Tuesday, August 30, 2005

It Must Be Racist to Point This Out... 

UPDATE 1: Greetings to the members of the 1st Signal Bridage in Southeast Asia, who I've seen have been to visit here. Remember, just 'cause I'm a liberal doesn't mean that I don't support our men in uniform 100%. (My dad was a vet and I've got a nephew in the armed forces). Hate the war, love the warrior. After all, unlike a lot of the Yellow Elephants state side, you guys are getting your asses shot at for us, "noble" cause or not.

UPDATE 2: The AFP reporter has tried to spin this story by claiming he didn't actually see the white people loot. While that may be true, I really take issue with the AP reporter, who did go right for the "l" word. And, given what we've learned about the non-existent state of Federal help in New Orleans on the fifth day after the storm, can you blame anyone for helping themselves to anything? These people have truly been dispossessed and disenfranchised. If they're stuck in this same mess tomorrow, expect a full-on revolution.

UPDATE 3: Apparently, these were the photos that had Kanye West so upset at the MTV music awards -- and kudos and applause to him for speaking his mind on live TV. We need more of that, and more people like him.

'Cause, you know -- you're just part of the problem when you demonstrate how people who are not a certain color (white) get treated badly by people who are a certain color (white). The following is from Atrios at Eschaton. I'm going to link to the photos and reprint the text here, because he doesn't have a permalink to the post; but if you go over there (please do, it's a great blog), look for the headline "Captions Are Fun".

A young man walks through chest deep flood water after looting a grocery store in New Orleans on Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2005. Flood waters continue to rise in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina did extensive damage when it made landfall on Monday. (AP Photo/Dave Martin) Email Photo Print Photo

Two residents wade through chest-deep water after finding bread and soda from a local grocery store, after Hurricane Katrina came through the area in New Orleans, Louisiana.(AFP/Getty Images/Chris Graythen)

(Emphasis added).

Of course, I doubt that any reporters actually waded over to the people and said, "Excuse me -- did you find that or steal it?" Just guessing, but these look like helicopter shots. And, in the big picture, if people are "stealing" or "finding" necessities of life in ruined stores in the Big Easy, more power to them. It really is a matter of survival and, honestly, if they're wading through that kind of flood water, whatever store owners were relieved of a bit of stock aren't going to care, because they're probably going to go to their insurance company with a total write-off anyway.

And if anyone is "finding" or "stealing" less survival-oriented items, like TVs or computers -- well, again, so what? It isn't really going to make any difference to the big picture, and as I've mentioned here before, the big picture is the one not being mentioned in the main stream media. Katrina hitting New Orleans was a disaster waiting to happen, one that could have been prevented if the current administration had done two things. One, admitted that global warming is going to give us more hellacious storms in the near term. Two, realized that repairing the levees around New Orleans should have been a big priority, a task more important to Homeland Security than many other things.

But, oh, that's right -- the people who couldn't get out of town were all poor, and mostly black not white. But I can't point that out, because, as one tiny-minded commentor to this blog pointed out, pointing out such things is, well, you know. Racist.

Even when such (in)actions by the white pigmentally challenged cause direct harm to... well, you know...

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Fundamentalism Sucks 

Ah, so W and company brought Democracy to Iraq, eh? Except that the new government wants to follow Muslim law. Meaning that things like this will happen:
The Malaysian government has ordered police to randomly check mobile phones for pornographic images.

The move follows reports by a local newspaper that young people were swapping sex videos and images on their mobile phones.
Oh, the shock. Oh, the horror. Young people, interested in sex and dirty pictures. Because, well, there's nothing worse in the world.

There's your new Iraqi Government, folks. The "noble cause" we fought for -- so a bunch of Imams can whip or execute people who enjoy being... well, people. So they can stone to death a woman for... um... just about anything; showing her face in public, getting an education, getting raped. So they can hang two unrelated males who are seen naked together -- never mind that they were just showering at the gym. Oh, yeah, right. No gyms. That's decadent western interest in health and the body. No phone porn, no free thought, no fun...

And this is Democracy... how?

Anyone who thinks Cindy Sheehan is the enemy is a complete and total idiot. When the new Iraqi Constitution is drafted, and Baghdad moves ten steps closer to their old enemy Iran because of it, will the Freepi who chant "Support the President unless he's Clinton" please shut up?

Or, better yet, will they fucking enlist and go fight, with no excuses? It's easy. Here's the enlistment form. Fill it out if you support this war, go put your ass where your mouth is. No excuses are allowed, unless you're gay, in which case you really shouldn't be a Republican. Too old for the military? Try the National Guard. Too old for that? Then you're probably old enough to remember the last quagmire, and why it sucked so much.

The ultimate irony in this whole mess, of course, is this -- hoards of liberals love and support our soldiers. This time around, we've learned that they're just victims. We want every single one of them brought home safely, now. And, to us, supporting the troops means wanting to protect them from dying for lies and bullshit.

Like the lie that we've brought Democracy to Iraq. Bullshit.

Like the lie that Saddam had WMD. Bullshit.

Like the lie that invading Iraq had anything to do with combating terrorism. Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit.

Or, to clean it up for broadcast... BU**SH**.

Hm. Funny how that works, isn't it?

It's a simple choice, people. Impeachment now, or Civil War. They threw Nixon out for far less, they impeached Clinton for far, far less. (And Andrew Johnson for far, far, far less). If you love this country, there's only one choice you can make to save it. Time to clean (white) house. Time to kick the bastards to the curb. Time to bring democracy back to America.


Contact your elected officials and demand that they do the right thing. Tell them to grow some balls, if they want to be re-elected. Tell them that we won't take it any more, and the only way to save America is to get rid of the Fourth Reich that's taken control.

Arbeit macht frei?


Anklage macht frei!

Ja, ja, ja...

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Monday, August 29, 2005

Heads in the Sand, Asses Underwater 

I feel for the people of New Orleans today, I really do. (Not so much the people of Mississippi; living proof that god is not on the Red States's sides). But... on the other hand, I do have to say that what has happened to New Orleans should not have been unexpected. And therin lies the lesson.

First, a quick recap. New Orleans is a city that's built in a big punchbowl, ten to twenty feet below sea-level, with the Mississippi River on one side and Lake Ponchatrain on the other. All that protects it from the rushing waters and the Gulf of Mexico are a series of levees and manmade dams, and the ever-shrinking delta at the mouth of the Ol' Miss. For at least the last two decades, the latter has been further decaying, endangering the city. And, indeed, I remember reading an article in National Geographic a year or two back explaining that, simply, given the current state of the delta, one good hurricane could destroy New Orleans forever.

Now, add that to W's unwillingness to spend money for hurricane preparedness. That, and sending the National Guard off to Iraq. There wasn't much left to protect the Big Easy. Finally, factor in the increase in large hurricanes to make North American landfall in the last two years, and this was a disaster waiting to happen.

In the end, the only thing that saved NO from total destruction was the hurricane's choice to veer slightly east and drop to a 4 in the final moments. Still, the devastation was widespread and even the Superdome, one of the shelter locations set up for those who could not afford to flee, was ravaged by the storm.

None of this would have happened if our current administration had chosen to listen to people who pay attention to the state of the planet. Sure, it would have been expensive, but nowhere near as expensive as the insurance hits that Wall Street is going to eat. Improve the levees, restore the Delta, stop turning the mouth of the Mississippi into a dumping ground for all the shit dropped upstream.

And we could have done all that, had W not decided instead to give all his rich friends tax cuts and start an expensive war in a place not at all involved with terrorism.

Elsewhere, I have a much longer post on the same idea, but in short it's like this. There are certain foreseeable problems that can be prevented by a little action now. New Orleans is going to get hit by a hurricane. The midwest is going to be hit by a major earthquake within the next century, tops. The Pacific Northwest will see another big volcanic eruption within two decades. The east coast will face a devastating tsunami within a century, depending on how stable La Palma Island choses to be. The west will suffer forest fires and a major earthquake within the next decade.

And any one of those events will kill and displace more people than any terrorist attack on the US can or will. Hell, the evacuation of New Orleans displaced at least half a million people. Osama could only dream of coming so close. How long was New York shut down after 9/11, a week? Hah. The Big Easy will be out of commission for months. They'll be lucky if they're back in shape for next year's Mardi Gras, really.

Not to belittle either event, but my point is this. Terrorism is easily preventable at small cost, and with little disruption of the lives of ordinary people. Natural disasters, on the other hand, are not predictable, and the impact they have are orders of magnitude greater than even the most heinous of terrorist acts.

If W and company really want to protect the homeland, they'll stop wasting money on useless wars and bureaucracies designed to harass the innocent and, instead, they'll look at the potential problems that await us and apply preventative measures now. Up the building codes in the midwest, fix the delta and levees, implement a tsunami warning system on both coasts, create an evacuation plan for the Northwest. And, above all, stop living like every today is today and it's all fine. Stop living for the present and look to the future.

Oh, sorry. Forgot about whom I was talking. The asshats in charge only care about one thing. Themselves, right now. Their attitude is fuck tomorrow, fuck the future. Then again, Bush and company can hide in their hardened bunkers or get Air Force One to shuttle them all over the planet like scared bunnies (or pet goats) when danger lurks. And to hell with the rest of us.

I wonder how long it'll take W to get his ass down to New Orleans to view the disaster site. (At the moment, he's in San Diego, trying to duck the protesters.) After all, that's one of those traditional things that presidents do. But I wouldn't hold my breath. I mean, after 9/11, for example, Bill Clinton, who was in Australia, tried to hold back and get there later, since he was "only" an ex-president and all. He intentionally took his time and yet, he still got to New York before Bush did, even though, in theory, Bush was a two hour plane ride away.

But, that's right. Bush doesn't give a flying fuck about the people. Me and you and everyone we know. He only cares about his donors, the big money folk, and he's so alienated from reality that he cannot see nor hear the approbation being heaped on him now. I'd be damn surprised if he even manages to drag his ass down to the disaster area. I mean, why mess up a perfectly good vacation/fund-raiser, right? He'll probably heap aid on Mississippi, to help the good ol' boys, and try to blame the fate of New Orleans on all those boobies on display every February. Or he'll get Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell to do it for him, then try to deny.

Well, I'm sick of it. Our Feckless Leader does not deserve the power he's been given. He only deserves to be impeached, and then tried and convicted for his many, many crimes against humanity.

I'm an atheist, but I have to wonder -- why have those red states been hit by so many devastating storms ever since W. took office? It's the kind of thing that could almost make one believe in signs from the heavens. Hm. W's brother in power in Florida, more hurricanes make landfall there in the last year than in the last decade...

If a major ice storm hits DC this winter, I just might -- might -- start to question my lack of faith...

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Thursday, August 25, 2005


Okay, time to call the FCC and the FBI down on Pat Robertson's sorry ass. Now, he's trying to claim that he wasn't acting like a fundamentalist religious terrorist when he said Hugo Chavez should be assassinated...
"I didn't say 'assassination,'" Robertson said Wednesday on his Christian Broadcast Network show "The 700 Club" about remarks reported by The Associated Press and other media outlets.

"I said our special forces should 'take him out."Take him out' could be a number of things including kidnapping.
Hm. Shades of Pulp Fiction.

"The boss said I should take her out."

"Take her out?"

"No, take her out, show her a good time."

As for Robertson's assertion that he never said "assassination", well... bullshit. As the same article quotes, from his original words:
"You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it.
Hm. "Assassinate" and "do it" in the same sentence.

I dunno. Sounds like a call for murder to me.

And Pat Robertson ought to be run off to Gitmo right now. The man is a terrorist, he's making threats on television. Or, how about this deal: we'll ship him off to Venezuela to be tried in their courts, as anyone threatening to kill their leader would be. In exchange, Venezuela cuts us the "Cuba Rate" deal on oil imports.

That'd be a win-win situation all around. We get rid of a total asshat and cut gas prices. Robertson gets what he deserves -- Latin American justice.

Or, we could just have some home-grown nut go ahead and assassinate Robertson. 'Cause, gosh, I guess I can say that here. Somebody should assassinate Pat Robertson. After all, I can always claim later that I never said "assassinate," right? I just meant kidnap him. Or take him to a burger joint for a dance contest.

Guess it all depends on what the meaning of is assassinate is, right?

To quote King Henry II: "Who will rid me of this troublesome priest?"

Somebody take this fuckwad out. Define that how you will...

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Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The Bitter Taste of Stupidity... 

Once upon a time, long long ago, home video players came out, in two different formats: VHS and Beta. And, for a while, players and tapes in both formats sold. But, eventually, Beta lost the war and VHS is the standard still sort of with us today, even though it went the way of cassette tape some time in the last two years. The thing was, back in the day, it was an either/or decision, and VCRs were not cheap. When VHS and Beta were fighting it out, it cost something like $1,200 in approximately 1980 dollars -- the equivalent of about three grand now -- to buy one of the machines, not to mention the added expense of building up a video library.

Eventually, one group of people, those who opted early for Beta (the arguably superior format in every way) got screwed. Sure, they had their machine and their tapes, but after a certain point, nothing new being produced.

And the bitter taste of that screwing stuck in people's minds. Remember DTS? No? That's because people would have had to invest in a format-specific home theatre sound system to play DTS DVDs, a system not compatible with Dolby 5.1. And remember the public response to DTS? A resounding Fuck You. And so it was born, lived and died out (unless on dual-compatibility discs) in a very short marketing cycle -- much shorter than the life-span of Beta.

And yet... the industry is setting itself up for the same crap all over again, as they try to decide on the next standard for DVDs, a Hi-Def format that'll pack more data on the disc. Trouble is, there are two standards in the works, they are not compatible with each other, and the two factions are both trying to rush their product to market.

Full disclosure: I've spent the better part of the last four years working for a major home Video/DVD company, so I know a bit about the thangs. Currently, there are four kinds of discs, all of which will work in your home player. DVD-5, so-named because it holds about five gigabytes of data, is single-sided and single layered -- about enough for a movie and some simple special features, like trailer, maybe an audio commentary. The studios reserve this one for product that didn't really make money in theatres, but which they want to squeak out for ancillary marketing nonetheless. Next up is DVD-9, single sided and dual-layered, holds 8.5 (close enough to 9 for jazz) gigabytes. These will be the more elaborately featured DVDs that you don't have to flip over, but the artwork on DVD-9s will always be a full-color label, and never a black and white etch. Older DVD-9s have the "Layer transition might trigger a slight pause" warning on the back of the cover; now an anachronism.

Next is the DVD-10; 9.4 gigs of data, double sided, single-layered. Yes, not much of an improvement over the capacity of a DVD-9, but rather common for doing the old "Full Screen" A/"Widescreen" B trick. And, again, often seen for family films that didn't make much in theatres, films for which the studios don't want to spend the extra bucks to have separate full screen/wide screen packaging.

Finally, there's DVD-18, which holds about 17 gig in a dual-sided, dual-layer format. This puppy can hold about eight hours of video, but it's also a bitch to manufacture, for technical reasons I won't go into here -- other than to say that the B-Layers of each side get awfully damn close to each other, in microscopic terms. You won't see DVD-18s except in cases of studios trying to cram 22 episode TV series into as few discs as possible, or big money-making, high prestige pictures that made a fortune in theatres and which have a lot of special features.

Again, the DVD player you have at home right now will read any and all of these formats, ranging from a single movie on a DVD-5 to sixteen episodes of your favorite sitcom on one DVD-18.

Now, do the math... in the upcoming HiDef wars, there are two formats. HD DVD will hold about 15 gig of data -- or, in other words, 83% of the current DVD-18. Blu-Ray will hold 25 gig, or 138% of same. And neither system is compatible with the other. You can't put a Blu-Ray in an HD machine, nor vice versa.

And, at the moment, the two competing consortiums have stopped talking to each other.

Now, first time around, when VHS and Beta came out, the consumers got screwed; at least the ones who went for the losing format did. This time around, it's going to be quite different.

Let me put it in simple terms for the people trying to invent the next DVD standard. If you come out with two standards, no one is going to buy either one. Period. Why not? Because nobody wants to get stuck with equipment and discs that will be useless in two years. And, face it, for the moment, we've got all we want. I've got two DVD players at home, two TVs, and a collection of about four hundred titles. (I've also got a VCR and about 150 tapes, although I rarely break down and watch that dated format.) I could give a rat's ass whether I can run out and buy things on Hi-Def because, y'know what? Unless Hi-Def or Blu-Ray discs come out at four bucks a shot, there's no reason at all for me to replace anything I already own. And I'm sure most DVD owners think the same. If they're serious collectors, they probably already own all the movies and TV shows they love to watch over and over.

Given the current crappy standard of Hollywood product, there's really no reason to buy any movie (with about three exceptions) released by the studios in the last two years.

But, anyway, this is my plea: will the folks trying to come up with the next DVD standard pull their heads out of their asses and settle on one format before they go to market? Because, otherwise, they're not going to sell a thing. And would they please, this time, settle on the better format, Blu-Ray? And, perhaps, would they make the new players totally backward compatible?

If they do none of these things, they're in for a nasty surprise. Because consumers of 2005 are much more savvy than consumers of 1980. You only have to look at the history of HDTV for proof of that. Once upon a time, there were two competing HDTV formats in the works. In fact, we were supposed to have converted to HDTV-only about four years ago. It didn't happen because no one was going to upgrade while there was even the slightest possibility that their choice would be crap in six months. It wasn't until HDTV settled on one format that the changeover finally started to occur. Memo to Hollywood: I have yet to upgrade to HDTV, and I don't think I'm going to. And if my set won't tune in broadcast channels in a year, so what? Broadcast TV is crap anyway.

But, I do digress. In the 80s, Beta owners came in for a nasty surprise. That screwing is still floating around in the memesphere, and, in the 21st Century, it won't be the consumers who get the surprise, if the DVD Format Folk can't get their shit together.

One final side-note. A certain studio tried to come out with a new format last spring, the Mini-DVD. It was a three-inch disc that worked in special players, aimed at the kiddie market. The movies were always full screen, and a two hour feature would take three discs. It launched. No one bit. It died. Portents of things to come, if we end up with dueling formats released. Just a friendly reminder.

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Monday, August 22, 2005

Terrorist Identified 

Hm. Let's see. Someone advocates the assassination of a duly elected world leader, in order to keep their oil flowing. Sounds like a terrorist threat to me, and I would like to hereby inform the FBI that they should arrest the following individual for advocating the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez: Pat Robertson. He made his threats on TV, on The 700 Club.
"We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability," Robertson said.

"We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator," he continued. "It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with."
And I think Robertson deserves a quick one-way trip to Gitmo. Not only is he saying the kind of things that hurt America -- Chavez recently threatened to stop Venezuela's twice-a-day oil tankers because of W's attitude toward him -- but he's ignorant of history. He accused the US of failing to act when Chavez was overthrown in 2002 but, surprise surprise, it was the US that tried to overthrow him, and the people of Venezuela who made sure that this did not happen. Chavez is only a "strong-arm dictator" in the eyes of Venezuela's rich -- who would probably vote Republican if given the chance.

But, anyway, tell me this: why are Robertson's comments any different than, say, a Muslim American who publicly advocated assassinating Tony Blair? In the latter case, you can bet your ass that said Muslim American would quickly be disappeared, and whatever mosque he happened to attend would be shut down and seized. Why should Robertson be treated any differently?

Simple point of fact: in his guise as a religious leader, he has advocated violence against a sitting head of state. He's a terrorist. He should be arrested, and the church to which he belongs shut down, all assets seized.

I mean, that is, if you're going to be at all consistent on the definition of terrorist. I'm not going to hold my breath, though. Because the war on (some) Terror(ists) has nothing to do with advocacy, and everything to do with religion and racial profiling.

The Christian Wingnuts can advocate anything they want, and short of actually killing someone while bombing an abortion clinic, the government isn't going to do jack to stop them. But, to be a Muslim in America nowadays means you can't even look cross-eyed at a WalMart clerk without being suspect.

And this is a sad, sad thing. This is not the America in which I grew up. This is not America at all. This is the Theocratic Empire of Amerika, under Supreme Ayatollah George W. Bush. The land in which someone like Pat Robertson can make terroristic threats in public, and nothing happens.

The land in which powerless brown people are screwed.

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Things That Are Not News 

I offer the following as a public service to news directors everywhere. In this age of ADD media, where five-second sound-bites are supposed to serve as in-depth coverage, there’s really not a lot of spare news real estate to go around

But... there could be, if news programs would stop covering things that aren’t news. Ideally, they should just take all the fluff and crap and stick it somewhere in a single half-hour show (not disguised as news), and that’s it. That’s all that the following kinds of stories merit. But, instead, on local news, these are about all we see. Two minutes of “hard” news to open up, then descent into crap.

Nowadays, though, by the time these little fluff pieces come up on the nightly news, I’ve already seen the story and either read or ignored it online. And, hell, most of the time, they’re stories that I ran across on FARK several weeks earlier. The point is, this stuff is available information, if people want it. It should not be cluttering up coverage of important things – meaning what the government, business, military or others are doing to us in the name of whatever crusade they’re on this week.

Herewith, then, my list of stories that should never be included on programs that are supposed to cover the news.
  1. Missing persons, except in very specific cases. The specific case is this: the person went missing in the local news market on which the story is being covered. Otherwise, there’s no reason at all that TV news has to tell me about a runaway bride in... wherever the hell she was, or a missing teen in Aruba. Ah, Natalee Holloway. Sorry, but she’s only really news in two places: Aruba and her home town. The odds that I’d find her by looking in Los Angeles? Nil.

  2. Sports. I know this one will get a lot of flack but y’know what? Sports scores are not news. They’re statistics, maybe important if you’ve got money on the game, but then stick ‘em in a weekend sports show or something, separate from the news. And anything a pro athlete does or says is definitely not news. When they open their mouths, it’s generally to spout banal double-speak that almost makes W look literate. When they do anything else... well, why glorify it when adults indulge in junior high school behavior?

  3. Entertainment and celebrities. Likewise, the weekend box office is a number, and you can find it online. And, anyway, the news media are so in the pocket of the entertainment media that you can’t trust any stories you see, anyway. Is a news program trashing Tom Cruise? Hm. Maybe the studio that owns them has a movie coming out against one of his. Are they doing a feel-good puff-piece about a certain starlet rescuing orphaned puppies? Might want to check and see if she has any projects in development with said studio. (If you paid attention, you’d be surprised at how frequently celebs cycle in and out of the news as their latest project approaches, and then goes away.) But, as with athletes, nothing a celebrity does is really worthy of attention, unless maybe it’s Martin Sheen getting arrested at an anti-war protest or (sadly) Der Gropenator running for governor – but file those under politics, which do belong on the news.

  4. Weather, sort of. Here’s all we need from a weather report: it’s going to be (sunny/cold/rainy/whatever) tomorrow, trending toward (whatever) through the weekend. Weather warnings are in effect in these areas, if applicable. That’s about it. We don’t need the fancy graphics and the maps and the pictures, and we sure as hell don’t need the flashy weather dude/weather chick to give the info and waste countless minutes in cutesy banter. Blame LA original Dr. George Fishbeck for this one – he was the first celebrity weatherman on TV, and we suffer for that now.

  5. Medical trend of the week. Especially during sweeps months, we run across these stories about new medical treatments, techniques and whatnot that are really just bullshit, and/or a reporter getting a little pro bono lipo in exchange for publicity. Botox became big news because the news made it big news. In return, countless morons have had poison shot into their faces – starting with reporters on local news stations. If only they’d get the stuff shot into their vocal chords instead.

  6. Cute animal stories. Wandering seals, lost puppies, rescued horses, whatever – it ain’t news. This kind of stuff belongs as a column filler in Reader’s Digest. And even uncute animal stories, like the latest shark attack, aren’t really news, except in the local area. But I doubt that people in Minnesota need to know if there are sharks in Florida.

  7. Person on the street commentaries. There’s nothing more useless than the sound bite from the person on the street who saw something. Generally, it’s probably unreliable or highly biased. It also tends to be inarticulate at best, and don’t forget that the eyewitness’s big motivator is, most likely, “Hoo-hah, I’m on the news.” And has anyone noticed that little kids don’t talk like little kids anymore? I don’t know if that’s a function of the news, or what, but whenever they talk to some six year-old on TV, the kid comes off sounding like a fifty year-old midget. It’s creepy.

  8. Food and restaurants. Again, not news. This is advertisement. And I don’t know about you, but I find nothing more boring than watching a review of some restaurant I know I’m never going to go to. Not when the phrase “California cuisine” pops up in the intro. “California cuisine” is as big an oxymoron as, oh, “British cuisine.” It’s a code phrase for “entrée the size of your thumb, and way overpriced.” That, and combinations of food a two year-old wouldn’t come up with. (Tangerines are not a garnish.) For those of you lucky enough to not have been exposed to it, California Pizza Kitchen serves absolutely nothing resembling pizza. Or food, for that matter. But, to reassert my original point, restaurant reviews are free advertising, not news. Banish, banish, banish.

  9. Happy talk and banter. To every single person reading the news out there: we don’t care what you think, we don’t laugh at your attempted humor. You’re nothing but a paid monkey reading the TelePrompTer, ideally without any sort of editorial emotion in your voice. And, no matter what you think, you’re not a reporter or a journalist. You’re a prop. But, of course, there seems to be a newsreader school of emphasis, so that the editorials get through anyway. Next time any newsreader says certain words, like “AIDS” or “Internet” note the inflection. The sentence usually comes across as, “Joe Smith, who has... AIDS...” or “Jane Jones, who met the man on the... Internet...” It’s subtle but useless booga-booga. And there are a lot of words that get the treatment. You know, honestly, local news outlets could up he interest in their programs and improve the coverage by having a weekly lottery. Regular folk enter, and if they win, they get to read from the TelePrompTer for a week. At the least, it would make the cult of personality vanish from the news. (The above comments do not apply to actual reporters who happen to be on the news, but that only happens at the national Network level.)

  10. Glurge. This is what Snopes defines as those urban legends designed to make you all warm and fuzzy. And, again, they belong in Reader’s Digest, not on the news. You know the stuff; cab driver finds $20K in cash in his cab and returns it; childhood sweethearts lose touch and are reunited fifty years later; little Billy’s lemonade stand raises enough to send stranger with cancer to Disneyworld. Chances are, all of these stories are online anyway, or in newspapers, which have the luxury of truly needing filler.
Hm. Looking at that list and considering local news, I think I’ve just cut their one hour shows down to a minute and a half. Well, good. Now it means they’ve got something like fifty empty minutes they can now fill with real news.

What a farking concept...

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Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Told You So... 

A lot of people took issue with my previous post about Jean Charles De Menezes, the Brazilian electrician who was murdered by police on a train in London.

Well, someone leaked results of the internal investigation, and it's worse than that.
The documents and photographs confirm that Jean Charles was not carrying any bags, and was wearing a denim jacket, not a bulky winter coat, as had previously been claimed.

He was behaving normally, and did not vault the barriers, even stopping to pick up a free newspaper. ...

A member of the surveillance team is quoted in the report...."I then pushed him back on to the seat where he had been previously sitting. I then heard a gun shot very close to my left ear and was dragged away onto the floor of the carriage."
So, to everyone who had a problem with me describing De Menezes's death as murder, it's looking even more like he was killed merely for being ethnic. The member of the team quoted above had him restrained when someone else shot him. In fact, that man was the person people saw pinned to the floor.

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Monday, August 15, 2005

Life, Art. Art, Life... 

Anyone remember the premise of the pilot for TV's short-lived The Lone Gunmen? If not, I'll refresh your memory. It involved a commercial airliner, fitted with hardware that would take over control -- and fly the plane into the World Trade Center. From there, the blame would go to the Arabs, war would erupt and the arms dealers behind it would make a fortune. In TV-land, the hero averted the attempt at the last minute. In real life... well, we all know what happened.

So, further to the tinfoil woo-woo over the Nuclear Smuggling "Exercise" taking place in Charleston, South Carolina this week, please note the plot of the 1983 TV movie Special Bulletin:
A TV reporter and cameraman are taken hostage on a tugboat while covering a workers' strike. The demands of the hostage-takers are to collect all the nuclear detonators in the Charleston, SC area so they may be detonated at sea. They threaten to detonate a nuclear device if their own of their demand isnt met.
To anyone who didn't see this movie -- yes, they did, turning Charleston into toast. Even creepier, the original program was done War of the Worlds style (Orson Wells version, not Spielberg's summer crap); that is, it pretended to be an actual newscast of live events.

Now, there's nothing original in Washington. Wouldn't surprise me if they had borrowed from an old, half-forgotten TV movie for their inspiration.

I mean -- why Charleston? Why not a blue town like Bawstun?

Oh, that's right. It's the year of the bad remake, isn't it?

And this could be the worst of all.

Armageddon in T-minus 56 hours...

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Trying Not to Be Paranoid, But... 

As I've mentioned here before, there are mutterings in the blogosphere that something is afoot; in short, another terrorist "attack" that just so happens to take place during a drill mimicking said attack.

The military exercise which postulates a nuclear bomb smuggled into Charleston, SC, begins on August 17th, two days from now, and runs through Saturday. And I hope against hope that nothing happens during that time; this is all the paranoid fantasy of someone else with too much time on their hands; that this sort of thing could never happen.

And yet... and yet... there are other little pieces falling into place, as is deliniated at Intangible Stuff. To wit:
1) A Four-star military General is suddenly fired, being only three months from his planned retirement, and for a cause as dubious as “sexual misconduct” while already in divorce proceedings with his former spouse.

2) Near said General’s base, is planned a “Nuclear Terror Drill” where some bizzare scenario has been concocted to describe the smuggling and detonation of a Nuclear device on American soil

3) Said General apparently has big issues with the current administration and it has been speculated that he may be part of a coup attempt against said administration

4) Our dear leader has taken no heed of his approval ratings, put forth no initiatives, has turned a blind eye to the concerns of his constituents, is currently mired in scandal, and is beginning to be exposed as the liar that he is. Yet he takes a vacation (as he did in August of 2001) while a crumbling economy and infrastructure ensues and international tensions are at a level not seen since World War II.

5) The Pentagon draws up grandiose plans for an Iranian invasion utilizing Tactical Nuclear weapons and as well, draws up plans for armed conflict and the adoption of Martial Law on our very soil. On top of this, the Pentagon will suspend all leave for soldiers after Sept. 7th and already plans on “lightly lifting” this restriction some time in December with the condition that all troops stay “within 17km of base” (not to mention the rebuilding of the nation’s Draft boards)
The firing of General Byrnes always seemed particularly weird to me, especially since he was slated to retire in September. As I've seen pointed out in online forums by military types, normally a Four Star General that was being gotten rid of would not have become news, and in ordinary circumstances, he would have been allowed to silently retire. In any case, heterosexual adultery with someone not in one's command is rarely if ever a reason to dump a general, much less a Four Star General. At the moment, that's the highest rank there is. According to Air America Radio, we don't have any five star generals right now. I'm going to be intentionally too lazy to verify that, but even if there are five stars, firing a four star general is bizarre.

Unless, of course, people with authority over the man know that he's going to try to toss a wrench into the works.

Anyway, for what it's worth, I just want to go on record saying this, so that it's out there in the world before the fact, and people can be vigilant and watch what's really going on if something happens. If "terrorists" smuggle a nuke onto these shores between Wednesday and Saturday, and the administration is soon thereafter blaming Iran, it's time to call "bullshit", begin the impeachment proceedings of the entire lot, apologize to the world, and withdraw ourselves into self-imposed isolationism for the next decade at least. And this counts whether there's an explosion or not. The FBI suddenly trumpeting a thwarted attempt would serve the purpose just as well.

BTW, I'm guessing August 18th, just because it's fodder to make conspiracy theorists look even more lunatic. 9+1+1 = 11; 7+7 = 14; 8+1+8 = 17. Increments of 3. Although there are probably fifty ways you could manipulate the numbers and think you came up with something interesting. (Calling all Kabbalists...)

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Friday, August 12, 2005


I've never read The Da Vinci Code, mostly because I've read Holy Blood, Holy Grail, the non-fiction work from which most of the plot of the former was stolen. But, apparently, Sony, the studio backing the film version of the novel, is getting cold feet and bending over backwards to placate pissy Catholics.

So, they're going to remove the elements that are most important to the story, the idea that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had children. Welp, if you've read HBHG, you know that the entire concept behind The Da Vinci Code is that Jesus established a bloodline, which went on to become the Merovingian Kings of France, that the whole thing went to shit when Dagobert was murdered, and various factions then spent centuries either trying to suppress or trying to expose the truth. (Side note: I'm a direct descendent of that dead Dagobert, so I'm theoretically a direct descendent of the dead Carpenter as well.)

Anyway... since when did the Catholic church become the Board of Censors for American films? (Oops. Forgot about that annoying "Banned in Boston" business of the 50s.) If they don't like it, they can go get stuffed. Or they can make their own damn movie. And they've certainly got the money to do it.

But... if Sony cuts out the good parts from The Da Vinci Code, then I've got less than no interest in seeing it. I'm going to tell them that, and everyone else who just wants to see a work of fiction translated accurately to the screen without religious diddling should do the same. Because, after all, if the details mentioned above are deleted from this movie, there's no point in making it.

Final reminder to the censors: Jesus was called Rabbi in the bible and, according to Jewish law, in order for a man to be a Rabbi (at the time) he had to be married. Chew on that, all you celibate priests.

And leave your stinking hands off my celluloid. Although, why any studio should have to kowtow to these religious freaks is beyond me. Case in point: Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ. Catholics bitched about it, Universal changed nothing -- and consequently, the film made far more money than it would have otherwise.

If Sony wants to make an assload of cash on The Da Vinci Code, then all they have to do is let it out with no censorship.

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Scary Brown Men!!! 

The latest round in the scary ooga-booga... three men in Santa Monica caused local residents to piss themselves, because they were filming local landmarks. Quoth the local media:
All three men were of Middle Eastern descent, NBC4 reported. The men's nationalities had nothing to do with the investigation, police said.
Um, their nationalities had nothing to do with it? Oh, bullshit. I could trot my white ass on down there and videotape for days, and no one would say a thing. And what's more irksome is that Santa Monica is the liberal enclave of liberal Los Angeles, the community that was dubbed The People's Republic of Santa Monica in the 90s because they supported rent control and let the homeless live there.

The tagline on the news for this story has been along the lines of, "Why were these men filming Santa Monica?" To which my response is, "I dunno. Maybe they're fucking tourists?" And, honestly, anyone who knows LA knows this: most Angelenos only go to Santa Monica reluctantly, because it's such a schlep through nasty traffic, down the clogged 405 and out the messy 10. The only people hanging around the pier are tourists or locals. The last time I went there was six years ago, and it was only because a good friend of mine had a play running at a local theatre, and the curtain time was 10 p.m., one of the few times when traffic doesn't suck (as much) heading to the west side.

Anyway, I think this whole thing is a non-story, along the lines of Bush's "if you see someone getting into a crop duster you know isn't theirs" bullshit. Better that we keep our eyes on the upcoming nuclear attack drill this August in South Carolina. Because the only terrorists we really have to worry about in this country are homegrown. The other terrorists, the ones in the middle east, are too stuck in a third world economy to make it to our shores -- despite all the ooga-booga factor your local news media would like to serve you.

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Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Apropos of Nothing... 

I love Shostokovich. Period. He's my favorite composer of the 20th Century. Start out with his 5th Symphony, try the 13th if you're ambitious, then check out any of his piano concertos in a minor key. Beyond that... the man was a friggin genius. He even managed to orchestrate "Tea for Two" in forty minutes (on a bet) and come up with something that transcends the mundane original... it's called "The Tahiti Trot", in case you want to look it up.

Then again, I have a thing for bombastic Russian composers. Prokofiev. Stravinsky. Rimsky-Korsakov. Tchaikovsky. And look at the latter. Tchaikovsky. Who else but a raving queen would write a piece using cannons as instruments?

But, back to Shostokovich -- fucking genius. If you don't know him, get to. You'll be glad you did. And you'll find out where every modern movie composer stole their ideas, when they weren't cribbing from Gustav Holst -- who got lucky with one movement of a suite (Mars from "The Planets"), but sucked with everything else.

That's the Orff disease. Write one good theme... "O Fortuna," and be known forever, even if the original work is kind of dull. Oh, wait, no... that's the Strauss disease. If it weren't for Stanley Kubrick, no one would know anything of Richard Strauss's "Also Sprach Zarathustra" because, frankly, it's a minute and a half of interesting followed by forty-five minutes of boring.

Which brings me back to Dmitri Shostokovich... he was never boring. Which is why I recommend him. Too bad the dude spent too much of his life writing sound tracks for Joe Stalin's propoganda movies. But, in a better world, the US would have smuggled him out just because of his talent. In which case most of the best US films of the 30s and 40s would have been scored by the master.

And Danny Elfman would sound a whole lot different. Or not. Side note: I think that Danny Elfman is the best living film composer, next to Nino Rota, who I think is still living, though not composing a lot. And I think Rota was influenced by Shostakovich, and Rota influenced Elfman...

Full circle. Just listen to the fucking Russian, okay? Get an ear, and learn...

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Monday, August 08, 2005

Fame Whores... 

Ah, yes. So now three of the Jackson jurors are trotting their asses out before the press saying they should have voted guilty. Well, I can only put it in two words. Tough shit. If you thought he was guilty, you should have held out in the jury room. If you thought you were being pressured by the other jurors to change your verdict, I'm sure the judge explained it to you -- it was your duty to report your concerns to the bailiff, so that the judge could call the entire jury back en camera and figure out what was going on.

But... you made your vote, you lie in it. If you were so damn convinced, if you were so damn sure, when you were sitting in that jury room, then it was your holy duty to hold out, no matter what. And who knows. Maybe you did knowingly let a child molestor go. But, at this point, that's your bad, because, thanks to your vote in the jury room and the laws of the land, Michael Jackson can never ever be tried on these same charges ever, ever again. It's that pesky concept called "Double Jeopardy." So... look at it this way, flip-flop jurors: thanks to you, Michael's gotta get his hands on more twelve year-old boy-poon before there's any hope of nailing him for what you say he was guilty of, all 'cause you didn't have the balls to insist he was guilty of it before. Guess that means that the next molested boy is all your fault...

(I can only imagine what twisted search engine hits that "twelve year-old boy-poon" is going to bring my way... but I do digress.)

Short version of the story. If you thought he was guilty then and changed your vote, shame on you. Bitching about it now isn't going to change your verdict. But there are still nine jurors (and two alternates) who haven't spoken up on guilt. All of which makes me think this: you're nothing but fame whores, who want to choke some money out of this story before it goes away. And what better way than to say, "Well, gosh, I would have voted guilty, but those other people were just so intimidating."

All of which reminds me of this old canard: When you go before a jury, you're screwed, because you're being judged by people too stupid to get out of jury duty. Or, in this case, people too stupid to understand what their duty was as jurors. Or maybe they just wanted to go home. In either case, to the three of you: get fucked. I hope you get no book deals, no more attention, nothing but the approbation you deserve.

Again: if you knew he was guilty and voted "Not," then you sold out your conscience for a little convenience, and you're useless whores. If you didn't think he was guilty, but want some money now, then you're still useless whores. Shut up now. Your fifteen minutes of fame ended when your Not Guilty Verdicts were announced. Go away.

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Pass the Tinfoil? 

Or not. From certain quarters online, I've been hearing mutterings of another terrorist attack in August. These are the people who are utterly convinced that the US and UK governments were behind 9/11 and 7/7. I'm not completely convinced of that proposition, although I have my doubts. But -- both of those events occured during "terror drills" that came pretty damn close to mimicking real events, particularly in London.

So, perhaps, this should give us pause:
FORT MONROE, Va. -- Here’s the scenario…A seafaring vessel transporting a 10-kiloton nuclear warhead makes its way into a port off the coast of Charleston, S.C. Terrorists aboard the ship attempt to smuggle the warhead off the ship to detonate it. Is this really a possibility?

Joint Task Force Civil Support (JTF-CS) here is planning its next exercise on the premise that this crisis is indeed plausible.

Sudden Response 05 will take place this August on Fort Monroe and will be carried out as an internal command post exercise. The exercise is intended to train the JTF-CS staff to plan and execute Consequence Management operations in support of Federal Emergency Management Agency Region IV’s response to a nuclear detonation.
Here's a bit more paranoid take on it.

Of course, remember, tomorrow is August 9, the 60th anniversary of America's nuking of Nagasaki. It's also a Tuesday. Personally, I'd be worried about tomorrow.

Significantly, I can't find an exact date for the Sudden Response exercise. And if you're wondering why something so obvious as terror attacks during terror drills, that's exactly the point. "This is only a drill. If this were a real emergency..."

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Tuesday, August 02, 2005


Great article that you should read in its entirety at The Evangelical Atheist, but the short version is this... countries in which Atheists are the majority are much more well-off and happier. Period. Take religion out of the argument, and humanity is better taken care of.

This happens in countries with "organic" atheism -- that is, non-belief in deity naturally followed by the people, instead of imposed by the government (q.v. parts of the former USSR; modern-day communist China.) On every possible quality of life scale, the atheist countries (all four of them) win.

And it makes me weep and gnash my teeth. If only we could combine American techological know-how with purely rationalistic atheisism, we might get somewhere. Instead, we have big science here, along with the insistence upon superstition and stupidity and the whole religion thing.

My eyes turn toward Sweden... most atheistic nation in the world, and purveyors of fine furniture and interior design, but... not having the money to do otherwise, not much else.

True, when the division is "do you believe in god" and "do you go to church," America probably splits much more toward the latter. But, until everything else in this country admits that the latter is true -- a lot of Americans probably believe in god, but don't behave like they do -- we're stuck in a rut.

Socio-political advancement and belief in god is impossible. Period. If you want to move forward into the 21st Century, then dump the god fairytale now. If you want to move firmly back to the 13th Century, then feel free to believe the religious bullshit, abandon all logic, and waste your days in church.

And no, I'm not being prejudicial here. Whether you're Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Mormon, Scientologist or whatever... if your religion rules your world... fuck you. You're an idiot. Do you really think that Santa Claus will drop by on Christmas Eve? No? Why not? When was the last time you saw the Easter Bunny, hm?

If you think that some invisible cloud being is keeping a tally on your life right now, then you're just as big an idiot as an adult who believes in Santa. Or the Easter bunny. Dump the myths your parents taught you. Wake up to the real world. There are no gods, no rules, no heaven, no hell. And the sooner you wake up to that simple fact, the better. The sooner you stop judging this world by non-existent criteria, the better.

And the better and better Sweden looks to me. After all, when was the last time Sweden invaded another country based on lies and bullshit?

Um... not since about the 9th Century, when they sucked up Norway. But, trust me, they've gotten over that. And Norway is Norway, Sweden is Sweden, and that's more than I can say for anything the US has done since at least 1959...

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