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Saturday, February 07, 2009

Loser With a Capital L

MSNBC was showing footage of John McCain giving a speech against the stimulus bill. Two things occurred to me:

1) He's still as bald as he has been since the 80s and the comb over is still as transparent. (Just For Men might help make the overgrown strands more opaque, but we already know the dude is balder than a porn star's snatch.)

2) He still probably doesn't know how many houses he has.

His opinion is clearly something we should seek, and listen very carefully to...

When is a Libertarian Not a Libertarian...When They're Dumb

Glenn Reynolds links approvingly to a Forbes story about how public sector workers get a better deal than private sector workers. I'll just quote some of the stuff Glenn quoted:
In private-sector America your job, assuming you still have one, hangs on the fate of the economy. If your employer ever offered a pension for life, like young officer Goss is receiving, odds are it has stopped doing so, or soon will. Those retirement accounts you scrimped and saved to assemble? Unless they are invested in Treasurys, they aren’t doing too well. In private-sector America the math leads to the grim prospect of working longer and living poorer.

In public-sector America things just get better and better. The common presumption is that public servants forgo high wages in exchange for safe jobs and benefits. The reality is they get all three. State and local government workers get paid an average of $25.30 an hour, which is 33% higher than the private sector’s $19, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Throw in pensions and other benefits and the gap widens to 42%.
And this is supposed to be a bad thing?

Oh, I know, public-sector workers are paid with tax dollars, which is a bad thing because...well, I'm not sure exactly why everything funded by tax dollars is bad, but that's an article of faith for a lot of folks. (Wasting taxpayer money is bad, yeah, but that's not the same thing as spending tax dollars.)

But if you were to look at this from the perspective of the generic worker, going the public route seems like a pretty good deal. You're paid a decent wage. You get pretty good healthcare and a decent retirement. In fact, according to Forbes, you'll be doing 42% better than the private sector!

Sign me up!

Because "working longer and living poorer" doesn't really sound like something I want to do. Especially "on principle."

Friday, February 06, 2009

Whitewater - Kyuss

Nowadays I'm experiencing a weird convergence of Friday being the actual end of my week. This hasn't happened in a long time.

It gives me the opportunity to participate in the Random Friday Ten again, although since the idea didn't occur to me until about 15 minutes before I'm supposed to start my evening commute, it's going to have to be the Random Friday One.

This song came up randomly while I was in the shower and I was reminded, not for the first time, how much I love it. To me, this is the sound of the landscape whipping by in the windows during a long trip.

Oh sunshine
Though love and beauty pass me by
Should I waste my time
In your valley, beneath your skies?

RockNRolla

What: Guy Ritchie's movie RockNRolla

Who: The usual ensemble, this time with Gerard Butler, Idris Elba, Thandie Newton, Mark Strong, Tom Wilkinson, Jeremy Piven, Ludacris, and Karl Roden.

Why: Cuz it's a damn good flick.

If you like British gangster movies, and I love British gangster movies, then you really can't do any better than RockNRolla. Actually you probably can, but until then, RockNRolla will do. It's funnier than Snatch, better crafted than Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels. And way better than those other two movies Guy Ritchie did.

Again, we have the formula. A hodge podge of interconnected gangsters and hoodlums. The MacGuffin, in this case, is a painting that you never see, and it changes hands throughout the film.

Hilarity ensues. People die. Witty dialogue is spoken. And, perhaps not by chance, some great performances are captured.

Mark Strong, as henchman Archie, was particularly good. He's set up as the villain through most of the proceedings, but he comes off as very likeable. Tom Wilkinson, on the other hand, is despicable from the start, so despicable you almost wonder how he could organize a criminal enterprise.

Gerard Butler and Idris Elba, as well as lesser-known Tom Hardy, serve mostly as the comic relief. Calling themselves the Wild Bunch, they engage in a couple poorly executed robberies and almost get themselves killed, mugging the whole time. Idris Elba is allowed to speak with his native accent and Gerard Butler is allowed to take advantage of his natural goofiness. It's great.

And Thandie Newton, she never looked better. Smoking hot, and she too embraces the funny. Just look at her dance moves.

This one, I highly recommend. Five stars. Two thumbs up. Four out of five dentists agree.

Sounds

For today's multimedia experience...

This is the sound my computer makes when booting up. (The little bit of foreign language and the explosion really sells it.)

This is the sound that's been in my head all day. (My favorite part from my favorite number from Repo! The Genetic Opera. The context: The Repo Man sings his thoughts to his long-dead wife, Marni, about their daughter Shilo.)

This is one of my favorite lines from Guy Ritchie's latest, RocknRolla. If you had given up on Guy Ritchie after he met Madonna, you might want to re-consider. As my next post will demonstrate.

Misplaced Priorities

Republicans are funny. They're against spending taxpayer money to provide healthcare to underprivileged kids, but spending taxpayer money on CEO bonuses? Well, that's cool with them.

Seriously:
"Because of their excesses, very bad things begin to happen, like the United States government telling a company what it can pay its employees. That's not a good thing in America," Kyl told the Huffington Post.

"What executives have done is troubling, but it's equally troubling to have government telling shareholders how much they can pay the executives," said Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL).
No, Senator Martinez, that's not "equally troubling."

What's troubling is that Republicans are still trying to figure out how to pay CEOs. Fuck the CEOs.

Stimulus Nonsense

I've spent the last couple hours listening to the cable news channels (CNN and MSNBC) talk about the stimulus bill. The folks on Morning Joe are crazy. You hear Joe Scarborough harp on bipartisanship and you want to slap him.

Joe, the guys who write a blank check for bringing freedom and democracy to a foreign country in the Middle East can not get all stingy when it comes to spending money on actual Americans. What principle is at work there?

And Mika, when you ask, "What's the rush?" you really need to look around. Don't ask "What's the rush?" when each week brings a new wave of bankruptcies, foreclosures, job cuts, stock losses, et cetera. "What's the rush???"

Doh! CNN just announced the job loss numbers. The United States lost 598,000 jobs, raising the national unemployment rate to 7.6%. Oh no, no urgency there.

It takes a long time to starve to death.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Repo! The Genetic Opera

Not only did I watch Repo! The Genetic Opera, one of this year's most panned film releases, but I fucking loved it.

Mark Olsen of the L.A. Times called it "bad -- not good-bad, tacky-bad or fun-bad, just plain awful and nearly unwatchable."

Yes, it's true: the thing is awful. I don't recommend it because I don't want you to watch it and say to yourself, "What was he thinking?"

This one, no matter what, is going to be up to your personal taste. This one is no where near my personal taste --a goth musical with Paris Hilton, you're kidding, right?-- but it does have murder and gore and guitars.

It also has way too much story, not enough character development, and some horrible acting. The music? Meh, most of it's crap. There's maybe three good numbers (out of 57), but at least it takes that "opera" thing seriously.

As to why I like it? I'm not sure exactly. There's those three numbers (and yeah, they're pretty good), and, well, Paris Hilton's face literally falls off, so that's a bonus. I suppose I also like it because it's different, and also because it's strange and inaccessible. It's not some generic mass-market crowd pleaser. It's a grisly rock opera that takes itself seriously whether you're going to or not.

I admire that. But if you find it in your Netflix queue, don't blame me.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Remixing the Rant

You might have listened to Christian Bale's on-set rant against the director of photography messing with his acting mojo, but have you heard the remix? (Earmuff the kids and make sure the boss can't hear.)

I, for one, love it when an obscenity-filled rant gets remixed. Remember O'Reilly?

Monday, February 02, 2009

Steelers Win

Jim, you owe me a beer. And, Shane, you owe me five bucks.

It was a close one, that's for sure.

A few points:

A) Troy Polamalu wasn't much of a factor. I didn't like how he pulled up on Larry Fitzgerald's touchdown, either. He must have been tired.

B) I told you there was something fishy about the refs.

C) Kurt Warner's not bad. He threw for 377 yards and got 3 touchdowns. One costly interception, but that was a fluke. Even Harrison didn't think that one would happen.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Officer Dickhead Returns

I'm currently listening to a eardrum-melting song by Lamb of God called "O.D.H.G.A.B.F.E." which stands for Officer Dick Head Gets A Black Fucking Eye. My first thought was, hey, I know that guy!

My next thought was, I can't understand this song.

Yes, the lyrics are incomprehensible death growl nonsense in the song, but on paper, they're full of stream-of-consciousness poetic imagery:
Feel youth crushed somewhere between concrete and boot,
Another victim of the lower hate.
You are not my god
You think this is funny, don't you, pig?
How the helpless freak squirms
Beneath your state sanctioned soles,
But what is he laughing at?
There was nothing padded about a wagon full of mace.
Rotator cuff hyper extends behind my back ribs
Cracking beneath a rain of sticks and heels
Falling down like the rain outside.

Don't Let the Tabloids Tell You What to Think

I can't believe I'm going to defend Jessica Simpson, but I'm going to do it anyway.

This woman is not fat.
Those pants are just horrible.

The Terrorists Are Cheering (A Long One)

I got a silly e-mail from my aunt titled "The Terrorists Are Cheering: A Conservative's Viewpoint by Bob Steinburg." I have no idea who Bob Steinburg is, but after reading his screed, I'm not so sure he's really a conservative. (A dimwit Bush apologist, sure...conservative? Not so much.)

He starts out with the ticking time bomb scenario:
Imagine: On a clear April morning sometime in the future, U. S. intelligence discovers a plot to blow up a large Midwestern city within the next 30 hours. A terrorist, being held in a federal prison in western Pennsylvania, is awaiting trial and is suspected of having information that would prevent the bombing.

Interrogators feverishly interrogate him. He refuses to talk, knowing there is nothing the government can do to make him cooperate. He is, after all, on American soil. He has rights. And it’s precisely those “rights” that will trump survival of innocent Americans to unknown death, destruction and chaos.
The first paragraph is just silly. As I've demonstrated before, this ticking time bomb scenario is ludicrous.

Yes, it's possible that terrorists may someday have the capability to "blow up a large Midwestern city." It's also possible that we'll find about it in that narrow window of time between when the bomb is set and when it goes off. It's also possible that we'll have a terrorist in custody who has information about it. It's also possible that this information may be helpful in defusing the bomb and saving all those lives. It's also possible that we may have to torture this terrorist to get this needed information out of him.

But it's incredibly unlikely that all of these things click so neatly into place that this will actually happen, so incredibly unlikely that we shouldn't count on it.*

But to hear "conservatives" like Steinburg argue the point, you would think something like this is inevitable. And these "rights" will just get in the way of "saving lives."

Now would be a good time to point out unconservative this viewpoint is.

Exhibit A: The Second Amendment.

Conservatives view the right to keep and bear arms as absolute --it's in in the Constitution-- that can't be taken away or abridged. Pry my weapon from my cold, dead hand and all that. If you were to ask a conservative to relax their right to guns in order to "save lives," they would laugh in your face.

Then (and only then apparently) would you hear a conservative talk about the inviolability of rights. You talk about the right to due process, or habeas corpus, both constitutionally protected rights in their own right, and the argument becomes a little more muddy. "You mean you want to give the terrorists rights?"

(And yes, I realize that this opens me up to questions of "So you want to give terrorists 2nd Amendment rights, huh?" No, I'm just using this as an example to illustrate that there's at least one area where conservatives don't scoff at the concept of "rights." How the Constitution applies to foreign terrorists is much more complicated than "all or nothing.")

Such blatant hypocrisy is one of the many reasons why I can't take the conservative movement seriously.

But there's more from Steinburg that made me go "hmm." Here it is:
This isn’t Vietnam, Korea or World War II when our enemies were clearly defined. While intelligence gathering was important then, it is even more so in this age of the nuclear suitcase bombs, biological warfare and clandestine hacking into government internet sites.
Wait... what "age of the nuclear suitcase bombs, biological warfare and clandestine hacking into government internet sites?" Clandestine hacking, I'll grant, but biological warfare and nuclear suitcase bombs?

Pull your head out of your ass, dude. Excuse me, but the terrorists rely on suicide attacks and crude improvised weapons, not weaponized pathogens or miniaturized nukes.

When will "conservatives" like Steinburg realize that overstating the threat only plays into the terrorists' hands? This is something they need to get over if they are to be taken seriously again.

Yes, after 9-11 it seemed that the terrorists were capable of anything, but if they had mini-nukes and bioweapons, they probably wouldn't have hijacked airplanes and flew them into buildings.

I mean, they want to kill us, right? That's why they used the airplane-as-missile gambit instead of their suitcase nuke. Right...because when I want to do something I choose the least effective method to do it, too.

But wait, there's more!
Human rights activists around the world are concerned about the treatment of anyone held captive. But where are their cries of outrage when our enemies in the Middle East are slitting the throats and/or beheading soldiers and civilian captives? It seems in the world community, anger is often directed only at America.
Well, Mr. Steinburg, here's one from Kofi Annan I found real quick using the Google.

Only you're not gonna like this part, Bob:
The [UN] Secretary-General [Kofi Annan] condemned all killings of innocent civilians in Iraq, "as he condemns all abuse of all prisoners and other violations of international humanitarian law," the spokesman said.
Notice how Annan's statement, soulless in its bureaucrat-ese as it is, is a pretty consistent application of principle. He "condemns all abuse of prisoners and other violations of international humanitarian law."

Steinburg and his ilk, though, condemns some "abuse of prisoners and other violations of international humanitarian law" while justifying others that he finds less egregious.

Anyone with a smidgen of intelligence should not find such slippery arguments persuasive.



* (On the same token, it's possible that you might win the lottery, but you'd probably be best served by trying to make a living by doing something other than buying lottery tickets.)

Michael Phelps - Pussy

I was never on the Michael Phelps bandwagon. Yeah, he won a lot of medals. Yeah, he's a good swimmer. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Mark Spitz did the same thing in the 70s with a mustache and regular human proportions. So what?

Apparently, Phelps was photographed taking a bong rip and had to fess up to it. His response kills me.
I engaged in behavior which was regrettable and demonstrated bad judgment. I'm 23 years old and despite the successes I've had in the pool, I acted in a youthful and inappropriate way, not in a manner people have come to expect from me. For this, I am sorry. I promise my fans and the public it will not happen again.
Mike, Mike, Mike.

This is what you should have said, "Yeah, I took a bong hit. So what?" (See, the phrase has many uses.)

Refuse/Resist

It's a well-documented fact that classic Sepultura is near and dear to my heart, specifically the stuff on Chaos AD and Roots. You might find some band that's heavier, but you won't find one as good.

Anyway, I heard that Hatebreed did a cover of Sepultura's Refuse/Resist for the Punisher War Zone soundtrack and I immediately went out and bought the record downloaded it on bittorrent.

And was immediately disappointed. Hatebreed is an unbelievably heavy band with the chops to do the song justice, but there's something lacking in their version. Jamey Jasta can growl with the best of them, but Max Cavalera has more heart in the original. Matt Byrne is a talented drummer that can bring the thunder, but he's no Igor Cavalera.

All in all, their version is too controlled and contained, heavy yes, but not chaotic or nearly as angry.

The Hatebreed version: (catch it now before it disappears)

And the original: