Monthly Archives: January 2007

Being Right And Being Wrong On The Big Issues

Until he issues a Sherman statement, I will be for Gore. Why? Because he’s right on the two biggest issues of our time, of this decade. He was right about Iraq before almost anyone of his stature was. And he is the premier spokesman for global warming, the issue of the 21st century.

Hillary, Obama, Edwards, Biden, and Richardson are all late comers to the anti-Iraq party, with Hillary, Biden, and Edwards actually having voted for the war. I don’t think I’ve heard much from any of them (except Richardson) about climate issues.

There will be things I vehemently disagree with Gore on, and other things I agree with the others on. But on the big issues–those that have consequences for generations–Gore is batting 1.000.

You don’t need a fancy education to see how history treats presidents and presidential candidates who were right on the most pressing issues of their time. Reagan was right about the Cold War. He will be remembered as a good president for that, despite the fact that his administration was corrupt, and his domestic policies were about as enlightened as Hammurabi. LBJ skates on signing Kennedy’s civil rights bill, even though he is responsible for the (now) second biggest farce in American history. Truman left office with his approval rating in the shitter, but he was there when America won World War II, the defining moment of at least two generations.

History does not judge presidents on a punchlist of their achievements. Even though Clinton dismantled the last relics of the New Deal and forced through NAFTA and other such Gilded Age policies such as the Telecom Act of 1996, he will be remembered for his political prowess and his steadfast dedication to world peace, even though he was impeached.

Let’s face it: some of our most hallowed presidents committed some stupid missteps. Lincoln may have been good with civil rights, but he was a mess with civil liberties, attempting to suspend habeas corpus. Washington didn’t really do a damn thing, but he was the figurehead of the Revolution. Jackson was as genocidal as Hitler, but he was the hero of New Orleans and created a calmed political atmosphere.

And the converse is true. Much good came from some of our lesser presidents. Nixon was good on the environment, for example. (I still can’t think of one for Bush II.)

I get the feeling that Hillary will be an effective president, but effective as to her agenda of pushing whatever pseudo-centrist agenda helps her the most. I don’t expect her to put a man on Mars, cure cancer, or solve the global warming crisis.

President Obama would have at least one speech that’s up there with “Ask not what your country can do for you” and “There is nothing to fear but fear itself” but for all his soaring rhetoric, I have no idea if my grandkids will say President Obama was the first black president and he brought peace to the Middle East, or if he signed the McDermott-Boehner Tax Reform Act of 2009.

Edwards? Well, we might see universal healthcare and some real progress for working people. But if he was hoodwinked on Iraq, what else will he miss?

That said, all of these show more promise than the ludicrous assortment of douchebags on the other side. Is their bench really that shallow?

UN Climate Report: We're Fucked!

I started believing in global warming the first time I heard about it, in Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, in a chapter entitled “Heaven and Hell” in 1980, which made the eminently reasonable assertion that if Venus turned into a lead-melting furnace due to greenhouse gases, that Earth could too.

Because of that, the barrage of news about it shouldn’t shock me, right? Wrong. Every time I read about it, I’m shocked more. I used to figure that a climate-9/11 would finally snap us into focus on this issue, but it didn’t. Hurricane Katrina’s connection to global warming requires a subtle mind, and in media sound bites all people hear is “indirect” or “inconclusive.”

But all of the effects of global warming are going to be like that. No one is going to die from heat stroke because the weather is 3 degrees warmer. They will die from their homes being inundated by the ocean, or the destruction of their crops, or the spread of tropical diseases, or some unseen consequence we haven’t divined yet.

Me too.

Apropos of the post below about Idiocracy, I must admit that last night, I watched American Idol instead of the SOTU.

I figured, if I want to see an idiot spouting a bunch of bullshit, I might as well throw in some entertainment. Watching the incipient downfall of Paula Abdul into the depths of a painkiller addiction pleasingly flavors the shootdowns of the failed karaoke bobbleheads that provide the only real joy in this show.

Plus, Paula is just hotter than Nancy Pelosi, and TokenBlackGuy is more real, dawg, than Dick Cheney.

Besides, I already know the State of the Union: slowly waking from the schizoid coma induced by 9/11 on our pussy-ass collective psyche that can barely deal with losing out on a parking place, let alone confront the kinds of mass death that we inflict on the rest of the world.

IDIOCRACY

In Mike Judge’s dystopian comedy two average Americans in 2005 are Rip Van Winkled 500 years into the future via a military experiment gone awry. They awaken in a society so dumb downed by generations of morons rutting and corporate brainwashing that they find themselves, by far, the smartest people on earth.

The most interesting aspect of futuristic movies is the details. It is the colors and shapes of the vistas and the make and use of everyday objects that bridge the future world to our own. Judge’s future America is a land of newborn passive mental numbness and neglect. A land of primary colors and dirt, where everything seems to be made out of Play Skool blocks yet is falling over aside mountains of garbage.

Judge’s film may be the harshest indictment of contemporary society of any dystopian film. The most indelible image of the movie is of a future average Joe sitting in his big easy chair facing a huge screen with too many whirring, buzzing boxes of multi-colored programming for the eye to possibly keep track of. He is mindlessly sucking on a long medical-IV-tube-like straw that connects to a clear white handle and ends in a pacifier-like nipple.

We’ve all kinda’ been there or seen other people there, even if no one was watching the Masturbation Network as the subject in the film is.

This sort of creepy familiarity paces the film. An insensate almost drooling woman diagnoses the protagonist’s medical condition by (barely) choosing one of several large buttons with a picture of a malady on it. Even the Police State, that fixture of dystopia, is automated for slowskies. Ubiquitous scanners occasionally read the barcode that has been tattooed onto our hero’s wrist thereby alerting the Keystone Lite Kops to his location.

These themes are punctuated by moments of vicious satire. “Welcome to Costco,” one thick skulled “greeter” from the future intones, “I love you. Welcome to Costco. I love you. Welcome to Costco….”

What makes Judge’s polemic different from other films in the dystopia genre is that we never meet the conspirators. While the film indicates that corporate advertising’s forging and fluxing of hominid minds has created a world of Retards blubbering “I like money” while stumbling to Starbucks for hand jobs The Man is as invisible as whatever it is that dude is sucking out of the nipple-IV-straw. Like so many of the subtleties in “Idiocracy” this reveals a larger point: corporations may have facilitated Judge’s dystopia, but it is still a dystopia of choice.

“Idiocracy” is more idea-driven than character driven; it is a nasty film and will therefore never be beloved-adored like “Office Space.” Where “Office Space” made light of the comedy of manners in the forced shared place of work, “Idiocracy” lands its punches in the personal submissive sensation of the “choice” of consumption. “Idiocracy” is a more important movie than “Office Space” and offers more rewards for repetitive viewing. The workweek always ends; the Tyranny of the Stupids only becomes normal: “Idiocracy” never got a chance in the theaters, according to Bill Maher, because the 18-34 year old male target audiences could not understand it. And after all, we sorta’ elected Generalissimo Bush. Twice!

Clinton???

Can it really be that of all the announced candidates, I dislike Hillary the least?

Obama is green. Richardson fucks too many women for a fat hispanic to have any hope to survive the Leno/Letterman gauntlet. Biden is a joke. Vilsack is a joke…. Edwards is like face from the A team, and also too green. I’m not sure Gore will get in with Obama in.

Oy. Yep.

Three Weeks In And The Loons Are Getting Emboldened

Oy.

The loony left must be feeling a little cocksure. Here it comes. A law banning spanking in California… Suggestions that global warming can be stopped by veganism (PSYCHE! Free range meat uses no diesel… but…) and, bringing back the fairness doctrine that many on the left opposed as providing a bogus free mouthpiece to whacko conservatives in the first place. Not to mention its First Amendment implications.

God.

This kind of shit is why we have a war in Iraq, why there’s nothing for the homeless, why our jobs are being exported… because we lose control of our agenda to these crunchy fucks the minute we’re not all consolidated in the emergency of winning an election.

Can we please stop the war in Iraq before we try to turn America into a Food Co-op in Novato?

Fuck the Fairness Doctrine

One of the most annoying things about politics is the puerile tendency to want to re-fight yesterday’s battles. Republicans may have long memories, but there are a few on our side that seem to.

There are blogo-rumblings that the Fairness doctrine might be reinstituted. Not only is this a form of censorship, it is paternalistic. At this point, if there’s anyone left that doesn’t know Fox News is a right-wing propaganda machine probably also doesn’t know that smoking is bad for you.

In other words, people get it.

God. Can you imagine? Jon Stewart having to have some douche like Tucker Carlson walk-back his anti-Bush joking?

Oy. The stupid… it burns!

O-bomb-a 2008

Obama’s in. Oy vey.

I admire his political adroitness. First, he plays to the activist left, then shows that he’s really centrist. After having done not so much in the senate, after a mere 2 years, he’s running for president surfing a giant wave of popularity and intrigue.

So, here’s the problem. No one wants to be the anti-Obama (i.e. the get-in-the-way-of-the-black-president candidate), so, I’m afraid it’s going to be his race to lose.

This probably means, after all, that Gore isn’t in. Ironically, Obama can take the center because a lot of the harder left will be voting for the idea of him, even if he won’t get hard-core anti-Iraq.

I’d love to see him as the VP nominee, but this is going to be tough.

Of those who are in, I really don’t know who I support anymore. I like most of them, but I don’t really get all that excited about one term senators, white or black.

Yes, the "Boring" Devils Are Back

DJS is correct–all of a sudden, I’ve heard the Devils called boring again. That must mean they’re winning by keeping the other team from scoring. What a concept.

The Devils lack the depth everywhere except in goal that their championship teams had. There is no doubt about that. Thing is, no team is as deep right now as the pre-cap elites were, except, perhaps, Buffalo and Anaheim, both of whom are experiencing a 1999-2000 Devil-like crop of excellent rookies. (Note to oppoents: put your checking line on Getzlaf, not Selanne. No. Don’t. You can lose to Getzlaf, but if you don’t check Selanne, the media will criticize you. Lose the right way!)

Is there a trade to me made for the Devils? I think there is. As dead as this season has been on that front, I think at the deadline things will happen. And, of course, it will be a defenseman. If I had to guess, I’d say (if available) Sheldon Souray. Lou likes old Devils a lot.

The NHL needs to stop trashing one of the only two post-Bettman dynasties, one of the few teams that is consistent enough to matter every year, and, now, a team with such a strong tradition.

The Gospel of Food

A new book by Barry Glasner rips to shreds the dogmas of the food world. Without intending to, Glasner may have created Exhibit A in the case against science by social deconstructionists. So flawed, and full of bogus citations are the literature on the health effects of certain foods and certain diets as to be meaningless.

This, Glasner shows, have sucked the joy out of eating for most Americans. Glasner also lampoons the crypto-mystic search for the “pure” and “genuine” ethnic foods by the cosmo-elite, and shames the “food imperialists” who have the gall to lecture the poor and starving on what they eat.

If only conservatives knew that the best antidote to Volvo-driving, sushi-eating liberalism is not Ayn Rand, but Karl Marx. Glasner proves that in this book.

One of his best examples is to show how the labor-left and its affiliates have orchestrated a virtual war against companies like McDonalds, while leaving virtually untouched the sweat shops that are most “ethnically genuine” restaurants.

This latter point rang especially true with me because of my profession and some of my clientele, I happen to know that ostensibly high-end restaurants are some of the worst violators of wage rights, whereas the managers at Taco Bell and McDonalds can practically recite the wage laws from memory.

Glasner is a sociologist, so perhaps he is putting too much explanatory power in social theories, but it is hard to deny that people who wouldn’t be caught dead in a McDonalds also seem to have no problem with the food Starbucks serves. Indeed, if people like me pick on Starbucks, it’s not for their food, it’s for being a “big corporation.”

Most importantly, he explodes the myths surrounding the obesity “epidemic,” something not too different from killer bees, the bird flu, and other adult bogeymen. Most of the so-called science linking obesity to heart disease is bogus, and there is little to affirm the connection.

Glasner doesn’t dismiss or oppose the slow food movement, or organics (which he also effectively takes apart in a large way), but simply seems to doubt of their efficacy for the whole mostly starving population.

Wonderful book.

Revenge of the Devils

The post-lock out rule changes to the NHL were aimed more at the NJ Devils than any other team. The venal trapezoid rule had its biggest impact on Martin Brodeur. The elimination of the red line was meant to make it harder to trap in the neutral zone and the larger offensive zone generally made defense more difficult.

A year-and-a-half later the Devils appear to have broken the code. Over the last three games the Devils’ opponents have submitted themselves to try to beat the Devils at the Devils’ trapping game rather than trying to enforce their style of play on the Devils. At the coaching and scouting level, evidently, it has become clear that the Devils’ counter-attacking game is too effective. The Devils will lose their share of these grind-’e,-out contests, but forcing other teams into them gives the Devils an advantage in almost every game. The game is being played on their terms.

It’s a little different now than in years past. Once the Devils would try to win the game 5-on-5. Their power play seemed like almost an after thought (I believe they were last int he league in 2003 when they won the cup). Now the Devils merely aim for a tie 5-on-5 and save their offense for the power play. Most of their players are minuses as a result, but the wins keep on piling up.

You can tell that the “old” Devils are back because opponents are starting to bitch about them. Ted Nolan said that Saturday’s 2-1 win over his Islanders was boring. I though it was more like a playoff game: a battle for every inche of ice, outstanding goal tending, fewer scoring chances than usual but the scarcity gave each chance more bubbly pertinence than normal. Regardless, you never hear anyone complain about the Blues, Blackhawks or Blue Jackets because they are losers.

Even though the Devils rounded into form last year I always felt that they were a standard deviation below the top teams in the league. Although the Devils were only 20 seconds of Kleefense away from taking game two and making it a series with eventual champ Carolina last year, they were still out played for most of that series and it would have taken a lot of luck for them to pull it out. This year they are right there with the best teams of the league, except perhaps, for Anaheim when they are healthy. I’m anxious to see the Devils play Buffalo again.

Robert Anton Wilson: Rest In Peace

The Grand Duke of Discordianism joined the spiritual side of the universal conversation on January 11.

I enjoyed most of Mr. Wilson’s writing and I would be lying if I did not say that his ideas, or his expressions of others’ ideas, did not have a profound impact on my own thinking; or even just provide me with interesting things to amuse others with at parties.

Unlike so many flash-in-the-pan pseudo-thinkers Mr. Wilson’s works will interest and challenge decades from now. Right this moment there is an unborn being that will come across “Illuminatus!” one stoned-over morning in his sophomore year of college.

He’s in for a good read.

It's the George W. Bush Family Comedy Hour

As worked up as I might get over all of this, I just find it ridiculous these days.

Even talking-in-tongues psycho Senator Brownback opposes this escalation, as does “maverick” senator Hagel. It’s pretty clear America is rejecting this, with only about 30% supporting escalation (probably to scratch their Vietnam itch) and 11% approving of Bush’s speech last night.

Neil Conan of NPR asked someone yesterday, “what about the notion of giving the President another chance?” A year ago or more, my head would have exploded. I just laughed. Another chance? How many does he get?

Another comedic bit here: Bush is on the verge of handing the Democrats a governing 2/3s majority in Congress on some issues. Could it be that unity on Iraq might engender a Congressional bipartisan era, where they govern with little or no input from the President?

Probably not, but he’s got a veto proof minimum wage bill headed straight for him, and if he thought he was going to sink the Kennedy bill last night, he failed.

It’s all just hilarious.

The Path Forward for Microsoft

Later this month, Microsoft will launch what I anticipate will be the last dominant version of Windows. It’s just hatching from its infancy, but the next generation of computing is upon us. Others have written more intelligently about the evolution of the PC and can make subtler and more powerful distinctions about the various discrete eras of personal computing.

Whatever the others may be, some of those eras were the advent of the GUI and the advent of the Internet. We’re now entering a second era of the Internet, where the Internet becomes the dominant medium for all media, so to speak, and where the innovations and nuance of the Internet are not resulting in second generation ideas.

Microsoft will not be able to remain as dominant in this next era for many, many reasons.

First, Microsoft was late to the last generation, the Internet generation. Internet Explorer didn’t even exist during the first years of the web. Microsoft had virtually zero Internet enabled applications and only a company-wide memo by Bill Gates identified the Internet as the future and re-focused the company.

They were also late to the GUI. The first lame version of Windows did come out in 1986, but that was 2 years after the Macintosh and several years after the Apple Lisa and the Xerox.

They didn’t invent the GUI, and they didn’t even invent any single Internet app. They copied search. They copied chat. They bought in to webmail. They copied maps. They copied the browser.

These products have all been sucessful because of Windows. It makes Microsoft’s copies easy to use (just like it made Microsoft’s copy of WordPerfect run, and Microsoft’s copy of Lotus 1-2-3 and Microsoft’s copy of …. well, I think they might have invented PowerPoint and Flight Simulator…).

But now most of what you can do in Windows, you can do on Linux, for free. You can run OpenOffice on Linux. Google’s stuff too. Ad-based software and opensource are taking over what used to be the totality of the computing world: the desktop. In other words, desktop software is no longer a revenue stream. Sic transit Microsoft Office.

These are some of the consequences of the Internet: rearranging the revenue stream for desktop software while marginalizing it at the same time. Consequentially, the OS becomes more fungible. Sic transit Windows.

Second, with one exception discussed below, Microsoft doesn’t generate content. Content is what generates revenue, to look at it, use it, and advertise it or search for it. Original content, the abstract atomic widgets of the ideas economy. The Killer App or the Killer Movie or the Killer toy and its logistics are what creates money. As these ideas are atomized into finer and finer grains, something like a word processor will be some kind of collectively generated whole composed of a series of parts selected by the user.

Third, their corporate culture is risk-averse and bloated. Bill Gates can’t write a memo and say, “We’re making Windows free in 2012 and Office free in 2008,” or “We’re going to make Windows a front-end for Linux.” It can’t happen.

Microsoft’s position in games is one aspect of computing that will erode slower. First of all, most gamers have to have a Windows PC. Linux can do a lot of stuff for work, but for play, the only thing better than a console is a good Windows PC. They also generate XBox games, the original content. They can leverage that. Microsoft=Games. Unify the Xbox and some future windows.

Governments are starting. When are businesses going to get smart and quit paying several hundred dollars per user for software that’s free? Eventually the market will make that happen.

Psychic On the Apple Phone

Last fall, I wrote this on MacRumors:

I do not believe that the iPhone will be released until there is a significant increase in the rollout of UTMS. It’s the only standard that will make the iTMS worth using on the phone (other than EVDO, which is not on GSM phones.) Since GSM is the world-wide standard, even if there is a CDMA version of the iPhone, there will at least be a GSM version, if it’s not also the only one.

So, *IF* there’s going to be an iPhone, don’t look for it before Christmas.

GSM. Check. 3G Check. After Christmas. Check.

Now that may not sound all that prophetic, but compare with some of the other posts on that page. Americans. Lol. They really thought it wouldn’t be for the GSM that 95% of the world uses?

Update: Apparently, it’s EDGE. Jobs said 3G but was joking. (A pic of a rotary dialer on an old ipod was there.) I’m shocked. That’s going to be awful slow to use the iTMS. Well, too bad. I’ll be waiting for 3G.

Apple Phone?

There has been so much hype, speculation, and nothingness regarding Apple’s potential entry into the cell phone market that I wonder if it’s not the biggest tech red-herring since… Apple’s replacement for System 7.

But I think Apple has shown with the iPod that they know how to make consumer electronics. But to keep the iPhone from being lame, it’s going to have to have the following three features.

1. Unlocked. It needs to work on any (presumably) GSM carrier, and not tied to them. Making a separate CDMA version might be OK, but since most of the world uses GSM, I can’t see Apple doing that if it’s not simple.

2. Push e-mail. There are two basic ways of doing this right now. Blackberry and Windows Mobile. (There are alternatives, but I don’t like them much.) This entails a Mini Mac OS on the phone. Apple needs to get over its PowerTalk disaster and advance beyond POP3, an ancient protocol that’s the lamest feature still on the Internet.

3. Cellular iTunes Music Store/Sync to home computer iTunes. This will require a 3G connection. I can’t believe the rumors that say it will come with EDGE. Maybe that’s the minimum requirement, but to make these features really work, HSPDA needs to be included.

If these three elements and their corollaries are met, I’ll ditch my Windows phone and my wife will probably ditch her CrackBerry.