Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Years!

Well, I'm officially laid off which could actually be a good thing if it allows me the opportunity to just travel like crazy and collect unemployment. We'll see.  I'm also looking into opening a bar in 2012 which could also be a good thing.  However, the beginning of 2012 will absolutely blow since I'll be on a strict diet (it's called the "Dixon don't eat diet") and drinking hiatus until I fly to Italy on January 23. In the meantime, I can say I've lived up to my last two New Years resolutions so hopefully I can come up with a good one in the next few hours.  For now, enjoy Auld Lang Syne. It's not my favorite version, but I appreciate the lyrics!

Happy New Years Everybody!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The triumph of Mitt Romney?

I have to say, the coverage of the Iowa caucuses has been pretty terrible. The conventional wisdom has been [re]emerging that Mitt Romney might just pull off a win in Iowa and then cruise to the nomination. This is because a) Newt appears to be in a free-fall and b) the racist and utterly insane Ron Paul newsletters seem to be undermining his support. Both of these things are probably true. But, trust me, Mitt Romney still won't win Iowa. Why? Because as every single article on the Iowa horserace fails to analyze, Iowa is a god damn caucus state. What does that mean? That means intensity of support is a HUGELY important variable. And Romney's support is not intense at all. The anti-Mormon, anti-Romney intensity is particularly acute when the caucus process is involved. Now, I personally despise the caucus process. It is intimidating, bullying, and anti-democratic. Even I won't stand up in front of a caucus delegation and make the case for my candidate and I have stood in front of 400 students talking about political science. Caucuses suck. But nevertheless, that is the process in Iowa. In a caucus, voter preference matters. And I guarantee you, the people in Iowa that don't like Mitt Romney, really don't like Mitt Romney. They will not rally to his cause once their preferred candidate is eliminated. Instead, they will gravitate to whichever "anti-Romney" candidate emerges within their particular caucus group. So while Romney might poll at 22% (or whatever it is now) in Iowa, it's a soft 22% and it probably won't translate in a strong showing in socially conservative Iowa. Now, this certainly doesn't mean Romney won't win the overall GOP nomination. I mean, McCain got slaughtered in Iowa and he rebounded. I just mean to say Romney will almost certainly lose Iowa and, call me crazy, but I still say Gingrich is the frontrunner there. 

This is what passes for government investigation these days

Buried on Page 20 of the Sunday NY Times was the resolution of the inquiry into the Pentagon's use of high-profile military analysts to fuel the public relations battle for war in Iraq and Afghanistan. For those of you unfamiliar, from 2002 to 2008 the Pentagon and military contractors pretty much solicited former military personnel to advocate for increased military engagement, warfare, and expenditures in the Middle East on networks like NBC, CNN, and Fox. What made this practice problematic was not the lobbying per se. The government is entitled to sell their warmongering (it's called propaganda my friends, and while pernicious, it's not illegal). What made this particularly egregious was that these analysts were paid by the networks themselves and were supposed-to-be "neutral" military analysts. Clearly "neutrality" needs to be called into question when defense contractors are specifically paying "military analysts" on the major news networks.

This caused a minor uproar (and caused a subsequent investigations), because Democrats proved to be marginally interested in investigating Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld falsities at the time (even aloof Democrats can smell blood in the political waters). Once Obama was elected and we all agreed that "what was past was past," (well we didn't agree but our political bettors did), investigations like these (and Abu Ghraib, warrantless wiretapping, political witchunts in the DA's office, etc.) were squashed. I mean, it just seemed wiser for the executive branch to prosecute government whistleblowers and deport illegal immigrants, both of which we are doing at the highest rate in US history right now.

Unsurprisingly, the investigation concluded that no legal or ethical breaches were made by the Bush Administration in their military version of "pay-to-play." Are you as surprised as I am? Anyway, what struck me as funny in the article, besides the fact that the Pentagon was tasked with investigating themselves, (Gee, I can't believe they found no wrongdoing!), was this part of the article, my emphasis in bold:


The inspector general’s office looked into the issue of whether military analysts with ties to defense contractors used their access to senior Defense Department officials to advance their business interests.
The report found that at least 43 of the military analysts were affiliated with defense contractors. The inspector general’s office said it asked 35 of these analysts whether their participation in the program benefited their business interests. Almost all said no. Based on these answers, the report said, investigators were unable to identify any analysts who “profited financially” from their participation in the program.
You see? They asked them if they profited financially from these connections. And they said no! Well, no reason to investigate further then! I'm satisfied. I mean, we could look at financial records and such but I don't see any reason for that. Nothing to see here!

But...but...but...but

Wait - I don't understand? I thought public universities were supposed to be primarily concerned with educating students? I didn't think they were supposed to be money-making conglomerates that exist solely to suck up tax dollars and promote sporting franchises? But that's exactly what we see once again as Division I NCAA schools rejected even the minor NCAA reform that schools offer two year athletic scholarships instead of one year.  You know, presumably so schools couldn't just use up students for a year and then kick them to the curb if they weren't good enough for the team. I love this quote from Boise State:
"There is never a guarantee that the incoming student-athlete will be a good fit for the program and the institution," the school wrote in its override request. "If it is a poor fit, the program is put in a difficult situation to continue to keep a student-athlete on scholarship."
Do you live in the state of Idaho? Because if you do, you might be interested to know that your tax dollars are not being used to educate students. They are being used to build minor league football teams. [Of course, I suppose some people would be just fine with that. But if that's the case, we should be paying these athletes].  Multi-year scholarships are important to "student-athletes" particularly so we don't kick students to the curb if they experience personal problems, or they have a hard time adjusting to university life, or they get injured.  Universities are supposed to be, theoretically speaking, institutions of higher learning. They should be interested in educating young adults and preparing them for future careers, not maximizing team lacrosse performance.  Because let's be honest, after college, no one gives a fuck about Division I lacrosse, or volleyball, or rowing.

The NCAA should receive a pat on the head for at least starting to introduce minor reforms to their inherently corrupt system. They are at least pretending to care about the players they exploit (it seems Taylor Branch's Atlantic article is really making a difference in this conversation).  But it amazes me that the universities themselves can't pretend to care.  I really keep hoping and praying for one institution in America to redeem and/restore my trust in their capabilities (Congress, Supreme Court, the Federal Reserve, the media, public education, etc.) but increasingly it seems like we just need to burn the whole thing down and start over. I don't know how to construct institutions to act in the best interests of all of their constituencies and stakeholders (not just the power brokers at the very top), but we really need to start thinking about these things.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

In honor of an awesome day (and the end of the Iraq War)...



Thursday, December 22, 2011

I promised some drunk posts, so...

I'm pretty drunk right now but I can honestly say I'm pretty happy with my blog so far - not the frequency of posts mind you (which falls way short), but by the quality of posts. It's meets a minimum requirement whereby I won't be embarrassed by any posts except this one you are reading.

But I also promised some of these...

This man is a lot smarter than me...

I hope I don't do this too often, but I'm going to excerpt a long portion of Glenn Greenwald's post below:

In The New Yorker, George Packer, who vocally supported the attack on Iraq but criticized it when it starting failing, writes about Christopher Hitchens, who never deviated from full-throated support. Most of what Packer writes is, as one would expect, little more than the now-trite reminiscing about Hitchens we’ve heard from his thousands of media friends which Neal Pollack parodied so brilliantly here, but Packer’s concluding paragraph struck me as something worth highlighting:
Iraq led Hitchens to some of his worst indulgences—the propaganda trip to Iraq in Wolfowitz’s entourage, the pose of Byronic heroism. But perhaps the war and the enemies it made him helped give Hitchens the courage of his last years and months—the atheist in the foxhole. Hitchens was one of the very few people who could slash and burn you in print, then meet for drinks and talk in the true warmth of friendship, discussing a writer we both admired, garrulous to the very last. It was a sign of his essential decency that he didn’t make it personal.
Is it really “a sign of decency” to refuse to view any political ideas as not merely wrong in some abstract intellectual sense, but as a reflection of the person’s character? Obviously, there are many political disagreements — most — which can and should be conducted in perfectly good faith without the need for personal animus. Conversely, though, aren’t there some political views so repellent and sociopathic that “a sign of essential decency” is to make it personal, rather than refusing to do so? This line of thought strikes me as anything but essentially decent:
Sure, he was and remained a fervent, unrepentant public cheerleader for an aggressive, baseless attack on another country that killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people and displaced millions more, and sure, he was very eager to fuel an Endless War that resulted in the deaths of countless innocent men, women and children that he himself never fought in, but I’m not going to hold any of that against him. I’ll argue with him as part of entertaining, invigorating political debate, but then will be happy to go out for drinks with him — he’s a really fun guy — and will proudly call him my friend.
In what sense does “decency” compel — or even permit — that line of thought? Packer, as he usually does, is simply giving voice to the standard mindset of Washington’s political and media class. As Charles Davis put it to me by email a couple of days ago when discussing David Corn’s expressed admiration for Hitchens — the irony that the Washington Bureau Chief of Mother Jones, of all places, waxed so effusive about one of the nation’s leading war zealots:
That’s Washington. Issues of war and peace — life and death — are just something you argue about from 9 to 5, and only when the cameras are on. Disagreeing on the wisdom of invading and occupying other nations is like disagreeing on whether the minimum wage should be $9.50 or $9.25: nothing serious enough to end a relationship over (see: Lake, Eli). And what’s a few hundred thousand dead brown people between friends?
The bottomless willingness of political and media elites to forgive each other of their sins, insulate personal relationships from everything else, and subordinate all other considerations to loyalty to their shared membership in those circles is not “a sign of essential decency.” It’s one of the leading causes of Washington’s rot.

Surprise, surprise, I think Greenwald gets this right. One reason I try to avoid political discussions (at least among my non-CU brethren), is that I have a very difficult time divorcing their political beliefs from their personalities. If you are the type of person who finds the permanent war-state to be necessary and continuous good, well then, you sir, are a bad person. If you can't support unemployment benefits because somewhere in the country a black person isn't "trying hard enough to find a job," well then you, ma'am, are a bad person. It's very difficult for me to pretend otherwise. The only way I can do so is if we avoid political discussions entirely. Now, granted, Greenwald would call me a coward because I'm still willing to have drinks with warmongers at cocktail hour (substituting the "hear-no-evil" approach for the informed consent approach), but at least it is tough for me to reconcile these differences. But unfortunately, I just don't have enough friends to act differently. So I admit my own dereliction of duty to cause. What's pathetic though is that, in the media, this reconciliation is actually celebrated, rather than disavowed, as a source of courage.  Thankfully, even I would never have enough "courage" to share Jaeger Bombs with Rick Perry, Rupert Murdoch, Sarah Palin, or other chaotic evil individuals

The Tree of Life

Admittedly, I wasn't too enthusiastic about seeing Terence Malick's "The Tree of Life."  As evidence, I have had the Netflix DVD sitting in my backpack since November 25th. Part of the reason has been the wildly divergent reviews.  I mean, it won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival and yet, at the very same festival, people walked out of the theater during it's premiere! How do you reconcile that? Then you read things about a 17 minute interlude on the creation of the Earth and you remember how he fucked up "A Thin Red Line" and you don't find yourself too enthusiastic about sitting down through a 2 hr 19 minute pretentious art flick that even star Sean Penn criticized:
"I didn't at all find on the screen the emotion of the script, which is the most magnificent one that I've ever read."
 Well, I have to quibble with Mr. Penn. "The Tree of Life" is amazing. Here's why:

  • Everyone in this movie acts the shit out of it. I know that sounds crass and sarcastic, but I'm serious. Hunter McCracken (great name - can't be real right?) was perfect.  Brad Pitt was amazing. Jessica Chastain, well...
  • If you don't fall in love with Jessica Chastain in this movie, you are not alive. Period. I want to marry her ten million times.
  • It's Brad Pitt's best performance since 12 Monkeys.  And it's better than his excellent performance in "Moneyball". Can you imagine Brad Pitt being an asshole? I couldn't (Come on - Brad Pitt is the best!). But I can now. It's a performance riddled with a self-loathing married to a personal ambition that thwarts his (rather sincere) intent to love and connect with his family. It's a remarkable performance.
  • No movie has ever captured the brother dynamic more lovingly and more sincerely.  I can't get over it. It's astounding. My God, I feel like I lived Jack's (Hunter McCracken/Sean Penn's character's) life. You know, without the Daddy issues. But seriously, I've never seen a movie do sibling relationships like Malick does in "The Tree of Life". It's embarrassing enough that the second best example I can even think of is "Home Alone". "Rachel Getting Married" takes an admirable stab at sister relations but I couldn't tell you how honest or accurate that dynamic was.
  • Did you know "Tree of Life" made $54.3 million dollars? I'm glad it did, because it's nostalgic, and sad, and wonderful, but I always operated under the assumption that it was a colossal flop. Of course, maybe it only made money because of this theater's no refund policy - natch.
  • It's weird - I hated the narration in "The Thin Red Line" and yet I loved it here.  It just works sooo much better and its vital to the story and our understanding of the characters. And yet the words themselves just aren't that much different from "Red Line" to "Tree of Life".  I think you can transplant the narration from "Red Line" to "Tree of Life" and it would work just as well. The environment was just wrong. It's like Malick kept trying to shoehorn the concept into one of his flicks until it fit. Well, it does here.
  • I'm not sayin' anything new or original here, but there is very clearly a tribute to Kubrick in this movie. Not just stylistically (the "2001" parallels are fairly obvious), but musically as well. I think his reliance on classical music really sets it apart from previous Malick films.
  • Did I mention Jessica Chastain?
  • It is sad and mean, hopeful and life affirming.  It makes you feel, the way important movies should.
As per Mr. Penn's complaints, I wonder if he originally had a much larger role in the movie.  In the finished version, he has about (maybe) 3 1/2 minutes of screen time. Total. Why even bust the budget for Penn at that point? Hell you could have hired me to play that role...and at scale no less!

After watching "Tree of Life" I definitely need to put it at the top of my 2011's Best Movies list. For those of you curious, I'll list my top ten below. I'm leaving the last three spots empty because a) nothing else really deserves those spots and b) something that I haven't seen might snake its way in at some point. I'm thinking "War Horse", or "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close", or "Dragon Tattoo" or "Super Eight".
  1. Tree of Life
  2. Moneyball
  3. Bridesmaids
  4. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II
  5. X-Men: First Class
  6. Warrior
  7. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
  8. ?
  9. ?
  10. ?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christopher Hitchens

Unsurprisingly, Glenn Greenwald writes the best, most reasoned argument against Christopher Hitchens hagiography.  People don't become saints when they die - for more proof of that, read Hitch's take on  Mother Theresa here, or watch the clip on Jerry Falwell below. Anone who is going to whitewash my personal defaults after I'm dead is not welcome at my funeral.  Unfortunately for you guys, I'm going to outlive all of you f*ckers.

What causes the seasons?

If you are reading Game of Thrones right now, as I am, you know, like the Starks, that "Winter is coming." [Please will someone start reading Game of Thrones - I want to talk to people about it!].  Apropos of the changing of the seasons, Kevin Drum links to dialogue from a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon where it is explained that the seasons are caused by the Earth's orbit and its distance from the sun...Wrong! However, this is a VERY frequent mistake.  I once read a poll where over HALF of polled Harvard students actually answered the question "What causes the seasons?" incorrectly.  Unfortunately, I cannot find a link, but it was answered incorrectly by something like 60% of the respondents. So, without looking it up in wikipedia, who can answer the question correctly? BTW, I do know the answer.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Voldemort


***SPOILER ALERT***

I re-watched Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part II this morning and I find the depiction of Voldemort to be more morally complex in this picture than in the others (I can't speak for the book which I've never read). What's surprising in the movie is how merciful Lord Voldemort is.  I've been told over and over again that Voldemort is the utter personification of evil, but this just doesn't seem to bear out in the movie.  On three separate occasions, Voldemort makes deliberate decisions to spare the lives of the "good" magicians at Hogwarts.  The first time when he gives them an hour to turn over Harry, clearly giving them an optimal timeline to establish a robust defense of Hogwarts. A second time when he pulls his forces entirely from Hogwarts in order to spare their lives if, once more, Harry chooses to face Voldemort one on one.  And a third time after Harry is "killed" and he offers the students and professors at Hogwarts the opportunity to switch sides. In many ways, Voldemort, at least as he is depicted in the movies, is closer to Magneto than other more "purely" evil antagonists (someone like Megatron comes to mind as being purely evil - the cartoon character, not the movie character. Michael Bay inexplicably stripped ALL of the Transformers of their personalities, a momentously stupid decision, but one to be expected from the world's worst director). Those readers familiar with me probably already realize that I sympathize more with Magneto than that sap Professor X. Or at least my sympathies lie with Wolverine who generally does the "right thing," but has a healthy skepticism of the motives of man.

My question is this - in the books, is Voldemort more clearly "Evil"?  I know he hates mudbloods which is purely racist and not to be tolerated.  But in the end, he seems likely to even spare their lives. Am I interpreting this correctly?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Bi-Racial Candidate

I understand Mitt Romney flip-flops on issues from time to time but flip-flopping on what race he is taking it too far.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Voting ID

Republicans are back-in-power on the state level so that means a whole new round of bullshit voter ID eligibility laws. States with Republican governments across the nation are introducing drastic new measures to make sure that brown people and young people can't vote. This is entirely because these people vote Democratic, not because any of these states can dig up a single instance of voter fraud.  The crisis of "voter fraud" is an illusion.  It does not exist, in any capacity, in any state.  You couldn't dig up four cases across the nation.  But that doesn't mean Republicans aren't going to think up of all new crazy procedures to prevent people from voting. 

The most popular means of preventing people from voting is the use of a photographic ID. This is a particularly insidious means of introducing electoral reform to prevent "voter fraud" because it sounds so reasonable.  Why shouldn't you have photographic ID to vote? Well the problem is, many people don't have government issued photo ID, and these people are, by and large Democrats.  They are urban residents that do not drive.  They are college students who have not gotten new state IDs (primarily because they don't drive!).  If the photo ID requirement affected military personnel, the Republicans would carve out exceptions (which they have done).  Republicans don't give a shit about voter fraud (just like the deficit).  They care about preventing Democratic votes! This should be self-evident, but it isn't, again, because the proposed solution sounds so reasonable - photo ID. Why not require photo ID?

It is for this reason, that I differ from some of my liberal brethren when it comes to supporting or opposing a national photographic ID.  I am, literally, a card-carrying and dues-paying member of the ACLU.  But the ACLU hates the national ID card. I think in a perfect world, where we didn't already have Social Security numbers, and driver's licenses, and passports, a national ID card might sound like a scary program designed to track a country's citizens.  But the problem is, we do already have these things. If the government wants to track its citizens, it can track our cellphones.  For fucks sake, we tell the government where we are everyday on FourSquare and Facebook (see video below).  As far as I'm concerned, the cat is already out of the bag when it comes to preserving this degree of personal privacy. I like the national voter ID card because a) it will eliminate the need for registration (the whole registration process is absurd and unnecessary anyway - one person = one vote) and b) it strips the GOP of one of their most dangerous rhetorical weapons i.e. the argument that Republicans are interested in preserving the authenticity of the vote, not merely trying to prevent citizens from the vote.

Now, I'm not so naive as to believe that the GOP would end the "war on voting" if a national ID card was issued.  It's a party that doesn't take defeat lying down and it can get quite clever when it comes obfuscating their intentions (trickle down economics anyone?).  But I really think it would serve to undercut their "voter fraud" message.  And who knows, a national ID card might help alleviate red tape and paperwork in other government bureaucracies (the FAA, Social Security, Medicaid/Medicare, etc.)


CIA's 'Facebook' Program Dramatically Cut Agency's Costs

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Star Wars & Pretentious Art

Who knew that Star Wars and pretentious art would be two great tastes that taste great together? This NY Times article introduced me to the work of C├ędric Delsaux.  I copied and pasted a couple of photos below.  Ya know, if anyone is looking to buy me a Christmas gift, these prints would be all sorts of awesome!


Friday, December 9, 2011

Hell yes!

I promise you, I have not learned the lessons of Jurassic Park and I'm pretty sure this would be all kinds of awesome.  Bring the woolly mammoth back!

How People Feel About the Unemployed

There is an interesting post written by digby talking about a systematic effort to stigmatize the unemployed by our political and financial betters.  The article is true, in so far as it is concerned, but I want to quibble with one of her conclusions. First the anecdote as recounted on her site:

One of his aides met with us in the lobby as well. When we asked him again about if Rep. Tipton would vote to extend the unemployment insurance, he told us he had to listen to both sides and then he told us a strange story. He heard about a disheveled guy going in for an interview and purposefully not getting hired just to get an unemployment check. We all sat there for a minute in disbelief. When I realized, that he was saying that my representative was considering not voting for unemployment insurance because he thinks there are lazy people milking the system, I was compelled to act.
.................................................
Then her analysis:
 These stories have been circulating among our "representatives" for quite some time. Many of them now believe the unemployed are just refusing to take work and as long as we "subsidize" them, they'll never get off their lazy duffs and take one of the many open jobs available to them. That's a tale they are being told by their big money contributors when asked why they are sitting on their profits --- they assure their puppets that they'd love to hire, they just can't find anyone to work. The economic slump is the fault of lazy Americans who just want to milk the system and it's all Washington's fault for allowing it. 

The problem with digby's analysis is that she attribute these feelings entirely to the political, financial and social elites, but unfortunately that conclusion is just not true.  Americans of all stripes, Democratic AND Republican, feel this way.  I've already posted on this blog about how everyone thinks that the unemployed should be drug tested, even though its colossally a terrible idea. But the truth of the matter is that all Americans, (except for us bleeding heart liberals and the recently unemployed), believe that a substantial portion of the unemployed (60%, 80%?) are parasites intentionally gaming the system.  I'm talking people like your brothers, sisters, friends, and co-workers.  These are people who have never experienced sustained unemployment for any period in there lives.  They don't understand why these moochers won't work as greeters at Walmart or as stock boys at Costco.  They are utterly convinced that, were the shoe on the other foot, they would be eagerly waiting tables during the drunk shift at diners, working the greasers in McDonalds, or pumping gas in 12 degree weather at the local station.  I mean, in reality, they won't do any of these things (and doing them would severely impede their ability to find jobs in their chosen fields), but they believe they would.  So they have no sympathy or understanding for the people who want to extend unemployment insurance.  This system of belief, ingrained in the American ethos in ways you will not find in other western democracies, explains a lot of our policy failings in the last 5 years.
 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Rock & Roll HOF

People spend a LOT of time criticizing the selection process of the Baseball Hall of Fame (which finally inducted the very-deserving Ron Santo this week), but we never seem to spend enough time criticizing the selections made by the Rock & Roll HOF, an organization that admits all stripes of sucktitude, mediocrity and trash. Let's look at this year's classGuns N’ Roses, the Beastie Boys, Donovan, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Laura Nyro and the Faces. Friends of mine are aware that I can't stand either the Beastie Boys or the Red Hot Chili Peppers but I can begrudgingly admit that they are worthy of the Hall, if due to their record sales and musical influence alone. I would argue that the Beastie Boys really aren't "rock and roll" as we traditionally mean it but a) modern rock playlists seem to argue otherwise [I think this is clearly because they are white though admittedly that prejudice cuts both ways. You won't hear the Beastie Boys on Hip-Hop/Rap stations either] and b) the Hall itself really isn't "Rock & Roll" anyway. Let's put it this way - one day the Black Eyed Peas will be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Nuff said. But let's look at the other names on this list. Donovan? Honestly, without using wikipedia, tell me who the hell Donovan is? I listen to a lot of fucking music across a lot of different genres.  I couldn't tell you who the hell Donovan is. And if I have to look for an artist on wikipedia, that artist clearly doesn't deserve to be in the HOF. That would be like putting Oscar Azocar in the baseball HOF. 
Laura Nyo? Again, see previous. The Faces? That's a bit of a stretch. Yes Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood are important Rock & Roll artists but they have both been inducted for their post-Faces work (Stewart as a solo artists and Wood with a little band called the Rolling Stones). The Faces had maybe one moderate hit - "Stay With Me". That does not a Hall of fame career make.  I mean, if that gets you in the Rock & Roll HOF, make room for the Kevin Maas bust in the baseball HOF! 
I wish I could say that this is a one year anomaly, but it is not. The Rock & Roll HOF consistently goes out of its way to reward stupefying levels of mediocrity. Here are some other Monsters of Rock inducted in just the last 5 years: Darlene Love, Dr. John, The Hollies, Jimmy Cliff, Little Anthony & The Imperials, The Ventures, and The Dave Clark Five. Wow, what a list. Was Rockwell ineligible? Did EMF turn down the nomination? What a bag of shit! I don't understand what the Hall is doing here. Why undercut your brand by diluting it with this nonsense?

When Celebrities Do Wrong/Right

Listen, I happen to like him because he's a liberal who says mean things about conservatives and he plays an awesome character on TV, but I've been led to understood that personally, Alec Baldwin can be a pretty terrible guy.  That being said, I'm kinda happy this stupid fiasco, where he gets kicked off an American Airlines flight (an absolutely terrible airline BTW) because he won't turn off his phone, is getting so much attention.  Primarily I'm happy because the policy, like so many other airline policies (including every single post 9/11 policy), is idiotic and does nothing to keep us safer.  All it does it capture the veneer of safety (which I admit, to the ignorant masses, is much more important).  You know why I can arrogantly proclaim that the "no-electronics" policy is bullshit - because it is ignored on pretty much 100% of all airplane flights!  Show me one flight where at least one person is not illicitly using an ipod, cellphone, laptop, personal DVD player, or other electronic device during the takeoff or landing and I will need to regretfully inform you that you are either on-board a military aircraft being renditioned to Syria or, more unfortunately, you are watching footage from the movie Con Air.  The fact of the matter is, on every flight you take, some passengers are going to have in-use ipods or cellphones tucked away in their pockets. And yet, somehow, all of these flights with electronic gadgets in use manage to land without incident.  Huh - funny that.

So if it takes Alec Baldwin to get the policy discussion jump-started, I'm all for it.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Who you calling racist?

It's nice to know that in the year 2011, racism has been entirely eliminated in the United States of America.  If we pardon white criminals at four times the rate of black criminals, well then, that's just because prosecutors have clearly convicted more innocent white people than black people right? Right?

This study also comes on the heels of the news story reporting a Kentucky Church banning interracial relationships. In 2011. It has since been overturned, but I love this part of the story -

Harville said he was approached in August by Melvin Thompson, the church member who crafted the resolution to bar mixed-race couples, and was told that his daughter and her boyfriend were no longer allowed to sing at the church.
Thompson has said he is not racist and called the matter an "internal affair."
Has any individual, under any circumstances, ever acknowledged to being a racist? I mean this question honestly. Do white supremacists consider themselves "racists"? Or do they feel like they are bold-speaking truth-tellers acknowledging religious and scientific realities? Is the number of self-acknowledged racists equal to zero?  Because if the church member who introduced a resolution barring mixed-race couples isn't racist, the word literally has no meaning.

Also, please remember that I myself have absolutely zero racist tendencies because I have two black friends and I once voted for a black President.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Iconic Speeches


John F. Kennedy said "ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country".

Barack Obama, while dealing with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright "controversy", made one of the most transcendental campaign speech in the history of our nation, a speech so important the American public actively sought out a 38 minute long speech on youtube.

In the year 2011, Republicans call for their own very important speech:

 How could Gingrich possibly recover? Pretty easily, according to Land. “Mr. Speaker, I urge you to pick a pro-family venue and give a speech (not an interview) addressing your marital history once and for all. It should be clear that this speech will be ‘it’ and will not be repeated, only referenced.”

That's right - the important speech we need from the current GOP frontrunner and "intellectual leader" of the Republican party is an explanation of why voters should stick with a serial philanderer and epic scumbag who delivered divorce papers to his cancer stricken wife in the hospital.

Ladies and Gentlemen, your 2012 Republican candidates!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Pay to Play

Rob Neyer, who hasn't been the same since he left ESPN, hits a grand slam here in a post he couldn't write at ESPN if he wanted to.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Interpreting Polls and Tea Party Support

I'm a couple of days late on this post (get used to that), but one of the interesting poll results of the last few days, provided by the Pew Research Center, suggests that the Tea Party is losing support in even the most conservative districts.  The popular narrative deriving from these poll results suggests that the Tea Party has overreached, that say intentionally creating financial crises like the debt ceiling hostage negotiation has hurt the Tea Party brand.  Unsurprisingly, I think the media narrative is wrong.  I don't think that these conservative districts believe that the Tea Party candidates are too crazy for them (though I wish it were so).  Instead, I suspect it results from the perception that the Tea Party has not been effective.  The simple fact of the matter is that Americans, either through willful or unintentional ignorance, refuse to acknowledge the institutional limits found in our American system of checks and balances.  When the Republicans rode economic calamity to an overwhelming Congressional victory in 2010, these Republican voters expected immediate political results.  How come taxes aren't lower?  Business deregulated? Obamacare overturned? Economic recovery at hand?  I mean, of course they blame the Kenyan socialist in the White House, but they still expect some kind of electoral payoff.  When an excited voter base doesn't see immediate results, support from both the right and left flanks can soften in a substantial manner. I mean, Democratic voters are guilty of this same ignorance.  Hell, I'm guilty of the same ignorance, frequently criticizing Obama for his failure to say, push for a larger stimulus package or single-payer healthcare reform.  But the reality is that we currently have government power divided between two parties right now.  Even if we didn't have divided partisan power, institutional gridlock would still be the norm.  There are just too many veto points.  And Republicans have normalized a MAJOR veto point by effectively establishing the US Senate as a 60 vote, super-majority legislative body.  Even if by some crazy catastrophe the American electorate installs Michele Bachmann in the White House, the right wing is not going to see implementation of the policies they paid for.  And this, by itself, is going to soften support for the Tea Party and its candidates.  And this same dynamic helps explain the frustration on the left and the creation of the OWS movement.  If and when OWS is absorbed by the mainstream left and they help, for example, Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts get elected Senator, and we eventually re-learn that one progressive Senator cannot single-handedly solve the American banking crisis, we (meaning the far left) will still lose our faith in her as well.

John McCain "Trashes" Long Island

I really do think the appropriate response to McCain "trashing Long Island" is humor.  I mean, I've said a lot worse about Arizona and John McCain personally.  He is clearly joking here and there is room in politics for this kind of banter.  If you want to get pissed off at John McCain, get mad at him for his terrible running mate, his constant war advocacy, his support for dictators, the fact that he can't remember how many homes he owns, or his disdain for the American worker.

The bigger question is whether people like Washington Post journalist Ruth Marcus will jump all over McCain for incivility just like she did when she jumped all over a powerless 18 year old girl in Kansas for incivility.  My guess is not. After all, deference to power in the journalism world is absolute.