Archive for June, 2009


June 26, 2009

Flavium’s post on Michael Jackson below is a perspective I hadn’t really thought about, expecially the comment on gang violence.

There are two things that come to my mind with Michael Jackson.  First, he had passed into that room in my head that won’t allow a view to him as an entertainer anymore.  He joins Woody Allen, Tom Cruise, John Travolta, Roman Polanski and a few others whose performance is lost on me, simply because I can’t keep from thinking about their screwy life.  “Breaking Mimesis” as they used to say in the IF world, that moment when you suddenly realize you’re not following a story but rather watching a film.  When there is a boom mike above that actor sobbing his heart out, and a whole film crew surrounding him.

Second, before the freakiness, he was one of the performers who made me realize that music is completely about what you like, not what you hate. Sure, when I was a kid I blathered on about how “disco sucks!” and how I hated Michael Jackson and country music.  But at some point I realized that the people who liked that music were getting the same good vibe as I did when I listened to Harry Nilsson, or Dave Matthews, or Jimi Hendrix.  I don’t have to like what they like to be glad for them when they get that smile on their face.  And once I stepped back from that childish attitude, I began to appreciate some great musicians in that mix.  I don’t really like country to this day, but I can hear the talent.  I never would have bought a Barry Manilow record growing up, but the guy is incredibly talented and his jazz recordings are great.  Same for Paul Anka.  His standards aren’t really my thing, but two of my favorite pieces are his covers of  Oasis’ “Wonderwall” and Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”.  It didn’t seem to me that he did them as novelties or because someone talked him into it against his better judgement.  He really brought something to his interpretation.  To be honest, I like them much better than the originals.  And when I was 18, I would never have given them the first listen.

Bottom line: “Thriller” may be one of the best albums ever, and MJ made me like it.  But I can’t listen to it any longer.  But that’s my loss, and I’m glad Flavium still feels the same way he did 20 years ago when he first heard it…


The Fall of an Icon

June 26, 2009

Today we found out that Michael Jackson has passed away.  Looking back on a life riddled with controversy and criticism you can’t help but ignore the negatives to admire the amazing contributions that ‘little Michael’ has made.

This is a man who in his music confronted gang violence with ‘Beat It’ and even included actual gang members.  He stood up against racism with ‘Black or White’.  He even took a shot at world peace with ‘Heal the World’.  He basically created the music video and made ‘Thriller’ into a phenomenon that people still mimic.  The music and entertaining accolades attributed to Michael Jackson are countless and unbelievable.

No matter what the tabloids have said about him or how odd of a person he may have been, he gave us music and dancing that will remain timeless long after he is gone.  Sure no one understood some of the things he did or why he was so softspoken, but they new that when he stepped up on that stage and the lights dimmed that THAT Michael Jackson could never die.

Patriotism vs. Jingoism

June 25, 2009

Ta-Nehisi Coates nails the difference between patriotism and jingoism with this analogy:

What you have, in both cases, is a hustle, a bait and switch, in which one claims to be hawking patriotism, but in fact, is selling jingoism. If patriotism is love of country, then much of the unquestioning GOP rhetoric fails on the rudiments. Is love of kin, love of siblings, love of spouse, telling your beloved, that they are the best person that’s ever existed in history? Or is that  sycophancy, fast talk proffered by loose friends, who in your darkest hours, appeal to your worst self.

Read the whole thing. It’s worth it.

Mark Sanford has made a mess…

June 25, 2009

Mark Sanford has made a mess of things, and I don’t want to pile on. The guy’s personal life should be personal, and there are really only two reasons to discuss it. One, of course, is his hypocrisy. After all, he was all for impeaching Clinton when he was a Senator, and used it to talk about the immorality of “liberals’, yadda, yadda, yadda. Others have done a very adequate job in pointing out that if you want to compile a list of philanderers in politics you couldn’t do much better than simply simply writing down those who wanted to impeach Clinton for philandering. (Gingrich takes the prize though. While leading the impeachment charge and telling his fellow Republicans that they literally shouldn’t let a day go by without bringing up Clinton’s infidelity with a staff member in his government office, we found out later that, you guessed it, he was cheating on his wife with a staff member in his…wait for it…government office.  Gingrich was literally zipping his pants up after boinking her on his desk then going out and talking about how immoral Clinton was for boinking Lewinksi on the sofa.  And the Rupulicans and press ate it up.)

But there is one thing about Sanford’s apology I found very odd, something that I haven’t seen mentioned elsewhere and something that made me reconsider the amount of sympathy I naturally have for someone who gets up in public and admits that he’s made a mess of his life. He apologized to a bunch of specific people and then apologized to “people of faith”. I don’t want to make too much of this, but it really sticks in my craw when “people of faith” go on and on about how immoral everyone else is, about how “libruls” are debauched libertines, about how gays are nothing but weak sinners, about how better they are then everyone else because they have faith and are Christian and that’s the only one and true right way to live their life. And perhaps he is right to apologize to such people because he let them down, but I wish to god he had enough self awareness and humility to realize that everyone deals with personal failings and demons. All too often these so-called Christians think that when a liberal or a Democrat screws up their lives it is because they are a liberal or a Democrat. But when a “christian” screws up their lives it is because they fell off the wagon.

Recently, the very racist Buchanan family (Pat and Baye) got some bad press when it turned out that a member of their staff, still employed, had pleaded guilty to basically getting drunk and walking down the street in Washington DC shouting racial slurs at people and finally hitting a black woman. And Baye Buchanan gets up and talks about how cruel the press is and how no one knows the troubles this poor aide had gone through, and how if we only had heard him over the years we would see with how hard he had tried to fight his demons. And I have some sympathy for that. But I also have to remember that Pat and Baye would never give such sympathy to a black or latino. After all, they have failings because they are corrupted, inferior people.  Trivia: what is Pat Buchanans latest euphemism for non-whites? “Scrub Stock”.  To get a better understanding of the type of people Buchanan associates with, follow this link to TPM’s research on where this little used term comes from.

Why you should never, ever use electronic bill pay

June 10, 2009

From  LA Times reporter David Lazarus’ ongoing nightmare in which Verizon tried to withdraw nearly $10,000 dollars from his Bank of America checking account:

Elliot woke up Tuesday morning to another notice from BofA saying something was amiss with his account. Turns out Verizon had once again billed his account for the entire $9,993.88 — and this time BofA paid the bill.

This resulted in Elliot losing the $781 he had in his checking account and then owing more than $9,200 to the bank.

So I contacted BofA. Tara Burke, a bank spokeswoman, said the way the online bill-pay system works is that if insufficient funds exist in an account, the first two attempts by a business to withdraw funds will be rejected.

But if the business tries a third time, the transaction will be processed.

It appears that for now anyway, he got the money back.  But that only occurred after he informed both the bank and the telephone company that he was writing a story about it that would appear in a major metropolitan newspaper.  Unless you’ve got the same leverage, and a perverse desire for aggravation, pay your bills by check.

Not What They Appear To Be

June 10, 2009

Politico has an incredulous overview of a new US Chamber of Commerce initiative to spend $100,000,000 of its members money on lobbying against White House initiatives.  When I owned a small business, the local rep (salesman) for the USCofC used to come by every few months looking for donations.  It’s a good racket, because local businessmen are used to dealing with their local Chamber of Commerce, and they assume the US version is just more of the same, but in the large economy size, so they are receptive to opening their wallets.  Their impression of the Chamber is good because the local C of C does yeoman work for beautifying the business district, inviting speakers in to talk about small business loans, coordinating special promotions, raising funds for charity and so forth.

The first time that rep came knocking, I invited him into my office and went through his literature and listened to his talking points.  It quickly became apparent that small business concerns were not on their radar at all, despite the fact that every third sentence mentioned “small business owners” or “main street America”.  Their interests at that time seemed to consist of lowering the capital gains sales tax (not something the average small business owner has the luxury of worrying about), keeping various tax loopholes alive (again, you need a team of full time accountants to take advantage of them) and even things that actively hurt small business people, such as repealing some of the government regulations that are meant to keep business with connections (read “generous lobbyists”) from getting any more of a leg up than they already have.  The two biggest items affecting the small business owners I knew where the recently imposed draconian laws on reporting business use of a personal car, and the difficulties in getting a home office deduction.  The rep had no idea what I was talking about.

The tone of the literature was annoying too.  Very political in an arms length way, and very Republican.  Now, I don’t know if the USCofC ever acted as a real CofC, but I always wondered if some right ringers hadn’t seen it as simply a lucrative take over target.  It had a great mailing list, probably a lot of money in the bank, and the board was elected by the membership.  Probably earnest industrious types orginally and no match for the well oiled takeover artists.

AAA, the automobile club strikes me the same way.  When you look at what they spend member,s money on, it is primarily to lobby for far-right agenda items.  I don’t know if it is still true, but hey used to lobby against an increase in fuel economy standards, and also to lobby against transportation money being spent on light rail and commuter trains.  Their spending patterns so closely matched those of the Big 3 automakers and road contstruction industry that I had to suspect a past takeover.  After all, they had the same member voting on the board.   No bad deal if you can get someone else to fund your lobbyists

A few years back, the Southern Baptists essentially took over the United Baptist Convention (? I have the name wrong if anyone can help me out) and turned it hard, hard to the right.  The traditional Baptists protested but were heavily sanctioned and intimidated.  Finally, they had enough and decided they wanted to split off.  The Southern Baptists were more than happy to let them, but they had to leave behind the money, real estate and institutions that had been built up over the span of decades.  “Thanks for the dough, don’t let the door hit you on the way out!”

What would Krauthammer do?

June 10, 2009

A couple of months ago, Charles Krauthammer was explaining to us all under what circumstances it is justified, no, necessary, to torture a prisoner for information. In particular he said this:

The second exception to the no-torture rule is the extraction of information from a high-value enemy in possession of high-value information likely to save lives. This case lacks the black-and-white clarity of the ticking time bomb scenario. We know less about the length of the fuse or the nature of the next attack. But we do know the danger is great.

So, I’m wondering.  Now that Scott Roeder (who killed abortion doctor Tiller) has stated he is part of an active network and there are others out there about to assassinate, does ol’ Charles think we should torture Reoder? I’m not being sarcastic, I’m really curious…