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Sunday, April 27, 2014

Outkicking the Coverage

Still trying to process both sides of the meta-issue surrounding gay marriage: on the one hand, people should be able to register their opinions without fear of retribution, and businesses (especially small businesses) as a rule of thumb ought to be able to refuse service to whomever they choose; on the other hand, substitute the word "black" for "gay" in each of these instances, and see how that all resonates.

The acceptability of gay marriage has taken place with such speed and scale and breadth that it is difficult to keep up with it, and therefore difficult to develop sufficient mechanisms for talking about people who, less than a decade ago, were on the side of a clear majority, and now find themselves scrambling to find a viable role as principled dissenters.

There is a very clear distinction between, say, the late and unlamented Fred Phelps' psychotic, traitorous death cult, obsessing to an unholy degree over the very existence of homosexuals, and a small bakery or mom-and-pop photo studio that just isn't comfortable with providing services to something they don't believe in. It doesn't excuse the latter group from growing up on the issue, mind you, but they probably also don't deserve to get dragged into court over it.

Where the linked article makes a categorical error is in lumping every instance of late into a half-baked dish of opinions and outcomes. What happened with Phil Robertson, Brendon Eich, and the state of Arizona, all of them employees or business concerns being pressured by the interests of capitalism and customer pressure, is simply the way things work. Each of those folks said or did something that many gays found insulting, and activist groups, by definition, mobilized and made it clear that, well, gays collectively have enough discretionary income to respond in kind. In other words, they made it clear that they don't have to take shit from people who depend on customers, be they teevee viewers or tourists. Simple as that.

We all see instantly how offensive, in just the last couple of days, the comments from LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling and teahadi ranchtard Cliven Bundy have resonated. There's just nothing debatable or defensible there. Well, Phil Robertson has repeatedly compared gays to criminals, drunkards, bestial enthusiasts. Should gays have to take shit from some pigfucking hillbilly, or do they have the right to tell Robertson's employer that maybe they won't patronize their product anymore?

Arizona was ready to legitimize the "turn away the gay" rights of businesses, and in a state that earns a good chunk of revenue from tourism, and is hosting the next Super Bowl, it became clear pretty quickly that their moralizing was going to cost them. Everything has its price.

Again, when we compare the ledger on each side, I would say that these noble, principled dissenters who suddenly find themselves unjustly persecuted for merely speaking their wittle minds, need to take a look at the big picture. In more than half the US states, people can still be fired just for being gay. No one, to my knowledge, has ever been beaten or killed for voicing their opinion against gay marriage, or homosexuals in general.

I think they're mostly just surprised at how quickly the tide of opinion turned against what they had thought was safe and acceptable. And that's okay, for a while, but it's time to get the memo, and understand that this dialogue -- a dialogue, let's remember, about the lives and rights of a group of consenting, law-abiding, tax-paying adults -- is back-and-forth. Each side has an inalienable right to call bullshit on the other for disingenuousness and intellectual dishonesty, and to vote accordingly with their wallets if necessary. Ain't that America?

Hatesong

Why did I not know about this before? I'm just now discovering Hatesong, and there is something noteworthy about, say, David Lynch despising It's a Small World so much, he won't let the interviewer refer to it by name.

Fortunately, I'm at a point in my life where I simply don't encounter most of these awful songs. I mean, I've never heard Katy Perry's Firework, like not a single note. I've never heard more than a few seconds of My Heart Will Go On. I've never heard a Justin Bieber song, again, not so much as a single note or word or melody. Life is too short.

Still, I think we've all had jobs in the past where workplace radio is plopped onto some lowest-common-denominator shit sandwich, endless streams of commercials sandwiching three-song blocks of heavy-rotation dreck. No wonder the American worker is stressed out to the point of a breakdown.

But most of us are certainly familiar enough with some of these songs, so when you turn a fine, observant mind such as Steve Coogan on the aerosol can of cheese The Lady in Red, hijinks are bound to ensue. Yet there are still people who listen to it on purpose, there are nostalgia radio stations that play this sort dreck deliberately.

This makes me sad, really. It makes me think of a person who has been stuck in a basement or a cornfield in Kansas their entire life, with no radio or TV or internet, and so they think that the entire world is a desolate cornfield, because they've never seen anything else. Not that I expect other people to like exactly what I like; far from it.

But there are songs (and Lady in Red is a prime example) where, as Coogan points out, creativity is absent, nothing but trite greeting-card sentiments are listed. It's the musical equivalent of having sex through a hole in a bed sheet, missionary only. To enjoy -- or even to be not offended by -- inert, lifeless crap just seems to be a symptom of missing out on a whole 'nother universe of great stuff.

Most of this stuff is very fish-in-a-barrel; honestly, do you know anyone who likes a floater like Mambo No. 5? But pairing the right person with the right song is just magic in this context, as the legendary Matt Pike demonstrates in his evisceration of the Aerosmith handjob Dude (Looks Like a Lady). Pike hates not just that song, but the band with a level normally reserved for someone who you just watched run over your dog. On purpose. Fun stuff. Check it out if you haven't already.

[Update:  Also, too. Certainly a valid point here, in that someone's taste -- or lack of -- doesn't pick anyone else's pocket or break their arm, so why sweat these poor folks on their schmuckery?

Two reasons, says I:  one, it's frequently funny (and some of the commenters in the Hatesong pieces are flat-out hilarious); two, beyond the subjectivity of mere pop-culture aesthetics, the fact is that when these objets de merde are popular, however long that toxic half-life may be, it's tough to get out of range of the smell.

I've never seen so much as an episode of Survivor, American Idol, or really any reality teevee, and yet a certain amount of "informational" oxygen and media space gets taken up with coverage of this sock-drawer-sorting nonsense, so I know way more about these things than I would ever have wanted to. You can only change the channel so fast; you have to read the headline before you can choose to skip past it. This stuff becomes very difficult to completely avoid. The same can be said when it comes to music, for those poor folks who are compelled to share communal space with aficionados of said dreck.

It's one thing to posit that someone who lurves them some Mambo #5 is no worse or better than someone who knows every Beethoven string quartet by number and key; it's quite another to have the mambophile blaring their crap over the cubicle wall every day.]

Saturday, April 26, 2014

One of the Good Ones

Okay, unbeknownst to y'all, I had made a secret pact with myself to not post anything more about tealoading racist cracker asshole Cliven Bundy, but this was just too good to pass up. If anyone ever does a biographical movie of Alan Keyes, the lead role should be played by Tracy Morgan.

ETA

Yes, if we don't find some way to curb the excesses of the several dozen people who own every goddamned thing of value in this country -- the media, the political system, the modes of production and distribution -- why, we might eventually become an oligarchy. That would be a bad thing, you see.

It doesn't take a history major to see that all countries have always been run in the interests of the majority owners of capital. But it's been a while since there has been such an obscene level of hyper-concentration, of wealth stratification, of the utter lack of upward mobility. What we're experiencing is, in the physics term, called stasis, and is defined in this case by lives of inertia and clutter.

This is an area where hope consistently triumphs over logic; poor and middle-class people are consistently rolled into voting for rich people because they hope to be part of that club, someday, someway. This is a fantasy straight out of a perverted version of Lake Wobegon, where everyone is good-looking and all the children are above-average, where no one ever gets laid off or poisoned by the chemical company up the road, where everyone has the same opportunities, and so forth. It's similar to the fantasy that voting for a fake Republican will produce much better results than voting for a real one.

But let's not shit ourselves, friends 'n' neighbors -- in the sense that all important decisions are made by the same class of people, in the sense that all modes of political discussion and accession are made by the same owners and donors, this is an oligarchy, more so than any time in the last hundred years. It may be slightly more benign than your garden-variety banana republic, or Russia, but only by matters of scale and degree, and where you live, and what socioeconomic or racial background you have. As long as the Albuquerque Police Department doesn't think you might be carrying a joint in your asshole, you should be fine.

Other than that, sure, it's a democracy.

Mommie Dearest

It's easy (and accurate) to pick on the spate of  "celebrity" (or used to be) mothers who write books chock-full o' "parenting" and "lifestyle" advice, usually nonsense about vaccines and toilet training. Mostly these things are just the artifacts of a desiccated cultural landscape, where wealthy, pampered dingbats can preach to the peons about lives of "simplicity" and such.

But what we really should be curious about is, what sort of moron purchases and reads these things? Who are these simpletons out there that think Jenny McCarthy has better ideas about how to raise their children than, hell, just about anyone else on the planet? How does the chick from Clueless show up on the short lists of mothers and mothers-to-be (not to be overly sexist, but I promise you, right here, right now, that no man on the planet is buying any of these books) as a repository of sound advice?

Seriously, now. The problem is not solely that this "advice" comes from people who have, for the most part, lived cosseted lives away from the working-two-jobs-to-survive, one-paycheck-from-the-street reality that most people live. It's that "living well," contra received dingbat wisdom, really does cost more. Good food and good health care, the immediate vitals, cost more. All the ancillary things that add to a quality of life -- roads, schools, jobs, activities, etc. -- those things cost more, because you get what you pay for.

This is what happens when you have a population that is willfully illiterate and innumerate. There are too many people who can no longer parse statistical data, tell it apart from mere anecdata. There are a preponderance of folks out there who cannot critically think, who are simply too lazy to read up on how many different ways the "anti-vax" legends have been debunked.

Worst of all, this is what happens when you have a swath of people out there who can barely find their intemellectual asses in a dark room with both hands and a flashlight, but will hang their hopes and opinions on someone they've heard of, some D-lister who was on that show a million years ago, or who used to be famous for showing her tits. (Five years ago, my response to Surgeon General McCarthy would simply have been, "shut up and take your top off," but she's been so heavily sculpted and botoxed at this point, it would be like looking at a plastic fuck doll.)

Really, much to the chagrin of this bullshit "parenting and lifestyle" industry, you do not need a parenting book at all. Maybe good old Dr. Spock if you really must, but so much of it is just common sense. Apparently Voltaire was an optimist on that count.

Having children is one of the things humans do better and more than just about anything else they do; rearing children is simply a matter of considering their interests at the same or higher level than your own. Looking to some useta-be-famous name for help is just a failure of attention and thought.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

On Golden Pawn

Ahahahaha. I bet you're all shocked that tealoading welfare rancher Cliven (not to be confused with Al or Ted) Bundy turns out to be just what you could easily assume -- an old racist cracker. The militia movement is not known, shall we say, for its holistic outlook toward non-whites. This was entirely predictable.

The stupid-ade to made from this particular bushel of stupid is the fun of watching all of Bundy's erstwhile conservalibertarian buddies at Faux News and in Congress running away from him even more quickly than they tried to hitch their rhetorical wagons to his "cause". Even better is Bundy's apparent confusion -- not only has he no clue what he said that might be objectionable, but he doesn't yet understand what his role in this really is.

As barmy and self-serving as I found the video of Bundy ridin' the range wavin' a giant US flag -- again, you know, the banner that represents a gubmint that Bundy has pronounced to every microphone and knothole that he don't believe in, consarn it -- it provides the most important clue to what makes this clown tick.

Bundy seriously believes that he is the hero of his personal saga, his kampf, his jihad (settle down now; both those words mean the same thing: struggle), and so when people like Sean Hannity and Rand Paul flock to his side in a show of support, it validates Bundy's narcissism. It confirms his thesis, that he (Bundy) is an avatar of absolute good and right, while the gubmint and its nefarious agents are soulless minions serving an ineffable evil.

It will sink in through the five gallons of shit in the ten-gallon hat at some point, that Bundy is simply a totem of convenience, a game piece to be used for teevee ratings, to help burnish the libertarian small-gov street cred of a probable presidential contender. It served their respective purposes to attach themselves to Bundy's grievances, for their own perpetually aggrieved audiences.

“I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro.” Yeah, there's no way for anyone to start an idea with such a sentence, and have it end well. Some people just insist on being damned fools, determined to make asses of themselves at any given opportunity. But Bundy, unfortunately, vocalizes a sentiment and assumption that of course has much traction in certain circles.

For people constantly on the hunt for welfare cheats and grifters, lounging in their skivvies and cranking out litters of dependents, these sorts of passive-aggressive, more-in-sorrow-than-anger claims provide small cover for their incipient racism. Now, to be sure, there certainly do exist some folks who, across multiple generations, indeed have been enabled by Great Society programs into a cycle of dependency. I work in social services, and I've seen such people, talked to them, seen their files. I've seen entire families who have been almost completely on the dole for four generations.

But here's the thing -- in the county where I live and run across these folks, they're mostly white. In fact, on the national level, recipients of services are almost equally split between white, black, and Hispanic. So Bundy's comment and assumption is disgusting not just on the obvious face value, but on multiple levels.

What would Bundy's advice to a white family who lives in the squalorous, idle conditions he decries? He can't "wonder" aloud whether they'd be happier, freer, more productive under a system of legal torture, rape, and murder. Probably tell 'em they just need them more Jee-zus, the sure cure for everything from layoffs, to working three jobs to keep your rat-infested apartment, to the heartbreak of psoriasis.

Hopefully this episode helps take the piss out of these would-be secessionist assholes, as well as the demagogues who try to utilize them for their own opportunistic schemes. You know it won't, it never quite does, but the next one of these jerkoffs that pops up will get more well-deserved scrutiny of their underpinning sentiments. Let's not kid ourselves -- a good chunk of these groups, whether they'll ever admit it or not, really just want to break away into their own all-white enclaves.

[Update 4/24/14 10:45 PDT:  Credit where credit is due. Krauthammer makes it absolutely clear why Cliven Bundy's (repeated) statements are so execrable, front to back. The guy is finally (and rightly) getting hung up on his racist sentiments, but the fact is that his traitorous jabber should been identified as such well before that point, by people who should have known better. In a just world, this would at least put a fat dent in Hannity's ratings and career as well, but you know it won't. He'll just burble some half-assed "I didn't know, and besides, the BLM are still dicks and thugs" non-apology. Anyway, good for Charles K on this one. Hell, even Glenn Beck (no small thing, as Bundy is a fellow Mormon) seems to have gotten out in front of this one.]

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Resource Allocation

I know this has been covered elsewhere, and even featured on Homeland, but it is still fascinating. Ordinarily, the hard-wired misanthrope coursing my veins would compel me to shrug and say "fuck 'em," but I'm in awe of the ingenuity and fortitude of these folks. We jabber about wealth inequity and poverty in the US, but it ain't jack shit to what goes on routinely in the rest of the world.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Home On Derange

So professional asshole Sean Hannity and his comically large head have made welfare rancher and incoherent goofball Cliven Bundy into some sort of martyr -- for what, besides not paying his grazing fees for over 20 years, I have no idea.

One can acknowledge possible additional sides to Bundy's story -- such as how much he was recompensed when the BLM took his land in 1993, or if Rory Reid really does have some sort of sweetheart deal in the works to purchase neighboring land for a Chinese-owned solar farm (answer: he doesn't) -- but there's no excusing the crazy that Bundy and his whackjob cohort have escalated this to. There's no excusing would-be militiamen who openly bragged about using their wives and daughters as human shields, if the BLM agents opened fire. There's no rationalizing the desire these goofballs nurse, to have this situation turn into a Ruby Ridge or Waco.

And there's no getting around that fact that Bundy seems to think he's the living reincarnation of John Fucking Wayne, a smirking narcissist who can't get his story straight about whether he obeys a state government (whose state constitution professes that the federal government is the absolute authority), or rides the range hoisting a giant American flag, banner of a government Bundy smugly proclaims that he doesn't acknowledge the existence of.

The feds weren't going to win this one any which way -- if they had pressed beyond tasing Bundy's adult idiot son, they ran the risk of an armed standoff, but almost as bad, they just showed that they will back down when confronted, that a bunch of surly galoots with an imaginary axe to grind can scare them off. Look for more of these to start popping up, at least as long as the black guy is in the White House.

In the meantime, as always, enjoy yet another meaningless spectacle of armed buffoons going apeshit over something that has nothing to do with them. This is the same species of dunce that self-actualized their stance on "free speech" by waddling down to Chick-Fil-A, and joining a Facebook page to "stand with" a fake hillbilly millionaire who sells them overpriced duck calls and cheap branded shit at Walley World.

The Big Bunk Theory

Some say a comet will fall from the sky, followed by meteor showers and tidal waves.
Followed by faultlines that cannot sit still. Followed by millions of dumbfounded dipshits.
-- Tool,├ćnema


Articles about poll outcomes, especially ones that have sociocultural elements to them, are always problematic and incomplete. What was the sample size, and the geographic range thereof? What was the phrasing of the question(s)? Margin of error, confidence level?

All that said, no doubt we each know enough bona-fide bozos, proud of their nincompoopery, to at least intuit that even if the numbers might be a bit hinky, there is still a substantial -- and any size is unacceptable, but this is a number probably large enough to sway elections -- swath of folks who fall into this range of shameless intellectual boobism.

Certainly there is a measurable correlation between political "conservatism," or what passes for it these days, and the stubborn refusal to believe the findings of scientific method and empirical observation, or to even understand what those things are, and what they mean. And there is additional correlation between those things, and having a regressive, anachronistic outlook on the world, informed by whatever hodgepodge of religious dogma insinuates itself through their transoms and into their brain stems.

But religion and politics only partially explain this phenomenon; one does not have to look too far back or around to find examples of believers and/or conservatives who still understood the scientific role in explaining the mechanics behind physical and natural conditions. Perhaps the most pernicious part of all this is how the average 'murkin has actively distanced themselves from what used to be conventionally understood and accepted principles of arguing a point, and mustering facts and analysis to support that point.

It scarcely bears mentioning that there is no real forum for "debate" any more -- you either have the staid, canned bullshit of the Sunday morning political follies, hacks trotting out stale arguments that have the veneer of thought, but always end up in support of the insect overlords; or you have the pro-wrasslin' cable bonobos flinging shit at everything within reach of the monkey house. Whoever's loudest, or the biggest asshole, wins.

Most of the time, we prefer scoreboards to tell us who the winner is in a contest. Probably only on matters of scientific consensus are people so willing, so eager, to toss the literally 99% of career scientists who have weighed in with peer-reviewed data and observations on things such as evolution, climate change, the age of the earth, how the universe was formed and expanded. Suddenly a statistically overwhelming proportion, an almost unanimous response of individuals who have spent the majority of their lives studying this stuff, is cynically cast as corrupt, suspect, and therefore meaningless.

That's the downside of the internets, empowering drooling morons with the ability to sharpen their electronic crayons and inflict their ignorance on everyone. It's much easier to spout nonsense and conjecture, raise idle speculation, than to actually read up on the subject one is attempting to dispute. Obviously, it affects our ability to compete in areas such as science and engineering, as well as leaving these sorts of folks vulnerable to the cheapest demagoguery. It explains a great deal, though; if you're still wondering how people can be so easily bamboozled into voting against their own rational self-interest, not just once but every goddamned time, there ya go. They're gullible because they want to be gulled.

As in politics, it is of little use to attempt to convince them, best to ignore them if at all possible. It's a strange irony that the most ignorant tend to be in the most vulnerable areas, and when the deluge comes, whether literal or figurative, suddenly they may decide to learn to swim. See you down in Arizona Bay.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

This Week In Stupid

There are a multitude of legitimate arguments to made against the idea of Hillary Rodham Clinton becoming preznit of these here Untied States [sic]. Not one of them is that she will be a grandmother this time next year.

I know we're supposed to agree -- and I think we all really do agree -- that this sort of Entertainment Tonight type of newz burbling should be instantly marginalized. It's completely unacceptable outside the Hoda 'n' Kathie Lee gettin'-yer-swerve-on housewife porn that afflicts the teevee Morning Zoo shows.

While this gentle bloggery will most likely not be in operation come the benighted Year of Our Bored 2016, you can see some of the reasons why right here and now. For one, I despise, right down to the cellular level, the prospect of Hillary! versus Jeb! being presented as some sort of legitimate choice, that that is the best this nation can do. And that probably north of two billion dollars will be expended in the investiture of one of these toadying dynastic creatures, that there is an entire industry set up to legitimize the installation of whoever manages to give Shelly Adelson the best head as someone who will do a fucking thing for anyone besides themselves, their donors, and their ideological dependents.

But more, much more than all that mere fluff and folderol, I fucking hate with a white-hot passion anyone who thinks they can and should turn an honest buck by "raising" such idiotic "questions" about Hillary Clinton's impending grandmother-dom in the guise of honest gumshoe journamalism. Such people should be ignored immediately and permanently, until they land in the l'enfer c'est les autres cauldron of shit that is E! News.

All Poodles Are Dogs, But Not All Dogs Are Poodles

I've seen Ayaan Hirsi Ali in a number of interview and panel segments over the years, and I get where this writer is coming from, in that Hirsi Ali is one of the more caustic critics of Islam in general, and militant Islamists in particular. I suppose having one's clitoris forcibly removed, and having a friend murdered in the street, with a death threat to oneself attached to said murder victim, will sort of do that to a person.

That said, it is a crude comparison at best to categorize the collective lumping of over a billion individuals in with the few thousand most violent practitioners, with anti-Semitic or anti-gay criticisms. It shouldn't even need to be said that, while perhaps Jews and gays no longer face the horrors of genocide or systematic violence, it really hasn't been all that long since they did face those things (and in fact still do in many countries -- how are gays faring these days in, say, Uganda or Iran?).

It is not fair to insinuate that all Muslims are responsible for the actions of a small but virulent percentage of lunatics, but when seemingly nothing at all is said or done in that regard, it doesn't absolve them from any responsibility whatsoever to address the issue. The experiences Hirsi Ali has endured in her life, both from outdated "cultural" traditions and from ideological fanatics, are real, and for many areas in the world, still normative. I mean, ten bucks to the first person who can guess the religion of the folks behind this, or this.

I don't know what to make of people who emigrate to other countries that already have long-established legal systems, and expect those new places to conform to the female-hating third-world holes they left behind. It can be difficult to parse cultural norms from religious precepts in many instances, but uh, I can assure you that as a decadent, hedonistic westerner, I am a great deal more offended by the consistent treatment of women as illiterate chattel, than they are by a satirical drawing of the prophet (PBUH). But since I am a rational person, and not guided and goaded by this or that collection of Levantine folk tales and regressive sky-buddy whispering, I can fight their bad ideas with better ideas, and still express my resentment at my own gubmint thinking that it can and should handle the situation with a fleet of killbots raining hell on villages. Some of these folks seem not to have made that seemingly modest intemellectual leap.

It might be more productive for concerned Muslims to address the fanatics in their attic already, instead of raising false equivalences about what sort of speech is offensive, as if the typical respective reactions to being offended were remotely the same -- someone maybe losing their job for talking shit about Jews or gays, versus riots and violence over comic strips and movies.

Off-topic but still fun, given the post title:  the one and only Ken Ham discourses on poodles.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

It's Not a Bug, It's a Feature

The latest and greatest from the most transparent administration evar:
This week, it came to light that a small error in the open-source OpenSSL implementation of the SSL encryption protocol opened a gaping hole in the security of hundreds of thousands websites and networking equipment across the Net—and that hole had been wide open and exploitable for years. Passwords could be easily grabbed. User names matching those passwords could be easily grabbed. Heck, userdata could be easily grabbed. The “Heartbleed” moniker attached to the devastating bug seemed all too apt.

And Friday afternoon, Bloomberg reported that the National Security Agency has been aware of and actively exploiting the Heartbleed bug for at least two full years, citing “two people familiar with the matter.”

....

Leaked NSA documents provided to reporters by Snowden have revealed an agency casting a wide—and often domestic—surveillance dragnet, spying on American emails and web searches, gobbling up metadata from smartphones en masse, and even tapping into the internal communication infrastructures of Internet giants like Yahoo and Google.

A September Snowden-supplied revelation revealed that the NSA can easily defeat many of today’s encryption technologies, and in an aside that now seems precognizant, the SSL protocol was then rumored to be a particular favored target for the Agency.
Keep that in mind next time you're "choosing" between Candidate Coke and Candidate Pepsi.

Offensensitivity

Perhaps because the majority of the country has changed so much and so quickly on the issue, "gay marriage" is developing a set of meta-issues, and rather absurd ones at that. Now the question is longer whether discriminating against gay couples bears the same nasty whiff that discriminating against interracial couples did 40-50 years ago.

The most recent and persistent epiphenomenon is the martyrdom meme, perhaps best characterized in the self-imposed travails of Duck Dynasty honcho Phil Robertson and Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich, the latter who was forced to resign for his contribution to California's Proposition 8 campaign back in 2008. So now Conor Friedersdorf's correspondent seems to epitomize the sort of person who feels aggrieved at whatever chilling effect is supposed to have taken place, as far as "allowing" what the aggrieved feel is legitimate difference of opinion.

And so it is, to a certain extent. Ostensibly, one of the great strengths of this country is that everyone has the right to be wrong, and even to be an asshole about it, so long as said opinion picks no pockets and breaks no arms. And that's where the problem arises, since in more than half of US states, you can be fired just for being gay in the first place, forget trying for a supposedly meaningless equal right to get married.

Nothing in life is absolute, and this applies to the Bill of Rights as well; you can't yell "fire" in a crowded theater, and you can't bring an assault rifle into a courthouse. There are balances that are struck all along the way in these sorts of debates, and hey guess what -- the First Amendment doesn't apply to companies and places of work. You can be an asshole, and other people can call you such. That's how it works.

That means that you can -- and should -- be fired from your job if you, say, host a website that advocates race war or features the crushing of small animals for the amusement of fucking creeps, even if such things happen not to be against the law (inexplicably, in the latter instance). You can, in fact, be fired from your job just for saying something impolitic, if your boss happens to feel that said speech costs the company sales and revenue. This is not exactly a secret or a surprise, and yet here you have grown-ass adults genuinely shocked that their sincerely, deeply held spiritual beliefs do not automatically grant them immunity from the consequences of discourse.

That's at least part of the reason why so many of us choose to blog in relative anonymity -- not to completely absolve ourselves from any and all consequences of what we might say out here on the internets, but because we are aware that even if we say something that is logical and accurate, we can still be held liable for it, if it has an adverse (or even a potential or perceived) impact on any organization we might be part of.

This particular issue is an opportunity to examine the idea that one's beliefs, no matter how sincere, do not automatically immunize them from participating in the same verbal scrum as the rest of us. I promise you, the small hint of opprobrium, of "hate" and "fear" as the CF correspondent put it, is a drop in the bucket compared to what "outsider" groups have felt even in the last generation or two, from gays to atheists to civil rights and antiwar protesters.

I think those folks and many others would find the idea hilarious, that someone could say something they have a pretty good idea will hit a significant portion of people the wrong way, and still expect to be exempt from even legitimate criticism (as opposed to, you know, the discrimination and violence that many dissenting groups have routinely faced). It may not be 100% "fair" to ostracize or fire someone for voicing the "wrong" opinion, but it is also not the duty of the rest of society to wait around for these people to start unpacking their ideological baggage, and letting it go, once and for all.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Poetry Corner

Apropos of very little, check out the verses of inspiration from one of Edroso's commenters. That's just awesome right there.

Blast from the Past

In combing through nearly a full decade of posts to assemble a decent compilation of the antics that have transpired here, I'm finding a lot of past nuggets that are worth resurrecting. So call it "Throwback Thursday" or whatever, but here is the first what will be a weekly (or so) revisiting of a classic post.


Atlas Smugged

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Kiss of Debt

The band Kiss (or, as The Army would have it, KISS) occupy a rather odd place in my musician's psyche. During their prime, I never really understood the appeal, comic-book splashes of fake fire and fake blood over cheesy chord progressions and thinly veiled cock rock.

Then they fell for the disco schtick, and even produced a poorly-received concept album, well after the whole "concept album" idea was dead and buried. Too bad, so sad. The smart kids had moved on to Rush, who somewhat ironically had gotten their big break as the opening act on one of Kiss' tour legs at their commercial height.

But as I got into actually playing in front of crowds, seeing what they wanted and what they tended to be attuned to, the whole cheesy package started to make more sense. Every band sells out to some degree, and even total sellouts such as Kiss still had points where they wanted to flex nuts and show chops and such.

Enter Vinnie Vincent, one of the more contentious, prickly folks to inject himself into what is (you'll be surprised to find) a rather people-oriented business. As a kid in the early '80s with a voracious appetite for any and all types of music, and a fairly photographic memory for notable quotes and quirky tics, to me Vincent stood out as the sort of person who seemed to be on a mission to make the blustery wunderkind Yngwie Malmsteen look quiet and contemplative.

As you can see from the embedded solo video from the RS article, Vincent's playing falls under the classic proto-shred grouping of jizz-lobbing, monkey-spanking speed dabblers, who had never heard of "taste" and barely bothered with tone, thinking that some distortion and a furious flapping of fingers would compensate for a lack of imagination and musicality. It's the sort of stuff that made This is Spinal Tap so true to life. At least Malmsteen actually had considerable tone, taste, and melodic sensibility to back up his arrogant demeanor.

Hair metal actually progressed pretty quickly along that decade, in terms of musicianship -- on the one hand, you had shredders like Paul Gilbert, Nuno Bettencourt, and Vito Bratta throwing down innovative, technically proficient melodies; on the other, you had "feel" players like Slash and Mick Mars, who were really great players in the mold of Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page, but overshadowed by the singers they worked with, and the drama of their bands. I can give you a list of great players from that era, makeup and all, but personally, Vincent would not be on that list. He was a dick in interviews, deliberately so, and again his playing was just a random flurry, a buzzing hive of bees.

Still, musical criticism aside, Vincent's story since getting kicked out of Kiss is interesting, weird, sad, almost poignant.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Teaching Americans Geography

From the WaPo Monkey Cage:
On March 28-31, 2014, we asked a national sample of 2,066 Americans (fielded via Survey Sampling International Inc. (SSI), what action they wanted the U.S. to take in Ukraine, but with a twist: In addition to measuring standard demographic characteristics and general foreign policy attitudes, we also asked our survey respondents to locate Ukraine on a map as part of a larger, ongoing project to study foreign policy knowledge. We wanted to see where Americans think Ukraine is and to learn if this knowledge (or lack thereof) is related to their foreign policy views. We found that only one out of six Americans can find Ukraine on a map, and that this lack of knowledge is related to preferences: The farther their guesses were from Ukraine’s actual location, the more they wanted the U.S.  to intervene with military force.

When we talk about things that are literally impossible to parody, and are really just too pathetic to contemplate, this is what we're referring to. But it explains a lot.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Clowns to the Left of Me, Jokers to the Right

You know, I get what Steve is saying here, and to some extent I actually agree. But goddamn, at some point the truly librul animals have to by god rear up on their hind legs and demand a genuinely transformative figure, rather than one that merely put on a good show of it on the campaign trail (such as Obama), not to mention a neocon warmonger whose only redeeming trait is that she's not quite part of whatever wretched clown car the Adelson wing of the Privilege party will put together in about 18 months.

In other words, if you want something better, you are going to have to insist on it and fight for it. The self-congratulatory rear-guard rhetorical volleys against the (barely existent) micro-claque of bien pensant pwoggies and Naderista holdouts will do fuck-all in the creeping face of corporate fascism. Citizens United opened the floodgates, and McCutcheon will prop them open -- by 2020, probably well before then, "Democrats" and "Republicans" will be replaced in all but name with more accurate Game of Thrones-sounding terms such as "Sorosians" and "Adelsonians."

This is not schtick, folks, this is fact. Winter has been coming for quite some time, and now it is here with a vengeance. The notion that Obama might give more of a shit than John Boehner or Ted Cruz is useless if nothing gets done in that regard, beyond the usual hand-wringing and cheap DFH-punching.

I mean, what does Hillary being "our best shot" entail, really, a face that's slightly less red in tooth and maw for the remainder of the working class? "Our best shot" at what, and who is the implied we in the word our, anyway? Only the very rich and the very poor have any real representation at this point; everyone else is simply a milch cow for the partaking thereof. People vote Democrat at this point because they think the ongoing predation will be held in at least slight abeyance. The chickens are still voting for Colonel Sanders, mind you; they're just getting a day or so reprieve from their inevitable fate.

These fuckers want your soul, and it's really up to you whether you deed it over to them or not. At least in the past, politics was somewhat transactional; you give me your loyalty and I'll make sure your job stays intact. Now it's more along the line of "give me your first-born and maybe I won't donkey-punch what's left of your job, your town, and your pension fund, because the other guy is even more of a sociopath." So what do we (to the extent that there is a "we" anymore, kemosabe) proles propose to do about any (much less all) of this?

Pissing away precious time and energy rallying against this or that random idiot who says something impolitic about gay people seems a poor substitute for taking back what's left of one's country. On the other hand, as I've been saying, Costa Rica seems quite nice.

#raceforbutthurt

Three things worthy of note this past week, that perhaps aptly characterize the scope and extent of putatively librul activism.

One is the high-tech mau-mauing of Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich. One of Eich's misfortunes is that he bears an eerie resemblance to a Despicable Me minion; the other is that he contributed $1000 of his own money to the repulsive (and ultimately repudiated) Proposition 8 referendum in 2008, to ban gay marriage in California.

Second is the #CancelColbert Twitter campaign launched against well-known satirist Stephen Colbert. Colbert's deliberately obnoxious and offensive (and, for that matter, rather outdated) sendup of Asian stereotypes, straight out of Mickey Rooney's Breakfast at Tiffany's praybook, rankled a college student with more time than sense on her hands. Hilarity, as it is wont to do, ensued.

Finally, the recent Supreme Court decision to openly legitimize what any sentient observer already knew -- that there is gambling going on at the casino, and rich assholes own and run the political system for their own benefit -- ruffled the Thanksralphers feathers one more blessed time, like a random breeze blowing up their skirts. Fourteen years later and the wound is no less fresh for them.

One tough guy suggested that said decision be branded into the forehead of everyone who voted for Big Bad Ralph way back when. Because everyfuckingthing that has transpired this benighted new millennium, from 9/11 to the Democrats' spineless acquiescence in the Iraq War to the heartbreak of psoriasis, sprang forth from the font of Nader's malignant narcissism.

To which I say, one, bring it, motherfucker, soon as you get your extra-chinned self away from I Can Haz Cheezburger, but you should probably pack a lunch; two, you have a hell of a lot of branding to do, since (repeat after me ad nauseam) almost thirteen times as many registered Democrats in Florida voted for Bush than for Nader. Logic would stipulate that even if one construed a vote for Nader as an indirect vote for Bush (it wasn't), surely only a burbling halfwit could misunderstand that a vote for Bush was a direct vote for Bush. Funny how they never ever break out the pitchforks for that one. There's a clue in that somewhere.

But more to their feeble point:  It wasn't Nader's fault that Gore was such a shit candidate he couldn't even win his own home state. Nor was it Nader's fault that, when push came to shove and Florida's dangling chads were hotly contested, Gore decided to demand a recount he thought he'd win (rather than one he probably would have won), and then conceded anyway.

And let's not forget what a soulless ratfucker Holy Joe Lieberman turned out to be. Still better than Dick Cheney, but that's like saying that chlamydia is "better" than syphilis. The endless whinging does not change the stone fact that the Democrats' manifest failures cannot all -- or even much -- be laid at the feet of Ralph Nader. True story.

But let's not rehash the epic travails and endless, heroic quests of the N8r b8rz any more than we have to. Let's look at the larger picture here. The outbursts over Eich, Colbert, the McCutcheon decision, what do they all have in common? An utter lack of focus and perspective, for one. Say what you will about the stupid conservatool outbursts over idiotic things such as Chick-Fil-A and Duck Dynasty, the fact is that when they want to, those fuckers mobilize. It's silly shit, but they show up anyway, at least at first, and at least enough to get picked up and noticed in the lamestream media they so roundly despise.

Certainly Brendan Eich stepped on his own dick by failing to explain himself sufficiently when he had the chance, lamely claiming that he didn't want to be pushed by activists into having to delve into his private political sentiments. But by all accounts, Mozilla runs a pretty clean shop, as far as equal treatment for gays is concerned. Also, too, they won, supporters of gay marriage, and rightly so. The country is coming to its senses on this issue, and will be the better for it. It's not as if Eich played the part of Bull Connor or Lester Maddox, handing out ax handles to thump every hommasekshul in sight. It was a thousand bucks, six years ago.

I submit that if one were of liberal sentiment and potent influence on these here internets, and one wanted to get the most bang for their ideological buck, as it were, one might choose different targets. Targets that matter, for starters. Where are the concerted hashtag efforts to push congress-critters into making corporations pay taxes; where are the #CancelAdelson or #CancelKoch campaigns, with nice laundry lists of the things those assholes own and sell (aside from, you know, people and influence) so that like-minded folks can, como se dice, boycott those motherfuckers?

No. Let's go after some techie slapdick, let's go after Stephen Colbert, let's go through yet another round of urban wailing over Ralph Nader's capital transgressions in the previous millennium. Good grief, from climate change to income inequality to poaching to overpopulation to the oppression of women and the trafficking of children to the open theft of this country's political system, there are a multitude of issues over which one can get one's panties into a death-dealing wad. Yet these other non-issues are the things they choose to get jiggy with, and over.

I'm embarrassed for these people, since they don't have the good sense to be ashamed of themselves. All that righteous anger and technical expertise could and should be harnessed to a team of Clydesdales, instead it's tethered to a yappy, ankle-biting Chihuahua.

[Update 4/7/14: Also, too.