Saturday, March 29, 2014

Fear of a Black Planet in the Suburbs

Chief Keef is a young fellow with a lot of money and a lifestyle that appears to be driving the wealthy people around him crazy. The article goes on to add this:

They say that in the year-plus that Chief Keef — an 18-year-old whose real name is Keith Cozart — has been a presence at the house, their quality of life has deteriorated. Fans have flocked to the address, sometimes shouting obscenities from their cars. Noisy parties and the roar of ATVs have disturbed the neighbors' peace, while open marijuana smoking has unsettled their sense of propriety.

Meanwhile, Cozart's reputed ties to Chicago street gangs have made nearby residents so nervous that they follow his social media accounts to see if trouble might be brewing.

They were particularly alarmed to see a photo Cozart posted before the nonfatal shooting this week that showed him and a companion holding guns in what appears to be the bathroom of the Northfield house.

"We all knew that something bad was going to happen at that house, but I still can't believe it is happening in my neighborhood," said one neighbor, who, like the other residents interviewed, asked that her name be withheld out of concern for retaliation.

Northfield's top officials declined to comment, citing the ongoing police investigation into the shooting, but last summer Police Chief William Lustig acknowledged the complaints stemming from the house.

In other words, this is a first world problem brought on by the fact that when you live in a place like Northfield, Illinois, you had better conform to local community standards and behave. Unless, of course, you're one of the hundreds of 18 year-olds arrested year in and year out in that same group of communities for doing exactly what the young black man is alleged to be doing (or, um, worse).

Here's everything you need to know about what happens when you drive through Northfield, Illinois. First, the demographics:

As of the census[3] of 2000, there were 5,389 people, 2,155 households, and 1,532 families residing in the village. The population density was 1,822.4 people per square mile (702.9/km²). There were 2,241 housing units at an average density of 757.9 per square mile (292.3/km²). The racial makeup of the village was 92.48% White, 0.52% African American, 0.04% Native American, 5.57% Asian, 0.43% from other races, and 0.96% from two or more races. Hispanic orLatino of any race were 1.67% of the population.

The 2010 Northfield, Illinois annual police report, detailing who gets stopped for what and why when they drive in town:

Bear in mind, the community has a population of approximately 28 African Americans (that number has probably changed a bit) and folks from that demographic were stopped 170 times in a year? Somebody does not like outsiders.

What I see when I look at this data is that each of the 28 African Americans who live in Northfield can expect to be stopped 6 times in a year (assuming they don't stop people who drive through the small community of about 5,400 people). If you're white, you can expect that you might be stopped 1.8 times a year--a pretty significant difference.

Now, that's a cursory look at data for one year--but it speaks volumes to the attitude of the police in the community. Outsiders beware.

Amateur Athletics and the Long Dead American Labor Movement

There is an important commentary on the state of relations between the young men who play college football and the National Collegiate Athletics Association, and if it feels like we're about to go back in time and talk about unions and rights and bargaining, you would be correct. We're about to take a trip back to when there actually was an American labor movement and when there actually were people who wanted to form unions in order to receive better compensation from the companies they worked for.

What's substituted is important--the university, bound by NCAA rules--is the company and the football player (and I suppose this will extend to all sports, whether they are played by males or females or both) is the employee or worker.

The worker has been exploited by the company. If this isn't reminiscent of the coal miners or the railroad workers, it will be because the exploitation of college football players rivals that of any other exploitative arrangement in American history.

Public and private universities make billions in profits from the sports played by young men and women, but, primarily, by men. They make money hand over fist. In short, they get some of the most valuable "profit" imaginable for almost exactly nothing paid to the players, also known as the workers. They do get room and board, and they do get free tuition, but those prices and those values are inflated because not every student athlete gets a scholarship and not every kid gets to compete fairly for those benefits. They can disappear with relatively no due process and if a kid destroys their body, their ability to recoup their losses is minimal at best.

The NCAA would love to continue this arrangement because they are wringing massive profits out of a constantly regenerating workforce. Every four years, a kid leaves school and is replaced by the next kid up the totem pole. There is, literally, an endless supply of free labor to exploit and the NCAA's members have tapped a seam of coal that will never run out.

And now, a handful of these young men have decided to stand up for the rights and demand some compensation for their labor. But wait! Unions are bad, unions are wrong, and unions are what communists used to defeat 'Murica.

Which is all bullshit. But it doesn't change the facts:

What you see, right there, is someone who talks about college basketball on television -- and also played college basketball when Bill Clinton was President -- being corrected by someone who played football at the University of Missouri just a few years ago. Moe, for his part, is not sure that "a union is the way to handle it" where this particular issue is concerned, which is not surprising. Most people, after more than a generation of effectively un-rebutted anti-labor noise, don't really know what unions do, but suspect that it is generally bad and broadly anti-competitive and faintly communistic.

That is why the NCAA is attempting to leverage popular distrust of unions as a way of wriggling out of the obligations created by the NLRB ruling. What that ruling found, in effect, is that college football players were effectively employees of the schools in which they're enrolled. This is because the players spend some 50 hours a week on football-related activities, are expected to conform to extraordinary restrictions such as draconian speech and conduct codes and otherwise adhere to standards that do not apply to other students.

The crux of it, which very few are eager to dispute beyond legalisms and Herculean feats of blinkered sentimentality, is that student-athletes are held to a significantly different standard than student non-athletes, to the point where they become something less like students and something more like employees who are compensated for their work with (highly contingent and incomplete) tuition reimbursement.

The mere fact that you have a college kid in 2014 saying that unions are "communistic" takes us back to the 1950s and the beginning of the assault on labor unions in this country. By the Reagan years, this rhetoric had all but crippled the powerful unions that allowed a significant number of Americans the chance to work and earn a living.

Here's what the NCAA wants to fight against:

The nascent union at Northwestern wants to be able to bargain as employees, and its goals are almost poignantly modest. Not annual salaries or performance bonuses or training table room service, but enhanced concussion protocols, a dedicated fund to help players earn their degrees and financial assistance for ex-players who suffered injuries while playing/working with the team. (As employees, they would also have rights under Illinois' worker's comp laws, although that would require a separate ruling.) This is all patently and intentionally not extreme.

Can I just say, WTF? Every single American worker ought to have their own version of these rights, especially people who actually, you know, have to sacrifice their bodies while working.

My money is on the NCAA, however. This county simply cannot tolerate the idea that the working poor have any rights. I am optimistic that we will get there as a society, but I'm concerned that the NCAA's deep pockets will reveal a legal strategy that will crush this rather "nascent" movement.

And, as with any discussion about sports and athletics, actually educating people is the last thing on anyone's minds, except now that it is a part of the idea of unionizing players and giving them some rights as far as completing the education. That one insistence legitimizes their efforts and puts the NCAA's fight against them to shame.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Spam Bots on Twitter Finally Get Their Due

Much of what happens on social media when it comes to music is just Spam. People post music videos without commentary, endlessly, trying to garner attention or followers. They endlessly use their fake Twitter accounts to tweet and re-tweet things that are "cool" and the links bring them followers.

Why would you measure what is obviously Spam and faked in a way to increase the phony value of a fake social media account? They say that one in ten Twitter accounts are fake. An estimated 697 million people signed up for Twitter and haven't used it in months.

The real value would be to measure only the tweets of people from verified accounts. The unverified masses re-tweet garbage all day long, fruitlessly trying to find a way to wring some money out of a medium that is overflowing with phoniness.

Do you know what would add value to this? If Twitter were to wipe out fake and abandoned accounts, hey, then you might have something.

It's Hard Out There For a Russian Billionaire

If you're a Russian billionaire, isn't being afraid of having someone poison you a central part of your job description? How could you reasonably expect to go about your daily activities without having someone test your food in front of you and handle your mail and keep you away from beady-eyed men? Wouldn't that be exactly how you would expect to be murdered?

Any Russian billionaire worth his salt knows that being poisoned on a regular basis is probably how things are going to be until you can safely relocate yourself to practically no where on the face of the Earth.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Turning Away From Television

If your TV business is shaky right now, what Jarvis Cocker is saying should wake you up to a new reality. For the first time in about three generations, people are abandoning television in droves. The entirety of the TV industry is scrambling to figure out how to move online and stay relevant and make money. The tablets are killing them, and indifference is helping everything along.

If the TV business model changes, what does that mean for artists who have relied upon television to stay relevant? If you're someone who makes music videos and tries to appeal to fans that way, your options are going to shift towards more of an online model. And, given that advertising online is dead--and revenue from hosting ads is so pitiable--how does that mean more artists will make videos?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Who is Running the Secret Service?

I mean, what the hell?

Three Secret Service agents on President Obama's Amsterdam trip were sent home after they partied so hard Saturday that one agent ended up passed out drunk in a hotel hallway.

Unlike a certain Cartagena trip, the misconduct here appears to be technical—Secret Service regulations say that agents on official trips are prohibited from drinking alcohol within 10 hours of duty. Although Obama didn't arrive in the Netherlands until Monday, the agents violated the rule drinking late Saturday night because they had a classified briefing on Sunday.

Standards are really that low, huh?

Well, these elite young agents can now find jobs elsewhere. If everything that happened in Colombia didn't wake them up to the consequences of losing their mud in public while on foreign security details, what could possibly do the trick?

I have no way of knowing if they went to Bananenbar, but it would be a shame if they didn't get to go there before being out of work and being forced to revise their resumes.

Why Are You In Grad School Anyway?

This is pretty bad, but what's even worse is how being an adjunct professor (because becoming one is one of the reasons why people go to grad school) has turned into an exercise in futility:

Nothing I can do about the size--Don't CLICK on the graphic to make it readable-it won't work

If you're going to get a graduate degree, I would think that you have a pretty good job lined up already. If not, then why bother incurring the terrible costs? To become a professor somewhere? Guess what--that's like starting a band and hoping people will pay for your music. It ain't happening.

Damon Albarn Wanted More Money

Damon Albarn probably wanted a lot more money than the festival organizers were willing to pay, and that's why they pulled out. What were the organizers charged with doing? Promoting the event? They did that. Everyone in Australia knew that there was going to be a Big Day Out festival and who was going to play--everyone who had an inkling of going, that is.

At the end of the day, Albarn wants the cash. When someone pulls out of a festival, is it really about promotion and logistics or is it really about the cut of the profits? Come on. It's about the money. It always is.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Pandora's Caberet in Waterbury, Connecticut

My grandson and I were there: holla back, FOOLS!

I hasten to describe how difficult it was to visit Pandora's after my grandson Chip and I made the decision to sample Waterbury's night life. Chip is going to graduate high school this spring, barring any more academic moves against him, but he is 18 and they let him into the establishment. We did enjoy ourselves, but we did not appreciate all of that gunfire.

It seemed to detract from the table dance we had paid for because you could tell the poor young lady was nervous. I also thought she was a bit under weight as well, but when I suggested she add a few more pounds, she asked the bouncer to remove me for being rude. I offered up advice for a woman on how to put on "curvy" weight as opposed to babyfat weight, but to no avail. I have all of the science on this, and it requires eating the right amount of Doritos with cream cheese.

Chip stayed until they made everyone leave, and I still don't know how he got home. I left with a woman named Bubbles or Jennifer, depending on whether or not her lisp was acting up, and we went to Wing it On because duh.

Joy Division Closer Cover

There are a few album covers that create instant recognition and elevate a band to iconic status and Joy Division's Closer album cover does exactly that. It is the perfect example of an album of Gothic music. This is what it looks like when a band is at the top of their form and when the cover they have chosen for their album captures what is inside.

The image of mourning on the cover is from a photograph of the Appiani family tomb in theCimitero Monumentale di Staglieno in the Italian city of Genoa. Released on 18 July, 1980, just after the suicide of Ian Curtis, it was the second and last album of studio recordings; everything released since then is either a compilation or a live album.

As a marketing took, the cover image has enormous command. When applied to this flyer, advertising a live performance by Peter Hook (separate from the rest of New Order), it has an incredible appeal.

Performance poster for The Light, featuring Peter Hook.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Caring About People is More Important Than Caring About Business

I know my priorities are often out of whack, but shouldn't there be more of a focus on the recovery of the people who were actually, you know, blown to fucking pieces in Boston and their families and how they're coping with their losses?

Perhaps it is just my nutty way, but I care more about the people than I do about the bars and shops and restaurants. I know they employ people, but I think we can all agree that the ones who were actually killed and maimed and their families mean more than someone's profit margin.

Albert Lea Needs Someone Like Don Ness

Don Ness is the 40 year-old mayor of Duluth, Minnesota. He's certainly not perfect, but he is turning around a city with problems vastly more difficult than those faced by Albert Lea:

“Being a mayor, especially in a ‘strong mayor’ city system, gives you tremendous opportunities,” I was told early this year by Don Ness, the mayor of Duluth, Minnesota. A hundred years ago, Duluth was one of the fastest-growing cities in America. Thirty years ago, it was, like Flint, Michigan, and Gary, Indiana, one of the most distressed. Now it has begun a tech, services, and tourism recovery. In the 2000 census, Duluth’s population was older than the state’s as a whole. Today it is getting younger and wealthier.

Ness was elected mayor in 2007, at age 33, and was reelected without opposition four years later, the first time that had happened in Duluth’s history. “It’s a job that requires—and allows—you to create and implement a tangible agenda,” he told me. “You can carry that out in a way that most positions in American politics just don’t permit.”

Albert Lea needs to eliminate the weak mayoral position it currently employs and reform itself. Or don't. Continuing to suck for another thirty years works, too.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Kermit Gosnell Thrived Because of the Anti-Abortion Movement

Brandon McGinley is yet another conservative pro-life warrior wannabe who is trying to link Planned Parenthood to the actions of Kermit Gosnell, the horrible man who performed illegal backroom abortions in Philadelphia.

Planned Parenthood condemned Gosnell and pointed out something that should be understood by now. The pro-life movement causes a hell of a lot of problems for women, and it isn't even that good at stopping abortions or knowing what's going on:

In a March piece for the Huffington Post, Kate Michelman, the former president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, and Carol E. Tracy, the executive director of the Women's Law Project, wrote that one reason that poor minority women went to Kermit Gosnell's house of horrors was that they were driven there by fear of anti-abortion protestors outside Planned Parenthood facilities in Philadelphia. They cite the story of one woman, Davida Clarke Johnson, who said "the picketers out there, they just scared me half to death," leading her to turn to Gosnell in 2001. "[P]rotesters (ironically) were not an issue" at Gosnell's clinic, Michelman and Tracy write. Amanda Marcotte repeated the charge in SlateMonday.

Intrigued by the accusation, I reached out to Edel Finnegan, director of the Pro-Life Union of Greater Philadelphia, which runs the anti-abortion protests in the city, according to other groups involved in the abortion fight in the state.
Finnegan refuted the report and confirmed that Gosnell's Women's Medical Society was in fact on the Pro-Life Union's radar for decades, and was not exempted from its picketing or prayer. "We were involved with praying outside of the Gosnell facility. For about 20 years, there was a group of people going out on the second Saturday of the month" to area abortion facilities, she told me.

That makes the Pro-Life Union of Greater Philadelphia perhaps the single longest-standing regular outside observer of Gosnell's clinic, which was last inspected by state authorities in 1993 before a Feb. 18, 2010, raid on it by an FBI team going after what it thought was an illegal prescription mill uncovered the dire conditions at the abortion facility located on the same site. "Every Saturday morning," clinic neighbor Bill Baumann said in the Gosnell documentary 3801 Lancaster, "the priests and the antiabortionists were out front praying the rosary."

If you take the health of women seriously, if you work to improve the economic prospects of women, if you pay them as much as men are paid, and if you give them access to health care, they have fewer abortions. Scare tactics send them to facilities that are unsafe and create future Kermit Gosnells. If you deny them access to health care and fair wages, abortions increase in this country. And if you use terror tactics, you end up with backroom abortion horror stories and dead women.

I mean, it's not that hard to understand.

The Dignity of Honest Labor

This is one of the most important op-ed pieces of the year so far:

Americans are mostly disconnected from the labor movement — only 6.7 percent of private sector workers are part of a union — and that means we’ve become disconnected from the idea of solidarity. Instead, we have an ill-defined feeling that we should do something for those worse off than ourselves, something that often turns into a pity-charity complex. Rebuilding the social safety net is a good start, but something more powerful would be a real understanding that we’re all in this together.

I heard that understanding in the voice of Alex Shalom, another low-wage worker who stood up for himself and his co-workers against his boss — this time, his boss at Bank of America. “I think people need to know that tellers are just cashiers with ties on,” Shalom told me, placing himself squarely in the same movement as McDonald’s and Wal-Mart workers. The perceived class difference between a bank worker in a suit and a fast-food worker in a logo baseball cap evaporates when the rent comes due, and many of us know what it’s like to do the math of monthly bills and find you’re coming up short.

We need a movement that makes us feel strong — all of us, whether we work at Burger King or Bank of America or an automobile plant or in journalism. That means not just focusing on the poverty but also the power in the voices of a group of workers on the street outside the Wendy’s where one of their colleagues was just fired for organizing. It means giving those workers and their strikes the credit for the wins when they do come. Too often, people derive something that feels like strength from remembering that someone else has it worse. But that’s temporary, and real strength comes from all of us being strong together.

Any movement which empowers working Americans to attack the bullshit used to marginalize their lives is going to have to overcome the need to remain isolated in communities designed to prevent people from gathering to talk about their issues. I would love to see a movement that used America's churches, but nobody goes to church anymore, except for maybe older Americans who have left the workforce. Could a chat room on a video game platform serve as the meeting hall of this century? How do you get people from a broad range of backgrounds in one place together so that they can see, with their own eyes, that the bank employee and the brick layer and the shelf stocker have a lot more in common than they realize?

Well, you need a world war to do that, as awful as that sounds. You need a draft, a conscription, and you need millions in uniform, held in place by necessity and warehoused like cattle so that they can rub up against, literally and figuratively, their own kind from all over. The thing that helped build this country was a pair of world wars that brought disparate members of American society together in one place for an extended period of time. They had to learn to get along. The kid from Ohio had to learn to get along with the kid from Montana and the kid from Florida. They had to live under one roof and figure out what it was that they had in common.

Works Progress Administration projects were attacked, endlessly, along with all of the other New Deal initiatives. They weren't all individually successful but they did bring dignity to labor. From that effort to destroy the New Deal was born Reaganism and a hatred for government which survives as practically the only idea the Republican Party has had, other than war, for twenty years.To these people, the only sacrifice necessary should come from the poor. It used to be, sacrifice was shared across the American political spectrum, especially during the Progressive Era and in the aftermath of the trust-smashing years. Once the robber barons were done, Americans shared in the misery of the Depression.

Their collective shared sacrifice helped the labor movement immensely. As an example, by the time he was 25 years old, my grandfather had worked in the Civilian Conservation Corps, which sent him up and down the State of Minnesota to work in different camps. He had been in the Army, and sent from basic training to Hawaii, and then to the South Pacific for months of war. When he was sent home, he enlisted in the army a second time and went to Europe. He had, with virtually no education, developed a worldliness that is difficult for us to imagine, all of it in the service of the country. No wonder he became dedicated to organized labor and the protection of Social Security benefits while never hating anyone who had more or less than he did. And, while always poor financially, he was connected to the idea that he had common cause with people who worked for a living.

When the wealthy in this country managed to destroy those connections in the 1980s, he was rolled over like everybody else who had organized unions in this country. He was cheated, by an early death, out of the benefits he had fought for. If he had lived, those benefits would have been drained away by now.

The issues faced by the poor are inherently American ones, and they deserve to be heard. That could be you, working hard like the folks you've spent your whole live looking down upon, and the way things are going, you'll know it before everyone else does. You'll know when you are one of them but you won't know what to do because they have conditioned everyone that any agitation against the wealthy class in this country is worse than anything imaginable. That's what is radically different today from the forty year period after the end of World War II. You dare not criticize the rich, and you better stay home and disorganized.

CBS and LinkedIn Have Quite the Deal

Not that anyone cares, but CBS has seen fit to run a pair of news items--in the place where news items appear--about LinkedIn. Both are not-so-clever puff pieces.

Am I to now infer that what appears in the news feed for CBS News is marketing bullshit? I'm thinking that's what I'm supposed to believe now.

Kate Bush Sings in Public

I don't know what prompted this--declining revenue from the sale of CDs and downloads, a desire to close things out properly, or some other need, artistic or otherwise--but it does mark a fundamental change for Kate Bush to schedule a series of live concerts.

As in, holy hell, Kate Bush is going to actually get up in public and sing.

There's no doubt that she can pull it off, but a proper backing band will need to bring her into the 21st Century as far as playing live is concerned. She's going to have to put something in her ear and try to sing--can she pull it off? I would think that she could.

Now would be a good time to figure out which luminaries from British music will show up. David Gilmour should, and why not Peter Gabriel? Beyond that, someone is going to have fight for tickets.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Rich Lowry Gets it Right

I don't think I have ever agreed with Rich Lowry (in the New York Post!) about anything, ever, but I agree with him about this:

In a feat that would have been unimaginable a few decades ago, the anti-vaccine movement has managed to breathe life into nearly vanquished childhood diseases.

It took all the ingenuity and know-how we are capable of to find safe, effective ways to dramatically diminish diseases like measles and whooping cough in the developed world; it took all the hysteria and willful ignorance we are capable of to give them a boost. A developer of the measles vaccine, Dr. Samuel Katz, says the question “is not whether we shall see a world without measles, but when.”

Not if Jenny McCarthy has anything to say about it. The former Playboy model and current co-host of “The View” is a leading light of the anti-vaccine movement. She has a boy with autism-like symptoms that she is convinced were caused by the vaccine for measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR). You can credit her passion for her child, sympathize with her heartbreak — and still cringe at her wholly irrational cause.

Now, Lowry does not go so far as to decry the anti-intellectualism and anti-science buffoons in the conservative movement, but that's okay. The shocking thing here is that you have a conservative pundit attacking from the position of believing in science. So, about that whole climate change thing...

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Pink Floyd The Final Cut

This is the difficult "last" album of Pink Floyd's world-domination run. There are a handful of phases--the early, indulgent experimental albums, with and without the contribution of Syd Barrett, and then the albums released in the 1970s, which topped the charts and made everyone look like an also-ran. The Final Cut was supposed to clear the air in the band and deliver the leftovers from The Wall. It simply ended the band and failed to impress the public.

I've loved it since I first heard it and I have always regarded it as a lost treasure. It should never have been a concept album. It could have had a looser theme, and it would have been more successful as a series of songs about Thatcherism in the early 1980s. It did not have to be the primal scream from Roger Waters, but it was. And it was the only modern geopolitical commentary any major group issued during that time. The superficiality of the 1980s stands in stark contrast to the darkness at the heart of this album.

It's a shame that no one bought this album (relatively speaking, of course). It was superbly executed and played and it still has a relevance that stands out. It should have been played at Margaret Thatcher's funeral and it could very well be resurrected and played one day.

Godless in Vermont

God has been shunted aside in Vermont:

Once again a new Gallup Poll has reported that Vermont is the least religious state in the country, with only 22% of the people willing to call themselves "very religious." On the other side of the poll, there is Mississippi, where a whopping 61% of citizens lay claim to that self-description. But what does it really mean to be "very religious" and not just spiritual?

I don't put much stock in things like this; statistics are useful when they actually prove a point. To poll people and ask them about religion isn't exactly a scientific exploration of population characteristics. I do think that this polling is useful for determining the lifestyle choices found in an area.

Godlessness, or the absence of religion, is growing at an accelerated rate because traditional religions fail people and they are no longer the cohesive glue holding small groups together. What was critical a hundred years ago in a town of 300 people is meaningless now that the same place serves as the bedroom community for a larger city where people work and shop. Consumerism is the religion of America. The growth of a secular lifestyle means that there will be a growing number of abandoned church properties in America. Some entrepreneur should start a company that rehabilitates churches into viable properties.

No wonder then that things like Yoga and meditation are so important for people living the Vermont lifestyle. They have found the thing that centers them and being afraid of Cotton Mather's vengeful, angry God is like still owning dot matrix printer.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


This is definitely the action language of an angry investigator:

Supervisors of the gunman who killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard last year noticed his erratic behavior well before the shooting but did not reveal any problems to the government, a Navy investigation has found.

“Had this information been reported, properly adjudicated and acted upon, [Aaron] Alexis’s authorization to access secure facilities and information would have been revoked,” the report said — and the shooting might have been prevented.

An official Navy investigation unveiled Tuesday by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and other top Pentagon officials blamed IT contractor Hewlett-Packard and its subcontractor, The Experts, for deciding not to take any action dealing with Alexis’s deteriorating “emotional, mental or personality condition, even when they had concerns that Alexis may cause harm to others.”

Someone wants to put the subcontractor (The Experts) out of business. This may damage Hewlett-Packard's immediate plans to continue to be a top-tier government contractor, but it won't put them out of business.

Newport city police officers made a note about one of their encounters with Alexis last August, in which he complained about “some sort of microwave” being used to control him. The city police even faxed a copy of their incident report to the naval base security office with the note: “FYI on this. Just thought to pass it on to you in the event this person escalates.”

Alexis’s supervisors were aware of all this as it was taking place, according to the report, and went so far as to contact his mother about his paranoid behavior. She told the company human resources office that “this was not the first episode he had experienced,” the report said.
A spokesman for HP, Michael Thacker, told POLITICO the company had no information before the Navy Yard shooting that Alexis “posed a threat to others or had a propensity for violence.” The fault lay entirely with its former subcontractor, Thacker said.

“As the Navy investigation report confirms, The Experts was aware of significant information about Aaron Alexis that was not known to HP,” Thacker said. “Yet, The Experts made a decision to send Alexis back to work after the incident in Newport, R.I., without sharing any of this information with HP or the government. Based on what we learned about The Experts’s conduct, on Sept. 25 HP terminated its relationship with The Experts.”

At the beginning of last September, Alexis exchanged emails with the “president of Freedom from Covert Harassment and Surveillance discussing, ‘constant bombardment from some type of ELF weapon,’” the report said. The Navy uses Extremely Low Frequency radio waves to communicate with deeply submerged submarines.

Both companies could face some expensive lawsuits, however. HP is desperately trying to sever their relationship to The Experts; at one time, it probably looked good on paper to pair them up and acquire a lucrative contract. The end result of that allowed a nutcase to have access to a secure facility. The language of this report is refreshingly free of doublespeak and ambiguity. The blame is leveled and the allegations are clear--someone failed to get this man out of the intelligence community.

An "FYI" isn't much of a "CYA."

Of course, this is really an indictment of the way we handle the mentally ill and how we have failed to restrict their access to firearms. No one wants to talk about that, however. If we actually had a sensible program where people who are mentally ill are prevented from buying guns, there might be fewer shootings.

The Music Business is About Lifestyle Choices, Not Actual Music

This is a great, great article.

It details what's wrong with remembering how the music business used to be and it demonstrates how well and truly fucked actual lovers of music are in terms of being able to sustain and experience music that has traditionally been made for profit and for somewhat narrow audiences.

And do you know what illustrates this fact?


Now, as a genre of alternative rock, shoegazing is dead, right? It was killed off by Britpop and abandoned for a somewhat more engaging and interactive form of music. It led a quiet existence next to an old country cousin called Madchester and it was primarily an English movement, originating with like-minded bands who knew each other through the social structure of the London and Thames Valley scenes. These artists went to see each other play, swapped songs and pedals, talked of distortion and noise mixed with dreamy vocals and Sixties melodies, and enjoyed a brief period of cultural relevance in the early 1990s.

Well, that's the short version. The long version of the story has the idea or the concept of creating music in the shoegazing genre surviving the initial explosion and developed into a more nuanced sound adopted by literally hundreds of different bands playing and surviving in scenes throughout the world. There are Brazilian shoegaze bands and French shoegaze bands and Seattle ones, too. Many of the original players of shoegaze music broke up their bands and then reformed them; not for lucrative album deals or tours but for the joy of playing the music to a fan base that has embraced the new bands while not forgetting the old bands. It's as healthy and as supportive of a scene as you would expect and those kinds of things are rare in a music business dominated by a handful of artists that suck up all of the money and oxygen.

A critic is the bridge between the superficial understanding of a musical genre or movement and the detailed version; artists hate to be lumped in with genres, but a critic is supposed to know how to overcome the artist's reluctance to be pigeon-holed and do the pigeon-holing in a way that enlightens and informs. Nobody really does this anymore because the artist's lifestyle trumps everything that was originally interesting about their work. When we abandon the value of their work, we ride the superficial. What drives this process is the absence of an advocate for the artist. The death of the strong music label and the A&R personnel means that the artist has to interface directly with fans and critics alike. They need a middleman but that person is gone.

You see, there really aren't any thriving music labels anymore. There are a lot of smaller ones, and they do well enough, but the money that would support 20 or 30 emerging artists at a label like Arista or Sire isn't there anymore. Those bands aren't there anymore--they've morphed into something else. So, the distance between them and Green Day twenty years ago used to be the difference between this desk and that desk; between putting out four singles as opposed to two. Now, the distance between them couldn't be greater. The emerging small-label band of today has to hope for a social media miracle to get talked about. Playing great live helps, but that's expected to be a given. No one wants to know who you are unless you can explode and sell everything instantly. Being able to move a hundred paid downloads a week is akin to being handed a chance at blowing up. Odds are, you won't. But you're going to have to do it on your own. No one will work behind the scenes to help you unless you're lucky enough to have a place at one of the few music labels still operating under emergency blackout conditions.

So, yes. Music criticism is dead. I can listen to stuff, and tell you why I like it or why it's terrible and I can use all kinds of tricks to do that, but it's not going to add up to much because of the subjectivity of music and the narrow genres bands are trying to work in so that they can survive on low sales and small live gigs. Things blow up occasionally, but, more often than not, reasonably good music played well and recorded in a decent manner is going to occupy also-ran status for as long as the band members can keep it going.

And the short answer is, they can't keep it up for very long, not in an age when everyone steals music and watches the lifestyle magazines for updates on people no one expects to produce a reasonably decent follow-up to whatever blew them into relevance. The shoegazers don't care about the oversized aspect of the music business; they like their genre and they support it. They support the artists they care about and those artists are doing okay for now, but it gets harder and harder to justify the investment in money and time in a business dominated by oxygen-sucking behemoths.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Jim Irsay is Too Cheap to Hire a Driver

If you're a billionaire who owns a professional football team, why wouldn't you just get drunk and drive yourself around? If you're on drugs and you have hundreds, if not thousands, of employees, why wouldn't you just tool around town in your own ride?

Somehow, some way, Jim Irsay became the poster boy for getting loaded on the cheap and being dumb enough to drive around in his home town.

Is Bez For Real?

The prince of debauchery is going to be elected to parliament? Bez? Really?

I can't tell if this is real, if Bez has an actual chance of being elected to higher office (wha?), and if the Jesus Christ pose was done to really scare people.

Let's get down to it, shall we?

Excerpt: Energy Flash.

The Ballot Box Has Spoken

The situation with Ukraine and the Crimean region has descended into farce.

The "people" voted for independence, and so this is like the Balkans all over again. The ethnic Russians in Crimea decided to leave Ukraine. They did so by using democracy. They voted for it. To the world, Crimea is not a country or a nation. To the Russians, neither is Ukraine.

What can the Western nations really do in the face of such a trick? The Russians are masters at mocking all things democratic and don't care about losing money. They have stolen enough already to last them a lifetime.

Friday, March 14, 2014

A Window Into the Soul of the Deep South

These are comments below the story about how Senator Lindsey Graham's wannabe opponent referred to him as "ambiguously gay."


What Are You Complaining About?

There are people in this world who have actually complained about male nudity at the Super Bowl. As if the men playing football in tight pants weren't shocking enough, the nipples of the Red Hot Chili Peppers were deemed offensive enough to warrant numerous complaints to the Federal Communications Commission. They used to wear socks on their junk. That might have made for a better show.

Why they didn't complain about the fact that the band jumped around and played to a pre-recorded backing track is beyond me.

Hating Science Will Only Make Your Kid Sicker

There isn't anything surprising about this story. The return of diseases that we stamped out long ago is not exactly how the 21st Century was supposed to go. I figured that, by now, at least, we'd have dispensed with the anti-science and anti-vaccination arguments. Guess again.

When people who think they are smart are exposed for being dumbfucks, this is what they do. They double down and they don't care if their kids get hurt. That's a megalomania that has driven the world forever. Catching someone doing something dumb makes them either admit it or enter into denial and self-delusion. These are the times of self-delusion, and the irresponsible people who tout anti-vaccination ideas are always going to win a certain skeptical percentage of the population.

Facts and evidence aren't worth much anymore.

Arthur Chu Lost Because of Benghazi

I'm getting sick of this meme, but I suppose there really are people who believe that everything that goes wrong in the world is entirely because of Benghazi. Some of those people are nuts and one of them is Lindsey Graham. Consider this gratuitous click bait.

Sovereign Citizens Stole My House

Not that there's a miniseries or a TV show in something like this, but there probably is:

A Georgia judge didn’t mince words when he sentenced two “sovereign citizens” who illegally attempted to use frivolous court filings and squatting to take possession of homes.

Their actions “were nothing but thievery and burglary,” Cobb Superior Court Judge A. Gregory Poole told Susan Lorraine Weidman, 52, of Kennesaw, Ga., and co-defendant Matthew Lowery, 29, of Alpharetta, Ga., at sentencing hearings last Friday, the Marietta Daily Journal reported.

“This was no experiment,” the judge said. “You had folks breaking into houses, changing the locks and outright thieving. It was just incredulous to me that a citizen could think she could get away with this.”

The sovereign citizen movement is a blight upon the rule of law. In this case, the woman pictured above made up the law, made up a lawyer, and tried to represent herself as having some understanding of the legal process. All she ended up with was a bunch of changed locks and a couple of decades in prison.

Modern television thrives on depictions of dark, desperate people who break the law. Half the decent shows on TV are exactly that sort of thing and the rest are just lame comedies. You could do a whole show around a woman whose kids and lovers and friends just steal shit by filing bogus legal papers. Give me a call, HBO.

Suede The Wild Ones Cover

If you're going to buy a Suede single, just go buy this one. It's fantastic. I love The Wild Ones. I really do.

This is a throwback to the two and three versions of singles that used to be released in the 90s. I don't know if labels and bands still do this, or if they just throw things out there as downloads and hope it all works out in the end, but this was a cool way to distribute music.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Everything is About Money

Were you expecting the Rolling Stones to do anything that didn't involve making money? Were you expecting a sliver of artistic integrity or for them to stand up against a totalitarian government? Were you hoping they would find a way to be cool or relevant again?

Sorry, ain't happening.

By kissing the ass of the Chinese ministry of culture, which has banned their innocuous songs from thirty or forty-odd years ago, they have lined up with Elton John and whoever else is desperate for that extra hundred million dollars. How much money do you need? Jeebus.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

He Is the One Who Can Ask

The Director of Central Intelligence has forgotten how everything works:

The normally cool and calm director of the CIA, John Brennan, may have flinched Tuesday. After a scathing speech from Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the chair of the committee that oversees his agency, Brennan largely defended the CIA from charges that it illegally spied on Senate staffers poring through documents related to the agency’s black site program.

But the CIA chief also left open the prospect that he may have been wrong. “If I did something wrong,” Brennan said. “I will go to the president and I will explain to him what I did and what the findings were. And he is the one who can ask me to stay or to go.”

In Washington, where politicians have mastered the art of the mea culpa, those words would not normally warrant much attention. But for John Brennan, a man entrusted with secrets on everything from Obama’s drone war to his cyber espionage campaign against Iran, Brennan’s talk amounts to a kind of dare.

The President does not ask. He tells.

If the Senate committee that oversees the CIA is up in arms about being spied on, you can be rest assured that it won't be up to the President whether John Brennan stays or goes--it will be a removal based on the fact that the oversight and compliance carried out by the Senate has found him wanting and unethical. The noise making process has begun. Senator Feinstein is after Brennan's hide. This is how the Congress can impose its will on the President; and if the President digs in his heels, he will have to fight to keep him.

Is Brennan worth a fight with the Senate? No, he is not. He should resign by Friday afternoon if, in fact, the CIA did spy on Congress in any way, shape or form. And the DNI should follow him out the door. A clean sweep is overdue.

At this point, the intelligence community is so badly managed and run that it would take a miracle to restore any semblance of trust in the CIA or any of the other organizations inside of the umbrella. Chuck Hagel should really be the one to assess whether it is cost effective to keep all of these agencies full of contractors and cost overruns.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Lily Allen Lets the Industry Have It

This is an important statement about where we are in the world of pop music. Lily Allen has almost no control over what she releases, but she does control what she puts together in the studio. And what has happened in recent months is that she feels that her label and the people who play music on the radio aren't picking the right songs from what she has recorded.

You don't hear an independent artist making these complaints, although they do run into the same troubles. You don't hear heavy metal bands complain much, either. What they release is very straightforward. But here you have a pop artist who is trying to make a comeback of sorts and she feels marginalized and like she can't break through to her fans.

But here's how the problem is solved--she makes her statement via social media.

Given that there could be a backlash, I'd say this is an innovative way to reach out and discuss what's being released and played, and while it would be easy to mock this as a First World Problem enjoyed by a very privileged individual, it actually sounds like a cry for help from a miserable young lady.

I Said a Young Man Ain't Got Nothin' in the World These Days

I think that this article from The Atlantic hits the nail on the head--we have to deal with a rise in the population of young males or instability could be commonplace. Think of what would happen if a bunch of young men voted for the economic self-interest and threw a few Republican senators out of office--the country would collapse.

Much of what causes turmoil in countries like Pakistan, Egypt, and India stems in large part from the fact that it is prohibitively expensive for a young man to marry and thus, many of them become obsessed or socially confused and engage in criminal activity. Women have a civilizing effect on the male population and no where is that more true than in places where the civilizing effect is being missed because everyone is poor and can't afford anything.

A great way to temper this and spread stability would be to engage in trade and commerce and attempt to lift the standard of living of poor young males. This would be like paying them to stay calm and it would be money well spent. I think it would be a mistake to ignore the impact of culture and religion, but there are some things that could be helped by applying commonsense economics.

Monday, March 10, 2014

U2 Confronts Apathy With a Non-Denial

When a band spends five years not releasing an album, who cares if they go another year without doing anything? Who is clamoring for another U2 album like the last two?

This is a holdover from the years when it was important to embargo certain things and let it all explode and rush out on the day of release in order to maximize sales and make the marketing and business people at the record label happy. Who gives a shit about that business model anymore?

U2 would be smart to record relevant music again and then just release it one day and let people download it for a nominal fee. Who cares if it comes out on a Tuesday? Who cares if there's advance marketing and a fifty million dollar promotional campaign? Put out something that doesn't try to blow the back door off of a sports stadium and act like you've been there before.

How Many Music Streaming Providers Do We Need?

I am not a fan of music streaming services; that's why I have never used one nor do I plan to use one, ever.

Streaming providers claim they're paying artists, but, really, we know that's a sham. Unless you have a song that gets played tens of thousands of times a day, you're not going to see serious money. And who could tolerate such a thing? Should we encourage artists to try to make a song that is so bland and catchy? Or should we reward artists in other ways?

It doesn't matter because everyone is getting in on streamed music. Samsung is going to add itself to the mix and try to make a business model work so that artists can be paid less and less money. By further diluting the number of "plays" that an artist gets, all of the streaming services can get away with paying a smaller and smaller royalty.

Die, Sbarro, Die

Not a fan.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Proof That Republicans Don't Do the Technology Thing Well

As Photoshop goes, this is the worst of all worlds. What an absolute piece of shit.

Republicans don't do technology. They just let the intern with the least amount of grease on his chin give it a try and, an hour later, what you see is what you get.

I mean, how hard is it to do a decent job of photoshopping something? And it turns out like this?


Friday, March 7, 2014

U2 Are Out of Ideas and Have Nothing to Say

The members of U2 have a problem.


You see, you didn't buy enough copies of the last U2 album, which came out in another decade and wasn't very good. You went to see their shows, of course, and helped them gross hundreds of millions of dollars, but that wasn't enough.

You didn't embrace their sound and you didn't wait patiently enough for that thing to drop. Now they're going to make you wait until 2015.

What the hell, Bono and company? What the hell?

Suddenly it takes 6 years to make an album? When did that start?

To me, three years is reasonable if:

  • the band members all hate each other

  • no one gets along with friends or family of other band members

  • there are no songs and the songs have to be acquired somehow

  • there are no ideas

  • no one is healthy enough to record or play live

If you can't solve those problem is three years, give up the ghost and stop pretending you are still in a band. You're in a corporate organization at that point, and you have nothing to say. Quit while you still have a shred of integrity.

I'm not waiting. I'm going to find a way to bootleg their new album and enjoy it without the band's consent. Or I may just continue to go about my life as if we are in a U2 interregnum and only occasionally remember they are still a band.

You, the problem, are merely living in another U2 interregnum. Slave! Enjoy their latest half-hearted, half-assed single. And make sure all your friends do, too, or there will be no more U2.


Whatever, man. I'm just trolling.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Pussy Riot is the Only Band in the World

The non-members of Pussy Riot, which isn't even a band anymore and of which these two young ladies are no longer even a part of, are the only band in the world anymore. They get more news coverage than U2 and Coldplay combined and that's because the English-speaking media is obsessed with having permission to print the words Pussy Riot over and over again.

It trips off the tongue, Pussy Riot, and it excites the senses. But they're not in the band and there isn't even really a band. They make obscure Russian noise punk and disrupt things. They are badly persecuted, I will grant you, but that's only because they're still in Russia. If they lived in Western Europe, they'd be ignored.

No one should be attacked and no one should be doused with chemicals or paint. How barbaric.

This is a Stretch

In case you didn't think that the President's critics weren't capable of going too far, here's William Voegeli reaching back as far as possible in order to make a convoluted point about nothing:

Such resigned cynicism is, of course, exactly what Barack Obama was supposed to deliver us from. “Hope and Change” meant hoping for that change. At the Iowa Democratic party’s Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner in November 2007, Obama gave a speech so well received it propelled him to victory in the Iowa caucuses, then to winning the presidential nomination and election. The candidate declared, “Telling the American people what we think they want to hear, instead of telling the American people what they need to hear, just won’t do.” Democrats, he said, have “always made the biggest difference in the lives of the American people . . . when we summoned the entire nation to a common purpose — a higher purpose.”

I sit here every single goddamned day, pissed off that what President Obama said in 2007 before the Iowa caucuses didn't exactly pan out, too. I have a well-worn printed copy of Obama's speech, and it has been hi-lited and thumbed through and memorized and cried over. There are stains on the pages--my tears of rage. I am so, so bummed.

The Barack Obama of 2007 didn't see the insanity of the modern Republican Party coming--no one did. No one could have predicted that a Tea Party takeover of the GOP would result in people like Ted Cruz being placed in charge of things. If you saw Ted Cruz coming in 2007, good for you. No one else did.

The thing about Obamacare is this--the hand was extended across the table. The process was opened up. And then the Republicans lost their minds and allowed their paranoia about someone inconveniencing their millionaire patrons and sent their phony grass roots people to townhall meetings and everything went south. The process of negotiating the details was excruciating. A lot of good ideas, like single payer insurance, were thrown out in order to appease Republicans. Compromises were made and the law was watered down.

And yet, none of the Republicans voted for it. They can't take any credit for the success so their obsession with speeches from 2007 looks as pathetic as it really is. This is the end of an intellectual argument that they were ill-equipped to have in the first place. This is their sunset and they know it.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Liz Wahl is as Brave as Any Phony Out There

The sheer phoniness of Liz Wahl's on-air resignation doesn't seem to be getting much play.

Then there's this from James Kirchick's story:

Wahl initially reached out to me in August, after I launched my own impromptu protest on RT against Putin’s homophobic repression. Wahl felt morally compromised working for the network, she told me, but wasn’t yet prepared to quit.

When did Miss Wahl figure out that she needed to be an ethical person in order to remain marketable in the television field? Her best photos seem to be other there, and people are falling all over themselves to praise her for sticking it to Putin. The problem is, I can't believe she didn't know what this regime was like a year ago, two years ago, ten years ago. The Russians are not experiencing anything resembling democracy and the rule of law died in Russia before it was ever established in the wake of the fall of the Soviet Union.

What part of Putin's plan to be dictator for life did she miss? What part of the widespread killing of journalists did she fail to note?

I say she's a fraud.

This Calls For Some Judicial Activism

Guess what? It's legal now in the state of Massachusetts to take "up skirt" photos of women (and men, too, I would presume).

Massachusetts' highest court ruled Wednesday that it is not illegal to secretly photograph underneath a person's clothing -- a practice known as "upskirting" -- prompting one prosecutor to call for a revision of state law.

The high court ruled that the practice did not violate the law because the women who were photographed while riding Boston public transportation were not nude or partially nude.

"A female passenger on a MBTA trolley who is wearing a skirt, dress, or the like covering these parts of her body is not a person who is 'partially nude,' no matter what is or is not underneath the skirt by way of underwear or other clothing," wrote Justice Margot Botsford of the state Supreme Judicial Court.

It would seem to be an invasion of privacy, and it would look to me like the court is unable to distinguish between how to take a photo of someone in public and how to invade their privacy by compromising their person. It may be legal but it is not ethical to do something like this.

You cannot legislate against douchebaggery, but I suppose it would be an assault charge if a woman hit a man who was legally taking a photo up her skirt or dress. How insane is that?

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

What if God Wants Us to Stop Shooting Each Other?

Holy cow. What do you do with this nonsense?

Did anyone see the plea from a young student that was on the Internet the day after the school shootings out East? God was asked how he could have allowed such a terrible thing to happen in his school. God’s reply, “I’m not allowed in schools.”

A late great evangelist wrote three years ago that our nation, with God thrown out by our friends in Washington, would suffer catastrophes more frequent, more deadly, more costly and increasing in size. Could it be?

While we wait for our nation to be forced to its knees in prayer, what can we do to protect our kids and grandkids? Air marshals work very well on planes. They are not in uniform and cannot be easily identified. It could work in schools if a few volunteer. Trained teachers carried concealed weapons. When the word got out, shooters may not be so brazen. Another well-known occurrence, about the theater shootings in Colorado, is that this theater was the only one in the area with signed posted “No guns allowed.” How do you think he picked the one he did?

Parade magazine had a story naming the weapons used in most killings. No. 1 was clubs or baseball bats, as in Cain and Abel. No. 2 was knives of all descriptions. Guns were further down the list. It surprised me, so I read it again.

Billy Graham was approached by Washington to help take a stand against guns. He replied that new gun laws could be passed every day but would not solve the problem — which is national moral decay.

What can we do? Vote for God-fearing candidates and please don’t list to the news media tearing them to shreds! Which they always do. Evaluate them yourself!

Wally Fink
Albert Lea

First of all, what if God looks like the image above? Still wanna worship him? I'll bet you don't.

Second of all, what if the emissaries of God are the ones trying to bring us gun control? Maybe God is trying to send us a message with all of these random killings of innocent people. What if that message is, "do something to stop making guns cheap and easily available to crazy people" and what if the people who want us to vote for God Fearing candidates like Wally Fink are doing the work of the devil?

It would seem to me that one way to shake the faith that people have in God is to spread senseless murder and mayhem everywhere, and that the best way to do that is to have a society where batshit crazy motherfuckers can get all the guns they want because of profit! and whatnot.

Are you trying to tell me that God is on the side of men who profit from selling weapons that kill other men? Wouldn't it be more intellectually honest to admit that maybe God just wants us to stop killing each other and that the only way he can get that message to us is through the election of un-Godly candidates who preach the horrible truth of gun control?

I know. Holy shit. No one has EVER thought of that before.

Peter Hook Says Do As I Say, Not As I Do

What I don't get about this story is that it is clearly an example of Peter Hook being ridiculous.

If he can go around playing New Order or Joy Division songs, and if there's nothing wrong with that as far as the lawyers or the legal agreements that constitute the business and publishing entity that remains New Order, then why can't Bernard Sumner? I don't think there's a fan of New Order who would argue that Sumner couldn't go play songs that he sang on or wrote or recorded.

There's a lot of bad blood in what used to be New Order, but does there really need to be a legacy fight? I don't think so.