Archive for February, 2009

26
Feb
09

The Quality Valve

Present
Image by JulianBleecker via Flickr

South Park’s Trey Parker, interviewing  Wonder Showzen’s John Lee: So how long does it take to do an episode?

John Lee: It took us ten months to do seven episodes.

TP: Jesus Christ, dude!

JL: It’s ridiculous, I know. It’s just Vernon and me putting it together.

TP: You need to turn down the quality valve a little bit.

South Park’s valiant role in blasting open the television medium to make way for truly advanced comedy programming is indisputable, and frankly, unfuckwithable.  So don’t misunderstand the premise here: the above exchange between SP’s Trey Parker while interviewing John Lee and Vernon Chatman, the team behind one of my favorite TV efforts ever, Wonder Showzen, could be seen as a “tell” about the difference in philosophy behind the SP factory/juggernaut vs. that of Chatman and Lee.  Or it could just be a joke, I don’t know.  What I do know for sure is Jon Kricfalusi’s (Ren & Stimpy) extraordinarily high standards of craft and refusal to use outsourced overseas animation a la the Simpsons resulted in his torpedoing his own series in way it never recovered from.  It’s not as if Parker and Stone can do no wrong –   I am only saying that anyone (like myself) who wonders if he spends too much time making the stuff he makes should take notice of where the balance lies between getting it out the door and getting it right.

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18
Feb
09

Touch And Go Records Ceases Distro

angry_red_planet_gp_cover1

"It's just a rising tide of / Mediocrity"

Venerable Chicago record label Touch & Go has announced it is ceasing distribution operations to focus on its label operations.  This is horrible news for the many small labels distributed by T&G as well being a huge blow to the future of the independent artist’s work appearing in chain stores alongside the tons of calculated careerist drek on their shelves.  Every such story removes another avenue for the Best Buy shopper to take when their tastes rise out of the slop.

I realize this economic news isn’t as sad as hearing that Mitt Romney had to sell off two of his four mansions, but I’m an American, and we each suffer in our own way.

17
Feb
09

Obama DOJ Defends John Yoo In Padilla Civil Cases, May Not Prosecute Its Client Later

Former Department o...

Yoo: Jurisprudence worthy of Indonesia, Egypt and Chile

“There are just all kinds of doctrines that protect government officials, even when they’re wrong,”  said former Bush White House lawyer Brad Berenson. “The dirty little secret here is that the United States government has enduring institutional interests that carry over from administration to administration and almost always dictate the position the government takes.”

Despite the Obama Justice Department’s vocal opposition to the legal distortions committed by Bush administration torture advocating, habeas-corpus-ignoring  lawyer John Yoo, the first acts of the department probably will be to defend Yoo against a civil lawsuit brought by Jose Padilla, the US citizen arrested and held without charges before being convitected conspiracy charges unrelated to the “dirty bomb” plot he was picked up for and sentenced to 17 years.  That sentence is under appeal, which is a separate issue from the civil suits brought by Padilla against John Yoo and Donald Rumsfeld.

It is also separate from war crimes charges that Yoo and Rumsfeld richly deserve, but may not be prosecuted by Eric Holder, according to a Politico piece. As the Obama presidency progresses, the public demand heard in November for accounatbility for constitutional abuses  grows distant, leaving the legal scholar in the Oval Office with the sole shot to call.  Prosecute the abusers and cancel out  the executive branch’s latest eight years of legal debasement, or walk away and bury the whole chapter in a basement.  Millions, including myself, voted for a lawyer specifically to make the right call here.  What will win out?  The rule of law, or the rule of “enduring institutuional interests”?

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16
Feb
09

What If Ron Paul Shut Down The Huge Weapons Business In His District?

In his recent “What if…” common-sense call to reject US military interventionism around the world, Republican Representative Ron Paul sadly failed to mention the military intervention rampant in the economy of his own district.  Using the search tool at the website governmentcontractswon.com, I managed to find that between 2000-2007, tens of millions of dollars of defense contracts have been awarded every year to businesses in his 14th District of Texas.  Some examples by Zip Code follow; each code lies within Congressman Paul’s district:

(Partial List, Zip Code followed by dollars 2000-07)

  • 77590 $67,868,434
  • 77592 $154,858
  • 77550 $2,112,329
  • 77551 $217,746
  • 77554 $1,665,942
  • 77539 $883,327
  • 77546 $270,639
  • 77573 $2,028,275

That means that for at least four election victories of the eleven he’s won so far, the plucky Congressman, an internet hero to people who hate the government that created the internet, has been happily bringing home the federal bacon and actually supports the local branch of the military-industrial complex he seems to have such a problem with. Indeed, his district contains bedroom communities to the south of Houston, whose own defense contracting totals run to the hundreds of millions of dollars.  The people who keep sending Ron Paul to Washington are defense industry workers and management – tens of thousands whose livelihoods depend on the very military interventionism he says he opposes.

Huh.

What if Ron Paul’s isolationist posturing wasn’t just a load of Texas-brand Republican horseshit?  What if the firebrand rouser of angry white people who dwell in the country’s many remote areas actually meant what he said at the lectern?  What if he acted on it?  What if he insisted that the defense contractors in his district who profit from and enable runaway US hegemony, who build its weapons and systems and support, close their doors? What if he told them to  move to another district?  What if he adopted the slightest consistency in his positions?  What if he quit pretending to be against US war machinery and moved to stop manufacturing it in his own backyard?

Of course, he can’t.  And that is the truly insidious nature of the military-industrial complex that he is, after all, absolutely right to rail against.  The gargantuan work of spending an amount on defense that is larger than all foreign defense spending combined is a project spread out evenly across every state and every congressional district in the United States.  We are, and have been since 1941, on a coast-to-coast war-footing economy that employs millions.  Practically nobody in Congress can stand up against the true nature of the problem without endangering their seats – base closures and factory closures mean lost votes. And the factories are everywhere, just like in the Texas 14th District.

So practically all elected representatives keep their heads down on the problem, the decades drag on, and the wars of choice add up.  Injustice intensifies, the country becomes far poorer, and Ron Paul supporters post comments on YouTube blaming the problem on, of course, Jews.

I have a better idea.

Let me ask the Paulies reading this to contact the Congressman – preferably by FedEx or UPS so as not to use the Big Government Post Office – and urge him to capitalize off the head-start he has earned by opposing US interventionism.  Call for him to shut down defense contracting in the Texas 14th district. Now.

Otherwise, Ron Paul is just another hypocrite. What if he wasn’t?

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15
Feb
09

US Officers Caught Taking Millions In Iraq Bribes

Michael Yon - In His Arms (Strength and Compas...

Above: US soldier cradles either a) a child b) approx. $200K in shrinkwrapped Benjamins

The 35 prosecutions of Iraq contracting corruption has focused mainly on small-fry until now.  But nobody over the age of ten believes that 35 cases about covers it for a $125 billion reconstruction budget – and that’s just what was laid our for the first year of this shameful exercise in empire.  Which is why the newest investigations reported in the NYT  are pointing at high-ranking officers pocketing eye-popping sums:

As part of the inquiry, the authorities are taking a fresh look at information given to them by Dale C. Stoffel, an American arms dealer and contractor who was killed in Iraq in late 2004. Before he was shot on a road north of Baghdad, Mr. Stoffel drew a portrait worthy of a pulp crime novel: tens of thousands of dollars stuffed into pizza boxes and delivered surreptitiously to the American contracting offices in Baghdad, and payoffs made in paper sacks that were scattered in “dead drops” around the Green Zone, the nerve center of the United States government’s presence in Iraq, two senior federal officials said.

Former American officials describe payments to local contractors from huge sums of cash dumped onto tables and stuffed into sacks as if it were Halloween candy.

“You had no oversight, chaos and breathtaking sums of money,” said Senator Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat who helped create the Wartime Contracting Commission, an oversight board. “And over all of that was the notion that failure was O.K. It doesn’t get any better for criminals than that set of circumstances.”

In one case of graft from that period, Maj. John L. Cockerham of the Army pleaded guilty to accepting nearly $10 million in bribes as a contracting officer for the Iraq war and other military efforts from 2004 to 2007, when he was arrested. Major Cockerham’s wife has also pleaded guilty, as have several other contracting officers.

In Major Cockerham’s private notebooks, Colonel Bell is identified as a possible recipient of an enormous bribe as recently as 2006, the two senior federal officials said. It is unclear whether the bribe was actually offered or paid.

When asked if Major Cockerham had ever offered him a bribe, Colonel Bell said in a telephone interview, “I think we’ll end the discussion,” but stayed on the line. Colonel Bell’s response was equally terse when asked if he thought that Colonel Hirtle had carried out his duties properly: “No discussion on that at this time.”

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14
Feb
09

Three Things That Happen When You Swap Out A Motherboard On A 17″ MacBook Pro

The MacBook Pro (15.4" widescreen) was Ap...

Haizman

So last week, I was a victim of the nVidia GPU problem on MacBook Pro computers.  I have to applaud Apple and nVidia for making this repair costless to me, except of course for the irritating hassle of trudging to the Apple store, waiting for the out-of-stock part, waiting for repair, etc.  But Apple is two for two this year on free repair (not under AppleCare) for defects.  In January, before the GPU problem, poor little Haizman (pictured, right) suffered from the warping battery cover syndrome, which Apple replaced free as well.

Anyway, the defective GPU is hard-soldered to the motherboard, which means the whole mobo needs to get swapped out.  This blog post is to document what happens when you swap out the mobo on a MacBook Pro, but leave the internal HD intact.  Of course, everybody says “nothing” happens, but only for certain values of “nothing” is that true.

New 17″ MacBook Pro Motherboard: The Consequences

1) New mobo means new mobo serial number, which means that aggressive copy-protection is triggered for those applications that have it.  On my machine, that meant Ableton Live, which forced me to dig up my key and reenter.  No sweat.

2) Screensaver resets to default.  Shrug.  Whatever.

3) Most bothersome: Time Machine gets stupid.    I attached my external 1TB drive and waited for TM to do that voodoo that it do.  Instead, it looked at me like a confused terrier, unable to pick up the many-months-long incremental backup I have been working with.  No perms problem, no problem at all, just TM losing the hardlink to the folder.  Bummer.  Did some web research, pestered my brothers on irc.freenode.net’s #mac channel and came to the conclusion that starting fresh with a new TM backup was the way to go.  And go. And go.  It’s been 14 hours and we’re at the 78 GB mark of a 135 GB backup.  Sigh.

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10
Feb
09

Resonars: Riding Backwards On The Moon

Good goddamn song by the Resonars: “Riding Backwards On The Moon”

MySpace jump to several million bits worth of of aggro-garage-desert-reverb vinyl from beneath the manicured golf courses of Tucson, AZ New album “That Evil Drone” coming out on the Burger label.  Convincing, speedy, Electric Prunsey, pointy clicky. Yep,  Evan “Funk” Davies at WFMU knows his onions.  Hats off.




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