Thursday, July 31, 2014

Stay the Hell Out of North Korea

What is the United States supposed to do when people don't follow simple instructions?

Kenneth Bae, an American citizen detained in North Korea, said he feels like the U.S. government has abandoned him, according to a pro-North Korea newspaper.

Bae gave an interview to Choson Sinbo, a newspaper based in Japan, which has been given access to Bae in the past.

The newspaper published a picture of Bae wearing a blue prison garment in an interview that it said took place on July 30.

Bae said that he heard the U.S. government is doing everything it can to have him released and thanked the American and North Korean government for allowing him to speak to his family over the phone and medical treatment.

The Department of State strongly recommends against all travel by U.S. citizens to North Korea (Democratic People's Republic of Korea, or DPRK). This replaces the Travel Warning for North Korea of November 19, 2013, to update information on the risk of arbitrary arrest and detention of U.S. citizens in North Korea.

Travel by U.S. citizens to North Korea is not routine, and U.S. citizen tourists have been subject to arbitrary arrest and long-term detention. North Korean authorities have arrested U.S. citizens who entered the DPRK legally on valid DPRK visas as well as U.S. citizens who accidentally crossed into DPRK territory. The Department of State has also received reports of DPRK authorities arbitrarily detaining U.S. citizens without charges and not allowing them to depart the country. In the past 18 months, North Korea detained several U.S. citizens who were part of organized tours. Do not assume that joining a group tour or use of a tour guide will prevent your arrest or detention by North Korean authorities. Efforts by private tour operators to prevent or resolve past detentions of U.S. citizens in the DPRK have not succeeded in gaining their release.

The Government of North Korea has detained, arrested, and imposed heavy fines on persons who violated DPRK laws, such as entering the country illegally or attempting to contact private DPRK citizens without government authorization. Travelers to North Korea must enter the DPRK with a valid passport and valid DPRK visa. Foreign visitors to North Korea may be arrested, detained, or expelled for activities that would not be considered criminal outside North Korea, including involvement in unsanctioned religious and/or political activities (whether those activities took place inside or outside North Korea), unauthorized travel, or unauthorized interaction with the local population.
North Korean security personnel may regard as espionage unauthorized or unescorted travel inside North Korea and unauthorized attempts to speak directly to North Korean citizens. North Korean authorities may fine or arrest travelers for exchanging currency with an unauthorized vendor, for taking unauthorized photographs, or for shopping at stores not designated for foreigners. It is a criminal act in North Korea to show disrespect to the country's former leaders, Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung, or to the current leader, Kim Jong Un.

If DPRK authorities permit you to keep your cell phone upon entry into the country, please keep in mind that you have no right to privacy in North Korea and should assume your communications are monitored. It is a criminal act to bring printed or electronic media criticizing the DPRK government into the country. If you bring electronic media, including USB drives, CD-ROMs, DVDs, or laptops, into the country, you must assume that North Korean authorities will review the information on those devices. Please be sure that the information contained on those devices does not violate the laws or regulations of the DPRK, as penalties for knowingly or unknowingly violating North Korea's laws are much harsher than U.S. penalties for similar offenses. Sentences for crimes can include years of detention in hard labor camps or death.

other words, don't go to North Korea. Period. End of story.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Ignorance is a Virtue for a Republican

This will not hurt Joni Ernst at all:

Joni Ernst, the Republican nominee in Iowa, doesn’t want “federal legislators” to pass laws that “states are considering nullifying,” like Obamacare.

Joni Ernst, the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Iowa, appears to believe states can nullify federal laws. In a video obtained by The Daily Beast, Ernst said on September 13, 2013 at a forum held by the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition that Congress should not pass any laws “that the states would consider nullifying.”

I'm not sure what happened to the people of Iowa. They used to love the Humanities. They used to be champions of learning and knowledge. They used to be conservative but enlightened enough to deal with tough issues and very knowledgeable about how this country was supposed to work. They have a long history of electing people who are sober and responsible, except of course in Northwestern Iowa where they keep re-electing one of the most insane members of Congress ever, Steve King.

Iowa must now be full of yammering old buffoons who watch nothing but Fox News and the 700 Club.

In the end, oh well. The Founders have spoken (but it took a Civil War to settle the issue of nullification, once and for all, except in the fevered imagination of Joni Ernst). The ignorance of Joni Ernst will simply get her more votes from shut-ins and cranks.

Friday, July 25, 2014

ESPN Needs to Get Rid of Stephen A. Smith

Stephen A. Smith ran his mouth and what you see above is what came out. If it sounds ignorant, that's because it is. If it sounds like he's blaming women for provoking their own beating, that's because he kind of is doing that.

And that's the kind of word salad that makes it difficult to figure out what to do next, so I'll help ESPN in any way that I can.

You should let this fellow go work out his issues somewhere else. Clearly, when he had a chance to fix things, he went into a completely different mode and basically said, woman--take your beating and shut up.

Don't do anything to provoke wrong actions is another way of saying, take your beating and shut up.

One thing you can count on is that ESPN never really gets around to doing the right thing, and that's what it has in common with the NFL--a fundamental lack of courage and commitment to doing the right thing whenever there's a little money at stake.

A man who believes that it's not okay to beat a woman and then basically says woman, take your beating and don't provoke a worse one or it's your fault doesn't really believe that it's not okay to beat a woman. He believes something else entirely, and you better watch your mouth.

Good God, where do these people come from and how do they end up in front of cameras?

The Right Will Never Stop Trying to Destroy Social Security

Do you know why Republicans hate Social Security and Medicare?

Because they work.

Nah, me neither:

I don’t see a lot of appetite for that kind of bullet-biting on the center-left right now, whereas on the Republican side there’s a much greater willingness, post-2010, to bite the alternative bullet of entitlement reform. And that matters: The emerging policy vision on the right only coheres and makes (at least some) fiscal sense because it includes proposals to change Medicare and (from leading politicians like Ryan and Marco Rubio, if not from the party as a whole) Social Security as well. A center-left analogue would need to come to grips more fully with the long-term cost of the liberal vision, and the need, eventually at least, for new taxes on someone other than the rich.

New taxes on "someone other than the rich" is doublespeak for "kill the poors." Occupy Wall Street scared the living hell out of the people who thought that they were going to be able to waltz into the decade with government-slashing politicians in their hip pocket. You know, the ones exactly like Paul Ryan, who was a middle class kid from Wisconsin who cashed in on Social Security death benefits and got an education in the very ideology that would condemn anyone who took a handout from the government.

Inadvertently, the American taxpayer funded the life plan of a man who hates what America does for kids just like him. When you get through that door, slam it hard behind you so no one else can have a good life just like yourself. Pathetic.

Here's an idea--accept government for what it is and what it does and attack the one thing we know that does NOT work, and that's giving the rich tax cuts in exchange for creating jobs.

People in this country actually are free, and they're free from worse levels of poverty and fear than the Republican Party is comfortable with. Social Security isn't broke, Medicare works, Obamacare works, and that drives people who have NO ideas crazy.

More and more, it looks like we missed the ball on Occupy as a movement for real reform and change, and, just like in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, we lost a chance to talk about poverty and race in this country. We lost one hell of a good chance and I don't think we'll get it back until we defeat the ideas that give Douthat his woody.

There Are Hundreds of Reasons to Cancel a Ted Nugent Concert

I don't do lists, but if I had to do one, this would be my list of reasons why it is perfectly okay to cancel a Ted Nugent concert:

1. He's a terrible musician with terrible songs.

2. See number 1.

I mean, it's not censorship, and it never has been, when an organization decides not to allow a racist to profit from being a hatemonger. No one is telling Ted Nugent that he can't say whatever he wants and be an asshole in public. He's actually encouraged to do so by many, many people. He can say whatever he wants.

The problem here is that Nugent has hit the wall and can't convince anyone to pay him to be a dick in public anymore. If he can't make a living being a dick in public, he should stop being a dick in public. If he can't stop being a dick in public, then whose fault is that?

How hard is that to figure out?

Small Town Corruption

Please explain to me how it is that Sheriff Bob Kindler is not under some sort of scrutiny or investigation for what happened here. He's probably smart enough to keep his hands clean, but all it would take would be a warrant to see if there was any communication between him or the person who started this mess. What happened to being able to face your accuser?

How is it that the accuser isn't named or identified? Would that instantly mean an unraveling of what went on? Or was this someone completely unconnected to the Sheriff's department who wanted to embarrass the accused and mess with his life?

How is it that, "mere hours" after filing to run for Sheriff that Dale Glazier ended up taking a couple of months off? Thank God the man was paid for his trouble. And if I were him, I wouldn't drive anywhere without looking under my car for a puddle of brake fluid.

Jeebus, these small town people. They think they can get away with anything.

Shooting Up Myrtle

Did you hear? Someone shot up Myrtle, Minnesota:

Man cited for discharging gun
MYRTLE — Freeborn County Sheriff’s Office deputies cited Larry Prantner for reckless discharge of a firearm after receiving a report of gunshots fired at about 2 a.m. July 17 on First Avenue in Myrtle.

Pranter, shown above, was merely cited. Not arrested. Not jailed. Not charged with a felony. Not given a sobriety test.

No one shot him. No one brought in a fully militarized SWAT team to blow up his house and seize all of his weapons. No one even took the gun away from him that he was shooting at two in the morning, leaving him with whatever other guns he probably owns. No one beat his ass and dragged him to jail. He was not inconvenienced in any way until they had him sign the paper they gave him that indicated "your bad." They probably even called him sir.

Just cited.

For shooting his gun, repeatedly, in a municipal area in the town of Myrtle at two in the morning.

Freedom never tasted so good.

This is Why You Keep Guns Away From Assholes

No, I'm not blaming guns here. I'm blaming the asshole.

Chad Pickering of Bemidji, Minnesota is an asshole. He's a rolling freakshow on lawn mower wheels. He's lower than low. He's an asshole who used a gun to sort out his place in life, which, if we're lucky, means he'll never own a gun again and he'll spend a good amount of time in jail.

It's true--he might not actually be an asshole. He might be a drunk. I'm betting on both, and that's good enough for me with regards to taking away his right to bear arms.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Kids Don't Follow

Who really plays pickleball? Is it really for kids?

I think it's great that someone decided to give money to build a Pickleball court. I just don't know any kids who would play it; therefore, this was a donation specifically for someone who wants to play Pickleball and to hell with the youngsters and their iPads and their pickleheaded ways.

Not everything in a community has to be for one group. But don't pretend there isn't a form of elitism at work when corporations give money to build things.

A Ready Made Shop All Your Own

Ah, it would be wonderful, but who'd loan the money?

A record shop in Devon has gone up for sale on eBay for £8,999.00. 

The shop, which is based in Crediton, Devon has been going for seven years and is being sold because the owner wishes to start another business. 

According to the listing, the price includes: "Thousands upon thousands of new and used vinyl singles, albums & box sets, CD singles and albums." It also includes merchandise including badges, posters, mugs and tshirts. 

How do you explain that your business plan includes not going out of business like all the other record shops?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Your Scroll Bar Did Not Disappear

This is one of those rare occasions when Apple makes a mistake and assumes people can tolerate even a fraction of the change they were never looking for:

For longer than I care to admit, I have been unable to scroll down on my computer. This is only the latest in a series of laptop-related inconveniences, but, given the nature of my employment, is something of a problem. If you manage to catch the scrolling bar to the far right of the screen, you can generally navigate okay, but if you relax your vigilance for a moment and move your cursor, that option is closed, and it is necessary to refresh the screen. At least, that’s the only way I know how to do it.

See above for the answer...I struggled for days with our newly-upgraded MacBook and finally figured out what to do. I Googled the problem and someone coughed up an answer. That's how you do it nowadays. You look for people who are similarly challenged and copy them. What could go wrong?

Now, if this person doesn't have an Apple, then they're screwed and no one should care. But should never be too proud to Google or beg.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

This Guy Doesn't Even Read His Own Newspaper

There were no "olden days."

In addition, no child in the history of Albert Lea has been abducted by a stranger and gone missing. Our city’s crime rates are about the same as 30 years ago when children roamed the neighborhoods, not the couches. Our city’s violent crime rate is about one-third of the national average.

By sheltering our children, we, as a helicopter society, are doing more harm than good. We are part of the obesity epidemic.

We are letting the pedophiles, drug dealers and other bad guys win.

Even the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights has acknowledged the importance of play in the cognitive, physical and emotional well-being of children. And here we are, taking it from them. Our children are in greater danger when we drive them at 70 mph on freeways than when they are playing unsupervised with friends at parks.
In the olden days, boys played pickup games of baseball. Now, they only play baseball as part of an organized summer league, surrounded by grown-ups telling them what to do. It used to not be that way. They used to just be kids, playing how they want to play.

Where can young people go to get away from grown-ups and be themselves? For at least one generation, they have gone to video games and the Internet. They aren’t allowed go play with friends at the park because a social worker will visit the home, so, instead, kids will find strangers online.

So because we are worried about the imagined ill will of strangers at parks, we force our kids to stay home where they find strangers over the Internet or get fat playing video games.

Way to go, society.

I happen to have lived during what Tim Engstrom calls the "olden days" and none of that is anything I recognize. I remember Jacob Wetterling. I sure as hell remember what happened to Johnny Gosch. They were regional disappearances and abductions, to be sure, but they were part of the lore of the Midwest and they changed the way parents behaved. I remember stories of kids who wandered off and were found dead because of accidents--very common in the winter and in farm communities. I remember when Loren Bellrichard was allowed to run around blowing people up, or so they failed to prove. I remember a whole lot of colorful characters who wouldn't hesitate to beat the living shit out of a kid for nothing--the history of Albert Lea is a violent one, not a lemonade dream on the front porch. I remember the racism, too, but that's a whole other can of worms.

So, the problem is, I've got a memory, too, and things are much, much better when we have laws in place that force parents to be accountable for keeping track of their kids. See, I remember a whole generation of neglectful parents--the Baby Boomers--who took a powder and didn't bother raising their kids because they were drunk or high all the time.  Their kids ran wild. The very laws that Engstrom decries exist because bad parents can't be corrected without some form of legal code in place to help people sort out who is and who is not really, really neglecting their kids. I remember a lot of stories about abused and neglected children all around us, and most of the laws we have in place now are designed to help social services deal with awful parents--the kind that go off and drink and the kind that leave their kids in hot cars, and, yes, the kind that abuse their kids or let them have the run of the place. Letting your kids go around unsupervised actually makes them someone else's problem, and that's not exactly the way things should be. Your dopey kids are your problem, and that's that.

Tim Engstrom doesn't care about any of that because olden days and playing baseball and he's tough and you're not so shut up. This is how nostalgia gets in the way of common sense. You let a kid run wild and it won't be about sports--it will be about theft, vandalism, and drinking near beer where there is no adult supervision. Each and every law he complains about is rooted in experiences that left social services and the state's law enforcement community trying to find an answer for parents who let their kids get into trouble through a lack of adequate supervision.

I mean, doesn't Engstrom bother to read his own newspaper notices about the near-constant plague of unsupervised children--some as young as fifteen--getting caught drinking? Didn't he notice the big story last week or so about the kids who vandalized the Salvation Army? Those kids were improperly supervised and allowed to take out their frustrations on the Salvation Army. I don't blame society. I blame the parents who showed them what rocks do to glass.

The problem with his nonsense editorial is that it doesn't even bother with the facts of living in Albert Lea. This would be the same city where a large number of predatory sex offenders have been allowed to locate themselves and live their lives because we can't lock them up forever. When a new one pops up, the cops don't even bother holding a meeting anymore because of the apathy of the community. Up until he moved to Austin, there was at least one good reason not to let your kids out of your sight in certain parts of Albert Lea. Does the name Paul Berg ring any bells?

Yeah, Paul Berg actually tried to abduct a young girl from the streets of Albert Lea, and he would have gotten away with it if he hadn't been beaten like a dog on the sidewalk. And if you think he was the only sex crazed maniac trying to have sex in public with children, you haven't been reading the Albert Lea Tribune.

So, you know. Olden days were better and now everything sucks. Whatever, man.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Robbing Zoe Keating

This is straight up theft:

Only a very few classical artists have been outspoken on the issue so far: San-Francisco-based Zoe Keating — a tech-savvy, DIY, Amanda Palmer of the cello — has blown the whistle on the tiny amounts the streaming services pay musicians. Though she’s exactly the kind of artist who should be cashing in on streaming, since she releases her own music, tours relentlessly, and has developed a strong following since her days with rock band Rasputina, only 8 percent of  her last year’s earnings from recorded music came from streaming. The iTunes store, which pays out in small amounts since most purchases are for 99 cent songs, paid her about six times what she earned from streaming. (More than 400,000 Spotify streams earned her $1,764; almost 2 million YouTube views generated $1,248.)

So, 2,400,000 plays or clicks on Spotify and YouTube in a single year equals $3,012 dollars for an artist like Zoe Keating? 

Come on. That's obscene.

She clearly has listeners. She clearly has an audience. She is not a "fringe" artist in terms of her appeal on just two--two!--of these services. And yet, they're making money. They're making money hand over fist at Spotify and YouTube.

Zoe Keating isn't making anything. Three thousand dollars for that kind of exposure and that many plays is theft of artistic property. If someone came to your house and stole that, it would be a felony. There would be a perp walk out the back door, and a rep from Spotify would be frog-marched to a squad car with no t-shirt and a back full of sweat and weeds, just like on Cops.

Good God. Nobody is going to make music anymore if this keeps up. Why would they?

Friday, July 18, 2014

Hit a Woman, Get a Pass

Tim McGraw should have been arrested for assaulting a woman who paid to see him sing.

The phrase "instinctively swatted" is a euphemism for "bitch slapped" and that's pretty much what a lot of people are seeing when they watch McGraw hit a woman and get away with it. If he was Marilyn Manson, we'd be looking at charges. If he was Chris Brown, or any man of color, we'd be talking about jail. If he was Mick Jagger, we'd be giving him a pass, too, because that's how fucked up we are as a society.

I guess you better not get too close, ladies. McGraw likes the rough stuff.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

No One Cares About Adore, Billy

Good God, Billy. They didn't care about Adore when you released it, and they're going to care even less when you put out a bloated 107 track version of it.

Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan has criticised Amazon for allegedly leaking the tracklisting for the reissue of his band's 1998 album, 'Adore'.

It has been revealed that the reissue, which is set for release on September 23, will comprise of 107 tracks on seven discs, featuring demos with Rick Rubin, home recordings, outtakes and live recordings. Corgan has written online that he wished to inform fans of the tracklisting, but has claimed that Amazon broke an agreement and posted the information on their website.

"Amazon decided to break an agreement and post track listing of ADORE first; despite assurances otherwise that asked us to wait," wrote Corgan on Facebook. "OBVIOUSLY I've had the 'Adore' tracklist for four months, and could have posted anytime." He went on to write a more lengthy piece at the official Smashing Pumpkins website, also laying into the current state of the record industry.

Now, to be fair to Billy--this is for the fans. They're not going to print up 500,000 of these and stack them inside of 2,000 Wal-Marts by the greeter. I get that. I wish there was a 107 track version of a lot of the albums I love. 

But for Adore?

Come on.

This is why I have laughed my ass off at the re-release of The Division Bell by Pink Floyd, and why I had a good laugh at the idea that their "latest album" would feature the discarded remains of the TDB sessions. 

Sometimes, the well runs dry. You can't keep milking mediocrity. Knowing when to go elsewhere for water, that's the trick.

Cast Remastered

Cast have released deluxe editions of their first four albums, and these are must-haves if you care about guitar music.

I love this stuff, and I'm sad because I missed out when they were just getting big.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Music Can be a Protest Medium

I should clarify that headline--when music wants to be relevant to the culture, it can be a vehicle for protest and change. It can matter. It doesn't have to be crass commercialization smeared all over a marketing ploy for teens.

Why is anyone shocked that Eddie Vedder is against war?

Fans have reacted to an anti-war speech which was delivered by Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder last week during the band's show at Milton Keynes Bowl (July 11).

His words have angered Israeli fans of the band, who believe his comments were made in support of the 'Free Palestine' campaign, reports Spin. The Jerusalem Post has branded the speech an "anti-Israel diatribe" and fans of the band have taken to Vedder's Facebook to both support and condone his comments. On fan wrote: "He broke my heart... speak[ing] so irresponsibly about things and situations he knows nothing about. Now every time I listen to his CD's in my car, there is bitterness that goes along with the music." However, another stated: "It is a truly sad day when a man gets abuse for speaking out against murder and bloodshed."

Speaking on stage during the three hour long gig, Vedder commented: "I swear to fucking God, there are people out there who are looking for a reason to kill! They're looking for a reason to go across borders and take over land that doesn't belong to them. They should get the fuck out, and mind their own fucking business."

Vedder continued: "Everyone wants the same goddamn thing: to have our children, eat, procreate, draw a painting, make some art, listen to music, fuck some more, have another baby, eat, work, eat, work, love, love, love, everyone's the fucking same! So why are people at war? Stop the fucking shit, now! Now! Now! We don't want to give them our money. We don't want to give them our taxes to drop bombs on children! Now! No more! Now!" Vedder then sang Edwin Starr's anti-war song 'War'.

Here's the disingenuous money quote from above:

On[e -sic] fan wrote: "He broke my heart... speak[ing] so irresponsibly about things and situations he knows nothing about. Now every time I listen to his CD's in my car, there is bitterness that goes along with the music." 

In the time it took for Vedder to make his statement to now, this clown has commercialized his outrage and made it about himself. He has no idea what Vedder "knows" and he has no idea whether or not Vedder is using information that comes from an independent source. How convenient that it is an attack on a musician's anti-war statement using a personalized form of bitter, phony outrage that is transparently fake.

There is a war of ideas going on, and if you express any opinion critical of Israel, no matter what it's about, you are labeled anti-Semitic. That's ridiculous. No nation/state is above criticism, not the least of which would be the United States itself. Music is supposed to be enjoyed, but it can sometimes be enjoyed in the context of a vehicle of protest and social awareness. Don't be upset because Eddie Vedder decided to harsh someone's buzz and come out against war.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Haters Are Not Intelligent People

There are no words, just peals of laughter at the utterly ignorant fool who wrote this on a wall about children.

The glorious, patriotic message appeared on the side of a former Army Reserve warehouse in Westminster, Maryland that's been named as a potential site for housing undocumented children.

I mean, this was written about children. Whoever and whatever these people are, they were never Christians, ever.

Monday, July 14, 2014

One Third of the American People Are Always Crazy

Talk about a non-story.

Talk about a ridiculous subject for a story relating to American politics.

Talk about a nothingburger.

I mean, seriously. Support for impeaching President Obama is (gasp!) at the one-third mark? Meaning, about 33.3% of Americans want the President to be removed from office? Seriously?

At any given time in American political life, one third of the public is absolutely batshit crazy with a consuming belief that whoever is President (doesn't matter--it really does not) is wrong on everything, evil, and has abused their power.

One third?

Give me a break. I don't know who Peter Moore is but he has the cushiest gig in blogging. He doesn't have to think at all and he doesn't even have to try anymore.

Remember When Conservatives Wanted Latin American Kids to Come Here?

I remember when there was a kid named Elian Gonzalez, and I remember when he came here as an illegal immigrant. I remember how conservatives railed against the rule of law, which forced him to go back to Cuba to live with his communist relatives. They didn't scream at him and tell him to go. They hid him in a closet and tried to keep the government from sending him back to where he came from. I remember how they went crazy and hated the government and ignored the actual laws and wanted him to stay so he could live a better life in this country.

What happened?

Oh, yeah. That's right. Instead of Cuba, the new wave of little kids comes from Central America where they are fleeing the predators in violent gangs, and where they are trying to get away from narco-terrorists. And not only are they not coming here to seek freedom, they're bringing their diseases with them, right?

Except that they're not:

With thousands of children from Central America arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border, an old plague is once again sweeping the country—the fear of the diseased immigrant.

“Our schools cannot handle this influx, we don’t even know what all diseases they have,” U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX)said recently. “Our health care systems can’t withstand this influx.” [Except that they can, thanks to Obamacare]

Fox News commentator Cal Thomas asks, for example, if “the unaccompanied minors pouring over the border…have brought with them proof of vaccination?” Thomas accuses the border-crossers of harboring vaccine-preventable diseases such as “mumps, measles, rubella, polio, tetanus and diphtheria.”

Before demonizing undocumented children, we should look at the facts: The vast majority of Central Americans are vaccinated against all these diseases. Governments concerned about health, and good parents investing in their kids, have made Central American kids better-vaccinated than Texan kids. We fear them not because they are actually sick, but because of powerful anti-immigration narratives that link foreigners to disease.

Consider, for example, Guatemala. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Guatemalan kids are more likely than Texans to be immunized for most infectious diseases. Guatemala has universal health care. Vaccines are 100 percent funded by the government.

By comparison, one in six kids in Texas is uninsured, and even insured families often must pay for vaccination. That means that many Texas kids fall behind on vaccinations, or miss them altogether when their family can’t afford a doctor’s visit. Other families refuse vaccination.

Dr. Elizabeth Lee Vliet, a Fox News commentator and former director of the ultra-conservative political group Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, writes in the McAllen Monitor that measles is among the “diseases the United States had controlled or virtually eradicated” that are “carried across the border by this tsunami of illegals.”

Fact check: UNICEF reports that 93 percent of kids in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador are vaccinated against measles. That’s better than American kids (92 percent).

Oh, but American Exceptionalism and They're Going to Take All the Jobs and They're Going to Get Welfare Checks All Day Long. The bullshit gets so thick you can't even stand looking at a computer half the time. Thanks again, Jenny McCarthy.

Good God. 

You mean that Texas is now a third world country run by lunatics? Again, this happens? And that means it's time for the citizens of Texas to vote in another Republican who will continue to destroy the environment, the education system, and give handouts to corporations? Again?

I guess so.

Somewhere in Cuba a young man is grateful he didn't end up living in a Florida subdivision where you can shot for walking around with Skittles. And he's probably thrilled he didn't end up in Texas, either.

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Delusions of Hipsters

Vinyl is not going to save the music industry. This chart explains why without even bothering to hide the reality that is apparent in the numbers. If there were 289 million albums sold last year, and if only six million of them were made of vinyl, then there is no "renaissance" at work. That's a blip, not a trend.

There's a major, major gaffe in this article. See if you can spot it:

The problem for the music industry is that the revenue generated by streaming (through royalties) is not making up for the decline in music ownership, at least not yet. However, when you add up all digital purchases of individual tracks and online streams, and combine them with physical sales, the total dollar “equivalent” of albums sold declined by only 3.3% in the first six months of 2014 (assuming 10 digital downloads, or 1,500 streams of a song, equals the dollar value of an album sale). This time last year the fall was 4.6%.

WTF? 1,500 streams of a song equals the dollar value of an album sale? On what fucking planet?

Pandora, which declined a request for an interview, says on its blog and in official statements that it fully supports artists making money through royalties, but that it needs to level the playing field with its competitors.

The response from ASCAP and from some performers has been that Pandora already makes a tidy profit and the time for feeling sorry for a little startup company is long past. Pandora, they say, by choosing to pay on a revenue percentage basis, rather than on a per play basis (which they are legally allowed to do) can pay a songwriter as little as eight cents for 1,000 plays.

Since Pandora pays royalties both to the songwriters and for use of the particular performance (recording), and since the publisher takes a cut and the performing rights organization also pays overhead expenses from royalties, it’s difficult to rationalize the numbers being thrown around in this debate. And because one play on Pandora reaches about one listener, while one play on a satellite radio program might reach millions, it’s even harder to make apples-to-apples comparisons. But here’s a useful one from Claire Suddath’s article “Should Pandora Pay Less in Music Royalties?” from Bloomberg Businessweek: Pandora paid out $258 million in royalties in 2012, streaming to 175 million users. Writes Suddath:

That works out to about $1.48 per user. That’s pretty cheap. (For comparison, Sirius paid $272 million in royalties and has 24 million subscribers, so that’s $11.33 in royalties per subscriber.)

Oh, and here's a specific for you:

In the end, artists, especially songwriters, get squeezed by the system.
“If I’m a young artist/songwriter trying to get into the music industry and I look at somebody with Allen Shamblin’s track record,” said Michael Aczon, an entertainment lawyer and educator:

This is not some guy who just started writing. This is a guy who’s got years and years of recognition and certainly a significant amount of success in the music business. So, if a guy like Allen Shamblin is earning less than $900 from his hit song being played 22,000,000 times on Pandora — if I’m an unknown songwriter, what am I thinking? Am I actually going to be able to make a living at this? That’s what I’m thinking! That’s the only way I can think.”


So, just to recap what should be blazingly obvious--the only way a company like Pandora or Spotify or whoever else can stay in business is to make massive profits, and the only way to do that is to not pay out anything in royalties to the vast majority of artists who have limited appeal. The answer, of course, is to eliminate all of the diversity in music and then leave us with a couple of dozen major artists who make all of our music.

Yeah, I haven't bought any of that stuff ever, either. I do buy vinyl, on occasion, but there's no chance that it will save the music industry because there will never be enough in sales generated from vinyl to compensate for the fact that an artist's livelihood is already being stolen.

Twin Tone Records Catalog Sampler

I'm not sure how Twin Tone Records got away with putting Harmon Killebrew on the cover of their catalog sampler--must have been a sweetheart deal (and if that's not Killebrew, then I don't know who it is). It's a classic, through and through.

This is typical of a catalog sampler--you have artists who are all over the map. You even have Robyn Hitchcock on this thing, which blows my mind. The package works well as a marketing tool because it delivers eighteen tracks from so many different and prominent artists. Something tells me Twin Tone could have been a much bigger deal if they had gotten a better break. In terms of American record labels, I have always thought Twin Tone should have been given more credit for finding so many amazing artists.

This is Why They Want to Impeach the President

The wholesale destruction of America continues, unabated. Soon, there will be a time when Americans have health care insurance and coverage for their families. Once that happens, America will turn into Thunderdome and we will all be driving cars that have no gas. Do you have four camels lying around who can pull the thing? I don't. But, thanks to Obamacare, now I have to find extra shotgun shells, a water purification system, a Geiger counter, and four freakin' camels because we're all headed for a post-apocalyptic hellsphere, fights to the death optional.

And while we all look for feathers and castoff shoulder pads, let's remember one salient fact--Obamacare was the devil. It was supposed to rip the fabric of American life to pieces and leave nothing but horror and destruction in it's wake. It was supposed to give rise to a thousand Hitlers and burn everything to the ground. If you've been listening to the clowns on the right, you would think that socialism was really, really bad or something. So far, it's looking pretty good.

The Republican Party now has to impeach Obama in order to offset the success of Obamacare. They have tried, dozens of times, to legislate it out of existence. Now that we know it works, they have to do something to head off the damage it is causing to their ideology, not the country. We have been cursed to live in an interesting time--government actually works? Really? Why don't we try having a little more of it, then?

Thursday, July 10, 2014

We Failed to Remember Our History One More Time

The Bundy Rebellion isn't over yet:

The victory a Nevada rancher claimed in a government standoff with armed militiamen has served to embolden right-wing extremists and conspiracy theorists across the country, an organization that tracks hate groups said in a new report Thursday.

The Southern Poverty Law Center based its findings on online chatter among extreme right-wing groups. 

Cliven Bundy's faceoff with the Bureau of Land Management agents and Las Vegas police at his ranch in southern Nevada in April has "invigorated" an extremist movement that has exploded since President Barack Obama was elected, growing from 150 groups in 2008 to more than 1,000 last year, the Southern Poverty Law Center said.

The report warns of the potential for more violence like the recent killing of two Las Vegas police officers by a pair of anti-government zealots — Jerad and Amanda Miller — who spent time at Bundy's ranch before they were asked to leave because of their extremist views.

"Cliven Bundy may have faded from public view, but the movement that spawned him is boiling," said the report entitled "War in the West, The Bundy Ranch Standoff and the American Radical Right."

This boiling movement has no fear of armed confrontation with the United States Government--they are actively encouraging it. How is that possible?

The example of Shays Rebellion is instructive. It was put down largely because reasonable people saw the threat to peace and stability; it led to a more powerful centralized form of government--the one we have today. The Bundy Rebellion weakens the power of the central government and exists because enough people feel the U.S. government has no legitimacy.

In other words, watch what happens when we forget American history.

The Irish People Are Desperate to Hear Anyone Instead of U2

Holy cow, Ireland.

Garth Brooks has criticised the handling of his five concerts in Dublin after they were cancelled earlier this week.

Last week, Dublin City Council granted permission for only three concerts in Croke Park. All five were called off on Tuesday.

Brooks was addressing a news conference in Nashville and said he "didn't have a clue how we got here".

"Don't sell a show to people, get their hopes up and then just cancel."

He said that the "powers who can fix it" should "open it up for the five nights, let everybody have fun and then go to work on never letting it happen again".

The problem here is that the Irish remember their history. They should have followed the precedent of Croke Park and allowed only three shows. U2, for example, have made it a habit to play Croke Park and drive everyone crazy with live versions of songs that no one likes.

Vertigo Tour· 2005-06-24 - Dublin, Ireland - Croke Park (24 songs)· 2005-06-25 - Dublin, Ireland - Croke Park (25 songs)· 2005-06-27 - Dublin, Ireland - Croke Park (26 songs)

360° Tour· 2009-07-24 - Dublin, Ireland - Croke Park (24 songs)· 2009-07-25 - Dublin, Ireland - Croke Park (23 songs)· 2009-07-27 - Dublin, Ireland - Croke Park (23 songs)

If you go to that link and read the statistics, they've played Vertigo nine times and All I Want is You only once. Their sets go on forever--many of those songs run on for six or seven minutes while Bono ad libs at the end, drawing them out so everyone in the band can take a break.

I know. WTF?

By bringing in Garth Brooks this year, the Irish people were desperate to keep U2 from playing later this year to promote an album they aren't releasing in order to make up for their tax dodging ways. Brooks was the savior of the people, and look how they've treated him. Very shabby. To my knowledge, Brooks has only lost his mind once and pretended to be a pop star. Bono--twenty-five years or more now, and there are no signs of letting up. 

Brooks has never crawled out of a lemon and he doesn't play Vertigo, so you can see why everyone is upset. If he doesn't play Croke Park, get ready for three more performances of Vertigo and a whole lot of Pop and No Line on the Horizon songs no one wants to hear.

How Many Troops Does Southern Command Have?

I guess Rick Perry wants to run for President:

Texas Gov. Rick Perry and others are lashing out at President Barack Obama's decision not to tour border facilities overwhelmed by a flood of undocumented children, saying the U.S. leader needs to see with his own eyes what both sides agree is a humanitarian crisis.

"The American people expect to see their President when there is a disaster," Perry told CNN's Kate Bolduan in an interview that aired Thursday, citing Obama's trip to the East Coast to tour damage caused by Superstorm Sandy in 2012. "He showed up at Sandy. Why not Texas?"

Both Republicans and the White House have described the crush of Central American children as a humanitarian crisis, but Obama said Wednesday that visiting facilities where the children are processed and detained would be little more than a photo opportunity.

No Republican from Texas is ever going to be reasonable about anything. Write that down. Mail it to your future self. The President should have gone on vacation instead of Texas. Nothing reasonable can come of allowing Rick Perry the chance to speak out on anything. The President may have been smart not to go to the border, but it was foolish to go to Texas and let the man with anchorman hair look like he has control over something. Simply by holding the title of Governor in Texas, he automatically has little if any power anyway.

The patch you see above is the one used by the U.S. Army's Southern Command, which now exists in name only and has a handful of missions and no real troops or power to influence what is happening. The humanitarian crisis on the border is the consequence of pursuing policies in Central America that were insane in the 1980s and are still resonating throughout the region.

When you kill off enough reasonable people, you're left with thugs and criminals running things. That's what it is like in Central America today--the reasonable people aren't in power. When the United States dismantled Jimmy Carter's insistence on human rights, and when power was handed to the people who decried his efforts to restore sovereignty to the various countries where America's imperial ambitions got out of hand, it sent a message to the region--you're not going to survive unless you kill your enemies. That led to corruption and failed states, and it allowed criminal gangs to thrive in the absence of any rule of law. We sent troops to ensure that the killing fields would stay hidden, and we traded missiles to terrorists so that death squads could run wild.

The last time anyone cared about Central America was Christmas of 1989. I went to work at a small radio station, and found the AP wire printer running haywire, covered in bulletins from America's invasion of Panama. Since then, we haven't cared or paid attention to the growth of narco-terrorism because we're the ones who fed that machine. We have refused to end our own ridiculous war on drugs. If billions stopped flowing to the criminals, their empires would come apart. The societies they have been busy murdering are all but dead already. We prop up illegitimate regimes and forget our history. We did this to them. Now, they're mailing us their kids. Talk about an accountability moment.

At some point, someone in a uniform is going to have to go kill off thousands of heavily-armed narco-terrorists and gang members in a faraway land. They're going to have to go south wearing that patch and they're going to have to erase the situation we created by sanctioning the murders of nuns and the killing of villagers and the selling of drugs all over America. I don't suppose we have a trillion a year and an endlessly manned Army to do this, but that's what it will take for people to stop sending their four year-olds into the desert in order to wander into America, sunburned and afraid.

It's one thing for some nervous stoners to open a pot dispensary in the Mountain West and overcharge people for ditchweed. It's quite another to decriminalize drugs, make it a public health issue, and empty America's prisons of young black men and then send troops to Central America in order to kill a generation we birthed by re-electing Ronald Reagan.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Robin Thicke Can't Help it if He's a Douchebag

Now, this is sad.

Apparently, being the douchiest douche in music wasn't enough for Robin Thicke. Now he has to be the mardy bum ruining everyone's day. He dropped his album, and the fans ran from the download click. He should have learned to play the blues because having a woman ruin his life could have led to a blockbuster of an album. Instead, he's given birth to a schlockfest full of begging and pleading, driving the rhythm and blues genre further into the ground.

His long, sad career decline has begun, and we've seen this movie before. Next thing you know, he'll be fifty and his gut will be hanging out and he'll be playing your local dive. Oh well.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Taylor Swift is Trying to Get It Rght

I have to give Taylor Swift some credit for advancing the idea that people should be paid for their art. I don't know what this means for the music business, which is still a dying beast that is being sucked dry by business models that can only be sustained by NOT paying artists for their art, but oh well.

She sits at the top of the food chain--the label to which she is signed can't steal from her and it cannot rob from her. Unless she hires foolish management and signs a deal that gives everything away, she will continue to see tremendous sales and downloads and she will receive a great deal of streaming music revenue. She is part of the less than one percent of music artists that can dictate what they are paid.

The vast majority of artists are left with crumbs under the table. While she's doing deals with advertisers, bands are giving up and they're changing their plans. There isn't any point in making an album because there's no sustainable business model to finance it, promote it, sell it, and put it into an archive where it can attract future royalties. How can you spend a modest $50,000 on an album that will generate $50 worth of revenue from being played on Spotify?

In order to take this a step further, Swift should use her economic power to ensure that artists are being paid. She could tell her label to take just one million dollars of her future earnings after she makes at least five million and use that to give ten bands a grant--not an advance, a grant--to make ten albums. I figure that you can make a decent record for that much, and that would leave ten artists with no debt to the label. That would put them in a position to promote and sell their albums on their own and it would allow them to make back some revenue right away.

One million bucks for ten artists. Let her pick who they are. Give them a leg up and help them get out from under the crushing debt of an advance. If they go out and make their own million, then they have to pay it back.

The answer is for artists to get paid making music people want to hear. If everyone were to sell out and make Taylor Swift albums, none of them would advance the cause of music. And, if you're a believer in diversity and finding a commercial solution to a predatory system, this would force the conversation to move beyond the abstract into the actual. Otherwise, what's the point?

Monday, July 7, 2014

Arundel Mills is an Insane Place to Be

Years ago, you could visit the Arundel Mills shopping center and about all that would happen is that someone would beg $20 off of you. That happened to me. In the parking lot of what used to be Circuit City. I bought a lot of stuff that I don't have anymore there. I gave the guy $20. But that's all gone now.

Last time I wrote about Arundel Mills, some crazy woman in an SUV tried to run me over because I was walking in the parking lot of a restaurant. They fled the scene, I called the cops, and nothing happened because, well, it's just par for the course now at Arundel Mills.

Thanks to the addition of the Maryland Live Casino, which ruined the property and brought in a desperate criminal element found around casinos nationwide, you can't have lunch over there anymore. You can't go to Arundel Mills without putting your head on a swivel. Don't go there at night and relax and walk around like a real person. Don't do it.

This story is just another slice of crazy. Thanks again for putting in that casino. Granted, there was crime before the casino, and I can understand that. But this is just an example as to how insane it is over there now and it speaks to why I just can't justify going there anymore.

The 4.5 Million Jobs No One Talks About

This is a great encapsulation of what I've been saying for years:

Do you have any idea how many more jobs Obama has created than Bush did? You don’t, because liberals are less likely than conservatives to cheerlead.

The terrific June jobs report may be the signal we’ve been waiting for that we’re finally turning the psychic corner. The overall jobs number was great at 288,000, and the unemployment rate was down to 6.1 percent. But the most important number was that the employment-to-population ratio, which many economists think of as the truest measure of the jobs market, was up a bit to 59 percent, a high for the recovery, indicating that maybe more people are finally out looking for work than staying home.

Republicans will tell you that cutting off unemployment benefits and making welfare a shameful state of affairs have helped to move these numbers, but, really, that's all bullshit. Shame doesn't motivate companies to hire people because corporations, being most emphatically not people to be begin with, don't care about shame. They care about profits. And if companies are hiring, it must mean that they can no longer function without more people or their profits will dry up.

The phony logic of "both sides do it" and the need for some sort of mythic "bipartisanship" has driven the narrative in America. Democrats did not shut down the government; Republican extremists did that. Democrats would love to pass a jobs bill; Republicans intentionally kill job creation legislation and get away with it, year after year after year. The economic misery of America is laid at the feet of a president who can't get anything out of an insane, extremist-driven Congress. Obstructionism killed the middle class, not Obamacare. How do you work with people who get away with everything and are accountable for nothing because the working media is committed to being fair when they should be fired for ignoring the destruction wrought by a Republican Party led by fools?

Good God--here's Patient Zero for all of this--courtesy of Charles Pierce. The Republican Party of the State of Texas wants to nullify Federal laws, pull out of the United Nations, and bring back spanking.


I'm not holding my breath for an accountability moment where hundreds of Republicans are thrown out of office. It won't happen--we have an incumbent protection racket that will not change the makeup of Congress in a substantive manner. We have a disconnect, driven by money for influence, that prevents the accountability moment from happening. 

Oh well. President Ted Cruz will have to lead us to the Promised Land, I guess, because that's exactly what America wants and what America is going to get, and sooner than you think.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Charlatans Try Again Today Covers

I've always hated the fact that The Charlatans were forced to append their name with the "UK" appellation back in the early 1990s when they started to sell records in America. They have gone so much farther and further than the original "Charlatans" of the 1960s that it isn't funny.

Their catalog is legendary and their survival in a changing music industry is as well. This is a band that has gone through every crisis and survived intact, playing some of the best music to come out of Britain since the invention of the electric guitar. Hard to believe that they were once dismissed as a Madchester throwaway. In fact, their steadfast determination to play well and to play to everyone they can reminds me of Rush, which has always been overlooked and ignored by critics. The Charlatans are bigger than their critics and continue to put out music that is immediate and relevant.

Try Again Today is a tremendous single, and I love the artwork here. For a brief period, it was chic to put a video file on these releases, one that played on computers but only with a little coaxing and configuring. I think there are a handful of other singles by the Charlatans, beginning in 2000 or so, that have a video file on them. This was a very interesting marketing decision, since the inclusion of the video on the CD single all but ensured that it would get watched at least once but probably not more than that since singles are listened to on CD players and not so much on computers (and then, of course, on MP3 players, which couldn't play video files until people figured out that that's what they needed to do as well).

I wish my scans were better. I'll go through some of their singles and try to get a few more of them up by the end of the month. If I don't get to it, holler at me.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Verve All in the Mind EP

When Verve put out the All in the Mind single (I should really call it an EP because of the importance of the songs here), it was as if the whole flaccid music scene of the early 1990s needed to be blown up. And Verve blew through it without a care in the world.

A better song than U2 could have done, All in the Mind hits with the kind of mastery no one was attempting at the time. One Way to Go and Man Called Sun are two of the greatest B-sides ever. You could rotate them around and any one of these tracks could have led off the EP.

I love the design, and the feel of this sleeve. I think the text disappears at the bottom, but the rest of the sleeve is so well done.

Friday, July 4, 2014

The Darling Buds You've Got to Choose

This one has appeared already, but I did locate the 12" single with the full workup of the front and back with the label.

Never take a picture of your band lying down. It just doesn't work. The Darling Buds were a dynamic live band.  Always photograph the singer and the band in action doing something, anything, other than lying down.

The Loft Model Village Single

Someone who worked for the Static Caravan record label came up with a very nice design for this single. The concept is easy to relate to--if the song is called "Model Village," then find something urban and contemporary. By choosing a scene with garishly lit logos, rather than a rural English village full of storybook houses, are we to infer a bit of social commentary? Or is this just a great single from one of the lost bands of the 1980s?

The Loft were Peter Astor's band before signing to Creation and becoming the Weather Prophets and all that. Some of the songs from The Loft ended up being recorded later; there's one that I know of and there could be others. Model Village was a great single.

The Charlatans How High Cover

This is the cover for the expanded Japanese market single, released in 1997 to a world mostly indifferent to the old Madchester sound. The Charlatans had dropped the references to their old sound and were moving into a new era. This single, for How High, shows more of an aggressive rock feel.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Unemployment is Now 6.1% Because of the Worst President Ever

Despite a long, proud history of doing whatever it can to tank the American economy--government shutdown anyone? forty attempts at repealing Obamacare and no jobs bills anyone?--the Republican Party woke up to bad new today.

Unemployment has fallen to 6.1% in the United States. This is devastating news for the people who hate America.

The worst President ever, in the history of everything forever, just won the morning.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Jimmy Eat World is Still a Band?

What year is it? Dayum.

This is Getting Out of Hand

Got something old, precious, historic and valuable that is made out of metal? Get rid of it, fast.

The voracious appetite of those who practice the stealthy art of metal recycling have claimed another victim. You cannot expect items like this to remain where they are--sooner or later, someone is bound to bring their old pickup by and drive away with another scrap for the yard.

Legitimately recycled material--not a problem. Good luck finding anything anymore. These historic gates are tucked under someone's sheet metal, and are probably being melted down as we speak. When a woman can sell $10,000 worth of copper for a measly couple of thousand dollars, then you know something's wrong.