - his flip-flopping and eventual tacit embrace of Roosevelt's policies - are closer to Mitt "not a Reagan Republican except when I need to be seen as a Reagan Republican, pay no attention to Romneycare" Romney.

In the end Wendell Wilkie became very unpopular. I think Trump is headed for the same fate.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Joining the Mile High Club is Less Risky than Joining in Holy Matrimony

I think most of us have points where we act as though statistics alone should conquer all fears, when the truth is they seldom do. If simple standalone stats convinced people, no one would have fallen for the War on Terror - no politician would get elected if voters took stats to heart.

Which brings me to the fear of flying, the only fear guaranteed to get you pelted with smarm-covered stats the moment you bring it up. When you confess you're scared to fly, not only do you get the shopworn "It is much riskier to travel by car and here are some stats I haven't verified and couldn't calculate if my life depended on it," but you're forced to endure this condescension from people who blissfully pursue risks with much worse odds, all the while denying how much risk they're taking. People who get married, for instance.

Almost half of all marriages end in divorce, so the married person claiming that stats should persuade you is himself ignoring the very ominous stats stacked against him. He should be much more worried about his wedding than the flight he'll take to get there. Yes, maybe it is stupid to get nervous on a plane given how low the disaster odds are, but it is far stupider to enter into something with nearly even odds of disaster, where total financial ruin is just a coin toss away.

The odds against a marriage working are a lot like the safety demonstrations you receive at the beginning of a flight - no one pays attention.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

China Even Bootlegs American Laws!

Remember all the (often libertarian) China bulls who were telling us about a decade ago that China is more business-friendly than the U.S. Remember hearing them say the Chinese had observed and learned from the mistakes of the fading West, "money goes where it is treated best" and all that? Yeah, about that...

China’s securities regulator took the drastic step of banning shareholders with stakes of more than 5% from selling shares for the next six months in a bid to halt a plunge in stock prices that is starting to roil global financial markets.

It almost reminds me of something...oh right, that time in 2008 when America did the same thing.

I thought vibrant China had learned from calcified America's mistakes and was doing an Opposite George on all things red, white, and blue. Apparently what they learned is how to repeat them.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Why Twitter has made Vice Presidents Irrelevant

To the extent that federalism still exists - and it's a reach to say it still does - social media is rapidly poaching what survives of it. Indiana recently passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Alabama recently passed its Freedom of Religion in Marriage Protection Act, and the national social media apparatus put so much pressure on those governments the laws were quickly defanged by the online maelstrom.

This phenomenon is only going to grow more powerful.

For all the talk of dysfunction in politics and the country being more divided than ever, there is an airtight consensus on the social issues among the nation's power brokers. This has been proven time and again since sites like Twitter and Gawker grew from novelties to sniper rifles. Doesn't matter how traditional Indiana might want to be. Its officials and businesses cannot withstand the instantaneous human wave attacks.

So with federalism fully dead and the national consensus flattening any differences from state to state, the importance of having a VP from a swing state is null and void. No matter how popular he is at home, if he dissents the coast-to-coast digital derision will soon make him a goat at home. You can select Marco Rubio as VP thinking you'll get Florida, but his stances on abortion and the Indiana law would swirl around his head like radioactive gnats. Every little gaffe on the campaign trail would be traced back to those stances and votes, probably on a daily basis. The national media/social media scrutiny (with power broker reinforcement) would prevent him from carrying Florida for whomever the presidential candidate was. A Jeb/Rubio ticket might carry Florida, but otherwise no chance.

Ryan didn't carry Wisconsin for Romney, Walker wouldn't do any better, Portman wouldn't deliver Ohio for anyone (voted against partial birth abortion for starters), Santorum wouldn't deliver Pennsylvania. The list goes on. The intersection of the power broker consensus with the cost free bully pulpit of social media makes it impossible to step outside whatever this afternoon's standard is for acceptable debate (don't get comfortable, it will change by dinner time).

Having someone like Perry or Cruz as VP (not that it would happen) isn't necessary to help carry Texas because Texas is still a sort of American Switzerland; remaining relevant even as it stands somewhat outside the consensus. This won't last forever of course.

The power broker consensus is making it less and less possible to "vote with your feet." Any openings for state-level legislative arbitrage are pretty much gone. In three or four years you won't even need the caveat of "pretty much."

The old adage was that all politics is local. Social media (and political correctness) means now all politics is national.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Fast Times at Living Room High

I am biased in favor of parents who home school their kids. Government schools have always been suspect, and with their having become part prison, part social engineering petri dish, now there is truly nothing to recommend them.


The way home school advocates tout the superior results of home schooled kids is a little simplistic. The very act of home schooling is a vote of no confidence in public schools. And while public schools may be incompetent, even if they weren't - of course a home schooled kid is likely to perform better. He is being tutored one-on-one

Even the most strident pro-government school zealots tout smaller classroom size as an advantage. What could be more advantageous than having a classroom consisting of your kitchen table and (maybe) your siblings?

One-on-one instruction is better for most everyone. Just ask anyone who has taken a foreign language class vs. someone who hired a personal instructor. I bet some of those underperforming public school students would see their results improve too if their teachers focused on them alone.

Monday, April 20, 2015

If you aren't afraid of mimes, you should be

A very short weird tale I wrote - The Discussion of Mimes - has been produced as a podcast over at Hope you enjoy. And tell your friends. And tell your friends to send me money. And tell your friends to put me in their wills.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Alcohol - Mankind's Best Friend

Ever notice that when people quit drinking, they always replace it with something grandiose; martial arts, crazy adrenaline sports, zealous religion (including zealous AA religion).

People don't do this with other addictions. No one takes up MMA just to keep from getting beaten up by Joe Camel.

Drinking is so great it is nearly impossible to replace it with anything else. Certainly there is no replacement as cheap, convenient, or quick.

It is cheap: whether it is Dom Perignon or PBR, you still get a buzz. Even expensive whiskey or wine is still cheaper than therapy (and more likely to improve your mood).

It is convenient: you can buy it almost everywhere.

It is quick: only takes a few small sips to feel better about problems at work, your flight being delayed, the person who dumped you. Talk about instant gratification. A counseling session lasts 45 minutes. You can down two life affirming Smirnoff sips in 45 seconds.

Booze is the gift that keeps on giving. You can't go skydiving every day. You can drink a glass of wine every night.

I saw Bobby Dall, bass player for Poison and former drunk, talking on Behind the Music about replacing drinking with playing for 10,000 people. That's great when that's your alternative, but for the rest of us, to get a rush the choice is either drinking and feeling invincible or riding an exercise bike for an hour. No surprise that Guinness wins that battle.

This irreplaceability is the greatest possible advertising for alcohol. You don't need all those beer commercials with hot chicks and Jeeps. All you have to say is "Budweiser - You'll miss it so much you'll climb Everest."

They call drinking a disease, but really, the disease is life. Drinking is the cure.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

It Takes Pseudo-Science to Sell the Sweet Science

Boxing is the most dangerous and dramatic sport of all, yet for some reason boxing is the only sport where the athletes have to give themselves nicknames to make the sport sound more dangerous and dramatic. Names like The Bronx Bull, The Hispanic Causin' Panic, Lights Out, Hitman, Boom Boom, Touch of Sleep, The Snuff Film Director (OK, I made that one up). There have been no less than 65,000 fighters who've used some variation of the nickname "Sugar."

But really, shouldn't it be the wimpier sports that need nicknames to heighten the drama?


Rory "Don't Ask about His Backstory" McIlroy

Tiger "Left Little Red Riding Hood dying in the" Woods

Figure skating:

"Battling" Brian Boitano

Kristi "Yo Mama" Yamaguchi

Tonya Harding...actually, she's the one figure skater who already IS scary.


Grapplin' Gary Kasparov

Bobby "The Fatal Flank" Fischer

Not only does boxing evidently need nicknames, but the fighters have to stage fake fights at press conferences to build up hype for their real rights. Without fake punches as part of the buildup no one will pay attention when the genuine punches start getting thrown. And the antics leading up to those fake press conference fights are only half a notch above pro-wrestling story-lines.

Michael Jordan didn't have to pretend to hate John Stockton's wife to generate hype for the Bulls-Jazz Finals. Montana didn't have to pelt Elway with a football to get people to watch the Super Bowl. It is a testament to how peculiar MAN is that fighting, the oldest and most primal sport of all, can't just be allowed to speak for itself.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Why the various "Republican saviors" won't save anything

The Republican contenders for 2016 have already been picked by the media. Who is going to take on Hillary, the pundits wonder? With the current international political turmoil - Mideast, Russia, etc. - the media tells us a Republican hawk will have plenty to run on. I can't tell if the media is actually that detached from the facts or they just need to create some phony suspense about 2016 so that people will keep paying attention to them.

Foreign policy matters very, very, very little to Americans. To understand foreign policy requires understanding that there are such things as foreign countries, and that is a tall order for most Americans (including so-called "political junkies"). Obama has merrily continued many Bushian military blunders and launched a few of his own. Most Americans aren't even aware of these debacles, and those who are only care if they identify as Republican. As for the "it's the economy, stupid" chestnut: NO IT ISN'T, STUPID. Social media has helped make the "social issues" the only issues that motivate people. Everyone, Republican or Democrat, is now a values voter. Even economic issues are now framed in terms of demographics.

With all that said, below is a list of why the various Republican contenders cannot win. The moment any of them ascend towards lasting relevance the policies/comments detailed below will go from media headlines to social media blitzkriegs.

Why Scott Walker won't be President:

Wisconsin governor Scott Walkers signs abortion bill requiring ultrasound

Why Rand Paul won't be President:

Discussion of Civil Rights Bills with Rachel Maddow

Why Rick Perry won't be President:

Court upholds Texas abortion law, closing 13 clinics

Why Chris Christie won't be President:

New Jersey Defunds Planned Parenthood

Why Mike Pence won't be President:

Why Marco Rubio won't be President:

These liabilities alone guarantee none of these "contenders" can win California, Massachusetts (all of New England except maybe New Hampshire and even that "Live free or die" state looks unpromising for Republicans), New York, Connecticut, New Jersey (yes, New Jersey - Chris Christie is going nowhere), Illinois. and Pennsylvania. Already that makes a Democratic victory almost inevitable. Presidents aren't decided by popular vote, and the only big red electoral state is Texas. All the other biggies are pretty well sewn up for Democrats regardless of the candidate. There will never be another pro-life (or even socially conservative) president, no matter how many bleach-toothed "electable" Republican messiahs the media tries to gussy up.

You might wonder why I didn't mention candidate Ted Cruz. Ted Cruz won't get elected because, well, he's Ted Cruz.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Do Hawkish Presidents Make Other Countries Dovish?

The last 18 months have been tough on Mr. Obama. His foreign policy seems to be taking nothing but left hooks to the liver.

Many of the 2016 GOP candidates have launched their campaigns by telling everyone how unlike Obama they will be on foreign policy. "The President is weak!" so the narrative goes.

I hate to defend a politician, but back when megahawk Bush was in office, Russia still aggressed outside its borders - anyone remember the 2008 Georgia crisis? Bush tsked-tsked Putin, and then presidential candidate McCain threw out plenty of harsh rhetoric. And it wasn't all talk; W. Bush had spent eight years throwing soldiers and bombs at various "evildoers." None of those displays of aggression kept Putin in check.

If anything, the War in Iraq showcased the flaws of interventionism; it showed a weak U.S. If Reagan had gotten mired in prolonged conflicts as stupid at the Second Iraq Invasion, would he be remembered as having "won the Cold War?" Bush's adventurism showed a U.S. that once again couldn't win a war of containment (containing communism in Vietnam and containing terrorism in Iraq) what exactly was Putin supposed to fear?

Allegedly wimpy Obama attacked Libya (now a failed state) without authorization, another Rubicon moment in a long list of them. He also didn't hesitate to intervene in Pakistan and Yemen (now a failed state), This didn't keep Putin or anyone else from doing what most politicians do; intervene abroad to create a "strong leader" narrative at home. The fact that Putin flouted the world under both "War on Terror" Bush and "My Red Line Keeps Moving" Obama probably tells us something about assuming a tough-guy president will necessarily convince other world leaders to play nice.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Medicine, Media, and Monogamy don't Mix

Thanks to the safer world in which we live, life expectancy keeps climbing. Once the world goes Kurzweil, who knows how long we'll hang around.

This spike in life expectancy doesn't bode well for the already stooped, arthritic, and tremoring institution of marriage. In the old days, loving someone forever meant loving him/her until about 65. Now you have to limp through it until at least 85. It's true that people aren't getting married as young, but getting married at 32 instead of 24 still means today's married folk have to tolerate their "soulmate" for 12, 13, 14, 15 extra years to make it to "forever." Not strangling someone for 40 years is a lot easier than keeping your hands off their throat for 55.

Modern medicine has also greatly improved quality of life. Today a man of 55 can physically er, perform in ways he couldn't a generation ago, and thanks to the ubiquity of divorce, he now has a deep talent pool of divorcees to target. When you're a vigorous 55 and can pull a 40-year-old eager to have someone lie to her about how beautiful she still is, that "forever" vow you made to your now musty 55-year-old bride feels like a belly flop into the River Styx.

A lot of women talk about liking older men. That's acceptable when you're 28 and he's 40. But what happens when you're 53 and he's 65. Suddenly the allure of an older man isn't so alluring, particularly when you know you're going to be watching him decay for a couple more decades. Forever suddenly feels like the kind of forever you complain about at the DMV.

Thanks to dating sites and Facebook, it's never been easier to meet someone new. A 55-year-old divorced person can hop back in the game with a few mouse clicks; no embarrassing 50+ dance nights at your local community center. You can point and click at a wide range of partners your age and start the second (or third or fourth or fifth) stage of your romantic life.

The power of that very media is another marriage killer. There are now so many forms of communication; texts, email, constant cell phone access, which means non-stop opportunity for marital misunderstandings, words said in heat, and just plain overexposure to your now never disconnected lover. Everyone is just one unfortunate auto-complete away from relationship oblivion.

Medicine is only getting better, and technology is putting us in touch with ever more people (potential sex partners). None but a very select few can tolerate a sixty-year marriage. Given that the only people who left who take their religion seriously are Mormons and Muslims, the "forever" marriage vow will soon make even priests laugh out loud. In the future, the only way a couple will be able to last until death do us part is to hire a hitman (probably through social media).

Friday, February 20, 2015

The latest audio genius from Mike Payne

Enjoy my third appearance on the great JL Cauvin's podcast. Topics include 50 Shades of Grey, porn, puritanism, daddy porn, "cool girls," and Axl Rose. You can see how these things go together.

Hope you laugh...

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Impressions Aren't Necessarily Satire (or funny)

In light of the recent 40th anniversary of Saturday Night Live, I wanted to make a quick distinction: doing an impression of someone isn't necessarily satire.

Dana Carvey was so funny as an impressionist that the entire show became mostly about repeating the tics of the person being impersonated. Any urge to satirize the person was diluted.

When Chevy Chase did his Gerald Ford impressions, such as the joke about Ford in a debate: "I was told there would be no math," he was also commenting on who Gerald Ford was. Carvey saying "wouldn't be prudent" every week for four years wasn't satirizing George Bush; it was simply doing an impression of him.

The Colbert Report was satire; Colbert was amalgamating and projecting the essence of Bill O'Reilly, Hannity, etc. If he just wanted to do an impression, he could have just shouted Pinhead! over and over again.

What Carvey did with Bush (and what Tina Fey did with Palin) was at best a caricature. Still takes talent to do it well, but it isn't satire. If all it took to be a satirist was impersonation, parrots would be the greatest satirists in the animal kingdom. Come to think, most pet shops are funnier than SNL...

Saturday, January 10, 2015

The Many Colors of the Hypocrisy Rainbow

US Sen Rubio Sees New Hope for Venezuela Sanctions

[T]he lawmaker said more action is needed to punish President Nicolas Maduro's government.

"I hope we can achieve something much stronger than what the White House has done so far," Rubio, speaking in Spanish, told journalists.

Republican (and Democratic pundits) have been in love with Florida Senator Marco Rubio for a long time. He can bring new voters to the party. He can show the nation that the Republican party can be a party of inclusion! His last name ends in a vowel!

You'll notice no one blazoning Rubio bothers highlighting his policy platform. That's because his platform is a carbon copy of the pinker Republicans he is supposed to be the antidote to.

Rubio tows the party line on abortion.

Tows the party line on minimum wage

Tows the party line on domestic surveillance.

Tows the party line on gay marriage.

Same foreign policy as rich old Anglo Romney. As you've seen with his views on sanctioning Venezuela, or with staying tough on Cuba, his, uh, roots haven't softened his tone on engagement with Latin America.

So what makes him so different and refreshing? He's olive-ish. It is as cynical as that. Take a candidate who regurgitates everything Romney says, give him a tan and suddenly The Content of His Character takes a backseat (several rows behind Rosa Parks) to The Color of His Skin.

If the difference isn't race, what is the difference? A losing platform said in Spanish is still a losing platform.

As much as the Establishment Left accuses the Establishment Right of using racial whistle words, when it comes to unambiguous ethnic chauvinism, the Establishment Left talks more tribalism than a Jerry Springer Klan guest. The only reason Rubio, a clone of the "too white" Romney is a darling is because of his ethnicity.

The Left regularly asserts (with sometimes hilarious accuracy) that fierce "family values" advocates are secretly gay. You don't need x-ray vision to see that the fiercest "anti-racism" police are often the most race obsessed people of all.

Friday, January 2, 2015

The Girl Who Probably Despised Dragon Tattoos

Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged is easily the most famous libertarian novel of all time, and if you take anti-welfare state/laissez-faire regulation to be conservative viewpoints, you could also call it the most successful "conservative" novel of all time. This despite the fact that it is over 1,000 pages long, is full of l-o-o-o-o-ng philosophical passages, and isn't a staple of school curriculums.

I'm thinking of this because I just turned the last page of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which reads like it was written by Tori Amos in the throes of an Adderall binge (though it certainly isn't a bad read). It has passages that are fairly unapologetic didacticism; all from a left-wing point of view. I'm a pretty avid fiction reader, and I cannot think of many right-wing/libertarian equivalents. Rarely do you encounter any contemporary fiction (or much past fiction, for that matter), particularly anything from a major publisher, that offers any alternative to the Progressive Consensus innate to nearly all editors, book reviewers, and literary professors (though they fancy this consensus to be obscure and rebellious). Maybe Tom Wolfe's Bonfire of the Vanities; not a manifesto by any stretch, but it does at least lampoon some progressive hobby-horses. Maybe some of Robert Heinlein's novels*?

So if you're shopping for a gift for a nephew or granddaughter, and you're a conservative or libertarian leaning person, what exactly do you have to choose from? You have to stretch your brain to make even a short list, and if you're not a major fiction consumer, you could easily be unaware of the existence of writers like Heinlein.

Probably the only libertarian/conservative novel that is consistently on people's tongues is Atlas Shrugged (or Rand's The Fountainhead). Maybe that is part of the explanation for its truly astounding success; it has no competitors.

*Orwell doesn't count; everyone thinks Animal Farm and 1984 are about the people they disagree with.