Homeland Security Precrime

Security vs privacy: RadioLab and the case for the surveillance state

Homeland Security PrecrimeWe all love freedom and the Constitution. But is it really that simple?

I’m a huge fan of a good debate. And by “debate” I don’t mean the sort of ginned-up scream-lie-and-spinfests we have come to associate with the term in the past few decades. No, I mean spirited, intelligent, thoughtful exchanges between parties with honest, good-faith disagreements. Lucky me, I tripped across one today.

My new friend – the lovely Christine – recently turned me onto RadioLab, and I’ve been streaming some of their podcasts while I work out. Today I listened to one that’s as fascinating as it is disturbing. It’s called “Eye in the Sky,” and if you’re plotting any crimes I suggest you give it a few minutes of your time before you pull the trigger, so to speak. Continue reading

All time Lakers

Shaquille O’Neal vs Scottie Pippen: the Big Aristotle has lost his mind

I love Shaquille O’Neal. Seriously. He was a great player and is a smart, very funny guy off the court. But damn, is the man delusional.

Shaq got involved in a little Twitter dustup this week with another hoops luminary, former Michael Jordan sidekick Scottie Pippen. Long story short, Shaq thinks the all-time greatest Lakers five would thump the all-time Bulls starting five.

Okay, probably true. The Lakers are the second greatest franchise ever and if you take away Jordan Chicago has … well, not a lot. No disrespect to the Bulls here, but this is just basic facts.

The issue is Shaq’s idea of who’s in that Laker starting five. Continue reading

Obama-Reagan

Mirror mirror: Obama is the Democratic Reagan

We love symbolic victories in the culture wars. But what is Obama doing while we’re distracted? Selling us out, just like Ronnie did.

I used to argue that Ronald Reagan was playing the religious right like a wore-out banjo. Sorta. The big social issue of the day, of course, was abortion, and Ronnie did a lot of talking about how it had to be stopped. The thing was, he always talked a lot more than he did. Yes, reproductive freedom was under siege more post-Reagan than pre-, but I wonder if it wouldn’t have been a lot worse had he genuinely cared as much as he pretended he did.

What Reagan really cared about was the crowd we now call “1%ers.” It was about further enriching the already rich through any means necessary. Problem was, 1%ers didn’t comprise a voting majority. So the conservative project that had been building since the mid-’60s had developed a brilliant coalition strategy – “movement conservatism” – that pulled together all kinds of people who shared the same “values.” They didn’t really, but this was about getting elected. Continue reading

What bands do you miss? (It’s a fastidious and precise Saturday Video Roundup, bitches.)

Sometimes bands we love break up. Or someone dies. Or … maybe they just slide from relevance. If you’re like me, there are a lot of acts who fit this description. I miss Space Team Electra so bad it hurts, for instance. REM faded away more or less gracefully, but still I long for 1984.

Here are some bands and solo artists I miss. Feel free to chime in with your own in the comments.

First, Lush.

Continue reading

PTSD-Confederate-Flag

Confederate PTSD: Curing the South

PTSD-Confederate-FlagWhen I was in graduate school at Iowa State in the late 1980s I hit a period, during my second year, where a little homesickness set in. So I did something to remind myself of the place and people I was missing: I bought a Confederate flag and affixed it to my desk in the office, which I shared with 10-15 other MA students.

Some of my colleagues were, I think, appalled, and it was suggested that this was a symbol of slavery and racism. No, I said. I’m not a racist – it’s simply a reminder of home. I don’t think I used the word “heritage,” but from the outside what I was saying probably sounded exactly like what defenders of the flag are saying today.

As irony would have it, at the time I was dating a black woman. Continue reading

Politics: Don't Tread on Me

It’s time we stopped worshipping the Constitution and our “founding fathers”

For our founding fathers, “people” was a euphemism” that meant “rich white men.” Sadly, the same is true for many of our current leaders.

It’s been a momentous couple of weeks. Obamacare won a key victory, and as a result it’s going to be much harder for Republican politicians to roll it back in the future. There is a great deal wrong with the Affordable Care Act, to be sure, but at least it represents the acknowledgment that the general health of the nation’s citizens is a legitimate government concern.

The Confederate flag – specifically, the famous Stars & Bars battle jack – and the deeply ingrained racism it represents took a major ass-whipping. No, striking a symbol of treason and prejudice won’t make racism go away – any more than electing a black president did – but it’s a meaningful symbolic victory in a long cultural war. If that flag flies on the grounds of the statehouse, it’s an express acknowledgement to everyone that it’s okay to celebrate a “heritage” built on slavery. Continue reading

Politics

Hillary breaks bad on Wall St. and the 1%, but why should we trust her (or any of the Democrats, for that matter)?

People keep telling me I have to be realistic. But step one of being a realist is acknowledging reality.

I have been pretty vocal in my criticism of Barack Obama over the past seven years. I have reamed the modern day Vichy Democratic party every chance I have gotten. I have stomped on Bill Clinton and Al Gore, the architects of the “new” GOP Lite Dems and lately I have made clear that I can’t imagine a scenario whereby I would vote for Hillary Clinton. I’m tired, I have said, of voting for lesser evils, of voting for people who at best are playing not to win but to lose by less and at worst are just playing for themselves.

None of this is knee-jerk and I have not arrived here in the absence of a great deal of thought and analysis, as my “Shootout at the DC Corral” post from five years ago makes clear. Continue reading

Lindemann’s “Praise Abort”: Saturday Video Roundup

Oh look, Till Lindemann from Rammstein has a new side project with Peter Tägtgren of Hypocrisy and Pain. What are the critics saying?

Pigs, blood, phlegm and characters right out of a Hieronymus Bosch painting alternatively play in morbid grime or on a virginal white stage. Heavy guitar sounds, dark choirs and driving drum beats surge in the background. The lyrics are laced with hatred: “I hate my life, and I hate you / … / I hate my kids, never thought / That I’d praise abort.”

Yeah, that sounds about right. So for SVR let’s watch the first video, and then celebrate Till’s genius with a couple of the high spots from his work with Rammstein. Strap in, bitches.

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American-Culture

RIP American Dream: pro wrestling legend Dusty Rhodes dead at 69

As a performer and storyteller, Virgil Runnels became a working class hero because he was a man of the people.

The American Dream, Dusty RhodesMy best friend Jesse and his family were huge pro wrestling fans. I was pretty young at the time – no more than 10, probably – and I remember the Saturday, sitting in the living room at Jesse’s watching Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling, when they announced that The American Dream, Dusty Rhodes, was coming. I had no idea who he was, but Jesse’s mama nearly had a conniption. I deduced, from all the whooping and hollering, that this was a big deal. And it was not good news for The Nature Boy, Ric Flair.

We were working people, all of us, up and down Reid Rd., out Eastview Dr. and down to the end of the dirt lane where I lived with my grandparents. We were not especially enlightened on most matters, and it wasn’t hard to get a good argument boiling over a topic like whether or not wrestling was fake. Later on I’d work all this out, but getting a glimpse behind the curtain never dulled my love for what is now known as “sports entertainment.”  Continue reading

Facebook - Unshare

Facebook’s See Less: the new “feature” that DOES. NOT. WORK.

Facebook - UnshareRecently the wizards at Facebook rolled out a new feature: See Less. It allows you, allegedly, to mark certain of your friends so that fewer of their posts show up in your feed. Intended as a polite way of dialing back your exposure to overparticipaters and people that, for whatever reason, you just aren’t as interested in as others.

Great idea. Great idea. If you’re like most people, you’re probably “friends” with all kinds of people you aren’t friends with. In my case, I’m friends with people I don’t know and couldn’t pick out of a lineup and I can’t actually remember how we “met” in the first place. Which is fine – some of these people are really bright and I enjoy what they bring to my news feed. Serendipity, exposure to unexpected viewpoints – these are good things.

But. Continue reading

Biscottii Goddess is awesome. Just saying.

I don’t normally pimp products and services, although perhaps I should. I, like most of the staff and many of our readers, am a dedicated consumer of local, hand-made, craft and independent everything and tend to avoid mass production/corporate retailers and goods when possible.

Not long ago I reconnected, thanks to the magic of social media, with an old college friend, Wheeler Wood. Turns out he now runs a small biscotti business. Well, I loves me some biscotti, and he kindly offered to send me a sample or two to see what I thought.

Holy hell, this stuff is good. Continue reading

Tournament of Rock: The 5280 – congratulations to Space Team Electra

TOR5280_banner

And the results are in. The vote was very tight – 52% to 48% – and the victor in the finals of the Tournament of Rock: The 5280 is the late great Space Team Electra. Congrats to Myshel, Bill, Greg and Kit, who are without questions one of the best bands I have ever heard. Many of you might not have heard of them, sadly, and if that’s the case you owe it to yourself to get your hands on a copy of The Vortex Flower or The Intergalactic Torch Song.

Major props are also due to runner-ups Fiction 8 – Mardi, Heather and our good friend Michael. Continue reading

CATEGORY: Sports

US and Swiss officials bust FIFA: what does it all mean?

Today’s arrests are just the beginning. Is it the end of FIFA as we know it?

I read the news today. Oh boy.

It’s early and I’m still processing the stories, trying to a) understand the scope of the actions against the congenitally corrupt leadership of football’s governing body, and b) read between the lines so I can anticipate what comes next.

Here are some stray thoughts.

1. FIFA president Sepp Blatter hasn’t been arrested. Yet.  Continue reading