Friday, February 28, 2014

England, My England

Somewhere in England, there is a new Johnny Rotten:

The mother of a schoolboy caught on camera making an obscene gesture in front of Nick Clegg said he was “in trouble” today.

Harry Payne raised his middle finger as the deputy prime minister made a speech to around 500 pupils at Southfields Academy school in south west London yesterday.

The teenager was today off school and was with his mother Nicola Payne at her workplace.

Harry needs to get his mates off to the shop and find some instruments and start rehearsing. One, two, three, four...

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Thanks Again, Obama

Now we can't even have crazy pastors and nutty churches anymore. Thanks Obama.

There's Got to be Some Downside to Having a Woman President, Right?

The reason why we can't have nice things? It's all Obama's fault and so on and so forth.

Bill O'Reilly has given us another classic quote for the ages. His assertion that there HAS to be a downside to have a woman serve as the President is just a preview of how insane this country is going to become when a woman actually does start running for President. Oh, wait. We've already seen how that played out.

The country will become crazy, and maybe that's what we need. Maybe we need more of these unethical commentators to throw out insane opinions and rant and rave in public like this. Maybe we need to reinforce the tribal and cultural differences between us all by spewing bullshit every day and every night like it's actual information. I hope that enough old people can hold on just long enough to see their whole world crumble again, just like it did when Mitt Romney shambled off with one slipper, confused and beaten by that black man in the White House.

O'Reilly has entered Peggy Noonan territory. Is it irresponsible to speculate? It is irresponsible not to.

The Northern Lights in Great Britain

Now the Northern Lights are showing up ONLY in foreign countries. Thanks Obama!

The Republican Party is Run by Crazy People

How do you do things like this and not see a backlash from the voters? This is insane.

A Democratic bill designed to make numerous improvements to services for veterans failed in the Senate Thursday, a victim of the partisan gridlock and election-year acrimony that dominates the chamber.

On a largely party-line vote, 56 to 41, the measure didn’t the 60 votes it needed to clear a procedural hurdle.

Republicans inserted an amendment into the bill that had nothing to do with Veteran's benefits. They wanted to tack on legislation related to sanctions against Iran. And if that sounds like foaming-at-the-mouth crazy, that's because it is. When it comes to legislation designed to alleviate the suffering of Americans, the Republican Party will stop at nothing to derail legislation and run a knife into the ribs of the American people.

What's in the bill?

The $21 billion bill, which was written primarily by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, who chairs the veterans committee, would improve veterans’ access to health care services, and expand educational and job training programs for vets. It also aims to reduce the giant claims backlog the Department of Veterans Affairs currently faces. 

Sanders argued that “we still have a very long way to go” to meet the needs of older veterans as well as the thousands of service members recently returned from Iraq and Afghanistan. “

“Please do not inject extraneous issues in here for totally political reasons. I think that’s unfair to American’s veterans,” Sanders said during a floor speech this week. “Let’s not kill this bill because of the same ol’, same ol’ partisan issues that we face.”

Just fucking crazy. That's all they are. Just fucking crazy.

Keith Olbermann is Still Gainfully Employed

The substance of this article doesn't surprise me at all. Keith Olbermann still has a job? Really?

That's the shocking part. Good for him. I hope he's having fun and I hope the ratings are good. He is too talented to be on cable, though. Forget Jay Leno--put Olbermann on late at night. How bad could it be?

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Suede The Wild Ones EP Cover

The single or EP cover for Suede's The Wild Ones single is a study in texture and composition. It is remarkably well done and suits the song and the attitude of the band perfectly.

The Embarrassment That Is Thomas Friedman

How is it that this even made it past an editor? Does Thomas Friedman even submit his work to an editor anymore? How embarrassing:

With Russia growling over the downfall of its ally running Ukraine and still protecting its murderous ally running Syria, there is much talk that we’re returning to the Cold War — and that the Obama team is not up to defending our interests or friends. I beg to differ. I don’t think the Cold War is back; today’s geopolitics are actually so much more interesting than that. And I also don’t think President Obama’s caution is entirely misplaced.

The Cold War was a unique event that pitted two global ideologies, two global superpowers, each with globe-spanning nuclear arsenals and broad alliances behind them. Indeed, the world was divided into a chessboard of red and black, and who controlled each square mattered to each side’s sense of security, well-being and power. It was also a zero-sum game, in which every gain for the Soviet Union and its allies was a loss for the West and NATO, and vice versa.

That game is over. We won. What we have today is the combination of an older game and a newer game. The biggest geopolitical divide in the world today “is between those countries who want their states to be powerful and those countries who want their people to be prosperous,” argues Michael Mandelbaum, professor of foreign policy at Johns Hopkins.

You are not going to read three lazier paragraphs than that on a major newspaper's editorial page. 

In the first paragraph, Friedman falls over the phrase "there is much talk" and doesn't identify the source of the talk. In almost every single case, it is the talk of neoconservatives who constantly bray for war. We'd be in five wars right now if it wasn't for the fact that we have a President who ignores a lot of this "talk" and concentrates on creating stable relations and not starting new wars. In the second paragraph, we are treated to a simplistic version of History 101. And, in the third, Friedman phones it in because he can't be bothered to make a more trite statement about basic human ambition than the professor.

If Russia sends troops into Ukraine, there's almost nothing that anyone can do. Ukraine is within the sphere of influence of Russia and an introduction of troops would challenge the nationalism inherent in everything Vladimir Putin does. Friedman sucks his thumb and tries to balance the crazy talk against pragmatism. The only leverage anyone has is with money and the Russians are calculating the costs of sending troops into Kiev in order to restore a friendly government.

How the New York Times ends up paying Friedman for his analysis is the question of the age. What is the value of an opinion so childlike and obvious? Is it the substance or is it simply about a brand that is practically worthless to anyone who can think rationally?

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Thirty Million Dollars for a Townhome

Zillow says that this townhome is being sold for $30,500,000 and that your estimated mortgage on this house would be about $118,000 a month.

As much as I 'd like an end unit, no thanks, Zillow. No thanks.

Start Your Own Company and Rip Yourself Off

I am wholly sympathetic with the idea that artists are being ripped off and that 21st Century technology companies like Spotify and Pandora and whoever else are simply run by a more bloodthirsty version of the people who used to run record companies, but there's something equal parts ridiculous in holding a concert (which some jackass is going to bootleg and give away free) and complaining about something no one cares about.

Fans are the problem now, and artists don't want to say that. They can't say it. But fans who go to Wal-Mart or and buy music or stream what they like and then do nothing to support artists are what's driving the real destruction of music as an actual business. Fans have to pay attention and get smarter. Fans have to use things like Bandcamp and Kickstarter and things like that to directly support artists who create and sell music. Going to shows--that's great. You gotta go to shows, too. But you also have to hit the legit stands and buy stuff that benefits the artist.

I laughed when I saw Mike Mills on this list, by the way. Apparently, he isn't signed to a big label anymore. If so, props to him, but none of the companies actually making money are paying attention. They won't until artists figure out that they need to start their own big company, rip themselves off, and put those fuckers out of business. This is what the lean times look like. Nobody with an actual deal making money is ever going to protest against Spotify or complain that artists are being ripped off. This is a cutthroat world and the only ones still happy are holding an acre of money behind their back.

The Fatwa Against Going to Mars

Even though Islam has no central authority, someone is going to take this the wrong way:

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (CNN) -- The Oscar-nominated film "Gravity" traces the harrowing tale of astronaut Ryan Stone after a mission goes horribly wrong. She's lost in space and struggles to try to make her way back to Earth.

"Gravity" is just a film. Imagine a similar real-life scenario: Would there be any chance of survival?

That's a concern for the General Authority of Islamic Affairs & Endowments, or GAIAE, the United Arab Emirates' religious watchdog, for anyone who wishes to travel to Mars. The GAIAE has issued a fatwa, or an official Islamic ruling, to warn Muslims against a Mars mission.

So far, the UAE has supported space travel. Abu Dhabi's Aabar Investments teamed up with Richard Branson's Virgin group to create Virgin Galactic to provide spaceflights for tourists, starting this year. But a mission to Mars, it seems, is one step too far.

Religion should not have anything to do with who goes to Mars and whether or not they will be punished for following their dreams. My opinion is that there won't be any actual "one way" trips to Mars because people will get there and, once bored, will suddenly pine for home and plead for a "rescue mission." The general consensus will be, "let's go get the poor sucker who didn't know what he or she was in for." And then, a trillion dollars later, some confused person will breathlessly tell us what it was like to go on a one-way trip to Mars and come back.

Or something stupid like that.

1,300 Samples

Popular music is chiefly about disguising theft. Hiding who you stole what from is how an artist can thrive in the music business.

Sampling used to be a big issue in music but it has all but disappeared because artists developed a great deal of sophistication about how to steal something without being caught or held legally accountable. Lawsuits and negative articles and bad reviews used to accompany the sampling artist on the road to infamy. Now they just tweak it a bit and change the tone and get away with it. Perhaps that's why everything sounds horrible all the time.

Monday, February 24, 2014

How Could You Ruin a Band No One Cares About?

Neutral Milk Hotel

You cannot make fun of this. It makes fun of itself.

The fundamental mystery of Jeff Mangum himself, both of what kind of guy he must’ve been to make the album and where he’s gone in the 15 or so years since, has never been separate from my identification with and custodianship of his artifact.

Over the years, I’ve conjured him as both an ever-present astral guide and a total nonentity, some archaic force that was never a real person. He is not, simply put, someone I thought I’d ever see live. Indeed, he’s someone I’d understood precisely in terms of never seeing live, of existing only in sound, as much so as Nick Drake, if not for quite the same reasons.

So seeing him at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, surrounded by a ragtag cohort of devoted sidemen and -women, ranging in age from what looked like 16 to about 75, amounted to the reverse of the “Santa isn’t real” trauma. It was beyond weird; it was grotesque to see this man embodied in a room with all of us, subject to the same conditions we were. I imagined him eating dinner and taking a shit backstage, or someone shooting him or a light falling on his head.

He came out in a baggy multicolor sweater, green military cap and long grey hair and beard, wearing the aura of his absence and sudden reappearance well, somewhere between a sage and a lunatic. When he launched into “Two-Headed Boy,” with no opening remarks, thousands of rapt voices sang along, announcing the fruition of some hipster birthright. I doubt there was anyone in that crowd – a magnified version of the crowd dancing on the table at those college parties – who didn’t know every song by heart. Our voices became both a celebratory chant and a sad wail, the sound of us freeing a ghost we’d cherished all through our teens and twenties.

As one song followed another, each as masterfully performed as the last and no piece of the canon left out, the concert became the ritual of us ceding back to Jeff what we’d allowed ourselves to believe was ours. I left feeling lightened, like part of my personality was gone, and I wondered how much was left.

I mean, how do you mock this? You can't. It is so miserable and self-unaware as to be ridiculous on purpose entirely for the purpose of deliberately trolling everyone.

Neutral Milk Hotel was a thing? Really? I still don't believe it.

CNN is a Badly Mismanaged Media Outlet

First of all, Larry King was never really good at being on television. He was, when he was in radio, one of the best radio talk show hosts in America, practically owning late night and well within his limits in that medium. On television, he was adequate but never incisive. He never asked the question you wanted to have answered and he fawned over guests that should have been handled by a better interviewer. CNN should have replaced him a full decade ago.

Piers Morgan is a newspaperman from England--which is eerily similar to being a fox assigned to make sure the hens are completely safe and accounted for in a tawdry henhouse. To be a newspaperman from the British Isles is to be wholly without ethics or accountability, and that describes Morgan perfectly. He was entirely out of his element on American television.

That's why Morgan is eminently qualified to be the editor of the National Enquirer and not much else. This is not about Americans rejecting a pompous Brit--we love the Brits when they're pompous and we embrace the good ones for decades. Morgan simply should not be on television. He needs to go home and admit that he was a phone hacking, ethically-challenged pseudo-journalist and beg the British people to let him be a weekend presenter on a channel no one watches.

His opinions really didn't matter. No one is expecting to tune in and see an incisive debate on American gun control anyway. Why would you tune into an opinion show on CNN and expect a hard right wing viewpoint every night? This did not sink him. His intelligence did not work against him. His inability to become a television news channel broadcaster doomed him.

CNN made a terrible choice in hiring him. They made an ever worse choice in waiting to see if he would catch on. The entire management team at CNN is exactly who you'd want running a money-losing fiasco.

Alec Baldwin Has No Idea What a Jackass He Really Is

Let me just put this out there--being a liberal does not mean Alec Baldwin gets a pass for being remarkably bigoted and ignorant. He actually wrote this:

I met with Nick and others from two LGBT organizations. We talked for a while about the torment of the LGBT life many of them have lived while growing up in traditional Hawaiian families. Macho fathers. Religious mothers. We talked a lot about words and their power, especially in the lives of young people.

One young man, an F-to-M tranny, said, “Are you here to get dry-cleaned, like Brett Ratner?” Meaning I could do some mea culpa, write them a six-figure check, go to a dinner, sob at the table, give a heartfelt speech, beg for forgiveness. I thought to myself: Beg for forgiveness for something I didn’t do?

I said, “No. I don’t want to get dry-cleaned. I don’t want to be decontaminated by you, Karen Silkwood–wise, scrubbed down. I want to learn about what is hurtful speech in your community. I want to participate in some programs about that. Or underwrite one. And then, like you, I just want to be left alone.” [emphasis, mine]

So, if you're trying to demonstrate how you're not bigoted, why would you insert the phrase "an F-to-M tranny" into your description of someone who works on behalf of gay rights? Why would you use the term "tranny" like that? Labels used like that are designed to belittle and demean people. It doesn't matter if the person was born a woman and now lives as a man--their dignity is more important than calling them a wink-wink tranny.

Alec Baldwin does not understand the culture and lives in the past. He doesn't understand the terms he applies to people as he looks down on everyone else in disgust for clearly identifying him as a bigot.

The sooner he makes good on his promise to leave public life the better. Let the assclown go.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Republicans Need to Get Over Their Own Mythology

This whole article treads lightly on reality. Republicans are demographically shifting themselves into a permanent minority. And what's not helping is the fact that they believe their own bullshit:

A few GOP consultants say the party's conservative philosophy hinders the sharing of its best ideas—both with other Republican campaigns and within individual campaigns themselves. "We are so individualistic on the Republican side, both in our philosophy and policy," Harris said. "It definitely bleeds over into how we are managing and structuring campaigns. And we have to break that."

Even the party's agenda can get in the way. As Robert Draper outlined in The New York Times Magazine in February, the party's conservatism on cultural issues might prevent it from recruiting the young operatives it needs from Silicon Valley and other places. The problems with these tech-savvy youths mirror the GOP's problem with young voters in general who might sympathize with the party's fiscal conservatism. As Draper wrote, the GOP's opposition to gay marriage and abortion rights alienates those would-be operatives. The talent pools the GOP must tap into, then, are running dry.

Hidebound and out of touch with the shifting of the culture is more like it. This is why the Republicans lose among minorities and lose among young people--they are still running on racial issues and tribalism. The people who supported racism and cultural conservatism in decades past are dying off. The longer the GOP waits for change--and by change we mean becoming more like Democrats just like always--the harder it will be to keep Gerrymandering their way into office.

You would have thought that there would have already been a Tea Party purge. Instead, they just keep doubling down, hoping that medical science will preserve enough Republican voters. Someone should have embraced a medical industry reform initiative so that older people would live longer. I hear Mitt Romney had an idea along those lines and couldn't run on it because his entire party was batshit crazy.

Trolling or Nuts?

Jonathan Davis of Korn has either gotten away with a prank or has inadvertently revealed himself to be a less than astute commentator on American politics.

How does the President of the United States control Miley Cyrus? Did George W. Bush control Britney Spears? Did Bill Clinton control the Backstreet Boys? How does that work?

Why can't anyone ever be reasonable without being stupid?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

This is How You Build a Nation

Watching what happens in Ukraine reminds me of how so many nation building exercises have failed in recent years. The people of this country are European, and wish to be European, and never Russian again. They are looking to the west but they are not exactly waiting for NATO to send troops and planes and ships to free them.

They are doing it themselves.

I wouldn't bet against the Ukrainian government in this fight--they have the weaponry to slaughter their own people. They have politicians in jail and no rule of law to speak of. They have the advantage that corruption gives to regimes that send police to kill indiscriminately. They have the power and the people have what they can pick up and throw (cobblestones piled in the background in order to throw at riot police? check).

What they no longer have is any legitimate claim to power. As soon as you are burning things down and leaving citizens bloodied like this, the slow walk to exile or the executioner has begun. Somewhere in these crowds there might be another great leader of the tragic Ukrainian people. If only they can resist their own thuggish government and the power of Vladimir Putin.

It is tragic and sad. But no one can accuse these people of not wanting it bad enough to risk death. They are building their own nation, no matter how futile.

Not Everyone Can Render the Proper Respect

Don't hit the play button; the video is not embedded here.

The Wisconsin National Guard needs a new team of soldiers to render honors at military funerals.

Apparently, some young female Specialist with a social media account decided to play around with photos and images and act in a disrespectful manner. Her company commander is more than equipped to deal with this, and she should join everyone in the photo above in finding other duties. They should not be allowed to perform any more ceremonies because they don't have the common sense to understand that, when you pose like this, it makes the military look bad.

Ceremonial teams practice with empty caskets and that's what you see above. They screw around to relieve the tension or the boredom of doing the same thing over and over again. They practice the funeral ceremony until an NCO tells them they have practiced enough. This is not a major scandal; it's a dumb one. What's different now is that everyone carries a phone that can snap photos or videos that can go online. This means that all of the stupid things we used to do years ago remain lost to the ages because there are no photos; everything these clowns are doing is recorded, archived, digitized, and stored forever.

Somewhere, out there in Wisconsin, is a soldier with enough common sense not to be in the picture you see above. Let that soldier render the honors and let the rest find something else to do.

Bonehead Live

Now, this is a reason to let them put pictures on Twitter.

Are You Dumber Than Andrea Peyser?

Have you heard? Al Gore is fat.

Andrea Peyser is convinced that because it has been cold, there is no global warming.

Forget about trying to explain how climate change has nothing to do with whether or not the weather is unpleasant right now--you just cannot get past the fact that some people are stupid on purpose. If the climate all over the globe has been thrown for a loop and if things have begun to fundamentally shift in varying directions, then the data would seem to indicate the climate is changing. The permafrost in Alaska is melting and the glaciers in Europe are disappearing. This was the summer to be in Greenland. Oh, and the jet stream shifted, making the world's climate shift with it.

Why any of this is about Al Gore is beyond me. There really is no debate--it's well past time to start thinking about alternatives to turning the planet into a greenhouse where everything begins to shift and change in response to human activity.

Peyser is proof you can get a job in the media--at America's most ridiculous newspaper, The New York Post--and know nothing at all.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Do Not Speak of the Dead

Never speak of the dead with someone who didn't bring it up in the first place.

In the case of American athlete Bode Miller--who qualifies more as a brand than anything else because of how long he has been competing in the Winter Olympics--it is wrong to press him and force him to speak of his dead family member. If Miller were to bring up the subject, it's fine to ask him questions about it but only in the context of what he has mentioned.

American media outlets are shameless and staffed by idiots. A producer should have cut away or brought Christin Cooper back onto the subject without causing Miller additional grief.

I get that NBC is probably not making as much money on the Olympics as someone hoped, but, come on. Quit trying to manufacture stories.

Lady Gaga and the Slow Loris

If you're like me, there are two things that caused me to panic about this article.

One, what's a slow loris and how do I avoid it? This is a slow loris.

Two, why is anyone still making music videos? I don't get that, either.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Curling is Easy to Understand

Each and every time they hold an Olympics, we are treated to the humiliation that the sport of curling must undergo because it is one of the easiest things in the world to make fun of.

Curling is a real Olympic sport. Men and women use heavy stones that are pushed and released on ice. Two team members help guide the stone with fancy brooms. The object is to politely destroy your opponent. It's like every other sport except that it's very polite and does not really require a referee.

See you again in four years.


This was not Snowmageddon. This was a lot of snow that fell on us and inconvenienced us but not much more than that.

What you're looking at is a picture snapped while on a long walk. It clearly shows that the second round--the five and a half inches--that fell after we got fourteen inches fell so hard and so fast that it overwhelmed the trees. Lots of them lost branches last night. The forest has been culled.

More on the way? So what. A week from today, they tell me it will be sixty-one degrees.

That Man Should Write a Book

I believe that I have already said this, but John Lydon is the sort of fellow who should write books.

Tom Perkins is Trolling Everyone

The people who founded this country never intended for most Americans to have the vote. Tom Perkins is aligning himself directly with the Founding Fathers; he's the most Tea Party-ish dude since there was a Tea Party. All he needs is a tri-corner hat and a wig and some breeches.

Of course, as America evolved into a country where people could get a fair shake and own something and have a voice in how they were governed, people like Perkins felt that we had gone too far. His proposal, to use wealth as a means of influencing voting, is inherently racist. Racist to the point where the people who give him a forum to speak are complicit in allowing a man who should be mature enough to know better that all he is doing is trolling the country and advancing ideas so reprehensible that they and he should be mocked and humiliated. It is an outgrowth of the idea that people should pay a poll tax or be driven screaming from their homes by bands of terrorists for being the wrong sort of people.

The world of Tom Perkins will put armed guards around enclaves of the rich, and children will surround the walls and starve and die in the gutter. Throughout South America, you have these compounds. There are slums and then there are the slums where the extremely poor can look up on the hills and see the mansions of the rich. Perkins wants to turn America into a banana republic or a phony democracy and have a belly laugh at the plight of others. Our media is far too incompetent to point that out.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Mayor Skillet

Mayor Skillet is an old short story that I wrote in 2012. For some crazy reason, people are checking it out like crazy on Amazon.

Go here and get it for free if you have a Kindle.

Sid Caesar 1922-2014

Sid Caesar is dead. He was the Charlie Chaplin of television.

Rand Paul Forgot He Was a Republican

Senator Rand Paul is running for president as an alternative to the tired old bags of wind who have spent their careers pretending to be outraged by things no one cares about. He represents the segment of the population that twists in the wind and follows all of the latest fads.

You won't read anything more naive than this:

We are told that these intrusive and unconstitutional measures are necessary to protect us from the forces of international terrorism. We are told that a surrender of our privacy rights is a small price to pay for the knowledge that we can sleep safe and secure in our beds.

We reject this premise. We are committed to a safe America, but we do not accept the notion that a surveillance state is necessary to safeguard the lives and liberty of American citizens.

These assurances of the necessity to give up a little privacy for the sake of safety are made all the less convincing by the fact that, after more than seven years, the NSA has been unable to provide any evidence that the collection of telephone metadata from Americans has led to the prevention of even a single terrorist attack.

There can be no justification for the preservation of a domestic surveillance program that has utterly failed in its stated goals.

The stated goal was to protect America, and, for the last seven years, the "homeland" has been protected quite well, thank you very much. Paul knows exactly why he has to identify with that "seven" year benchmark  (Obama! Benghazi! Republican Primary Voters!) because we're really talking about a thirteen year program and not the Obama Administration alone. It was September 11, 2001 that stampeded the country towards surveillance but, really, we have been subjected to far more surveillance from the commercial world than the government world. It was due entirely to the futile efforts of Senator Russ Feingold that there even was limited scrutiny of the Patriot Act (Feingold was rewarded with electoral defeat, thank you very much), and there was virtually no fuss when the act was renewed.

Democrats who questioned the Patriot Act or the war with Iraq had their patriotism questioned again and again. Rand Paul benefits from the fact that he has virtually no Congressional record and he revels in that fact. On the big questions, he has nothing that drags him down. He does have a desire to be President. The problem is, if he was the President, he'd realize that the law is controlled by Congress and that the Executive has to defend America and accept blame for everything that happens without being able to adapt and adjust to the lawlessness of our enemies.

Paul wants you, the American people, to hate Obama for all of the surveillance that's been going on. In this effort, he aligns himself with the privacy radicals who want the focus to be on the government and not on the private companies that routinely violate the privacy of Americans for commercial gain. He simply cannot accept the idea that the Congress writes the laws and that this Congress is too dysfunctional to pass laws that will safeguard the privacy of the American people. The lack of adequate Congressional oversight caused this problem but you'll never hear that spoken out loud--they need to look at everyone who conducts surveillance, up to and including the very platform on which this is published.

You are far more likely to have your privacy abused by a traffic cop than anyone who works in the U.S. intelligence community.

Intelligence gathering is about social relationships and analyzing the importance and relevance of what is found. This is done by combining as many different disciplines as possible. We routinely take photographs of large areas of the world. Who is complaining about the voluminous amount of imagery captured every moment of every day? If your complaint is about how we are caught up in cell phone metadata collection, why are you silent about the fact that you are inevitably photographed from above when you travel overseas? Privacy extends to being free from all forms of surveillance, not just telecommunications.

Privacy advocates are eager to condemn the easiest thing in the world--no one wants to be faced with the fact that their phone has been tapped and now someone knows how stupid/racist/boring they are in real life. They don't rail against video surveillance; they don't complain about the GPS chip in their phone or the incredibly complex financial surveillance being carried out by credit card companies that track and analyze every single purchase. This is disguised as fraud prevention, but doubles as marketing research. It's impossible for a person to drive through any major American city without being tracked by speed cameras, traffic flow cameras, or security cameras.

To me, it's just another thing where people need to grow up. The only real threat that exists is if someone in law enforcement were to use surveillance information to abuse their power. We do not have anywhere near enough oversight of law enforcement because we don't have a functioning Congress. You are far more likely to have your privacy abused by a traffic cop than anyone who works in the U.S. intelligence community. A traffic cop has to meet a quota and that's why they'll harass you and prevail. An intelligence analyst has to produce a product based on whatever mission they're assigned; if they don't produce, they won't get promoted. No one is going to advance their career by writing reports about Joe Blow in Ohio and his endlessly self-absorbed conversations about why he needs a better girlfriend and a newer phone. I hate to break it to you, but you're boring; we're all boring unless we're part of an organization that is structured in such a way as to facilitate an attack on American interests.

Rand Paul wants to score points but he will develop institutional amnesia if it ever comes to pass that his Congressional efforts have thwarted the intelligence gathering apparatus of this country. If his rhetoric goes against conventional wisdom, he'll rely on the useless media establishment to help him paper over being on the wrong side of history.

Paul has no solution. He wants to condemn one specific thing so he can damage the Obama Administration and better position himself for a primary against a similar bunch of forgetful Republicans. Instead of a lawsuit, come up with a law, Senator. Put your staff to better use. Sponsor legislation to change the laws you don't like. If there is an attack on American soil, it will be Obama's fault, thanks to our confused and inept media, and that's the way it should be. Pointing out that the Congress has shamefully abandoned its responsibilities won't ever be accepted as truth.

Chasing Relevance

Radiohead are branching out into the world of games and creativity, trying to find a place where they can keep music relevant by existing in the world of apps and personal devices.

Due to the fact that music is almost completely dead and killed off, at least someone is trying to maintain a level of creative interaction with fans. If this keeps Radiohead relevant, all the better. A band cannot just put out music and live in an insular world anymore. There has to be an adaptation to the technology of the day that rivals that of any previous experience.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The New Look For NBC News is a Disaster

I was scrolling through the NBC website (on a Safari browser) and this is what looked like to me.


What a disaster. Trying to make this look like Windows 8 or something out of a click bait wannabe site will probably cost someone their job. Or jobs.

Could it be possible that more than one person designed this? Holy crap. Groupthink.

Always Flatter the Elites

John Oliver made the sly mistake of thinking that there are elites who want to hear the truth. As a comedian, he has no obligations to flatter people or make them feel better--he has an obligation to do the thing that he believes is funny.

Condemning a vastly wealthy group of people who control a critical industry is gutsy enough; having the balls to walk into a room and tell them face to face is legendary. When Stephen Colbert spoke truth to power, they condemned him for it and he ended up reasonably successful and far more influential than any of the columnists who regularly embarrass themselves by regurgitating conventional wisdom day after day.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Royal Hypocrisy

Morrissey continues to use the platform he was given by music to advance his agenda on social issues. And that's a good thing in my book. He could have cashed in years ago and lived a much more comfortable life. Instead, he notes the royal hypocrisy of supporting things on one hand while blowing away defenseless animals with the other.

I never mind it when Morrissey does things like this. People swoon and then ignore what Paul McCartney has to say about being a vegetarian; why is that? He has tens of millions of fans and how many of them ever stand up and say, "thanks to Paul McCartney, I'm not a meat eater anymore." How is it that one of the most famous musicians in the world can be such an advocate for something and be almost completely ignored when it comes to that issue? It's as if they have a blind eye for it as long as he plays enough Beatles songs.

Morrissey has been far more influential, although trying to pick the most persuasive vegetarian is a task that will likely get you thrown out of your next party.

That Tired Old Cliche About a Big Tent

Rand Paul has adopted the strategy of the moderate Republicans who have cried out for years for a "big tent" approach to winning elections.

Sen. Rand Paul on Saturday made a prediction that plenty of Democrats would love to see come true, but Republicans hope to avoid: “Texas will be a Democratic state within 10 years if you don't change.” 

The Kentucky Republican, who was in Houston at a dinner with GOP Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, continued to push his message for change within the Republican Party, bringing that gospel straight to one of the most reliably red states in the country and his former home.

“That doesn't mean we give up on what we believe in, but it means we have to be a more welcoming party,” Paul said. “We have to welcome people of all races. We need to welcome people of all classes - business class, working class.”

None of those people are truly welcome in the party of the oligarchs. I don't care if you own your own business--are you a billionaire? Are you rich on the level with the Koch brothers? Then you wouldn't be reading this and you are still unwelcome in the modern GOP.

The "big tent" approach is just codespeak for tricking more people into voting against their economic self-interest. You cannot win elections without appealing to the tribal tendency of people to hate others for getting money for nothing (which is a huge lie in American society anyway). Each and every Republican candidate who comes up for election knows they have to divide and acquire groups of people that are squared off against one another; the unifying aspect of Obamacare that they really hate is the one where people lose their fear of being bankrupted by the system. Rich and poor have been bankrupted by health care costs and Obamacare goes a long way towards eliminating that fear.

Watching Rand Paul run against type (his father's hatred of minorities and his use of fear is already well documented) is laughable. The xenophobes and the haters aren't going to allow him to run as a moderate. What self-respecting South Carolina primary voter is going to pull the handle for a man who actually wants the votes of the unwashed masses? They want to exclude, not include.

There are two things that will get you into the party of fear--enormous wealth or insanity.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Clint Eastwood is Still a Badass

America's enduring image of Clint Eastwood will not be that of him talking to an empty chair in hopes of electing Mitt Romney to the Presidency. That's because Clint Eastwood is an American badass:

Hollywood actor-director Clint Eastwood delivered an unexpected star turn when he saved the tournament director of this week's AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am from choking during a dinner on the eve of the golf event.

Eastwood, 83, noticed a "look of panic" on the face of tournament official Steve John as he tried to swallow a piece of cheese during a function for tournament volunteers at the Monterey Conference Center in California on Wednesday night.

Immediately, Eastwood stepped in and performed the Heimlich maneuver, the Carmel Pine Cone reported in Friday's edition.

There are few, if any, 83 year old men who could move quickly enough to give someone a pat on the back, let alone save their life with the Heimlich maneuver. Wow.

The Big Day Out is a Bust

I'm willing to bet that there are dozens of Australian money men who will come back next year and leap at the chance to lose $8 million (AUS) dollars on a touring festival most bands can't be bothered to come and play.

There's a real hole in Australian music right now. Who's the number one Australian band in the world? When was the last time you could point to someone like INXS and say, 'they're the biggest' and not have people throw things at you? By default, you'd have to go with AC/DC and then the Little River Band. The problem is, these are acts from the 1970s. After that, you could make the case for Jet, Wolfmother, and a few others but then you're wandering out in the bush. Kylie Minogue? Where are we going with this?

If the Australian music industry was healthier, more people would come to see bands at a festival. Or perhaps not--maybe the weather was a factor this year.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

NBC News Is Copying Windows 8

You are certainly welcome to correct me if I'm wrong, but NBC News has decided to copy Windows 8 and present the news as a grouping of tiles.

This is probably where the "web" is going. However, isn't Windows 8 a complete and utter piece of shit? Haven't they added a feature that allows you to turn off the tiles specifically because people fucking hated that function?

Can I just be baffled for a moment and wonder how to turn my site into a failed operating system interface?

Bernard Butler Can't Get Thrown Out of His Own Band

Can he?

I would be really sad if Bernard Butler got thrown out of his own band. Having said that, I can't wait to hear the new music.

This is Why We Can't Have Nice Things

Mike Gordon is a xenophobe from Albert Lea, Minnesota. Normally, these posts go on another blog, but I'm putting it here because it shows how this whole debate over immigration reform is going to go. The nutty Mike Gordons of the world are probably going to win because they have tribalism and hate on their side. Don't bet against ignorance in modern America.

The crux of Gordon's argument is us vs them. He fears that reforming immigration will lead to his personal joblessness. For, you see, Gordon is either a day laborer, a lawn maintenance worker, a dishwasher, or a cabbage picker who makes a darned good living. These are the jobs that so-called illegal immigrants enter into in order to join our economy. Many of them stay in these jobs out of economic necessity or a fear of trying to move up. Our economy would collapse without these workers; they are the most exploited cohort of our population.

Here's a rundown of the benefits of fixing this system. There are many, many Republicans who agree with the White House. They know that reform would boost the economy. They know that the inherently conservative and family-oriented Hispanic population of immigrants would vote Republican more than they would Democrat. They know that the demographic numbers would favor them heavily if they were to abandon the lost cause of hating the poor. They know that they're being hypocrites because if you keep people in fear of being deported and keep them working from slave wages, they can't form unions and receive higher wages.

None of the crazy shit Gordon has to say really applies because he's using facts to make the case that this massive "they" out there is going to take all the jobs. In a majority of cases, no, not at all. In some cases, sure--they could very well take your job. But, if they did, it would be because your employer doesn't value you as an individual.

How is that the fault of the people who would benefit from immigration reform.

The First World Problems of a Privileged Class

Wait a minute--you mean things are spartan and ramshackle in today's Russia? Really? I am shocked.

While some are calling them first-world problems of Western journalists sent to cover one of the world's greatest events, complaints about unfinished or underprepared hotel rooms in and around the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics are pouring in online. 

In the past 24 hours alone, more than 26,000 tweets have been sent using the hashtag #SochiProblems and the Twitter account@SochiProblems has more than 53,000 followers as it retweets some of the stories and photos.

On Wednesday, International Olympic Committee spokesman Mark Adams even addressed the issue in a news conference.

"It's a bit premature to say it's been a failure. They have delivered 24,000 rooms," he said. "Surely there have been some issues, but we are really doing our best."

Everything you are seeing about the Sochi games could come down to one question--what did you think was going to happen when you awarded Russia the games in the first place? 

If you pick a poor, corruption-riddled country to host the Olympics, you're going to get a cut-rate, falling down, cheap-assed venue in which to hold the games. The International Olympic Committee should bear the brunt of this abuse, not the poor Russians of Sochi who have had this pushed upon them by their scandalously corrupt government. The IOC is the problem. If you choose to look the other way and accept a bid from a country where billionaires go to jail for nothing, reporters die unexpectedly, and where the government is run for life by a thug, this is exactly what you're going to get.

It's not that these are "first world problems." You would find many of them anywhere, including the United States. It's that you have them in a country where there is no rule of law, no recourse for the aggrieved, and no respect for life or liberty. It's one thing to laugh at the fiasco. It's another thing to appreciate what it must like to live there.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Say Something Before You Cheat Your Fans

Whatever credibility the Red Hot Chili Peppers might have had before today is pretty much gone.

The time to tell people that the NFL is making you play to a pre-recorded backing track is before you actually go out and pretend to play your instrument. The time to own up to their demands is before you make a joke out of your band. This isn't Top of the Pops. This is music played live before people, and if the NFL is that way, don't play for them.

Say no next time.

I mean, how hard is it to have integrity at this stage of the game?

U2 Are Irrelevant

When you put out bad records (and Pop, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, and No Line on the Horizon certainly qualify as bad albums for U2), you drift into irrelevance.

Here's the real reason why U2 are irrelevant. Five years between albums? Just go away already.

U2 have released exactly four albums since 1997 (Pop, All That You Can't Leave Behind (2000), How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb (2005), No Line on the Horizon (2009)). I'm not counting the disastrous Million Dollar Hotel project--that would be unfair. That's absolutely pathetic in terms of artistic achievement. This reveals a sense of entitlement and self-indulgence that can't be explained simply by touring endlessly and grossing tens of millions of dollars by playing every stadium in the world. 1980-84 gave us the first four U2 albums; that's how long they take between albums now.

I'm probably in the minority, but I think they should have joined R.E.M. and packed it in. Am I excited about their new album? No, and who else is? It will have a bombastic single, moments of polished brilliance, and then it will sink into oblivion. What's the point of it all anymore?

Whitewashing the Military History of Japan

The fact that there are Japanese government officials who spout nonsense like this isn't surprising--they are more than welcome in Shinzo Abe's government. Japanese nationalism and whitewashing the military atrocities of Japan are straining relationships in the region, however, and this is why the United States needs to look closely at how it deals with Abe.

In and of themselves, Japan's deniers (truthers!) are a harmless, ridiculous bunch. The problem comes when the Chinese or South Koreans stoke the outrage and pretend to be upset about what's happening. They are sophisticated enough to know that Abe's government is not permanent and that Japanese school children have never been fully informed of the shameful acts of Japan's government during the 1930s and 1940s.

This comes down to posturing over mineral, gas, and oil resources and over territorial islands that have long been in dispute. Will Japan go to war over the Kuril Islands? No matter how jingoistic the Japanese government gets, I refuse to believe the Japanese would embrace war.

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Reason Why the Seattle Seahawks Will Not Repeat as NFL Champions

There's a problem with this idea that Seattle, which was the better team and deserved to win the Super Bowl this year, won't win it next year.


The NFL thrives on competition. The dynasties of old are gone. When a sad franchise like Seattle, which has had rare moments of brilliance over the last thirty years, can win a Super Bowl the year after Baltimore did it and the year after New York did it, you have to come down on the side of parity. Some teams, like New York and New England, return to the Super Bowl and win it. Others, like Baltimore, have to tear their teams down and rebuild them.

If Seattle can come back in a few years and win it, great. But they're going to have to struggle to do that. A repeat is rare--a three-peat is all but impossible. Thank the salary cap for that.


Vernon Reid says that the Red Hot Chili Peppers went onstage without even bothering to use the wireless adapters that are usually plugged into instruments. They played the Super Bowl but they didn't actually play their instruments.

Did they really use a pre-recorded tape? Really? The Red Hot Chili Peppers are accomplished enough as a band to make this work; logistics aside, they have the ability to play live at an extremely high level. You may not be a fan but you can't deny their ability to make it work live. Who told them they couldn't?

If you want to talk about hard times and a band being a fraud, look no further if this is true.

I'd be curious to find out who else has done this. If you can't play live at the Super Bowl, don't play the Super Bowl. End of story.

Embrace The Good Will Out Cover

Where was I when this came out? I still can't remember what I was paying attention to in 1998. I was in the Army and I had some stuff going on. New music wasn't a thing for me when I was trying to figure out why the hell I had decided to screw up my life. Oh well.

Embrace are still a band, by the way. They were dropped by Hut Records when their third album tanked a bit and the reasons for that could best be summed up by the fact that the music industry was turned on its ear in the early 2000s. Who, in their right mind, would pass up the chance to put something out by a band that has had a number one album in the UK?

The Good Will Out has all of the hallmarks of a number one album. The cover is well executed, bringing darkness and a camera flare into perfect use. It echoes the swagger of the times and the need to show men walking down the street at the right time of day. It works.

They Blew it Up

Not quite two years ago, I was in Frankfurt, Germany and I snapped a picture of this hideous building. This was the AfE building and it was far more hideous in person than my photo could possibly capture. It really was.

I called it a great example of architectural blight. The morality of putting something this dysfunctional and ugly in the middle of a beautiful city had to have offended someone's sense of decency, even back in the hoary days when throwing up towers in post-war Germany was an act of determination and muscle. Surrounded by classical buildings and otherwise functional European architecture, it stood out as being one of the few communist-era block towers to have sprouted up in the old West Germany. This is what you would have expected in Potsdam, not Frankfurt.

On Sunday, the Germans heeded my post--I am being ridiculous on purpose--and brought the whole damned thing down in a heap of concrete and dust.

Kudos, people of Frankfurt. I'm glad I was able to help.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Chris Christie is On the Attack

The Chris Christie campaign to save Chris Christie's ass has gone with what amounts to a Hail Mary pass--they're going to attack his former flunky, David Wildstein, and they're going to hope that no one notices that Wildstein has credible evidence to exonerate himself.

They want you to believe that this was a bumbler who barely knew the Governor. They want you to think he's just flailing around, trying to find a way to get himself out of trouble. The problem is, these kinds of flunkies don't get the kinds of jobs that Wildstein held when he was instrumental in shutting down the toll lanes into Fort Lee, New Jersey. There is no way Christie would have allowed such a man to be appointed to the Port Authority--no way such a plum assignment would have gone to an unreliable, unsteady nobody. And that job wouldn't have gone to anyone except for a capable infighter, one ready to turn on the boss if the boss tried to throw him under the bus.

The fact that Mike Allen is the one trying to help Christie is part of the overall problem--there hasn't been enough scrutiny or skepticism of what went on. The very thing that people loved about Christie was the fact that he was tough and that he would tear into the hides of people and howl like a coyote with a fawn. He was caught being callow and petty, and now he has to hope that people like Allen will help bail him out.