Friday, February 28, 2014

England, My England


Somewhere in England, there is a new Johnny Rotten:
The mother of a schoolboy caught on camera making an obscene gesture in front of Nick Clegg said he was “in trouble” today.

Harry Payne raised his middle finger as the deputy prime minister made a speech to around 500 pupils at Southfields Academy school in south west London yesterday.
The teenager was today off school and was with his mother Nicola Payne at her workplace.
Harry needs to get his mates off to the shop and find some instruments and start rehearsing. One, two, three, four...

Go Find Havoc

Havoc the Dog
The gist of this article is, some poor lady is trying to find her missing dog and a bunch of people are being self-important dicks about it.

Being thorough and organized will get you nothing but grief in a world where people just don't give a shit about anything. If you are so dead-set on making the posters for the missing dog go away, go find the missing dog or shut the hell up.

There are some things that are, in fact, annoying. Clutter is annoying. But someone else's pain should be accommodated and handled with a little more sympathy.

Thanks Again, Obama


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

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


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

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

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

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

The Northern Lights in Great Britain


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

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Republican Party is Run by Crazy People


How do you do things like this and not see a backlash from the voters? This is insane.
A Democratic bill designed to make numerous improvements to services for veterans failed in the Senate Thursday, a victim of the partisan gridlock and election-year acrimony that dominates the chamber.
On a largely party-line vote, 56 to 41, the measure didn’t the 60 votes it needed to clear a procedural hurdle.
Republicans inserted an amendment into the bill that had nothing to do with Veteran's benefits. They wanted to tack on legislation related to sanctions against Iran. And if that sounds like foaming-at-the-mouth crazy, that's because it is. When it comes to legislation designed to alleviate the suffering of Americans, the Republican Party will stop at nothing to derail legislation and run a knife into the ribs of the American people.

What's in the bill?
The $21 billion bill, which was written primarily by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, who chairs the veterans committee, would improve veterans’ access to health care services, and expand educational and job training programs for vets. It also aims to reduce the giant claims backlog the Department of Veterans Affairs currently faces. 
Sanders argued that “we still have a very long way to go” to meet the needs of older veterans as well as the thousands of service members recently returned from Iraq and Afghanistan. “
“Please do not inject extraneous issues in here for totally political reasons. I think that’s unfair to American’s veterans,” Sanders said during a floor speech this week. “Let’s not kill this bill because of the same ol’, same ol’ partisan issues that we face.”
Just fucking crazy. That's all they are. Just fucking crazy.

Keith Olbermann is Still Gainfully Employed


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

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

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Embarrassment That Is Thomas Friedman


How is it that this even made it past an editor? Does Thomas Friedman even submit his work to an editor anymore? How embarrassing:
With Russia growling over the downfall of its ally running Ukraine and still protecting its murderous ally running Syria, there is much talk that we’re returning to the Cold War — and that the Obama team is not up to defending our interests or friends. I beg to differ. I don’t think the Cold War is back; today’s geopolitics are actually so much more interesting than that. And I also don’t think President Obama’s caution is entirely misplaced.
The Cold War was a unique event that pitted two global ideologies, two global superpowers, each with globe-spanning nuclear arsenals and broad alliances behind them. Indeed, the world was divided into a chessboard of red and black, and who controlled each square mattered to each side’s sense of security, well-being and power. It was also a zero-sum game, in which every gain for the Soviet Union and its allies was a loss for the West and NATO, and vice versa.
That game is over. We won. What we have today is the combination of an older game and a newer game. The biggest geopolitical divide in the world today “is between those countries who want their states to be powerful and those countries who want their people to be prosperous,” argues Michael Mandelbaum, professor of foreign policy at Johns Hopkins.
You are not going to read three lazier paragraphs than that on a major newspaper's editorial page. 

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

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

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

Certain Bad Actors


I think the phrase "certain bad actors" is the key to all of this:
The purpose of this document is to summarize a joint statement to the Bitcoin community regarding Mt.Gox. 
This tragic violation of the trust of users of Mt.Gox was the result of one company’s actions and does not reflect the resilience or value of bitcoin and the digital currency industry. There are hundreds of trustworthy and responsible companies involved in bitcoin. These companies will continue to build the future of money by making bitcoin more secure and easy to use for consumers and merchants. As with any new industry, there are certain bad actors that need to be weeded out, and that is what we are seeing today. Mtgox has confirmed its issues in private discussions with other members of the bitcoin community 
We are confident, however, that strong Bitcoin companies, led by highly competent teams and backed by credible investors, will continue to thrive, and to fulfill the promise that bitcoin offers as the future of payment in the Internet age. 
In order to re-establish the trust squandered by the failings of Mt. Gox, responsible bitcoin exchanges are working together and are committed to the future of bitcoin and the security of all customer funds. As part of the effort to re-assure customers, the following services will be coordinating efforts over the coming days to publicly reassure customers and the general public that all funds continue to be held in a safe and secure manner: Coinbase, Kraken, BitStamp, Circle, and BTC China.
Bitcoin is a currency that was created by a libertarian's need to be outside of the framework of all of the government regulation that grants legitimacy. The users want to be able to use it to buy things that money normally shouldn't buy. But it just went afoul of libertarian reality--you can't expect everyone to chill and be an honest bro without the threat of the power of a regulated currency, and that has to come from the power of the state. And while this disaster only covered a fraction of the Bitcoins in circulation, it has convinced just enough holders to get the hell out now.

You can't just invent your own money and expect it to work. But it may very well work out in the end. These growing pains have a way of sorting themselves out. I've read countless articles about how the euro is dead but it continues. That may well be the same with Bitcoin.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Thirty Million Dollars for a Townhome


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

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

The Fatwa Against Going to Mars


Even though Islam has no central authority, someone is going to take this the wrong way:
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (CNN) -- The Oscar-nominated film "Gravity" traces the harrowing tale of astronaut Ryan Stone after a mission goes horribly wrong. She's lost in space and struggles to try to make her way back to Earth.
"Gravity" is just a film. Imagine a similar real-life scenario: Would there be any chance of survival?
That's a concern for the General Authority of Islamic Affairs & Endowments, or GAIAE, the United Arab Emirates' religious watchdog, for anyone who wishes to travel to Mars. The GAIAE has issued a fatwa, or an official Islamic ruling, to warn Muslims against a Mars mission.
So far, the UAE has supported space travel. Abu Dhabi's Aabar Investments teamed up with Richard Branson's Virgin group to create Virgin Galactic to provide spaceflights for tourists, starting this year. But a mission to Mars, it seems, is one step too far.
Religion should not have anything to do with who goes to Mars and whether or not they will be punished for following their dreams. My opinion is that there won't be any actual "one way" trips to Mars because people will get there and, once bored, will suddenly pine for home and plead for a "rescue mission." The general consensus will be, "let's go get the poor sucker who didn't know what he or she was in for." And then, a trillion dollars later, some confused person will breathlessly tell us what it was like to go on a one-way trip to Mars and come back.

Or something stupid like that.

We Have Abandoned Europe and Korea


I have no idea what Michael Densch is saying here:
But there is significant U.S. Army presence in Europe and Korea. If we had to choose, we could more safely draw down further on the continent than we could on the Korean Peninsula. Aside from a possible land war in Korea, most of our strategic pivot to Asia is in response to possible Chinese naval challenges which do not require much ground power.
Significant? Really?

We were forced to gut those forces in 2006 in order to support the Iraq War. We pulled thousands of men and women out of Europe and out of Korea in order to deploy their brigades to Iraq, and we did it again and again and again. In effect, we abandoned any pretense of defending these places and now our military budgets will rely on air superiority and deterrence.

Now, all is not lost. We have a lot of support personnel in those places now, not so many trigger pullers in either Germany or Korea. I have driven through the empty Army posts of Germany--Heidelberg is closed, Mannheim is closed, and Baumholder, which used to house numerous units is a ghost town. Everywhere you went in Germany, everything was being scaled back and reduced in order to deal with cuts and reductions.

Baumholder, Germany. A single U.S. Army convoy is staged among numerous abandoned buildings and parking lots.

The cuts proposed by Secretary Hagel are just deep enough to trigger a backlash from Congress. This is how it is supposed to be--the Congress will determine how big the force will be, not the Secretary of Defense. This is a necessary fight. The fact that Texas, Tennessee, Georgia and North Carolina all have relatively weak Senate delegations is significant. Which do you think will go first? Fort Drum or Fort Gordon?

The military will not be stronger after these cuts are carried out. Force reduction never results in better quality. Good troops will be forced out, bad ones will stay in, training will become a joke, and we'll be left with a hollowed out force. Experienced combat Veterans will disappear from the ranks, forced out by zero-defect bean counters. The next war will catch us asleep at the wheel, and there won't even be wheels left. I remember hundreds and hundreds of old vehicles with dry-rot tires and shot transmissions, parked end to end in perfect order and all but abandoned. There will be fat times for contractors who are dedicated to the removal of outdated military equipment.

I believe that the Air Force will do quite well in the next few budget cycles. Deterrent weapons will come back into favor because we won't have a land army to fight with anymore. Maybe we should pour some money back into NASA as well. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

CNN is a Badly Mismanaged Media Outlet


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

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

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

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

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

Alec Baldwin Has No Idea What a Jackass He Really Is


Let me just put this out there--being a liberal does not mean Alec Baldwin gets a pass for being remarkably bigoted and ignorant. He actually wrote this:
I met with Nick and others from two LGBT organizations. We talked for a while about the torment of the LGBT life many of them have lived while growing up in traditional Hawaiian families. Macho fathers. Religious mothers. We talked a lot about words and their power, especially in the lives of young people.

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

I said, “No. I don’t want to get dry-cleaned. I don’t want to be decontaminated by you, Karen Silkwood–wise, scrubbed down. I want to learn about what is hurtful speech in your community. I want to participate in some programs about that. Or underwrite one. And then, like you, I just want to be left alone.” [emphasis, mine]
So, if you're trying to demonstrate how you're not bigoted, why would you insert the phrase "an F-to-M tranny" into your description of someone who works on behalf of gay rights? Why would you use the term "tranny" like that? Labels used like that are designed to belittle and demean people. It doesn't matter if the person was born a woman and now lives as a man--their dignity is more important than calling them a wink-wink tranny.

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

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

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Rule of Law Returns to Ukraine


Yulia Tymoshenko, once known as the Gas Princess and the President of Ukraine, has been allowed to leave prison alive and return to Kiev. I don't know if she has a chance at being re-elected--or restored--to power, but the woman who best exemplifies a gentler form of corruption in that part of the world was able to bring some semblance of victory to the efforts to throw Viktor Yanukovych out on his ass.

With the world watching the Olympics in Sochi, this has to blow the mind of one Vladimir Putin.  President Obama should send John Kerry and a billion dollars to this woman and make plans to host a state dinner in her honor in the White House. By then, she will have dyed her hair back to completely blonde and she will be ready for the world stage again.

Long Overdue

Melvin Morris deserves to be honored with the Medal of Honor. His actions warranted the medal that he didn't get and this review is long overdue.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Republicans Need to Get Over Their Own Mythology


This whole article treads lightly on reality. Republicans are demographically shifting themselves into a permanent minority. And what's not helping is the fact that they believe their own bullshit:
A few GOP consultants say the party's conservative philosophy hinders the sharing of its best ideas—both with other Republican campaigns and within individual campaigns themselves. "We are so individualistic on the Republican side, both in our philosophy and policy," Harris said. "It definitely bleeds over into how we are managing and structuring campaigns. And we have to break that."
Even the party's agenda can get in the way. As Robert Draper outlined in The New York Times Magazine in February, the party's conservatism on cultural issues might prevent it from recruiting the young operatives it needs from Silicon Valley and other places. The problems with these tech-savvy youths mirror the GOP's problem with young voters in general who might sympathize with the party's fiscal conservatism. As Draper wrote, the GOP's opposition to gay marriage and abortion rights alienates those would-be operatives. The talent pools the GOP must tap into, then, are running dry.
Hidebound and out of touch with the shifting of the culture is more like it. This is why the Republicans lose among minorities and lose among young people--they are still running on racial issues and tribalism. The people who supported racism and cultural conservatism in decades past are dying off. The longer the GOP waits for change--and by change we mean becoming more like Democrats just like always--the harder it will be to keep Gerrymandering their way into office.

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

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

This is How You Build a Nation

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

They are doing it themselves.

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

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

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

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Not Everyone Can Render the Proper Respect

Don't hit the play button; the video is not embedded here.
The Wisconsin National Guard needs a new team of soldiers to render honors at military funerals.

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

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

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

Are You Dumber Than Andrea Peyser?


Have you heard? Al Gore is fat.

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

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

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

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

Monday, February 17, 2014

Team of Rivals is Not a Good Book


Whenever I see a list like this, I know there's going to be disappointment.

The inclusion of Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin is annoying. She is a celebrity historian with a history of getting away with plagiarism, and her work is fairly known to be tainted and lacking of academic credibility. If you flip to her bibliography, read those books instead.

I've never accepted her thesis about Lincoln having a team of rivals. Lincoln was weak politically and these were the men he drew into his fold in order to marginalize them. He used this strategy to get himself re-elected and accepted their counsel only when it conformed to his own needs. Lincoln was an intellectual who pretended to be less intelligent and sophisticated than he actually was in order to disarm his opponents and allow himself to drive his own agenda.

Goodwin worships at the altar of bipartisanship and the need for our political leaders to make deals with their opponents. This is what we called High Broderism in response to the many columns that the late David Broder would write about Democrats who just couldn't kneel before Republicans and beg for mercy (no one ever accuses a Republican of not being "bipartisan" enough because they're being "principled" instead of pragmatic).

Lincoln's 'team of rivals' were venal and corrupt men who did their level best to lose the Civil War. Their policies sentenced hundreds of thousands of men to death because of their incompetence. This was not a magic team of A-listers who helped save a country. The country wasn't saved by anything other than the fact that there were more boys in Blue from the Northeast and the Midwest who could walk long distances and not run away when shot at. They outlasted their opponents. The 100,000 southern men who deserted the Confederate Army had more of an impact on the direction of the war than anything decided in the White House. The war was not won with bipartisanship and friendly table banter between Salmon Chase and Edwin Stanton. It was won because there were more men on one side who carried rifles and stood where they were told.

The Dummies Who Run Groupon


Whenever modern life runs into actual history, there's always the chance people will get it right. In the case of Groupon, forget about getting it right. It's all about the price point.

Groupon has confused the need to limit their deals to $10 with having a basic understanding of who did what in American history. If you don't already know that Alexander Hamilton was never President of the United States, there isn't much else to tell you.

Hamilton, as many people actually do know, was "written out of" contention for the Presidency specifically because he was never born in the United States. He was born on the island of Nevis in the Caribbean and he is the reason why Arnold Schwarzenegger and Ted Cruz will never be president. If it had not been for the fear that an influential bloc of the founders had for Hamilton, and for the xenophobia of early American political life, we might well have already had a foreign-born president. As George Washington's closest thing to a confidant, Hamilton was very much the shadow president until a paternity scandal forced him from office.

You could forgive Groupon for making this kind of a mistake, but it would appear that they actually doubled down and defended their choice. Really? Is the Internet broken where they are?

Do Not Speak of the Dead


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

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

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

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

Friday, February 14, 2014

Curling is Easy to Understand


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

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

See you again in four years.

Snow


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

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

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

Tom Perkins is Trolling Everyone


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

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

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

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Hindus An Alternative History


Academic books about religion--any religion--face an uphill battle for acceptance. You cannot make a scholarly attempt at explaining something that defies scholarship, and organized religion practically begs for a thorough debunking. Using the actual fossil history of camels to disprove the Christian Bible--to hell with you.

Other religions--major religions--are ripe for this kind of analysis. The Hindus is a book that is under assault by a particularly ridiculous man:
“YOU NOTICEE.” In strident, upper-case pidgin-legalese, the man—a belligerent Indian enemy of “westernization,” a strutting Hindu fundamentalist with a record of suppressive activism against books that “hurt the sentiments” of Hindus—addressed a legal notice to Wendy Doniger, a professor at the University of Chicago’s Divinity School (and a woman who knows more about Hinduism than the man in question could ever hope to learn in this benighted lifetime or the next).
The man, Dinanath Batra, hurled various sections of the Indian Penal Code at Prof. Doniger, accusing her of having outraged his feelings, and those of his co-religionists, in her book The Hindus, published in his country by Penguin India. His accusations, in effect, characterized the book as hate speech. About 70 times in his short legal notice , Mr. Batra intoned the hectoring phrase “YOU NOTICEE,” as he charged Ms. Doniger with being “a woman hungry of sex” (for her highlighting of the sexuality inherent in Hindu mythology), with having “a shallow knowledge of the great Hindu religion” and a “perverse mindset,” with hurting “the feelings of millions of Hindus by declaring that [the] Ramayana is a fiction,” with holding “the flag of beef eating and cow slaughter in ancient India,” and—my favorite, in which Penguin India is conjoined as “noticee”—with intending, through the book, “to cause fear and alarm among the Hindus that their religion and religious beliefs are not safe any more and can be trampled with and denigrated, distorted & insulted and hence you have intended to induce and incite them to commit offences against the State and against Public Tranquility.”
Dinanath Batra is just another Bill Donahue, in other words, and less eloquent when he pulls things out of his ass.

Doniger's book doesn't represent any kind of a threat to the appreciation for Hinduism. In fact, you would think that the Hindu believers would be well above any kind of attack on their religion. Christians are more thin-skinned, and Muslims need not be mentioned. We all know what happens when you try to make any kind of a comment about that particular faith. It's not as bad as ridiculing Scientology, but damned close.

Academics, take note--writing about religion will cost you sales overseas. I'm hoping the book does well elsewhere.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Mayor Skillet


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

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

Sid Caesar 1922-2014


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

Ray Nagin is Guilty


Ex-New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin found guilty on 20 of 21 counts in his corruption trial, CNN affiliates report.
Almost ten years ago, an entire American city died. It emptied out. It was ruined. It was tragic. New Orleans was hammered by Hurricane Katrina and then flooded again by Hurricane Rita (no one remembers Hurricane Rita which, in and of itself, was a horrific storm). Through it all, Ray Nagin tried and failed to be the mayor of a major American city.

In the end, he ended up being a corrupt fool, a goat, and a symbol of the deliberate losers and unlucky fatalists who call New Orleans home. Nagin had a chance to lead. Instead, he lined his pockets.

Rand Paul Forgot He Was a Republican


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

You won't read anything more naive than this:
We are told that these intrusive and unconstitutional measures are necessary to protect us from the forces of international terrorism. We are told that a surrender of our privacy rights is a small price to pay for the knowledge that we can sleep safe and secure in our beds.
We reject this premise. We are committed to a safe America, but we do not accept the notion that a surveillance state is necessary to safeguard the lives and liberty of American citizens.
These assurances of the necessity to give up a little privacy for the sake of safety are made all the less convincing by the fact that, after more than seven years, the NSA has been unable to provide any evidence that the collection of telephone metadata from Americans has led to the prevention of even a single terrorist attack.
There can be no justification for the preservation of a domestic surveillance program that has utterly failed in its stated goals.
The stated goal was to protect America, and, for the last seven years, the "homeland" has been protected quite well, thank you very much. Paul knows exactly why he has to identify with that "seven" year benchmark  (Obama! Benghazi! Republican Primary Voters!) because we're really talking about a thirteen year program and not the Obama Administration alone. It was September 11, 2001 that stampeded the country towards surveillance but, really, we have been subjected to far more surveillance from the commercial world than the government world. It was due entirely to the futile efforts of Senator Russ Feingold that there even was limited scrutiny of the Patriot Act (Feingold was rewarded with electoral defeat, thank you very much), and there was virtually no fuss when the act was renewed.

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

Paul wants you, the American people, to hate Obama for all of the surveillance that's been going on. In this effort, he aligns himself with the privacy radicals who want the focus to be on the government and not on the private companies that routinely violate the privacy of Americans for commercial gain. He simply cannot accept the idea that the Congress writes the laws and that this Congress is too dysfunctional to pass laws that will safeguard the privacy of the American people. The lack of adequate Congressional oversight caused this problem but you'll never hear that spoken out loud--they need to look at everyone who conducts surveillance, up to and including the very platform on which this is published.
You are far more likely to have your privacy abused by a traffic cop than anyone who works in the U.S. intelligence community.
Intelligence gathering is about social relationships and analyzing the importance and relevance of what is found. This is done by combining as many different disciplines as possible. We routinely take photographs of large areas of the world. Who is complaining about the voluminous amount of imagery captured every moment of every day? If your complaint is about how we are caught up in cell phone metadata collection, why are you silent about the fact that you are inevitably photographed from above when you travel overseas? Privacy extends to being free from all forms of surveillance, not just telecommunications.

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

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

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

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

Kentucky Sinkholes and Fancy Cars


This is a photo of the interior of the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky. So far, eight vintage cars have fallen into the sinkhole that has opened up under the museum.

I've been to this museum, and what makes it special is that their exhibits are always changing because Corvette owners loan their cars to the museum. There's a tremendous amount of pride in these restored and maintained vehicles. More than a few people are hoping they were able to safely remove everyone and everything from the museum floor after this was discovered.

The New Look For NBC News is a Disaster


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

Wow.

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

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

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Always Flatter the Elites


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

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

Monday, February 10, 2014

Historical Ignorance


Naoki Hyakuta has a great deal in common with America's rabid band of Obama haters. He's a nationalist in the sense that he has succeeded in life by taking advantage of Japan's historical ignorance. People like Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity appeal to the same sort of audience in the United States. Historical facts are easy to ignore when you have a money-making plan based on using the media as a way to reach potential donors or customers. This is what race hustlers do--they gin up outrage and pretend to be controversial so that they can raise money from the tribalists who enjoy the attention. Paging Ann Coulter.

He does not represent Japan, or the Japanese people. Hyakuta represents his own agenda and his own need to attract attention to himself. Japan has never been led by anyone as good as its own people and you could say the same thing about the United States. Our own presidents rarely communicate or represent actual knowledge of American history. This is why few of our own presidents ever do anything to help the lives of Native Americans or delve too deeply into what remains of our own imperialist priorities.

There are people who seek to improve their country by criticizing it and trying to make it better. Then there are people who know that they can wring money out of the ignorant and appeal to their need to live inside of their own narrowly-defined reality.

It was Japanese government policy to annex territories and exploit them. The purpose of the war that Japan started in the Pacific region was entirely centered around the exploitation of people as labor capital and the wholesale confiscation of the natural resources found in those sovereign territories and protectorates. That's why Japan went to war not only with the United States but with England, Australia, New Zealand, and the Netherlands as well. Hyakuta wants you to focus on the American aspect of the war while neglecting to mention that Japan invaded Manchuria and made war on China and a host of other countries. Atrocities were commonplace occurrences for the Imperial Army.

Japan's relationship with Korea prior to World War II puts to rest the idea that Japan was a "victim" in any sense of the word. The Hyakutas of the world are counting on people to forget that the impressively detailed documents that survived spell out just how aggressive Japan's national ambitions were long before Pearl Harbor. His cheap rhetoric about "made up" atrocities should be considered his own attempt to find Obama's real birth certificate. It's a transparently inept ploy and it shows tremendous disrespect for the true remorse demonstrated by the Japanese since the end of the war.

Clinging to the Reagan Myth


Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker claims he voted for Ronald Reagan:
If you’re a Republican who is thinking about running for president some day, there are few things you can do to better ingratiate yourself with the GOP rank-and-file than talk about the awesomeness in human form that was former President Ronald Reagan.
Perhaps this best explains what Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was thinking when, during an January interview with Right Wing News, he claimed to have voted for Reagan to be U.S. president.
“I remember, I … had just become a teenager and voted for Ronald Reagan,” Walker said. He argued part of the reason why he supported the Gipper was because “you knew what you were getting.”
“Limited government, you know, smaller government, lower taxes, strong national defense,” Walker continued. “You knew what you were getting. You knew how a Reagan administration, a Reagan presidency, was going to be better for you.”
Pretty standard Republican boilerplate stuff, right? Well, here’s the catch: There’s simply no way Walker’s claim is true.
The reason why is very simple. As Zach Wisniewksi pointed out at Blogging Blue, Scott Walker was 13 years old when Reagan won the presidency in 1980, which means he was only 17 years old when Reagan won reelection in 1984.
The charitable version of events would say that Walker misspoke. Happens all the time. Walker probably voted for George H. W. Bush in 1988 and conflated that with voting for Reagan. The wingnuts would argue that he was, in fact, voting for a continuation of the Reagan years and that's exactly what happened--right up until the moment where Bush was thrown out of office after winning a war on foreign soil by a man who had never served a day in uniform.
In other words, Walker is proud to identify himself as being on the wrong side of history and on the wrong side of his own generation. That's pretty savvy for a man who has been bought and sold by the Koch brothers.
Conservatives cling to the Reagan myth like a life preserver. The real Ronald Wilson Reagan wouldn't even be allowed to speak to Republicans, let alone be their nominee for President.

That Tired Old Cliche About a Big Tent


Rand Paul has adopted the strategy of the moderate Republicans who have cried out for years for a "big tent" approach to winning elections.
Sen. Rand Paul on Saturday made a prediction that plenty of Democrats would love to see come true, but Republicans hope to avoid: “Texas will be a Democratic state within 10 years if you don't change.” 
The Kentucky Republican, who was in Houston at a dinner with GOP Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, continued to push his message for change within the Republican Party, bringing that gospel straight to one of the most reliably red states in the country and his former home.
“That doesn't mean we give up on what we believe in, but it means we have to be a more welcoming party,” Paul said. “We have to welcome people of all races. We need to welcome people of all classes - business class, working class.”
None of those people are truly welcome in the party of the oligarchs. I don't care if you own your own business--are you a billionaire? Are you rich on the level with the Koch brothers? Then you wouldn't be reading this and you are still unwelcome in the modern GOP.
The "big tent" approach is just codespeak for tricking more people into voting against their economic self-interest. You cannot win elections without appealing to the tribal tendency of people to hate others for getting money for nothing (which is a huge lie in American society anyway). Each and every Republican candidate who comes up for election knows they have to divide and acquire groups of people that are squared off against one another; the unifying aspect of Obamacare that they really hate is the one where people lose their fear of being bankrupted by the system. Rich and poor have been bankrupted by health care costs and Obamacare goes a long way towards eliminating that fear.
Watching Rand Paul run against type (his father's hatred of minorities and his use of fear is already well documented) is laughable. The xenophobes and the haters aren't going to allow him to run as a moderate. What self-respecting South Carolina primary voter is going to pull the handle for a man who actually wants the votes of the unwashed masses? They want to exclude, not include.
There are two things that will get you into the party of fear--enormous wealth or insanity.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Jets and Buzzbombs and A-Bombs and All That


I don't have a real problem with focusing on an effort to preserve the cultural treasures of Europe. The film Monuments Men is an attempt to tell part of a story that begs for a look at the context of the history that surrounds it.

The V2 rockets that were hitting Allied-held territory and Britain were far more important than old paintings and churches and things of that nature to the men trying to liberate Europe. These weapons were terrorizing millions of people even though they rarely hit their targets. They were part of the group of "miracle weapons" that the Germans felt would turn the tide of the war. Chief among them were the V1s and V2s, the ME-262 jets, and the development of a possible Atomic bomb by German scientists in the Black Forest region.

You can say whatever you want about secret weapons, but if the Germans had developed a series of A-bombs, no amount of skullduggery would have saved the artworks and no one would have been able to defeat Germany. They would, of course, have poisoned themselves in the process of destroying the advancing armies with a series of A-bomb detonations, but still. The French and the American 7th Army raced each other to Haigerloch for one reason and one reason only--they were afraid that the great German scientist Werner Heisenberg and his team had been able to succeed in building a working device.

Clooney should have made this movie:
Operation Alsos was an Allied effort commanded by the Russian-American Colonel Boris T. Pash. He reported directly to General Leslie Groves, commander of theManhattan Engineer District, which was developing atomic weapons for the United States. The chief scientific advisor to Operation Alsos was the physicist Samuel Abraham Goudsmit. Goudsmit was selected for this task because of his knowledge of physics, he spoke German, and he personally knew a number of the German scientists working on the German nuclear energy project. He also knew little of the Manhattan Project, so, if he were captured, he would have little intelligence value to the Germans.
The objectives of Operation Alsos were to determine if the Germans had an atomic bomb program and to exploit German atomic related facilities, intellectual materials, materiel resources, and scientific personnel for the benefit of the US. Personnel on this operation generally swept into areas which had just come under control of the Allied military forces, but sometimes they operated in areas still under control by German forces.
Berlin had been a location of many German scientific research facilities. To limit casualties and loss of equipment, many of these facilities were dispersed to other locations in the latter years of the war. The Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institut für Physik (KWIP, Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physics) had mostly been moved in 1943 and 1944 toHechingen and its neighboring town of Haigerloch, on the edge of the Black Forest, which eventually became the French occupation zone. This move and a little luck allowed the Americans to take into custody a large number of German scientists associated with nuclear research.

To me, it's the better story. Who wouldn't like to see a movie about the real Heisenberg? The Atomkeller is an old beer storage cave under an impressive church. The scale of the thing is ridiculously small--you could barely put a restaurant into the place. But who knows what would have happened if Heisenberg had been given more time and resources?

Clint Eastwood is Still a Badass


America's enduring image of Clint Eastwood will not be that of him talking to an empty chair in hopes of electing Mitt Romney to the Presidency. That's because Clint Eastwood is an American badass:
Hollywood actor-director Clint Eastwood delivered an unexpected star turn when he saved the tournament director of this week's AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am from choking during a dinner on the eve of the golf event.
Eastwood, 83, noticed a "look of panic" on the face of tournament official Steve John as he tried to swallow a piece of cheese during a function for tournament volunteers at the Monterey Conference Center in California on Wednesday night.

Immediately, Eastwood stepped in and performed the Heimlich maneuver, the Carmel Pine Cone reported in Friday's edition.
There are few, if any, 83 year old men who could move quickly enough to give someone a pat on the back, let alone save their life with the Heimlich maneuver. Wow.

Tim Armstrong For President


America Online's very own Tim Armstrong is looking like a safe bet to be the Republican nominee for President in 2016. He's got guts, savvy and brains. Plus, he's thumbing his nose at sick babies and Obamacare and he's passing the savings on to you. When he cuts the 401K plan of his employees, he's sticking it to the government and he's telling the Feds that the retirement needs of his workers isn't coming out of his massive compensation package, no sir.

Armstrong could literally run for any office in the land as a Republican and win primary after primary before losing a general election when matched up against a squid or a potato or even a hot and bothered howler monkey. He is the worst CEO in the tech world right now and he's presiding over the destruction of a company that still makes people scratch their head and say, "they're still in business? And the Blockbuster Video is gone? Wha?"

Everything is Obama's Fault. Everything


Everyone should have access to health care coverage. Everyone.

The problem is, we aren't fully understanding who is to blame when the process of selecting and buying health care coverage goes haywire. Ike Brannon is having a hell of a time getting his Obamacare to work. The problem is, he's not actually prepared to blame the right party for not getting coverage:
My facilitator and I again call regularly, to no avail, until I received a message on my answering machine on January 14 from D.C. Health Link: they have processed my information and I just need to call Carefirst by 6 p.m. the next day and I'll be set.

So I call, and hold for an hour 45 minutes, and talk to a Carefirst agent, who informs me that D.C. Health Link had not, in fact, sent over the appropriate information, and that I was out of luck for January.

Which was fine: it was a month, no one in the family broke a leg, the full price on our prescriptions weren't that outrageous (a scant $350), so we soldiered on.
The next two weeks consisted of regular calls to D.C. Health Link—who told me without exception they will send my case to their supervisor to follow up—and Carefirst, who continued to tell me D.C. Health Link has not, in fact, followed up and sent them what they need for me to get insurance.

On January 31, my broker/facilitator gives me the name of the supervisor she has talked to. I email her, and she says they sent over the information--on January 14. Carefirst has such a long wait time over the phone I am kicked off the circuit and told to call back Monday.

If this is resolved by February 15 they tell me I will be covered for the month: that seems to me to be a sucker's bet.

While I thought this was bad policy, I figured it would be good for my family, since I am now self-employed and we have some pre-existing conditions that made our insurance costly. It may still work out that way, if I ever managed to purchase insurance.
Do you know what is bad policy? It's bad policy for Carefirst to not have enough employees to process health care policies. How is that Obamacare's fault? The health insurance industry is, to put it mildly, deliberately being shitheaded about providing people with the insurance they are entitled to by law. 

Obamacare is a long damned way from being perfect or really, really good. But you cannot deny that Brannon's problems are derived largely from the fact that Carefirst made a staffing decision not to ramp up and accommodate people like himself. They put their profits ahead of compliance with the law and the people who need health care are getting screwed. I hope Mr. Brannon gets his health care quickly and without anymore fuss, but I'm not going to accept the fact that the law is to blame. The fact that there aren't enough people processing applications and entering information into Carefirst's system is what's to blame, in my opinion.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Six Seasons and a Movie, Bitches


So far, NBC has cancelled Sean Hayes and they've cancelled Michael J. Fox.

All I have to say to that is this:


Twelve seasons and a theme park? Why the hell not?

NBC News Is Copying Windows 8


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

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

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

This is Why We Can't Have Nice Things


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

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

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

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

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

The First World Problems of a Privileged Class


Wait a minute--you mean things are spartan and ramshackle in today's Russia? Really? I am shocked.
While some are calling them first-world problems of Western journalists sent to cover one of the world's greatest events, complaints about unfinished or underprepared hotel rooms in and around the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics are pouring in online. 
In the past 24 hours alone, more than 26,000 tweets have been sent using the hashtag #SochiProblems and the Twitter account@SochiProblems has more than 53,000 followers as it retweets some of the stories and photos.

On Wednesday, International Olympic Committee spokesman Mark Adams even addressed the issue in a news conference.
"It's a bit premature to say it's been a failure. They have delivered 24,000 rooms," he said. "Surely there have been some issues, but we are really doing our best."
Everything you are seeing about the Sochi games could come down to one question--what did you think was going to happen when you awarded Russia the games in the first place? 

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

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

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The BBC Does Not Know What the Breitbart Kidz Are All About


Oh, wouldn't it be nice if someone at the BBC knew something-something about how the American media works:
Syndicated columnist Ben Shapiro writes that Mr Hoffman's death reflects moral decay in Hollywood: 
His self-inflicted death is yet another hallmark of the broken leftist culture that dominates Hollywood, enabling rather than preventing the loss of some of its greatest talents. Libertarianism becomes libertinism without a cultural force pushing back against the penchant for sin; Hollywood has no such cultural force. In fact, the Hollywood demand is for more self-abasement, less spirituality, less principle, less standards.
This blurb comes at the end of a compilation of reactions to the death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman. It attempts to show some "balance" where none is really needed. If you want balance, why would you go to a known click-bait troll like Ben Shapiro? He is an acolyte of the late Andrew Breitbart (whose sudden death I greatly admired and cheered) and functions solely as a manufacturer of misplaced, phony outrage. His audience consists of anyone crazy enough to think President Obama presides over a communist government full of Muslim Brotherhood commandos. 

Adding his reaction to your list does nothing to advance the discussion. Shapiro has no credibility. If you're going to do a rundown of media outlets, why would you taint your list by including one that advances discredited theories and features the rants of crazy people (The Huffington Post notwithstanding, of course)?

I mean, I had a bit of a shock there. Shaprio is now credible and thoughtful? How did that happen? But, in this case, he uses the tried and true tactic of linking morality to Hollywood. If he had been paying attention, he would know that Philip Seymour Hoffman killed himself with drugs far away from the trappings of Hollywood in a simple apartment in New York City. He had nearly finished filming his parts for the last of the Hunger Games movies, which do a better job than any recent series of films to demonstrate ethics and values. 

Hoffman was simply not a part of the "lefty" Hollywood culture. He was a New York actor, which means that he purposefully rejected the conventions of celebrity and tried to live a decent, ethical life away from the bubble of Hollywood. You can argue all you want about the morality of living in a city teeming with drugs and trying to be an artist, but, come on.  This was a man who walked his children to school and caused himself great pain for his art. He was prolific and worked exceptionally hard and never, ever phoned in a performance or pulled a Bruce Willis on people.

Morality has nothing to do with addiction science. The most moral and upstanding people in the world suffer from addictions; when Shapiro makes his point about "lefty" Hollywood culture being responsible for this, he further destroys any possibility that he might have an ounce of credibility. 

Whitewashing the Military History of Japan


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

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

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

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


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

Parity.

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

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