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Sunday, July 26, 2015

Watchmen

Because this nation never runs out of maroons, since last week's massacre at a Chattanooga recruiting station, self-styled "protectors" across the country have taken it upon themselves to sit outside military recruiting sites (which, you know, are generally located at shopping malls) in folding chairs, armed and ready to take all comers.

There's the Knight Templar with his bow and quiver of arrows (since he's not allowed to have a gun, even though he's a military veteran), the guy who accidentally discharged his assault rifle into the mall parking lot (for the second time), the three cosplayers (two of whom are supposedly disabled, one of those a former Marine, and the third (non-disabled but still goofy) one also a former Marine. The Pentagon has had to tell them to stop, because by definition, maroons don't already know they shouldn't be doing this in the first place.

To a certain extent, I actually feel bad for some of these folks; clearly, the VA is not keeping up with its end of the deal in providing decent mental health care and counseling. When a disabled vet is sitting in his Rascal in US flag onesie pajamas (swear to jebus, I didn't know such a thing existed, but of course it does) with a presumably loaded assault rifle, some things have gone wrong.

Definitely read the comments in the Wonkette article; a person claiming to be the female cosplayer (with the rather telling middle name in her handle of "WhiteKnight") tries to troll the snark, and rightly gets her ass handed to her. If the two men with her are in fact veterans, we thank them for their service, now please go home.

There are a couple of big issues here:  one obviously being that we cannot have random costumed weirdos brandishing weapons at mall patrons, regardless of their intent. But secondly, seriously? Is the Knight Templar and his armor and bow supposed to stop a whackjob with a semi-automatic? Are the reflexes on Onesie Marine -- you know, the disabled guy in the Rascal -- going to be superior to some dedicated madman on a rampage?

A central assumption in the gun culture is that the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. And one supposes that in the right circumstances and the right conditions, it's better than nothing. But that's really all it is. Shall these goofballs set up posts at movie theaters to prevent deranged racists from shooting up the next showing of Trainwreck? Or do we look at the statistics and numbers, and understand that that would by definition be a more dangerous proposition than having nothing at all?

These would-be militia mutants don't seem to get that an untrained fool with a gun is actually statistically worse than nothing at all. And by "training" I don't just mean weapons training, though that doesn't hurt, as far as knowing how to handle your weapon and use it properly. But the difference between a self-styled militia schmuck is that if he "trained" at all, he did so by shooting targets and maybe running an obstacle course set up in the grand wizard's backyard, maybe some calisthenics here and there.

But any good beat cop or even mall cop will tell you that the most effective, meaningful training is learning how to deal with the public, how to defuse situations before they even start, how to steer people into doing what you need them to do to maintain order, without them even thinking about it. Response is nice, but prevention is much more important -- and these people don't even mention or think about that. It interferes with their dream of some Osama type walking up, threatening the good citizens of Gotham, and getting dispatched righteously, with no collateral damage. That's how it works in the movies, anyway.

As with the bozo in Ohio accidentally firing his rifle into the asphalt, he's just goddamned lucky -- again, for the second time in a couple years -- that no one got hit or hurt. Pure luck, nothing else. A slightly different angle, a couple radians off on the ricochet, and you have a tragic event. Someone needs to pull these apparently jobless dopes aside and break it to them gently:  Look, you're in the minority, you're just louder. But here's the deal -- we don't want you "guarding" our schools, our malls, our military recruitment offices. We want you to take your fucking penis extension and go home, settle down, pull up whatever excites you on the internets, knock out a few generations of knuckle-children, and sleep it off.

We'll get by somehow, understanding that life has randomness built into it, and that in a nation of 320 million people, some of them are insane, incompetent, malicious, whatever. That car you just passed on the highway could easily have had a split-second distraction, swerved into your lane. A crazy asshole could take advantage of lax gun laws, get his weapon of choice, pack up his shit and crank out an incoherent manifesto in a hotel room, and walk into a movie theater and start sweeping.

This is not to say that because shit happens, no precautions should be put anywhere. That's ridiculous. But what is just as ridiculous is this notion that every man is a potential John Wayne, just needing the right place and opportunity to prove his heroism. I would rather take my statistically infinitesimal chances with the random psychopaths, than deal with the would-be do-gooders who are off their meds.

Devil's Advocate

So this must be one of those "assaults on religious freedumbs" we keep hearing about:
Shofars sounded amid the chanting and cheering, clapping and crying as about 100 people crowded together on a strip of sidewalk in Eastern Market today to pray and protest the Satanic Temple’s plans to unveil a Baphomet monument in Detroit later tonight.
....
A news release billed the unveiling as the largest Satanic ceremony in history. The event was ticket-only, and the location was to be given via email to ticket holders on Saturday.

Those in the crowd were not having it.
....
The bronze statute weighs one ton and stands nearly 9 feet tall. It has horns, hooves, wings and a beard. It had been planned for the state Capitol in Oklahoma City, until Oklahoma’s Supreme Court banned religious displays on Capitol grounds.

As the crowd grew, two women huddled on their hands and knees as people sang and prayed over them. One of them crawled through the crowd, tears falling in big drops to the pavement. “The blood of Jesus,” she recited, over and over.
Yeah, that'll help. Good grief.

It would be nice to know a little more about this "Satanic Temple" beyond the Baphomet statue. Where are they based? How many people are part of it? Do they have a spokesperson, do they have other plans? Answering questions such as those is admittedly a bit more challenging than transcribing the babblings and brayings of the addled faithful, but if this organization plays its cards right -- and so far they have -- they could conceivably push to get all religions back into their places of worship and the homes of their respective believers.

Which is where such things belong.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Injustice for All

So here's a nutty story about justice gone weird before finally setting somewhat right. Three questions immediately spring to mind:

  1. Will the Commonwealth of Virginia now pursue false accusation charges against Chelsea Steiniger, and if not, why not?
  2. Is this the standard of jurisprudence and evidentiary analysis applied to crimes with higher penalties, including the death penalty ?
  3. What if Mark Weiner had been black?

This is the main problem with the American "adversarial" system of justice. Prosecutors and judges have vested interests in not revisiting their mistakes. But when you have a clear carriage of misjustice (as Deep Purple once put it) like this, where the judge and prosecutor essentially colluded to withhold exculpatory evidence, this calls for more scrutiny. Prosecutor Denise Lunsford's hinky sex life doesn't exactly help matters, but then maybe she and her partner have an open relationship. Keep swingin'!

This is not a small matter. Our justice system depends upon the officials entrusted with implementing it being above reproach. Sexual peccadilloes aside, Lunsford's conduct in handling Weiner's (giggity) case is questionable at best, and more likely willfully corrupt. She and the judge were willing to throw the man's life away; the only reason they finally walked back on the matter is because Steiniger is such a piece of shit, she got busted in February for trying to sell cocaine to two cops.

Forget that Steiniger had already told her boyfriend and her jailbird ex that she had fabricated the whole thing; forget that her accusations were completely impossible from a scientific perspective, that there is no magic teevee chemical that knock you out instantaneously, nor was there any cloth found with traces of such a chemical. The piece that got Virginia to do the right thing was the potential embarrassment this numb cow would cost them.

Well, bullshit. Lunsford and Higgins need to be removed from their positions, or at least rigorously investigated, at least as thoroughly as the Ferguson Police Department. How many other people have been railroaded by these two, with no recourse?

Given the prior complaints against Mark Weiner, it is entirely possible -- hell, likely -- that something happened. A good guess would be that Weiner propositioned Steiniger, she either declined or wanted more cash than Weiner had on him, so Weiner dropped her off at her mother's house and went to look for the next prospect. Sleazy, but nothing you throw people in prison for.

The main thing is that when you make false accusations, you should be prosecuted. Are obstruction of justice and perjury still crimes, or not? Would this potentially scare away legitimate accusations, especially with sexual offenses? Possibly. But think about if something like that happened to you or someone you cared about, that some sociopath could lob some random accusation and fuck up your life, just because they felt like it, and there were no consequences for any of that.

Mark Weiner is a free man now, after spending nearly two years in prison for something he didn't do, but in the meantime he lost his job, his family, his savings. Someone needs to be held responsible for all that, otherwise there is no point to any of this, no incentive whatsoever to stay within the bounds of law.

The justice system is a lot like the financial system -- most of the value lies in whether you believe in it or not. If people can't expect a fair shake, if they're at the mercy of lying accusers and corrupt officials, then it's really just another racket designed to drain people's lives and pocketbooks.

Fortunate Scum

The summer of the shark just gets sharkier, as noted Vietnam veteran Fuckface von Clownstick calls out our good friend Poor Ol' Straight Talk on his service:

"He is not a war hero. He is a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren't captured, OK? I hate to tell you," Trump said. "I believe perhaps he is a war hero."

Von Clownstick is already trying to walk his bluster back as only he can -- by throwing the Veterans' Administration scandals and illegal immigration into the mix:


As Trump keeps surfacing at or near the top of polls, it's interesting to consider the ramifications of that. Sure, you can chalk it up to the usual bullshit -- small sample sizes, idiot respondents, the fact the election is still well over a year away (though primary season starts earlier and earlier, doesn't it?), but that doesn't completely capture the situation.

As the GOP clown car keeps filling up, turning into a short bus (17 Dipshits and Counting -- there's your reality show!), it becomes more and more apparent that as the Republican party loses its collective mind and continues empowering the baffled and bewildered of this country, it (the party and its vocal contingent) will only get worse. They have no intent of moderating their style, substance, message, or intent. And the Citizens United decision makes that possible, makes it easier.

While completely different in substance, Trump's appeal (such as it is) is much the same as that of Bernie Sanders:  in a business where insincerity is not only routine, but presumed, the idea that someone is saying something that they actually mean is unexpected, to say the least. Hillary Clinton literally cannot get a meal at Chipotle without testing it first with a focus group. Sanders clearly means what he says, while Trump at least appears to do the same, which still puts him ahead of the focus-grouped chumps.

Look, don't get me wrong. Donald Trump is a pimp and a prevaricator, five pounds of shit in a ten-pound bag, a useless blowhard fortunate enough to be in nation that can't seem to get enough of such types. He's a fucking teevee personality who has never run for or held public office, and upholds his inability to work well with others as a selling point. He has no goddamned business running for anything. You might as well vote for the meteorologist on your local station.

Sanders is sincere in addressing the US' frightening -- and increasing -- levels of systematic inequality, which are on the verge of becoming destabilizing in the sense of maintaining a civilized society. He has no chance of becoming president, because the people who own and run the system do not want any actual change. And the moment he becomes remotely viable, the Clintonistas will kneecap him. This is not just in their playbook, it's in the table of contents. The Republicans do not have to worry about Sanders, because the Democrats will happily do the dirty work for them. After all, they have mostly the same donors and owners.

Back to Trump. As long as he continues barking nonsense, he paradoxically reduces his overall viability, while enhancing his appeal to (ugh) his base (read:  paste-eating morons and people who view their own relatives as fair game for sexual opportunity). In a rational world, even he knows that he has no real chance.

But we are no longer in a rational world, if we ever were. It's comical enough that there are nearly twenty candidates vying for the office from one party, though some (Jindal, Christie, Perry, and several others) are almost certainly running for veep or a random cabinet slot. They're just maintaining visibility. But it's truly scary to think that there are any people at all who sincerely think that Donald Trump is remotely qualified for the job of President of the United States of America.

I think there's at least an even chance that at some point, maybe right before the primaries, or after the first or second successful one, Trump gets disavowed by the GOP establishment, takes his ego and his money and his fanbase, and pulls a Ross Perot. I would encourage him in that endeavor, as it would pretty much turn out as it did in 1992 for Perot, horking just enough votes away from the already divided Goopers to keep them out of the White House for another decade. (Not that that will keep them out of their gerrymandered congressional seats, no sirree. The knuckle-draggers will be making their mischief for years to come.)

But maybe Trump gets a few lucky breaks along the way, moderates his approach, brings more people onboard his campaign Titanic. At that point it becomes a litmus test for all of the above -- conservatives, liberals, Democrats, Republicans, teabaggers, hippies, the young and the old. If you're the sort of fist-shaking codger who campaigned for George McGovern in your feckless youth, but are now content to pull up the Social Security/Medicare ladder and skull-fuck your grandchildren, then Trump's your guy, and we thank your candor in admitting it.

On the other foot, if you're a young person who claims to Really Care, and then voting day comes and you don't show up, then kindly shut the fuck up. If you live in a state that requires a photo ID to vote -- as wrong-headed as that rule may be -- and you really want to vote, then you have a good fifteen (15) months or so to find the massive cash necessary to do so, and/or to procure the "primary" and "secondary" forms of identification. Plenty of time there, folks, and if you do it, you might actually get someone in there who can undo the unfairness of all that.

But the bottom line is, the elderly and the foolish show up to vote, because by definition they have nothing else to do. Hell, I think that voting beyond the local or state level is a useless joke, and even I vote. That's probably the sole advantage of the endless campaign season -- unless you're a complete moron, you have no excuse for not knowing when it's time to vote, and a plan for making sure you do it. And if you are a complete moron, you should be staying home and watching courtroom shows anyway.

So maybe we're about to find out where we're really at as a nation. Maybe the divisions are too deep and wide after all; maybe after nearly 400 years, the concept of the post-Westphalian centralized nation-state has run its course. If there is really a majority of simpletons clamoring to vote against their own rational self-interest, then perhaps it's time to find ways to disentangle your interests from theirs, to make sure your fortunes are not mutually tied. Maybe the coastal states that actually produce things and revenue break away from the welfare red states, and everyone figures out what their mutual interests actually are.

Perhaps the contradictions, as they say, need to be heightened. It's not just Trump, but the rest of the maroons jockeying for position that will be illuminating things in the months to come. Every election is like that, in some respect, but as economic and environmental conditions get more and more perilous, the situation becomes magnified.

[Update:  This is an interesting theory about Trump. Nothing would surprise me anymore.]

Your Daily Darwin Award

Between the Jade Helm paranoia, retards swimming with alligators, and such like, one has to wonder:  is Texas having some sort of weird contest with Florida, that the other states just haven't heard about yet?

I've had forty-eight birthday parties so far, and they've all had at least one thing in common:  no guns. And I like guns. Honest and for true, I've never felt the need to shoot something to celebrate turning older. Or to celebrate anything for that matter; maybe it's just me but I've always felt guns serve a very specific purpose, and "toy" does not fall under that purpose.

Alcohol, sex (yes, with someone else, smartass), and some sort of grilled meat or fish seem to suffice just fine for celebrating birthdays and other occasions. It's too bad this maroon never figured that out.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Old Times There Are Selectively Remembered

I'm trying to figure out what sort of person would want to tour a preserved plantation. Having lived all my life in California, with its historically preserved Spanish missions, one could argue that there is something of a corollary, if separated by an order of magnitude. And certainly the mission tours tend to gloss over the worst abuses of the natives by the invading Spanish.

But I suppose one anecdotal difference is that in touring at least half of the missions in this state, it seems to be universally understood just what went on there, that abuse and indentured servitude were the norms. Only children would ask something like "were the priests kind to the Indians" or "were the Indians loyal to their keepers". Even then, most children (I visited at least four of the missions on school field trips over the years) had a balanced understanding of things, that while the Spanish may have brought medicine and order, they also brought disease and violence and plunder.

While common sense at least implies that the vocal contingent one usually hears defending the Traitor Loser Flag is the typical loudmouth minority, it's still clearly a substantial one that carries up to the state and federal legislative representatives of those states. And they refuse to brook any compromise on the subject, fail to consider the cognitive dissonance of slavishly supporting the emblem of a failed, awful cause.

Cost-Benefit Analysis

The only surprising thing about this story is that AOL is still apparently a going concern. Who knew?

We're going to be seeing more and more stories like this in the years to come, of outsized health care costs being spread around to everyone. This is because the numbers are what they are, politics aside. Five percent of the population accounts for almost half the expenditures, and that's just the start of it. Everything is a hockey stick, as far as tracking proportional usage.

Socializing medicine by definition means that the other ninety-five percent who make up the other half of expenditures are effectively subsidizing those five percent. Meanwhile, the usurious charges and rates have been completely unaffected by the ACA or private insurance plans.

The racket remains intact, and that's the real problem. How does an infant rack up a million-dollar hospital bill? Instead of plugging the book and harping (rightly) on the HIPAA violations, the article practically begs for an itemization of services. Of course, looking at the EOB would also constitute a HIPAA violation. But it would be helpful to all concerned to get a look at how much things cost.

Tim Armstrong may be an overcompensated asshole, and he's almost certainly not taking a hit on his $12m compensation package. No, better to engender resentment among the working dogs by making sure they have a good idea of what's affecting their 401(k) plans. But all that still doesn't mitigate the fact that consumers are getting rooked by the health care industry, that healthy people are being forced to subsidize unhealthy people, that people with coverage are paying ridonkulous costs to cover people who can't pay for their care.

The moral argument is separate from the financial argument; obviously the moral thing to do would be to have -- wait for it -- the single-payer system we were promised before Ted Kennedy died, the Democrats ran a terrible candidate to replace him and lost their supermajority, and Scott Brown fucked everything up. But we got what we got, things cost what they cost, and people who are now having to pay into the kitty are having to adjust their expectations.

There is no solution. Much like being patient with what's left of your political system, hanging your hat on dickless incrementalism and the Lucy's football promise of Real Change, you're going to have to dial down your expectations of just how much socialized medicine will make your life better. Yes, if you need health care but have no coverage and cannot get on a plan through your job, it's great. But the problem has been trying to soft-sell the cold fact to people who do have coverage and don't use it that it's going to come out of their end, instead of making the CEOs and HMOs and the rest of these high-toned assholes share the pain.

(Bearing in mind, of course, that the family in the article had coverage through their employer. That's yet another area where we're getting fucked; I work for the gubmint and I got socked with an additional $200/month taken out of my paycheck for the exact same coverage, that I don't use in the first place. There's my student loan payment.)

In another ten or twenty years, with a little luck and a lot of help, the ACA will be a lot like Social Security is now, almost untouchable by politicians. But its biggest hurdle to overcome, ironically, comes from the fact that you need to convince the people who need it least and are least likely to vote in general -- young people -- to support it. The people who need it and will use it -- old farts and boomers, getting ready to retire and scavenge every fucking dime of Medicare and Social Security they paid in and then some -- are the most likely to vote, and to vote against the ACA, figuring that they already have their fucking ladder, the rest of us can just go find another staircase or something.

It's not a matter of blaming sick people for being or getting sick. Sooner or later, that fate and more awaits us all. It's a matter of who gets stuck paying for it all, and what kind of care they get for their troubles.

The Dogs of Bore

Jesus H. Christ, this is still a thing? I suppose the fact that "competitive eating" never really took off as a true professional sport (in that a significant number of people could make a decent living solely from that) is somewhat reassuring, as is the rather obvious fact that these bozos are doing substantial damage to their gastrointestinal systems.

The dopier pro-wrestling style antics have been played up in the Nathan's competition in recent years, perhaps to overshadow the possibility that there really isn't enough prize money unless you're some sort of weirdo living in mom's basement rent-free. How'd you like to be the one trying to sell your parents on this particular path to greatness?

Here's the thing about sports:  they generally involve people routinely performing feats of athletic prowess that most people cannot do, because of levels of physical conditioning. But anyone can eat several dozen hot dogs in a short amount of time, if they choose to spend weeks or months beforehand "practicing," dunking them in glasses of water to facilitate sliding down the gullet, and drinking enormous amounts of water before and after (risking water intoxication) in order to artificially distend the stomach and intestines. Not exactly the regimen of dieting, lifting weights, running, and learning playbooks undertaken by actual athletes of pretty much every real sport.

Bottom line:  not only is it disgusting and gluttonous, it's a sport in roughly the same way Groundhog Day is a holiday, or Dr. Dre is a licensed medical professional. But considering that the most play this crap gets is on Memorial Day and Independence Day, supposedly two days to at least pretend to celebrate some level of national greatness and significance, it might be more interesting to televise and report the entire proceedings -- especially the aftermath. What's the over/under on how long Stonie and Chestnut and the rest of these maroons spend squeezing out a 15-pound growler on the can later tonight?

So Light Yet Endless, From a Leaden Sky

Rush, the band people either love or loathe, has somehow gotten into Rolling Stone's good graces over the last few years, after being exiled in Jann Wenner's doghouse for decades. Whatever the case, it's good to see them get some long-deserved recognition in a magazine that seems to have largely forgotten about what music is really about, which is fun and connection and meaning, even more so than just being lucky enough to prognosticate the next inexplicably popular trend among bored, spoiled mallrats.

The latest effort in getting Rush in the magazine's virtual pages is an extensive cover feature on the band, written by a shameless fanboy, which is fine, as the band is most likely on its last or next-to-last tour, with maybe one more studio album to be made.

Of the surviving old lions of rock, I'll take Geddy Lee every day of the week over the likes of Gene Simmons or Steven Tyler or even the Stones, though that last one is admittedly close. It seems simple now, and there have certainly been missteps along the way, but Rush have pushed boundaries over the years in ways that other bands wouldn't and didn't. A song like Tom Sawyer seems like a rock cliché at this point, but no one else could have done that in 1981, with the pungent, acrid smells of the corpses of disco and punk still in the air, preparing to metastasize into new wave.

Friday, July 03, 2015

When You Assert, You Make an "Ass" Out of "Er" and "T"

Salon continues its long slide to bien pensant clickbait irrelevancy with this extended argument by assertion regarding the supposed "slut shaming" of poor Bristol Palin. The strange thing is, if you mouse over the many hyperlinks, the only one supporting said assertion is, um, Facebook, which is perhaps second only to YouTube for inane comments consisting mostly of jabbering incoherence.

Let me be more clear, so there's no mistaking by some misguided SJW:  Bristol Palin is not, as far as I have ever read, a slut. I have never read even nasty innuendo indicating that she's slept with an inordinate amount of men (or indeed, any other than Levi Johnston and Dakota Meyer).

The problem is actually the opposite -- that aside from being an over-privileged idiot and hypocrite, Palin herself is a slut-shamer by association, making good money by aligning herself with, and "authoring" hortatory rhetoric for organized slut-shamers, people who would legislate control of women's sex and reproductive lives if they had a chance.

Bristol Palin deserves to be (verbally) smacked around just for that transgression, for enabling and profiting from people whose very industry is making women and girls feel bad about their choices. There is no need to imply that she is a slut as well. Maybe she's just a fertile Myrtle, as they used to say -- had sex with two guys, and they both knocked her up. If only there were available means to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

"Hypocrisy is not an excuse for abuse."

Bullshit. Hypocrisy -- especially involving lousy reasoning and backward assumptions in the first place -- is probably the best excuse for abuse. But the fact of the matter is, the article fails to provide a single solid example of said "abuse." I don't think most people give a shit; I certainly don't except insofar as Bristol Palin has been inexplicably given a profitable, highly visible platform in which to propagate her nonsense, nonsense which it turns out she can't even abide by herself.

It's important for self-styled pwoggies and libruls to pay attention to this sort of rear-guarding, especially as Bernie Sanders starts attracting larger crowds and making inroads. Because this is really just Nader-baiting of a different stripe, cloaked in a fog of sloppy thinking and unsubstantiated assertions.

The Continuing Adventures of Fucking Yokels

Maybe there is such a thing as karma. Nah, there isn't. But for a sweet second there, you could almost believe it.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Yeezy's New Clothes

So a funny thing happened on the way to Glastonbury this fine weekend:



It would be a little too fish-in-a-barrel to simply pronounce Kanye West as a talentless twat who needs to stop trying to punch above his meager weight. He has no business being at Glastonbury, any more than he had being at Bonnaroo. And he sure as hell has no business trying to perform Bohemian Rhapsody, a difficult song even for people who can actually sing.

(And I'll even give him credit for the sample from 21st Century Schizoid Man in his song Power. There is no upside for him to do that for money or popularity; I'd wager my salary for the next five years that very few of West's fans have even heard of King Crimson. I think he did it because he thought it was cool. I can respect that, whether or not I like the song.)

But this....Jesus Christ, is he completely deaf? Bad enough that he's simply swaying on an empty stage to a recording of the song, bathed in lights, letting the audience do most of the work. But when he does finally start vocalizing, it's the sort of karaoke croaking you generally hear from random drunks at the airport lounge, despondently hoping some wayward stewardess or bored milf will spot them and impulsively blow them right after their master performance.

I have to wonder what West's fans and followers think about this, no doubt they'll have their excuses and demurrals. He's a genius because he attempted to perform an iconic rock song in front of a couple hundred thousand people, without apparently learning or rehearsing it at all beforehand. Something like that. If anything, it should make them wonder the obvious -- if this is really what he sounds like "live", then just how much sugarcoating and backing tracks are they paying for when they see him?

It's a truism these days that since music is for the most part free, musicians have to perform and sell swag to cover their nut. This applies less to established people (I hesitate to refer to him as an "artist") like West, but it still applies to some degree. He's not some indie group cobbling together their demo with Pro Tools on the drummer's laptop; he probably dumps money into his magna opera, from licensing samples to paying producers to hobbit wax.

Going to a concert as a fan, especially a large stadium or festival, is obviously about more than just the music, it's about the event. But there has historically been at least the implicit agreement that there would be some spontaneity to the music, that you would get something special in return for paying through the nose for tickets and swag and refreshments, and battling traffic and a gigantic mob for a glimpse at your musical wampeter.

But for musicians to provide that truly live experience, they actually have to be able to do something musical, to sing or play an instrument with at least some competence, to improvise, to be spontaneous.

[Side note:  That last link is a terrific example of what I'm talking about, in a good way. I first heard Suit Fugue at least fifteen years ago, have listened to it countless times since, and it still makes the hair on my neck rise. In barely two minutes of running time, Kevin Gilbert took Bach's canon principles of composition and counterpoint, and used them to accurately eviscerate the shithead music industry. It's an outstanding piece of music, and qualitatively superior by itself to West's entire catalog put together. If you've got an hour to spare, check out Gilbert's live performance of Genesis' Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. It's fucking amazing, and captures the magic of what live music used to be about, those fleeting moments that will never happen quite the same way again, but happen anyway because of work, skill, and genuine passion. It's a refreshing contrast to today's canned, pre-recorded, choreographed pseudo-performances, each the same as the last and the next.]

One of the worst things about West is his utter dependence on AutoTune. Here is an instance where you quickly find yourself wishing he'd used it.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Ipse Dixie

It's somewhat heartening to see how quickly The Market Has Spoken on retailing items emblazoned with the 'murkin swastika. If I were of more cynical mind and heart (I know, I know), I'd probably come up with some catchy bullshit slogan about the noble resistance to political correctness and move some "collectible" swag on CafePress or such like. Git 'em now before they take yer guns!

Do rednecks really think anyone buys their bullshit rationalizations about what that flag "means" to them, that it somehow no longer means what it has always meant? Since when do symbols of genocide and brutality and institutionalized cruelty get to magically shuck off their history and start over again? More importantly, why would you want to do that?

The idea that the Traitor Loser flag now just stands for "courage, family, and good times" is just ludicrous. It cannot escape its history so easily, or indeed at all. It is the emblem of the eternally butthurt, of people who take some perverse pride in being descended from people who fought against their own country for the right to own and brutalize other human beings. It is not a point of pride, it is a point of shame.

Slavery and its vile structure is a stain on this nation's soul, one that the Founding Fathers saw and understood, and regrettably did not move to correct quickly enough. But once they finally did move to correct it, the southern states felt more obligated to their disgusting institution than to their country.
They lost, and paid a more than fair price; if anything, in retrospect, the Union clearly didn't finish the job and beat the stupid out of 'em.

Now, while it can no longer stand that public places show open support for this, I really couldn't care less if people choose to fly the rag as individuals. Freedom of speech and all; if people want to tell the world that they're assholes, I encourage them to speak loud and remove all doubt. But by the same token, they should expect their self-serving nonsense to be repudiated by people who have actually watched Selma and 12 Years a Slave, and read the Corner Stone speech, and understand exactly what "states rights" and "heritage" they are referring to.

Ordinarily I root for losers and underdogs, I like rebels and people who tell The Man "fuck you, I won't do what you tell me". But this is just plain pig-headed obstinacy for its own sake. The default excuse for the rapists and killers and vicious oppressors of the good ol' days is that they were people of a different time. They certainly were, and it certainly was a different time, and the best way to ensure that the mores and rationales of that misbegotten era stay in the past is to stop memorializing the schtick and totems of that era. They need to either let go and get rid of the damned rag, or get used to the rest of the world calling them on their bullshit.

Person of Influence

Pro tip for all you folks who might be thinking of making a living telling other people how to live their lives, just because your mommy is famous for being a burbling quitter:  Remember, you can walk away at any time, if you find the kitchen getting too hot for comfort. Just a thought, but maybe you can spend the free time overcoming whatever it is in your life that finds you with three broken engagements and two out-of-wedlock children (by two different men) by the time you're 25 years old.

(Not to mention that the assumption that former fiancé Dakota Meyer is the father of this child may not necessarily be true, which would be really scandalous 'mongst the fambly valyews types. This is what happens when you don't take your whore pills.)

It's bad enough that Bristol Palin makes decent money doing nothing more than being a sanctimonious, hypocritical dunce, but what's unforgivably obnoxious is the "respect our privacy" nonsense. There's no one stopping you from going away, sweet cheeks. Trust me, no one will miss you. Go get a real job, toil away in obscurity with whatever other skill you might possess. No one's stopping you, and no one will check up on your comings and goings at the burger stand. You chose to put yourself in the public eye, no gun was put to anyone's head.

Ah, but that's always the problem in our "reality" teevee addled excuse for a society -- whenever one of these morons steps on their dicks, their first impulse is to exercise their right to privacy, but they still want to keep their public platform, their show, their blog, whatever revenue source they have to monetize their meager talent. They think they should be able to have it both ways, to use said platform to influence behavior and promote their social causes, and then when they're caught being hypocrites (which, you know, tends to undermine whatever value is created by their promotions), they want a pass and privacy. No. It doesn't work that way, unless you want to do the right thing and just go away already.

But that won't happen. The only that terrifies them more than having the easy money spigot turned off is finding out that they could completely disappear and nobody would notice.

Monday, June 22, 2015

The Audacity of Pope

It's interesting to watch liberals and environmentalists make common cause with the pope on the subject of climate change, since chances are they profoundly disagree with him on many other issues -- not the least of which would be the proximal causes of said environmental shift. I guess you take support where you can get it, but this a pretty tough one to get around.

Don't get me wrong, compared to his predecessors, the current pope is relatively (dare I say it?) progressive. He has made overtures to other faiths, gays, even atheists. Credit where it's due and all.

But I don't see how you can logically separate the acknowledgement of an ongoing climate crisis, and the worsening problem of overpopulation. Consumerism is certainly a substantial part of global warming and environmental degradation, but it doesn't account for, to name one egregious example, the mass extinction we're now in the middle of.

Somewhat oddly, the major areas that are and will be experiencing continued population increases are India and Africa, regions which are not necessarily attuned to what the head of the Catholic Church has to say about much of anything. China has some responsibility to bear as well, not just for the sheer scale of their population, but because they are the primary consumers of these endangered species that are being poached. Americans are obese and vulgar, but they're not buying ivory and eating tiger penis soup.

It is sickening to think that within another generation or so, we will almost certainly be without any tigers, rhinos, lions, elephants, lemurs, and many other amazing graceful creatures that used to share the planet with us. But we'll have somewhere between nine and ten billion humans by 2050, many of them scavenging and poaching and pillaging and overbreeding their way through what passes for a life, each putting toxic drops into an ocean of impending catastrophe (I defy you to find a more purple metaphor in the next, say, 24 hours).

His Holiness has very little to say about all that; in fact, he's taken the opposite tack. It's as if he recognizes that we are falling off a cliff, on the verge of a perilous precipice, and yet would rather ignore that whole pesky gravity thing.

This is not a small point. The church is never going to budge from condemning abortion, and one assumes that even the most ardent atheist or pro-choice advocate can at least understand that stance. But a smart -- and truly progressive (ugh) -- pontiff would strike a creative and useful balance by moving the dial on contraception. Again, the parts of the world most in need of that are not Catholic in the first place. But it can't hurt, and you have to start somewhere.

There's a phrase I've oft repeated in this here venue, and I sincerely believe it should be the motto or operational guideline for virtually every governing body of any size or importance:  People (in the collective, aggregate sense) will not change their behavior until they understand that the cost of not changing is greater than the cost of changing. This is as true and axiomatic as noting that the sun will rise in the east tomorrow. The corollary to this is that it usually takes some sort of catalyzing event to get them to realize this; life has to break one off in their asses before the light bulb finally goes on and they see that their current path is unsustainable.

You used to be able to at least count on the basic principle that individuals wanted to leave the world as good or better than they found it, for future generations, that they wouldn't want to leave a toxic shithole for their children and grandchildren. The boomers squashed that long-held precept; those motherfuckers refuse to compromise on a goddamned thing as they dodder off into senescence. They fucked us, and they're entirely cool with it. Very well then, at least own the damage you've wrought. Consider yourselves lucky we don't shut off the payout valve the second you've recouped exactly what you paid in, and then set you out on a fucking ice floe with a crate of Matlock and Murder She Wrote DVDs.

This groaning, overburdened planet cannot take much more of what we're giving it. A deity that wants countless individual souls to be actualized, only to perish early in an impending mass die-off if we continue down this road, is no friend to its believers. Like any politician, a pope has a balance to strike between the intellectual, the spiritual, and the practical. (Yeah, I know.) But time gets shorter, and the practical must start taking precedence.