Impeccable Logic

Hard to argue with Harry Reid’s reasoning:

On Tuesday, former Vice President Dick Cheney and his daughter Liz Cheney joined the chorus of critics accusing President Barack Obama of abandoning Iraq to radical Islamic militants who have been gaining territory in their march to Baghdad.

“Rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many,” they wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.

But Reid was having none of it.

“If there’s one thing this country does not need, is that we should be taking advice from Dick Cheney on wars,” he said. “Being on the wrong side of Dick Cheney is being on the right side of history. To the architects of the Iraq War who are now so eager to offer their expert analysis, I say, Mr. President, thanks, but no thanks. Unfortunately, we have already tried it your way and it was the biggest foreign policy blunder in the history of the country.”

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Money can’t buy me love (although it can buy lots of steak)

My favorite part of the New York Times’ Eric Cantor autopsy:

One measure of the extraordinary defeat could be seen in the candidate’s finances. Since the beginning of last year, Mr. Cantor’s campaign had spent about $168,637 at steakhouses compared with the $200,000 his challenger, David Brat, had spent on his entire campaign.

The article’s headline – “Cantor’s Loss a Bad Omen for Moderates” – makes no sense on a number of levels. For one, who are these supposed moderate Republicans in Congress? For another, the headline implies that Cantor was himself a moderate, when in fact he was an extremist who made one or two sensible votes to avoid torpedoing the Federal government’s credit. That and his claimed (however disingenuous) desire to consider piecemeal immigration reform rendered him impure in the eyes of the Tea Republican Party.

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Of all the teams to learn from…

The Jets?!?!

Posted in News and Current Events | 2 Comments

The incredible elasticity of the term “terrorism”

John Boehner, upon being asked whether the fatal shooting of two cops and an innocent bystander in Las Vegas constituted domestic terrorism:

“I — I’m not sure how I’d describe it,” he responded to reporters in the Capitol. “But clearly we had a couple of sick individuals who engaged in a horrific crime. And our hearts go out to those families, especially the families of those two officers who went down.”

The perpetrators, identified as Jerad Miller and Amanda Miller, killed two police officers and one civilian before taking their own lives. They appear to have harbored extreme animosity toward the federal government, mixing Second Amendment advocacy with violent rhetoric and open calls for armed revolution.

I wonder why he won’t use the T word….

Posted in News and Current Events | 4 Comments

The World Cup of Corruption

I love watching soccer and I’m excited for the World Cup, but the growing evidence of widespread corruption in domestic leagues and international play is definitely giving me pause:

A soccer referee named Ibrahim Chaibou walked into a bank in a small South African city carrying a bag filled with as much as $100,000 in $100 bills, according to another referee traveling with him. The deposit was so large that a bank employee gave Mr. Chaibou a gift of commemorative coins bearing the likeness of Nelson Mandela.

Later that night in May 2010, Mr. Chaibou refereed an exhibition match between South Africa and Guatemala in preparation for the World Cup, the world’s most popular sporting event. Even to the casual fan, his calls were suspicious — he called two penalties for hand balls even though the ball went nowhere near the players’ hands.

Mr. Chaibou, a native of Niger, had been chosen to work the match by a company based in Singapore that was a front for a notorious match-rigging syndicate, according to an internal, confidential report by FIFA, soccer’s world governing body.

FIFA’s investigative report and related documents, which were obtained by The New York Times and have not been publicly released, raise serious questions about the vulnerability of the World Cup to match fixing. The tournament opens June 12 in Brazil.

And for those who were curious as to how Qatar managed to land the World Cup in 2022, the answer is increasingly clear:

British newspaper alleged on Sunday that a former top Qatari football official paid $US5 million ($5.3 million) to get support for the emirate’s campaign to host the 2022 World Cup.
The Sunday Times said it had obtained millions of emails and other documents relating to alleged payments made by Mohamed Bin Hammam, the then FIFA executive member for Qatar.
It alleged that Bin Hammam, who is also the ex-Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president, used slush funds to pay out the cash to top football officials to win a “groundswell” of support for Qatar’s World Cup bid.
Bin Hammam, who launched an abortive challenge against incumbent FIFA president Sepp Blatter, resigned from his FIFA and AFC posts in 2012, shortly before he was banned for life from football administration by the global governing body’s ethics committee.
The newspaper said Bin Hammam had made payments of up to $US200,000 into accounts controlled by the presidents of 30 African football associations, and hosted hospitality events in Africa at which he handed out further funds, to get backing for Qatar’s bid.
Bin Hammam also paid $US1.6 million into bank accounts controlled by Jack Warner, the former vice-president of FIFA, $US450,000 of which was before the vote for the World Cup, the Sunday Times said.
Warner was one of the 22 people who in 2010 decided to award Russia the 2018 World Cup and Qatar the 2022 tournament. He stood down in 2011.
The Sunday Times also alleged that Bin Hamman paid out at least €305,000 ($447,000) in legal and private detective fees for Reynald Temarii, the disgraced Oceania Exco member, after he was suspended for telling undercover reporters that he had been offered $12m for his vote.

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On Second Thought

A while back I expressed some cynicism regarding JRR Tolkien’s son’s decision to publish his father’s never-before-seen translation of Beowulf:

When I hear that an author’s estate is about to publish a work that the author never considered publishing, I set my expectations pretty low.

If The New Yorker’s Joan Acocella’s review is any guide, though, my concerns were misplaced. She not only enthusiastically endorses Tolkien’s prose translation, but also offers a compelling theory on why Tolkien never published his translation:

As an adult, Tolkien could read many languages—and he made up more, including Elvish—but the number is not the point. Even in secondary school, Carpenter says, “Tolkien had started to look for the bones, the elements that were common to them all.” Or, in the words of C. S. Lewis, his closest friend, for a time, in adulthood, he had been inside language. Perhaps he couldn’t come back out. By this I don’t mean that he couldn’t talk to his wife or his postman, but that Old English, or at least that of “Beowulf,” was where he was happiest. He knew how it worked, he loved its ways: how the words joined and separated, what came after what. Old English is where he spent most of the day, in his reading, writing, and teaching. He might have come to think that this language was better than our modern one. The sympathy may have gone even deeper. Like Beowulf, Tolkien was an orphan. (He was taken in by his grandparents.) He grew up in the West Midlands, and said that the “Beowulf” poet, too, was probably from there. He did not have difficulty living in a world of images and symbols. (He was a Catholic from childhood.) He liked golden treasure and coiled dragons. Perhaps, in the dark of night, he already knew what would happen: that he would never publish his beautiful “Beowulf,” and that his intimacy with the poem, more beautiful, would remain between him and the poet—a secret love.

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Please let the answer be yes

Grantland asks “Are We at Peak Superhero?“:

Even as they dominate the box office, comic-book movies are approaching a moment fraught with peril. If one definition of a bubble is that everybody with an investment to protect insists that it isn’t a bubble, then we should probably take as a warning the breezy assertion of Marvel’s chief creative officer, Joe Quesada, that “We’re not the Western … The sky’s really the limit for us, as long as we as a collective industry continue to produce great material.” But let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and try out a more specific definition: A bubble reaches its maximum pre-pop circumference when the manufacturers of a product double down even as trouble spots begin to appear.

That, I would argue, is what has happened in the last month, in both movies and television. Last season’s prime-time schedule included two hour-long network series based on comic books: S.H.I.E.L.D. and the CW’s Arrow, a clever, Easter egg–packed take on a problematic, frequently overhauled DC character that draws 2 million or 3 million viewers — a true-believers-only audience of a size that would get it canceled on a Big Four network. (S.H.I.E.L.D.’s same-day audience hovers around 6 million.)2 Those aren’t numbers that should spark an imitative frenzy. Nevertheless, everybody wants in on the action. Marvel not only got a S.H.I.E.L.D. renewal but also sold an eight-episode Captain America spinoff, Agent Carter, to ABC. DC oversaw four pilots and saw every one of them go to series — The Flash and iZombie will air on the CW, Constantine (an adaptation of Hellblazer, which spawned an indifferently received Keanu Reeves movie a decade ago) will join NBC’s lineup, and the Batman prequel Gotham, featuring everybody but Batman, is Fox’s big hope for fall. (That’s not even counting the 60 hours of Marvel live-action series, beginning with 13 hours of Daredevil, that Netflix will launch next year.)

Posted in Books, Movies, Pop Culture, Television | Leave a comment

Not going Galt?

Update:I got my Kentucky senators wrong. The quote was from Mitch McConnell not Rand Paul. Leaving the post up in original form below.

Original Post:
Rand Paul, heretic?:

I think that if you were to ask any Republican in Washington which group of Americans stands to benefit most from the ideas and ideals of our party, they’d respond without hesitation that it’s the American middle class, and that any suggestion to the contrary is based on a cheap and dishonest caricature. And yet, I think it must also be admitted that in our rush to defend the American entrepreneur from the daily depredations of an administration that seems to view any profit-making enterprise with deep suspicion – that we have often lost sight of the fact that our average voter is not John Galt. It’s a good impulse, to be sure. But for most Americans, whose daily concerns revolve around aging parents, long commutes, shrinking budgets, and obscenely high tuition bills, these hymns to entrepreneurialism are, as a practical matter, largely irrelevant. And the audience for them is probably a lot smaller than we think.

Paul has been talking out of both sides of his mouth so much lately, it’s hard to keep track of it all, let alone to figure out what his genuine beliefs are. Meanwhile, for those unfamiliar with John Galt, he’s a character from the Republican Party’s New New Testament – Ayn Rand’sAtlas Shrugged. From Wikipedia:

The phrase “going John Galt” or simply “going Galt” has been used by psychologist Helen Smith[13] and others[14][15] to describe productive members of society cutting back on work in response to the projected increase in U.S. marginal tax rates, increased limits on tax deductions, and the use of tax revenues for causes they regard as immoral. Some people who claimed to be “going John Galt” discussed their reasons on a PJTV program in March 2009.[16] “Who is John Galt?” signs were seen at Tea Party protests held in the United States and at banking protests in London in April 2009.[17] Ron Paul’s American presidential campaign of 2008 included a play on the phrase, using “Who is Ron Paul?” on campaign T-shirts; his web site biography uses the same title.

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If you must have them, at least secure them

Indiana:

A Merrillville, Indiana, boy died Saturday after finding a gun in his parents’ bedroom.

According to the Merrillville Police Department, Cash Irby Jr., 4, took the gun from his parents’ bedroom and brought it to his room, where it went off and shot him in the head. Police found the child unresponsive and doctors pronounced him dead at Broadway Methodist Hospital South.

Family member Kelly White-Gibson says the gun was placed on a high shelf in a closet inside the home on the 6400 block of Cleveland Street.

Cash’s parents say the 4-year old must have climbed on something to get his hands on the loaded handgun. The parents were busy with their five-year-old daughter and one-year-old son, when they heard a gunshot coming from Cash’s room.

Texas:

San Antonio police are investigating a deadly shooting on the city’s east side.

Investigators said a 6-year-old girl was shot in the face when a loaded handgun went off.

According to the Bexar County Medical Examiner’s office, she has been identified as Jennilynn Montana.

The accident happened at a house in the 1400 block of Aransas Avenue around 9:45p.m. Sunday.

Police said the girl was rushed to San Antonio Military Medical Center, where she died.

Police on the scene said the girl was playing in a room alone, but they are testing the victim’s 8-year-old sister for gun residue because it’s not clear whether she may have been in the room, as well.

[via TPM]

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Busy Earnin’

This is pretty damn catchy:

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A defensive battle

The New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens will face off in the Eastern Conference Finals, which begin on Saturday. (Some team from Chicago is playing some team from California in the other NHL conference final- the one that nobody cares aobut).

The teams played three times in the regular season and combined for a total of four goals. Let me repeat that – four goals, combined,in three games. All three games were shutouts (2-0, 1-0, 1-0). The Canadians won two of the three, but one of those wins came in a meaningless game on the last day of the season.

Of special concern for the Rangers – they have not played well in Montreal over the past few seasons. In fact, they’ve only managed to score two goals over the course of the past seven games they’ve played in Montreal, and were shutout five times. Can’t win if you don’t score.

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This is actually a thing?

Sandy Hook “trutherism“:

A playground in Mystic, Connecticut, dedicated to a girl shot during the Newtown massacre, is allegedly being vandalized by “truthers” who claim the shooting never took place.

A vinyl sign weighing 50 pounds was stolen last Tuesday from the Grace McDonnell Playground.

The sign featured a peace symbol that was based on the 7-year-old girl’s drawing. She is one of the 20 children shot by Adam Lanza at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut on Dec. 14, 2012.

Grace’s mother, Lynn McDonnell, found out about the theft when a man claiming to have stolen the sign called her.

During a brief conversation, the sign-stealer allegedly told McDonnell that he took the sign because he believes the school shooting was a hoax, CBS2.com reports.

He also taunted her that her daughter never existed, a comment that suggested he thought McDonnell was part of the alleged conspiracy.

I’d just note that if it truly was all a ploy to enact gun control legislation (AND IT MOST CERTAINLY WAS NOT), then it failed miserably.

Posted in News and Current Events | 1 Comment

Late Greats

Bob Dylan covering Frank Sinatra

I saw him perform last summer and he seemed incapable of registering anything more than a whispery growl. Apparently he can still sing when he wants to (although presumably with the assistance of some studio magic).

(Via Stereogum)

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Toning things down?

Armed individuals threaten to murder government employees, and the government’s response is to go into hiding?

With anti-government sentiments roiling in the aftermath of Cliven Bundy’s Nevada standoff, government workers in western Utah are stripping BLM logos from their vehicles after two motorists brandished a gun and displayed a threatening sign at a federal wrangler who was driving Tuesday in Juab County.

The wrangler was driving a load of horses and burros north on Interstate 15 about 11 a.m. near Mills when a dark blue Dodge 1500 extended-cab pickup pulled up alongside the wrangler. The two occupants “told him he was No. 1 with that certain gesture,” said Eric Reid, the wrangler’s supervisor at the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s Fillmore Field Office.

The pickup fell back and the wrangler continued north. A few minutes later, the pickup reappeared, Reid said. The men, wearing hoods, held up a sign, apparently scrawled on a piece of paper, that read, “You need to die.” One of the men pointed what appeared to be a Glock handgun at the wrangler.

The wrangler tried to make out a license plate number, but the plate had been covered with duct tape, Reid said.

I hope the feds have a plan in the works to put an end to this madness and that it can be done peacefully. I don’t know if they thought (or still think) that things would gradually quiet down on their own, but if so, that looks increasinbly naieve.

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Musical hurdles

There are musicians and bands that seem to deliberately place disruptive (and generally unpleasant) interludes, which I have termed hurdles, in their songs. A generous view of this tendency is that it is designed to encourage active rather than passive listening (in the same way an author might include disruptive passages in a book in order to grab the reader’s attention). A less generous view is that it is musical snobbery masquerading as sophistication. Joanna Newsom is a frequent proponent of this technique, with mixed results. Sometimes though, as is the case with the song “Soft as Chalk”, it works really well:

What I’ve termed the hurdle arrives at 1:05-1:25 and then again at 2:05-2:45. As much as I dislike those portions of the song, I think they succeed in drawing attention back to the music and enabling a greater appreciation of the melody when it returns.

Sometimes hurdles are used to transition between melodies or moods. One of the most well-known of these types of hurdles has to be the orchestral crescendo interlude in the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life”:

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I Say a Little Prayer for You

Alabama:

Speaking at the Pastor for Life Luncheon, which was sponsored by Pro-Life Mississippi, Chief Justice Roy Moore of the Alabama Supreme Court declared that the First Amendment only applies to Christians because “Buddha didn’t create us, Mohammed didn’t create us, it was the God of the Holy Scriptures” who created us.

“They didn’t bring the Koran over on the pilgrim ship,” he remarked January 17 at the event in Jackson, Mississippi. “Let’s get real, let’s go back and learn our history. Let’s stop playing games.”

He then noted that he loves talking to lawyers, because he is a lawyer who went to “a secular law school,” so he knows that “in the law, [talking about God] just isn’t politically correct.” He claimed that this is why America has “lost its way,” and that he would be publishing a pamphlet “this week, maybe next” that contained copies of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, thereby proving that all the people “who found this nation — black, white, all people, all religions, all faiths” knew that America was “about God.”

Chief Justice Moore later defined “life” via Blackstone’s Law — a book that American lawyers have “sadly forgotten” — as beginning when “the baby kicks.” “Today,” he said, “our courts say it’s not alive ’til the head comes out.”

“Now,” he continued, “if technology’s supposed to increase our knowledge, how did we become so stupid?” Discussing Thomas Jefferson’s use of “life” in the Declaration of Independence, he said that “when [Jefferson] put ‘life’ in there, it was in the womb — we know it begins at conception. Why aren’t we going the right way instead of the wrong way?”

And before you dismiss this as Alabama just being Alabama, take a look at what’s happening over at the U.S. Supreme Court:

The Supreme Court on Monday ruled that a town in upstate New York may begin its public meetings with a prayer from a “chaplain of the month.”

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the majority in the 5-to-4 decision, said “ceremonial prayer is but a recognition that, since this nation was founded and until the present day, many Americans deem that their own existence must be understood by precepts far beyond that authority of government to alter or define.”

In dissent, Justice Elena Kagan said the town’s practices could not be reconciled “with the First Amendment’s promise that every citizen, irrespective of her religion, owns an equal share of her government.”

Posted in Law | 14 Comments

Spring Mix

Jessica – The Allman Brothers

On the Sunny Side of the Street - Ella Fitzgerald

Spring – Bill Callahan

When the Roses Bloom Again - Wilco and Billy Bragg

China Cat Sunflower – The Grateful Dead

Classic Rock in Spring/Freeway in Mind - Kurt Vile

After the Rain - John Coltrane

Sweeter Than Flowers – George Jones

Waiting for the Sun - The Jayhawks

Let it Rain – Eric Clapton

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Sterling Silver Lining

This, from the NY Post, is pretty mean:

This could wind up being a pretty short ban.

Disgraced racist Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling is battling cancer — surprising those around him by beating the final buzzer for as long as he has, sources told The Post on Thursday.

“They thought he would die two years ago,” one source said of Sterling, who on Tuesday was banned for life from the NBA for his now-infamous recorded racist rant. …

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