Monday, August 31, 2015

Happenings Ten Years Time Ago



Digby wrote a terrific piece of reporting for Salon that was published earlier today and quite frankly I can do no better. The article is here but I will quote a large swath of it below:


When the levees broke in those early days after Hurricane Katrina, Americans found themselves watching a disaster unfold before their eyes for the second time in four short years. Indeed, sometimes it felt as if the entire decade had been nothing but one disaster after another. As the flood waters rose and overhead shots showed people walking waist deep through toxic floodwater and desperately waving for help from their rooftops, the scope of the crisis became clear.


Unfortunately, almost from the beginning a narrative took shape that would seriously affect the response: The police had abandoned their duties and the city was under attack from roaming gangs of African American thugs, threatening people in their homes and businesses.


There were two famous photographs of Katrina victims published in the media on Tuesday August 30, 2005. In the first, a black New Orleans resident is described as walking through water after having “looted a grocery store,” while in the other, the white subjects were said to have “found” bread and water from a local grocery story. It was the beginning of a couple of days of rising hysteria, particularly on the right, about “looting” and violence.


The most famous example of this from the national punditry was perhaps a column by the Wall Street Journal’s  Peggy Noonan, who wrote:
As for the tragic piggism that is taking place on the streets of New Orleans, it is not unbelievable but it is unforgivable, and I hope the looters are shot. A hurricane cannot rob a great city of its spirit, but a vicious citizenry can. A bad time with Mother Nature can leave you digging out for a long time, but a bad turn in human behavior frays and tears all the ties that truly bind human being–trust, confidence, mutual regard, belief in the essential goodness of one’s fellow citizens.


There were many more long disquisitions and much hand-wringing  among right wingers about the necessity of shooting looters. Some, like Ted Frank of the American Enterprise Institute, finding summary execution to be the “compassionate” approach:
I think shooting looters is a compassionate way to protect the safety and well-being of law-abiding citizens. Time after time it has been shown that the way to prevent deadly anarchic riots is to take firm decisive action to prevent matters from getting to a tipping point.


Mostly what anyone had actually seen at that point were shots of people inside Big Box stores taking goods in the presence of police, who had made a deliberate decision to stand down since they were in the middle of one of the most devastating natural disasters in recent memory and protecting Walmart’s junk didn’t seem like something worth worrying about when bodies were floating down the street.
But beyond the footage of looting, there were rampant, over-the-top rumors of violence, but no pictures of it despite the fact that photographers and film crews were all over the city. Still, the idea took hold and reports of running street battles and armed gangs were everywhere. Most of the world watched in horror in those early days at the devastation and carnage being wreaked by mother nature and crumbling infrastructure. But the mainstream press breathlessly reported on a city that no one could see — a city in a “war zone” in which average citizens were being randomly killed everywhere.


Here’s a fairly typical example of the hysterical reporting from the AFP:
New Orleans was primed for all-out combat Friday, as Iraq-tested troops with shoot-to-kill orders moved into the hurricane-devasted city to quell rioters and looters.


The deployment of 300 members of the Arkansas National Guard came ahead of a tour of the affected region by President George W. Bush, who vowed “zero tolerance” for the armed gangs terrorising the flooded city.
Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco said the guardsmen had been authorized to open fire on “hoodlums” profiteering from the destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina, which is believed to have left thousands dead.


“These troops are fresh back from Iraq, well trained, experienced, battle tested and under my orders to restore order in the streets,” Blanco said.
“They have M-16s and they are locked and loaded.


“These troops know how to shoot and kill and they are more than willing to do so if necessary and I expect they will,” she said.
Four days after the killer storm slammed into the US Gulf Coast, New Orleans was still plagued by gunbattles and rapes, with gangs of looters and carjackers roving the streets and bodies just left lying by the roadside.


Residents reported survivors dropping dead in shelters or gunned down outside the New Orleans convention center. Hospitals were evacuated after power ran out and helicopters ferrying patients and babies drew gunfire.
“This is a war zone,” said Melissa Murray, 32, a Louisiana state corrections officer helping in the relief effort.


As you can see, the officials themselves were stoking the sense of panic.




And then the world saw something that no one ever expected to see in the most powerful and wealthy nation on earth –tens of thousands of Americans abandoned at the New Orleans convention center with no water, no food, pleading with a local celebrity, Harry Connick Jr, to do something, anything to help them. Somehow, Connick, along (along with camera crews) had been able to fight through the wild street gangs to find out for himself what was going on. Hour after hour we watched the shocking scenes of mostly elderly men and women and mothers with young children — the most vulnerable residents of the city who hadn’t been able to evacuate — left abandoned to fend for themselves. The sun was shining, there was no flooding near the center. Camera crews were in and they were everywhere. There were scenes of military vehicles driving by old ladies in wheelchairs as people screamed for help.
All over the country, all over the world, people couldn’t believe what they were seeing.  And they asked themselves, “Where is the government, where is the Red Cross?


We found out a few days later that the Red Cross was told not to go into the city by the authorities (which authorities is still a point of dispute) because it was unsafe, what with the roaming thugs killing and raping and all. The government needed to stop all the violence before food and water and medical help could be deployed.
The next year, the LA Times took a look back at the reporting and what they found wasn’t pretty:


Journalists and officials who have reviewed the Katrina disaster blamed the inaccurate reporting in large measure on the breakdown of telephone service, which prevented dissemination of accurate reports to those most in need of the information. Race may have also played a factor.
The wild rumors filled the vacuum and seemed to gain credence with each retelling — that an infant’s body had been found in a trash can, that sharks from Lake Pontchartrain were swimming through the business district, that hundreds of bodies had been stacked in the Superdome basement.


“It doesn’t take anything to start a rumor around here,” Louisiana National Guard 2nd Lt. Lance Cagnolatti said at the height of the Superdome relief effort. “There’s 20,000 people in here. Think when you were in high school. You whisper something in someone’s ear. By the end of the day, everyone in school knows the rumor — and the rumor isn’t the same thing it was when you started it.”
Follow-up reporting has discredited reports of a 7-year-old being raped and murdered at the Superdome, roving bands of armed gang members attacking the helpless, and dozens of bodies being shoved into a freezer at the Convention Center.


Fox News, a day before the major evacuation of the Superdome began, issued an “alert” as talk show host Alan Colmes reiterated reports of “robberies, rapes, carjackings, riots and murder. Violent gangs are roaming the streets at night, hidden by the cover of darkness.”
The Los Angeles Times adopted a breathless tone the next day in its lead news story, reporting that National Guard troops “took positions on rooftops, scanning for snipers and armed mobs as seething crowds of refugees milled below, desperate to flee. Gunfire crackled in the distance.”


“I don’t think you can overstate how big of a disaster New Orleans is,” said Kelly McBride, ethics group leader at the Poynter Institute, a Florida school for professional journalists. “But you can imprecisely state the nature of the disaster. … Then you draw attention away from the real story, the magnitude of the destruction, and you kind of undermine the media’s credibility.”




And there can be little doubt about what made all this so believable to the Peggy Noonans of the world:
“If the dome and Convention Center had harbored large numbers of middle class white people,” [Times-Picayune Editor Jim] Amoss said, “it would not have been a fertile ground for this kind of rumor-mongering.”


BATON ROUGE, La. — They locked down the entrance doors Thursday at the Baton Rouge hotel where I’m staying alongside hundreds of New Orleans residents driven from their homes by Hurricane Katrina.


“Because of the riots,” the hotel managers explained. Armed Gunmen from New Orleans were headed this way, they had heard.
“It’s the blacks,” whispered one white woman in the elevator. “We always worried this would happen.”


……..
There is much more at the article itself. It is worth your time.


Cheap Shots:


Shorter Pete Sessions: “You non-whites suck!”


Um, The Fairness Doctrine was stricken down during the Reagan Error.






Your morbidly funny death – from the man who killed Pluto.




IFLC gives us a story of a solar powered airport! (drink!)


I’m curious because I’ve never been there, but doesn’t Ohio itself have something they can name after the man? Thanks Obama.




Again, some white dude fundamentally misunderstands the BLM movement.




How much money is each candidate worth?


I’m curious – how many of you will focus on the issue of the largest refugee crisis since the Vietnam Boat Lift of the 1970s, and how many of you will focus on the fact that the top photo was taken at the Greek Island of Lesbos?


And again a cartoon explains it all to you. (Bonus – here’s another one)


The VMAs are still a thing? Whatever for?


And now I’ve got Elvis Costello’s “Ten Little Hitlers”  running through my head.




The fallout from the whole Ashley Madison thing continues and a South Dakota legislator tries to find a new source for his hookups.


A moment of Zen:

Friday, August 28, 2015

Where do I even begin?


“So many people forget that the first country the Nazis invaded was their own.” – Abraham Erskine (Captain America: The First Avenger)

 

There are times as of late that I just want to get the fuck out of here. Leave the Unhinged States of America permanently, and it’s not over the great things. It’s over the things I think about as a father.

 

I worry almost constantly about the dumbing down of our country. Teaching religion – specifically Christianity – as if it were fact instead of gospel. I worry about the fact that about 50% of you just read that sentence and don’t know what the difference between fact and gospel is. I worry about denying the obvious to the point that we don’t talk about it or teach it any more – which is just plain dangerous. It puts us behind the rest of the civilized world, where they learn about these things.

 

I worry about my children because neither of them are what you would call mainstream. My wife and I aren’t mainstream either, but we’ve survived long enough to know who to deal with and move on when we deal with people who can’t handle our “otherness”. My children haven’t had that time to gain the experience necessary and there are people all over the place out there who aren’t interested in giving them the time because every last thing in our lives is scrutinized at such an intensity and so constantly that there simply isn’t a moment to breathe.

 

I worry that one or both of my children are going to wind up in prison, because that’s what we do these days. It’s a money making industry and that’s just so very very very wrong. The idea that someone makes a mistake or loses their temper for just a moment becomes a money-making opportunity for some rich bastard just makes me queasy.

 

I worry that either of my children could be badly hurt or killed because police have a tendency to stop and talk to people outside the mainstream. The odds are in their favor because they’re white and I’ll take that advantage, but it doesn’t guarantee anything.

 

I worry that so many people don’t realize just how much they “innocently” flirt with racism and sexism when they in fact do real harm. If you’d asked anyone in the south what the cause of the civil war was when I was a kid they’d say “Slavery”. Today they say “States Rights”. We’re intentionally making ourselves stupider and there’s a price to be paid for this.

 

I worry that the political establishment of this nation is so disconnected from real life that one of the richest assholes in the country is being seen as a man of the people, when it should be obvious that he is nothing of the kind.

 

I worry that we are scapegoating Latinos while conveniently forgetting the fact that THEY WERE HERE FIRST.

 

I worry that news reporting has nothing to do with news anymore. I worry that it has more to do with being first than being right. I worry that it has more to do with the opinions of the money behind the news than the coverage of it.

 

I worry that there are far too many people who feel persecuted because their right to persecute others is being further and further marginalized.

 

I worry that the effort to re-write our country’s history is so pervasive that most people don’t even realize that it is happening.

 

I worry that as an adult I have had a tougher time making friends with people because while my standards haven’t changed the people around me have.

 

I worry that facebook has sucked a lot of the creative spark out of me. I worry that the whole idea that everyone has to be connected to everyone else 24 hours a day 7 days a week has sucked the creative spark out of the rest of us too.

 

I worry that rent in San Francisco has increased 900% since I moved here, and half of that in the last 5 years. That’s not a typo by the way. Nine Hundred Percent.

 

I’m worried that there is a concerted effort to disenfranchise the very people who could fix everything.

 

I worry that privacy is a thing of the past at a moment when we need it more than ever. At a moment when we deserve it more than ever.

 

I worry that the policital right wing of our country, a group of people that I have friends in, has gone so far off the rails in terms of rational thought that there will be no reconciliation with them and as it has for the past 6 years, make actual governing impossible.

 

I worry that our infrastructure is about to suffer a catastrophic collapse. I worry that our rush to riches has destroyed our ability to plan.

 

I worry that the Republican Party of now wouldn’t recognize the greatest Republican of the 20th Century, General Dwight Eisenhower, as anything other than a radical leftist.

 

I worry that Detroit and New Orleans, once great cities, will never be again.

 

I worry that the best news program on air, even with both Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert off the air at the moment, is a comedy show on a pay network hosted by a man born in England.

 

I worry that on an international stage we’re just seen as a bully instead of as a leader.

 

I worry that so many children are trying to sit at the grown-ups table because the grown-ups have abdicated and are out getting drunk and congratulating themselves on how good they are.

 

I worry that people aren’t interested in any of this.

 

I am worried more than anything else about the fact that it seems that far too many people live in their own version of reality that suits their own world-view as opposed to the actual facts. We used to refer to that as insanity, and it is becoming mainstream.

 

The generation following mine is in pretty good shape, taken on an individual basis. The same can be said of mine I think. I have real hope based upon conversations with them that things will one day turn around again. But I’ve had that hope before and while I’m an optimist and even a romantic I am weary of how many times I’ve been wrong. Individuals for the most part are decent folk. Groups of people tend to be horrifying and that’s true of any generation.

 

I worry that we aren’t teaching anything about the fall of the Roman Empire – because we seem to be repeating it – and I’d rather not be here when it actually starts getting bad.

 

And I worry that my youngest child is looking at colleges in Europe only because it sounds better than here.

 

So I’m wondering if it might just be time to pack up and go. “I’m too old to be governed by dumb people” – Charlie Skinner (The Newsroom)

 

Cheap shots (sake, please):

 

If you don’t think this is child abuse then you need your fucking head examined.

 

It’s not just that this picture makes me think of the screens from 1984, it’s that the secondary headline on the page is “The most powerful woman on the Internet”.

 

Award-winning cartoonist Ted Rall has been fighting a one-man war against the Los Angeles Times. He’s not winning, but he should be.

 


 

What does it take to get this woman fired?

 


 


 


 

It’s the END of the rant that is the most important part, not the rant itself. I wanted to embed this one but embedding has been disabled at HBO’s request.

Ahem. Zen.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A kick in the nuts from Walter Blunt

Just cheap shots today – the drinking kind. Drink whatever cauterizes your wounds:


More men than women are homicide victims when the killing happens at a workplace – unless the killer knows the victim. Kind of puts that whole Virginia Shooter saying “bitch” before opening fire into focus, doesn’t it?


And one more thing, anyone who thinks that what happened in Virginia has anything to do with the Black Lives Matter movement deserves a kick in the testicles by Walter Blunt.




Rock on, Dust Lady.






You need to take this with a grain of salt as the website in question uses some questionable tactics, but it does suggest that Ronald Reagan was negotiating with terrorists even before he became President.


In the Navy, you can sail the solar seas


Trump vs. Bernie Sanders – Ann Coulter is right about something? (I have my umbrella with me to avoid falling pig shit).


Be all that you can be – starting May 2016.


Girlfriend, you are just a Drama Queen.


At least he didn’t say “Me so Horny!


Apparently there is such a thing as douchebag rehab.


Even I didn’t guess that it was a place that has a single dish with the same fat content as FIVE KFC DOUBLE DOWNs.


Does anyone else out there hear Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” whenever Donald Trump speaks?


I don’t usually give credence to this sort of thing, but even I have to admit that it’s an interesting theory.


Tougher gun laws? Are you MAD sir?




we look forward to advising Rupert Murdoch on his next visit to the optician…”


Grace Jones is still the most punk Bond Girl E.V.A.R!!!


Face it CNN, you’re whores.


Go back to Univision?” how about you Go back to The Apprentice? Oh wait, it was cancelled. How about Go back to Park Place then?




And now a moment of Zen:


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

This is why Voter ID is a stupid fucking idea.

The state of Alabama has 44 DMV offices. That’s not great, but it’s not bad either in a state whose geographical size is about 1/3 that of California, which has 179 DMV offices. However, by March of 2016 Alabama will be cutting the number of DMV offices they have to 4. FOUR. Imagine living in San Diego and having to go to Los Angeles to see the DMV. This is what’s about to happen in Alabama.


This is terrible, but it’s much worse than you think. You see in the state of Alabama you have to present a valid state photo ID in order to vote. A driver’s license or state ID. Without it, you can’t vote. They passed this law in 2011 and since this time voter turnout has fallen from 57% to 41%. This is a state where 27% of the population live at a poverty level so low that it’s already difficult to deal with the extra hassle of a proper ID and to now have to travel half the state to make it happen? A lot fewer people are going to vote.


I have said from the very beginning that every time a person says that the point of having this kind of ID to vote is to prevent voter fraud that they are lying. They are. It’s about making fewer people vote. The fact is that voter fraud in this country is extremely low and when compared to the numbers of people getting disenfranchised by these steps voter fraud is dramatically, even hilariously outmatched. In Alabama that’s 4 cases of voter “irregularity” that may not even be fraud (investigations still underway) versus 187,000 voters who lost the ability to vote.


I don’t even think the greatest Alabama Crimson Tide fans are going to stick with a game where the score is 187,000 to 4. Hell – would you want to watch a game where the score was 187 to 4?


Okay, there are going to be a few, but at some point you have to start saying “let them score a couple points” if you’re actually a sports fan and not a partisan of a single team.


And there it is – this system has been set up by partisans on a single team. There isn’t a single Voter ID law that has been put in place by Democrats; they’ve all been done by Republicans, and they’re hoping that this 187,000 to 4 advantage they’ve given themselves will be enough, because lord knows that their policies aren’t doing it.


Cheap Shots:


I’m going to use this pun from now on when referring to Trump: Unqualified Success.


Okay Bill’O, I’m calling you out on it. Personally, I think you’re fucking lying – because I just don’t see you giving up being rich.


A list of Anchor Babies. Or as one commenter put it, “Welp, everyone back on the Mayflower!”








Shorter Jeb! – Make me a sammich, bitches!


“My word – he’s just… just… offensive!”




D├ętente, predictably, breaks down.




I wonder if he’s going to wear his black villain cape – you remember it don’t you? He wore it on his last day in office.


What fucking idiots. Sometimes I think they should carry signs that read “All I ever learned about cooperation I learned from The Borg.”


Just when you think the story can’t get any worse, it does.


And now a moment of Zen:

Monday, August 24, 2015

Not breakin' my stride...

And if you're my age you now have a song stuck in your head. You're welcome.


When I was younger I used to pay a lot of attention to the Stock Market. It was a lot like blackjack or poker to me – if you were knowledgeable and had the ability to read the trends you could do well. I had a couple of stocks I liked to follow but as I grew up poor I never actually had a real portfolio.


I still don’t. I mean, I have a 401k and have money saved for the eventual day I decide to stop shouting – no clue when that will be – but I don’t pay attention to it like I once did. I came to realize some time ago that paying attention doesn’t really matter to a person without wealth to begin with, so the whole market fluctuations that have happened over the past few days really don’t mean much of anything to me.


Yeah, the Dow dropped a ton. My 401k doesn’t actually have any money in the 30 stocks they use as the barometer for that exchange. The Chinese market also dropped a LOT. But again, I don’t have any money there. Oh sure, my 401k probably took a hit and so did yours, but did it make a real dent in a market that trades 2 Billion shares on the NYSE alone, at an average daily value of $163 Billion? Sure, the numbers look scary but given the overall volume of action out there no real harm has been done to your real money.


It’s the perception of your real money that has taken the hit, and that matters so much more.


Your money doesn’t actually exist in any real form. Those bills and coins and checks and credit cards you carry around are all Promises to Pay. Some of them even say so right on them. What they are in reality is a promise that some financial institution somewhere is willing to back up the trinkets you are using to represent your wealth in exchange for items you wish to own. Thing is, they don’t actually (for the most part) go to the bank. They just go to another person who uses it the same way. It works because we all accept it – because we all believe it works. Truth is, there isn’t enough actual assets to back up all of the cash (promises to pay) in circulation. If every person in the US were to go to a bank and ask for their money right now, the country would go bankrupt in about 15 minutes.


By the same token, stocks work because we believe in them. They can be used as a barometer of how healthy a company is but it can also be a measure of just how cruel their management is (look at Sears). It can be a measure of how much liquidity a company has. It can be a measure of who is propping them up. It can be a combination of all of these things. But we believe it is an indicator of the wealth of our country because we believe it. There is no actual causality between how well-off the county is and how well the stock market is doing – not anymore. Reforms have been put in place so that an event like October 1929 will most likely never happen again.


And it’s also worth noting that for every loser out there in this most recent stock dive that there were winners as well. After all, you sell off a stock to MAKE MONEY.


So where is the real money? It’s there because we all believe it is there. Here is a piece of papers you can have in exchange for your goods and the government/bank promises that this piece of paper can be used in exchange for another good at your leisure. It works because we all believe it works. If that were to stop it would all fall apart in very short order.


And what does this have to do with the stock market taking a hit? It’s the psychological value of it all. The Dow drops 1,000 points in a few hours of trading! Oh dear lord when will it end? Ever notice that it always does end and that things get better? I might be worried if the Dow were at 9,000 instead of the 16,000 it has been trading at recently. Hey, it’s not nothing but we’ve been through worse. So how much real money do you have in your 401k? In your stocks? More than likely you’re not a member of the 1% if you’re reading this so in reality it’s probably not very much. Taking a hit on not very much still leaves you with not very much.


You’re going to be just fine. Believe it. It’s when you don’t that the trouble comes.


Cheap shots (Vodka for a Monday – maybe Akkavit if you’ve been good):


Simple things like tying shoelaces seems to evade Governor Scott Walker’s comprehension. Asking him about the complicated shit just seems unfair.




Um, wow. Bill Kristol hasn’t been right about ANYTHING in years and years now. This will never happen and the reason is simple. If he resigns (and he’d have to in order to run) Obama gets to appoint his replacement.




You know Jeb!, by this line of reasoning Bobby Jindal is an anchor baby.


Or could it be that thanks to China’s markets driving the downturn that it’s really about finding some new non-whites to blame for everything?


Does this mean that they will taunt us a second time? Silly Kuhniggitts (wow, it’s really easy to slip from that to being racially offensive – careful careful)


You know, Trump really does like to see his name on things, so given today’s climate I don’t think he’d object…






While everyone else is gasping in horror the 13-year old boy in me is wondering what they made it stick with. (if you mind went there drink!)


It’s a fair point – if you’re so obsessed with the Ashley Madison story why not just jump straight to searching for porn? It’s about the same thing now. (drink again)




Baby we were born to crash and burn!


On a similar note, maybe, just maybe, he’s not sure he could win the Presidential nomination.


And now a moment of Zen:





Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Trump's sister has that hair too!



We need to get to drinking so let’s go right to the…


Cheap Shots:


The Constitution is unconstitutional? What the fuck these people been smoking? Is there residue of it in Trump’s hair?


The first victim of the Ashley Madison (you know, the cheat on your spouse website that got hacked) appears to be someone I never wanted to hear about again.


In my story on Straight Outta Compton I missed a counterpoint story. You should read it.


Get the smelling salts! He feels faint!


I’ll quote Robin himself: “If freaks like you are getting into heaven then I don’t want to go!”


Damn it. Batgirl. That crazy Orion girl. Marvelous actress.




Firm vs. Testy. And no, we’re not talking about breasts vs. dicks. Oh, wait…


Read the whole thing, because to many assholes don’t remember what it was like. Warning – the photo is horrific as hell.


“It’s like the Clampetts have come to town.”


Criticize for showing what happened? Fuck Tha Police!






Shorter Hucksterbee: “I’m sure that as a white man I understand Martin Luther King Jr. thoroughly.” Fucking idiot.


And now a moment of zen (you’re going to laugh your ass off):





Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Yes, I saw the movie.

I’m still kind of digesting having seen Straight Outta Compton. Let’s start with the basics – it’s one hell of a movie. Well-acted, directed with confidence, a solid script, and pulling no punches about the language, misogynistic tendencies towards women (The “Bye Felicia” incident – while funny was also pretty damned mean), and both the good and bad about the 5 men in NWA and their manager Jerry Heller. It holds no punches that Heller obviously favored Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell) but he still delivered what he said he could, Ice Cube’s (O’Shea Jackson Jr. – Ice Cube’s own son) growing unease at how he and Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins) and MC Ren (Aldis Hodge) were being left behind financially. It shows the fun the guys had in the studio and the arguments. It shows Easy-E coming into his own as a performer. It shows how terrible it can be to just be black in a high crime neighborhood - and how much worse in a neighborhood not your own. I found it interesting that one of the more brutal cases of racial profiling in the movie came at the hands of a black cop.


Oh, and the live shows! The performance of “Fuck Tha Police” in Detroit is about as perfect as concert filming gets. Who cares if you like the song or not in a performance that electric? You’re going to get into it if you have any soul at all. Watching Ice Cube lose his cool for a second and start to laugh right before launching into the song was great. Seeing MC Ren land his move in the background just at Ice Cube lets out that first roar on the title words was just amazing. Jerry Heller’s (Paul Giamatti) unease but support of the band during the show.


And then watching everything fall apart. Ice Cube leaving, MC Ren stepping up (and doing so very well – although I wanted more of him in the movie), the feud between Ice Cube and the rest, and then Dr. Dre partnering up with Suge Knight (R. Marcos Taylor) to and his strong-arm tactics and the emergence of Dre’s producing skills, the discovery of Snoop Dogg (and later Tupac), and everything falling apart. The attempt to set things right and Eazy-E’s brutal and painful discovery of just how sick he is was gut-wrenching.


But the most important thing? It’s a good movie. Hell, it’s a great movie – one I’d watch again. One worthy of notice when awards season comes around.


Cheap Shots (feel free to include any swearing from above):


By the way, the actress who portrays the infamous “Felicia” in the scene referenced above, who goes from giving a blow-job to being left naked in a hotel hallway is Asia’h Epperson from the first season of American Idol. You’ve come a long way baby.


There is a man on trial in New York right now for building a death ray to kill the President. I shit you not.




Yet another police shooting, but with high-fives all around.


Okay, this shit is just getting weird now.


Fantastic. You’re not intimidated, although you don’t quite seem to understand what the word means. Were you listening?


The glasses were supposed to make him seem smarter. Nope. Still a fucking idiot.




Wow. 10 years of making these videos.


Perseids, head on! Hat tip to Bad Astronomer for that one.


Birtherism comes back to bite the GOP in the ass.


A movie is not evidence. Take a look at why.


“The Fox News/GOP version of Christianity has already betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, and would do so again, just to get the matching set of spinning rims.”






And now a moment of Zen:




Friday, August 14, 2015

Straight Outta Compton - a white boy remembers

I don’t really much like rap/hip-hop. So much of it is just plain terrible, or kitschy, or ignores the basics of things like meter, rhyme, depth. Admittedly, the same thing can be said about most genres of music but rap in particular I never really got. The best stuff I had heard once I got into the real world and moved to Los Angeles for college was Grandmaster Flash. White Lines, The Message… great songs. I didn’t even much Blondie’s “Rapture” much when it came out but the groove was infectious and I slowly came to love it.


I’ve been watching with great interest the stories and development of the new movie Straight Outta Compton, which tell the story of the rise to fame of NWA, the West Coast’s first superstar rap group. For me the story is one Straight Outta Memory, because I lived in Los Angeles at the time that NWA was starting their rise and it was an amazing thing to see, even from a distance as I did. They’re household names now, but back then referring to people as “Easy-E”, “Dr. Dre”, “Ice Cube” just seemed strange to me. But if you read the underground weeklies (what we once called newspapers) you’d see stories about these young men and how they were trying to rise from pretty much nothing. Easy-E and Dr. Dre sold CDs as swap meets and by hustling in various neighborhoods. Ice Cube was a performer with the rap act C.I.A. and serious rage in his lyrics. Ice-T was part of this scene too, rising to glory from having been a pimp.


College and underground radio played a lot of music from each of these artists after Easy-E founded Restless Records. You could hear a lot of potential there but when they released their actual first studio album as a group, Straight Outta Compton, all hell broke loose.


Ice Cube (and MC Ren) was given free reign on lyrics and he wrote songs about he violent childhood and neighborhood, a place all Los Angelenos knew about and tried to avoid; Compton. Compton scared the hell out of white people and in the early to mid-1980’s it was a dangerous place. A sizeable chunk of the city’s alarming homicide rate came from Compton. The gangs – the original Bloods and Crips – came from Compton. Ice Cube’s lyrics caught the anger just about perfectly. He wasn’t polite. He said “Fuck tha Police” without irony or reservation. With this album Gangsta Rap was put on the map.


But there was more – Dr. Dre handled sampling and production and unlike other artists of the time who were sampling rock records (Run DMC, etc) he sampled well-respected black artists to create the grooves. The title track samples James Brown, Funkadelic, Ronnie Hudson, Wilson Picket and more. Between the lyrics and the sound West Coast Rap was born as a direct counterpoint to what was coming out of the East (Public Enemy, Run DMC, The Beastie Boys).


In the 1980s there were only 7 rap songs I listened to more than once; Public Enemy’s “Welcome to the Terrordome”, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s “The Message” and “White Lines”, The Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” and the first three songs on Straight Outta Compton. They are a power punch of the best of rap. “Straight Outta Compton” is hands down one of the best "this is who I am - deal with it" songs ever. It’s angry, unapologetic, tells you where they're from and it's in your face. “Fuck tha Police” is a no-holds-barred look at police brutality and racism. “Gangsta Gangsta” tells the rest of the world what life is like for these young men and you’d better pay attention. Although there is anger present in the other stuff I listened to, no one hit as hard as NWA.


Straight Outta Compton was one of the first records struck with one of Tipper Gore’s Parental Guidance labels. The wording on those things hadn’t been standardized yet.


West Coast Rap doesn’t happen without this album exploding into the world.  Tupac, Snoop Dogg, Suge Knight, the list is actually pretty long.


NWA didn’t last long. Ice Cube wrote a lot of that album and got into a royalties dispute with the rest of the band and left, starting a strong solo career in music and film. The band got new management and a game of divide and conquer was played and Dr. Dre was left out in the cold (I think Dre survived it all – you DO know who he is, after all). Easy-E got sick and died of AIDS at age 31. MC Ren put out a few more albums and then started making movies. DJ Yella stayed in music for a while and then became a stupidly successful porn producer.


I barely knew the music at the time. I don’t know it well now outside of those first three tracks. I do know however that rap became much greater because of that band, that album. I do know that Los Angeles was a more exciting place to live because they contributed to it. Even though I never attended a show, never bought an album, never got into that style of music, I can tell you that the local scene was more exciting because of their presence. I’m not sure they ever integrated into it or we even accepted them, but their influence was impossible to ignore and I for one am grateful for it. Hell, there’s a track on my first album that probably never would have happened if they hadn’t opened the door to using so much profanity on record.


As for the movie, from what I’ve seen it looks great. Members of the band are involved. It’s getting critical acclaim. I don’t give a rats ass that it’s a “black” movie. It’s a MOVIE, with a great cast and director, and I plan to see it. And maybe, just maybe, relive some of the excitement that was in the air back then - because rap really doesn't seem have it anymore. Then again, what the hell do I know? For those of you who do like rap, compare it to this:



Thursday, August 13, 2015

Tyrion Lannister in a Garbage Can.


Today’s lack of a rant is brought to you by the letters F, U, C, K, and the number I cannot even begin to tell you how much I H8 that this has to happen. Every congressman who has been stripping money from the Children’s Television Workshop deserves a swift kick in the nuts. Repeat until they learn.

That’s all I have to say about that, so let’s move on to the…

Cheap Shots (the wife insists I make Jello shots):

I made a big deal yesterday about missteps by Hillary Clinton in this campaign. That said, when she gets something so amazingly right it should get just as much press coverage. I didn’t know about this until this morning.


“The simple fact is, Cancer, I took 35 years of Republican Bullshit about me. can kick your ass.” 

I keep waiting for the moment that people remember that George Will was outed as an Atheist by Stephen Colbert and his career ends. Until then, we will still get unintentional comedy like this.

“To be honest, sometimes I wonder whether the world would be a better place if women were in charge. It would be pretty easy to make that happen. Simply tell the men of the world that you're trying to start a campfire. While we're all arguing with one another about proper kindling placement and whether using lighter fluid is cheating,* women can just quietly start getting stuff done.” Stephen Colbert writes some real comedy.

And he didn’t die? The kid survived getting shot 7 times – that obviously means that the cops need more shoot to kill training.



I admit I’m not an expert and don’t really know anything about the situation, but this seem a bit… petty.

Michael Balzary, a great trumpeter and bassist and songwriter and the strongest supporter of music in education on the whole planet, comes out as a Bernie supporter. Mr. Balzary has donated a considerable portion of his well-earned fortune to founding music schools. Follow the link to see his stage name.

Randall Milholland is one of my favorite people for his sense of humor and writing skill. He writes an amazing comic called Something Positive and does impressive watercolors too.

Make it so! The world would be a much better place if more politicians were Trekkies.

Sometimes I look at pictures of Rand Paul and wonder who gave Charles Shultz's beloved character "Pigpen" a bath.



Now I want a houseboat. In Northern Europe.

I seem to recall reading somewhere that moneychangers aren’t welcome. I wonder where…

Sometimes these people fantasize about some pretty strange shit.


That said, a “pervert” and “degenerate” gets validated by science.

A step in the right direction, and California leads the way.

Shorter Fidel: “Here’s the bill!

And now a moment of Zen: