Archive for December, 2007

Bipartisan zombies

December 31, 2007 Leave a comment

So Bloomberg is making noise about running as an independent candidate for president and wants to reduce partisan gridlock in Washington.

He’d be running as a centrist, of course. The situation in which he’d run is described in the article:

And Mr. Bloomberg himself has become more candid in conversations with friends and associates about his interest in running, according to participants in those talks. Despite public denials, the mayor has privately suggested scenarios in which he might be a viable candidate: for instance, if the opposing major party candidates are poles apart, like Mike Huckabee, a Republican, versus Barack Obama or John Edwards as the Democratic nominee.

You know, I can see the logic if we nominated Ron Paul and Ralph Nader, but that’s not what’s on the table. There are clear differences between the Republicans and Democrats, but let’s face it, we’re not talking about a massive, intractable ideological divide. You’re simply not going to agree completely with any candidate and if we want another option it should be something different. Bloomberg offers what the two major parties offer, just rearranged a bit.

When people like this talk about bipartisanship, they seem to mean that we should all work together for the solution he or she prefers, a solution that is typically a worse idea than any of the prevailing ideas and never much of a change. Sure, it’d be nice if we all agreed, but we don’t and a synthesis of current opinion is rarely a good solution. Do I really need to rattle off the bipartisan disasters our government has given us? The Medicare prescription drug bill? The drug war? The Patriot Act? The Iraq war? Those didn’t make it through Congress with a few defectors from one side or another. They passed with significant support from both sides.

We don’t need unity candidates. We need people working on new ideas or convincing enough people that an older idea is the way to go. If you put enough of the public behind a solution everything else will sort itself out.

Categories: 2008 elections

Parting thoughts

December 21, 2007 1 comment

It’s almost Christmas and I will be in Wyoming for all of next week, so this place will be very quiet for that period.

At work today my boss handed out Christmas cards thanking us for our hard work. Not just generic, Santa Claus and snowmen cards, but full-on Christian, worship Jesus cards. Now, he’s a nice guy and receiving that kind of card doesn’t offend me (I really don’t care), but I can’t imagine being comfortable handing those out. It may be Montana (where we have letter writers who claim that being Muslim is a sign of being on the far Left – no, I’m not joking), but I do know there are people of other religions (and no religion) who work there. It’s the same with the “Happy Holidays” vs. “Merry Christmas” thing. I wouldn’t be offended by someone saying Merry Christmas to me when I didn’t celebrate Christmas, but it seems weird to me to say it to someone if you don’t know what they actually celebrate.

Categories: Personal, Religion

2007 music top ten

December 21, 2007 3 comments

Top ten lists are fun, right? Here’s my favorite music of 2007:

10. Alcest – Souvenirs D’un Autre Monde

I think I mentioned this album in a post a couple months ago. I can’t actually think of much to say about it. It’s just a solid album that really clicked with me. Shoegaze black metal, apparently. If dark and depressing metal sounds good to you, check it out. Best song: “Printemps Emeraude.”

9. Minsk – Ritual Fires of Abandonment

Another one of those “bands that sound like Isis and Neurosis.” I find that to be a better description than post-hardcore. Minsk excels at creating a darker atmosphere than bands like Isis or Pelican, but with the same bone-crushing sound. That’s right, I said bone-crushing. Sue me. Best song: The “Orphans of Piety.”

8. Riverside – Rapid Eye Movement

Riverside has turned into one of my favorite bands. Their first album was an excellent mix of progressive hard rock and metal. They followed up with an album of pure progressive metal, which wears out its welcome after a lot of listens. This latest one is more varied, but still firmly progressive metal. Best song: “Ultimate Trip.”

7. Radiohead – In Rainbows

I don’t think I have to introduce this one. Radiohead is another one of my favorite bands and while this one isn’t their best, it’s still an enjoyable album. Nothing surprising, just solid and enjoyable. Granted, it’s Radiohead, so it’s a little disappointing that it’s not surprising, but you can’t have everything. Best song: “Reckoner.”

6. Dark Tranquillity – Fiction

Swedish Melodic Death Metal. My favorite type of metal and unlike certain other Swedish bands of this style, DT is still making enjoyable music. And Stanne decided to sing again on this one, so that’s a plus. Best song: “The Mundane and the Magic.”

5. Do Make Say Think – You, You’re a History in Rust

I think this one may have set a record for most consecutive listens in my car’s stereo. It’s post-rock, but not in the style of bands like GY!BE and their lengthy songs. For whatever reason, I really like the drumming on this album, but everything about it is great. Best Song: “Bound To Be That Way.”

4. *Shels – Sea of the Dying Dhow

Despite the apparent pretentiousness of putting an asterisk in the name of your band, this is a fantastic band. Another “band that sounds like Isis” gracing this list, *Shels throws in a bit more variety in instrumentation and makes it all work together very well. The first song is probably the best song out of this genre I’ve ever heard. Best song: “The Conference of the Birds.”

3. Pelican – City of Echoes

I think I’m become predictable. Guess what style of music this band plays? Anyway, I’ve always liked Pelican, but their previous albums never quite clicked for me. This one did. It’s not all that different from the previous ones, it’s just really good. Brilliant review, eh? Best song: “Bliss in Concrete.”

2. Andrew Bird – Armchair Apocrypha

Excellent and unique pop rock from an impressive musician. The number of instruments this guy playss amazes me. I think you could say his previous album is better, but this one is right up there with it. Best song: “Imitosis.”

1. Porcupine Tree – Fear of a Blank Planet

PT are my favorite band, so this is no surprise. Deadwing, their previous album, was a little hit or miss. There were excellent songs and there were not so good ones. It wasn’t all that great as an album. This one is the complete opposite. It is an album, first and foremost; 50 minutes of dark and heavy progressive rock. It’s less about standout songs than standout moments, though the 17 minute Anesthetize counts as a standout. You can hear a lot of Deadwing on here (especially in the title track), but there’s also a bit of The Sky Moves Sideways. There’s very little of albums like Lightbulb Sun and Stupid Dream. Part of me wants to see a return to that and a move away from some of metal aspects of their current sound, but this album is certainly very very good. Best song: “Anesthetize.”

Honorable Mention:

Novembre – The Blue

A solid album that doesn’t quite have enough interesting songs to pull it into the top 10. Best song: “Bluecracy.”

The Snake The Cross The Crown – Cotton Teeth

I was so close to putting this in the top 10. Still, it’s an enjoyable album that deserves a wider audience. Best song: “Hey Jim.”

Blackfield – Blackfield II

This is a good rock album, but it’s not quite special enough to rise above that. Still, if you can get me to sing along with the line “and we still believe there is God,” you’re definitely writing catchy music. Best song: “End of the World.”


Pain of Salvation – Scarsick

Luckily, I didn’t go into this with high expectations. I love The Perfect Element I and Remedy Lane, but Be wasn’t that great. This one just isn’t good. I’m at a loss to explain it. The trite “America,” the annoying “Scarsick,” the inexplicable “Disco Queen” (though that song is pretty amusing)…it’s just not good. Best song: “Kingdom of Loss.”

Categories: Music

Brief moment of geekiness

December 20, 2007 Leave a comment

Oh my god this is going to be awesome. Ninja + wolverine claws = win.

When that game comes out, you probably won’t see me for a couple weeks.

Categories: Tech

Ron Paul's candidacy

December 19, 2007 Leave a comment

I think Ezra has it exactly right here. Paul is a protest candidate for people who are angry. What he actually believes is not that important. This was illustrated very well by a commenter here. His incoherent insistence on promoting all of the outside the mainstream candidates is a symptom of that position.

Paul’s certainly raising a lot of money and he has plenty of devoted supporters, but it doesn’t appear to be translating into actual support among the general voting population. Kinda fun to watch, though.

Categories: 2008 elections

Oh my

December 17, 2007 2 comments

This is rather impressive. The Nazi’s supported organic farming! Liberals support organic farming! Ergo, liberals are fascists!

How can you argue with that?

All I gotta say is, those Germans sure are dumb. I mean, the Nazi party drew it’s supporters from the conservative parties of the day and then went to work eradicating Communists and Social Democrats when in power. If only they knew that those Left-wing parties were their natural allies! They could have saved all that trouble.

Categories: Silliness

Famous quotes

December 16, 2007 5 comments

Craig sort of has a point on number two, there. The subject is Franklin’s liberty and safety quote. Economic freedom for economic safety is just such a trade-off and liberals don’t have a problem with that. I’ve seen the point made before and it has the benefit of being strictly true.

Of course, Franklin’s quote, taken literally, is obviously wrong. The Founders didn’t set up a system of complete freedom. There are limits set out in the Constitution. For example, police can enter my private property if they have a warrant. Doing so violates my freedom to control my property. That rule is there to allow the authorities to stop dangerous people in timely manner, keeping us safer. It’s a trade-off and I’m pretty sure it’s a good one.

So is Franklin’s quote useless to us? I don’t think so. The point seems to be that trading liberty for security is a dangerous game. It’s a classic tactic of authoritarians everywhere; just give up this little bit of personal freedom, let me into your life just a little more, and you’ll be safe. It doesn’t typically end well. On the other hand, the balance we’ve struck isn’t necessarily the best one. Maybe it’s better that we give up a little more personal freedom for a little more security in these times. I don’t think so, but that’s just me.

What to make of the general tendency of liberals to want to give up more economic freedom for safety nets than conservatives, then? My less than fully thought out sense of it is that giving up economic freedom is less dangerous. When we’re talking about civil liberties, losing a certain right may mean serious punishment. Economically, you’re losing some money. Maybe it all averages out to be the same. I can’t say with certainty.

This isn’t to defend people who use that quote as Craig notes. If you use the assertion of an authority figure in place of an argument, you deserve even the most meaningless gotcha. I just thought there was an interesting difference of opinion underlying its use.

Categories: Civil liberties