Thursday, March 24, 2005

What are they saying about us?

Watching America

If you didn’t see this at over at Vodka dude’s then go check it out. I’ve pulled some excerpts. What I find interesting is that the world press is not as filled with America bashing as some would have us believe. While it is true we are not “loved” by all, (I don’t give a flying frito as to whether or not we are), it is also not true that we are universally reviled.

Teshreen, Mar. 19, Syria:
When Will America Live Up to Its Slogans?

—Iraqi TV: Iraqi Terrorists Confess; Tell Of Training In Syria, Feb. 24
“This is the state of the world today, a world turned on its head ... Because of the deceit of the one nation that pins its name on human rights, freedom and democracy.”

La Prensa, Mar. 20, Nicaragua:
The Eternal Migratory Headache

“… the deaths on the [U.S.-Mexican] border should remind us that any system that forces people to risk their lives evading it is doomed to failure.”

French People, Open Your Eyes!

“For us Chinese, today the true defenders of democracy are on the other side of the Atlantic, in the United States.”

Better than the Drudge Report

While it is true that saying “Better than the Drudge Report” is like saying better than a “Pentium 3 at 800Mhz,” but, the Roth Report is definitely a “dual processor Xeon”. I’ve changed my bookmarks. (h/t Viking Pundit)

The evils of global warming

I’m about to curl up in a ball and cry. I guess once we have this global warming problem all figured out we won’t have to deal with snow in the winter anymore.

Update: I forgot to add—“You’re a freakin’ Viking. Buck up and put on another layer of long underwear.”

Update II: Hey Mr. Viking, please put down that sword. And the hat with horns too. I was just kidding, honest. Here, you can borrow my long johns. What’s that? Gimme a break! You’re a freaking Viking. Who cares if I’ve worn them before? Uhh, just kidding. I’ll go to the store right now and get you your own pair. That’s a 3XL, right. And dude, get a shave. What’s that? No, I didn’t say anything. I was just reminding myself to, uh, to get the driveway paved.

Canada Denies Refugee Status to American

Do your jail time and stop your sniveling, coward.

Apropos of Not Too Damned Much II

Any article that namedrops Bill S. Preston, Esq. and Ted Theodore Logan is alright in my book.

Apologies for this Geeky Moment

Try all of Wendy’s delicious flavors: Wendy’s red, Wendy’s yellow, and new, delicious, Wendy’s chili.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Shooter’s Paradise

Anthony Harwood of the Mirror, opines on America’s dreaded evil gun culture and asks ”WHAT CAN AMERICA EXPECT...”. Perhaps Mr. Harwood should take a look at what’s going on in his beloved England:

After 3 Home Secretaries, 46 Acts of Parliament, 178 consultations, 195 “initiatives” and 350 new police regulations:

§ Gun crime has doubled under Labour. In 2003-4, a gun crime was committed every hour in Britain.

§ Violent crime is up 83 per cent. For the first time ever, more than a million violent crimes were committed last year. That is more than the combined populations of Manchester and Liverpool.

§ Robbery has gone up by 51 per cent.

§ 825,000 more crimes were committed in 2003-4 than in 1998-9 – even though Home Office spending has risen by £5 billion

...gun crime is up by 34 per cent, ”...cities such as Boston in America have become safer and that has helped push London down”, ”...GANGS are operating on bus routes through Leytonstone and have carried out a spate of muggings.

You know, England is such a violent country, I’m not sure I really want to vacation there.

The truth is, gun violence in England and the good old USA is mostly the result of gangs and drugs. Even the English police are fretting what to do about black-on-black violence. Legislating guns out of existence will not get rid of the gangs, or stop crime. England has proven that.

Missing Recruitment Goals

The Army is going to miss recruitment goals for March and April after having missed goals in February by a pretty hefty percentage. By itself, this is an interesting story, but the spin put on it by the journalist responsible for the MSNBC piece gives it spin that just doesn’t fit. In a mastery of finding the cloud behind the silver lining, the writer barely mentions how strong recruitment had been for the previous four-year stretch.

In February the Army missed its monthly recruiting goal by 27 percent. That was the first time it had fallen short for any month since May 2000, and it underscored the difficulty the Army faces in signing up young men and women during time of war.

So, the Army hits its goals for almost four straight years, including over three years of combat in Afghanistan and Iraq--and somehow this three month stretch “[underscores] the difficulty the Army faces in signing up young men and women during time of war.”

More likely it underscores a change in the attitude of the citizens of the country. For nearly four years, most of that time at war, citizens stepped up to do their part even when the choice wasn’t popular. The attitude change is probably a reflection of the feeling that the period of most need and crisis has ended. Wrong or right, if most of the military age citizens of the US feel that the worst of the war is over, then their urge to join will have diminished. Given that the timing is closely related to the elections in Iraq and that the last month has seen a surge of positive news stories from the Middle East, the best way to interpret incomplete data like this is in relation to current events.

Through the worst of the fighting when the news seemed to be all bad, recruitment goals were met. When the stories changed to decidedly more positive, recruitment goals were missed. The problem isn’t recruitment in times of war; the problem is recruitment now that people think that the war is essentially over. Instead of seeing this, the writer focuses on difficulties of the Marines and Army recruitment over the last couple months. In fact, the writer doesn’t even make mention of the fact that the last time recruitment goals weren’t met the country wasn’t at war.

That isn’t to say that the shortfall isn’t a problem, just that someone with a huge blind spot or an agenda is completely misreading where the trouble exists. The difficulty that the recruiters now face is in convincing potential recruits that the need is still great, that the country needs and values their service. The better things go in the Middle East, the harder that will be to sell, and the less likely someone is to put his or her career on hold.

Read the story.

Adopted baby returned to birth mother

A sad story from the heart of the Rocky Mountains:

“We believe the [Illinois] judge will order the child returned to Chicago. Given the circumstances we believe that’s in the best interests of the child,” said Salt Lake City attorney Richard VanWagoner. “The question is whether the child should go back to the birth mother or be placed in Illinois custody and adopted.”

Attorneys for the birth mother, Carmen McDonald, will argue today in court that the baby belongs with her. McDonald, who has a history of mental illness and suffers from post-partum depression, sued A Cherished Child, arguing that agency staff coerced her into surrendering her baby. She is joined in the lawsuit by the baby’s maternal grandmother, Maria McDonald.

That’s not the sad part. This is:

[Adoptive parents] Kusaba, 50, and Habbeshaw, 45, were arrested last week after undercover narcotics detectives allegedly found cocaine, marijuana and drug paraphernalia in their Salt Lake City home. They face felony drug charges for possession and, until Tuesday, were answering to child endangerment charges.

Why does a 50 year old man choose adoption:

The Utah couple have been trying to have a baby for more than a decade, undergoing expensive hormone treatments and suffering miscarriages until they settled on adoption.

Hey a******, do ya’ think that maybe the coke and weed had soemthing to do with it?

Is Intelligent Design more intelligent than we thought?

What he said:

My argument about evolution* is and will always be, that all you loud mouth people who accept as some sort of fact etched in stone that man evolved from some primordial ooze are just as religious as the people you bash.

The truth is --though you are loath to admit it-- that we don’t know jack about the origin of the species. If there is indeed some mechanism built into organisms to repair flawed genes, the whole theory -which is already mathematically astronomically improbable- is now a few dozen more orders of magnitude more improbable. There is something other than DNA that apparently carries some sort of genome and we don’t even have a name for it yet, much less understand it!

I agree, but am open to beng unconvinced. I do feel it is our God-given responsibility to understand as much about life and its origins as we can. I also feel that it is our our God-given responsibility to unlock the secrets of life, and if that requires trying to create it, then lets get on with it. Of course, absent a laboratory and some needed skills, I’ll just have to settle for arguing about it.

80 More Angels…

...just got their wings.

At least 80 insurgents have been killed by Iraqi special forces backed by US troops in a raid on a training camp near the city of Tikrit, officials say.

An Iraqi commando unit engaged in heavy fighting before seizing control of the camp, 160km (100 miles) north-west of Baghdad, on Tuesday.

Is it inappropriate to mark death with joy? Possibly, but when that death is a symbol of innocent others who won’t be killed, then I hope I can be forgiven my happiness.

Read the latest good news.

Ooo, Oooo, Pick Me!

I know the answer to this one:

Why is it acceptable for state employees to be able to invest all of their mandated retirement savings - amounting to 8 percent of salary from employees and 10.15 percent from the state - into accounts similar to what Bush wants to make available on a much more restricted scale for young workers across the nation? 
By the way, several hundred state employees - including lawmakers, top elected officials and some of their staff - have since the late 1990s enjoyed the privilege of choosing between a traditional pension and privately directed accounts. 

Of the 457 officials currently eligible for the pension choice, 221 have opted for self-directed accounts. 

Perhaps critics of Bush’s plan will stop their carping long enough to tell us why state workers can be trusted to make such decisions but the rest of us can’t.

The answer, of course, is that the rest of us are stoopider than state employees.

I mean, it’s obvious, really.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The Stupid Tax

"The agency running the Powerball lottery might decrease the odds of winning the multimillion-dollar jackpot to stem a record-setting run of winners that is keeping jackpots small and, the agency says, causing ticket sales to plunge.”


Leading off the local Fox affiliate’s newscast this evening was a story about the shootings on the Red Lake reservation. “Why?” they asked over and over again. “Why?”

They noted that Jeff Weise had been teased for his Goth clothes and his tall stature. They noted that he had recently had trouble at school. They wondered how it could be that this student might load up a shotgun and a couple revolvers, don a protective vest, and go shoot up a school.

Here’s the answer: because he was a self-important, maladjusted little boy who thought that doing something like this would make him special. And because he didn’t fit in--and tried hard to not fit in by dressing different and acting different than the rest--he thought that it was his right to take the lives of all these people. Dealing out death is the one thing that made him powerful and unique.

Except, of course, it doesn’t. Killing someone is no big trick: for all its amazing capabilities, the human body is still a fragile thing. No, taking a life isn’t a special trick at all. And unique? Hardly. Killers are a dime a dozen.

No, in his twisted, idiotic little mind, he thought he could carve out immortality and leave a message for the rest of us fools. Instead he made a complete waste of his own life, brutally ended the lives of people who had done nothing to deserve his indiscriminate violence, and will leave behind a legacy of books, magazine articles, journalists, and other professional hyperventilators who will ask, “Why?” every time the anniversary of the event rolls around.

Like the survivors and family of the Columbine tragedy, the survivors and families of the Red Lake murders will be trotted out to offer opinions and tears whenever some other self-important little prick decides to start killing people. And they’ll all start their books, newspaper articles, interviews, and newscasts with that same question: “Why?”

Why? Because sometimes people are mean and rude: they hurt feelings callously, they exclude cruelly, and they act as if they are better than others. Those others are usually the kids who either can’t or won’t fit in with the crowd. And sometimes one of those misfits starts believing that those social cruelties and sleights somehow impart the right to murder their classmates or workmates. The murders won’t make them special and unique: the murders will make them brutal and pathetic.

Why? I won’t give Jeff Weise cover by blaming his actions on the social missteps of others. He doesn’t deserve to have his actions legitimized or his memory given a status that it doesn’t deserve. Much will be made of his father (who committed suicide), his mother (who was in a nursing home with brain damage), and his schoolmates (who weren’t nice enough to him). What it all really comes down to is that a kid who tried to be different, and was treated accordingly, didn’t want to put in the hard work of living life. He picked a cowardly and quick path to solve the problem: kill to make his name known forever, and die so he didn’t have to deal with the consequences.

What a pathetic little boy.

Read the story.

American Idol is Evil

What do you say when a grown woman, and a lawyer, and a respected law professor to boot, writes I (heart) Vonzell?

We need to ban AI until the women-folk come to their senses.

And Now For Something At Least Marginally Different (Updated)

Because the world could use some good news today, I bring you this snippet of happiness and sunshine plucked right from the front page of my.yahoo.com (but, quite possibly not your.yahoo.com).

Gunbattles erupted out in the streets of the southern Baghdad neighborhood of Doura, where militants wearing black hoods and riding in three cars opened fire on people shopping on a main street. Shopkeepers and residents returned fire, killing three assailants. A man, woman and child were injured and taken to a hospital. 

Looks to me like Michael Moore’s “freedom fighters” aren’t quite as popular as some people might have you believe.

Don’t get me wrong: that they oppose the terrorists who increasingly target Iraqi citizens instead of Americans doesn’t mean that the “shopkeepers and residents” are die-hard supporters of America. We don’t really have enough information to make that judgment. We can say, though, that they would rather the terrorists went away and left them to their businesses, their lives, and their newfound voice in government.

Every time a terrorist dies an angel gets his wings. I heard that somewhere once…

Read the story.

Update: Ace joins in the happiness.

Updated Update: Yes, indeed, more like this, please.

Motivational Quote of the Day

I read an RSS feed for the motivational quote of the day and usually find it useless. Today, I liked what I read, though, and I thought that it was worth sharing. Enjoy.

“I am a Conservative to preserve all that is good in our constitution, a Radical to remove all that is bad. I seek to preserve property and to respect order, and I equally decry the appeal to the passions of the many or the prejudices of the few.”

Benjamin Disraeli, campaign speech at High Wycombe, England, November 27, 1832

Notably the quote of the day folks had it a bit wrong. It read “and I equally decry the appeal to the passions of the many of the prejudices of the few.” I’ve fixed it for your reading pleasure.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Review: Queens of the Stone Age, Lullabies to Paralyze

Queens of the Stone Age Sessions@AOL

Sometimes a good album--even a particularly good album--can be a disappointment. In the case of Lullabies to Paralyze, the disappointment isn’t that the songs aren’t better or that the band isn’t as good without the volatile Nick Oliveri playing bass. The songs are solid nearly front to back and the only musical presence that is missed is that of Dave Grohl on drums. No, the disappointment is that the CD doesn’t feel like much of a move forward for a band whose first three albums all had singular, unique identities. Damned good is a step down from the greatness of Songs for the Deaf and Rated R, in particular.

It starts out well enough. The slow, precise “Lullaby” is a spare song, but when part-time vocalist Mark Lanegan starts singing, it becomes something much deeper. Lanegan’s voice has a transformative power, lulling the listener away from what could otherwise have been a tiny, cliché of a song. It also stands as the only surprise you’re likely to find on the disc.

“Medication” and “Everybody Knows That You’re Insane” both drive the disc forward with aggressive rhythms and the kind of hard rock that is hard to find from Grammy-nominated, big-selling bands these days. They both stand as good, but typical, efforts from the band; the songs are performed well, all the ingredients are there, but it’s hard to escape the sense that we’ve heard these tunes before.

A song like the slower, but wonderfully titled “Tangled Up in Plaid,” is the reason that it would be a crime to neglect to buy the album. A song like “Burn the Witch” is the reason that Lullabies still comes close to being a classic.

With Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top adding a touch of Texas blues and Lanegan providing a dry-throat scrape to back up Josh Homme’s high and clear falsetto, is the best song on the album. It exists in a place not far from Led Zeppelin, but belonging entirely to the Queens of the Stone Age. Anyone with a love for rock and roll will be singing along at the end—"Burn the witch, burn to ash and bone.” Demented, sure, but catchy as hell.

Another obvious highlight is the first single, “Little Sister,” which is almost as radio friendly as Songs for the Deaf’s perfect “No One Knows.” It would be safe to predict movie placement and radio overkill for the fun little rocker with the sing-along chorus. Soon after “Little Sister” closes out the first half of the disk, though, the going gets bland. “I Never Came” stands as the kind of near-pop song that makes Queens a still-cool band balanced right on the edge of the mainstream acceptance, “Skin on Skin” just makes for unpleasant, tedious listening.

Intriguingly distorted vocals don’t manage to save “Someone’s in the Wolf” from its arty pretensions. At over seven minutes long, the song devolves into Halloween sound effects and musical noodling that ultimately prove tiresome. From there, most of the remainder of the disc is skip-it filler. The only exceptions are the groovy “You Got a Killer Scene There, Man,” with it’s almost impossible to hear guest vocals, and the mellow “Long, Slow Goodbye.”

The UK version of the album (NME.com is streaming the entire UK release on their site) has a couple songs that we won’t be seeing on the US release, and that’s an absolute shame. The first song, “Like a Drug,” is elevated from one of the Desert Sessions discs and sounds like a song recorded in the late 50’s or early 60’s; the cover of ZZ Top’s “Precious and Grace” is an intense, earthquake of a song. With Billy Gibbons and Mark Lanegan exchanging vocals, this one would have been the perfect bookend to the opener. The US release is poorer for the absence.

Lullabies could have been great, but its second half is too self-indulgent and the overall disc doesn’t present the same kind of step forward that came when the band went from the self-titled album to Rated R to Songs for the Deaf. Lullabies is an album with some great moments that doesn’t quite live up to the expectations.

But those moments of greatness still act as a compelling reason to buy the thing.

Check out the live performances in the Sessions@AOL archive.

Zomby Wisdom

One of my co-workers went to an event downtown this weekend and just told me that I would have had a good time.

“Of course, I would have. I have a good time wherever I go; I can find fun almost anywhere. And if I can’t find the fun, I can usually find a bar.”

Damn, I crack me up.

Playgirl Editor Fired

Has anyone verified this report of Playgirl editor-in-chief, Michelle Zipp, being fired for her political beliefs? If true, I would like to note that, A, it is probably not my fault (mostly nekkid Steve warning), and, B, it’s a disgusting response to a simple statement of political position. She didn’t express any odd political positions other than the (apparently offensive) idea that a woman who presides over a publication like Playgirl can actually be a Republican.

Oh, horrors.

I would threaten to boycott the publication, but that would just reduce their distribution by precisely no copies per month. My opinion and my dollars aren’t exactly a big issue at Playgirl headquarters.

What a pathetic crew of small-minded, provincial people.


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