Saturday, December 31, 2011

Twitter and Technical Writing

My Twitter account has never really gotten off the ground. For that, I blame myself.

Twitter is one of the greatest technical writing tools there is. I misuse Twitter and I don't use it the way a technical writer should use it--which is, to communicate well in a concise manner. Right now, I just blast out links. That's not helping. So, I've disabled that feature.

What I hope to do is integrate Twitter with a technical writing mindset and only "tweet" when I have something useful to say. Perhaps that will energize the thing. Who knows?

Friday, December 30, 2011

It's Over For Katy Perry and Russell Brand

Well, that's very sad. You never want to see people split up if you really care about entertainment and the various aspects of it that surface. In some respects, it is no one's business what goes on between two people. They do their thing, and they should then be allowed to have a private life. Too much of the celebrity machinery is dedicated to the fall of the celebrity rather than celebrating what it is they actually do. If people cared about the talented aspects of celebrities, and if there was more emphasis on that, they would get better celebrities rather than fake ones.

Americans get Katy Perry. She is a singer and entertainer who can do just about anything and do it well. They do not get Russell Brand, who is more at home before an English audience than an American one. He definitely plays better that way. I don't think he really believed in his own film career and I think he will be happier living and working in Britain. What does he have lined up to do in the states? His films have flopped and his style of humor runs a little too hot for American audiences. He's funny but he has not found a way to connect.

It's Over For Katy Perry and Russell Brand

Well, that's very sad. You never want to see people split up if you really care about entertainment and the various aspects of it that surface. In some respects, it is no one's business what goes on between two people. They do their thing, and they should then be allowed to have a private life. Too much of the celebrity machinery is dedicated to the fall of the celebrity rather than celebrating what it is they actually do. If people cared about the talented aspects of celebrities, and if there was more emphasis on that, they would get better celebrities rather than fake ones.

Americans get Katy Perry. She is a singer and entertainer who can do just about anything and do it well. They do not get Russell Brand, who is more at home before an English audience than an American one. He definitely plays better that way. I don't think he really believed in his own film career and I think he will be happier living and working in Britain. What does he have lined up to do in the states? His films have flopped and his style of humor runs a little too hot for American audiences. He's funny but he has not found a way to connect.

The Collapse of Michele Bachmann

They are writing Michele Bachmann's political obituary and what is missing from all of this supposed analysis are the very real issues that accompany her downfall.

Her lack of support on the Republican side has meant that there are few, if any, Republicans who are buying her version of crazy. The other versions of crazy that are selling right now come from the likes of Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. And that's fine--the marketplace of ideas is where you perish or fail.

But the example of Bachmann is an interesting one because I think people are going to examine her failed campaign for decades to come. She ran as a conservative woman and as a proxy for the likes of Sarah Palin; the electorate has largely rejected both of these women and their ideas. However, the path to that rejection has been lined with numerous sexist references and attacks. Both Bachmann and Palin have been attacked for their physical appearance; both have been attacked and humiliated for their family situations. Much of this has derived from their reprehensible positions on gay rights, and the vitriol of this lobby is such that you cannot expect any middle ground. There are, literally, so many attacks that linking to them all would be a fruitless effort, and putting them into perspective is difficult because there have been so many savage attacks that lining them up and ranking them would consume weeks of research.

The problem with these attacks is that they cloud the real issue, and that is, neither of these women had any shot at the Presidency to begin with because their core positions and capabilities were not up to the job. When a woman arrives on the scene with the right positions and capabilities for the job (Hillary Clinton certainly had them), how can anybody reasonably assume that she's going to be treated fairly, given how Bachmann and Palin have been treated? How can there be a credible pushback against those sexist attacks given the fact that a number of them derived from people who should have known better?

This leaves future candidates with a problem. What happens when a woman with some substance and ability runs in a future election and begins to find some traction with voters. What will happen when she is, hypothetically, subjected to the same sexist attacks that Bachmann and Palin have been subjected to?

I think the answer will be a shocking one--we will lose the best candidate for the job solely because it has been open season in American politics to destroy women by any character assassination means necessary.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Season of Discontent

I sliced one paragraph out of an otherwise ridiculously overblown piece by Helene Cooper in order to turn the whole thing on its ear.

Cooper spends much of her article beating the drums--Obama is disengaged! Obama isn't schmoozing! Obama is not a people person--and generally creating a panic where there is none. She gets people to talk--Jimmy Carter's communications director! But they don't really say much. Well, James Carville said something, primarily because this President doesn't call him up at three AM and beg for his advice. That will drive a man like Carville off the deep end, you know. He HAS to be close to power. When he isn't, he has to live like the rest of us and put up with family over the holidays. That can turn a mean Cajun meaner, and I know you know what I'm talking about.

Then, without missing a beat, Cooper compares Obama to President George W. Bush and his "distant" relations with Congress. Obama's style somewhat matches his, you see.

What Cooper fails to understand is that George W. Bush got everything he wanted from Congress without having to backslap or gladhand or schmooze. He got what he wanted from them because they were spellbound by his crushing electoral college mandates (all none of them). He got massive tax cuts, massive defense spending bills, budgets with sky-high deficits, handouts for billionaires, wars, bailouts and more. He beat them senseless every time they threatened to override his veto (all four of them, two of which were farm bills). He got them to bend over and take it until the day he left office. He went to bed at 9:00 PM every day because he was tired of being handed victory after victory by Congress, often before noon.

Being sociable with Congress means nothing because people have an intense dislike for Congress. Keeping them at arm's length is, apparently, the way to go. Bush got everything he wanted and kept them at the end of a short leash. Why should President Obama even bother to remember anyone's name? They're not going to do him any favors.

The Sad Decline of American Political Punditry

It should come as no surprise whatsoever that there really isn't any "analysis" happening here. There has been a bump in poll numbers in Iowa. And Rick Santorum has been bumped up eleven points.

A real analyst would say, "wow--what a weak field of candidates."

Because that's the only lesson that can come from seeing Rick Santorum rise eleven points in a poll before Iowa goes to the meeting house and divides up into weird little groups and fails to choose a nominee who can win anything in a nationwide race (ask President Huckabee how that works).

This is a state that once gave Alan Keyes 14% of the Republican vote. Don't expect miracles--expect insanity. You know, the kind that runs down the highway naked with toenail clippers fastened to the nipples and trails a string and fifty-six cowbells. That kind of crazy.

Thirty-three and one third percent of the American people will always vote for someone who is certifiably insane, no matter who they are and what party they are from. One third of the American people throw their vote away every single time less than fifty percent of them can gin up enough civic courage to go vote. And, every time they do, "analysts" like Chuck Todd think it means something.

Tell me who has command of that slice in the middle everyone covets--the one that will beat President Obama next November. Tell me who has a shot at that. Does Rick Santorum really think that his career of not getting re-elected to the Senate and being a complete and utter phony and being a family conservative so far to the right that he opposes a lot of things Americans are beginning to embrace (gays, abortions, being normal and well-adjusted, etc.) will win him anything beyond that one-third of the insanity vote? If he does, then check his meds.

Really, who has a shot at winning next November? Any of these people? No? Then quit pretending an eleven point bump means anything. Because it does not.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Get Drunk, Shop Online

Unfortunately, you cannot legislate against the stupidity of people who get drunk and buy things online. The flip, vacuous comment in this story has me wondering if this is real, by the way:

That's damned good satire in any case. You can imagine poor Miss Whitten saying tee hee all the way to bankruptcy court.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Zach Braff and Donald Faison Sing Baby It's Cold Outside

Sarah Palin is America's Old Nag

If you want to hit the Obama family for something, hit them for their holiday card. It features a dog laying in front of a fireplace--a clear violation of Sarah Palin's old nag sensibilities. Why on Earth would the White House risk offending Palin during the pivotal run-up to the 2012 Presidential Race?

Making Sarah Palin mad is a disastrous move, I tell you. Why, fifty or sixty of her Facebook fans might snicker about her latest missive and do nothing except eat another late night cheeseburger and burp something at their own unwalked dog.

Seriously--this was reported as news? Sarah Palin didn't like the holiday card that the Obama family sent out? Why didn't someone ask her why she's sitting on her ass this Christmas and not running for President if she has this many problems? Clearly, she's the only person who can save us from a world where the President and his family put out tasteful and culturally sensitive holiday cards.

Maybe they can find a poet laureate job for Palin next year when President Gingrich is sworn in. America's Scold is occupied by Mika Brzezinski. America's Skank is occupied by Lindsay Lohan. America's Old Fart is occupied by Billy Graham. America's Darling is occupied by Tom Cruise once again. I guess we'll have to call Palin America's Nag.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Couldn't Be Easier

I made my Louis CK purchase today, and it couldn't have been any easier. Once you navigate from the website and make the transaction happen with PayPal, you're automatically logged in and ready to download the content (at least I was).

This is the future of online transactionating and purchasifying and all that; quick, simple, and secure (God, I hope so).

As for the show, well, I absolutely loved it. The material is fantastic.

Ed in Cary Has a Fanboy Bromance With Rich Lowry

Oh, to have a devoted fanboy such as Ed in Cary. Something about this level of devotion smacks of satire, humor, and/or something pretty twisted.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

STRATFOR is Taken Down

Several years ago, I was impressed with the quality of the work that STRATFOR was doing. They were putting out good articles and doing fairly good work as far as researching things and whatnot. I was particularly impressed with their work on Mexican drug gangs and things of that nature, so I put it up. That well went dry quickly; they were good but not particularly insightful. During a crisis on the world stage, I wouldn't even bother going to their site because whatever they would have would require membership and things of that nature. Specifically, money, and I don't pay for information. I just don't need to.

But STRATFOR was never a "go-to" source for me; I don't think I've linked to them more than a few times, and not in the past two years or so. Their business model has been "pay for what we tell you" and I'm not interested in paying for what it was they were selling. Hence, I'm not being affected by this. They have an old E-mail address, but I did not have an account with them. Whoever did is now sweating bullets.

This sort of thing reflects badly on their organization, but it really shouldn't. All it takes is for one employee to leave the network vulnerable by using a poor password or for one mistake when it comes to establishing security and the whole operation can fall apart.

STRATFOR has fallen apart, and their members are being humiliated and charged money. This may very well destroy them, or at least cripple them and cost them millions in funding. You cannot hold yourself up to be a cutting edge research operation when it would appear that a few hackers have put you squarely on your ass.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Jennifer Rubin is Insane

Who hired this insane woman?

General Petraeus was not "shuffled off" to anything. He was named the Director of Central Intelligence. That is not a consolation prize, nor is it a booby prize, nor is it small potatoes. It is the stepping-stone to bigger and better things. Witness the ascendancy of Leon Panetta to his current position. At one time, a President could count being CIA Director on his resume. Petraeus, having absolutely no experience whatsoever in intelligence, was given this position largely because it was the one he probably wanted. I have no doubt that, no matter who is elected in 2012, he will be the Secretary of Defense by the summer of 2013.

General Petraeus also knew that this is the outcome that Iraq was headed for. America was never going to "win" in Iraq and America was simply buying time to allow one presidential administration to give way to another. This was evident in 2007 and it is no surprise to anyone, ahem, who is sane. And Jennifer Rubin is not sane.

Her derangement stems from the fact that no one wants to pin the blame on the Iraq War where it belongs--on the record of George W. Bush and the people who served him.

Rubin knows nothing. Nothing. She is a shrill, insane, shrieking madwoman who has been handed a prime piece of real estate.

Friday, December 23, 2011

It's All About Jobs

There are a lot of things to like about this piece by David Rohde. Specifically, anyone who identifies jobs as being the number one issue facing the American middle class has got it exactly right.

But, what happens is, when you move on to his second item, you see the problem. Since we are talking about how jobs have evaporated, it's easy to see where so many people get it wrong. Jobs have not left because of government spending; in many cases, those jobs disappeared when austerity and "belt tightening" took over as themes and when our elected officials stopped trying to use proven techniques to revive the economy.

Not all government spending is wrong; trying to get people to embrace that fact means having to move mountains and pound sand. So, when an idea takes hold, it has to be battled back, time and again. One of the great failures of this era has to be the failure to destroy the idea that the government should cut spending during a recession. We've seen, time and again, where this leads to a downward spiral.

Rohde's piece illustrates that, perfectly. At the end of his piece about jobs, he writes about how 20,000 jobs have been slashed. Why? Because of item number two--a misguided effort to battle the deficit. If we had the political will to do so, funding state and local governments with Federal grants specifically designed to keep people in their jobs would be a tremendous benefit to both the economy and to fighting the deficit. People who are working pay taxes; this revenue helps reduce deficits at both the state and Federal level. Whenever someone is thrown out of work, the ripple effect cascades through the economy. Avoiding that buys time so that the economy can recover.

It's all about the jobs. Whoever wants to be President next year has to answer for the need for jobs. And cutting the deficit is not going to create a single job in this country. Period. End of story.

Louis CK Shows Us a New Way of Distributing Content

There are a lot of things to like about what has happened to Louis CK recently. It's great, first and foremost, to see an artist get paid. That's the thing that jumps out at me. An artist who does things for his fanbase has just been allowed to make money from the thing that he does that they want to pay five dollars to see. This is the shrinking of the content delivery conundrum down to a manageable size. This is Louis CK shrugging off the need to have someone back him up and make him look like a real artist; he can now operate with whatever tether he wants, and that can be to a content company, a website, or a major corporation. He is free to do whatever he wants.

And what he wants is for you to pay five dollars to see him do standup. It's not hard to figure out. He does this thing, and you want to see it, so give him the money.

The technology has been there for a long time. The means to get this out there has been there for ages. But what has happened is that there are now social media outlets that can publicize what the artist has done, and it can spread the word of mouth around to an extent that allows an idea--a piece of content--to catch fire and grow of its own volition. This did not require publicists, ads, and one-off blurbs in magazines or on websites (although those things haven't hurt after the fact).

Let's say that Louis CK had done this five years ago. In the pre-Twitter and pre-Facebook age (or at least when those services weren't as large or dynamic as they are now), perhaps he does a fair amount of business letting people download a show. But, without thousands of followers to reshare and repost the offer with their recommendation, it is highly likely that it would not have brought in a million dollars or more.

His business model then would be more akin to what happened when Radiohead put an album online and let people pay for what they wanted. That did not lead to a revolution--it simply allowed a lot of people to get a copy of In Rainbows for whatever they wanted to pay, and for a lot of others to get a cheap copy (remember, Radiohead wisely only allowed a low bit-rate version to emerge, not a high-end version of higher quality). Now, he can put out DVD quality content (a video as opposed to an audio recording) and he can rely on thousands of others to promote his work, effectively taking the place of a record label or a distributor.

What's brilliant is that he decided to bypass the companies that have already put at least three (that I know of) DVDs out there in the marketplace. I can go to the AAFES Post Exchange (PX) and buy at least two of those programs for ten dollars apiece. They are in the "discount bin" and they are overstock productions of work that you can see on YouTube for free. They're also about an hour in duration,

But there are other factors at work here. Louis CK is a comedian whose time has come. His television show on FX is groundbreaking for how simple and elegant it is. He is a filmmaker first, and a comedian second. Were it not for the unfair treatment of Pootie Tang, Louis CK is a guy who would be making films every other year right now. He gets visual presentation and artistry in a way that most comedians do not. He has spent over two decades building a following that is loyal to him and that is now more connected to what he does because of social media. And, this was his first real attempt to take his content and put it in the hands of people who want to see him do standup.

What can you say? It worked. And good for him.

A New Ethical Problem For Professional Basketball Bromances

While I don't foresee Systems of Bromance becoming a massive blog anytime soon (perhaps in the months ahead?), this is an important forum for ethics and social practices. This next case will probably provoke a lot of debate, should it ever catch fire in the way that I suspect that it will.

Say you're a professional athlete, and you enjoy the company of women who are not your wife. There are already various protocols established for men who see other men--teammates, or, in some cases, opponents (but fellow members of the Players Union). But, what protocols exist for the wives? Or girlfriends?

Now, let's be up front--this is all probably speculation. Pinning this on the warnings of wives lets a lot of people off the hook, Kobe Bryant, for starters, and the husbands as well. Is that right?

What if you had a vested, competitive interest in seeing Bryant miserable? What if you knew that your wife had information about Bryant and you did nothing while she passed it on to Bryant's wife? There you go--that's where it gets complicated for teammates, bromances, and professional relationships.

In the case of professional basketball (expand this to other sports, I suppose, and things get even more complicated when there are over 20-30 players rotating in and out of baseball and hockey clubs, and when there are over 50-60 pro football players to consider), there is a tightly-knit group of twelve roster players and maybe a few others who might rotate in or out depending on trades and injuries and whatnot. These are all individuals who have to be handled as professional relationships. With them, comes their personal relationships and, to be specific for this case, their wives. Do you have a responsibility as a teammate or friend (or blood enemy) to those other players to make certain that your own wife is not passing information to their wives, or vice versa? Do you have a vested interest in making certain that what happens on the road, stays on the road, or what happens during team outings or gatherings is kept private?

Do you have an obligations to make sure that your wife isn't ruining another man's marriage by trading on information? And will this become an issue when it comes to trades, acquisitions, signings, and contract negotiations in the future?

Or am I missing the fact that this has already been an issue for decades? I think the latter is probably more likely.

In any event, so long to Kobe Bryant's enemies. I think he'll figure out how this all unraveled, and he'll get rid of the culprits. He always does.

It Is Time to Remove All of Our Military Forces From San Diego

Forget the reduction of our footprint abroad--it's time to bring our troops out of San Diego, and for good.

It's time to pull the Marines out of Southern California and it's time to base our naval forces elsewhere. I don't care where; but not in San Diego and never, ever again.

This isn't just a small or minor incident; this speaks to the continuing and somehow relentless assault on military personnel from San Diego. They hate the military in San Diego. There is no other word for it; they hate the sailors and Marines. They put up signs in their shops telling them to stay away (or, at least, they did before 9/11). No other community in America hates on the military like San Diego. Let's bring our troops home from this ungrateful place and leave it to whatever wants it. Let's get out of that place.

Having military bases near your city is a benefit, not a burden. The Federal dollars that flow in are hard to explain, but when you put a military base in a part of the United States, what few negatives there are get swept away by the benefits in terms of having professional, well-paid people serving their country in your community. Explaining that to the idiots who run San Diego has never been easy; they don't get it. Having a rehabilitation center located where there are tens of thousands of Veterans is a benefit, not a burden, either. The addition of good paying jobs should be enticement enough; having to share the sacrifices made by so many Veterans is something that San Diego should embrace and not push away with disgust.

Here's what they will get--no more Federal dollars. None. Cut them off. If they want to merge with Mexico, let them. If they want to start their own state, let them. If they want to sail into oblivion on a cloud of dust, give them a hearty wave when they go.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The King is Dead

What follows is chaos. The South Korean military must be lit up like a Christmas tree right now, literally and figuratively. They are opposed by heriditary dictatorship that has spent decades systematically destroying a people who have suffered greatly. May dogs tear his carcass apart.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Another Dying Media Company Overpays For Failure

These people couldn't possibly be that stupid, could they?

The fact that a media company--perhaps the most prominent one in America--paid too much for an incompetent CEO, and also gave her a golden parachute worth more than her own salary and will pay her after she has left her position, isn't even newsworthy anymore. They all do it. Incompetence is running rampant through the business world.

You'd think they would be savvier about this sort of thing. I would be willing to bet that Robinson is being laughed at for not walking away with more of their money.

A Phony Piece of Argument from Megan McArdle

I just about fell out of my chair when McArdle said this:

"Everyone I've spoken to about the problem seems to agree that the poor respond to these high marginal tax rates by either taking lower-paying jobs than they could, or working less--not in every individual case, but in aggregate."
Yes, but Frankel's post is three and a half years old. And the person in question made a choice to pursue a job that paid more, but cost her more in gas and other expenses. When you make a choice to change jobs, you have to factor in costs vs benefits and this person didn't do that. Working in a big city will pay you more but costs will have to come out of that extra income--who doesn't know that? Just because she made a poor choice doesn't mean that we should give tax cuts to millionaires. Wait--isn't that what this is about? Because of the false choice presented by a three and a half year-old anecdote, I'm supposed to clap for a tax cut for people making a lot of money?

The problem also happens to be that wages have stagnated for the working poor. And there isn't one single Republican policy that has done anything in the intervening three point five years to alleviate that woman's stress. In fact, by preventing the reform of health care, and by shutting down the government, and making every piece of legislation rise or fall on the whim of a Senator who doesn't care who goes without heat or lights or food or medicine, there is no dynamic movement in addressing the fact that the working poor are being punished.

This is like the argument that raising the price of gas will cause people to drive less. No, people buy as much gas as they need, and no more. People will always have to weigh their wages against what they can afford in added expenses. Being smart about that is a personal responsibility. But that doesn't mean we should cut taxes on the rich.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christopher Hitchens 1949-2011

Christopher Hitchens should be remembered as a very talented public intellectual who got one thing completely and utterly wrong and was never really held accountable for it. I'm speaking of the Iraq War, which will go down as the greatest foreign policy blunder in American history.

He is being lauded for work that became, essentially, hateful and racist by the end of his life; specifically, his love for anything that would kill Muslims. Now, it's all well and good to wish death upon radicals who want to kill the infidel, but that does not translate into wishing death can rain down like cluster bombs on brown people.

Sir Isaac Newton spent a great deal of his time, and his considerable intellectual talents, on trying to wring science out of the Bible. He devoted himself to a pursuit which, today, seems unimaginable. Perhaps we will look back on Hitchens and wonder how it was that he spent so much of his intellectual capital on the Iraq War and weapons of mass destruction and defending Ahmed Chalabi.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Standing on the Minotaur

Standing on the Minotaur

One of many essays that I did for a Humanities course...

Jennifer Rubin Does Not Understand the Power of Lobbying

The problem with Jennifer Rubin's logic is easy to explain--she doesn't understand the power of lobbying, so she goes right to the jugular with the usual name calling. I suppose she either didn't find the moral courage to call Friedman an anti-semite or was warned not to, but, in any even, Mr. Friedman is emphatically correct and Miss Rubin is utterly wrong, and it has nothing to do with harping about a "cabal" or anything like that. Her post was written with such invective that she muffed the first three words, of course.

Lobbying is an intensely powerful force in American politics right now. The Israel lobby is no different than any other lobby. As an employee of The Washington Post, Rubin should understand how lobbying recently helped the bottom line of the company that pays her. Thanks to the efficient lobbying on behalf of the Washington Post's Kaplan educational rip-off, the Federal government has decided to come down as softly as a feather on corrupt diploma mills who operate as for-profit companies that know how to promise one thing and give something else to people who are desperate to improve their skills and get a job. Kaplan is one of those diploma mills, and they have traded on their ability to wring money out of fools who are told that if they get an Associates Degree in Business Administration or whatever else that they will get a good job.

This Congress responds to money. It doesn't represent anyone who doesn't have money. It is driven by a need to raise money in small amounts and to do so is to risk the armageddon of not getting reelected. Tom "suck this" Friedman is simply the pig finding the truffle and the stopped clock that is telling the right time twice in one day. He's late to this realization and now he has to contend with Jennifer Rubin, who is having a sad because someone is pointing out the truth.

Tom Friedman doesn't know what he's talking about, by the way.

But, who am I to quarrel?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Thank You For Your Service

Here we have a group of Air Force enlisted personnel gathered around a fellow airman in a casket, giving us their opinion as to whether or not they will "make rank" and get to continue their careers.

The signal they are giving is "stop." And that's what their careers are about to do--come to a complete stop.

Yes, it was all in good fun. But this arrives on the heels of finding out that the Air Force was incinerating human remains and then dumping them in a landfill, and it does speak to the fact that respect for the dead is apparently not being taught in the schoolhouse.

Note the stripes on the sleeves. These are not neophytes. It takes ten years in some cases to make those stripes in the Air Force. All it would have taken was for one of these "leaders" to put a stop to the shenanigans and ensure that no photos would emerge from their little fun time. All it would have taken was for one leader in this group to save everyone's career (and I don't know if this really will end their careers, but the Air Force has been thoroughly embarrassed here and it has gone all the way to the top). That didn't happen.

Gallows humor is not understood by the civilian population, especially in wartime. Perhaps it is time to take this mission away from the Air Force.

Since we're cutting things and reducing the rolls, why not turn this into a mission for the National Guard? In order to serve on a casualty transportation team, a National Guardsman must be a Sergeant First Class or of a higher enlisted rank and demonstrate maturity, discipline and respect.

Civil Rights in Cincinnati?

It all sounds like something out of a bad movie, doesn't it? The kind of movie that is ignorant of the law, ignorant of history, and has no connection to the culture. Every time someone says that there is no racism in the United States, think again. There is racism. There are people who have forgotten the Civil Rights era and there are people who think they can do this stuff and get away with it.

Punitive damages are one option open to the Ohio Civil Rights Commission. And that's fine. But, I guess, what I want to see here are three or four lawyers from the Justice Department, lined up, ready to get all Federal on this case. Before the Bush Administration gutted the Civil Rights division, I would like to think that there were people who took care of people like Mr. Hein and set him straight. Perhaps that is just a pipe dream now.

Supermodels Do This All The Time

Isn't that how it always works out? You're on Facebook, you hook up with Claudia Schiffer or Heidi Klum or Tyra Banks and, the next thing you know, she's flying to Moscow to have sex with you. Who wouldn't get sick of having to deal with that all day?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Presidential Dollar Coin Experiment Ends in Failure

In my lifetime, there have been several attempts to get people to use a one dollar coin. I don't remember getting too many of the Eisenhower dollars, and they ended up being popular in casinos. The few that I did get were no big deal.

I was once paid six silver Eisenhower dollars to mow some jackass's lawn; I did it exactly once and he made me rake up his grass because he was too lazy to do it himself. He was completely and utterly out of control on either dope or psychedelics, and he was a real head case. He drove around town and hollered at kids as if we were adults.  But, then again, I was raised in a town full of freaks and damaged people. This didn't upset any societal boundaries in the 1970s because people were too busy trying to figure out what normal looked like. I did not need his money and I laughed when he thought I was going to come back and cut his grass a second time. That made him even crazier. I was not more than eleven years old, if that much. Crazy adults were everywhere, and I avoided them as best I could.

I do remember, vividly, the debacle known as the Susan B. Anthony dollar coin.  Then there was that whole Sacagawea coin--an abysmal failure, featuring some poor woman trying to carry her baby and get away from the bearer of the coin. They have all failed. Nothing failed worse than the two dollar bill, but you get my drift.

Now comes word that the Presidential dollar coins are finished. Oh well.

When we arrived in Europe over a year and a half ago, we were confronted with the reality of the Euro monetary system. Coins of denominations ranging up from one euro penny, then two, five, ten, twenty, fifty and then, wonderfully, the one and two Euro coins.

The ones and twos are the best coins ever. They are silver in the middle and gold around the edges. They are the handiest things ever.

The Royal Bank of Scotland Fails

Of course, the joke going around is, Sean Connery took his money out of the Royal Bank of Scotland in cash, causing it to collapse outright. But that's not even close to the real truth.

Six or seven years ago, our monetary elites were out of control. Completely and utterly insane with greed, and they began to leverage themselves into positions whereby they could bail and stick everyone else with the bill. When the bill came due, they believed that they would not only land on their feet but that the impact of their transgressions wouldn't be too bad.

Well, it's going on four years now, and we are, as Paul Krugman says, in a Depression. It doesn't look or feel like the Great Depression, but it is a period of stagnation, desperation, and unregulated greed nonetheless. Austerity has killed economic growth and condemned millions to a state of permanent joblessness. Millions of productive workers have given up looking for work. And few, if any, credible modifications have occurred in the financial sector (in Britain, in the United States, or anywhere else for that matter) that would ensure that another speculation bubble couldn't happen.

There's a very real danger that the unregulated markets throughout the world right now are going to spawn a super-predator, one who has no hesitation about screwing people mercilessly and creating massive economic damage to the world's economy. That could be in the form of a person, a business, or some other such entity. But, make no mistake about it, we're headed for the days of the walled private compound brimming with well-paid guards and people living in fantastic comfort well beyond the reach of any bought-and-paid-for judge.

This is the banana republic era, and we are all plantation workers now.

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Hatin' Doesn't Come With a Payday

This is an interesting view into the world of the conservative blogging world. Here we have Pamela Gellar (I don't link to hate sites because the marketplace tells me not to do so) complaining about the fact that the marketplace has rejected what she is selling, as well as what other conservative bloggers are selling. If you believe in capitalism and pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, this has to be a mighty kick in the pants. The doyenne of Ayn Randism is hard up for cash money on the barrelhead. She doesn't have fifty bucks for a phone gadget from Radio Shack? Well, you'd better hit that PayPal button, Smedley.

Here's how stupid I am--I thought that her site, and sites like it, were awash in support and cash. They have rabid, loyal followings (albeit, one that is brokedick and wants everything for free). Apparently, ad revenues don't pay the bills, even if you see tens of thousands of hits per day on your site. I couldn't view Gellar's daily stats; they are screened off. But here's what Alexa has to say, when you compare three conservative blogs to

The marketplace has all but rejected what Atlas Shrugs and The Other McCain are offering. Atlas Shrugs doesn't even register with Alexa's system, so there's no way of knowing what the actual numbers are. On any given day, Daily Kos beats all three blogs combined, even though there's little or no interest in defending the Obama Administration anymore. Perhaps Daily Kos is offering substantive dissent and information that cannot be found elsewhere? Who knows.

But, getting back to the money angle, if this is how traffic looks to an investor or a businessman, then there's no way that a donor or a beneficiary's pocketbook is magically going to open up and rain dollars on someone who has been rejected by the audience for political commentary and debate. There is, clearly, a lot of resentment for the fact that the business model adopted by TPM and Daily Kos has succeeded. Of the three sites that I used to compare to Daily Kos, only Red State comes close to approximating the same business model. Both sites are community forum based; users can rise or fall within the community based on the quality of what they have to offer. However, Red State harshly censors dissent and, at least as far as I know, refuses to tolerate pro-Ron Paul sentiments. Daily Kos certainly censors content through community shout-downs as well. The other two blogs generate commentary and I don't know how tightly those are moderated.

With a few thousand visitors per day, any blog can be sustained by readership support. This can be done in two ways--through ads and through donations. A third way would be for independent financing of some kind, but the more grassroots support would be found through a contract with the users or visitors--click the ads and make small donations in order to support the content carried on the blog. Twenty or thirty ad clicks per day can certainly add up. If you figure that a single click can be worth as little as a dime and a much as a dollar, monthly support for a blog can be anywhere between $300-400 per month. That's more than enough for a Blogger Blog; all I pay for here are the twice yearly fees to the domain registry. If one hundred visitors per month kick in ten bucks, that's a thousand dollars for Radio Shack gear and gas money.

Now, my business model won't win any awards. I do this essentially for nothing. What little money is generate from ads supports the registry fees and not much else. But, that's okay. I have never, ever asked for donations and I don't think I ever will. I have never put up a PayPal button, and that's a personal choice. If the marketplace doesn't want what I'm selling, then I'll just keep trying. I offer twelve or fifteen blogs (come back in a month; that number seems to change on a whim) that I, and I alone, use to spread whatever it is I'm spreading out there for all to accept or decline. No matter what, I'm going to draw my stupid pictures and say stupid stuff and have more fun doing it than anyone probably should. I do it for the Lulz, I guess. Oh, and the creative outlet is worth more to me than filthy lucre.

One of the things I learned when I started blogging was that if you don't put ads on your site, people think you don't know what you're doing. Ads are a great way to make a little cash, but they make so little cash that they really aren't worth the trouble unless one of your pages goes viral and gets 30-40,000 hits in a day. So, I don't judge people who put up ads. They signal the reader that this a blog where the creator or curator knows how to interact with the different modules.

I realize that what I've outlined above isn't big time money, but why does it need to be? Why do you need to make more than $1,200-1,5,00 or more per month from a blog? Who gets into this thinking it's going to be their full-time job, given that it isn't for commercial purposes? Gellar resents the fact that TPM is getting on conference calls to ask questions of Republican candidates. Well, why isn't she getting on those calls? Are they afraid of her off-putting questions about American jihadists masquerading as Democratic Congressmen and her ability to go off on unhinged rants? Sitting in on a conference call costs nothing; clearly, TPM's coverage and fairness have been embraced by the marketplace. Gellar's offerings aren't even registering with Internet users.

Monday, December 12, 2011

German Street Scene

Urban life in Germany is hit or miss; there are beautiful areas and fantastic examples of design and architecture. This photo highlights none of those things.

Parking Guide for Esslingen am Neckar, Germany

Parking Map Esslingen Am Neckar

This is a fairly straightforward map. If you want to park in Esslingen am Neckar, this is what you will need.

The reason why larger German towns have guides like this is for the common sense reason that, without one, finding parking (and parking legally) can be daunting. So, a community will provide one of these maps and make it available. I don't know what the extent of the positive impact is; I suppose that if this map helps demonstrate that Esslingen am Neckar is:

  • User friendly for travelers and visitors
  • Modern enough to have a parking guide
  • Dotted with interesting places to visit

Then the results could be as varied from encouraging more people to visit to preventing parking problems and illegal parking.

In any event, I like the fact that they have embedded photos of the buildings and attractions inside of the map. I think that helps, to some degree anyway.

Catering Directory for Esslingen am Neckar, Germany

Food Guide

This is an interesting brochure, and I'm highlighting this because of how extensive and detailed it is.

Does anyone need this much information about finding something to eat in the German town of Esslingen am Neckar? Well, someone thinks so, and they went to great lengths to prepare this guide, which goes beyond a simple restaurant listing and goes wholeheartedly into the issues of where to stay, how to park, and what your travel times from various cities will be, should you choose to visit. Given how many businesses are listed here, I wonder how often this document is updated--once a year or more? With this many listings, some of these establishments are bound to go out of business, and new businesses are bound to start up as well.

It may be overkill, but you'll never have to worry about finding something to eat in this town, provided you consult your guide.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Keanu Reeves is an Unassuming Gentleman

I don't know how long this video will stay up, but it purports to show Keanu Reeves giving up his seat to a female train rider.

Given that the man looks, indeed, like Keanu Reeves and that it was shot surreptitiously by some sort of handheld phone camera or flip camera, I'm as skeptical as anyone when it comes to asking, "is this real?"

Well, it looks real. And it speaks to a situation that is rare (or at least seems rare).

People of privilege don't give up anything with ease. The last post on this blog was about Alec Baldwin's refusal to turn off his phone while playing a game as he sat on the tarmac, boarded onto a plane, and waiting to take off. Baldwin then turned it into a vicious personal attack on the flight attendant and a bankrupt airlines; he was given space on The Huffington Post to air his views.

Contrast that with Reeves. He is sitting on the train, by himself, and he is aware of his surroundings. He is aware of other people.

Let me repeat that. He is aware of other people. He has not masked himself off with dark glasses or a hat. He does not have the cool detachment of a distracted, self-centered person. He isn't even fiddling with a phone or engrossed in looking up who's saying what about him on stupid blogs like this one. He's engaged.

When he notices--because he's in the calm act of giving a shit about other human beings--that a woman is standing by the door, he offers her his seat, stands up, braces himself for the train to move on, and he goes back to whatever he was thinking about. And, I'm sorry, but we've intruded on that by watching this moment in his life. This moment has been stolen from him because we can now see how functionally considerate and societally adapted he has become as a person. As a celebrity. As a guy who gets paid millions of dollars to act in films and do all of that stuff.

Fame and money have not turned him into a self-flaggellating beast. He is a gentleman, at least here, and at least in the stolen moment we witness above.

All you can say is, next time I'm on a train, I'm giving up my seat. I want to be as cool as that guy. Hopefully someone will film it and I'll look one-one hundredth as nice as Keanu Reeves.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Open the Damned Bottle

I can definitely sympathize with the need to keep this artifact intact. To me, it should be preserved and it should be cared for and I think that this museum has done a remarkable job.

Now, open the damned bottle.

Use fancy gadgets and whatnot, and open the thing, and extract some of what's inside, and study it. Open it inside of a vacuum, if possible, and prevent air from getting inside. No one expects it to "taste good" or anything like that. But, from the chemical components inside, I'm sure we could learn a great deal.

Just by having a look at the kinds of materials used to make this wine would shed a great deal of light on agricultural practices and things like that. The wine was probably bottled in the German wine region, or perhaps elsewhere. That would be worth knowing as well. And, there are things we just don't know that could come from studying this bottle.

The air trapped in this bottle is 1,650 years old or so--that, in and of itself, would be worth studying as well.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Bill O'Reilly Assaults a Man

Are you allowed to use an umbrella to hit another human being? Of course not.

There are so many levels of hypocrisy here that it isn't even funny. Reverse these roles, and the "ambush" journalist sent by Bill O'Reilly would have been flailing on the ground and would require hospitalization.

The simplest answer is usually, but not always, the right one. O'Reilly objected to being filmed and he used his umbrella to assault someone. Note that the videographer was NOT arrested at the scene and that O'Reilly's umbrella was ruined.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Rick Santorum Doesn't Know Anything

I'd sure like to see how Rick Santorum plans to cut off Iran's supply of oil:

Facts mean nothing to the Republican Party. Iran doesn't import oil; it exports oil. This is how you know that there is no working media left in the country. At no point in the piece written by Naureen Khan is there an attempt to verify or question what is being said. An American politician, running to be the Republican nominee for the presidency, drops a whopper. A whopper. And no one catches it. Amazing.

Now, if Santorum had said, "let's take steps to further cripple Iran's supply of refined gasoline, then there would be no quarrel. Iran has a serious problem with getting enough refined gasoline. But oil?

No, Mr. Santorum. Iran has enough oil.

The Charade Continues

What I find incredible is that there is a tremendous amount of testimony that clearly identifies Jerry Sandusky as a dangerous predator of children. There are consistent patterns, corroborating witnesses, and a growing amount of evidence. We now have ten identified victims who are appearing before the Grand Jury to speak about what this man has done. He's not a coach anymore. Why does he still dress like one? How is it that he has been able to live in his own house, out on bail, with all of this swirling around him?

Innocent until proven guilty? Yes. But a clear and present danger to society until we can determine whether or not he is guilty? Absolutely. I don't know why they didn't put him in protective custody a long time ago.

The rule of law in Happy Valley is a charade. Everyone who knew what he was doing should be arrested as well. They are guilty of ignoring basic decency and the law.
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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Alec Baldwin Gets Thrown Off a Plane

I have never understood how people get kicked off of airplanes. Just do what you're told. It's not hard.

Alec Baldwin's removal from an American Airlines flight brings yet another incident to the forefront in America's slow burning war against convenient methods of travel. It's as if people want to go back to the age of riding long distances overland in vehicles that seek out and magnify every bump along the way.

There's a ban on electronic devices for one simple reason--they CAN interfere with the equipment on board the plane. Not "will" and not "may." They CAN interfere, and just because they do not always interfere, that does not mean that they should be used whenever someone is bored. Each and every wireless device is different, and each and every plane is configured with numerous instruments. It would be impossible to sit there and say, "all right, that device only operates on these frequencies and with this much power" or "that device uses the upper bandwidth in so-and-so range so it cannot be turned on."

Just do what the nice person tells you. Really, all you're doing is flying from point A to point B. This is not the place for your last-ditch stand against the tyrants of the sky.

Alec Baldwin Gets Thrown Off a Plane

I have never understood how people get kicked off of airplanes. Just do what you're told. It's not hard.

Alec Baldwin's removal from an American Airlines flight brings yet another incident to the forefront in America's slow burning war against convenient methods of travel. It's as if people want to go back to the age of riding long distances overland in vehicles that seek out and magnify every bump along the way.

There's a ban on electronic devices for one simple reason--they CAN interfere with the equipment on board the plane. Not "will" and not "may." They CAN interfere, and just because they do not always interfere, that does not mean that they should be used whenever someone is bored. Each and every wireless device is different, and each and every plane is configured with numerous instruments. It would be impossible to sit there and say, "all right, that device only operates on these frequencies and with this much power" or "that device uses the upper bandwidth in so-and-so range so it cannot be turned on."

Just do what the nice person tells you. Really, all you're doing is flying from point A to point B. This is not the place for your last-ditch stand against the tyrants of the sky.


Paul Singer's article leads with a whopper of a mistake. To say that Newt Gingrich, circa 1979, was "impoverished" is ludicrous.

Impoverished by Washington standards? Impoverished, as seen through the filter of modern journalistic integrity, whatever that is? Impoverished by whose standards, I want to know.

The article says that Gingrich was making a little over $10,000 per year in 1979, after having been denied tenure (which was for being too focused on running for Congress in the 1970s, apparently). His "debt" was probably some sort of loan or something of that nature, and I'm surprised that he did not own a home at that point in his life, but oh well.

In any event, this is what poverty looked like in 1979:

Now, I'm an idiot. And if I can look up something like this, and find where the poverty line was in 1979, why can't a big shot reporter with editors and a full-time job look it up? Given his family situation (a wife, several kids), Gingrich would have been at least two or three thousand dollars above the poverty line, and living in Georgia, to boot. Georgia, in case you didn't know, has traditionally enjoyed a lower cost of living than, say, Washington D.C. or the Mid-Atlantic region.

In other words, Gingrich wasn't "impoverished" by any stretch of the imagination. His "debt" was probably being serviced and his family was probably living at a level no better or worse than any of their contemporaries.

A Complete and Utter Ignorance of American History

Jeff Carter demonstrates his lack of knowledge about the tenth (or so) greatest novel in the English language. For him to write about The Grapes of Wrath in this way is breathtakingly stupid. Their "migration" to California brought them, in the novel, death, heartbreak, loss, and exploitation by employers. I don't know--perhaps Carter thought he was dealing with an Ayn Rand piece.

This "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" mentality is perpetrated time and again by people who think that they can convince Americans that the problem is some moral failing amongst those who are out of work right now. You see, if you don't start "brainstorming" or  if you don't "move to where the jobs are," then everything is your fault. If you don't uproot yourself and abandon your home, it's your fault. Let's not forget that most people cannot leave their homes; they're underwater in their mortgages. In and of itself, this is a structural problem that isn't going to get fixed until someone comes up with an improvement on the reforms carried out in the 1930s--reforms that will keep people in their homes. Along with that has to come a jobs program in places that are devastated by job losses.

What are we supposed to do? Abandon one third of the entire country?

The Great Depression was caused by the structural problems in the American economy. It was not, as many believed at the time, caused by the wrath of God or by the sins of the economically displaced. Over and over again, this period of American history has been misinterpreted by people with an ideological bent.

And isn't it odd that a conservative would talk about moving to where the jobs are as a solution for America's problems when millions of Latin Americans have "moved to where the jobs are" and have gotten a bellyful of heartache and intolerance for it?

The American economy is broken, and it has been broken by a process that turns a blind eye towards greed and economic exploitation. Jobs have gone overseas or disappeared completely. This is a structural problem, and there used to be a time when the government would work with businesses in order to realign these structural problems. This is not about raising taxes, or cutting regulations, or protectionism. It's about adapting to the reality of the 21st Century. People need to be retrained for jobs that will form the key core of a new resurgence in a new American economy.

Hating the government is not the solution because the government is an essential component of economic growth and regulation. But that's all conservatives have to offer. If something is wrong, it's because of a moral failing or the government. The real answer simply couldn't be the easiest one--America's economy needs to be restructured.

Oh, and for laughs, check out this homage to The Grapes of Wrath. Whiskey Fire applies the dancing leprechauns.

Monday, December 5, 2011

A Season of Petty Theft

'Shoplifters of the World Unite' by The Smiths

Shoplifting has always fascinated me. Catching shoplifters used to be a part of my working life when I was holding down retail jobs in the late 1980s and early 1990s. My last retail job was in 1998, or so, and that was a part-time bookstore position that took a very "enlightened" view towards shoplifting. In essence, the store didn't care; catching shoplifters was a time-consuming and regular customer-ignoring activity and so it was discouraged in order to maintain a more "civil" atmosphere in the store.

I've caught several shoplifters; most, if not all, I just let go. I think there were a few that were detained, but that was because I was not running the store at the time or the only one in the store. In several cases, there was no point in calling the police; I would have had to have shut down the store because I was the only one in it. Take the merchandise, let the shoplifter go. That's the way to do it.

I'm not surprised at the list; people are in desperate straits. The item at the end is worth a blog post if only because has, on staff, some twit who things typing "ewwwwwww" is meaningful and entertaining. This, being a news item, is not where you make a comment about the fact that other human beings like to wash themselves and stay clean.

But, a little analysis is in order. The reason why people steal Axe body wash is because it is more expensive than other products in that same vein. And, it's in a part of a retail store that is not under heavy surveillance. So it's an item that is appealing, it's worth about the same as a value meal, and it isn't being watched night and day by the closed-circuit television monitors.

People are going to steal, and there is very little that will deter them. People steal in good times and in bad; it usually comes down to their personal situation. Are they stealing for psychological reasons or are they stealing because they're sick of being broke?

Americans Are Driving Less and Less Each Year

This report is from August, and it will, hopefully, be updated by January in order to determine whether or not Americans dropped below the 3 trillion-mile mark. I think this is a very interesting fact about modern American life.

The reason why I looked this up is because gas prices are falling. Despite the fact that we are in the holiday traveling season, there is less of a demand for gas (and so the price falls, I guess) and there are fewer Americans on the road. Gas could increase around Christmas time, but, even then, the trends show that fewer and fewer Americans are driving.

Why does this matter? Well, it's good for a few reasons--namely, environmental reasons. It also puts less strain on an already-crumbling infrastructure in the United States. But it means that people are spending less money at gas stations and at travel plazas and fewer people are connecting in person and are relying on social media even more to stay in touch. These aren't horrible reasons for or against, but there is something to be said for the fact that, when Americans don't spend money, this ripples through the economy. When Americans decide enough is enough, and abandon things like travel, motels, and restaurants in favor of staying home, that means tougher times for those businesses.

It looks like Americans have picked up the habit of staying home, or close to home. If this continues as a demographic trend, look for fewer travel amenities. People will just decide that they need to get out of that business.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

No Shortage of Wingnuts

Letters to the Editor do not, in general, make a town suck. But what sucks is that this is the typical "wingnut" mentality, given plenty of space in the local newspaper. That can lead others to conclude that a town has more than its fair share of crazies. Is it fair? No, but, you get my point.

How much is wrong with what this poor, confused man has to say? Well, if you were to point out that a decade of tax cuts hasn't produced the jobs this country needs and that the United States is not headed for a socialist meltdown, I suppose you'd be beating a dead horse.

Every small town has wingnuts; let everyone read their crazy letters to the editor. Don't censor these folks. Let them have their moment in the sun.