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Thursday, February 21, 2008

This One’s For You, Dave

From the NY Times: Is PBS Still Necessary?

I have my opinion, of course, but I’m biased…

There Should Be Some Kind of Award for This…

Not every country could hit 100,000% inflation and still claim to be “functional"--although that term might be overstating things a tad.

Zimbabwe’s soaring inflation hit an annual rate of 100,000% in January, new official figures show.

Ongoing shortages of food and fuel helped drive inflation from December’s rate of 66,212%.

So, congratulations to Mugabe for breaking new ground; sympathy to the citizens for having to live under such a nincompoop.

Someday, when Mugabe is gone and someone is trying to pick up the pieces that are left, Mugabe’s defenders and apologists will be able to look on all this and laugh. Mostly because they were probably taking payoffs the entire way through and fat stacks of $10 million (Zim) notes still look impressive. “Ha ha ha, that Mugabe, he was always such an overachiever.”

I’m trying to put together the financing to do a trip to Mozambique next year--an actual journalistic endeavor of sorts--and was hoping to hop the border to get a look at Zimbabwe, too. I wonder how possible that will be this time next year?

Read the story.

Thanks to Shawn, Cheryl, and the NYT

Before we begin this day’s scheduled blogging, let me say thanks to Shawn and RandomCheryl44888862 for linking posts over here. Shawn gets double thanks for linking the story both on his own site and over at the American Spectator’s blog. Then he gets triple thanks for coming up with the headline that I should have come up with…

Lastly, is it just me or is the story about McCain and the lobbyist seriously lacking in meat. Hell, I don’t even think that the NYT article rises to the level of accusation--I’d say it’s more firmly grounded in meaningful insinuation. This was supposed to be the story that knocked him from the hobby horse? I don’t see it.

Unless there are more details (and speculation, insinuation, or actual accusation) in the hopper, I’d say that this story is more about why the hell did they publish it (okay, we already know that answer) than about McCain’s phantom misdeeds. He may well have done something wrong--he’s human after all, and a politician as well--but you wouldn’t be able to tell it from that flaccid little article.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

This One’s For You, Jerry

This looks like a blast. It also looks like I would be flat on my butt within the first couple jumps.

This, on the other hand, is an entirely different game. One door opens or one car turns at the wrong time and you get magical biker goo splattered all over the road. I have to admit to be a little mesmerized by the video, though.

Creepy Ass Taxidermy of Doom

While we’re in the mood to wish we were playing hooky today (sorry, but the warm weather is making me feel all springy inside--a feeling that I am sure will retreat when the cold and snow come back to snuff out my happy dreams of beaches and sunshine), you should check out this creepy ass taxidermy of doom. Cool, creative, and more than a little disturbing.

H/T to the folks at Veer.

Okay, Feel Free to Disagree

I left a comment in response to comment #24 over here because of a post that I read here (thanks for the link, Rob!), but I didn’t want to deprive people of the opportunity to disagree with me here.

So, here goes:

“(Unfortunately I really don’t see McCain picking Paul…although honestly it’s absolutely the very best thing he could do.)”

Why? Because Paul will bring that extra 4% of the vote that he’s been missing? Or, maybe, because it would establish his bona fides with the anti-war folks? Or, perhaps, you were thinking that it would bring in extra white supremacists? Nah, can’t be that, he’ll already get the “I ain’t votin’ for a black man” block by default.

No, no, I know, it’s because the gold standard hordes were just dying to find a reason to believe that McCain was the guy to make their wishes come true.

Yeah. That would really blow it open.

Whatever anyone thinks of Ron Paul, not only would it not be the very best decision that McCain could make for VP, it would be a ludicrous proposition. They don’t have much in common and Paul won’t make McCain into a viable candidate for the libertarians, anti-war activists, or any of the others that have rallied to Paul.

Which is okay: frankly, he doesn’t need those folks to win the election. He needs to woo the conservative base without losing the independents--that will be tough since movement conservatives are in a mood to fight and he’s not a particularly conservative candidate. Moving too far right, though, will lose his natural constituency: moderate Republicans and independents who admire his “maverick” brand.

If Obama is the nominee on the other side--and he is--then McCain has an uphill battle to winning the presidency. If Hillary had been the candidate, I think he would have chewed her and Bill up, spit them out, and taken the White House by a huge margin. But Obama isn’t an unlikable, arrogant shrew, he’s just a stealth lefty waiting to unleash a speedy financial doom on the country’s economy.

We can talk bad about Bush all we want, but an Obama presidency will be a much more painful thing for conservatives and libertarians--not always for the same reasons, but the results will be like slow torture. Expansive new social programs that will dwarf the Bush errors (the pill bill will look tiny compared to whatever flavor universal health care Obama and a friendly congress tosses on our backs), for example.

The next four years could be brutally painful.

Of course, for libertarians and Democrats, the pain might be just as pronounced with a McCain White House.

Which goes to show that when you’re a libertarian, you just can’t freakin’ win. Poor bastards.

Play ball.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

American Idol: The Girl is Suffering House Withdrawal Edition

Update: I’ve placed the bulk of this post in the extended entry to save the AI haters from the pain. That’s how much I love all y’all.

All the young dudes think that they deserve to be America’s next pop singing sensation. Most of them are wrong--so wrong--and they will spend the next two hours proving my point.

Simon wants personality, originality, and good singing from this group of karaoke all stars. Which means he is probably deeply disappointed every time he comes to work on American Idol--feeling whatever shred of artistic dignity he ever had being stripped slowly from his body with every missed note, longing hobbit glance, and whiny, boy band singer that goes by.

Poor bastard.

Aside: I can’t quite get my head around the MacBook Air. I mean, there is an obvious techno-lust thing going on, especially for the SSD version. But without a DVD, without an ethernet port, and without a couple more ports, how useful would this thing be to me? I’m guessing that the answer is not necessarily much.

But the techno-lust still fills me with longing.

David Hernandez goes all gospely on us and doesn’t sound bad. If you’re looking for Future Lounge Singers of America, I mean. Certainly, the boy can sing and his voice could even be described as pleasant (with the exception of some seriously missed notes at the end), but he’s boring. Bland. Nice enough, though.

Randy liked him more than I did. Paula offered him verbal hugs. Simon was reasonably nice--and he was right. The beginning bit was the best, the kid needs to loosen up, and there wasn’t much distinct about it.

Chikezie isn’t really well-known enough yet to have just one name, is he? I’m having a hard time with that--and with the salmon-colored suit. Beyond that, his vocals started weak and only got a little better as the song went on. And what was up with that arrangement? Didn’t do him any favors at all and, for the second song running, the back-up singers sounded lazy as hell. This was a little disappointing; I thought he would sound better.

Randy was nicer than Chickezie deserves. Paula calls him a throwback to great R&B--which is a huge overstatement. Simon screws up the name and then dumps on the performance in typical Simon fashion (including seconding my opinion of the suit). Again, Simon was right. Chikezie does his best to be a good advocate for himself, though, which I approve of; if you can stand up for yourself without sounding combative (and I don’t think he did), you’ll win a few more votes.

Aside: How many of these performances will people really want to download from iTunes? I’m afraid that the answer might be: more than enough to buy Steve Jobs another personal jet.

Another Aside: McCain wins Wisconsin. Not exactly surprising, eh? I’m far more curious to see the results between Obama & Hillary--my guess is that Obama wins. But by how much?

Read the Rest...

I Wish…

I wish I had either a big, spinach stuffed crust pizza from Eduardo’s. Or maybe a sloppy, Italian beef sandwich from Portillo’s.

Sadly, here in Denver, there isn’t a damned place that I know of that makes a decent Italian beef and, while I can get a decent pizza--even a stuffed crust pizza--it isn’t Eduardo’s.

Darn.

It’s a Beautiful Denver Day

I blame global warming.

Wow. If Fidel Castro Has Resigned…

...I think I’ll need to be making regular trips to Babalu Blog today to find out what’s going on.

It is a day tens of thousands have waited for--but I wonder what it means? With Raul in control, how much will change? What comes next? And does Raul’s release of four dissidents yesterday carry more meaning now that we see what Fidel has done?

Babalu Blog will have a unique perspective on all of those questions and I highly recommend visiting to get the antidote to the MSM glare.

Read the story.

Update: And here are the presidential candidates on the announcement. Perhaps predictably, I find myself drawing a little closer to John McCain. Hillary Clinton just prattles on a bit and says not much, Obama says much the same as McCain (but he says it, to me, less convincingly), and McCain’s statement is most forceful, certainly more aggressive.

Which, yeah, that appeals to me.

Update 2: Politics, pragmatics, and sugar subsidies in the wake of Castro’s retirement.

Monday, February 18, 2008

I Don’t Understand Your Defense

If I understand it correctly, a man accused of sexually assaulting and killing an model in the UK is offering up a very strange defense:

  • I didn’t kill her, I just found her after the initial assault--in her driveway, in a pool of blood, having been stabbed seven times.
  • Instead of calling for help or finding out if she was still alive, he looked on this battered woman and found himself overcome with lust.
  • So, he had sex with her before realizing that she was already dead.
  • Because that makes things better. Somehow.

First, this is the least believable defense I’ve ever heard--Mark Dixie is admitting to raping Sally Anne Bowman, who had been viciously assaulted, because he didn’t realize that she was deceased and he couldn’t control his sexual urges. Am I missing something?

Apparently Mr. Dixie thinks that explanation sounds plausible and (somewhat) reasonable. I think it sounds so seriously screwed up that no reasonable society could possibly accept the idea of you remaining free to rape and brutalize women ever again--the only two options available are life imprisonment with no chance of parole or death. A man who would rape a presumably unconscious woman as she bled to death (the most charitable reading of his defense in that it assumes that he thought she was unconscious instead of dead) can never, ever be trusted in civilized society again.

Of course, it’s much easier to believe that he’s lying and that he’s a brutal, murdering, rapist and the need to keep him locked up is even more obvious.

His barrister makes things worse by adding this to the “defense”:

Commenting on the charge of murdering Miss Bowman, Anthony Glass QC, defending, said: “It is, you may think, a very unattractive defence.

“He did not know she was dead until intercourse was concluded.

“Even though you may think his conduct is disgusting, he allowed his lust to get the better of him.”

I know it’s just a title, but I’m still guessing that the Queen would not be amused with the Queen’s Counsel in this instance…

Read the rest.

How White am I?

Let me tell you how white I am. I browsed this blog while drinking tea (Numi Aged Earl Grey--certified organic--purchased last week at Whole Foods) and listening to the Gutter Twins new album, Saturnalia, while thinking about taking Girl to Bump & Grind for breakfast on Saturday to celebrate and hear about her interview for a GT position at her school. And, of course, I was typing it up on my big ol’ dual processor G5.

Wow. I feel so pallid. Thanks, Winds of Change!

A Moment of Appreciation for John McCain

There are things to dislike about McCain--and, again, when I have enough clear time to address it properly, I’ll spend it explaining my view on voting in the upcoming election--but we need to remember that there are things to appreciate about the man, too. Like this, for instance.

Wisconsin has received a half billion dollars—more than twice as much as any other state—from a federal subsidy meant to help out dairy farmers struggling with low milk prices.

Should farmers keep that safety net? Both Democratic presidential candidates think so.

In a tough 2004 re-election fight, Republican President Bush said he, too, would support renewing the program in spite of its cost to taxpayers. But this year ‘s GOP frontrunner, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, says he can ‘t do that.

“At a time when Americans must work four months a year just to pay their taxes, John McCain cannot support farm policies that are too costly for the taxpayer, particularly when they also play a negative role in encouraging farmers to rely on government subsidies, “ McCain spokesman Brian Rogers said of the dairy subsidy.

In an election year, it takes guts to tell a group of voters that you won’t support their particular sacred cow (sorry, had to).

I’m sure that a President McCain would introduce new spending--I’ve never seen a president that didn’t--but I think he would be the first in a long time to do his best to downsize some of the market-distorting subsidies and programs that have grown out of government’s good intentions. He certainly wouldn’t be as reliable Ron Paul in trying to squash the old order, but he would be a damned site better than anyone else still in the running.

And, as for the article’s assertion that it is “a federal subsidy meant to help out dairy farmers struggling with low milk prices,” well, that’s only half the truth. The full truth is that agricultural subsidies largely seem to exist to keep prices low so that consumers feel good about their grocery-buying experience and American farmers remain competitive with their counterparts around the world. Without subsidies and protectionist trade policies, we consumers might have a better idea of the real value of foods in the world.

Of course, since the subsidies come out of taxes, most consumers are paying higher costs than we notice--the more taxes you pay, the more likely it is that you are subsidizing cheap milk for other families. As an act of charity, that seems like a nice thing, but as an act of distorting our view of the value of a thing, I would suggest that the actual cost of a gallon of milk in the United States is almost impossible to calculate.

I’m going to speak a little heresy here: I’m fine, for now, with tax rates. I want to see all the tax cuts from this Bush era made permanent, but I’m not personally looking for any more cuts. What I want to see from the next President of the United States is someone who will tackle spending issues. Entitlement reform and an overhaul of the ridiculous bureaucratic that drain money from our coffers is what we need right now. More tax cuts won’t gift us with long-term economic well-being right now: but solving the problems of Social Security, Medicare, and government bloat would take us in the right direction.

Again, McCain is the only candidate remaining (Ron Paul notwithstanding--and, honestly, Paul doesn’t figure much in any rational debate about who will be the next president) who is likely to work toward that goal. Many people find his answer about why he opposed the Bush tax cuts (that those cuts weren’t supported by spending cuts) to be a sign of how he strayed from the conservative base; I personally find the argument persuasive. Government spending must be cut for the economic health of the nation.

Read the rest.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Damnit…

...Thou shalt not use my name in vain. Okay, so that doesn’t work quite right here, but it captures the feel of the moment.

The name is kind of catchy, though, isn’t it?

Do follow the link from Instapundit, though. As always, the Zombietime photo essays are always great.

Update: Okay, since there now is Insta-traffic rolling through, here are a few suggested posts for someone who expected to find something more than a little good natured bitching. Click to read about:

  1. A movie you should watch.
  2. A movie you shouldn’t watch.
  3. “Bill Ritter, You Ignorant Slut”

Friday, February 15, 2008

A Sad Day for Broncos Fans

Today will be a sad one for Broncos fans, although one that most probably expected. Wide receiver Rod Smith--a stand-out talent, a great guy, and, I hope, a man who will still be involved in the Broncos organization in a coaching role--has been placed on the reserve/retired list.

Denver Broncos wide receiver Rod Smith, the club’s all-time leader in every major career receiving category, was placed on the Broncos’ reserve/retired list on Friday.

Smith played all 13 of his professional seasons with the Broncos after joining the team as a college free agent from Missouri Southern University on May 3, 1994, and posted 849 career receptions for 11,389 receiving yards (13.4 avg.) with 68 touchdowns in 183 games (158 starts).

He was also a key member of their back-to-back Super Bowl championship teams.

His career totals for receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns are the most by an undrafted player in NFL history, and he ranks seventh and eighth, respectively, in career games played and started by a Bronco.

His achievements were of will and preparation. While he was, obviously, physically gifted, it was his drive to excel that made him the great player that he was. His first few years weren’t notable except that he learned his trade, he practiced, he studied film, and he made himself into the kind of wide receiver that quarterbacks beg for. Over time, he proved his value and it would be good to see him pass on his attitude and knowledge to another generation of receivers.

If the Broncos do not find a useful way to keep Smith involved in the organization, they will be a lesser team for their failure.

He will undoubtedly be added to the Broncos Ring of Fame, and, I can only hope, be given one last moment in the spotlight next year--a chance for fans to voice their appreciation. Only a couple Broncos have found their way to the Hall of Fame, but I think that this is another name that will be added to that short list.

Read the rest.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Good Lord, That’s Nifty

This may not be the coolest thing ever in the ‘sphere, but it must be close.

5 The Bishop sipped upon hys tea
36 And sayed, “an open mind must we
37 Keep, for know thee well the Mussel-man
38 Has hys own laws for hys own clan
39 So question not hys Muslim reason
40 And presaerve ye well social cohesion.”

Read and marvel at the wonder of the thing.

Big thanks to Christopher Orlet for pointing this out. And then, to wash it down, Shawn’s suggested reading for yesterday: Be My Political Valentine. You’ve captured a supermajority of my heart!

Then, when you’re done laughing and stuff, go here for the big come down. Someone put on the breaks; we’re heading for a cliff.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

American Idol Hollywood Week: The Crushing of Souls

Cutting down to the final 24 is always a little brutal. There are always some folks who I like who get the late boot and it isn’t fun watching them walk away.

What is sad, though, is how often someone says something like, “I don’t know what I’m going to do next.” That’s sad to me because hopefully they had some other goals in life before entering into a contest where the likelihood of winning is--well, there is no likelihood, it’s all about how unlikely it is win the contest.

It’s nice that tattoo girl is going through, I suppose. Although after hearing about her previous record deal and music industry failure, I wonder if she really belongs in a contest meant to discover new talent. I dunno…

Most of the names and faces I really don’t care about. They don’t spend enough time that you really notice that there are fifty separate personalities--at least, I don’t.

The nurse stays, which is nice, David “Boy Wonder” Archuleta, stays, which irritates no end.

It’s most sad when the “hubbas” leave--but they give a lot of leeway to the pretty ones. Kristy Lee Cook, for example, might not have deserved a top spot, but I’m still glad she’s there. Brooke White, on the other hand, deserved a spot--nice person, pretty, gorgeous voice--so it’s no wonder she went through. They don’t send too many women like these two home when they get them to Hollywood. That isn’t a bad thing, of course; you don’t see too many bands and singers who look like the Rolling Stones anymore.

Which, in most ways, is kind of nice.

Darling girl will be happy that her man, Michael Johns, made it through. In fact, she’ll probably watch just so she can secretly enjoy his looks and his accent. I feel the same way about Syesha Mercado. Pretty voice, gorgeous woman, and I’m glad she’s going through. I also hopes she learns to stop over-singing her songs.

I was a little surprised that they put Robbie Carrico through. I wasn’t impressed with his voice and I was less impressed with his looks and personality. Not that any of the above were actually bad, just that they were all a little blah.

What about the crying boy? Did Josiah make it through? No, he didn’t it; back to living in a car for you. And it would be hard to say he deserved otherwise--that last performance was abysmal. I still would have liked to see how far he could have made it in the show, though.

And, now, I have to say: has anyone ever seen Simon be so nice to someone that he cut? When Kyle was sent off, he was so utterly kind to the kid that it was shocking--and he took the disappointment well. A nice guy and I hope he does well in life.

A Little Morning Jazz

Our blogging buddy, Nathan, has gifted us with a little light jazz. Go, listen, download, and let him know what you think.

There are rumors of an album in the works…

Denver Schools are Revolting. And I’m Not Talking About CSAP Scores.

A quiet revolution seems to be building in some Denver area schools--schools that want to be freed from the bureaucracy of the overblown administration and the dictates of the teachers’ union. And, best of all, they are doing it for the kids--only this time it isn’t a funny catch phrase used to point out the obvious manipulation of politics and events with teary-eyed tots in hopes of doing something like banning the bomb so that the children will never again be hugged with nuclear arms. Or something like that.

Anyway, this revolt started a few weeks back with another school that wanted to free itself from the bonds of the district in hopes of creating a better school where kids could excel. I’m not sure what I think of their plans--I’m haven’t seen a real road map, if you will, of what they are trying to do. I like, though, that they recognize that schools need to be able to deal with their neighborhoods, their kids, their parent, and their issues with more agility than a giant district can provide.

Eighteen northeast Denver schools are seeking to build an autonomous school zone — freeing them from union and district rules they say are bureaucratic barriers to improving student achievement.

Principals from several of the schools met Monday with 50 community members and educators at Montbello High School to outline the proposal, which will be presented this month to the school board.

Principals from the 18 schools want to create a “zone of innovation,” giving them control over their budget, the educational program in the schools, staffing and incentives.
They want their own human resources department, a budget support office and an enrollment center to help schools balance populations — sending more students to schools with empty classrooms and alleviating crowding in others.

“We’re talking about putting an umbrella out here to make sure our kids get help,” said Ruth Frazier, principal of Greenwood School that serves kindergartners to eighth-graders. “We’ve come together as a region. . . . This zone is to create a new operating system.”

The move is similar, in parts, to autonomy agreements and waiver requests being sought by other Denver schools.

I would like to hear more about their plans--why they think they can do better, what the changes would mean functionally, and how it will work in relation to things like budget and support issues--but I like the trend. Moving away from bureaucracy might well mean more efficiency and smarter choices for the schools and their students.

Hooray for Denver’s revolting schools!

Read the rest.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Three Sunday Reviews, Part 3: A Belated Surprise

The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters

I was ready to laugh at King of Kong and its cast of geeks. At the beginning, my expectations of goofy, self-aggrandizing classical video game players were met beautifully and I did laugh. Obsessives like these are funny. Something strange happened, though: the movie stops being funny (in a point-at-the-funny-man kind of way) and became a moving, involving story about a kind of beat-down man’s struggle to set the Donkey Kong world record.

Steve Weibe (pronounced “wee-bee") is a family man with an uncommon talent for Donkey Kong and looks, for all the world, like he’s going to be one of the goofy folks and I was fully prepared to give him the same mocking treatment that I was giving others in the show. [Aside - And, yes, I know: that’s not very nice of me. The truth is, though, that if you put your strange obsessions on display in a nationally distributed documentary, the giggles are your doing. This is why I keep my own funniest quirks hidden.] When Weibe is treated shabbily by the gaming establishment, Twin Galaxies, and at the hands of the previous world record holder, Billy Mitchell, it is almost impossible to keep from that knee-jerk American urge to rally behind the underdog. Weibe, with his reserved, stumbling personality makes a strange but natural hero.

On the other side of the tilt, Billy Mitchell, with his carefully cultivated Nick Cave appearance and gaming stardom, is just as natural in his assumed role of bad guy. He talks a big game, but refuses to play publicly against the newcomer. He manipulates and pushes. He rudely refuses to acknowledge Weibe’s existence at one point of the film--an impressive display of bad manners that makes even his friends start questioning his treatment of Weibe.

Within the confines of the movie, at least, Mitchell is a world class jerk.

The whole thing wobbles back and forth--triumphs are quickly replaced by disappointments and a sense that this gaming world just isn’t playing fair. The Girl, who had planned to start reading a book almost as soon as I popped in the film, was just as engrossed by Weibe’s struggle. It’s a truly useless struggle, to be honest, and the strain that it puts on his life is beyond any kind of a rational pursuit. But rooting for the Quixotic excesses of a man who simply wants to find one special thing inside of a disappointing and difficult life has never been more compelling.

Some bits of the movie irritate. It takes a bit to get to the meat of the story--a reality, I think, of the fact that the producers didn’t know where their film was going to go at the beginning and found Weibe’s epic struggle only by chance. During the in-depth introduction to Weibe, they note that he was an also-ran musician during the grunge era--and play an old track from The Cure to prove the point. It’s an odd thing, and a small one, but couldn’t they have licensed themselves a track from Tad or Alice in Chains?

Mostly, issues with the movie come down to nitpicking. It gets all the big parts right--it tells a great story, it focuses on interesting personalities, and it entertains far more than I would have expected it would. It’s sold as being hilarious--and it is funny, but it’s tremendously more than that. It’s no wonder that, as of this writing, the movie has a 96% positive rating from Rotten Tomatoes. It really is that good.

Wonderful stuff and damned close to greatness.

Check out the movie’s official site.

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