Friday, November 29, 2013
Do you know why people are having to go on strike today? Because there is no labor movement in this country anymore. There are unions, but they have greatly diminished power. There are workers being exploited precisely because there is no threat that they will form unions and get better pay and more days off.
Let's hope this turns around.
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
This is not good.
Women everywhere are now going to start using drugs every day because of this allegation, and that's just plain wrong.
I have a hard time trying to gin up enough interest in this case because, one, it involves super rich people being intrinsically self-obsessed with themselves and because the allegation comes from one of the great douchebags of the modern era.
If Nigella Lawson really did that many drugs, why is she still alive and how does she look like she does?
It is unfair to whores everywhere to call Joe Lieberman a whore for money. He is simply a hypocrite and a shill and a man without any principles, plus he needs the cash.
The Democratic Party shot itself in the foot and in the ass at the same time when it allowed Al Gore to pick this man to be his running mate in 2000. Yes, I do think John Edwards was as bad, if not worse, for the party as Joe but nobody, and I mean nobody, can turn on their own like Lieberman, especially if there's a dollar to be made.
There is no reason why a grocery store should be open on Thanksgiving Day. In fact, the only things that should be open are gas stations and emergency rooms. I can remember when it was a given that stores would be closed on certain holidays. No one should expect a grocery store, a mall, or a large retail store to be open on Thanksgiving Day.
If you can't organize your life around the idea that there are going to be days when you can't spend money and shop, then maybe that's a life skill that you need to acquire. There are people who have to work two jobs and shift work and things of that nature. I'm not saying that a grocery store being closed on Thanksgiving is the end of the world or anything, and I know it can be inconvenient. But here's the point--the damned things are already open 24 hours a day. Retail stores are adopting an Amazon.com mentality--always be ready for the dollar that appears, day or night, every minute of every day of every year. But, come on. This is out of hand.
They are building a Whole Foods where I live. The people who will work there can look forward to next year when they will have to work on Thanksgiving and probably all of the holidays. At what point do you stop chasing dollars and start to realize that people need a certain measure of quality of life?
The "pardoning" of the Thanksgiving turkey every year is outdated and gimmicky. It's a tradition that should be done away with. No one reasonably expects that a fully grown turkey will somehow survive into old age and live in the wild, free from worry and the hatchet.
We gave up turkey fifteen years ago. That's fifteen birds we haven't killed. Now, we have killed off some cheese and some enchilada sauce, so we're still history's greatest monsters.
This is one of those times when people won't listen to Morrissey, but they should.
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Jon Brookes leaves behind a sterling legacy. Somewhere in the reels is a groove that will serve as the curtain call on his long career. Of all of the Madchester and Britpop bands, the continuing presence of the Charlatans is a comfort for many. They are proof that a band can stick together through adversity and create a legacy out of something as fragile as indie rock.
Before anyone starts wringing their hands over this, let's acknowledge two things:
One, Martin Bashir should have been fired for having no class or dignity and no common sense as a broadcaster for his commentary. He demonstrated a complete and utter lack of self-awareness and showed his employer that he cannot be trusted on the air. MSNBC should fire him and Alec Baldwin on the same day and run video of a security guard booting them in the ass as their personal effects clatter to the ground. And then MSNBC should hire some broadcasters.
Two, Sarah Palin is a hatemonger. Every time you publicize this woman's irrelevant screechings, you accord her more power and influence than she really has. Let her have her little thing on Facebook and consider it safe to ignore her for the rest of time. She will never run for office and win anything significant ever again and she is running a scam on people who want to cough up money to hear her say things that flatter their own self-hatred. Palin profits through the public act of hatemongering. She delivers hate, people give her cash. When she runs out of people to hate, she runs out of money. She and her husband don't even want to be Americans. I would suspect that her next flim-flam will be Alaskan independence. Or another book about how liberals want to eat Santa Claus and serve reindeer to the devil.
This whole thing is not a "systematic problem." It's a management problem. You need to have someone who can hire actual broadcasters and you need to have a gatekeeper who finally admits what people already know--Sarah Palin is a nothingburger.
Trey Radel doesn't have what politicians used to have. He has no shame. He isn't embarrassed enough by his conviction for buying cocaine to step down from his job as a Congressman. That's what is missing in this equation.
There used to be a much stronger party apparatus as well. By now, someone would have explained to him and his chief of staff that his resignation announcement would be delivered on a Friday afternoon and that he was to disappear. Not anymore. Everyone shrugs and no one cares. A Congressman on drugs? Who gives a damn anymore?
Monday, November 25, 2013
I had popped over to Rhino.com for another reason and that's when I discovered that Ride's Nowhere is being advertised dead center on their front page. It has been out for a while and so I was struck by the fact that it is still selling and is still being hyped. What a wonderful thing to get for yourself. A must.
Stories that reflect the acceptance of immigrants becoming citizens are all well and good, but the inherent tribalism of American society, as it relates to the idea that anyone of color might be accepted or treated as an equal, continues to be a negative.
Economically, it makes sense to allow people to become taxpayers and live their lives in the open. But we will never get to that point without acknowledging the racism and tribalism that creates a huge wedge in American politics. People hate without thinking of their pocketbooks no matter what, and our political class has made a bet that they can profit from this hate.
There was no chance for me to wear a cap and gown because my graduation ceremony was a continent away.
When I graduated from the University of Maryland University College last year, I was sent an invitation to my graduation ceremony. I had my degree in hand almost exactly a year ago; graduation was May, 2013.
In Heidelberg, Germany.
I passed on going, and I probably wasn't the only one. I know for a fact that I wasn't the only one who was graduating with a degree earned well after a first attempt at college and that leads me to this sort of story:
Credential inflation is the rise in educational requirements for jobs as a rising proportion of the population attains more advanced degrees. The value of a given educational certificate or diploma declines as more people have one, thereby motivating them to stay in school longer. In the United States, high-school (i.e., twelve-year secondary school) diplomas were comparatively rare before World War II; now high-school degrees are so commonplace that their job value is worthless. University attendance is now over 60% of the youth cohort, and is on the way to the same fate as the high-school degree. It is a worldwide trend; in South Korea, 80% of high-school graduates now go on to higher education. The main thing that inflated degrees are worth is to plough them back into the educational market, seeking still higher degrees. This in principle is an endless process; it could very well reach the situation of the Chinese mandarin class during the later dynasties, when students continued sitting for exams into their thirties and forties— only now this would affect the vast majority of the population instead of a small elite. Different countries have gone through educational inflation at different rates, but from the second half of the 20th century onward, all of them have followed this path.
Educational degrees are a currency of social respectability, traded for access to jobs; like any currency, it inflates prices (or reduces purchasing power) when autonomously driven increases in monetary supply chase a limited stock of goods, in this case chasing an ever more contested pool of upper-middle-class jobs. Educational inflation builds on itself; from the point of view of the individual degree-seeker, the best response to its declining value is to get even more education. The more persons who hold advanced degrees, the more competition among them for jobs, and the higher the educational requirements that can be demanded by employers. This leads to renewed seeking of more education, more competition, and more credential inflation.
What is described here is a kind of circle jerk: you're never going to get ahead because everyone else is trying to outdo you in the quest for the perfect job. I would argue that a job that requires an advanced degree, or several degrees, is a job that becomes less attainable because there are so many people with lesser degrees willing to work cheaper at the same task.
If you consider the coveted prize to be a position where someone is a tenured professor at a university, let's look at the trends. By and large, that tenured position is under siege. It may require a PhD to get there. But the university knows it can hire two people with Masters degrees to teach the same coursework. They can pick up adjunct faculty, pay them a lot less, discard them when they ask for more money, and they can keep raising tuition. The product is the course schedule, not the professor. Instead of adding more dead wood in the personage of the old, litigious tenured professor, why not get two part-time prospective professors right out of graduate school and pay them nothing to deliver the product that matters?
I had a fair number of these professors. They weren't all awful but they weren't always a great experience. Do I now go fight my way into graduate school and try to become a professor who will work cheap and teach online courses?
Nope. The ones who are willing to work cheap, and already have their degrees, have saturated the market. I work in an industry where my Bachelors of Science is all the degree that I need right now, barring some new trend in being over-educated which could force me to go back to school in my 50s. There's no point in trying to attain more education when there's no where to land once the degree floats down from above. So, with one fewer person in grad school, problem solved.
Sunday, November 24, 2013
Friday, November 22, 2013
There is no good reason why decent people shouldn't boycott each and every advertiser on the Rush Limbaugh show, if only to ensure that society does not reward this kind of discourse with money.
I'm not saying that he should be censored. I'm saying that capitalism should be applied to the idea that an advertiser who associates with this man should have their product shunned and avoided. How on Earth did we get to this point? The man will never be fired and it is now possible to use rape fantasies to explain procedural changes in the Congress.
It would seem to me that people just want free music and they just don't care how they get it. This is bad news for artists, of course, since not getting paid means you are not going to make music for free because the Internet said so a decade ago.
Two years ago, this is what the service was about:
Here goes: You and up to four other people take turns streaming just about any song you want for anyone who wants to listen, for free, in one of the site’s “rooms.” A deal withMediaNet, a digital content provider, gives Turntable access to millions of songs, and if the song you want to play isn’t there, you can upload your own MP3 to the site and play that. There’s a chat feature so you can compare notes, and you can “follow” your pals.
Here is the residual effect of the "napster" mentality where everything "free" is a "great thing for the music business" but not necessarily artists:
And while it seems blindingly obvious that Turntable.fm is a great thing for the music business — it , the best possible advertising — I wouldn’t put it past a label or two to gripe about the service.
What is blindingly obvious is that people got sick of the service. How many artists got paid? Any? Are we supposed to feel bad for the websites that are now going under, too?
Thursday, November 21, 2013
Our incompetent media is symbolized by the image of poor Chuck Todd, a braying, clueless and useful idiot who can't analyze anything. It's useless and broken--kind of like the Senate was until someone did something and made it possible to get things done.
Today's move was not an abuse of power. It was a response to the abuse of a tactic that obstructed government. If you don't mind, President Obama would now like to actually be President and get the judges and the cabinet officials he wants, please.
The narrative line from outlets like NBC is going to include terms like "doom" because they can't do basic math. Harry Reid brought them the answers they should be using right now. Under the Republican leadership in the Senate, a total of 45 people have had their nominations put on hold by filibuster, and that is more than six times the number of filibusters that helped keep extremists off of the courts during the Bush years (and that's important to note because, um, the Bush Administration really did politicize the courts and the Justice Department).
Facts mean nothing to our media. They see the Democrats grow a pair and they shit themselves with fear.
I really don't think Oasis will reform.
Having said that, I reserve the right to change my mind. When Oasis split, Gem Archer and Andy Bell followed Liam into something called Beady Eye and Noel Gallagher went his own way; that indicated to me that there was a plan to allow the more active members to do their own thing while Noel glides along in semi-retirement. It's interesting to see that both camps are working at exactly the pace they would have been working if Oasis hadn't split at all. Their last three albums came out spaced exactly 3 years apart. Beady Eye are going to be a little ahead of that and Noel will probably put something out every 4 years or so.
By denying the possibility of a reunion, Noel follows the John Squire school of thought. Do whatever it takes to make it seem like there will never be a reunion and then reunite the band for a big payday. Squire wasn't being dishonest--he was looking at the fact that there was no relationship between him and Ian Brown.
Noel, on the other hand, doesn't need the cash.
One of the great frauds of the 20th Century has died. There is no such thing as a 'psychic' but there is an endless supply of people who want to believe in bullshit.
When you consider the money that Sylvia Browne has separated from people who are desperate to believe, it's easy to see how a lady could make a living for herself preying on others. There really should be laws against this sort of thing. It really isn't entertainment. It's fraud to claim psychic abilities and abuse the lack of sophistication of others.
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
It would seem to me that Kim Deal left Pixies because the new songs weren't that good.
If someone else has an alternative theory, I would be glad to hear it. When it isn't working in a band, and when people don't want to hear your new songs, you either leave or soldier on. Deal decided to leave at exactly the moment where releasing new music became an issue. What's refreshing is that this probably wasn't about drugs or money which is what it's normally about.
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
There are no words for how George Zimmerman has gamed the system, elicited sympathy and money from people who were blinded by racial hatred, and has gone on to be an even more dangerous man in notoriety than he was when he was a cop wannabe.
They are going to let him out of jail when someone posts a mere $9,000 worth of bail. Is that really enough for a heavily armed man who doesn't think twice about pointing a shotgun at a woman? What the hell, people of Florida. What the hell?
Zimmerman is a threat to public safety. He is an inherently unstable and dangerous man. He has a track record. He has no regard for the law because the law has never been applied fairly to him. He has no business walking around a free man right now because, um, he threatened a pregnant woman.
Monday, November 18, 2013
Why did Steve Martin rate an honorary Oscar?
And, before you say anything, let's consider this fact: Alan Rickman, Liam Neeson and Gary Oldman now have fewer Oscars than Steve Martin. Oh, wait. Those guys all come from the British Isles. That shouldn't even count, right?
Steve Martin is a funny man, and he's a talented man, but his films are almost consistent in their mediocrity and his film career has seen a litany of failures and mistakes. Apart from Bowfinger, has he ever even tried to do something ambitious or interesting?
I'm still not getting why you'd give him an honorary Oscar. For which body of work? His?
Good God. Why?
This is sad:
Media ratings firm Nielsen Holdings plans to lay off 333 workers in Columbia — more than one-third of the workforce at what had been Arbitron Inc.'s headquarters — as the two former rivals combine their businesses.
New York-based Nielsen, which closed the $1.3 billion purchase of Arbitron in September, immediately renamed the radio ratings company Nielsen Audio and told Wall Street analysts it expected "wonderful cost synergies" as it meshed the two firms.
Company officials declined to comment on the cuts but said they are "implementing changes across the company to enhance growth and to align our resources."
I worked for Arbitron for several years, gaining a lot of experience and working with a lot of fantastic people. When I left Arbitron, the company had just weathered the loss of the CEO (fired for lying to Congress) and the implementation of the Personal People Meter device in about 45 markets. Things looked good, and the idea was, it was time for Arbitron to go after Internet ratings and improve the PPM device. That's not going to happen now. To me, it's a lost opportunity for a great American company.
Arbitron was special. It antagonized the radio industry for decades by being honest. The radio industry is now a turnkey operation. That station you used to like? By and large, the radio stations that used to serve communities have disappeared. They are now automated and run satellite programming. Everyone who used to work there, except for a few salesmen, were all replaced by a corporate syndication service in another part of the country. And the people that run it are still mad because Arbitron told them their listeners abandoned them in droves.
There's an inherent problem in this article. Nielsen isn't being honest about what they're doing. Here, you have a quote about who they're letting go:
Nielsen CEO David L. Calhoun, speaking to analysts last month, outlined areas where he saw duplication.
"The headquarter stuff is easy, because you don't need two headquarters," he said, according to a transcript. "The functional support stuff is relatively straightforward, because you only need one accounts payable processing. You only need one receivables. ... I'm confident that we can express big synergies quickly, because I know that path and we're on it."
Here you have a quote from someone being let go:
John Borchers, an employee at the Columbia complex, said he was told his job will disappear at the end of February. That gives him a few months to prepare. His job is in the panel relations division, which works with radio listeners and is among those facing cuts.
Panel relations for radio is a service that Nielsen doesn't have; Nielsen does not deal with radio ratings. You would think that if Nielsen was simply going to reduce all of the redundant positions, it would NOT be forcing cuts in areas like panel relations, which is a position that directly interacts with radio customers.
Mr. Calhoun is, apparently, lying about what's happening. The profitability of radio ratings measurement is at question. Can Nielsen make money from radio? Or is it simply going to profit by wiping out Arbitron and keeping it from making inroads into other areas?
I have no idea. I suspect they are simply going to dismantle Arbitron and keep what they want or write it off and take a loss. They don't seem to be in it to make radio measurement a permanent and viable part of their business model.
Friday, November 15, 2013
Articles like this one bug me.
Kris Kristofferson is more than just an old country music star. The fact that he plays country music is not the problem nor is the fact that this is what he's doing nowadays. He's one of the great actors of his generation and he's way, way more than just a singer.
If would be nice once in a while to read something rooted in an understanding of who people are and what they have done. Anyone can look a Wiki page and see that he was a Rhodes Scholar. Not everyone can grasp the fact that this was a man who wrote scores of great songs and performed in films at a high level.
The definition of 'limousine liberal' is loosely based on the idea that conservatives need to find people on the left who they can bash at any cost. Wealthy people who support the left are called limousine liberals in order to discredit them and cause dissension among the broad numbers of people who identify themselves with liberal ideas and issues. Many of the derisive comments about limousine liberals are directed at people in the entertainment industry. Is it fair? No, but life is never fair.
It is fair to say that Alec Baldwin has led one of the messiest public lives in our time. He's not as bad as some, but he's bad enough that it is easy to make the case that MSNBC should have fired him outright. Whether it is out of loyalty or the money he made for NBC, I don't know. They have lavished money on him and they have used him to build their brand. He goes on Saturday Night Live once a year and that, in and of itself, creates a lot of buzz for the network. The show 30 Rock was never a ratings giant but it was a show that NBC executives could point to as being of a quality that did not embarrass anyone. Alec Baldwin, it could be said, was a good enough actor not to embarrass anyone while he performed his craft.
He is not a good enough liberal, or a good enough actor, to get away with the kind of bigotry expressed in calling someone a cocksucking fag or whatever he called that person. He is comfortable with the language of denigrating people. He is free to use that language. He is not entitled to then enter the marketplace of ideas and get a pass for his crass behavior. Fuck him, as the kids would say--he's a douche.
I say this because the public version of Baldwin is petulant and destructive. He can barely function in polite society because he has never accepted the fact that people want to take his picture when he's out and about trying to be seen. If you don't want to deal with paparazzi, don't walk around outside so much and go live in a gated community. He is not a feeding frenzy celebrity. But, somehow, he's really easy to find and they keep finding him and he keeps getting mad about it. A little reordering of priorities are in order.
His narcissism ran over his paranoia on the way to taking out a hit on his self-esteem. To further play the armchair quarterback, I think he has an inability to accept the fact that his film career was more Michael Keaton than it was Tom Hanks (the important number here being counted in Oscars, not dollars). The mere existence of someone like Ben Affleck, a man who can barely act and has so much less talent than Baldwin, has to make him want to gnaw the head off of a dead paparazzi. The fact that Bill Murray has a best actor nomination and he doesn't? Wow. His loss, for a best supporting actor Oscar, to Tim Robbins in 2004 may have put him over the edge. Who knows? It is without question that there are far too many actors of lesser achievement, ability, and talent who have way more accolades and Oscars and Oscar nominations than Baldwin. If this is the reason for his douchebaggery, fine. If not, then he's counting some other coin of the realm and he's coming up short enough to inspire some ridiculous public rage. All the damned time.
MSNBC is hoping liberals will give him a pass. He's done with getting those passes. Decent people should turn their backs on this man until he gets some help.
HAM radio operators are helping out in the Philippines and that's a good thing.
I am a Ham Radio Operator and as you all know we do our very best as radio communications volunteers in devastated areas and Haiyan-13 is another one we are helping with. I belong to a couple organizations but the one I work with the most is GEM (Global Emergency Communications) http://www.gem-int.org. We are in the midst of it again. What we are able to do this disaster is provide Health and Welfare information to people requesting it. If you have a loved one we are on the ground in Cebo and Manila and other areas where there is power getting messages to and from the affected area.We thank CNN for doing their part and hope we can do our part by working together. -Ray, KA1AAA
When the Internet breaks down eventually under the weight of porn and hackers, go back to your dusty old HAM radio and reconnect.
If an artist like Beck says that Spotify isn't paying him enough, you have to ask two things. One, is Beck expecting to get paid like he was getting paid back in the '90s and two, is Beck paying his sidemen a little too much?
It is never going to be enough. Services like Spotify are there to enrich themselves. They're there to maximize their profits and reap the rewards. If you consider them a modern record company, then all you can conclude is that the economics of artistic exploitation have continued into the modern era. The people making the devices and providing the Internet service to people love things like Spotify--it allows them to sell things to people for a good profit. People forget that the iPod was never given away free nor was the Internet connection.
Thursday, November 14, 2013
One of the last groups you can safely hate in America are people with transgender characteristics. There are a number of people who fall into the category of transgender and they deserve all the rights and the protections every American should be afforded. We are so heartbreakingly slow about guaranteeing rights to people that it should be a no-brainer--discriminating against transgender people is wrong.
And Bill O'Reilly knows he's wrong, but he's safe when it comes to making fun of transgender people because his employer won't feel any heat for his actions. His geriatric demographic isn't going to break out into an impromptu boycott because O'Reilly had the good sense not to mock the wrong kind of people. He knows that he has to champion the attitudes and opinions of a rapidly fading population of people who have organized their lives around hating the Other. This is in direct conflict with their faith, of course. Their Christianity hasn't caught up with us yet. And that's the inherent tragedy--transgender rights are so far behind the curve right now that it is permissible for this man to say and do what he's doing precisely because he knows that accountability is years away.
The business community has failed to elevate transgender issues to a level where someone like this could be frog-marched out of the building in which he works with someone trailing behind with his belongings.
I remember two things. I remember when sexual harassment in the workplace got to be a serious enough issue for people to hold classes and fire people who engaged in the practice because it was a liability. Transgender people should have the same recourse under the law when they are discriminated against. That will force companies to adopt a high standard and remove people with questionable ethics. And I remember when my employer, in 1995, put out a memo specifying that there was a bathroom designated for an employee with transgender issues. That was almost twenty years ago and we are still talking about bathrooms? Bathrooms?
Come on. This is a no-brainer. Accommodate people and respect their rights. Why be an asshole like Bill O'Reilly?
The mobility trap is here, and it has been sprung, and people are stuck.
U.S. mobility for young adults has fallen to the lowest level in more than 50 years as cash-strapped 20-somethings shun home-buying and refrain from major moves in a weak job market.
The new 2013 figures from the Census Bureau, which reversed earlier signs of recovery, underscore the impact of the sluggish economy on young people, many of them college graduates, whom demographers sometimes refer to as "Generation Wait."
Burdened with college debt or toiling in low-wage jobs, they are delaying careers, marriage and having children. Waiting anxiously for their lucky break, they are staying put and doubling up with roommates or living with Mom and dad, unable to make long-term plans or commit to buying a home - let alone pay a mortgage.
When you force people to put their live on hold, it resonates through society. Not only are marketers and planners going to take advantage of people who are now reluctant to make big changes in their lives--a sales pitch designed to help someone take a risk-free step into owning their home can't be far away--but that lack of risk is going to create stagnation and economic problems that are hard to identify right now. It's going to lead to people inheriting more property than they go out and acquire themselves--a new legal or real estate specialty could pop up in the area of figuring out how to keep the home that someone was raised in and lived in virtually all of their adult lives. Social media has exploded at exactly the point where fewer and fewer people have anything to say about what they're doing with their lives because, well, who can afford it? Do people who are out actually living their lives really care whether they've updated their social status?
The American economy thrives when people take risks--especially when it comes to small business creation and innovation. That's being stifled right now.
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Do you still have a pair of Crocs?
When it comes to the study of trends and functionality and design, you have to concede that Crocs were a brilliant product. Using almost next to nothing in raw materials, these shoes combined color, curves, looks and functionality and made a big splash. The problem was, they weren't indispensable. They were disposable and inspired copycats. And while it may have been fashionable to be comfortable, Crocs received some bad press along the way.
The biggest knock against them seemed to be a pervasive urban myth: kids were getting them caught in escalators. Then, they were banned in schools because they couldn't provide enough protection and support, especially in bad weather.
Is that what started the decline in sales? Or could it be that the trend simply died out? I have no idea--I've never owned a pair and probably never will.
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
Paul Krugman is being shrill again:
[...] it’s hard to see why France deserves any particular opprobrium. So again, what’s going on?
Here’s a clue: Two months ago Olli Rehn, Europe’s commissioner for economic and monetary affairs — and one of the prime movers behind harsh austerity policies — dismissed France’s seemingly exemplary fiscal policy. Why? Because it was based on tax increases rather than spending cuts — and tax hikes, he declared, would “destroy growth and handicap the creation of jobs.”
In other words, never mind what I said about fiscal discipline, you’re supposed to be dismantling the safety net.
S.& P.’s explanation of its downgrade, though less clearly stated, amounted to the same thing: France was being downgraded because “the French government’s current approach to budgetary and structural reforms to taxation, as well as to product, services and labor markets, is unlikely to substantially raise France’s medium-term growth prospects.” Again, never mind the budget numbers, where are the tax cuts and deregulation?
You might think that Mr. Rehn and S.& P. were basing their demands on solid evidence that spending cuts are in fact better for the economy than tax increases. But they weren’t. In fact, research at the I.M.F. suggests that when you’re trying to reduce deficits in a recession, the opposite is true: temporary tax hikes do much less damage than spending cuts.
The social safety net in France, which is socialism, of course, is actually helping to contain the economic damage that has been pervasive throughout Europe. Their health care costs are a fraction of our health care costs, Obamacare be damned. That's one major aspect of their economy that isn't following them around like a boat anchor in a wagon made with square wheels. Not every socialistic, evil idea is actually economically unsound, apparently. Otherwise, why would France be surviving Europe's economic debacles?
As we apply these facts to the situation in America, remember this: the presumptive nominees for the presidency in the Republican Party worship at the altar of austerity and would cut off their entire nose if it would spite their face and gain them a single primary victory in the deep South. Chris Christie has repeatedly refused to spend money to alleviate the suffering of people in his state unless, of course, they are people who might vote for him. And if you have an opinion different than his, he uses that old charm of his to scream hell into your face. Americans are going to vote for Christie because they want to see the fat man bellow at The Others and make the economy go bust on purpose. Hell, the man ought to just be handed the presidency outright.
The Republican Party loves poor rural white people. They've been making more and more of them for as long as anyone can remember and they're doing it through the old chicken wing technique. Austerity bends the economy's arm back like a chicken wing--try and make an honest living walking around like that.
Spencer Kornhaber meant to give the new Arcade Fire album a positive review; when he talks about listening to it on "portable speakers" while folding laundry, it makes for an interesting point.
When did music become so lame? When did a powerful new album by one of the most significant bands of the decade become laundry folding music? How did we get here?
Video games have replaced music in terms of generating excitement about a new release. The way people behave for a new video game--obsessively playing it over and over again, coveting the copy they have purchased, shutting down all outside distractions in order to maximize the initial experience--is how they used to greet the new Led Zeppelin album. Amazing.
The release of a new album used to mean something. You heard it all intensely, sometimes with headphones, and without distraction. Being pounded with new sounds and a new experience and introduced to music that had never been heard before was supposed to be a thrill, an experience, something to shut out the mundane.
Laundry folding music? What a classic, inadvertent put down.
The advantages of wealth keep piling up.
We would like things to be fair, I suppose, but things being fair would immediately come under the heading of socialism! or worse. But when things are fair, consumers tend to have a little more confidence, I would imagine, since the inherently rigged financial system doesn't seem to be inspiring anyone anymore.
This is evidence that the game is rigged and that it is becoming institutionalized favoritism and that it is being rigged at a higher and higher level. Once you have eliminated the possibility that the wealthy can't help but get more favors and better rates than everyone else, the stratification of society is complete and there's no reason for someone willing to work and improve a property will try to get a mortgage. What incentive is there? Unless you're at a certain level, you're going to pay a higher rate and that will cut into your already razor-thin property margin.
I used to be down on the idea of "flipping" houses until I started watching some of what happens on channels like HGTV. Instead of being entirely a cutthroat operation, you see houses that are rehabilitated, brought back up to code, and sold for an honest profit after some investment and hard work has been done--nothing wrong with that. And I know it is difficult to signal a trend based on reality television programming, but the end result of a flipped house that sells for more than what it was sold is supposed to be a family living in a decent house.
When a family lives in a renovated home, it can save a neighborhood. It can lift the values of properties all around it. That's positive economic activity that should not be thwarted or discouraged by the unfair rate tiers given to the super wealthy who are simply trading in misery and ruin. I don't believe they are taking the time to invest in and flip houses. I think they're trading in assets that they can use to build a new and fancier version of the "big shitpile" made famous by Atrios.
Monday, November 11, 2013
Roger Daltrey is still trying to make a Keith Moon movie. This lengthy bit of history should tell you just exactly how successful he will be. Let's get in the time machine and travel back about eleven years:
I've been getting a lot of e-mails and phone calls recently about the supposed Keith Moon movie. A story made its way into the British tabloid the Sun on Friday Feb 8 it which it was claimed that Roger Daltrey had auditioned Mike Myers for the role of Keith Moon in his proposed biopic. "Mike is a genius," Daltrey was quoted as saying. "I can really see him as Keith. I went to some of the filming of his new Austin Powers film and it's hysterical. He's amazing when you meet him, so clever."
That same day, Mike Myers denied through his spokeswoman that he had auditioned. Daltrey, it was claimed, had only visited him on set.
But by then the story was out and doing the news rounds. Meantime, a lot of people have been getting in touch asking what this all has to do with me. The answer is very simple: absolutely nothing.
Roger Daltrey has been talking about a Keith Moon movie for well over ten years. [emphasis, mine] He was talking about it a long time before I started doing the Keith Moon book, he was talking about it while I was doing the Keith Moon book - it was the main reason he gave not to take part in my biography, that my research would conflict with his project - and he was talking about it after I completed the Keith Moon book. Indeed, he called me before the book came out and in the middle of a strange conversation in which he alternately criticised and praised my biography, he asked me to hold publication of the book for six months, after which time he assured me there would be a Keith Moon movie on the screens that I would be able to better tie in publication with. That was 1997. It's now 2002. I can't say that his Keith Moon movie is not getting made - I know he has financed various scripts with his own money - but I can say it hasn't yet gone into anything close to production. Along the way, Daltrey has occasionally bad-mouthed my Keith Moon biography in public, which I think is a shame. I recognise that Roger loved Keith greatly, and I can understand why he might feel he has a more accurate and sympathetic view of Keith than does a biographer, but of course I stand by the quality of my book, and I regret that Roger doesn't agree with the many thousands of Who fans who feel that it told Keith's story with love and integrity.
Having stated all of the above, I think it is clear that if Roger Daltrey does get to make a movie on Keith's life, it will not be based on my biography. It will be based on Roger's own memories of KEith's life.
To complicate matters, there had been another movie in the works. Around the end of 1995, just as I was starting research on 'Dear Boy,' Robert de Niro's company Tribeca bought the rights to Dougal Butler's book Full Moonand set about planning to make a 'buddy movie' based on the two mens' escapades. To this end, they had Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais ('Auf Wiedersehn Pet,' 'The Commitments,' 'Still Crazy') write a script, which I have not seen. This movie got held up, possibly even waylaid, when Pete Townshend refused Tribeca permission to use Who songs; by 1996, once the Who had gotten back together, then to my understanding Daltrey leaned hard on Townshend to ensure that the only person who would get permission to use Who songs in a Keith Moon movie would be Daltrey himself. Roger was particularly put out by his feeling that Tribeca's movie would simply trivialise Keith's life and has always claimed that his own movie will concentrate on the real Keith, the sad Keith, the tormented Keith.
Will it happen? Who will play Moon? Mike Myers is now simply too old to do it. He's fifty years old and there is no way he can convincingly play a young Keith Moon. To do the part justice, they will have to find an actor who can transmit Moon's physicality and hyperactive tendencies. The man was sheer muscle and movement and had a number of qualities that are going to make casting difficult. Whoever plays Moon won't necessarily have to be an amazing drummer but they will have to be athletic enough and capable of portraying Moon's manic personality.
One of the things that has always bugged me is that people think Moon actually played his drums the way he was shown on television. The difference between Moon playing along in a television studio with a pre-recorded song and Moon playing live drums is like night and day. If the filmmakers decide that capturing Moon's abilities is secondary to his behavior and his interactions with people, the film will be incomplete. I don't know how you can tell his story without showing people, in some dramatic way, just how good he was on the drums.
The graph that you see above is old data; it's from 2011. The wholesale scamming of money from Vets through the prism of the 21st Century GI Bill has not been addressed. What are these idiots screaming about? They could have done something years ago and they chose not to.
America made a commitment to veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan: In return for their service, the country would help pay for their college education when they came home.
Since the Post-9/11 GI Bill went into effect in August of 2009, the federal government has paid more than $30 billion in tuition and benefits, according to new figures from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs released on Friday. The VA said this money has now helped 1 million vets, servicemembers and their families get college degrees or technical training.
Most of this money goes to for-profit colleges and universities. Eight of the 10 schools receiving the most GI Bill dollars are for-profits, according to a 2012 report from the Senate Committee on Health Education Labor and Pensions (HELP).
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), who chairs that committee, accuses some non-profits of using “predatory and deceptive tactics to target servicemembers and veterans for enrollment” in order to tap their federal educational benefits.
Tom Harkin has no credibility here, nor does anyone else in the Congress. Instead of bringing for-profit colleges to heel, they rolled over on regulating them and they have allowed the scam to continue. That's why the old graphic matters--it was plainly evident two years ago that there was a crisis because Veterans were throwing up their hands and choosing default when they couldn't translate their degrees into jobs . The Congress did nothing.
I used about two calendar years of my 3-year 21st Century GI Bill benefits. I have no student loan debt and I have my degree, a double major in History and English. It's a Bachelors of Science from the University of Maryland University College and it comes from a school that caters to Veterans and active duty service members. The only reason why this worked for me is because I didn't have to work for two and a half years. So, the benefit is still not generous enough and it should not go to any of the for-profit colleges that have issued worthless degrees to Veterans.
The transfer of education to Veterans that will help them get jobs should have been predicated on the idea that the only route to take would lead straight through an actual school or university with a credible degree program. The lobbying done by for-profit colleges and universities was successful. Veterans are not getting degrees or jobs, and they have been saddled with massive debt. Tom Harkin didn't do a goddamned thing to stop that when he could. Now we're supposed to believe this is news?
There are two things that will guarantee a Chris Christie victory in the Republican Primaries (Iowa is not relevant to the discussion). One, he has to raise a lot of money. Two, he has to smell like a winner.
All of the reservations being expressed right now mean nothing. It's so early in the process, you can practically smell the flop sweat rising on people who know they have been damaged and broken. Nobody who ran in 2012 should even consider running. They couldn't beat Mitt Romney? How are they going to beat anyone nominated by the Democrats?
The Republican Primary voter won't even remember the Tea Party in 2016. They'll latch on to a winner and swallow whatever reservations they have and they'll take that to the general election. Nobody wants to associate themselves with the two greatest losers of the modern era--John McCain and Mitt Romney. And I'm not convinced that Romney won't run again. I'll bet you that he will and that he will be difficult to dislodge from his place as the presumptive lifelong nominee of the Republican Party, a la Harold Stassen.
If Christie gets the nomination, his pissed off conservative act will play well with a fading demographic. I think that the only choice the Republican Party has is to nominate a woman to be President. The country has shifted so far left that it doesn't matter what the voters in a large swath of the country think. How many big states can Christie win when the Democrats already have a lock on California, New York, and Illinois? The Democrats can count on starting any race with somewhere near half of what they need to win without having to spend any money in those places. The Republicans have to count on a demographic that is dying off at an rate that is accelerating every day. They keep turning off women and they keep turning on their base. You can't win elections with Chris Christie's veiled threats and screaming into the faces of voters. They'll be easily overwhelmed by an Electoral College lockout that will guarantee a Democrat will win. At some point, Texas is going to tilt Democrat. What then?
Sunday, November 10, 2013
I like everything about this piece by Alex Horton. He is truly a gifted writer and is capable of commenting on these issues in ways that our media complex simply cannot comprehend. He's way more eloquent than I am on this subject.
But the missing word in this piece is "guilt."
Horton writes about the pedestal that Veterans are put on, and that pedestal is constructed on a bedrock of shame and guilt. There are many reasons for the pedestal, but the main reason that I see is built around two kinds of guilt. There is the guilt that civilians feel when they're reminded that there actually are Veterans who served while they did not and then there is the guilt that comes from the people who should be doing something to help Veterans and simply won't. They won't because it will cost them money.
In some ways, there simply is no shame left in America. None. Shame for not having done something to guarantee our freedoms? That's an antiquated, remote idea in American public life. What did you do during the war Mommy and Daddy. We made money. Oh.
You have virtually an entire generation that didn't have to join the military because they had the economic opportunity not to serve, and they took that opportunity and now they see all of the praise given to Veterans. But it's hollow praise and it's based on the idea that they somehow need to feel sorry for the people who joined because they didn't have any other skills. That mindset has translated into "thank you for your service but we're looking for someone else" because "you would be qualified, except you couldn't make it in the real world, so you had to join the military." That pity is killing more Veterans than anything else because not allowing the normal to come back into their lives is what is exacerbating the economic cutoff and the social cutoff that keeps people from getting help and from getting their status in our society back.
Don't give them your pity. Give them a job, quit cutting their benefits, and quit running a for-profit educational system that is systematically draining people of money while giving them useless degrees.
What about the Veterans who are actually serving? We're kicking them out, we're housing them in cramped quarters, and we're denying them the right to register their legal spouse just because some Red State governors want to make a stand against gay marriage. How's that supposed to honor people who are serving?
Then you have all of the substandard people now serving on active duty who go out and kill themselves even though they have never been deployed. Why is that? Guilt, perhaps, but also a lowering of standards. We are still trying to force a military with 19th Century rules into a 21st Century reality without even bothering to figure out who is able to put something else ahead of their own basic needs and adapt to military service. They are on the pedestal, but they are failures at almost every level. We're not serving them well, either.
So, it's Veteran's Day, and no one talks about the guilt. The guilt of not having served and the guilt of serving while being a hot mess. Figure out where the guilt comes from and then we can have a discussion about why this generation is no different from any other. The "greatest generation" theme is badly flawed.
I dread Veteran's Day precisely because we use it to give false thanks and praise to people who need health care, jobs and a way back to a normal life. We just shut down the government, slashing these people out of their attempt at getting to normal, just so some wingnuts could stand at the edge of the World War II memorial and scream at some Government employees.
I am proud of my 7 years on active duty, grateful for never having heard a shot fired in anger, and I wish I had done more and been better at my job. Would I do it all over again? Of course not. This country thinks I'm a sucker because I put on the uniform.
Friday, November 8, 2013
Shaun Ryder is probably not going to be the next Michael Palin for The History Channel, but his show about aliens deserves to be a hit.
Despite all of the obstacles and all of the obstructionism, this President keeps creating jobs and the country keeps moving forward. We are living through a time where no one tells the truth about what is really happening and the rhetoric of the day does not match the facts of what keeps happening. We are better off than we realize, and we will never hear that spoken aloud.
This is well argued, but wrong:
There is almost no comparison between Murmur and Green. That's because Murmur is their best album by a country mile. There is nothing else that sounds like it and you could release it today and people would still be amazed by it.
R.E.M. released five "indie" albums before Green, and, with the exception of Fables of the Reconstruction, all were far superior to Green and you could rank R.E.M.'s albums by going Murmur, Document, Reckoning, Life's Rich Pageant and then everything else. I don't count anything after Green as being worthy of the 4/5ths of their output for the IRS label. I would put Monster and Up among some of the most indulgent pieces of shit ever released. Let us not forget that Monster actually has a song on it that pays tribute to Courtney Love.
Murmur was as different from American popular music as possible and still listenable, popular and accessible. It was the sound of the hip American dorm room, circa 1983, and it put them on the road through almost every single American city for years. Between 1983 and 1987, R.E.M. conquered America with four classic albums, a near miss classic, and a live sound that elevated the art form. They were, by 1987, the best live band in America, bar none.
Green came out at exactly the moment that America was rejecting everything R.E.M. stood for. Released on election day, 1988, the country swooned for the first George Bush and turned a blind eye towards the horrors of America's war in Central America and environmentalism. It was a country that loved Guns and Roses, Van Halen and Bon Jovi a hell of a lot more than original roots rock. They were a great live band on the Green World Tour, but it broke them. It ended them as a relentless live act. It left the band unable to tour for years. American Arenas were filled with people in leather pants and ripped T-shirts who preferred their favorite bands to wear spandex, lip stick, hair spray, and anything but a black Rickenbacker guitar.
Timing is the key to understanding why Green was a failure. A sellout of the independent spirit of music. A commercial attempt at pleasing a major label. And what hurt it was the fact that, by 1988, vinyl was dead and compact discs were the only viable format for releasing music. I bought Murmur and Reckoning and Chronic Town (which is, properly, their first album and should have been issued with enough tracks to make it a debut) on vinyl and they were far superior in that shape and form. R.E.M. is a band you have to enjoy on vinyl.
Nobody heard Green on vinyl, if at all. Does it even exist? Probably, but more likely as a reissue. Would that fact matter if the marketing formats hadn't changed, almost overnight, in that time period? The singles for Green were also issued as mini-CDs and cassette singles. I still have those and they are bloodless and cheap to listen to. R.E.M.'s B-sides also failed to impress me at the time. They used snippets and unformed ideas to flesh out their promotional releases and eschewed the glory of their previous efforts.
R.E.M. did not suffer the same fate that their colleagues experienced when the whole roots rock thing collapsed. Everybody who invested in acoustic instruments and jangly tunes watched in horror as rap music went mainstream and disappeared into a dance music haze. There is nothing you can dance to when it comes to R.E.M. (noodle dancing doesn't count, and never, ever watch the video for Shiny Happy People unless you want to see the visual incarnation of body odor and overindulgence).
I don't mean to bag on that era of R.E.M. because it wasn't all bad. Green did not embarrass the band, but I am not convinced that it pleased a lot of the people who saw them play live in the mid-1980s in small venues. Yeah, you can enjoy the mandolins and the hits, but you can't escape the fact that nobody would consider Green anything other than a curiosity that didn't pay off. It was the precursor to Losing My Religion, and how'd that work out?
I had forgotten that The Libertines were managed by Alan McGee, and they probably shortened his life by a decade. At one point, The Libertines were poised to become as huge as anything. Something called Arctic Monkeys happened instead, I think, although there was a gap there of about two years between the end of The Libertines and the rise of the Arctic Monkeys.
McGee's biography should be essential reading if you have ever cared about music.
Wednesday, November 6, 2013
At one time, Blockbuster Video was everywhere. It controlled a massive market in this country and it did so by using that tried and true retail strategy--screw the customer out of every penny because where the hell else are they going to go?
It used fundamentalist Christian values in a way no Christian would recognize and it swallowed up competitors and ruined the very idea of the neighborhood video store. When they first appeared, video stores weren't chains--they were sometimes run out of homes or run-down store fronts or out of abandoned spaces. I remember when some weirdos ran a video store out of their living room. They would sit and watch movies and people would walk in, rent movies by looking through stacks of movies that were scattered throughout their house. It was loose, disorganized, and popular as hell. Blockbuster killed the mom and pop video store and swallowed up regional chains, bringing homogeneity and mediocrity to thousands of towns.
Today, the consumer won a long battle against a dinosaur. If Dish Network is the most hated company in America, then Blockbuster is the most hated former company in the country right now.
Blockbuster is dead. This is a damned good thing.
I would tend to agree with Joan Walsh here; Virginia is the beginning of the end of the Tea Party. Moderate Republicans (are there any left?) are going to be able to argue, convincingly, that extremism in the pursuit of higher office is a virtue no one can afford.
If there's anything to learn here, it's that voter suppression and fighting the other side's turnout strategies, is going to help Republicans hold the house in 2014. Not content with Gerrymandering themselves into being a permanent, regional party, the Republicans are going to have to find a way to keep people of color and women from voting. Their rebranding effort amounts to yelling at kids and their grasp of freedom seems largely derived from making damned certain that even the former Speaker of the House can't vote in an election.
Sting has fallen into irrelevance in a way that I think few people imagined. After the momentum of his early solo career, he started making albums that were easy to ignore. I don't think I could name the last three albums that he has made.
He embarrassed himself when the Police reunited. Instead of acknowledging that the appeal of the band was essentially that they played fast, energetic songs, he ruined things with his slow, jazzy side and left the legacy tarnished and damaged. Who's clamoring for another tour?
The only thing less interesting than a set from Sting would be another trip down memory lane with Paul Simon. Good God, do I want to stay as far away from that as possible.
Tuesday, November 5, 2013
Well, that wasn't so hard, was it?
Arctic Monkeys are going to attempt an American tour and, thankfully for them, some of the shows are actually sold out. Their appearance in December at The Blue Note in Missouri is sold out.
I think the interesting thing here is that they will play Madison Square Garden and then the tour will proceed further and further into the hinterland, basically ending when they arrive at a theater that seats less than a thousand people. That's still a pretty good thing, what with the state of the music business and all, but how do you go from such a massive venue to playing an intimate show without wondering what the hell is going on?
There are so many things wrong with this article. What happened at Salon? Did someone stop being an editor? Jeebus.
1. Nice ad for Apple. What happens if you don't have an iPhone. You die! That's what.
2. No cardiologist should diagnose or treat someone over the phone.
3. You are having a cardiac event and you're not on your way to the emergency room? You haven't called 911? What's wrong with you?
4. How sensitive or accurate is an ECG if it doesn't have all the leads? I've had the ECG with four or five leads and then I've had the one with all of the required leads. The difference is accuracy, as far as I can tell. More leads, more accurate.
5. What if the treatment for the A-fib made it worse? How does the patient get in touch with the doctor when he's treating his patient via phone while flying?
I mean, honestly. The risks of malpractice are enormous here. Or am I wrong?
Monday, November 4, 2013
Nobody is ever going to make another Dark Side of the Moon because no one would download the instrumental bits or put up with the interspersed commentary. If it was released today, the singles would be Time and Money and that would be about it. And so, one of the most successful albums in history would be reduced to a couple of singles in the modern format and no one would hear Us and Them.
The consumer doesn't want the album format anymore so why give it to them? It's dead and it's buried and it's time to retire it. If you have some music, put it out there and try to get paid.
Would this attitudinal change lead to more music? To the idea that performances matter more than albums? I don't know. But let's not get nostalgic and let's not blame an artist who can't sell what they used to sell because of the massive changes that have torn apart the music industry.
The other day, I sat there and wondered how to handle the several hundred vinyl albums that I still have and the thousand or so compact discs that I keep in plastic storage carriers in the basement. I have already dumped 300+ cassette tapes. What the hell do I do now?
Sunday, November 3, 2013
This is the sort of thing that I wish Bill Gates had said back when his wealth and influence were on the rise. He could have led a different sort of company and he could have made a difference in the world long before being rich and "responsible" were in vogue.
When you have retired or given up making more money, turning to philanthropy is admirable but it comes long after the efforts to make the PC indispensable have passed.