Saturday, April 30, 2011

How Rebecca Black and Glee Are Destroying the World

Pitch adjustment has probably been around as long as there's been recorded music. George Martin is famously credited with getting two different takes of the same song, originally played at slightly different tempos, and splicing them together using a Vari-control pitch shifter to match them together (this is most obvious in the slight distortion in John's voice during the line "Let me take you down, 'cause I'm going to...").

But then, in 1997, Dr Harold "Andy" Hildebrand, a former geophysicist studying seismic activity, developed and patented a process called Auto-Tune™. And in doing that, he may have destroyed the concept of music entirely.

Auto-Tune™ is phase vocorder, an audio processor which can be used both live and in recorded tracks, which adjusts the voice to the nearest true semitone and correct the pitch to match whatever scale is specified.

It can also be used to distort a voice - most famously, Cher's warble in 1998's Believe.

Auto-Tune™ is still considered the industry standard. In 2009, a 24-year-old Brooklyn musician named Michael Gregory started a viral series of videos making extensive use of the technology.

Although the success of Autotune The News led to the first release of original music by the Gregory Brothers, the strategy backfired to a certain extent:
Andrew (Gregory, the guitarist in the group) also makes folk music, but, unfortunately, many of the Brothers' new fans have no patience for anything that's not "Auto-Tune the News."
But those are effects. The more insidious use of autotuning is its prevalence in the music industry. It's almost impossible to find a CD where a singer doesn't tweak, warp, or totally alter their voice.
"It usually ends up just like plastic surgery," says a Grammy-winning recording engineer. "You haul out Auto-Tune to make one thing better, but then it's very hard to resist the temptation to spruce up the whole vocal, give everything a little nip-tuck." Like plastic surgery, he adds, more people have had it than you think. "Let's just say I've had Auto-Tune save vocals on everything from Britney Spears to Bollywood cast albums. And every singer now presumes that you'll just run their voice through the box."
All of this leads to lazy singers, unwilling to practice; lazy musicians, happy to take someone else's work, loop it, and claim that the result is an "original" composition; and lazy performers who go on tour to lip-synch to their own music.
Sir Elton John's live reputation is second to none. Even when he's not actually performing.

His off-the-cuff remarks at the Q magazine awards ceremony last week, when he reacted with undisguised horror to the very notion of Madonna being nominated for best live act, surely represented the great singer-songwriter at his extemporaneous best. "Madonna, best f---ing live act? F--- off! Since when has lip-synching been live?"

At many of today's big live music events, the only thing that can really qualify as live is the dancing. I once saw Madonna drop her microphone without it affecting her vocal performance one whit.
It doesn't matter whether you have the pyrotechnic vocal skills of Michael Jackson or the somewhat more limited range of Kylie Minogue, you cannot throw yourself about like an aerobics instructor on fast-forward while delivering a perfectly honed, exquisitely phrased vocal.
And in many cases, performers can't deliver a "perfectly honed, exquisitely phrased vocal" in the first place.

If you watch Glee, a TV show ostensibly about singers, you won't hear a single note that hasn't been chopped up, glued back together, polished and shined until it's practically unrecognizable.

It's not just the lifeless characters, bad acting, unoriginal scripts and robotic music that can make Glee painful to watch, it's the unreality of the way music is portrayed. Characters burst into "song" without ever practicing a note. This leads to unreal expectations among young singers, that they don't need to rehearse (the Trophy Wife teaches voice, and runs into this problem on a daily basis) - they expect to just open their mouths and watch liquid gold flow out.

Which leads us to Rebecca Black. A 13-year-old girl from Orange County, her mother paid $2000 to the Ark Music Factory (the musical version of a vanity press) who gave her a choice of two songs; and after a 12-hour video shoot and a digital bludgeoning of the vocal track, she became an international sensation with an artificial song sung by a robotic voice with only a passing resemblance to her own.

Friday has been called "the worst pop song of all time," and that's a fair assessment. It's also symbolic of the place music has ended up: lifeless, heartless, pre-processed blandness; uninteresting gruel served to children who don't know any better than to call it "music."

Friday, April 29, 2011

Big Mike Breaks It Down

So, let's have a quick chalkboard look at reality. Glenn Beck isn't the only one who can do it.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Now wait a damned minute!

I thought fitness had been a craze in Japan for the last few years.

So how come all of a sudden, men aren't willing to do the most basic hand-and-forearm workout?

That is just lazy, right there.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

It's time to grow up, America

Listen to this message. And remember one thing: the birther message that Donald Trump was able to ride was only possible because Barack Obama was black.

Would it have been possible for anyone, at any time, to make an ignorant claim like this, that Obama wasn't truly an American, if he had, in fact, been white? If his father had been Barry O'Bama, an Irishman, who'd gone back to the ancestral shores of Ulster, would anyone have been able to carry this ignorant, racist message as far as Donald Trump (and his media representative, Joseph Farah) were able to flog it?

Would anyone have cared if Obama was a white man?

(OK, I'll even add a caveat - "a white man with no Russian background"? Because, yes, they're that stupid...)

If Barack Obama wasn't different from "you and me" - if he wasn't "the other" - if he didn't seem "foreign"...

GOD DAMN IT!! If he wasn't black!

If Barry O'Bama was a white man raised in Chicago, would anybody have gone to the ignorant, racist extremes that the GOP has gone in the last 4 years?

Yes, if you ever worried about the birth certificate of the duly elected president of the United States, you are a useless, inbred racist fuck. You might as well pull out your bed-sheets with the eye holes cut out.

Slit your throat now, you fuck. America doesn't have time for you.

Welcome to the 21st Century.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Gitmo Files

Goddamn it!

Just... just god damn it!

Here I am, at work today, composing something relatively lucid about Mohammed Basardah in my head, and I get home, have dinner, sit in front of the computer, and the fucking Rude Pundit has already said it, and better than I was going to.

Gitmo Files: We Can Handle the Truth, But We Just Don't Give a Damn About It

Some day in the near future, in the post-apocalyptic hellscape America that will be left after Republicans refuse to raise the debt ceiling unless President Obama publicly hangs himself from the Lincoln Memorial, when we're all squatting in ditches, foraging around for the food scraps dropped from the sky mansions of the mega-wealthy that hover hundreds of feet above our heads, some European or Asian student, who is writing a thesis about just what the fuck happened to drive a once-near-great nation off the cliff of civilization, will come to a conclusion, one that can be debated and argued over and torn apart, as hypotheses ought to be. She will decide that the most significant marker of eventual American doom was people's adamant refusal to give a shit about what happened to detainees during the long, hopeless war that began in 2001.

Indeed, an engaged, active electorate should have greeted the leak of hundreds of files on prisoners at Guantanamo Bay with something more than a sigh about having to think about this shit... again, or with a half-hearted scoff at those who would dare leak classified documents. No, one might think that a nation that once worked itself into a frenzy over a president lying about getting his cock sucked in the Oval Office would be able to grip the outrage tube a little harder and squeeze a little smudge of anger out. Alas, it is not to be.

No, there will be no reckonings, great or small, other than the cruel, cruel treatment of Bradley Manning (and if Manning is being treated according to any rules, those rules are fucked and need to be changed) for allegedly daring to break a single law in order to reveal the breaking of many. There will be no arrests of people responsible for the creation or implementation of a system of torture and imprisonment that, at its base, makes hypocrites and fools of every single American citizen.

The documents from Gitmo reveal a level of absurdity in our detention policies that'd make a Catch-22-composing Joseph Heller put down his pen and say, "Fuck it. I can't top that shit." It's amateur hour, and it's been run by people who insist on saying that it's not. Check this out, just one story we can piece together from the files:

There's this former Gitmo prisoner, Mohammed Basardah, a stoner from Yemen who was arrested in Pakistan. He claimed he did the usual shit - trained in camps, fought in Afghanistan. But, and here's where it gets really fucking funny, Basardah decided to just say whatever the fuck his interrogators at Gitmo wanted. Unlike Abu Zubayah, who was tortured like a son of a bitch, Basardah just liked fucking talking, making himself seem bad-ass, giving up names, saying he knew tons of things about al-Qaida and the Taliban. For seven years. Hell, one analyst wrote of Basardah, "The current US government knowledge base of the personnel and activities within Tora Bora would not have been possible without the co-operation and truthfulness of this detainee whose reporting has directly supported US tactical operations in Afghanistan." Yeah, he even told of a London-based al-Qaida cell about which U.S. intelligence created an entire dossier based on his information. In 2008, he was transferred out of Gitmo, sent to Spain, and released. In essence, he said enough to get himself freed.

Now hold onto your sides: motherfucker was lying. Pretty much about everything. Yeah, and other analysts suspected it from the start. "Research into the other detainees' timelines does not readily support [Basardah's] information," they wrote. "In every interview where [Basardah] was questioned on detainee, [Basardah] has changed his story. Detainee's identity as a bodyguard has not been substantiated through other known sources," they warned. So basically, what Basardah did was play his captors. You gotta admire a man for keeping his wits about him in a fucked-up situation. You gotta wonder just why the hell they kept questioning him and why the hell they didn't just let him go to begin with.

And that London sleeper cell? Well, one of the men Basardah said was part of it was 11 years old at the time Basardah said he joined. And others, who had been tracked for years, had never even visited Britain. But, like Curveball later, we just bought his shit. Basardah was a pot dealer in Mecca. You can bet he sold some schwag weed. You can bet that the CIA would have purchased it and pretended they were stoned from tits to toes because of it.

Because Mohammed Basardah said so, there are men being held without charge, men who will never be released, men who were tortured, more than likely. And President Obama continues the detentions, with no more hope than a loaded military commission.

Yet we don't care, as a nation, that any of this is done in our names. We are tired of it and want it to go away. We don't want to make the effort anymore. That's why the new Gitmo files are greeted with a shrug and a turn to whatever stupid shit stupid asshole Donald Trump has said (god, isn't he so stupid?). A decade of a certain action makes that action into the new normal. If it's normal, if it's just the way we do things now, then we don't want to be bothered with changing it. When you beat a populace into apathy, you can get away with, well, murder.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Define "Irony"

Why does this look like a traditional representation of Hell?

Just one question

Would it count as a threesome?

(I'm sorry. I'm so very, very sorry...)

Happy Eostre Ishtar Easter!

OK, so it's been a long weekend of religious observances. I mean, two days ago it was Good Friday (mine was just OK, but that doesn't matter here).

Friday was also the feast day of Saint Epipodius of Lyon (then known as Lugdunum). He was tortured and martyred during the second century in France, and is the patron saint of bachelors and people who've been betrayed or were victims of torture. (Which you could say covers the entire male gender. * rimshot *)

(Funny story - Epipodius had a companion, a Greek named Alexander. Both were lifelong bachelors, and they lived and worked together. And were tortured and killed together, when it comes to that. And both were canonized. All this in spite of the Catholic Church's hatred of homosexuality. Hmmm...)

Yesterday was St George's Day, which is an unofficial national holiday in England. And today, of course, is the annual celebration of the Great Zombie Uprising of 33 A.D.

No, I'm serious. It's right there in the Bible:
and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many. (Matthew 27:52-53)
Fortunately for the people of Jerusalem, these were all holy zombies, so they couldn't hunt for brains on the Sabbath.

Now, I self-identify as an agnostic, but that's mostly because I don't put the time into thinking about things that don't really matter to me. I'm probably better identified as a doubting agnostic, because if there is such a thing as a god, I'm pretty damned sure (heh) that he or she isn't the one the Christocrats want to promote.

But for whatever reason, these idiots don't want to stop trying to brainwash everybody else into their tiny-minded philosophy. They even end up in court over this kind of behavior, and almost alway lose. And really, that's the way things should be - it's right there in the Constitution - but some people don't want to accept that. So they can't remember little things.

Simple things, like the fact that public schools, paid for by our tax money, shouldn't have blatantly religious banners hung in the auditorium,

The "War on Easter" never really caught on (although that doesn't stop the idiots from trying to resurrect it, because irony is beyond them).

In Illinois, a Circuit Court judge just ruled that pharmacists can refuse to sell "morning-after" pills if they feel like causing an unwanted pregnancy that it's against their religious principles.

Over in Texas, Governor Goodhair was able to declare this "a Weekend of Prayer for Rain," despite the fact that God obviously wanted the drought. (You kind of expect it out of Texas, though - the home of Poledancing for Jesus.)

But these people keep getting voted back in, because there are enough of the certifiably insane people out there: you know, the types of people who think a home circumcision is a good idea. (Because, you know... Jesus!)

Various government agencies keep wasting time and tax dollars by starting meetings with a prayer .

The God-swallowers keep trying to claim that America is a Christian nation and founded on "Christian values" (mostly hatred and homophobia), despite the fact that most of the Founding Fathers were deists (most of whom believe that God may have started it all, but really doesn't care about us any more). Mike Huckabee is the latest guy to try and argue that only Christians should be elected.

A lady in Kansas was approved for a state-funded liver transplant which will save her life. Of course, that wasn't good enough for her - she's a Jehovah's Witness, and she's suing the state to pay to send her to Nebraska, where she can get a bloodless transplant. (You know, since she believes dead folks go to "a better place," why is she trying to save her own life?)

See, folks, it's simple. You can believe whatever stupid crap you want, but as soon as you try to force your religion on the rest of us, that's when you need to be stopped.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Please Remove Your Wallet from Devvy's Vagina

OK, so I'm just going to throw in a cut from what may well be the perfect post from "Forever in Hell." Go read the whole thing. The woman's a poet.

This is Devvy. She is surprisingly calm for having everyone's wallet in her vagina.
In lobbying for defeat of a congressional plan that would cut off taxpayer support for the abortion business' leading player, (Planned Parenthood executive Cecile) Richards claimed: "If this bill ever becomes law, millions of women in this country are going to lose their health-care access ­ not to abortion services ­ to basic family planning, you know, mammograms." But Live Action workers who called 30 Planned Parenthood business locations across the nation said "every single one admitted they could not do mammograms."

I will never have a mammogram, but having one is a personal decision and expense. The Outlaw Congress has NO authority to steal the fruits of your labor to fund abortions or mammograms.
Devvy apparently wants to find out about her breast cancer when it's difficult to impossible to treat, because that's how she rolls. The rest of us, however, are not looking forward to radical mascetomies, radiation and chemotherapy.

Here's the thing Devvy, and I'm sure it's hard to listen to facts and logic with even one wallet in your vagina, let alone 300,000,000 wallets in your vagina, it is far cheaper to pay for cancer treatment in the earliest stages than in the later stages. And here's another thing: unless you want to cut off all health care access to the poor, which you probably do, eventually that person is going to end up in the ER and then they will run up an enormous bill everyone gets to pay for.

Would you, Devvy, find it to be a better idea to change your brakes when they start squeaking, or after you cause a ten car pileup on the highway? One costs, what, $250 max, the other hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions if you end up killing someone. Now, changing the brakes when they squeak is like giving out free pap smears. The ten car pileup is not giving out free pap smears and instead treating women with end stage cervical cancer in the ER.

Ignoring, of course, that "poor women should die preventable deaths so that my taxes can be 0.8% lower" is sociopathic and appalling on every level.


Just for fun, here's the wallet-vagina line:
Get my wallet out of your vagina because you have no constitutional right to steal the fruits of my husband's fixed retirement to pay for your abortion.
She's bitching that her husband's social security is being used to pay for abortions through Planned Parenthood. Now that is some performance art quality irony right there.

I swear I've (almost) been here before...

OK, so I've admitted that I've been known, on occasion, to listen to pop music. On my own. Without any of my children holding me down or beating me with their rubber truncheons. Does that make me a pop culture whore? Well, I don't think so, but... do I listen to Weird Al?

Do I look white and nerdy?

(The answer is probably "yes," but I don't want to influence your vote...)

But here's the issue. It seems that Weird Al has had a rough week.

See, he had a great idea for a parody (which, you know, is what he does), which would be the lead-in for his upcoming album. So he emailed Lady Gaga's camp, asking permission. Her handlers informed him "Well, she'll need to see the lyrics first."

So he wrote them out (in the middle of a tour in Australia, having only come up with a concept at this point), and got back the reply that "She doesn't read, you plebian! She needs to hear it first!"

OK, so, quick note. Mad Magazine, back in 1964 (in the case of Irving Berlin et al. v. E.C. Publications, Inc.) had won an important finding: that parody (and later, satire) were protected under "fair use." Mr Yankovic was under no legal requirement to even consult with The Holy Gaga. Just so you know.

But, despite that, Mr Yankovic went to the trouble and expense of producing the first draft of his song. Only to receive word, a few hours later, "You suck. Fuck, no!"

He probably sighed, and his narrow shoulders might well have sagged (not that you'd notice, but that isn't the point here). But he still released the song to Youtube, noting only that, since the original version was a gay-rights anthem, all profits would have gone to the Human Rights Campaign.

Now, weirdly, he suddenly got word that this was all the fault of Gaga's manager, and She hadn't heard the song at all. And, in fact, She thought the song was hilarious, and loved him with every fiber of her being.

(Not that we're clear what fiber that would be. I'm betting Dacron.)

Where do I fall on this? Hell, I don't know. (OK, I do, but the Daughter is a major Gaga fan, so I'm not saying.) Could the parody have been worse? Hell, I don't know.

"Porn this way/There is porn this way/I'm not quite naked/But there's porn this way..."

All I know is, I hope he comes up with a video to match the song.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Talkin' To The Man II

Only 2500 characters allowed, so I had to drop most adjectives, and big chunks of the first and second paragraphs. And, obviously, the video.
Dear President Obama,

Interesting speech this week. You made some very good points, and you're going back to one of your strengths - oration. (To be honest, I didn't actually watch it live, but I've seen clips, and I read the transcript. But hey, what do you want out of me? I don't have that kind of attention span. I have publicly admitted to listening to pop music, so it's probably something of a miracle that I know how to read, much less write.)

On top of which, there are only so many hours in the day, after all, and Cartoon Network is replaying episodes of Robot Chicken that I was too drunk to remember the first time.

I'm not going to go into all the points in your speech: I'll admit, however, that it's somewhat refreshing to hear someone in power point out that the Defense budget could use some trimming. You're going to take some hits from the GOP on that, but stand firm. It's got to happen.

Now, here's the thing, though. I voted for you - hell, I even volunteered for your campaign. But I have to say, I'm a little disappointed. Although you came out and told people you were a centrist, you made a lot of promises, and, while you've come through on a lot of them, there's also a bunch of things you haven't done.

Does "Guantanamo" ring a bell?

And, frankly, you've already said that you'd stand firm on not renewing the Bush tax cuts. That was about three months before you renewed them again.

Well, it's only been five months since the last switch, and here you are, saying "I refuse to renew them again."

So, you know, funny thing: it's kind of difficult to believe you, when you've already lied about something once.

But I'll tell you what. Let's set up a plan now, for what to do at some unnamed point in the future when you decide to cave in compromise again (as, admittedly, you have on a lot of things that are fairly important to those of us on the left side of the aisle: single-payer health care or the Public Option; war-crimes charges for... well, anybody who committed war-crimes, really; and - not to keep harping on this - Guantanamo).

Let's put it up to a vote. Not Congress, but the American people. If you decide that some subject is too much of a hot potato politically, even if the majority of the American people are for it, how about if, instead of just abandoning those liberal, all-American principles that give Rupert Murdoch heart palpitations, how about if you just put it up to the American voter? Stick a simple, unslanted question onto the ballot: "Should the Bush-era tax cuts be extended?" See what the answer is. I think you'll be surprised.

And maybe you can lead up to this with a few more speeches like this last one. Let's be real - you're never going to be popular with Republicans. They don't like you for a number of reasons (and the fact that you're black may not even be at the top of the list). Point out simple logic, like "if tax breaks for the rich created jobs, shouldn't George W. Bush have left office with no unemployment in the country at all?"

You can't make everybody happy. In fact, you can't make the GOP happy at all. Can you please just ignore Limbaugh and Hannity shrieking, in the face of all evidence to the contrary, that you're the "most liberal president ever!" for just a minute, and do what's right? Please?

Friday, April 08, 2011

Grenade by Bruno Mars

I have a confession. Now, I don't want to frighten anyone off, and I don't want you to think less of me. (Not, really, that anyone who knows me could actually think less of me...)

But I listen to pop music.

I know. It seems shallow. But really, I've always been so shallow that if you tried to dive into me, you'd probably break your neck. And I'm OK with that; I have no real depth. I am what you see. (Or, in this case, what you read. But I digress.)

So I was driving along yesterday listening to the radio, and this song that I'd never heard came on. The melody was OK, if a little formulaic. And his voice was... well, frankly, his voice was just a little bit terrible (I've never been a big fan of the high tenor). But I think that it was really the lyrics that bothered me the most.

I forced myself to remember a couple of phrases (in this case "catch a grenade" and "throw my hand on a blade"), so that I could google it when I got home. Because it was just that bad.

It turns out that this song has been around for six months or so, and I'm just behind the power curve. (To be honest, I'm used to that.) It was from a guy calling himself "Bruno Mars" (apparently, "Peter Gene Hernandez" was too... I don't know, too common for him or something), and it's from his first album, Doo-Wops and Hooligans (yeah, I don't know what that title is supposed to mean, either).

Now, I assume that somebody had to write the words to this song, right? And Mr. "Mars" is willing to claim them, so let's take a look at his lyrical prowess, shall we?
Easy come, easy go, that's just how you live (oh)
Take, take, take it all but you never give.
So apparently Mr "Mars" is having problems with a girl. (Or a boy - I don't judge.) That seems obvious, right?
Should've known you was trouble from the first kiss,
Had your eyes wide open. Why were they open?
Let's stop right there. Because, really, how would he know that his partner had his (or her) "eyes wide open"? It presumably means that somebody else's eyes were also open, doesn't it?

I'm just saying...
Gave you all I had and you tossed it in the trash.
You tossed it in the trash, you did.
To give me all your love is all I ever asked,
'Cause what you don't understand is
OK, this is where the chorus kicks in. And we're seeing that Mr. "Mars" definitely has some issues with his relationship here, right?

Well, now it starts to take a disturbing turn. The video? Well, apparently he's suffering because he can't afford a moving company to drag his piano across town, so he does it on foot.

Honest, that's what's going on. I guess it's supposed to show how much he's suffering. (And at one point, I think you see another guy in the room with the girl he's seems to be singing to. But to be honest, I'm not watching it again to find out.) But it isn't the video that bothers me. Let's get back to the lyrics.

So, as I said: the chorus.
I'd catch a grenade for ya;
Throw my hand on a blade for ya;
I'd jump in front of a train for ya;
You know I'd do anything for ya;
OK, a little creepy. (And, really? "Throw my hand on a blade"? Who says that?) But all this "I would get hurt to prove I love you" stuff has a long history in romance novels and bad poetry, right?

Not that it doesn't get worse...
I would go through all this pain
Take a bullet straight through my brain.
Yup. I think we've established that you're creepy already.
Yes, I would die for ya, baby,
Been there, OK? You're weird. But let me just say, now is the point where the lyrics go straight downhill.
But you won't do the same.
What?!? Suicide pacts are romantic now? Is that where we are as a society? Pop music wants you to kill yourself to prove your love?

But having driven that horse off a cliff, he keeps on going. You know that part of so many love songs where they say something like "you're so mean/you put me through hell/you left me a wreck/a broken shell." Yeah, see, "Bruno," that's supposed to be a metaphor.

Either "Bruno" really sucks at poetic imagery, or he doesn't see it like that.
Black, black, black and blue, beat me 'til I'm numb
Tell the devil I said "hey," when you get back to where you're from
Mad women, bad women, that's just what you are
OK, we've established that he's dating a girl. So there's that. But let me just emphasize this next line:
You'll smile in my face then rip the brakes out my car.
He goes on to repeat the chorus a lot. A lot. There's only one more brief verse, where he whines that she wouldn't put him out if he were on fire. Oh, and she never loved him.

So, that's what we have here. Either a guy who completely failed at Metaphorical Imagery 101, or a song about a masochist, in love with a sadist who's tried to kill him at least once, and who believes that a double suicide is the height of romance.

That's what I'm getting out of this song. And it made it to #1 in a lot of countries. If Mr "Mars" is found dead sometime, with a dead woman nearby, I think the coroner should have a copy of this song in his report.

And to that end, I submit for the court, Exhibit A.

Justice for the menstrual murderers!

To: Rep. John Merrill (R-Tuscaloosa)

cc: Letters to the Editor, Tuscaloosa News

Dear Representative Merrill,

Congratulations, sir! Thank you for standing up for the rights of unborn Americans everywhere. Or at least in Alabama.

Trying to amend both the legal code and the Constitution of the Great State of Alabama to define the word "person" as: "any human being from the moment of fertilization or the functional equivalent thereof" is a bold move, and would certainly make abortion illegal immediately.

I would like to point out a few difficulties that you'll be facing on the long road ahead of you, though. For one thing, the Census is certainly going to be more difficult, as all of the formerly-ignored blastocyst-Americans will need to be counted as well. And if we just rely on self-reporting, we will already be under-counting a huge number of Alabama citizens, as women aren't always immediately aware that they are pregnant.

So you'll need to think about that. Fortunately, you have just under a decade to consider the problem.

Furthermore, you will have to develop a completely new arm of the Alabama Department of Public Safety, to investigate all of the millions of new charges of murder that will have to be filed every year. After all, having declared them to be persons, they have rights, and their deaths must be investigated, right? And the mothers must at least be charged with manslaughter; that's the law.

I suppose that a mandatory pregnancy test for every post-pubescent woman is a possibility, but those tests are not extremely reliable, and a positive result would have to be verified. And all this takes us awfully close to the area of government-sponsored healthcare, which must be destroyed - after all, we know that Jesus would support allowing the poor to die in the streets if they couldn't afford a doctor.

You did take into account the fact that two-thirds of all fertilized eggs fail to implant in the mother's womb, right? And if you allow this newly-legalized human life to be simply flushed away, you are just as guilty as the murderous woman who refused to allow the child berth in her womb!

That is really a tricky question when you think about it. If life does begin at conception, wouldn't Heaven be filled wall-to-wall with little floating fetuses? But then again, since they were never baptized and never accepted Jesus into their unformed hearts, they would have gone straight to Hell, where their little unborn souls could simply be used as fuel for the furnaces. This would be very efficient, and exactly the way that a loving God would have designed the system.

I suppose that it's possible that you were unaware of this dirty little secret of human pregnancy. After all, Alabama's educational system does rank about forty-fifth among the fifty states, and as a graduate of the University of Alabama, this does place you at a disadvantage.

But I'm sure that you aren't adding billions of dollars to the Alabama deficit simply because you're stubbornly, pig-ignorantly arrogant, but simply because you love Alabama so much.

Thank you for your time,
A Concerned Citizen

Update: So, it seems that Rep. Merrill, in the true spirit of Republican governance, doesn't really want to talk to people who aren't donating money to him.

Despite what it says on his webpage, the email address gets rejected immediately. Now, if you look into it a little, the link on his webpage actually opens up an email to (no "j"). And that email address actually makes it into the Tuscaloosa GOP servers before being rejected as nonexistent.

I suppose I could have printed it out and mailed it. After all, he provides both his work address and his office at the Statehouse (and his home address, for the love of Bacchus!) on his webpage. But that would take, you know, time and money and stuff. Instead, I sent it to every Democratic member of the Health Committee, who are currently considering both of Merrill's bills.

Easier that way.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Democrats in Congress on Paul Ryan Budget: "Aw, C'mon"

OK, so I think he doesn't see Obama's longer game. But other than that, I think that the Rude Pundit pretty much nails it.
If you're a Democrat in Congress, yeah, you're probably appalled by Rep. Paul Ryan's savage budget proposal (or you oughta be). But in your gut, there's gotta be this little acid burn, this ember of envy, that, with the support of his leadership, Ryan just went balls out for the shit that Republicans believe in. Because you know what would have happened if the situation was reversed.

If a Democrat had proposed a budget that radically cut the military, raised the top tax rate by nearly a third, ended all the wars, created a national health care system through a new payroll tax (thus relieving businesses of a huge financial burden), expanded EPA and food safety enforcement, and jacked up discretionary spending on education, scientific research, and more, and still yielded trillions of dollars in long-term savings, and then explained the document by saying, "This isn't a budget. This is a cause," do you think that that Democrat would have been hailed as "courageous" by any Republicans? Do you think that anyone in the media would have taken the thing seriously? Don't be fucking stupid. What would have happened is that most Democrats would have run away like beaten bitches afraid of Rush Limbaugh's switch, Republicans would have called it "un-American" and "the mostest radicalest budget that anyone has ever put out in the history of forever" and taken the word "cause" to mean "Marxist rape of your children," and Fox "news" would have gone to TardCon 5 in demonizing everything: "Do you want the government telling you what diseases you can have? Do you want Barack Obama to decide how much shit should be on your chicken?"

Paul Ryan's budget is not a serious document. It is, instead, a few pages of dried ejaculate on paper. It is a wishlist out of every conservative wet dream, and, as such, it is ballsy just how brazen it is. If nothing else, you can't say in the future that Republicans didn't warn us. Ryan's plan, his "Road Map," sets the bar so low that it pretty much guarantees that Democrats will be negotiating away many of the programs they worked on for decades and then declare victory because they didn't give in to everything Republicans wanted.

A decent comparison would be to imagine that you have grown a beautiful apple tree, but your neighbor wants it down so he can see the factory on the hill better. You say that you can trim the branches. He offers to cut down the tree, burn down your home, and kick you in the nuts. If you're a Democrat, you figure if you can convince your neighbor not to kick you in the nuts, it's a victory. If you're a Republican, you say, "No, I'm still gonna kick you in the nuts." If you're Barack Obama, you offer your ass instead.

Instead of being treated like some brave hero facing the "real" problems in the nation, Paul Ryan should have been burned in effigy across America yesterday.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

The GOP and the government shutdown

Funny how quick they are to deny it, now that they're actually planning it...

The part I find funniest? Newt Gingrich's bit. After all, he was responsible for the last government shutdown, in 1995. (Which, incidentally, might have helped improve Clinton's approval ratings - so good planning there, guys).

Monday, April 04, 2011

Can we get some good news at some point?

I really don't know where to go with this. Apparently, the Tokyo Electric Power Company in Japan has been trying to help, but I'm pretty sure they're making things worse.
Tokyo Electric Power Co. began dumping radioactive water from its crippled Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear station into the sea so that it would have a place to store more highly contaminated water.
"So, we have this really fucked up stuff over here. And this stuff is just kinda fucked up. So we'll pour the poisonous stuff into the ocean, so that we can store the really poisonous stuff..."

But that's not where it gets... well, frankly, "good" doesn't fit the description of this situation. Maybe "interesting" is the right word. Because that's where it get's interesting.
The government approved the discharge so that Tepco, as the utility is known, can drain turbine buildings for the Nos. 2 and 3 reactors of water so radioactive it burned workers
Let that sink in for a second. "...water so radioactive it burned workers." Crap. What exactly is the half-life of Kool-aid made with that stuff?

But let's skip down a little, as it tells us just how fucked Japan is. (I mean, they'd better hope that there's no lizards around there, is all I'm saying...)
The company first tried to plug a crack in a power-cable storage pit near the reactor by filling it with concrete on April 2, and yesterday attempted to clog it with a mix of sawdust, newspaper and absorbent polymer used in baby diapers.
Really? Did the junk shot work for BP? I mean... Hang on a second. Go back.
...and absorbent polymer used in baby diapers.
What? Really? Who the hell suggested that? Charlie Sheen?

Apparently, Japanese babies are good at thinking outside the box...

(Oh, and a warning. If you google "japanese+diaper," make sure Safesearch is on. Just trust me, OK?)

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Wisconsin's first chance to fight back

Pro-Republican astroturf groups, led by the Koch brothers, will spend an estimated two million dollars this week for next Tuesday's State Supreme Court election.

Wisconsin Democrats are asking everyone supporting them to spread this video as far as possible.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Is it something in the water?

You know, when I think of Indiana, a little neon sign in my head never immediately started blinking "small-minded idiots" before now.

I mean, yeah, despite the name of your state, you fucked over the Native Americans living there, with various groups of Europeans alternately arming rival tribes so that they could pretty much wipe each other out before you pushed them off their land. But we were doing that all over the country, right?

Indiana has big chunks of the history we learned in school (well, you know, those of us who learned things in school, anyway): splitting off from the Northwest Territory, Tecumseh, the War of 1812, George Rogers Clark, William Henry Harrison - you can't avoid Indiana if you're studying the history of this country.

But it's weird. You, as a state, have this weird love of taking control of people's bodies away from them. It's like some kind of weird compulsion: "You are cattle! You will breed when and where we tell you! Und Indiana vill grow strong!!"

I mean, crap! What the hell is wrong with you people?

In 1907, Governor Frank Hanly, a good Republican, made Indiana the first state to practice eugenics when he signed the Compulsory Sterilization Law “to prevent procreation of confirmed criminals, idiots, imbeciles and rapists.”

The next governor, who was apparently less of a fan of fascism, stopped it two years later, and the law was found unconstitutional when it finally made it to the Indiana Supreme Court 14 years later! (the wheels of "justice" don't exactly spin quickly in the Hoosier state).

This flourishing of freedom and American values apparently made the people of Indiana cranky, because six years later, they pushed through an almost identical bill, which applied to "inmates of state institutions, who are insane, idiotic, imbecile, feebleminded, and epileptic, and who by the laws of heredity are the probable potential parents of socially inadequate offspring likewise afflicted." A law which stayed in effect in Indiana until 1974.

Despite their efforts to breed die Herrenrasse clear up to the Disco Era, Dan Quayle was still born in Indianapolis. Which tells you just how effective these policies actually are.

And now they're at it again. Republicans in Indiana have introduced a bill to make abortions illegal after 20 weeks. And when state Rep. Gail Riecken (D-Of Course) introduced an amendment to exempt "women who became pregnant due to rape or incest, or women for whom pregnancy threatens their life or could cause serious and irreversible physical harm," it was voted down 42 to 54.

"Oh, I'm sorry. Your baby is going to kill you? Tough shit. Hope you got a will." Interesting definition of Right to Life.

Apparently, according to state Rep. Eric Turner (R-Fuck You), this amendment would give women a "giant loophole" and they would just lie about getting raped. Or, presumably, dying.

(So, Eric Turner is a big supporter of incestuous families - I wonder what that says about his home life?)

I mean, there's really no excuse for this. Indiana ranks as the thirteenth smartest state, which... you know... top third, right? Good solid B average. And you've got Notre Dame... OK, admittedly a bad choice, being a Catholic university and all. But there's still Purdue! You've got education in your state! Why are you trying to go back to the dark ages?

But more than that, why is it that crazy people tend to rise to the top in Indiana? I mean, Michael Jackson, who single-handedly set out to destroy pop music forever, was born and raised in Gary, Indiana.

John Dillinger, gangster, bank robber, and legendary cocksman, was born in Indianapolis. Ten years later and 50 miles southwest, Jimmy Hoffa was born in Brazil, Indiana, and we still don't know where that fucker ended up.

There's just something about Indiana that makes crazy people end up getting into positions of power.

Like Carlos F. Lam, the Indiana prosecutor who ended up resigning after his advice to Wisconsin governor Scott Walker became public: Lam suggested Walker should fake an attack on himself to "discredit the unions." (To his credit, how was he to know that Walker had already discarded that idea because it might have backfired on him?)

And then, just because Indiana lawmakers hadn't embarrassed themselves enough, we get to find out about Ms. Bei Bei Shuai.
The facts of this case are heartbreaking. On December 23, 2010, Shuai, a 34-year-old pregnant woman who was suffering from a major depressive disorder, attempted to take her own life. Friends found her in time and persuaded her to get help. Six days later, Shuai underwent cesarean surgery and delivered a premature newborn girl who, tragically, died four days later.

On March 14, 2011, Shuai was arrested, jailed, and charged with murder and attempted feticide...

The state is misconstruing the criminal laws in this case in such a way that any pregnant woman could be prosecuted for doing (or attempting) anything that may put her health at risk, regardless of the outcome of her pregnancy.

That's right: according to the ways the laws are being applied here, the state of Indiana believes that any pregnant woman who smokes or lives with a smoker, who works long hours on her feet, who is overweight, who doesn't exercise, or who fails to get regular prenatal care, is a felon.
We need a new word for this crime. I'd like to suggest "Indianacide."

So, we're opposed to big government. Unless we're allowed to use it to monitor every action of every pregnant woman in the state? Is that how this works?

But hey, say what you want about Indiana, at least the trains run on time, right?