Neil Diamond, "I Am... I Said"

>> Friday, August 31, 2012





I love Clint Eastwood... I just wish he hadn't based his performance at the Republican National Convention on a pitch from his youngest grandchild.



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蝙蝠侠



I adore Wolfsmoke Studios' take on Catwoman and Batman. How can I get more of this, lots more? An entire series of anime 1930s Batman? Yes, please.

This is part of the character's endurance, of course. There aren't actually all that many seventy-three year old comic book characters still romping around and selling out movie theatres. Batman does. Why? Because he's an idea for a character, as much as anything: he can be translated into the past or the future, from America to any other place in the universe, and he's still cool.

My brain's a little scattered, tell you the truth, and I don't know that I have much more than. "Batman. Cool. Good," on the brain.

(I'd like this meme to be Mitt Romney's main contribution to American civilization (as opposed to him getting elected President--ugh): noun, monosyllabic adjective, monosyllabic adjective. "How's the writing going?" Words. Hard. Bad. "What's the weather like?" Weather. Clouds. Rain. It's like what you'd get if The Hulk became a beat poet, y'know?)







(H/t io9!)


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Bloc Party, "Octopus"

>> Thursday, August 30, 2012





No, you need to listen to this. This is really, really awesome and a lot of fun. Do it. If you don't like it, you don't have to tell me (and there's possibly something wrong with you). If you love it, you should, you totally, totally should.


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Fraud

>> Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Digby points out a ThinkProgress item regarding poll watching by a teabagger group. Digby's take is that the teabaggers are being mendacious, but I'm not sure that's quite true. Though what I suspect is maybe as bad in its own way.

Because I don't think the teabaggers are necessarily lying, or at least knowingly lying. I think quite a lot of them sincerely believe--despite the lack of direct evidence--that voter fraud is a pervasive issue and is the reason they're underrepresented in government. Indeed, I've just stated their circumstantial case for pervasive voter fraud: the fact the teabaggers aren't in complete and total control is proof enough, for these folks, that fraud must be occurring.

They are, after all, the true Americans. It's simply inconceivable to them that there's a diversity of opinion about anything. Everyone they know, everyone they interact with, everyone they look to for news and opinion, falls into a fairly narrow range of belief with a few eccentric outliers.

And even the eccentrics can't possibly mean what they say; I once had a well-intentioned conservative friend (this was before the teabagger movement, and I can only hope she hasn't subscribed) get indignant when I reminded her I was a liberal: "No you're not!" she said to me, as if I'd admitted to an unnatural attraction to children or some other deviance. She didn't mean badly by it; she was honestly offended on my behalf and thought I was saying something awful about myself.

If you think your beliefs and values are the norm, everything else is part of some kind of fringe and/or the manifestation of a problem. People who support liberal economic measures are at best mistaken or misinformed and at worst are up to something. Atheists are people who just haven't made up their minds yet, perhaps because they don't know enough about the topic. Foreigners may have quaint customs, but eventually they'll learn how to act "American". People who are given the opportunity to get with the program and refuse to are obstinate, and people who are obstinate for long enough are deviants, and deviants who can't be straightened out are evil. It all makes sense.

The problem, of course, is that the teabagger crowd are a minority, and conservatives more generally comprise a plurality. The country has always been an ethnic and religious hodgepodge, a diversity of economic and political customs living in tension with each other. And those divisions are, at the moment, as deep as they've been any time since the Vietnam War, and divisions during that era were probably worse than at any time since the American Civil War; it is quite possible, indeed, that we are more fractious and less cohesive now than at any time since the Civil War.

If you believe in diversity, you see this as a problem to be solved by education and compromise. But if you believe you're the standard, you don't see this problem at all; rather, you see conflict as being the product of troublemakers trying to stir dissent where it shouldn't exist. And evidence you're misunderstanding the world--evidence that the country is more diverse and opinions more divided than you're capable of grokking--can only be indicative of malfeasance.

There are two explanations for Barack Obama winning the Presidency in 2008, for instance. One explanation is that a majority of Americans thought he was a good candidate and saw something in him that led them to vote for him. But that explanation requires you to understand that some people like him and value his values and some people don't, and (broadly speaking) you're in one group or the other (n.b. you may also accept there are thousands or millions of groups, loosely or closely aligned with one of the binary options). The other explanation is that there are shenanigans at work, that millions of votes were the product of fraud and/or that millions of voters were deceived; this explanation, you know, is curiously comforting even if it seems it shouldn't be, because while it postulates wide-reaching evil, it also means you're right, and your values could only be thwarted through deception and treachery.

To accept the possibility that more people disagree with you than agree with you is depressing and alienating. Trust me, I know: I'm an economic leftist, socially libertarian atheist living in a state that is largely Christian and conservative. Realizing that lots and lots and lots of people voted for George Bush in 2004, for instance, was sort of shattering, because surely how much of a lousy President he was was self-evident. But accepting diversity and believing in democracy means accepting people and outcomes you really don't like, no, that understates it, it means accepting people and outcomes you might passionately loathe.

The teabagging crowd finds its own self-righteousness especially self-evident; they're outliers and extremists in this regard, even in the context of the conservative movement, which by its nature leans towards some embrace of authoritarianism and absolutism. (After all, isn't respect for tradition an appeal to authority? And doesn't a suspicion and mistrust of change lend itself to a certain suspicion and mistrust of dissent, which implies advocacy of change? This is not to say that all conservatives are authoritarians and/or absolutists; but the more a conservative questions, the finer the line he walks, the more he risks accidentally becoming liberal, at least in approach if not perspective.) To disbelieve in Democratic malfeasance stealing the vote would require them to ask whether their self-righteousness is as self-evident as all that after all. Of course elections are being stolen; if they aren't, the teabaggers might be wrong, and they know they aren't wrong.

In many ways, this is more unfortunate than the cynicism displayed by those Republican legislators who know they've failed to sell their ideas and have resorted to voter ID laws as a way to disenfranchise the opposition. There's a good bit of that going on, of course: see, for example, Pennsylvania State Representative Mike Turzai's infamous admission that the Pennsylvania's voter ID law is intended to skew the vote towards Romney. The cynics at least know they're on the defensive and are fighting a losing war against demographics, finally paying the price of Ronald Reagan's alliance with social conservatives and for their party's inability to convince everybody the New Deal was an all-around bad idea. The idealists--the teabaggers--are never going to understand they're a minority within a party that itself faces some danger of becoming a minority, and so every election they lose (whether it's 2012, or they win 2012 and it's another year's races) will be a sign to them the enemy has gotten wilier; they won't think the problem is they're wrong, they're going to think the problem is the frauds are far more insidious and widespread than they dared imagine, and they'll get worse and worse in their attempts to weed it out. Imaginary enemies are as hard to kill as they are perversely comforting to have in the first place.

You could almost feel sorry for them.




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Dumb quote of the day--this is why running on your "corporate experience" is bullshit edition

>> Tuesday, August 28, 2012

"It is my practice to meet with people that share responsibility for some type of enterprise and to establish very clear goals and objectives, so they know what they’re to accomplish."
- Mitt Romney quoted by Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen,
"Mitt Romney outlines his governing plan to POLITICO",
Politico, August 27th, 2012.


Yes. Well. I expect that'll go over wonderfully if you get elected. If you win, Mr. Romney, please be sure and let us know how that went; I know most people will want to know how Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) (assuming the Democrats keep the Senate thanks to Mr. Akin's fine work) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) respond, but I'm actually more curious about how Chief Justice John Roberts likes being sat down to discuss his department's goals; the one thing those Supreme Court people share in common, regardless of their partisan affiliations, is that whole "air of institutional independence" and "separation of powers" thing.

I think he may be underwhelmed. Just guessing.

There's a serious point here, of course, and that is the silliness of some Americans' infatuation with CEOs as leaders or the view that corporate experience prepares you for something other than working for or running a corporation.

I don't want to demean the usefulness of corporate experience in the corporate sector; goodness knows, if someone walked up to me and made me CEO of a billion-dollar asset management and financial services, I'm sure I'd have no idea where to begin. Is there an employees' manual? A training video I can watch?

But what that has to do with being a democratically-elected representative of a constituency--in the case of the President, that constituency consists of the entire population of the United States with secondary obligations to all those foreign peoples dependent on or beholden to American power--is beyond me. What, exactly, is the analogue to dealing with the opposition party and figuring out whether you can get legislation passed without them or what horses you have to trade to work with them? Do CEOs ever have their policies overturned by a separate, equal branch of the company empowered to rule on whether policies are consistent with the corporate charter? And whereas a CEO might be able to lay off an entire underperforming manufacturing division to cut costs and maximize profits, I don't believe a President Of The United States is allowed to fire Alabama (however much we all agree it would be a good idea).

One of the bizarre things about the Romney campaign, of course, is that Mitt Romney does have experience doing things kind of like what a President does: Romney was Governor of Massachusetts, which is sort of like being President of a state. There are various reasons it isn't the same thing at all, but there are familial resemblances, obviously. Only, Romney doesn't want to make a big honking deal about that part of his career because that's the part of his career where he had to act like a politician, making compromises and trying to figure out what was for the best for the most people, which is why Massachusetts residents got a healthcare program that was a model for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that Romney now promises to repeal because there's a bunch of people in his party who don't understand "Obamacare" and hate it. Except, of course, one might bear in mind that, just as the Obama Administration didn't get everything they wanted in the ACA because they had to, you know, work with Congress, Romney can't just magically undo the ACA--he has to get Congress to repeal it, which may be easier said than done if the Democrats keep the Senate, and might still be easier said than done if they don't (after all, a lot of those politicians in the legislature may end up saying one thing and doing another when they start hearing from the insurance companies who have come around on the ACA and spent money preparing for implementation, from the citizens benefiting from the law, from the Congressional Budget Office re: the savings from the ACA, et al.).

It can't be said too many times that the business of government shouldn't be business. Governments come into existence for all sorts of reasons ranging from making sure irrigation ditches are dug before the flood to securing the unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness everybody's endowed with. I don't recall a single instance of government being created for the purpose of manufacturing widgets or guaranteeing a profitable return to investors, though there may be some such place in central Eurasia somewhere (I haven't read the constitution of Widgetstan, but I have my suspicions). We put up with a certain amount of narcissistic, sociopathic behavior from private enterprise because it sometimes serves a useful function, e.g. setting a reasonable price-point for retail toilet paper; but there's no room for that at all in government, that's not why we have government.

Actually, I could put it another way, starting from that same point: there's a certain amount of narcissistic, sociopathic behavior from private enterprise we don't have much tolerance for but can understand. E.g. it is comprehensible, though amoral and undesirable, when a corporation looks at the safety of a product and decides whether the cost of litigating and settling consumer liability is more or less cost-effective than simply fixing the problem regardless of expense. We regulate that kind of thing through the courts when a company puts profits above valuing life, and sometimes through the legislature, but we understand that this is rational behavior even if it's hideous behavior. But there's no room for that in governing a republic: that is, the President can't very well respond to intelligence North Dakota has been invaded by radical Flemish nationalist paratroopers who have somehow penetrated American airspace and are even now lining non-Dutch-speaking Fargoans up for execution by firing squad, by assembling an auditing committee of accountants and lawyers to evaluate whether it would really be cost effective to activate the National Guard and send in the Marines.

It just wouldn't do.





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Quote of the day: Where even Mitt Romney has got soul edition

>> Monday, August 27, 2012

It’s not hard to imagine that the 21-year-old Mitt Romney, freshly returned from his Mormon mission tour abroad shortly after the 1968 election, noticed that his father, a dedicated public servant with a passion for social justice, lost the nation’s top job to a notoriously unprincipled paranoiac whose main qualification for the presidency was an unchecked willingness to do literally anything to reach it. The guy who didn’t believe in anything won.
- Alex Pareene, "George Romney: Braver than Mitt",
Salon, August 26th, 2012.


Pareene's full piece is worth the read: it's probably about as scathing a comparison of Mitt Romney and his old man as can be imagined.

I don't know enough about George Romney to say if he would have been the rare Republican I could have admired. But the comparison between Mitt Romney and Richard Nixon is a pregnant one: I don't know that Mitt Romney comes off as being as paranoid, neurotic and insecure as Richard Nixon was, but they certainly make a pair of unprincipled politicians who will at least say anything to get elected and make studiously vague promises of having comprehensive secret plans for seemingly intractable problems (Vietnam in the one case, the economy in the other) when anyone paying attention ought to see they clearly have nothing. (I dunno, maybe Mitt Romney, perhaps, is looking for a way to secretly and illegally expand unemployment into Laos and Cambodia.)

A caution sign, though, is to remember Richard Nixon was elected President twice. Being a weird, humorless, shifty, lying weasel lacking in basic social skills isn't a disqualification for the Presidency, as it turns out. And, as problematic as some of President Obama's policies and political approaches have been, I actually do have to respectfully suggest to the left that we not forget the lessons of '68: namely, that not only is being a creep not a disqualification to the Presidency, but that crossing the line from supportive criticism to fractious dissidence may only abet said creep. There were plenty of good reasons for the Democrats and the left to be fractured and at odds in 1968, but Richard Nixon wasn't the candidate for any of them.




Snarky Postscript: I have to confess, my freewheeling mind did stumble over a crucial difference between Mitt Romney and Richard Nixon: Nixon kept the dog.

Yeah, I couldn't just let that joke run off into the wilds of Ontario, but I didn't really want it in the body of the post. So.



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Wild Bell, "Keep You"

>> Sunday, August 26, 2012






Can't. Get. Out. Of...

...

...My head!

It's an alright song. I'm not running out to marry it or anything. Sorry. But it is catchy, an earworm, something I keep cranking up in the car at the same time I find myself thinking maybe Sirius XMU has played it maybe one or two times too many.

I'm not trying to knock the band. At all. They were on Sirius XMU Sessions this past week and seemed like really nice, cool people. And it's a decent song. I'm not quite sure, in fact, where my hesitation comes from, seeing as how I not only keep it tuned when they come on the radio, but I crank it up; and then I post it here to infect you people with it if you haven't already come down with it.

Okay, I might end up marrying it. You know, for convenience, not so much for romance. Maybe.


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Black Lips, "Veni Vedi Vici"

>> Saturday, August 25, 2012



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Dumb quote of the day--they might also be thinking about the weather edition

>> Friday, August 24, 2012

...every man, woman and child in Tampa Bay wants to know just one thing: how can they help support this historic effort [The 2012 Republican National Convention....
- Tampa Bay Host Committee,
Host Committee Volunteer Orientation Video


I dunno: if Tampa is anything like Charlotte, what they really want to know is where the hell they're supposed to park.

I don't want to lean on the Tampa Bay Host Committee too much, especially on a line pulled from an orientation video that's intended not just to inform volunteers about the dress code, but also to boost enthusiasm and morale. It's just when I heard the line on NPR this morning, it made me chuckle.

It isn't a partisan thing. I'm mostly glad the Democrats are coming to Charlotte, but I'd still be mostly glad if the Republicans and Dems swapped cities (maybe not quite as mostly, but mostly mostly). Not unambiguously glad, because hosting a national convention is a massive pain in the ass, and it's going to cost the city a lot of money we really don't have (I don't know what Tampa Bay's economy looks like, but I suspect they're in a similar bind). And the whole thing is going to screw up traffic and basically lock down the city, and there are going to be all sorts of other expected and unexpected inconveniences.

On the other hand, I'm also thinking that not only are all these politicians coming and staying in our hotels and eating in our restaurants and buying clean underwear at our stores when their luggage gets lost, but it's also their staffs, their hangers-on, their families; and it isn't just them, of course, because there are going to be all kinds of reporters coming down here, too, with their expense accounts; and also various lobbyists and such; heck, even protesters coming down here from out-of-state have to sleep and eat somewhere (at least until they get arrested). One hopes that the screwed-up parking and bus schedules and diverted traffic and trouble getting seated at your usual hangouts, etc. is all repaid by the revenue stream from an epic political tourist event.

And here, too, I have to admit that here's a reason I'm glad it's the Democrats and not the Republicans coming: namely that I have this completely unfounded and based-in-nothing-but-personal-prejudice suspicion that Democrats are better tippers. I could be wrong, I could be wrong; don't jump down my throat, I absolutely could be wrong. Still, come on: Mitt Romney totally comes off as the kind of guy who still thinks 15% is appropriate. I'm not saying he actually is--I have no idea, and, again, this is just me making assumptions and so on. And Grover Norquist comes off as the kind of guy who still thinks it's funny to leave "Don't bet on the ponies" written as a tip at the bottom of the check, though I'm sure in reality he does leave whatever spare change he has in his pocket on the table, too, especially if he can't find a pen. Whereas Bill Clinton comes across as the kind of guy who leaves a hundred dollar tip at Hooters, and some people would make it a big thing that he was at Hooters (the food's terrible, for godssakes), but on-topic I'm thinking that a hundred bucks is a pretty good tip for a basket of wings with onion rings, a bottle of PBR and maybe a round of sodas for the Secret Service dudes, even if the waitress ends up splitting it with the kitchen.

I'll also confess I'd rather have my seat at a restaurant taken by Elizabeth Warren than Sarah Palin, not that Palin would be all that likely to go to any restaurant I'm likely to go to. But it's a matter of principle. I hope you get the idea. Again, I realize this is total lefty bias on my part. I imagine myself standing outside a restaurant, and in one hypothetical scenario, I'm thinking, "Goddammit, it's that misogynistic, scientifically illiterate shitbag and he's taking my seat and he's going to leave a shitty tip and fuck him," and in the other imagined scenario I'm thinking, "Joe, you want the Bourbon Pork Chops or the mulate, or ask for a Po'Boy with extra Cajun mayeaux. Not that I have any illusions about the Vice-President being allowed to come down to my neighborhood or anything; if anything, I'm more likely to have my seat taken by David Plotz, which actually wouldn't be a totally bad thing, since I could shout, "Gabfest is better when you're on vacation and Bazelon hosts!" and duck without getting Tasered by a swarm of suited men with earpieces. (I assume. Gods. I don't know. See: it's all about all sorts of assumptions and prejudices and ignorance on my part, from whether Republicans tip to how much security the average Slate editor rolls with.)

None of this, of course, goes to my thinking, or anyone I know thinking, "How can I help support this historic effort?" And maybe Charlotte is different than Tampa: we're nowhere near the coast (naval yard notwithstanding) and I'll bet nobody in Tampa Bay gives a rat's ass about keeping up appearances with Atlanta. All I can say is that, as best I can tell, everybody else in Charlotte is as all over the map as to whether this is a good thing or an awful thing for the city, and whether the inconvenience is worth it and how much of a mess it's going to be, and whether the revenue will make up for the expense, and so on and so forth. Heck, there's probably even a couple of people excited the President's coming to town. I imagine things are similar down in Florida. Well. Okay, also, they might be thinking a little more than we are about the chance of rain.








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PJ Harvey, "Down By The Water"

>> Thursday, August 23, 2012





I don't know that it's quite accurate to claim I have nothing to say. Nothing I'd like to say, maybe more like: I think there might be topics I could comment on, but they're just a little wearying and exhausting right now, or deal with wearying and exhausting topics, or both.

But the net effect is: I have nothing to say.

Hope you like the PJ.



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Sean Rowe, "Joe's Cult"

>> Wednesday, August 22, 2012





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Quote of the day--The word you're looking for is "evil" edition

>> Tuesday, August 21, 2012

If you believe that a pregnancy becomes a full human person at the very instant of conception, how can any of these exceptions make sense? Follow the hard logic of a strict pro-life position, and Akin's view is where you end up. If I discover that my next-door neighbor was born of incest, I cannot wander over and shoot him dead. We don't apply capital punishment even to the rapist; why should his innocent child pay for his crimes with its life? As for life of the mother, Akin explained his view on that issue well: he urged doctors to "optimize" life, ie, sometimes to choose the mother, but sometimes to choose the child when the child's life seems more optimal.

These views may be shocking, but they are not stupid. With implacable logic, they derive from first principles. If anything, the logic of these views is tighter than the logic that leads the pro-life majority to favor the rape, incest, and life of the mother exceptions.
- David Frum, "Akin's Abortion View:
More Widespread in GOP Than You Think"
,
The Daily Beast, August 20th, 2012.


I'm showing up late for the party because I really didn't think anything needed to be said about Representative Todd Akin of Missouri's recent abortion comments and subsequent fauxpology (he "misspoke" and has "deep empathy" for rape victims, he assures us). But Digby featured a link to David Frum's column, quoted above, and I wanted to call attention to it for anyone who missed it at Hullabaloo or The Daily Beast because I think it bullseyes the central point about all this that a lot of my peers may have missed (or at least haven't focused on at this writing).

Which is, as Frum writes, that Representative Akin's statement wasn't "dumb" as most people might understand the word.

The word everybody should be using instead of "dumb" is "evil".

No doubt someone will object at this point: "Oh come on, Akin's views are based on junk science and a basic misunderstanding of reproductive biology." But that objection completely misses the point. The critic would be absolutely correct if we were talking about reproductive biology. We aren't. We're talking about what Todd Akin and his ilk mean by "rape".

You have to realize there is an unspeakable tautology lying right there in plain view like a corpse on the dinner table: I am quite sure Representative Akin and quite a lot of anti-abortion crusaders believe that if a woman gets pregnant from what she alleges was forcible, nonconsenual sex, she's lying about the force and/or the consent. And if a man forces himself on a woman and she doesn't get pregnant, well I guess they can take that as evidence it was rape.

Laura Helmuth points out that this isn't the first time Akin has been on the evil side of related issues. He opposed a spousal rape law before eventually voting for it (I imagine he realized being accused of being "pro-rape" would make for some mighty ugly political optics more than he actually changed his position and decided wives can say "no" to sex with their lords and husbands). (Having my own doubts about the efficacy, purpose and fairness of sex-offender registries, I won't harp on Akin's opposing a national registry for federalist reasons.) Akin also praised a right-wing so-called "militia" with strong ties to Tim Dreste, a promoter of domestic terrorism against abortion providers.

Abortion access for rape victims has long been a contentious subject: pro-choice supporters have frankly leaned upon the issue too strongly as a point of compromise with the anti-reproductive rights crowd, who tend to also gravitate towards a harder line on law-and-order and victims' rights issues. "Surely," the pro-choice advocates have suggested to conservatives, "even if you don't agree a girl or woman has a right to make autonomous reproductive decisions for herself, at least you wouldn't force her to carry to term the child of her rapist or a product of incest, or to carry to full term a pregnancy that would kill her (and the baby, too)?" This has been somewhat effective in causing anti-choice proponents to at least hem and haw and shuffle their feet and look nervous, but I have to think it's a bit of a spurious argument: if you really believe a female has a right to make reproductive decisions for herself (even decisions you might not be wholly comfortable with--after all, it's her rights, not yours), then it doesn't actually matter how she was impregnated; and what's more, if you really believe that life begins at conception and is always sacred, then it still doesn't actually matter how someone was impregnated. (A position, speaking-of-which, explicitly laid out by Rick Santorum.)

It's depressingly inevitable that someone would come up with the pseudoscientific claim that gives the Akins of the world an easy out: you don't need to agree to an abortion exception for rape victims if they can't get pregnant in the first place, problem solved. And I don't think it's accidental that embedded in the claim is a sentiment very, very close to the ugly old defense proffered by some rapists: "It wasn't rape, she enjoyed it." Akin's is a crowd for whom God rewards virtue and punishes vice, and that is the proper order of the phrasing because prosperity is proof of one's worthiness and misfortune only ever comes to those who deserve it; in short, if you said "no" to sex and then got pregnant, you had it coming, slut.

That this is indefensibly vile should be self-evident. But attributing such maleficence to "stupidity" is to give Akin a perverse and undeserved form of absolution. To be clear, I'm not saying he isn't stupid; I'm saying that if he is, it isn't really the problem, and it certainly isn't the problem with his rape comments. The real problem is an insidious and reprehensible logic drawn from an absolutist worldview in which suffering a sexual assault and an unwanted pregnancy is deemed a form of sick retribution for assumed and unspecified sins. Ignorance is curable; a defect of the soul like Akin's monstrosity isn't, no matter how many diagrams of a fallopian tube you show him.





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Quote of the day--the only Obama endorsement you need edition

>> Monday, August 20, 2012

Listen, when I voted for him, I knew I was voting for a moderate. His politics are not my politics, but he's a hell of a lot closer to me than any of the others, so I'm vehemently behind him. I desperately want him to win. Has he disappointed me? Of course he's disappointed me. Do I think he's rather inept politically? Yes. I think he could've out-maneuvered those right-wingers. But he had this knighted notion that he could somehow bring everyone together, and he didn’t know that he was dealing with insane people. I think of the right-wing Republicans as jihadists; they’re as crazy as those people. They want to destroy the country that we want to save. And you know they're not doing it with machine guns and bombs, but they're doing it by electing insane people to enact insane legislation that is going to do as much damage to us as bombs would in the long run. So that's my position. I'm for Obama, I wish he were different, but I know that, under the circumstances, he can't be different. Anybody farther to the left would never have a chance of winning.
- Paul Auster, as quoted by David Daley;
"Paul Auster: 'I think of the right-wing Republicans as jihadists', Salon, August 19th, 2012.


Quoted for truth. I don't know Auster's work, but it's an interesting interview, and that comment is perhaps even more to the point than Joe Biden's not-completely-inaccurate comment about Republicans putting people back in chains. The GOP's right wing wants to return the United States to the Gilded Age; it's as if they don't realize that the Age ended with the country almost tearing itself to pieces all over again. And there are more than a few supporters of the GOP's right wing who want to return the country to 1860, a year before the country did in fact tear itself to pieces over a four-year period.

If that's not destroying the country, gods only know what is.


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Timbuk3, "Assholes On Parade"

>> Sunday, August 19, 2012





After yesterday's post, I kinda wanted to follow it with Pink Floyd's "Seamus". Only, see, I did that already.

This seems like a nice substitute, though. Don't'cha think?


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Devo, "Don't Roof Rack Me, Bro! (Seamus Unleashed)"

>> Saturday, August 18, 2012



Gods, I love Devo. I love the music of Devo. I love the history of Devo. I love the idea of Devo. I love that they've released a protest song on behalf of Seamus, the Irish setter Mitt Romney stuck on top of his car for a twelve-hour drive.

This story has been floating around for years, but it can't be repeated too damn often, can it? What the hell is wrong with someone, they think that's a good idea? I mean, seriously, what the hell is wrong with someone, they think that's a good idea?

Even Leon Kowalski would be able to figure that one out, and he'd at least be smart enough to fake the right answer. I guess it suggests Romney's a Nexus-5.



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R.L. Burnside, "Chain Of Fools"

>> Friday, August 17, 2012





Of course it hasn't died down yet, all the Republican fauxtrage about Joe Biden's "chains" comment. Everything that could probably be said about it, with clips, was covered by Jon Stewart the other evening.

To me, the best thing about this whole business is that aside from Biden backpedaling a little, the Obama Administration went ahead and decided not to back down. And they shouldn't. Biden said he needed to offer some context, but the only context that needs to be proffered at this point is, "fuck the GOP". Gods know I've wished for civility in the past, but there's a point where even a man of (I hope) goodwill gets tired of being called an atheist commie libertard Satanist like it's a bad thing, gets tired of seeing the President of the United States getting kicked around, gets tired of the Republicans smug yakking about ending the "politics of division" when what they mean by it is, "suck it up, whiners".

As near as I can tell, the Republican party is on the verge of nominating for President and Vice-President a mind-numbingly rich white dude who doesn't believe in anything and a very rich white dude who believes in cutting taxes on rich people while poor people try to get some insurance company to accept their medical coupons in lieu of cash before they starve to death in a gutter. So, you know, I'll give them this: they don't want black people in chains, they want everybody in chains, wage slaves stuck towards the bottom of the pecking order. The con is that they're hoping enough (mostly white) fools will think there's still enough economic mobility left behind the tattered curtains of the social contract to think they, too can eventually wear the boot and never have to lick another one.

Yeah, well. Good luck with that.

There is absolutely nothing not to love about an R.L. Burnside record. Fucking hell, how do you not adore that sound. I think it's possible whenever he recorded a harmonica, there was a deep-fat frier somewhere in the effects chain. (I'm guessing right before the signal hit the compressor.) And that wicked slide, man. Plus that voice, which always sounds like he's singing from a railway station located (for unknowable reasons) in a graveyard that's in the middle of a swamp.

When I decided it would be cheeky to make a "Chain Of Fools" reference re: the Biden line (and how could you resist), well, of course I thought of Aretha. How can you not think of Aretha? It's her song, obviously. Well, Don Covay's, in the nearly meaningless sense that he's the guy who wrote the song. But Aretha owns it, everybody else is just visiting. Except for R.L. Burnside. Legitimate squatter's rights, going on there: what they call The Doctrine Of Adverse Possession; you can follow the rail line through the swamp, into the graveyard until you reach the station and you can see if you can wrest it from him, and if you don't burn yourself on a few quarts of hot fat reaching by him, you can see if you can get it back.

Like I was saying earlier about other things, good luck with that.






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What Ali Baba found when he said the magic words?

>> Thursday, August 16, 2012


Johnny Cash, "The Mercy Seat" (Cave, Harvey)



Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, "The Singer" (Daniels, Cash)



Johnny Cash and Nick Cave, "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" (Williams)


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A liberal ought to love Paul Ryan

>> Wednesday, August 15, 2012

You could start a story at the end of the 18th Century, beginning of the 19th. There was a vast expanse of Federal land, the Northwest Territory, and from this Federal land was carved a state, Ohio, and from this was carved a patch of land purchased from Congress with provision that a piece of the land be used for a public university, such places of education being a pet cause of so many of the country's founders. Miami University--a confusing name in that it conjures that seedy technicolor city down in Florida--was established by the new state of Ohio, to be paid for by taxpayers, on land provided by an act of Congress originally signed by one George Washington.

You could start with that, but all this is prologue; it comes a long way before the story we're more interested in.

You could start that one with a construction company, Ryan Incorporated Central. Not in Ohio, but in Wisconsin; and not at the beginning of the 18th Century, but at the other end of it, in 1884. The Ryan boys got in on the railroads, at first, those steel rails laid over the serpentine easements cut out of Federal lands by Congresses and Presidents who saw a great public-private partnership as being the way to knit a whole unimaginably (and seemingly insurmountably) vast continent together. But once the rails were built, the Ryan boys and their heirs didn't stop: they branched out into building the country roads of the interstate rural system, the Interstate highway system, a major public airport, and a multitude of other civic projects. They weren't motivated entirely by charitable goodwill and patriotism, one assumes, but they were certainly paid by it: state and Federal governments allocated the funds for these construction projects and solicited the bids; the taxpayers, through their elected representatives, laid out the work they desired and signed off on contracts with the companies who said they could do it on time and on budget. Ryan Incorporated did alright for themselves, and they deserved to and I don't think anyone begrudges them the work; but they had the work that allowed them a comfortable living precisely because of the wise hand of government coordinated by the collective will of The People. The People needed a highway, so they collected the tax revenue and redistributed this wealth in the form of checks to contractors like Ryan, Inc. The People needed an airport, they needed landfills and wetlands.

Come along a few years, and here's a scion of the Ryans, Paul Murray Ryan. A lawyer by profession, like his father, who was a United States Attorney in Wisconsin. But the story gets a little sad here, folks: Paul Murray Ryan died at a relatively young age, leaving a widow and four kids behind him.

Now, it happens that the Ryans were alright, because their great-grandfather founded that company that got all those government contracts, and was able to get a little something for himself while serving the public welfare. And their grandfather had done well in politics, and it seems the father did alright before he passed away. But it happens that if the Ryans hadn't been set up alright, all as part of a legacy of those government contracts back in the day (and ongoing through the present), there was a safety net established by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1935 for situations like this, where everybody working contributes to a pool of money that everybody can later withdraw from in the event they are disabled or when they retire, or in the tragic case of a spouse or parent dying or becoming disabled. The Ryans didn't technically need it, so far as I know, but the point of the program is an all-in, all-out arrangement and the fact they didn't "need" it doesn't matter. The Ryans got the death benefits due from Paul Ryan's passing along, and if they had been on the brink of starvation or exposure, the money hopefully would have put food on their table or a roof over their heads, so they wouldn't die alongside the highways the Ryan company built, fugitives from poverty like Great Depression Okies.

Anyway, the youngest son, also named Paul Ryan, Paul Davis Ryan, he takes the money he gets by way of FDR's great social support system, and he puts it away for college. Good on him. And when Paul Ryan turns eighteen, he goes and enrolls in....

Well, you know, don't you? The past is prelude, and we began this story with Miami University, in Ohio. Public school, one of the oldest in the country. Paul Ryan--our Paul Ryan, Paul Davis--pays his out-of-state tuition with the dollars he got by way of a Federal program, a tuition that is subsidized to some extent by the taxpayer dollars of the citizens of Ohio, for whom Miami University is an annual fiscal item; I have yet to see the public university that is what they call a revenue-neutral budget item, the expenses of educating a generation evenly offset by alumni donations and tuition. But that isn't the point, is it? The university pays for itself ten thousand times over by inventing the future and protecting the past, a social investment that can't be measured in miserly terms of mathematical profit and loss, though I think people who try to do so will tell you that even there, an educated citizenry contributes more to the state's tax coffers in all kinds of ways.

But we digress. Paul Ryan, of the government-contracted family wealth and state-subsidized education, paying the difference by way of the money from a Federally-administered social insurance program; he goes to Miami University, he does well, and so he gives back, in his way, by taking a Congressional staffer position, working for the Federal government. He had a few brief stints in the private sector, contrary to what you might have heard, but, to be fair, the longest job he ever held that wasn't a college-beer-money McJob was a yearlong gig as a consultant. After that year, he ran for Congress and now he draws a government paycheck.

So do I. Nothing wrong with that. Me, I'm grateful to know which side my bread is buttered on. Those of us in the public sector work hard and earn little, for the most part, but carry the satisfaction of knowing we've put a little something towards the greater weal.

But let us look at this man, Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin. A liberal should love him, for he is a triumph of the liberal state. No, seriously. The liberal, I think, envisions a government that embodies the People's will and effects that will; a government that is not large for the sake of largeness, but rather that is as large as (or as small as) what the Public needs in order to turn whatever consensual ideals we can agree to into a reality that is better for all, from the richest to the poorest, the weakest to the strongest. A government that builds roads through the wilderness to tie communities together, a government that builds schools at the ends of those roads for the betterment of the communities' minds and souls, a government that encourages individuals to come and give something of themselves back to their communities. Paul Ryan is an example of what the liberal agenda can achieve: a public servant whose successes are directly attributable to public investments, who clearly thinks for himself and, in his way, gives back to the society that gave him so much to start with. A product of our road-building and school-building and civic democracy. Should you ask me, "Why should I pay for these roads, why should I pay for these schools?" I ought to be able to reply, "So that Society can produce men like Paul Ryan, highly-functioning, educated, public servants who might one day serve as leaders in the highest offices of this great land, this great community of communities we call 'United'."

Liberals ought to love Paul Ryan, at least insofar as we ought to love what he represents: the triumph of our ideals.

Begs the question, really: why doesn't he love us?



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David Byrne & St. Vincent, "Who"

>> Tuesday, August 14, 2012





I dunno, I don't have a lot to say about this beyond, "Hey, how awesome is this? Pretty awesome. Damn. Right?"




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Paul Ryan

>> Monday, August 13, 2012

Was I too flippant?

Everyone is still chattering about Mitt Romney's choice of Paul Ryan as a running mate, notwithstanding Romney's weird effort to bury the news with a weekend release. Lots of folks seem to be talking about what this means from a policy perspective, which is a little odd insofar as the only Vice-President I can think of in living memory who had any active and notable policymaking role was Dick Cheney, and that was surely more a reflection of George W. Bush's administrative style ("delegate everything then delegate some more") than a reflection of any evolution of the Vice-Presidency into something other than a tie-breaking Senate vote and guardian of the space-time continuum (Paul Ryan presumably will offer Federal vouchers to anyone whose existence is threatened by tears in reality).

The thing is, the Vice-Presidency remains a largely pointless job (and yes, I'm taking into account the presiding over the Senate and casting tie-breaking votes part of the job). Sometime after split-ticket selection of the President and Vice-President ended in 1804, parties simply chose Vice-Presidential candidates who would buttress the Presidential candidates' hope of being elected. Consequently, it's pretty much been the norm (and again, Dick Cheney seems to be the most conspicuous recent exception) for Presidential candidates to pick a VP nominee who will get votes from a soft or swing state and/or who will appease or silence a disruptive faction at the convention, and then, if elected, effectively exile the VP from Washington by sending him abroad as an envoy or by giving him make-work on low-priority domestic issues.

In that context, then: I would contend that a Presidential candidate's selection of running mate tells you nothing about their prospective Presidency and everything about how they feel about the state of their campaign (again, allowing that Dick Cheney may be an exception insofar as he probably didn't bring G.W. Bush much on the electability front while presaging Bush's politically naïve tendency to place too much trust in proxies to whom he then gave insufficient oversight or review--Bush delegated Cheney to pick a Vice-Presidential nominee and then took his word for it with little or no examination when Cheney in turn recommended himself). What the selection means for tone or policy if the candidate is elected is little or nothing. (By way of illustration, ask yourself what stamp Vice-Presidents Nixon, Johnson and George Bush left upon the administrations they served under, even though all three were more experienced and arguably better-qualified politicians than the Presidents they served under.)

Here's what gets me about Romney's choice of Paul Ryan, then: the only real point in picking Ryan is that Paul Ryan is this golden boy among the supposedly smart and serious remnants of the Republican Party. The kind of guy George Will likes, for instance. Ryan's schtick is he has the hardnosed, did-his-math-homework, serious, policy-focused, ideologically sound budget proposals (never mind whether his math adds up or whether he's lying about destroying Medicare, etc.--not the point; the point is, the Republicans who care about being smart like saying he's smart, i.e. it's the perception we're interested in, not the reality).

And the problem with that is that that's the crowd Mitt Romney was supposed to have locked down already.

Why on Earth does the Romney campaign think they need to establish credibility with the crowd that already thinks Romney's Bain Capital experience makes supporting him a no-brainer? Wouldn't it have been more logical to pick someone like Marco Rubio, who could shore up Romney's support (1) with teabaggers, (2) with Hispanics and (3) in Florida?

Assuming, just for conversation's sake, that the Romney campaign possesses more competence than they've shown anywhere thus far on the road to Tampa, the Ryan choice only makes sense if they think the teabag crowd is going to fall in line (which isn't an unreasonable assumption--as much as many of them appear to dislike or distrust Romney, they hate Obama with the passion of Iago) and Romney's real danger is that the smart and responsible conservatives who were supposedly Romney's base are so disgruntled by Romney's erratic behavior and clumsy pandering they're going to stay at home in November, or worse.

In short, what I find most interesting about Romney's decision is just a tad smidgeon more than what Brother Seth finds interesting, though I think his call is mostly spot-on. I find it moderately interesting--and a little more amusing--that the Ryan choice seems a little desperate and flailing. All Vice-Presidential choices are a form of shameless pandering, regardless of party, but what's the point of shamelessly pandering to the crowd you already have an in with?

This isn't to say Romney is going to lose in November. Gods help us, I think he has a fairly good chance of winning, primarily because the American people are pretty much idiots who probably don't deserve any better. It's also a complicated, bullshit form of mathematics, thanks to Founding Fathers who loathed popular democracy: I will not be terribly astonished if President Obama ekes out a popular win and still loses the election; after all, winning by a landslide in New York and getting their twenty-nine electoral votes can be a wash if you then lose Florida and their twenty-nine electoral votes by half a percentage point. Obama won in '08 by a very healthy margin and he doesn't have to win every state he won in '08 to win reelection; problem is, he simply isn't going to win every state he won in '08, and while he can afford to lose one or two or four of them, he can't afford to lose all of them. At some point, the defectors basically New Mexico-and-Wisconsin him to death.




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Ryan Paul

>> Sunday, August 12, 2012

So, what I'm hearing in the news is that Mitt Romney has chosen a running mate, boldly making the announcement on the weekend, when politicians traditionally release bad news in the hope nobody will pay any attention and the twenty-four-hour news cycle will have elapsed, killing the story by Monday. Good on him! I'm sure we all assumed Romney would release any tax docs he'd deign to release on a Friday, but announcing his Vice-Presidential pick on a Saturday... well... it's something that happened and was preceded and followed by other events.

But why the shame? True, picking a relative unknown like Ryan Paul seems a little risky at shyest blush, but look at what Ryan brings to the party:

Ryan Paul is a graphic designer and brand identity consultant who helps organizations find their unique voice. Located in New York City, he develops compelling visual solutions that solve complex communications challenges, fulfill strategic objectives, and build brand awareness.


Tell me that isn't exactly what Romney needs right now! Romney's campaign to date has been one communications problem after another: the misstatements, the contradictions, the outright lies, the mystifying refusals, the spurious claims. Millions of Americans question whether Romney is even human, much less qualified to be President. Even his supporters are only hitching to his (weird, uncanny, off-putting, politically and socially maladroit) wagon because he isn't Barack Obama.

Ryan Paul is just the man Mitt Romney needs to express his vaccuous and incoherent quote-unquote "ideas" as a simple, yet expressive, eye-catching graphic.

It's a good choice, maybe the first good call his campaign has made. I mean, I don't know about you, but I was afraid he was going to pick some Congressional retard who doesn't grok basic math, wants to eliminate Medicare, and thinks you can balance tax cuts for billionaires by eliminating middle-class tax deductions. You know, like that tool from Wisconsin, what's-his-na--

--oh, shitfuck.



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Cowboy Junkies, "Powderfinger"

>> Saturday, August 11, 2012





Well, gee: after yesterday's post, this seemed like a no-brainer. Which is excellent, because I have no brain.

I may be out at least as long as it takes the away team to go wrest it back from the planet of hot chicks so Bones can put it back the way it's supposed to go in my skull. (Hopefully he won't force it in sideways--I mean, yes, it may be a little squishy and gelatinous, but if you pay attention to the shape, there's really only one way the thing's supposed to fit in there, okay?)

Be excellent to someone today (yourself is good, a loved one is better, a stranger is worth bonus points and a power-up), and try to enjoy Saturday, right?


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Heather Nova, "Like A Hurricane"

>> Friday, August 10, 2012





This song got stuck in my head earlier today, a kind of soundtrack I was walking around with. Not any of Neil's versions, nor this one, neither; what was in my head was a slowed-down and spare version, like Heather Nova's, though the one in my head had a drowsy brushed snare in it. I suppose it might have been a Cowboys Junkiesque version I had in my head (ah--I think I know what's going up here tomorrow).

I don't know if any of you who are or were musicians do this kind of thing, too. Or maybe even people who never played a note in their lives, seriously or not. Or if it's just me. But I find myself sometimes thinking about alternate arrangements for songs, or at least what an alternate arrangement would sound like (I never really developed much past writing down chord names or sketching out tab, and handled sheet music like a half-blind functionally subliterate non-English-speaker tackling Infinite Jest or Gravity's Rainbow).

I went looking for "Hurricane" on YouTube, thinking about just using the old harmonium version from Unplugged, only that wasn't what was in my brain, either. Then I went more general because Neil wasn't who I was looking for, exactly, even if it was his song, and that's how I accidentally found Ms. Nova (who I don't believe I'd ever heard before). Whose version I quite like, even if it's not quite what I looked for either; again, there's that drowsy brushed snare in my brainversion; on the other hand, I really like the cello she has instead, so that's nice.


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Foo Fighters, "Walking After You"

>> Thursday, August 09, 2012





The mind-numbing shittiness of the day didn't keep me from noticing the rise and fall of the rumor that Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny finally set up a love shack together, fulfilling at last a romantic yearning deep in the hearts of a million geeks (who, to mix franchises, cried out at once and were silenced when it predictably turned out to be bullshit). On the plus side, the rumor's falsity probably helps us avoid years of tasteless jokes based on the theme of orifice probing. So I guess we dodged a bullet after all, hey?

Also, it helps me come up with a filler post today without having to think at all: romance, The X-Files? Oh yeah, that definitely conjures up one of the best cuts from the generally excellent anyway companion album from the first X-Files film, Foo Fighters' "Walking After You", which is really about as good a song as you could write about the romantiplatoniprofessional friendsexualship Mulder and Scully had back in The X-Files' prime. There's actually something really uniquely tender about telling someone you care about that you have their back: not just that you love them, but you're willing to be responsible for them, that you have them covered. It's possible the only words in all of fantasy and science fiction that are more romantic than that are "As you wish" and "I know".

Aw, man, I didn't mean to get all sappy and sentimental on you. The ScatterKat is off in faraway lands, visiting an old high school friend and her family. Which is why I can't drown myself in the bathtub after having a day at the office like today--there'd be no one around to feed the cats.

I kid, I kid: ScatterKat's Mori is locked up in a room because she and Elvis aren't getting along too well, but Elvis would have access to my corpse and could probably get fat off it until the ScatterKat came home. There we go: a dead lawyer is partially eaten by a housecat; that is the kind of heartwarming mental image I want people to associate with Standing On The Shoulders Of Giant Midgets, not celebrity innuendo and this schmoopy horseshit.

Anyway, I need to get home and have a drink. And I'll raise a glass to you and try to do the same for me, eh?


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Quote of the day--"What's the difference between ignorance and apathy?" edition

>> Wednesday, August 08, 2012

I think the best explanation for [Mitt Romney's] seeming disinterest is actual disinterest. I don't get the impression that Romney himself is particularly eager to be President. We all know he wants to avenge his dad's failed run at the office but you would think for that he'd work harder than he is. I believe Romney's laziness is due to his knowledge of who he is and why he was chosen as the candidate.

Romney's rich, as I said. That’s what he brings to the table.... Romney, like George W. Bush before him, assumes that, being rich, being President is something he's owed. He doesn’t necessarily want the office, but it should be his for the taking. For all he cares, he could walk off the job on January 22 and hang a "Mission Accomplished" banner. To him, the office is like another mansion or a car elevator: he wanted it, he got it, he can do whatever he likes with it, and nobody can tell him otherwise because he's rich.


Friends may notice I already linked to Lartigue's post on Facebook, because I think Lartigue is right about just about everything he says there, though I'm less sanguine about Romney having no chance of getting elected; listening to American idiots telling NPR what's on their minds this week has depressed me near to death (this morning's version featured a prospective voter saying he doesn't trust Obama not to expand ACA employer insurance requirements to include more small businesses--because that's how our form of government works, the President can just do stuff like that if he wants and it doesn't have to start in the House and pass the Senate or anything like that at all).

Lartugue's not the only person to notice this disturbing angle to Mitt Romney, by the way. His comments reminded me of Charles Pierce's hypothesis for Romney's refusal to release his tax forms: Pierce suggests Romney isn't making with the tax papers because there's something godawfully illegal in there, he isn't coughing them up because we proles ain't worthy. I suspect Pierce is probably right, or mostly right; there's some chance that Romney's tax returns show he's paid hardly any taxes at all, but whatever Romney's last twenty-three years of returns show apparently wasn't enough for John McCain's 2008 campaign to disqualify him as a possible Vice-Presidential nominee (anticipated rebuttal: the McCain campaign also thought Sarah Palin was smart enough to be President if John McCain ever choked on a hot dog; touché). I think it's safe, though, to say that even if Romney has availed himself of every tax dodge in the book, they were all in the book. I.e. they were all legal tax shelters you or I could have taken advantage of if we'd been filthy stinking rich, and there are some people (and not just rich ones) who'd admire Romney's craftiness if he'd actually managed to pay nothing in taxes for a decade or more. No, I think the main thing keeping Romney from sharing his tax returns with the public while he'll happily hand them over to a wealthy Congressman from Arizona is pride, pure and simple, and a corresponding sense of entitlement. If you're the right kinds of people, Romney'll probably not only show you his tax returns, he'll invite you over to sit on his couch and lovingly go through the documents while he explains how prettily this account or that investment was set up; not the right kind of people, and he doesn't want you smearing dirt on anything with your grubby little fingers.

But I'm sort of digressing again in my typical rambling way. I posted a link to Lartigue and was going to leave it at that until Steve Buchheit posted a link to an interesting contradiction that recently popped out of Romney.

That probably sounds like an oxymoron. Or several. Mitt Romney and "interesting" hardly go together to start with, and the man contradicts and reverses himself so much his entire political career is like a sequence of Crazy Ivans. Romney doesn't just waffle, he creates whole new species of topologically improbable breakfast foods that require degrees in higher mathematics just to know which sides the syrup should be poured from. So talking about another Romney inversion is like talking about how lemonade is wet and lemony.

But here's what happened: about a week ago, while traveling in the Middle East, Romney claimed that Israel is more prosperous than Palestine because of "culture". Which is a claim that has all sorts of factual problems and logical fallacies undermining it, but that's a whole 'nother topic. No, what's interesting is that this week, Romney decided to thoughtlessly and pointlessly criticize Israeli culture and history the same way he was insulting the Palestinians a week ago. Last week: Israel is economically healthier than Palestine because of "culture" (I keep using the scare quotes because I'm not sure I know--I'm not sure Romney knows--what Romney means by it); this week: the kibbutzim, arguably the signature features of Israeli culture during Israel's early decades as a modern state, are bad.

Now, this kind of cognitive dissonance from Romney, to the extent it can even be called "cognitive", is unsurprising: one suspects, as was recently suggested during a Slate podcast, that Romney sees Israel's story of diaspora, nationhood and triumph as resonating with his own Mormon heritage (indeed, replace "nationhood" with "statehood" and the resemblance isn't at all vague). As a bonus, talking up the awesomeness of Israel never hurt a Republican trying to win the votes of elderly Floridian Jews. On the other hand, people like Romney have all those issues with socialism, and the fact is kibbutzim were essentially socialist enterprises. So unfavorably comparing kibbutzim to some mythical notion of entrepreneurship is obviously right up Romney's lane into the 1-3 pin pocket.

Except, see, a thoughtful person might notice the discrepancy and ponder how the contradiction ought to be resolved. Maybe a kibbutz demonstrates that socialism isn't all that bad all the time, or maybe Israel isn't so wonderful as one thought before he noticed all the socialists going around farming and making crafts and stuff. Or maybe there's something else, but there's something. Right?

And that's why I qualified the word "cognitive" the way I did two paragraphs ago. I'm not saying Romney is stupid; I doubt he is. I'm saying I just don't think he cares. The reason there's no dissonance in his competing claims is because he could give a rat's ass what he's saying or what you heard. He doesn't care if he gets it right and he doesn't care to correct himself. There are people you can hire to worry about that crap if that's what you really want.

I'm not even sure you can properly call these "gaffes", you know? Everybody does, of course. But "gaffe" means "mistake" and the whole concept of a mistake sort of implies, doesn't it, that there's not only a correct alternative, but you care at least enough that you'd have preferred it if you could have chosen it instead of what you actually picked? I contradict myself, I worry about it and try to reconcile or reevaluate my position; I make a mistake of fact, it bothers me (sometimes for years); I commit a logical fallacy, it rattles me to the core and leaves me questioning whether or not I'm allowed to call myself "rational". But, you know, my credibility and intelligence and reasoning faculties (to whatever extent I'm entitled to say I have any of it) are all I have; I don't have a hundred quadrillion doubloons stashed in a magical Cayman Island cave to fall back upon if I'm stripped of my ability to be taken seriously. Mitt Romney, on the other hand? He'd give a shit what you or I thought about him if he wasn't going to flush it down a toilet worth more than our combined net worth, but since....

Integrity is a virtue of poor and middle-class people. The wealthy (who, as Fitzgerald observed in a line so famous it's become a cliché, are different from you and me)--the wealthy can dispense with it as a superfluous and cheap vanity, as a kind of affectation of the petite bourgeoisie and the proletariat; a form of campy role-playing, like wearing blue jeans or recreational brush-clearing.

Romney doesn't know if he's right. He doesn't care if he's right. And he's just a little stressed and confused that you keep making a big deal about him not being right and not knowing and not caring, but not as stressed out and confused as he'd be if you mattered to him even one damned bit.






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Dumb quote of the day--flaming heterosexual edition

>> Tuesday, August 07, 2012





I think that counts as a dumb quote. It's action as speech--burning a box of Cheerios® to protest General Mills' support for same-sex couples and marriages.

Now, I want you to consider something for a moment, because this is what makes this video priceless to me. Consider, for a moment, the bottom of the liner inside a box of Cheerios® breakfast cereal. What's down there, underneath all those delicious oat "O"s?

Why yes, the bottom of the bag is filled with oat dust. And isn't that fine fellow in the video trying to burn the contents of a box of Honey Nut Cheerios®? Does anyone know if there's sugar powder down there at the bottom of a bag of Honey Nut Cheerios®? Because I'd imagine there is.

Though I suspect it doesn't matter all that much: oat dust is sufficient. Dust, generally, is a pretty well-known industrial hazard. It happens that atomized particles of almost anything, even things that might not normally burn, have a a tendency to go BOOM! when exposed to relatively low heat--a dust particle has a large surface area relative to its mass so almost the whole mass is exposed to oxygen and can burn-through almost instantly. That rapid burning spreads easily to nearby motes. And things like food particles are especially volatile under those conditions--after all, the whole reason organisms like to use them for fuel in the first place is because the hydrogen and carbon atoms that comprise much of their substance like breaking up with each other and bonding with oxygen, releasing heat when they do. (Digestion is, essentially, a kind of very, very, very controlled burning.)

(I always hate including PDF links, but I have to offer this link to a North Carolina Department Of Labor occupational safety guide just because you might even want to know the exact explosive properties of oat dust, called out by name (page 11).)

And it's not just the dust. The Cheerios® themselves have a proportionally vast surface area to set fire to. They're tori, for starters. And they aren't smooth tori, either: they're all pockmarked and bumpy, with lots of air holes and nooks and rises increasing the surface area to expose more of the crunchy cereal goodness to milk--or, in the present case, to oxygen and heat. Whuff! They burn just like that.

I suppose there's a difference between "well-known" and "common knowledge", oddly enough. It's no secret that oat dust is highly combustible, but I doubt many people walk around thinking about how inflammable it is. So I'm not really surprised some jackass overlooked the fact that pouring a box of cereal over an open flame--creating a brief suspension of combustible oat dust in oxygen--isn't that much unlike pouring a box of gasoline over the flame. It's unsurprising this guy ends up with a fiery mess all over everything while the box hardly appears singed.

After all, the cardboard container, unlike the contents, is meant to be fire-resistant. You'd hate to have a supermarket aisle of yummy exploding Cheerios® raining powdery flaming death down upon your shopping cart. That would just suck.

I guess the point of all this is just to say that I enjoyed the video not just in terms of watching a homophobe get his comeuppance, but also as a kind of lovely little physics lesson. Science is awesome. Which is why our would-be protester should try reading a book (and I don't mean his Bible) sometime.

He might learn something.

Like setting fire to a cloud of cereal dust is a dumb idea.




(H/t AC Smith.)




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Dumb quote of the day--Jesus wept edition

>> Monday, August 06, 2012

Being I was from Massachusetts originally, I know people up there. When he [Mitt Romney] put in his health care program, people were squawking about it, but I also know people love it. You know, they say it's the best thing that ever happened. It got them off their fannies and they finally got health insurance.
- Ed Faucher, explaining to NPR's Steve Inskeep
why he intends to vote for Mitt Romney in November;
"Even In Florida Swing County, Minds Seem Made Up",
August 6th, 2012


I sort of hate to pick just some ordinary Joe out of the masses and single him out; calling out a dumb quote when it's some big-name pundit or politician is one thing, but this guy, this guy's just a semi-retired truck driver talking to a guy from the radio.

But I heard this on NPR this morning, and I slapped my hands to my head. I think my first reaction really was that old, odd expletive, "Jesus wept", though I'm obviously not religious. Jesus would have, though; would have put his face in his hand while sadly shaking his head and making with the tears.

Because this is a good example of what's wrong with our democracy right now, and with the voting public. Ed Faucher is this guy who was a lifelong Democrat, he says, and who voted for Obama in 2008, but is so disappointed in the President's job performance--including the Affordable Healthcare Act, which Faucher opposes--he's going to vote for Mitt Romney. And this is insane because maybe there are reasons to vote for Romney or against President Obama, but Faucher's reason is that he's unhappy with the healthcare act--the one the Obama Administration partly modeled after the Massachusetts healthcare act Romney signed into law as Governor--but knows that people in Massachusetts liked the healthcare act Romney signed into law as Governor--the one that's similar to the President's Affordable Care Act that Romney has promised to have repealed if he's elected President.

What's worse, is, if you listen to the recording, Faucher doesn't sound unreasonable. He doesn't sound stupid or crazy; he sounds like a nice guy, and if you didn't have the context to know that what he's saying is a snake swallowing itself from the tail up, you wouldn't think he was being irrational. And what's even worse than that is that he probably isn't alone. I suspect there's an awful lot of people out there who agree with him: the Affordable Care Act is pretty terrible, but didn't that Romney fella fix the Massachusetts healthcare system when he was up there?

Jesus wept.

You get to thinking, maybe letting people vote is the Achilles' Heel of democracy. Maybe democracy isn't just the lousiest form of government except for all the alternatives, maybe democracy is just the lousiest form of government, period. I'm not meaning to be snobbish about this--I'm sure you could fill a twenty-six volume encyclopedia with all the stuff I don't know that might be helpful in making informed political decisions; hell, I regularly abstain from voting for things like "Soil And Water Conservation District Supervisor" because even if I really understood what the hell that was, I never know anything about any of the people who want to be it; so maybe I shouldn't be allowed to vote, either.

And then, too, I realize the Affordable Care Act is long and complicated and very few people have had the time and patience to go through the whole thing. I'll freely admit, I certainly haven't, and what I know about the whole thing is what's been explained to me by various reporters, pundits, bloggers, et al. But for crying out loud: even I at least know the ACA has similarities to the Massachusetts system, that Romney is promising to get rid of these programs that are similar to the Massachusetts programs, and that the GOP collectively hasn't proffered an even more Massachusettsier alternative to the already very Massachusettsey ACA. So what's someone like Mr. Faucher thinking? You imagine all those folks just like him and you just want to stick your head in the oven until you remember it's an electric.

Damn energy-efficient modern conveniences.

There is every chance the Fauchers are going to put Romney just barely into office. There's been a part of me that almost hopes they do, and almost hopes the GOP takes the Senate, so that we can see how well letting the bozos be in charge with nobody to blame but their own sad selves works out for everyone. I'm thinking, "not too well", though I'll be happy to undergo an utter ideological conversion if the Republicans' scatterbrained, half-baked, incoherent, juvenile twaddle somehow ushered in an American golden age. Except that even my nihilistic dream of greater darkness before a dawn doesn't work if even a large plurality of American voters are Fauchers: because letting the current stock of Republicans screw everything up so everyone realizes that the adults need to be put back in charge only works if everyone realizes that the Republicans screwed up and the adults need to be put back in charge--otherwise, we'll just end up sending in more trains.

It's bad when you've lost faith in the American electorate to such an extent that you've even lost faith in their ability to screw up properly.






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Neil Young & Crazy Horse, "Oh Susannah"

>> Sunday, August 05, 2012





Yeah, I wasn't going to do a two-fer this weekend, except I ended up listening to this one when I was pulling Young's version of "She'll Be Coming 'Round The Mountain" and it was too fucking awesome not to share. Sounds like the kind of curveball on a traditional song that Nick Cave likes to do sometimes, only with grungier guitars (and who doesn't like that?).


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Neil Young & Crazy Horse:, "Jesus' Chariot (She'll Be Coming Round The Mountain)"

>> Saturday, August 04, 2012





Yeah. That's not how we did it when I was in elementary school.

Except... well, I was going to say, "except the irony is," only it's one of those things that ain't ironic. It's exactly what you'd expect. They changed all the lyrics on all the songs when I was in elementary school. "This Land Is Your Land" came to us with all the socialism stripped out. Hoyt Axton's "Joy To The World" (same song made famous by Three Dog Night) came to us with Jeremiah as a teetotaler: being underage, we didn't help him drink his wine, nor did we make sweet love to anyone. I'm sure somewhere in third grade we probably sang some song about skullfucking farm animals with the lyrics adapted to a much friendlier "with a quack-quack here, a quack-quack there, here a quack, there a quack, everywhere a quack-quack".

Sort of insulting to the songs, you know?

But anyway: the non-irony I almost erred and labeled "ironic" was simply that Young's version of "Jesus' Chariot (She'll Be Coming 'Round The Mountain)" is, of course, more faithful to the original, even if the old spiritual version sung by slaves in the 19th Century had fewer squalling electric guitars in it for some reason. The whole song, we learn from Wikipedia is one of them big ol' religious allegories; "she" isn't some little old lady like I always thought, "she" is the chariot Jesus will be riding in when he comes back to shut down the world. Fair enough that Young's version sounds fairly apocalyptic, with those growling guitars and The Horse wailing, "When she comes" like a Greek chorus watching Clytemnestra off her husband in the tub.

Today's clip, by the way, comes to you courtesy of the ScatterKat, who has been raving about Neil Young's Americana since she heard parts of it on NPR a month ago and has been telling me I need to listen to more of it and we ought to get it; I'm a Neil Young fan, as regulars know, I just haven't had the chance to keep up (I haven't even picked up the most recent Springsteen and Sigur Rós, I'm sad to confess). The SK is awesome, even if she does like Rush (the band, not the Limbaugh); I might have to tell her I said so.

Hope you're having a good, non-apocalyptic weekend. Cheers.





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The National, "Mr. November"

>> Friday, August 03, 2012





And here it is, only August.

No, I was in a National mood today, kind of. Not sure exactly what it was that had me there, and I ended up listening to some Foo Fighters on the way in to work instead, which isn't exactly the same thing at all except, you know, you do have a couple of really phenomenal pounders on drums in those bands.

Maybe it's the percussive thing.




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"Son Of The Invisible Man"

>> Thursday, August 02, 2012





I was trying to write a thing about the Jonah Lehrer affair. The impulse was to put a bunch of words from great or famous lit in his mouth--Joseph Conrad, Charles Dickens, Herman Melville, Mark Twain--and then top it off with a bunch of quotes from my own old posts as a tribute to Lehrer's habit of re-selling his old stuff to new buyers, recycling his own material or "self-plagiarizing" (as lots of people described it, though I feel I have to put quotes around it just because I'm not really convinced you can plagiarize yourself, even if double-dipping your commercial material seems like Really Bad Form).

It just wasn't funny, was the thing. And I wondered if it technically bordered on libelous, though I think I was mostly in safely satiric waters. The bigger crime was the first thing, though, regardless: it simply was a lousy joke. Lots of work to set up, hardly any payoff; I was even getting bored trying to write it, which is a pretty sure sign something isn't working.

A decent funny piece is one that cracks you up. This isn't confined to trying to write funny, I don't think: you're on to something really horrific if you feel bad writing it down on paper, I think. If your sad scene makes you sad, there's a good chance it really is sad. I'm not saying it has to be that way; it's more like that's just a sign, I think, pointing that you're heading the right way with what you're trying to put across.

Anyway. It didn't work. You get Amazon Women On The Moon instead.

I was reminded of the segment when a friend mentioned Ed Begley, Jr. on Facebook. This is one of Begley's finest moments (there's also his recurring character on Arrested Development and his various contributions to Spinal Tap, including a cameo as Stumpy Pepys and a part in a related short the boys made about a fictitious cheese festival). It was worth sharing. I hope you got a laugh out of it. (You certainly wouldn't have gotten one out of the piece I gave up on.)





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Lindsey Buckingham, The Neighborhood Theatre, July 31, 2012

>> Wednesday, August 01, 2012

At one point during a lull between two songs, the guy in the seat on the other side of ScatterKat told her about a grim era I'd forgotten all about: how, in the late '80s, Lindsey Buckingham decided to quit Fleetwood Mac, so Fleetwood Mac replaced him with two guys.

That's how they had to do it, see? If they were going to go on. (They shouldn't have tried.)

It's worth starting with that whole disgraceful episode for the same reason last night's concert at the Neighborhood Theatre--"An Evening With Lindsey Buckingham--Solo", they called it--reminded me of an old story Keith Richards told about hearing Robert Johnson for the first time. Back in the 1960s, there was a British LP reissue of a bunch of the old studio recordings Johnson had done in 1936-1937, and someone--I can't remember if Richards said it was Brian Jones or not--played this record for Richards, and while listening to it, Richards asked who it was. "Robert Johnson," they said, and Richards replied, "No, I mean the other guy."

If you don't immediately get that: there was no "other guy". Just Robert Johnson. One guitar. One take. Overdubs not even invented yet, so forget about it.

And this is Lindsey Buckingham: you want to know who the other guy is, and then you see him playing, and there is no other guy. He's someone you've got to replace with two reasonably talented guitar players if you really think you've got to go on and can't hang up your straw hat and call it quits.

He has this distinctive fingerpicking style. It's Chet Atkins-influenced, obviously (and he says so himself), but it isn't Chet Atkins. He right hand thumbs out the rhythm lick while the rest of his fingers are like some kind of tap-dancing spider, except that's a horrid description because it doesn't really do justice to how elegant and feathery his play hand really is; his left is surprisingly still as it floats up and down the frets. There's a solid, square rhythm line under those percussive, ringing arpeggios and then Buckingham suddenly bends at the waist, face contorting as he falls into a moment and both hands explode, the right frenetically lashing the strings while the other hand flows up the frets; he stands straight, stands back, back arched and there it is again--the sound of two guitars coming from the eloquent fingers.

This is the thing you need to know if Lindsey Buckingham is coming to a stage in your area, whether he's coming as the small machine (what he calls his solo stuff these days) or the big machine (the Mac): that Lindsey Buckingham is one of the best guitarists you will ever see in your life. Regardless of whether you like any of his material with or without the band; this is a separate issue, and I couldn't give a damn whether you care for Fleetwood Mac or loathe them, or think you loathe them because there was a Christine McVie song that was sweet the first two times you heard it and the sense of drowning in maple syrup the subsequent hundred-and-fifteen. You will see very few guitar players better than Lindsey Buckingham. He is almost certainly one of the ten best players you will ever see in your life, should you be so lucky. Let me add that I only qualify this as much as I do because there's some slim chance you work at a retirement home for elderly blues musicians or live in some mythical Appalachian valley where every adult male is a blind bluegrass picker with a soul overbrimming with Man's ancient despair boiling up from a bottomless depth. It's just possible you were a roadie for The Yardbirds or something ridiculous like that, and so Lindsey Buckingham manages to tag in as the eleventh-best guitar player you could ever see. Fair enough. But he's good. He's goddamn good.

And when you go, if you go, watch those hands of his. Dammit, watch those hands.

He's doing this solo tour right now, just him with no backing band, on stage accompanied only by a guitar tech who lurks in the background, tuning up the next instrument Buckingham will need in the setlist and efficiently swapping with him between songs. In Charlotte, Buckingham goes from song to song with very little chatter; one or two anecdotes and observations, but mostly just singing and playing. Given the whole bizarre, storied history of Buckingham's other gig, it's probably for the best; no doubt he could do one of the weirdest and bestest extended-length episodes of Storytellers ever, but gods know there have been enough hurt feelings in that catalogue to last a lifetime (just a couple of months ago, a certain drummer was bitching to Playboy about a certain husky-voiced ethereal having the gall to promote her own recent solo work instead of flogging the Mac again--sigh). Buckingham's best statements, anyway, are the ones coming out of those guitars, and he doesn't need to say much more than that.

It was a good setlist. I was surprised that it covered the whole of his career as much as it did--I think I really expected him to mostly draw from Seeds We Sow, the most recent solo record--but this isn't a complaint; I haven't heard a lot of the latest one, and it was a treat to hear some favorites from the Mac/non-Mac songbook, including "Never Going Back Again", "Go Your Own Way", "Trouble", "Go Insane" and "Big Love". I think he played around eighty minutes, which was a solid set and he seemed to be having a good time busting his ass for us.

It was a pleasure and an honor to see the guy. If he's in your area: seriously, Buckingham ought to be a bucket list1 artist for you unless you just hate the guitar or something. I don't know what's wrong with you. Buy the damn tickets.




1Sorry. I really loathe that cliché. But I really can't beat it.




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