Cthulhu in New Jersey

Sea Lamprey or is it?And speaking of George Washington dying from blood letting: the sea lamprey. The photo on the left is apparently of a large sea lamprey from the waters of New Jersey. These things are parasites that latch onto fish and literally bleed them to death—just like the best physicians of the 18th century! According to GrindTV, this picture is either shot in such a way to make the blood sucking vermin look big or it is photoshopped. They can grow up to three feet in length, but this one looks like it is twice that length. (Then again, my friend Will tells me that New Jersey has more Superfund sites than any other state. So who knows?)

Depending upon your background, this parasitic bastard either looks like the creature in the Alien movies or a monster from an H. P. Lovecraft story. As for me, it makes me think of our first president. Of course Cthulhu always makes me think of him.

Washington’s Birthday

George WashingtonYou probably think that today was President’s Day. But you are wrong: according to the federal government, it was Washington’s Birthday. And in keeping with my tradition of ruining holidays, this makes my task much easier. Although note: there is no reason to destroy good holidays like this one where nothing is expected of me. What’s more, today a lot of people were writing that I wasn’t expecting. Jonathan Chait was in fine form. And The Plum Line blog was working at about half capacity.

As is more or less common knowledge, George Washington was the richest president we ever had, even though he never got to see a movie and there is a lot of folklore to the effect that his access to dental care was poor. And he didn’t have very good healthcare. He got sick and his doctor bled him to death. But that’s pretty common today: doctors kill a lot more people than is normally realized. But he did have one thing that we don’t: slaves. In fact, he had 300 of them. And that and his land is the basis of his vast wealth. Interestingly, the second richest president was Jefferson. Hmm, what do they have in common? (Jefferson had more slaves: over 650!)

So maybe we should change the name of this holiday to something more appropriate like: Slave Owning Bastards We Revere Day. Or: Our Dirty Little Secret Day. Or: Ain’t Slavery Grand Day! (That last one needs the exclamation mark as part of its name.) The funny thing is that most people rate Washington very highly as president—often as number one. I’ve never really understood this. To me, the only great thing he did (and I admit, this is a big deal) is step down after two terms. Certainly, he was popular enough to have taken the country in a very bad direction. Then again, because of the bleeding, he died shortly after leaving office, so maybe it didn’t matter.

Regardless, it’s nice to have a day off. I just wish it were for a better reason. How about Typhoid Mary Day?!

Why Media Pander to the Right

Tea PartyLast week, Reed Richardson wrote a really good column comparing the Republican and Tea Party responses to the State of the Union address, How the Media Skews its State-of-the-Union Response Coverage. I thought about this before the event. Marco Rubio is a Tea Party darling. He wasn’t going to say anything that the Tea Party would disagree with. So what’s with the Tea Party response?

Richardson notes that the Tea Party is only supported by about 8% of the population and yet the major media treat it like an important group. Compare this to a Gallup poll that found that 36% of Americans view socialism positively. That’s 4.5 times as many people. And what do we get from the major media: a heavy diet of extreme Tea Party policy.

Let’s look at budget ideas. Paul Ryan has offered up two budgets in a row. These are harsh policy ideas that large majorities of Americans disagree with. What’s more, they aren’t really budgets at all: they are just claims that somehow (Magic!) the budget will be balanced. Ryan never explains what he will cut. (This is typical of Republicans because they know that what they want to cut is toxic to most people.) This unserious and unpopular budget gets loads of attention from everyone in the media!

Now compare that to the yearly People’s Budget from the Congressional Progressive Caucus. It is an actual budget: it says what it will cut (lots of military spending). Say what you will about it, it is a serious budget and it is far more popular than Ryan’s budget. And yet: most people don’t even know it exists because the media don’t cover it.

I think it is an outrage why truly liberal ideas that are fairly popular are considered outside of the Overton Window while extremely unpopular conservative ideas are considered just things that important people say—things that deserve blanket coverage on the the TV machine. Why is this? Journalists usually argue that it is because these liberal ideas have no chance of passing. Even ignoring the obvious self-fulfilling aspect of this: the same thing can be said about the conservative ideas that these journalists do cover.

My theory for why this happens is a little complex. It comes from the fact that regarding economic issues, journalists tend to be conservative. When it comes to social issues, they tend to be liberal. But here’s the key: they think of themselves as liberal in a general sense. Thus, they mistake their conservative opinions about economics as liberal. They push against this because they want to be seen as objective. And so their reporting on economic issues gets even more conservative.

I’ve written about this quite a lot. It frustrates me that MSNBC is seen as a liberal network. Most of the time when I watch it, I see a lot of socially progressive ideas but mostly moderate or even conservative economic discussion. This bugs me because I continue to think that social issues don’t matter all that much. If we have extreme economic inequality (which we do), then we are not going to have social justice either—regardless of what the law is.

This is why when we have a Democratic president, we get two conservative responses to the SOTU address. And what’s more, both are fundamentally the same because there really is no difference between extreme and moderate Republicans: they are just Republicans. But when we have a Republican president, the media would never stand for a Democratic and Socialist responses. This even though the Socialist response would better represent the views of a large section of Americans than the Democratic response (much less the Tea Party response).


I am not against social liberal policy. It is important and at times it is the most important thing. Voting rights can often take precedence. My point is that social issues are not a substitute for economic issues. If someone is a social liberal and an economic conservative, then he is a conservative. Or let me be perfectly blunt: social conservatives are bigots. So most American journalists are not bigots. Hooray for them! But that doesn’t make them liberal.

Deer Can’t Read!

Deer CrossingI often wonder why people have such a low opinion of bloggers. In my experience, there are a lot of good bloggers out there. It is downright scary just how talented a lot of people are. And then there are the bloggers who never really try. It is surprising how many blogs have one post. But mostly, people do it for a few months and then stop. But that’s like anything: a lot of people buy guitars that just sit in their closets. Why do people think bloggers are idiots?

Ladies and gentlemen: Kathleen O’Brien Wilhelm! I discovered her this morning from Jonathan Chait, a man who knows comedy when he sees it, even if it is unintended. Wilhelm is kind of a Tea Party idiot, but not as smart. She blogs over at the Avon-Avon Lake Patch. And man does she care about wasteful spending! For example, last week she had an idea for how the government can save money by not posting signs for animals, Animals Can’t Talk:

Signs that read “Deer Crossing” and the like are going to continue to pop up throughout our country including Avon Lake, but who are these signs for? Deer cannot read, do not obey the law and probably will cross where they wish. Although adorable companions, it is hard to remember the last time that the news reported an animal talking, thinking or providing significant input for the benefit of society. Yet, these signs cost taxpayers like so much of government.

As Chait notes, “What else could the signs be for, if not for the animals themselves?” I wonder! Isn’t it just like the stupid government to go posting signs for animals? I mean, I know it’s in picture form, but really! I mean, it doesn’t even make sense. Deer near another part of the road won’t even see those signs! I can see maybe putting up “no deer crossing” signs so the deer would know that the government (Which wants to limit the liberty of deer!) doesn’t want them to cross there. But what’s the point of telling deer, “Here is where we want you to cross?” This is madness!

Wilhelm ends her article in such a way that you can’t think she’s just kidding: “Yes, signs are important—to humans; ‘Stop’ signs, and others are more than just costly decorations scattered along the roadways. However, depending on the school district, most humans can read them, but animals not so much.” Oh, how charming! Depending on the school district! Get it? Because our schools are so bad, people can’t read the word stop. And animals can’t read at all. But she’s very clever there with that, “Not so much”!

You may be asking yourself, “Sure, she’s an idiot and that often does mean she’s a conservative. But how do you know?” Well, in the text I’ve quoted, I think it is pretty clear. There’s the assumption that the government just wastes money on stuff. (Interestingly: she looks old enough to be on Social Security, which I bet she doesn’t think is wasteful.) Regardless of that, she has written a lot of other things. Consider this golden oldie from right before last year’s election, Obama’s Going to Take Your Stuff!

Obama’s going to take your house, your car and anything you might have more of than the other guy or gal. Sad. Very sad, too, that 23 million Americans are without a job. They probably don’t have any stuff and are just praying for a place to sleep and eat. Infuriating, too, that under Obama for the first time in 100 years America’s credit rating has been downgraded. How did this happen? Obama promised “If I don’t fix the economy in three years, then I’ll be a one-term president.” Instead Obama’s promises focused on Obamacare with its taxes, death panels, abortions and doctors answering to government rather than patients. Obama dolled out—free cell phones, lots of entitlements, lies, and added his handpicked czars free from America’s Constitution ensuring no one branch of government becomes too powerful.

Yes my friends, Kathleen O’Brien Wilhelm is one of those people. She’s dangerous. You may have thought that Joe Scarborough was ignorant. But there are legions of people like Wilhelm out there who are willfully ignorant, believing in things that are patently false. (Death panels! Czars! Free cell phones!) And I’ll bet she has a lot of people who hang on her every word—people who right now are writing letters complaining about those wasteful deer crossing signs because, damn it, deer can’t read!

Cat Scratch Fever

Cat Scratch FeverI don’t think you appreciated me enough. You see, I suffer to bring you stories here and man did I suffer last night! I listened to the entirety of Ted Nugent’s Cat Scratch Fever. Of course, the only reason I listened to it is because Nugent is such a nut. But I kept an open mind, because I don’t expect artists I like to necessarily be sane. In fact, some of them are downright evil. As you may remember, I praised Adolf Hitler’s artwork recently. So via YouTube, I listened to the whole of Cat Scratch Fever in order, mostly looking at Ted’s stupid 1970s mustache.

On Wikipedia, where I went to get the track list, I found that AllMusic gave the album 4.5 stars (out of 5). I don’t hold to rock critics generally; their opinions of music seem to me almost random; they decide what mark they are going to give an album and then they justify it in the most pretentious way possible. But I’ve found that AllMusic is at least reasonable. And what’s more, I tend to agree with them about the arc of music careers; they are usually close in terms of what albums mark the high and low points of any given career. And in their opinion, Cat Scratch Fever is the high water mark of Nugent’s career.

The only song I remember hearing before is the title track. But it is hard to say because the album is shockingly generic. Even the title song barely breaks the water out of mediocrity. Again and again listening to the album I tried to imagine what was going on in popular music at that time. On the one hand, you had The Trammps’ amazing Disco Inferno. On the other, you had the Ramones’ glorious second album Leave Home. So it perhaps isn’t surprising that when it came to good ol’ fashioned rock, the bar was set pretty low.

What is remarkable about the album is how good the band is. These guys can play and yes, Ted Nugent really is an excellent guitarist. But for me, this works against the album. I like messy. I like out of control. And the Ted Nugent band sounds like a bunch of studio musicians—they are that good. So you have this mix of amateurish songwriting with top level but uninspired playing and producing. But I can see how people would have enjoyed this record at the time, especially as party music. And the band was doubtlessly fantastic live.

It’s weird, though. Ted Nugent is such a loose cannon. I thought his music would be wild. It makes me think that he really is what people like Bill O’Reilly always claim to be: just a character. Certainly, implying publicly that he was going to assassinate Obama if he were re-elected strikes me as pandering to an audience. I wonder how much of it is real. Regardless, Cat Scratch Fever is at best 90% product and 10% art. And I can’t image why anyone would be interested in listening to it today.


The strongest track on the album is the unfortunately titled “Wang Dang Sweet Poontang.” As usual, the vocals are under mixed so you can’t easily make out the lyrics. (Smart producer!)