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Saturday, September 19, 2009

This Made Me Laugh

The zoom on the camera is increasing.

Typical

Ya know, one of the reasons why I call myself a liberal, side mostly with the left, and slam right-wingers as often as I can is because the right wing, at least the right wing of 21st Century America, is so damn dishonest.

From attributing quotes to people who didn't say them (whether it be Abe Lincoln or Bill Cosby) to making up stuff about birth certificates, crowd size at protests, death panels, or weapons of mass destruction, right wingers routinely lie about and distort the issues of the day.

And they're fucking shameless about it, too. Exhibit A:
WASHINGTON (CNN) — Fox News is under fire for a newspaper ad they purchased Friday that inaccurately accused its competitors, including CNN, of failing to cover last weekend's Tea Party protests in Washington.

"How did, ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, and CNN miss this story?" Fox's newspaper ad asks.

The answer: They didn't.
Imagine that, Fox News proves to be...less than accurate.

New Rule

Before you hit send on the viral political e-mail (usually right wing), check Snopes first.

I got an e-mail from my brother about Bill Cosby's platform for a write-in candidacy. But it sounded more like Glenn Beck than Bill Cosby. Check it out:
(1) 'Press 1 for English' is immediately banned. English is the official language. Speak it or wait at the border until you can.

(2) We will immediately go into a two year isolationist posture to straighten out the country's attitude. NO imports, no exports. We will use the Wal-Mart policy, 'If we ain't got it, you don't need it.'

(3) When imports are allowed, there will be a 100% import tax on it.

(4) All retired military personnel will be required to man one of our many observation towers on the southern border (six month tour). They will be under strict orders not to fire on SOUTHBOUND aliens..

(5) Social security will immediately return to its original state. If you didn't put nuttin in, you ain't gettin nuttin out. Neither the president nor any other politician will be able to touch it.


(6) Welfare - Checks will be handed out on Fridays at the end of the 40 hour school week and the successful completion of urinalysis and a passing grade.

(7) Professional Athletes--Steroids. The FIRST time you check positive you're banned for life.

(8) Crime - We will adopt the Turkish method, the first time you steal, you lose your right hand. There are no more life sentences. If convicted of murder, you will be put to death by the same method you chose for your victim; gun, knife, strangulation, etc.

(9) One export will be allowed, Wheat. The world needs to eat. A bushel of wheat will be the exact price of a barrel of oil.

(10) All foreign aid using American taxpayer money will immediately cease, and the saved money will pay off the national debt and ultimately lower taxes. When disasters occur around the world, we'll ask the American people if they want to donate to a disaster fund, and each citizen can make the decision whether it's a worthy cause.

(11) The Pledge of Allegiance will be said every day at school and every day in Congress.

(12) The National Anthem will be played at all appropriate ceremonies, sporting events, outings, etc.
As far as I know, Bill Cosby has only called for people (specifically young black people) to speak English properly. Not to speak English only. And I think Bill Cosby is smart enough to know that in the US, we don't have an official language.

I also think that Bill Cosby is smart enough to recognize that without imports or exports, we can't have a "Wal-Mart policy." After all, the reason Wal-Mart can say "If we don't have it, you don't need it" is because they sell us all the cheap imported goods we don't make in this country anymore.

A hundred percent "import tax?" Dude, it's called a tariff. Cosby probably knows that. He also probably knows that a tariff, especially one as outrageous as 100%, is inherently anti-free-trade and is just the type of protectionist measure that will send us all to the poorhouse.

The retired military personnel thing manning the border? Why does it have to be "retired" guys? Couldn't we have active duty personnel manning the border? Better yet, let's form a Border Patrol! (Oh, wait...) Besides, shouldn't we let the retired military guys do what retired military guys have done for decades: get jobs in the private sector to supplement their tax-payer provided pensions?

And Social Security? "If you didn't put nuttin in, you ain't gettin nuttin out" is already how it works. The problem with Social Security isn't politicians touching it. Politicians haven't been able to "touch" Social Security for decades. Bill Clinton couldn't save it. Al Gore couldn't put it in the lock box. George W. Bush couldn't privatize it. And John McCain couldn't refuse it.

(If I was this wingnut posing as Bill Cosby, I'd change this one to read: If you don't need it, you don't get it...even if you paid in. Yeah, sorry, John. Write another book or talk to your wife if you need more money. Or better yet, get a real job.)

And this one is just as foolish:
Welfare - Checks will be handed out on Fridays at the end of the 40 hour school week and the successful completion of urinalysis and a passing grade.
What about the home schooled kids? Are we going to ask for a cup of their pee too? Man, if you're worried about the Welfare State, why do you propose replacing it with a Piss Test State?
The FIRST time you check positive you're banned for life.
Say what? No appeal? No second opinion? No retest?

And I don't know about you, but if the government giving insurance to poor people is considered socialist/tyrannical, what the fuck is telling pro sports leagues how to operate their business? Is that freedom and democracy?

Um, no. Maybe Major League Baseball, which is boring otherwise, wants to go back to the glory days of Sammy Sosa and Mark McGuire. There's a lot of money to be made there...

And this one...this one is just wrong:
We will adopt the Turkish method, the first time you steal, you lose your right hand. There are no more life sentences. If convicted of murder, you will be put to death by the same method you chose for your victim; gun, knife, strangulation, etc.
That's not the Turkish method. Turkey is a secular democracy. That's the Iranian way, you know, the theocratic dictatorship way.

At any rate, if you were to ask yourself "What would Jesus do?" the answer would invariably be, "Certainly not that!" Read Matthew chapter 5, verse 38 if you don't believe me.
One export will be allowed, Wheat. The world needs to eat. A bushel of wheat will be the exact price of a barrel of oil.
Oh, here we go with the protectionism again. We're only going to export wheat? Not cars? Not movies? Not technology? We're going to export a plant that can grow anywhere? (Probably because we have no concept of market share.)

Besides, check this out.

It took me five seconds to find this. The United States isn't even the top wheat producer in the world. We produce half as much as China, significantly less than India, and just a little over Russia. Yet Bill Cosby (or the wingnut who actually wrote this) wants to make that our only export? And then insist on pricing it the same as oil rather than what the wheat is actually worth? Back to Economics 101 for you!

That idea isn't just stupid. It's fucking retarded!

And then you've got this...
All foreign aid using American taxpayer money will immediately cease, and the saved money will pay off the national debt and ultimately lower taxes. When disasters occur around the world, we'll ask the American people if they want to donate to a disaster fund, and each citizen can make the decision whether it's a worthy cause.
Oh God, more protectionism! This might have worked prior to WWII, but in a world where the US is not only a permanent member of the UN but its host country, this isn't going to work. Sorry, but the "Leader of the Free World" can't afford to be so stingy.

And that business about the Pledge of Allegiance being spoken at school and before every Congress? Nonsense. I have never refused to say the Pledge of Allegiance in my life, but if you want to make it mandatory I just might. Maybe it's because I take that "with liberty and justice for all" part seriously. Even for people who don't want to say the Pledge of Allegiance!

(It is funny, though, how Cosby --or the wingnut who actually wrote this-- proposes making "foreign aid" optional, but wants to make the Pledge and the national anthem obligatory. How is this even philosophically consistent? Oh, that's right. It's not.)
The National Anthem will be played at all appropriate ceremonies, sporting events, outings, etc.
Really? It already is! By choice even, not statute. I prefer to keep it that way, actually.

Conclusion: This e-mail has at least two layers of dumb.

First, it attributes ideas to Bill Cosby that Bill Cosby does not hold. (Cosby has actually commented on this already, saying "The platform attributed to me (and at various times to Robin Williams, Andy Rooney and George Carlin) does not represent my views and in many respects is abhorrent to me.")

Second, the ideas in this e-mail are xenophobic and economically illiterate. Put into practice, they would have disastrous results. Worse than opening the border. Worse than a tax raise. Worse than two unwinnable wars. Worse than a global recession. Pick any one of these ideas and say goodbye to life as you know it.

Third, if this was meant to be a "funny" e-mail, it needed a little more comedy and a lot less stupid.

So when the e-mail asks me to forward this to everyone I know, no matter what side of the fence they're on, my answer is not only "No" but "Hell no." I'm not forwarding it to anyone.

I'm going to tear it apart on my blog instead.

More Literary Criticism

In the spirit of my previous post, this snarky criticism of Dan Brown's poor writing skills cracked me up:

In defence of well-written, enjoyable potboilers though, I have to point out that your writing style is so toxically inept that Vladimir Putin could use it to poison dissidents.
Yeah, sorry. But The Da Vinci Code was a horrible book.

That's not jealousy talking. That's a guy who has read other books talking.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Echo Park and the Passive Voice

After finishing Michael Connelly's novel The Overlook a few weeks ago, I decided to give the previous Harry Bosch novel, Echo Park, another try. I put it down because it was, in my opinion, poorly written.

My opinion hasn't changed. In '07, the line "He knew she knew this, too" was the clincher. I mean, that sentence is conspicuously bad. That's "F in creative writing" bad.

But now that I've trudged further into the book, I found an even more egregious example of how phoned in Echo Park is in comparison to the better Bosch novels.

To wit:
The first car in line was unmarked. It was driven by Olivas. A sheriff's deputy from the jail division was riding shotgun, while in the back, Bosch and Rider were positioned on either side of Raynard Waits. The prisoner was in a bright orange jumpsuit and was bound by shackles on his ankles and wrists. The manacles on his wrists were secured in front to a chain that went around his waist.

Another unmarked car, driven by Rick O'Shea and carrying Maury Swann and a DA's office evidence videographer, was second in the motorcade. It was followed by two vans, one from the LAPD's Scientific Investigation Division and the other from the coroner's office. The group was prepared to locate and disinter the body of Marie Gesto.
Now, tell me, gentle reader, what's wrong with these two paragraphs.

Still haven't spotted it yet? Every single sentence in these two paragraphs is written in the passive voice.

The first car was...Bosch and Rider were...the prisoner was...the manacles were...another unmarked car was...the group was.


Two paragraphs, eight sentences, all of them with variations of a single verb! (The past tense of "to be" to be exact.) It reads like a list as opposed to, you know, artfully constructed prose.

If it were me, the non-bestselling writer, writing these paragaphs, they might have read something like this:
Olivas drove the first car in line, which was unmarked. A sheriff's deputy from the jail division rode shotgun, while in the back, Bosch and Rider sat on either side of Raynard Waits. The prisoner wore a bright orange jumpsuit with his ankles and wrists bound by shackles. A chain that went around his waist secured the manacles on his wrists in front of him.

Second in the motorcade, Rick O'Shea drove another unmarked car carrying Maury Swann and a DA's evidence videographer. Two vans followed, one from the LAPD's Scientific Investigation Division and the other from the coroner's office. Their goal, to locate and disinter the body of Marie Gesto.
In each of these sentences, I kept Connelly's chosen verbs but I eliminated the passive voice and made them active instead. It doesn't really improve the paragraph that much (mostly because it's just an expository info-dump), but it improves the paragraph.

Now as with all language rules, there are exceptions. Sometimes using the passive voice is okay. Sometimes you can't avoid it. Sometimes the passive voice is the most natural way of forming a sentence. Sometimes.

But when you're doing it in every sentence for two paragraphs, you're doing it wrong.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Corporatism

I've got a full-time job, a three-to-four hour commute, and very little personal time to devote to the study of complicated social systems, but I've wondered for a long time whether terms like "capitalism" and "socialism" are appropriate when describing our system.

Anyway, this post from Cory Doctorow got me thinking about it. Specifically this part:
This isn't capitalism, nor is it socialism. It's a kind of corporatism in which the risk -- the money spent speculatively mapping Britain, arguing in Parliament, drawing up postal code boundaries -- is entirely assumed by the public, but the reward -- access and profit-taking -- are entirely given to the private sector.
Corporatism, hmm? I'll be sure to look that one up next shift change.

Terrorists in Aurora?

You might have heard about the FBI raids in Aurora, Colorado. (Which is, unfortunately, the city I live in.) Here's the story.
Federal investigators released an Aurora man late Wednesday night after 8 1/2 hours of questioning in connection with a multi-state anti-terrorism investigation.

Najibullah Zazi, 24, left the Byron G. Rogers Federal Building after 10:30 p.m. — but is scheduled to return this afternoon for another round of questioning, according to his attorney, Art Folsom.

The move came after a day that saw federal agents raid Zazi's apartment and a house where his aunt and uncle live. Agents clad in white "clean suits" and others using dogs executed search warrants on the residences, the latest move in an investigation that has centered on a plot involving peroxide- based explosives.
Here's my snark.

Federal investigators released an Aurora man late Wednesday night after 8 1/2 hours of questioning in connection with a multi-state anti-terrorism investigation.
Wait...they released him "after 8 1/2 hours of questioning?" You mean they didn't torture him, then send him down to Gitmo or rendition him to some third-party country where the US Constitution doesn't apply???

But no, they let him go home afterwards with his lawyer. Wait...lawyer??? We're letting terrorist suspects have lawyers now?
Agents clad in white "clean suits" and others using dogs executed search warrants on the residences, the latest move in an investigation that has centered on a plot involving peroxide- based explosives.
Did I read that right? Search warrants? This guy could be blowing up light rail stations all over town and we're serving him with legal papers???

Didn't we learn anything from 9-11? You can't defeat terrorism by treating it as a "law enforcement problem" with search warrants and lawyers and due process. This is war!

(And yes, this is all snark. I think the law enforcement approach --the approach taken in this case-- is the best way to handle terroism. It may not be the most expedient or the most efficient, but it's still the best.)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Funny Thing

I fell asleep on the bus today, just for a moment, but it was long enough to give me the unusual experience of waking up confused. Awareness came in waves. Where am I? I'm on the bus. What time is it? It's light out, so... Where am I going? I'm going home. I'm a few blocks from my stop. Better sit up straight.

The same thing happened the other day when I went to the movies with Stace. I drifted off, not for long really, just long enough for the lights to really go out. I woke up and it was dark and there were these rows of seats in front of me and Harry Potter and Dumbledore fighting these creatures.

Ah, the night shift!

But the really funny thing was when I stopped at the store on the way home. I wanted to get a pot roast and some mushrooms to throw in the crockpot, two things, and maybe see one of the cute Latin girls that work at the store.

So I'm riding my bike up to the bike rack and instead of hopping the curb, like I intended, I just bounced into it. The front tire stops the bike, I keep going, landing crotch first into the handlebars, groaning a comical "Urgh!" Not ten feet away, there are two women who work at the store - not the cute ones, thank the lord - sitting by a pillar, smoking, talking, and looking at me.

Of course I find this whole episode funny and start laughing to myself. The ladies are kind enough to keep on chatting. I lock up my bike with a few grunts and groans, then start walking to the store.

As I walk by the ladies, still laughing at my dumb ass, one of them says to me, "We didn't see anything."

Which made me laugh even more.

Unintended Consequences

I was going to buy some shoes yesterday, but didn't feel like carving out a couple hours of my day to take the necessary bus to and from the store.

So I think I'll just buy them on the internet and have them delivered to my front door. Yeah, I'll have to pay shipping and handling, but I won't have to pay any tax.

So instead of a small percentage of my hard-earned dollars going to the state and the city in the form of sales tax, they'll be getting nothing. Not a cent.

I wonder if it really was worth it for them to suspend my drivers license... I don't think so.

Uh-Oh

For those who care about health care reform, this headline should make your face blanch:

Reid confident on eve of health bill's debut

That would be Harry Reid, one of our country's most ineffectual political leaders.

The guy is worthless. He couldn't win an argument...with himself.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Wow

I'm more into women's tennis, but this is an awesome shot.

For anyone else, that shot would have been out of reach. It was out of reach for Federer, too, and he knew it. You can see it in his face (especially in slow-mo). He's about to let it go but at the last second, he says what the hell, gives it a fling.

That's flow. Roger Federer's got flow.

Dial R for Rude

I went to a matinee play yesterday, Dial M for Murder at the Vintage Theatre. It was a tiny show, small cast, small house, very intimate.

A lot of old ladies.

Which made me think, if I ever want to become a playwright, and I've had such aspirations from time to time, that would probably be my audience. Old ladies.

And if yesterday was any indication, a writer couldn't ask for a crueler audience.

At one point, I heard one of them whisper about the actress playing Margot Wendice, "Boy, she's skinny." And she was, but that's beside the point. If I heard it, I'm sure the "skinny" actress did too, and well, that's just rude.

I Am The King of Fantasy Football

There are two more games tonight, but I crushed my opponent anyway. And, depending on the results of tonight, it looks like I'm going to be this week's score leader.

156 points.

All but one of my players scored double digits, and that includes Polamalu who only played a half and left hurt. The proof is in the pudding.

* The league has a Seinfeld theme this year. Hopefully that explains the team name and quote. If not, you can always Google it. Or just watch Seinfeld.

Not Buying The Controversy

You might have heard about the Charles Darwin movie that supposedly hasn't found a distributor in the United States because of our religious backwardness. I've seen a few too credulous blog items linking to this story, but to me it just doesn't smell right.

I'm one of the first to bemoan religious backwardness, but I don't think that's what's happening here. I think what we have is some good old Hollywood hardball negotiating tactics.

Scenario 1:

Fundamentalists across the country have created such a hostile environment for anything Darwin that a movie producer can't get a distribution deal --not even straight-to-DVD or a late-night cable release-- for his flick.

Scenario 2:

Producer made a movie, started generating interest, discovered interest was lacking, and decided to create some of his own. So when Jeremy Thomas, the film's producer, says, "The film has no distributor in America," what he really means is "The film has no distributor in America yet." This conniption fit is part of the strategy.

Thomas and his movie were looking at a month-long rotation on Starz, maybe a recommendation from anyone who rented The Da Vinci Code on Netflix, but now he's looking at a theatrical deal with protesters and a mention on the nightly news, blog posts, wire items, talk show panels. Shrewd, Thomas, very shrewd.