Monday, December 31, 2012

Obligatory Best Of 2012 List!

Time once again my friends to look back in anger at the year we all just wasted.
2012 was the best of times and it was the worst of times...well not really... it was pretty damned bad though, perhaps not the worst...I mean there was no bubonic plague or Mongol hordes marauding about asking for directions. Yet we can hardly say it was the best of times either.
Well maybe for a handful of corporate types, but chances are they aren't reading this. Chances are they are acting out the "aristocrats" joke.  As for the rest of us, face it 2012 sucked way worse than the Mayans ever could have predicted. The economy was so bad, all new houses were built with foreclosure signs already on them and you serve cat food at parties only when you want to impress your guests.
In December I took the kids to Rockefeller Center, renown for it's giant Christmas Tree...We watched as a giant crane lowered it's boom and it's payload was lowered down into place on steel cables...
it wasn't the tree though,
it was NJ Governor Chris Christie being hoisted into his pants
...a daily occurrence...nothing special.
One of the memorable events of the year however was when a  petition for Texas to secede appeared...
It gathered  25,000 signatures!
However all the signatures were from every state but Texas.
The economy sucked, the weather sucked, the arts suffered, and cold sores were numerous.
There was little to like.
And little reason to believe 2013 will be an improvement.
There were however some musical highlights!

And here they are, the best of 2012!

The best CD released this year was by far
"The Golden Age Of Madness"
By Ben New

Ben New's vision of Meta-pop-rock
with a cunning blend of surreal and effusive lyrics,
sharp rhythmic play,
and latent melodicism;
dreamy, but full of rhythmic energy and passion.

The Best release of 2012!

A very close second.
Boys and Girls
By  Alabama Shakes

Brittany Howard - rock 'n' soul vocalist of the year!
Great music, well written and beautifully performed.
If you haven't heard should!

3rd place honors

Sort of pop/art/rock music here which easily morphs from verse to chorus to bridge in a lovely intelligent way. Outstanding for it's shifting arrangements, jolting starts and stops. The arrangements draw from prog-rock yet this album deals mainly in catchy pop music. The lyrics are dispensed in a way that feels comically overstated at times, with a  film noir feel at other times.
It works well though!


Fiona Apple's first studio album in seven years!
Painful and sometimes startling musical revelations.
Songs of seduction, shaky romances, irresistible sex, loneliness, narcissism and ego-less insecurities.

Esa-Pekka Salonen collaborated with violinist Leila Josefowicz to produce this fascinating Violin Concerto. Salonen's music is diverse and transparent, brilliantly orchestrated and inspired by Stravinsky, Lutoslawski and Debussy yet quite his own. though "pushing the envelope" for both the orchestra and violinist is evident here the end result is a very nuanced music with an extraordinary range of textures performed perfectly.
Must have!

Regina Spektor
What We Saw From The Cheap Seats

Regina is an excellent storyteller, with a musical catalog influenced by the Beatles pop and rock sensibilities and classical training, her music comes alive with drama and with humor. Considered part of the "anti folk" movement, one song on What We Saw From the Cheap Seats is written from the point of view of a painting.
You Gotta love this album!

Leonard Cohen- Old Ideas

Leonard has released only a dozen studio records in 45 years and nothing since 2004.
He's now in his late 70s, so we're not likely to see many more albums.
Old Ideas is a thoughtful bit of philosophy, an insight into aging,
just what you might want from such an outing!
Especially if you live in Woking!
(wink wink nudge nudge)
Seriously though it is a gem, a rare one.
By far one of my favorite live shows of this year...
This Rodrigo y Gabriela's first recorded collaboration with another group of musicians;
a thirteen piece Cuban orchestra composed of some of Havana's finest young players,
collectively known as the C.U.B.A.
I know many fans did not like the idea of them doing something other than a duo...however I did!
This was an incredible band!
Buy the CD!
You will not regret it!

Forty-five years after his debut and eight years since his last record, Jimmy Cliff returns in 2012 with an old-school reggae album that is pure dynamite.
A fantastic selection of songs that old fans and new will enjoy.
The man's voice is golden as ever.
I particularly enjoyed his cover of the Clash’s classic tune, “Guns of Brixton.”
But every cut is a winner.

SOUNDGARDEN – King Animal (Deluxe Edition)

 Yes that's right...
after a 16-year break, the members of Soundgarden have released a brand new CD with the band completely intact and rocking as well as ever.  Chris Cornell is in fine form, and Kim Thayil still can make his guitar roar.  The most unusual thing about “King Animal” is that it essentially picks up exactly where the band left off on “Down on the Upside.”  This album could’ve come out in 1998 or 1999.  Nothing about it screams 2012.  Muscular workouts like “Non-State Actor” and “Been Away Too Long” would be huge hits if radio still played rock music.  Let’s hope this reunion sticks and that there is more to come because it is simply good music. And Rock is not dead.
Though it smells funny.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Theory Of Stupid Design - - SDT

The Stupid Design Theory... or SDT is a materialist theory that proposes that if things are stupid, then god didn't do it. Therefore, if there's a lot of stupid stuff, god probably doesn't exist. From this we can deduce, logically, that the best evidence for Atheism would be a whole load of stupid stuff.
The theory states that some forms of existence are simply too stupid to have come about by random chance. Ergo, they must have been designed to be stupid by someone at least equally as stupid as the stupidity that has been created, a Stupid Designer like God or Calvin Klein or whomever coaches the New York Mets, and not just any old mediocre designer.

Top Scholars Now Embrace Stupid Design Theory

The stupid people who believe this theory are considered to be highly stupid indeed, though most of them do not consider themselves as stupid as the stupid people who believe other equally absurd theories. The existence and validity of Stupid Design has been proved by the fact that, like everything else we know to exist, it causes cancer in lab mice. It causes rodent cancer therefore it is.

One of the 68,983 laws of the theory states that 
if you hear, say or type the word stupid too many times,
 it starts to sound stupid ...
or if birds nest in Donald Trump's toupee
 ...that's evidence of extreme stupidity as well.
As is finding a blanket too difficult to operate.
("Snuggies"of any type)

SDT was theorized in the early 1900s as a counter to Yosemite Sam's critique of Religion through intelligent design. The Bacterial flagellum was cited originally as evidence for intelligent design, as it was supposedly irreducibly complex, like cancer, but eventually was used to create SDT, by it's founder, Robert Huxley. The Theory originally was proposed in a paper entitled "Evidence for A Sentience in Ducks and fauna of the Ridiculous Style", which was published originally in the journal, "Discotheques of Science".
Some argue that the designer is not stupid, but merely joking around. This the Prankster Design theory. A whole other stupid subject.
 Theologists all agree
underlying all belief systems is Stupidity Design Theory

Contention has arisen between two warring factions of Stupid Design advocates as to whether the Stupid Designer is a Stupid Being who attempted to design something which he/she thought to be very clever but, because of his/her inherent stupidity, turned out to be stupid; or the Stupid Designer is so clever a being that designing stupidity (in a stupid way) is the pinnacle of his/her clever work and allowing us to discover this stupidity in such a way that it would throw many a red herring in our intellectual path - and indeed allow the Stupid Designer to test our own stupidity - has been the Stupid Designer's ultimate goal.

Outside and objective observers of this debate are able to confirm that the arguments put forth by both factions, as well as the acquaintances of all the factional members, are quite stupid. The debaters refuse to take this point under serious consideration as they know the outside observers to be stupid as well.

According to SDT it can be extrapolated that some animals that are seemingly tending towards an evolutional gain, such as Flying Fish leaning towards actual flight, may in the distant future become stupid ass things, such as a pink rubber flying fish that sings.

Success stories of this method of thinking include the zebra, which was hypothesised as a Horse that had stripes, rendering it stupid. It was discovered decades later and hailed as a huge success. The Polar bear was also thought of before it's discovery, but was later discovered to be really dangerous, and so not stupid at all.

Here are some other stupid animals that may exist in the future:

  • Bats with really big feet
  • Cows that just say "Henry" over and over again in a falsetto voice
  • Monkeys that rub food on their faces rather than eating it
  • A dead badger, covered in tinsel
  • A flower shaped like a more edible flower, so that more animals eat it
  • Viruses that cause the host to avoid contact with it's own species
  • Pigs that have blue and wispy, yet bouffant hair growing from their nostrils.
  • Cats with long tails and biscuits instead of eyes.
  • Fish that have tits. .

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Few Thoughts On The U.S. Bill Of Rights 2nd Amendment Discussion

   OK...I've thought about this quite a bit and admit after the latest slaying of school children and the mass media onslaught of coverage I, like everyone else, am a bit tired of even hearing about  gun's not really the answer entirely as mental health issues are likely more on point... however can we really justify the numbers of these killings merely for the convenience of  gun owners having easy access to guns?....I have nothing but admiration for the U.S. constitution however you also need to consider the time, when they spoke of these militias, it was because there was no plan whatsoever for a standing army. Also it was written in the 1780s, when this was an agrarian nation, people truly used firearms to acquire meat, or defend themselves from marauding bears, assorted carnivorous cats (very plentiful back then) etc.

And yet again, any inquiry into the history shows us that the model for amendment 2 is The English Bill of Rights (in 1689) which stated "Subjects which are Protestants may have Arms for their Defense". This was caused by the reign of James II , the last Roman Catholic monarch to reign over the Kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland. Members of Britain's political and religious elite increasingly opposed him eventually leading to the "glorious revolution" which outed James, who was best known for his belief in the Divine Right of Kings and his attempts to create "religious liberty" for English Roman Catholics through the persecution of the Presbyterian Covenanters, taking away their arms. So at the root of the US 2nd amendment is historically religion (Surprise!), and another case of the conservative notion that there are rulers and the ruled, as opposed to the democratic notion that all people are equal under the law. Kings generally wanted their subjects armed in case of needing them for defense of the realm. But James took weapons from his enemies....leading to this legislation once he was booted from the commonwealth.

   Historically, the original application of the 2nd amendment was quite different than it's interpretations since the 1930s. The founders and their first few generations of predecessors applied the Second Amendment only to the federal government, and not to the states, and this persisted for much of the nation's history. If you look into it, it was sustained in United States v. Cruikshank (1876) to support disarming African-Americans holding arms in self-defense from Klansmen in Louisiana. The Supreme Court held at that time , that citizens must "look for their protection against any violation by their fellow-citizens from the state, rather than the national, government."
Clearly, originally regulating firearms was left to local law. (think of the old cowboy stories, rooted in history...Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson etc.- towns had local ordinances banning firearms within their jurisdiction...before these places became states, when they were they became states the validity of Kansas city banning firearms was left to the state to decide...not the federal government interestingly)
Federal protection of an individual interfering with the state’s right to disarm any of its citizens came up again in the SCOTUS in Presser v. Illinois (1886). They ruled the citizens were members of the federal militia, as were "all citizens capable of bearing arms." A state cannot "disable the people from performing their duty to the General Government". The Court was harking back to the language establishing a federal militia in 1792. This was the first change in function of the amendment...taking the right away from states to decide. It is a century after Madison penned the document in question. The next big change, occurred in 1939, when once again, the Supreme Court returned to a consideration of militia. In U.S. v. Miller, the Court addressed the enforceability of the National Firearms Act of 1934 prohibiting a short-barreled shotgun. (in the days of Bonnie and Clyde, this ruling referenced units of well equipped, drilled militia, the Founders "trainbands", (what became the modern military Reserves). It did not address the tradition of an unorganized militia. Our Twentieth century views about this are obviously different than the original implementation and interpretation of the 2nd amendment. It does say that citizens have the right to own and bear arms however (under federal law...) and it seems to me, consistency requires giving the Second Amendment the same dignity of the First, Fourth, Ninth and Tenth...if we hope to preserve those. In the 21st century we are certainly pushing the boundaries of this document... however does it mean citizens can own howitzers? Atomic missiles?
Biological weaponry?

   Jefferson alluded to an armed citizenry needing to overthrow entrenched government every few generations...true, he did. However by even the end of the 19th century, a band of citizens could not take on the U.S. military and it became frankly foolish to consider such a the citizens would need their own nukes, bio weapons, drones, automatic machine guns, various grenades, bombs and James Bond type devices, --- arsenals of every description to perform such a it or not...this is reality. You are not going to stand down a tank with a shotgun...or 2...(you are not going to "win" at least). Today, our view of this amendment, skewed as it is may be by various legal views of it taken over time, needs to adapt to the reality of the 21st century... I'm not pleased to say this, as messing with one aspect of the bill of rights opens the door to messing with the others.

However, in conclusion, let us consider that by 1816 Jefferson wrote that "some men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence and deem them like the ark of the covenant, too sacred to be touched." But he saw imperfections and imagined that potentially, there could be others, believing as he did that "institutions must advance also". Yet on the other hand, I submit that the USA is a unique sort of place in that it is a multi-ethnic, multi-sectarian, hodgepodge of divergent people and is frankly held together by a political orthodoxy created by our constitution, in contrast with a nation state of people having more "natural" ties. It is a difficult path to tread, yet obviously the writers of the document did not intend for it to be "sacred", that it may need some tweaks in a future their agrarian culture could not possibly have foreseen.

Ultimately here are my conclusions...
after each sad incident ,the victims will be mourned, the suspect studied, and the incident relegated to our criminal justice system and milked to the point of distraction in the media. However,  can we not see gun violence a public health problem.  It affects people, it causes death, injury and disability, and it can be addressed with environmental, legal, and behavioral interventions.   A classic paper examining violence in a public health frame was published in a 1993 issue of the journal Health Affairs.  J.A. Mercy and colleagues described the methods and models used in public health, including a heavy emphasis on interdisciplinary leadership.  More recently, David Hemenway, PhD, a professor of health policy at Harvard School of Public Health published Private Guns, Public Health in which he makes the compelling case that gun violence can be prevented, just like we’ve tackled other public health challenges.

Gun violence is uniquely an American problem compared to other industrialized countries.  The rate of gun-related deaths per 100,000 individuals in Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom is 0.1, 0.5, and 0.03, respectively.  In the U.S., the overall rate is 2.98.   And that overall rate doesn’t tell the full story.  In some cities, the rates are five to ten times that number.  The fatality rate in Los Angeles is 9.2, in Miami it’s 23.7 and in Detroit, Michigan the rate is a staggering 35.9 deaths per 100,000 residents.  According to data assembled by the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIJP), about 85 people in the U.S. are killed every day in firearm-related incidents.   The most recent available NCIJP data (2007) identified more than 31,000 firearm-related deaths in the U.S., including 17,000 from suicide and 13,000 from homicide/police involvement.

The number of deaths are striking enough, but even more so when compared to the firearm-related fatality rates in other countries.  Data from the University of Sydney School of Public Health’s gun policy program to create the above table.  It shows gun-related fatality rates for the Group of Twelve countries.  The U.S. is a striking outlier on both the rate of homicides by guns and rate of unintentional gun fatalities.

  Don't take my word for it, use the University of Sydney School of Public Health’s gun facts by country to make your own comparisons.  I bet the results will not exactly make you swell with pride.
What I believe is this...gun violence is a national health issue...I believe strongly that scientific approaches used by public health experts are the answer in curbing this epidemic. They will likely include sensible gun controls along with other measures. But certainly, it is immoral by any measure of the concept and a menace to public health to continue to do nothing.

Edited by Barbi Harris :)

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Fashionable Trojan Horse Of Authoritism

Mythology...the collection of parable, analogy, and metaphors from the history of man's psyche.
Most myths have some underlying truth to convey to an astute reader.
Like the tale of the Trojan Horse for instance.
On closer inspection things may not be as they seem.
I myself, though essentially an ardent fan of reason,
would not care to live in a world devoid of myths.
Though it is quite dangerous to cross the Rubicon into that realm where one believes
mythologies are factual and literally true.
We have in recent times witnessed the birth of a new mythology my friends and most honored readers....
It is not however, a mythology created from bards and writers.
Nor is it wisdom handed down in stories through generations.
It is created by modern public relations think tanks
in service of those who at all times and in all places
throughout history have banded together to set themselves up as
an aristocracy of some sort.
This is nothing new.
From the pharaohs of ancient Egypt to the self-regarding thugs of ancient Rome to the glorified warlords of medieval Europe, in nearly every urbanized society throughout human history, there have been people who have tried to constitute themselves as an aristocracy.
These people and their allies are the conservatives.
Conservatism at all times in all places is always an argument
for absolutism...for an aristocracy of some sort
to dominate society.
Today, they use (quite successfully) the machines of Public Relations
to create a mythology that essentially is a Trojan Horse.
Once the "gift" is accepted,
all is lost.

"Just what is this modern mythology?" you ask.
There are many changing and developing facets to it...
like the Zygote in the film "Alien" it morphs after it has used it's host.
Changes from one host to another absorbing bits of the hosts DNA in it's new form.
The host, once invaded though does not survive.
Let's look at some examples.

These concepts and statistics deal largely with the U.S.A.
but overall the entire world is dealing with these issues
in various incarnations of "austerity" programs and such.

Mythologies Created About Health Care

Private Insurance costs far more money than Medicare does.
According to the  Council for Affordable Health Insurance ,
medical administrative costs as a percentage of claims
are about three times higher for private insurance than for Medicare.
The  U.S. Institute of Medicine  reports that the for-profit system
wastes $750 billion a year on waste, fraud, and inefficiency.
As a percent of GDP, we spend $1.2 trillion more than the  OECD average  here in the U.S.
So all of you teabaggers out there screaming about socialism,
and shouting down the handicapped at town halls, this amount is equal to the entire U.S. deficit.
That's right, the amount wasted  on achieving profits for private medical care companies, if instead was applied to the deficit would eliminate it.  One out of every six  dollars you earn goes to health care.
The mythology of private health insurance being better than a not for profit system is but one example of this Trojan Horse.

Privatizing Social Security Is Good

No, It's not.
Another myth cooked up by the slogan generators.
Administrative costs for 401(k) plans are much higher than those for Social Security -- up to twenty times more.
It would be difficult to find, or even imagine, any short-term-profit-based private insurer that is fully funded for the next  25 years . Social Security is. It works for all retirees while private plans work for a limited number of investors.
Essentially this myth is created by the Wall Street Casino
that would like you to bet your retirement at their tables.
An occasional winner, but the house always wins...and the vast majority loose.
Social Security is a not for profit insurance that you purchased.
It is not "an entitlement".
It was never meant to be part of the general fund.
It is not gambling.
(the way private retirement funds are)
The only risk in social security is that politicians will destroy the program
so they won't have to return what they have stolen from it.

Public Funding Is Bad, Private Banks Are Good

Balderdash. No way.
Cities and towns around the country have been repeatedly victimized
by a  "bid-rigging" process that diverts billions of dollars
 from numerous unsuspecting communities to the accounts of a few big banks.
Individual homeowners, especially minorities, have also been victimized by the banks.
Because of the housing crash and the corresponding decrease in home values, middle class households lost over half of their  median wealth , and minority households almost two-thirds.
There are simply a plethora of scandals and scams in banking.
The privately run Mortgage Electronic Registration System (MERS) headed up the  illegal foreclosure  business; the banking association  LIBOR was guilty of interest rate manipulation;
and numerous financial institutions have engaged in the subtle artistry of imposing  hidden fees .
Your credit cards are loaded with  "gray charges" 
things like surprise subscriptions and auto-renewals
  little scams that cost the average consumer $356 a year.
Unbelievably it has been  estimated that 40% of every dollar
we spend on goods and services goes to banks as interest.

Public banks , on the other hand, focus on the needs of communities and small businesses rather than on investors. The most well-known example is the  Bank of North Dakota  (BND), which has successfully worked with local banks throughout the state, promoting business growth through loans that a larger bank might be reluctant to make, while managing to turn a profit every year for the past 40 years.
This is the system that wants no government oversight..."trust us".
This is the system that caused the collapse of the worlds economies
through it's own irresponsible risk taking
and manages now, to have you and I dear reader,
cover their losses.
Government at this time is not your enemy, nor is it big enough
to effectively battle
multinational banking cartels.
What vestiges remain of democracy
dwindle further each day
As more people buy into the manufactured myths of the would-be Pharaohs.

The legend of the Big Box

Smaller government is promoted by the very companies that make record profits
 while forcing their employees to accept public assistance.
While McDonald's enjoyed profits of  130 percent  over the past four years, and Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and KFC made 45 percent, and while the Walton family (owners of Walmart) made  $20 billion  in one year , the median hourly wage for food service workers and Walmart employees is about $9 an hour. Many workers are stuck at the $7.25 minimum wage, which according to the  National Employment Law Project  is worth 30 percent less than it was in 1968.
Food service and big box store employees, are the  fastest-growing job segments in the nation, and these people are making barely enough to stay out of poverty.
It is not just the employees who subsidize their bosses.
We all are.
Every one of us.
Low-wage employees are dependent on the  food stamps and Medicaid 
which of course are paid for by our tax dollars.
The idea that somehow
cheap shoddy goods
benefit you
is a myth.

Government Is Bad

Libertarianism is corporatism in a sheep's clothing.

Ok all you big government haters out there...ask yourself these questions if you will...
What is the incentive for private companies to deal with tragedies like Hurricane Sandy?
The  Pacific Standard  aptly stated that "the free market doesn't want to be in the flood business."
Face it there is no profit in it.
Private industry is fine for some things.
Not all things.

What is the incentive for private companies to keep poisons out drinking water?
If it is more profitable to dump toxins indiscriminately into the environment
than to behave civilly.
Private industry time and again has demonstrated
it has little interest in civility.
Short term profits trump long term survival.
Time and again.
Without sufficient government regulations
the Clean Water Act was  violated a half-million times in one year.
In one year.
(worth repeating).
What might the incentive for private companies to plow your roads?
Could a corporate entity do it cheaper considering they need to make skyrocketing profits year after year?
Considering they have a culture whereby they insist the top executives
must be paid scores of millions of dollars
annually and drown in perks and bonuses
or their talents will go elsewhere
where others have been duped into believing
a manger is to be paid hundreds of thousands of times more
than the mere workers.
Must a profit be made by someone on every human endeavor?

Liars and paper tigers and bear markets oh my!

What incentive might industry have to reduce the number of prisoners in profit-seeking  prisons?
Or to allow you to send a birthday card for just 45 cents?
Or to simply treat its customers with a degree of  respect rather than as a source of profit?
A battery to drain power from
and toss in the rubbish.
The "invisible hand" of the free market is often picking our pockets.
In many ways it is both unable and unwilling to satisfy the needs of society.
It has a place...but perhaps not at the top of pyramid.
The free market is not free.
There is a cost.
Paid for in both currency...and loss of humanity
For that it is worthy of our contempt.
Not our awe.
Liars and paper tigers and bear markets oh my!
This is some horseshit of a different color!
Keynes got it right.
Balance is the trick.
Humanity trumps profits.