Thursday, January 03, 2008

Today's Metal Moment

The other day I was listening to some music, my "recently added" folder, and it was blues, blues, blues, blues, blues, because of my blues kick you know, and then Sepultura. I got all giddy and starting playing air drums, feet stomping, head bobbing.

It was refreshing.
The song was actually Roots Bloody Roots but I've posted that video before. So here's Refuse/Resist, a badass song in its own right.

On Iowa


I was hoping that Obama did well in Iowa, not because I think Iowa is all that important but because I was worried he'd drop out of the race if he tanked (like Dodd and Biden did tonight). So I was glad to see him take the top spot.

I was also glad that Edwards took second place and Clinton was third. I wish the margins for Edwards and Clinton was a little wider, say, Clinton in the 20s, but maybe that's too much to ask. (Of course, I'm assuming that a small percentage of her support comes from the less-involved folks who have fond memories of Bill's presidency and think Hillary will be just like him, only this time there will be no Monica. By the same token, I'm assuming that if Hillary had never married Bill and was running as just another experienced Senator that this percentage of support would not exist.)

I was also glad to see Huckabee win, too, and handily, even though I don't like anyone on the Republican side. In many ways, Huckabee is representative of the modern Republican party way more than anyone else. He's got the Jesus cred, the sense of humor and the good old boy schtick. And he's been really successful, not just in getting votes (of which tonight was the first real test) but getting people to talk about him. (Perhaps it doesn't need to be said, but Republicans like success.)

None of that really appeals to me, but I do like that he plays the bass. *1

Mitt Romney, on the other hand, would make a great Ward Cleaver in the remake of Leave it to Beaver, but as the guy you want running the country? After Bush? Oh Lord no. We've had all the hucksterism we can take for a while, thank you.

Fred Thompson and John McCain were pitiful, netting an unlucky 13% a piece. In a lot of minds, Thompson has been working really hard to earn that lazy label, but let's face it, neither of them have any much Jesus in them. McCain's been around long enough to have plenty of Republicans that hate him. I just don't think it's in the cards for either of these guys.

And then there's Rudy. Ole Rudy got just 3% of the vote, less than extremist Ron Paul, with his strange notions of isolationism in a global economy and libertarian utopia. Rudy should quit. He should go back on the lecture circuit. He should spend the rest of his life as the September-11th guy and get his page in the history books and that's it. Fuck this president shit. We already had eight years of an egotistical jackass in the office. We don't need anymore, maybe in the 20s, after the Democrats do their worst, but not now. You're rich, famous, and have lots of friends. What do you care?

And I can't let it go without mentioning Tom Tancredo, who dropped out of the race a while ago but somehow still managed to get five votes. Five votes, 0% of the vote, but 5 votes. But who are these five anonymous voters? Illegal immigration is their main issue obviously, as it was Tancredo's only talking point, but were they ignorant of the fact that Tancredo was no longer running? Or was the illegal immigration issue SO important that they voted for Tancredo anyway, to put it down on paper that they'll vote for the guy who ain't even running because they feel that strongly about the subject.

Honestly, I don't think either possibility can be discounted.

1) Not entirely a joke. If there's one thing all musicians know, even if they're not really aware of it all the time, is that music is about one thing: communication. The ability to communicate, even abstractly as in music, is not a bad quality for a guy to have, no?

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Free Ads Here

Damn it...

I just realized that in my previous post I put Mitt Romney's campaign ad on my blog...for free! And by saying "Check it out," I was basically subjecting my loyal readers and the random Googlers to...a commercial.

I was going to post something about Hillary's charming, soft-focus ad, but said, nah...I don't want to put her ad up, even to dis it. You'll be doing her campaigning for her, like a volunteer, and if you're going to campaign, at least campaign for someone you like.

So I resisted...and then I get home from work and slap together a dis on a Mitt Romney ad. And Mitt Romney is someone I don't like at all.

So here's the frigging Hillary ad. Might as well be fair, right? Might as well contribute to the future of campaigning, where low-cost viral videos help cut the costs of campaigns (and hopefully some of the corruption).
No, I didn't watch the whole thing. Hillary's talking head? BORING.

But I will say this: If ads were eligible for Oscars, this one would surely win best make-up, best costume design, and maybe even best actress (even though it's pretty apparent she's reading from cue cards).

Me, I'd rather have something like this.

Don't Fuck With Chuck

Mike Huckabee had a Chuck Norris video, and now Mitt Romney has one too. Check it out:When asked for comment by reports, Chuck Norris said, "No, I don't roundhouse kick. I choke." (He did!)

CNN says "Romney camp targets Norris on Caucus eve," but it kind of sounds like they're actually going after Huckabee and trying to be funny about Chuck. They fail, I think, but that's only because Huck and Chuck's original ad pretty much killed (in comedic terms) with the joke and now it can't be duplicated. As for Chuck Norris being targeted...bad idea.

Perhaps the Romney Campaign wasn't aware, but the leading causes of death in the United States is cancer, car accidents, and Chuck Norris.

Vote For My Vagina!

This article, and more specifically this thought process, is glaringly stupid:
Hoping to attract female voters in Iowa, Sen. Hillary Clinton may have one very effective weapon -- the opportunity to make history.
You know, I say vote for Obama. Not for history, not because he's black.

But because he's a man.

Yes, I agree, that's dumb. But so is the idea that we should vote for Hillary because she has a vagina.

Words of Wisdom

This is for my buddy Big Daddy, whose having a rough go at the New Year so far.
"Pain or damage don't end the world, or despair, or fucking beatings. The world ends when you're dead. Until then, you've got more punishment in store. Stand it like a man...and give some back."

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

The Tangled Web

I don't have any pretensions of being a journalist. I'm just a dude with a brain and a blog. But last night I was reading about the unsolved murder of Darrent Williams, the Broncos player that was gunned down last New Years by gang members, and started connecting some dots.

A year later, there are suspects but no charges. The good news, if there is any, is that the suspects are currently behind bars, and considering they're facing pretty significant federal drug charges, it's likely they will be kept there for some time, if not the rest of their lives.

These same gang members are also wanted in connection with the attempted-slash-successful murder of Kalonniann Clark. Clark knew Brian Hicks, the leader of the Tre Tre Crips, through family. She was married to his wife's cousin, and in a dispute with the cousin, Hicks apparently shot at Clark outside of a Denver nightclub in the summer of 05. Clark wasn't injured, and she was prepared to testify. A year later, only days before her testimony, she was gunned down in front of her home. Like with the Williams shooting, no charges have been brought in that case, either.

Clark's murder put the crimp on the attempted murder case that the City of Denver had been preparing for Hicks. With their star witness dead, a successful prosecution would be difficult if not impossible, but they soldiered on. Fast forward to October of 2007. Denver District Judge William Robbins dismisses the case. He just tosses the attempted murder charge.

And it was the Feds' fault. Actually, let's get specific here. It wasn't the "Feds." It was US Attorney Troy Eid (rhymes with "tide") who personally refused the request to bring Hicks to court and, to add insult to injury, strictly prohibited federal officers from testifying at the preliminary hearing. If Hicks wasn't able to come to court, he couldn't hear the charges against him, and if he couldn't do that, the case could not proceed.

But why would the Feds intentionally sabotage an attempted murder case by refusing to bring the defendant to court? It seems that they were unhappy that the Denver Police arrested Hicks "prematurely" on a cocaine charge, muddying an apparently massive federal investigation.

Apparently when faced with the choice of protecting Denver's citizenry from a hardcore criminal and protecting the integrity of their investigation, the feds chose the latter. Talk about missing the forest for the trees!

The Denver cops, wisely, didn't let Hicks go, but by doing so they incurred the wrath of US Attorney Troy Eid, who then refused to cooperate. To put it more bluntly, Eid and his investigators have been actively impeding the State's efforts to try Hicks for the various non-drug related crimes he is accused of. (Obstruction of justice, anyone?)

The question then becomes, is Eid really this petty? He didn't like how the city arrested his suspect, so now he's going to fuck their shit up? Or is Eid just an incompetent dumbass? I have no definitive answers, but digging into Eid's background gives me cause to wonder if it's a little bit of both.

As a U.S. Attorney, Troy Eid is a presidential appointee and our president happens to be George W. Bush, a guy whose judgment skills range from bad to non-existent. It's also useful to remember that (apparently) the main requirement for many Bush-appointed US Attorneys was political loyalty (loyal Bushies, they called them) rather than their legal skills. (Congress has been trying to get to the bottom of the US Attorney scandal, but so far "loyal Bushies" have been successful in impeding that investigation, too.)

Also consider this... Bush put Eid's name forward as a US Attorney in 2005, but there were some questions about Eid's involvement with shady lobbying practices and too-close-for-comfort connections to Jack Abramoff, the poster boy of modern lobbyist corruption. Eid withdrew his name during this controversy, saying the process was taking too long, but a year later, his name was submitted again and this time he was confirmed with no quarrel.

But there's something not right about the guy.

He took office on August 11, 2006.

If Kalonniann Clark is to be believed (and her subsequent murder makes her very believable), Brian Hicks attempted to kill her in June of 2005, back when Eid was still helping Greenberg Traurig rip off Indian casinos. (The Feds started investigating Hicks for his drug operation a few months later, around November or December, 05. Eid wasn't the US Attorney yet; William Leone was.)

On November 9th, 2006, during the first few months of Eid's post as USA for Colorado, Brian Hicks was arrested by the Denver PD for carrying 8.8 pounds of cocaine. (8.8 pounds!) Hicks had been under federal surveillance for some time, both a tail and wiretaps, and the federal agents told the DPD to let him go. (Didn't happen though. Hicks remains in custody pending charges to this day.)

December 11, 2006, Kalonniann Clark, is shot outside her home to prevent her from snitching on Hicks for the shooting in June of 05. There are no witnesses. Hicks is in custody at the time on the possession charges and the attempted murder charges from 05, so he's not wanted as the triggerman in the shooting. Dozens of other members of the Tre Tre Crips, potential suspects, are under federal investigation at the time.

January 1, 2007, after an altercation at a nightclub, suspected gangmembers Willie Clark and Daniel Harris (allegedly) open fire on a stretch limo carrying several Broncos and their entourage. Cornerback Darrent Williams is killed. Two other people are wounded. The shooters are driving a white SUV that belongs to Hicks. Hicks, of course, is still in jail and not suspected of any involvement in the shooting. The Tre Tre Crips remain under the watchful eye of federal authorities.

April 26, 2007, a gang task force arrests 49 members of the Tre Tre Crips, including Harris and Clark. Earlier that week, 53 federal drug trafficking indictments are handed down, four of them to suspects already in custody. Brian Hicks is one of the four. "This was an exceedingly difficult and dangerous operation," Troy Eid said at the press conference.

October 16, 2007, attempted murder charges against Hicks stemming from the June 05 shooting are dismissed after Troy Eid denies Hicks access to court in either a) payback or b) territorial bureaucracy. The State doesn't plan to refile any charges against Hicks until after the federal case is finished.

So what do the Feds know about the Tre Tre's web of murder and witness-intimidation? What insights do they have into the murder of Kalonniann Clark and Darrent Williams? Did they have the suspects under surveillance at the time? Could these crimes have been prevented if they acted on them? How involved was Troy Eid in the investigation, considering that he took the job ten months into the investigation, and why is he stymieing the District Attorney in the other cases? (I'm no lawyer, but wouldn't an attempted murder conviction help in the drug trafficking case, and vice versa?)

I don't mean to call into question the entire federal investigation method, but after learning about Troy Eid's shenanigans, someone might want to.

Monday, December 31, 2007

No Sympathy For the Record Companies

In the Washington Post:
In legal documents in its federal case against Jeffrey Howell, a Scottsdale, Ariz., man who kept a collection of about 2,000 music recordings on his personal computer, the industry maintains that it is illegal for someone who has legally purchased a CD to transfer that music into his computer.
Say what?

So let me get this straight, record company lawyers. I have in my collection over 450 legally acquired CDs, some bought brand-new, some bought used, some given to me but paid for by someone else. If you were to average how much all my CDs cost me, on average, I'd have to say $5 a piece, and that's a low estimate, but just for the sake of argument, let's use it and say it cost me about $2,250 to get my hundreds of CDs. (And remember, that's a low estimate.)

So the record companies want to make it illegal for me to protect my investment by burning these CDs on the hard drive of my computer? Because they control the rights to the songs?

Maybe in your house the record companies control your music collection, but in my house, that responsibility is mine and mine alone. I don't need to ask permission from Sony to turn my stereo on or to burn this CD or that CD to my hard drive. They don't have veto power over the volume. They can't prevent me from skipping over a crappy song or listening to the same song twice in a row. They have no say.

They gave that up when they committed the music to tape and then sold it to me for $14.99 retail!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

This is Madness

I found this through several layers of internet separation. First through Boing Boing, then thru The American Prospect, and finally to the source, the Washington Post.

Here's the gist:
Shares in the nation's second-biggest consumer electronics retailer tumbled Friday as investors reacted to a third-quarter loss driven by lower extended-warranty sales and business interruptions that the company blamed on restructuring efforts.
As Dean Baker points out, this is mostly due to poor decisions made by Circuit City's own executive team.
The basic story is that last March, the wise men who run Circuit City came up with the brilliant idea of laying off their more senior salespeople, who get $14-$15 an hour, and replacing them with new hires who get around $9 an hour. It turns out that this move was not very good for business. One of the reasons that people go to a store like Circuit City, rather than buying things on the Internet, is that they want to be able to talk to a knowledgeable salesperson. Since Circuit City had laid off their knowledgeable salespeople, there was little reason to shop there.
Those "knowledgeable salespeople" also played a big part in selling the extended warranties, as I found out when I bought my laptop at Circuit City last year.

The thing that gets me about this story isn't that Circuit City is having problems (who isn't?), nor that their problems are largely the result of poor management decisions. It's this:
Circuit City laid off 3,400 workers in March to replace them with lower-paid new hires. This week, it announced the approval of millions of dollars in cash incentives to retain its top talent after the departure of several key executives over the past year. Executive vice presidents could claim retention awards of $1 million each, and senior vice presidents could get $600,000, provided they stay with the company until 2011, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
This is how it works for the corporate executive. Do a good job, get handsomely rewarded with huge salaries, stock options, corporate perks, and attractive bonuses.

Do a bad job, though...and you get handsomely rewarded with huge salaries, stock options, corporate perks, and attractive bonuses.
Baker puts it thus:
We all know what happens when you mess up in the dog eat dog world of big business -- you get retention awards (that's because your stock options aren't worth anything). The Post reports that Circuit City's executive vice-presidents will get retention awards of $1 million each. That's 35 years worth of pay for one of sales clerks who earned $14 an hour. And that's just the bonus.
In Communist China, this kind of performance would get you executed.

In capitalist corporate America, it's the path to great riches.