Monday, April 30, 2007

Music Bullets, 4-30-07

  • It's the Guster Week in Review! Open-minded Buffalo students, 7-footers, bound-and-gagged Branson pigs...good times had by all. Have I mentioned just how much I love the Guster Road Journal?
  • Shortlist Finalists announced. Among this group, it had better be Cat Power or Tom Waits.
  • Speaking of Tom Waits, here is a FANTASTIC list from Rolling Stone...Top 25 Most Underappreciated Artists. Not a big New York Dolls fan by any means, but it's nice to see the influence of Zevon and Roxy Music and Dinosaur Jr. recognized a little bit.
  • And here's a summary of last week's Coachella Festival. And photos.
  • Finally, I watched We Jam Econo: The Story of the Minutemen this weekend. Good stuff. I like that it just told the story that was there to be told. The Mike Watt interview clips were interesting and gripping, and the love with which musicians like Henry Rollins and Flea speak of the group and their music gets to you. I highly recommend it to all music nerds out there.


Only 554 days to go...

Barack Obama has officially become both not authentically black enough, and super-authentic. Well done, Senator Obama.

Meanwhile, "hate is starting to turn off the Christians." Or so says Dana B. I think it's in no way turning off the "Christians" who have made their name on TV as "moral values" watchdogs; instead it's already fully turned off the real-life Christians who have paid attention to more than one or two of their Bible readings.

And finally, if Rudy were a surgeon, it would be okay for him to milk "[his] reputation [formed during a deadly disaster] for crass [careerist] gain is, obviously, despicable", right? Or something like that?

And since I haven't done it in a while...the latest odds:

Obama 45%
Hillary 37%
Edwards 16%
Other 2%

Rudy 36%
Romney 34%
McCain 16%
Other 14%


Weather, Water, Energy 4-30-07

Feelin' pretty cocky since President Gore confirmed our call on Canada's cheap and pitiful claim to be attacking global warming with a scam called "intensity reduction"--which can actually allow even more greenhouse gas emissions than before the policy. In Al's words, "a complete and total fraud." Good enough for us. Shame on Canada. . . . The latest IPCC meeting, ahead of its report on Friday, finds the participants forecasting Lord of the Flies, with the major players like US and China basically screwing the underdeveloped world to protect their own privileged lifestyles despite estimates that it would take only 0.1% of the world's GDP to clean up our act enough to survive it okay (relatively). The IPCC can't overcome selfish politics and one UN spokesperson predicts the final IPCC report will get "completely rewritten" once the politicians get their hands on it. China's trying to act like it's part of that screwed world, but, as the nation which will dominate emissions in the near future, it won't get away with it. Of course, the US isn't even pretending, making clear that its short-term economic priorities will force US to accept long-term Hell because we're too narcissistic to take necessary action. Not stupid, we know the danger is there. We just don't care enough to even accept a tax that could help us keep things from being as bad as it looks like they will be. Don't forget to keep Australia on your hit list, even if the next election may bring a change in leadership, with the opponent saying of idiot PM Howard's position on global warming: "This is the modern equivalent of arguing that the earth is flat and that NASA faked the moon landing and that Elvis is out there somewhere still flipping burgers in Florida." Once again, good enough for us. . . . In the meantime, Arctic ice is melting faster than any of the compromised and conservative IPCC computer models forecast, like 30 years ahead of predictions, due probably to underestimation of the impact of, you guessed it, greenhouse gases. . . . And to make the world even stranger, the EPA claims that Pepsi, yes, Pepsi is our most greenhouse responsible (in a good way) company. Pepsi??? Here's why. . . . Have a Pepsi with that burger or chicken sandwich. It's not like those edible mammals have an impact on methane gas emi . . . wait, yes, they do, enormous, in fact. Maybe we should all go vegetarian and live on corn and soy . . . wait, ethanol. This doesn't seem that simple anymore. . . . Norwegian scientists have come up with preferable auto fuels, based on total carbon impact. The ones we have are the worst, no surprise, but hybrids are the next worst. The best? Fuel cell powered cars using hydrogen gas obtained from methane. Now who exactly is the dealer for those vehicles? . . . Finally, some good news to end. A UN project in India looks like it will successfully supply electricity to 100,000 people through solar energy, with plans to take it on the road to other needy countries. In a couple of decades, when other nations have clearly passed us in development and progress, we may look back on our failure to create cheap, reliable power for Third World and other nations as the place where we lost our world leadership. The potential for development and economic growth has been there for decades but needed investment and confidence. We provided neither, and now other nations have stepped forward. Oh, sorry. Promised good news there, didn't I?


The Experiment Bears Fruit

Over the weekend, after a series of random tracks, The Experiment has led me to one solid conclusion - Run DMC still rules!


Living the Frugal Life

If you’re looking to live smart and thrifty check out Frugal For Life. This blog has some excellent ideas on how you can save a buck on pretty much everything. Additionally, there are tons of links to like-minded sites. I’ve definitely gotten a few great ideas reading this blog that I’m going to implement into my financial regiment. Enjoy!


Friday, April 27, 2007

Weather, Water, Energy 4-27-07

  • Don't worry about oil and engines? It's the plants and trees that do the most greenhouse gas emissions? . . . Uh, no.
  • Australia disses Kyoto but will hit its quotas anyway so they and their idiot PM aren't really so bad after all? . . . Uh, no.
  • At least their fish are changing their growth patterns depending on the warming or cooling of the water around the continent. Stressed out fish aren't necessarily a good thing, you know.
  • 348 years of records of temps in Britain. Warmest April they've had. Wildlife impressed.
  • Arctic warming, new shipping lanes opened, US thinks it has rights that Canada doesn't think it has. Where might this end?
  • Canada vows to force its big industries to get serious about cutting back on greenhouse emissions. Its environmental minister is worried that meeting the admittedly weak Kyoto limits will have "a devastating effect on the Canadian economy." Hmmm. Hmmm. And no mention of the economic development caused by global warming reduction industries. Or the effects on its economy of NOT DOING ANYTHING REAL. Yes, they're getting serious.
  • David Roberts has some of his typically insightful posts up here and here and here about the cynical manipulation of our global warming crisis by special interests (like BIG COAL or long-time pork projects now suddenly “green”) to hype their special interests “on our behalf.” And he notes here how the NW and NE states and some Canadian types are forming broad-scaled regional initiatives on restricting greenhouse gases to the point the feds may find themselves completely outflanked. Echoing him, here at the Christian Science Monitor’s climate blog, you can get a wrap-up of what the states are doing. The clowns are coming on stage in their little car. Can even Gore and Earth Day keeping them from pulling everyone's attention away?


Truth to Power

My granddad was in Patton's troops in WWII, and I got whatever knowledge of the military I have from him. One thing I remember him telling me was that, the more you spoke your mind, the less likely you were to climb the promotions ladder. Because of the need to get things done, there was a meritocracy up to about the Lt. Colonel level. Then the ass-kissers and blowhards separated from the herd, making just about anyone above that level someone who, if you shook their hand, you better check for your watch. My own experience with lt. colonels convinced me that they were about the straightest-shooting and realistic folks I've ever been around. Think about that as you read this piece on an accomplished lt. colonel in Iraq who has just lowered the boom with a journal article on "General Failure."


No Teacher Left Behind?

Read this and tell me how requiring schools to test higher will solve the problems the story details. A great example of “on high” reform that doesn’t get close to reality in the classroom and why and how our national cluelessness on this is just greasing our skids.


Covering my Assets

Just the other week, the IRS financially devastated me. It’s somewhat my own fault since I miscalculated my estimated taxes as a self-employed individual. But that’s beside the point. With this “fresh start” of sorts, I’ve really begun taking a close look at my financial situation. And it’s not that pretty. I’ve found a number of useful sites, blogs, articles, tips, etc that I’ll be passing on over the next few weeks.

Check out my first plan of attack after the jump.

While my coffers have been virtually eliminated, sadly my debt hasn’t. Right now I have 5 cards that all have at least a $1000 balance on each one. Not one card has a minimum payment of over $100. But I pay $100/month on each card. Now this is making a dent in each one, but not by much. So here’s my new plan of attack.

1. I’m paying $500/month total. So I ranked my cards from lowest to highest balance. Now for the four cards with the highest balances, I’m only paying the minimum payment.

2. That all said and done, I’m left with $300-something. I take this amount and apply it to the card with the lowest balance – making a nice dent in the balance.

3. I’m going to keep doing this until that card is paid off. That should take about four months. When that card is paid off, I keep paying $500/month, sticking to the same system, but applying it to the remaining four cards.

4. Do this so on and so forth till the cards are paid off. The system takes a little time, but I think it’s more effective than little payments over a much longer time.

I wish I could remember where I say this strategy so I could pass on the link, but it skips my mind right now. If I can find it, I’ll definitely pass it on. That’s all I’ve got on finances right now. More to come for sure.

(Photo: Pandarine)



...this picture is quite similar to last week's...I still couldn't resist...not just any cat would rather watch TV than socialize...


Thursday, April 26, 2007

"The war was the hard part...

...and it gets easier. I mean, setting up a democracy is hard, but not as hard as winning a war."

"I will bet you the best dinner in the Gaslight District of San Diego that military action will not last more than a week."

Good times.


Weather, Water, Energy 4-26-07 Quickie

Not much to report today, but everything we report here really is all summed up in this Toles' cartoon (h/t Grist).


Let's Dump Separation of Church and State, Okay?

When I taught American government, I used to love to warn the little fundamentalist morons (and yes, they were, no matter how “nice” they were and how we should “respect them” for their moronicity--look what they've done to this country) who couldn’t see what the problem was with allowing governments to give approval stamps to religions that they only felt that way because they didn’t see how their religion could lose. Let the prayer in school for the day be Islamic in western Oklahoma and see how long it sounded like a good idea. And I specifically told them that Wiccans were just as protected as Baptists. God, I was smart when I was young.



On the heels of my recent post warning you to start worrying about our friend the bee, looks like they may be figuring out what's killing them in such large numbers--a virus and a parasite. But don't get excited that they may have a cure. Seems like a story I heard on radio a couple of weeks back indicated that the problem was feared to be a decline in the bees' immunity systems, which would allow other viruses and parasites access even if we stop these. The problem would be stopping the immunity loss. If that's what the problem really is. In any case, we'll keep watching this because the implications, strange as they may seem, really are enormous. . . . And the Financial Times has glommed onto the problem posed by fraud in the carbon credits markets, with descriptions you should be familiar with from this blog by now but also one or two new things. As we've said before, this "solution" poses more problems than it's worth when there are other, less delegitimizing options available. Just because they say "market," that doesn't mean it's good or that you'll actually be doing good by playing their game.


Photo of the Week

My brother got married last weekend. His cake wasn’t this crazy. But I wish it was.
(Photo: _wreck)


Laughing at the Experiment

This morning The Experiment threw me a curve ball – comedy. I had forgotten how much stand-up I have in my library. So I go from Run DMC to David Cross. I love listening to comedy, but people look at you funny when you laugh out loud on a crowded train. Oops. Also, it’s not that great to listen to on the train. So I’ll be weeding out the spoken word tracks for now.


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Hey Digby...

...Jonah Goldberg's theory that the voters simply don't know what they're doing? Missouri is run by a whole lot of pantloads.

The ballot language referred to the cost-of-living increase.

It read: “Shall Missouri Statutes be amended to increase the state minimum wage rate to $6.50 per hour, or to the level of the federal minimum wage if that is higher, and thereafter adjust the state minimum wage annually based on changes in the Consumer Price Index?”

However, Cooper and other Republicans have concluded that voters didn’t understand what they were considering.
Silly voters, you obviously don't understand what's going on, so we're going to go ahead and fix your mistakes for you.

And while we're picking on my home state...I posted that a couple of weeks ago. In the last week or so, there's definitely been something of a whiff of panic coming from Missouri Republicans. Governor Blunt is sinking further as corruption becomes more of a conversation topic, and it's starting to look like some major losses could be on the docket next year (then again, I could be underestimating the people who voted for these folks), so they're cranking through absolutely everything on their ideological agenda. And they're geting more and more transparent by the moment...

First there's the MoHELA initiative...from the KC Star...
Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt’s “Lewis & Clark Initiative” started out with a laudable goal but a nefarious means of getting there.

After a thorough mangling in the General Assembly, the plan has gone from half-bad to all bad.

To raise funds for a major expansion of the state’s life sciences industry, Blunt proposed plundering the assets of the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority (MoHELA), the nonprofit agency that helps families afford college.

Lawmakers are on the verge of grabbing those assets. Making things even worse, the life sciences building program has degraded into a hodge-podge of campus construction that excludes Kansas City and Columbia.

Legislative leaders already had purged medical research buildings from the list because of hysteria over stem-cell research.

So much for the state’s commitment to life sciences.

This week Senate Republicans, in an act of petty retribution, yanked $15 million that had been intended for an expanded pharmacy and nursing building at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. A $31 million new cancer center at the University of Missouri-Columbia was also scratched.

Republicans threw the temper tantrum because Democrats Jolie Justus of Kansas City and Chuck Graham of Columbia delayed a vote on the bill with a filibuster.
And from Fired Up! Missouri...

[T]he MOHELA appropriation legislation reveals that fifteen million of the dollars generated by the sale would go into a small, loosely overseen non-profit corporation controlled by Blunt's GOP crony Rob Monsees --the same man who brought the MOHELA sale to the Governor to begin with while employed as a deputy chief of staff in his office.

Those $15 million are being directed into sixteen "projects" controlled by the Missouri Technology Corporation --of which Rob Monsees serves as executive director--most or all of which are reportedly unknown to at least some members of the Missouri Technology Corporation's board of directors. Given that the legislation also provides for "100% flexibility" between projects for the appropriated funds, Monsees would have broad latitude to reapportion the funds into projects he favors.
And while we're at it, here's the desperate abortion legislation...
The House passed legislation yesterday that would subject abortion clinics to more stringent regulations, a move critics claim would make it harder for women to get abortions in Missouri.


Missouri has a strong anti-abortion majority in the General Assembly, which is pushing a bill that increases state oversight of abortion providers and bans them from teaching or distributing materials for school sex education courses.
Bans them from teaching or distributing materials for school sex education courses, i.e. information about contraception. This is going to end well.

And speaking of ending...I can't tell if I'm smelling Republican defeat in the air, or if it's getting so surreal living here that I just really want to smell defeat in the air. I don't want to get too optimistic, so I'll just stop thinking about it for now...


Only 559 days to go...

Gotta love Obama slamming (and mocking) Rudy with this remark:

Rudy Giuliani today has taken the politics of fear to a new low and I believe Americans are ready to reject those kind of politics. America’s mayor should know that when it comes to 9/11 and fighting terrorists, America is united.
The poll numbers favor Dems on so many issues right now...we better see this attitude and bite continue. Via the same link, Edwards piles on Rudy as well...

As far as the facts are concerned, the current Republican administration led us into a war in Iraq that has made us less safe and undermined the fight against al Qaeda. If that's the 'Republican' way to fight terror, Giuliani should know that the American people are looking for a better plan.
Oh, and John McCain is officially running for president. Feel the excitement!! Wait, you didn't feel it? You should. Just thinking about how much his soul he's already sold...there's no telling what he's capable of now that his name is actually in the hat!


Music Bullets, 4-25-07

  • I've got a couple of nice AV Club links for you. First is a review of Brother Ali's The Undisputed Truth...I think it's about right. It's not an amazing step up from his last album, but it's the best hip hop album I've heard in a while. And his live performances really are pretty staggering.
  • Next is a flashback (for whatever reason) to an underrated-but-not-as-great-as-his-great-stuff album, Tunnel of Love.
  • And finally, reunions at summer festivals are nothing new. But this isn't just any reunion, and this isn't just any festival. Love the headline on this, by the way.
  • And since I brought it up...


We're Doomed

Via Grist. Too stupid and special to put in with other items. Go to this blog for the proof that it's for real. The writer of this article is a credentialed attorney in AR (Arkansas, not Alaska). Says all we need to know about the chances of dealing with this wisely if we insist on consensus and listening to all sides.

You may have noticed that March of this year was particularly hot. As a matter of fact, I understand that it was the hottest March since the beginning of the last century. All of the trees were fully leafed out and legions of bugs and snakes were crawling around during a time in Arkansas when, on a normal year, we might see a snowflake or two.

This should come as no surprise to any reasonable person. As you know, Daylight Saving Time started almost a month early this year. You would think that members of Congress would have considered the warming effect that an extra hour of daylight would have on our climate. Or did they?

Perhaps this is another plot by a liberal Congress to make us believe that global warming is a real threat. Perhaps next time there should be serious studies performed before Congress passes laws with such far-reaching effects.

Connie M. Meskimen
Hot Springs


Rich Doesn't Equal Smart???

Smart = income. Yes. Smart = wealth. Uh, no. Relationship may actually be negative for a lot of folks. All the details and statistics, if you choose to believe them. Next they’ll be telling us high SAT scores don’t make people superior and people with grad degrees can screw up a country bad.


The Birds and the ???

You may not have been following this, but disappearing bees aren't the start of a joke or paradise. We need them to grow our crops, and the numbers disappearing are getting frightening. Maybe radiation or frequencies from cell phones and their towers. Maybe genetically engineered plants. Maybe one too many Lindsay Lohan movies. Who knows. But we're talking something serious again here, and our national media remain what they've been for years. However, now you're clued in. You're welcome.


Weather, Water, Energy 4-24-07

  • The last time CO2 was around 1000 parts per millions, hippopotami were roaming the North Pole. When will that happen again? Try around 2100 if we don't get our act together.
  • Good news, scientists are getting closer to understanding how genes allow species to adapt to climate changes, meaning they might help some survive global warming or at least explain why they don't. Bad news, they're working with mosquitoes.
  • Over at Real Climate, their better minds than ours explain why that "wind shear may whack out those global climate hurricanes" story might not be as good news as the news media misreported (shock).
  • At Climate Progress, news that the IPCC reports really are proving too conservative since the ice packs are melting at levels that the "extremists" have been predicting.
  • Grist summarizes the articles in the Nation's global warming issue, including articles from James Hansen, Mark Hertsgaard, and other climate prophets and a great takedown of the "clean coal" myth that MT's "progressive" Dem governor we laud is trying to sell.
  • Speaking of overhyped fuel, here's another ethanol article with scientists using a supercomputer to figure out how to get around the problems of cellulose. But note this: all they're promising is to make the fuel "carbon-neutral"--which is weasel talk for "will pollute just as much as gasoline."
  • And finally, here's our future, folks. We're cutting off river flow to Mexico. They're getting pissed. Won't be the first time. Won't be the last.


Headline of the Day

Drunk deposits horse in bank for night

Not only did the man deposit his horse, his horse also left a deposit.


1,000 Posts

A little late since this is actually the 1,006th post, but we'll let that slide. So as we hit another milestone here, thanks to everyone who reads Good Nonsense as well as everyone who contributes. It took us about a year to reach 1,000 posts. Lets see how long it takes to add another 1,000. Blog on!
(Photo: kneilp)


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

New Low Post!

Matt Taibbi actually worked in Russia during Boris Yeltsin's tenure, and needless to say, he has a slightly different take than others.

The obituaries this morning I read with great amusement. Here is a line from the Associated Press:

Yeltsin steadfastly defended freedom of the press, but was a master at manipulating the media...
Boris Yeltsin, defender of the freedom of the press! That should be news to Dmitri Kholodov, erstwhile reporter for Moskovsky Komsomolets, who was killed by an exploding briefcase in 1994 while investigating embezzlement of the Western army group connected with Yeltsin's close drinking buddy, then-defense minister Pavel Grachev. The day after Kholodov was killed, Yeltsin got up on national television and called Grachev "one of my favorite ministers." That was what Yeltsin thought of reporters and the free press.


What Americans missed during Yeltsin's presidency -- and they missed it because American reporters defiantly refused to report the truth of the matter -- was that under Boris Yeltsin the Russian state itself became little more than a cash factory for gangland interests. This was corruption on the larger scale, a corruption of the essence of the state, corruption at the core. Some of the schemes hatched by Yeltsin's government were so astonishing and audacious in scope that they almost defy description.
Plenty more to read when you follow the link.


Whatever Happened to Crazy?

Back in 1999, after Columbine, there was a rush to ‘blame’ somebody or something for Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris’ actions. They finally settled, for the most part, with music. Columbine was Marilyn Manson’s fault. Case closed. Everybody can sleep soundly at night knowing exactly who was to blame for that tragedy. Uh huh.

Well, we’re going through the exact same thing now with Virginia Tech. Only, we haven’t quite narrowed down the list of culprits yet. Too many guns, not enough guns, video games, liberalism, Korean culture, anti-depressants, Oldboy, “our culture of tolerance for diversity” (I’m sorry, but Camille Paglia just makes no damn sense to me)...really, I’m not totally sure why we haven’t yet tried to find out if he listened to Marilyn Manson. I mean, that worked pretty well last time.

As I wait for the media to actually start mixing in some journalism with their reporting (As Salon’s Joan Walsh said, “I've rarely seen such a big story produce so little great journalism.”), I’m reminded of a classic Chris Rock bit (and after a quick Google search, I’m apparently not the only one):

Everybody is wanting to know what music were the kids listening to, or what movies were they watching. Who gives a fuck what they was watching! Whatever happened to crazy? What, you can't be crazy no more? Did we eliminate crazy from the dictionary?

(Here's the's at the 1:31 mark)

Quite simply, Cho was a tortured soul (for many reasons... shyness, language barrier, rich kids made fun of him, girls wouldn’t talk to him) who had actual psychological problems that weren’t correctly addressed (for many reasons as well). That’s it. There were probably 1,800 different things that could have happened or not happened that might have prevented this from happening. But that doesn’t mean it’s specifically anybody’s fault, nor does it mean that blaming somebody/something for it will magically prevent the next crazy kid/tortured soul from doing the same thing.

From Maha Barb:

Instead of incessantly looking for scapegoats like Prozac, what we need is a massive overhaul in the way our nation, society, and health system deals with psychiatric disease.

I agree with Joan Walsh that we humans tend to look for patterns or causes in order to reassure ourselves that episodes like the Virginia Tech massacre are not completely random. Well, in a sense, it wasn’t completely random; it happened because a young man with a serious psychiatric disorder wasn’t getting proper treatment and supervision. It just didn’t happen because of cultural rot or video games or even Bill Clinton.

The last time a college kid snapped like this was 1966 in Austin. Let’s just say that circumstances were probably 1000% different for him, but it happened anyway. I know it’s harder to sleep at night without somebody or something to blame for all the bad things that happen in the world—though, if you’re conservative, you can just blame Michael Moore and Nancy Pelosi and those evil lie-burals...and if you’re a potential Republican candidate for President, you can get away with blaming these people on national television without any consequences*—but sometimes the world is just too complicated to let you sleep at night. Sorry.

* Again from Joan Walsh: “[C]an you imagine if a major Democratic Party figure, who was once third in line for the White House and who might run for president again, was saying such idiotic and hateful things about Republicans? Can you imagine if, say, Al Gore blamed the Bush administration, or the conservative movement generally, for the Virginia Tech massacre? He would be howled into political exile by braying right-wingers, but it's an acceptable part of mainstream discourse to blame liberalism for the nation's most jarring tragedies. And mainstream media elites wonder why they're losing their audience.” Amen to that.


Tuesday Pirates Rant™

Slowly but surely, the conflict I mentioned last week is melting away. This team sucks. The guys are treading water at 7-10, which is impressive considering their offense is terrible, and three-fifths of their rotation are either terrible or in a slump. But it just isn’t going to last. I hope it does, but it won’t. At least, not unless the offense not only begins to play to its potential, but play above its potential.


* As much crap as I’ve given Chris Duffy on the Rant™ in the last 12 months, I should mention that he’s playing quite well. He’s batting .292 with a .361 on-base percentage. At the beginning of the season, I decided I’d be thrilled if he reached a .333 OBP, so...color me thrilled. When he’s on base, he’s a terror. He only has four stolen bases, but 3 of those came in the last week. And he plays fantastic defense. He’s the least of Pittsburgh’s problems.

* I can’t ask for more than a .300 average and .347 OBP from Jack Wilson. Not that he’ll maintain this pace, but he’s on pace for 200 hits and 100 runs. That’s more than I expected from him, even after less than three weeks.

* Ian Snell and Tom Gorzelanny have been unbelievable. It’s a tragedy that Snell has only one win in four starts...but his run support has been about -2 runs a game. Here’s Snell’s line: 27 IP, 24 K, 9 BB, 18 H (just 1.0 baserunners per inning), 2.00 ERA...and 1 win. It’s a good thing he pitches well angry, because he’s had plenty of reasons to be angry with the support he’s gotten. Here’s Gorzy’s line: 2.05 ERA, 3-0 record, 26.1 IP, 17 K, 6 BB, 20 H (just 0.99 baserunners per inning).

* Despite two blown saves and an unimpressive-for-a-closer 4.00 ERA, Salomon Torres has been fine. He’s been screwed, but he’s been fine.

* Young righty relievers Matt Capps (10.1 IP, 0.87 ERA, 5 K, only 6 baserunners) and Jonah Bayliss (8 IP, 2.24 ERA, 6 K, 8 baserunners) have been outstanding. Capps was good last year (and he’s on pace for 105 appearances for the season...probably not a good thing), but Bayliss has exceeded expectations thus far. Of course, it’s still early, and one bad appearance can cause an ERA to explode.

Nice. Five happy bullets. I’m impressed with myself.


* Um, the entire offense.

* Um, the entire defense.

* Um, three-fifths of the starting rotation.

* Okay, I’ll explain. For the season, the offense has a .240 batting average (24th in the majors), a .303 on-base percentage (28th), and a .372 (23rd) slugging percentage. That’s wretched. Oh, and they’ve hit as many homeruns as Alex Rodriguez.

* As for the defense...they’ve had a relatively small number of errors (9, tied for 3rd in the majors), but they seem to all come in clutch situations. On Saturday night, Salomon Torres managed to blow a save without allowing a hit. He walked Juan Pierre, and then Ronnie Paulino took over. Paulino, who the organization thinks is a superb defender despite little evidence to back this up, allowed a passed ball, then threw the ball into centerfield trying to nail Pierre. With Pierre now on third, Paulino allowed another passed ball, and the tying run scored. Awful. Naturally, the Dodgers hit a game-winning grand slam to win it in the 10th.

* Adam “Savior” LaRoche has been beyond awful. He has 6 hits this season (SIX!!), same as Pirates pitchers. Granted, three of those hits have been HR’s, but...ugh. Needless to say, a .105 / .261 / .281 (batting avg / OBP / SLG) line wasn’t quite what anybody was expecting from him. That’s worse than Brant Brown!

* Jason Bay hasn’t really gotten going yet either, though he’s batting like Ted Williams compared to LaRoche. His numbers are starting to crawl upward, at .262 / .360 / .477. His walk percentage, as always, is quite high. This suggests that he’s not seeing too many good pitches to hit. LaRoche was supposed to fix that problem.

* Catcher Ronny Paulino, who’s already been skewered in this Rant™ for his terrible defense, will now get skewered for his .182 / .211 / .218 line. He’s making Xavier Nady (.267 / .312 / .467) look like an All-Star. And did I mention that Ryan Doumit, last year’s “catcher of the future” until he hurt his hamstring and lost his job to Paulino despite beating Paulino out at every step in the minors, is batting .420+ (and playing decent defense) at AAA right now? I didn’t?

In other words, unless Chris Duffy gets a single, steals second, and is singled in by Jack Wilson, the Pirates don’t score. The pitching’s been mediocre enough to keep them in most games, and the Pirates are undefeated when they score more than 5 runs. Problem is, they’ve only scored more than 5 runs 3 times.

* Other than Snell and Gorzy, the rotation’s been terrible. After two solid starts, Zach Duke has imploded in his last two. He’s been the anti-Snell to this point, with a 9.00 ERA. In 19 innings, he’s given up 36 baserunners (insanely high) and 3 HR’s...and he’s only struck out 5. Yuck.

* Paul Maholm, in comparison, has been quite solid. His 6.18 ERA (and 28 baserunners in 16 innings) are something Duke can strive to attain.

* Tony Armas, Jr., this year’s major free agent acquisition, has managed to get 20 people out in two starts. That’s right, he’s lasted less than 7 innings so far. In the process, he’s given up 15 hits, walked 7, and struck out only 2 on his way to an 18.89 ERA. He was cheap, but...ugh.

And last but not least their manager and his assistants are still morons, as illustrated by this Bucs Dugout post. They actually think getting on base doesn’t really matter in the process of scoring runs. And they’re proud of their ignorance. I’ve come to admit that Tracy is a good “mindset” manager, and it seems like his guys try hard at all times. But a) most of them suck, b) Tracy and his coaches don’t know how to maximize what talent they do have, and c) Tracy’s decision-making continually puts the Pirates in an even worse situation. It’s pretty simple—you want the guys who get on base more to get more chances to get on base. How hard is that to understand?

Actually, I’ll stop there. I’ve had this rant before.

As the Post-Gazette’s Stats Geek told me this morning, the upcoming 9-game homestand (against the Astros, Reds, and Cubs) will tell what kind of season the Pirates are going to have. Eventually LaRoche will start to hit (surely), and eventually the players who are doing terrible will “return to competence”, as the Stats Geek says, and that will help. Despite the fact that the Buccos just aren’t very good, they still play in a bad division, and they can still strive for a respectable record because of that. However, there are still no prospects in the minors to replace struggling players, and there is still no long-term hope.

I just thought I’d mention that since, you know, it would feel like an empty Rant™ without it.


Digg Good Nonsense

As you may have noticed, we’re trying to add Digg to our posts here at Good Nonsense. We're still working out the kinks, so please bear with us.

So this is how Digg works. If you like a post, click on its Digg. But it’s more than just a rating system. For those of you that aren’t familiar with Digg, their site states:

"Digg is a user driven social content website. Ok, so what the heck does that mean? Well, everything on Digg is submitted by our community (that would be you). After you submit content, other people read your submission and Digg what they like best. If your story rocks and receives enough Diggs, it is promoted to the front page for the millions of visitors to see.

What can you do as a Digg user? Lots. Every person can digg (help promote), bury (help remove spam), and comment on stories... you can even Digg and bury comments you like or dislike. Digg also allows you to track your friends' activity throughout the site — want to share a video or news story with a friend? Digg it!"
Enjoy and help us make Good Nonsense the best nonsense it can be. You dig?


Weather, Water, Energy 4-24-07

  • Guess what? China has a major global warming report coming out . . . oh, wait, no, it doesn't, because its politicians got hold of it. Wanna bet if it comes out good for them, not to mention the world?
  • Meanwhile, 40% of Swedes say they'd even accept a lower standard of living to deal with global warming. Like we're going to have a choice if we keep screwing around in the name of economic growth.
  • "Unexpected dryness and near-record warmth in March have melted much of the West's mountain snows early, worsening the potential for wildfires and extending the region's drought, federal water agencies reported Monday." Save and read about the same time next year. It'll save you the cost of the newspaper.
  • Finally, one more damned if you do . . . thing. Renewable energy sources like wind, solar, geothermal most easily produce their power in rural areas and then have to be transmitted to the urban areas where they're needed most . . . by power lines . . . that cut through important environmental areas. First order of business, folks. Squeeze every possible drop of energy out of conservation and minimize everything else we have to do that has these counterproductive side effects.



Today for lunch I had a Tandoori Chicken & Spinach bowl from Trader Joe's. (I should disclose that I work at Trader Joe's, and yes, it's a shameless plug.) I also had some dried fruit and an energy bar.

To drink, I had water. Which is pretty typical. I drink water for almost every lunch and at least half my dinners. I also try to drink a litre throughout the day. Many of you will think that amount of water seems excessive, but it isn't. In fact, I barely get the minimum recommended amount in (2 litres a day).

The fact is, we are a mildly dehydrated society. Seriously. Since I've become a regimented water drinker, I often wonder how people get through the day without it. I hear people bitch about headaches and being tired ("I know what will fix that: caffeine!" they say) when they are probably just thirsty. Did you know that by the time your body tells you it's thirsty, you're already really dehydrated? And if you still ignore it, your body will tell you it's hungry, even though it really just wants the water in the food. Talk about filler calories.

So, as to keep this rant to a bearable level (too late?), drink some water kids. You'd be surprised at how fast it becomes a habit, with positive results.


The Experiment Continues

Almost two weeks into The Experiment, and I’m not sure if I can call it a success yet. I’m listening to all kinds of new music, but the Shuffle doesn’t seem to keep track of everything I’ve listened to. I’ll get home after listening to 6-8 songs and only 3 or so will have the proper day/time stamp on it. So I’m finding new music, but don’t always know what it is. And so The Experiment continues. Stay tuned for the next chapter.


Headline of the Day

Captain America Arrested With Burrito In Pants

Find out why here.


Monday, April 23, 2007

Music Bullets, 4-23-07

  • I love seeing tracklistings for upcoming albums and pretending it's actual insight into the album (in this case, the Smashing Pumpkins' Zeitgeist). Good times. My guess: "Tarantula" is going to be awesome! Why? No idea. (And while you're at Billboard, check out the Top 10 from 5 years ago: Ashanti, Fat Joe w/Ashanti, J-Lo w/Ja Rule, Usher, N'sync w/Nelly, P. Diddy w/Usher, Puddle of Mudd, Tweet, Linkin Park, Vanessa Carlton...BLECH.)
  • Largehearted boy reviews this week's releases. Gotta love seeing Fishbone still cranking them out.
  • Album sales are down 17% from last year, and last year sucked. RS Rock Daily offers some "help" to major record labels.
  • Go to a Guster show, get SportsCenter and Bob Saget. God bless Guster's road journal. And god bless this video.


Weather, Water, Energy 4-23-07

  • If a Gold Medal winner of the Royal Astronomical Society tells you you can't keep claiming the sun's variations are causing global warming and not humans, will you stop denying and obstructing? Of course not, but here it is.
  • New York is getting serious about traffic congestion pricing, which has worked in other large cities around the world. Yes, people are protesting, but they did in the other nations as well. Let's hope it takes, along with all the other proposals being considered (and listed in the article).
  • States doing something about global warming: MA (requiring impact statements from developers), FL (a Tampa conference on actions necessary to stop what's already happening there), and MD (joining a 10-state coalition to attack CO2 emissions from power plants).
  • One of the many paradoxical problems for enviros as they deal with global warming: dams endanger species but provide power; without dams, more coal or oil used. Que hacemos? Que hacemos?
  • Meanwhile, the EU is waking up to the fact that biodiesel won't solve its problems since it, you know, shoots out about as much greenhouse gas as gasoline.
  • And they're also waking up to the fact that the US is worthless as a partner in dealing with the disaster on the horizon. Maybe they've googled the long-time political hitman, Boyden Gray, who's our EU ambassador. He even looks like what you think the Grim Reaper would look like if you could get that hood off. As if you'd try.
  • The Asian world seems to be getting a clue. Japan is working with India on a global warming battle (sans nuke power, of course), while China recognizes that nuke power won't get it done because, you know what, THERE'S NOT ENOUGH NUCLEAR FUEL EITHER, MORONS.
  • And this deserves all caps, too: THE POLAR BEARS ARE GETTING PISSED!!!
  • Another carbon trading scam. Honestly, this should be getting scratched off the list of possible options. It's too easy to pull apparently, and it will tarnish the perceived validity and legitimacy of the other ones.
  • OTOH, more efficient solar looks like it might be a very believable investment pretty soon.
  • Finally, I know Schwarzenegger is a tool a lot of the time (okay, most of the time), but this is a quote that seals his role on the right side of our argument and should be used by all of us regarding why "doing nothing" isn't an option: "If 98 doctors say my son is ill and needs medication and two say, 'No, he doesn't, he is fine,' I will go with the other 98."


Okay, Tell Me You'd Thought of This

Yeah, we've heard of airlines increasing seat size to get our lard-a-ses in them and how pants sizes are probably bigger than they were decades ago. But I hadn't seen this one coming. Wanna be cremated? Wanna fit into the furnace?


Sunday, April 22, 2007

562 Days to Go...

Good old MoDo is at it again. Ugh (via LG&M).

John Edwards has reminded us that even — or especially — in the age of appearances, you must not appear to care too much about appearances.

When you spend more on a couple of haircuts than Burundi’s per capita G.D.P. , it looks so vain it makes Paul Wolfowitz’s ablutions spitting on his comb look like rugged individualism.
Do we really have to go through this again? Every politician--not just male Democrats running for president--puts on makeup to go on TV. Every politician--not just male Democrats running for president--pays a lot for haircuts. We've got Virginia Tech-level disasters taking place every day in Iraq, and part of the reason for it is because MoDo and her minions insist on making these stupid video clips into actual campaign issues. I really really don't want us to fall for it this time.


Quickie Book Reviews

Four interesting books for you to check into next time you're at the book store and looking for something to challenge your synapses.

John Dominic Crossan, God & Empire: Jesus Against Rome, Then and Now
You can tell from the title that Crossan, one of the more iconoclastic theological scholars, has an agenda of linking Jesus' mission and opposition to empire with what's going on in the Middle East, and he's not shy about it. From his perspective, Jesus preached a message of peace in opposition to empire that resonates today, and he tracks that message through his readings of the Bible. His whacking of Revelations is worth the price of admission. On the downside, he, like the Catholic he is, sees a Paul whose ties to Jesus never really existed but prospered because Jesus' family and followers in Jerusalem were wiped out by the Romans, replacing the original mission and vision with Paul's epileptic dreams. Well, I guess that says more about my religious beliefs than you needed to know. Anyway, you'll get a good tour of the history of Jesus' time and the role Caesars and empire played in everything we read in the New Testament, all with Crossan's usual verve. You'll definitely finish it thinking.

Scott E. Page, The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies
Again, another title that tells the story. Page is frequently cute in his writing here, and not always in a good way, but his thesis is worth pursuing. I've written here before about complexity theory and the way it will rewrite how we think about the world by the time it's done. Page takes the same view, only he's much more credentialed and experienced in explaining it. Through a sometimes labored but always on point application of complexity findings to his research, he manages to prove his overriding view that diversity outperforms centralized authority and action and rides it to several interesting examples. It won't be that new to "wisdom of crowds" readers, for much the same reason, but carries more scientific proof. He may have written the book that brings it all home to a broader public. It'd be a shame if others get it read before you do.

Jerome M. Segal, Joseph's Bones: Understanding the Struggle Between God and Mankind in the Bible
Our traditional reading of the Bible is that it's been passed down from God to us and that God is this inerrant force for a consistent morality from which we get our rules or we'd all act like a bunch of drunk frat boys. But what if you were someone from another planet who dropped down and read the Bible cold, without all the cultural baggage? Would you get the same story? Probably not. Read from the perspective of an outsider, the Bible is more a story of both God and humans learning how to interact and what rules should apply. God whacks humans regularly, has to be talked out of killing innocents, screws with people simply because they didn't get it the way his whims carried him at the moment, as in, Moses hit the rock instead of talking to it so for that he never makes it to the Promised Land after all he's done for God??? Okay. Segal's point is that there is an independent morality by which God is even limited and the role of many Biblical heroes was to point it all out on behalf of humans, who come off far better than our traditions allow. A challenging book, interesting, demands you accept the Bible as more or less consciously literature, a big stretch. But you'll learn stuff even if you never buy it for real. I mean, accept it for real. Buying it would be okay.

Douglas L. Wilson, Lincoln's Sword: The Presidency and the Power of Words
Bunch of books out there on Lincoln and his speeches right now and on how the great man developed his style and approach. The latest doesn't actually focus on any particular one, like Gettysburg, the first or second inaugural, Cooper's Union. Wilson's take is to look at all of them and how his life and habits got him to them, how he learned to write, how he consistently jotted little notes down for later use, how he wrote and rewrote, how he got them to the proper audiences in the days before PR took off. The idea that he could fire off the Gettysburg Address on a train going up to the battlefield isn't completely wrong, but it jettisons so much of the process, previous thought, and ties to past utterances as to be simplistic. (And, yes, wrong.) A good overview of the man, his times and wisdom, as well as the role that words can play in pulling a nation together in its toughest times. Wilson wrote the previously well-received Honor's Voice on Lincoln's early life. This is a very worthy follow-up. As you'll see as you browse the store.


Saturday, April 21, 2007

Weather, Water, Energy 4-21-07

Quick hits:

  • At RealClimate, they note that their suspicions about reports that the oceans had been cooling were, well, as usual, right.
  • Meanwhile, Joe Romm at Climate Progress has a couple of good catches, one on the truly important news that got deleted from the last IPCC report because US and China objected just stuff on water, famine, and disease, and one on how Australia's food supply looks to be sucking major future air, and not just because its idiot Prime Minister is vacuuming it out of every room he speaks in.
  • And here's Terra Daily's version of the Australia story. Wouldn't it be nice if their PM would be written up as the biggest fool leader of the 21st Century? Too bad someone else already has the lock on that title.
  • Finally, speaking of the latter, it's a sad day when black bears and oak trees understand what's going on weather-wise better than your "president."


Friday, April 20, 2007

Vanity plus sloth...

...allow Lance Mannion to introduce you (again) to Orc Logic.

We know better. We believe in God. We don't date crazy foreigners. We are manly-men. If we'd been there this wouldn't have happened. We'd have stopped him somehow. We'd have stood up to him. We'd have caught the bullets in our teeth, slapped the gun out of his hand, knocked him flat with a flick of our finger. We'd have made a gun of our own magically appear in our hand and our aim would have been true and we'd have shot the sucka dead before he could've fired off his first round.

We know we'd have done all this and survived and been heroes because we've told ourselves so a thousand times.

Orc Logic is seductive. It is vanity plus sloth. Self-love and moral and intellectual laziness combined. Once you let it become your habit of thought you are freed forever from self-examination, self-criticism, self-judgment. You are freed from having to worry about your own behavior because you know that you are a better person than they are, whoever they are, and that whatever you do is automatically the right thing because you are not them and whatever they do is wrong.

Orc Logic is extremely useful to people whose politics and moral code are devoted exclusively to defending their money and their privileges. If you know without having to think about it that you are a good person you don't have to listen to any calls to sacrifice and pleas for fair dealing and demands that you do an inconvenient right thing.
I don't have a single thing to add to this. He says everything I would have said, and he says it in an infinitely more creative and literate way (then again, putting things in a generally literate way assures that the point will totally be lost on the Orcs themselves). Just go read it.






Thursday, April 19, 2007

This post says everything...

...that needs to be said about the Supreme Court's abortion decision. And if it doesn't, this one does.


Random 10!!

I hit a turkey on the way to work today. I came over a hill, and it was flying up over a low shoulder. I saw it about 0.1 seconds (just long enough to flinch) before it made clean contact with the windshield. You cannot imagine the damage this does. It was like hitting a flying bowling ball. Windshield = obliterated. Glass everywhere. So here's a themed Random 10...

1. Jive Turkey, Ohio Players
2. Milkin' the Turkey, Grateful Dead
3. I'll Be Yr Bird, M. Ward
4. Hummingbird, Wilco
5. Bluebird Wine, Emmylou Harris
6. And Your Bird Can Sing, The Beatles
7. Mockingbird, Eminem
8. Bird Food, Ornette Coleman
9. Birds Without Wings, David Gray
10. Bird Sings Why The Caged I Know, Atmosphere

For the record, I've now run over two animals in my life (not counting random bunnies or robins)...neither of which are deer or armadillos or possums. A turkey and a dachsund. I always have to be different.


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Is Hip Hop Racist/Sexist?

In a word...yeah. Duh. Well, some of it anyway. The fact that I’m even addressing this question means that those sudden bastions of free speech (as long as they agree with it, anyway) on the right have been allowed to change the subject from Imus, but...yes, a lot of commercial rap is slightly racist and greatly sexist. It just is. For mostly those reasons, starting about 15 years ago, white males in junior high and high school started to dig listening to it as a form of rebellion.

But Don Imus hasn’t been a white teenager for quite a while. Centuries, actually. And if hip hop hadn’t introduced “nappy-headed ho’s” into his vocabulary, he’d have called them something else. He was making fun of them, not trying to rap.

But since we’re on the subject...

Salon today asked a number of different “hip hop scholars” about hip hop’s inherent sexism, etc. They did a good job of asking the right people, too. The first two on the list—Nelson George and Bakari Kitwana—have wirtten some of the best hip hop essays and books around. Here’s a sample (though since you have to pay for the content or watch an ad, I’ll keep the sample small):

From Kitwana:

If the question is attempting to address the corporate, commodified and packaged hip-hop music industry, which has helped enrich major record labels and corporate conglomerates, then the answer is no because even within the arena of corporate hip-hop there are rap artists whose music doesn't peddle racist imagery. For example, Lauryn Hill, Public Enemy, the Fugees, Queen Latifah, Lupe Fiasco, Kanye West have all created very popular rap music that does not promote racist imagery. The answer to this second question is mixed … yes, the corporate attempt to put hip-hop in a bottle has often relied on racial stereotypes: black men as criminals, pimps and hustlers and black women as oversexed bitches and hos.
From Greg Tate:

Regardless of your wording, I know Salon means to ask, "Does the hip-hop industry promote sexism, racism and greed?" Absolutely. "Now just who owns the hip-hop industry?" would of course be Salon's follow-up question. Obviously, as we all know, the same captains of the American consumer products and media industries who decided Imus had to go -- and not because his decrepit comedic tongue flagrantly, unconsciously and unconscionably conflated racism and sexism in ways that hadn't been heard flowing so trippingly in public off a well-established and feared white man's tongue since Thomas Jefferson, but because he had suddenly become a very bad investment. Thank God for laissez-faire capitalism, the self-correcting invisible hand of the market, and all that other good doo-doo kaka.
That’s enough of a sample. If you’re not a Salon subscriber, it’s worth your while to take a moment to watch the ads. The people interviewed are both appreciative and critical of hip hop, and that's important to me for the sake of the argument.

First of all, it should go without saying that a lot of hip hop is not racist/sexist/misogynistic/bad in any way, which is the problem with the stereotype. I’ve talked about The Roots and Mos Def and Talib Kweli at length here, and you’ll have trouble finding too much in their music that fits the angry hip hop stereotype (aside from maybe Mos’ “The Rapeover,” which pushed those boundaries a bit. But having seen the other things that Mos has written, I give him the benefit of the doubt for that one.).

Maybe the commercialized version of hip hop really does veer more toward the negative stereotype, but is that the fault of “hip hop” as a whole, or is that the fault of a) the record companies that choose who to promote, and b) the consumers of hip hop music (mostly white) who snatch up the offensive stuff and leave the strong, smart choices on the shelf? Granted, (b) pretty much tells (a) who to promote, but I’d say there’s enough room to blame both to an extent. When Nirvana and Pearl Jam made it big, major labels desperately searched out bands that sounded exactly like them (STP, Bush, and Creed say thank you, by the way). They passed up on better bands for those that would sell. It’s the same thing in hip hop. And now that hip hop has proven how much money it can make, we find rappers willing to sink lower and lower down the common denominator scale. Mos Def himself touched on this a while back (though he did use a couple negative ‘hip hop’ terms in the process):

“Our priorities is gettin’ fucked. Lil Jon-I love his music. But why are the East Side Boyz names Big Sam and Lil Bo? What the fuck? What’s next, Kunta and Kinte? The South should know better. This is the same country that ran up in Fred Hampton’s crib and shot him in bed with his pregnant wife. You think the rules changed cause niggas got No. 1 records? What are we supposed to tell our kids? After Malcolm, Martin and Dubois we got Sam-Bo? I’m supposed to be down with that ’cause it makes me dance?”
To be sure, there are problems with hip hop and language, but it’s important to stay focused on the actual problems and their actual causes. In his latest Low Post, Taibbi (as always) says it much more creatively than me:

I love rap music, always have. But as an adult white male I also know a minstrel show when I see it, and that's what rap has turned into.

Satan himself couldn't have designed a more effective vehicle for marginalizing black culture than modern hip-hop. In the early days rap music was scary social commentary; it was raw and real and it vividly described a violent street culture that white people didn't know about and didn't want to know about. But very quickly rap turned into a multibillion-dollar industry in which the same corporate behemoths who sold us crap like Garth Brooks and boy bands and Britney Spears made massive profits selling a stylized, romanticized version of black misery to white kids in the suburbs.

That was bad enough, but even worse was the way black politicians and black intellectuals so easily bought into the idea that these endless video images of gun-toting, ho-slapping black men with fat wallets, rock-hard tattooed abs and fully-accessorized rides were positive living symbols of "black empowerment" and "black manhood." Like Tupac was the next Malcolm or something.

Yeah, right. Seriously, how dumb do you have to be to not see through this shit? Here you've got the modern-day version of The Man signing big checks to back your record deals and cheering along as all the artistic talent from the black community starts walking around in public wearing one-word stage names like strippers, writing song lyrics featuring preschool-level spelling and primping endlessly for the cameras with gold teeth and swimming pools and pimped-out cars -- all of them absurd caricatures of the capitalist wealth fantasy. How exactly is any of that that different from the minstrel show, the conk and the zoot suit? The black man who can dance and sing, but can't control his urges, can't resist pussy and just can't get enough of what Whitey is selling, can't stop preening in his Caddy...that's innovative? That's empowering?

Bullshit. Rap was real once, but once it became an industry it turned into the same con white people have been playing ever since they set foot in this country. It's a bunch of shiny trinkets for the isle of Manhattan. Here's your Hummer and your bitches, knock yourself out. You need us, we'll be buying the African grain market. Oh, and, thanks for the cap, my kid loves it, he wears it sideways just like you...No matter how catchy the music is, on a deeper level, that's what big-money rap acts amount to now. And the longer the black community eats it up, the more time Whitey is going to have to laugh all the way to the bank, like he always has.
Every type of music gets exploited and reduced to its lowest common denominator at some point—this is why I say hip hop is in its “hair metal stage”—and while I’m sure the quality of commercial hip hop will rebound at some point, the fact that a) mainstream hip hop artists are almost uniformly black, b) hip hop uses quite a bit of profanity, and c) the ‘n’ word is involved, makes it seem like a bigger deal. It’s not. It’s a rebellious form of art just like grunge and punk and Elvis. Using it as an excuse for Imus’ idiocy is a ridiculous waste of time, but since the subject was raised, I figured I’d share my thoughts.


Weather, Water, Energy 4-18-07

  • Not a good day if you're a fan of ethanol. Here's a good story on how specially polluting it is.
  • Water issues getting attention and planning in Western states like ID and UT. When these libertarian/conservative states are taking it seriously, the deniers and obstructionists really are on their last legs. (And here's a good story on what plants and landscaping will be available in their changed yards as well as in the yards of places now getting a lot more rain for a while.)
  • Another sign that the worm is turning (besides all the stories USA Today has decided to run). The Home Depots, Targets, and Lowes are going green.
  • And when governors try to go green but depend on corporate support and campaign contributions from major culprits in the problem, they end up looking like CA's gov.
  • Michael Tobis at In It for the Gold reminds us that, even when there's no good option, there are usually some better than others and we're not relieved of the responsibility for seeking the "best" alternative rather than just throwing up our hands and letting worse happen.
  • New debate on whether extreme weather will create extreme wind shears that will whack down extreme hurricanes. We can hope.
  • Finally, Robert Redford continues to put his money and mouth together. (Excuse me, have to go get a drool cup for my wife as she reads this--he's her Salma(!!!!!).) The good news--he's starting an environmental channel to show us all how we can make a contribution to fight global warming. The bad news--it's on the Sundance Channel, which is carried on, what?, 3 cable systems. I'd bet, though, that it gets more play as things warm a bit.


Matt Taibbi interviews Sy Hersh: I Can’t Say I Approve…

...of these two guys being in the same room at the same time. I mean...what if the building crumbles to the ground or something? We can’t lose them both.

Is what's gone on in the Bush administration comparable or worse than what went on in the Nixon administration?

Oh, my God. Much worse. Bush is a true radical. He believes very avidly in executive power. And he also believes that he's doing the right thing. I think he's a revolutionary, a Trotsky. He's a believer in permanent revolution. So therefore he's very dangerous, because he's an unguided missile, he's a rocket with no ability to be educated. You can't change what he wants to do. He can't deviate from his policy, and that's frightening when somebody has as much power as he does, and is as much a radical as he is, and is as committed to democracy -- whatever that means -- as he is in the Mideast. I really do believe that's what drives him. That doesn't mean he's not interested in oil. But I really think he thinks democracy is the answer.


Did America learn anything from Vietnam? Was there a lesson in the way that war ended that could have prevented this war from starting?

You mean learn from the past? America?


No. We made the same dumb mistake. One of the arguments for going into Vietnam was that we had to stop the communist Chinese. The Chinese were behind everything -- we saw them and North Vietnam as one and the same. In reality, of course, the Chinese and the Vietnamese hated each other -- they had fought each other for 1,000 years. Four years after the war ended, in 1979, they got into a nasty little war of their own. So we were totally wrong about the entire premise of the war. And it's the same dumbness in this war, with Saddam and the terrorists.

On the other hand, I would argue that some key operators, the Cheney types, they learned a great deal about how to run things and how to hide stuff over those years.

And predictably, Taibbi had something to say about Imus as well...I’ll touch on this a bit more in my next post.


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Tuesday Pirates Rant™

Great. Now I’m conflicted again. I both a) desperately want the Pirates to win, and b) desperately want the Pirates to fire GM Dave Littlefield. Well, if (a) happens, (b) won’t happen for another 5 years or so, so therefore (a) would be a bad thing. Only...I can never root against (a) to happen. Well...after last week, I was a little relieved. A 3-0 start was followed by a 1-6 stretch that included the worst offense anybody’s seen on a baseball diamond. The Pirates weren’t winning, which sucked, but we were back on track in showing Littlefield the door. And then the Bucs swept a 2-game series in St. Louis to move back to .500. Who knows what to think at this point...

Being in mid-Missouri, the only times I get to watch the Buccos are when they’re playing the Cubs on WGN, the Braves on TBS, or (mostly) the Cards on Fox Sports MW. Which stinks because, well, they almost always lose to the Cards. Last week, however, they got creative with it. Bringing a 4-2 record into their first home series of the year, they got swept by a Cards team that was a) without Chris Carpenter, and b) getting absolutely nothing from Albert Pujols.

After losing their home opener 3-0 (getting literally no run support for Ian Snell), the Bucs exploded for 2 runs the next night, taking a 2-0 lead into the 9th (Tom Gorzelanny pitched 7 shutout innings). Salomon Torres wasted little time in blowing his first save of the year, giving up a single to David Eckstein and walking Chris Duncan. Albert Pujols flew out to left, but Jason Bay stupidly threw to 3rd base, allowing Duncan to tag to 2nd. So when Scott Spezio singled to right, two runs scored instead of one. The Pirates treaded water for a couple innings before allowing John “Why in the world am I on the roster when the Pirates have a bunch of real, live arms in AAA?” Wasdin to pitch the 12th. Wasdin wasted no time in allowing the winning run to score in the form of painfully slow Gary Bennett tagging from 3rd on a short fly to left. Wasdin was assisted in losing by Bay’s horrifically weak arm and catcher Ronny Paulino’s bobbling of an easy tag. All in all, it was a great night. And it ended Pittsburgh’s 8 days over .500.

Needless to say, there was no surprise when, the next afternoon, Torres entered a 2-2 game in the 9th and quickly gave up the game-winning run, completing the sweep. The Pirates went up against Braden Looper, Randy Keisler, and Adam Wainwright, and made them look like Maddux, Glavine, and Smoltz. They were swept despite giving up 9 runs in 3 games. Good times.

The Pirates then moved to 0-4 at home (4-6 overall) with a horrible outing against San Francisco, allowing 7 runs in the first two innings and letting Russ “Worst Starter in the NL” Ortiz to channel Juan Marichal for 8 innings and eventually losing, 8-5.

Did I mention the Pirates’ offense is worse than it’s ever been?

But imagine my downright shock when, last night at Busch, the Pirates entered the 9th with a 3-2 lead (they scored 3 runs!!!), immediately loaded the bases with a) a muffed grounder to first, b) a botched grounder to third (the ball hit the bag and bounced over Jose Bautista’s head), and c) a hit batsmen, and then DIDN’T blow the game. I felt strangely empty when neither Chris Duncan nor Albert Pujols hit a game-winning grand slam. Like Ron Livingston said in Swingers, you get used to the pain, and you almost miss it when it’s gone.

And then imagine my surprise when they dominated the Cards this afternoon in a 6-1 win (fear not...two of those runs came off of Cardinal errors...they didn’t score 6 runs on their own).


* Put it this way: when the best thing that happens all week is getting two home games rained/snowed out, you had a hideous week.

* Through three starts, Ian Snell has been amazing. He owns a 1.80 ERA with 20 K’s (and only 19 baserunners allowed) in 20 innings. Of course, the offense is so terrible that he’s only 1-1 in that stretch, but he’s done great.

* Through three starts, Tom Gorzelanny has also been outstanding. Through 20 1/3 innings, Gorzy has a 1.33 ERA and has also allowed only 19 baserunners. If the Bucs’ bats ever start making contact, these two could take the team a long ways. Too bad that probably won’t happen.


* Eleven games into the season, the Pirates have scored >5 runs in a game ONE FREAKING TIME.

* Zach Duke, after two quality starts to begin the season, absolutely imploded against the Giants on Friday. Salomon Torres, after four automatic saves to start the season, got lit up twice by the Cards. Not a good sign. No matter how good Snell and Gorzy have been, they can't carry both an offense and the rest of the pitching staff.


Guns and People and Korean People and Bad Weeks

Yeah, this post is pretty scattered...I’m just saying that right out front.

Compare and contrast these two rationalizations in response to the Virginia Tech tragedy (I refuse to call it the “MASSACRE AT VIRGINIA TECH™” like everyone in the media seems to be forced to call it):

1) “With stricter gun control laws, maybe Cho Seung-Hui would have been unable to get his hands on a gun, and 32 people would be alive today.”

2) “No way does Cho Seung-Hui kill that many people if everybody in that building were allowed to carry arms. We should have LOOSER gun control laws!”

Which of these two statements leads to this response? “Yeah, and every time somebody has some stupid argument, a gun will be drawn and bad things will happen!”

Just wondering.

My general thoughts on guns were illustrated well by Jane Smiley’s column on HuffPo yesterday:

Right up front I will say that I am opposed to casual gun ownership, but I also realize that Americans will always have guns. Period. It's a national fetish. But the mental state my interlocutor was describing years ago is the price we have to pay, along with, of course, the accidental deaths of children and other unprepared and careless people who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and in proximity to the wrong gun. What I would like is for the gun-toting right wing to admit that there is a price we pay, that senseless accidental deaths and traumas are a national cost and that it's not so clear that it's worth it, but hey, we pay it anyway because so many guns are in the hands of so many people that there would never be any getting rid of them. I would like the right wing to admit that guns are not "good" and that the right to bear arms is not an absolute virtue and that the deaths in the US caused by guns are at least as problematic, philosophically, as abortion. But I'm not holding my breath.
It’s the absoluteness of the pro-gun position, the refusal to admit that bad things can happen if everybody has a gun, that drives me the craziest. But that goes along with every other rightwing position in the catalog, so while it depresses me, it doesn’t surprise me in any way.

Here’s an “outsider’s” (i.e. foreigner’s) perspective:

Perhaps of all the elements of American exceptionalism – those factors, positive or negative, that make the US such a different country, politically, socially, culturally, from the rest of the civilised world – it is the gun culture that foreigners find so hard to understand.

The country’s religiosity, so at odds with the rest of the developed world these days; its economic system which seems to tolerate vast disparities of income; even all those strange sports Americans enjoy – all of these can at least be understood by the rest of us, even if not shared.

But why, we ask, do Americans continue to tolerate gun laws and a culture that seems to condemn thousands of innocents to death every year, when presumably, tougher restrictions, such as those in force in European countries, could at least reduce the number?

The truth is, not all Americans do oppose such measures. The US of course, is a vast, federal nation, with different laws and cultures in different states. In Virginia, scene of yesterday’s shootings, they passed a law a few years ago that did indeed restrict gun purchases – to a maximum of one per week.
And speaking of “absoluteness” and “depressing”...

One blogger, demonstrating with embarrassing panache exactly why some people should not be given the keys to the Internet, has even declared that the calm efficiency with which Cho Seung-hui murdered so many people "immediately suggested someone with a level of rigorous military training that only South Korean males can generally be expected to have."

Facts are useful in such situations: CNN is reporting that the 23-year-old Cho came to the United States in 1992. He would have been 8 years old. One wonders exactly how much military training he had received by that point.

Another fact provided by the Marmot's Hole: According to one report, Korea has more students studying abroad in the U.S. than any other country: 100,000. Debbie Schlussel thinks that the foreign residency of Cho Seung-hui is "yet another reason to stop letting in so many foreign students." But 99.999 percent of those 100,000 Koreans somehow managed not to engage in mass killing sprees.
For the record, I got to know 1 South Korean when I was in the MBA school, and I can say that 100% of the Koreans I know are great human beings, and we should have more of them in the United States.

And on a side note, what is it about this week in April? April 16 = Virginia Tech, April 19 = OKC bombing, April 20 = Columbine.


Music Bullets, 4-17-07

I had a couple of these links thrown together yesterday, but the Virginia Tech thing, and the resulting media idiocy that I discussed below, I had too bitter a taste in my mouth to talk about music. Anyhoo...


Weather, Water, Energy 4-17-07

David Roberts has a couple of really nice posts up at Grist today, one on the continued insistence of US automakers that they are stupid and incompetent and just can’t come up with better cars for a period of global warming and one on how Denmark is somehow able to do the impossible, at least impossible to US economists and pundits, fight global warming and maintain economic growth at the same time. . . . Here, you can find a brief piece on how the changes in environment caused by global warming might lead to “boom-bust” cycles for species and thus make their extinction even more likely. . . . The UN Security Council has figured out there might be, you know, security issues associated with global warming that it should be discussing. Of course, with the US and China as members, good luck with that. . . .Water or power? When electricity generated by water power makes up 60% of power in areas faced with water shortages, increasingly so in the future, what do you do? Of course, that assumes you have water, which south FL may not . . . Storms or sea level rise? Which do you think will whack New England the most in the years to come? Want a different question? . . . Farmers, carbon credits, and getting serious about global warming in ND. . . . USA Today pulls it all together—weather, water, and energy—in a good summary article on what the US faces with global warming. It’s not pretty. . . . Second warmest March in US history, 5 degrees above the average. Nothing to see here. Move along.


Quit Wasting Time

Over at Productivity501, they have a good post about now not to waste time. If you’re like me, there’s not enough hours in a day to do everything I need to. So, here’s a few helpful tips to get a little extra time everyday to do something worthwhile.
(Photo: crowbert)