March 2008

Great Performances:

There are two kinds of dinosaur videos in this world: great dinosaur videos and completed dinosaur videos. Neither of these kinds of videos necessarily has any dinosaurs in it.

… Maybe this works?

… Still, could be worse:

My next video has singing.

1. Family Guy – just not funny. Hey! The Kool-Aid pitcher just showed up again for no reason! Yes, I know who the Kool-Aid pitcher is. I am above a certain age, and my parents owned a television set. Sadly for everyone involved, the Kool-Aid pitcher showing up isn’t a joke. It’s just you saying “hey, remember the Kool-Aid pitcher? Do you remember that? He’d run through walls and sell Kool-Aid! Remember that?” Yes, I remember – what the fuck did I just finish telling you? But remembering shit isn’t funny – ask Proust. Maybe, fifty seasons and a billion product tie-ins later, it might be time to think up some jokes.

2. But at least it’s not MadTV. Jesus. Whenever I see MadTV I long for the days when Comedy Central just showed Jawana Mann on continuous loop, instead of interrupting their endless Jawana Mannathon with MadTV like they do now. It frightens the lobotomites when you change the routine like that, Comedy Central.

3. I had very high hopes for Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew, but TV lets me down yet again. First of all, rehab for what? The guy from Taxi was a trooper, but then it got kind of sad.  They had some nice young actress from Family Matters on who was addicted to … pot. Pot had totally ruined her life to the point where she had turned into an unemployed actress living in a nice part of LA who smoked a lot of pot. Except then she got a job on this show, so … what’s her fucking problem again? And then Daniel Baldwin showed up, except he wasn’t addicted to anything, except having nothing better to do. Where are the stock reality TV conventions? The group of sass-mouthing industry veterans – Nikki Sixx, Shane McGowan, and … oh, all right, Mr, Baldwin, you can be on, too – who judge the contestants on the depraved depths to which they sank that week. Contestants who fail to live down to their exacting standards would have to perform a daring and/or humiliating physical challenge, like spiking Dr. Drew’s morning mocha-chino with methadone or going off crystal meth in a room that’s REALLY FULL OF GIANT BUGS or something like that. Yes, it might raise some ethical questions, but no one ever considers the serious ethical questions raised by getting my hopes up and then boring the shit out of me, now do they?


No, Kool-Aid Man, they don’t. They never do.

The rich get richer:

So the big 700 MHz spectrum auction is over, and the big boys won big. I’ll have much more to say later, but Verizon and AT&T won almost everything. The total auction netted about $19 billion, with roughly $16 billion from Verizon and AT&T.

Still, I suppose no harm can come of it:

The National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth, people with direct knowledge of the arrangement told USA TODAY.

Still, there’s no reason to doubt that this is all on the up-and-up:

Telecom executives from companies seeking escape from privacy lawsuits accusing them of illegally collaborating with secret domestic spying programs wrote thousands in checks to the re-election campaign of Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-West Virginia), THREAT LEVEL reported last Thursday.

But in a Tuesday New York Times story, the lawmaker’s spokeswoman denies that the telco cash affected Rockefeller’s decision last week to include retroactive immunity for those companies in a bill passed by a Rockefeller-led committee.

AT&T and Verizon executives who had donated only a pittance to Rockefeller over the past 6 years donated more than $40,000 to Rockefeller in 2007, even as they were having private meetings with him to plead for his help in escaping from federal court.

Still, there’s no reason to think such cooperation would ever derive from anything but a benificent desire on the part of the telecos to protect their customers from terrorists:

Golden Shield is “a database-driven remote surveillance system – offering immediate access to records on every citizen in China, while linking to vast networks of cameras designed to increase police efficiency.”

According to the Canadian group Rights and Democracy, Western companies have collaborated with China to implement technologies like:

  • speech recognition technology for automated surveillance of telephone conversations;
  • the integration of face recognition and voice recognition technology
  • smart cards for all citizens which can be scanned without the owner’s knowledge
  • closed-circuit television to monitor public spaces

What this means for Tibetans is that they are under more surveillance than ever. Now China can systematically arrest and torture any Tibetans even remotely involved in the pro-independence demonstrations; away from cameras, in the middle of the night, behind prison walls. A truly chilling prospect, brought to you by the Western companies named in the R&D report.

Still, that could never happen here.

Tibet link via, who has been following the Tibet situation closely.

The problem with the primary season ending – how quickly I forget! – is that the general election begins.  A preview:

I am sick to death of black people as a group. The truth. That is part of the conversation Obama is asking for, isn’t it?I live in an eastern state almost exactly on the fabled Mason-Dixon line. Every day I see young black males wearing tee shirts down to their knees — and jeans belted just above their knees. I’m an old guy. I want to smack them. All of them. They are egregious stereotypes. It’s impossible not to think the unthinkable N-Word when they roll up beside you at a stoplight in their trashed old Hondas with 19-inch spinner wheels and rap recordings that shake the foundations of the buildings. . . .

Here’s the dirty secret all of us know and no one will admit to. There ARE niggers. Black people know it. White people know it. And only black people are allowed to notice and pronounce the truth of it. Which would be fine. Except that black people are not a community but a political party. They can squabble with each other in caucus but they absolutely refuse to speak the truth in public. And this is the single biggest obstacle to healing the racial divide in this country.

I’m not proposing the generalized use of the term, just trying to be clear for once, in the wake of Obama’s call for us to have a dialogue about race. However much they may scream and protest, black people will know what I mean when I demand they concede that the following people are niggers:

- Jeremiah Wright

- O.J. Simpson

- Marion Barry

- Alan Iverson

- William Jefferson

- Louis Farrakhan

- Mike Tyson . . .

You see, you’ve just given life to the suspicion that black people in America are, and have long been, a fifth column — unanimously hating the very country that has afforded the highest standard of living ever achieved by black people in human history. We’re teetering at the edge of believing that you’re a secret society, a massive collection of sleeper cells just waiting for your chance to do serious harm to the rest of us. You’ve made it possible for us to believe that. Because you’re never outraged by what the worst black people do. Because you continue to make excuses for what should be inexcusable to everyone.

Via.  The lesson I’m learning this Easter is that if you should happen to get crucified to death, STAY DOWN.  It will spare you considerable aggravation in the long run.  For the rest of us, there’s always this.

… And you have to read the crazy blog comments.  Yeah, I know – but you have to anyway.  Jesus died on the cross for your sins.  It’s payback time.

Punxsutawney Editors pokes his head from out of his groundhog hole and – eyes dewy, whiskers twitching, moist nose all a-sniffin’ – looks for signs that Winter is, at long last, over:

groundhog.jpgI would also like to know how Geraldine Ferrar’s comment about Obama’s success being attributable to his being a black man is more racist than John Kerry’s comment that Obama will be more effective with Islamic governments because he is black. Whatsmore why did Obama never addressed the most racist remark in the campaign which was made by Huckabee in SC? I feel that the media is ramming a black penis down my throat. The man has no political experience or courage. He would make a fine replacement for Reverent Wright. He will prove to be as incompetent as George Bush if elected. If you doubt this just look at his “Present” votes in the Illinois legislature where he did not have the courage to vote “Yes” or “No”. Several of his “Present” votes were related to abortion rights. I have never voted for a Republican before and am no fan of John McCain but I voted for Kerry as a vote against George Bush and will vote for John McCain as a vote against Obama. I hope that other “typical white women” will do the same.

I see six more weeks of primary idiocy.  If you need me, I will be in my hole.  I will not be sober.

Related, sort of:

Shorter Michael Goldfarb: When did Iran stop directing al-Qaeda to beat your wife?

The thrust of Goldfarb’s argument (we’ll be kind enough to call it that) seems to be that since we can’t rule it * out the possibility that al-Qaeda and Iran are working together, therefore they are. Besides, they may have cooperated in some limited, contingent sense in the past which pretty much seals the deal.

Hey, that’s kind of neat, can I try? Hmmm, let’s see how this works: the US supported the Afghan mujahadeen in the past, some members of which later formed al-Qaeda. Therefore, Bush is supportnig al-Qaeda in Iraq! How can you deny it when it’s totally possible and so has historical backing! Besides, can you really say that none of the money going to Sunni militias is ending up in the hands of AQI? Huh? Can you?

At first, Goldfarb and the “faster, please kill, kill, kill” set were content to simply mesmerize the audience with a flashy game of pundit pinball (pocketless variety). You know the game: bounce the same loosely sourced article around so furiously that it creates the illusion that there’s solid evidence. There’s probably a subatomic particle analogy in there somewhere if but I’m lazy and non-sciencey so pinball it remains.

Now, though, McCain and company think that they may have found a fear hook you can hang a campaign on. Maybe even, sell a war. The heart it flutters. So pundit pinball is being replaced with geo-political omelletery. Matt Duss, braver than you or I, is keeping tabs on the kitchen stadium challenge.

Mac’s recipie is insidious, if familiar: throw a couple of loosely sourced “leaks” in a bowl, mix with some half-truths, innuendo, a pinch of Lieberman’s drone, demands to prove a negative, charges of anti-Semitism, intel gleaned from enhanced interrogation techniques, a tablespoon of Cheney’s grimace, whip it up with the whisk of the moslemofascigayiphate, cook it over a low flame of ignorance, and voila: Iran and al-Qaeda are decked out in loosely fitting white linen riding horses side by side as the sun sets on some tropical beach. Soul mates. A union almost as dangerous as a marriage between two men. Almost.

Cue the Beach Boys, oil the codpiece.




I’d say a few minimally-informed things:

1. Marxism, in the twentieth century sense, is no longer a going concern.  A few countries and groups still cling to the label: China, which is Marxist in the Wal*mart sense; the FARC – Marxist in the Al Capone sense; North Korea – Marxist in the Sauron sense; Cuba; others more or less notable; the list ends here.  I can’t speak for anyone’s particular social circle, but today, 2 decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the idea of a mass movement anywhere which even pretends to read Marx and/or Lenin as catechism is a little far fetched – about as far fetched as it was during his lifetime, in fact.  Now, as then, he’s less a boogeyman than this one dude who wrote some books two centuries ago.

2. He wrote some books ~150 years ago, so it’s not surprising that the intervening years will have made him seem foolish in some ways.  His racism, like the racism of 99% of his contemporaries, is vulgar and embarrassing.  I stand second to none in my inability to understand basic concepts of economics, but the idea of defining value as “input labor” seems perverse (those who disagree are welcome to purchase my high score at Pac-Man – we’ll start the bidding at a cool million.)  The Alienation of Labor is the sort of thing that probably makes sense to people who’ve never had jobs, the rest of us just call it Work.  Etc., etc.  All these are true specifically of Marx; many of these and many other things could be said of any of his contemporaries and many of his predecessors.  Judged as a man, rather than a World Historical Figure, he’s perhaps not as great as some, but he’s as good or better than many.

3. It’s somewhat fair to accuse Marx of advocating a “world-religion” – people have certainly viewed it that way, and one gets the sense that Marx’s own atheism might have been motivated by a desire to get rid of the competition.  But it’s not entirely fair.  Marx was very pompous, as are many people, especially intelligent people who can’t see their own limits.  Choosing to read him, or any mortal, like Holy Writ is entirely the fault of the reader, and leads to predictable and unfortunate results.  That said, when placed next to his contemporaries, he stands out as a critical thinker.  Nineteenth century laissez-faire- the water he was swimming in -was not a particularly hard-headed ponyology, any more than its nearest modern relatives are, and the majority of his comrades in the zoo of left-wing utopianism tend to accept the ‘withering away of the State’ deux ex machina with considerably less critical concern for how such an unprecedented thing might be practically brought about (and why it would actually be desireable this time).  Of course, he was no more ‘scientific’ than any other political thinker before or since, but he did have that most under-appreciated virtue of concreteness.  Concreteness, unlike wishful thinking, can be criticized.  One can read Marx (or, as I and most people do, send someone else to do it while we eat cookies), draw up lists of ideas Marx expressed, take their measure, decide where they stand up and where they fall down, and pick out the good bits knowing with some specificity what one is agreeing or disagreeing with.  Progress can be made.  Compared with wishful-thinking utopianism, or the whatever-it-is that is trying to fill his shoes in our century, to say nothing of the empty PR-talk which defines our own political discourse, it is something to be thankful for.  (His prose and the prose he inspired is, admittedly, another story.)

4. If we’re going to blame Marx for the evils of Communism – an ideology and system which owes and expresses considerable debt to his works – what do we do with modern Social Democracy, and its very close cousin, American Liberalism?  We don’t generally read much Marx, as it’s very boring and somewhat disreputable, and our inheritance is certainly not direct, but it’s hard to imagine our contemporary understanding of class (and race, and so on) without reading, reacting to, reacting against, and to some degree assimilating major criticisms and lessons of Marx.  A concrete example: American communists were decades ahead of mainstream liberalism on questions of racial and sexual equality.  True, it could easily be argued that this has nothing to do with, and is even contrary to, what Marx himself actually said.  But one could just as easily say the same about the idea of Communist revolution in Tsarist Russia or the benighted Third World.  The inspiration was, nonetheless, there.  Viewed less as a prophet and Cold War icon, and more as this one dude who said all this stuff 150 years ago, this might be easier to appreciate.

5. Aphorisms.

My $0.02.

It appears that my prior post about Barack Obama’ speech about race contained a serious factual error.  After careful fact-checking, it has been determined that the transcript and videos referenced in that post were nothing but clever forgeries designed to undermine American patriotism.  Study of Mr. Obama’s kerning and countertops has enabled me to reconstruct the TRUE transcript of his so-called ‘speech’, which I present to you here and now:

“I’m gonna get me a shotgun and kill all the whities I see,
I’m gonna get me a shotgun and kill all the whities I see.
When I kill all the whities I see, then whitey he won’t bother me,
I’m gonna get me a shotgun and kill all the whities I see.
Then I’ll get a white woman who’s wearing a navy blue sweater..”

That speech took 40 minutes, with commercials.  Again, we apologize for the error.

… Chris Lepore has the video from a recent Obama rally at the VFW:

… Oliver Willis catches Angry Black Man Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in some Obama-esque distortions of his true beliefs:

One of the common myths about me was repeated last week when a friend of mine was playing in his weekly basketball league and a teammate asked him, “Why was Kareem always so angry?” That’s not the first time I heard this charge. What’s weird about it is that every morning when I get out of bed, bluebirds, squirrels, and deer help me get dressed while we sing “We Are the World.” By the way, squirrels really suck at tying shoes. And deer often mumble the lyrics.

Even that doesn’t make me angry.

Oh, really, Lew?  Then explain THIS:

Roger, Roger. A young passenger in Airplane! notices that co-pilot Roger Murdock (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) bears a strong resemblance to a certain sports star. “Wait a minute! I know you,” says the boy. “You’re Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. You play basketball for the Los Angeles Lakers.” Murdock insists the youngster is confused, but the boy rattles on: “I think you’re the greatest, but my dad says you don’t work hard enough on defense. And he says that lots of times, you don’t even run down court. And that you don’t really try … except during the playoffs.” That’s it. Murdock snaps: “The hell I don’t! LISTEN, KID! I’ve been hearing that crap ever since I was at UCLA. I’m out there busting my buns every night. Tell your old man to drag Walton and Lanier up and down the court for 48 minutes!”

These secret black Muslims are sneaky.  But their temper always gives them away.

Some bearded nutter with a flute sings songs about Jesus, and faeries mayhaps:

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