Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Last Call

NOW can we leave Afghanistan for good when our troops are doing completely stupid, moronic crap like this?

The paratroopers had their assignment: Check out reports that Afghan police had recovered the mangled remains of an insurgent suicide bomber. Try to get iris scans and fingerprints for identification.

The 82nd Airborne Division soldiers arrived at the police station in Afghanistan's Zabol province in February 2010. They inspected the body parts. Then the mission turned macabre: The paratroopers posed for photos next to Afghan police, grinning while some held — and others squatted beside — the corpse's severed legs.

A few months later, the same platoon was dispatched to investigate the remains of three insurgents who Afghan police said had accidentally blown themselves up. After obtaining a few fingerprints, they posed next to the remains, again grinning and mugging for photographs.

This is ghoulish, disgusting, and we're coming up on eleven goddamn years of this.  We're coming up on an entire generation of kids knowing nothing other than our war in the sandbox.  Between this and the shooting rampage last month, we have no moral authority left.  None.  It's a travesty.

Bring them home.  Just for the love of all that's good in the world, go.

Facing Justice

The latest CNN poll shows that over three-quarters of Americans agree that Trayvon Martin's killer, George Zimmerman, should have been arrested.

Wednesday's poll reported 78% of Americans polled saying they thought Zimmerman should have been arrested, compared to 11% who said he should not have been arrested.

The results mirror an earlier CNN/ORC poll, taken before Zimmerman's arrest in late March, which showed 73% of Americans saying he should be arrested and 11% saying he should not. The earlier poll indicated 16% were unsure whether Zimmerman should be arrested.

I'd like to meet the 11% of the country that says Zimmerman shouldn't have been arrested, and I'd like to make sure that none of them are allowed to hold public office due to the general principle of not having a functional human soul.  I can actually understand being unsure, at least.  But the one in nine of us OK with Zimmerman walking free after killing an unarmed teenage boy?  No.  Makes me want to get nine people in a room with a box of adorable baby puppies and see which one of them is repulsed.

The Last Bandstand Standing

Television icon Dick Clark has passed at the age of 82 of a heart attack.  From the NY Times obit:

Over half a century, Mr. Clark made millions as a producer or executive producer, shepherding projects onto the airwaves that even he acknowledged were more diverting than ennobling: awards shows like the Golden Globes, the Academy of Country Music Awards and the American Music Awards; “TV’s Bloopers & Practical Jokes” and other omnibus shows featuring collections of clips; and television movie biographies and dramas, in either uplifting or lurid mode, that targeted devotees of camp, kitsch or B-list celebrities. He wasn’t high-minded about his work. 

“I’ve always dealt with light, frivolous things that didn’t really count; I’m not ashamed of that,” he said during a 1999 interview for the Archive of American Television. “There’s no redeeming cultural value whatsoever to ‘Bloopers,’ but it’s been on for 20 years.” He added: “It’s a piece of fluff. I’ve been a fluffmeister for a long time.” 

But none of it would have been possible without “American Bandstand,” a show that earned immediate popularity and had astonishing longevity. It was broadcast nationally (and for several years daily) from 1957 to 1989, and the list of well-known performers who were seen on it (many of them lip-synching their recently recorded hits) spanned generations: from Ritchie Valens to Luther Vandross; from the Monkees to Madonna; from Little Anthony and the Imperials to Los Lobos; from Dusty Springfield to Buffalo Springfield to Rick Springfield. Mr. Clark was around for it all. 

The right man at the right time, Mr. Clark was a radio personality in Philadelphia in 1956 when he stepped into the role of host of what was then a local television show called “Bandstand” after the regular host was arrested for drunken driving and fired. By the following October, the show was being broadcast on ABC nationwide with a new name, “American Bandstand,” and for the next several years it was seen every weekday afternoon by as many as 20 million viewers, most of whom were undoubtedly not yet out of high school and tuned in to watch a few dozen of their peers dance chastely to the latest recordings of pop hits, showing off new steps like the twist, the pony and the Watusi, and rating the new records in brief interviews. 

“It’s got a good beat and you can dance to it” became a catchphrase. 

For me, Dick Clark will always be the host of the $25,000 Pyramid, back when $25,000 was a lot of money.  No matter what though, Clark's influence on television and American pop culture was absolutely unmatched for half a century.  People talk about how P. Diddy or Dr. Dre or Joss Whedon are everywhere these days, or stars like Ron Howard and Tom Hanks or George Clooney are now big producers and directors in Hollywood, but the man who did it first was Dick Clark:  music, TV, pop culture and everything in between, he was a part of it.

Rock on, Dick.

Even More Fine Police Work There, Lou

So, they handcuffed a six-year-old girl and took her to jail.  She fought the adults, trying to get out of the office. She threw "a small shelf" and when it hit the principal on the leg, the assault charge compounded the problem.  She was complaining the cuffs were too tight when her mother came to pick her up, and had been left alone in a holding cell, which to some would imply she was left unsupervised and deprived of the safety of an adult being present during a traumatic time.

There is no mention of the family going after money or publicity.  They asked how their child could be handcuffed and taken, and the official answer was:

"Our policy states that any detainee transported to our station in a patrol vehicle is to be handcuffed in the back. There is no age discrimination on that rule," Milledgeville Police Chief Dray Swicord told WMAZ-TV.
The family on Tuesday demanded that the city change its policy, the Associated Press reported, and claimed the girl was shaken up while at the police station.

Very well, said the parents.  Please change your policy.

That is when the asshattery begins.  There is no age discrimination on that rule?  How about common sense.  The girl may have a behavioral issue that needs to be taken care of, but this is not how you teach kids about trust and boundaries.  It sounds to me like this child was afraid, and acted out of fear and anger.  Based on how the adults reacted here, I'm saying she may have had some legitimate reasons to feel defensive and scared.  The bottom line is, if you can't curb, redirect and communicate with a six-year-old, elementary education may  not be for you.

One Minute Of Awesome

Thor and Iron Man battle it out in the newly released Avenger's trailer.

On a personal note, my youngest nephew asked me why they called them movies.  I explained that movies were pretty new overall, and once upon a time it was a Big Deal to see motion pictures.  He blinked and digested this, then told me he bet their video games were awful.


Anyway, I'm so excited to see the movie, and my husband is driving me insane counting it down.  For him, this is a chance to see his favorite characters of all time done by people who can pull off the special effects.  No more hokey painted Hulk (no offense, Lou, you were terrific for the time) or tin can suits.  And it's not another tired remake, for which I give points right away.

Guns Or Butter?

The Republicans of course choose guns, and want to throw 3 million Americans off food stamps and cut benefits for tens of millions more because we need to fight more scraggly terrorists with mutli-billion dollar super planes and all the cruise missiles the military-industrial complex can crap out.

Republicans controlling the House are eying big cuts to food stamps and would make it more difficult for illegal immigrants to claim child tax credits as they piece together legislation to cut $261 billion in the coming decade.

It's the first step in a GOP exercise aimed at cutting domestic programs to forestall big Pentagon budget cuts next year.

The cuts to food stamps would reduce the monthly benefit for a family of four by almost $60 and would force up to 3 million people off the program altogether by tightening eligibility.

The measure would also eliminate a grant program to states for social services like day care. Six House panels are producing legislation this week as the first step in implementing the GOP's budget plan.

So vote Republican, America, and all those poor welfare queens will magically disappear.  Starvation does that, you know.  We can't afford food for the poor, but damn can we make spiff ass air superiority fighters!

Waging A War

A very interesting editorial from the editors of Bloomberg News on, of all things, raising the minimum wage and why it needs to be done.

Raising the minimum wage won’t entirely solve the problem of anemic incomes, but it would help. Economists have long found that boosting the minimum wage can raise income levels for those earning just above the minimum. Employers, seeking to protect “wage ladders,” often bump up salaries for slightly higher-paid employees, too.

This is one of many reasons that critics, including business groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Restaurant Association and many Republicans, oppose minimum-wage increases. The argument is that it will hurt the very people it was meant to help by forcing employers to cut jobs, raise prices or both. They point to studies that minimum-wage increases hurt teenagers, because young workers typically get minimum-wage jobs, which become scarce when employers are forced to raise salaries.

But a wave of new economic research is disproving those arguments about job losses and youth employment. Previous studies tended not to control for regional economic trends that were already affecting employment levels, such as a manufacturing-dependent state that was shedding jobs. The new research looks at micro-level employment patterns for a more accurate employment picture.

The studies find minimum-wage increases even provide an economic boost, albeit a small one, as strapped workers immediately spend their raises. A 2011 paper by economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago found that a $1 minimum-wage increase lifts household income by about $250 and increases spending by about $700 a quarter in the following year. The spending increase is driven by a small number of households that primarily buy vehicles.

A team of economists, led by Arindrajit Dube of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, compared employment levels in contiguous areas with disparate minimum-wage levels over a 16-year period and concluded in a 2010 paper there are “strong earnings effects and no employment effects of minimum wage increases.” 

Let's back that up and review.  The main arguments that Republicans employ about minimum wage are that first, raising the minimum wage will wreck the economy as jobs are lost.  In fact, more than a few Republicans tried to pin the economic catastrophe on raising the minimum wage in 2006 rather than the effects of income inequality and lax oversight, as if the poorest Americans were earning too much money for the economy to support.  We know that's not true.  Minimum wage hikes at the state level, which happen to be higher and more frequent, don't cost jobs.

Second, Republicans say it destroys small businesses.  Hogwash for the same reasons above:  minimum wage workers spend their raises immediately and do so locally, supporting small businesses and large chains alike.  In other words, Republicans claim the labor market is a zero-sum game, the same people who tell us tax cuts create jobs think raising wages destroy them.

Finally, the notion that youth employment suffers when wages goes up is also without merit, mainly because of the first two reasons:  jobs get created, pay more, and teenagers take that money and spend it.

There are a lot of reasons to raise the federal minimum wage.  It'll never happen with Republicans in charge.


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