Friday, February 20, 2009
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Do Not Be Fooled By Equality Utah and The Common Ground Initiative They are using intimadation to gain ground and are lying to the public, ALL THEY WANT IS MARRIAGE RIGHTS to valdite their relationship of the same-sex!!! THEY ALREADY HAVE THE RIGHT to Marry, a gay man can marry a gay woman!
(Sic, sic, sic.)Apparently, the sanctity of marriage is so sacred to them, they recommend making a mockery of it with hopelessly mismatched faux-nuptials. Also, love the Web 1.0 retro site design. Best viewed using Netscape. I'm pretty sure if you look around long enough, you'll find a Dancin' Baby and probably even a Hampster Dance page.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Cooney, now living in "green-central" San Francisco, is a soft-spoken personable fellow who seems rather pleased with himself for recognizing early on that having an MBA and a love for the environment are not mutually exclusive. He launched and sold three green business in the past five years and now serves as a consultant for big corporations and even individuals searching for their own environmental niche. He also writes for several green business blogs, including his own at EcopreneursGuide.com.
A bit circumspect when asked how much opportunity would trickle down to small business via the stimulus bill, Cooney did suggest that energy efficiency (i.e., retrofitting buildings to be green) was where it was at, both in terms of a particular skill set and starting a business. He also stressed the importance of networking with other green business owners while the industry is young.
If you'd like to hear more from Cooney, you can catch him here.
Thursday, February 19
7 p.m.: Golden Braid Books, 151 S. 500 East, downtown SLC.
Friday, February 20
7 p.m.: The King’s English, 15th East and 15th South. Informal reception to follow. (Jerre Wroble)
According to the Mormon Times (via Harper's), Starr told a group of Mormon lawyers that the GOP will likely attempt to thwart President Barack Obama's court nominations—apparently, out of revenge:
"There is one historical factoid of note: [Obama] is the first president of the United States ever in our history to have participated in a Senate filibuster of a judicial nominee. Never before has that happened."Those who remember how Starr, with the collusion of a GOP-controlled Congress, basically shut down the Clinton government to get to the bottom of an Oval Office blowjob will be happy to note Starr is attempting to bring that same spirit of spitefully irrational bad governance to the Obama era.
If, as Starr says, the Republicans haven't learned their lesson and they're going to pout instead of doing their job, then Obama's good-faith attempts at bipartisanship are doomed, and the Democratic majority will have no choice but to simply ignore the Republicans. (For one thing, aren't Sens. Orrin Hatch and Bob Bennett getting a little too old to participate in all-night filibusters?)
Ken Starr is also slated on March 5 to swinishly argue in favor of California's Proposition 8, a fact which endears him to members of the fuckwad community.
According to the Mormon Times, Starr is not a Mormon.
The bill is a response to this summer Utah Supreme Court decision granting the public access to play in all river waters, even where rivers run through private property. HB 187 would limit such access to sections of around 14 state rivers and prohibit recreational river use near homes.
Tomorrow’s rally, at 10:30 a.m., should be a scene. The Website of the Utah Rivers Council, one of the groups fighting HB 187, advises, “feel free to bring your waders, rod, boat, paddle, life jacket, whatever...” City Weekly previously wrote about the river battle here and here. (Ted McDonough)
[Late Night Snack] Following last night's Salt Lake Magazine Dining Awards, where once again I was snubbed, we trooped over to Cafe Madrid for a late night snack. I tend to forget how marvelous Madrid is, even though it won the Best SLC Restaurant award in 2006 from Salt Lake Magazine.
And it's probably best if you can somehow make it a part of your religion. That way, you don't have to take responsibility for your own dislikes and prejudices—just say God hates the same people you do. That way, you're simply doing God's will.
What I don't understand is why homophobes can't just sit around feeling all hate-y and morally superior; why do they have to be so swinish? Why are homophobes so often assholes?
It's not enough that they promote constitutional amendments and blindly support even the dumbest laws, as long as they can further restrict the rights of gays and lesbians. (A law making it illegal for gays to buy ice cream? Bring it on; those queers are a threat to our families' ice-cream consumption!)
No, they also have to say cruel, senseless things about me: That I'm a greater "threat" to America than a terrorist is, that I'm liable to harm children, that I'm really, really mean and I have no morals.
Maybe they don't intend to be assholes. Maybe they're just deluded.
Buttars, apparently, even thinks that there's some new perversion sweeping the gay and lesbian community, something that's so bad the ABC 4 Utah Website wouldn't publish it. I can't listen to the recorded interview without throwing office equipment, but my guess is Buttars watched the Family Research Council scare-video from years ago that makes gross and incredible claims about, er, massive coprophilia.
Shows how gullible homophobes are. It isn't the gays who are full of shit.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Monday, February 16, 2009
In her Times piece, Sturgeon (that's her in the photo) quotes our ever-hip Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.:
“There is no question that making Utah the top spot for adventure sports will help the state. Whether young people do these sports or just watch them on television, when they see it coming out of Utah, it plants a seed in their mind that Utah is a hip destination unmatched anywhere else in the world.”
Friday, February 13, 2009
That's the idea at least.
The bill as it turns out would only instate a one year cooling off period for legislators who want to go to work for a lobbying firm--that is a firm that only does lobbying. If however a legislator leaves office and gets hired by, say, Zion's bank and his only job is to go and do lobbying at the legislature for Zions, then he or she doesn't have to worry about the whole cooling off period. This because "there are a myriad of businesses in Utah with a myriad of problems" explained Dee.
Most committee members quickly recognized this loophole but still conceded the merits of the bill.
"There's no perfect solution and no perfect language in dealing with ethics," said committee member, Rep. Kevin Garn R-Layton. "We'll always have that problem."
The next item was H.B 346 which would do some tinkering with candidate's campaign disclosure filings. One change would keep legislators busy by requiring them to report all contributions they receive within five business days of receiving them instead of one of the five annual filing deadlines.
"The public would like to know now, and not at the next reporting period," Dee said of the language.
But then it was explained how the bill would also make it so that candidates would no longer need to disclose the monetary value of in-kind campaign contributions. These donations refer to services a donor provides a candidate such as website design, mailers, billboards etc... Dee explained the candidate should not be burdened with appraising the values of the services. So the language would require only that a candidate list that they had received an in-kind donation and give a brief description of what it was.
The contributor would still have to list the monetary value of their donation but that would be only listed on their separate report.
Rep. Tim Cosgrove, D-Murray also on the committee worried special interests might take advantage of that loophole. "I'm concerned with the amount of interest groups that may just end up funding an entire campaign, free of charge."
Regardless, both bills passed out the committee unanimously, with most committee members sounding off on progress being made. Dee for one picked up on the various committee members latching on to the expression that "the ball has been moved" and sounded off his presentation with this thought:
"We haven't scored a touchdown yet, but we have got a couple of first downs," he said.
That metaphor was a popular one during the meeting, but I think one offered by Rep. Brad Last, R-St. George, really summed up the challenges of doing ethics legislation. In regards to H.B. 364's letting candidates get off the hook for not listing the monetary value of in-kind donations, Last said the measure would keep legislators from stepping on ethics "landmines".
"We want the public to know what we're doing," Last said. "But we don't want to place landmines for us [legislators] to have to navigate around."
(Eric S. Peterson)
Thursday, February 12, 2009
The “Recreational Use of Public Waters” bill written by Rep. Ben Ferry, R- Corinne, not only undoes this summer’s 5-0 decision granting the public recreational use of state rivers, it would make river access worse than before the ruling. So complain the Utah Rivers Council and the Utah Council of Trout Unlimited, which are gearing up to fight the bill.
“We don’t want the Legislature to take away what the court has given,” says Bob Dibblee, chairman of the Utah state Trout Unlimited chapter. He’s hoping a healthy showing of some of the state’s 400,000 anglers on Capitol Hill will help lawmakers see that House Bill 187 isn’t the compromise between private-property rights and river access Trout Unlimited thought it was negotiating with lawmakers.
HB 187 and a companion bill would rewrite state trespassing law, making fisherman criminals for crossing some lands traditionally used for gaining access to rivers. Many currently-fished river sections would be made inaccessible by that provision alone. The bill also says fishing won’t be allowed on rivers within 500 feet of homes.
The widest restrictions come in a provision of HB 187 that purports to limit public river access to 17 river sections throughout the state. Few river forks or tributaries are included on the list.
Critics argue that undoing the Supreme Court’s decision misses the boat on new money-making tourism opportunities, not to mention the hundreds of millions the state Division of Wildlife Resources estimates anglers already spend each year in Utah. (Ted McDonough)
[Feb. 12] Two hundred years ago today, both Abe Lincoln and Charlie Darwin were born, Lincoln to hard-shell Baptists in a log cabin near Hodgenville, Kent., and Darwin to a mostly Unitarian family in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England. Both ultimately let go of religion, with neither one affiliated with a church when he died.
Their bicentennial birthday parties are low-key affairs here in the Beehive State (except for a few university celebrations, such as the Humanists of Utah's Darwin Day event featured in this week's Five Spot)—not surprising since, during their time, both either acted or espoused views that rubbed many of the Utah faithful the wrong way.
Both men were also contemporaries of LDS Church founder Joseph Smith. And, it should be noted, some Mormons believe with a surety that Lincoln and Smith had occasion to meet in Illinois, which, nowadays, gives rise to many good vibes toward Lincoln. Some draw comparisons between Abe and Jo, suggesting they each had divine missions.
But this latter-day Lincoln love may be misplaced. Lincoln was mostly wary of the Mormons of his time. His Republican Party believed that slavery and polygamy were the "twin relics of barbarism." We know what he did about slavery, and as for the Mormon multi-wife tradition, he did sign an anti-polygamy bill in 1862 and went on to establish Fort Douglas, ordering federal troops to keep an eye on what he once called a "strange, new sect."
Lincoln compared Mormons to the obstinate logs in the fields he remembered from his youth. Sometimes a log was "too hard to split, too wet to burn, and too heavy to move," so he plowed around it. That was the message he had for the Mormons back in Utah: "You go back and tell Brigham Young that if he will let me alone, I will let him alone," Lincoln conveyed to Thomas B.H. Stenhouse, an LDS representative to Washington, in 1863.
Many Mormons now seem to deify Lincoln, ostensibly for letting them be, never mind him comparing them to unmovable logs. And they're quick to point out that in 1840, while in the Illinois legislature, Lincoln did vote for the Nauvoo Charter.
Before the "log" speech, however, Brigham Young was distrustful of Lincoln (calling him "King Abraham") since, as an Illinois state representative, Lincoln did nothing to help Mormons during their troubles in Nauvoo. And Lincoln went on to send three federal judges to Utah, two of whom were anti-Mormon.
But blood atonement was so 19th century, and all can be forgiven when it comes to dead presidents. According to Lynn Arave in a Mormon Times September 2008 posting, on the first centennial of Lincoln's birthday, Lincoln was presidentially sealed in the temple, along with his wife and his first girlfriend (yes, even Lincoln can enjoy Big Love in the afterlife!):
On Lincoln's 100th birthday in 1909, former apostle Matthias F. Cowley participated as proxy in a Salt Lake Temple sealing for President Lincoln and his wife, Mary Todd. Lincoln was then sealed to his former sweetheart, Ann Mayes Rutledge, too. Rutledge's untimely death from a typhoid fever in 1835 at age 22 broke Lincoln's heart.On a related note, on this day in 1870, women gained the right to vote in the Utah Territory (but not to hold office). So now you have at least three good reasons to head to the bar. (Jerre Wroble)
[V-Day Dine O' Round] Please, no more calls or emails asking where to take your beloved, betrothed, sweetie, honey, ball-and-chain to dine on Valentine's Day. I've tried to avoid the Trib-and Des News-ish obligatory annual roundup (i.e. regurgitation of PR releases) of V-Day options in the paper. But if you still haven't found the perfect table to find lust and love this Valentine's Day, here's a list of eateries I'm aware of doing special Cupid cuisine on Saturday.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Koford's rotund "Eustace Tilley XXL" was selected among the top 12 of more than 300 entries. Submissions were based on Rea Irvin's satirical cover illustration from the publication's inaugural issue: the New Yorker's foppish, lepidopterological mascot "Eustace Tilley."
It is careful attention to detail that often spells the difference between accomplished, incisive parody and brutish, sarcastic imitation. This is why Koford's close faithfulness to Irvin's original color scheme seems not born of timidity or slavish literalism. Instead, it draws attention to subtler distinctions between "XXL" and the original--particularly Koford's bolder line, which strikes me as a nod to mid-20th century studio cartooning conventions.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Our Republican delegation is only too content to sit back and be naysayers, especially in the likely event the $838 billion stimulus bill, which passed the Senate earlier today, does not produce desired results. Re-election is never far from their minds, and they can easily rub "I told you so," in our faces when the time comes.
So, today, Sen. Bob Bennett just said no:
“If Democratic leadership and the president had only been willing to take a little more time and examine the details with more careful scrutiny, we could have produced a bill that would achieve great results without creating long term risks. The economy is desperately in need of careful government action, but this bill does not meet that standard.”Orrin Hatch is similarly frothing at the mouth about the "The Raw Deal," as he calls the bill:
“It is hard to feel good about such a bad bill. Rather than work together to craft a bipartisan bill that would actually stimulate the economy, as our new president promised, Democrats have ramrodded through the Senate an unbalanced spending bill tinged with far too few effective stimulative provisions.”All this talk about Democrats being unwilling to work with them suggests to me they were likely in the throes of loading up the bill with their various pork. When told to get their hands out of the cookie jar, they took their toys and went home.
At least Rep. Jim Matheson had the decency to vote with his fellow Democrats, though I'm sure perspiration dripped from his forehead and his finger shook as he pressed the "yea" button, all while visions of his Republican fan club coming after him with pitchforks danced in his head. His buyer's remorse bubbles up in his newsletter:
I voted for the US House's version of the economic recovery package because I feel strongly that efforts to create jobs and cut taxes for thousands of Utahns are the highest priority. There is no easy or guaranteed way to address the severe stress facing our economy. Inaction will make the situation worse. Options must be on the table to lessen the duration of this slump for Utahns. ... I do not agree with all the proposed spending, some of which has already been eliminated. There is no such thing as a perfect answer to this crisis, but on balance it is important that Congress move the process forward.Then, as in a previous newsletter, Matheson goes on to ask constituents to help solve the crisis, with a series of "duh" questions:
Are infrastructure projects an appropriate way to save jobs and create jobs? Will cutting taxes for small business and for individuals and couples who earn less than $75,000 (individuals) and $150,000 (couples) help your family budget? Do you fear you will lose your job in the next 12 months? What else should Congress be considering as it tries to help the economy recover?Sadly, there is a dearth of good ideas from Our Men in D.C. They relish the opportunity to shoot holes in Obama's proposals but seem oddly clueless when it comes to inspired thinking of their own. Republicans will let Obama be the fall guy for the shit sandwich he inherited, even though it was Republicans asleep at the switch that allowed the economy tank in the first place. So hey, D.C. dudes, if you know better how to fix things, tell us, already. (Jerre Wroble)
Monday, February 9, 2009
Friday, February 6, 2009
So why care?
Well, traditionally, our FICO scores were hidden from us; they were only available to lenders. Borrowers wouldn't know if they qualified for a mortgage loan, for example, until the mortgage company pulled their credit reports.
All that changed on June 11, 2003, when consumers were able to purchase all three of their credit scores (from the big three bureaus: TransUnion, Equifax and Experian) through Fair Isaac, the company that conceived of the score known as "FICO." Consumers finally were able to see the same information as lenders see in advance of applying for an auto or mortgage loan or a credit card.
That little bit of knowledge was a wonderful thing, too. It helped us know how to approach lenders and how to cut to the chase more quickly.
On a mortgage loan, for instance, mortgage companies usually look at all three scores. The lender bases its decision on the borrower's “middle” score. If you know ahead of time what your scores are, you can study up on loan programs available to you and not be pressured into a loan program pushed by a finance guy.
Through Feb. 13, you can still buy your FICO scores from all three bureaus here. And beginning Feb. 14, you'll still be able to buy your TransUnion and Equifax scores. But two out of three ain't the whole picture.
Bear in mind how much credit bureaus impact our lives. Lower FICO scores mean higher interest rates (the median FICO score is around 720). To not know what credit bureaus know about us puts us at a huge disadvantage when applying for credit. As such, we shouldn't let Experian off the hook lightly. If you feel like complaining, phone Experian at 714-830-5300 (that's the media relations department where you might actually speak to a living person. If you call the main number, you'll just get a recording.) (Jerre Wroble)
Guy 1: [speaking of his plans for the morning] I'm gonna go down there under the bridge ...
Guy 2: That's crazy. There's a lotta nuts down there!
Guy 1: Well, I'm a crack addict.
(Brandon "Oh, then you should be just fine" Burt)
Thursday, February 5, 2009
[Liquor Laws, Again] While driving to work this morning, I heard Salt Lake Tribune political reporter Robert Gehrke on KSL radio's Doug Wright Show. Wright had invited Gehrke to defend his reporting on this story, dated Feb. 3. Why? Because the night before, on KSL's Nightside Project, Senate President Michael Waddoups did a 180-degree reversal on his earlier position supporting a bill to establish a statewide database of information culled from bar patrons' drivers licenses.
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
What if Larry's firm wasn't bailed out by the government and he made budget? He did his job: Why should he not be compensated as before?If Anonymous hasn't seen the classic psychodrama Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, I highly recommend it. In one memorable scene, the paraplegic Blanche Hudson (Joan Crawford) tearfully protests, "You wouldn't be able to do these awful things to me if I weren't still in this chair!"
Main Street seems to have a misconception about Wall Street bonuses. Bonuses aren't gifts: they are the major part of the overall compensation package and people work very hard for them. Wall Street traders in general are underpaid on their salaries and the firms use the bonuses as both carrot and stick. When you do well, bonuses are up, and vice versa. That is the contract.
To which Baby Jane (Bette Davis) Hudsons' wonderfully callous response is: "But cha are, Blanche! Ya are in that chair!"
Blanche represents the crippled banking industry,
Baby Jane symbolizes the taxpayers,
and Elvira is, oh, let's say, the illegal immigrants.
Whatever. But nobody can carry off an eye-roll
like Bette Davis can carry off an eye-roll!
Anonymous started out his/her whole post with a big subjunctive "what if." What if Larry's firm hadn't been bailed out? (But it was, Blanche!) What if I, as a taxpayer, weren't faced with paying off a series of multibillion-dollar bailouts for the rest of my life? (But I am, Blanche!)
But, if I weren't, would I still complain about hordes of bank executives cashing bonus checks that dwarf my own annual salary? Well, let me think about it. Even before the bailouts became necessary, I often griped about the widening income gap that separates normal people like us from the few, the proud, the elite superrich.
So let's, for a moment, close our eyes and imagine a world in which the taxpayers hadn't been ... uh, "asked" to step in and bail out a bunch of wealthy fatcats for their hubris, shortsightedness and arrogance in looting the treasury for eight years and crashing the almighty economy. I'm visualizing as we speak. (Om mani padme hum...) The vision is a bit fuzzy, but reception is clearing up by the moment ... better now ... almost there ...
... aaaaand, here it is, crystal clear: that imaginary world where the bailout doesn't exist. And here I am in that world thinking about bloated corporate salaries and bonuses. And, why ... it almost seems ... well, yes! Of course I would complain. After all, they're only a bunch of semiliterate, entitled frat-boy MBAs who regard salaries in the low six figures as "slumming."
Frankly, I was a big fan of democracy while it lasted, so the fact that a small coterie of wealthy elitists were able to take the reins and dispose of the middle class in a few short decades kinda chaps my hide. Yep, sure I'd complain about those bonuses.
But--returning now to reality--there's a whole world of bitterness between that hypothetical kind of complaining and the long and loud, resentful, heartfelt bellyaching of which I find myself capable now that I've been elected to actually foot the bill for those MBAs' bonuses.
Even if, as Anonymous says, the bonuses are really to be considered part of the bankers' and traders' "compensation packages," what of it? If that's the case, then, in effect, I have suddenly assumed responsibility for paying some random corporate suit's cable and gas bills.
It's as if I've suddenly adopted an Ethiopian child, but he's got nicer clothes and a higher standard of living than mine, and he doesn't ever write or send pictures, and I don't even get a hug from Sally Struthers. If we ever were to meet (ah, that subjunctive mood again!), it's doubtful that we'd find anything in common to talk about.
But, if I'm going to have a pet stockbroker, I'd appreciate it if he'd drop by once in awhile--at least to do something useful like scaring mice out of the kitchen or barking at the mail carrier.
Traders are under a lot of pressure to not only do well but to increase production by at least 10% yearly. Perhaps a better model would be to increase the salaries and decrease the bonuses so that there is less drama and more stability on incomes.Sure, sure, they've got stressful jobs. Don't we all. I'd like to see how my pet trader holds up in a copy editor's slot on a production day prior to publication of a special issue. Then we'll see how he handles "stress." Once he earns my paycheck, he might think twice about appropriating 30 percent of it to fund 15 minutes of his next two-week trip to Tuscany.
To sum it up, Anonymous, many of us working stiffs are willing to believe that these bailouts are necessary. It seems reasonable that, through scrupulous and selective use of this huge infusion of cash, the best minds in the various economic industries could find a way to jumpstart the economy. After all, we want the country, and the world, to get back on good financial footing as soon as possible. That's why we didn't riot in the streets when the Emergency Economic Stimulus Act went through.
But, as long as the bankers and traders and MBAs are in that chair--as long as we're not only suffering from the results of their bad decisions but even cheerfully subsidizing them--they'd best accept our largess with a bit of gratitude, dump that attitude of entitlement and reign in their most conspicuous personal habits for awhile.
This shit tears me up. Especially since looking back I've realized that one of my biggest regrets about the last eight years of trauma, was that ol' dubya didn't push hard enough for comprehensive immigration reform. The guy was at least reasonable about that issue. And while many Bush-loving Utahns may hate to hear it, Bush was famous for having said during the 2000 campaign that "family values don't stop at the Rio Grande."
Yet now we find out that not only did Bush fail to make something of his campaign for sensible and compassionate reform, but that his failure to manage his administration's ICE initiatives allowed for the agency to conduct mass roundups of workers with no criminal records and pass them off as dangerous criminals--or worse, he tacitly supported it. As the article notes a study reported that as a result of artificially pumping up these stats, in 2007 ICE's apprehension of actual undocumented fugitives with serious criminal records fell to 9 percent compared to 39 percent in 2004 when the program was legitimately targeting major criminals as opposed to just bringing in bodies. The article raised the argument that the roundups were perhaps the result of a push to assure GOP-immigration hardliners that the Bush administration wasn't soft on them thar' illegals.
Lord knows how this will reflect on a Utah bill covered in an article in this week's paper that would have state law enforcement teaming up with ICE officials in targeting major undocumented immigrant crime. (Eric S. Peterson)
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Namely MADD makes the underlying argument that the availability of alcohol results in alcohol-related public health effects, which would include all the ills associated with alcohol such as DUI deaths, alcoholism, alcohol poisoning etc...
And when I recognized this logic I got one of those weird feelings, where goosebumps ran up my arms and I realized I am seeing an argument made against a liberal camp (drinkers and drinking establishments) from a conservative camp (religious groups, MADD, teetotalers) which is the same argument made against opposite camps regarding another controversial commodity.
Yessiree that's right, how often have you heard concerned gun-owners decry liberal activists for fear that they were trying to ban outright firearms?
And certainly the argument resounded that 'Hey back off hippy! Guns don't kill people, people kill people, and certainly responsible gun owners shouldn't be punished for the negligent and criminal behavior of outlaws, right?'
So MADD does not like to see drinks to even be visible in restaurants for fear of showing kids that alcohol is available and therefore cool. I wonder then if MADD would support a Zion's curtain going up in all outdoor retail shops to shield the image of guns from children. Because, hell, if the availability of alcohol has a direct correlation to negative public health effects certainly the same logic applies to the availability of guns, right?
Apples and oranges you say? I'm not so sure. But in comparing the duelling commodities of good American guns and booze, I feel like I might be hatching just now a possible liquor-law reform: How about we get rid private club memberships in lieu of something comparable to a one-time concealed-carry permit class or hunter's safety course, something like a drinkers-safety
class...hmmm, and maybe we could make children wear bright neon vests when they go into Chili's, so the bartenders will be able to spot them more easily and make sure they don't go swiping cocktails from the server's station. Yes! I think I need to contact a legislator! (Eric S. Peterson)
BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN AND THE E STREET BAND, PHISH, THE BEASTIE BOYS, NINE INCH NAILS, TV ON THE RADIO, WILCO, AL GREEN, DAVID BYRNE, SNOOP DOGG, MERLE HAGGARD, ERYKAH BADU, MGMT, BON IVER, THE DECEMBERISTS, LUCINDA WILLIAMS AND MORE
Tickets go on sale this Saturday, Feb. 7
Monday, February 2, 2009
Sunday, February 1, 2009
Larry Meyers, who is noted for having successfully reached the age of 43, puts it this way: "Say I’m a banker and I created $30 million. I should get a part of that.” This makes some sense, except for the fact that Meyers neglected to mention exactly how he "created" this $30 million or what he means, exactly, by the "creation" of money.
If money is "frozen work"--that is, a symbolic representation of productivity--then we would expect the most productive people in society to earn the most money. Now, of course, sometimes it's hard to gauge relative levels of productivity--if today Peter Potter turns out 13 ceramic vases, five coffeecups and one ashtray by mistake, is he more or less productive than Nancy Nurse, who bandages eight wounds, administers 43 doses of medication and accidentally spreads staph infections to two patients?
Nancy gets paid more than Peter--but if Larry's paycheck is 40 times that of Nancy, does that mean his supposed "creation" of money has the same productivity value as that of somebody who can bandage 320 wounds, administer 1,720 doses and spread 80 staph infections in one day? Or throw more than 520 ceramic vases, 200 coffeecups and 40 ashtrays? What the hell does Larry think he's actually doing all day in that magical office of his? Talking on the phone and typing on a computer, just like the rest of us.
From what I gather, there are folks out there whose sole reading material consists of Forbes and The Wall Street Journal, who wouldn't give the time of day to a starving cat in a lifeboat, and who sneer at those of us who would rather spend our money on art, books and music than derivatives, stocks and mutual funds. Do these people have souls? Are they even human?
But, for some reason, they seem to think that all these multibillion-dollar bailouts--the ones that we, along with the youth of America and generations yet unborn, have somehow "agreed" to foot the bill for--are well-spent on their Hummers, summer homes and impromptu jaunts to Europe.
Perhaps I'd feel differently if I were a Hummer dealer, a Hamptons real-estate agent, or a European. But, frankly, I'm not convinced.
Saturday, January 31, 2009
The City of Birmingham hates apostrophes. Hates them. It hates apostrophes so much that the Birmingham City Council voted to ban them from street signs and place names throughout the city.
And, of the two Birminghams that can be immediately called to mind--Birmingham, Alabama, and Birmingham, England--which Birmingham do you think perpetuated this rape of our mother tongue, the Queen's English?
Why, it was Birmingham, England. I apologize to my Alabama friends; frankly, I assumed the American city was more likely to violate the language in this way. (I meant no harm. To make up for the lapse, from now on I'll consider "y'all" to be a real word.)
Apparently, apostrophes in Birmingham, England, were causing so much confusion people were running around willy-nilly, bumping into things and falling into crevasses searching for St. Jame's Place when they should have been looking for St. James' Place. Afternoon frolics upon Acock's Green were frequently ruined by roving bands of affrontive jerks who went around insisting it was really "Acocks' Green."
From his bully pulpit as chairman of the Birmingham Transport Scrutiny Committee, Councilman Martin Mullaney complained, "If I want to go to a restaurant, I don't want to have an A-level in English to find it"--referring no doubt to the disastrous evening the Birmingham Transport Scrutiny Committee adjourned its monthly train-peering session, intending to reconvene at Arbys, a popular Greek fine-dining establishment--only to end up spending a disappointing evening at Arby's, an American fast-food franchise noted for serving a helical, potato-based delicacy known in those parts as frisée frites. (Committee undersecretary Marilyn Glaughton, who holds only a B-level in English, was summarily sacked following the cock-up.)
The council decision has prompted a backlash from the Apostrophe Protection Society. The society, founded in 2001 by John Richards, has its origins in Boston. (That's Boston, Lincolnshire, not the other one.)
I'm a big fan of the apostrophe in all its mysterious, arcane weirdness (not least for its quirky abandonment of the possessive "its"). I love criticizing its misuse. If apostrophes weren't so confusing, what would be the use of copy editors? Apostrophes create jobs. They're good for the economy.
Apostrophes may be confusing, but is that any reason to abolish them outright? If so, then society could do well to ban other confusing things, including:
- Donald Trump's hair
- The word "football" as applied to at least one field sport
- Attempts to justify the application of '80s trickle-down policies to the current economic crisis
- The Balkan Peninsula
- The way Larry Hagman's accent gets stronger when he's invited to make a British television appearance
- Green's Theorem
I'm going on record in full support of Mr. Richards. I wish him all the best. If there's anything I can do to help with the Birmingham situation, I hope he'll let me know.
Or should that have been "Mr Richards"? Maybe I should ask his advice in starting a Society for the Protection of Periods* Terminating Abbreviations Where the Final Letter of the Abbreviation Is Also the Final Letter of the Abbreviated Word.
* That's "Full Stops" to you, John.
Friday, January 30, 2009
Obviously, it takes an unusually perceptive and insightful observer to make sense of such an event. And who better to turn to for a perceptive, insightful report than the rah-rah, all-hail-the-free-market American media?
According to Fortune, Putin is a mean, mean man with a "tough, demeaning streak." He rebuked Dell's praise of Russia's technological prowess and even his selfless, generous offer of help with a "withering" "slapdown":
"We don't need help. We are not invalids. We don't have limited mental capacity."Such an unexpected reaction demands a multitude of wild interpretations by people holding varying economic philosophies--especially those who weren't actually in Davos, Switzerland, at the time. Here are some of my picks:
What an ingrate! After all, Dell was only offering to help. Belligerent unwillingness to take advantage of win-win synergistic solutions will be Russia's downfall.
Maybe it was all just a misunderstanding stemming from Russia's regrettable ignorance of How Things Are Done in the modern business world. Despite Putin's blistering indictment of the U.S. financial situation, Dell was not shaken. After all, Dell wouldn't be where he is today without that good, old-fashioned, optimistic, American can-do attitude! Sparkling visions of fresh, new markets danced before his eyes and he asked, "Now, come on, Vladimir. How can we help you develop your nation's IT sector?"
This was not the patronizing, unfavorable assessment of Russia's technological prowess Putin thought it was. It was just standard, feelgood, let's-be-friends sales jargon, akin to "Now, what do I have to do to put you in this '92 Toyota Tercel today?" People in the U.S. are accustomed to tuning out and toning down this kind of sales pitch, but Russia's capitalistic culture is still in its infancy: Putin simply doesn't have any frame of reference for all that Dale Carnegie happy crap.
Any of the above interpretations may seem plausible if you rely on secondhand reports in financial publications. However, if you take the time to read Putin's opening address and view the exchange with Dell, a very different picture begins to emerge.
Now, some reports describe Putin in his speech as a "born-again capitalist" embracing the unregulated free market with all the fervor of an 11th grader who just completed a unit on Atlas Shrugged. But aren't they overstating the matter just a tad? Those who have particularly strong memories of the Cold War seem unable to let go of the fear that Russia could, at any moment, fall back into its old ways--so when the leader of a former Soviet state speaks knowledgeably on economic issues, it still seems like an earthshattering event.
It's been nearly 20 years since the collapse of the USSR, and the Red Menace is unlikely to rear its ugly head anytime soon. A critical mass of world leaders is settling on balanced, regulated capitalistic economic policies, fitted with European-style democratic-socialist political models. Being outliers, American lasseiz-faire economists--who are taught to have very strong convictions--must find it disagreeable to operate within today's world. But, until they master their emotions long enough to recognize that they no longer hold the dominant view, they're liable to misinterpret events such as these. That's why so many U.S. financial publications get it wrong.
In his speech, Putin addresses the global economic crisis, stating his disdain for the popular, new international party game Pin the Blame on the Americans. Even so, he couldn't resist reminding everybody that, only a year ago, Bushies at the conference were still crowing about the "cloudless prospects" of the fundamentally sound U.S. economy. Ouch!
Putin says this crisis is the result of a highly stratified division of wealth in "certain countries, including highly developed ones," as well as the "excessive expectations" of both corporate interests and consumers. (Sound like anybody you know?) Still, he warns against the abandonment of "responsible macroeconomic principles" and excessive protectionism. Both unrestrained governmental deficit spending and "adventurous stock-jobbing"--which, presumably, are what got us into this mess--are equally damaging.
Putin puts forth a number of practical suggestions--a systematic method for writing off bad debts, the elimination of "virtual money" and the adoption of transparent national monetary policies--as necessary steps toward recovery. (His proposal that the world's reliance on a single reserve currency be abandoned in favor of a system of multiple reserve currencies no doubt prompted the E.U. delegation's bowler hats to bob up and down in polite, approving nods. Meanwhile, visions of greenbacks being burned for heat by the truckload must have triggered a volley of tiny vomit-burps in the mouths of nervous U.S. bean-counters.)
Putin finished up his speech by pimping Russia's natural-gas industry as the ultimate future supplier of clean energy to the E.U.--once the necessary infrastructure is in place, of course.
In the video recording, Dell doesn't seem to offer praise and assistance--or even a sales pitch--so much as he seems, by his tone of voice, to needle Putin, challenge his free-market cred and possibly even belittle Russia's sense of pride in its technological achievements:
Mister Prime Minister, you spoke of the dangers of excessive government involvement, and I found myself really struck by that comment and surprised to hear that comment. Six months ago, I would have never imagined hearing that comment from yourself, but I have to say I completely agree with you. [Rrrrowr!]Maybe Dell was only nervous, overawed and overcompensating--or maybe this is just a flat recitation of a prepared, memorized question which only seems to come across as arrogant, accusatory and patronizing. But, if he said this to me while I was in a particularly defensive frame of mind, I'd assume he was calling me out.
Now, to my question: When I look at the IT sector, you’ve made some pretty considerable progress, bringing computers into schools, bringing government services online, bringing better Internet access across Russia. But when we look at the level of scientific and technical talent, there is still room to further utilize the IT sector. [Meeeow!]
So, my question to you, really, is: How can we, as an IT sector, help you broaden the economy as you move out of the crisis and take advantage of that great scientific talent that you have?” [Fft! Fft! Hsss!]
According to Russia Today *, the conference translator got all confused by Putin's "metaphorical language" regarding invalids, etc., and what he really meant to say was this:
"We’re not someone in need of help. We’re not invalids. Help is something that you should give to poor people, to people with limited capacities, to pensioners, to developing countries ..."Well, same diff. You say "pensioners," we say "retards." (What the hell is a pensioner anyway? 'Round these parts, we work our old folks until they die. Serve's 'em right for not investing in the stock market. Hell, if you hold out on food, housing and health care long enough, sometimes you can even get them to dig their own graves! Takes a long time, though, with no shovel and those crazy arthritic fingers.)
Basically, though, Putin was saying that Russia expects its economic partners in Europe, America and Asia to treat it on equal footing--instead of acting like condescending bastards. At the same time, he made a not-so-subtle jab at the United States' dysfunctional inability to care for its disabled, elderly and poor.
Now, I'm not a big Putin fanboy. Like most Americans, I actually know very little about him (except that he's a mean, mean man!) But he didn't seem all that terrifying during his speech. Just pragmatic, and about as opportunistic as any American businessman.
Not only am I not an America-hater--I'm an America-lover. I love this big ol' country of ours. I want us to succeed. Once we were "a beacon unto the world." We stood for something: the good, human values of dignity, freedom, equality, optimism, opportunity and a fair reward for hard work and innovation. I want us to be that beacon again.
We can do much better than we've been doing. The economic elites are still so frozen in Cold War-era anti-red propaganda that, instead of dealing with the way things are, they keep trying to find a substitute player to fill the Soviet Union's villainous role. And, all the while, our workforce is languishing while the rest of the world reaps dividends we don't even know exist.
Instead, our MBA programs have turned out a generation of emotionally insecure, irrational, stridently hyperreactive corporate drones who are incapable of understanding--much less competing on--the world economic stage. Our economists cling to statistical models based on assumption that are so outdated and flawed, they might as well have been reading tea leaves and casting chicken bones for the past 10 years or so. Our financial journalists--at least the ones who are still old-school enough to bother checking original sources--are too superstitious to interpret their sources accurately. The rest get their information directly from the blogosphere and Wikipedia.
The American economic elites are suffering from a Cold War hangover, and this hair-of-the-dog remedy they've been using for two decades doesn't work. The rest of the world is already up and at 'em. It's time to sober up.
* [Addendum: Media critics have questioned Russia Today's objectivity in view of its close ties to Russian government. As far as I can tell, it seems to be a state-funded news organ, in some kind of loopy, roundabout way, although some of its bureaus claim to enjoy some degree of editorial freedom. PBS or Pravda? Who knows? So you might want to take Russia Today's stories about Putin with a grain of salt.]