30 May 2005

In With A Bang, Out With A Whimper? (CS)

Today was Memorial Day. Obviously, especially for those of you that had the day off. The cacophony of partisan bickering in politics hardly quiets down, but just enough for the occassional moments of reflection. Actually, despite being stuck in a bloody war halfway around the world, It seemed more taken as a free day for BBQ-ing by most rather than a day to hang your flag and watch a parade. I'm not saying that the world should stop to think about the mounting death toll, just noting that aside from those hyper-politically/world event aware, or those with friends/family they knew in the armed forces, there seemed little consideration from the people I observed, despite the situation our country and our soldiers are in.
Gary Trudeau and I believe Dan Rather list the dead in their respective mediums. I believe Rather was called unpatriotic for doing so last year, I doubt he'll get as much criticism this year....
I don't have anything particular to contribute here. This Memorial Day has been particularly confusing and depressing. There is no end in sight to this war, "major combat operations" be damned. So what the hell happens now? When does it end anyway? I will give it this... It was a beautiful day out today here in the city.

I've been listening a lot to A Silver Mt. Zion's latest release and I feel like the "side project" has all of a sudden surpassed the "original" cuz I like this better than not only previous Mt. Zion records, but also better than Godspeed. Anyway, here's some lyrics from the first track of the album for today:

There's fresh meat in the club tonight
God bless our dead marines
Someone had an accident above the burning trees
While somewhere distant, peacefully
Our vulgar princes sleep
Dead kids dont get photographed
God bless this century

27 May 2005

The Olympics Used To Be A Good Thing, Right? (CS)

New York isn't the only city with problems regarding the Olympics, Stadiums, and preserving old architecture in the face of development. Beijing faces a nightmare right now as "progress" for the Olympics steamrolls on through. A 2,8000 acre Olympic green sounds like it'll be awfully nice, but where are the 300,000 newly homeless going to go during and after the Olympics?

Rome is Babbling (CS)

So i've only seen his show twice and i probably won't ever again since i've given up TV priveleges, but I still catch the occasional Jim Rome clip thanks to ESPN.com's little on sight clip player they have and i just have to ask, does anyone honestly like this asshole? It seems that all he does is find as many people and stories he can tear apart, make fun of, or be terrible about. Perhaps every once in a while Rome will give some credit where credit is due, but this is always overshadowed by the overwhelming negativity. Rome's 15 minutes came and went when he pissed of Jim Everett enough to get attacked, now he's trying to extend that image of being an inciteful (is that a word? cuz it's a good pun, no?) jerk into a professional career.
And of course, when you base your entire schtick around being a reactionary asshole, you're going to wind up eating your words. And when you're as big of a dick as Rome, you're going to be doing it on a daily basis. After game one of the NBA's Eastern Conference finals, Rome totally attacked Dwayne Wade, saying that other writers have been way too fast to praise Wade considering the poor preformance he had just had against Detroit. After game two, however, Rome was back to calling Wade "one of the greats." There's no denying that Wade is an extraordinary player..... And Sports commentators may be guilty of a bit of hyperbole with Flash.... But that's just part of the job. The problem with Rome is that he's all over the place and going out of his way to be a jerk while doing it. What's worse, he seemed to be admonishing Shaq for his becoming a sheriff recently (which is a funny story in itself) and criticized the big man for saying he wanted to work undercover. Rome didn't think that one of the biggest joke makers in the NBA today was just being a little silly when he said that?
In the world of sports commentary, Rome borders on the absolutely delusional. Any chance he's the lost son of Skip Bayless?

And as long as I'm on the sports kick, here's a nice feature on one of baseball's legends who started his 30th season yesterday in San Diego and now I regret missing a chance to see him play recently in Newark.

25 May 2005

Bush does something good! And promotes Hydrogen! (CS)

Here's to hoping we actually figure that technology out and all. We certainly have enough reasons.

A Few Good Men (CS)

Laurence O'Donnel here says that he believes McCain's negotiation of a compromise reagarding Bush's preferred judges is "the bravest political act of the century." Hyperbole aside, there are certainly other actions we can consider braver, even by Senator McCain himself. Most notably, I would cite his staunch support of Citizens Against Government Waste especially against pork-barrel spending. Pork is, to me, the most disgusting and dissapointing part of our government and yet Sanator McCain seems to be certainly in the minority fighting against it. It is absolutely crushing that our tax dollars might go toward padding the pockets of congressmen, their friends, or their pet projects that have minimal (if any) impact for the better.
In his tenure Senator McCain has exhibited a frankness in attitude, a comittment against corruption and, within this latest newscycle, a capability for compromise and statesmanship. Can you imagine if he had won the Republican nomination in 2000 instead of Bush what better hands we would have been in? For that matter, what better shape the Republican party would have been in, as I would assume he would have torn Al Gore a new one and not left the party with the stigma of stealing an election.
Yes, McCain has made certain political maneuvers at times. Most recently one could cite his support of GW Bush in the 2004 election, particularly dissapointing in light of the whisper campaign in South Carolina that really derailed McCain's campaign in 2000 (second item down compiles news sources reporting on Bush/Rove's dirty tactics against McCain). All the same, when taken in comparison to his colleagues, McCain is the guy you want sticking up for you.
The President's approval rating has been hitting a record low, but it is at least salvageable in comparison to Congress's approval rating which has absolutely tanked (as of last month only 37% thought they were doing a decent job... and it's only gotten worse). I wonder, without the handful of men and women like Senator McCain among their ranks, where would they be?

Nuclear Option THIS!! (CS)

So......... North Korea says it is willing to use a pre-emptive strike, if they deem it necessary (or at the very least, they're whipping out that sort of rhetoric before coming to the nuclear bargaining table).
More likely than not, they're just trying to bolster their position before talks start regarding their nukes, our nukes, everybodies nukes.... But the phrase "pre-emptive strike" is frightening as all hell when even remotely associated with nuclear weapons.
Of course, need I even mention where the modern precedent of pre-emptive strike is coming from?

A Blow Is Struck Against The Image of Enlightened Europeans (CS)

So Belgium (excuse me, Belguim) thinks just making use of purposeful typos on its IDs will confuse and fool counterfeiters. Sure, it kills some of the counterfeits out there now but.... Since this is being reported in the news, aren't they just going to change the things they make as well? Just a very silly and superficial measure, it seems.

21 May 2005

Would I Be Upset If Someone Flushed An Issue of Batman Down A Toilet? (CS)

Not too long ago, Micheal Chabon posted in his blog a response that he wrote to a New York Times Book Review that went unpublished. I found it particularly interesting as one of the most well thought out and reasoned defenses of comic books as a medium that i've seen in a while.
I thought it really great where he took to task the common idea that comics are a base medium for cynical or even depraved impulses:
As for comics, one has only to turn to the characteristic output of Marvel Comics, for the period from about 1961 to about 1975, to find not an expression of base and cynical impulses but of good, old-fashioned liberal humanism of a kind that may strike us today, God help us, as quaint, but which nevertheless appealed, in story after story, to ideals such as tolerance, technological optimism, and self-sacrifice for the benefit of others.

I always felt that I learned some of my greatest lessons through comic books. Many of these lessons are ones we find unfortunately absent from society and our leaders ("with great power comes great responsibility" comes to mind... as does the unwavering committment of the majority of comic book heroes to not take a life). Comics even, especially these days and perhaps particularly within the realm of capes and cowls, provide us with the idea that the "good guy" is not always right. Various heroes and their differing outlooks on the world can come into conflict. The big boy scout that is Superman often comes into conflict with Batman and some of his questionable tactics who in turn is a bit too conservative and shady for the Green Arrow. It doesn't make one more or less right or just than the other of course.
I'm not about to put comics on the same level as some of the great philisophical and ethical works in history.... But they sure are easier to digest than Republic or Thus Spoke Zarathustra.


I respectfully disagree. Who knew it was possible?

My esteemed and infinitely respected colleague Craig makes some good points in the belowsaid article. Thomas Friedman does indeed suck and is the sanctimonious piece of shit's sanctimonious piece of shit. Which makes him a perfect fit for the Times editorial page, where he and like-minded and similarly myopic paleoliberals can giggle and compare looseleaf doodles of Bush getting it in the ass from Rumsfeld while sucking Cheney off, and hey, how many of us can claim to have landed his dream job? How it must have saddened these intellectual giants when Secretary Powell fled the Bush-Dick-Colin troika. Especially that bitch Maureen Dowd. What tired Third Reich parallels have you constructed this week, Maureen?

However, fair is fair, and while Friedman by no means gets it right in this column, his suggestion for an alternative reaction on the part of the Administration to the Newsweek debacle is definitely a marked improvement over how we actually responded. I didn't think the hypothetical statement posited by Friedman was as condescending as Craig took it. There are many in the Arab world who feel similarly; that Islamist insurgents are directionless rabble-rousers who, directly and indirectly, hurt other Muslims as much as the Americans do.

But two points are lost here. One is on Friedman's part. The reason White House press hound Scott McClellan laid so heavily into Newsweek and basically ignored the vile inhumanity on the part of the protestors in Afghanistan is this: At this point, American conservatives hate liberals more than they hate terrorists. Especially the press. Conservatives would rather string Bill Clinton up by his good-looking neck than allocate the funds and troops necessary to find Osama bin Laden (we're still looking for him, right?). Note the complete shift of focus right after the election from terror to the judiciary. The slim majority in the United States is now funnelling all its resources and attention into a War on Liberals. Sean Hannity and his coife never even mention Iraq or bin Laden unless it's to decry and divert liberal "spin" on the matter, or to associate Al Franken with Arab extremism. I mean, come on, what's more vital to American interests, stopping bloodthirsty animals from acquiring and employing weapons of mass destruction, or stopping an "unprecedented" filibuster of judicial nominees?

[By the way, on the filibuster issue, that dick Hannity repeats ad nauseum that "in 214 years of the U.S. Congress, a judicial nominee has never been filibustered until now." It's just not true. In 1968 Abe Fortas' nomination was filibustered by Republicans and southern Democrats. This excerpt from Fortas' entry on Wiki is telling:

In 2005 Abe Fortas again became a focus of controversy as the Republicans attempt to change Senate rules to eliminate filibusters of judicial appointments, a plan they originally called the "nuclear option." Democrats cite the Fortas filibuster as a precedent for their more recent filibusters. Republicans have tried to point out differences between their 1968 actions and what the Democrats have done and some even deny the Fortas filibuster ever happened.

Republicans claim it's "unconstitutional." Hypocrisy aside, if filibustering judicial nominees is unconstitutional, why does it necessitate a rule change and a vote in order to stop it? Can't someone just run on to the Senate floor and say "Hey! This is unconstitutional! It says it right here in the fucking Constitution!" End digression.]

What my friend Craig misses is that the propagation of a War on Terror assumes an authority-subject relationship. President Bush was clear enough on that from the outset without explicitly saying it. It's a war on an idea, so the modus operandi is essentially "We, the warriors against terror, say that there are fundamental aspects of the society in which you, the to-be-warred-against, live which must change. Since we are in the position to wage such a war, you will make the changes we deem appropriate and advantageous to our security and power, or be blown out of your silly little mud huts by a storm of missiles. Have a nice day." Condescension is the name of the game here. It's all a matter of the face put on it. Are you going to humiliate these people, by, say, hooking their genitals up to electrodes and defacing their holy book, or make them feel important, give them nice, pressed uniforms and prestigious-sounding titles (Come on, if you knew that the Americans would be taking care of everything, wouldn't you assume the presidency of Iraq if it was offered? How cool!). There are pitfalls to either path but the latter is the most expedient.

Put your helmets on. Once things in Baghdad settle down, we're taking Boston.

BAD Muslims, now go sit in time out and think about what you've done (CS)

Thomas Friedman drives me friggen nuts (reg. req. of course.... good ol' Times). Here's a guy that regularly writes editorials for the Times, has a somewhat popular book out, and you would think is at least moderately intelligent. And yet, he can't see how ridiculous it is in his first paragraph to think that our poor image in the Muslim world has solely to do with words and not, say.... dropping bombs. Have no fear though, Friedman does give us a way toward improving our image. No, it has absolutely nothing to do with the nuts and bolts of policy and how we treat the rest of the world. What we should do, according to Friedman, is just give them a stern talking to.
I'll admit, I'm not incredibly familiar with Friedman's style. Perhaps he was trying to be a bit tongue in cheek when he suggested that Bush, of all people, tell Muslims about a reverence for life. I mean, clearly a fancy pants journalist like Friedman must realize how tainted such an attitude must be coming from our current administration. Obviously, Mr. Friedman must know that the words of Mr. President are easily drowned out by the chaos and trying times these countries (particularly the two we just spent a couple years shelling) are experiencing. As the Vietnamese explained to Robert McNamara, "blood speaks with a terrible voice."

In the end, the thing that frustrates me most is that Friedman falls into the same trap that apparantly every policy maker, journalist, talking head, etc etc has fallen into time and time again ever since we started setting up ideas of "us" vs. "them" in international policy (which would go back, i dunno, about 100 or so years?). The "trap" i speak of is in thinking that by simply making "them" see things from our point of view, everything will be ok. This is of course to ignore how someone else's history, culture, conditions of life, current gov't (or lack there of), etc etc influences the way they think, the way they see the world. This is of course to ignore taking the step of trying to see things from the receiving end. I think it foolish to think, in a country where we cannot even agree amongst each other about our own rhetoric and "good intentions", much less the "value of life" and whatever the hell that means, that we can convince someone on the other side of the world to see things our way with just a simple fucking speech. You learn in grammar school that actions speak louder than words (even if the pen might be mightier than the sword...) Friedman seems to think a simple talking to (or more specifically, a talking down to) will make everybody see the light.
Friedman is trying to promote what he thinks of as "straight talk" here. Well, what does he expect the response to our explanations of our good intentions to be? I'd be willing to wager money on "That may be so, but we still want you out and we certainly want you to stop killing us" If Mr. Friedman were to read Robert McNamara's Argument Without End maybe he'd see that it was the same case with Vietnam, where good intentions, even vocalized, were simply not enough, especially in light of aggresive and violent action.

Friedman ends his column by saying that Muslims must answer for their "lies, hypocrisy and profane behavior, just as much as we must answer for ours." True.... But who goes first? So far, it certainly hasn't been us, the ones claiming the moral high ground, the ones with all the power.

19 May 2005

My Personal System Wavers Between Sepia (Indignant) and Sea-Foam Green (Sleeping) (CS)

Matt Taibbi shoots and scores with his column this week on the idiocy and shady machinations behind our beloved color coded alert system. It's worth reading for the first couple paragraphs alone, which are pretty funny.... But he brings up interesting points:
1. The convenient timing of everytime the terror alert was heightened
2. The baffling non-coverage of Ridge's recent statements regarding it, as well as reports that MI6 knew that American "intelligence was 'being fixed around the policy' "
3. The utter ridiculousness of it all that it apparantly took them (the administration and the general public) four years to figure out.

I, for one, am certainly afraid now to live in this country, but it's not the terrorists i'm afraid of. When do we get an alert system for heightened stupidity and bullshit?

17 May 2005

Imagine some pun here involving the word "trumped" (CS)

Pataki scrapped the Freedom Tower design. I kinda liked it. I say, why not have futuristic, daring, and interesting designs? NYPress apparantly felt the same way, essentially. I'm all for building the city of the future, especially starting down there in the financial district where we'd only be improving the skyline (instead of putting up glass clad luxury condos in areas of actual standing, interesting architecture and history like Cooper Square. blegh.). But that will have to be a topic for another day.
Right now the object of my ire is Donald Trump who has promised to come to the rescue with his own design for the site of what once was the World Trade Center. This is probably gonna suck.
Perhaps I'm speaking a little too soon as the specific design has yet to be unveiled, but I'm a bit wary of Trump's aesthetic. He says he has "gotten great reviews on [his] buildings." Really? Would that include the disgustingly gaudy Trump Tower? Have you seen some of the designs people come up with on The Apprentice that Trump loves? I'm supposed to trust this man's artistic sinsiblities? Shrewd businsman? perhaps..... Having an artistically and architecturally inclined eye? I don't think so.
Trump's plan essentially calls for just rebuilding the towers "taller and stronger." Brilliant. He is truly looking forward, a man of incredible vision. He called the original design "egghead." What the hell does that mean? Should we call Trump's design "combover" or "toupee" headed? Perhaps we shoud just call it "pucker-faced."
Yeah yeah, I can hear it now, "Craig, you've slipped into a bit ad hominem there." Yeah? Well are YOU telling ME you're excited about Donald Trump defining our skyline?
And just by a show of hands, how many of you out there friggen hate how he's called The Donald????

Why I Hate Business Atmospheres.... (CS)

Following closely on the heels of my post on what big meanies we all are these days, I read an article from monster.com on whether being mean pays off in the work place. Apparantly it does! Great! So for those of you who measure success by the size of your wallet instead of being good to your fellow man, you can feel well encouraged that things are working out entirely in your favor, at least career-wise. Kudos to assholes and jerkoffs everywhere on a job well done.

16 May 2005

Media Too Liberal, i don't mean politically (CS)

I'm starting to get more and more wary of these polls and surveys and studies, but here's yet another one that disturbs me regarding the general public and their feelings on reigning in the press...

In one finding, 43% of the public says the press has too much freedom, while only 3% of journalists agree. And just 14% of the public can name "freedom of the press" as a guarantee in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, in the major poll conducted by the University of Connecticut Department of Public Policy

It's not like we can't see where the idignation comes from. Most recently, Newsweek has retracted its story on the desecration of the Koran at Guantanamo, a story that incited riots across the Muslim world which in turn got several people killed and around 100 injured (and clerics threatened delcaring a holy war on the US, but is that even news anymore?). Ah, The power of words! And of course there was Dan Rather's flub with the supposed documents that would have proven that GW Bush did not serve in the National Guard. Even Dave Chappelle doesn't seem to be safe from the media's choking on its own tongue as it was reported by The Drudge Report originally that Chapelle had admitted himself to a looney bin in South Africa (eventually Newsweek again got in on the crappy reporting on this story too, saying even that he might have been smoking crack. Bad week for those guys). Time was nice enough to actually get an interview with the man and it turns out he just saw a shrink for a 40 min meeting and is staying with a friend. Measured response to stress, i'd say.

What's really the problem here? It's complicated, of course. The internet and technology making information so readily avaiable (and demanded immediately), oversaturation of media outlets, specialization and bias and an atmosphere of sexiness and sensationalism where the only way to tear the public away from the latest episode of American Idol or Lost or even Lettermen is to tell them that missing tonight's report "COULD KILL YOU!!!" Mass media, be it internet, televised, or print, is business and they're all trying to stay alive. They play to their audience.

More importantly, what's really the solution? Dissolving the freedom of the press? I have an ever so slight notion that that might be a tad extreme. Maybe it would just be smarter to be aware of what's good reporting and what's sensationalism, develop our own filters to innevitable bias. Maybe it'd be smarter to pay attention to wise critics of the newsmedia (ala John Stewart) and appreciate good journalism where we can find it.

One note, however, you might have missed while reading the article on the poll. Apparantly "only 23% of the general public" interviewed had a college degree. Hmm, i wonder if maybe that had a bit to do with their ignorance of the importance of a free press? Or their blinders towards the idea of "fascism"??? .....i wonder how many of these people are the type to vote for our current administration..... (Surgeon General's Warning: Correlation does not necessarily mean causality). All the same, even without a college degree, one should at least friggen know about the protections provided by the First Amendment.
In the end, the only way to truly safeguard ourselves from all the bullshit and get the press to straighten out and play UP to the public rather than down is to make ourselves wiser. This doesn't necessarily mean having a college degree (1. Our president has one and it doesn't seem to do him much good 2. you should be smart enough without a college degree to know that the 1st Amendment is important) But let's just try not to be mindless drooling morons either.

14 May 2005

Running for Mayor of New York (BR)

So I made a bit of noise to some friends over the past week about running for Mayor. Bloomberg is a joke, but so are the main Democratic challengers, particularly Fernando Ferrer, former Bronx Borough President who will likely get the nomination and proceed to have his ass walloped in the general election. So I drew up a basic platform and was going to seriously give it a shot before I checked New York election law and found that I was a tad bit late in considering my candidacy. If you read this and feel like bringing a pen into the ballot booth when election day rolls around, please write me in, I'm one candidate who'll truly appreciate your vote. Nevertheless, this is the blueprint from which all four Democrats should work if they hope to defeat Mayor Mike in November:

Brendan Rogak
Democrat for Mayor of New York City

a Not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry.
b Favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; broad-minded.

I. Opt out of No Child Left Behind:
Countless municipalities, cities and even entire states have decided to forego the Federal dollars provided by the wasteful education program in order to shuffle off the headaches of uniform national curriculae and testing procedures, the pressure of meeting unfair and arbitrary Department of Education standards, and to reclaim local control of schools for teachers, principals and parents. New York should, too. If we care about kids, we as a city can spend a little more of our own money to give them the education they deserve.

II. Abolish the MTA:
The Metropolitan Transit Authority is a slush fund that is accountable to no one. This boondoggle of an agency forced working New Yorkers to shell out even more cash for subway service and bridge tolls last year, with no discernable improvement in service, while sitting on a surplus for the next fiscal year. Peter Kalikow and his PR henchmen admit that the fare hike was for an MTA "rainy day" fund, and who knows where the added revenue will really go. We're not allowed to know; the MTA refuses to open its books. While the Mayor of New York does not have the power to abolish the agency, if its elimination were a central tenet of a successful candidacy for Mayor, the MTA would be forced to clean up its act or face aggressive lobbying at the state level for its deletion. My administration would push to replace the MTA with a new Transit Board headed by a democratically elected Transportation Commissioner. We citizens are the lifeblood of public transportation, so we should be responsible for its oversight and management.

III. Go head-to-head with the President on Homeland Security:
The new Homeland Security bill, against the advice of the 9/11 Commission, distributes anti-terror funds where they are not needed, thereby depriving New York and other targeted cities of the money and resources needed to fight terror or respond in the event of an attack. It's time for President Bush and the Republican Congress to step up and honor their rhetorical commitment to protecting all Americans - not just those in the states that elect them to office.

IV. Legalize, regulate and tax marijuana:
The time has come to allow New Yorkers to decide what goes into their bodies. For far too long, otherwise peaceful and law-abiding people have been blackballed as second-class citizens and lived in fear of arrest and prosecution simply for using a substance which, in and of itself, is relatively harmless. Marijuana has never killed anybody; enforcement of marijuana laws has killed many and ruined thousands of lives. Illicit drug use is a fact of life, but drug legislation is not a deterrent; if anything, it is an enticement. At the same time, we ignore a promising source of tax revenue by maintaining criminal laws against marijuana, and justify public cynicism about government when we allow the sale and consumption of tobacco and alcohol. My administration would legalize the sale of marijuana in small amounts in city-licensed coffee shops and tobacco outlets. The income to be had from taxation on marijuana would pay for a complete overhaul of the city's education infrastructure, as well as supplement other basic maintenance and social welfare programs. But with this new freedom would come new responsibility, and so we would severely stiffen penalties for operation of a motor vehicle while under marijuana's influence and for provision or sale of the drug to children. My legalization initiative will also provide immediate amnesty for all non-violent drug offenders currently crowding New York prisons.

IV (a). Circumventing Federal marijuana law:
The City of New York has a history of flouting Federal statutes when they prove inconvenient or unjust for our citizens' welfare. Mayor Bloomberg has championed a law that protects illegal immigrants from deportation, in direct contradiction of Federal law which mandates that illegals be reported to Immigration and Naturalization Services. We can do the same with drug laws; should the Justice Department interfere, we will fight tooth-and-nail in court.

V. Quality of life takes priority over tax giveaway projects:
In 2001, New York City elected a mayor from a strict business pedigree with no experience in running a city. Since Michael Bloomberg's election, city unemployment and welfare rolls have increased, firehouses have closed, black and Latino high school graduation rates have hovered near a shameful 50%, and the men and women of our Police Department have not seen their heroic actions and sacrifices honored with a fitting salary increase. Bloomberg even remained mute on the much-needed - and thankfully successful - minimum-wage hike. His Honor has, instead, focused his energy and support on two stadium projects. One, on the West Side of Manhattan, will exponentially increase traffic congestion and sink $600 million of tax money into a project that the New York Jets could easily finance themselves. The other, in downtown Brooklyn, targets hundred-year old historic brownstone houses for demolition, would create similar traffic nightmares and cause rents in this relatively affordable neighborhood to skyrocket. Interestingly, Bloomberg and the commission he stacked with sympathizers approved the West Side Jets deal over a more generous offer from Cablevision/Madison Square Garden that would have provided for new housing, shopping, schools, parks and libraries. It almost seems as if the entire Bloomberg administration has been a concentrated campaign to drive the poor and middle-class out of New York. Perhaps he's uncomfortable sharing a city with folks outside his tax bracket.

Stadiums, theatres, and other public entertainment projects are vital to the health and culture of any city, and we welcome all forms of private investment. But the city and its denizens must benefit in general from new construction, and we must prioritize wisely. Given the shortage of affordable housing in New York City and rising costs of living, not to mention the lack of buildable space in the areas of the two proposed stadiums, the Bloomberg plan is an inarguably bad deal for New York.

There's more, of course, but I gave it up after checking election law. Here you go, Democrats. Thank me in November.

Flushing, America (BR)

Forget about the inmates running the asylum. Just let them switch places with their masters for a day.

Condi Rice goes into damage control mode re: Koran flushing

Op-ed: The U.S. must shut down the Guantanamo Bay war prison/detention center. We here at Whippersnapp understand the need for a place to house prisoners of war. Gitmo isn't it. We need a place on our own soil, not some lawless no-man's-land on an island whose political philosophy we claim to despise. A center where the wardens and guards are subject, at least in theory, to US and international law.

Our nation was founded on principles of respect for human dignity and presumption of innocence. Conservative estimates suppose that at least half of the inmates at Guantanamo have never been affiliated with any terrorist or violent resistance group, and were instead picked up in massive sweeps of brown people in the Middle East.

From the get-go, President Bush has made the claim that the war on terror is not a war on Islam. I found it reassuring in the days after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, but now it's a hard sell. Particularly when all military action has been taken against Islamic countries (more is being planned) and low-level officers have been given a tacit green light to treat all POWs as subhumans. Now we have wardens at Gitmo flushing the Koran down the toilet? These days even applicants for office work are administered psychological exams prior to employment, you're telling me the US government doesn't screen for psychopaths like these?

But monkeys do as monkeys see, and with Herr Rumsfeld and Senor Gonzales giving winking nods to borderline and overt torture of prisoners - even though every single study ever conducted on the matter indicates that intelligence gleaned from victims of torture is unreliable - what do we expect from the prison guards? But we must remember that guards at POW camps, even if they are active military, are not in the line of fire. They do not deserve the same benefit of doubt we must give to our fighting men. Camp guards work in a controlled environment. Their charges are in cages. Many of them are on hunger strike. Many of them are also innocent of all wrongdoing and have been denied trial. Some of them have even been declared as non-threats and are still not allowed to leave. When they are set free, they will likely be brought back to their despotic home countries, where they will be radicalized or killed.

We're doing all this backwards. We're supposed to be setting an example for the undemocratic, unjust tyrannies of the world, not co-opting their tactics. Every day we are shooting ourselves in the foot in the promulgation of the war on terror. Eventually it will come to a point where we deserve to lose.

11 May 2005

What We Really Need is to Ride the Statue of Liberty through the City while Blasting "YOUR LOVE KEEPS LIFTING ME HIGHER!!!" (CS)

Plenty of things to comment on after reading this week's NY Press (i'm sure i'll get to my feelings on the rape of Coney Island eventually) but I couldn't avoid one article by Mark Ames. For those too lazy/busy to read, here's the passage that really piqued my interest:

The Republicans are selling a product that Middle America wants to buy, and it's a far better product than what the Democrats have to offer. That product is meanness. Americans are hooked on meanness, and that meanness is everywhere, particularly at the workplace, where American workers have been getting increasingly reamed for almost three decades

Now, the ol' "working man is getting dicked by a heartless economy/nation" is no new battlecry, but i feel he has a point that now more than ever "meanness" gets returned by the low man on the totem pole to the consumers or even everyone around them.
I'm about to go anectdotal on y'all. My mother recently had to get the front windshield replaced on her car. She happened to come across an ad in the newspaper for an autobody shop that you could get something like $25 off anything that costs more than $100 ( or something like that). The mechanic was a young guy, just starting out his own business. The work itself was cheap and quick, she got the discount, they drove the car back for her, and he even called her to ask her if she was pleased by the service and said he could send someone out to remove the tape from the windshield. She was also absolutely suprised by all this, which i suppose gets to my point. Why is this so rare today? We've come to actually expect asshole mechanics that rip you off, bored and angry food service workers that screw up orders and blame it on you, customer service people that will loudly sigh or even yell in your face...the list goes on. I have a notion that things weren't always like this. The debate on "mom and pop" vs. "big box" and commercialism has many facets, but to borrow the example from a toothpastefordinner strip, should we be suprised when we get shitty service from "a multinational corporation who beefs up its profits by underpaying its apathetic seventeen your old employees" ??
I don't mean to sound like someone out of a Frank Capra film and some people that know me well might call me a hypocrite on this one, but has it gotten so hard for the common working man (or not working, whatever) to be nice? Is honest service with a smile such a rarity now or am i just being cynical and tainting my observations with bias? Don't you think if you were a little more kindly to your neighbor it might work out well down the line? How come its cool to be mean and "hard" and why's everyone gotta have that "just about to shoot someone" look on their face all the time? Can't we relax a little? So c'mon, be a little friendlier. Don't get so worked up over stuff. Let's be good to each other and if we all pitch in yadda yadda yadda.....
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna go watch Ghostbusters II.

09 May 2005

Free Stuff Finale (CS)

So like an idiot I promised myself i'd do three parts of "Hey, Here's stuff That I Like That is Free!" and i did have a third post in mind, so here it is:

I've been a big Onion fan for what's probably about six or so years by now and i'm sure it's top of the list as everyone's favorite satirical news publication, but it's been only in the last year or two that i've really started loving the A/V section.
They give decent music reviews, film reviews, book reviews and even video game reviews. Last week's edition even had a nice writeup on Freakonomics (which seems worth a read) and a whole bunch of great comics coming out (see how i sorta turned this whole trilogy full circle? No? ok, screw you). There's also at least one interesting interview, sometimes two.
But my favorite features (at least lately) in this section have got to be Films That Time Forgot and DVD Commentary Tracks of The Damned. Where else can we find out about one of the best terribly bad that it's funny movies ever made as well as hear about all the ass kissing and track covering that goes on in the DVD commentary tracks of terrible movies we'd have to be forced to watch? These sections occasionally manage to be just about as funny as the front page....no satirization required for our pop culture apparantly, simply state it as is. Man, are we stupid.
Don't be afraid to read a little extra of the Onion. You could go without that extra half hour of tv, i'm sure the tivo will get you all caught up when all is said and done.

08 May 2005

The Terror of the Technological Age (CS)

Google went down for a couple of hours yesterday (requires registration). I was trying to use it and was shocked to see that it was down. I almost didn't know what to do. Sure, there are other search engines, but are you actually going to use them when google is available? and if google were to dissapear completely (knock on wood) i'm sure you would all miss it and curse yahoo's ugly face.
To make matters worse, I had to check my gmail too and that was down even longer. (i know, "boohoo, poor craig couldn't reach his e-mail for a couple of hours, let's put together some rock groups and have a relief effort for all his trials and tribulations")
For me, it was just yet another reminder of being ruined by modern convenience. The old phrase is "necessity is the mother of invention" but i think i once saw it put as "invention is the mother of necessity" (I can't remember if it was in Guns, Germs and Steel or Ishmael). The more great gadgets, technological advances, etc that we get, the less skills i think we honestly have, the more dependent we actually are on our tools rather than ourselves.
Don't get me wrong, I love this stuff. I have this "blog" for chrissake and when it comes to gmail i think that's one type of homogenization i actually support (everyone should just get an account as Firstname.Lastname@gmail.com so i can friggen remember how to send you e-mail easily). So y'know, it's a real love/hate thing i have going on with the modern world.
I guess all i'm trying to say is "Dear google, don't leave me again. I love you, baby. We'll be together, forever.... Especially once i upload my self into your datastream (or some such nonsense)"

07 May 2005

100% inappropriate. (BR)

The "next blog" button should come with a disclaimer. I just found my new favorite web artifact, though Wanita hasn't posted for about a month. Hope she comes back to the community. I plan to write her love letters and picket outside whatever third-world Carribbean scumhole she posts from.

Its one thing getting banged up for being a lady of the night
but fuck me if me bitch scarmaine dont go
on the beat with me with a kilg of crack stuffed
up her ass, I gave her da fooking shoe horn ta get
the fooker out, but she must of forgot becaues lets face it
with a little thing like a kilg of crack up ya ass your bound to
forget, We only had another 3 days added
so all is well.

06 May 2005

Politics Married to Corporations? (CS)

MSNBC provides us with "Lawmakers often fly on corporate jets"
Go ahead and read the article and you do the math.

Penguin madness minute (BR)

More proof that this world is far too crazy to live in:

Chlamydia Outbreak Kills a Dozen Penguins (Yahoo)

The bacteria, which was most likely transmitted to the birds by an infected seagull [ed. note: WHAT THE FUCK?], is spread through airborne saliva or other bodily fluids, said Bob Jenkins, the zoo's director of animal care and conservation. A similar disease is sexually transmitted in humans.

I promise there'll be some real news with real commentary after Mom's Day.

05 May 2005

I *heart* Free Stuff (part II of III) (CS)

(part I being the "Free Comic Book Day" posts, i suppose....)

Fellow New Yorkers, I implore you to begin reading, regularly, my favorite free weekly, New York Press.
I mean not for this call to go out solely to New Yorkers (the publication is available to everyone online, god bless you Technology) because of course there's always an article or two that could be considered "something for everyone." And sure, The L Magazine has its great articles too, a better music section, and its mid-magazine coupons are pretty conducive to any New Yorker's mission toward becoming an alcoholic. But no paper seems so directly concerned with the issues of New York itself as NYPress.

Their News Hole has the most well written Crime Blotter around, columnists are always sure to point out Bloomberg's latest fuckups, and their 50 Most Loathsome New Yorkers is becoming a notorious yearly feature. Even an article on the importance of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is careful to point out the debate's ramifications for New Yorkers specifically. Most importantly, though, I have seen no publication dedicated to investigating, outing, and criticizing the crapification of New York, an issue very near and dear to my heart (NB: I realize i am not the first to use "crapification" but i think i MIGHT be the first to use it in reference to NY, anyone wanna check for me?)
And really, what other free weekly are you going to pick up? (not that you shouldn't grab them all, they're free!) The New York Blade is a bit too specialized in scope and if you're going to ratio its weight to its enlightening content, The Voice is trash. Let's face it, The Voice has gotten so full of itself and tiresomely liberal that it almost justifies the gripes from the right about "whining libruls" and even occasionally prints pieces that are reactionary to itself (and does anyone actually read that Dulce Musto crap??). Granted, I'll take Dan Savage over Judy McGuire any day and they still carry Tony Millionaire and Tom The Dancing Bug, but even in comics NYPress has The Voice trumped with Perry Bible Fellowship alone.

So if you care about this city as much as I do and want to keep abreast of the issues that concern it (and be pretty entertained in the process) poke around NYPress a bit. At the very least, we can all wind up joining the conversation in its pages (inspired by a column by Matt Taibbi) about how much Thomas Friedman sucks.

03 May 2005


I'm not into this shit, don't own one and am not planning on buying a PSP, but nice looks on someone creating an all-purpose gadget to control everything electronic in your home.

Next week: "How to wrest control of your home from your PSP."

The Politics of Talking Shit (BR)

Conservatives Love South Park

I had a wonderful birthday weekend, thanks for asking. While I was gone, Frank Rich of the New York Times delivered this fascinating article in response to a new book that claims South Park's politics as conservative politics.

The premise would be too ridiculous to consider if it weren't one of my favorite shows. So let's consider it. Two of South Park's chief icons are a talking piece of feces and Satan, portrayed as a sympathetic and sensitive (albeit homosexual) figure who throws Lu'aus in Hell on Sundays. When it first came out, the program was an avowed target of the ire and fascistic censorial tendencies of the Religious Right, in the same boat with Marilyn Manson and Bill Clinton.

But conservatives ready to count Trey and Matt as kindred spirits would do well to treat themselves to season six when it comes out on DVD. Six finds Parker and Stone at their best, working ascerbic storylines with cultural politics to the best effect of the season's nine-year run. In episode 12, "A Ladder to Heaven," Stan, Kyle and Cartman try to contact Kenny - who was permanently dead for about a season - in order to find their winning raffle ticket. The parents, predictably, misinterpret the boys' motives and soon the whole town rallies around their efforts, attracting fawning media attention. Country singer Alan Jackson is skewered throughout the episode, showing up on the scene with a tribute song he's penned - lyrics: "Where were you when they built a ladder to heaven/Did it make you cry, or did you think it was kinda gay/Well I for one believe in a ladder to heaven/Nine-eleven/nine-eleven, nine-eleven nine-eleven" - and soon the US government commandeers the project to compete with the Japanese, who are building their own ladder. Intelligence services learn that Saddam Hussein is in heaven, building illegal weapons. The scene of most interest finds President Bush at the United Nations, pointing to an unintelligible smudge on a large photo of the sky.

President Bush: We believe Saddam Hussein is stockpiling weapons of mass destruction - in heaven.

UN delegate: Are you high, or just retarded?

President Bush: I assure you, I am not high.

Righties who find an ideological rapport with South Park and its creators because of its lambasting of easy targets like Barbara Streisand and Rob Reiner conveniently omit that the same "geniuses" also produced a Comedy Central show called That's My Bush!, which hit the air shortly after the President's 2001 inauguration. That's My Bush!, which was generally uninspired but enjoyable for Timothy Bottoms' spot-on Bush impression and Kurt Fuller's deadpan Karl Rove, unquestionably portrayed the President as a bumbling moron. This is all not to mention Team America's world policy synopsis of America as "dicks" to the "pussies" on the anti-war Left and the "assholes" repped by Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong Il.

South Park does not and will not fit easily into the left-right paradigm. Rich gets it when he refers to Parker and Stone's libertarianism. At the end of the day, the aim of the show is to expose and ridicule extremism and self-righteousness wherever it's found, a mission which Trey Parker and Matt Stone accomplish so well that it's understandable why ideologues on both the left and right each want them on their side.

Heros in the Good Ol' Days (CS)

So I realize we haven't posted anything in a while, so here's a little entertainment for you all. I was reading Marvel Milestones #19 which had a pretty fantastic story from the Secret Wars series (yeah yeah, to you non-comic types this is reading as "blah blah blah" but hang in there) and i came across this simply amazing panel:

Marvel Milestones #19

So, that's Ben Grimm (The Thing) in his underwear, Hawkeye without his arrows, and they managed to disarm Klaw and The Lizard with.... a game of pattycake? No, I did not edit that panel. Yeh, i'm just as confused as you are.
But hey, let me take this opportunity to remind you folks once again that Saturday is FREE COMIC BOOK DAY (and who doesn't like free stuff??). So head on down to your local comic book store and get in on the action.
And hey, it's not all capes and tights. For those of you not into the superhero scene, there's always lots of alternative comics by the likes of Adrian Tomine, James Kochalka, and Jeffrey Brown or even espionage/thriller and crime books like 100 Bullets and The Losers (and of course many more). So do it, get hooked.