Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Death of the Big Box Stores? About Time But Too Late

As many of you know, I grew up outside a small town in rural Oklahoma. In the early 1950s it had a thriving main street with a number of local businesses providing goods and services. We left there in 1955, though, and I hadn't really kept up with things.

Until I happened, by sheer coincidental chance several years ago, to run into someone from my old home town. She had been a couple of years ahead of me in grade school, so I didn't remember her specifically, although I do remember the family.

Naturally we had to get caught up on the town, and she said that I wouldn't recognize it now. All of the downtown businesses are closed, the windows boarded over, and you could kick a rock down the length of main street without hitting a car.

"But," she added, "thank god there's a new Walmart just outside of town."

I thought she was being ironic. She wasn't. She truly did not get the connection.

Over at Alternet take a look at After Ruining America, the Era of Giant Chain Stores Is Over for an analysis of the impending implosion of the box store chains.

Sadly, like my homegirl, there are many people who just don't get it.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Breaking News: NRA Educational Funding Announced

The National Rifle Association announced today that it will be setting up a number of educational organizations to counter public perceptions of the organization.

"We want folks to know we're not just a bunch of trigger-happy gunslingers," NRA honcho Wayne LaPierre said. To that end, LaPierre announced, the NRA is fully funding the following educational endeavors:

· The James E. Holmes School of Film Criticism
· The Adam Lanza Center for the Study of Educational Reform
· The Chris Dorner Institute for Community Policing Studies
· The Jared Loughner Center for Congressional Evaluation
· The John Hinckley School of Presidential Studies
· The Mark David Chapman School of Music Criticism
· The David Berkowitz School of Human Relations
· The Arthur Bremer Center for the Study of Presidential Elections
· The Charles Whitman School of Aerial Marksmanship
· The Giuseppe Zangara Institute for Political Reform
· The Gavrilo Princip School of International Relations
· The Leon Czolgocz Institute of Governmental Criticism
· The Charles Guiteau Center for the Study of Presidential Succession

LaPierre also emphasized that there was no truth the the rumors that the NRA was also funding the Albert DeSalvo School of Respiratory Therapy, the Theodore Bundy Institute of Interpersonal Relations or the Jeffrey Dahmner Center for Culinary Arts & Sciences.

"No guns, no glory," he said. A spokesman for LaPierre later denied that he was smirking as he said it.

More details to follow as they become available.

Monday Music Break: All Along the Watchtower

Here's the Master of the Stratocaster, the great Jimi Hendrix with his cover of the Bob Dylan classic, All Along the Watchtower. The Czech video artist, who goes under the YouTube handle lahvac15,  did a good job of mixing footage from the Vietnam War with the song.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Some Straight Talk?

Old Man McCain shows his Republican "compassionate conservatism" by telling a grieving mother whose child was shot in the Aurora theater massacre, "I can tell you right now that you need some straight talk."

Yeah, that's exactly what a grieving parent wants to hear.

Fuck you, John McCain. I can't believe that once upon a time I actually liked and respected you. At one time I actually would have considered voting for you. And I don't vote for Republicans.

Now you're just a doddering old man who's stayed too long at the party and has turned into an awkward embarrassment. Strap on your drool cup and sit on your porch, grampa, where you can yell shit like "You kids get off my lawn!" at random passersby.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Speaking of Drones

The Internets are all ablaze with the latest news that the new medal for remote drone pilots outranks other awards, such as the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.

Since it came out in The Onion about three days ago, it makes me wonder if there's any truth to it at all.

I could go ahead and research it myself, but as we know, I'm too lazy.

But as much as I like The Onion, one of the big problems with it is that people are all too willing to cut and paste shit into alarmist emails, with the source obliterated, and these can turn viral and suddenly everybody believes it.

This actually happens on a regular basis.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

I See You Haji

ICUHAJI -- "I See You Haji". That's the vanity plate that Virginia resident and retired Iraq War vet Sean Bunjo wants but can't have, and he's upset about it.

Every state has rules and restrictions on the vanity plates that they are willing to issue. My own state has several staff members at the Dept of Licensing who have become experts in the history of slang and in obscure languages, just so someone can't get a vanity plate that says "FUCK YOU" in Ket.

So this guy in Virginia says it's a free speech issue, and that "I see you Haji" is not meant to be disrespectful. Oh, no, not at all. It's a sign of respect! Yeah, uh-huh. That would be a whole lot more believable if he hadn't also applied for a plate that would have read "HAJIKLR"...

Monday, February 18, 2013

Monday Music Break: Roads to Moscow

Here is Al Stewart performing a capsule summary in music of the Eastern Front in WWII as seen through the eyes of a young Soviet soldier:

There are  many contemporary photographs that I've never seen. Some of them are overwhelming, but they are all expertly mixed with the music.

Note that at the end of the song, in a cruel irony, he is transshipped to Siberia, his "reward" for four years at the front, only because he had been captured and let go by the Nazis. That was Stalin's doing, who in his paranoia saw enemies everywhere, and especially among released POWs.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Speaking of Darth Cheney...

In news that you just can't keep a good man a vampire-chested robot werewolf/ghoul/walking-dead denizen down: Dick Cheney crawled out from whatever rotting Transylvanian coffin he was inhabiting to criticize Barack Obama for lowering American prestige (!!!).

Yeah, let that one sink in for a minute...

As Jon Stewart said on The Daily Show,  "Every time Dick Cheney laughs, an angel gets stabbed in the [dick]."

Jesus, even after four years of No Dick Cheney, I still hate that fucker...

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Even More Ted Nugent

No, I'm not being obsessive over this fucker, but some things are just over the top:

Now I am not anti-draft dodger per se. A good friend of mine chose to do his two years of government service as an inmate of a federal correctional institution rather than submit to the draft. And other friends went to great lengths to avoid being drafted, including moving to Canada and renouncing their US citizenship. They all had one thing in common: They were opposed to the Vietnam War and were objectors, conscientious or otherwise, to it. I admire them for sticking up for what they believed regardless of the consequences to themselves.

But someone like this asshole, who prides himself on his prowess with a machine gun, who is a hard core Republican, who is an NRA spokesman/officer, who actually supported the war in Vietnam (I don't know that for a fact, but what are the odds that he didn't?) and yet chose to let someone else serve in his place (are you listening, Dick Cheney?) is beneath contempt.

In other words, he is a Chickenhawk.

More on Ted Nugent

I had "other priorities", so I didn't get to watch the SOTU or the two(!) Rethug responses last night. Nor did I get to watch Ted Nugent's confused and verbally spastic interview, but it is covered here.

What an odd choice for a prom date. That's all that I can say. Doesn't the Republican Party even care that they are putting an evident psychopath front and center to be their spokesman, unofficial though they may think he is?

When asked what it was like sitting in the chamber alongside victims of gun violence, Nugent launched into a confusing rant about “engineered recidivism” and the mental health system.
“Our mental health system has failed so thoroughly that people who have threatened lives and conduct themselves in dangerous abhorrent behavior,” he said. “And have been alerted, the officials have been alerted by co-workers, fellow students, mothers and fathers of these mass murderers.”
He took on the president too, criticizing his “predicable, flowery, feel good, save the children, end world hunger insanity.”
“And then I see him either do nothing, or do the opposite,” he said. “I feel horrible that we’re going after my guns, instead of stopping crime and dangerous behavior.”
When challenged by NBC news reporter Luke Russert over comments he made last year, comparing Democrats like Obama, Joe Biden, and Hillary Clinton to coyotes who deserve to be shot, Nugent became agitated, cursing at Russert and calling him a liar in vulgar terms.
When Russert pressed him to explain what he said, Nugent repeatedly claimed he “never said that,” even though he can be seen on camera comparing those Democrats to coyotes who deserve to be shot and have their heads chopped off.
So, Teddy, when exactly did the president say he was going after your guns? It ought to be pretty easy to come up with a citation for that.

Nugent also said that he didn't stand in support of the troops, whining that his knees hurt and he was forgoing a double knee replacement apparently scheduled for that day -- what a coincidence -- to be at the speech.

Yeah, uh huh... Fuck you, Ted Nugent, you fucking draft-dodging fascist moron.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Nugent, Manson and the Turing Test

There's a famous test for Artificial Intelligence called the Turing Test, in which a machine's ability to imitate human thinking is judged.

Without stretching this metaphor too far -- which I've already done in comparing either of these two to Intelligence, artificial or otherwise -- take a look at this comparison, and tell me without looking at the answers which of them made which statement:

When you can't tell for sure who said what without looking at the answers, that tells you something. I don't know how Ted Nugent could parlay a persona as a guitar rapist (watch him play sometime) into a life as a political pundit, but I'm fucking glad he's a Republican...

Monday, February 11, 2013

A Pope Can Just Quit? WTF???!!!

What a shock to learn this morning that Pope Ratso (aka Pope Benedict, aka former Hitler Youth member) is quitting his popery. I didn't think that was even possible; I thought that once you got that pointy pope-hat and the sceptre of St Peter, you were in it for the long haul.

Shows what I know. Undoubtedly another unfortunate result of that secular-humanist upbringing of mine, I guess. But you all should know that according to "official" Catholic prophecy the next Pope will be the last Pope.

Of course the prophecy itself dates to early 14th Century, and it consists of a litany of predictions for future popes up through Ratso AND the next guy, who will be the LAST guy. But take a look at that list and tell me that old St. Malachy wasn't eating some of that ergot-infected rye bread when he saw those visions...

Note also that whoever is doing the interpretation of this "prophecy" has to do a LOT of twisting and turning to shoehorn in all of the Popes on the list.

Okay, short answer to all of this? In the words of my guru, Mister Natural, it don't mean shit...

Side note to Pope Benedict: You might have invented[citation needed] my favorite breakfast, but you're still a quitter.

Monday Music Break: Flying Down to Rio

Okay, I'll admit it up front: I'm a sucker for 1930s musicals. When you combine that with my love for Brazil and its music and the dancing of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, you get the following:

That's the "money shot" sequence from the 1933 RKO musical, Flying Down to Rio. Watch the whole thing and you'll see some pre-Hayes Office flying nipples for your own titillation.

I just fucking LOVE this movie. You can rent it from Netflix or buy it from Amazon.

This movie is also significant for the first-time-ever appearance of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. As a wise man guy once said, "Ginger Rogers did all the same moves as Fred Astaire, but she did them backwards and in heels"...

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Unmanned Drones

I don't really know how I feel about drones, except conflicted. We would have LOVED to have drones in Vietnam, even though the "collateral damage" associated with their use appears to be ... excessive. But in Vietnam the Viet Cong were notorious for using innocent villagers as human shields.

If the US can take out a nest of terrorists without the danger of American servicemen being wounded or killed, then that's good. But if the US takes out said terrorists along with their wives, children, aged parents, neighbors, etc., then that's bad. And the whole killing of so-called American citizens bothers me a lot as well.

As I say, I am conflicted.

The only good news I can see on the drone front is that Seattle mayor Mike McGinn has ordered the Seattle police department not to use them. The SPD will be sending back the drones they've purchased and, hopefully, getting their money back from the Daddy Warbucks "Defense" contractors they bought them from.

No matter that McGinn is up for re-election this year and this move is nothing more than a cynical ploy to avoid serious primary challenges from the Left -- it was still the right thing to do. But how long will this last? Only until some dipshit rightwinger gets elected mayor I would guess. Then those drones will come swooping back.

Hmm... I also wonder what the punishment would be for using a police drone for shotgun skeet-shooting  practice when it buzzes over your back yard... Whatever it is, it would almost be worth it.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Stiffing the Wait Staff -- for God?

I'm feeling much better now. Nothing like a couple of days in front of the boob tube with nothing on your mind and beer on your stomach...

Okay, that said, I had to pass this one on: Chelsea Welch, a wait staff person at an Applebee's in St. Louis, apparently stepped over that invisible line (you know, the one you don't know is there until you step over it) when she took a picture of the check that some asshole left for one of her coworkers.

"I give GOD 10% why do you get 18" [sic] was scrawled on the check, with the automatically-added 18% tip blacked out. That 18% BTW is standard policy for Applebee's and probably every other chain restaurant in the country when there are more than a certain number of people in your party.

So Chelsea was guilty of...well, actually, nothing, since there is no applicable rule or law that applies. The customer was "embarrassed" and demanded that Applebee's fire her, her coworker, the local manager, and pretty much everyone in sight. Chelsea was fired. No word on her unindicted co-conspirators.

Cut to the chase and my reaction to all this: Fuck you, Mister Christian. (I'm assuming that this dipshit is a male and a Christian--who else would act this way?) If you can't afford to tip the wait staff, then eat your fucking meal out of the dumpster. Wait staff LIVE on their tips. Eighteen percent is cheap. I always tip 20%, and more if I feel that they deserve it.


Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Taken Ill

It was probably my poor choice of food to celebrate Super Bowl Sunday: Mass quantities of beer and deep fried picked pigs feet on a stick. Not Jimmy Dean® brand, but before I took to my sickbed I was engaged in negotiations with them for the rights. Probably that's off the table now...

I guess I've not made some good choices over the years -- investing in that combination day care center and dingo farm in Australia comes to mind -- so this is just another in a long line of them...

Back soon.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Monday Music Break: Woody Guthrie Roll On Columbia

I grew up from the age of 12 on the banks of the mighty Columbia River, so this song has always had a special hold on me.

Plus it's Woody Guthrie!

Friday, February 01, 2013

Book of the Month: The Battle for Spain

I've mentioned before that I am from a family of Wobblies. My grandfather and my grandmother's brothers were all card-carrying members of the IWW when they worked in the Pacific Northwest logging industry in the early years of the 20th Century. My grandmother's youngest brother was also a bit of a roustabout, a kind of soldier-of -fortune type, who spent a few years in some vague adventures in Nicaragua (with Sandino? Two generations are now gone and current family memory is not clear on this, but it seems likely) and then ended up in Spain as part of the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War.

He survived his ordeal in Spain but came home with some kind of lung disease that eventually killed him in 1957. I was only 12 when he died, so I really regret not getting the advantage of talking to him as an adult about his time in Spain. He was able to spin a few funny yarns to us kids about  exotic-sounding places like Catalonia, Andalusia, Guadalajara, but by and large, like most combat veterans, he was pretty reticent about the details.

But thanks to Uncle Bud, I have had an abiding interest in the Spanish Civil War, and that's how I came to recommend  The Battle for Spain: The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939 by Antony Beevor as this month's Book of the Month. Beevor is a historian with a sharp eye for detail and a narrative style that is readily accessible, and this book contains many facts that have only recently come to light, such as the incidents of seemingly odd behavior by the Communists. They don't seem so odd when we learn that behind them loomed the spectre of Stalin's paranoia and the fear that it inspired even on the faraway battlefields of Spain.

As I say, I've read a lot of books on the Spanish Civil War, and this is one of the very best. Highly recommended.