Friday, February 10, 2012

Nobody Asked Me, But...

1) The 2012 World Press Photos of the Year have been announced. Obviously, they were taken in 2011, but this is the overall winner by Samuel Aranda. You can see the others here.
2) The 1% wins again. 99% of women in America, and 98% of Catholic women, use some form of contraception, but because a few non-lay (pun intended) folks and a bunch of right-wing hypocrites get their panties in a knot, Obama will cave. WHEN WILL YOU GROW A DAMNED BACKBONE, MR. PRESIDENT????
3) Where do you draw the line, huh? When do you see some benefit for your appeasements? To end the Iraq war, you moved troops to Afghanistan. To close Gitmo, you sent the prisoners home to either stew in anger over their wrongful incarceration or to go right back to fomenting trouble. To pass healthcare reform in the first place, you knelt in front of Ben Nelson and other "moderate Democrats." To get the debt ceiling raised, you collapsed on taxes...and then the damned deal didn't get done anyway. Where does it all end?
4) CPAC is happening this week. To quote Katherine Hepburn in On Golden Pond, "The loons! The loons!"
5) Maybe if they'd had brought a TV into the room, we'd have gotten a better deal, and not another bailout.
6) Humiliating candidate is humiliating. And humiliated.
7) I can certainly understand targeting Apple over the deplorable conditions at Foxconn, but the message has to be expanded. ALL technology companies employ workers who are paid below-market wages and work in deplorable conditions. Either we have to go full-on Luddite or we have to figure a way to get everyone on board.
8) There's some good news for people who are concerned about developing Alzheimer's Disease.
Um, as I found out this week, that now includes me. I've been debating talking about this, since it's so personal and so very very preliminary, but I've had some genetic testing done and apparently I carry the APOE variant 4 gene. Normal risk for a male of European descent is 7.2% My risk is double that, and that's just based on genotyping. Add in the severe dementia that both my parents suffered-- if it was Alzheimer's related-- and my odds rocket up to 60-80% of developing the disease (assuming both parents had Alzheimer's.)
Not that I haven't had my suspicions. Just this week, I tried to shower twice in the same hour.
9) Let's lighten the mood: Even conservatives are now acknowledging Ann Coulter's "special status."
10) Finally, everybody knows that, after heavy exertion, nothing makes a body feel better than a couple of NSAIDs and a massage. But why does massage work so well? Here's why...

Thursday, February 09, 2012

The New York Times: So Close, And Yet So Wrong

Enclosed within this article is a hint that the Times of New York could get their hands on the real story, if they wanted to:

When Fred Wilson, a prominent New York venture capitalist who has backed Twitter and Zynga, wanted to watch the Knicks game last month, he got an unpleasant surprise. Time Warner Cable was not showing the game because of a contract dispute.

Frustrated, he turned to the Internet for help. Within minutes he was streaming the game illegally on his big-screen TV. [...]

Seeking out an illicit stream of a game that you should be able to watch legitimately is one thing. But media companies say they are facing a relentless barrage of far less defensible thefts involving movies, television shows and music.

Now, that's true. No one wants to see piracy be the modus operandi of the Internet, except maybe those megapirates who would stand to become the media conglomerates of piracy.

And there's where the story lies: conglomeration.

See, if you frame the piracty as one of giving the artist his due return for his efforts, people are pretty sympathetic to reforming the internet to ensure that, no matter how you view a film or listen to a record, an artist can be reasonably assured he's getting his fair share for creating it.

After all, what's the incentive to make more music or movies if you aren't going to earn a living at it?

It's the corporatocracy that makes this story. The publishers and producers whose only function is to finance and distribute the works that artists create for it take an undue percentage of the "gate," so to speak.

When you frame the discussion this way, suddenly people are less sympathetic to the production end and more sympathetic to pirates.

Take that Time Warner anecdote. It's true, Time Warner, New York City's biggest cable provider, cannot show games from Madison Square Garden (which, ironically, uses Time Warner in its restaurants to show out of market games.) Cablevision, another conglomerate, owns the Garden and the teams that play in it. It was pretty much fated from the get-go that Time Warner would be barred from broadcasts, or at least charged an insane amount of money.

Which would be passed onto the consumer.

Similarly, DISH Network has opted out of its contract with Cablevision. So people resort to piracy.

But here's the thing: opting for piracy in a more legitimate dispute like this encourages the rationalization that leads to more piracy: "I'm not paying $14 to sit in a theatre! I'll Bittorrent the movie!" or "$49.95 to watch a fight? Why, when I can get it for free!"

And so on. It's a slippery slope before you're downloading albums because the CD costs $15 (and the band gets a few bucks of that).

If the Times covered that story, how revenues in arts and culture are divvied up, then we could have an honest story about piracy and how to control it. Until then, it's all smoke and mirrors.

Deer, Meet Headlights

Ladies and gentlemen, Al Cardenas of CPAC

Al Cardenas, the lead organizer for the Conservative Political Action Conference, said Thursday that attendees were arriving at the conference “angrier than [he’s] seen in some time” in part due to the Health and Human Services decision to mandate contraception coverage in employee health care plans.

That's not why they're all butthurt, Al. It's because they're looking at the dismal prospect of four more years under the Kenyan Usurper, and the best you guys can come up with in response is...Mitt Romney.

Clueless Al.


Introducing Amnesia!
Er, Amasia...

How Much To Screw A Nation Like The United States?

We are a cheap date.


I think we're going to see this trope more, now that Rick Santorum has reeled off some victories:

The resurgence of social and cultural issues in voters' minds poses new challenges for GOP presidential front-runner Mitt Romney as he reels from surprising losses Tuesday to conservative favorite Rick Santorum.

The economy remains the No. 1 issue of concern for a majority of Americans. But the recent hoopla surrounding the Obama administration's support of contraceptives, the court ruling against California's same-sex marriage ban and heated debate about abortion access has created a perfect storm that has pushed these seemingly dormant issues to the surface.

"They've never been far from the surface. A lot of people thought the social issues had disappeared but that has never been the case," said Karlyn Bowman, a senior fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute who focuses on polling data and public opinion. "These issues are obviously very important within a conservative party, the Republican party."

Now, Romney's record indicates a conservative bend on these issues: while he has enacted legislation in Massachussetts requiring hospitals, even religious ones, to perform abortions in the case of rape victims (not an unreasonable position, but more on that in another piece,) he has vetoed bills authorizing the morning-after pill (called the "abortion pill" by the living-room gibbons on the right,) which the legislature passed over his veto.

Yet, Romney gets the blame.

Meanwhile, Santorum has publicly been outspoken on social issues like same-sex marriage and abortion (and likely, the hoopla over contraception for lay employees of the Catholic Church.)

In other words, this is a battle of right v. righty-right.

So where's the dogwhistle?

I mean, you have two candidates who have publicly worn their religion on their sleeves, one a church elder in fact. You'd think the choice would be harder.

Except....wellllllll....see, one's a Mormon. And there's where I think Santorum is striking gold, particularly in states that were part of the westward expansion of the nation.

The history of Mormonism in America is a harsh one: kicked out of New York, Ohio, Missouri, Illinois and nearly every other state Mormons tried to settle in, they headed west. In fact, Mormons would end up being a major component and impetus to expand American hegemony to the west coast.

It probably didn't help that Joseph Smith was a crackpot who conned people left and right. He was a product of New York's Chautauqua "Burned-over District", which also produced the first of the apocalyptic preachers, William Miller, as well as the Fox sisters of Hydesville, who used to hold seances complete with table-rappings that were later admitted to be hoaxes.

The Mormons settled in an area they called Deseret, which actually encompassed most of the plains east of the Rockies from Canada to Mexico. The Federal government looked askance at this idea when the Mormons applied for statehood, and gave them Utah as a playground.

Family oral histories of the people the Mormons encountered are probably the most effective smear that Santorum can use without getting in too much trouble. The beauty of these histories is that he doesn't even have to initiate them. Elder family members will recount what their grandparents told them, which may in fact be twice-told tales already.
The irony is, as a Catholic, Santorum is really the lesser of two evils for these people.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Delicious Ironies

Just the day after the Appelate court in California took down Proposition 8 in a slam-fest against the legislature, one of the couples that started the whole ball rolling announced they are divorcing
It's finally come to pass: gay divorces are making news.

Seems To Be A FOX News Kinda Day

Blacks are still black!
The subtext, of course, is "Why can't we still call 'em [insert N word here]?"

How Desperate Is FOX News To Improve Their Falling Ratings?

By the way, this exchange shows just how ignorant and idiotic Steve Doocy and the other blonde bimbo are:

Host Steve Doocy, however, seemed to be fully invested in the interview. He mentioned that Eddie Van Halen used to stipulate, in his contract riders, that there should be no brown M&M’s in the dressing room.

“That’s got to make a candy feel bad,” Doocy said, feigning a frown.

“Well, he didn’t know what he was missing,” Ms. Brown replied, “and I’m the ruler of all. So…it’s his loss.”

“Take that, Eddie,” Doocy replied.

"Ms. Brown" was the M&M.

The truth of the Van Halen story is, yes, it was in their contract, no brown M&Ms. But here's the thing: it wasn't that they had anything against brown M&Ms.

They put that clause in there as a very clever way to make sure the contract was being adhrered to. It was a down-and-dirty "checksum." If they found brown M&Ms in the dressing room, they could almost be certain the promoter or arena was screwing them in other ways, too. They would then unleash the lawyers and accountants, and usually recoup bookoo bucks.

Yes, it was a cute way to get a gimmick extended another thirty seconds, but the gimmick shouldn't have happened in the first place AND they shouldn't have doubled down on the stoopit.

A Trainwreck

That's sort of the take-away I get from the 9th Circuit decision on the case against Proposition 8 in California.

"Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples," states the opinion written by Judge Stephen Reinhardt, one of the court's most liberal judges.

This is the litigatory equivalent of "Ohno, you din't!"

Attorneys on both sides seem prepared to take this case to the Supreme Court, and I'd be willing to bet that at least six justices (the four liberals, Scalia and Roberts) are pawing the ground in the starting gate.


The decision applies strictly to California, even though the 9th Circuit could have extended it over all nine states in its jurisdiction.

Too, the Appeals Court relied heavily on the 1996 Supreme Court ruling which overturned a Colorado law that limited civil rights protections for homosexuals.

Taken together, these conditions may force the SCOTUS to say "Thanks, but no thanks." Not that it has a history of non-intervention (Bush v. Gore *koffkoff*) but that was a different court, almost altogether.

It's going to be an interesting year, as the kids say.


Santorum Spreads His Wins Around

With three wins last night in state caucuses in Minnesota, Colorado and Missouri (technically a primary, altho the results are nonbinding,)  Rick Santorum vaulted rather impressively back into the pack for the Republican nomination for President.
See? The MSM isn't the only one who can treat this as a horse-race! But I digress...
There are two intriguing results out of these outcomes.
First, Missouri should have been solidly in Mitt Romney's column. That there might be a symbolic "Anybody But Mitt" protest in this nonbinding vote is true, and should not be underestimated. Republicans are pretty angry over the weak field of candidates poised to take on the now-formidable re-election effort of President Obama. Will Missouri overturn these results when they choose at convention in March?
I think so. I think the voters of Missouri were sending Romney a message to either amp up his volume or expect really tepid support come the fall.
Next, Minnesota. What should be considered a moderate state-- after all, this state has sent both Michele Bachmann AND Al Franken to Washington-- should have been a slam-dunk for Romney.
Caucuses are peculiar things, however. A small fraction of the actual voting population participates, and that leaves a much larger margin of error from "what should be." It comes down to commitment and enthusiasm, and as the Missouri results imply, there's very little enthusiasm for Mitt out there. The Minnesota Mitt contingent probably took a flier, assuming he'd get the nod anyway in Tampa.
So while it's shocking that a rock-ribbed socially conservative loon like Santorum took such a large plurality of the vote, that Romney couldn't even outdraw Ron Paul suggests that the NotMitt vote is very strong in middle America. Could be Mormonism. Could be Massachussetts. Could be misanthropy.
The signs were there that Santorum was going to pull a trifecta yesterday. Even the "esteemed" Wall Street Journal got it ass backwards in analyzing the sudden spate of advertising from Romney attacking Santorum, thinking it was just a champ putting the finishing touches on a wobbling opponent, when in truth, Romney was desperate to salvage any victory in any of the votes yesterday.
After all, if your rival is drowning, you don't throw him a life vest. That Romney even acknowledged Santorum's presence in the race was a red alert that things were going squirrely.
By winning two binding votes yesterday, Santorum makes a strong case to take this race to the convention. All three that he's won (which includes Iowa), and then Missouri, suggest a strong heartland preference for Santorum. At the very least, this puts him at the very top of any short list for Vice Presidential candidates.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Just When I Thought I Was Out....

36.3 megapixels....*whistling*

Is The US Constitution A Dying Document?

The rest of the world seems to think so.
Among the critiques are that it provides very few rights, that it's old and economically worded (e.g. doesn't do a very good job of explaining precisely what it's trying to say.) Add to that recent SCOTUS rulings that have drastically reinterpreted the document according to "original intent" and the general decline in American power and influence around the globe and you have a recipe for a dying document.
And with it, a dying nation.

Uncertain? Or Confused?

The Fatah and Hamas factions of the Palestinian people have come to an understanding on a pact to unify the factions. Mahmoud Abbas will continue to be the chief executive for the interim, supported by an independently elected cabinet until full elections can be organized.
This surprising move brings the Gaza Palestinians and the West Bank Palestinians together.
Understandably, the Arab street as reflected by its press, is uncertain. Note in particular the Israeli reactions.
I suppose there's good reason. When they aren't squaring off against Israeli forces, the two factions have been at each other's throats. This is not conducive to settling the larger issues at hand.
But here's the thing: a divided Palestinian people is actually in the best interests of many of the more strident regimes in the region, like Syria and Iran and yes, Israel, who can focus attention on the Israeli conflicts while minimizing the internal strife as just frustration with the "Zionist oppression of Israel," or some such conflated attitude. For Israel's part, the strife merely serves to support their claim that, so long as Hamas is a disruptive force, Israel's existence is threatened, so why should he deal fairly with the Palestinian Authority?
And yet, interestingly enough, Hamas' leadership in exile in Syria all left that country (the last departed yesterday) to head for Israel, under the guise of security from that nation's uprisings.
Sounds like a cover story to me. It's possible that Syria may have undermined Hamas' position as opposed to Fatah (although I admit that's pure speculation, and I really don't have a particular body of evidence to point to). It's also possible that Hamas has started to cozy up to Iran, which would explain the collapse of Syrian safety.
Naturally, Bejamin Netanyahu has begun sabre rattling over the deal, all but threatening Abbas with an "either you're with us, or with the terrorists" posture.
And yet, it was Netanyahu himself who insisted on a unified Authority before Israel would sit down and negotiate in good faith.
Mr. Netanyahu, peace is not for haggling. It is not sold in the open market like a carpet or a pound of meat. Sit down, and shut up now.

Super ButtHurt

By now, you've probably heard about the foofaraw the Clint Eastwood commercial during halftime at the "Super Bowl" created.
Most notably, Karl Rove's "disappointment" with respect to the implied political message that Eastwood is endorsing a second Obama term.
Now, the ad itself is pretty inocuous, as political ads go-- assuming you want to call it that, which I'm not ready to. Eastwood narrates a script about "halftime in America" and how Detroit has fought back and so can the country. (transcribed here)
It's more of a pep talk than a political ad. That's not to say there isn't an undertone of gratitude for Obama's bailout of Chrysler. That is part of the backdrop. If Obama hadn't bailed them out, they wouldn't have the money to sell cars by running advertisements.
And interestingly, Eastwood had criticized the bailouts, yet here he is, getting up in ol' Karl's paranoid face about comebacks. Here's where I suspect Rove gets his panties in a twist:

I’ve seen a lot of tough eras, a lot of downturns in my life. And, times when we didn’t understand each other. It seems like we’ve lost our heart at times. When the fog of division, discord, and blame made it hard to see what lies ahead.

Given the toxic nature of rhetoric from Rove's party, particularly the Teabaggers, it's hard not to take a comment like that personally, especially since Rove himself has rattled his chains over some of the nonsense that people like Sarah Palin and Rick perry have spouted.

Rove would be on firmer ground if he critiqued the soon-to-be-released film Act of Valor which features a Navy SEAL team sent in to rescue a kidnapped ambassador, which actually features real SEALs. That seems to be a pretty blatant attempt to remind the American people about Obama's foreign policy, which has been effective and has completed steps that the Bush know, the people Rove worked for?...could only have dreamed of doing.

Still, to me, Rove's complaint about the Chrysler ad sounds more like "Why in the hell didn't I think of that?"



Monday, February 06, 2012

There Won't Be Snow In Africa This Christmas Time

But there's no such thing as global climate change, no sirreee!

Hidden Agenda

Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein has released an advertisement endorsing same-sex marriage.
Clearly, the logical outcome for Blankfein is to be allowed to marry his money.

Speaking Of Sport

Alberto Contador has been stripped of his 2010 Tour de France title after he was unable to convince the Court of Arbitration for Sport that the test results showing he had ingested clenbuterol were erroneous, or more accurately, picked up traces from meat he had eaten. The panel showed great insight by pointing out it was more likely ingested by a "contiminated food supplement," (i.e. pill.)
Contrast this with the fact that the US Federal government closed their investigation of Lance Armstrong over allegations he not only used performance-enhancing medications, but pushed them on other teammates. No charges will be filed.
This two-year investigation was likely the last Armstrong will be subject to, now that he has ended his professional athletic career, but is also one of at least a half dozen investigations that have throughly looked into the matter and have either cleared Armstrong or refused to level charges.
Some would say that's because of Armstrong's pull and his public persona, but here's the thing: Contador had similar pull with the international cycling and sport federations as a multi-time Tour winner and as one of only five men to win the trifecta of the Giro d-Italia, Tour de France and Vuelta d'Espana in the same season. Even Armstrong had not pulled that off. The 2010 victory was arguably one of the most exciting bike races in history, as Contador won by the same margin he gained over eventual second place finisher (and now likely champion) Andy Schleck when Schleck threw a chain on his bike.
True, Armstrong is a pretty likable guy, especially after his involvement with his Livestrong organization, while Contador's history is littered with other riders (including, ironically, Armstrong) he's used to climb his way to the top, so there's less loyalty for Contador.
But then, Armstrong's personal history is pretty ugly, in and of itself, so six of one, half a dozen of the other.
For me, there's a certain schadenfreude in seeing an uberaggressive (steroidally so?) rider bumped down a notch. I wonder, had Contador done the gentlemanly thing (and bike racing is nothing if not genteel in such matters) and waited for Schleck when his chain slipped, if any of this would have happened?

Bread And Circuses

(photo courtesy)
So, I'm led to understand that last night, one group of talentless millionaires defeated another group of even less-talented millionaires, thus earning hundreds of millions of dollars for a cartel of socialist-billionaires. Even deeper irony is that the entire nation stopped for four hours (or more) to watch this spectacle, which included "entertainment" by yet another passel of millionaires on a broadcast that featured hundreds of millions of dollars spent not on improving the country, but on trying to segregate your pocket, green from white.
And the deepest irony? The talentless millionaires all perform under the aegis of the least-powerful sports union and performed in a state that hates them for their union. This is something along the lines of a black gospel choir putting on a performance in Mobile, Alabama at a Klan headquarters in the 1950s.
I might have been able to stir up some respect for the game if even one player had made mention of this irony even once during the week, and then vowed to do something about it.
But it's a joke. And so are Americans for watching a spectacle involving people who have no concept of what a real job entails (having been prepped and pampered all their young lives) playing for a meaningless trophy in a "sport" that requires no talent and is centrally controlled by a bunch of old white men who "coach" players into executing a game plan that they themselves implement and woe betide the player who doesn't follow the playbook!
Every player is replaceable, no matter how successful they are, and our nation is littered with the broken bodies of those who put it all out there on the field and now can't even button a shirt to attend a dinner thrown by the billionaire-socialist who exploited their labor.
Sounds like how most Americans make a living, yet here they are, celebrating a victory by the more successful work unit. From another company. One they could never work for.
Lest you think I'm a "hater," I've played more football at nearly every level of competition than you've had hot meals, and even today can toss a 60 yard bomb and hit a beer can. So it's not about being anti-sport.
It's about being anti-...well, whatever sport has devolved to in America.
See, we hand these leagues and the owners trillions in tax breaks and benefits, we prevent other people from infringing on their franchises, creating monopolies at all levels, all so we can spend a few hours...hours! rapt contemplation of the beer can in our hand.
You know who else used to spend lavish amounts of money on games designed to pacify his populace? At least they had the decency to call a slave a slave and not glorify him.
We've turned sport from a competition into a spectacle, from a contest between two groups of people into a battle between two corporations vying for the last advertising dollar out there.
Remember the old saying, "It's not whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game"? That fiction, like the fiction that anyone in American can grow up to be president, or if you just work hard and save some money you can have a comfortable life, is a fairy tale that we are seeing stripped away even as you read this.  
So for a few hours last night, hundreds of millions of people got the feel an emotion of some sort-- excitement, anger, sadness, joy-- and paid trillions in sum for the privilege.
Ain't that America?