Blame the Train in Vain


When a train full of crude oil blows up as it is being transported through a residential area, of course you're going to want to blame the trains. That's because you just don't want to blame the fact that short-sighted robber barons are destroying North Dakota's environment by sucking oil out of the prairie and shipping it without doing anything to improve the antiquated transportation infrastructure. It simply wouldn't do to blame the oligarchs. Next they'll blame the luckless people running for their lives.

The problem is, as soon as it became economically viable to extract oil from North Dakota, they opened the floodgates without expanding the railroads, building houses for the workers, and finding safe methods of transporting the oil to the refineries. They just went for it. To hell with what might happen--profit before safety, always, and especially in a Red state.

But, go ahead. Blame the trains. Don't blame incompetence, greed, or a fundamental lack of common sense when it comes to protecting people from the shipment of dangerous materials.

The Little Fat Man in the Sky

The parting shot for this year? A despicable man-child who has the power to slaughter his own people on a whim, riding in a stolen chair lift.

The Quenelle


Spurs guard Tony Parker apologized Monday after he drew criticism for a photograph depicting him flashing the “quenelle” gesture, a French hand signal that is said to represent a reverse Nazi salute. 

The five-time All-Star and longtime French basketball captain said in the statement that he was unaware of the gesture’s anti-Semitic implications when he was photographed doing the “quenelle” alongside controversial French comedian Dieudonn√© M’bala M’bala, who has been prosecuted and convicted on multiple occasions for anti-Semitic remarks in France.

I don't buy Parker's apology and I don't understand how stupid people can be. If you are going to give an arm salute like that, learn what it means.

Anti-semitism runs throughout European culture. Dieudonne is a practitioner of hate, and it makes him a living in France. He's far from being alone.

The Video Game Generation

Someone is mad that they didn't get their medal:

I may not have been on the ground in Afghanistan, but I watched parts of the conflict in great detail on a screen for days on end. I know the feeling you experience when you see someone die. Horrifying barely covers it. And when you are exposed to it over and over again it becomes like a small video, embedded in your head, forever on repeat, causing psychological pain and suffering that many people will hopefully never experience. UAV troops are victim to not only the haunting memories of this work that they carry with them, but also the guilt of always being a little unsure of how accurate their confirmations of weapons or identification of hostile individuals were.

Anyone who equates their experience in life with those who actually go to war is a fool. Actors do it, politicians do it, and armchair warmongers do it, too. I thank God for the fact that I have never heard a shot fired in anger. There is nothing in the world worse than that.

The effort to award drone operators a medal of their own fell flat, chiefly because men and women who faced combat and privation while deployed rightly figured that someone far remote from the battlefield who slept in their own bed at night weren't the equivalent of those who slept within range of the enemy. This is not to say that the drone operators have not suffered--I'm sure that they have. But those who don't go to war aren't in the same league as those who do. It becomes a farce--does a person operating a drone live over a combat zone get a Purple Heart if they fall out of their chair trying to maneuver their aircraft out of harm's way when it takes fire? Where does it end?

Here's more of what Heather Linebaugh has to say:

I knew the names of some of the young soldiers I saw bleed to death on the side of a road. I watched dozens of military-aged males die in Afghanistan, in empty fields, along riversides, and some right outside the compound where their family was waiting for them to return home from the mosque.

Which side were they on? If they weren't lawful combatants, then she is admitting a war crime took place because of the incompetence of the drone operator who killed these people. This is why the tactic has to end--it is too imprecise and creates a situation where the law of warfare comes down on the side of the civilians who are being killed. Linebaugh seems to have a great deal of sympathy for people who got killed because someone couldn't do their job properly and evaluate a threat. The people who suffer are the troops in harm's way who face retaliation. Do we hand out medals for that?

I oppose the use of drones for anything other than reconnaissance and a last-ditch defensive weapon. I think their use as indiscriminate killing machines across international borders is a mistake that will escalate the tactical need to hide among civilians to a much greater degree, further eliminating the line between combatants and non-combatants. But Linebaugh goes way too far with her commentary for the Guardian, trying to make herself the focus of the need to dramatically scale back the use of drones.

Now that we have canonized Edward Snowden, and made the traitor a hero, the rush to be the next Snowden begins with Linebaugh. Would you sell out your country in order to be a media darling? Linebaugh can't wait to tell you how bad it was for her and her colleagues. Good. It was bad for them. Why does that inspire them to be someone rather than do something? The video game generation has been told, again and again, how special and wonderful they are and how everyone deserves a reward for participating. When you transfer these ideas to the people asked to serve in the military, the lines are blurred and they end up being unable to put military service ahead of their own needs and feelings. This is how we end up with problems.

Imagine a survivor of Verdun, of whom there are now none left, being introduced to someone who can't handle their tenure as a drone operator. Both may suffer legitimate mental scars, but their variance couldn't be greater.

Don't Rent to Beck

Is Beck a celebrity or is he a musician? I can't tell the difference anymore.

Disputes like this should be kept out of the media. Why does anyone care whether or not Beck is a good tenant or someone who willingly lives in an $11,000 a month hellhole in Malibu? And why would you even do that unless you had some weird deal with Spotify or the dinosaurs of the music business and maintained a standard of living that would terrify decent people?

Here's what you should do if you're Beck--move to New Mexico, rent a house for a grand a month, and live your life in comfort and style. Malibu? Really? How are you going to make music in Malibu that would be any better than the music you could make in the mountains or in the desert?

I don't understand pop stars. There are tons of greats ways to live. They never figure out how.

The Things We Leave Behind

When we went to war with the Army we had, and not the one we desperately needed, billions were spent in a mad frenzy to get the troops a vehicle that would get the war off of the front pages. Turns out, we screwed the pooch coming and going:

Faced with an epidemic of deadly roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. military officials ordered up a fleet of V-hulled 16-ton armored behemoths in 2007 to help protect American soldiers and Marines.

At a cost of $1 million each, the ugly tan beasts known as MRAPS have saved countless lives and absorbed or deflected thousands of insurgent bomb blasts in teeming cities, desert flats and rutted mountain roadways. The lumbering vehicles are so beloved that soldiers have scrawled notes of thanks on their armor.

So why would the U.S. military suddenly start chopping up as many as 2,000 of the vehicles and selling them as scrap? After all, just six years have passed since high-tech MRAPs were developed and 27,000 of them cranked out and shipped in a $50-billion production blitz.

As it turns out, the Pentagon produced a glut of the mine-resistant, ambush-protected trucks. The military brass has now calculated that it's not worth the cost of shipping home damaged, worn or excess MRAPs to bases already deemed oversupplied with the blast-deflecting vehicles.

All along the way, there is one fact that is evidence: we went to war without thinking of the logistics. We ended up fighting enemies who used hidden bombs to snipe at us and we insisted on "security operations" as a normal, day to day method of dealing with insurgency tactics. Instead of fighting a war we could win with what we had, we have abandoned thousands of expensive vehicles because the war we got was the one we couldn't win in the first place.

The next time someone starts talking about how we should bomb those people or invade that country, slap them really hard and point out the fact that, without logistics, we're not going anywhere.

Why Not Just Mail Them to Iran?

Stop the insanity:

Two years after bringing home U.S. troops from Iraq, the Obama administration is sending Hellfire rockets and ScanEagle surveillance drones to help government forces fight al Qaeda affiliates growing in influence, a State Department official confirmed to CNN on Thursday. 

As first reported by The New York Times, a shipment of 75 Hellfire rockets bought by Iraq arrived last week. Plans call for 10 ScanEagle drones to be sent in the early months of 2014. 

"The recent delivery of Hellfire missiles and an upcoming delivery of ScanEagles are standard FMS (foreign military sales) cases that we have with Iraq to strengthen their capabilities to combat this threat," the State Department official said on condition of not being identified. "We remain committed to supporting the government of Iraq in meeting its defense needs in the face of these challenges."

Each and every item transferred to the government of Iraq immediately becomes available to the government of Iran. There's no getting around that fact. So, my question is--why don't we just cut out the middleman and send this technology straight to the Iranian government? Why not just wrap a bow around them and send a mash note?

Did someone "promise" to use these weapons on terrorists, and terrorists only? If so they are a liar. These weapons become low-grade bargaining chips. Iraq will send these weapons to Iran; Iran will send them to Lebanon. Their use will touch off outrage. Who can't see that scenario coming?

This is how you spread stability throughout an unstable region? By upping the ante with weapons that can wipe out entire families by accident?

This is how you carry out internal security? By indiscriminately killing your own people with drones and Hellfire missiles? How is that supposed to stabilize Iraq when Iraq's government is really locked in a Shia vs Sunni conflict? Didn't anyone learn anything?

I mean, where's the common sense?


Things Are Better Than We're Being Told

The recession hasn't ended for the under-employed and for the people who haven't gone back to work; we have seen far too many people drop out of the economy. And the reason why this is important is pretty basic--there's no incentive for anyone in business to hire people and pay them a living wage because there's no compelling government program to provide an incentive to engage in positive economic activity.

The goal should be 5% unemployment or less. Will we ever see that again?

If you doubled the tax credit for hiring a Veteran, would it matter? Probably, but there isn't anyone willing to go that far. If you made it cheaper for an employer who hires ten new workers in the coming year to cover their employees under the ACA, would it help? Good luck getting that through today's Congress. What about a comprehensive jobs program designed to reward companies that add new workers by July 1? Never going to happen.

Blaming this on the President ignores one simple truth--he cannot persuade crazy people to stop shooting themselves in the foot over and over again. The Republican-controlled House of Representatives has a better chance at passing a dozen more attempts at repealing Obamacare or impeaching the President for Benghazi than it does a bill that would put a single American back to work. When the House is ruled by crazies, nothing happens. The mechanism is hopelessly jammed with careerism and hubris.

This obstructionist, economy-killing Congress is the problem. The media won't tell the story and the American people haven't figured it out yet. If the Congress took up a small business tax credit bill or pushed companies to hire workers and pay them a living wage, and if it rewarded them for doing the right thing, we might see an improvement. If we were to put a million people in this country back to work just this year, we would see the deficit go down even further and we would see some serious relief for state and local governments.

We are not being told what we need to know. What few improvements we've seen are happening in spite of the obstructionism of the Republican-controlled House. The deficit is falling. Obamacare is signing up thousands of people who never thought they would have a chance at health care insurance. The DOW is going through the roof.

We are not being told enough about the effects of putting people back to work. We are not being told why that isn't happening. We are not being told how the simple act of making the lives of people who live in the middle of this country better would resonate through the economy and confound the pervasive narrative that tells us that this is a failed President, that Benghazi is bigger than Watergate, and that Obamacare killed your grandma. It's all bullshit and it's all designed to get you to stop screaming about jobs, jobs, jobs. The American standard of living is under attack because no one wants to add a single job to the economy on purpose.

When you transition people from benefits to salaries, you provide a stimulus for economic growth. When you don't, things suck. Why isn't this story being told over and over again?

The Hazards of Decorating for Christmas

This article goes on to talk about all of the people who have been injured while decorating for the holidays. For those of you who buy into the idea of an actual War on Christmas, these are the people who celebrate their Christian holiday and get hurt in the process, thereby earning a Purple Heart of sorts.

In 2012, the Commission notes, "there were 15,000 injuries involving holiday decorating seen in emergency departments nationwide during November and December." (This works out to around 250 injuries a day during the holiday season.) In 2011, the Commission reported on 2010's number: "More than 13,000 people were treated in emergency departments nationwide due to injuries involving holiday decorations."

In 2008 and 2009, the number was 12,000.

Indeed, the CPSC's most recent holiday-injury stat represents "the fourth consecutive year these estimates have increased," the Commission notes. "In each year since 2009, there have been an estimated 12,000 or more emergency department visits."

The fact that we even have a U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission speaks volumes about where we are at as a country because there are many Americans who don't think we should even monitor or measure such things. 

To get hurt in the service of a higher ideal--decorating for the holidays--is to be injured chasing something artistic and noble. On Saturday night, we drove through the most affluent area of Howard County, Maryland--ostensibly the third richest county in America--and there were barely any Christmas lights anywhere. What few there were consisted of a strand or two of lights draped over a low hedge and not much more. Whole stretches of road, lined with million dollar homes, were as black as night during the dinner hour. Nobody here has the Christmas spirit or the inclination to decorate. Amazing.

The Best Christmas Present

Today is the day when we rolled over 10,000 followers on Google+. I am humbled by this and astonished that we have broken through what seemed like an impossible ceiling. For months, it seemed like I was going to be stuck at a thousand or so followers or maybe even have to move on and do something else. Even though the count may fall back a little in the days ahead, or race out ahead of us, it's still worth noting that this has brought me tons of new readers and lots of great interaction. Hitting this milestone right before Christmas is a fantastic present. Thank you to everyone who has added me.

I still don't get why there's all this hate for Google+. Doesn't anyone know that you're supposed to share, interact, and engage?

Guitar Music is Dying a Slow, Painful Death

The economics of the music business have shifted so dramatically over the last few years that it would be all but impossible to conclude anything else--guitar music is dying.

David Byrne is at the forefront of understanding the economics of the music business. He has been demystifying it for years. And when he says that the era of making money from recorder music is over, he means that there's no mechanism in place to exist as a musical act that isn't built to become a million selling act from the beginning.

The arguments about whether or not an artist should get paid for what they do are essentially over. The "free" era has given way to the "forget about it" era and artists are abandoning the music industry or are rapidly changing how and what they do in order to survive. If you're in a guitar band and you require a high-quality analog process for recording your music, who is going to advance you those funds? It's all well and good to make electronic music on a laptop, but the process of making guitar music requires a certain amount of space and equipment. You can make a guitar album in your basement, but if it doesn't sell, is it because of the sound quality or is it because of the indifference to the genre as a whole?

We Need to Get Out of the Nation Building Business

I hate to throw cold water on all of this, but we really do need to get out of the nation building business, and fast.

No matter what happens in South Sudan, the inescapable fact is that the people of that country have to build their own nation. If they are plagued by lawlessness and predatory militia forces, then the young men of that country who want to build a nation have to go and fight the bad guys. I'm less against giving them guns, more against putting U.S. troops on the ground, but I can't help but point this out--introducing more guns into the region would further destabilize things.

This is not where we want to start pouring troops. Do we even have a Congress anymore? What possible input could the Congress we have right now provide? Next to nothing, I'm afraid.

Winter Driving

Several years ago, this is what happened to my Honda. I'm putting this up here because finding this old photo made my night.

Now, before anyone say anything, it was my fault. I was on the wrong street at the wrong time of morning. If the salt truck had been ahead of me and not behind me, slipping through the intersection and hitting the car in front of me probably wouldn't have happened. The cars ahead of me stopped after going down a hill (why they didn't keep going is another question) and I couldn't stop on the ice that morning. I paid for it and I still don't feel bad about it. No one was hurt, except the Honda. When they fixed it up, you couldn't tell it had been damaged.

I mention this because I've rejoined the Honda family. A certain amount of gratitude is in order because it was time to make a change in the transportation department. Let's hope this new one does not end up the same way. I love the idea of owning a Honda but, in practice, it has been a bit of a pain in the ass for me. The car pictured above was a 2009 Honda Accord, and it was a stick with cloth seats. Never again on that front.

Winter driving is a matter of judging when it is safe to be on the road and when you should go home and take a sick day. I should have taken the sick day.

Cracker Barrel is Immune to Boycotts

Cracker Barrel does not care if you hate them or if you boycott them. They don't care if there is any kind of backlash whatsoever. Their core market demographic? The people who buy Duck Dynasty crap:

Country store and restaurant Cracker Barrel filled display stands once more with "Duck Dynasty" merchandise on Sunday, only two days after removing the products in the wake of a cast member's anti-gay comments and his subsequent suspension from the A&E show.

"Dear Cracker Barrel Customer: When we made the decision to remove and evaluate certain Duck Dynasty items, we offended many of our loyal customers. Our intent was to avoid offending, but that’s just what we've done," a letter from Cracker Barrel posted on its website said.

Cracker Barrel announced on Friday in a Facebook post that stores stopped selling "Duck Dynasty" paraphernalia "which we were concerned might offend some of our guests while we evaluate the situation."

Nobody with class or dignity is going to go into a Cracker Barrel anyway. Enjoy the slop.

Hating People is Un-American

The last time I checked, hating people was not a Christian or American attribute. The kinds of hate espoused by Phil Robertson are inherently un-American and go against the teachings of Jesus. Hating people puts you at odds with the Price of Peace.

Robertson and his ilk hide behind items found largely in the Old Testament. Where are his slaves? His extra wives? His sacrificial goats?

An Unfortunate Name to Have

Ian H. Watkins is having a bad time of it. To have the same name as a convicted pedophile is one thing, but to be in the same industry and have your image associated with his acts is an entirely different kind of problem. The similarities in the names and the slow response from people who should be on top of things creates a firestorm of negativity and problems. Watkins hasn't done anything wrong. He just has the same name. Why should he be punished like this?

Ryan O'Neal Wins

Of course, the next thing you'll hear is how Ryan O'Neal sold the painting for $15 million bucks, but who could blame him? A guy's gotta live.

Slumlords and Urban Blight

There was a time when shaming people actually meant something:

“Most people just assumed that for somebody to go into some of the neighborhoods I spend a lot of time in, that I would be this large, burly, tough sort of man,” says Carol Ott. “Well, no, I’m just a 45-year-old mother of two who thinks that our city deserves a little bit better.” 

Ott is the person behind Baltimore Slumlord Watch, a website dedicated to documenting every abandoned property in Baltimore. She’s also the director of a new organization called Housing Policy Watch, which means that thinking about blight is Ott’s full-time job.

More here:

Architecture in Paris


Church Statue

Streetlight in Paris

The Beatles vs The Stones

Not much interest in this:

In the 1960s the two biggest bands in the world—the lovable Beatles and the bad-boy Rolling Stones—waged an epic battle. “The Beatles want to hold your hand,” wrote Tom Wolfe, “but the Stones want to burn down your town.” Both groups liked to maintain that they weren’t really “rivals”—that was just a media myth, they politely said—but on both sides of the Atlantic, they plainly competed for commercial success and aesthetic credibility. In Beatles vs. Stones, John McMillian gets to the truth behind the ultimate rock ’n’ roll debate.

At the heart of all of this was Allen Klein:

Nice was not a word that would have sat comfortably on the shoulders of this no-necked, roughly spoken New York accountant, who had in his employ a couple of the roughest-looking goons I have ever met.

'Why don't you like me, Bill?' Klein would ask Rolling Stones bass guitarist Bill Wyman, as the Stones were being driven to distraction trying to get their hands on the money they'd earned, but which their manager was holding for them in his New York company. 

'Because I don't trust you, Allen,' would come the unblinking reply.
It's unlikely Klein was offended. 'Hey, Allen, why does no one like you?' he told me Paul McCartney had once asked.

His answer was that he didn't have friends in showbusiness or belong to the Variety Club. His job was to fight for his clients.
And fight for them he did. He forced record companies to give artists both control and ownership of their records, which was unprecedented at the time but is normal practice now.

Klein maintained a viciousness well into the modern era. He died in 2009, but not before helping himself to as much money as possible:

Unfortunately for some of the artists, however, he also did terrific deals for himself, with the result that most of the biggest Rolling Stones hits are now owned not by them but by ABKCO, one of his companies.

All those old Sixties records we hear all the time continue to generate millions of dollars annually.

And Klein got doubly lucky when, in 1997, The Verve sampled a violin orchestration used on a recording of the Stones hit The Last Time, and turned it into the worldwide hit and Grammy nominee Bitter Sweet Symphony.

The Verve wanted the royalties, but so did Klein. He had to go to court to get the money, but he won. Of course he did, he was Allen Klein. He was tough.

Anything that revisits the inherent awfulness of a human being like Allen Klein is not worth the time of day. But, to be fair, the Beatles were not peace and love hippies. They were every bit as obsessed with money as Klein was.

Dennis Rodman is a Useful Idiot

What a fiasco:

Former NBA star Dennis Rodman arrived in North Korea on Thursday, the country's state-run media reported.

Rodman was there for his latest round of controversial "basketball diplomacy" in a country ruled by one of the world's most repressive regimes.

The former player and a documentary crew were scheduled to spend four days helping to train a team of North Korean basketball players for a January exhibition in Pyongyang. 

That January 8 exhibition -- said to be against a yet-unannounced team of former NBA players -- will celebrate the birthday of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, whom Rodman has called a friend and a "very good guy" despite international condemnation of the country's human rights records.

Dennis Rodman is not a traitor, however. A traitor is someone who has some merit or value to the state that they have betrayed. Rodman is a broke NBA player with child support issues. The North Koreans might very well be paying him--I don't know. All of that meth money has to go somewhere.

Don't let anyone tell you otherwise--he is dealing with psychopaths and a criminal element that has enslaved millions. The average North Korean will never see Rodman or get a change to talk about starvation and fear. He is very useful to the psychopath who holds the reins right now and, for that, Rodman is well qualified. He played a game run by psychopaths with psychopaths, but, at least in his day, they could hit the rim when shooting from 15 feet away.

You Don't Change the Date of the Superbowl

You don't change the date of the Superbowl; you play the Superbowl--and any other football game--no matter what the weather. I do get that if there's lightning that you might suspend play. But you don't cancel on account of cold. Otherwise, why would you play the game in an outdoor stadium north of the Mason-Dixon line?

This is a case where the NFL needs to lie in the bed it made. Caving into the pressure from business interests to play the game in the New York area was a mistake. Changing the date will throw off the plans that people make to enjoy the game.

Let us hope that someone has the common sense to go forward no matter what and play the damned game.

Rupert Murdoch is a Monster

The scandal over phone hacking has exploded once again:

Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, had her cellphone voicemails hacked by staff members of Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World while she was dating Prince William, a London court learned Thursday. 

The revelation marked the first time that a member of the British royal family has been hacked by the Murdoch media empire, which already has acknowledged tapping into phone calls of royal aides. 

On Thursday, a London jury heard transcripts of 2006 voicemails left for the former Kate Middleton by Prince William as they dated. In those intercepted messages, the future king of England called his sweetheart pet names like “baby” and “babykins” and recounted how he nearly got "shot" (with blanks) during a military training exercise, according to court reporting by Central News UK. 

“Hi baby, it’s me,” one message from the prince begins. William then details an evening navigation exercise at the Sandhurst Royal Military Academy, during which, he admits, he got “horribly lost.”

This is way, way different than listening in on the late Amy Winehouse and randy old Hugh Grant. That's because this young generation of royals have become incredibly popular, to the point where this assault on their privacy, no matter how many years old, should bring new scrutiny on the monstrous press operation of Rupert Murdoch. His underlings are in legal jeopardy. He sent his people out there to get whatever dirt they could and no one in the mid-2000s could have possibly guessed that Kate Middleton, a commoner, would become the iconic face of the scandal-plagued British royal family. The view from that point was that the royals were dysfunctional and fair game, worthy of the mockery that they had earned. One royal wedding and baby later, forget it. The brand is saved, and the next hundred years will be full of kings and affection.

Why isn't Murdoch being dragged before the British courts? Why haven't they regulated and shattered his businesses and brought the full weight of British law down upon him? He is revealed to be the monster he always was, flaunting decency and the law in favor of making money by trading in stolen information.

The Brits need to get rid of David Cameron and demand new laws governing the press. That's a no-brainer.

Obama is Not a Failed President

President Obama keeps being called a failed President, a lame duck, and just about anything else you could throw in there.

If his tenure as President is so awful, why is the Dow shooting past 16,000? This might not provide much of an indication, but it does seem to set on fire the idea that things are really all that bad.

End Credit Checks on Prospective Employees

Senator Elizabeth Warren is actually doing something on behalf of freedom and fairness--a rare novelty in a world where the only entities who get anything do so through cheating and bribery. This is what a Senator ought to be doing--standing up for working Americans by delivering a tangible protection of their privacy and freedom.

There definitely should be limits on the information that can be shared or divulged about people. The disappearance of privacy is a direct result of The Patriot Act and all of the nonsense that has gone into denying freedom to Americans solely to keep them from being attacked by terrorists. One of the fun things about The Patriot Act is that they decided to add in some bullshit about not being able to buy certain kinds of cold medicine because criminals were using it to make crystal meth.

Well, there's still no shortage of crystal meth, is there? But I'll be damned if I can get Sudafed when I need it. Thanks for what little freedom I can enjoy.

Vitamins Are a Waste of Money

Somebody's $25 billion dollar industry is likely to get a lot smaller once people realize that they're throwing their money away on vitamins. This could send shockwaves through the retail world as well--entire sections of stores are planned around vitamin supplements and displays, to say nothing of the health food industry.

Taking vitamins is an ingrained habit that reinforces positive self-identity. Reversing this could take decades. Of course, once people hear something sponsored by the vitamin industry to counteract this assault, well. You'll be living in a world full of confusion and plastic bottles.

Statue in Paris

Interior Shot at the Eiffel Tower

This is an interior shot of the infrastructure of the Eiffel Tower. It is almost exactly two years old.

Which Police State Do You Live In?

Do you remember voting for this? 

Each and every time you voted since 2001, did you vote specifically for a candidate who would dismantle the Patriot Act? Did you vote in your local elections for a city or county government dedicated to controlling the militarization of the police? Did you sign up for Facebook years ago and forget to read the fine print? Too late now.

The police state arrived while no one was paying attention. Each and every time one of us steps into the world, we are under surveillance. We are being watched on our phones, our computers, and when we drive a car with a GPS device in it. We are being watched by cameras and readers and when we drive into urban areas, we are being watched at an unprecedented rate. When we buy things, we're being tallied and sold off to third party advertisers. Everything we do is under the watchful eye of a cop or a seller or a bureaucrat. So, you can crap yourself and stop living your life or go have a blast and say fuck it all anyway. 

Live weird. Confuse them. Buy things you throw away. Eat crap. Sing and dance like no one is recording. Breathe and enjoy this life.

You see, all is well.

A federal judge ruled Monday that the National Security Agency's bulk collection of phone records violates the Constitution's ban on unreasonable searches, but put his decision on hold pending a near-certain government appeal. 

U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon granted a preliminary injunction sought by plaintiffs Larry Klayman and Charles Strange, concluding they were likely to prevail in their constitutional challenge. 

Leon, an appointee of former President George W. Bush, ruled Monday that the two men are likely to be able to show that their privacy interests outweigh the government's interest in collecting the data. Leon says that means that massive collection program is an unreasonable search under the Constitution's Fourth Amendment.

You don't have anything to worry about.

The Metropolitan Police Department is collecting images of license plates by the millions and storing them in a massive database with no regard to whether or not that person is under suspicion of anything, according to WAMU. 

WAMU's Martin Austermuhle reports that D.C. police cars which are equipped with Automatic License Plate Readers have collected more than 150 million images of license plates through this past September. 

They're generally used to match up the license plates with a list of vehicles that are known to be stolen and keeping tabs on high-crime areas, police officials tell WAMU, but civil liberties advocates believe that they can be used to track people who have done no wrong.

As described in "How we use the information we receive" we also put together data from the information we already have about you, your friends, and others, so we can offer and suggest a variety of services and features. For example, we may make friend suggestions, pick stories for your News Feed, or suggest people to tag in photos. We may put together your current city with GPS and other location information we have about you to, for example, tell you and your friends about people or events nearby, or offer deals to you in which you might be interested. We may also put together data about you to serve you ads or other content that might be more relevant to you. 

When we get your GPS location, we put it together with other location information we have about you (like your current city). But we only keep it until it is no longer useful to provide you services, like keeping your last GPS coordinates to send you relevant notifications. 

We only provide data to our advertising partners or customers after we have removed your name and any other personally identifying information from it, or have combined it with other people's data in a way that it no longer personally identifies you.

We are already living in a surveillance state that is driven by paranoia and marketing. The only real difference here is that the Federal agency, which is part of the Department of Defense, that everyone is scared of is actually under far more rigorous oversight than your local cop shop or Facebook. But don't let that get in the way of being terrified. Everyone needs a bogeyman, and now that Osama is dead, why not use whatever is left over?

Songs From the Real World

Songs From the Real World is a new release by Steve Kilbey and Martin Kennedy. This is an entire album of songs commissioned and paid for by fans. This is a unique artisanal work; it is in the finest tradition of patronage for the arts and expressing real love for an artist.

Now, what's this about needing gift ideas?

Written and recorded by Steve Kilbey and Martin Kennedy. Additional instrumentation on ‘More of the Same’ by David Spall. Album artwork by Steve R Dodd.Many thanks to all our commissioners. Special thanks to Steve R Dodd and Kay Smith

1. For All We Lack
2. Naomi And Maya
3. A Short Song About Eternity
4. Tomoko
5. A Song For Kris
6. Emerald Lake
7. Lucy
8. Holly
9. Transformation
10. Life’s Sweet Decay
11. Anastasia And Jens
13. Elly
14. My One
15. More Of The Same

Ed Schultz is a Powerless Hypocrite

The public meltdown of MSNBC host Ed Schultz has played out exactly the way I thought it would--stung by criticism, Schultz reveals that he has no power whatsoever to actually pressure the people who pay him lots of money to create mediocre television:

To rebut criticism over sums paid by unions to advertise on his show, Schultz — after saying it was a “rather awkward thing for me to do, because it sounds rather grandiose” — ran through a list of donations he’d made to charity. Schultz said his the donations or commitments added up to $343,000. He told listeners he would not apologize for making “a hell of a lot of money,” and that “anyone who follows me on Twitter knows I – I show pictures of my airplanes.” He added, “Back when I was in the middle class, I owned a 172.” 

“There’s all kinds of envy out there on the left,” said Schultz. “I’m still there … Don’t be deterred by all of these people that are printing stuff that is flat-out lies.” He told listeners, “Well, now I’m a 59- year-old one-percenter. I’m not gonna hide it.” 

A self-identified conservative radio host called in to defend Schultz taking advertising dollars from unions on the grounds that “you endorse products” and “this is absolutely no different from that … All you’ve got to do is say, ‘Of course I advertise for these guys, I agree with them.” Schultz responded, “Well, that’s the best tip I’ve ever had from a righty … There is no question about it: they’re buying the audience.” 

Later in the show, when a caller referenced Schultz “talking about some other shmegegi[Yiddish for a fool] that was attacking you,” Schultz promised a different tack: “You’ll never hear their names mentioned again. Never. That was my mistake by ever just acknowledging that they breathe air.” (Full disclosure: I’ve appeared once on Schultz’s MSNBC show and a couple times, with a guest host, on his radio show.) When a Twitter user suggested that meant Schultz had “lost it,” Schultz shot back with two tweets during the show. First, “I refuse to waste my time on misinformation and lies..” Then, “is it fair to put up with lies and misinformation?”

Alec Baldwin gave a lot of money to charity as well and it didn't help him keep his gig, either. So what?

This is what it looks like when someone has a public meltdown. They find common cause with a political opponent and ratchet down the crazy. Schultz is crying out that he's the aggrieved party. That's wrong. The people who are aggrieved work for MSNBC and they work for a union. Schultz is too terrified of his employers, who have a long, proud history of punishing him, to say anything to support them.

Nobody envies his wealth; they abhor his inability to see that his wealth could be put to better use helping people to earn a decent living. Schultz doesn't understand the basic maxim of being classy about being successful--kiss down, kick up. Anything else is letting your ego get in the way of taking care of the people who make it possible to be wealthy in the first place. It's very telling that he uses the language of dehumanizing people who disagree with him. His statement that he shouldn't acknowledge that they breathe air is an indication that his anger has risen to the point where he wants them to stop breathing and not exist. This is a man who can't control himself when he's criticized. In other words, he's the classic hypocrite who enjoys screaming at others while he dabs his ample chin with the fine cloth of a privileged man.

I agree with Schultz on political manners more often than not. But that doesn't mean that his peculiar brand of hypocrisy shouldn't be called out, especially when it comes to supporting unions and supporting the rights of workers, which he has tried to tout again and again as what sets him apart from other opinion broadcasters. Now he has, to a large extent, been put through the wringer because he has no power to pressure his employers to deal fairly and honestly with the union employees who work for the same company that he works for. He cannot show solidarity with them--he'll be fired. 

So, like a cowed and beaten man who fears the loss of his extravagant "one percenter" lifestyle, he shuts his mouth when union workers need the support of his voice. If that's not being a hypocrite--if that's not the very face of being utterly classless and cheap about what constitutes standing for something--then what the hell does the word even mean anymore?

The Gardner Gun

The British Library has dumped a massive trove of images into the Internet, and they don't have any copyright restrictions that I can see.

This one features an early form of the machine gun, which was used in the Sudan just long enough for the British to realize that sand could clog its mechanism and render it useless. The British lost, despite the presence of such a devastating weapon.

James Grant, of the 62nd regiment, is credited with the image. It comes from a book called Cassell's History of the War in the Soudan and was published in London in 1885.

China Owns the Moon

I don't know if the Jade Rabbit is going to paint a red star on the visible face of the moon large enough for everyone to see, but I do know this--America needs to send a rover-eating machine five times bigger than this thing and crush it to pieces. American exceptionalism cannot tolerate a world where the Chinese take possession of the moon and begin extracting moon rocks.

America is home to the most valuable moon rocks. Ours are going to be worthless if the Chinese begin sending them back to Earth by the bucket load. If you think Bitcoins are the wave of the future, think again. Our new currency should be moon rocks. American moon rocks and nothing more, platinum be damned.

Patch Couldn't Survive Tim Armstrong

David Carr says that, despite all of the bluster, Patch is all but dead.

What started out as a noble experiment ends up being a cautionary tale for trying to do something--anything--at the local level with respect to news and reporting. There are whole communities that are simply not served by newspapers and media outlets. Patch was supposed to localize and serve. Instead, it drained money from a company that still collects America Online fees from the credit cards of Americans who haven't figured out that they don't have to pay for AOL. Very sad.

Tim Armstrong is the worst CEO in America.

Does a Woody Allen Film Make Money?

Outside of a few theaters and a handful of American cities, where is the audience for a Woody Allen film? They might as well go straight to DVD.

Money is a poor way to rate the value of films, however. It is entirely fruitless for Allen to chase popularity--it simply won't happen. But, when you look at his modern film history, he makes money (his films have almost no budget and big name actors work with him for peanuts) and he achieves something artistic. Never mind the fact that people don't watch his films anymore. Blue Jasmine appears to be a real hit for Allen and it bears repeating--Midnight in Paris was a pretty big film. .

And, just because, here's the kind of business Adam Sandler does:

How the hell did Grown Ups and the sequel make that much money? Taste means nothing, as you can see. And a lot of people saw You Don't Mess With the Zohan. A soul-crushingly large number of people, at that.

The Hobbit Films Are Fan Fiction and Nothing More

Christopher Orr's review of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug eviscerates Peter Jackson and deems the liberties taken with the original material "egregious." So much for purity.

The gauntlet against "fan fiction" has been thrown down, and linking Jackson to this amateur practice is akin to trying to derail a franchise that isn't going to be stopped by a critic (which would be impossible at this point). If anything, the backlash against Orr will be a blip on the radar if it blows up at all.

If these Hobbit films are really not that great, the critics will have to try to be heard over the massive marketing hype that will guarantee an audience for a franchise that has billion dollar implications. They will be silenced by indifference or worse. There's too much money at stake. And that money is why Jackson rewrote the material in order to pad it out into a three film megaproject. The only part of this series of films that Jackson cares about is the battle scene at the end. The entirety of one film could probably be that battle in order to satisfy Jackson's fetish.

As soon as he introduced a beloved old character and an entirely new one designed to make the film more marketable to young women, he entered the shady world of fan fiction. His ideas are no better or worse than yours or mine and even though we haven't made any other billion dollar film franchises work, it doesn't change the fact that Jackson looked at a classic book and decided to rewrite it. For money.

I don't think that this material warranted a trilogy; good God, they probably wanted to split the last film in two just to make that much more cash. It works as a book precisely because it is one story told in one reading. It is an adventure tale for a young audience. It was never intended to make Harvey Weinstein a billion dollars.

Is There a Father of Modern Art?

This is an excellent article to read. Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn broke with tradition and painted exactly what he saw. He painted to reflect reality, not to flatter his patrons:

For the art historian Taco Dibbits, director of collections at the Rijksmuseum, the answer lies in Rembrandt’s ability to penetrate to the core of his subject, no matter who or what he was painting. “Over the centuries, Rembrandt has inspired artists in different ways,” Dibbits tells me. “Something that has fascinated a lot of artists is the way he depicts different humours, different moods, different psychologies. There is such depth to his personalities: the essence of his genius is that rather than trying to make people more beautiful than they are, he depicts them as they really are. That makes his portraits immensely humane and approachable – unlike, say, classic Italian portraits, which are far more aloof and less direct. Rembrandt didn’t try to please his subjects or the viewer. With Rembrandt, you are looking at real people.”

Think of that when you read about how awful someone's portrait looks. Perhaps it is supposed to look bad. People often look like hell when you consider that much of what goes into our modern culture--plastic surgery, chemical-based makeup, flattering lighting techniques, Photoshop--exists solely to hide nature. Rembrandt was unafraid to show the world that looking like hell wasn't the worst thing in the world.

Can you really say that Rembrandt was the father of modern art? His techniques were revolutionary but it took centuries for the ideas to really take hold.

Black Submarine

What are you doing in February, Great Britain?



Megyn Kelly and the Fox News Brand

You can and you should read this article as a mash note to Fox News and their attempt to rebrand themselves. It fairly reeks of bias and favoritism, presenting Kelly as a "supermodel" who is "responsibly" leading the charge against the Affordable Care Act (which is working, thank you very much).

The network, long defined by the flickering image of an overweight white male who spews lies and garbage (but not Santa Claus, of course), has figured out that it can win by pushing Megyn Kelly out there as a figure that will make it harder to show how the network has embraced race baiting and hating anything about government that succeeds. A key component of that is to separate her from the "opinion" hosts and set her apart so that she can succeed with a gentler brand of racism. Her gender, and her appearance, are all that matters:

“It’s like working on a supermodel every day — a brilliant supermodel,” says makeup artist Maureen Walsh, as she air-brushes Kelly’s skin from milky white to Technicolor. 

The small makeup room is hot from the blow dryer. Pen in hand, Kelly, a former corporate lawyer, reads an article headlined “For Democrats in 2014, the Web site is still the problem,” her eyes zipping over text as Maureen smudges heavy plum-colored eye shadow on her lids. 

Kelly asks a nearby hairstylist to dial a phone number. “So you see Greta’s lead?” she says into the phone, her eyes on a muted TV. Greta Van Susteren’s topic is, whose botched rollout has coincided with Kelly’s prime-time debut. Later that evening, in the third hour of Fox’s extended prime-time lineup, “The Kelly File” will lead with the headline it has flashed almost every night for the past two weeks: “OBAMACARE FALLOUT.” 

In its first 30 seconds the show will quote Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.): “I think the current administration has taken lying to a new level.” 

Her in-person guest Andrew Napolitano, Fox’s senior judicial analyst, will ask rhetorically: Could the president’s implementation of the law “lead to impeachment?”

This is a fluff piece from the Style section of the Washington Post, but it might as well read as a paid piece of advertising. Where is that specific disclosure? Who insisted on allowing Fox News to be able to present itself in such a positive light? Who is the editor who allowed it to land with such a heavy thud? It is heavy on inside baseball politics and overloads on FAIL. As of yesterday, this article has already been overtaken by events. It doesn't even begin to deal with the fact that the Republican strategy of opposing Obamacare has failed and likely won't win them any votes. And these people certainly don't want you to know that their efforts may be responsible for the fact that far too many Americans have been scared away from signing up for Obamacare and are losing money each day because of that.

Which doesn't change the fact that the Washington Post is absolutely guilty of allowing a news organization to carefully cultivate Kelly as the future personality of a brand that doesn't even pretend to be tolerant of women and their issues. Obamacare is a women's issue--millions of women now have access to health care and contraception care at an affordable rate. You wouldn't know that because, well, I'll let the article explain it to you better than I could:

This is Megyn Kelly, responsibly and aggressively covering the nation’s biggest ongoing news story.

Except for the fact that Obamacare is working, and that Kelly is merely the face of an operation dedicated to lying, and that nobody cares anymore, sure. That's all true.

Someone needs to express some embarrassment over the bias and the tone of this piece before the day is out. Wow.

Todd Starnes Writes the Same Story Over and Over Again

Todd Starnes writes an annual "war on Christmas" story and the military obliges him with plenty of examples as to why he needs to be the guy to write this story for Fox News. Every ginned up controversy needs a useful idiot, so why not go with Starnes? He doesn't understand the military or good order and discipline, so, victory, I guess.

You see, the military, which reflects American society, is made up of people who prefer diversity to fundamentalism. The rules actually specify that you can't marginalize or denigrate others and if they complain, you have to respond and try to make things better. Not perfect, just better. The military is made up of people who know what freedom is as opposed to what freedom should be marketed as in order to keep the hits a'comin' on the Fox News website.

Here's Starnes a year ago:

That's the same damned story! How'd he do that?

Not to be outdone, there are other people who want to get in on the phony outrage action:

And then there are people who want to dress up and carry around a fake plastic baby Jesus:

The war on Christmas is a phony, made-up thing and Todd Starnes is making hay from it because he can always count on people to not pay attention to the fact that military bases tend to operate as tolerant, law-abiding places:

“Upon further review, the CRP (Command Religious Program) will be removing the Living Nativity Program from the general base secular holiday festivities and co-locating it more appropriately with some of our other private religious and faith-based observances at the chapel at a separate time,” the Inspector General’s office stated, according to MAAF.

Yes--the religious program that is already a part of the command on the military post are simply going to respect the wishes of others and move the nativity scene to a more appropriate venue--the chapel that is located on the military post. Imagine that.

No one is tearing baby Jesus apart. Nobody's Chaplain is being dragged before an Article 32 hearing. No one is setting fire to the rain or the nativity--they're just acknowledging that people don't want to deal with it and they're moving it to a better location in order to demonstrate respect for others and good order and discipline. Damn, son. Any more of that and we'll see the whole world turned upside down.

In the world where Todd Starnes live, anyone in the military who respects the beliefs and practices of others is weak. In point of fact, they are stronger by country mile just by showing tolerance and acceptance.

An Impersonal Kiss Off

Pixies have put out new music, shed a bass player, added a bass player, and they have now shed her as well. Over the phone and through a manager. Nothing seems to be working out.

It would be easy to get cynical about their future. Do they have one? Or is this part of the marketing plan?

The Center of Attention

Welcome to the theater of the absurd.

They brought out a man to translate the ceremony for Nelson Mandela's memorial service and he turned out to be an attention starved incompetent. If you are trying to coordinate such an important event, one of the recurring nightmares is to end up with a clown who can't actually do proper sign language. The temptation of being able to stand there and have people treat him with respect must have been too much.

This will be done to death by Saturday Night Live.

Let's Shake Hands

Another day, another right wing freakout.

Celebrating Dumbassery

I'm sorry, but this happened because of sheer dumbassery:

In a search involving 200 people, rescuers finally located the family on Tuesday after they had gone missing two days earlier during a playful outing in the snow in mountainous northwest Nevada.

This playful outing involved going into a remote area and joyriding. With children, four of them, in a Jeep. Why were they doing this and why isn't anyone else a little more critical of their choices? Why does the article here gloss over why they were in the mountains and focus on the fact that they were found because of a great deal of hard work undertaken by a number of people who risked their own lives?

Grow the hell up. Respect the climate and the geography where you live. And try to remember that a Jeep does not give you a license to fly across valleys and jump mountains and live life like a Mountain Dew commercial.

It's good that everyone was found. I'm sure it was a traumatic event. But it was avoidable. Don't go joyriding on mountain roads during a deep freeze. Watch a weather forecast. Leave the kids out of your plans to go muddin'. And keep some better winter weather emergency supplies in your damned Jeep.

The Definitive Jane Austen

This is the definitive portrait of Jane Austen.

Instead of sitting in a museum or on display in a culturally sensitive place, like the museum that bears her name (Jane Austen House Museum in Chawton, Hampshire), it is now in the hands of a private individual.

It belongs to the people, and it should not have been sold to a private collector. But, there it is. This is the wave of the future.

These Kids Are Alright

The Kids in the Hall have come back together in order to make comedy. There does not have to be any other reason than that for them to entertain people and remind everyone just how good they were back in the 1990s. Every lame comedy troupe since then owes the kids everything.

As for how they have aged, come on, man. None of us are aging well. We need chemicals and implants to survive in these harsh times. Let it go.

John McCain Went There

I will bet you a dollar John McCain doesn't even bother to acknowledge that he has made an unhinged, comically inept comment about Raul Castro and President Barack Obama. This is how the right wing machine operates--McCain says something full of hate and bile, the media invites him on their Sunday morning shows to talk about it, and no one remembers what a crass version of a U.S. Senator he has become.

In order to have credibility in a discussion about world affairs, you'd think that avoiding the comparisons to Chamberlain and Hitler would show a mark of sophistication and an appreciation for diplomacy. McCain is certainly welcome to an opinion that shows that he would like the president to ignore Castro and pass on the chance to open Cuba to American tourism and trade. I have a sneaky suspicion that this will be one of Obama's last acts--to open Cuba and tell the rabid Cuban-American community to go pound sand after Marco Rubio is safely out of the 2016 presidential race.

McCain's comments are the standard now--you can say anything about anyone and people will just shrug and act like nothing happened. There are no standards. Just bile and viciousness, even on the day when we're paying tribute to someone who the right wing in this country hated precisely because he was a man of forgiveness and charity.

Worst NFL Franchise Ever

The team that plays in Washington D.C. and enjoys elite status as a billion dollar NFL franchise? It's the worst ever.

It was Daniel Snyder's idea to fire the last coach--and the five or six coaches before that--and bring in the Shanahans. It was an idea and a move entirely his own. And now what?

The new coach of the team will be Lane Kiffin. If not Kiffin, then someone else will parachute in and sign a deal worth millions. This will lead to losses, griping, failure and high draft picks that won't pan out. A lot of NFL players base their career moves on arriving in Washington just so they can get paid and do nothing.

Worst franchise ever.

Keeping James Lileks Has Not Worked Out For the Star Tribune

James Lileks is the painfully unfunny "columnist" who should have been released from his contract at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune a decade ago. I mean, he is really, really horrible to have to read. I don't know if you can even chew through what he wrote above and yeah, it's. Wow. Leaves you without the strength to continue, doesn't it?

At this point, if you're making hay with the snot jokes as a Minnesotan, well. More power to you. Every nickel they are paying Lileks is money well spent for...for?

Again. I don't have the words. Or the strength to continue.

They Are All Racists

There are no words for how ugly--and un-American--these people have gotten.

All Native American teams and mascots need to go away. Even the ones that aren't racist. That's because people are just too fucking stupid to handle life in modern society.

Mercilessly Mocking Nikki Finke

More of this, please.

Nikki Finke can't understand why people don't just praise her for all she does. Anyone who doesn't fall down at her feet and acquiesce to her abuse must hate the human experience. Or something along those lines.

No Knowledge of Current Events

If you're not really savvy about current events--and why would a Swedish rock star be completely immersed in the news anyway--it's easy to see how things like this could happen. Having a reasonable knowledge of current events in someone else's city and someone else's country is tough enough as it is. I think it is fair to say that no one in The Hives really wants to see human beings blown the hell up for fun.

Give Almqvist credit for apologizing.

Rick Scott Has No Idea How to Create Jobs

Today, two major newspapers tore Rick Scott to pieces over his inability to create jobs: The Herald and the Times examined some 342 job-creation deals (handouts, if you prefer) that involve various tax breaks since Scott took office just two years ago.

Here are the key things to know about Scott and his promise to create jobs:

• Of the jobs Scott can influence most, only a fraction now exist. Scott has pledged $266 million in tax breaks and other incentives in return for 45,258 new jobs. But 96 percent of the jobs have yet to materialize, according to state data. 

• The total number of new jobs Scott ultimately might deliver doesn’t offset the jobs lost at companies with more than 100 workers in the same time period. Between January 2011 and November 2013, large Florida employers reported 49,163 layoffs, according to federal data.

• Nearly 14 percent of Scott’s deals — 46 in all — have collapsed for various reasons, the state says, and more projects are dormant.

• Florida offers tax breaks in most cases only when a company creates the jobs it promised, and $45 million sits idle waiting to be claimed by companies that have not yet reached hiring goals.

• The jobs outlook isn’t better in Broward and Miami-Dade counties, where Scott inked deals to create 5,456 jobs in exchange for $25.2 million tax incentives and breaks. Jobs created to date: 61.

Read more here:

Florida, if you give this man anything other than a kick in the ass and an unemployment slip of his own, you deserve everything he inflicts upon you.

Tax cuts don't create jobs without some sort of mechanism on the other side that, you know, requires companies to actually hire people and put them to work. The business community in Florida has to be so thrilled with the idea of another term with Rick Scott running things that I would be willing to bet you that they are going to start giving him paper sacks full of cash to stay in office.

Get Back to Work

Just once, I'd like to see us add a half a million jobs to this economy for three or four straight months:

U.S. employers hired more workers than expected in November and the jobless rate hit a five-year low of 7.0 percent, raising chances the Federal Reserve could start ratcheting back its bond-buying stimulus as soon as this month. 

Nonfarm payrolls increased by 203,000 new jobs last month, following a similarly robust rise in October, the Labor Department said on Friday. The report, which showed broad gains in employment and a rise in hourly earnings, suggested strength in the economy heading into year-end. 

"It will add further confidence to the Fed of a reduced need for monetary stimulus in the U.S. economy. We now see the bias shifting in favor of a January tapering announcement," said Millan Mulraine, senior economist at TD Securities in New York.

The unemployment rate dropped three tenths of a percentage point to its lowest level since November 2008 as some federal employees who were counted as jobless in October returned to work after a 16-day partial shutdown of the government.

We need a hiring boom in this country. We need to get people back to work. Even though unemployment is at 7%, that's still awful for too many people.

The World is Full of Weirdos

How do you react to this image? I looked at it and went...what?

This is an image that was posted on Google+ and it purports to show a "homeless" puppy basking by a fire. Who set the fire? Why isn't someone doing something to keep the puppy safe? Is it really a smart idea to set the goddamned woods on fire and warm up the puppy in this manner?

I mean, what the hell is this?


The Crazy Value of a Painting

After seeing a Norman Rockwell painting sell for $46 million, this should not be a surprise.

Unlike the Rockwell painting, this piece actually depicts a property that is still standing. Did the owner pay this? Or did someone with a fondness for desolation and/or New Jersey pick it up? And did someone get involved in the bidding in order to inflate the price? You have to assume noble intent, but, wow. We're seeing a lot of money being paid for American art.