Friday, March 25, 2011

My Ears Are Bleeding!

I don't want to go on living!

Three words: Rebecca. Black. Friday.


I will spare you the three readers of this blog the punishment of listening to this song for one single second. However, here is a version of the song and video that is approximately 450 times better than the original:

Utterly PERFECT synching! Gots ta love me that Death Metal! I'm still laughing my ass off!

(By the way, who is the black guy, and how does he fit into the whole thing?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

Tomorrow is the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of New York City.

I must confess: As an ardent supporter of Labor rights, I was unaware of this tragedy until I heard about it on NPR's Morning Edition earlier today.

For those of you too lazy to follow the link above, let me give a brief description: A fire broke out in an NYC garment factory (Shirtwaist is a fancy way to say Woman's blouse) during a Saturday work shift (yes, folks, back then having Saturday off was unheard of).

The factory owners had locked the main exit doors, ostensibly to prevent theft. The exact cause of the fire is not known, but the fire started on the 8th floor of the building. The one fire escape that was open quickly collapsed due to heat from the fire and overcrowding. With no way out, many of the workers leapt to their deaths to escape the flames, while many more were killed by the fire and smoke. Elevator operators in the building saved as many as they could, but the elevators soon became inoperable due to heat damage and to victims jumping into the open shafts. NYFD members could only stand by and watch helplessly as people leaped to their deaths, since their ladders could not reach the engulfed floors. I would imagine the first responders at the World Trade Center knew how they felt that day.

Most of the victims were women, and when I say women I should say girls who were ages 16-24, most of whom were Jewish immigrants from Europe and elsewhere.

It was the worst industrial tragedy in the History of New York City, and one of the worst industrial tragedies in the history of this country. 146 people died, with 71 injured. The factory owners were--of course--acquitted of manslaughter charges thanks to their lawyers, but I am sure they are roasting in hell today, forced to watch for all eternity the people they killed jump from their building time and time again.

Some good came from it, of course. A number of workplace safety laws sprang from this tragedy, and it helped spur the unionization of garment workers.

Why, though, does it always seem to take a tragedy before we work to change something that is unsafe? Are we as a people unable to learn the lessons of history until they have bloodied our noses time and time again?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Out of Ideas

Hollyweird has no new ideas left.

Doubt me? Well, then try this little test:

Think of any movie you've seen within the last 5 years or so.

See if it doesn't fall into one (or more) of the following categories:

1) A Sequel
2) Based on a comic book
3) Based on a book (or short story)
4) Based on a TV show
5) A "RomCom" whose plot you've already seen 10 times
6) A sports movie where the underdog wins (or almost wins)
7) An action movie where the hero (or anti-hero) seeks revenge for a past wrong.
8) "Based on" or "Inspired" by true events.
9) A remake
10) Based on an underage character displaying maturity beyond his or her years.

Let's look at the Oscar nominees for Best Picture from last year:

Inception: People entering other people's dreams to discover secrets buried in their subconscious = Dreamscape
The Fighter = Rocky + Category 8 above
Black Swan = Any movie where talented virtuoso driven crazy by pressure to perform.
The Kids Are All Right = Children of a lesbian couple seek their biological father. Category 8. Many, many times
The King's Speech = Category 8
127 hours = Category 8 strikes again!
The Social Network = Cat 8. The gift that keeps on giving.
Toy Story 3 = Category 1
True Grit = Category 9
Winter's Bone = Category 10

If anyone has a different view, I invite you to share it here.

Speaking of Selective Editing...

I had a letter published in the paper today. Here's the original letter I sent:
I am deeply disappointed that The Blade, along with just about every other major media outlet, was so easily duped by the 11 minutes of video footage of NPR executive Ron Schiller posted to a conservative blog by James O'Keefe ("NPR all at Sea", March 13th)
A careful analysis of the nearly 2-hour-long full video (posted by O'Keefe specifically for that purpose) by NPR, with the aid of professional video and audio analysts, as well as by the editor of the conservative website, reveals that the 11 minutes of footage O'Keefe released originally was heavily edited and presented out of sequence. It was designed to portray Schiller--and, by extension, NPR, in the worst possible light. And it succeeded, apparently. Schiller, and his boss, NPR CEO Vivian Schiller (no relation), were almost immediately fired. And Republicans in congress seized on it as further proof of the need to strip NPR of all government funding.
I realize that in this day and age, the rush to get the story first can sometimes overwhelm sound judgment, but, given O'Keefe's past record and activities, perhaps a little more caution was called for.

Here's what was published:
The Blade, along with just about every other major media outlet, was duped by the 11 minutes of video footage of NPR executive Ron Schiller posted on a conservative blog by James O'Keefe ("NPR all at sea," editorial, March 13).
Analysis of the almost two-hour-long video showed that the footage Mr. O'Keefe originally released was heavily edited and presented out of sequence. It was designed to portray Mr. Schiller -- and NPR -- in the worst possible light. And it succeeded.
Mr. Schiller, and his boss, NPR CEO Vivian Schiller, resigned. Republicans in Congress seized on the video as further proof of the need to strip NPR of all government funding.
I realize that the rush to get the story first can sometimes overwhelm sound judgment, but given Mr. O'Keefe's past record, perhaps a little more caution was called for.

Selective editing? You be the judge.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Debate Over Celibacy

I heard a story on the radio a few days ago that should be of great concern to practicing Catholics everywhere.

It seems that there is a growing shortage of priests, in Europe and in other industrialized nations, one that could spell long-term trouble for the Church.

The primary reason for this shortage is simple enough and can be summed up in one word: Celibacy.

The celibacy requirement for Catholic clergy is one of the primary things that drives young men away from a life of service, and keeps older married men who feel a calling later in life away from service as well. It is difficult in this day and age for any man (or woman, for that matter) to willingly agree to forgo one of the most basic human biological needs, for life. To willingly agree to never engage in one of the most joyful and intimate interactions between two human beings. To never boink anyone ever again, in other (and much more simpler) words.

This is a requirement that goes against all possible logic. In nearly every other major organized religion (and many that aren't quite so major), not only are the spiritual leaders of those faiths allowed to marry and produce offspring, they are encouraged to do so. It is, after all, perhaps the best way to guarantee the continuation of that faith.

I don't pretend to know all that much about Catholicism (I don't spend a lot of time studying something I don't believe in). But I know many of the Celibacy arguments. Jesus was celibate (Dan Brown books notwithstanding) so the Church believes the leaders of the faith should do the same. And a priest without a family to worry about can devote his time to tending to his flock. And while most churches are willing to support their leader, few want to pay to support his family too.

But those arguments simply don't hold up in this day and age. Nearly every pastor in every church I have ever belonged to was a devoted family man, and I think it made them better for it. And while it is hard for most small parishes to support even a single clergyman, there is no law in this day and age that prevents a woman from getting a job.

And of course there's the ugly truth: sexual repression can lead to perversion. One need look only at the decades of scandals that have reverberated throughout the Catholic Church to see that.

I do not see the celibacy rule being canceled, or even modified, under the current Papacy, or any of the other requirements for clergy. But the simple truth is this: The Church has got to start changing with the times. Otherwise, it is going to see its numbers--and its influence--dwindle more and more with each passing year.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Lexington and Concord

Now in New Hampshire, not in Massachusetts.

At least according to wright-wing wingnut Michele Bachmann.

Note: Embedding was disabled, but the link to the video is here.

The sheer depth of the ignorance of this woman (and, apparently, of the people who write her remarks) is staggering.

This is an elected representative from the state of Minnesota.

This is an elected member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

This is one of 535 people who decide what laws will be made.

Scared, anyone?

Monday, March 14, 2011

We Need NPR

We need NPR.

I am a longtime listener of National Public Radio’s news programs. From the moment I wake up in the morning until the moment I walk into my office, I listen to NPR’s Morning Edition program. In the afternoon, during the drive home, my radio is tuned to NPR’s All Things Considered. I have always considered NPR to be a trusted source of news. They have always fought to find the truth behind the story. It was NPR that first broke the story that the volume of oil spilling from the broken well in the Gulf of Mexico was much greater than we had been led to believe by BP and others. It was from NPR that I learned that a private corrections company provided the impetus behind Arizona’s anti-immigrant law—they stood to profit from building new prisons that would have to be built to house the people arrested under the law. And that’s just a couple of examples.

So imagine my surprise that conservative activist James O’Keefe, of the ACORN video sting and Mary Landrieu office break-in fame, once again using a hidden camera and heavily edited footage, tried to make NPR look bad. He had two of his “citizen journalists” pose as representatives of a wealthy Muslim Trust and meet with Ron Schiller, NPR’s top fundraising executive, and attempt to coax statements from him disparaging conservatives, the TEA party, and Republicans. And imagine my surprise once again that every “legitimate” news organization in the country broke legs in their haste to jump to conclusions about “National Pravda Radio”.

NPR, of course, did what no other “legitimate” news organization in the country could be bothered to do: They took the time to view and analyze the entire footage of the over two-hour long “raw” video that O’Keefe posted on his website (for just that purpose, by the way). They did this with the help of various professional video and audio analysts, including one who works for The Blaze, a news aggregate site founded by none other than Glenn Beck. And they discovered—surprise, surprise—that the 11 minutes O’Keefe originally posted were HEAVILY edited and slanted to make Schiller—and, by extension, NPR—look bad. The short tape contains footage taken out of sequence and quotes that then had responses cut off. I would imagine that, had there been a clock in the background of the video, you would have seen it jumping back and forth.

Listen to the full story here. Pay particular attention to the part where one analyst describes how he heard at least six times where Schiller asserted that no donor to NPR, private or public, may influence NPR’s coverage of the news.

In the light of the full footage being released, many news commenters and organizations are regretting the fact that they rushed to judgment of NPR based on one heavily edited, 11-minute video, especially given O'Keefe's past record.

Too little, too late. To paraphrase the great Louis Renault, police prefect of Casablanca:

"I'm shocked, shocked to find that video editing is going on here!"
"Your edited video, sir."
"Oh, thank you very much. Everyone out!"

Don't get me wrong. I am not defending some of the comments Schiller made, particularly the part where he claimed NPR might be better off--in the long-term--without Federal funding. What was NOT shown in the edited version is him talking about the short-term damage such a cutoff would cause.

NPR is impressive in its fund-raising efforts. It raises six dollars on its own for every one that it gets from the government. It raises money from listeners (my local affiliate gets 40% of its annual operating budget directly from its listeners), corporate sponsors, private philanthropic organizations, and many other sources.

But it needs those Federal dollars, especially in today's economy. Plus, even if donors have no control over NPR's news coverage, they do control their own money. And there is no guarantee that money will always be available. And we need a source of news that is not 100% controlled by the very corporations it reports on. And complain all you want about the "liberal bias". A better way of saying it might be this: The truth hurts.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Business As Usual

Big Business is at it again.

Koch Industries, currently run by the Koch brothers--the same ones who financed the campaign of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, and who are currently financing the gutting of public employee rights there--has organized several "guerrilla internet training" courses. In these courses, Naive, clueless TEA party rubes are taught how to use internet book-selling sites like to increase negative opinion for "liberal" books and increase positive opinion for conservative books. Here's a video:

In other words, this giant, multi-billion dollar corporation, is using its financial resources to create a fake conservative grassroots movement designed to look like a people-powered movement similar to REAL people-powered organizations like Moveon. This faking of grassroots movements is called, appropriately enough, "astroturfing".

The TEA party is entirely a creation of the Koch Brothers. Each one of them has accumulated more money than they could ever possibly spend in 1,000 lifetimes. Both of them are over 70. And yet they aggressively pursue even more wealth by financing movements and campaigns designed to elect politicians that will enact policies that will be friendly to their interests at the expense of others.

I realize that this is by no means the first time in history that wealthy businessmen have sought to control public policy to their benefit. But just because a thing has happened before, that doesn't always make it an example to be followed over and over--and over--again.

I realize that it is tough to behave ethically if you are a business. One thing I learned from my various business ethics courses is that before undertaking any action, a business will always ask three things, in this order:

1) Is it profitable?--No business will ever undertake any action that will cause it to lose money. Not if it wants to stay in business
2) Is it legal?--Even if it isn't, often businesses do not consider that a deal-breaker.

Then, and ONLY then, will the final question be asked:
3) Is it ethical?

That last question is the one that is most often overlooked, if not downright ignored.

And every time it is, it diminishes everyone a little bit more.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Governor of Indiana

Mitch Daniels is the current Governor of Indiana, a state that is less than an hour's drive away from my hometown. He is frequently mentioned as a likely candidate for the Republican nominee for President.

To start with, I don't like this guy on principle. He is a union-buster. He supports massive spending cuts as the way to solve all problems. He opposes any increase in property taxes, making up for that with increases in sales tax. He worked in the George W. Bush administration. He denies global warming. He privatized the Indiana Turnpike (selling it to foreign investors). He privatized welfare. I'm not sure, but I think this guy is in favor of replacing the Police with private security firms:

"Yes! I need the police! There's a man trying to break into my house! I think he wants to rape and murder me!"
"And will you be paying for this service call with Visa, Mastercard, or American Express?"
"WHAT?! I don't have my wallet! This man is going to kill me!"
"I'm sorry, but without a means of payment, our forces cannot respond at this time. Thank you for calling. Goodbye." (Click)
"Hello? Hello? HELLO?!! HELP M-" (click)

Raise your hand if you think that's a good idea.

And yet, every conservative pundit in the country loves him. He is thought of as an intellectual conservative, something that is about as rare as a ethical politician. This is a man who got a state constitutional amendment adopted that raises sales taxes while reducing property taxes to some of the lowest in the country. In other words, this is a man who raises taxes on the poor and lowers them on the rich--the definition of the typical Republican--all while pretending to be on the side of the common man. And he does this after destroying the one group that was able to oppose him--unions.

And this man, with the massive corporate backing that he will no doubt receive if he becomes the Repuglican candidate for President, will be running for President next year.


Monday, March 07, 2011

A Trend?

You know, when I posted that video yesterday, I thought it was a single aberration. Now I see that it's apparently part of a trend


Which came first? The girls or the guys (and a few girls)?

Either way, yesterday it was funny. Today I'm starting to see it as part of a somewhat disturbing trend.

I'm not sure what disturbs me more: The girls singing about bitches and whores, or the fact that both groups are able to do the whole thing utterly deadpan...

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Oh. And One Other Thing...

A sure sign of the impending apocalypse:

It. Has. A. Book.


I Think I Pi***d Myself

Did you ever wonder what it would look and sound like if a girls glee club decided to sing an extremely graphic "gangsta" rap song?

If you answered yes, then apparently you thought along the same lines as these girls:
(For the uninitiated, that means Not! Safe! For! Work!)

It's so wrong. And yet I can't help myself. I don't think I've ever laughed so long or so hard in my life!