Friday, May 28, 2010

I'm Feelin' A Little Down Myself

Gizmodo has been following the strange saga of Foxconn, a tech company in Japan which has had a recent unexplained rash of employee suicides. The latest story?

Hon Hai Precision Industry has announced that it will raise the salaries of employees at its Foxconn factory by about 20 percent. The company claims that the raises were planned for a while and aren't in response to recent suicides.
To date, 15 Foxconn employees have lept from the roof to their deaths, which is probably quite a downer to the rest of them. Nintendo and Apple buy parts from Foxconn, among others. Personally I'm happy with the place I work, but I'd probably be much, much happier if I were making 20% more.

Friday Quickie

I just noticed that a reply to yesterday's post was signed by a guy named "How many platforms drill without an accident?" This is a good argument for just leaving the oil companies alone.

And the terrorists. I mean come ON, it's only a couple of buildings and and handful of airplanes! Most terrorism never even gets past the planning stage! Why are we wasting all this trouble on stopping 'em?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Oil Well That Ends

By some reckoning BP's "top kill" plan to plug the oil leak in the gulf is a success; by others not so much. I'm not one to play the blame game (of course I am, but let's say I'm not relentless about it) but I have to wonder about all the pundits who are saying that the Obama administration hasn't done enough and didn't act soon enough to avert this crisis.

What exactly would they have done that these people approve of?

This well is, after all, the private property of BP so it's not like the government should have seized it from them. That would be socialism. Any attempt the government would have made outside of BP's own would be spending our tax dollars to stop something that isn't even a problem to begin with. And they can't say that Obama should have regulated the way the oil was drilled, or even that Obama should have forbade them to drill in the first place. Though, blame game aside, I'm pretty sure this one was approved before Mr. O came to office.

In fact, an attempt to even publically criticize BP for the way they're handling the oil spill would be the White House unfairly censoring BP.

So, when that talking point is trotted out, let's have a little constructive alternatives suggested, shall we? Otherwise, one may think they're not being serious.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Who Says the Economy Isn't Recovering?

The best indicator that things are going to be alright is if the real estate market is getting back to normal, right? Well, here's an opportunity for you:

The real estate listing for the house that went on the market Monday at 108 Ocean Ave. refers to it as a "legendary home," but most people would know the sideways Dutch Colonial on the canal as the so-called Amityville Horror house.

Listed for $1.15 million, the picturesque and pristine home looks very different from the home where Ronald DeFeo Jr. murdered six family members as they slept in 1974. The 28 supposedly haunted days in the house experienced by subsequent owners George and Kathleen Lutz spawned the 1977 bestselling Jay Anson book "The Amityville Horror: A True Story" and a series of scary movies about alleged supernatural happenings at the house starting in 1979.

Even the address is different. Previous owners James and Barbara Cromarty, who own the Riverhead Raceway, said they had it changed from 112 Ocean Ave. to protect their privacy.

James Cromarty, 77, bought the house in 1977. By that point, a bank had foreclosed on the house from the Lutzes, who have since died. DeFeo is at the upstate Green Haven Correctional Facility, serving 25 years to life for the murders.

"Nothing weird ever happened, except for people coming by because of the book and the movie," said Cromarty, who lived a decade in the house.
I tell ya, if they even get close to the asking price for this place, start investing again.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Best Weekend From Hell Ever

This last weekend I let my gorgeous friend Ivy talk me into a road trip up North, to attend the wedding of a couple of her college friends. I accepted because Ivy is always good company, and it was an excuse to get out of town and see a new city, Davis CA; and of course to meet new people.

So the weekend played out like this: Friday night spent with 2nd Generation Vietnamese graduate students watching them getting drunk as hell on a local beverage called the Wiki Wacky Woo; Saturday a Catholic wedding and reception mostly held in Vietnamese, with maybe three White people in attendance. It was a recipe for alienation, especially the drinking. I'm old enough to be those guys' dad, and I was never in a Frat so sport drinking is still an exotic thing to me. By the way, ever seen someone throw up RIGHT AT THE TABLE? I'm not naming names.

But weirdly I didn't feel especially alienated by the weekend. It felt, in fact, just like a weekend in Santa Cruz or Vegas or anywhere I usually go for a vacation. And that's what worries me now. I didn't feel more cut off from humanity than usual because I never feel LESS cut off. My whole life is a Vietnamese wedding weekend, except for the specifics.

On the plus side, I didn't feel uncomfortable with this arrangement either, so maybe it just means I've made my peace with you earthlings. In fact, I had a pretty good time. Plus the food (and oh, there was a lot of food) was great. Did you know you can chicken-fry lobster? So on the whole, taking everything into account including the horror at discovering the true awful nature of my life, it was a nice change of pace.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Balance Of Power

Here's the historical summary: Arizona passes law perceived by most to be racial profiling, Los Angeles County threatens to boycott all Arizona-owned businesses. Arizona then threatens to stop selling power to Los Angeles. Okay, you're up to date now, which will help you enjoy this:

General Manager's Statement Regarding LADWP Power Generation Assets in Arizona

"I want to make clear that we support the City position regarding the recent law enacted in Arizona and the resolution adopted by the Los Angeles City Council.

On any given day, we receive 20 – 25% of our power from two power plants located in Arizona: Navajo, a coal-fired plant, and Palo Verde, a nuclear plant.

We are part owner of both power plants, which are generating assets of the Department. As such, nothing in the City’s resolution is inconsistent with our continuing to receive power from those LADWP-owned assets.

I might add that, as the City’s Job Czar, I certainly would welcome any conventions or meetings that were going to be held in Arizona to come to Los Angeles. We have fantastic facilities and incomparable weather and we’d welcome them to the City of Angels."

- Austin Beutner, General Manager, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power
Of course now, if we want to go through with this foolishness the next step is to build new power plants in OUR desert and shut down the AZ ones. Naturally, no one has any intention of the kind. This whole thing is a fun debate to focus our attention on a kind of obscure state's rights issue.

I'm kind of okay with Arizona demanding that everyone carry papers. If you don't like it, move to an adjacent state. If you do like it, move in to replace the ones who moved out. Then Arizona would be populated with people who... well, who looked unlike illegal immigrants and terrorists, to put it delicately. And isn't the the right that real Americans are fighting for? The right to avoid non-caucasions.

By the way, for the record I've lived in Arizona and I prefer California.

h/t Wonkette

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Say, That's A Good Point

Matty Boy at Losta 'Splainin' to Do just pointed out something really interesting - the price of oil has been dropping since the spill, not rising. What's up with that? Mysteries - don't like 'em!

Rand Numbers

Is it wrong for me to admit that I want to "friend" Rand Paul on Facebook?

Of course with me it's all about the Schadenfreude. You know I get a lot more energized when the other guys make with the crazy then my own guys do something worthwhile. I am a one-man party of no. And while I have superficially followed the career of Rand's famous dad, Ron, about the opthamologist-turned-Senate-candidate I know nothing. Still he has some awfully encouraging endorsements: Jim DeMint, James Dobson and Sarah Palin among them.

More importantly, Paul is considered the first test of the power of the Tea Party movement, a senate candidate who comes from within the ranks. And he's running in Kentucky. I also don't know that much about Kentucky (I haven't even touched their chicken in three years) but as the New York Times drily notes:

To win in November, Mr. Paul will also have to win over Democrats, who could not vote in the Republican primary but make up the bulk of Kentucky voters. Democrats are trying to portray Republicans who win with Tea Party support as being out of the mainstream.
So the way I see this playing out, Paul either has to make himself comfortable with the idea of alienating a big swath of voters by staying true to his base (and losing), or betraying that base by soft-pedaling (maybe even contradicting) the tea party talking points. Either way, that's entertainment! To me anyway, the one-man party of no.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Best Ad O' The Year, So Far

There's plenty to enjoy about this one, but my favorite aspect is that it's cut just like BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

You MADE Me Write This!

Just a little reinforcement on the torture thing. A lot of people are upset about how the Times Square bomber was read Miranda Rights and not tortured, even though he still supplied good intelligence. This kind of mollycoddling wouldn't happen in China! Those guys even have no problem with torturing criminals to get to the truth. Only:

BEIJING (Reuters) - A Chinese man who was supposedly hacked to death in a fight has reappeared in his hometown after 10 years, state media said, raising questions about police torture to extract a confession from the alleged killer.

Zhao Zuohai, the supposed killer, was acquitted of the crime and released by a Henan court on Saturday, state news agency Xinhua said, citing a court press conference on Sunday.

He had served 10 years of a 29-year sentence after confessing to killing Zhao Zhenshang in a hatchet fight in central China's Henan province, the China Daily reported this weekend.

A headless body was found in a village well about a year after the fight, at which point Zhao was arrested and confessed to the killing.

The victim, Zhao Zhenshang, reappeared in the village on May 2 to seek welfare support. He had fled after the fight because he feared he had killed the now-imprisoned Zhao.

Convictions in the Chinese court system are strongly dependent on confessions, motivating police to use force to get a confession and close the case.
See the thing about torture is that is ain't no truth serum. People will talk alright, but they'll say whatever they think will make you stop torturing them. Caveat emptor.

Saint Elsewhere

I just finished watching the Betty White episode of Saturday Night Live here at work. iPhones are a modern miracle! Anyway, kudos to SNL and our lady of TVLand for pulling off the first 90 minutes of that show where everything worked. Not a clunker in the bunch. And with typical paradoxicality for a host who is a venerable institutuion, they pushed more envelopes than the USPS. Bada-bing, bada boom!

SNL is of course a live show, which makes it as current as is possible. But seeing Betty work her salty magic on it only reminded me that most of the media that I consume is very, very old. I don't know how I fell into this pattern, but look at what I've been listening to/watching in the last couple of days, and these are very typical days for me.

Netflix: Danger Man AKA: Secret Agent, Patrick McGoohan's spy show from the early 60s, in glorious black and white. Or should I say, shades of grey. Also atop the BD player, the complete Prisoner series. I bought that one! Oh and In A Lonely Place, the Bogart movie.

Internet radio: Dragnet, Suspense, Broadway Is My Beat, The Jack Benny Program, Lights Out et al; I may be the only person alive right now who idolizes Elliot Lewis. Also Intoxica (pre-british invasion garage rock) The Kitsch Niche (pre-star-wars novelty records) The Beyondophonic Action Hour (defies description but it's olllllld) and Technicolor Web of Sound, which plays psychedelia.

Televsion: two things: Life With Elizabeth, a failed sitcom from the fifties starring Betty White (man was she hot) and Dr Who, the episode which aired just a few days ago in England. Our time lord friend here breaks the pattern, but suggests another one.

The one thing all this material has in common is that it's everywhere that I'm not. While everyone else watches American Idol or Lost, which is "escapist" fare, I'm so escapist that I can't even stand this century. Cause for pride, or therapy? Beats me.

Friday, May 07, 2010

If It Bleeds, It Leads.

Oh come on.

Danger: robots with knives could attack humans accidentally

German researchers have warned that robots in the home could prove dangerous - particularly when armed with sharp objects.

To discover what would happen if a robot wielding a sharp tool - such as a knife or a screw driver - accidentally struck a person, researchers at the Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics, part of the national aerospace agency in Wessling, south-east Germany, programmed a mechanical arm holding a variety of instruments to strike a series of substances that mimicked human tissue.
Similarly, from previous issues of the Guardian...

Automobiles may one day hunt down and kill pedestrians

Gutenberg's new "Printing Press" may shut down monasteries

Invention of "fork" may make it impossible to hold food with fingers

Penicillin discovery threatens nation's bread supply

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Finally, A Logical Argument

It seems to me that this argument is best advanced at watercoolers and not in political ads. Even if I agree with the premise, I want people NOT AS STUPID AS I AM running things.

A Wistful Look Across the Pond

Today the British elect a new prime minister.

Their campaign season is precisely 3 weeks. There is a conservative, a liberal and an independent running. In the entire three weeks, nobody has labled anyone a terrorist.

I dunno - to me the whole thing sounds like paradise. If only I could get used to the bad weather and screaming in Parliment, I'd move there in a hot minute.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

They May Have Been Wrong About All The Torture, and the Degregulation

Turns out the incompetent car-bomber was Muslim, probably related to a terrorist organization. Surprisingly cheerful lookin' fellah too! I don't know what to make of that. A lot of people say that the motivation was to punish Viacom for that South Park episode, but... well, I'm not going to try to climb inside the guy's mind but Comedy Central's offices are also in New York, and Viacom famously scrubbed the episode of all references to the prophet. Why not set up your pathetic non-bomb across town instead? No parking?

Anyway by all accounts Faisal Shahzad is singing like a canary, despite being read his Miranda Rights and no torture. All torture could add in this case is conferring martyrdom on a sad, confused individual. Whom we would then have to hold indefinitely because we could not effectively prosecute an American citizen who hadn't been read his rights.

Meanwhile even Sara Palin says don't trust the oil companies, via twitter:
Gulf: learn from Alaska's lesson w/foreign oil co's: don't naively trust- VERIFY. Livelihood affected by spill?Don't sign away remedy rights
Some might say that a way to streamline the individual negotiations among landowners and oil companies might be, I dunno, regulation by the government. 

Monday, May 03, 2010

Drill Here, Drill in June 2008

Demand Racial Profiling Now! ***Update***

My friend Warner Todd Huston writes this in his blog yesterday:

I won’t go much into the failed car bomb that could have killed hundreds in times Square, New York last night. I have no new insight into the incident itself but it is obviously the work of al Qaeda-like terrorists.
I managed to keep out of the news cycle all weekend but this bomb scare has made it all the way to this morning, so it must have been big. And indeed the New York Times/WaPo talk in the streets suggests there was an Islamic threat.
The Taliban in Pakistan claimed responsibility in a video posted on YouTube. Kelly and federal investigators said no evidence had surfaced linking the group to the bomb.

A monitoring group reported a second video from the Pakistani Taliban – apparently dated early April – of their leader promising an attack on major U.S. cities "in some days or a month."

IntelCenter, which keeps track of militant media messages, said today in Islamabad that the nearly nine-minute video appears credible.
But they also say this:
Investigators poring over hundreds of hours of surveillance video identified a man Kelly described as white and in his 40s, who appeared to be acting suspiciously.
Given the "amateurish" nature of the failed attempt, one could conclude that the Taliban wasn't behind it at all. They're pretty well organized. More likely I think, this is another crazy local guy who believes everything that Glenn Beck says. If it makes you feel better, he could be a Democrat but I bet he's not affiliated with ANYONE. Like the Democrat who flew an airplane into a Texas IRS building. Or the Democrat who shot up that place with those people. If he didn't have a long beard, he ain't Taliban.

They've got video so it may not be long before they catch this guy. I can't wait to hear more.

***Update*** What I'm hearing is that God only knows who the hell tried this.