The Craziest Super Bowl Ever?

Is it me or is this going to be an insane Super Bowl? The craziness surrounding this event which, inexplicably, was awarded to the New York metro area, has been vastly different than previous years when it was held in New Orleans (not that New Orleans can't get nutty).

Will there even be a game on Sunday? Damn.

Todd Starnes Got Caught Lying Again

Todd Starnes is a religion hustler. He does what the race hustlers does--he lies and makes stuff up so that he can advance his agenda, plant stories in the media, and attract attention to himself. Fox News cannot claim to be a solid, dependable news organization precisely because it employs people like Starnes on a regular basis.

He's a hack and he's a liar. States like California are the breeding ground of these poorly sourced phony outrage stories because we couldn't possibly have religious intolerance and bigotry in a place like South Carolina or Texas, could we? Of course not.

Starnes is your go-to source for bullshit.

Obscurity Knocks

Bruce Broughton is upset, but, really, the people who should be upset are the ones who didn't have their work judged fairly this year. Broughton's song was elevated from obscurity because of favoritism and bullshit. The merits of the song notwithstanding, the decision to take away the nomination comes from a place where you simply can't get away with everything all the time.

The thing is, the Oscar, which is the award that is the most coveted, is part of a sham and a conspiracy among powerful industry insiders. You don't get one unless you're a somebody they like and want to give it to. Merit means nothing. The only reason why Broughton was even nominated is because of the E-mail you can read about here. He is not "one of them" and the system has rebelled against the idea that an outsider might be elevated by his mistaken association.

Should he have been nominated? No, but the Academy got it right.

Bombs Away

Somehow, M. Night Shyamalan has, once again, convinced other human beings to give him large amounts of money with which to make a film that few people will ever see.

I mean, if you think about some of the biggest bombs that have gone off in recent years, Shyamalan's name has to be associated with a few of them. After Earth, The Happening, and The Last Airbender should have ended his career, right? Those three films would have destroyed the career of a lesser person.

The Wonderbag

The product that you see above is the Wonderbag; it slow cooks food that would normally require a heat source. It's a product designed for the harsh realities of Africa, but you can still put it to "green" use.

And, without any compensation for me, I'm including the link to Amazon where people can check it out and perhaps buy one. When you buy a Wonderbag, a free one goes to someone in Africa.

President Obama Did Not Plagiarize President Bush

Ed Kilgore has a good laugh at Marc Thiessen's expense. 

Thiessen, one of the most inept speechwriters ever and a liar to boot, made the spurious claim that President Obama's State of the Union Speech last night plagiarized the 2007 State of the Union speech given by President Bush. The problem is, the same themes and the same hopes have not changed, thanks to the research done by focus groups, and that's all you need to know about that.

We are living through a period of slow growth, rampant unemployment, and overall, I would say that these are shitty times. People are locked in place and cannot move up or out. Nobody has any money but everything is more and more expensive. And, dammit, we needed health care reform and didn't get it until President Obama became Hitler and a black man at the same time and gave it to us over the bodies of brave Tea Party warriors (who are now whoring themselves out to anyone who will pay them to say and do ridiculous things).

The President's speech was a good one but it won't warm the hardened hearts of the men and women who are locked into their own delusions of adequacy and competence. We are going to have break through this logjam somehow, and the President has the right idea. He really does have to go it alone; the opposition is disloyal and insane.

Slowdive Are Back

Now that Slowdive and Chapterhouse have made tentative comebacks, how long can Andy Bell from Ride hold out?


Arguing Over Every Pound Spent

The Royal Family of Britain, those Hanoverian pretenders with expensive tastes, are somewhat less popular today than they were a week ago. Someone wisely leaked a video of Kate Middleton being adorable in response to the news that the Royals have run afoul of government oversight:

"The household needs to get better at planning and managing its budgets for the longer term -- and the Treasury should be more actively involved in reviewing what the household is doing," said Margaret Hodge, the member of parliament who chairs the Public Accounts Committee. 

The report also criticized the royals' "complacency" in allowing some 39 percent of royal buildings and land to slip into a state of disrepair. It said the 60-year-old heating system in Buckingham Palace alone will cost between £500,000 and £1 million to replace. 

"The Household must get a much firmer grip on how it plans to address its maintenance backlog," Hodge said.

They can carp about the pipes and the boilers, but, really, what no one wants to talk about is how awful it is for the Royal household to have to tolerate Prince Andrew and the like. I have to think that having to subsidize Andrew for the rest of his life rankles more than a few members of the "household" that can't stay within a budget. The Royals travel and spend money and have to have things--telling them no is whose responsibility? A government bureaucrat?

The crown would not approve.



This is what I saw when I looked out of the window of the Marriott in Sindelfingen, Germany four years ago. We had arrived at night after flying in from Atlanta and everyone had gone to bed, exhausted and stressed. Down below is a parking lot filled with black Mercedes Benz cars and one of the main thoroughfares through Sindelfingen. This room would be our home for another 35 days or so.

Jude Law Might Be the One to Destroy Rupert Murdoch's Evil Empire

Jude Law is having his day in court over painful and personal matters. And his day in court is sending shockwaves through the British legal system. He has, for all intents and purposes, appeared at the epicenter of the illegal phone hacking carried out by employees of Rupert Murdoch's newspapers in Great Britain. The ethical breaches alone have been front page news for years. Now we begin to see how tawdry the details were and how these people operated without any regard for the law.

The part of this that matters is the fact that Law was working in the United States when journalists were trolling through his personal life, trying to find tabloid material. Law's case, then, is going to likely expand the inquest into the realm of U.S. law. If someone can go after Murdoch in the states, they can accelerate the destruction of News Corp through litigation.

Law should receive a massive settlement for that they did to him. His star may have faded but the outrage over what was done should not fade at all.

Trent Reznor is Mad Because the Grammys Are Lame

Why is Trent Reznor always mad?

The Grammys are meaningless and they applaud a dying industry as it collapses on itself. There has never been anything cool about winning a Grammy unless, of course, you enjoy fellating the corporate whores who preside over what's left. The Grammy's are an embarrassment to art and sometimes even to commerce.

Given the fact that the broadcast from last night was roundly panned and insensitive (no tribute to Lou Reed?), why is Reznor shocked that they bent the knee for teevee and cut out for a commercial?

This President Can't Catch a Break

The rate of discretionary spending in this country has gone down dramatically in the last few years, and this president can't get any credit for it, not matter what.

When you contrast the rhetoric directed against the Obama Administration with the reality of what's happening, how could anyone ever vote Republican again?

The Jade Rabbit Says Goodnight to Humanity

The Jade Rabbit is the Chinese rover sent to study the moon. It was supposed to last for a few more months but it has shut down and said a heartfelt "goodnight" to the people of Earth. In other words, the damned thing has quit working.

This is all being handled with the weirdly poetic (and probably poorly translated) prose of the Chinese space agency and the press handlers that are trying to put a positive spin on the demise of this expensive piece of hardware. To my way of thinking, when a totalitarian government tries to work with poetry and human emotions, it all comes out sounding like someone has been allowed to empty their bizarre ideas into exactly the wrong forum for discussion.

Perhaps I am expressing a preference for the hard-assed coldness of NASA, which abandoned anything imaginative two generations ago, but still. The Chinese are being rather strange about their contribution to the space junk race.

Jay Leno Will Never Go Away

When it comes to Jay Leno, all you can do is pray that he goes away with some of his dignity intact:

How did Jay Leno really feel in 2009, when NBC revealed its master plan to hand The Tonight Show over to Conan O’Brien? The comedian doesn’t mince words in an upcoming interview with 60 Minutes, telling Steve Kroft that the decision took him completely by surprise. “I was blindsided,” he says, according to CBS News.

And though Leno adds that he never asked his corporate overlords to explain their reasoning, hearing he was being replaced felt like being rejected by his girlfriend: “You know, you have a girl [who] says, ‘I don’t want to see you anymore.’ Why? You know, she doesn’t want to see you anymore, okay?”

This time around, though, Leno seems much more at peace with the network’s machinations — even though, as the host notes in the clip below, he “probably would have stayed [on Tonight] a little longer” if he had his druthers.

That said, Leno adds, “it’s not my decision” — and he believes that bringing in “an extremely qualified young guy” like Jimmy Fallon, whom Leno likens to “a young Johnny [Carson],” makes “perfect sense.” So maybe this isn’t a happy ending for Leno — but at least it’s one he can understand.

In other words, plan on passive-aggressive tactics that will gut Jimmy Fallon and return Leno to the Tonight Show in about fourteen months. If Fallon loses his audience, Leno will make himself available for another "salvation" play. I think Fallon will be much more attractive to advertisers and I think he will mesh perfectly with the viral video nature of the culture. When was the last time Leno had anything go viral?

I mean, when he says that he never asked NBC to explain things, he's lying. He has known for over a decade that his audience skews far too old to entice the advertisers that NBC needs to stay afloat. His show has never generated the kind of money that Johnny Carson used to make--enough money so that Carson could tell NBC what to do and when to do it and how high he wanted them to pile his money. Leno has never had that kind of power. He does not preside over a cultural institution--he runs a pretty good show that won't offend anyone's mother. And that's as nice as it gets.

Leno will eat the seed corn of television and destroy everyone in order to stay on the air for another decade. Whoever gives him a deal makes a lifetime commitment to hire a man whose own "highlights" show is eminently forgettable.

When was the last time anyone sat down and watched a best-of reel featuring the last twenty or so years of Leno? Please.

Michael Bolton Has a Better Chance of Being President

John Bolton has no chance whatsoever of being President of the United States of America:

A strange thing happened Tuesday night at a Los Angeles dinner packed with well-heeled businesspeople and Republican donors. 

A conservative, best known for his hawkish views on foreign policy, got a rousing ovation when he said he was “thinking about” running for president in 2016. 

Former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton may not make a big splash if he jumps into the presidential race—as those close to him expect he will—but his flirtation raises some intriguing questions. 

Which face of the Republican Party will dominate if and when foreign policy rears its head during the next presidential campaign? And is there opportunity in running as the party’s resident hawk?

The neocons live in their own delusional world. They see stories like this and they nod their heads--why not John Bolton for President? His razor-thin resume, his laughable grasp of diplomacy, his wrong-on-everything-possible positions, and his love of permanent war are exactly what the American people are looking for.


Jaime Fuller Shows Us How to Hate Lena Dunham

When this whole Lena Dunham thing exploded, I was living in Germany. I still don't get what it's about, other than that it fills a void in HBO's programming and gives hipsters something to fret about.

Jaime Fuller is the real star of this article--this is how to hate someone without actually giving us proof she hates Dunham. I suspect it is that intellectual envy that sets in when someone is given way more attention and money than they deserve. Elizabeth Wurtzel comes to mind.

In the arts, the worst thing you can do is become wildly successful at a very young age and enjoy your success. To the vast majority of people in this country, Dunham is a New York thing that they don't much care about. The entirety of that slice of the movie Frozen, where Idina Menzel--at the age of 42--sings Let it Go, is a thing. It is something that has resonated through the popular culture and will have a timelessness that will serve as a reference point for this generation of kids.

Your garden variety hipsters will never see a Disney film but what they are missing is the fact that Menzel--the consummate New York theater voice with Broadway chops and her own Tony--has crossed the hell over. There are a lot of other Menzels out there, but Dunham isn't one of them. That's because her thing is of precious value to a handful of people who write about their obsessions. She is the Captain Beefheart of modern popular culture. Everyone hip knows who she is, but the plebes and peasants ain't buying it.

The rejection of Dunham isn't about the fact that she is from New York. Good God, people are enthralled with New York because every single television show is about New York and stars interesting people from New York, right? What the hell were Seinfeld and Friends but an over-hyped pair of love letters to NYC mailed in each week from Southern California?

What will Dunham mean to kids who are now living in the American Midwest and will never see her show? Miss Fuller knows what the score is--Dunham isn't so much as a hit as she is a manufactured bit of old hat.

How Many People Stop Reading Entirely?

This is an interesting development for people who think there is still a market for the printed word.

In my opinion, the rise in the number of people who don't read books does not mean that people are not reading. I think it is more a case where what they read has evolved to the point where the book is an irrelevant item in the lives of many.

Have you ever walked into someone's house and noticed whether or not they have books? An absence of books means one of two things--either they don't read them or they have a robust E-reader or tablet and have no further use for books. I can sympathize with that--I have books that are in Rubbermaid containers precisely because there isn't room for them. Should I chuck them out or should I save them?

The E-reader market has tanked in some ways because of the flood of mediocre material (people trying to cash in) and because the devices are unstable. When you think back about all of the people who are holding Nooks and Sony E-Readers (hey, that's me!), there's almost no solution that looks like an upside. How do you carry around a library full of books on a device that is rendered obsolete in mere months? How many people are going to create a fully digitized library that has to be stored in the cloud or ported around or copied and re-copied? People are more likely to do that with the music they care about. Books, like old albums or songs that are tiresome, fall away.

And, yes, I thought of this as well. Literacy isn't an issue:

The percentage of people who are not educated but can read? Is that increasing? I have no idea. I suspect that it is.

Complex, inaccessible, and pretentious literary offerings don't actually kill off readership--they simply turn people away from writers but not the medium itself. Stephen King is widely read because he delivers; being able to deliver isn't the same as being good or bad, but there's no way King could be considered a bad writer.

I don't know if people stop reading so much as they stop trying to engage written forms of entertainment. The human need remains. What fills those needs has evolved and changed with the technology.

Bruce Springsteen Covers The Saints

Chris Bailey of The Saints is due for a windfall. Let's hope that, when Bruce Springsteen's sales go through the roof, Bailey gets a flood of royalties. They are well deserved.

The Saints released the album All Fool's Day back in the mid-1980s and it is a brilliant, brilliant record. I'm of the opinion that not even Springsteen can top the original version of Just Like Fire Would.

Aquarium Drunkard

As the music world drifts into the past, drowned out by video games and self-obsessed whining, it's entirely possible to reverse things by looking at great music sites. The only thing that will save music is giving a shit about artists.

Aquarium Drunkard is one of those sites. Check it out.

Sochi Has a Bloody History

When the attention of the world is focused on the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, it would help if some of the history of that place is known and understood:

one of the most significant issues of all surrounding the Olympics has been nearly ignored: Recognition of the indigenous people of Sochi, the Circassians. 

The Circassians, who are mostly Muslim, resided in Sochi for millennia. In the 19th century, an expanding Russian Empire coveted their territory -- which is south and east of Russia proper -- and used overwhelming force to defeat them. Russia killed around 1.5 million Circassians and expelled a similar number, mostly to the Ottoman Empire, with many dying of famine and disease. Entire tribes were decimated; for example, the Shapsugh tribe was reduced from 300,000 to 3,000 people. 

The bloodiest battle of all, which Circassians refer to as their "last stand," occurred in the vicinity of Sochi, the Circassian capital, in 1864. The Circassians describe the catastrophe that befell their people as the first modern genocide. 

The few Circassians able to remain in the Caucasus found themselves a minority in their own land, which was quickly settled by Russians. Those who were expelled or escaped were forced to migrate from country to country in search of safety and stability. 

Diaspora Circassians have faced huge challenges in attempting to preserve their identity and traditions and keep the memory of their homeland alive.

Not only are terrorists running wild throughout southern Russia, but you have unfulfilled national ambitions and widespread resistance to the authoritarian rule of Vladimir Putin. The old Soviet policy was to force the language on the people of this region. Now, they force the corruption endemic to the Russian experience. Add to that the issues with infrastructure and the inherently poor choice of venue, and the costs of Sochi may not be fully understood.

Awarding these games to a city thick in the middle of an exceptionally violent and unhappy part of Southern Russia may turn out to be one of the worst decisions made by the International Olympic Committee. Understanding the history of the Circassians and the region as a whole might have helped make a more informed decision; why is it you never see a commercial decision ever take into account history and precedent?

You Are Not Being Defended


The Air Force says 34 nuclear missile launch officers have been implicated in a cheating scandal and have been stripped of their certification in what is believed to be the largest such breach of integrity in the nuclear force. 

Some of the officers apparently texted to each other the answers to a monthly test on their knowledge of how to operate the missiles. Others may have known about it but did not report it. 

The cheating was discovered during a drug investigation that involves 11 Air Force officers across six bases in the U.S. and England.

It is time to clean house and reorganize this entire command, beginning with the senior leadership of the Air Force. How many of these officers came from the Academy? All, some or none? Whatever created the culture of entitlement that allowed these officers to think that they could do drugs and maintain their positions needs to be fixed. Random drug testing doesn't work when you give people enough notice of a mandatory "whizz quiz."

So, you have two issues--criminal behavior related to drugs and academic dishonesty. Remember when the Harvard cheating scandal hit? This was one of the takeaways:

The right response to cheating involves not just adjudicating the individual cases but also exploring and addressing the structural determinants and risk factors for academic dishonesty. For guidance, academic institutions can look within their own community. Many scholars are already at the vanguard of understanding how decent people fall prey to the pressures of groupthink and poor decisionmaking. For example, Dan Ariely, a behavioral economist at Duke University, describes some of the science behind the contagion of cheating norms in his recent book, The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty. We need to learn more about the learning environments that either promote or inhibit academic integrity.

The Navy had a similar problem with cheating when it came to the nuclear program. I don't know how they fixed it but all of these issues require some sort of comprehensive fix. Whether that involves raising the standards, increasing the educational efforts to instruct officers, or simply weeding out bad candidates is contingent on how serious they're going to get when it comes to cleaning up this problem. Of course, working a missile site is radically different than trying to complete a college course.

They're trying to find ways to teach Air Force officers etiquette; ethics and professionalism are far more important.

Thirty years ago, these officers would have been sent to Leavenworth for life; shooting them would have been widely discussed as a viable option. My, how times have changed. This is barely a national news story. Barely.

Dick Black is Your New Republican Rape Expert

If Dick Black is talking about rape, it means he's getting ready to run for President or something like that:

After losing all major statewide races to Democrats for the first time in 24 years, Republicans in Virginia are pushing to replace a moderate GOP congressman with a candidate so conservative that he doesn’t even believe that spousal rape should be a crime. 

On Wednesday, Mother Jones pointed out that state Sen. Richard H. “Dick” Black, who is running to take over retiring Rep. Frank Wolf’s seat, had fought against making spousal rape a crime because the woman was “sleeping in the same bed, she’s in a nightie.” 

Democrat Shawn Mitchell had uncovered the 2002 video of Black talking about spousal rape for an attack ad during the 2011 campaign for Virginia state Senate. 

“I do not know how you could validly get a conviction of a husband-wife rape, when they’re living together, sleeping in the same bed, she’s in a nightie and so forth,” Black says. “There’s not injuries, there’s no separation or anything.”

The more the Republican Party sends out old, confused men to talk about rape, the harder it is to fathom how we got to this point in American political discourse. The war on women continues unabated.

The Police Wrapped Around Your Finger EP

When The Police were wrapping up that monstrosity called Synchronicity, their singles and EPs were forgotten; all anyone remembers is the album. No one remembers the gems that were scattered across multiple releases, like this 12" single, which was designed to keep the momentum going while they toured the world and pushed the biggest album of their career. There are no throwaways here; every track is a classic version.

It's hard for me to think of this as a single; properly, it is more of an album track. But the whole thing was a juggernaut. There could have been seven singles from this album, easily.

The artwork is also worth the price alone. Their covers were handled by the best in the business and the marketing scheme behind Synchronicity was as simple as it was complex; three swishes of paint, primary colors, and only use the best shots from what had to have been a miserable series of photo sessions.

If you can find this, keep it.

Schlossplatz in Stuttgart

This is the Google Maps version of what you see above:

The Archives of Johnny Cash

It is difficult to imagine, but there really are whole entire albums that Johnny Cash wasn't allowed to release in his lifetime because, well, who knows, really?

John Carter Cash is releasing the best things found in the archives of Johnny Cash, his father. He could make himself a good living simply by being a good steward of his father's legacy (not that there's anything wrong with that, nor is there anything wrong with the younger Mr. Cash doing his own thing and not having anything to do with Johnny Cash, et al). The fans who have outlived Johnny will be the beneficiaries of all of this.

And that's really the saddest thing of all--Johnny Cash had a lot of fans who are dead now. They won't get to hear this stuff--the stuff his record label didn't want to release. As one of the 20th Century's greatest recording artists, how could you not put out a Johnny Cash album? I'll never understand that.


Beady Eye Loves a Fiasco

Beady Eye loves a fiasco.

It's no secret that Australia's Big Day Out festival has become a bit of a chore for some; it's a tough festival, and, not without good reason, they called last year's event a fiasco. When they tried to promote this year's festival, they were quick to emphasize the presence of Blur and, because of their cancellation, are going to have to shovel Beady Eye into that hole in the schedule.

Will the Australian fans accept the substitution? I'm thinking that they will give them a proper chance and, if it all goes south, they'll blame the organizers. Expect more of the same.

The Air Force is Not An Occupation For Warriors

You cannot make this up. Not even if you were working at The Onion and getting paid to do it. Yes, the Air Force is worried that their own personnel will look like heels in a formal dining room. No, they're not going to impress anyone by eliminating the uncouth from their ranks.

The Air Force needs to recruit and retain highly professional people. Training them in napkin etiquette happens naturally, not through special classes.

I believe we can have a military that is exceptional and highly trained, but we need to leave the 19th Century behind and focus on things that matter, like finding what few people still exist who can put others before themselves and maintain high standards of professional conduct. How does the Air Force Academy feel about Christian conservatives and their relentless assault on cadet life? What happens when one of those outfits wins the contract?

The service academies need to go away. They are an anachronism and we are already well served by choosing officers from the ranks of college graduates anyway. The warrior spirit continues to be beaten down again and again, though. This is the most troubling aspect of all.

No Idea

I don't think this article is really accurate, but I will admit that I did not know that Krist Novoselic was that accomplished on the accordion. There are probably numerous other people who have a background in the instrument, but maybe none of them are already in the rock hall of absolute lame.

He's going in because of his bass playing, though. He's not going in because of what he did on the accordion.

The Goat

Silly, but worth it.

Killesburg Tower From Below

Killesburg Tower, Stuttgart.

The New York Post Isn't Worth the Paper It's Printed On

Someone else has noticed how worthless the New York Post really is in terms of ethics and decency (no one would expect journalism from a tabloid, of course). The most popular page on my site is this one, and that should tell you something about how many people are trying to find information about how bad the paper has become (was it ever good?).

That thing is cut from the same cloth as Fox News. Why would you be surprised at how worthless it is?

The Replacements Will Play Coachella

So, the lede here is Outkast. Fine. But, buried in the story is this piece of news:

More than 150 acts will perform throughout the two weekends. Muse will headline the Saturday shows, and Arcade Fire will close out Sunday nights. Grammy-nominated singer Lorde will make her first appearance at the festival in Indio, Calif. Other performer highlights include The Replacements, Beck, Calvin Harris, Broken Bells, Haim, Neko Case, MGMT, Girl Talk, Foster the People, Ellie Goulding, Neutral Milk Hotel, Lana Del Rey, Pharrell Williams, Chromeo and Queens of the Stone Age. 

Bury the lede, guys.

Guitar Music is Flying Under the Radar

It's hard to disagree with Matt Helders because guitar music just isn't a dominant force in music anymore. There are guitar acts--Jack White and John Mayer among many--but they're not dominating any of the charts or commanding much attention right now. Guitar music is dying in some respects but still carrying on in others.

What encourages me is the shoegaze scene, which is almost completely under the radar right now and has thrived for years. Not enough is being done to keep these bands afloat--there's no money, there are no deals and what music they are able to put out has to be self-financed or done with limited support. People who love music are going to make it no matter what but it's going to change and evolve and turn into something that will discourage theft and commercial exploitation. I can see a time coming really soon where we go back to coveting 45 RPM vinyl singles pressed locally by bands that don't answer the phone when someone calls from a "record company."

The Wrong Priorities

I realize that the intent of this story was to indict many of the college basketball programs out there, but this story falls pretty hard on Roy Williams and the North Carolina Tarheels:

Early in her career as a learning specialist, Mary Willingham was in her office when a basketball player at the University of North Carolina walked in looking for help with his classwork. 

He couldn't read or write. 

"And I kind of panicked. What do you do with that?" she said, recalling the meeting. 

Willingham's job was to help athletes who weren't quite ready academically for the work required at UNC at Chapel Hill, one of the country's top public universities. 

But she was shocked that one couldn't read. And then she found he was not an anomaly. 

Soon, she'd meet a student-athlete who couldn't read multisyllabic words. She had to teach him to sound out Wis-con-sin, as kids do in elementary school. 

And then another came with this request: "If I could teach him to read well enough so he could read about himself in the news, because that was something really important to him," Willingham said.

First of all, let's all just grow up, shall we? If this falls on coaches from previous eras, their coaching records could suffer because of this revelation. If this has been handled, fine and dandy.

If it is still going on, holy hell--we have a problem (obligatory eye roll here). I'm not saying that it's an immediate issue, but it does require an NCAA evaluation of literacy among student athletes--a test that can't be faked or taken for them. In this case, you have to panic a bit because, for example, say Old Roy has a kid playing basketball for him who can't read or write. You know the drill. Someone is taking this kids classes, taking his tests, and falsifying the academic records for him so that he can remain eligible to practice or play. Uh oh is right. This is what ruined the University of Minnesota men's basketball team, and sent Clem Haskins to...another job at another school. See how the system perpetuates itself over and over again? Slap on the wrist, optional.

Without realizing what she has done, Willingham has exposed the University of North Carolina's basketball program as a sham for illiterate athletes. If this student athlete, whose anonymity needs to be addressed, was a part of a championship team, then that championship should disappear into the ether. Yes, that means that you're going to have to strike a lot of achievements from the records of other teams and coaches as well. In the case of North Carolina, someone ought to be yelling "oops" about this story. As in, "oops, someone just pulled back the wrong curtain."

It's really not complicated. They are cheating when a kid who can't read and write plays basketball.

Second, is it 1983? Is it 1994? Is it 2001? I can't tell what year it is from reading the article because you can find similar ones going back to the dawn of college basketball as a money printing machine for universities all over the country. I mean, it's what Coach Bobby Knight fought against when he was at Indiana and had to go up against Big Ten teams stocked with academic frauds in tight shorts. Graduation rates, please?

Hello? Is this thing on? In other words, what we're talking about isn't even news. It's how the game is played. For decades, the wrong priorities have ruled over things, and it all comes down to using students to make money hand over fist.

Good Guys and Bad Guys

Glenn Lieberman, scammer

The fact that there were scammers who used 9/11 to falsely claim disability should not come as a shock to anyone. You cannot expect complex organizations to be completely free of unethical employees. Each and every public service organization probably has a case or more of employees being caught claiming injuries that don't exist. Workman's compensation is riddled with such cases as well.

No, what's shocking is how stupid these people were:

On either side of Bratton and the other officials were two blown-up photos set upon easels. One was of retired cop Glenn Lieberman, who had received $175,758.40 from Social Security in addition to his NYPD pension after allegedly fraudulently attesting that he had been so traumatized by 9/11 that he was barely functional, unable to drive or shop or handle money. The picture shows him on a jet ski, flashing a big smile and giving the finger with both hands.

The other photo is of retired cop Richie Cosentino, who received $207,639.70 from Social Security under the same pretext, using nearly identical language. This picture was posted on his Facebook page and it shows him triumphantly holding a big sailfish fish he has just caught.

“It was an awesome day off the coast of Costa Rica,” he wrote.

He had better hope that the prosecutors do not take note of the date of the posting.
“September 11, 2012.”

On the 11th anniversary of 9/11, Cosentino clearly did not imagine that this photo would be shown at a press conference with him, not the fish, on display as the captured one.
As Bratton explained it, the investigation had commenced after Social Security investigators noticed that a considerable number of retired cops who had secured psychiatric disability awards had also applied for pistol permits.

“So we had a discrepancy,” Bratton said.

A discrepancy born of dumbassery, it would seem. Did this happen because the men involved in scamming the NYPD believed that they were above being shamed by malingering or claiming a phony disability? Did the ease with which it is possible to make money doing nothing entice far too many of them? Who knows?

You would think that a police officer claiming disability because he was traumatized by 9/11 would have marked the anniversary at home, quietly, and without drawing attention to himself. Instead, he went fishing in Costa Rica and put a picture up on Facebook. I guess going back to work is in order, huh?

The Jazz Butcher Big Questions Cover

This is one of my favorite Jazz Butcher covers, if only because it completes the unenviable task of presenting yet another compilation without much context or forethought. Big Questions was released in 1987 and it covered some of the pre-Creation years nicely.

Yes, it was great to see Hard and South America on a compact disc but no, you don't have to have this one if you've been collecting Jazz Butcher singles and albums for a while now.

But, let's be clear about one thing--once you have this one, you'll go find more.


When you make a mistake with Photoshop, sometimes it turns out like the album cover of an old 80s band.


Is It Time to Give Up Explaining History?

I don't know why anyone would bother trying to explain that the national security state is something that must be controlled by law; the American system of government is a near-perfect apparatus for doing this sort of thing but it only works when we have competent oversight and compliance. Currently, we don't have that, and so the abuses seem much greater.

This is hysterical nonsense:

It's not just domestic abuse we have to worry about; it's the rest of the world, too. The more we choose to eavesdrop on the Internet and other communications technologies, the less we are secure from eavesdropping by others. Our choice isn't between a digital world where the NSA can eavesdrop and one where the NSA is prevented from eavesdropping; it's between a digital world that is vulnerable to all attackers, and one that is secure for all users.

Bruce Schneier lives under the assumption that only one country in the world has the capability of using the Internet as a weapon; he conveniently ignores the fact that there are governments all over the world salivating at the prospect of being able to do whatever they want because no one talks about their capabilities. They want to hide in the shadows. They want to operate freely. They don't care a whit about security or the noble ethics of people who want to trade Grateful Dead bootlegs without being hassled. They want to control their people and dominate their area of the world. The Chinese are tearing up America's technological infrastructure, taking whatever they want and infiltrating public and commercial networks at will because it gives them access to the tools they need to control their society and grow their economy. But, remember. America is evil. China is merely a bad boy who will change because they want to be like us. And on and on, like a Noam Chomsky lecture on how America is the only country in the world where anyone has ever had a bad thought.

Schneier doesn't know anything about history, but he knows how to mock the very people who keep him from being pulled out of his bed and beaten senseless by thugs:

"NSA-level surveillance is like the Maginot Line was in the years before World War II: ineffective and wasteful."

That's a rather inept use of analogy. The Germans never attacked it head on; they went around it because France's allies were weaker or neutral. If the French had extended and improved it--and fully funded the thing--they would have slowed the German advance to an extent that it would have allowed Britain to send more troops. The Blitzkrieg was a myth concocted by Goebbels anyway, and it's the myth that persists.

I get that people hate the national security apparatus of the United States. You're supposed to hate the apparatus because it is proof of a nasty world. But you're also supposed to use our system of checks and balances to make certain that abuses are punished and money is well spent. You're supposed to not trust anyone because trust is not a virtue that our Constitution recognizes. You're supposed to stand there with a stopwatch and a clipboard and keep a close eye on things, metaphorically or otherwise. You're not supposed to throw up your hands and give up and destroy the thing that is designed to keep you safe. I can't wait to see what living without this very same apparatus looks like because that's where we are headed.

The people that are so hated today inherited their intelligence gathering and cryptographic skills from the people who enabled and informed the forces that destroyed the Germans. These advances gave us tremendous advances in technology through their academic achievement and hard work. This hatred for knowledge is interesting, and it has precedents. None of them come to mind.

Ignorance of the acts of nation/states going back hundreds of years is prevalent. The French and the Austrians and everyone who attended the Congress of Vienna used every means at their disposal to spy on one another. They stole mail, they employed vast intelligence gathering efforts, they used women to seduce men and they traded information without regard for who was a friend and who was an enemy. To get to an agreement, everyone angled for their own self-interest and not for the "greater good" of Europe because they had a common enemy--France--to blame for their troubles. And yet, they dealt with France secretly, trying to get as much as they could so that they could have a leg up on their own wartime allies.

The people screaming about the NSA today don't know anything of modern history and they don't know what other countries are doing as we speak. They don't understand the efforts of the intelligence gathering services in Iran, Israel, France, Russia, China, or Brazil and how they are actively working against American interests, no matter who they call a friend, to gain the upper hand. They hate the idea that someone knows they are boring, stupid and have no life, and they think the NSA is full of people who are listening to them. An estimated 40,000 people work there. The vast majority are bureaucrats and support personnel. You could reduce the number of actual "snoops" down to a few thousand. There are never enough of them and most comprehend or speak a foreign language because that's who they target. Duh.

If those 3,000 people spent all eight hours of their day listening to conversations, how much could they hear when there are tens of millions of Americans doing mundane and unimportant things all day long and why would they bother when their professional careers depend on being able to assess what foreign entities are doing? You don't get promoted at NSA by knowing what Jane Doe in Manhattan thinks of her friends choices in shoes; you get fired. You can get promoted if you know what your target is up to and spend years acquiring the expertise needed to make a rational prediction of what they plan to do in the next five years.

Defending America's need to defend itself is a waste of time when nobody realizes how uninteresting their personal business is to people who are actually dealing with real threats.

Dennis Rodman is the Ultimate Useful Idiot

The only explanation you can find for this type of lunacy is money.

In case you haven't been following the story, Dennis Rodman has convinced a bunch of basketball players to go to North Korea with him so that the Kim Jong-Un regime can have a crop of confused, ignorant useful idiots to use as propaganda. CNN's Chris Cuomo had a shouting match with Rodman that produced nothing informative.

Do we have a functioning Department of State anymore? Who authorized this?

The body language of the other players speaks for itself--they have no idea what's going on and they are seeing dollar signs instead of the real ramifications of playing exhibition basketball in one of the most hated and repressive countries in the world. They thought they could go overseas, play a few pickup games, and get paid (I absolutely refuse to believe that any of them are there solely on their own dime--someone is paying someone here).

North Korea slaughters and starves its own people. Millions have lived their entire lives in the shadow of horror and fear. And Dennis Rodman and his friends are enabling the third generation dictator of a homicidal regime. Whatever he's on--drugs, alcohol, hubris--it isn't enough to make up for the fact that he's being used by a clown.

Pete Townshend White City A Novel Cover

If you look at everything Pete Townshend did during the 1980s, it would be difficult to argue that this wasn't his finest work. Everything else is subjective, of course, but nothing since White City comes close for me.

I remember buying this at an old Pamida store (think of an early attempt at Wal-Mart without bothering to try hard) and I remember the impact that this had on me. This was a special album, even if the kids didn't like it. Who else was listening to this in 1985? Hardly anyone, I'm sorry to say.

The Police Lost BBC Studio Tapes 78-79 Covers

This is a great compilation of what amounts to a very small number of tracks. The Police blew up so fast, the BBC was lucky to get them into what few sessions they held for the band as they emerged in London during the late 1970s. What's missing are the shows, obviously. Why their actual BBC concerts are still in the vaults is one of the great omissions.

The Police played several shows on the BBC that could be remastered into live albums of incredible quality--that is, if the tapes are any good. If not, spend the money to repair them and put this stuff out.

Their sessions, captured here, are not as spotty as they could have been. The covers? Ugh. Thanks for being as unoriginal as possible. But the music is more vital than ever.

The Teardrop Explodes Piano Covers

Unreleased tracks from The Teardrop Explodes? Sign me up. Piano is a B-sides album that could have been twice as long or two discs and a thick booklet full of weirdness. Sadly, they skimped on the  material and allowed whole scads of cool stuff to wither on the vine. There are untold treasures in the vaults of some abandoned record company or manager somewhere, and these tapes should see the light of day. The BBC has material as well. Put it out.

This one is a Zoo Records release and I love the spare graphics and the use of boxes and light colors. Don't let this be your only exposure to Cope and his old comrades. Let this be one of many.

U2 The Complete Boston '83 Tapes

Bootleg album covers are hit or miss, really, and this one is typical of a bootleg you might have found in a record store that probably closed ten or twelve years ago. As a matter of fact, when I see that "swinging' pig" emblem, I remember the one that was located in downtown La Crosse, Wisconsin. Is it still there?

U2 gave more than a few memorable shows in Boston, Massachusetts and for them it was like a home town gig. These bootlegs are incomplete and less than the real thing.

Wouldn't it be great if U2 released all of the Boston shows, in sequence, remastered and with comments and liner notes? Boston, from their first show through the Joshua Tree tour. Who, in their right mind, wouldn't buy that?

Jay Mohr Channels His Inner Douchebag

Now that Jay Mohr has been handed his ass back to him for fat-shaming Alyssa Milano, we have to deal with his personal breakdown in public? Because he was a jackass to another man's wife who had just had a baby?

This generation is full of people who haven't figured out that you kinda have to watch what you say when you become a public figure. We have few, if any, real broadcasters anymore because people don't learn from the mistakes of others and censor themselves actively when they have a half-bright idea. When there's a microphone in front of you, suppress your inner douchebag. That's got to be a given at some point.

Joe Hundley Goes to Jail

Remember this asshole?

Joe Hundley assaulted a child on a flight because he was unable to control himself in a public place. His rage, anger, and racism caught up with him and now he gets to spend eight months in a federal prison.

When people try to make the argument that there isn't any racism anymore, throw old Joe's picture in their face.

As difficult as it might be for some people, you can't discipline the children of other people. It might seem okay, and you might be thinking we still live in a time when it's okay, but it isn't okay and it will get you in trouble. Maybe not Joe Hundley kind of trouble, but trouble nonetheless. Joe's first day in Federal custody should go really smoothly once everyone finds out he hit someone who isn't even two years old.


OOMF Explained

The BBC Trending page wants to know--what does oomf mean and what context does it have in relation to social media?

The hashtag #oomf has a number of definitions, and I'm not going to say that mine is the definitive one. But I will take a crack at what it implies. Translated, the acronym "oomf" means "one of my friends" or "one of my followers." This is an important distinction when it comes to giving others credit for something.

Much of what you see on social networking sites comes from things that are shared; the number of people who do original work or come up with original items is much smaller than the overall network. You have one out of ten people, perhaps, supplying the fodder or the material that others talk about. One way to rise up is to create unique things and have been share what you've done with their followers.

Now, there are two things to remember. One, ometimes, people want to make it clear that they didn't come up with the original idea that is being shared around the social networking site. They want to be honest and say, "this is cool, but one of the people who follows me or a friend of mine came up with it." This properly assigns credit; it can mark the user as being an honest person. This is why putting down #oomf works--it shows credibility and character; being trustworthy and having a semblance of ethics makes people want to connect with you.

The other use for #oomf is when you want to deflect criticism. "Don't blame me--I didn't come up with this!" is one way out of trouble. Say that you have decided to share something foul or outrageous. If you put #oomf in there and claim one of your followers came up with the filthy joke, then you can reassign blame or accountability. This can help preserve fragile relationships.


They are claiming that Lady Gaga has put out a record which lost $25 million dollars and that this fact alone is why Interscope Records has laid people off.

How is that possible? Who was the idiot who spent that kind of money? Didn't they hear the album and realize that it was going to get a limited response? They should have downplayed it and made it into a more artistic statement album and not hyped it. When you're handed weak material, you should be savvy enough to realize that, while it's worth putting out, it's not going to blow the roof off of the joint. That's why you still have record labels, or so one would think.

Lady Gaga will have to figure out how to make a comeback when all is said and done. Will they let her? Will there even be a record industry next year?

The Ice Bound Icebreaker

I've been following the story of the various icebreakers, research ships, and whoever else is stuck in the ice off the coast of Antarctica for over a week now and I never see answers to the one question that I have:

Is any of this worth risking lives over?

As soon as it became apparent that there were going to be issues, why didn't they just get the people out of there and head home until the Southern Hemisphere's version of warmer weather arrives? Leave the damned thing there and come back and get it later.

The Kinks Are 50

The disposable world of pop music will see a milestone this year--the Kinks are fifty years old.

Will they or won't they get together and do something dignified and artistic? It doesn't all have to be about money, does it? Let us hope not.

Jam Bands and the Phony War on Drugs

Is it worth the trouble to go see a band like Phish and risk getting busted by the cops for using recreational drugs? Is it worth it to venues and to communities?

When Phish played near my house this past summer, the sound was overwhelming. To hear Mike Gordon play scales going nowhere and to hear the throb and hum of their improvisations is unpleasant enough but I can't imagine how much of a buzzkill it would have to be to end up getting frisked and taken away over the same drugs everyone uses at every other show. This sort of band isn't my thing, but I have to sympathize with the fans who use the lion's share of their dwindling disposable income to go see them, only to end up scratching around for bail money.

It's a phony war on drugs. A sitting Congressman can get busted for buying cocaine and go to rehab; a Phish fan can get busted for molly and spend the night in jail and have to go to court. What a scam.

No one uses drugs when they go see Arcade Fire? Really? And this isn't about making easy arrests at a jam band show?


America is Going to Hell All Over Again

Hamilton Nolan eviscerates the purple prose and the oh-my-God-I'm-out-of-ideas stance of Kathleen Parker's latest column. It really is funny to see people, year in and year out, tell us everything is turning to shit before our eyes when it really isn't and when history repeats itself, and Parker gives us laughs a-plenty.

This is what I wanted to talk about:

From Miley Cyrus’s naked cavorting on a wrecking ball — well, one can at least admire her metaphoric succulence — to Anthony Weiner’s Twitter projections of His Very Own Self, we have lost all sense of decorum, that voluntary commitment to behavior that combines a willingness to consider others first (at minimum keeping our clothes on), enforced through the exercise of self-restraint.

Anthony Weiner does not hold elected office; Representative Trey Radel does. Radel is a sitting Congressman and he got caught buying cocaine in Washington D.C. and he got away with going to rehab because he's a rich white man. Weiner is splay-legged and hanging from a leather strap covered in cream cheese in his living room with his underwear knotted around his forehead, jacking it to the ceiling for all anyone cares, and the voters were smart enough to hold him accountable. Will Parker and the voters remember to hold our hard-drug using Republican Congressman to that same standard when Radel wins re-election in November? Because he probably will come back to Congress and he probably will keep using recreational drugs and telling people to go eff themselves when they politely suggest that he maybe isn't fit for elected office.

I'm sorry to have to explain this to anyone older than forty, but Miley Cyrus is just Madonna with a little Prince thrown in. Remember when Madonna and Prince were the End of Western Civilization? Remember when Led Zeppelin was going to destroy the culture and pervert everyone and everything? Remember when Elvis and his hips couldn't be shown on television? That's what they wave in the air, like an old bloody shirt, when they're stealing all the money, raping the land, and screwing the poor. The coarse, vulgar methods used to entertain the masses become the issue when, ahem, the issue is that people don't have money, jobs, food or shelter, goddammit.

Our elite media is a dismal, rat-fucking failure. The American dream is under water because the homes people can't afford to buy are under water. The criminals who ruined the housing market in this country are running around with money spilling out of their pants. They destroyed the American dream for profit. They were the "best of the best" and they ruined the economy. They betrayed the trust of the banks they worked for and the investment firms that bought up debt, sold that debt, traded it for worthless paper, and crashed the dreams of millions into the abandoned swimming pools that litter the suburban American landscape.

Parker thinks envy is the problem. No, envy isn't the problem. Getting away with messing things up is the problem. No one envies a man who works hard his whole life and builds something; Americans have always admired that. They envy their immediate neighbors, not the abstract lives of the rich. Envy will always exist but gangsters posing as bankers and robber barons is the corrosive chemical that is breaking down trust in the system. If you steal a dollar, you go to jail. If you steal a billion dollars in mortgages, you go to Gstaad for a vacation.

The incompetence of people like Parker--unwilling to hold anyone responsible for things being bad accountable while pretending that pop culture and envy are the driving factors in the decline of America--is the story of our age. They aren't telling anyone anything useful anymore.

La Serenata by Dario Campanile

Dario Campanile La Serenata 2006

This is, possibly, the greatest piece of art, ever. Or it's a fantastic painting of a left-handed woman about to be eaten by a bored lion.

P. J. O'Rourke Embarrasses Himself

P.J. O'Rourke is "back" writing things online and, well, it's not going so well.

His new column at the Daily Beast is out and what you see above is the "payoff" or bottom part of his  effort to get people to read things he has written. The whole thing is straight out of something rejected by the Borowitz Report. Vladimir Putin is gay and that's why he hates gays? Hilarious shit, man. Hilarious shit. Andy Borowitz must be fuming and thinking of a zinger about Bill Clinton right now. Wait--stop me if you've heard this one before. Bill Clinton spent 2013 trying to figure out how to get himself off of RedTube, gave up, and had a three hanky meltdown. Ha! Oh, these things write themselves.

Who the hell talks about RedTube? Is that even a thing? And you gotta love a guy who goes out with a John Kerry joke. Talk about mainlining the zeitgeist through the eyeball.


Anybody can be a humorist these days. Anyone.

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.